Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Library; with whining, the web, a would-be user, a wish, and some wandering

The library closed early today - just as I got there in fact, at 5pm. Why is it necessary to close one hour early on New Years Eve? You're not going to miss the Blessed Event if it closes at the normal 6pm, that leaves you six hours, you could practically drive to LA by then... yes, this is whining. Apologies.

More complainingfeedback, re website usability (or patron blindness): went to the site, which is crammed with links; the "locations and hours" didn't show anything special, the "holiday hours" did exist but was off to the right and did not attract attention...and the page took 19 seconds to load with a dial-up line at 45k. This being a largely rural county, many (most?) users do have dial-up (i.e. slow) access.

Perhaps the library could get itself a simple, informal weblog? where the natural thing to post on, if you're closing early, is that you're closing early? It's a good way to make very clear what's new news and what information is more static.

So I visited some library-themed weblogs to get/give an idea of the possibilities.

Sample library weblogs:
And there's a plethora of librarians' weblogs out there. Most prominent is the Shifted Librarian; Ex Libris has a page of Quotes, among them these:
From Teresa Nielsen Hayden:
What’s in old libraries*? You don’t know until you find it. But in order for that to happen, you have to preserve the old holdings and original documents...
* occasionally, old smallpox scabs

From Carol Megathlin:
The quality and self-respect of a people can be gauged -- not exclusively, but succinctly -- in their libraries. The open door of a library says we are ignorant without excuse. The boarded-up door says we are simply ignorant.
Also these pearls:

The Expert User Is Dead (via) :
We should design our websites, out databases, our webguides, our instruction, our reference interviews for who our users are, not who we would like them to be.
We don't read pages, we scan them. We don't make optimal choices, we satisfice. We don't figure out how things work, we muddle through."

When users come to a library page, or to one of our database pages, they don't suddenly shed these characteristics...
Update: here's a news article on
librarian blogs

Finally, some legal advice on making agreements with Sauron.

Polite fiction

I would attempt to write something worthwhile rather than just doing the copy-paste thing but it's too late, it's tomorrow already. So -

Ali, via Hunting the Muse:
One of my favorite concepts in anthropology is that of the polite fiction. It's something nobody believes, but we all pretend to because it makes life so much easier. My favorite example was of a Pygmy couple. Pygmy divorce involves quite literally breaking up the home: the couple tears apart their house (it's easy - the houses are made of leaves) and once it's down, the union is dissolved. One anthropologist was watching a long-married couple have a fight. It escalated until the wife threatened to leave, and the husband yelled something along the lines of "Fine!" and there was nothing the wife could do but start tearing down the house. She began tearing the roof off, clearly miserable. The husband looked wretched too, but at this point neither could back down without losing face and by now the whole village was watching.
Finally, the husband called out the Pygmy equivalent of "You're right, honey! The roof is dirty! It'll look much better once we get those leaves washed!" The two of them started carrying leaves down to the river, soon with the help of the whole village, and then washed and rebuilt the whole roof. When the anthropologist later discreetly asked how often one washes the roof, everyone looked at him like he was a complete doofus.

Monday, December 29, 2003

'Tis the season to be chilly

There's snow on the ground, and I would have walked over and gotten a photo of snow on the town, but a) the broken toe doesn't enjoy travel and b) the Nevada City Live webcam will (in daytime) show you just as well. (FYI: as of this writing, you can't view the webcam if your browser security is set to High.)

The technical term for what I've heard called "popcorn snow" is graupel: "an unstable air mass produced unusual icy pellets that looked like snow. The frozen pellets, which resemble hail, are called graupel...what looked like frozen white peas coated backyards..."

As discovered last spring: to keep warm if you don't want to enrich (or un-bankrupt) PG&E, cut off the leg from an old pair of jeans, sew one end shut, pour about 5 pounds of pre-baked (to reduce moisture) dried rice in the other end, knot or tie firmly. Heat in microwave. It works as well as a hot water bottle and those pesky leaks are considerably less disturbing.

Updated with tips:
  • from Sally - if your car door lock is frozen, heat your key? the lock? with a cigarette lighter.
  • Keep frost off your windshield by putting your sunshade on the _outside_. Or, better yet, park under an evergreen.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Friday, December 19, 2003

women's night

Virginia Woolf, visionary: from Reid Robinson's Dec. 15 letter in the Toronto Globe and Mail (via Marcelo Vieta, via netwoman):
In a...prescient comment in a letter to Lady Robert Cecil in 1909, Virginia Woolf...writes: "There should be threads floating in the air, which would merely have to be taken hold of in order to talk. You would walk about the world like a spider in the middle of a web. In 100 years time, I daresay these psychical people will have made all this apparent, now seen only by the eye of genius."
Wish I could write like Shelley, aka Burningbird. Start of her latest:
Out on errands tonight I noticed how few lights there were about this year, how few homes seem decorated for the Christmas season. Last year at this time, you could easily know you were in the midst of a town that celebrated Christmas seriously. This year, most of the homes seem dark and shuttered...
Sheila Lennon's
Subterranean Homepage News has a wealth of great links:
  • Margaret Wheatley:
    I've begun to invite the people I meet into conversation by asking: "What is it that you love about America? What things must be protected at all costs?" This question leads to wonderful explorations. People are energized to talk about what they love, what it means to live here as an immigrant, what they've learned about freedom, imagination, the human spirit, creativity, democracy. Even if these ideals are receding from our day-to-day experience, we realize how important it is to claim them as our own...
  • from an article in Wired, this:
    University of Maine's Still Water new media lab has produced the Pool, a collaborative online environment for creating and sharing images, music, videos, programming code and texts.

    "We are training revolutionaries -- not by indoctrinating them with dogma but by exposing them to a process in which sharing culture rather than hoarding it is the norm," said Joline Blais, a professor of new media...
  • on electability:
    [ American culture today] equates violence with strength and power with potency. It is a rogue thing that does not honor the principles of civilization or the processes of governance.
    ...following the rules is for girls and sissies...
    But this is looking at manhood from a child's perspective. Adults realize why there are rules, and honor them. A child just understands power -- you have to be fair only because adults say so. And if you're strong enough and it's your ball, you can make up the rules...

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

land of the free

ChoicePoint is Big Brother's little helper, bringing literature to life...
Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. ... Not only any actual misdemeanor, but any eccentricity, however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever.
Excerpt from a discussion over at CalPundit on the potential for fraud in electronic voting: a general rule, as the world's alleged leading democracy one would think we would institute the most tamper-resistant technology possible, not the most easily tampered with...

"no piece of technology is perfect and a paper trail is a good idea in case of software failure or a simple need to do a recount."

Don't worry about it Kevin - if anything needs to fixed in this country, someone else will fix it - we don't have to worry.
update: thank God for Wired's reporting on the e-voting dangers. The latest is this:
At least five convicted felons secured management positions at a manufacturer of electronic voting machines...[including] a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records.

According to a public court document released before GES hired him, [the programmer] served time in a Washington state correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that "involved a high degree of sophistication and planning."
Delivered into Hell, courtesy of the United States

from Metafilter:
Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is a force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.
- George Washington, terrorist/freedom fighter
In Newsweek, A Net of Control:
Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for.
Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet.

Old, often posted, increasingly relevant, They thought they were free, on life in 1930s Germany:
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security...

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

process improvement for the political weblog ecosystem

Philosoraptor wields the nailgun once again (update: inexplicably failed to also credit a fine post on this subject by the lovely and talented Amygdala) in questioning the enormous investment of time and energy that goes into writing political weblogs which then have minimal impact, due to their inherent tropisms toward preaching to the choir and toward demolishing the most idiotic of the opposition's writings:
I want to make it clear that I don't think that everyone I disagree with is stupid or dishonest, though I'm often prompted to respond to the worst stuff I run across, and that stuff is often written by people who do, in fact, have one of the two defects in question. Maybe that's my problem. Perhaps I need to start responding to more sensible people.]

