Thursday, August 30, 2007

Also interesting today: sex arrests, health inspections, fried clams, coffee, and trade policies

Very little discussion in the midst of the Larry Craig brouhaha about why police solicit sex in bathrooms in the first place. Don't you ever wonder about this? Kevin Drum discusses, and reminds us of Walter Jenkins. Remember him? Says Drum:
Who knows? Maybe the Larry Craig incident will have a silver lining, prompting states to begin questioning all their solicitation laws. And if not that, maybe at least the stupider and most antique ones. A guy can dream., 'your source for restaurant inspections' says Florida's the most dangerous state to eat out in. Next worst: California, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Minnesota.

Darn Sheila Lennon, who pointed to this New York Times story on fried clams and reminded me how much I miss visiting New England for the seafood.....

Several bloggers are pointing to this lovely graphic, Coffee Drinks Illustrated, which is wonderful, but as Michael Froomkin reports, leaves out the Cuban versions.....

And, on a serious note, an interesting report from the Cato Institute on foreign trade: Thriving in a Global Economy: The Truth about U.S. Manufacturing and Trade:
...despite all the stories about the erosion of U.S. manufacturing primacy, the United States remains the world’s most prolific manufacturer—producing two and a half times more output than those vaunted Chinese factories in 2006.
Yet, the rhetoric on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail about a declining manufacturing sector is reaching a fevered pitch. Policymakers point repeatedly to the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs as evidence of impending doom, even though those acute losses occurred between 2000 and 2003, and job decline in manufacturing has leveled off to historic averages.

New Orleans, Katrina, and Iraq

Some things of note as we remember the victims of Hurricane Katrina this week:

Big Easy to Big Empty: How the White House is Still Drowning New Orleans from Greg Palast, whose film, Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans, for Democracy Now! is being re-released this week. From Palast:
It’s the Black survivors without the cash that are a problem. So where New Orleans once stood, Mayor Nagin, in connivance with a Bush regime more than happy to keep a quarter million poor folk (i.e. Democrats) out of this swing state, is creating a new city: a tourist town with a French Quarter, loose-spending drunks, hot-sheets hotels and a few Black people to perform the modern version of minstrel shows.

Operation Eden: Two Years On And Counting, an interview with Clayton James Cubitt about his photos of Katrina victims. And much more at his Operation Eden blog. From an earlier post on New Orleans:
So why has she been abandoned by her country? Why has she been abandoned by her President? Why do we spend more money each month in a foreign war of opportunity than we do in restoring one of our greatest cities from the worst calamity in its long history?

Facing South and its Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch are keeping tabs on the latest reconstruction statistics and reports. Including The Katrina Index. From Facing South's R. Neal:
Thankfully, we will only have to endure one more Katrina Anniversary speech by President Bush. Indeed, there may be better days ahead.

And from the American Association for Justice, a report: AAJ Report Reveals “Pattern of Greed” Katrina Victims Abused by Insurance Companies As Profits Soar. According to this,
...insurers collected billions in premiums from policyholders and then stiffed them in their time of greatest need.
...Facing their darkest hour, even those who had insurance have found themselves victimized a second time by companies that offered pennies on the dollar, refusing to honor many agreements and pay policyholders’ fair claims. Meanwhile, insurance companies continue to pull in record profits each year, having posted $100 billion in profits since Hurricane Katrina.

On another topic, but related, how that money needed on the Gulf Coast is really being spent: from Rolling Stone, The Great Iraq Swindle: How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government.
...But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bush and Vietnam

Following up on yesterday's post, more refutations of Bush's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam:
In the New York Times, Historians Question Bush’s Reading of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq.
“It is undoubtedly true that America’s failure in Vietnam led to catastrophic consequences in the region, especially in Cambodia,” said David C. Hendrickson, a specialist on the history of American foreign policy at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.
“But there are a couple of further points that need weighing,” he added. “One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam — this dark force arose out of the circumstances of the war, was in a deep sense created by the war. The same thing has happened in the Middle East today. Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred.”

