Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blows against the Empire #2

This is the kind of story that makes your head spin. No end to the use of new technology in ways you'd never imagine.

According to this Boing Boing post, people in Bahrain had enough with the giant palaces built by the royal family and its friends, and have used Google Earth to download satellite photos showing what's behind the walls. The pictures are being distributed as PDFs and printouts and show areas that could support hundreds of families being taken up by one.

Quiet protest

This is one of those stories that makes you shake your head and wonder if the '60s are back, it seems so familiar.

The Guardian's Newsblog tells the story of The Quiet Death of Malachi Ritscher, who burned himself to death near a highway ramp in Chicago a couple weeks ago. Links here to several reports of this story, and puzzlement about why this story was so little covered in the American media.

The Chicago Sun Times had a brief story when it happened, with the victim unnamed. Some media has followed up now, including this AP story on MSNBC. There was one long profile of Ritscher on Pitchfork Media last week, mentioned by a commenter on the Guardian post. Some of the commenters and the profile mention other coverage, claiming the story has not been ignored.

It's a sad story and unclear whether this was a desperate war protest or a very public suicide. But the reaction to the Guardian posting in the comments is quite revealing, from all sides of the political spectrum.

Fascinating story, either way. As the Pitchfork Media story says,
Malachi Ritscher is one of fewer than 10 people in American history to have done this. And as of 2006, it's hard to imagine how an American could successfully use self-immolation as a form of protest.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Herald. Again.

The El Nuevo Herald/ Jose Varela story is over, but the commentary continues. Miami bloggers are saying it's a reflection of a deeply divided community, which seems to have become more divided than ever in the couple of years since I left.

Bob Norman links to a lot of the blog comments on Daily Pulp. Serious discussion in the comments on the postings on Critical Miami, Stuck on the Palmetto, and Babalu, of course.

When it comes to analyzing the El Nuevo/Miami Herald relationship, I can't help thinking about Alberto Ibargüen. He was the one who convinced Herald and Knight Ridder leaders that El Nuevo should be a separate newspaper, with its own staff and newsroom. Alberto Ibargüen was named Miami Herald publisher, rewarded for his forward-looking ideas. He left a couple years later to lead the Knight Foundation.

This may have been a case where the idea was too fragile to be deserted by its creator, the only one who could make it work.

As this story develops, it highlights the ridiculous feuding developing among some South Florida bloggers. There's a lot of anger there. Varela was just one example of it.

As good an idea as any

Via Sheila Lennon, a column by Jonathan Chait in the Los Angeles Times: Bring Back Saddam Hussein.
Says Chait:
I know why restoring a brutal tyrant to power is a bad idea. Somebody explain to me why it's worse than all the others.

Oh yes, and also on Sheila's blog: Arlo Guthrie performs Alice's Restaurant in 2005. All 18 minutes of it, on You Tube. Oh, the memories....

After a long weekend

Apologies for light posting over the last week or so. My work load is down right now so I don't have a reason to spend most of the day at the computer, and the Indian Summer weather the last few days has me outside as much as possible. Last chance to trim the apple and peach trees, weed the flower beds and turn and mulch the garden. Not to mention getting out to see the newly-visible mountains after leaf fall, a lake cruise, and showing a visitor the area last weekend.
I didn't even bother to blog the latest Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald fiasco. Well, it was all over CNN, after all...

Some of last week's best research links:

  • Federal Trade Commission decisions online going back to 1969.
  • PCNames, a quick domain name search leading to WHOIS results.
  • North American Transportation Statistics, 2006 (press release with data links). The database: Includes stats from Canada, Mexico.
  • World Energy Outlook, 2006 from International Energy Agency.
  • Going online in Cuba - Internet under surveillance from Reporters without Borders.
  • Find Latitude and Longitude by entering an address or location, from Infoplease, has expanded to worldwide locations.
  • Women in the Labor Force Databook, 2006
  • Search London-area alien registration cards, covering 1876-1991, from National Archives (UK). Search is free, full records is £3.50.
  • from Kaiser Family Foundation, latest data.
  • The Iraq Study Group, includes links to publications and fact sheets.

  • Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Purple places, interactive newspapers, another Cuban plot and another Florida recount mess

    A few random things today, catching up from a couple days of reduced online time:

    Nice to see this new map of a purple nation, posted at Facing South. Seems this country's been divided for much too long. A version of this map came out after the last national election, and it was good then to see that at least most states weren't just red or blue. Now the purple is spreading, and there are blue patches in places that wouldn't be expected: the southeast piedmont area and central and west Tennessee, for example. Appalachia is nicely purple or blue too, mostly. My old home county in upstate New York is still pretty red, and, wow, most of Oregon and Kansas. But what's with the green?

    Discussion of how newspapers should be evolving online is rampant, what with a couple Washington Post political reporters leaving to start a new online mag (LOTS of discussion on Romenesko, and see this column from Slate's Jack Shafer), and some interesting commentary:
    In the Online Journalism Review, Tom Grubisich reviews several community journalism projects like Westport Now, Bluffton Today and Backfence: 'Potemkin Village' Redux.
    Mark Potts discusses the Washington Post situation and other online enterprise on his Recovering Journalist blog.
    So does Steve Yelvington on his.

    Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy? A documentary filmaker's investigation runs on the BBC. There is, as always, a Miami connection:
    I did not buy the official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started dipping into the nether-world of "assassination research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a fearsome Yaqui Indian....Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work closely with chief of operations Morales on training Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro....We move to Washington to meet Wayne Smith, a state department official for 25 years who knew Morales well at the US embassy in Havana in 1959-60.
    When we show him the video in the ballroom, his response is instant: "That's him, that's Morales." He remembers Morales at a cocktail party in Buenos Aires in 1975, saying Kennedy got what was coming to him.

    Following the recount questions in the race for Katharine Harris's former seat in Florida? The Sarasota Herald Tribune has a special online section: 13th Congressional District Recount, with profiles, video reports, and news stories.

    Speaking of Cuba connections, Daily Pulp links to news of a memo from The Miami Herald's Tom Fiedler, upset about a column in the sister El Nuevo Herald that seems to accuse Herald reporter Oscar Corral of bad things.

    A Miami photo: This was linked on Stuck on the Palmetto, but too good to pass by: Miami Construction Boom, a photo by Jenny Romney on Flickr. Taken from the roof of the Miami Herald, a location I have photographed from often (although I never had access to the roof so mine were always a lower perspective). LOTS of new skyscrapers going up. (If I'm wrong about the Herald's roof, it must have been from a helicopter.)

    One last thing. Don't click on this YouTube video if you're at work, or uncomfortable with sexual situations. Screwed by Bush.

    Saturday, November 18, 2006

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    Some nice collections of research links showed up this week. I especially like the 'Research beyond Google' list, and the great polls guide.

    I haven't been checking all the places I usually do, though, since I seem to have less time to read blogs lately. Also, I recently lost an email address I'd been using for years so haven't been seeing some of the email research lists I'd subscribed to; need to resubscribe. Many of the lists I have used, though, are listed here, although this list needs updating too.

    The links:

  • Research Beyond Google: 119 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources from the Online Education Database, great list of best research databases.
  • BNA Web Watch: Climate Change/Global Warming.
  • Policy and Research on Aging, links to stats, reports, etc. from AARP.
  • ALA Guide to Public Opinion Polls: great links to all national, state, and international polls, plus research guides and journals.

  • Penn World Tables, "provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 179 countries for some or all of the years 1950-2000."

    Governments, Politics:
  • Patterns of Global Terrorism, the new book consisting of several years' worth of Dept. of State reports, several parts available for free download.

  • Business Research from ExploritNow, searches several business databases including business journals, for free.
  • CDBNet: Commerce Business Daily search from GPO.

  • PopURLs gives you the headlines from dozens of news/blog/image sites like Digg, Flickr, You Tube, Google, Yahoo, Topix news, and lots more.

