Thursday, June 28, 2007

Must reads on power and politics

It would have been hard to miss these this week, but for anyone who has:

The CIA's Family Jewels, newly released documents at National Security Archive. These, of course, include documents on CIA spying on Americans in the '60s and '70s, plots against Castro, etc. There are links to specially interesting documents, and to news stories analyzing the files. Files are redacted, of course, so some (like this one, E. Howard Hunt requests a lockpicker) contain blank spaces.

Angler: The Washington Post's blog series on Cheney. A blockbuster of a series, starting on Sunday and continuing, about the vice president's extraordinary influence on the Bush administration. This is definitely creating a buzz, with Congress considering a bill to cut his office's funding and calls for impeachment like this one from Bruce Fein, at Slate:
Cheney has dulled political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III.

Among the shocking revelations, how Cheney managed to get the president to sign the executive order designating terrorism suspects as enemy combatants without any review by any other cabinet or staff members, blindsiding Secretary of State Colin Powell. As described by Sidney Blumenthal in The Imperial Vice Presidency, in Salon:
...Powell himself does not fully understand all the ways he was misled, manipulated and abused in order to get him to make the case for the invasion of Iraq. To this day, Powell still does not really know what the CIA and the White House knew about weapons of mass destruction and when they knew it, largely because Cheney was so successful in his rigging of the intelligence process.

On the other side of the political spectrum, an interesting report in Fast Company on Al Gore's successful retirement from politics: Al Gore's $100 Million Makeover. On his political ambitions:
...he seems genuinely distanced from the idea of running for President--at least for now. "What politics has become," Gore explains at one point during our discussion, "is something that requires a kind of tolerance for artifice and manipulative communications strategies that I just find I have in very short supply. I just don't have the patience for things that seem to be greatly rewarded in today's political system."

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

More research links from the week

Just a few this week:

  • 2007 SIPRI Arms Trade Database now available for free online search.
  • Iran's military strategy: bibliography from library at AF's Air University.
  • The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, from Library of Congress.
  • Sustain Lane provides a free, searchable knowledge base of 105 best practice documents and a secure directory of participating government officials from over 400 cities, counties and states.
  • SciTalks features videos of speeches from scientists, including Noam Chomsky, Richard Feynman, Nicolai Tesla, and many more. More speeches to come, in HumTalks, GovTalks, and BizTalks.

  •, new international flight and fare finder.
  • Researching Companies Online, good tutorial recommended by Dan Gillmor, from Web trainer Debbie Flanagan of Ft. Lauderdale. Also here: Web search tutorial. These may be a bit out of date.

    Public Records:
  • New York local civil courts search; these courts now available; more will be added.

  • Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Voices of reason

    Over at Boing Boing, a link to a company selling t-shirts that remind us how a government and society should react to threats: Keep Calm and Carry On: sage advice from a sane wartime government (the UK during WW II).

    And, Digby Speaks. Should have known Digby, who blogs at Hullaballo, is a she. In her first public speaking appearance, she discusses progressive bloggers and blogging:
    We’ve been called everything from “some guy named Vinnie in a bathrobe in an efficiency apartment” to “blogofascists.” Some critics dismiss us as useless elites, the “Metropolitan Opera crowd,” or a noisy Upper West Side cocktail party for the college graduate class...
    ...The netroots – the progressive blogosphere – consists of a very lively and disparate group of citizens who are political observers, activists, readers, writers, entrepreneurs, communicating and organizing via the Internet. We have opera-loving liberals from Georgia, NASCAR-loving progressives from Chicago, and Grateful Dead-loving Democrats from Florida.
    ...Democracy suffers when not being held accountable by a vigorous press. that drove people like me to the Internet, to research, investigate, and write about assaults on democracy itself.


    Journalists and politics

    When critics claim journalists are biased, it's things like this that make it hard to refute:

    MSNBC's Bill Dedman searched Federal election campaign donations, and found Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly). There's a list of 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign; you can browse the list yourself.