In FireDogLake, Bush Tries to Sell the Neocon’s Favorite Vietnam Myth:
David Gergen put his finger on the greater blunder of drawing the Vietnam parallel: “If you learned so much from history, Mr. President, how did you get us involved in another quagmire?” Vietnam reminds Americans of the quagmire, a lost war and 58,000 dead Americans.

And, via The Guardian's Newsblog, a link to a Keith Olbermann commentary from last year: Olbermann: Lessons from the Vietnam War. Can't beat this one:
The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of “peace With honor” are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they’re probably just as wrong now, as they were then ... Dr. Kissinger.

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Blogging and journalism, redux

Fascinating give and take on this subject in the Los Angeles Times, where Elon College J-prof Michael Skube wrote about his dislike of the idea that bloggers might do journalism: Blogs: All the noise that fits.

Bloggers, understandably, are annoyed, and today j-prof/blogger Jay Rosen answers Skube with a barrage of facts: The journalism that bloggers actually do. Rosen finds that Skube doesn't seem to even read blogs, and one that he mentioned was actually added by an editor. Added bonus: Rosen provides a list of "Blog sites doing exactly what he says blog sites don't do: "the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence ... the depiction of real life.""

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Checking the candidates

Lots of buzz today about the new politics site from Congressional Quarterly and the St. Petersburg Times: PolitFact. The 'Truth-o-Meter' checks candidates' statements and accusations for factual background.

Checking is done by several Times and CQ reporters, as well as an impressive list of news researchers.

See also Matt Waite, who came up with the programming and database to make this happen. Great work all around.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vietnam, again

I'm flabbergasted by Bush's speech today to the VFW comparing Iraq to Vietnam. Isn't that what we've been saying all along? Didn't they all call us crazy?

Of course, our perception of Vietnam is different than George's. After all, he was there...ummm, sorry, NOT! At any rate, those of us who were against the war in Vietnam, and are now against the war in Iraq, see it quite differently still.

Finally, there's Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans. The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So I'm going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America's presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.
...Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."

And then, this:
There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we're fighting today. But one important similarity is at their core they're ideological struggles.

Nobody expected the killing would end. But it would be the people who cared about Vietnam killing each other, and it wouldn't last long. And didn't.
'Killing Fields'? That was Cambodia. And, there are plenty of Iraqis, and Iraqi refugees, suffering now.
And last, ideology. We were in that war for ideological reasons, but were the Vietnamese? I don't think so. They were in it to save their country, and unite it if possible. And if we were in this new war for ideology, wouldn't we be concentrating on Afghanistan?

But then, that's how we were divided back then. Still are. Some comments: Pensito Review; Talking Points Memo; Think Progress; AmericaBlog...

Here's Tribune's The Swamp, on Bush's bizarre citing of Graham Greene's scathing novel on 'The Quiet American' in Vietnam:
But Greene wrote his book about the way American bumbled into Vietnam, not how it left it.
By reminding people of Greene's book, Bush was inviting listeners to recall the mistakes his administration made in entering and prosecuting the Iraq War. Did he really want to do that?

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Books poll

I guess we can't mourn the loss of newspaper readers these days when it seems an awful lot of people don't read books either. What a shame.

But maybe blog readers read more? There's a delightful similar poll on the J-Walk blog, which shows responses instantly, very cool. Most readers here have read at least 6 books in the last year, not great, but at least 40 of the 214 responders so far read 51 or more. I'd like to say I read a book a week but I tend to read a few long complicated books that might take two weeks to read, so I'm one of the 37 in the 21-50 range. The poll software is from

Monday, August 20, 2007

Eye on the storm

In Al's Morning Meeting, lots of good links for research background, relief information and more for those covering the effect of Hurricane Dean.

Also, Sheila Lennon points to lots of live blogging, coverage, and other links from Jamaica on her Subterranean Homepage Blues blog.