    Public Records:
  • The Email Finder: says it will find email address for a name, or identify the owner of an email address, for a one-time lifetime fee of $19.95.
  • Mail Drop Search Form, from student financial aid website, identifies addresses that may be sources of non-legitimate solicitations.
  • Keeping your enemies close, profile of public records vendor Choicepoint in NY Times.
  • The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, a database of court cases from Washington U.

    Some interesting stories/blogs:
  • Daou Report from Salon, offers news from blogs and other sources.
  • Swift Boat Revenge: New York magazine article on John Soltz, veteran and creator of the VoteVets political ads.

  • Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Miami game creates a legend

    Thanks to PopCultureJunkMail, we discover that the story of "Ned" seems to be becoming a new sensation.

    A'mod Ned, an FIU football player with an injury, was photographed walking onto the field on crutches to try to join the notorious brawl between UM and FIU players a couple weeks ago. Ned's story has been followed on the Deadspin blog, which last week began putting the Ned picture into legendary battles. The legend evolves into poetry and more pictures in the comments.

    More fun with lines

    Tara Calishain points out a fad sweeping the world in the Tech Talk blog at WRAL, Raleigh: Line Rider, from an artist in Slovenia.
    It's amazingly simple, you use a pencil tool to draw a downward line from left to right and click on the 'start' arrow. A sled with rider appears (Tara calls him a penguin but that's debatable) and coasts down your line. If you make the line too steep, there'll be an accident. It's amazingly addictive. If you have success, you can save your ride.

    Note a comment on Tara's blog links to a Line Rider blog, with links to ride videos made by Line Rider addicts around the world, some in Google Video or You Tube, and very complicated.

    A new kind of conservative

    It'll be interesting to see just how conservative some of these new Democratic congresspersons will be. Jim Webb, the newly-elected senator from Virginia, may be a Democrat now but hasn't always been. Webb has a column in the Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal, of all places, in which he attacks the conservatism of the current government: Class Struggle. Says Webb:
    America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country.
    ...Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone.
    ...A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism."
    ...American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade...

    Flank Two Position, from a Tennessee blogger who claims to be a conservative, is doing a series called 'Conservative Appreciation Week'. Worth a read, especially for the analysis of positions on foreign policy, the online gambling ban, and the like.
    On that gambling ban:
    This hasn't really hurt anyone to any degree even approaching a need (or even a desire) for government action, and is in fact a personal choice that people make for themselves. But, hey, we're "conservatives," right? We love the government! And anyway, as we all know, the Bible says gambling is wrong. Well, it says it somewhere.

    Foreign policy:
    It used to be that conservatives always had one card we could always play. Oh sure, we wanted the poor to starve, the homeless to keep being homeless, and public schools to collapse, but everyone still knew that when it came to keeping things in order overseas and keeping the bad guys at bay, that the conservatives were the ones to do it.

    Don't miss the terrorism chronology here:
    July 23, 2004 -- Earl Stanton of Passalong, Nebraska tells wife that it just occurred to him that we are still in Afghanistan. "I thought that was over," Earl says to his wife.
    ...October 2004 -- In his first debate with John Kerry, President Bush seems only dimly aware that there's even a war going on.
    ...October 7, 2005 -- Donald Rumsfeld personally waterboards a Pentagon tour guide just to see what all the fuss is about.
    ...And, well, here we are in late 2006, over five years after 9/11. What do we have? Well, we are still in Afghanistan and as far as anyone seems to know Osama bin Laden is still at large. Let's check out the Axis of Evil, shall we? Iraq remains a mess.

    (Via Knox Views.)

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Fake News

    Back in the late '60s or so, I had an epiphany when I ran across an old episode of 'The Beverly Hillbillies' and was shocked to see a sequence where Granny decided to plant a garden in the mansion's lawn. She was discouraged from doing that and taken on an excursion to see the vegetable fields in California's Imperial Valley, to prove to her that there were plenty of veggies in the store for her to buy: why grow them? The American market will provide.....

    It was then that I realized that even entertainment in the national media was subject to propaganda: was that episode the idea of the advertisers? Since then, it's been obvious that many so-called 'entertainment' sources are full of subtle and not-so-subtle connections to marketing.

