Monday, April 30, 2007

Of interest on the state of the nation today

In The Nation: Cuba. What's Next? Several articles on this topic, including Miami Vise by Max Castro, about the anti-Castro hardliners:
...meanwhile, the hard-liners have been accumulating power and driving US Cuba policy further right, with a major assist from a President who believes in using US power to change regimes and export democracy. While the Cuban-American community as a whole is slowly drifting toward moderation, its hard-line political elite has become entrenched in the most powerful American institutions.

The Times Online reports on Carl Bernstein's upcoming book on Hillary Clinton: Watergate reporter demolishes Hillary’s career story.

In The Neiman Watchdog: 'The Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL', transcript of a radio talk by Retired Gen. William Odom.
We cannot 'win' a war that serves our enemies interests and not our own. Thus continuing to pursue the illusion of victory in Iraq makes no sense. We can now see that it never did.

In Armed Forces Journal, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling analyses A failure in generalship, in Vietnam and Iraq.
Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle.

Also on the war, from Talking Points Memo: Washington Post Scrapes Bottom Of Barrel To Find People Who Think War Isn't "Lost"

By David Neiwert, in Orcinus: about The other kind of terror that showed up on American soil again last week, and which is ignored because
this administration is being run by people who don't consider bombings and arson against abortion clinics to be terrorism.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington reports, after studying records of post-Katrina assistance, they found U.S. failed to utilize foreign assistance for Katrina, CREW reveals.
Administration officials acknowledged in February 2006 that they were ill prepared to coordinate and distribute foreign aid and that only about half the $126 million received had been put to use. Now, 20 months after Katrina, newly released documents and interviews make clear the magnitude of the troubles.

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New journalism: more twists

Here's Wired on those sites that give us access to background on politicians: Web Mashups Turn Citizens Into Washington's Newest Watchdogs. It covers sites like Congresspedia, OpenSecrets, Follow the Money, and MapLight.
Tread carefully, politicians -- concerned citizens are watching your every move on the web. Their tools? Custom data mashups that use public databases to draw correlations between every vote cast and every dollar spent in Washington.

Roy Greenslade highlights a posting from online political cartoon maven Darryl Cagle, who says the Web is changing everything for cartoonists, and not necessarily in a good way. From Cagle's Newspapers and cartoonists wandering blindly, in the Statesman-Journal:
Every day I read something from journalists obsessing about the future of print. The internet is gobbling up newspaper readers and advertisers. The future looks bleak for ink on paper as newspapers respond by downsizing, degrading their product and hastening their own demise. There seems to be a generally accepted axiom that the internet is the future for journalism. Columnists are transforming into multimedia bloggers and cartoonists feel pressure to animate their political cartoons. It makes perfect sense to chase the shifting audience, but the move to the internet doesn't make much business sense.
...I run a popular Web site and I'm the cartoonist for, but I still make my living selling cartoons that are printed in ink on paper from traditional clients who actually pay. I often get calls from political cartoonists who are starting to animate their cartoons, asking where they can sell their animations; my answer is, "nowhere."

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend update: More research links from the week

After the VT disaster, a couple of routine reference sources have proved again how useful they can be:
  • Timeline of School Shootings, covering 1996-present. So many. From Infoplease, another reminder of how useful this reference site can be. Here are lots more timelines.
  • The latest on Virginia Tech, from Wikipedia: The New York Times on why Wikipedia is still relevant, especially in a breaking story:
    IMAGINE a newspaper with more than 2,000 writers, researchers and copy editors, yet no supervisors or managers to speak of. ...during some recent critical events, like the Virginia Tech killings, the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004, and the London bombings in 2005, the site has been transformed from an ever-growing reference book into a ever-updating news source — albeit one with scant original reporting.

Did you know there was yet another major trail system being built in the eastern half of this country? I know the Appalachian, and the new Benton-MacKaye trail near us, and know about the Florida trail system, but didn't know about the Great Eastern Trail. Susan at Patchwork Reflections blog has great links: About the new Great Eastern Trail.

The other links:

  • Vivisimo Medical Information Search.
  • New design for the CDC website. Much more user friendly (I hope all the statistics links, etc. haven't changed.)
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: Acronyms and Glossary.

  • Transportation Statistics Annual Report, 2006 from BTS.

    Governments, Politics:
  • Presidential Election 2008 Campaign Finance Databases, links to lots of them from ResourceShelf.
  • Presidential pardon and clemency recipients, covering George Bush and Clinton administrations, none from G W Bush. From Justice.

  • The End of Journalism?
  • Trends in Newsrooms 2007, annual report from World Editors' Forum.

  • Hoover's Index of most-watched companies.
  • Portfolio Company Profiles (500,000 public, private companies). And, Executive Profiles.
  • Who Called? list of common telemarketing originating phone numbers.

    Public Records:
  • National Criminal Records Check: in The Virtual Chase, describing what's available (and negating the idea that any such thing really exists). One of many useful links here:
  • Legal Dockets online. Register for fee-based access to dockets, decisions, or inmate records, or find a court reporter. There's also a public records blog. Found here, something I looked for recently which wasn't available then: D.C. court dockets.

  • Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents from Reporters Without Borders.

    Some interesting stories/blogs:
  • Library of Congress Blog

  • Friday, April 27, 2007

    Journalism milestone

    I liked this column by Steve Blow in the Dallas Morning News: Time to cut out an old journalism habit, in which Steve announces he will no longer clip his columns and file them away.