Last week's research links

Just a few this week, and they've been featured on all the research blogs, but so important they're worth a repeat mention anyway:

  • Intelius has added cell phone numbers to its public records and phone search service. The phone lookup search now includes "cell phones, unlisted & un-published numbers, internet (VOIP), and other phone types. Phone Lookup also includes the option to confirm current and historical addresses and phone connections within the report." Search is free but record costs $14.95.
    I haven't used Intelius yet but it seems to be becoming the dominant search service for those who only occasionally need access to this sort of people finding research and don't have access to services like Accurint, Reporters Edge, Autotrack, etc.
  • WikiScanner is causing a huge buzz as it lets you find out what organization's IP numbers are the source for edits on Wikipedia. Fun collection of reader-discovered edits at Wired's Threat Level blog. (I also found 34 edits came from The Miami Herald's IP. Most of them are North Carolina home-town references, one on recent changes in the Orlando Sentinel newsroom, and only one on a South Florida topic (a high school).
    The site also links to several sources of edits, including government agencies, news operations, corporations and places (like Havana, Cuba).
  • Xtimeline lets readers create timelines in blog/wiki-like format. This could be a useful source when looking for quick background, but would certainly require double checking if used as basis of a published timeline. This looks like a great playground for news researchers, who often make a habit of writing timelines. (Via Depth Reporting)
  • American War and Military Operations Casualties, Lists and Statistics, a CRS report to Congress listing all casualty figures since Revolutionary War, with links to sources for statistics.
  • Friday, August 17, 2007

    New perspectives on Cuba

    There'll be some discussion on the Miami blogs about this new position by presidential candidate Chris Dodd, the senator from Connecticut, on changing our Cuba policy: from The Washington Note, On U.S.-Cuba Relations, Chris Dodd Demonstrates What an "Adult Foreign Policy" Would Look Like.
    Posted on Dodd's web site, Huffington Post and the Washington Note, Dodd begins:
    I want to see the peaceful transition to democracy occur on the Island of Cuba in my life time.
    That isn't going to happen if we continue the misguided policies of the last forty-six years. We must open the flood gates to contacts with the Cuban people. We must remove restrictions on the ability of Cuban Americans to provide financial assistance to their loved ones. Even small sums of money in the hands of ordinary Cuban families can serve as catalysts for private investment to gain a foothold in Cuba.

    On a side note, a curious story demonstrating the long-term effect of the embargo, in the Toronto Star: Canadian heiress, 107, lives in Cuban poverty:
    Canadian Mary McCarthy lives in the same mansion she and her millionaire husband moved into 62 years ago in the once-posh Country Club area of Havana.
    ... Her real jewellery and the small fortune she inherited when she was widowed in 1951 have been frozen in a Boston bank since the United States placed Cuba under sanctions after Fidel Castro's leftist revolution in 1959.
    That's because she lived in Cuba and did not leave with most of her wealthy Cuban neighbours who fled to Miami when Castro nationalized businesses and steered the Caribbean nation toward Soviet communism.
    ... Since January this year the U.S. government has let her withdraw a $96 a month allowance from her U.S. bank after Canadian diplomats interceded on her behalf.
    McCarthy is asking U.S. President George W. Bush to free her money so that she can live her remaining days with dignity. She would also like to have her family's "trinkets" released.

    The U.S. government's answer? Move back to Canada. She says the winters would kill her. Another example of the suffering caused by this policy.


    Mine safety

    There's been very little discussion about the safety issues behind the mine collapse in Utah, but Huffington Post has been on it, wondering why news organizations haven't looked into this more. Here's Arriana Huffington: Why Are the New York Times and So Much of the Traditional* Media Neglecting a Vital Part of the Utah Mine Collapse Story?, and Max Follmer: Utah Mine Owner: Troubling Safety Record, Useful Political Clout.
    From Huffington:
    But we get precious little on the Murray who had enough political muscle to get a Mine Safety and Health Administration district manager who had cracked down on safety issues at one of Murray's mines reassigned (clearly, contributing $213,000 to Republican candidates over the last ten years, as well as another $724,500 to Republican candidates and causes through political action committees connected to Murray's businesses, has its benefits).

    Both stories do link to some coverage from local and other papers. These were posted a couple days ago, with some reaction from blogs. Will there be a larger investigative report from someone?