    So this isn't a surprise: a report from the Center for Media and Democracy, Still Not the News, listing several cases where local news reports have been provided by business sources, including one on a Mississippi station supposedly disproving global warming, from a lobbying company for Exxon.
    The report found 46 stations airing 'fake news' segments provided by businesses. It follows up on an earlier report with similar results.
    (Via J.D. Lasica.)

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    On a lighter (maybe ) note

    Bismarck and the emperor: Amazing to see an historical political cartoon come to life again. This one, from 1890, was resurrected in 1945. And now, thanks to the genius of Guardian artist Steve Bell, has been again, in the personae of George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, in a much more gruesome version. Thanks to Why Now? who dug these out.

    Someone in Metafilter linked recently to Nobody Here, a whimsical site linked from this blog for several years. Seeing that link led me to browse it again, and its newest feature, the hermit crab. When I first loaded it I thought my computer was dying, from the sound of the skittering crab legs. And it took awhile to figure out the point, but if you drag the crab so he falls out of his shell, he'll find another home from the objects on the desktop, quite amusing. Or just make holes in the socks.

    I like this one, too, an investigation of a journalistic cliche: The Rise and Fall of the "Bus Plunge" Story, by Jack Shafer in Slate. Fascinating.

    (Had trouble getting this post to publish last night. Still didn't show up this morning even though it was in the published list.)

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    War and bread, and other things

    A few interesting things I missed this weekend or late last week:

    The Way Out of War, a new blueprint from George McGovern, in Harper's. Seems McGovern has been resurrected, if the recently oft-shown documentary on alternative satellite stations is a sign....

    Into the Abyss: Reporting Iraq, is a special report on war correspondents from the Columbia Journalism Review.

    On the new Defense secretary nominee: The Robert Gates File from National Security Archives, has excerpts from a book about Gates' Iran-Contra involvement.

    The Secret of Great Bread, New York Times story on a new method of no-knead breadmaking. The dough is raised over 20 hours and baked in a preheated closed pot. The recipe.
    Always interested in finding a new bread method, although I have finally perfected mine. I'll be trying this one.

    And, a new photo blog: Paris Daily Photo, from Eric, a Parisian resident. Note this is a part of a chain of City Daily photoblogs, with many cities participating. No one in Miami yet. There is one from Nashville, though apparently not all the sites adhere to the 'daily' requirement....

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    Offline but not out

    Regular posting will resume this week. Took a couple days away, and during last week found little to post. Here are just a few useful research links I collected:

  • PDF Pad offers free documents including staff paper, grids, calendars, flags, and Sudoku.
  • The Eco-Advantage, from Inc., lists 50 greenest companies.
  • State ballot measures on non-traditional marriage, 2006 compiled by Unitarian Universalist Assn.
  • Is Congress a Family Business? Continuation of the investigation from Sunlight Foundation.

  • Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Now, that explains it

    Thanks to a link from Stuck on the Palmetto, this news from Babalu Blog's Val Prieto that the reason for the shift in power created by Tuesday's election is all the fault of....the mainstream media. Interesting comments, too.

    Another cost of the war

    In Al Tompkin's list of good resources for covering Veterans' Day, the projected cost of providing health care to new veterans from this war. We're talking something like $122 billion. The figure comes from a study by two economists, reported in this Houston Chronicle editorial. Tompkins also cites a USA Today story on a survey of returning veterans and their possible claims.

    Just one more thing to add to the problems of paying for health care in this country. The effects of the war just keep coming...and will the rest of our lives.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Meet your Congress

    CQPolitics has profiles of all the new members.

    Here's mine.

    On a related note, Christopher Lydon's Open Source Radio is collection reactions to the election results here: Was It Good for You?

    I am disappointed in one race, the one I had to watch most closely because it was on my TV news and commercials every night: the Bob Corker/Harold Ford race. This one seemed to be a shoe-in for Ford, until about two weeks ago when the RNC ran some obnoxious ads. Too bad those seemed to sway it, you'd like to think voters woudn't be influenced by something like that. A couple reactions to these results from Tennessee bloggers: R Neal and Whites Creek at Knox Views, and Rex Hammock.

