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rebecca's pocket

.: 2004 --> august


@ Who says there's no bounce? (Interestingly, though, some states, Ohio, Nevada, and Oregon, for example are now stronger for Bush/weaker for Kerry than they were before. Click the first link, and then click 'Previous Report' to toggle between them.) The summary beneath the map is worth reading for an overview. Also, Electoral College are starting an RSS feed as of today for those of you who prefer that method of online reading.
[ 08/03/04 ]

@ Sony informs me that my only option to repair my VAIO notebook is to send it to San Diego for a 10-15 day turnaround. Can anyone recommend a reliable repair center in San Francisco, or give me some feedback on their experience with using the authorized option? (Remove the caps to make it a real email address.) Thanks.
[ 08/03/04 ]

@ I have begun writing up, in no particular order, my memories of the Democratic National Convention. The first installment is up. I hope to add a little every day, as I have time, and I'll note here whenever I update. If and when I can generate an RSS feed for the page, I'll note that as well.
[ 08/03/04 ]

@ In a CJR Campaign Desk interview, The New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch makes some brilliant observations about this year's campaign coverage.

There were those two articles recently on the Bush campaign's war room, and they found that reporters, when asked, said yes, we had not picked up on these quibbles and these lines in speeches until those complaints were fed to us by the Bush people. So there's a real difficulty in trying to discern in the press coverage what are the judgments or assessments of Kerry as Kerry without the Bush spin. It's a tough one because the Bush spin is part of the equation -- it's not like you can totally subtract it -- but identify it, please. You know, "in a line flagged by the Bush campaign, in a line flagged by the RNC." ...
[Another] big mistake I think the press makes: They call anything that isn't a strict policy issue "character," when often it's personality. There's a big difference.

[ 08/03/04 ]

@ Doris Haddock walked from California to Washington DC at age 89 in an attempt to dramatize the public demand for campaign finance reform. Now she is running for the Senate. Her latest speech is thoughtful and pointed and very, very wise.

Four years ago I looked at the poison of big business support for the major candidates and I advised my friends to vote their hearts, to let the chips fall where they might, on the theory that, even if their third party candidate lost, they would be building a constituency for such candidates in the future. [...]
While none of us knew how bad it would be, those of us who spoke out on the issue had an obligation to do our homework--to know more about the hidden agendas of the candidates.
I still believe we must vote our hearts, but we must inform our hearts.

[ 08/03/04 ]

@ Goodness. As Josh Marshall tells it, the saga of the forged Niger-Iraq uranium documents is a real life spy novel.
[ 08/03/04 ]

@ There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.

A recent study funded by NASA's Earth Science Department shows that the tiny sea plants release high quantities of cloud-forming compounds on days when the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays are especially strong. The compounds evaporate into the air through a series of chemical processes that result in especially reflective clouds. This, in turn, blocks the radiation from bothering the phytoplankton.

(thanks, Chris!)
[ 08/03/04 ]

@ Hybrid cars that generate electricity. (via boingboing)

So, you're thinking of buying one of those gas-electric hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight. They're trendy, conserve fuel, and reduce pollution. But to really go "green," some entrepreneurs and academics say, you should try a Volkswagen Jetta. Not just any Jetta. A dark blue one that a California electric-car company has modified so that it not only uses electricity but generates it for other purposes. So, once it's parked, you plug it in and sell excess electricity to a utility.

[ 08/03/04 ]

@ The Google Guide to Searching (via randomwalks and
[ 08/03/04 ]

@ Today's DNC installment: Ben Affleck, VIPs, and interstitials.
[ 08/04/04 ]

@ I wonder what they talked about after the camera was turned off? I spent the entire convention wanting to introduce these two (neither of whom I actually met) because I figured they might have some things in common. But does anyone else feel a little uncomfortable about this quote? [more...]

No way a woman would ever come between men.

Is that just a teeny-weeny bit...well, dismissive? I admire the desire to approach the man, not his past, but that sentence really lays it on the line, doesn't it? I feel put in my place.
[ 08/04/04 ]

@ Today's DNC installment: FOX News, celebrity hijinks, campaign lingo, and Saigon.
[ 08/05/04 ]

@ Dave is reflecting on his experiences at the DNC. He's right, it was an amazing experience.
[ 08/05/04 ]

@ Over at PressThink, Jay Rosen is conducting a thoughtful post-convention debriefing. If you have any questions about his experience, now is the time to ask.
[ 08/05/04 ]

@ Via Value Judgment, a proportional map (scroll down) of national poll results to put next to Electoral Vote. Update: For comparison, the proportional map Dan Hartung created after the 2000 election.
[ 08/05/04 ]