    Among the journalists found: The Miami Herald's Harry Broetjes, a copy editor; and Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel sports columnist Ethan Skolnik. And, surprisingly, New York Times' Randy Cohen, ethics columnist. Lots of TV reporters and producers, magazine editors and writers too. Even a news librarian from the Boston Herald: "Donnelly, who now works for a database company, said he thought of himself as a librarian, not a journalist, although he worked for the news department. He said he didn't know the paper's policy."

    Ooops. A long way from the policies that most newspapers, at least, propose to uphold: The Miami Herald's Tom Fiedler once forbade reporters to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert/fundraiser, and The Washington Post's Len Downie says journalists should not even vote.

    And then there are the opinions expressed for all to read: big to-do this week over a column on Scooter Libby by The Washington Post's Richard Cohen: Glenn Greenwald calls it "a true tour de force in explaining the function of our Beltway media stars."
    Said Cohen:
    ...government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.

    Says Greenwald:
    ...the overriding allegiance of our permanent Beltway ruling class is to the royal court which accords them their status and prestige. That overarching allegiance overrides, easily, any supposed partisan, ideological or other allegiances which, in their assigned roles, they are ostensibly defending.
    ...Our media stars have not merely stood idly by while our highest government officials engage in endless deceit and corruption. They actively defend it, enable it, justify it, and participate in it.

    Ah, for the good old days...or were they?

    (...And, don't get me started on that 'librarian, not journalist' thing...)

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    Politics and the Sopranos

    Thank goodness for Current.TV, where I finally got to see the Hillary 'Sopranos' campaign ad this morning; I'd tried, heaven knows, but videos are a problem for people like me with nothing but dialup available.

    But I've been enjoying the comments on them, and still reading comments on the Sopranos ending, too. The one from Bob Harris is amazing, and has attracted lots and lots of attention. We're all fascinated by symbolism, and Harris seems to have found it all.

    So far, though, this is the most hilarious comment I've read on the whole Clinton ad thing, from Melissa McEwan at Shakesville: My vagina is not an onion ring. It refers to Ann Althouses's take on the commercial, which...well, if you like symbolism:
    The man wants the hole-shaped item, and the woman forbids it. She insists that he confine himself to the phallic item, which has been sliced down to puny, thin stick form. The man looks at it sadly, and the woman tells him it's for his own good. If you don't see sexual imagery there, you exist on a very narrow band of human imagination....


    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Journalism and the war: what's news today

    On the war and the president:

    David Michael Green, in The Smirking Chimp: What Every American Should Know About Iraq. This is a must read, with items like this:
    * Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Even George Bush has now admitted this. However, over the last six years, and still to this day, Bush constantly conflates the two in almost every speech he gives, to the point where in 2003 sixty-nine percent of Americans came to believe that Saddam had been behind the 9/11 attacks. There can be little doubt that the administration used 9/11 to justify the invasion of Iraq, though they had nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

    Also on this topic, Glenn Greenwald writes What "truly motivates" George W. Bush?
    In virtually every speech and interview he has given, George Bush has made the same argument -- that we are in an epic battle in defense of Good against Evil and therefore must take every step possible to triumph. In large part, that is the mentality that has led to the excesses and abuses of the last six years.

    Journalists in the news:

    Carl Bernstein does a Web chat and is interviewed for a profile, in the Washington Post.
    Over lunch, Bernstein can sound defensive when asked questions like "What have you been up to, all these years?," but he can sound positively serene, too. There were fallow years -- he'll acknowledge that -- but when he wasn't writing, he relished life and never more so, he says, than now, in the fourth year of a very happy marriage.

    In Editor and Publisher, White Supremacists Target Columnist Leonard Pitts, and more in USA Today.


    Here's a fascinating article in Scientific American: An Earth Without People.

    Journalism's future:

    A personal observation:

    My great-grandfather owned a newspaper. Well, co-owned, with an Army buddy and fellow printer; they bought it after coming back to Danbury, CT from their war. After a few years he sold his share to the partner and moved to Chicago. (His miseries suffered in the Civil War may have gotten to him; his pension claims said battlefield ordeals at Gettysburg and the strain of being captured there and force-marched to Charleston, where he finished out the war in prison, gave him a bad case of rheumatism.)

    His son made buttons. He moved from job to job as foreman in button factories. The business went downhill in the depression.