    Ah, yes, the old days. Many, many years ago I started work in a news library, where we were faced with stacks of marked pages every morning, to clip, fold, and file away. In those days the filing was way behind so there were daunting piles of clips waiting. Every day you just added more to them. Blow mentions that the librarians at the Fort Worth paper, where he started, tore the pages against a pica pole. At the Post, we had a piece of sharpened l-shaped aluminum designed by research director Mark Hannan.

    Because the Post didn't have byline files, we sometimes had a hard time finding stories, so I started clipping bylined stories every day and filing them in separate folders by name. Then, of course, some reporters who won't be named (but at least one of whom is very well known) would come and remove their own files at the end of the year, so that didn't help much.

    I often suggested that reporters keep their own clippings. Who listened? Well, obviously Steve Blow thought it was worthwhile -- he kept them for 18 years.

    At least, 30 years since the first newspaper archives came online, it's nice to know that reporters -- finally -- trust them.

    (OK, here's a topic for comment. Is it really 30 years? The Washington Post's archive went online on Nexis in 1977. But The Post didn't have the archive in-house until several years later. In 1979-80 the Philadelphia papers went online, in a new Knight-Ridder venture using QL search; the Detroit Free Press and Miami Herald followed a couple years later. The New York Times had an online story abstract database -- starting in 1969 -- and went fulltext in 1981.)

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    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    Iraq and its coverage

    (Update:) To mark what certainly seems to be a losing situation, despite all those criticisms of Harry Reid, longtime Iraqi blogger Riverbend has what has to be the last word:
    I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.
    On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave.
    ...There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming.

    In Foreign Affairs, Al Qaeda Strikes Back, by Bruce Riedel:
    By rushing into Iraq instead of finishing off the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Washington has unwittingly helped its enemies: al Qaeda has more bases, more partners, and more followers today than it did on the eve of 9/11. Now the group is working to set up networks in the Middle East and Africa -- and may even try to lure the United States into a war with Iran.

    Andrew Sullivan has some interesting posts on his changing thinking on the war here and here. From the latter:
    So we should leave. Soon. Let the Shia and tribal leaders and the Kurds confront al Qaeda. It's about time they did. And they have as good a reason as we do and far better knowledge of the enemy and the terrain. Until they own this war against Islamist terror, it won't be won. And by continuing to stay, we postpone the day when they have to fight for their own country and their own religion - and win the war we cannot win for them.

    In the first post, Sullivan quotes CNN's Michael Ware:
    ... at the end of the day, if America wants to win in Iraq, it would need to surge the whole country. But it can't.

    So who's still in denial? The New York Times and the Washington Post, maybe? See Huffington Post and Digby, asking why the Times has barely mentioned Bill Moyers' PBS documentary Buying the War. From the program summary:
    "Buying the War" examines the press coverage in the lead-up to the war as evidence of a paradigm shift in the role of journalists in democracy and asks, four years after the invasion, what's changed? "More and more the media become, I think, common carriers of administration statements and critics of the administration," says THE WASHINGTON POST's Walter Pincus. "We've sort of given up being independent on our own."

    Depth Reporting's Mark Schaver has a telling excerpt.

    And the Post? Think Progress reports on David Broder’s Continuing Embarrassment.
    And more, Glenn Greenwald at Salon on the Tillman and Lynch cases and how the papers accepted the military's stories.
    Greenwald is on a roll lately, with great columns on David Halberstam and an interview with Charlie Savage. Savage's great reporting on this administration's skirting of the law is an anomaly, though. Note one of Greenwald's Halberstam postings, David Halberstam on today's American press, in which he concludes:
    ...the predominant criticism of our media is not based on a desire that they act more like partisans than journalists. It is based on the fact that they do not act like journalists at all.

    Among the many, many eulogies to David Halberstam on the Web this week, one says a lot about this topic: The New York Times' Dexter Filkins contrasts Halberstam's groundbreaking Vietnam coverage to that of American reporters in Iraq (Filkins is one of them): A Skeptical Vietnam Voice Still Echoes in the Fog of Iraq.
    “I just never thought it was going to work at all,” Mr. Halberstam said of Iraq during a public appearance in New York in January. “I thought that in both Vietnam and Iraq, we were going against history. My view — and I think it was because of Vietnam — was that the forces against us were going to be hostile, that we would not be viewed as liberators. We were going to punch our fist into the largest hornets’ nest in the world.”

    Links to many other Halberstam tributes on Poynter and Romenesko.

    One more note on the Moyers website: you can find a transcript of the program here, along with an interactive timeline that leads to actual copies of the reporting commented on. (Like the great dissenting coverage from Knight-Ridder, like this Warren Stroebel piece from September 2001: Experts say Iraq, Hussein not likely tied to terrorist attacks.)

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    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Politicians old and ... less old

    George McGovern, presidential candidate in 1972, compares his platform to the policies of the current administration, after being attacked by vice president Cheney, in the Los Angeles Times.
    Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today's Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment. Instead, he twisted my views and those of my party beyond recognition.
    ...I oppose the Iraq war, just as I opposed the Vietnam War, because these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world and our national security.
    ...I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.
    ...It is my firm belief that the Cheney-Bush team has committed offenses that are worse than those that drove Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and Atty. Gen. John Mitchell from office after 1972. Indeed, as their repeated violations of the Constitution and federal statutes, as well as their repudiation of international law, come under increased consideration, I expect to see Cheney and Bush forced to resign their offices before 2008 is over.

    Tough words for tough times. Thank you George McGovern.

    In another comparison of politicians, Scientific American's Michael Shermer reports on a book about self-justification, and about presidential mistakes: Bush's Mistake and Kennedy's Error.
    ...we are not rational--not in love or war or business--and this particular irrationality is what economists call the "sunk-cost fallacy."
    The passive voice of the telling phrase "mistakes were made" shows the rationalization process at work.

