Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

I tried to post this cartoon, hoping Jim Morin wouldn't mind, but since Blogger is failing to let me upload pictures right now you'll have to see it at Stuck on the Palmetto, where I saw it first.

Later: Success!

Despite the administration denials:

In the NY Daily News, an opinion column by Malcolm Nance: I know waterboarding is torture - because I did it myself.
Having been subjected to this technique, I can say: It is risky but not entirely dangerous when applied in training for a very short period. However, when performed on an unsuspecting prisoner, waterboarding is a torture technique - without a doubt.
...In the media, waterboarding is called "simulated drowning," but that's a misnomer. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning.
Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Newspaper data delivery

Ken Sands has done us all a favor by pointing out the great work some newspapers are doing to make databases available to local readers. See What Does a 'Data Delivery Editor' Do? at Poynter. He discusses the Roanoke Times' DataSphere, which provides databases from court filings to bear sightings, and mentions a couple other such services from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, and the Asbury Park Press.

Says Sands, about the Times and editor Matt Chittum:
Pretty innovative stuff for a newspaper. That's what can happen when you create staff positions such as "data delivery editor."

Wow, how long have some of us been talking about this, and how long has it taken for it to materialize at this level. I remember discussions with Rich Gordon and others at the Miami Herald, imagining this in the 90s. How far we've -- finally -- come.

I've been keeping track of the papers that are putting public records online, and have added Roanoke and Rochester to the list on my public records links page. There aren't many yet, although most papers have at least a few databases, but these are the only ones I know of that have large compilations. Know of any others? Let me know.

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Sports complaints

After Sheila Lennon posted a complaint about having to listen to television sports commentators making a game annoying to listen to, I posted my own comment on her blog. Yesterday Sheila responded, challenging us to say exactly how sports commentary needs to be changed.

Sheila has hit most of the points I would, and I'm not as expert at sports as her, but married to a sports fan I've certainly sat my way through thousands of games now too. We follow the NBA pretty closely and have been fans of the Miami Heat since they started, with a long string of losing years in the 1980s and 90s, through their recent championship and downfall.

We watch a lot of other teams too: being from New England, the other member of the family was a longtime Celtics fan (and may be again, now), and of course the Red Sox and Patriots are always on the radar...particularly when they're winning. I only had the Rochester Red Wings to cheer for. We had a love/hate relationship with the Dolphins and the Hurricanes, and cheered the Marlins when they won...but never went to a game (Well, one Hurricane game).

We live too far west in North Carolina to get the Panthers games. The Falcons and the Titans haven't caught on with us yet.

But still we watch. And it seems we are more and more annoyed with the commentary every year. One reason we've kept watching the Heat is getting to hear the local broadcasts on occasion, with no frills, just game coverage. But an NBA game on national TV? Give me a break. Some of the broadcasters are great. But too many bring their personal agenda, bragging, and bias to the game.

Here are some of my personal peeves:

1. Rooting for one team. It's obvious when you do. Or even more obvious when you don't like a team. Remember their fans are listening too.

2. Sideline interviews. They're great during the breaks or halftime. I love occasionally getting to hear a player's parents, wife or other relatives, or seeing a celebrity in the seats. But not every game, and not during plays!

3. Same with celebrity interviews in the press box. Yes, some of these guys have something to say: Vince Vaughn gave a good one last night at the Packers/Broncos game. But again, not during plays.

4. Sideline commentary. Good to get injury updates, but really, who cares if you just spoke to the coach and he said we'll have to be more aggressive in the second half. And, along with that:

5. Stop telling me you had dinner with, or spoke to, some player or coach yesterday. It seems it's more important to you to let us know you have contacts who tell you things than to actually tell us something about the team or game.

6. Constantly repeating a team or player's story. Any fan has heard it over and over, and new fans will find out. I don't mind hearing once or twice a year that a guy overcame poverty or crime, but don't need to hear it every game.

7. This may be worse in the NBA, I think, but why don't the officials get called out on bad calls more? Seems many broadcasters won't ever question a call, and always back up the officials. In football the opposite seems to be true more often. This goes along with Sheila's complaint that the commentators don't explain the rules well.