I think that is the point. Weblog culture needs to change in order for it to succeed at more than oral froth generation - there's a crying need for integrated group weblogs with unlike-minded authors who are willing to address and acknowledge each others' strongest points rather than remaining silent on them, to discuss issues in a respectful fashion rather than alienating and demonising, to commit to engage in honest enquiry rather than point scoring, to look for common ground rather than just differences.

Put the Crooked Timbers and the Volokhs together, illuminate with the Light of Reason, sit back and watch the synergy...

Extend the Blogging Loosely Applied Practices credo to include commitments to discussing in good faith, to not repeating demonstrably false "facts", to acknowledging when your opinion or judgement on an issue has changed. Find - and use - a new term for "playing fair" that discards the "competition" connotation. And make it a badge of honor to adhere to these practices.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Rhetorical sampler

There's a lot of good information over on Rhetorica:
  • In here, in the section "Bias in the news media", enumeration and description of the structural biases of journalism:
    • commercial
    • temporal
    • visual
    • bad news
    • narrative
    • status quo
    • fairness
    • expediency

  • In Pass the propaganda, the various ways that a speech can be used to convey a point without ever coming out and making the point explicitly:
    Literalists will argue that [X] never said in so many words yadda yadda yadda. This willfully misunderstands rhetoric. [X] didn't have to say it in so many words. The pathos and enthymemes of the speech did the persuading. Aristotle, 2,300 years ago, demonstrated how to get an audience to complete an argument by adding in the stuff that isn't specifically said.

    Journalists could report persuasive tactics as verifiable events if they knew how. Instead, they rely on partisan pundits to tell them what it all means. And the result is their reporting does more to transmit propaganda than to interrupt or challenge it.
  • Analyzing Argument:
    The problem with Aristotle's logic (concerning his desire for logic) is that argument by the syllogism is often deadly dull. Humans are passionate creatures whose hearts and minds are moved with appeals to emotion (pathos), character (ethos), as well as logic (logos)...

never underestimate the power of the press

and recycle frequently.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

the current event

Excellent news from Iraq. here's hoping it deflates the bubble of violence and the rebuilding can get on track.

interesting though - I got the news by way of a right-wing weblog, in which the writer's second (after "hooray, we got Saddam") was along the lines of "all those lefties are going to be very disappointed when they find this out". HUH?

and elsewhere, on a more left-leaning blog, the author was saying "now I hope all the lefties will remember that this is a good thing for our country". HUH?

Another good thing for this country would be if we could get a little better at distinguishing myth from reality - and from what I've seen, the Saddamite lefties lie in the first category.

It's easy to fall into seeing - and demonizing - others from the "you're either with us or against us" perspective, but people do come in more flavors than "ally" and "enemy".

update: unfortunately, the disappointeds are not as mythical as I had thought. Not common, though.

update II: the Philosoraptor nails it again.

update III: in The 'Republic of Fear' Is Dead:
In his wrenching book on Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the dissident writer Kanan Makiya explained that the most powerful force keeping the cruel regime in power--more important than brute strength--was "an all-embracing atmosphere of fear"...
i.e., civil civic discourse was not high on his list of priorities.

cries for help (not)

via Orcinus, fascinating article published last year in the Billings [Montana] Outpost
The "School Yard Bullies" report, compiled by network co-directors Ken Toole and Christine Kaufmann and other staff members, details more than 40 recent incidents of near-violence, threats, vandalism and degradation aimed at individuals and organizations involved in environmental causes in northwestern Montana.

"The purpose of the report is to inform the community and give people information they need to speak out against intimidation and reclaim civility in the public debate," Ms. Kaufmann says.
Similar tactics detailed in The war against the greens (book) by David Helvarg (here's an interview, with some pretty disturbing details)

Friday, December 12, 2003

local cribbing

in case any local types aren't reading The Union and therefore missed this (yeah, i know, fat chance that you'd be here, if you're both a) local and b) not a Union reader...) -
Anatomy of The Union's letter-writers - "The Analyst...the comedian...the bewildered...the bomb-thrower..."
it's pretty good. especially this, which seems far stronger than anything The Union has dared to publish in the past:
We try to screen out the personal attacks and the bloodthirsty language - not to "censor," as some of them charge, but because that's not the kind of opinion page we want in The Union. If you allow too much of that behavior, then the page becomes a freak show instead of a community forum.

However, a freak show is what some readers would like to see. One writer said he gets pumped up when, walking down the street after writing a particularly vicious broadside, his friends high-five him for enraging his political or social enemies.

Unfortunately, sometimes this angry behavior doesn't stop with letters. I was dismayed to hear from a person who had written a well-reasoned letter to the editor about a local issue, then received a threatening, anonymous note in the mail.

Fear of things like this undoubtedly keeps many from writing letters or Other Voices guest columns...

Also Anger Management: set me to thinking about the nature of the angry personality - what fosters it, and what outlets it uses.
The recent story we told about one Grass Valley editor caning another back in the 1860s led me to another theory: that the origin of anger here goes back to the independent, "I want mine" nature of those 49ers who stampeded to the gold fields.
and, once they got there, set to work driving off and killing the indigenous residents...

local blogs unearthed, and a thought

Turns out the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has a blog, as do (did? they're stale) Jim Weir (our former Supe, who ran a valiant campaign for Calif. governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger this past fall) and his wife Gail.

Here's the thought- very rough -

The press in all its forms, be it newspaper or weblog or radio or TV, should encourage fairness, freedom of speech, and the airing of a diversity of viewpoints.

And in a civilized society, in order to help the reader to best see the truth, they should encourage those with opposing views to discuss the issues in a civil manner, with no threats, namecalling, or other smearing.

But what do you do when these goals conflict? When a particular political viewpoint is classically held by a personality type that _doesn't_ easily toe the straight-and-rational, that gets hot under the collar, someone who's inherently more a fighter than a thinker? For example, Roger Ebert said this:
There's an interesting pattern going on. When I write a political column for the Chicago Sun-Times, when [X]s disagree with me, they send in long, logical e-mails explaining all my errors. I hardly ever get well-reasoned articles from the [Ys]. People just tell me to shut up. That's the message: "Shut up. Don't write anymore about this. Who do you think you are?"
In browsing the blogosphere you become struck by how there's a distinct confrontational tone that some weblogs, and presumably their authors, have, that _is_ correlated with a political view - there's a joy in putting down other people, a rejoicing in the incredible, pathetic foolishness of The Other, to the extent that - well, you get the feeling that they'd miss it, if they couldn't experience it. Then there's another class of blogs whose authors seem equally oppositional but don't seem to have a good time with it at all, it's more like they're enslaved by their anger.

So, is it fair to insist that, when these classes of people wish to participate in a forum that's in neutral territory, they must constrain their behavior in ways that are unnatural to them? In a way it's like requiring a literacy test for voter registration, or making them express themselves in a foreign language.

on the other hand, the alternative is to allow the street fighters into the drawing-room(1), with predictable results.

[added Oct 04]
1: Joshua Micah Marshall:
...the niceties of conflict resolution are hardly appropriate or sensible if you're trapped in a dark alley with a couple mafia goons

more doc on the future of radio

...At some point we need to face the facts. AM and FM broadcasting suck down huge amounts of electricity. Their towers bristle from swamps and mountaintops. And their technologies were developed before the middle of the last century. They use old brute-force technology to deliver what can be done far more efficiently by more "cellular" means. The low number of channels, and high costs of occupying them, makes the industry available to a few grandfathered incumbents. Why shouldn't there be an unlimited number of stations, just like there are an unlimited number of Web sites, of blogs, or or any breed of source on the Net? No reason at all. Unlimited opportunity will truly let the market decide what it can support.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

disruptive technology will make waves in radio

Doc Searls lately with a couple of pieces. First, How radio can unsuck itself:
Old Fashioned Broadcasting - AM, FM, TV, Shortwave... - is railroads. Internet Radio, by individuals and small organizations, is cars. We still have railroads, of course. But what cars did was give us a way to make our own transportation. To go where we wanted to go, in our own way, thank you very much. The same thing will happen, has to happen, to radio.
then Rant Radio:
...the big difference between Rant Radio and Ranting Bloggers is that I can't avoid the former and I can the latter.