    The Charleston (W.Va) Gazette's Ken Ward, who won an Investigative Reporters and Editors medal this year for his work on mine safety, is asking those questions, and posted this at Nieman Reports: Why is it OK for the coal industry to break the law? See also Ward's report in Washington Monthly earlier this year, Shafted: How the Bush administration reversed decades of progress on mine safety. . Here's some of his work for the Gazette: Beyond Sago.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    How different can newspaper websites be?

    Goodness knows some of them can certainly use improving. It's hard to find what you're looking for on many of them, and even harder to find the things you aren't looking for, but would be informed or entertained by if you just knew they were there. (There still is nothing like holding that paper in your hands and just browsing the ads and stories....)

    So, the Bivings report on the 10 Best Newspaper Websites is interesting, but it's hard to know if I'd change the list. Every site frustrates at times.

    I was struck, though by the comment on the 8th-ranked paper, the Austin American-Statesman: "We really like the unique layout and coloring of this site’s homepage."
    Hmm. Look at the color and layout of the two papers ranked above this one, the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Fresno Bee. Not a whole lot of difference there....


    Making sense

    Gotta love the Dutch bishop who proposes that Christians adopt the name 'Allah' when speaking of God. And why not?
    Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word "Allah" while celebrating Mass.
    "Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

    And, in Stuck on the Palmetto, Rick wonders why a couple of Florida boys caught driving around with pipe bombs and bomb-making materials didn't get the same attention from police, media and blogs as the two Muslim men in South Carolina: When Your Name is Mohamed.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Making too much of Rove?

    Fascinating discussion about this piece by Jay Rosen in his PressThink blog: Karl Rove and the Religion of the Washington Press:
    Conservatives think the ideology of the Washington press corps is liberal. Liberals think the press is conservative in the sense of protecting its place in the political establishment. Karl Rove once said that the press is “less liberal than it is oppositional.”
    ...Whereas I believe that the real—and undeclared—ideology of American journalism is savviness, and this is what made the press so vulnerable to the likes of Karl Rove.

    Over at Hullaballoo, Digby comments in Savvy Fools, but even more interesting, in another posting on how Rove is regarded, Architectural Disaster: quoting Andrew Sullivan, who says Rove is "one of the worst political strategists in recent times", she reacts:
    That's refreshing because mostly what I'm hearing in the press today is the glorious story of "the architect" as if he'd built something other than a huge pile of rotting compost.
    (...although I'm willing to admit that getting a braindead playboy like Junior elected four times to anything, much less governor and president, does take some skill.)

    After reading this, Bill Plante's shouted question to the president yesterday sounds brilliant....


    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Health care proposal, Iraq and Vietnam, a Florida tax revelation, and campaign tech coverage

    Here's a link to a proposal that first came out in 1989 and has been reprinted by Physicians for a National Health Program: A National Health Program for the United States: A Physicians' Proposal. From the summary:
    As physicians, we constantly confront the irrationality of the present health care system. In private practice, we waste countless hours on billing and bureaucracy. For uninsured patients, we avoid procedures, consultations, and costly medications.
    ...We envisage a program that would be federally mandated and ultimately funded by the federal government but administered largely at the state and local level. The proposed system would eliminate financial barriers to care; minimize economic incentives for both excessive and insufficient care, discourage administrative interference and expense, improve the distribution of health facilities, and control costs by curtailing bureaucracy and fostering health planning.
    Says the poster who linked to this on Knox Views: "I think anyone could get behind a candidate who endorsed this plan."

    From McClatchy correspondent Nancy Youssef, a fascinating interview: Iraq and Vietnam: Two wars, same mistakes, about retired Gen. Volney Warner, who says the death of his West Point-graduate granddaughter in Iraq has help shaped his views:

    ...The flawed assumptions of Vietnam and Iraq are nearly mirror images of each other.
    In Vietnam, Kennedy and other policymakers believed in the ''domino theory'': If South Vietnam fell, other U.S. allies in the region -- Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia -- also would fall to the communists.
    In Iraq, Bush and the neoconservative policymakers in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office had a democracy theory: Implanting democracy in Iraq would be easy, and from there it would spread to Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and beyond.
    The fact that the most democratic nation in the region, by most standards, is Iran and that Islamists dominate some of the region's most popular political parties, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon, seems not to have made an impression.