8. And of course, as Sheila pointed out, the babbling on a totally different topic during plays. Some of you have some good tales to tell, but wait for a break. Keep the mind on the game.


Monday, October 29, 2007

More for those who don't need it

Sure these folks have an axe to grind, but the National Air Traffic Controllers Assn has a fascinating item on their site: FAA's New Approach to Safety: Spend more on luxury items, less on controllers and equipment.
Just two months after a high-profile Congressional hearing exposed widespread health and safety problems at Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control facilities across the country, and in the midst of crippling and unsafe communications outages, the FAA responded not by improving its maintenance practices but instead by going on an end-of-fiscal year spending spree to outfit scores of facilities with new and expensive furniture, televisions and other high-end items that have no relationship whatsoever to the safety of the flying public.
It does make you wonder. Some of the airports' expenditures seem pretty benign, things like office furniture and shredders. But take a look at Charlotte, where they bought LOTS of fancy furniture, a big plasma TV to replace a working projector, and spent $5000 on a refrigerator and freezer. Hmm. And what about the only expenditure in Rochester: a leather sectional? A 60-in LCD with surround sound for the cafeteria in Jacksonville? Hmmm.

Sort of helps to answer why the Bush administration has been the highest spending since Johnson. (And five times higher than Clinton's, according to Richard Vigurie.)


Friday, October 26, 2007

Knocking down the untruths, one at a time

In The New Republic, The New Right-Wing Smear Machine, about a mangled story about Hillary Clinton and some Gold Star Mothers that's been repeated over and over until lots of folks believe it.
Included, background on other untruths, rumors and lies that have been constantly disproved but are still forwarded on emails, etc.
How do you stop things like that? The story mentions's constant battle against prevalent rumors, and the Web site set up by
Mike D'Asto, a 29-year-old assistant cameraman living in New York, [who] received so many forwards from his conservative father he started a blog called, where he shares them with other unwitting recipients. "I suddenly have connected to all these people who receive these right-wing forwards from their brothers-in-law," D'Asto told me. "Surprisingly, a very large number of people receive these."

One of those rumors not mentioned in this story is the one about the Clinton White House, and the supposed banning of military uniforms there (by Hillary, of course). Someone I love has recently insisted it's true.

Well, let's see: In 1993 U.S. News and World Report reported
Among other poisonous rumors is the tale that the Clintonites are preparing to order military personnel to wear civilian clothes, not their uniforms, whenever they enter the White House. Another rumor is that Clinton advisers have forbidden the military aide who carries "the football"--a suitcase containing nuclear launch codes--to dress in uniform. The White House denies both allegations.

More on this fake story, from Slate, and Media Matters.


Lost opportunities

Fascinating article in Business Week about how Knight Ridder blew the possibilities for using the Internet to advance their news and advertising products, back in the mid-90s: A Cautionary Tale for Old Media.
On Jan. 19, 1990, Robert D. Ingle, then executive editor of the San Jose Mercury News, wrote a remarkably prescient memo to his bosses at the newspaper chain Knight Ridder. Typing at night in his breakfast nook on an Apple II PC, he envisioned that a global information network would emerge, giving rise to all manner of online communities. And he proposed an online service, Mercury Center, aimed, his memo said, at "extending the life and preserving the franchise of the newspaper."

What he proposed became the online product, Mercury Center, first on AOL then on the 'Net. But although Ingle encouraged other K-R publishers to get involved, nothing ever came of it. The tale tells of Ingle's proposed New Century Network, too, an alliance of several newspaper publishing companies, that lasted only a couple years.
Knight Ridder executives had their eyes locked on Wall Street, where analysts hounded them for faster growth. They missed what was happening in a garage in Menlo Park, a few miles from the Mercury News building, where a couple of Stanford students had just started search engine Google.

Looking back, Ingle concludes that what sank Knight Ridder was, surprisingly, that the Internet didn't change things fast enough. "We got an early start, but we couldn't take advantage of it," he says.