    My father became a chemist, and worked for Eastman Kodak for nearly 40 years. He helped develop some of the most popular films Kodak made. Now film is a has-been. I have owned dozens of film cameras. Now I shoot nothing but digital.

    And, although my publisher ancestor's story is something I didn't learn until later, I expect I must have known somehow I had newspapers in my blood; I worked for two of the best in a period of 30-some years. Luckily I got to experience journalism when it was still booming, before it seemed to be coming apart.

    So this blog post really caught my eye: John Duncan at The Inksniffer says You can't own a pixel: Why Kodak's digital exposure is a warning to newspapers. He says the idea that Kodak's shift to digital mirrors the newspaper website shift isn't true:
    They invested in new products that exploit the shift to digital, but they didn't become a digital company. They don't take their products from being bricks-and-mortar things and make them exist only on the internet. They don't try and own "Pixels".
    They still make stuff you can touch.
    ...Kodak had a much easier problem to figure out than newspapers because the ownership of the core product - the image - didn't change hands. It always belonged to the consumer.

    Taking pictures is cheaper than it ever was, sharing images is easier, but you still need a camera to do it and you still have to pay for that camera (Kodak is there) and you need a printer and paper if you ever want to have copies to put on your fridge (Kodak are there too). But you, the photographer, own the image you took just like you always did.

    We in newspapers have lost control of ownership of our core product - information and a "license" to gather, sort and distribute it.

    And without that ownership the rest of our business model is worthless. Until we re-establish ownership in some new form we have no future online.

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    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Miami in June

    Royal Poinciana time: now this, I miss. (This photo from a few years back, of course.)

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    Ethical companies

    Here's a list from Ethisphere magazine, 2007 World’s Most Ethical Companies.

    Among the companies listed, some I find very interesting: FPL Group and Duke Energy. Wegmans, and Whole Foods. Ikea. Toyota and Volvo (not Subaru?). Google. Starbucks and ...McDonald's. Stonyfield Farms, Kellogg's and Pepsi, Barilla. Xerox, Marriott. Alcoa.

    The rankings are images of the magazine pages, but load in a readable format, here, and here.

    What's your accent?

    Saw this on Sheila Lennon's blog and just had to try it. Sheila's was right on but she's lived in the same area a long time.

    After years in the south, south Florida, Washington DC, though, my accent still comes through loud and clear as Northern, even though I only spent the first 18 years of my life outside Rochester, NY (along with a few years in Westchester County, NY for college).

    What American accent do you have?


    You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

    Personality Test Results

    Click Here to Take This Quiz

    35 years after Watergate

    It's that time again, as for 35 years now I've been noting the significance of June 17-18, the anniversaries of the break-in at the Watergate complex, at 2 am on the 17th, and the first stories about it in the Washington Post.

    I wrote columns in the Miami Herald, once for the 20th anniversary and one for the 30th anniversary of Nixon's resignation, about being at the Post when all this happened.

    Today some new columns marking the anniversary, from Joe Strupp at Editor & Publisher: Watergate's 35th Anniversary: Would That Story Have Been Broken Today?, and from Woodstein biographer Alicia Shepard on the Poynter site: The Myth of Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein .

    From Strupp:
    ...the majority of today's newspaper reporting is having to be limited in some cases -- both due to staffing cuts and new 24/7 demands. The Watergate anniversary is a good reminder of the need for that vital part of newspapers, watchdog news, not to be forgotten.

    Both columns emphasize that it wasn't just W & B, or any spectacular 'gotcha' that made the story, but there's a telling line in Shepard's column that reminds us that 35 years is a long time to remember why it mattered: is a much better story to romanticize Woodward, now 64, and Bernstein, 63, and turn them into David-like characters who took down the nation's Goliath with a slingshot fashioned out of a newspaper. That myth was cemented after Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman -- the equivalent today of Brad Pitt and George Clooney -- portrayed Woodward and Bernstein in the 1976 classic movie "All the President's Men."


    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    Some very useful links this week:

  • Rendition: Jurist collects news, links, documents on secret prisons/detainee transport.
  • Airport Performance Calculator from US News and World Report.