    Via Stuck on the Palmetto, a link to a report in the Palm Beach Post about another way corporations get out of paying taxes: Critics push to plug drain in tax loophole. This package represents the best in newspaper public service. Says the story, by Jeff Ostrowski, corporations in Florida can bypass paying documententary stamp tax on property sales by simply declaring a sales price of $10. So three properties that recently sold for a total of $600 million gained the state less than $2 in taxes, rather than the $4.2 million they would have garnered.
    No one knows how much the loophole costs the state. Neither the Florida Department of Revenue nor county property appraisers calculate taxes lost in this manner because the numbers are difficult to track. In some cases, no deed is filed when a property changes hands. In others, buyers and sellers refuse to divulge sale prices.
    Yet even as the stakes for this practice rise, there's little interest in Tallahassee in closing the loophole, Nikolits and other property appraisers said. They hope the big savings enjoyed on high-profile sales will spur lawmakers to action.

    (Added later: On a related topic, from Will Bunch: Bush discovers why Americans are unhappy: Corporate taxes aren't low enough.)

    And finally, from the list of Knight-Batten award finalists, a link to TechPresident, where Micah Sifry and others collect news and links on campaign coverage with an emphasis on blog, social networking, and technology. Great links and info here, too, including stats on Facebook supporters, MySpace Friends, and You Tube views by candidate.

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    Ridders' legacy

    A side note for former Knight-Ridder colleagues who are probably still wondering, like me, how things could have gotten so bad that the corporation had to sell out to McClatchy: In his Content Bridges blog, former KR exec Ken Doctor reported last week on a story in the San Jose Mercury News, where the headquarters building is renting. (The KR sign is still on top).

    Most of us were shocked when Tony Ridder announced he was moving the company HQ to San Jose from Miami about ten years ago. 'To be close to Silicon Valley' was the excuse. What we didn't know was that this valley digs came with expensive wood and marble trimmings, and went for $120 a square foot, or at least 3 times the normal cost.

    No wonder my former KR stock (there's still a little in my 401k) is worth a quarter of what it was three years ago.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Weekend update: More research links from the week

    This week more interesting things showed up than there have been in several. I guess the dog days of summer don't slow everyone down. Some interesting new links in the public records area, particularly....

    The links:

  • Journal Info, a guide to academic journals.
  • Reverse Directories in the Library of Congress. Need a 1960s-era Criss Cross or Street directory from your city? Check to see if the Library has it. You'll have to visit the Library and be a Registered Reader.
  • Lit2Go, from Florida Educational Technology Clearinghouse, is links to books and children's literature in audio formats for computers or MP3 players.
  • US News' Best Cars and Trucks, new review aggregator.
  • Iraq Timeline from American Progress.

  • CDC Wonder, easy access to health statistics, including mapping and charting: How to use it.
  • The Economic Census: includes industry, job, business data.

    Governments, Politics:
  • 2008 Campaign Timeline from CQ Politics.
  • NCSL 50-State Legislative Tracking Web Resources
  • FTC Reporter Resources include consumer, business guides on topics from oil and gas to identity theft to funerals.

  • NNDB, a names database with links to brief biographies and lists of related persons. Looks a bit like Namebase in style, but entries are wiki-like.

  • Alternatives to Acrobat for making PDFs, tips from Walt Mossberg.

    Public Records:
  • State Agency Databases, a Wiki with links from Government Documents Round Table. Very comprehensive lists of databases from state agencies: see Florida, for example (other state lists are less complete so far). There's also a blog, highlighting the State Database of the Day. Could be a useful alternative to public records directories. I found one new database here immediately, a link to Vermont court records online (for a fee).
  • MSB by state database; from (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)), this is a directory of Money Services Businesses like check cashing, currency exchanges, and money transfer businesses; Excel spreadsheet by state.
  • PACER has added U.S. District Court written opinions to case documents available online (press release).