@ In Lesotho, boys go to farm while girls hit the books

...for years, Tankiso kept track of his wards not by counting to see if they were all there, but by color and shape. Tankiso is about 17 years old, but until he started attending government-run evening classes a few months ago, he couldn't count to 10, write his name or read a sign. [...]
Lesotho is one of only a handful of countries in the world where proportionately girls go to school more than boys. In most poor countries, families' scarce resources are used to educate their sons. Girls are kept home for lack of school fees or sent out to work to raise money to pay for their brothers' books and uniforms.
But here in Lesotho... boys as young as seven or eight forgo the lessons of the classroom for lonely days in the country's golden pasturelands. Unicef estimates that 20 percent of boys may be herding instead of attending school.

[ 08/05/04 ]

@ Summer Reading List Blues.

I can't imagine how I would have fared if I had been asked back then to read the hard-hitting books on current summer reading lists. Like many parents of fourth- to seventh-graders today, I wasn't asked; none of these books had been written yet. Take a look, and you'll find that resting and roaming are not key experiences in many of the "young adult" novels on the lists. Less common too is "suggested" reading. "In September," reads an addendum to a summer book list handed out to sixth-graders in a nearby school, "you will be given a computer-generated test on your summer reading. This will count as 20 percent of your grade, or two quiz scores."
The required books... tend not to be about children having adventures or fighting foes in slightly enchanted realms, as the young characters do in, say, "A Wrinkle in Time," the 1962 classic by Madeleine L'Engle. Instead, they depict children who must "come to terms," "cope with" and "work through" harsh realties. [...]
As a group, these books are well written; they have some complex characters and subplots, and are rich in cultural description. But the angst and crash landings of the books is what sticks with you. A 10-year-old attending the creative arts program I run told me, "Those books give me a headache in my stomach."

[ 08/05/04 ]

@ How much plant life do we use? Unrelated question: When does a piece of data go from being a factoid to being a fact?
[ 08/05/04 ]

@ The Hearst Ranch Conservation Plan: Conservation Coup or Developer's Deal?

With details unveiled last week and a brief comment period open before state agencies act, one longtime California conservationist calls the tentative plan "the deal of the century. A leading national environmental group spokesman calls it a "bald-faced, end-run development plan masquerading as a conservation deal."
Either way, national land trust experts say it is an example of the increasing trend by local and state governments to make complicated compromises that may irk purists but protect far more land than fund-strapped public entities and conservation groups can afford.

[ 08/05/04 ]

@ Query: Return the list of all people not on lists.

KnowItAll, a search engine under development at the University of Washington, Seattle, trawls the web for data and then collates it in the form of a list. The approach is unique, says its developer, Oren Etzioni, because it generates information that probably does not exist on any single web page.
The US Department of Defense's research arm, DARPA, and Google, are so impressed that they are providing funding for the project.

As you might have guessed, the head of this research project is the son of Communitarian Amitai Etzioni.
[ 08/05/04 ]

@ Today's DNC installment: Baby boomers, infrastructure, and the Quintessential Convention Experience.
[ 08/06/04 ]

@ Money changes everything. Remember when weblog politics were nasty because the stakes were so small? Strangely, the subtext of this story--one weblog impresario trying desperately to discredit a significant rival--is almost more prominent than the main 'story'. Calacanis comes off so much the worst that I wonder if the reporter resented being played in this way. You already know my solution: transparency. (via dangerousmeta)
[ 08/06/04 ]

@ Good News! Last year, there were 18% fewer refugees in the world.

"What is telling is that there is a focus on durable solutions for refugees with an increasing emphasis on safe and sustainable returns to home countries. That is what's underlying this trend," says Pierre Bertrand, deputy director of [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] New York office. "The large number of peace processes in progress offers opportunities for return of a sizable number of refugees." [...]
Tightening borders in developed countries - in the wake of Sept. 11 and a global economic downturn - means that the option of seeking asylum is also generally in decline. This is particularly true in the European Union, which has moved toward streamlining and in effect toughening asylum criteria among members.

The 2003 Global Refugee Trends Report [pdf] is available online.
[ 08/06/04 ]

@ Debra Jones: Critical Thinking in an Online World

In a rapidly evolving information technology era, librarians find their foundations of professionalism shaken. Critically evaluating the intrinsic role of the librarian reveals our responsibility for the education of independent information seekers. Using the model of the expert and apprentice, librarians need to focus on the teaching of critical thinking skills, over and above the more mechanistic skills of evaluation of resources and mastery of search tools. The design of instruction in a situated learning environment, utilizing constructivist tenets and a self-directed inquiry based approach leads to higher order cognitive skills and applicable, transferable learning. An instructional design project for teaching critical thinking skills in the evaluation of online resources is described as an example curriculum?