    Anyway, time for us all to think about something posted by one of the commenters in 'Was it Good for You?":
    I can’t believe we are a country that could have or would ever go to, be led to, war so willingly, so easily.
    Can we now focus not on divisive issues but what we need to do to save us all?: slow climate change, contain nuclear weapons, equalize the effects of globalization, and reduce poverty (the disparity between rich and poor) and disease? Can we start at home? Can we set an example? or start?

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Election news

    For those who want to follow today's election as it happens, a few sites besides news sites are doing a really good job of blogging the events by state:

    • Taegan Goddard's Political Wire is full of links to news and compilations.

    • AMERICAblog is following the twists and turns, especially the dirty tricks and voting problems.

    • Showdown06, from Washington Monthly, has bloggers posting from each state.

    • Talking Points Memo is linking to poll news.

    • Memeorandum is picking up on news and blog reports on voting questions.

    • is an easy way to link to latest news reports; of course, so is Yahoo! or Google News.

    How important is this election?

    Sure, it's a mid-term, and the chance of both houses changing leadership is still pretty slim, if you believe the latest polls, but there is something happening here, Mr. Jones.

    Check this Times of London column, for example: A vote to send tremors around the world, in which Bernard-Henri Lévy says:
    ...everything will be decided according to local squabbles. Yet these are the only elections of truly global importance in the world. This is the only electoral battle that we know of on which, in a strict sense, the fate of the planet hangs.
    ...The war in Iraq will not stop magically. However, a Bush Administration faced with a Republican minority in Congress would be obliged to foster alliances and at times take into account dissenting opinions, particularly the ones within the party.
    ...The two victories of the “moral values” maniacs in 2000 and 2004 were never a movement but a battle of the rearguard. The sustained direction of the past 40 years of American history — toward the victories of civil rights, the democratisation of the South, the loosening of moral strictures — demonstrates that the Bush phenomenon is above all a last stand, the ultimate and terrible outburst of a beast that knows it is wounded and is gambling it all.

    And, Ten things this election should have been about (and still can be), from Nieman Watchdog:
    Q Do we know what the next phase of the war on terror will be?
    Q Can we secure energy independence?
    Q Is EPA obsolete?
    Q Will entitlements bankrupt us?
    Q Should we provide health insurance for everyone?
    Q When the next disaster happens, will anyone be home to answer the phone?
    Q Has FEMA learned Katrina’s lessons?
    Q Is the big Mexican fence keeping problems out—or walling problems in?
    Q Can we make our ports safe?
    Q Can we really manage the risks of 21st century life?

    On that last one: cynics are asking whether we’re heading for a world where we have to fly naked and without luggage to prevent potential terrorist from smuggling weapons on board—but where we’re building high-rise oceanfront condos as hurricane bait.

    Seems it's hard to get voters to think about this sort of question, when really all they want to talk about is Britney Spears' marriage or Kirsie Alley's bikini, or whether Dan Rather has lost it. No wonder we're in a mess. (Funny, I don't see any of those people on this ballot from The Atlantic to find the most influential American....)

    Meanwhile, however, Greg Palast says this election has already been stolen.
    (Via Memeorandum.)

    Election Day and online books

    Gary Price links several good reference resources for election information today.

    Among them,'s election page, which offers a pretty nice interface for finding info quickly, including a pulldown menu by state. Here's North Carolina, a very good selection of links.

    NCVoter has verified voter information, including a list of voting systems used in each county. I used a touchscreen system this morning, with a paper printout. The state election board indicates it was probably an I-Votronic (I should have noted the brand).

    The local paper's photographer arrived as I was in line to take pictures of voting, but I don't think I was in any of them.
    Speaking of photographing voting, though, there's been some discussion of a few projects to photograph or videotape voting to create a record in case of questions. Here's one, from There's answers to legal questions about this here.

    For bloggers reporting on elections, here's a great link (via J.D. Lasica), to the Center for Citizen Media's Election Day Law FAQ. It includes questions and answers from law students at Stanford. More questions welcome.