  • Friday, August 10, 2007

    And back to the war

    The really forgotten fatalities in Iraq, from Left I on the News. Why don't we count the other coalition casualties, as well as the 1000 + contractors? That puts the total quite near 5000.
    (Note, current figures on all these segments available at Where I just found that 100! Army soldiers have committed suicide.)

    Iraq Timeline: The Broken Record on "the Next Few Months"
    from American Progress.
    The Bush administration as well as supporters and some critics of the Bush Iraq strategy have told Americans time and again during the past four years that the "next few months" in Iraq will be the "decisive, critical period" of the war—the one in which Iraq's warring factions will compromise to share power; in which the bloody civil war among sectarian groups will ease into peace; and in which Iraq's brutal violence will decline.
    The implication has always been that U.S. military forces just need to hold on a little while longer for things to get better. They've been holding on a little while longer for more than four years—longer than it took the United States to win World War II.

    Also from American Progress: Strategic Reset: Reclaiming Control of U.S. Security in the Middle East .
    The current Iraq strategy is exactly what Al Qaeda wants—the United States distracted and pinned down by Iraq’s internal conflicts and trapped in a quagmire that has become the perfect rallying cry and recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.
    ...Instead, the United States must reset its strategy by looking beyond the deteriorating situation in Iraq in order to counter the threat from global terrorist groups and ensure stability in the entire Middle East and Gulf region

    A scary report from McClatchy claims the 'Iran strategy' is alive and kicking: Cheney urging strikes on Iran.

    But, it's always a good time to take a vacation, isn't it? Here's Eugene Robinson's column: Just Another Vacation From Reality.

    And, from the Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason: Bush on track to become the vacation president.

    In The Nation (Kill Or Convert, Brought To You By the Pentagon), and in Orcinus (Soldiers of the Apocolypse), worries about fundamentalist proselytizing among our military in the Middle East. From Dave at Orcinus:
    ...and then we are sending these converts into a Muslim war zone with visions of crusades dancing in their heads.
    Can things possibly get any more insane?

    He also quotes a recent comment from Digby, and an earlier post, which says:
    There's a reason to call Iraq the Timothy McVeigh Finishing School.
    This will, I fear, become a significant component of the predictable surge in far-right activity that is almost certain to manifest itself in the USA over the next couple of years, especially as Democrats and liberals expand and entrench their hold on power.

    Also from Sara at Orcinus, comments on the strange conservative attraction to macho posturing (also recently noted by Digby): Leering Old Men: Another Take.

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    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Views of America

    Here are a couple interesting points and counterpoints on the state of the American nation today:

    In The Guardian, Greg Anrig writes an opinion piece about the arrogance of American conservatism: If it's from Europe, forget it. He mentions the antagonism to any sort of European-style 'socialist' health care system, and says: is the right's refusal to learn lessons from abroad and cooperate with other countries that have bogged down the United States with the most inefficient healthcare system in the industrialised world and ensnared us in a multitude of other quagmires, foreign and domestic.

    The range of comments on this story, many from enraged Americans, is enlightening.
    The text was also posted at TPM Cafe, where there are many more reactions.

    And, in the Washington Post Online, Joel Achenbach notes a column in the Sunday Outlook section, by John McQuaid: The Can't-Do Nation, subtitled Is America Losing Its Knack for Getting Big Things Done?. McQuaid claims our infrastructure, as well as our political will, is failing:
    ...the United States can no longer be relied upon to succeed or even muddle through. We can't remake the Middle East. We can't protect one of our own cities from a natural disaster or, it seems, rebuild after one. We can't rescue our citizens when they're on TV begging for help. We can't even give our wounded veterans decent medical care.

    Achenbach disputes McQuaid's conclusions, titling the blog entry Outlook Rebuttal: America Still Can Do. Achenbach says America can still do the job, but admits there's a problem:
    The real problem (and perhaps this is really what McQuaid is saying) is that we have become, in many instances, a Won't Do Nation. We want the benefits of a modern transportation infrastructure, for example, but we won't pay for it. Our leaders would rather cut taxes than make sure we've got enough money to repair bridges.
    And the biggest problem of all is that in recent years, thanks to the hubris of some of our leaders, we became the Shouldn't Have Done Nation. There's a huge difference between being the Can't Do Nation and the Shouldna Done Nation.