On the road yesterday I wanted some traffic and weather. Fine, but scanning the dial, I had to put up with a load of ranting to find what I wanted. I had to listen to choose, weed through to find. Radio has no index. No search by content.

On the web, I put what I want in a search and I get the info. I may have to scan a Google list but I don't have to read the content of each. Yes, I set my "favorites" like my dial, but no one is controlling the content or limiting the choices...

and - in keeping with yesterday's post below- discovered a fine film review writer, Jeannette Catsoulis, here on LOTR. If your film is a dog, you do not want her reviewing it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

this was an irritating post

...which nonetheless expressed sincere pleasure that Mike and Barbara Getz are buying the Del Oro Theater in Grass Valley. Post deleted, except for the links (to the news story, and to the non-Getz-owned Magic Theatre and to a First Amendment expression by Ross, The Magic Theatre's former owner). Be thankful.

Also excellent news: the wise and credible Terry McAteer will be taking the helm and rejuvenating FCAT. It is heartening to see him making his own decisions already, i.e. not kowtowing to what established interests think he should do. I don't know how he'll handle the commercialization issues, but I have more faith that he'll do the right thing than i have certainty as to what it is.

weblog critique from Miriam Webster

Main Entry: tur·gid
Pronunciation: 't&r-j&d
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin turgidus, from turgere to be swollen
Date: 1620
2 : excessively embellished in style or language : BOMBASTIC, POMPOUS


Monday, December 08, 2003

food for thought

The Story of a Truly Contaminated Election:
...bizarre plot by the Rajneeshees, a religious cult, to steal a county election in Oregon in 1984.
The amazing story of the Wasco County election scandal was Leslie L. Zaitz, an investigative reporter for The Oregonian, and Dr. John Livengood, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control.
Cult informers confessed to numerous crimes, including plots to kill the U.S. attorney, the state attorney general, and the guru's doctor...

Zaitz and his investigative reporting team produced a twenty-part series on the Rajneeshees for The Oregonian starting in June 1985. After the commune collapsed they went back and produced a follow-up series. Among other things, they learned that the Rajneeshees had secretly put together a top-ten hit list on which Zaitz's name appeared as number three.

"If anything, the local news media were restrained and conservative in their coverage of the salmonella episode," Zaitz told the conference. "There was nothing alarmist, nothing to trigger a public panic. More aggressive coverage perhaps would have heated up already tense community relations with the commune. Yet the benign treatment also gave the Rajneeshees comfort that they could get away with it . . . . Fortunately, the commune collapsed before that could happen. But consider this: If they knew reporters were watching closely, would they have even tried?"
on the other hand
For epidemiologist Livengood, however, who had been dispatched to Wasco County to solve the cause of the mysterious outbreak, the story had a different, simpler moral: "Don't eat at salad bars."

blogroll additions in process, and a treat

(note for beginners: that pile of links on the sidebar on the left is the blogroll)

The Light of Reason - Diogenes's searches may not have yielded an honest man, but mine yielded a civil libertarian who thinks for himself. (that's "civil" as in civil, as well as civil as in liberties)

City Comforts, via LA Observed. "Cities, architecture, the 'new urbanism,' real estate, historic preservation, urban design, land use law, landscape, transport etc etc from a mildly libertarian stance."

A weblog written by The Mayor (not one of ours, as far as I know)

and for those whose orientation is more visual than textile, a) how on earth did you get here? and b) check out the frozen cheesecake.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

values and politics

Must-read from Orcinus on the personal and the political - long, but very much worth it:
There's one thing about growing up in a place like Idaho: If you can't make friends with conservatives, you won't have many friends.

And as my oldest friends can tell you, the truth is that I used to be fairly conservative myself. I come from a working-class family -- my mother's side of the family was in road construction, and my dad's was mostly a farming family, though his father actually was an auto mechanic.

Working-class values, and my belief in blue-collar virtues -- like integrity, decency, hard work, honesty, common sense, and fair play -- all were quite deeply ingrained...

The Attack on Citizen Participation in Civic Life - Yubanet article excerpt

From the Jan 7, 2003 Yubanet article, Property Rights Politics In Nevada County, CA:
The Attack on Citizen Participation in Civic Life

Starting in the spring of 2002, local property rights activists have come under fire in statewide media for publishing information of a private nature about private citizens in direct mail campaigns and websites, including homes addresses and photos of their properties. Citizens targeted in these mailings had endorsed Smart Growth 4th District candidate Izzy Martin.

Although this kind of intimidation can cause many citizens to drop out of civic life, others are defending themselves by filing police reports and harassment charges to protect their privacy and right to participate in community affairs without having to pay a personal price.

Other recent examples of harassment in Nevada County include: In October 2002, a Rough & Ready resident filed a police report after an eviscerated cat was left on her porch, the day after she participated in a local radio call-in show with candidates. Two weeks earlier, a candidate running in the 4th District race, filed a police report after someone had driven nails into the inside walls of his back tires while he was participating in a debate.

Intimidation tactics are hardly unique to Nevada County, as other rural communities around the country have had to deal with their own groups that engage in reckless, anti-government rhetoric that divides the community, whips people into an emotional frenzy and can encourage fragile people to go over the edge and commit acts of violence. Fortunately, citizens in Nevada County are banding together to insist on civility in public discourse while condemning acts of intimidation.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Weighing in on The Union's coverage of the Weismann "murder for hire" case

Nov. 2004 - would like to un-reiterate, if such is possible, but am leaving this text in its original condition.
(to reiterate - with the exception of the coverage of this one case, The Union has become an exceedingly good source of information, I no longer find myself ripping hanks of pelage from scalp when reading it, it's been taking a stand on issues of personal freedom and on considering the consequences of our actions and on defending civil public discourse; in short, it has become a newspaper to be proud of. Except for this one case...)

(relevant URLs: Weismann's letters to the editor of The Union,
Dreams end in desolation, `My parents never knew what hit them')

I would not want to be in the shoes of either Editor or Publisher of The Union. Covering William Weismann's attempt to get his neighbor killed is a no-win situation - when a prominent member of a group backed by a powerful faction in the county is arrested for something like this, the newspaper faces a choice between treating the alleged perp like any other arrestee and thereby antagonizing their advertising base and the county Powers That Be, or giving him more deferential treatment and thereby antagonizing those who expect the newspaper to aim for "big city" journalism quality.

It's further complicated by the fact that, while the person most responsible for The Union's financial health has political sympathies much in line with Weismann's, the person most responsible for the news reporting hails from the Columbia UniversityUniversity of Missouri School of Journalism. (That they are still working together is a marvel, and says much for interpersonal skills.)

Given The Union's status as small town paper, it probably is unrealistic to expect it to practice Big City Journalism in a case like this. If they want to treat Mr. Weismann gently, and omit mention of his inflammatory and revelatory letters (although analogous letters in the Herve "road rage" death case were published), so be it - most likely the letters - and other salient facts - will come out eventually in court, be it criminal or civil.

It's one thing to go easy on Bill Weismann; it's another thing to cause harm to reputations, both of the man he wanted dead and of the man who alerted authorities, neither of whom is (presumably) free to respond until the case is settled; and it is worse yet, to defend these actions - and the detrimental effects of the reporting on the justice system - as though they were ethically above reproach.

Here's what I (in role of Monday morning quarterback) would have done differently:

I would not have published derogatory information about the man Mr. Weismann sought to have murdered, particularly information provided by Weismann or his family, friends, associates or attorney.