Too bad. Looking back at what would have been won't change what happened. Knight Ridder was often on the cutting edge of newspaper innovations, including their forward-looking Viewtron, launched in 1983. Unfortunately this came along too soon too. Even stranger, in 1949 1947 the Knights' Miami Herald launched a Facsimile Edition that printed out copies of stories from a radio receiver. (Although no one remembers this, there is a clipping file in the Herald's library that tells the story.)

Lots of great ideas and great people, yet the company is no more.

(Added later: the Miami Herald's Facsimile Edition (and there was also one in Philadelphia) has been mentioned outside the Herald's clip files, in this study (Google cache of HTML version of the PDF) from Northwestern University, and in this 1948 Time Magazine story, as well as some books and in the New York Times at the time.)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Ecuador's president says he'd like to open a military base in Miami, if we are allowed to continue having one in his country. Gee. A good way to get rid of the old Homestead base....I say why not, if he can afford the real estate....

And, on that drought, the Miami Herald's Fred Grimm: Georgia's dry, but guv sounds like a wet hen. The interstate feud begins again.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life as a refugee

Riverbend tells you what it's like, having left her home in Baghdad for Syria a couple months back: Bloggers Without Borders...


New ways to think about archives

News librarians/archivists/researchers should be taking a good look at the work Dave Winer's been doing with archives. This may change everything. I've been intrigued by it since he started and as he develops it I'm thinking about it more and more, but still haven't decided what to make of it all.

First, there was River of News, a way to display headlines from the New York Times' (and other news sources') RSS feed so they'd be easy to read and get to from a mobile phone or other device. It works great on a regular computer, too, as a simple feed reader.

Now Winer's taken a look at the metadata that comes with every online NYTimes story, and come up with the Times River Outline, which organizes the Times' news by category, or keyword. He was inspired partly by after talking to tech folks at the Times. In a posting explaining the Outline, he called it 'Techmeme for the NY Times'. Here's an earlier Winer posting, Something New in News.

These things look deceptively simple. But there's something going on here. Who chooses the keywords? Are librarians involved? Should they be? How can this be integrated into existing archive searches, or should it be?

I'm glad to find that Dan Gillmor is thinking about this: Bringing the New York Times' Cornucopia to All.
Dave Winer has been exploring a superb news resource, exploring the depth and breadth of the New York Times‘ data-stream. The most traditional of news organizations is opening up, including its archives,in ways that could be truly revolutionary in the news business — and Dave is leading the way toward a new way of seeing a core part of our history and current knowledge.

And, of course, Doc was thinking about this, too, urging news organizations to Jump in the River.

(Added later:) In the New York Times' Open code blog, Jacob Harris posts Messing Around With Metadata, a good look at the data attached to every online Times story, and considers questions about how to keyword. These are questions every news librarian has dealt with for years, things like:
* Disambiguation — Is this story about Ford the president or Ford the automotive company?
* Summarization — This article might quote Nancy Pelosi, but it’s really just an article about President Bush, isn’t it?
* Normalization — The text of one story may use “The United States,” while another says “U.S.” Can we label both with the “United States of America” geographic label?
* Taxonomies — One story may be about Global Warming and another on Pollution; can we label both of them as being subcategories for Environment?
Harris also invites hackers to come up with even more interesting things to do with the story data.

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Not enough rain for this drought -- and this many people

The view from my window, pictured at right. It has been raining, off and on, since yesterday and may continue awhile. Thank goodness, because the worst drought in over a century around here is showing no signs of relief, and though this rain won't help, it's just good to see wet ground for a change. We needed a few tropical storms to come through this year, but no such luck.(I've posted some photos of the dry situation here, here, and here.)