    To wit, today's CNN poll asking Americans if they'd pay 5 cents more on gas to pay for making all our bridges safe. The answer? No, 74 percent so far.

    I live near several TVA dams, built in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Could -- or would -- America build anything like these marvels again? I often wonder...

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Who's behind environmental negativity?

    There's a worthwhile report in Newsweek on how the campaign to deny global warming has evolved over the years, and who's funding it: The Truth About Denial. Fascinating stuff:
    Challenging the science wasn't a hard sell on Capitol Hill. "In the House, the leadership generally viewed it as impermissible to go along with anything that would even imply that climate change was genuine," says Goldston, the former Republican staffer. "There was a belief on the part of many members that the science was fraudulent, even a Democratic fantasy. A lot of the information they got was from conservative think tanks and industry."
    ...The response to the international climate panel's latest report, in February, showed that greenhouse doubters have a lot of fight left in them. In addition to offering $10,000 to scientists willing to attack the report, which so angered Boxer, they are emphasizing a new theme. Even if the world is warming now, and even if that warming is due in part to the greenhouse gases emitted by burning fossil fuels, there's nothing to worry about.

    The story comes with a timeline, with an entry from 1896!
    Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius is the first to quantify how much the Earth is warming due to carbon dioxide emissions. “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air,” he writes.

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    Mad in Miami

    There's a little tempest going on in Miami, where, once again, journalism collides with Cuban-American emotions, and whirls into a maelstrom: yesterday the Miami Herald reported that one of its reporters, Oscar Corral, had been arrested for soliciting prostitution.

    Corral is the reporter who broke the story last year about El Nuevo Herald and other Cuban-American reporters taking payments from Radio Martí and the US government, which caused an uproar in the Cuban blogs, and made Corral a target for the anti-Castro crowd. Corral also writes the Herald's Miami's Cuban Connection blog, which is also criticized by blogs like Babalú.

    Daily Pulp linked to the Herald story and there are 70 comments on the posting already. For anyone who doesn't understand the emotions behind Miami's tropical pastel image, this is an eye-opener, and not for reading on an empty stomach. It's raw and nasty.

    There's lots more discussion on Stuck on the Palmetto, here, here and here.

    Babalú offshoot blog, HeraldWatch, also has comments.

    Miami New Times' Riptide blog has more background on Corral, and raises some new questions.

    Think life is all warm nights, mojitos and beaches for journalists (and bloggers) in Miami? Think again.

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    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Bridge coverage; why drink bottled water? Doc Searls on the heat ; Spying increases

    As journalists focus on bridge safety, some other resources have been added: Resourceshelf has posted a new collection of links here; over at the Internet Marketing Blog from, David Erikson, a St. Paul resident, has compiled lots of links on how the coverage of the collapse evolved on the Web: Minneapolis Bridge Collapse and Citizen Journalism.
    At News Designer, a collection of front pages on the collapse.

    (Added later:) Oh, and over at Journerdism, Will Sullivan has a useful post for all local news sites that might someday have to deal with the big story on their turf: Are you and your news site ready for your local Armageddon?

    It seems America's lust for bottled water is increasingly coming under attack, with good reason. A couple weeks ago I was stunned by this report, from, about bottled water: Message in a Bottle. It's a shocker:
    Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets--$15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year.
    ...Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need.

    I was particularly appalled by the story of Fiji Water (do you drink it?):
    ...a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water.
    ... since the plastic for the bottles is shipped to Fiji first, the bottles' journey is even longer. Half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water is transportation--which is to say, it costs as much to ship Fiji Water across the oceans and truck it to warehouses in the United States than it does to extract the water and bottle it.
    Read the whole thing. It's mindboggling.

    On MSNBC, this report from Arthur Kaplan: Pour the bottled-water trend down the drain. Asks Kaplan:
    If you want to head out on hypocrisy patrol among the environmentally concerned, don’t worry about what they are eating or whether they fly, drive or walk from place to place. Just ask them, “What are you drinking?”