I would not defend the publishing of such information by saying "we tried to get the would-be-victim's side of the story, but he wouldn't talk to us".* This excuse is either naive or disingenuous; until a case is settled, the District Attorney will instruct witnesses for the prosecution not to talk to the press, lest they jeopardize the upcoming trial. (if I'm wrong on this, please correct me.) So he couldn't speak to the press, he was not free to do so. This doesn't mean the press gets carte blanche to cast aspersions on his character.

I would not have published a statement from one of Mr. Weismann's family members deliberately exposing negative information about the whistleblower's** distant past, information that the court did not feel was germane to the case. This man too has presumably been told not to speak to the press until the case is settled, thus he too is currently not free to defend himself. Plus, for The Union to publish the info - even in the form of a quote from Weismann's daughter - shows disrespect for the legal system that sought to protect the whistleblower's privacy.

Regarding detrimental effects of the reporting on the justice system***: readers were concerned that the coverage would taint the jury pool by giving potential jurors information (irrespective of bias and accuracy) about the case. The editor responded: "I doubt there will be a problem finding a jury for this case, if it goes to trial (and it's doubtful it will). There are plenty of news-averse people in Nevada County who have no clue who the president of the United States is, let alone Bill Weismann." OK. Granted, coverage or no coverage, those seats in the courtroom will be occupied by warm bodies. But will justice be served if the jurors must now be chosen from the most news-averse and clueless people in the county?

One more question for editor and publisher of The Union: if the whole truth does come out, and it shows Weismann's target and whistleblower to be the decent human beings that I suspect they are (and yes, i could be wrong) - will you pledge to apologize publicly to these two men?

The Union is a mighty fine paper these days. Here's hoping the coverage of the Weismann case is - and remains - an aberration. And that the truth does come out.

* re one-sided story: true, it was also defended by saying (more or less) "we tried as hard as we could to get Wess's side of the story from court documents and statements of friends etc"; but this is weak, it's still not fair until Wess is free to speak in his own defense.

** There is probably a much better term to use here. What I mean is, the guy that Weismann approached about killing Wess.

*** There are detrimental effects of news coverage before a trial. There are also positive effects of news coverage before a trial. It's the denial that the former exist, that seems troublesome.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Local: Weissman "murder for hire" coverage

commentary to follow in future post; here are facts, links and some minor innuendo and digression. I think this covers all the salient articles; if not, please send email...

(For non-local readers, William Weismann is a prominent local property-rights advocate who was arrested last spring for trying to hire a hit man to kill his neighbor. There is some question (in my mind at least) as to whether the county newspaper has treated the story fairly.)

from April 2003 ncfocus archives,

Sept 5 2003, Murder-for-hire case back in court
September 2003, normally wise fair and thoughtful Union editor drinks bad Labor Day hootch, is possessed by a demon of a hangover*:
  • Sept 5, 2003, Dreams end in desolation for Mr. Weismann, an extraordinarily sympathetic recounting -
    A year ago, William Weismann - a Bay Area businessman who had retired to his dream home on the shores of Lake of the Pines - was a community leader, one of those leading a fight for property rights and for the election defeat of two county supervisors whom he felt threatened those rights...

  • Sept 5, 2003, `My parents never knew what hit them' - interview with the daughter:
    She feels her father, in taking such a drastic action [trying to get his neighbor killed], was crying out for help..."My father was never a violent man, and isn't today."..."The district attorney's attempt to obscure [the man Weismann wanted to hire]'s [long-ago] criminal background through a series of court orders is puzzling, too," she said. "Aren't they supposed to be the ones interested in getting the truth out, not hiding it?"**

  • Sept 6, 2003, Editor defends The Union's coverage against claims that it was unfair and that it has tainted the jury pool:
    ...some people who say we're being "used" by the defense.

    That's called "spin," and everybody does it. Lawyers and business people have seminars on the technique. Journalists counter it by being open to everyone. We'll listen to anything anyone wants to tell us...
    Wess[the intended victim] has not talked to The Union or any other news organization since the day Weismann was arrested, despite repeated attempts by us to contact him as recently as Thursday...
    I doubt there will be a problem finding a jury for this case, if it goes to trial (and it's doubtful it will). There are plenty of news-averse people in Nevada County who have no clue who the president of the United States is, let alone Bill Weismann.

October 2003 coverage:
  • Oct 11 2003, civil case dropped for now
  • Oct 20 2003, plea bargain in process:
    William Weismann, the Lake of the Pines man accused of trying to have his neighbor killed by a hit man, has pleaded no contest to two counts of soliciting a murder...

  • Oct 21 2003, update:
    [defense attorney James Roberts says Weismann ]could be released from jail in as little as two years.
    "I can't comment, but this is more complex than just the Wesses and the Weismanns," [Wess] said. ...
    Roberts said his client never wanted Wess killed, only harmed.
"not a violent man"...yeah, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I find that my neighbors only want to harm me.

* Regarding this unfortunate lapse: the hootch is pure fabrication, libel, whatever, but the evidence for possession by malign spirits is incontrovertible. Normally he shows excellent judgment.

** Re ferreting out and publicizing long-ago misdeeds of whistleblowers - Sure, a fine idea, so let's name rape victims who report the crime, and publish their photos and sexual histories at every supermarket checkout line! (including, alas, SPD's, which was disillusioning, I had thought they might have stronger principles.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

pop (and poink) sociology, best not critically examined

A recurrent theme in the blogging community, most recently cresting a month or so ago (summary), is why it should be that the A-List (ie most-read, most-linked) bloggers are almost exclusively male. The answer was revealed to your fortunate correspondent last weekend: many parts of the blogosphere resemble a lek:
[the male blogger] makes quite a scene with its theatrical mating displays. In the spring, before daybreak and sometimes by moonlight, on breeding grounds known as leks where the birds return year after year, the male[s] fan their tails peacock-fashion, puff out their chests, which swell like heaving white bellows, and fill the bright yellow air sacs on their throats, emitting acoustically impressive popping and poinking sounds as they strut amidst the low sage. Hoping to attract the apparently aloof and elusive hens, the males face off with each other like dancers engaged in a ceremonial karate match.
i could provide urls to buttress this observation but that would be skating on very thin ice...

update (not buttressing, but related) - Matt Groening (via) -
Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.
Also Dating Design Patterns

Thursday, November 27, 2003

warfare and politics

Prometheus quotes David Broder :
Today, only 121 veterans of the armed services are in the House -- barely more than one-quarter of the membership. A generation ago, in 1975, 318 of the 435 representatives had worn their country's uniform, and a good many of them had seen combat in World War II or Korea. Comradeship came more easily to them, and so did the kind of mutual respect that makes possible compromise and, ultimately, agreement.

None of the top leaders of either party today has been in the service. Most of those who aspire to be their successors also lack that experience.

It is not just politicians and legislators who would benefit from undergoing the discipline and experiencing the rewards of giving a period of their lives to tasks assigned by their country -- either military or civilian. That is the surest way we know to restore the sense of shared commitment so lacking today.

We need more veterans -- and we desperately need more people who know the difference between warfare and politics.

Sokrates (channeled by BDL):
As long as you divide the world into clan members to be helped, clan enemies to be killed, strangers to be robbed, or heretics to be burned, the chances for world peace are low.
For variety (and equal validity) you can substitute "country" or "county" for "world".


Found via The Right Christians, a Calpundit-hosted thread on libertarianism - the beginning of which has some very good stuff, sparking off of this comment -
Libertarianism has two virtues for its adherents, folks who tend to have a high degree of spacial, analytical intelligence and an extremely low degree of empathetic, emotional intelligence:..

BDL (quoted out of context from here):
...illiberal and destructive patterns of thought: a belief that quantitative measurements are not the base on which one's interpretation should be built but rhetorical weapons to be used for advantage, a belief that anecdotes are persuasive without inquiring into whether they are representative, an assumption that all elements of the current situation one likes are part of the natural order of things, and a belief that anyone else's use of economic or social power is profoundly illegitimate...