    (Added later: On a related note, The Innocence Project announces the 200th person has been exonerated by DNA evidence.


    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Old hippies, earth day, and Iraq

    (Update: Sheila Lennon finds lots more links about The Farm.)

    This month's Vanity Fair -- which is full of Earth Day-related stories -- has a feature on The Farm. With a slide show and some lovely photos of Stephen and Ina May Gaskin, it's called Sex, Drugs and Soybeans, by Jim Windolf.

    The Farm's website is worth a look, too, with blogs by several members and a link to The Hippie Museum. The latter will blow your mind with the Flash mandala opening.

    Speaking of drugs, did you hear the one about the psychotherapist from Vancouver who isn't allowed to enter the United States because he participated in a controlled study of LSD -- nearly forty years ago. Apparently Homeland Security Googled him and found a paper he wrote about it.

    Another child of the '60s went to Iraq recently, after scrimping to save up enough money to go on her own, and blog about it. Jane Stillwater opposed the war, but wanted to see for herself. Her first blog postings were positive about the American role there and the motivation of the troops. But now she's back, and has come to only one conclusion:
    ...the bottom line is this -- the same shroud of sadness that hangs over Virginia Tech these days also hangs over Iraq.
    And right now I am feeling like Lady Macbeth.
    There's got to be a better way to solve human conflict than to blow everybody up.
    Sure, America has to pull its troops out of Iraq. It has to -- but not for the deeply moral reasons that I would feel so proud of my country for honoring. Nope, we gotta pull out for a more practical reason. We can't afford it!

    The San Francisco Chronicle tells her story: Berkeley Blogger back from Iraq, Eyes wide open: the end of her trip this week, she felt that the U.S. must withdraw all of its troops. Not only is life in Baghdad unsafe for everybody, "It's like the people of Iraq don't seem to like the occupation at all," said Stillwater, allowing that most of the Iraqis she came into contact with were journalists or connected to the Iraqi parliament.
    " 'Ta hell with Iraq," she wrote in her most recent blog post. "Let God-slash-Allah sort it all out. It's high time for Americans to start watching out for America instead.
    "We can't afford to let a whole generation of fresh-faced boys be forced to turn into gangsta wannabes in some foreign country just to benefit the Bush/Cheney de-Americanization fund. We need our troops at home. Here. Now."

    And then there's this, in The Guardian: Fascist America, in 10 easy steps, from Naomi Wolf, who lays down the progression: can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective.

    Like Number 2:
    2. Create a gulag
    Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.

    And last, there's a lot more from this month's Vanity Fair related to Earth Day. A couple of them:

    James Wolcott writes 'Rush to Judgment', in which he claims that Rush Limbaugh, nearly single-handedly, created the anti-global warming backlash:
    It was Limbaugh who inscribed the term "environmentalist wackos" into the political lexicon and hung the "loser" tag on them. He caricatured the fight for wildlife preservation—a broad-visioned tradition that spans from Henry David Thoreau to John Muir to Rachel Carson to Edward Abbey to David Brower—into something weedily hippie-dip.

    And, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Texas Chainsaw Management, on the EPA and its manipulation by the current administration:
    The verdict of history sometimes takes centuries. The verdict on George W. Bush as the nation's environmental steward has already been written in stone. No president has mounted a more sustained and deliberate assault on the nation's environment. No president has acted with more solicitude toward polluting industries. Assaulting the environment across a broad front, the Bush administration has promoted and implemented more than 400 measures that eviscerate 30 years of environmental policy.

    And the long, strange trip continues.

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    Monday, April 23, 2007

    Earth day, murder, women, and the FDA

    Here's one of the nicest Earth Day essays I've ever read, from Lynne Sweeting in the Bahamas. Seeing trees cut hurts her soul. Mine too.
    My mother planted that tree. Why didn’t she plant it in her own yard? That’s another story. It hangs over our driveway and has done since forever, it will be covered in blazing yellow flowers in the summer. We love her like a grandmother. Who would cut her down? But there are some who would. Me and my family are standing guard.

    (Thanks to Global Voices for the pointer to this and other international blogs on Earth Day.)

    A week later, some interesting discussion over the Virginia Tech story, especially as it relates to women:
    At Mother Jones, James Ridgeway writes about 'what we're still not getting':
    One third of female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner (as opposed to about 3 percent of male victims). Of these, 76 percent had been stalked by the partner in the year prior to their murder. Murder ranks second (after accidents) as the leading cause of death among young women. And if the Supreme Court and abortion opponents really want to protect the lives of fetuses, they might consider this: Murder is the number one cause of death of pregnant women in the United States.

    (Speaking of shooting victims and gender, did you see this interesting graphic from the New York Times? It shows the most likely shooting victims are older white men -- from suicide. Hmm.)

    And, in a story that's getting lots of comments around the blogosphere, from The Sunday Times, by Sarah Baxter: American Psycho, exploring "the poisons lurking in popular culture but the crisis of young males in a feminised society". Camille Paglia is heavily quoted here:
    Paglia, who has taught in American universities for 35 years, describes America’s residential campuses as vast “islands of green and slack conformity where a strange benevolent and tyrannical paternalism has taken over. It’s like a resort atmosphere”.
    Paglia believes the school Cho attended would have been no better equipped to deal with frustrated young males. “There is nothing happening educationally in these boring prisons that are fondly called suburban high schools. They are saturated with a false humanitarianism, which is especially damaging for boys.
    ...Cho is a classic example of “someone who felt he was a loser in the cruel social rat race”, Paglia says. The pervasive hook-up culture at college, where girls are prepared to sleep with boys they barely know or fancy, can be a source of seething resentment and alienation for those who are left out.

