Three updates: Hudson River, "false claims," origins of Iraq

Catching up on a variety of previous reports:

1) The FAA responds in a sensible, proportionate way to last month's tragic crash above the Hudson River. Following the lead of the NTSB, as mentioned here, it will soon propose clear, common-sense rules of the "road" to keep airplanes and helicopters safely separated in the busy Hudson River corridor. For instance, it will require -- rather than just expect -- that northbound traffic stay on the east side of the river, and southbound on the right; and that helicopters stay at a lower altitude than the airplanes; and all pilots stick to the same radio frequency; and other steps.

Why this matters: because it's a targeted, non-panicky response directed at the specific problem that has been revealed, rather than a sweeping exercise in TSA-style "security theater." It will no doubt create complications of its own, mainly through increased work for controllers. But overall, this is a victory for common sense.

2) Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, whose previous reporting about the health-care debate has been noted (in different ways) here and here, has a very strong story today about Elizabeth McCaughey and her role in these discussions.

Why this matters: the story straightforwardly does something that goes against the nature of mainstream coverage. It notes the influence that Ms. McCaughey's claims have had on public discussion, while also flatly saying that those claims are often false. It's worth recognizing what a step this is for the Times, prefigured in this story from three weeks ago. The natural reflex of mainstream publications is to finesse such disagreements with the "some critics claim..." approach. It seems more "objective," and it certainly is safer for the reporter and the news organization. And when we are talking about differences of opinion, judgment, or political creed, of course that's exactly the right approach to take. ("Is the Administration's approach to Iran likely to work? Some critics claim...") But there is a such a thing as plain misstatement of fact, and it is good when the press can point it out.

3) James Gibney of the Atlantic also has a very strong, short item about revisionism now being practiced by some of the architects and enthusiasts of the invasion of Iraq.  In particular, the writer Max Boot and the former DOD official Paul Wolfowitz, the latter of whom I have written about here and here.

Why this matters: The edge to Gibney's argument will be evident to anyone who reads it. What most people would not realize is how particularly trenchant a judgment this is, coming from him. As a one-time Foreign Service officer (and former executive editor of Foreign Policy magazine), James Gibney is no one's idea of a hothead. He is more gentlemanly than most people who express views on this site (not to mention on the whole untrammeled web), and less known for harsh opinions. These words have weight.