    Governments, Politics:
  • LOUIS: new database from Sunlight Foundation that makes government documents searchable. Congressional Record, bills and resolutions, hearings, and reports; Presidential Documents; Federal Register, GAO reports. More to come. And here is a page with links to other Sunlight Labs projects. Thanks, Derek.
  • State Embryonic and Fetal Research Laws, roundup from Natl Conference of State Legislatures.
  • Federal Elections Commission: Presidential campaign contributions by state.

  • Openness & Accountability: A Study of Transparency in Global Media Outlets, from the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at UMd's Merrill School. Ranks The Guardian highest, with nearly perfect ratings, and the NY Times second, good in everything but Reporting Policies. Hmm.

  • WhatsYoName: search for people in social networks.
  • Who's Who of Women and the Environment from UN Environment Programme.

  • Via Al Tompkins, great reference sources from Society of Environmental Journalists: Climate change: A guide to the information and disinformation, including 50+ Really Serious Scientist Sources on Climate (contact info).
  • Zoho Creator, new from Zoho, maker of free online tools like spreadsheets and word processor, now offers this tool that can turn your data into online databases.

    Public Records:
  • Free online directories of state county and local officials collected by PI Buzz.
  • Newspaper databases of public records collected by PI Buzz.
  • Farm Subsidy Database: find farm businesses, individuals receiving subsidies, by state. Side includes a blog with farm, subsidies news.

  • Friday, June 15, 2007

    Two stories of Individuality and freedom

    Two women:

    Lovely story by Gail Sheehy in New York magazine about Jackie Bouvier Kennedy's cousins, 'Big' and 'Little' Edie Bouvier Beale: A Return to Grey Gardens, as a musical about their lives opens on Broadway.

    It's a story of two extraordinary women who lived lives on their own terms, eccentric for sure but people you'd have wanted to meet.

    'Little' Edie finally got away from the house where she was bound by love of her mother after the latter's death, and died in Bal Harbour a few years back.

    The house, Grey Gardens, was bought by...Ben Bradlee and Sallie Quinn.

    Children and Freedom:

    In the Daily Mail, How children lost the right to roam in four generations.

    From the Mail story:
    When George Thomas was eight he walked everywhere.
    It was 1926 and his parents were unable to afford the fare for a tram, let alone the cost of a bike and he regularly walked six miles to his favourite fishing haunt without adult supervision.
    Fast forward to 2007 and Mr Thomas's eight-year-old great-grandson Edward enjoys none of that freedom.
    He is driven the few minutes to school, is taken by car to a safe place to ride his bike and can roam no more than 300 yards from home.

    This is something I think about often. As a kid, I had a 70-acre farm to wander about, and my parents sometimes had to come looking for me as I'd get so absorbed in the woods or the fields I'd forget to come home. As I got older, I'd wander a couple miles off with neighbor friends, following the railroad tracks or investigating old iron ore beds. It was a wonderful life.
    Now children can't leave their yards, or sometimes even their houses. What is that doing to them?

    From the author of the report:
    "Studies have shown that people deprived of contact with nature were at greater risk of depression and anxiety. Children are getting less and less unsupervised time in the natural environment.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Journalism discussion

    The dialogue about journalists learning to program, which I pointed to the other day, and earlier, continues on several journalists' blogs, among them Mindy McAdams' Teaching Online Journalism (which I've added to the sidebar as a great source for news and tips on multimedia projects -- too bad most of the good ones she points to are unavailable to me on dialup).

    McAdams points to a New York Times graphic and notes that programming isn't the only skill needed here: good writing and fact-finding skills and graphic designing aren't always skills that programmers have.

    Also on this topic: Matt Waite, who agrees:
    If you try and train people at cross purposes though, you end up with a Great Writer who writes junk code and a Great Programmer who writes crappy stories. Who, again, is served?
    But there are people, like myself, who live in newsrooms and have made a living writing stories who should learn to code and are learning to code no matter who thinks we should or not. The idea is to create new forms of journalism with whatever tools we can, and if they don’t exist, create them too.
    As usual, some good comments on these postings too.
    Several more postings on this subject on Matt's blog.

    Also noted, while browsing these discussions: Journalistopedia, by the Orlando Sentinel's Danny Sanchez (worth the link just for the cartoons, especially this one on this topic).