    And, on another topic, another essay of interest: Conservative Policies Are Ruining Your Health, by Rick Perlstein at AlterNet. On the FDA and its eroding watchdog role:
    First, they came for the spinach.
    ...Next they came for the peanut butter...
    Then they came for the tomatoes. Then the Taco Bell lettuce. Then the mushrooms, then ham steaks, then summer sausage. I started worrying.
    Then, they came for the pet food.

    For more on the FDA and how it fails us, see this in the Washington Post: FDA was aware of dangers to food.

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    Several good new reference links this week, including a new database of science/health experts, some new public records, and a new health portal.
    Speaking of health, here are some reports out this week that show what many consumers are dealing with:

    Housekeeping note: I've added some new links to the site to try to add to the ad revenue, including the search, above. I haven't yet converted this site to the new Blogger layout, but did redo the HighlandsCam photo blog this week. Still tweaking the layout, and will probably make some more changes here before long. So if you see something unusual here, it may just be a test.

    The other links:

  • On Sports, and sports coverage, blog from a Florida sports editor.
  • Extra, Extra, a reminder: this is the IRE's blog/list of good computer-assisted reporting stories, updated regularly. It came from Derek Willis' The Scoop in the beginning, when Derek did this daily. I still have The Scoop in the blogroll, but it's no longer the place for all the CAR stories. So I'm adding this one.
  • Citizen Watchdog, by Jennifer LaFleur at Dallas Morning News, includes a guide to do-it-yourself background checks.

  • Authoratory is a PubMed search designed to find contact information for experts in various medical and scientific fields.
  • VoomPeople is a people finder/business finder/background search tool. Free search finds variations on a name, and location. Details are for a fee, varies.

  • The Business of Baseball 2007 from Forbes, team, ownership profiles, financial reports.
  • Revolution Health, a new health portal from Steve Case. Has blogs, condition/drug profiles, doctor/hospital finders, insurance comparisons.
  • Anti-Money Laundering Source Tool from the SEC, provides links to laws, rulings, source documents, and help contact info.
  • Foreign Direct Investment in U.S. Energy, 2004 report from EIA.

    Public Records:
  • Coral Gables, FL Police: Searches: Search incidents, arrests, citations, and crash reports, starting Jan '06. (Via PI Buzz). Also from PI Buzz:
  • Licensed Social Worker search. A few more searches.

  • Friday, April 20, 2007

    Politics and discussions

    For those of us who are still befuddled at the complexities of the U.S. Attorney firings investigations, some background help:

    Harvard's Berkman Center held a panel discussion on the firings a couple weeks back, and they created a U.S. Attorney Firings Wiki with background and links.

    Congresspedia also has a Wiki page on the firings: Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy. It includes a timeline, links to news reports, and documents.

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government has a report on why the non-government emails question is so important, in a PDF file: Without a Trace" The Story beind the missing White House e-mails and violations of the Presidential Records Act.

    McClatchy's Washington Bureau's story today ties the scandal to an administration campaign to pursue 'voter fraud' cases to favor Republican candidates: Campaign against alleged voter fraud fuels political tempest. From the report:
    Since President Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, launched a "Ballot Access and Voter Integrity Initiative" in 2001, Justice Department political appointees have exhorted U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, and the department's Civil Rights Division has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights.
    On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division's Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

    More McClatchy coverage. Also linked on today's story: comparisons of the Clinton and Bush administrations' pollicies on White House/Justice Department contacts. For this, also see today's posting from Sheila Lennon, with a chart prepared by RI Sen. Whitehouse, showing the difference. This is pretty shocking. Under the Clinton administration, only the White House counsel and deputy (or the President or VP) were allowed to deal with Justice. At the Bush White House, "417 different people at the White House have contacts about pending criminal cases with 30-some people at Justice", according to Slate.

    In other discussions, a couple interesting ones on the VT tragedy:

    At Facing South, Chris Kromm wonders Who is 'using tragedy'? reflects on the feeling some express these days, that the VT story will help Democrats push gun control. Kromm notes that those who accuse the dems of 'using' this tragedy have a history of 'using' others. For example,
    Rush Limbaugh jumped straight to the point, his commentary today featuring this headline: "Could We Blame Lack of Religion and the Liberal Culture of Death?"

    And, on Smirking Chimp, an interesting take from Brent Budowsky: Imus, Virginia Tech, Iraq, Pollution: Let's End The War Against Our Kids:
    And more young people die, both Iraqis and Americans, while the band plays on.
    ...Once upon a time in America there was a great generation. Today there is a great generational rip-off.

    And here's another interesting take, linked from the comments on the above essay:
    at Thought Theater, Chain Letter Society: on the Virginia Tech Tragedy. From this one:
    We have become a society that is obsessed with winning…what I have called the “Chain Letter Society” does that relate to today’s tragedy? Again, we have to consider the mathematics of life. In this country, the value placed on being the best, being number one, or being famous has become a focal point for our American culture. Parents today raise children to believe that they are privileged and can and will be the best…and the inference is that they must in order to have worth or value. It’s as if narcissism has become the trait of choice.