From metafilter, what it's like to live with prosopagnosia ("face blindness", aka poor to no facial recognition ability). Take it from me, this is not a good disorder to have - even just a mild case - when you live in a small town.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

fluff, no meat - go read something useful.

alas no time - such are the perils of employment - also no desire to see weblog lapse into another coma, so i'll just throw stuff into its maw for now. And hope that blogger doesn't just swallow it and refuse to regurgitate upon command like it did with my last post.

via TNH, confirmation that we are living in the future

via -
There are 2 types of people in this world, those that finish what they start

via bdl discussion here:
Collectivists are the nutcases who believe nothing should be private property, libertarians the nutcases who believe everything should be. (If it isn't obvious why this leaves a vast expanse of options in between, my apologies for calling you a nutcase)
photo of Salam Pax

Thursday, November 20, 2003

some spy links

spy shortage:
...That lack of informants is a major handicap for U.S. intelligence, something unlikely to be helped by a range of new technology being sent to Iraq to help track anti-coalition groups.

"Maybe some of these gizmos can tell where people are hiding, but so far as I know, none of them can tell the difference between a civilian with a water bucket and a guy in civilian clothes with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)," said an official in Washington. "And none of them can tell what target they're going to try to hit next. To do that, you need to recruit spies, and that's messy and hard and it takes time."
bush, cia, and credibility:
"The intelligence process is a bit like virginity," says Ray McGovern, who worked as a CIA analyst for 27 years. "Once you prostitute it, it's never the same..."
...Mr McGovern worked near the very top of his profession, giving direct advice to Henry Kissinger during the Nixon era and preparing the President's daily security brief for Ronald Reagan...

Krugman on Plame, the Plame chronology

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

a view of the future

"A luxury once sampled becomes a necessity." - we need news to be reported like this. Paul Andrews ("I've noted in recent blogs how print media could better serve their readerships by annotating online stories with hyperlinks...") provides a good contrast between the old way and the new.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Philosophical investigation leads to hot Nevada County Schwarzenegger-Ackerman expose'!

be patient, the truth will be revealed...

for fellow philosphical illiterates, i discovered why Crooked Timber is so named - (in A&L daily)
Darwinian Politics in its way exemplifies Kant's famous remark that "from the crooked timber of humanity no truly straight thing can be made." It is not, to play on Kant's metaphor, that no beautiful carving or piece of furniture can be produced from twisted wood; it is rather that whatever is finally created will only endure if it takes into account the grain, texture, natural joints, knotholes, strengths and weaknesses of the original material. Social constructionism in politics treats human nature as indefinitely plastic, a kind of fiberboard building material for utopian political theorists. Evolutionary psychology advises that political architects consider the intrinsic qualities of the wood before they build.

and, speaking of philosophy (and via a Crooked Timber discussion -thanks kes), Mark Lawson (presenter, 'Front Row', BBC Radio 4) recounts his Greatest Mistake. you didn't hear it from me.

and, in a not unrelated vein, via Neil Gaiman, Playboy centerfold science - "the result of mean averaging every Playboy centerfold foldout for the four decades beginning Jan. 1960 through Dec. 1999. This tracks, en masse, the evolution of this form of portraiture." (Warning: safe for work.)

to go further yet (but is it "too far"?), Dan Weintraub on the recent Schwarzenegger-Lockyer dustup -
"Unbelievable," said Democratic campaign consultant Richie Ross. "How ironic that California's strangest political bedfellows would find themselves in an argument about groping."

too far: via the memory hole, the infamous oui interview

why the allegations didn't hit a lot sooner - they usually sprout from the tabloids, which (due to business connections) were starry-eyed for Schwarzenegger

re Schwarzenegger-Republican culture shock-
...Or Schwarzenegger could take a pass, and the Republican Party could stay its current course, alternating between Old Testament morality and new age [???! - ed.] sexuality in accord with the demographics of the district. Call it a big-tent party, or a boundless well of cynicism.

on the other hand, last week's AP news article suggesting that he may try to terminate Stupid Growth in CA was encouraging-
[he seems to have] a bent toward "smart growth" which favors transit, rebuilding existing cities and slowing development on vacant farmland. His Web site has pledged wholesale restoration of declining urban environments, criticized "fiscally unsustainable sprawl" and promised new incentives to build homes on blighted, bypassed land in older cities.
"I have every reason to think the basic principles are understood by Arnold and are going to be acted upon," said former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery, a Schwarzenegger transition team member who launched one of California's most striking downtown rejuvenations.

- so here's hoping he surprises us. (but then that's what i was hoping bush would do - and in terms of magnitude he did indeed, just got the sign wrong)

OK, at last, we reach the shocking news - yes, there is indeed a Schwarzenegger - Ackerman connection, and it goes way back! (for you out-of-towners, Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union, Nevada County's one and only newspaper.) not only that, but we come full circle...:

SCHWARZENEGGER - What does it mean?:
Schwarzenegger seems like a pretty typical type of name, describing a person by colour (his coloration, hair colour) and job. The name "Egger" would be pretty close to the English name "Tiller." "Egge" is a big metal square with "teeth" drawn by horses or a tractor. It rakes the field, breaking up the big lumps after the field has been plowed (by the tillerman= Ackermann). Another name of this type is Heidegger (the philospher Martin Heidegger), tiller of the heath.

yes I know, words are failing you too.

(btw, more on the Union when I have more time - time that is not being wasted on trivia - you guys have been doing an excellent job lately.)
p.s. and not just the editorials.

Friday, November 14, 2003


John Maynard Keynes was famously quoted as saying: 'When the facts change, sir, I change my mind. What do you do?'

From Healing Iraq:
"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into." - Jonathan Swift

seen somewhere in blogland, attributed to Sinclair Lewis: "It is difficult to convince a man of something if his paycheck depends on his not understanding it."

seen on Metafilter:
There's something to be said for finding a group of people who share your basic principles: it lets you get past arguing about the basic principles.

Friendship is almost always a union of a part of one mind with a part of another; people are friends in spots." -- George Santayana

via Andrew Tobias:
Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a person's last few months of life is compassionate -- but spending tens of thousands of dollars to improve a person's first few years of life is investment.
Also this one:
"The American ideal is not that we will all agree with each other, or even like each other, every minute of the day. It is rather that we will respect each other's rights, especially the right to be different, and that, at the end of the day, we will understand that we are one people, one country, and one community, and that our well-being is inextricably bound up with the well-being of each and every one of our fellow citizens."
- Arthur J. Kropp

Teresa Nielsen Hayden's archive of web classics, including the "tugboat meets bridge" series

speaking of tugboats, on Crooked Timber the Tugboat Potemkin asks "Never mind the evolutionary explanations for why 'frequent masturbation may protect men against prostate cancer', what's the creation scientist's explanation?"

At Poynter Online, Newspaper Nicknames: The Good, the Bad and the Scatological is kinda cute, but the real gems are in the reader responses.

D-Squared Digest with this:

Schopenhauer correctly pointed out that "Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents".
and these:
(That's the Blairite Third Way, btw, not the fascist movement of the same name, and astute readers will perceive here a man battling for his life against the forces of digression)
I happened to grow up in one of the small idealised in-and-out-of-each-others'-doors "communities" that the communitarian theorists went on about, and thus knew that it was bloody horrible.
(but do not visit mr. digest's dastardly doggerel on the deceased. at least not while drinking milk.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

compare and contrast

The truth about Jessica Lynch:
In the end, only one hero remains. She's the one we started with, Jessica Lynch. But she's a different kind of hero than we were led to expect. A bigger, braver hero, actually.

She did something every bit as brave as confronting those Iraqis. She came back home and told the truth.

