Monday, February 28, 2005

Links to the best sources

Update Mar. 15 - cleaned up previous edits

Wired article on Niman. (only eight genes in the flu virus, confirms Revere of Effect Measure in the comment below. Strunk and White would be impressed - as are we.)

Also - The Coming Plague author Laurie Garrett's Scary Near-Miss Shows Bioterrorism Vulnerabilities (The Council on Foreign Relations, Feb. 16)
In other news, Garrett resigns from Newsday, vocally. She's not impressed with the current state of journalism:
All across America news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations, and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions. ...The sort of in-your-face challenge that the Fourth Estate once posed for politicians has been replaced by mud-slinging, lies and, where it ought not be, timidity...

The mainstream media have at last started to take bird flu seriously. Now that is on hiatus, you'll need a new daily bird flu infosource, which would be Harry Niman of Recombinomics (in combination with Effect Measure - which does depth, not roundups)

For "White House press whores" coverage, we're keeping an eye on the Nashua Advocate as well as AmericaBlog. Kudos to Editor and Publisher for their Gannon/Guckert coverage series, most recently here.

We apologize for the desultory posting of late, but we've been busy.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

On bringing down the political house

A long, thoughtful piece by Stirling Newberry:
... Now there are many who would scoff at this idea [that we're in a constitutional crisis], saying that big things don't happen. It is the strong version of the Copernican thesis - where ever you are is, by definition, unimportant. As far as I can tell there is exactly one person who has agreed with the reverse of that thesis all along, that instead we are at an important moment, and has methodically pursued the chance for the Republican Party to be the one that determines the shape of the new constitutional order. His name is Karl Rove, perhaps you've heard of him.

...The crisis isn't in the fall of the dollar, the jobless recovery, the budget deficit, voting irregularities, corruption in the media and congress - or even Iraq and Social Security.

It is in how these parts fit together to create one pervasive reactionary order. No one of them can be solved alone. One cannot fix the voting system, and not fix what people are voting for. One cannot shake up the corrupt rotten borough system of electoral districts, without changing the nature of parties. One cannot fix the jobs and debt crisis - without changing the politicians who are doing the deciding. And so on...
From Timothy Burke last September, in here:
But there’s another analogy [than Weimar Germany, to our current situation] out there that in some ways bothers me even more, and seems even more to the point, and that’s to the 1948 elections in South Africa.
Every society has moments where there is a chance that the pendulum of political change will stop swinging from side to side, where forces and circumstances align that threaten to break the pendulum altogether, where the rules of the political game get so thoroughly violated and discarded that the game comes to an end. When that happens, a lot more than the pendulum of change tends to get broken, and people decades hence will find themselves shackled to a future that they did not choose, do not want, but cannot escape.
Also Brian Leiter on this post by PZ Myers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Finding our bearings in a new world order

A stunner from Joe Drymala (*) here:
Here's a question that I find myself wrestling with: what marks the end of traditional politics, and the beginning of something else? In other words, at what point do terms like "partisanship" become obsolete with regard to the political circumstances of the day? For instance, at a certain point (here we go again with the Nazis), you were either a Nazi supporter or an enemy of the state. The same with Italian and Spanish fascists, Stalin's Communists and virtually any other ultra-nationalist or ethnic movement (Rwanda, Serbia, etc.). To say that Nazis were being overly partisan would be a gross understatement, and to say that those who resisted the Nazis were overly partisan would just be laughable. At some point, there are lines drawn, and ideas like reason and debate and normal political compromise are themselves relics of an age past. You are either zealously supporting the regime in power, zealously opposing the regime in power, or privately living in fear of the regime in power, terrified to publicly stand against it but fervently praying that it's overthrown.

Some would say that we're at that point already, others would say that we are at the very early stages of such a situation and there's still an opportunity to revive our republican ideals (small "r"). I don't know. I'm not saying that the purpose of this blog should be to aid some kind of political resistance movement; I just want to voice the question of how we'll know when we've, in effect, crossed the Rubicon. And, if and when we reach that moment, a new set of rules and understandings will crop up and be clear.

There's something that's worth noting here as well -- the conservative movement has been operating with this mentality for forty years. They see themselves as a political resistance movement, willing to go beyond the accepted norms of politics and discourse to further their goal of one-party domination. At what point is the tone of sites like Kos and Atrios considered to be the only appropriate response to such a movement?

I concern myself quite a bit with this question; whether the old rules are dead, or just dying. Whether the Enlightenment ideals have come and gone, or are in fact deeper than a mere political fad. Whether our two-party democratic system can ever again be robust and healthy as it was for most of the twentieth century, or whether the die has been cast and the twentieth century was merely an abberation of history.