Georgia -- especially Atlanta -- is in the worst shape. The 5-6 million who live in the area depend mostly on one small river for their water. Of all the places Atlantans could have decided to build on, this must be one of the worst possible choices. The USGS says:
The city of Atlanta developed as a transportation center around the railroads, unlike many large cities which began as ports at the mouths of large rivers. As the railroads were generally built on ridges, Atlanta grew at the intersection of several ridges on the drainage divide between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently, most streams in the Atlanta area are small and many are severely affected by prolonged droughts. The only sizable stream which flows through the metropolitan area is the Chattahoochee River, the headwaters of which are in the mountains of north Georgia. The Chattahoochee River is of marginal size to supply a metropolitan area the size of Atlanta's, and ground-water resources in the area are comparatively limited.

Here's a summary of another USGS report on the Chattahoochee River system, Everybody Lives Downstream. And here's a nice history of the Chattahoochee, from Sherpa Guides.

I read a book -- can't remember which one -- several years ago about the Chattahoochee and the unfortunate burden which Atlanta puts on it. Back then, it was supporting about 3 million people. Is it time for building restrictions? Questions need to be asked, like why Georgia took so long to acknowledge this drought, which has been going on for over a year; and why was development -- including a huge mall --allowed to be built so close to the Lake Lanier dam in Buford? Atlanta's outskirts, of course, are growing too, with commuters building homes closer and closer to the Blue Ridge Mountains, places like Gainesville and Dawsonville and Canton.

Georgians want the federal government to bail them out, which again raises the spectre of dying Apalachicola oysters and the question of Florida's right to some of that water. (Water Wars, Eastern Style). Other alternatives are being discussed too, the news stories say, like running pipelines from the Savannah or Tennessee Rivers. Shades of California and Chinatown.

Of course, California has its own problems beside a short water supply. Increasing population in areas that were once wilderness cause more difficult problems during fire seasons. Floridians found that out a few years back when new homes in forest lands were threatened during a difficult fire season there. And don't get me started on coastal construction in hurricane zones.

Here in the Tennessee Valley watershed, some residents of the mountain regions in the Tennessee Cumberlands and eastern TN and western NC -- some quite close to us -- are dealing with low lake water and empty wells. We worry about our well too. But down along the river, cities like Chattanooga have no water worries so far, and no restrictions. Water has been drained from the upper TVA lakes here in the mountains to keep navigation levels at normal in the Tennessee River. Businesses up here that rely on the lakes for summer income were shut out this year. If Atlanta were allowed to take that water too, how would it affect us?

(Added later:) And, by the way, in case anyone thinks this is just a local, temporary problem, it might be worth looking at Sunday's New York Times Magazine story by Jon Gertner: The Future is Drying Up.

Things would go easier in this country if too many people didn't live in the wrong places. When the majority of the population lived in the northeast and midwest, we only had to deal with blizzards. Now those areas are warmer and more liveable, and relatively underpopulated. Maybe we should start a movement to move back north....

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Research links of the week

  • Butterflies and Moths of North America.

  • Web Searching with Advanced Commands, great tutorial from Genie Tyburski at The Virtual Chase.
  • verify email address: this tells you if an address is valid.
  • Zuula lets you run a search and compare results among several major search engines. Also has a news and blogs search page, as well as images and jobs.
  • Online Etymology Dictionary

  • Journalism Daily links to the top 15 news stories about journalism each day.

    Public Records:
  • Noza Search: searchable database of charitable gifts.
  • Expert Witness Research from The Virtual Chase, links to several searchable databases in areas of law, medicine, etc.
  • Union, database of reports filed by unions, union officers and employees, employers, and labor relations consultants, including financial reports. Download and print reports back to 2000, order earlier ones.

  • Fundrace 2008 from Huffington Post and Eyebeam, search campaign donations by name, address, ZIP code, etc.

  • Thursday, October 18, 2007

    War views

    Anthony Cordesman, in a new report published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, called Iraq, Afghanistan, and Self-Inflicted Wounds: Strategic Lessons of Armed Nation Building:
    The US not only was unprepared for the aftermath of its initial military intervention, it lacked the tools and skill sets to understand the sheer scale of the effort required, how long a successful intervention would take, and the level of resources that would be required. The Bush Administration mixed an ideological fantasy about the ease with which democratic states could be created with denial of the problems and complexities that emerged once it intervened.

