Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Heard it through the blogvine

Abramoff on Doolittle via Wittmann via Marshall:
For most politicians, fundraising is a dreaded chore. But until recently, Rep. John T. Doolittle of California and other members of the House Republican leadership had adopted a painless solution: fundraising events in luxury sports boxes leased largely with the money of Indian gaming tribes
...Doolittle, a Mormon, is an ardent opponent of casino gambling, so it is somewhat ironic that he would invite supporters to watch the Wizards play the Sacramento Kings from an MCI Center suite paid for by casino-rich Indian tribes. *

Monday, December 27, 2004

Of letters and leavers

Jan 3: added a caveat to implied speculation

Today, Teddy writes of the pending departure of Carol Feineman, the unnamed reporter from the post below, who we understand will be joining the Colfax Record.

A week or two back, an amusing letter to the editor on the local "watchdog press" paper's neurological difficulties:
The Union needs to investigate whether the person who brought this [special favor ordinance amendment to build granny units, in defiance of subdivision CC&Rs and against the assistant county counsel's legal opinion] before the supervisors or if any potential granny unit builders donated money to any of their campaigns, used any of the supervisors' outside job services, know any of them personally, ever had lunch with any them, or have in any way at all been involved with any of the supervisors...
Please correct us if we have this wrong: sources report at least one of the resignations occurred after a "big fight" spurred by this column ** of the publisher's, regarding (among others) the article referenced in this post.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


You didn't hear it here first, not by a long shot:
News has surfaced that The Union's editor will be departing in early January.

You heard it here first:
We have reason to believe that a well-known reporter for the good ship Union will soon leave, to join another semi-local media endeavor.

If we knew the specific reasons, we might tell you, but we've only heard an uncorroborated rumor about the one and nothing about the other. More data please.

Also departed: former Nevada County supervisor Drew Bedwell, of cancer; he was a lightning rod or generator, depending on your perspective.

May all emigrants find safe harbor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Our tax dollars at work

Tony Long:
The next time you watch a war movie where a monocle-wearing Nazi says "Ve haff vays of making you talk," realize that his tactics are now endorsed by the U.S. government, which is in court defending the use of evidence gained by torture. Although statements obtained by torture have been inadmissible in American courts for 70 years, the government and the military are arguing that information obtained from foreign enemy combatants subjected to the so-called third degree should be allowed. Military panels reviewing the detention of 550 prisoners at Guantanamo, Cuba, have been accepting evidence gotten by torture to justify holding the men without due process.
Via Kevin Drum:
According to FBI officials, the Bush order approved interrogation tactics that include "sleep deprivation and stress positions," as well as "loud music, interrogators yelling at subjects and prisoners with hoods on their heads."

What's that, you say? This doesn't sound all that horrible? Keep reading:

In a June "Urgent Report" to the FBI director from the Sacramento field office, for example, a supervising special agent described abuses such as "strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees' ear openings and unauthorized interrogations."

Timothy Burke:
What does one do when one becomes aware that a significant plurality of one's fellow citizens seems to believe that it's right to torture people and pursue an exterminationist or brutalist strategy of conquest?
I emerged from 9/11 with a renewed faith and pride in American society, with a sense of my belonging to America and treasuring its achievements and possibilities. I still believe in America, love America, but I increasingly wonder if I am believing in a once and future thing, that in the kingdom of the present, the America I love is lost.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Gladwell on Foote, indirectly

From Sands Hall's Fair Game? - or Fair Use? on the current Footes' anger at Wallace Stegner's having made extensive use (in his novel Angle of Repose) of Nevada County luminary Mary Hallock Foote's letters and life, while turning her into an adulteress for literary purposes:
...it was not the issue of plagiarism that bothered them: it was the fact that Stegner used so much of Mary's life, and then, by the end of the novel, radically changed who she actually was, and distorted the nature of her relationship with her husband. Many people, not just local friends, recognized the Footes' lives in Stegner's novel, and believed that a skeleton had been exhumed from the family closet.