[ 08/06/04 ]

@ Fay Wray has passed on.

Over the years, Miss Wray said, she came to feel that Kong had "become a spiritual thing to many people, including me."
"Although he had tremendous strength and power to destroy, some kind of instinct made him appreciate what he saw as beautiful," she said in a 1993 interview. "Just before he dies, he reaches toward me, but can't quite reach. The movie affects males of all ages. Recently, a 6-year-old boy said to me, 'I've been waiting to meet you for half my life.'"

[ 08/06/04 ]

@ Today's DNC installment: Food, status, and pattern photo essays.
[ 08/09/04 ]

@ Today's DNC installment: Fire trucks, al-Jazeera, and balloons.
[ 08/10/04 ]

@ She Blinded Me News: You've been hearing a lot in the last few years about participatory media and citizen journalism. You know what interests me more? Citizen science. (via worldchanging) [more...]

"On a 100-acre farm in Middleborough, Mass., Betty Anderson has been taking notes for more than 50 years. "The first thing I do in the morning when I get up - besides getting myself a cup of coffee or tea - is look at the thermometer, and write down the temperature, the weather, and whatever interests me that day."
"In countless "Daily Reminder" books, she has noted when the wood ducks return each spring and tracked the growth and flowering of plants in her garden."

The Audubon Society has been doing something like this for decades. They even have a section on their site entitled 'Citizen Science' which includes two projects: their 104-year-old annual Christmas Bird Count and their 7-year-old Backyard Bird Count, which happens in February.

It's a longstanding American tradition. In the 1800s, two of my ancestors recorded the weather on their farm every day for most of their adult lives--and then, late in life, sent the data to the Smithsonian Institution.
[ 08/10/04 ]

@ Rafe cracks me up. I can only imagine the 'home computer defense drills'....
[ 08/10/04 ]

@ Is Big Business Becoming Big Brother? According to a recent report from the ACLU, government--which is strictly regulated to protect the basic privacy and civil liberties of US citizens--has begun using information collected by unregulated private industries to augment its surveillance work.

The report listed three ways in which government agencies obtain data from the private sector: by purchasing the data, by obtaining a court order or simply by asking for it. Corporations freely share information with government agencies because they don't want to appear to be unpatriotic, they hope to obtain future lucrative Homeland Security contracts with the government or they fear increased government scrutiny of their business practices if they don't share.
But corporations aren't the only ones giving private data to the government. In 2002, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors voluntarily gave the FBI the names and addresses of some 2 million people who had studied scuba diving in previous years. And a 2002 survey found that nearly 200 colleges and universities gave the FBI information about students. Most of these institutions provided the information voluntarily without having received a subpoena.

In 1972 Elliot Richardson, Nixon's Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary, created a commission to study the impact of computers on privacy. In 1973 they issued a report that included a Code of Fair Information Practices. According to Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel, in the years following the report, 'practically every European country passed laws based on these principles.' Not the United States, though. I sure wish we would. As Garfinkel wisely points out in his book:

After all, US companies doing business in Europe, Canada, and many other countries already have to follow privacy laws based on these principles. These firms are disingenuous when they say that legislation protecting privacy would be an unacceptable hindrance to their business.

(thanks, neil!)
[ 08/10/04 ]

@ By comparison, May 2004 interview with law professor and author Jeffrey Rosen is focused on the tradeoffs individuals are willing to make in exchange for a perceived sense of security. In this case, many people testing a high-tech X-ray machine preferred that security personnel view an anatomically correct image of them rather than one with genitalia blurred, because it made them feel safer--even though the more modest image is just as effective as the explicit one. Here's the telling point: [more...]

What people really care about is not privacy, per se, but control over the conditions of their exposure. The same people who say they're afraid of having their market data misused are perfectly happy to put up webcams or have blogs. And the same people who resist surveillance cameras may be relatively willing to expose their personal data to direct marketers on the theory that they may get efficiencies in return.

But this story comes around to the same point as the last:

Our statutory and constitutional law is very ill-equipped to deal with the challenge of government piggybacking on private data collection. Almost all of the restraints are directed exclusively to government, and when the government essentially uses the private sector as a proxy, much of the cooperation is unregulated. What makes it all the more challenging is that the same conservative libertarians in Congress who are instinctively suspicious of government surveillance (and who helped defeat proposals like one for a national ID card) are also enthusiastic free-market types who resist any government regulation of the private sector.