    Christopher Dickey, writing in Newsweek (War and Deliverance) about his father James' novel, Deliverance, and the lessons it has today:
    I think Lewis is Vice President Dick Cheney's closet fantasy of himself, and as such, a sort of model for the Bush administration as a whole. And Ed, he's about the rest of us, just scared and trying to get by. And the river? That's the war in Iraq.
    "What the hell you want to go f--- around with that river for?" one of the unfriendly locals asks Lewis early in the movie.
    "Because it's there," says Lewis.
    "It's there alright. You get in and you can't get out, you gonna wish it wasn't."

    One of the most disconcerting aspects of the endless war the United States is fighting now is that it started because Iraq was there: it appeared to be a made-to-order target for an easy invasion that would have great symbolic (indeed, philosophic) significance for the thinkers around Bush.


    Keeping investigative reporting alive

    Dan Gillmor comments about the new investigative project called Pro Publica. Lots of bloggers and listserv contributors have been talking about this and how it's another sign of the death of newspaper journalism. My reaction was that this is a positive move, and Gillmor agrees:
    Foundations are stepping into the breach left by downsizing media companies, and not a minute too soon. This effort will, if it works, be a serious contributor to the news scene.
    Gillmor also mentions the Center for Public Integrity and wonders why this very successful project wasn't mentioned in the New York Times story about Pro Publica.It's things like this that will be keeping investigative journalism alive. Or, as Pro Publica says:
    Today's investigative reporters lack resources: Time and budget constraints are curbing the ability of journalists not specifically designated “investigative” to do this kind of reporting in addition their regular beats. This is therefore a moment when new models are necessary...

    As soon as I posted this, I found that Ken Doctor has posted on the same topic: ProPublica, MinnPost Burst Out of the Box. Doctor, on Pro Publica:
    If you look through the growing haze of daily downsizing, you can see a sun trying to rise.
    ...If the world has unlocked the ad/editorial connection, this kind of model says, okay, let's concentrate on what we know how to do best: produce great journalism. Importantly, these will be experienced journalists, edited by top editors...user-gen is no substitute for journalism.


    Learn from the enemy

    PC Magazine has an interesting slide show, for those who are convinced the Web is killing newspapers. It's a list of the websites that are most likely to draw readers away: The Newspaper Killers.
    The truth is that there's a better online alternative to every newspaper section, from the front page to the funnies to the obituaries.
    To prove it, we picked our favorite Web replacements for each newspaper section. Some of them come from newspapers themselves (like the Houston Chronicle's near-perfect online comics page), and some aggregate newspaper content (like Google News and Topix).

    Rather than rail against the coming darkness, perhaps newspaper journalists should study these sites and learn to produce something 'near-perfect' online, like those Houston comics pages......

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Life after newspapers

    It's nice to know that some former newspaper reporters and editors are behind HBO's The Wire, possibly (IMHO) the best series ever written for television. The New Yorker's Margaret Talbot profiles David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter who created and guided the entire series. Simon was 'bought out' in a Sun downsizing in 1995.

    Now a new, fourth season is soon to start, and it will focus on a Baltimore newspaper -- a 'fictional' Baltimore Sun. Several writers, directors, crew and actors are former journalists too. I can't wait.
    “The Wire,” Simon often says, is a show about how contemporary American society—and, particularly, “raw, unencumbered capitalism”—devalues human beings. He told me, ...if the first season was about devaluing the cops who knew their beats and the corner boys slinging drugs, then the second was about devaluing the longshoremen and their labor, the third about people who wanted to make changes in the city, and the fourth was about kids who were being prepared, badly, for an economy that no longer really needs them. And the fifth? It’s about the people who are supposed to be monitoring all this and sounding the alarm—the journalists.
    ...This final season of the show, Simon told me, will be about “perception versus reality”—in particular, what kind of reality newspapers can capture and what they can’t. Newspapers across the country are shrinking, laying off beat reporters who understood their turf. More important, Simon believes, newspapers are fundamentally not equipped to convey certain kinds of complex truths.

