Sunday, April 30, 2006

thoughts on Dominion

If you're a religious person, and you're among the subset of religious people who interpret being given "dominion over the earth" as being given license to exploit it for personal gain... then if you're given dominion over taxpayer money, itn't it likely that you'll exercise the same form of dominion there too?

what's missing is the concept of responsible stewardship.
(in a similar vein, the Crony Fairy)

I didn't know this-
Naomi Seligman Steiner, deputy director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, ...said the Justice Department typically doesn't inform people that they are targets of an investigation until just before they are indicted, and that Doolittle's reliance on the fact that he has heard nothing from federal prosecutors is "meaningless."
(from here)

And I'd missed this:
"Doolittle wraps himself in the flag as a super patriot, but he avoided military service," Holmes said. "As far as I know he got six (Vietnam) draft deferments."

(perhaps you missed it too; Googling for "doolittle deferments draft" brings up nothing about it.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The bedrock of civilization

It's not marriage that is the bedrock of civilization ... it's ... wait for it ... CIVILity.
- someone named John Lyon, somewhere in one of Dan Gillmor's weblogs' comments*

Mine seems to have been sagging, and I apologize.

Saturday's Advice for citizen journalists post has been updated, rather substantially. Apologies, again...

Not unrelated, some wonderful comments in the discussion on this Pharyngula post - you should go and read them all, and the post that incited them, but here were some that struck me:
you can sit around glorying in your own smug superiority, or you can go out and influence people and change the world for the better. If you choose the latter course it pretty much mandates, on a humane *and* a strategic level, that you choose kindness, compassion and understanding.
...The fact that one person overcomes a given obstacle should not be translated into a moral demand that *everyone* faced with the same or similar obstacle also overcome it or be judged morally inferior for their inability...
1) Rudeness is an ineffective way to convince people. I don't believe you convince people to change their beliefs by belittling them and calling them stupid. You've raised the stakes: in order to change their mind now, the person also has to admit they were stupid, not merely mistaken. You've also identified yourself as an arrogant jerk who's viewpoint need not be taken seriously.
2) Rudeness is rude....
3) A skeptical attitude requires that you accept the possibility you could be wrong....
It's one thing to say that you find an assertion made by another so improbable that you must disbelieve it until evidence for it is presented. It is quite another to say that the assertion must be false because you don't think it can be true.
if what you mean by "credulous" is to believe things we can't prove, then we are all credulous in one way or another. If you find this point incredible, read Hume.... he points out the limits of our knowledge and how we routinely go beyond these limits. We have absolutely no knowledge of the future, for instance, but we all routinely and confidently state things about it that we can't prove.
The kinds of bad reasoning people typically fall prey to usually are at a level quite a bit above raw association, and much more interesting. The heuristics that make people reasonably smart in most situations have failure modes that make them stupid in others.
...People are smarter than you think, being smart is harder than you think, and you're not as smart as you think you are.
...If you're interested in winning an argument rather than provoking an unwinnable flame war, it's usually best to focus on that argument rather than berating and insulting people in an over-the- top way.
And this from Daniel Conover:
We're engaged in a messy business -- sorting out a jigsaw puzzle under a strobe light -- and periodically someone enters the room and throws a bunch of new pieces on the floor. That's modern civic life, dude. It is what it is, and if it looks all clean and clear to you, I'd suggest you're standing in the wrong room.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Don't let Congress ruin the Internet

Once again, the threat comes from within.

See Talking Points Memo (since you still can) on the Congressional bill that would set the stage for the demise of the web as we've known it.

"Brainy quotes" from John T. Doolittle:
The only way the Internet will continue to remain the thriving medium it has become today is to keep it under the control of the United States.*

we are sending a clear message to the U.N. and urging the Bush Administration to remain firm in its position that existing structures must continue to be maintained by the U.S. in order to preserve the stability and security of the Internet* has a map that lets you see your representatives' position on this bill. Unfortunately it uses Flash so I still don't know whether ours is for or against preserving the freedom and openness of the Internet.

(Is there anything that's not under threat in this era?)

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Advice for citizen journalists, with Doolittle-related illustration

May 9 and May 22 updates: for whatever reason, the story still doesn't appear to be online, at least not in The Union's archives for the day (Apr 18) it appeared in the paper.
April 25 Update: Big apologies to Q. I jumped the gun, I assumed intent where it did not exist. Much as it pains me to admit it, Michael (who took me to task for this in the comments) was right.