    In today's LA Times, another column from Tom Standage: As a health drink, bottled water is all wet:
    Bottled water would appear to be the ultimate triumph of marketing. If you can get people to pay so much for something that is already available at very low cost in their own homes, doesn't that suggest that they will buy anything? Canned air, anyone? Of course, in a free society, people should be able to spend their money on silly things, provided they are in full possession of the facts. But many people are not, judging by the persistence of the idea that there is something magically superior about bottled water.

    Here's the NRDC's report on the safety of bottled water, "Pure Drink or Pure Hype", from a few years back.

    Speaking of the environment, Doc Searls, who's moved his blog to a new site at Harvard, where he's spending the next year or so, wrote a lovely piece this week on living without air conditioning. This is definitely worth the read. He calls it Back to Natures:
    So I’m thinking that now, in the middle of a summer night on a Baltimore porch, soaked in sweat, that I’m getting my edge back. If you’re not actually burning or freezing, heat and cold are just sensations. You can call them discomfort if you like, but they’re a small price to pay for experiencing nature’s cyclic perfections.

    Well, I turned on the air conditioning this week, just for the next few days as the humidity and heat rise above normal. Before this week, the AC was on just one afternoon. And, the water bottles I carry in the car (I need to make sure I drink enough) are used store bottles or a reusable container, filled with well water from my tap. It's a start.

    Seems the latest Congress-approved move to allow more spying on Americans by our government (do you really believe this will target only foreigners?) is being pretty much ignored by the media, although a few bloggers have been alert.

    A good source for finding out more, it seems, is Wired's Threat Level blog, which is becoming a must read. A recent post analyses the bill, and claims that among other things: ...the Protect America Act, removes the prohibition on warrantless spying on Americans abroad and gives the government wide powers to order communication service providers such as cell phone companies and ISPs to make their networks available to government eavesdroppers.

    (Added later:) Dan Gillmor looks at the only story in the New York Times on this topic, by James Risen (which I couldn't pull up yesterday), and asks:
    ...why didn’t they tell us about this before the law was passed?

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    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    A few research links from last week

  • How to Vet an Expert, excellent article on backgrounding from Virtual Chase.
  • Thomas Global, the international directory of manufactured products.
  • Judicial Salary Resource Center from National Center for State Courts.
  • Constitution Finder from U. of Richmond, has constitutions and other documents from nations of the world.
  • The Real Mother Goose: 300 nursery rhymes downloadable and searchable using Ask Sam (or browse online).
  • Book Depository: online book seller from the UK has free shipping, even to US.

  • Friday, August 03, 2007


    For anyone who hasn't yet found these great resources, check out Gary Price and the team's list of bridge statistics sites collected at Resourceshelf.

    And, over at Al's Morning Meeting, another great collection of bridge information: Get Local on Bridge Safety.

    The latter includes a list of previous bridge collapses.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    News you missed

    Here's an interesting note from The Guardian's Roy Greenslade, on the news that Americans don't get from their local media: Why US readers keep weather eye on British papers.

    Giving an example of a global warming study, Greenslade says the prominent coverage in international newspapers wasn't reflected in any American papers, including the most prestigious:
    But no word could be found in America's three leading titles, the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today. Indeed, according to Perry's researches, the story's only outing in the States was in the small circulation Daily India, based in Jacksonville, Florida, and a website called Free Internet Press.
    ...I am willing to speculate that the narrow news agenda of American news outlets is a major reason for growing US interest in what our papers say.

    In other news less covered, I was shocked to learn that, although I heard over and over again of the deaths of Tom Snyder and Ingmar Bergman, there was at least one other death that day that I would have thought merited the same coverage: that of Michelangelo Antonioni, whose films seemed to get as much attention as Bergman's back in the 1960s. Besides Blow-up, which got the most attention, I loved many of his films and found them more accessible than the Swedish master's.

    Also from that era, note the loss of Michael Serrault, who played the cafe owner role in the original version of 'La Cage aux Folles' on film and stage.

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