    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    These made me smile today

    Finally, someone has exposed the fast food lie -- well, one of them. Check out these pictures comparing the food depicted in the ads to the real stuff. Great idea, and so obvious. You know that stuff never looks so good. (via Boing Boing)

    We seem to elect Congressmen with great names around here. Heath Shuler is ours. But the best name is the one from the district just east (oops, that's WEST) of us. I'll let The Guardian's Newsblog say it:
    Republican congressmen are coming out in support of [Fred Thompson for president], including the exotically-named Zach Wamp, who declares that a Thompson candidacy is now a matter of when, not if.

    Wamp will probably be running for governor of Tennessee in a few years. (His name always makes me think of the young Luke Skywalker....)

    Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Only in America

    ...could a once privileged Cuban exile become the head librarian of a major U.S. newspaper.

    Luis Bueno ran the Miami Herald's library for many years, ceding the management position only a year or two before I arrived there to someone who would take the library into the computer age.

    Always gracious, he continued to keep up the daily archiving work, especially with the Spanish-language sections, and was a great friend to all who worked there. He died this week of emphysema at 82, but had continued, after his retirement, to staff the library on Saturdays until recently.

    I always knew that Luis would remember things that no one else had a clue about, and could tell me where to look for them. I still occasionally try to make his wonderful tortilla -- Spanish potato omelet made with lots of cream -- although mine is never as good as his. And I think of him whenever I see a later Sean Connery movie -- in their 50s and 60s they looked very much alike -- which made it really amusing the day when Connery filmed a movie scene in the Herald's library.

    A Diós, Luis. And thanks to Luisa Yanez for the nice obit.


    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Following the news

    A couple years ago, I would have been on this VT story like crazy, scouring the Web for links and research background sources. I'm sure researchers in newsrooms across the country -- and particularly at newspapers near Blacksburg like the McClatchy newspapers in Raleigh and Charlotte -- are doing the same now. McClatchy's Washington bureau is keeping a VT news blog, with links to lots of info.

    Others not affiliated with particular news organizations are helping, too, as usual. The Poynter Institution's site is filled with VT links, compiled by Pat Walters, a fellow there. Poynter's Al Tompkins is also doing his usual job of finding information in places you might not think to look, including lots of student blogs and MySpace pages. Included, a New York Times profile of rampage killers with some interesting generalizations:
    They give lots of warning and even tell people explicitly what they plan to do. They carry semiautomatic weapons they have obtained easily and, in most cases, legally.
    They do not try to get away. In the end, half turn their guns on themselves or are shot dead by others. They not only want to kill, they also want to die.

    IRE, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and NICAR, have compiled their usual great list of resources on campus shootings, including stories from their archives and tipsheets from conferences, although you may have to be a member to access some of these.

    Of course, Memeorandum is, as always, a great place to find the major stories on the topic, along with links to related blog postings.

    (Update:) A Boing Boing reader notes that this is not the largest mass murder in U.S. history, or even the largest at a school, and points to the Wikipedia Entry on the Bath, Michigan, school disaster of 1927, where 45 were killed by a school board member who murdered family members then set off a bomb at the school.

    (Later update:) Lots of links to local news coverage and other things from Hillbilly Savants (including a report from a writer near the VT campus). (Thanks to Blue Ridge Blog.)

    And: I should have mentioned the Roanoke Times, which is of course probably the closest major newspaper in the area. The Times always gets great reviews for its Web presence.

    (Reading this site, and those of two other Real Cities sites today (Raleigh and Charlotte), I'm struck by the differences among the newspapers' sites. Of all of them, the News & Observer of Raleigh has the best, far as I can tell. There's a long Web tradition at the N&O, from before it was acquired by McClatchy ten years ago or so: The NandO Times was one of the first great newspaper web sites. Now is filled with news on the front page. No digging around to see what's in the news here: you can scroll way, way down on the page, for international, business news, politics, photo galleries, and lots more.
    Not like the paper I still try to read online nearly every day, A quick scan gives you no idea what news is really in the newspaper -- or on the site. No dig on the Miami Herald's online staff, which has been cut severely over the years. But you'd think there would be a standard for all McClatchy -- or Real Cities -- newspapers.)

    I'll be adding to this as I find new good compilations. Meanwhile, though, looking at last year's news, I'm thrilled for former colleagues Debbie Cenziper, Charlie Savage and Andrea Elliott, who all won Pulitzer Prizes this year. Sheila Lennon has again compiled a great posting that gathers all the news of the Pulitzers as well as links to the original submissions, where possible, and excerpts. A great overview of how vital journalism still is.

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    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    This week, some background info on civilian casualties on the war on terror, although by no means comprehensive. Also, good help with understanding charities' tax filings (IRS form 990s). And lots more great research resource compilations.

    Resources come from many sources, including many of the links listed in the right-hand column, especially the Resourceshelf and Docuticker sites. But there are also great newsletters for new resources; several this week came from The Virtual Chase's TVC Alert newsletter. I don't cite every link, but I occasionally mention the sites I browse regularly, in the blog, and on this list, which I probably need to update again, along with the other reference links there.

    The links:

  • Actual Innocence awareness database, from UT Law School, resources on wrongful convictions.
  • ACLU Releases Files on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, press release. Search the database of claims here, or browse the list here.
  • Global Incident Map "A global display of terrorism and other suspicious incidents" includes a text display as well as mapped version.
  • Counter Terrorism training resources (link is to statistics page), great links from Justice Dept.
  • MetaCarta GeoIntel for Petroleum: geographic search for the energy industry. (Will be a subscription service).
  • Quotations Links: good collection from website of new Yale Book of Quotations, by Fred Shapiro.
  • Glossary of Catholic Church Terms from Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Selected Internet Resources:Animal Welfare, Companion Animals and Veterinary Science from Library of Congress, includes updated pet food links. Part of Selected Internet Resources in Science and Technology. See also A to Z Index of the Science Reference Services Web Site. Here's another links guide on Bees, Pollination and Climate Change.