Sorry again Q.

The advice still holds, but the illustration doesn't.

so, what to do - leave the post in its current insulting (and cringe-inducing) form, or edit to make it acceptable (which would violate my stated blog policy of not papering over my faux pas after the fact)?

Answer: Both. I've edited it here, but have also posted it in its pre-edited form as a comment. (don't go there, you have better things to do with your time.)


The renovated post:

Be dense and rude (but politely so, by pointing out your denseness) when asking questions; limiting yourself to normal, intelligent and polite social exchanges will leave ambiguity that can hide a multitude of sins.

Here's an example of how ambiguity could be (but, in fact, wasn't) used to mislead:

I had wondered why The Union's "Doolittle's campaign raises almost $800,000" story from Tuesday hadn't appeared on their website, so I tried to find out.

I asked:
...why isn't yesterday's "Doolittle money raised" article online?...

The Associated Press does not allow us to post their stories online...

I followed up:
the article on the front page of the paper paper was bylined "The Union Staff". Not the AP. So was it really from the AP...?

If a staff member adds a sentence or two to an AP story, then we put staff byline. But we are still prevented from posting it.

OK, let's pause for a second.

What has the polite, reasonably intelligent citizen journalist learned from this exchange?
Likely this:
"The Doolittle story was from the Associated Press; a staff member modified it slightly, which changed the byline to "The Union Staff", but the story couldn't be published online due to The Union's arrangement with AP."


Not necessarily. Note that "this was an AP story" wasn't stated. If this omission had been deliberate, this would have been an instance of dishonest implicature* ("state something true and simultaneously implicate, in the context at hand, something false.")

(In fact the story does not appear to have been from AP; the closest corresponding AP "campaign fundraising reports" story, which was Erica Werner's 'Pombo has fundraising lead over GOP, Democratic opponents'*; see it here, here, or here, or compare it with The Union's story here.)

While we still don't know exactly why the story wasn't published online,
a) My respondent had nothing to do with it, and fully believed the "AP origin" theory;
b) There are innocent and likely reasons, which have been explained to me;
c) The Union editor Pat Butler - fresh from last week's vacation and no doubt now wishing for another one - has assured me that it will get published.
(however, as of May 9, it still hasn't been, that I could find.)
(and as of May 22, even after emailing him a query/reminder a while back, still haven't heard back from him or seen it published.)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Doolittle links

Let me know what I missed.

Bonus link: via TPM Muckraker, today's Washington Post editorial on Doolittle ("The arrangement couldn't smell more."):
Imagine that every time members of Congress received a $1,000 campaign contribution, they could skim $150 off the top and put it straight into their personal bank accounts. Sound shady? That is, in effect, how Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) and his wife, Julie, operate...

The Union Makes Headlines...

...from otherworldly fabric.

The Union reporter Josh Singer has an interesting story today
(since picked up by Talking Points Memo - Josh, you done good)
in which the Nevada County Republican Party Chairman and one other Party member defend John and Julie Doolittle's implementation of campaign finance.
(money quote, so to speak: "'As long as it's legal', it's ethical")

Perhaps even more interesting than the article is the headline The Union gave it: not "We located two active Nevada County Republicans (both Party apparachiks) who were willing to go on the record supporting Doolittle; neither holds public office"*
but rather
"County leaders rally around Doolittle."

It's like taking a "Climate in the Sierras is changing and boy are we screwed unless we change our ways now" story and titling it
"Mixed message on Sierra climate change".

Or like Tuesday's changing of a Washington Post article's title from
Donations for a Congressman, Profits for His Wife
Doolittle's wife sets up 'legal and ethical' fundraising firm.


Whodunit, and why? Enquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Run of Bloggers in Nevada City

News flash: Three of the four candidates running for the two open seats on Nevada City's City Council now have weblogs.

Incumbent Conley Weaver's blog starts off simple, with his campaign brochure.

Early this morning, incumbent Kerry Arnett burst upon the blogging scene with a volley of posts. So far it's still basic campaign stuff, but I suspect he's got a feeling for the tools and may take it far beyond that; perhaps even as far as Greensboro* Elected Official bloggers Sandy Carmany and Jeff Thigpen (and check out Thigpen's sidebar, which links to elected bloggers all over the country).