In his Nov. 22 New Yorker article on plagiarism, Malcolm Gladwell recounts a similar case:
Dorothy Lewis says that one of the things that hurt her most about [the play] 'Frozen' was that Agnetha [the character that was, essentially, her] turns out to have had an affair with her collaborator...Lewis feared that people would think she had..."That’s slander...if everything up to that point is true, then the affair becomes true in the mind...If you are going to take the life of somebody, and make them absolutely identifiable, you don’t create an affair, and you certainly don’t have that as a climax of the play."
In constructing a fictional character by taking artistic license with a non-fictional woman's morals, is the author of 'Frozen' plagiarizing Stegner's plagiarism?

BTW, the Wikipedia page on Angle of Repose is just a stub, and needs you to add to it; the page on Mary Hallock Foote is somewhat more extensive, but could also use your help.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Special 'Safer Computing' issue

Added Nov 19:
PC World has good articles, e.g. Privacy Watch, protecting yourself from web sleaze, and the best free software.

Basic security precautions for your computer.

A happy experience installing DSL. Not like mine so far...

Website problems when using Firefox are often not Firefox's fault.

BusinessWeek on Firefox.

I read somewhere today that power users are switching to Firefox in droves.

ZoneLabs' free firewall ZoneAlarm, and the Phishing IQ Test

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How to irritate your readers

(note: the intent of this post is to instruct, not to deliver.)

Another "pretend news" story:
...Geberding said the CDC considers the likelihood of a bird flu pandemic to be "very high."

Dr. David R. Johnson, director of scientific and medical affairs at Aventis Pasteur, said that a bird flu pandemic is generally considered "a question of when, not if."
What is "very high"? 50% likelihood within 6 months? 5%? 1%?
Another meteor strike causing mass extinctions on earth is also "a question of when, not if", but hardly something to lie awake nights worrying about. When the "when" is "when you've been dead for millions of years", it does cut down on the perceived urgency.

Quantitative ballpark figures would have rescued this part of the story from the "cognitive allergen" dustbin - as it is, it's written to impart emotions, not information, and cranky readers find this frustrating.

BTW, there are far more newsworthy topics to blog about - for example the Vote rigging affidavit (doubts) (or not; Wired takes note)
, presaged by Britt Blaser's Secreted Ballots and a War Story.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Bringing the chickens of "Don't talk while I'm interrupting" home to roost:

One man's "vicious political diatribe"* is another's "biting criticism"*.

You believe that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, but I fear you're stooping to his level.

Is it "money laundering", or "an evolution of campaign finance"? *

Nonlocal, but in the same vein:

Isn't there a quote to the effect that "no man is a monster in his own heart"? what is it?

What [x] calls "gaming the system", others call "optimizing your site"*.
Party ticket peddlers handed voters preprinted tickets to place in the ballot box before stepping over to the tavern for a few dollars' reward from the party. We now call this corruption. At the time, it was called loyalty.*
Wayne, I still owe you an email...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Nevada County Citizens for Responsible Journalism

The website is up, and very nicely done. Go explore it, lots of excellent stuff there on what The Union could be, vs. what it is now.

But here at NCFocus our glasses are habitually half empty (as is the cranium behind them), and we are not a team player, so a couple of critiques:

Not addressed(?): the structural bias produced when the editorial page features only two regular local columnists (publisher and editor), one of whom forcefully pushes a right-wing agenda, the other of whom reflexively avoids politics altogether. The problem has been pointed out; the apolitical editor has defended his stance, but without acknowledging that an imbalance exists which a fair newspaper would take action to rectify.

The NCCRJ website currently shows a single-minded focus on replacing The Union's publisher, and thus has a bit of a "publisher is spawn of satan" tone to it. While it's true that he's extreme, your correspondent believes the pro-development, anti-citizen-empowerment bias of the paper is structural, and thus would continue - more subtly, but still effectively - if he were replaced. Perhaps it's better to keep the devil you know...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Dec. 2, Added more links.

30 seconds in the life of Corporal Yeager (grandson of Chuck), in Fallujah. A very brave man.

Other perspectives on Fallujah here and here.

The poor Greeley Tribune is plagued by an Anna of its own. What is with these people? (we are like locusts)

Greeley Trib editor Chris Cobler's blog has featured a guest journalist reporting from the Ukraine on the "Orange Revolution" there; here's an interesting piece on the backstory.

Correspondent Veronica Khokhlova, blogging from the Ukraine. (mentioned here)