Audit Notes: Koblin Continues on Kouwe; Old Reformers; A good, quick WSJ probe; Charlie Moves Over, etc.

-John Koblin continues to turn in strong work for the Observer on the Times Bizday plagiarism story, this time with an interview with Zachery Kouwe who talks about why he did it.

Like all career car-wreck stories, you don’t want to watch but you do.

—Despite everything, the Times managed to put the paper out this morning and clocked in with a smart piece interviewing Wall Street alter cockers elder statesmen who are in favor of the Volcker Rule, which would divide insured deposits from proprietary trading. It doesn’t strike me as much of a surprise that Soros and John Bogle, both longstanding and articulate Wall Street critics, would be in there, but it’s a good story idea just the same.

—The Journal’s piece on the commercial considerations that went into the design and location of the Olympic luge track, site of course of the fatal crash on the opening day, was quite strong, particularly given the fast turn-around time.

Rather than put the track at Grouse Mountain in the city, where the terrain was more suitable, organizers put it at the Whistler resort, where more people would pay to use it. But the valley up there is narrow:

The 71-year-old Mr. Gurgel [a German luge course designer] had built most of the major new luge runs in the world, including six Olympic tracks, over four-plus decades. He says the Whistler terrain was one of the steepest and narrowest possible. Its 100-yard-wide valley compares with Calgary’s 300 yards and Salt Lake City’s 500 yards.

That meant the site was too narrow to build in typical speed-slowing long curves, he said. Whistler’s had to be short and tight, which meant high gravitational forces against the driver in the curves and, toward the end, because the G-forces would be too much to bear, almost no curves, allowing sleds to break through past top speeds.

The course’s dangers became part of its marketing.

“Vivid, violent and rough— the Whistler Sliding Centre is not for the faint of heart,” the Web site of the center, operated by Vanoc, said in promotional material that remained on the site this week. “The track has a rhythm that every slider must try to capture. Sliders must find it early in their run. If they lose it, it will be hard to get back on the beat.”

It’s quite chilling to read.

Some good stimulus reading, besides the Leonhardt column I liked in the Times: the WSJ also made some good points in its stimulus story:

Proponents of the stimulus program focused attention on infrastructure projects during the fight to win approval for it last year. But the bulk of the money proposed for projects like new rail lines and water projects—about $180 billion in all—is likely to be spent this year at the earliest. During year one of the stimulus, only about $20 billion of money was handed out for infrastructure projects.

—Charlie’s heading to Fox, but if you know who Charlie is, you know that already. This was incredibly closely watched in the biz media world, when you think about it. Business Insider has the details.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.