  • Cruel and Inhuman: Conditions of isolation for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, latest Amnesty report on the topic.
  • Diminishing Returns: National Geographic feature on the global fisheries crisis.
  • Energy Alarmism: The Myths That Make Americans Worry about Oil, from the Cato Institute.
  • Environmental Defense: New Report Shows Increased Flood Risk from Global Warming Despite Billions Spent on Flood-Control Projects (press release). Read the full report (pdf) here.

  • Statistical yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2006, from ECLAC. Downloadable charts in Excel format, or entire document in PDF.

    Governments, Politics:
  • Web Harvest of the 109th Congress: preserved for posterity by the National Archives.

  • Citizen media initiatives list, collected at Cyberjournalist. This list will grow.

  • now has a search of legal websites.

  • Global Edge, at Michigan State, has great information and resources on the global marketplace, including a great page of resources like statistics, analysis and cultural reports. There are also country and industry profiles, like Energy.

    Public Records:
  • How to Read the IRS Form 990
    & Find Out What it Means
    , from Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York. Also: Key Areas to Explore in Form 990s from Bill Smith on
  • Non-Profit Salary research, from Economic Research Insitute, includes a free IRS form 990 search. (Thanks to a NewsLib contributor.) Note also, another free form 990 search from The Foundation Center.
  • Lexis One for small law firms: Public Records. Access state records for a daily, weekly, or monthly fee. Remember some states are better represented in Nexis' public records than others. More Lexis One offers.
  • Nebraska Trials Court Searches for a fee.

  • Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Threaten a blogger? Watch out!

    Tennessee bloggers are rallying in support of one of their kind, Katherine Coble, who posted about an experience with a job placement company that she found reprehensible. A few weeks later, the law firm for the company has threatened her with libel, it seems mostly because of comments from a reader. From Instapundit to Knox Views, lots of folks are talking about this. Nashville is Talking has a recap.

    The best posting, however, is from Bob Krumm, who's made sure that notice of this company's actions can be easily found on the web.

    Krumm also discusses the ramifications, today:
    Squeeze the complaint off of Coble’s site, and the story pops up somewhere else. Squeeze there, and it surfaces again, and again, and again. . . Squeeze too hard, the balloon bursts, and you’re all wet.
    Or, to put it more succinctly: Don’t sue your customers.

    Bill Hobbs also explains why, once a posting has been published, it and all its comments can never really go away. (And he makes sure.)

    Kindness: a great loss

    After reading this wonderful post from Doc Searls yesterday, I was already thinking about Kurt Vonnegut before I heard he'd died.

    It seems I never got around to reading most of Vonnegut's books, but I loved what he wrote and followed his essays and magazine writings, quoted him here at least a couple of times. One collection of essays recently published was A Man Without a Country, where Vonnegut said:
    “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

    Today's New York Times obituary also uses the quote.

    Doc notes the coincidence.

    We need kindness so badly these days. The ones who were raised believing in it are dying off.

    The antithesis of kindness: the views satirized in this cartoon, in the Village Voice: Elizabeth Edwards: Right Wing Conspiracy Theories.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Hard times for the manatees

    The U.S. Geological Survey has released its Threats Analysis for Florida Manatees and the news isn't good:
    ...if current threats to Florida manatees remain at their present level, the statewide population of manatees is expected to remain stable or increase slightly over the next 10 to 15 years, and then decline as natural and industrial warm-water sources are reduced or lost.
    ..."The two greatest threats to the future status of manatees are, in order, watercraft-related mortality and loss of warm-water winter habitat," said Dr. Michael Runge, lead author on the report and a research ecologist at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. "Any increase in watercraft-related mortality substantially increases the risk of the Florida manatee population reaching the point of no probable recovery, even if substantial mitigation of other threats occurs at the same time. Reduction of this single threat would greatly reduce the probability of the population reaching the point of no probable return."

    And, of course, the watercraft-related threat is certainly not going away, rather, sure to increase.

    Nevertheless, there's a push to drop the manatees' status from 'endangered' to 'threatened', according to this article by Peter Whorisky in the Washington Post. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering it, after a recommendation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Just who's in the Florida commission and who do they give campaign contributions to? Eye on Miami finds out.

    In The Huffington Post, James Boyce calls this George Bush Versus The Manatee: A Battle Of Small Brained Mammals.

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    Monday, April 09, 2007

    One reason I love blogs

    I'm still amazed every time I find a link to news via a blog that I would never have heard about otherwise. It seems when we find a set of blogs we read regularly, we are linking ourselves to people who know people, or something about the world, that we want to know.

    I don't know Doc Searls, and he doesn't know me, but he continually sends me to news I want to know. Friday (and I somehow missed this then) he linked to a blog posting from an old college friend who noted the passing of another college acquaintance from 40 years ago, James McClarty.
    Well, I knew Jim McClarty, briefly, too, 30 years ago in Black Mountain, NC, where he had returned after spending time in Africa. As a photographer, he was interested in documenting folklife in the Appalachians. I was too, and we did some interviews/photo shoots for possible magazine articles. They never came together, after McClarty headed back to Camden, Maine, another of his hangouts, where he died a week or so ago kayaking the St. George River.

    I'm thankful to have gotten to read more about this man's amazing life, and to be reminded of some of the times in Black Mountain, and the legendary 'White House', a party center for some of our friends there, and where we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

    It's not the first, or last, time I've gotten to hear about people I once knew. I'm also thankful to Bob Norman of The Daily Pulp for letting me know that Doris Mansour had died. She was the long-time office manager and copy editor of The Miami Herald's Tropic magazine, and a wonderful lady. I would have missed The Herald's obit, a lovely piece by John Dorschner.