    More, also, from Howard Owens, here .

    On a totally different note, couldn't pass up the pointers to Journalism rules: Here are the secrets by Michael Rosenberg in the Free Press, including this one:
    5. Internet, Schminternet. It will be gone in five years. People will always love reading a newspaper -- and so will you, our intrepid reporter, once you accept our buyout offer.


    Our past, our future

    Bringing back the bad old days, Elizabeth Drew writes a column in the Washington Post: Nostalgia for Nixon?

    Wow. There's a phrase I never thought I'd hear. But Drew makes the point:
    Numerous people have been moved to remark, "I'm beginning to miss Nixon," or, "I wish we could have Nixon back" -- this usually followed by, "He was so progressive on domestic policy."
    The nostalgists rightly see Richard Nixon as having been far more intelligent and thoughtful than George W. Bush; Nixon was indeed very smart, though no intellectual.
    But not so fast:
    ...despite his own misgivings, he presided over increased spending for education, and he proposed federal support for health insurance, especially for low-income families -- he often referred to his parents' struggle to pay medical bills -- but this, too, failed.
    ...Nixon's pragmatism, his lack of core beliefs and his opportunism throughout his political lifetime offer little reason to doubt that he would be right in step with the conservative Republican politics of today.

    On that note, I'm just finishing David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest and am chilled by the similarities of the Vietnam era to this one. The mistakes made by those who should have known better are mindboggling. The only difference is that Lyndon Johnson and his aides had to hide their plans for sending troops to Vietnam so as not to hurt the 'Great Society' domestic agenda. Not a problem for G.W. Bush, who had no agenda (except to emasculate programs) and had the blind support of Americans scared by 9/11.

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    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Amazing stories

    Via Eat the Press, how amazing is it that the iconic shot of Paris Hilton crying in a police cruiser was taken by Nick Ut, who took the iconic shot of a Vietnamese girl running down a road, her clothes burned off by napalm.

    Here's a story in The Miami Herald, by Christina Hoag, that is a classic rags-to-riches-to-rags Miami tale: Cruise line president's death reveals a life off course. The story of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises has been a wild one from the very beginning, through the loss of one ship and its entire crew in Hurricane Mitch, to, now, the death in a cheap motel of the founder's son and company president. There are some stories that can only happen in Miami. This is one of them.

    And, finally, one more on the Sopranos, from Gary Kamiya in Salon: Our Favorite Murderer.
    Somebody whacked some of our crew, and we were scared, so we whacked Iraq. Just like Tony ordered the hit on Adriana. Steps were taken, as Sil would say. Except it turned out there were some unexpected consequences. We basically killed an entire country, and a whole lot of Americans, and people are dying all the time. And what are we doing? Nothing. We're going to the Bada Bing. We're having dinner at Artie's. Same old same old. Everything's fine. It's just fine.

    (Added later:) There will be a lot more said about the Sopranos ending and why some people hated it. Here's a very smart analysis of why we watched it at all, from Susie at Suburban Guerrilla: The Swan Song of Tony Soprano.
    I think when people say they don’t want to look at this kind of violence and internal struggle, spiritual emptiness and despair, they’re saying they don’t want to acknowledge those things in themselves. (Dr. Jung would have something to say about that.)
    That refusal to see leaves you vulnerable to those who would use it against you. (For instance, you might lack the capacity to understand that yes, a president could very well lie to lead us into war.)
    But for those of us who were willing to watch, each week Tony Soprano died just a little bit more for his own sins. If that’s not moral, I don’t know what is.

    And for those of you who didn't see it and want to know what happened: "The Sopranos" goes dark, at Salon.

    For more on the Sopranos, see previous post.

    My two cents

    Well, I, for one, LOVED the Sopranos ending. I hated the thought of having doors closed. David Chase left them all wide open.

    Amazing to me that so many people are upset about it. What did they want, more blood? It's like the Roman games. Thumbs down. The way we seem to want everything, black and white. Iraq bad, America good. Kill the bad guy.

    Ed Cone:
    "The Sopranos" experience reassures me that smart, long-form narrative fiction, a hallmark of Western culture since Homer didn't write "The Odyssey," is not going away.