If you're interested in how security works--and the 'security measures' that only make us feel safer--let me point you again to Bruce Schneier's excellent and very readable Beyond Fear. (thanks, jim!)
[ 08/10/04 ]

@ Just one woman's opinion....

Q: Is Orkut really the very slowest website on the entire World Wide Web?
A: Why, yes. Yes it is.

[ 08/10/04 ]

@ The prospect of a tied electoral college has been getting a lot of play this week. Since this would result in a state-by-state vote by the House of Representatives, it would result in another Bush administration. But everyone has left out an important detail--except for [more...]

While the Democrats have a chance to recapture the majority of seats in the House, they have no chance in the world to capture a majority of the state delegations, especially since a number of the states in the West have one or two (well-entrenched) Representatives. Thus if the electoral college is tied and the House votes, Bush wins. However, all is not lost for the Democrats. The Senate picks the Vice President, so if the Democrats pick up the two seats needed to recapture the Senate, we get a hybrid administration: Bush-Edwards. And don't forget, the Vice President's one constitutional power is to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate. It could get real dicey.

Dicey, indeed. Read on for a quick projection on the outcome of just one faithless voter.
[ 08/11/04 ]

@ Anatomy of a Smear. A former manager for the McCain campaign recalls that campaign's most famous smear. You need to know how this works.

It didn't take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa's orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her. Bridget has dark skin.
Anonymous opponents used "push polling" to suggest that McCain's Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if the "pollster" determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.
Thus, the "pollsters" asked McCain supporters if they would be more or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child who was black. In the conservative, race-conscious South, that's not a minor charge. We had no idea who made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.

I don't understand why the press doesn't expose this sort of thing--as in hammer the facts of the matter and the scurrilousness of the ad itself until the entire country knows about it, and knows every detail. The press is perfectly happy to hammer on all sorts of other things. If they made a mission of exposing these tactics, we'd soon see an end to it. It would hurt the candidates too badly nationwide. (thanks, lizard!)
[ 08/11/04 ]

@ Terrific.

Now, though, it seems that the TCPA is under a very subtle and sneaky form of attack. Changes to the law as proposed in S.2603, a bill euphemistically called the "Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2004," would essentially gut the existing law and legalize unsolicited fax advertisements as long as the receiving party does not explicitly request that they be stopped.

Call your congressman.
[ 08/12/04 ]

@ Progress or Regress? Is the new breed of video games racially stereotyped, or simply a reflection of popular culture? [more...]

"They are nothing more than pixilated minstrel shows," said Joe Morgan, a telecommunications executive in Manhattan who is black and is helping rear his girlfriend's 7-year-old son, who plays video games. Mr. Morgan argues that games like the Grand Theft Auto sequel, which was described glowingly and at length in a game magazine the boy recently brought home, are dangerously reinforcing stereotypes.
"A lot of young people are unable to discern between reality and satirical depictions," he said. "It makes them very vulnerable." [...]
Video game developers counter that no offense is intended. They say their games are simply parodies, or a reflection of a sort of "browning'' of popular culture that transcends race and sells to all in a marketplace captivated by hip-hop styles, themes and attitude.

I don't know enough about these games or gaming culture to make a solid judgment, though Mr. Morgan's observation about young people is absolutely correct.

But this story highlights a larger cultural dilemma. At some point in any disenfranchised group's movement toward full inclusion, progress becomes confusingly similar to regression. Let me put it another way: outsider culture becomes normalized when it is internalized by the dominant culture. For the dominant culture, the 'other' becomes 'us'.

It seems inevitable to me that in the beginning of this movement, it becomes harder, not easier, for the 'others' to judge who is friend and who is foe; who is laughing with us and who is laughing at us; who is identifying with us and who is pointing at us; who is Us, and who is Them.

Do these games glorify violence? Absolutely. Do they glorify gang culture? Apparently so. Is that inherently racist?
[ 08/12/04 ]

@ Compare and Contrast: The hilarious Barbie Liberation Organization.
[ 08/12/04 ]

@ Progress or Regress Remix: Some of my happiest times were spent in dark clubs, surrounded by dark-clad people listening to darkwave and 80's music and smoking clove cigarettes. But even I have been somewhat disturbed, upon returning home, to find the 'alternative stations' playing, in very heavy rotation, The Cure, Morrisey--and Tears for Fears. There's even talk of something new by Duran Duran. Can New Order be far behind?
[ 08/12/04 ]

@ DNT 4GET UR OUTPATIENT APPNTMT: UK hospitals embrace SMS to communicate with patients.
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Just lovely: A Vacation With Ghosts.
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ One of my heroes, Julia Child, is dead. More than her expertise, I loved and admired her great enthusiasm for her craft--indeed, for life itself. I will miss her.
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Bordeaux has long been synonymous with 'fine wine'. But high debt, changing tastes, and an arcane naming system has many small Bordeaux winemakers facing huge losses.