    Blogging etiquette

    Since Tim O'Reilly proposed a Bloggers' Code of Conduct, quite a bit of discussion, including a New York Times story: “A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs.” (This is a hot blogging topic, if the list of links on Memeorandum is any indication.)

    Jeff Jarvis objects:
    ...O’Reilly only set us up to be called nasty, unmannered, and thus uncivilized hooligans. Except for Tim, of course. He’s the nice one. Me, I feel like the goth kid with premature tattoos skulking down the hall.
    ...They treat the blogosphere as if it were a school library where someone — they’ll do us the favor — can maintain order and control. They treat it as a medium for media. But as Doc Searls has taught me, it’s not. It’s a place. And when I moved into the place that is my town, I didn’t put up a badge on my fence saying that I’d be a good neighbor (and thus anyone without that badge is, de facto, a bad neighbor). I didn’t have to pledge to act civilized. I just do.

    The New York Times points to Blogher and its code of conduct, which was the inspiration for O'Reilly's. Ronni Bennett of Time Goes By, also a Blogher contributor, is also dubious about the code:
    Censorship is a trecherous undertaking. Once imposed, it doesn’t take much to go from banning individual words to opinion, books and soon, ideas. And then it has arrived at groupthink.
    ...Next thing you know, there would be lists of "dangerous territory" blogs. I would be proud to have Time Goes By among them.

    One commenter on Blogher's posting on the Times story notes that bad behavior is by no means limited to blog postings, but is just a sign of "...a real decline in civility in Life In General - it's not limited to blogs. The fact that a public call to behave is necessary for supposedly grown humans is very sad."

    Hear, hear. Bad behavior is encouraged and applauded these days, on television, radio, and now blogs. Some of this started with shows like Jerry Springer's. It continues with reality shows and sports coverage. But it's also a result of society in general. It seems some children are taught they are the center of the universe. No wonder they grow up to disdain others.


    Blog history

    The Guardian's Newsblog has a nice retrospective on the history of blogs. Lots of folks have been linking to Dave Winer's blog, Scripting News, as he celebrated the 10th anniversary of the launch of his blog on April 1.

    Winer's may have been the first major blog that's still around; another that has been given that credit is Jorn Barger's Robot Wisdom, although his oldest archived page shows a December 1997 start. It was definitely Barger who coined the term 'Web log'. Robot Wisdom has gone in and out of use. Currently Barger hasn't updated it in a few months, but is posting to a 'Robot Wisdom Auxiliary', poetry-centric with occasional link dumps.

    Winer credits the CERN What's New? page as the oldest blog (it certainly was the world's first Web site). I certainly remember linking to a few more What's New? pages when I started keeping my own What's New? page on a news room Intranet, in 1996. Netscape had a good one, and there were a few others.

    The Guardian's list is a great reference resource, though, for all of us who will continue to look at blogging as a phenomenon. It's a great compilation of the high-and low-lights, from Trent Lott to Instapundit to Washingtonienne to Cathy Sierra.

    (A postscript: here's what appeared at the bottom of that first-archived Robot Wisdom page:
    SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: The Robot Wisdom Pages include far more text than anyone could be expected to read online, so within the next few months we hope to offer most of it in a $20 hardcopy edition--
    I guess we've all made time to read online now.)

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    (Late) Weekend update: More research links from the last couple weeks

    The links:

  • International Human Rights Research Guide compiled by a Florida A&M librarian.
  • Anti-Israeli Terrorism, 2006: Data, Analysis and Trends
  • Social Work Portal from Natl Assn of Social Workers.
  • Historical Tsunami Database from NOAA.

  • From Public Agenda: Anguish Over Iraq Shakes Public’s Faith in Military Solutions.

    Governments, Politics:
  • New Member Pictorial Directory: 110th Congress Color photos and brief bios.
  • TRAC Reports Bulletins: link to news of latest investigations of federal enforcement by TRAC at Syracuse U.

  • Knight Citizen News Network and its Principles of Citizen Journalism.

  • 2007 Airline Quality Ratings
  • Spending on Lobbying Thrives, Center for Public Integrity analysis of lobbying for the pharmaceutical industry.

  • E-Tools Search Engine, from Switzerland, is a meta search using some major and minor search engines, including some European ones.
  • LyricWiki: just lyrics, no ads.
  • has resources for finding scientific research, including journal and database searches, like
  • "Your One Stop for Finding and Using Geographic Data".
  • Copyright Renewal Database from Stanford U., makes it easy to search on whether a book has entered public domain.
  • Five-Year Religious Holidays Calendar from Indiana U.

    Some interesting stories/blogs:
  • Geoffrey Chaucer hath a Blog. T-shirts too.

  • Friday, April 06, 2007

    Who's watching the food supply?

    Some interesting things are coming up over the pet food story, including worries about the FDA:

    From PETA researcher Alka Chandna, via McClatchy: FDA fails to protect pets.

    In the Horses Ass blog: Does FDA Spell FEMA? which raises some disturbing points:
    While the FDA focused on pet food, it was left to persistent bloggers and journalists to slowly tease out the full scope of this potential public health disaster. Wheat gluten is not an obscure feed stock, but rather a common ingredient widely used in a large number of processed foods and baked goods. And while federal regulations distinguish between “food grade” and “feed grade,” the overwhelming majority of wheat gluten distributed in this country is sold as the former.