Former POW from Kansas recounts capture in Iraq:
After he and his fellow soldiers were set free, there were stories of [Pfc. Patrick] Miller pestering the Iraqi guards by constantly singing a pro-American song, and by giving them chewing tobacco that he said was candy in hopes of making them sick.

"It's small victories that keep your hope up," Miller said. "You got to have small victories when you're in a situation like that."

making the rounds, and deservedly so:
via TPM, Slate articles by Jacob Weisberg, examining the evidence on Do Dim Bulbs Make Better Presidents? and on Occupational Hazards - How the Pentagon forgot about running Iraq -
The difficulties we have faced...were largely to be expected from a devastated post-totalitarian society in a part of the world overwhelmingly hostile to the United States and its interests. What is surprising-amazing, in fact-is how unprepared we were for these problems...How did the world's greatest military power plan the invasion of a country without also planning its occupation?

Also Seymour Hersh on Niger:
When the official asked about the analysis, he was told by a colleague that the new Pentagon leadership wanted to focus not on what could go wrong but on what would go right. He was told that the study's exploration of options amounted to planning for failure. "Their methodology was analogous to tossing a coin five times and assuming that it would always come up heads," the official told me. "You need to think about what would happen if it comes up tails."

TPM - "Hope is not a plan"

Some really good writing

Stunning (in both senses of the word, respectively) pair of essays, first Kim du Toit on The, uh, feminization, Of The Western Male (which I could swear I saw reported approvingly by right-wing blogging superstar Glenn Reynolds a day or so ago although now it doesn't look that way...could be my memory though), with rejoinder (via crooked timber) by Winston Smith, the Philosoraptor (all-time best blogname). Great writing - true, WS engages in a little more of the (more-typically-rightwing-blogger) shrillness than I'd like but hey i'm a wimp. And the substance is GREAT.

and via PressThink, an also stunning article in Columbia Journalism Review by Matthew Miller, on faults and potential of the press to play an active and constructive role in a democracy. Go read the whole thing, it is a treasure. i know i shouldn't quote this much, but it is sooo good! besides for all i know the CJR sticks stuff behind a firewall after a while, or moves everything to make linkrot, or otherwise allows me to rationalize this misbehavior....sorry. (Tell you what, go buy the book)
The media end up in cahoots with politicians in creating this illusion of meaningful action, both because 1) media norms don't allow reporters to say "this is a charade" even when they know it is (reporters are supposed to be "objective"), or 2) because it cuts too close to the bone for reporters to admit they are often tacit conspirators in such hoaxes.
"News" is largely defined as what public officials say and do. The poles of debate on major issues are thus set by the mainstream Republican position (today the Bush administration) and the mainstream Democratic position. The national press faithfully reflects these two poles, and the fifty-yard line in American politics is between them.
...[this] brings a clear downside: in times when neither party is serious about addressing major problems,...assures that public debate remains impoverished.
if candidates do put forward ambitious ideas, the top news outlets generally aren't equipped or inclined to assess them.
So it's Bush says "X," Gore says "Y." You decide. But people don't have any capacity to decide . . . . They [the media] either said "they're both full of it" or they say "we're not going to decide who's full of it," but they never come down hard one way or the other when one guy's numbers are based on sand and the other guy's may be fudged a little bit but make more sense.
...what's new isn't the same as what's important. We obviously need our top news outlets to give us the latest. But it would transform public life if they could also keep us focused on the big things that matter.
Wasn't there some way that the most important daily bulletin boards in our public life could institutionalize regular attention for things that are important - even though there isn't "news" on them? ...[and thus] perform a public service by mitigating the gap left when officials prefer not to address important issues?
Meanwhile, at The Sacramento Bee, editors are considering a Still True-like feature for the editorial page.
Despite its political ring, a feature like Still True does not represent a call for a return to the partisan newspaper wars of the early nineteenth century, when each political party had outlets that purely parroted its party line. Indeed, the idea is inspired by the fact that neither party is addressing these issues seriously, so the task of at least raising their dimensions has to fall to someone independent, with the power to bring them up.

Last but not least, Theresa Nielsen Hayden on today's NRA Woman..."If I were the editor responsible, I’d want to avoid walking along backlit ridgelines for a while...."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

warmed-over haggis, or burning issues, or burned haggis, or something

it's late.

wapo via msnbc on sprawl vs nature, and fire:
"The weapons of mass destruction have been found," a San Diego resident wrote in the letters page of Thursday's Los Angeles Times. "They are poor land-use planning, budget cuts, arsonists and one foolish hunter."

via DeLong, Matthew Yglesias Can't See The Forest For The Timber Company Profits:
I should state at the outset of my discussion that I do not give a damn about America's national forests and that if George W. Bush wants to let the timber companies cut them all down, I wouldn't be particularly upset...

LA Times, Little of Tax Hike Goes to Fight Fires:
Ten years ago, voters statewide passed a half-cent sales tax increase to provide money for county and city public safety programs. Proponents credited the measure's success, in part, to wildfires that burned hundreds of homes in Southern California the week before election day.
...when Proposition 172 was passed, a lot of people who voted for it assumed that some of the money would be going to the Fire Department and that hasn't happened."
Ten of the 28 counties that responded to informal surveys by the California State Assn. of Counties in 2001 and 2003 reported using Proposition 172 money for fire protection...Most of those reported using just a small amount for fire, such as .8% in Placer County and 5.63% in Santa Cruz.

New York Times, In California's Inferno, an Oasis of Planning Stands Out:
"With more people being born than dying, we add 400,000 to 700,000 people a year, even if no one ever moves again into California," said Timothy P. Duane, an associate professor of environmental planning and policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written about wildfires. "That is a Fresno to a San Francisco every year. That is a lot of people that need to go somewhere."

Sunday, November 09, 2003

fyi, not that you are likely to care but i added some more links to religion, the economy, and the press below.

on blogging and the web

web helps californians during wildfires:
It gave the village a set of drums to get the message out," said Gary Stebbings, a construction manager who monitored the Web site regularly after evacuating his home in the alpine town of Lake Arrowhead.
The phenomenon was "the ultimate democratization of the media," said Howard Rheingold, a futurist and author of "Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution." "The AP has only so many reporters and CNN only has so many cameras, but we've got a world full of people with digital cameras and Internet access."

from Christopher Lydon,
Stirling Newberry
( -
"St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere and its circumference nowhere... " In his own voice he continued: "That's the image you should have of what's happening on the Internet. Anyone on any given day can be the center if he has the best observation that resonates. There is no boundary of the circle... You get to sing a song and listen to the echo. You get to hear... how other people have taken what you've done and turned it into their center."

Doc Searls on The Media:
Yes, there's lots of stuff in all those media you'll like or use....But you have to wait for it if it's on a broadcast outlet or root for it in a publication. More importantly, you're not in charge. They are. And to Them, you're still just a consumer. A gullet for gobbling "content" and crapping cash. (Thank you for that perfect metaphor, Jerry Michalski.) Yes, Even if They are NPR and the New York Times. They are The Media. Information is a form of "content" that moves from Them to you, on an almost entirely one-way basis.

The Web is ours, not theirs.

Doc again - "blogging is one more way that the demand side is supplying itself"

Nate, from discussion on dan gillmor's site on govt attempts to erase history:
The key difference between "1984" and any attempts to emulate the rewriting of history today is the Web. Time after time politicians are caught by their saved words. The mainstream media may let them get away with pretending they "never said that," but the Web remembers...

More electronic skew-the-voting machine pieces

BTW, is your one-stop shop for news and other info.

From Nov. 3 Newsweek, Black Box Voting Blues:
Electronic ballot technology makes things easy. But some computer-security experts warn of the possibility of stolen elections

From Wired Nov. 6, Suspect Code Used in State Votes:
An investigation by California's secretary of state has revealed that Diebold Election Systems placed uncertified software on electronic voting machines in a California county.
Voters in Alameda County...