The abyss between the generic business and the tight, small world of the famous classified growths is vast. "There are two Bordeaux," said Jean-Guillaume Prats, the managing director of the renowned Château Cos d'Estournel, in the commune of St.-Estèphe. The top chateau owners, he said, "sold out our 2003's at outrageous prices, while right next door there are people who are not surviving." Staring glumly out a window at the chateau's vines stretching down to the muddy Gironde River, he said one case of his wines sold for as much as 100 cases of generic Bordeaux. (In New York, futures for the 2003 Cos are now bringing $165 a bottle.) And even then, he said, "there is no interest in the generic wine."

[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Sugar has disappeared from the new Food Pyramid guidelines, and for the first time whole grains are being recommended as a healthful replacement for refined grains. I wonder what Walter Willett will say about this iteration?
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has just acquired two 'natural living' magazines, further diluting--and extending--the Martha Stewart brand.
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Koko, the signing gorilla, has been suffering some tooth pain. When she asked for help, her trainers took the opportunity to give her a full physical exam. [more...]

Her teacher, Francine Patterson, was at her side when the anesthesiologist prepared to put her under in the morning, and apparently Koko asked to meet her specialists. They crowded around her, and Koko, who plays favorites, asked one woman wearing red to come closer. The woman handed her a business card, which Koko promptly ate.

I wonder if she ever speaks in her mate's behalf?
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Another one of my heroes, Mr. Rogers, visited Koko in 1998 for a week of programming on inclusion. Of course, he had something very wise to say:

"Once you get to know people (or our close primate relatives, gorillas), you find that there is much more to them than what you see when you look at their 'outsides.' It's the heart and not just the eyes that discover what's real about us."

I miss him, too.
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ I just discovered this wonderful and fascinating account of Mr Roger's career on, of all places, It includes an account of Mr. Roger's appearance before a Senate committee on behalf of public broadcasting, and an amazing exchange between him and 'the notoriously gruff and impatient Senator John O. Pastore'.

Senator Pastore: All right Rogers, you got the floor.
Fred Rogers: Senator Pastore, this is a philosophical statement [motioning to a text copy of the essay he'd submitted] and would take about ten minutes to read, so I'll not do that. One of the first things that a child learns in a healthy family is trust, and I trust what you've said, that you'll read this. It's very important to me, I care deeply about children, my first--
Senator Pastore: [interrupting] Will it make you happy if you read it?
Fred Rogers: I'd -- just like to talk about it, if it's all right --
Senator Pastore: [interrupting] Fine.

You'll love the whole thing.
[ 08/13/04 ]

@ Wow. Howard Dean is still right. [more...]

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush's contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.
Now is the time for the world community to act if they are serious about encouraging an enlightened leadership role for the United States. My challenge to the U.N. and Europe is simple: if you don't like American diplomacy under George Bush, then do something to show those of us in opposition here in the U.S. that you can behave in such a way that unilateralism is not necessary.

(via medley)
[ 08/16/04 ]

@ Compare and Contrast: The vice-presidential stylings of candidates Cheney and Edwards. Fabulous.
[ 08/16/04 ]

@ The Curious Fate of Populism: How Politics Turned Into Pose.

In recent articles the word has been applied to Michael Moore, John Edwards, Garth Brooks, Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fox News, Burger King, Donald Trump, Muktada al-Sadr, the Google initial public stock offering and Oscar de la Renta's new mid-price fashion line.
In the course of things, "populism" has lost not just its capital letter, but its connection to the sense of "the people" that the name was derived from. That's "the people," not as the populace or the citizenry, but as what William Jennings Bryan described as the "unnumbered throng" who were oppressed by the corporations, the money interests and the trusts, "aggregated wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant, compassionless." [...]
"What divides America is authenticity, not something hard or ugly like economics," as Thomas Frank suggests in What's the Matter With Kansas?, a look at how the new populism has captured the imagination of the state that gave birth to the old one.

[ 08/16/04 ]

@ Phil Agre: What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? This is worth reading all the way through no matter where you fall on the political spectrum--if only to discern whether and why you agree or disagree. Agre's 'prescriptions' for the Democratic party are smart, commonsensical--and frank.