    A year ago, Public Citizen derided the political appointment of an FDA Commissioner: Von Eschenbach is Not Qualified to Lead the U.S.Food and Drug Administration:
    ...yet another Bush appointee whose main reason for being selected is that he is a family friend, someone who has been warmly embraced by the regulated industries – especially the pharmaceutical industry – and someone who has been and will continue to be loyal to the White House agenda.

    Don't miss What's really in pet food? from the Animal Protection Institute.

    And, Sheila Lennon pointed out several links, including links to pet food recipes, earlier this week.

    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    Scarves and veils

    (Added Friday: nice piece on Nancy Pelosi's fashion style by the Washington Post's Robin Givhan: Nancy Pelosi, Respectfully Maintaining Her Own Image.)

    Just can't resist linking to this post at The Mahablog: Pelosi Wears Scarf; Righties Bark at Moon.
    Anyone who thinks Christian tradition is so different from Islam should consider the points in this post. I'm among that older generation who remember that half a century ago -- and less -- you couldn't enter a Catholic church without a hat, scarf, or (popular in the '60s) a mantilla on your head. And certainly a sweater over bare arms.
    And, as the photos here show, it's still required on Vatican visits, and only good etiquette to do when visiting Muslim religious centers or leaders. As Laura Bush and Condi Rice have done.

    Speaking of proper Muslim dress, some bloggers noted the suits the British sailors were wearing at the official announcement of their release: Links to blogger comments from The Guardian's Newsblog, and Ann Althouse, who also comments on the Pelosi scarf, and, in an earlier post, points out St. Paul's epistle that started the Christian tradition.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    Blackberry winter's coming

    But it was a beautiful day in town today. This is the view from my public library. (Brick building to right of the courthouse tower is the jail where Eric Rudolph was held, nearly four years ago, and a month after we bought our house near Murphy.) More photos of flowering trees in downtown Murphy.

    High-cost, High-deductible health insurance, or none

    Despite denials by those in power, health care has -- it seems suddenly -- become a huge problem for Americans. I know it's always been difficult for some to afford, but now even those who can/could afford it are having problems. I've mentioned before what a shock I had after taking early retirement with a reasonable, affordable health insurance plan, and having the costs skyrocket in less than a year; this year the deductible and out-of pocket limits again increased -- by 50% each. Small discounts on prescriptions don't help much when they don't apply to the deductible, either.

    When did it happen that people are forced to give up preventative health care because it takes too much of their living income? I began catching up on checkups last year, and discovered that I can barely afford it: just the regular tests for a woman my age, bone density and mammograms, were nearly a thousand dollars; then a second mammogram and ultrasound were required, and a biopsy to prove what I was sure was the case: a shadow was not cancer. I just went back for the third, followup mammogram. Each time it's several hundred dollars or more out of my pocket. I'm tempted not to go back for more.

    So it's discouraging to read this report, which just shows this is happening to lots of people:

    Consumer Directed Healthcare: Except for the Healthy and Wealthy It’s Unwise. Harvard Medical School researchers found that:
    ...increasingly popular high deductible health plans are discriminatory against women, leaving them with far higher out-of-pocket health bills than men.
    ... For those aged 45-64, the median expenditure was $1,849 for men and $2,871 for women.
    ...The researchers also found that adults 45-64, those with any chronic condition (such as asthma or high blood pressure) and children taking even one medication were likely to suffer financially in high deductible plans.

    And here's another story on how difficult things can become when you can't afford health insurance: At Time Goes By, Ronni Bennett reports One American's story about healthcare. Most discouraging is reading the comments to this posting from people who seem to think people who can't pay for insurance should not complain they can't afford the ensuing cost of health care.

    And here's a hint on why prescription coverage is becoming so hard to get: The study of pharmaceutical companies' lobbying efforts that was reported on 60 minutes the other night, from the Center for Public Integrity, is here: Spending on Lobbying Thrives: Drug and health products industries invest $182 million to influence legislation.


    Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    Changes in blogging and news

    Blogger/Picasa news: I'd noticed when posting photos to my other blog that I now get a notice from Picasa saying I've used something like 1 percent of my 1 GB storage. That's new, and now I know why: PicasaWeb is now storing all photos you post to your Blogger blog, in a separate album. There's not much in the album for this blog because I post little art, but the PicasaWeb album for my Southern Highlands Cam has 119 photos in it today. More to come as they've started out archiving this year's photos and will add the older photos in time.
    It's a nice feature as you can download the entire album, email or purchase prints.

    SixApart news: this is news to me, although it's been around for awhile, I think. There's a new blogging platform called Vox, which makes it easy to post photos from Flickr, videos from YouTube, or audio. It also comes with customizable privacy settings so you can share certain things with friends or family only. It joins SixApart's Live Journal, Type Pad and Moveable Type platforms. (Found via SixApart's nod to Dave Winer's 10th blogging anniversary.)

    Google News: Lots of discussion of the fact that Google Earth's satellite photos of New Orleans show the city before Hurricane Katrina. Google explains. Dave Winer, among others, is exasperated.

    Topix News: Topix, the local news search engine, has announced it's going to a citizen journalism model and will have community-based editors and contributors. Interesting idea, since some areas, especially small towns, don't have much news. But I'm a bit discouraged by this since when I put in my ZIP code, there still seems to be less news here than there was a couple years ago.
    (Oh, and they're switching from to

    Maybe the local news will improve when the main newspaper in town switches from the very limited website they've had for years to the new all-news format they say will arrive this month. The other newspaper, though, has had news online for several months now and only a few stories are showing up in Topix.