Nov 3 Christian Science Monitor:
Electronic ballots, hailed as the antidote to hanging chads, will make a mark on Election Day. But critics warn of risks to democracy.

visit Tomorrowland - cast your vote at the Fraud-o-matic today...

from, EFF Case Vs Diebold Stalls, re Diebold's attempt to use copyright law to block the publication of information about flaws in their software:
The political element surrounding the case might have ramifications that will be felt in elections for years to come. If the San Francisco judge ruling on the restraining order today finds against the ISP Online Policy Group, the ISP and many others will be forced to stifle any mention of the machine's flaws.
With no incentive to fix the machines vulnerabilities, Diebold might not, giving every election day loser a way to contest the validity of the votes. It'll be a revisitation of the "hanging chad" fiasco during the Bush-Gore elections.

and, most powerfully, Britt Blaser with Secreted Ballots and a War Story - "Far more than you want to read about e-voting and maybe not quite enough about burning airplanes..." -
On 25 June 1968, about 3 miles from Cambodia, our C-130 was struck by .50 cal. machine gun fire that blossomed into a real headache...
To me though, [the e-voting story] feels like molten aluminum dripping off the left wing. There is no larger story.
Read it.

"It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes."
-attributed to Josef Stalin

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The will of God

Anne Lamott - "You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

from yet another damn blog:
A couple of years ago, my parents decided it was time for them to leave their church. In the middle of it all, my dad said something that really struck me, "Last week, at Calvary, the minister was talking about morality, and doing the right thing, and everything he was saying was about what 'they' should do. It was all about other people. This week, at First Lutheran, it was the same topic, but it was all about what 'we' should do. I like that a lot better."

How do you make God laugh? Tell him your plans

He doesn't seem to appreciate blasphemy.

Scott Rosenberg on Bush and God, church and state
...We worry when national leaders assume a mantle of divine destiny. The worry is based on history, not faith.
...I'll continue to put my moral antennae on alert any time a leader starts using his or her own religious faith as a touchstone of civic virtue. It's not always and inevitably a bad thing -- the obvious and legitimate counterargument is the Rev. Martin Luther King. But it's usually a sign to watch out.

Regarding our divinely appointed leader, Robert Brady weighs in:
It occurs to me that God must have a pretty damned high IQ, and a pretty broad spectrum of people to choose from, were she to have a hand in selecting the leader of America. The thought that she might select George W... read it.

Apropos, via a BDL discussion,
a Bush admn. official said after the failed coup against Chavez in Venezuela, "Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters".
(ref. here?)

Friday, November 07, 2003

Where's the original content?

elsewhere, obviously. This is for your own good. There are some whose expository prose flows like a river, or swoops and soars like the swallows above. The prose of others can more accurately be likened to the fish out of water, flopping at irregular intervals on the sandbank. If it is an altruistic fish, it doesn't pollute the web (talk about mixed metaphors...) with redundant, "I can say it too only more awkwardly" verbiage.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

economy, and lack thereof

Red tape grows like kudzu, and needs to be aggressively pruned back every year.

Individually people all over the world have approximately the same natural endowments. What makes a difference is the nurture provided by the environment. And that environment is exogenous to an individual but endogenous to the entire collection of individuals which is called the society or the economy.
...India could have leap-frogged the manufacturing stage and gone straight from the agricultural stage to the information/service stage. The snag was that we neglected universal primary education and therefore hobbled ourselves....

via bonobo land, India economy watch:
The Chinese leadership seems to have its act together. The Chinese lucked out. It is India's karma that it got saddled with a bunch of self-serving narrow-minded weak-kneed myopic corrupt criminals as its leaders...

NY Times on call centers in India:
...coveted here. While the salaries are hardly lucrative by technology industry standards - anywhere from $1,600 to $2,100 a year - they beat those for most clerical positions.

"In the U.S., these jobs are taken by housewives or kids who haven't decided what they want to do with their lives," said K. Ghanesh, 39, the founder of Customer Asset. "Here, they are career jobs for college graduates." government and sausages:
It is an iron law of international economics that the Exploitation Police will swoop down and denounce anyone who creates new jobs, particularly in relatively poor areas. The common complaint is that call-centre companies set up shop in places (New Brunswick is a good example) where they can find well-educated workers at relatively low wages. The Exploitation Police make this sound almost criminal. In fact, it's the way capitalism has always expanded and the way that poor regions have traditionally turned themselves into less poor regions.

On the growing U.S. trade deficit, The Mercantilist's Tale by Warren Buffett:
....take a wildly fanciful trip with me to two isolated, side-by-side islands of equal size, Squanderville and Thriftville...
[Eventually] the Squanders are forced to deal with an ugly equation: They must now not only return to working eight hours a day in order to eat -- they have nothing left to trade -- but must also work additional hours to service their debt and pay Thriftville rent on the land so imprudently sold. In effect, Squanderville has been colonized by purchase rather than conquest.

The Debt Tax, published in Boston Globe (if not there, try here (scroll down)):
In recent years, much has been made over the repeal of the estate tax -- or "death tax." Much less attention has been paid to a far more pernicious tax -- the "debt tax" -- which is bigger than the estate tax, capital gains tax, and so-called "marriage tax" combined.
As a result these factors -- rising interest rates, growing spending, and massive tax cuts -- the debt tax burden will continue to mushroom. The administration's own projections show the debt growing by half through 2008. This means that in five years, the average family could be paying between $4,500 and $6,000 or more each year in debt tax alone.

words of wisdom from Bonobo Land, here -
if the dollar falls substantially, and the internal US labour market practices the structural reforms it advises for the rest of the world, I don't doubt jobs can be produced in large quantities. The question is: where on the value chain will these jobs be situated?

And he links to this great British article on the karmic aspect of the jobs flight to India ("The jobs Britain stole from the Asian subcontinent 200 years ago are now being returned..."):
If you live in a rich nation in the English-speaking world, and most of your work involves a computer or a telephone, don't expect to have a job in five years' time. Almost every large company which relies upon remote transactions is starting to dump its workers and hire a cheaper labour force overseas. All those concerned about economic justice and the distribution of wealth at home should despair. All those concerned about global justice and the distribution of wealth around the world should rejoice. As we are, by and large, the same people, we have a problem.
...For centuries, we have permitted ourselves to ignore the extent to which our welfare is dependent on the denial of other people's. We begin to understand the implications of the system we have created only when it turns against ourselves.

Julian Sanchez:
At a time when nationalist "us versus them" thinking is back in vogue, the temptation is strong to find someone - ideally brown people with funny accents - to carry the blame for our economic woes.

Paul Krugman, Waiting For Our Wile E. Coyote Moment -
...The timing of such crises [currency crises like those that struck Southeast Asia in 1997 and Argentina in 2001] is hard to predict. But there are warning signs, like big trade and budget deficits and rising debt burdens.
And there's one thing I can't help noticing: A Third World country with the United States' recent numbers -- its huge budget and trade deficits, its growing reliance on short-term borrowing from the rest of the world -- would definitely be on the watch list...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

and more Diebold potential electronic vote rigging news

Nov. 3, Calif. Halts E-Vote Certification:
The reason, Carrel said, was that his office had recently received "disconcerting information" that Diebold may have installed uncertified software on its touch-screen machines used in one county...

good article on the Diebold threat, from last month, giving examples - All the President's Votes? -
With academic studies showing the ... touchscreens to be poorly programmed, full of security holes and prone to tampering, and with thousands of similar machines from different companies being introduced at high speed across the country, computer voting may, in fact, be US democracy's own 21st-century nightmare...

more press links

From Dave Winer: "...funding from the MacArthur Foundation to study alternative compensation schemes for media on the Internet..." (oops. wrong kind of media. always follow link before posting.)

via pressthink, Blogging at the Spokesman-Review - a different way to put out the news

Atrios on blogging and journalism:
Journalists have a bias against "old news" - that is, if it was ever published somewhere, anywhere, it isn't "news." This makes the only "new" news either breaking news events, press releases, or new quotes from important people. That's a rather limited view of what journalism is.