I don't know the answer. But I'm troubled by the question.
(written as a comment on this post at Unfogged; via Lex)

Friday, February 18, 2005

News and more news at the newspaper

We wish to blame recent illness and lack of sleep for the inanity of this post.

The Union's webmaster was not aware that the Search was still hosed; we have provided examples, and hope that a solution will be forthcoming.
Feb 24 update:
No response, although we've sent a followup email asking for one. And no fix either.

Another job opportunity at The Union:
Become a vital news link to the Web

The Union, an innovative daily newspaper serving the scenic Sierra Nevada foothills communities of Nevada County, Calif., is seeking applicants for its newly created Web Editor position. Serving a wired, high-tech community, we already have one of the most-trafficked small-newspaper sites in the country. This editor will work closely with the news staff and the Webmaster to develop rich, interactive Web content that amplifies coverage appearing in our 17,000-circulation newspaper. The Web Editor will keep the site updated as news unfolds throughout the day and work with staff to create Web-exclusive content. Creativity, technical innovation, editing skills and writing talent all will be vital for this position. Help shape a dynamic new job in an exciting newsroom. Good benefits include 401K; salary in the $30,000 range, depending upon skills and experience. E-mail or send cover letter, resume and work samples to Pat Butler, Editor, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945; pat b @ th eun i on. com . [Spaces added out of concern for the welfare of M. Butler, who will be plenty besieged by Nevada County residents - unleashing the spammers would be over the top.] No phone calls, please. Deadline is March 15.

So, for those of you who were dying to know the name of The Union's new editor, you can recuperate now.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A Pico de Gallo testimonial; some restrictions apply

We are not a doctor or a pundit, but we play both on the web.

A pestilence has struck the NCFocus staff for the second time in several months. The symptoms were identical: mild fatigue and sore throat, accompanied by a corporeal desire to consume vile substances (in our case, Pico de Gallo; it isn't really vile, but it's certainly not something you would choose for a one-course breakfast)

We indulged the desire, and the illness lasted only a day or two.

So we recommend Pico de Gallo as a tonsil sterilizer and systemic microbicide, and last month we recommended eating while driving as a timesaver and alibi. However, these recommendations are not additive: please, do not eat Pico de Gallo for breakfast on an empty stomach while speeding to work on the freeway, lest said stomach report with alarm its habitation by utterly unacceptable tenants and its intent to evict them forthwith.

It was a near thing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Four out of five people we've asked aren't familiar with the name "Jeff Gannon". Where do they get their news?

The best source of Jeff Gannon information seems to be AmericaBlog
(which is not safe for work, unless your employer wants you to look at pictures of naked men festooned with large black rectangles; you might try MediaMatters' GannonGate links instead)
It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a "daily basis." They reportedly made a decision to give him - one of only six - access to documents, or information in those documents, that exposed a clandestine CIA operative. Say what you will about Monika[sic] Lewinsky - a tasteless episode, "inappropriate," whatever. Monika wasn't a gay prostitute running around the West Wing. What kind of leadership would let prostitutes roam the halls of the West Wing?

Shades of the Reagan-era White House prostitution scandal:
Among the clients identified in hundreds of credit-card vouchers obtained by The Washington Times - and identified by male prostitutes and escort operators - are government officials, locally based US military officers, businessmen, lawyers, bankers, congressional aides, media representatives and other professionals.

It's an interesting story - it sank like a stone, and the man who ran the sex ring didn't live long afterward. Here's hoping Gannon/Guckert doesn't meet the same fate.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Spoke too soon?

Added Feb 16:
Also still true*: typing Weismann (or lying liberal) does not bring up his most revealing letter *


Maybe The Union's archive search isn't as fixed as we thought.

This Nov. 3 letter by local architect David Wright doesn't seem to be reachable when you search by phrases, author, title, or keywords; please try for yourself, and see if you can get it to come up in the search results.

The F-word

Think about it.

Andrew Tobias puts it into context today:
I think we are "approaching the foothills of fascism" - but that with any luck we will turn away long before we get there. But we're less likely to turn away if we don't see where we could be headed...
(regarding the flash video he linked to on Friday)

From David Neiwert:
We tend to think of [fascism] in terms of alien things like Nazi uniforms and concentration camps. The reality is that the popular imagery of fascism ... is actually derived from its later stages, when it proceeds into serious metastasis; while in the stages at which it has traditionally obtained power, fascism is constituted of things which seem everyday and familiar to us. ... we often refuse to recognize it for what it is because it seems so ... familiar. ( * )

He flowed there faster -
In Edge, back in 2001, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wondered about The Reasons For Right-Wing Extremism In Europe And The U.S.
...I think the most important unreported story concerns the reasons for a return of right-wing extremism in Europe, and for the first time in the U.S. Since I am not a journalist I would not report such a story, but I would first find out if it is really true, and if true then study what its causes are. Is it that people are running out of hope and meaning? Have the Western democracies run out of believable goals? What conditions favor fascism and what can we do to prevent them from spreading?