Now, many liberals argue that the Democratic Party would magically start winning again if it would only move to the left. This is lazy nonsense. The Democratic Party has moved to the right for the simple reason that liberals do not have a language that wins elections. To take over the Democratic Party, liberals need to replace the left-wing policies that do not work and, for the policies that do work, get a language that moves 51% of likely voters to vote Democratic.
Other liberals argue that the Democratic Party, and the "system" in general, are irretrievably broken, and that they must build a third party, such as the Green Party with its endorsement of Ralph Nader. The difficulties with this notion are hard to count. For one, splitting the left is a certain recipe for centuries of aristocratic domination. For another, building a party with only people who share your opinions to the nth degree is a certain recipe for factionalism and isolation. For another, the Green Party is a chaotic mess that has no serious chance of becoming a mass-based political party.

[ 08/16/04 ]

@ I just love this. And I really wish I'd seen it. (via brad delong)
[ 08/16/04 ]

@ When a descendant of one of Seattle's founding familes created a presentation for her son's class, it awakened in her much more than an interest in family history. It inspired her to say thank you to the descendants of the Native American tribe that had helped her family survive.

Soon, the idea Johnson had envisioned as a small gathering on Alki Beach with "maybe 25 people at most" swelled into the formal "Coming Full Circle" ceremony that brought more than 250 people together at the Museum of History & Industry on July 31.
The event -- replete with Native singing and drumming, gift presentations, oral histories, speeches and a reception -- for the first time brought several tribal and pioneer descendants together.
"It was uplifting for everyone who was there," says Hansen, the tribal chairwoman. "That they would think of saying thank you after so long just warms my heart."
Among an array of symbolic gifts given to the tribe, Hansen noted, was a bottle of clam juice -- a drink that more than 150 years earlier the Duwamish had given to a stricken pioneer mother to help her nursing baby survive.

[ 08/16/04 ]

@ The developing world has always found much use for Western castoffs--in this case, for abandoned shipping containers. I love this quote:

"I like this job, because it's the only one that I can do."

And you know what? In a profound way, that right there is the secret to a happy life.
[ 08/16/04 ]

@ Today's DNC installment: Jackbooted singers, institutional knowledge, and celebrity assaults.
[ 08/18/04 ]

@ For me, has become a must-visit site--it's simply one of the most useful election-year sites available. Now the votemaster is asking for support. Please consider linking the site on your own weblog, passing the URL to your friends, or making a donation to support this work.
[ 08/19/04 ]

@ Children from families with working mothers have significantly different expectations of their role in their own relationships.

For example, men with working mothers expected to put 12 hours more a week into child care than the sons of homemakers. And women with stay-at-home moms thought they'd do 10 hours more a week of child care than the daughters of employed mothers.
Young women whose mothers don't hold jobs also expect to be spending the most time with their spouses; men with homemaker moms visualized the least time with wives. "They may see her as spending time with the children instead," Riggio says.

[ 08/19/04 ]

@ The Dirty Dozen: 12 Most and Least Pesticide Contaminated Foods. PS--Washing Fruits and Vegetables. (Both of these links live on my cooking page.)
[ 08/19/04 ]

@ The latest child-rearing controversy: disciplining children with a drop of hot sauce on the tongue. [more...]

Tim Kimmel, a parenting expert who said he approaches parenting from an evangelical Christian perspective, has heard from parents that hot sauce works well. But he does not approve. "Just because something works, that doesn't mean it's a good idea," said Kimmel, author of Grace-Based Parenting.
"Fear can be very effective as a discipline technique, but it's overkill. You haven't corrected the problem, and it means nothing in terms of building character. Our job as parents is to build character, not to adjust behavior."
Lisa Whelchel, actress [ed note: yes] and author of Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, defends the practice.
"A correction has to hurt a little," she said. "An effective deterrent has to touch the child in some way. I don't think Tabasco is such a bad thing." Her book suggests a "tiny" bit of hot sauce be used, and offers alternatives such as lemon juice and vinegar.

Honestly, the customer reviews of Ms. Whelchel's book give me the willies.
[ 08/19/04 ]

@ Japan struggles to reverse a puzzling new wave of youth violence. [lots more...]

On a cloudless afternoon in this sleepy port city, an 11-year-old girl drenched in blood and clutching a box cutter walked into the lunchroom at her elementary school. Teachers and students froze, assuming the sixth-grader known for her lighthearted nature had gravely hurt herself -- but she quickly dispelled that impression, witnesses said, by uttering a few chilling words: "This is not my blood."

This is a familiar story, and shares one of the themes from the series of hand-wringing articles from the years following the Columbine massacre: do the Internet and video games create killers? I'm glad to see that, in this article at least, that trope has been toned down to ask what role those elements might play in these crimes. Though I don't recall the details, I remember a similar wave of handwringing in the 80s (?) about violent movies and television.