    I hope this isn't happening everywhere, but here's a report about some serious election trickery going on the Virginia Senate campaign, via Kos.

    Since I started out with a Resourceshelf link, here's another: Gary lists lots of sites for finding online fulltext books.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Iraq tipping point

    Much news about the situation there, dire despite the sentencing of Saddam Hussein (and lots of rumors about whether it was timed to help the Republicans in tomorrow's election):

    First, a new release from the National Security Archives, The Post-Saddam Iraq War Game. It's the briefing books from the1999 Desert Crossing exercise, headed by Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, which determined it would require an invasion force of 400,000 troops "and still a mess".
    The results of Desert Crossing, however, drew pessimistic conclusions regarding the immediate possible outcomes of such action. Some of these conclusions are interestingly similar to the events which actually occurred after Saddam was overthrown.

    (Note Zinni's 2002 speech on the question of invading Iraq: "I'm not sure what planet they live on", in this Salon story from that year.)

    Vanity Fair reports that the war's neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration. It has quotes from people like Richard Perle, who says:
    "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad. I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war."

    And Michael Ledeen:
    "Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are. They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."

    Vanity Fair subtitles the report: "Now they tell us". Kevin Drum comments; so does Glenn Greenwald.

    From Juan Cole: Top ten ways we know we've lost the war in Iraq. Number two:
    When the Neoconservatives are suddenly against having invaded Iraq, then you know the Iraq War is lost. Talk about rats and a sinking ship!

    Harper's reviews a new book, On the Brink:
    According to Drumheller, understanding the way the Bush Administration manipulated intelligence is central to determining an exit strategy from Iraq. “We can't begin to address the conflict until the pre-war period is confronted in an honest fashion,” he said. “We don't even know what we're confronting over there because we keep changing the reason that we went there in the first place.”

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    Trying to spend less time at the computer and more time out taking photos of the fall colors, before they're all gone and it gets too cold (pretty cold this weekend, already).
    But still, some pretty good reference resources came along this week:

    The links:

  • Top Ten most useful medical Websites, from Medical Library Assn.
  • City Crime ratings from Morgan Quitno, press release and links to free rankings, or order the book.
  • Modern Ground Combat Force Structure, from Council on Foreign Relations.

  • More statistics from Europe: Eurostat Statistical Handbook 2006 is a downloadable PDF of "a balanced set of statistical data about the economic and social development of the European Union."
  • Regional Indicators,a U. of New Hampshire project aggregating Census data by region, rather than state.

  • African American genealogical resources, links and guides from Familysearch.

  • Inc. 500, searchable database of the 500 fastest-growing private companies.
  • Enron Explorer, free searchable database of Enron company emails, compiled in Trampoline Systems' social network analysis software.

    Public Records:
  • The Bloggers' FAQ, from Electronic Frontier Foundation. How to do Freedom of Information Act requests for government documents, even if you're not a journalist. Via the National Journal's Beltway Blogroll.
  • Washington Area Government Employee Salary databases are linked in this posting on Mark Tapscott's editorial on the Washington Examiner online news site, part of their WECAN community action network. (Excel spreadsheet format).

    Some interesting stories/blogs:
  • Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade? Analysis from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Cuba: We're forced to 'finance' the Internet from ZDNet. "A Cuba government official told a United Nations summit here that the U.S. government was to blame for the poor Internet access that its citizens endure."

  • Currier and Ives illustration database from Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Mass.
  • Travel, Tourism, and Urban Growth in Urban Miami, an online exhibit from UM's library.
  • Earth from Space, a Smithsonian exhibition of satellite images.

  • Friday, November 03, 2006

    Searching for another October surprise

    So, clutching at straws, the political blogosphere is making a really big deal over the story that the New York Times had today, about the cache of Iraqi documents that the government posted on a website called "“Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal," now shut down.

    Turns out the documents included some from Saddam Hussein's pre-1991 nuclear project, with detailed instructions on how to make an atomic bomb. That's 1991...before the first Gulf War. But lots of folks seem to be saying that this is proof of the 2003 pre-invasion reported WMDs. (See Instapundit, for example).