    Don't miss this profile -- or the show. The story of The Wire is an amazing, amazing story. And this profile just proves that journalists can have a lot to say in other media than just newspapers.


    Writers, bloggers and newspapers

    The Post Pub, a new blog for 'authors, readers and bloggers', links to a feature in The Guardian, Writers Rooms. Lovely to see the places where writers work and the surroundings that inspire them. Some of these rooms look pretty uncomfortable to me, though, and can't imagine writing by hand or on an old typewriter, which several of these do.

    Speaking of writers' work spaces, Ronni Bennett has been encouraging her readers to send in photos of their desks, at her Time Goes By blog. I haven't sent a photo of mine to Where Elders Blog yet, but several have contributed photos. It really adds to the reading experience when you can see where the work happened. (For a lark, check out the similarities between Ronni's desk and the one Margaret Drabble writes on.)

    I posted a photo of my work spaces (in the Herald newsroom, and my desk in the -- now demolished -- South Miami house) once to my blog, but the photo links are gone now. I've tried several times to get a good photo of my current work space here in the NC mountains. This one shows a bit of the fall color outside my window...

    It's a while now since I blogged at the newspaper site. Lots has changed since I started doing it 4 or so years ago. Mine was the lone blog at, now there are dozens, it seems. Newspapers are into blogging in a big way now, according to Marc Glaser at Mediashift, reporting on a Los Angeles Times story: Should bloggers and newspapers make peace?
    On this note, Mindy McAdams did a session on blogging at a recent online journalism seminar and found so many were interested the room was packed. Far cry from some of the early sessions on blogging I did a few years back. News librarians showed up when I talked to them, but journalists rarely.

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    Monday, October 15, 2007

    No comment needed

    Gore Derangement Syndrome, by Paul Krugman.
    What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?
    Partly it’s a reaction to what happened in 2000, when the American people chose Mr. Gore but his opponent somehow ended up in the White House.
    ...The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right.

    Also in the New York Times, from John Burns: What Cats Know About War on cats in Iraq:
    Mongrels though they are, our Baghdad cats, we learned from a recent study in the journal Science, have a noble lineage of their own — as inheritors of the same terrain occupied by the felines that were the forebears of all domestic cats, wild families that lived along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates more than 10,000 years ago.

    In Salon, Joe Conason writes about the scariest part of Wesley Clark's new memoir:
    "Seven countries in five years":
    While the Bush White House promotes the possibility of armed conflict with Iran, a tantalizing passage in Wesley Clark's new memoir suggests that another war is part of a long-planned Department of Defense strategy that anticipated "regime change" by force in no fewer than seven Mideast states.


    Friday, October 12, 2007

    Some sense on healthcare Swiftboating

    Here are two who hit the nail on the head:

    From Hale Stewart at Huffington Post, The Frosts Demonstrate Why We Need Single Payer Health Care. care is not an area where the profit motive should dominate decision making. Simply put, the end product is a patient's health. Private health insurance has a conflict of interest between the insurance company and the insured which will be resolved in favor of the insurance company a majority of the time.
    ...Health care costs are killing American business. Our international competitors don't have to deal with these costs. As a result, private health care is making US business less competitive.
    So, public health eliminates a conflict of interest that compromises individual health, is cheaper and makes the US more competitive. And we don't have a public health system because?

    From Digby at Hullaballoo, What, Me Worry?
    Insurance companies only want to cover young, healthy or rich people. And even if you manage to pay the expensive premiums with huge deductibles, they will try to find a way to avoid paying for your care anyway. That's the way it works.

    I'm glad to see the push to get children's health covered. But children are the least of our worries. It's the older ones who worry me, who are trying to get by till Medicare and who are the most likely to need expensive tests, prescription medication, or who get a catastrophic disease or injury that's not or little covered by the insurance they can afford.

    Amazingly, even Michelle Malkin once worried about that: Sadly, No, found a three-year old posting where she worries about health care coverage too.....

    We're all just a hair away from being in the same boat.