Challenger Barbara Coffman is the veteran of our pack; she's been blogging since last week. Her most recent posts cover two of last month's city council and planning commission meetings, peppered with her views of the proceedings.
(Bonus City Council coverage: Yubanet's Dorothy Talan-Quaid reports on Monday's Nevada City Council meeting. )

One contender, Sheila Stein, is still not blogging her candidacy.


Bonus new blog: this week Dixie Redfearn of The Union started her weblog.

A toast to our new bloggers (welcome Conley, Kerry, Barbara and Dixie!) and to the flourishing of online journalism (thank you Dot!)

and - the rest of you?

If you don’t explain yourself, you just invite others to do the explaining of you for you.*

If you're running for office in Nevada County and want to try blogging, operators are standing by - let me know and I'll set you up, and/or you can attend Russ Steele's "how to blog" class scheduled for next month.
(to contact me, you can either leave a comment here, or send email to ncfocus2003 at, putting this weblog's name somewhere in your email's subject: line.)



I know Barbara, and pretty much set up her blog, and helped set up her website*, and have provided (mostly unsolicited) "campaign advice" - basically this:
Be the candidate who goes beyond brochureware and photos, who takes the time and the risk to let the voters know exactly who and what they'll be voting for.

I've voted for Kerry and Conley in the past; I've contributed to Conley's and likely Kerry's campaigns in the past; I've spoken with Conley a very few times and don't think I've ever met Kerry.
And I initially* set up their blogs too, and have offered "weblog mechanic" help if they need it in future.

I've met Sheila very briefly, and offered to help her get started blogging as well.

(I've also suggested to everybody that enabling comments on their campaign weblog is likely premature. Large enthusiastic kudos to anyone with the cojones to do it, but for most, "one step at a time" eases the way into blogging, and for now, that's what we need.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Comforting the afflicted

(for context - see this Sacramento Bee editorial and TPM Muckraker's Doolittle posts)

Big Doolittle news day today for The Union - the paper paper (but nothing about it online *...) devotes a whopping fifteenth of the front page (below the fold) to
Doolittle's campaign raises almost $800,000

[front page]

The (illegible, sorry) sub-sub-hed at the bottom says

Doolittle's wife sets up fund-raising company
(five years old*, present tense and today's news)

and points inside, to this republished Washington Post article titled
Donations for a Congressman, Profits for His Wife

though in The Union it's been retitled:
[page 10]
Doolittle's wife sets up 'legal and ethical' fundraising firm
("legal and ethical" according to his spokesman, the only person quoted in the article)

Relevant blogs: Dump Doolittle and Nite Swimming

Saturday, April 15, 2006


From DC:
When principled conservatives whose first allegiance is to truth, honor and the Consitution finally accept that the war was a mishandled mistake, then there is no way back for this administration. ...Bush's approval ratings have a floor of about 35 percent -- Americans who, rather predictably, will support the President regardless of circumstances. So when Bush collects 38 percent approval, I figure that the 3 points above that base includes conservative Americans like my friends -- not people who see me as the enemy, but countrymen with different opinions.

And that 3 percent is far more important to the president's agenda than are his 35-percent base of Bush-cult believers. Because reasonable, credible citizens are persuasive...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

the men behind the curtain

...never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.*

Especially for principled conservatives, this barnburner from scientist/sci-fi author David Brin:
...A deep flaw - perhaps the most tragic in human nature - makes delusional hallucinators of us all, blinding our eyes to any evidence that runs counter to our favorite dogmas.... Even more urgent is the need to find excuses for our side, our team, our tribe.

... In much the same way that liberals felt torment over disowning the monsters on "their side" [ in 1947], so we now see decent conservatives writhing and twisting, like pretzels, in order to make excuses for rapacious kleptocrats, incompetent thugs, moronic armchair warriors, cynical spin doctors, conniving feudalists and screeching fanatics.

Are they truly loyal to such monsters?

...for the most part, top conservatives have either bought into the madness, or else grit their teeth and excuse it, by pointing to a strawman caricature of liberalism...

I do not believe that "decent conservative" is an oxymoron. I know plenty of them.
What appears to be an oxymoron is "courageous conservative." Find me more than a few with the guts to stand up for both their principles and their country...

