Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gallup: 38% say FDA is doing a good job, lower than IRS

It's true the IRS received the highest ratings since 1956, at 40%. However, confidence in FDA is even lower, at 38%.

"The Environmental Protection Agency, Internal Revenue Service, and Food and Drug Administration fall a notch lower in the rankings, as close to 40% of Americans give each of them credit for doing an excellent or good job. The relatively low ranking of the FDA is of particular note with regard to the scrutiny the agency has been under, given recent attention to U.S. food safety."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Washington Post invites the powerful to write their own news - with no editors to check their planted stories

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander has failed to connect two serious reader complaints of uncorrected "Pay to Play" journalism.

One scandal occurs where Post owner Katharine Weymouth invites politicians and power brokers to an off-the-record party at her home (she called them "Salons" as if it were a bona fide Algonquin Rountable). The Ombudsman finally reveals on Sunday that for weeks before the event, reporters and editors objected to the plan that, "for a fee of up to $25,000, underwriters were guaranteed a seat at the table with lawmakers, administration officials, think tank experts, business leaders and the heads of associations."
  • There is no explanation of why the salons would be off-the-record, a special type of meeting where the speakers are not responsible for what they say and the reporters agree not to use what it said. It is much more restrictive than merely agreeing to be an anonymous source.
  • There was no explanation of why it was going to be paid for by the industry that was covered by the event.
  • Although the editor apologized for the way it was portrayed by Marketing, there is no explanation of why Marketing would be involved in the event if it were truly an informational meeting.

The second scandal is that the information at the Salons, as well as other pay-to-play and favored politicians, can further influence the content of the Post because there are so few editors and fact-checkers that errors are now at unacceptable levels. What is the Post's plan to address this, you might ask: Telling readers to Get Used to It.

"Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli did not disagree that more errors have appeared lately.... Post managers have few choices but to cut staff while restructuring for the future.... Small errors will continue. Loyal Post readers should continue to note them when they're small and complain loudly when they're large. But I hope they also show some patience and understanding. "

The cuts are big and small, and rightly have a devastating effect on the Post's credibility. As another example, June 8th's Travel section had photos from Bigstockphoto.com and the Florida Department of Tourism. No Post photographers took any of the pictures on the front page of the section.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New Legislators - Manno is excellent, Elrich not a "people person"

In Montgomery County our district is represented by legislators in their first terms, including a state legislator and an at-large councilman. Roger Manno has a 100% pro-environmental rating by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Environment Maryland. He received a perfect environmental score for the 2008 Legislative Session. This is Manno's second straight year scoring 100%, making him one of only five sitting Delegates in Maryland with a perfect 100% lifetime environmental rating. I was even more impressed when I called his office during the July 4th Holiday weekend and my call was answered by ... Delegate Manno! We spent 20 minutes talking about how to Save the Chesapeake Bay. His attention and passion were evident throughout the conversation, and his staff contact called me back within a few minutes to follow up. As soon as I got home, I broke out my credit cards and donated to him. Call him and talk to him, and I'm sure you will, too.

On the other hand, I met Marc Elrich at one of his fundraisers when he was running for the seat he won, an at-large Council member in Montgomery County. I paid the entrance fee to the fundraiser, and went to shake his hand and introduce myself. He said he didn't have time to meet me - his sister was visiting. "What?" I said to his retreating back as he hustled away. "Don't you have her vote?" After the election, I saw him at a Women's conference at the U MD campus in Shady Grove. Hundreds of women were there. He leaned on the back wall and then turned his back on the attendees. I snapped a shot, and that's him, circled, the shoulder in the blue shirt, ignoring dozens of constituents in line and having a tete-a-tete with someone he already knows.

It's not just annoying that he avoids voters even when requesting donations. His signature proposal so far has been to work to combine the activities of the County Recreation Department with other programs. The plan might save money, but the biggest cost is the confusion and unrest now created by the proposal for change without a plan for making the change happen.

"OPPONENTS ARE LESS concerned with the territorial dispute between the departments than with the fear that the potential assumption of responsibility for the county’s parks by the Department of Recreation would threaten the integrity and preservation of parkland.

A joint letter signed by representatives of the Audubon Naturalist Society, the West Montgomery County Citizens Association and the Neighbors of Northwest Branch and distributed to media outlets on Friday, March 6 warned that "[r]ecreation [department] contractors are not obliged to include a conservation or stewardship message. The Department itself does not have any track record for environmental stewardship." The letter urged that no action be taken by the Council or the PHED committee before a public hearing on the matter could be scheduled to obtain input from county residents."