    Somehow it seems oddly appropriate, or totally incongruous, that the farewell party featuring many of the cast was held last night at the Seminole Hard Rock casino near Hollywood, Florida.....

    (Because lots of people have lots to say about this, more in next posting.....)

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    This week, some interesting reference sites, some of which may be as entertaining as useful, and great examples of making information more accessible.

    The links:

  • Hurricane Season 2007: Census, a collection of statistics on population, housing, and hurricane history.
  • BBC Timelines: always useful, this is links to many of them from Resourceshelf.
  • Washington Post's Local Explorer maps local information like crime, home sales, and schools, and provides other local information about communities around DC. Maps are based on Google Maps.
  • Historic Food, a wonderful site dedicated to remembering things our ancestors ate, like this amazing page on English Puddings.
  • New York Public Library Research Guides on lots of topics. Question, though: why are some of them PDFs? (see 1938 Hurricane).

  • Access to the Waterfront: Issues and Solutions Across the Nation Here's one of my pet peeves. Every year in Florida it became harder and harder to get access to the water. Little dirt roads thru the mangroves that led to the bay or the ocean suddenly sprouted giant houses, with gates. If you wanted to bring a dinghy ashore from a boat, there were more and more places where you weren't allowed. I'm happy to live near a lake surrounded by National Forest land, now.

  • The Transportation Energy Book, Vol. 26 for 2007.

    Governments, Politics:
  • 2008 Presidential Race Expenditures, compiled by Open Secrets.
  • The “Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007” in browsable, searchable form (converted from a PDF by Truth Laid Bear blogger. Readers point out interesting points.
  • The Government Domain: State Government Fundamentals. Good links from on state governments.

  • Forbes' Corporate Org Chart Wiki readers contribute info to chart corporations' board members, officers and their relationships.

    Public Records/People:
  • PIBuzz collects links to new public records listings.
  • Foreign Agents Registration Search from US Justice Dept.
  • Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office is adding World War II MIA personnel to the missing in action database. The list will include over 78,000 names when completed.

  • Mahalo new search engine "people powered", from Jason Calcanis, in alpha.
  • MorgueFile, a repository for public domain images.

  • 50 Things to Know by 50, from AARP. Advice including some from celebrities, like Sue Johanson on sex.

  • Friday, June 08, 2007

    Time for more outrage

    Is this becoming a Friday Feature? Who knows.

    But here's a fascinating story from the New York Times, about lots of money budgeted for a road -- to nowhere? Campaign Funds for Alaskan; Road Aid to Florida. Seems Rep. Don Young of Alaska got an earmark provision inserted into a transportation bill for $10 million worth of improvements to Coconut Road, near Ft. Myers. And it seems that the local government didn't request the money, but a wealthy developer who contributes to Rep. Young owns lots of acreage along it. Don't you just love these stories?

    And here's something that validates what a lot of us have been thinking about the state of our country these days: In something called The Crisis Papers, a study by Ernest Partridge, A Failed Experiment. Says Prof. Partridge:
    On January 20, 1981, in his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan told the nation: "Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."
    Thus began a grand experiment: Release the American economy from the bonds of government regulation.
    ...Twenty-six years later, what do we have? A dismantled and “outsourced” industrial base, an impoverished work force, a nine trillion dollar debt burden upon future generations, and a degradation of education and scientific research, and a captive media that deprives the public of essential news as it issues outright lies.
    ...The grand experiment has failed, and we are just beginning to realize the enormous costs of that failure.

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    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Struggling with the future of journalism

    Interesting that John Curley, deputy managing editor at the SF Chronicle, posted his goodbye message (after taking a buyout the other day) on his Flickr account. Now there's a juncture of old and new media (and the picture is great). More interesting, as Curley says, that someone who 'gets it' is still out the door:
    I am surprised and dismayed that the organization thinks it can have a future without me. To be honest, I thought I'd get the chance to help lead the paper where it needed to go to compete successfully in the digital age. But instead, off I go.

    Lots and lots of comments.
    Also interesting: The Chronicle's started up a blog to highlight job opportunities and retirement help for those downsized employees.

