Archive for the ‘washington post’ tag
Quite a story from the Washington Post about a massive inefficiency — sort of totemic of a whole class — in the US government bureaucracy. The trait, so often parodied, of a weird system that continues well past the point you’d expect it to:
Here, inside the caverns of an old Pennsylvania limestone mine, there are 600 employees of the Office of Personnel Management. Their task is nothing top-secret. It is to process the retirement papers of the government’s own workers.
But that system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper.
The employees here pass thousands of case files from cavern to cavern and then key in retirees’ personal data, one line at a time. They work underground not for secrecy but for space. The old mine’s tunnels have room for more than 28,000 file cabinets of paper records.
This post from Max Fisher on the Washington Post’s WorldView blog is just what I like. A huge array of beautiful maps about history, technology, politics, and the way societies work today. Oddly enough, it even starts with the map I posted about yesterday.
There’s a part one, just as great, that makes me really sad I didn’t know about this blog sooner.
A bit old news, but as I’ve said I’m a big map fan. The Washington Post has a very cool map of the countries that are more favorable to either the US or China. Some notes:
- Pakistan’s strong favor for China wasn’t something I’d have immediately guessed. It makes sense that there are few fans of the US there, but I wonder if low-level India-China tensions push them further in that direction.
- In South America, Venezuela’s favor for China doesn’t surprise me. Argentina’s does a little.
- All Israeli neighbors seem to prefer China. If Israel didn’t exist I feel like that might be different.
- Western Europe’s favor for the US is largely predictable, but why the favor slips toward China in Greece and Turkey isn’t obvious to me.
Comments are open, if you have any other notes, or explanations to some of mine.
It feels a little silly, but I’d never thought much about the similarity between the current heat surrounding images of Muhammad and the idol breaking that played a role both in the “Great schism” and reformation. The logic of the offended believers is similar:
“The prohibition is intended to protect the faithful from that sin [of polytheism]. The fear was that intense reverence for the prophet might if unrestrained cross over into worship. In the 8th and the 9th centuries a general consensus banning such depictions arose among the clerics, but not all Muslims knew of it, paid attention, or obeyed.”
This rather brief story from mental_floss is entertaining, even as it makes me wish for both greater length and depth. Cosmopolitan is perhaps the most surprising:
It wasn’t always about sex. Actually, when Cosmo started up in 1886, it wasn’t about sex at all, nor was it targeted at women, nor was it lowbrow: In 1892, a single issue featured stories by Henry James, James Russell Lowell (the poet and founding editor of The Atlantic Monthly), and Theodore Roosevelt. Early stories, according to Charles Panati, covered “such disparate subjects as how ancient people lived, climbing Mount Vesuvius, the life of Mozart, plus European travel sketches and African wild animal adventures.
Chronically losing out to the House’s privatized food service, the US Senate — led by Democrat Diane Feinstein — decided that it to would have to privatized it service.
The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats. Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit’s new hires.
(via Marginal Revolution)
I’d have never thought that this problem:
Over the past year, the District has fought to eliminate thousands of vacant buildings, sharply raising property taxes to force owners to sell, lease or occupy their real estate. But officials can exert no such pressure on more than a dozen derelict properties that have added a dose of blight to some of Washington’s grandest neighborhoods.
Each of the buildings served as an embassy or diplomatic residence for countries including Liberia and Malaysia, the Philippines and the Republic of Togo. Legally considered foreign soil in almost all cases, the buildings are exempt from property taxes and the fine print of the city’s building code.
The Washington Post has an interesting story about the black experience in Utah. I thought this quote were rather humorous and illustrative:
“I’ve had so many weird experiences like that,” said Griffin. “I went to San Francisco, and people didn’t stare at me. And it made me very uncomfortable, because everyone always stares at me.”
Arriving in the same city, Doriena Lee, 59, phoned her mother. “Guess what,” she said, “there are lots of us here!” Raised in Salt Lake, a city with so few, “I didn’t think there were very many black people in the world.”