Let me be clear: It is insane to dismiss out of hand the power of all forms of media to influence behavior--otherwise what are all those advertisers paying for? I think we are, to some extent, lobsters in a pot of heating water, adjusting incrementally to an increasingly toxic environment. But this isn't an either/or proposition. Does media influence the street or does the street influence the media? Yes and yes. I'm inclined to believe that an equally powerful factor is the the media's ability to publicize and thus normalize this behavior as a viable alternative (in effect, creating behavioral epidemics).

Conclusion? I don't have one. I believe in the power of personal responsibility, but I also understand that each of us chooses from among a discrete set of behaviors in dealing with the world, some of which are hardwired, and some of which are learned.
[ 08/19/04 ]

@ In spite of perceptions to the contrary, in the United States, school violence has been going down since the 1960s, and most violence directed at children comes from--can you guess?--adults. In fact, [more...]

The spate of school shootings in the late 1990s is instructive. At Columbine, which seemed to make television assignment editors nearly insane, 12 students and one teacher were killed. That is fewer children killed than die every two days in family violence in the United States - one group called it "a Columbine a day." Yet journalism treats child murders at home routinely while giving white-hot coverage to school shootings. The exception becomes the rule. [...]
For further information see a report by the Justice Policy Institute.... [ed note: produced in 1998; See also their followup report produced in 2000.] Among its findings: "The number of children killed by gun violence in schools is about half the number of Americans killed annually by lightning strikes."

From the 1998 report:

Child Deaths in America in Context, 1997-98

Do you suspect a child in your vicinity is being abused? For pity's sake, speak to his or her teacher, principal, pastor, or a neighbor to compare notes--and then intervene.
[ 08/19/04 ]

@ In April, WorldChanging linked to a bioregional quiz called Where You At Today? The questions are quite thought-provoking, particularly for a life-long city-dweller like me. 'Trace the water you drink from rainfall to tap' to 'Name five native edible plants here and the season(s) that they are available.' to 'How many days till the moon is full?'--any farmer or outdoorsman would surely have more luck with this than I. I can't help feeling that my grandparents and great-grandparents, living in the early half of the last century, would have scored higher than I did, too. Family stories tell me that even town-dwellers in those times lived closer to the earth than I ever have. [more...]

Looking around, I've found several other versions, all of which share a majority of questions with a few variations:

I also found a longer list of questions partially based on the original quiz.

This list of questions would make a wonderful spine on which to hang a science class curriculum, don't you think? For that matter, I think filling in the list would make a swell New Year project for me.
[ 08/20/04 ]

@ A ton of weekend reading: The Ecological Footprint of Nations 2004 [pdf] takes a stab at quantifying the resource usage of the nations of the world. Not surprisingly, humanity's total ecological footprint increased between 1999 and 2000. I have to believe this will only continue to increase: China and India's increased use of petroleum is going to have a significant impact. [more...]

Additionally, this report places nations' ecological footprints in nice perspective, contrasting the use factors for high, middle, and low income nations. The highest proportion of resource use for each of these is, respectively, Fossil fuels, at 53.72%, Fossil fuels, at 39.55%, and Cropland at 39.68%.

In addition to this report, you may be interested in the 1997 Ecological Footprints of Nations: How Much Nature Do They Use? -- How Much Nature Do They Have?

When the Earth Summit concluded at Rio in 1992, the world was challenged to lessen its impact on the Earth. Five years later, we live in a riskier world with more people, more consumption, more waste and more poverty, but with less biodiversity, less forest area, less available fresh water, less soil, and less stratospheric ozone layer. We all know that we are further away from sustainability. But how far?
If we cannot measure, we cannot manage. To make sustainability a reality, we must know where we are now, and how far we need to go. We need measuring rods to track progress. The good news is that since Rio, these essential tools for governance, business management and grassroots organising have made substantial headway (see Box 2). This report uses one of them. Here we use the ecological footprint concept to assess the sustainability of nations.

And of course, what you're really wondering about: the ranks of the various countries.

Table 1 summarises the results of our calculations. Countries with footprints lower than 1.7 hectares per person have a global impact that could be replicated by everybody without putting the planet's ecological long-term capacity at risk.
However, some countries are particularly well endowed with ecological capacity. As a consequence, they may be able to sustain their citizens at a higher level of resource throughput. We measure the extent to which this is possible by comparing their ecological footprints (second number column of Table 1) with the biologically productive space available within each country, including the share of sea space (third number column of Table 1). For example, the Netherlands are listed with 2.8 hectares available capacity per capita, including sea space. As their local productivity is about four times larger than world average, these 2.8 hectares are more than the existing physical space within the country.
If the footprint exceeds the available biologically productive area of the country, it runs an ecological deficit (fourth column of Table 1). In this case, the country's area alone cannot provide sufficient ecological services to satisfy its population's current patterns of consumption.