From Bill Watson, managing editor of the Pocono Record:
A truly useful media would be finding out what is going on right now within the Bush administration to create the next huge crisis, the one that will force us to back this president yet again, past the seemingly immutable "no third term" amendment. It really doesn't take much imagination to take the pattern demonstrated so far and project it into a scenario that attempts to keep this group in power, either by putting us in a war so consequential we have no choice but to back the president, or creating a crisis that justifies imposition of martial law. It apparently does take more imagination than a lot of folks in the media have.
...Never are the people in authority so dangerous as when they are weakened. Everybody thinks Bush is toothless because his poll numbers are falling. It's actually the most dangerous thing that could happen.

Monday, April 10, 2006

That's absurd

It Can't Happen Here:
...[The] politician, a "Professional Common Man," executes his rise by relentlessly attacking the liberal media, fancy-talking intellectuals, shiftless progressives, pinkos, promiscuity, and welfare hangers-on, all the while clamoring for a return to traditional values, to love of country, to...when things made sense and Americans were indisputably American. He speaks almost entirely in... abstractions...Liberty, Freedom, Equality-and people love him...

Through a combination of factors-his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business; disorganization in the liberal opposition; a stuffy, aloof opponent; and support from religious fanatics who feel they've been unfairly marginalized)-he wins the presidential election.

Once in, he appoints his friends and political advisers to high-level positions, stocks the Supreme Court with "surprisingly unknown lawyers who called [him] by his first name," declaws Congress, allows Big Business to dictate policy, consolidates the media, and fills newspapers with "syndicated gossip from Hollywood."

Given the nature of "powerful and secret enemies" of America-who are "planning their last charge" to take away our freedom-an indefinite state of crisis is declared, and that freedom is stowed away for safekeeping. When the threat passes, we can have it back, but in the meantime, citizens are asked to "bear with" the president.

Sure, some say these methods are extreme, but the plain folks are tired of wishy-washy leaders, and feel the president's decisiveness is its own excuse. Besides, as one man says, a fascist dictatorship "couldn't happen here in America..."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

condemned to repeat it

From Kevin Drum's Political Animal:elsewhere on the web:
Once the institutions of sovereignty are destroyed in any state, especially one with a heterogeneous society, the odds are against any effort to build a stable alternative in the same generation. In the absence of effective central authority, all it takes is a small, determined minority to prevent unity. *

...the man who claimed to be the nation's leader ... was a simpleton, some said, a cartoon character of a man who saw things in black-and-white terms and didn't have the intellect to understand the subtleties of running a nation in a complex and internationalist world. His coarse use of language - reflecting his political roots in a southernmost state - and his simplistic and often-inflammatory nationalistic rhetoric offended the aristocrats, foreign leaders, and the well-educated elite in the government and media. And, as a young man, he'd joined a secret society with an occult-sounding name and bizarre initiation rituals that involved skulls and human bones.

Nonetheless, he knew the terrorist was going to strike (although he didn't know where or when), and he had already considered his response. When an aide brought him word that the nation's most prestigious building was ablaze, he verified it was the terrorist who had struck and then rushed to the scene and called a press conference.

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," he proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out building, surrounded by national media. "This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion - "a sign from God," he called it - to declare an all-out war on terrorism and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

Two weeks later, the first detention center for terrorists was built... In a national outburst of patriotism, the leader's flag was everywhere, even printed large in newspapers suitable for window display. Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation - in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it - that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.
To consolidate his power, he concluded that government alone wasn't enough. He reached out to industry and forged an alliance, bringing former executives of the nation's largest corporations into high government positions. A flood of government money poured into corporate coffers to fight the war against the Middle Eastern ancestry terrorists lurking within the homeland, and to prepare for wars overseas. He encouraged large corporations friendly to him to acquire media outlets and other industrial concerns across the nation ...*
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.*
I think we can all agree that the entire country needs a civics lesson--from our spineless, spinning, self-absorbed politicians to our greedy corporate chieftains to our ideological and intolerant zealots on all sides of the political spectrum who gum up any chance we have for honest democratic debate about how we will organize society and live our lives.
...the argument newspaper people make about how important it is to read a newspaper in order to be civic-minded would be a lot stronger if it were more crucial to read a newspaper in order to be civic-minded. And it would be nice if the media would do a better job of stepping up to the occasion at those times when it is really crucial to do its democratic duty--on the brink of war, for example.*

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Russ Steele on future local fallout from Google Earth

Russ has an interesting post today, pointing out that the (CNN-reported) use of Google Earth by insurance companies to view homeowners' brush clearance efforts (to detect noncompliers and cancel their policies) will be coming to Nevada County sometime soon*.

