Friday, January 09, 2009

Assorted Comments

Paul Krugman's post "The Trouble with Sanjay Gupta" is not accepting comments (I don't know if this is because of time or the number of comments but, thanking my lucky stars that I am not Krugman's comment screener (or one of the team) I don't complain).

I shared Krugman's concerns, but didn't post.


He put it better than I would have, of course, but did have to re-explain in an update which should be read (see below). I actually support the appointment of Gupta as I think that Paris is worth a Mass and universal coverage is worth genuflecting to the village (This was put better by Ezra Klein of course).

However, I do want to add one particular reason I have so much sympathy for Krugman's position. Bagehot distinguished the "efficient" offices in the UK (prime minister etc) from the "dignified" offices (King). I think we should distinguish between the political or spin based offices and the reality based offices in the US. Some people had better not be too frank or too blindly devoted to facticity -- diplomats, congressional liason, press secretary etc. Others are supposed to be reality based : directors of theCBO, EPA, NASA, NIH, and the Surgeon General. The role, such as it is, is to report inconvenient scientific truths such as Smoking kills )(I forget who) and facts related to sex (C Everett Koop, Jocylen Elder). Limited respect for the difference between making a case and fudging facts, an unwillingness to admit error, and concern for style (Moore is fat and loud) over substance (the claims of fact in his last 2 films are all accurate) are serious impediments to good performance in this role. I am convinced that the idea is that Gupta will be a salesman for health care reform and accept that as say a hail Mary after the Mass which Paris is worth. Still I think that politics should stop somewhere.

If the facts of the case are unclear, read Krugman's summary (from above I wanted to force you to read me first)

Update: Many commenters don’t seem to get the point. Gupta didn’t say “Michael Moore is an annoying blowhard”; he didn’t say “We question his interpretation of the evidence”; he said he “fudged the facts”. In other words, he accused Moore of lying. That’s a very strong accusation, which had better be backed by solid evidence. Instead, we had CNN misreading a number from Moore; CNN objecting to Moore using a projected health care spending number for 2007 instead of an actual number for 2005 (and the projection was right, by the way); CNN accusing Moore of not showing a number that was in fact right there in the movie. And Gupta did not apologize, except for the misread number.


I can't get comments at www.samefacts.com to work. Jonathan Zasloff types with his tongue firmly in cheek "Nate Silver Makes an Egregious Factual Error.
Two days ago, Nate Silver penned a punishing takedown of the Wall Street Journal's alternative universe on the Minnesota recount. As they say, read the whole thing.

But in the beginning, Silver sets up an alternative universe of his own. His post in entitled, "Did the Wall Street Journal Fire Their Fact-Checkers?"

Nate, this is the Wall Street Journal editorial page. It has no fact-checkers."

I'm sure Silver was being deliberately ironic when he pretended to consider the Wall Street Journal editorial page to be part of the Wall Street Journal. The link shows, however, that his fingers rebelled as Zasloff links to
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/01/did-wall-street-jorunal-fire-their-fact.html.

That is, Silver first entitled his post "did the Wall Street Jorunal fire their fact ...". I think this is a useful distinction and that the pages formerly known as The Wall Street Journal editorial pages should heceforth be called "The Wall Street Jorunal" with obligatory link to Solver's takedown.

update: Congresman Jon Conyers, chairman of the house Judiciary peace committee, share my concerns about getting facts right (and one of his stafers has matchd my Spellling abilaty) and objects to the appointment of Sunjay Gupta (no problem Mr congressman, Sunjay Gupta will not be surgeon general).

Conyers has been magnificent these past few years and, since I think that congressional staff are part of the spin based not the reality based government, I'm not too concerned. Still embarrassing. Via Oliver Willis Via Steve Benen

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