    From Digby:
    They got theirs and are now railing against the "choices" made by two working parents who make 45,000 a year. But I think she and her stalker squad are going to be surprised to find that most people don't see things their way --- this smug judgmentalism and rank callousness is not the American way.



    In all the commentary and postings about Al Gore's Nobel, pro and con (see Memeorandum, for links), I find one line worth noting, from Josh Marshall at TPM:
    There are several layers of irony and poetic justice wrapped into this honor. The first is that the greatest step for world peace would simply have been for Gore not to have had the presidency stolen from him in November 2000.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Behind the news: Blackwater and another swiftboat attack

    Great background here for those interested in finding out more about Blackwater: Mother Jones has compiled a chronology on the company, with links to more info, at
    Making a Killing: A Blackwater Timeline.

    After all the uproar over the Move On ad and conservatives' horror at an 'attack' on a military officer, they don't seem to mind attacking a 12-year-old kid and his family for being middle class and therefore, not deserving of government assistance for a devastating health problem: or as John Cole says,
    You know, it has barely been a month since the Malkin/Limbaugh/Wingnuttosphere freak-out over the MoveOn ad, but I think it is worth noting the clear message:
    Questioning a political General is treason, bullying a 12 year old is patriotic.

    Lots of discussion out there about the bloggers who are looking into the Frost family's background and think a family living in Baltimore on $45,000 a year in a house they bought for about $50k should be responsible for their own health care, even when faced with devastating injuries. Here's the Baltimore Sun story.
    Michelle Malkin went so far as to drive to the family property to look it over. Malkin has turned this story into a crusade, just some of her postings here, and here.
    In Time Magazine, Karen Tumulty reports on The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost. Lots of discussion at Kevin Drum's Political Animal.

    It's amazing to me how many commenters hammer on the same theme: people should pay for their own healthcare, when they use government programs they steal from me. Well, that's the best excuse I can see for making universal health care available to everyone! Also, most of the comments I've read like this are from people who've never had to pay for catastrophic health problems. It's always something like, 'I broke my ankle once and I paid for it on an installment plan'. Try paying for something that really costs money, like cancer, or doctor-ordered CT scans, or a traumatic traffic accident caused by an uninsured driver, when you can't find any health insurance you can afford or without huge deductibles and out-of-pocket limits.

    How have we become such an uncaring society?

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    Journalists and databases

    If you read this blog, you probably read some of the other journalism blogs I'm about to point to, but for those who are less keyed in to online journalism, this is worth noting. Especially you news librarians and news researchers. Many of us have tried to move newsroom database functions into the library/research departments. Some have succeeded, some haven't. It's still a legitimate discussion to have.

    Derek Willis moved many years ago from news researcher to reporter to database reporter to online database creator, and his blog has always been one of the first on my list of important reads. On the Innovation in College Media site, Derek is interviewed about online database applications: ICM Interview: Derek Willis,
    The use of data is an arms race, and journalists cannot dismiss it as “that techie stuff” anymore. So on every beat, find out how data is being used and try to replicate what you can in terms of being able to use it yourself.

    Mindy McAdams at Teaching Online Journalism reacts to Derek's interview, (What Journalists Should Know about Databases). Also on this topic, Doug Fisher at Commonsense Journalism discusses some of Derek's latest thinking ( Caspio dustup).

    Thanks to Mark Schaver for the links.

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    Don't miss the Challenge

    Don't know how many folks who read this blog would be candidates for this, but emails are reminding me to remind my readers of the deadline for the Knight News Challenge, which closes this week. Last year's winners included lots of folks, among them several former colleagues, who are making a mark in the changing world of online news.
    Let's hope there are even more great winners next year. The only way to win is to enter.
    Winning entries must have three elements: 1) use of a digital media; 2) delivery of news or information on a shared basis to 3) a geographically defined community. Although there is a category for commercial applications, most entries are “open-source” and must share the software and knowledge created.