So expect a chainsaw serenade in Nevada County this spring, should it ever arrive.

This page (Sept 2004 archive) contains links to Nevada County Fire Plan news articles, rough summary of the recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, and the gist of an LA Times article on our fire plan.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fish seizure, and shameless namedropping

Carpe diem -
Today's news-making late-Devonian fish out of water (and adapting to land) was siezed by paleontologists* Neil Shubin and Farish Jenkins; I went to school with the former, we took human anatomy from the latter.

Eons ago.

Some lessons learned:
  • Neil is in a whole different ballpark from Anna
  • Hands are really cool when you know what lies beneath.
  • There's a rotary (ok, "roundabout") in your brain; fortunately the blood cells navigate with consummate skill, so accidents are rare.
  • When choosing your cadaver, get a man, since voluptuous curves come from subcutaneous fat which is miserable to deal with.*

a quote from that bygone era -
"enough to strain the imagination of even a paleontologist..."

from Jon Carroll

Mass propaganda discerned that its audience...did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.
- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
(quoted by j.c. here)

and on racism:
I am [a racist]; everyone is. We judge people by the color of their skins, as well as by their clothing, their speech patterns, their age, all sorts of stuff that has nothing to do with the content of their characters. Some of us send out little microphages to eat up the free-floating racism in our systems, but that's only partially successful. The test is not who we are but what we do. We cannot help the hard-wired fear of the Other, but we can damn well help the behavior generated by that fear.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Annexing 'Unclaimed Territory'

Added Unclaimed Territory to the blogroll (to your left).

a sample (via):
The blind faith placed in the Federal Government, and particularly in our Commander-in-Chief, by the contemporary "conservative" is the very opposite of all that which conservatism has stood for for the last four decades. The anti-government ethos espoused by Barry Goldwater and even Ronald Reagan is wholly unrecognizable in Bush followers, who - at least thus far - have discovered no limits on the powers that ought to be vested in George Bush to enable him to do good on behalf of all of us.

And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Why is Jeff Ackerman trolling?

Updates appended.

In online communities, writing like that of The Union's publisher is called "trolling"#. It's a form of attention-seeking behavior; much like stirring a hornet's nest, it's intended to rile the readers and maximize the ensuing swarm, indignation and disruption.

Why is he doing it? Here are some possibilities:
  • he has issues. (but see 7/2010 update at bottom of post)
  • It's deliberate and calculated.
    1. to distract from the real news - likely of Doolittle and Klein, the ramifications of which could be extensive.
      or, worse yet, #Bush
    2. Perhaps he's leaving, and is thumbing his nose at the community* on his way out.
    3. Readership. A short term readership spike would make the circulation numbers look a little less bad.
      (Comparing target area households' subscription rates in The Union's 2005 and 2006 Advertising Rate Cards*:
      • 50.00% in 2005
        (15735 "Union households" out of 31469 "total households")
      • 33.25% in 2006
        (13988 "Union households" out of 42066 "total households")

Not that you asked, but my money's on "deliberate" and "Doolittle". Yours?
Apr 3 updates:

Wikipedia, for the moment at least, on internet trolls:
a troll is someone who comes into an established community...and posts inflammatory, rude or offensive messages designed to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion

For many people, the characterising feature of trolling is the perception of intent to disrupt a community in some way. Inflammatory, sarcastic, disruptive or humorous content is posted, meant to draw other users into engaging the troll in a fruitless confrontation. The greater the reaction from the community the more likely the user is to troll again, as the person develops beliefs that certain actions achieve his/her goal to cause chaos.

On George Bush -
The worst - Feb 12 NYTimes lead article, linked and quoted in a comment here:
We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers - and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.
This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence... [domestic spying...the prison camps...the war in Iraq...]

Apr 4 update: looks like somebody whipped out the Troll-B-Gone - Jeff's column for today is a different beast entirely.
(although his argument overlooked something)
(although the above-linked "something" may not be accurate, goes against GV's policy of not raising fees for projects once they get into the pipeline)(?)

7/2010 update/clarification: re "having issues", I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who doesn't; it is pretty much the human condition.