    On the other side, check out bloggers like Attytood's Will Bunch, who outlines how bloggers and conservative members of Congress pushed for the documents to be put online in the first place:
    It turns out that the Bush administration's unprecendented -- and apparently foolish beyond belief -- decision to agree to post thousands upon thousands of raw and in some cases unexamined or untranslated documents captured in the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the Internet had a very unintended consequence.
    ...It happened because after the White House invaded a Middle Eastern country based upon a web of lies about weapons of mass destruction and phony ties to al-Qaeda, the neoconservatives were desperate for any shred of evidence that might belatedly prove they were right after all, and enlisted their blogger backers to become amateur WMD Sherlock Holmes'.
    ...In fact, just as Negreponte and those "overly-cautious" lawyers warned, there really has been no helpful information that's come out of this "swarm." Nada. None. Sadly, No does a good job of chronicling some of the foolish mistranslations and other mishaps that have instead taken place.

    Link is missing, but that's Sadly, No, which has links to other bloggers claiming this is proof of WMDs. Also, Digby points to a report that even Condoleeza Rice is making this claim.

    No blogs for government employees?

    This is a bit unsettling. Seems some government agencies have decided their employees shouldn't be reading blogs at work. Ok, if it keeps them from wasting time reading gossip blogs or friends' postings, but what if there are blogs that discuss the very issues these employees are dealing with every day?

    Two reports:
    In E-Media Tidbits, Amy Gahran reports that the Department of Interior is blocking blogs from employees' computers. One anonymous department Public Information Officer said it affects them:
    (PIOs)...who usually only care about what appears in mainstream news organizations -- were so peeved by their recent blog deprivation. "When it comes to wildlife issues, a lot of important stuff that might potentially involve our agency crops up in blogs first..."

    And, the other day, Doc Searls pointed to news that employees of Ireland's parliament are forbidden to read or write blogs.

    More on elections , and Ford and the GOP

    Just a couple of things following up on some things I've posted in last few days:

    In the Los Angeles Times, another wrapup on possible electronic voting problems we should be watching for, by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar: E-voting may be scarier than hanging chads.

    And, via Eat the Press, a link to a blog post by a woman who once dated Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, and found the Republican National Committee has taken an interest: GOP's New Priorities: Making Sure Congressmen Call Back, Open Doors. She has photos of them on a ski trip, and text of a press release from the Republican party, which surprised her:
    Enough, that is, for the NRSC to send out a goddamn press release, complaining that Harold - clearly not a gentleman like those Republicans - didn't call me back. Um ... seriously?

    Yes, seriously. From the press release:
    ...said Dan Ronayne, NRSC Spokesman. "But the least Fancy Ford could have done was call her back after news broke of their relationship. Not providing closure is distinctly un-fancy."

    Oh, dear.

    How did they find her? Well, she wrote a Cosmo article about the dates, in which she didn't name him, but said she went out with him because she was impressed by his position. She found the ski trip was wasted, though, since he didn't ski (but it did give her a chance to wear some new pink ski pants). What It's Like to Date a Hotshot. In the end, a sensible conclusion:
    All this time I had been building him up in my mind and underestimating my own qualities, forgetting that no one can be in a good relationship with an idol – it has to be equal. And if you don’t have self-respect, how can he respect you?

    And, in the blog posting:
    Do I know if Ford would be a good Senator or not? Hell, your guess is as good as mine. But I'd hate to think that a Republican could gain some advantage because the Dem was a shitty date. I mean, c'mon. REALLY??
    ...That said, I appreciate that the NRSC cares about my emotional well-being. Thanks guys. Now, if you'd only care about my reproductive rights.

    One more thing: The Republican Revolution is Over, at

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Voting problems: another thing to worry about

    Besides having to listen to politicians' rantings, we wonder now if we can even trust our voting systems, with all the problems going on: Florida, for example, where early voters are finding machines registering votes for their choice's opponent. And then, several states or counties, like Chicago, are wondering if their voting systems are controlled by Hugo Chavez, for goodness' sake.