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    A fitting Nobel

    Thanks to Sheila for link to the news that Doris Lessing has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Lessing's books were my obsession for several years in the '70s, and I still think of her often. She's soon to be 88 years old and, according to the BBC, who has a photo: she learned the news from reporters as she returned home from a trip to the shops.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2007

    Belated research links update

    I took a short-notice trip out of town so haven't added any research links for a couple of weeks. Here's a few I collected while I was gone (and a photo, from Mom's table):

    The links:

  • Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, digital images of the letters between John and Abigail Adams, from Mass. Historical Society.
  • Find local food from
  • Children's book collection from Library of Congress, digitized images (including page turner format) of historic children's books.
  • Outbreak Alert Database from Center for Science in the PUblic Interest.

    Governments, Politics:
  • FFATA Portal - bringing transparency to government spending. Search by agency, company, company location, etc.
  • Earmark Watch from Sunlight Foundation.
  • State Highway Safety Laws, including state regulations on cell phone use while driving, drug, drunk and helmet laws, Segway laws and more, from Governors Highway Safety Assn.
  • Candidate Calculator, from VAJoe, choose your issues and find out which candidate matches your concerns best. Mine? Mike Gravel (!)

  • Who speaks for a website? good analysis at Online Journalism Review of how to cite comments and guest bloggers.

  • Papers Past, digitized New Zealand newspapers from 1840-1915.
  • Medworm lets you search over 4000 medical RSS feeds or browse by category or subject.

    Public records:
  • Nevada offender search from Dept. of Corrections, new address.
  • Ship Locations: Live tracker from
  • An email asked me to link to, links to information on getting records by state and county. I checked Miami-Dade county, however, and there are no links to the online records, just contact info for county clerks, assessors, etc.

  • Thursday, October 04, 2007

    Blackwater and Iran

    There's lots of great stuff out there on Blackwater, particularly the reporting of McClatchy's Washington/International bureaus. But for me there's just one sentence that summarizes it all, from Maureen Doud:
    Once there was the military-industrial complex. Now we have the mercenary-evangelical complex.

    Dave Winer
    I wonder if it would make news if The New Yorker article by Sy Hersh was the most pointed to page on the web.
    That's this article, in the New Yorker: Shifting Targets,
    The Administration’s plan for Iran

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    Just take away hers

    Anne Coulter, from her latest book tour (in NY Observer):
    If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    News researcher's last story, and newspaper comments

    There's a quiet news announcement on the newslib group about the death of Oregonian researcher Lovelle Svart, whose dying from lung cancer has been chronicled on the newspaper's web site. Said Oregonian news research director Gail Hulden:
    She was a researcher of the very highest quality who contributed to many of The Oregonian's best projects. She was one of three researchers who worked tirelessly on Liberty's Heavy Hand, The Oregonian series that won the Public Service Pulitzer in 2001.
    Her story, including her choice to end her life legally, is told in words and video in Living to the End.

    In the Miami Herald the other day, and in many other papers, Leonard Pitts' column on what has happened to civilized discussion on newspaper web sites, including The Herald's. South Florida seems particularly prone to crude discourse, especially in the comments sections, and the paper has had to edit comments in many cases, particularly in stories involving race or ethnicity. Stories about the charter boat whose crew went missing last week, for example, teemed with comments about the crew and their families that had to be deleted. What a shame. Says Pitts:
    For some people, freedom and anonymity are always an invitation to sink like an anchor to the lowest common denominator. Which is distressing until you consider the alternative.
    After all, they don't have this problem in Cuba
    This column has elicited a lively bunch of comments, too, pro and con, from readers around the country.

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    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Looking at Move On

    Since this organization's so much in the news these days (and in the sights of conservative bloggers for a few years now), this project from Capital Eye is timely: Q&A:, Bundlers and Conduits. It takes a look at the organization and its finances, and its bundling practices:’s name—a Web address—explains a lot about the group’s success. The Internet has made it much easier for conduits to get the word out about which candidates they support and why. It has also made it easier for individuals to give money, often in small amounts or as recurring contributions, as conduits have websites that allow for electronic contributions.

    (Via Morning Meeting)