From a review(*) of The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert O. Paxton:
Some of Paxton's important points are [that] fascism appears in failed or highly stressed democracies, that fascism involves mass politics, that fascism emerges as a reaction to perceived threats from the socialist threat, that fascism depends on charismatic leadership, and that fascism always contains a cult of violent action. A particularly important point is that the successful fascist movements, Italian Fascism and Nazism, were invited into power by traditional conservative elites seeking to coopt fascist mass mobilization in support of their own ends.
Authoritarian states have commonly used external aggression as a way of addressing internal problems.
Feb 18: An interview with Neal Stephenson:
It's clear that the body politic is subject to power disorders. By this I mean events where some person or group suddenly concentrates a lot of power and abuses it. Power disorders frequently come as a surprise, and cause a lot of damage. This has been true since the beginning of human history. Exactly how and why power disorders occur is poorly understood.

Go read Rosenberg (and others)

On the subject of blogger-journalist interactions, Scott Rosenberg has the best take on Gannon and Eason. There is a difference.

NY Times:
"I wish our goal were not taking off heads but digging up truth," [Jeff Jarvis] cautioned ( * )

Kevin Drum on hounding media out of their jobs:
I hope that cranking up the politics of personal destruction yet another notch isn't what we end up being most famous for.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Blogger tip - permalink to post within the archive page

This will be gibberish to anyone who's not a user. Please ignore.

I posted this over in Daniel Conover's comments, then realized it also belonged here.

So that your post's permalink doesn't change if you go back and retitle the post:

Added Feb. 12:
To try to clarify:
With Blogger (the blogging tool), when you publish a post, it's put up on the web on 2 weblog pages - a standalone page, which just contains that post and any comments on it, and a monthly (or weekly or daily) archive page that shows the post (but no comments) "in context" with all the other posts from that time period. By default, Blogger
a) makes the post's permalink point to the "standalone" page,
b) names that page, in part, from the post's title. So if you subsequently modify the post by changing its title, anyone trying to reach it via the old "permalink" (which includes the pagename) is out of luck.

What I'm showing here is how to change your weblog template so that your post's permalink points inside the "archive" page instead of pointing to the "standalone" page.

Previous "Blogger tips" posts for changing your template:

First save your template so you can restore it if this doesn't work, then in place of

<br><span class="byline">posted by <$BlogItemAuthorNickname$> at <a href="<$BlogItemPermalinkURL$>"><$BlogItemDateTime$></a>

<br><span class="byline">posted by <$BlogItemAuthorNickname$> at <$BlogItemDateTime$> [<a href="<$BlogItemArchiveFileName$>#<$BlogItemNumber$>" title="Permalink (within page)">Link</a>]

and, of course, preview and make sure it works before saving the change.

There is still be room for improvement; someone can still go astray by linking to the "standalone" (single-post-on-single-page) post (which, if you have comments enabled, will be the page that shows the comments); but it's less likely.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Winter solstice of the blogs

how does it get so late so soon, so often?

No time to do much but feed the blogroll - additions are David Wharton, Left2Right, Russell Arben Fox and, belatedly, the Volokh Conspiracy.

The local section of the blogroll needs attention, but isn't getting any tonight.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

misc on planning and papers

via David Wharton, long, good:
To What Extent and in What Ways Should Governmental Bodies Regulate Urban Planning?
pointing out the
...local land-use regulations, traffic engineering, and a web of codes, standards, and practices that have created a mass production system for sprawl on a national scale.
If there is a plot running through the length and breadth of land-use regulation in the United States, it most assuredly does not favor New Urbanism.
American Journalism Review article asks why there are so few ombudsmen:
"There is a time in the life cycle of a news organization when hiring an ombudsman is called for," says Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Miami Herald, which dropped its own reader representative position in 2001. "It's when a newsroom has become arrogant and detached and could not recognize its errors in judgment."
...The ombudsman concept made its debut in American journalism at the New York World, which established an internal Bureau of Accuracy and Fair Play in 1913. After the yellow journalism era, the World hoped creating the bureau would help it improve its standards...
...there's a widespread perception that the ombudsman is a public relations agent for his or her employer. Not surprisingly, many public editors resist that notion. "I don't want to use the column to make excuses for the newspaper when that shouldn't be done"...
Andrew Cline makes the excellent observation that newspapers concerned about the cost of ombudsmen could avail themselves of underpaid journalism professors.

Via Andrew Tobias:
As long as they're born faster than we can make them hate us, we're in business.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Movie night

(no spoilers, but no original content either. We spent our evening wrestling with SBC and Blogger; winner to be announced at a later date.)