    To keep up with what's going on, two places to check: Black Box Voting, and Electionline, among many others. Business Week has more on the Smartmatic/Sequoia/Chavez story.

    If you want to know what system you'll ve voting on, Electionline has compiled a list of what systems are used in each state, with links to lists by county or jurisdiction, where they vary: Voting Systems 2006.
    Another useful compilation from Electionline: Statewide Voter Registration Database Status 2006.

    This year's election theme

    Seems it all comes down to who says the most outrageous things in this election, whether in spur-of-the-moment statements during campaign appearances, or in 'dirty tricks'-type political ads.

    The Los Angeles Times lists a lot of them in this story, Epidemic of foot-in-mouth afflicts candidates this year, including the Florida congressional candidate who said 'blacks don't swim', and the New York Senate candidate who speculated about Hillary's change of appearance since her college days, and worse. 'Oops' is right.

    We all decry the attention paid to this stuff, but then again, maybe the Guardian reporter covering the U.S. elections is right, who said in his podcast
    The only reason people are talking about this is because there is nothing else to talk about. And there is nothing else to talk about is because the issues in this campaign have not really been hammered out ...

    (Added later:) More on this topic from Joel Achenbach, who says:
    Voters should hide the last couple of weeks before an election.
    ... This is the period when anything goes, except intelligent discourse. The more you pay attention, the dumber you feel.
    ...It is not clear to me that the person who owes these soldiers an apology is the guy who came in second in the 2004 presidential election.

    And, Keith Olbermann has another Special Comment on this topic, and concludes:
    You (president Bush) instructed no one to mail the fake anthrax. Nor undermine the FBI's case. Nor call for the execution of the editors of the New York Times. Nor threaten to assassinate Stephanie Miller. Nor beat up a man yelling at Senator Allen. Nor have the first lady knife Michael J. Fox. Nor tell John McCain to lie about John Kerry.
    No, you did not.
    And the genius of the thing, is the same, as in King Henry's rhetorical question about Archbishop Thomas Becket: "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?"

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Another October surprise

    Here's something relevant to the kerfuffle over John Kerry's comment the other day about education and Iraq:

    The Heritage Foundation released its study of recent American military recruits, and finds that they are, for the most part, well-educated and generally middle-classed. Here's the press release: Post-9/11 Military Recruits Wealthier, Better Educated, Study Shows. For more detail: Who are the Recruits?

    This is an update of a previous report issued last year, just in time to help argue against Kerry's point. Kerry claims he was not referring to recruits in his comparision, but to Bush. I can't help thinking, though, that the mindset about the wartime military is affected, as it is in many of our generation, by the fact that during the Vietnam war those who could not avoid the draft tended to be those who didn't have the advantages of higher education or higher economic class.

    This is a different military and a different war, but it still seems that recruitment may be influenced by the opportunities that military experience can provide for a kid who has none. That theory was bolstered by another report last year, showing that, as the Washington Post reported,
    ...the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed, rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war.

    Oil conspiracy?

    I don't know, but it seems sometimes that any conspiracy theory you can come up with might turn out to be true in the end. Is this one of them?

    Lots of folks have been speculating about the price of oil and why it's been going down so much -- just in time for an election. ($2.09 is the cheapest price we're finding around here, and it hasn't changed now for over a week (now that early voting is going on)...for awhile there it was going down so often that you'd drive by a station and find it a couple cents cheaper on the way back.)

    So, now The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights has issued a report on 'The October Surprise'. It claims that gasoline prices have been falling faster than the cost of crude oil, which seems to prove some sort of price manipulation. Apparently that also happened in 2002 and 2004. From the press release:
    Oil companies were able to post another round of record or near-record quarterly profits last week, despite a 70-cent-a-gallon drop in pump prices from the summer's record highs.
    ..."This pattern of the last three election years is an indication that motorists who smell something fishy in the rollercoaster prices they've endured this year may be on to something," said FTCR President Jamie Court.

    There are links to charts with the underlying data in the release.
    (Via Docuticker.)