    There's a fascinating discussion going on on David Cohn's blog, DigiDave, where Dave posted a question, Where's the Money to Teach Journalists How to Code?. Lots of comments here, from those who know, and the best suggestions, it seems, are the ones that say you need to teach yourself, including this from Mindy McAdams:
    I hear a lot of people say they want to "learn Flash" but they don't have the time. "Well, what do you want to make with Flash?" I ask. They don't know. And that, in my opinion, is the real reason they can't learn it. Has nothing to do with time, per se.

    Good point. From years of trying to learn programs myself and trying to train journalists in them, I've definitely learned that you won't learn a software tool until you have a good use for it. It's no use taking a database course unless you have an idea of a project that needs to sort and analyze data.


    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    Other people's lives

    Where we live:
    I can't avoid the topic of Google Maps' StreetView any longer, since it's become such a huge topic of discussion, and is worth a look.

    Google's been sending vans with cameras mounted on the roof to take streetlevel photos of cities. So far they've covered San Francisco area, Miami, Denver, Las Vegas and New York.

    Fun for folks in those cities, and for the people attending the SLA Conference in Denver this week.

    I tried searching my street in South Miami for a view of the mcmansion that's replaced my old house, but couldn't get it to work. I think only the most popular neighborhoods in Miami have been photographed, and today it keeps giving me SW 82nd AVENUE when I search SW 82nd street. Hmm.

    I do get a Street View of 1 Herald Plaza, though, where I worked for 20-some years. (Click on any blue-lined street for the view.) This early morning shot doesn't show any traffic, pedestrian or otherwise, or the building entrance: just the security guards' golf cart.

    Well, this feature is causing lots of discussion, from people who are upset their buildings have been photographed (one woman found her cat looking out her window), to those just enjoying the views. Some are collecting unusual sights, from a man relieving himself to others gawking at women, etc.

    (The woman with the cat didn't mind having her photo in the New York Times, though.)

    Some of the discussions:

    Boing Boing has collected a whole lot of links and blog comments.

    Freakonomics interviews the Google Maps project manager.

    Google Maps Mania links to several more collection sites, including Google Sightseeing and lots more.

    What we eat

    For a totally different view of how others live, you just must look at this photo gallery from Time: What the world eats. It's from a new book by Peter Menzel, called Hungry Planet. Similar to other previous books showing how people live around the world, this shows typical families in several countries surrounded by the food they might eat in a week.

    So revealing. Compare the Japanese family surrounded by packaged goods, to the Mexican family with fresh fruit and vegetables in a beautiful display. How much for the Japanese family? $317 a week.

    Nothing compared to the German family, who love expensive foods and spend $500. The British family spends almost as much, and lots of packages there too.

    Suprising how ubiquitous the Kellogg's breakfast cereal is, not to mention the soft drinks. And how the Sudanese refugee family can live on so little, only thanks to the UN.

    Monday, June 04, 2007

    Political roundup?

    I didn't find enough last week to post a weekly research links list, and haven't posted much on politics lately, either, but here are a couple things that caught my eye:

    In The American Lawyer, a profile of Rudy Giuliani and his legal career: Lone Star: Bracewell partners got a big name when they hired Rudolph Giuliani. But has this brief marriage already outlived its usefulness? by Susan Beck. Facing South has a reaction to this profile (Giuliani's Texas Ties), and points out:
    Giuliani is a presidential candidate whose campaign story masks some rough edges in his personal and professional life. The Bracewell chapter of this candidate's tale likewise has some awkward angles. Giuliani, the quintessential New Yorker, could walk into practically any major law office in Manhattan and shake hands with a partner he's known for years. Yet he chose a 332-lawyer Texas firm where he had known no one longer than a few months and that was barely visible in New York.

    And, even more critical of Rudy, by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: Giuliani: Worse than Bush.
    Rudy giuliani is a true American hero, and we know this because he does all the things we expect of heroes these days -- like make $16 million a year, and lobby for Hugo Chávez and Rupert Murdoch, and promote wars without ever having served in the military, and hire a lawyer to call his second wife a "stuck pig," and organize absurd, grandstanding pogroms against minor foreign artists, and generally drift through life being a shameless opportunist with an outsize ego who doesn't even bother to conceal the fact that he's had a hard-on for the presidency since he was in diapers.
    Tough stuff.