Showtimes for all - Magic, Nevada, Del Oro, Sierra, Sutton, Colfax, plus the usual distant lands of Auburn and Yuba City.

on Million Dollar Baby -
You won't see Clint Eastwood starring in Spellbound, at least not the Gaelic version...
["Mo Cuishle"?]
The correct spelling is "Mo Chuisle."
Clint's character's translation isn't exactly accurate. Literally, "mo chuisle" means "my pulse." It's from a longer phrase, "a chuisle mo chroĆ­" ("pulse of my heart") and is USED to mean "darling" or "sweetheart." In other words, "blood" doesn't actually factor in there at all (unless we're being liberal here and figuring that one can't have a pulse without blood). Clint's character isn't particularly good at Irish (as evidenced by both his mistranslation and his mispelling of "mo chuisle"...)

Spellbound star Angela Arenivar has a weblog, recently but not regularly updated.

Roger Ebert's review of Spellbound wasn't among his best; he had stronger feelings for The Village:
...when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we're back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.

More from Ebert:
Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly. ( * )
and in a different mood
I am known around the office as a "fast writer," but while I'm engaged in the process, I don't feel as if I'm writing at all; I'm taking dictation from that place within me that knows what it wants to say.( * )
We hope he's doing ok.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Booktown course correction

Contrary to our earlier assertions, Booktown will not be interviewing David Sucher of City Comforts tomorrow; featured instead will be local author and former ranger Jordan Fisher Smith's Nature Noir, about his experiences patrolling the American River Canyon area slated to be inundated by the Auburn Dam. It is very well written:
When I began going through [records] in 2001, they were archived in a decaying midden of sagging cardboard boxes, covered with dust and mouse droppings and stacked haphazardly in an unheated warehouse at our ranger station, surrounded by piles of cast-off things for which there could be no conceivable use: bits of long-gone patrol trucks, shotgun racks, pieces of light bars, dial telephones, ancient sirens in tangles of wire...

Ebb and flow - the Auburn area lost a ranger with Fisher Smith's departure, but Nevada County recently acquired its own game warden; he's slated to be augmented with an animatronic deer, which, if sentient, would be quaking in its hooves at the prospect of a faceoff with the local toughs.

Feb 18 updates:
SF Chronicle book review of Nature Noir last Sunday; also, what a difference a single letter makes:
"We are not at a critical juncture in history when we must take great pains to ensure the survival of those landscapes and species that have not already been massively manipulated," says Fisher Smith.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bird flu and blogs

New to the Science section of the NCFocus blogroll - excellent bird flu coverage at the public health blog Effect Measure (with a good reader-supplied history here), and also from the links posted at, which points to this worst-case scenario: - like, a quarter of the world's population.

And on a lighter note, let's welcome new Nevada County blogger Wayne, whose blog is here. Cheer up Wayne, it could be worse - we liberals might make you sick (and drive another local blogger to see double) but we're hardly ever fatal.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Some get it, some don't

The San Jose Mercury News appears to have dropped the "registration required" reader roadblock.

The Sacramento Bee is phasing it in.


If you register with the Bee, don't use a fake email address; they send email to it to complete your registration.

Here's BugMeNot for the Bee.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A thousand words

Perspectives... (*)

Union editorial, from an earlier time:
As stewards, we must preserve Northstar Mine's history

Historic buildings are among the strongest fibers knitting together any group of people...
...the Land Trust feels they acquired a house that was in danger of falling down. The roof was gone, the windows were gone, the doors were gone, and it was constantly being vandalized when they got it. It was in an emergency condition. (*)
Current publisher:
If given a say-so in the decision on how best to spend Mr. Wilson's money, I suspect that most Nevada County residents wouldn't have placed the North Star House at the top of the wish list. Not even in the top 10.
A Julia Morgan house for sale:


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Don't worry, be happy

Been lying awake nights wondering how you'll ever be able to afford an Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, or even Mike McManus?

Well, fear no more. Loyal NCFocus reader 'Gertrude' says you can turn that frown upside down - for a very reasonable fee, the Conservative Talk Show Host For Sale on EBay could be yours.

He's cute, too.

Current bid is just $1,025.77.


and, on a completely unrelated note - by way of Ed Cone, the Earlham College (Indiana) cheer:
Fight, Fight, Inner Light! Kill, Quakers, kill!
Smash 'em! Knock 'em! Beat 'em senseless!
Do it till we reach consensus!

Earlham's Digital Quaker collection


As usual, the best reading is elsewhere.

Left2Right features 3-part series by Elizabeth Anderson on How Not to Complain About Taxes (1, 2, 3 ) (via)

disclosure: we have not read them all yet.