Jake Adelstein has a fascinating Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post about his time covering the impotent policing of organized crime in Japan. A snippet:
Most Americans think of Japan as a law-abiding and peaceful place, as well as our staunch ally, but reporting on the underworld gave me a different perspective. Mobs are legal entities here. Their fan magazines and comic books are sold in convenience stores, and bosses socialize with prime ministers and politicians. And as far as the United States is concerned, Japan may be refueling U.S. warships at sea, but it’s not helping us fight our own battles against organized crime — a realization that led to my biggest scoop.
There’s some fascinating stuff in Peter Carlson’s story about the non-governmental National Security Archive. Like this brief list of things they retrieved through Freedom of Information Act requests:
A CIA guidebook called “A Study of Assassination,” which advised right-wing Latin Americans on the most effective ways to bludgeon, stab and shoot their enemies.
A National Security Agency study revealing that the agency “deliberately skewed” its account of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which led to the escalation of the Vietnam War.
A 2002 Pentagon PowerPoint briefing on plans for the upcoming invasion of Iraq — code name “Polo Step” — that assumed that only 5,000 American troops would remain in Iraq by the end of 2006.
Perhaps the most famous documents obtained by the archive were the CIA’s so-called “Family Jewels,” which detailed the agency’s illegal wiretaps and attempts to assassinate foreign leaders. The archive filed its FOIA request for the “Family Jewels” in 1992. Fifteen years later, in 2007, the CIA finally released them, and they made headlines around the world.
I like to see TERRORISM!! reconsidered from time to time. Today (yesterday actually), Josef Joffe does the honors:
Fear, in other words, is a tax, and al-Qaeda and its ilk have done better at extracting it from Americans than the Internal Revenue Service. Think about the extra half-hour millions of airline passengers waste standing in security lines; the annual cost in lost work hours runs into the billions. Add to that the freight delays at borders, ports and airports, the cost of checking money transfers as well as goods in transit, the wages for beefed-up security forces around the world. And that doesn’t even attempt to put a price tag on the compression of civil liberties or the loss of human dignity from being groped in full public view by Transportation Security Administration personnel at the airport or from having to walk barefoot through the metal detector, holding up your beltless pants. This global transaction tax represents the most significant victory of Terror International to date.
A note: “TERRORISM!!” is a single-word expression for the monolithic baddy that haunts our dreams and causes us to act irrationally. “Terrorism” is “the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”
I love when Slate’s media critic Jack Shafer offers a necessary bit of curmudgeonry.
Why doesn’t every newspaper Web site routinely link directly to the competition’s work? If a competitor’s story is good enough to cite in the copy, it’s good enough to link to. Examples: A recent Washingtonpost.com story cited an Nytimes.com story but linked to a generic page about the Times. The Nytimes.com does no better, citing a news-breaking Washington Post story in a recent article but not linking to it. (I can’t even locate a landing page for theWashington Post on Nytimes.com. Subtle slap or oversight?)
You may have heard Mr. McCain’s unavoidable claim that the federal government “wasted” $3 million on a study of bear DNA. It turns out he’s misconstruing the study — and the amount of money:
Actually, it was a scientific and logistical triumph, argues Katherine Kendall, 56, mastermind of the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project. […]
“There’s never been any information about the status of this population. We didn’t know what was going on — until this study,” Kendall said.
This was an astonishingly ambitious research project involving 207 paid workers, hundreds of volunteers, 7.8 million acres and 2,560 bear sampling sites. The project did not cost $3 million, as McCain’s ad alleges, but more than $5 million, including nearly $4.8 million in congressional appropriations. It had a strong advocate in Congress in Montana’s three-term senator, Conrad Burns, a Republican who was defeated in his reelection bid in 2006.
The verdict among the chattering classes is falling strongly on the side of a coming American recession. And this clever metric agrees with that growing consensus.
The Economist’s informal R-word index is also sounding alarms. Our gauge counts how many stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times use the word “recession” in a quarter. This simple formula pinpointed the start of recession in 1981 and 1990 and 2001. In the past few years the R-word index has been extremely low. It began to rise in the second half of 2007 and, measured at a quarterly rate, has soared in early 2008 (see chart). Although the number of stories is still lower than before previous recessions, the recent jump—if sustained for a quarter—is similar to that which preceded the 2001 downturn.