Greg Palast:
In America, a 'conspiracy nut' is defined as a journalist who reports the news two years before the New York Times.

Julia, in Brad DeLong comments:
I heard Johnathon Alter [sp?] on WNYC the other night telling tales out of school about all the things the administration has done wrong since the war, and the inside battles that they're having - none of which was material I've seen in Newsweek.
I find it a little creepy when people with actual influence over the public discourse make a point of letting us know that they're really far too savvy and sophisticated to believe what they're telling us.

On the fawning Hitler Homes and Gardens article:
...any attempt by a magazine to "use copyright law to suppress embarrassing information is appalling." Leff said she is using the Homes & Gardens article to teach students that sometimes journalists can gather information that is "completely accurate, but because of the subject material -- in this case, portraying Hitler as a gardener and a gourmet in 1938 -- it's not really the appropriate tone to take."

Sunday, November 02, 2003

press quotes

Links I've been collecting for some time - i.e. a few of them might be stale already in which case I apologize.

OLD. found at Poynter a couple years back, no permalink -
... no matter how many "neighbors" sections big city papers fill with feel-good news and school lunch menus, it is the enterprising little weeklies -- the ones that care enough about their small communities to get their hands dirty and report the hell out of stories -- that often make the difference.

From Doc Searls, touring the offices of his local newspaper, the Santa Barbara News-Press:
Our tour guide, the photo editor of the paper, talked about how hard it is to get new subscribers when so many readers were getting their news elsewhere, or just seemed to give too small a shit. Yet he remained no less motivated, for the simple reason that daily papers remain highly civilizing forces for the regions they serve, and he felt privileged to be part of one.

from metafilter, the difference a small paper can make:
It was a huge scoop. Yet the newspaper that uncovered the atrocity was not the venerable New York Times or the Washington Post, still resting on its Watergate laurels. Nor was it the New Yorker, famed for its in-depth journalism. It was The Blade, a daily newspaper with a circulation of just 150,000 that serves the Ohio city of Toledo, by Lake Erie.

Excellent article by David Greenberg on Calling a Lie a Lie - The dicey dynamics of exposing untruths:'s worth asking why the press sometimes seizes on a lie while at other times passes it by...
In discussing which party's policies are preferable,...evenhandedness makes sense. But in reporting which party's claims are true, sometimes there's one right answer. Often, however, that truth isn't apparent to the lay person or the average reporter but only to experts - scientists, doctors, economists, or scholars. Reporters must themselves work through the numbers or diligently mine the experts' research to ferret out the truth - or, more likely, they fall back on presenting both sides' claims equally. Bound by professional strictures, news reporters can wind up giving a lie the same weight as the truth...
Loyalty has come to mean not just voting with your party leader but mouthing the line on TV, to reporters, or in press releases... Thus, when a president lies about policy, so does a chorus of members of Congress, columnists, and commentators - and try calling every Republican or Democrat in Washington a liar...'s dismaying that the conventions of news reporting have combined with the mechanisms of Washington media politics to erect such high barriers to freethinking journalism. The current rules end up encouraging media hysteria about personal lies of scant importance and deterring inquiry into topics that matter incalculably more.

Eric Umansky article:
As legendary WP editor Ben Bradlee once noted, "Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face." One sentence he says you'll never see on Page One, "'That is a lie.'"

Chris Mooney on "Mission Accomplished" and the media:
This apparent falsehood about the "Mission Accomplished" sign strikes me as being precisely the kind of thing that the major media will probably pick up on. That's because Bush's statement is a) obviously wrong and b) doesn't matter very much. But when it comes to debunking serious, consequential lies and deceptions -- about stem cell research or the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, for example -- our leading journalists tend to get cold feet.

via isthatlegal, Ed Cone asking Is objective news coverage a worthwhile objective? a while back:
There are greater threats to the quality of news than a rogue reporter or an out-of-touch editor at the New York Times. The increasing concentration of media power in corporate a big one. The assault on the ideal of objective journalism is another.

Jay Rosen on Fox News:
The Fox News slogan, Fair and Balanced, has always been ironic because it is meant to say: "Ha! We're the conservative alternative and yet more fair, more balanced than ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSBNC, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the holy New York Times, where-in a delusion that's had its day-they claim to have no ideology at all! So we'll claim to have no ideology at all, too. That will drive them nuts."
from followup discussion:
When I first started in Journalism, as a copy kid, I met the old hack who covered my high school football team. I told him, "you know, we always thought you were biased against us." And he said, "you know what, everybody from every other team tells me the same thing, which tells me that I'm doing my job right."

Because I was a kid, I assumed he must've been right. Later, after I got training in journalism and revisited the guy's work, I realized there was an another alternative: maybe he was just doing a bad job of covering all the other teams too.
The [newly] famous "neither fair nor balanced" Fox memo, which is all over the net.

via pressthink, words from Roger Ailes:
I've had a broad life experience that doesn't translate into going to the Columbia journalism school. That makes me a lot better journalist than some guys who had to listen to some pathetic professor who has been on the public dole all his life and really doesn't like this country much and hates the government and hates everybody and is angry because he's not making enough money.
interesting, the anger/hatred thing. Could there be some projection going on here...

Just before the Iraq war, [well-known British TV news anchor and interviewer] David Dimbleby came to Washington to interview Donald Rumsfeld. They talked for half an hour. As you would expect, the questioning was persistent, forensic. Americans who heard the interview were shocked. The world's most powerful nation does not have the world's most powerful press. Specifically, it has no daily forum for the close questioning of politicians...

american media vs bbc:
Watch BBC World for a couple of hours, then switch on MSNBC. The sensory experience is not dissimilar to leaving a university lecture and then jumping on a roller coaster.

Readers: Why We Don't Alert Media To Mistakes, Reflections on credibility:
The Pew Research Center for The People and the Press reported last year that two-thirds of Americans believe news organizations are unwilling to acknowledge their errors, while just 23 percent say the organizations admit their mistakes. The research center also reported that the number of people who believe news organizations are politically biased stood at 59 percent.

Bill Moyers:
Journalists feel squeezed -- those who simply believe we are here to practice our craft as if society needs what we do and expects us to do it as honorably as possible. There's another study around here somewhere done by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and The Columbia Journalism Review. More than a quarter of journalists polled said they had avoided pursuing some important stories that might conflict with the financial interests of their news organizations or advertisers.

from Talking Points Memo:
...In fact, they have the ironic and in many ways dubious distinction of having seen the story advanced far more on their OpEd page than in their news pages...

more from same Eric Umansky article on responsibilities of the press:
Headline writers-typically copy editors-have an obligation to give readers the most accurate sense possible of an article's conclusions, regardless of how poorly those conclusions reflect on our nation's leaders. They're frequently failing.

Suggestion that journalists take advantage of teachable moments and put the hay out:
When a racial comment becomes news - say, Rush Limbaugh suggesting that the media gave favorable coverage to a black quarterback because of journalism's "social agenda" - the cows are hungry.
That's the time to ask a couple of questions:
· "What would people like to know right now?"
· "What could people learn right now?"
It wouldn't be the only story you'd do, but it would be the one story not likely to look like all the others, filled as they are with outrage and rebuttal, but precious little insight. It would be the sort of story former reporter Ruth Seymour says comes from the "inner sanctum," a story that takes you beyond the public face of a people and listens in while they talk to one another. Groups hold those stories tightly to the vest, says Seymour, now on the journalism faculty at Wayne State University. The journalist's job is to wedge in there and tell them.

Poynter online
It’s not an editor’s job to trust a reporter. It’s an editor’s job to challenge, to probe, to prosecute a story, to be the ally not of his or her colleague but of the reader who deserves a factual account.