    Speaking of the 'war on terror', which of course you can't not relate to Giuliani, interesting posting by Will Bunch on the Philly Daily News' Attytood blog: Looneyism: It's time to redefine the "threats" to our way of life, about that 'plot' discovered in New York. Is a tiny bit exaggerated?
    Oh. OK. So people around the world would see one fuel tank on fire in Queens, and that would "cripple" the airline industry. Uh, if that were true, what would be the impact of a jetliner actually crashing?...good thing that's never happened.
    ...And, as Josh Marshall and others pointed out over the weekend, this is yet another time that implausible, half-baked and unfeasible plots have been trumpeted as high victories in the war in terror, including one plan to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch, the plot to "blow up the Sears Tower" by losers in Miami who probably couldn't find Chicago on a big roadmap, and our own inept Fort Dix crew.

    Of course, any roundup from the last few days needs to include the column by Georgie Anne Geyer in the Dallas News, A spreading terror. If only for her oft-quoted assertion that the president is getting angry:
    The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.
    ... But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.
    Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."

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    How many times do we have to say it?

    Again, a blogger has nailed the news industry where it hurts. Ryan Sholin at Invisible Inkling lists the 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head. The posting is a few days old, and several bloggers have already linked it, including Jeff Jarvis, who quoted the whole thing.

    There is a generational component to this debate, but lots of us old journalists are trying to make these points, too. Sholin's list is right on the money, though, with points like these:
    2. It’s not Craig’s fault. Newspaper classifieds suck and they have for years. Either develop simple database applications with photos and maps to let your users actually find what they’re looking for, or partner with a good third-party vertical who can. Anything less is a waste of your time.

    And the one I like best, of course:
    5. You don’t get to charge people for archives and you certainly don’t want to charge people for daily news content. Pulling your copy behind walls where it can’t be seen by readers on the wider Web. Search rules(my emphasis). Don’t hide from it.

    Here's a great example of why news needs to be available online: The New Yorker is taking a beating from several bloggers about a Paul McCartney story that isn't on their website, only in print. Here's Rachel Sklar at The Huffington Post:
    The point is, the New Yorker is doing the same thing with this McCartney article as it did with Remnick's massive piece on Bill Clinton last fall: Rendered it effectively non-existent online. Sure, people may write about it (that's how I found out about it, via my excellent and insightful mesh colleague Cynthia Brumfield), but that doesn't translate into pageviews or, less cynically, the chance to read an excellent article about Paul McCartney.

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    Convention week for librarians

    No messages on the NewsLib group today since everyone's at the Special Librarians Association conference in Denver. For news of the meetings, InfoToday's Blog is again covering the convention from inside. The buzz from yesterday and today is mostly about Al Gore, who did a book signing and a keynote speech. Of course there's also an SLA blog by attending members, including, I hope, some News Division members.

    Here's one SLA blogger's take on the Gore speech:
    I truly appreciated hearing Al Gore speak. He understands libraries and the need for high quality information. As a board member for Google, he has an understanding of this industry. He related very well to everyone in the audience. None of the posts about his speech can tell you what you missed. If you've seen An Inconvenient Truth, then you have an idea. Most of the photos that people tried to take (on cameras or cell phones), I suspect did not come out well. And perhaps that is best. They would have been a snapshot of something that is more than just a picture -- there was also the information and the emotion. Indeed, for a moment, we were all on the same page with Al Gore (something a photo cannot tell you).

    The News Division blog I started a few years ago for one of the SLA conventions is still available for posting from attendees, but no one has updated the blog in a long time. I've been tempted to at least add job postings there but since I'm not really a member any more (despite occasional contributions to the listserv), have hesitated to do it. If anyone attending the conference is reading this and wants to post to the blog, email me and I'll set you up.

    The News Division, however, has a great program for the annual meeting. Hope everyone's having fun! (I would love to be a fly on the wall at this morning's Future of News Libraries seminar just to hear Mark Hannan, Jr, Reference Desk Director at USA Today. His father was my beloved boss, research director at the Washington Post, long ago.)