The United States? According to the 1997 report, footprint of 10.3, existing on a deficit of -3.6; according to the 2000 report, 9.57. I have no idea whether that represents a reduction of resource use, or (more likely) a difference in methodologies.
[ 08/20/04 ]

@ Calculate your own ecological footprint.
[ 08/20/04 ]

@ The heartbreaking life of the celebrity finance manager.

Last week Mr. Feinstein received a call from a client in his mid-20's who wanted to buy a $35,000 watch. "I said 'What time does it say?' and he said, 'Ten minutes after 3,'" Mr. Feinstein recalled. "I told him, 'Mine says 10 after 3 too, and it cost me 60 bucks. Put the watch down.'"

[ 08/24/04 ]

@ When a city, say New York during the Republican National Convention, bends over backwards to accomodate protesters--even offering them discounts at selected stores--is that a triumph of free speech, or an attempt to strip dissent of all meaning?
[ 08/24/04 ]

@ Activist Marla Ruzicka was known for doing whatever was necessary to draw attention to her cause. But when she attended a Senate Hearing in an attempt to draw attention to civilian casualties from war in Afghanistan, she decided to try a different tactic: respect. [bugmenot]

When the hearing ended, she rushed up to [Rumsfeld's] table and grabbed his hand and thanked him for testifying. And then she kept talking -- and held his attention -- as he walked out of the Hart Senate Office Building and across the street to his motorcade.
"That was the turning point," Ruzicka said. "I didn't get arrested. I just talked about my issues." With a shoestring budget, almost no staff and a bundle of energy, Ruzicka has already had more impact on more lives than many seasoned K Street lobbyists. [...]
"I was really changed by my experiences in Afghanistan," Ruzicka said. "It is a luxury for people to say war is bad when they are in San Francisco. You need to make friends with people in the U.S. government in order to get a change in policy. You can't say something is bad unless you come in with ways to fix it."

[ 08/24/04 ]

@ After 38 years in Washington lobbying for the MPAA, Jack Valenti is retiring. He has some thoughts about the changes in Washington and the art of persuasion. [bugmenot]

As a lobbyist, Valenti says he's lived by the credo that President Johnson laid down for his staffers in the 1960s. Johnson demanded that his aides not leave their desks at night until they'd returned every call from a member of Congress. Then, Valenti recalls of Johnson's edict, "when you get them on the phone you treat them all alike, whether they are a first-term rookie or a herd bull, which is the chairman of a standing committee -- whether they're Republican or Democrat."

And he has some wise advice for rookie lobbyists:

"If you try to fight change, you are doomed to a dispirited life," he says. "Don't fight it, embrace it, and bend it to your own needs." Only one thing doesn't change, he says, and those are the rules for how best to deal with lawmakers -- who apparently need incessant ego stroking.

Perhaps he can pass that on to the entertainment industry.
[ 08/24/04 ]

@ The Alchemy of a Political Slogan.

If some Americans found it odd that Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey chose to out himself using mannered terminology -- "I am a gay American," as opposed to "I am gay" -- they should not have. He did not choose it. As widely reported, it was supplied by a gay rights organization, which long ago tested it in focus groups as a way of shifting a public debate about sexual orientation to one about equal rights. In the same fashion, if voters find it strange that talk among Republicans in the presidential race changes mysteriously from "drilling for oil" to "exploring for oil," they will have focus groups to thank. Similarly, phrases like "climate change" and "death tax" entered into the public discourse only after the careful scrutiny of social scientists. [...]
Which is not to say that the parties themselves are eager to advertise that, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Packaging the Presidency (Oxford University, 1997). The millions they spend to build their rhetorical arsenals would be wasted if the public knew explicitly what it suspects, that most political language is as processed as Velveeta.

[ 08/24/04 ]

@ Conceptual Maps:

[ 08/24/04 ]

@ Tim Berners Lee: Information Management: A Proposal.

This document was an attempt to persuade CERN management that a global hypertext system was in CERN's interests. Note that the only name I had for it at this time was "Mesh" -- I decided on "World Wide Web" when writing the code in 1990.

Dear Tim: I owe you one.
[ 08/24/04 ]

@ Brad DeLong cries out to a battered republic, Do not despair! (Today's must-read.)
[ 08/25/04 ]

@ Campaign Desk examines the structural biases of the media, and the ways in which they enable savvy political groups to dominate the airwaves.

Liberal commentators, not unjustifiably, are blaming the SBVFT for polluting campaign rhetoric with their loaded claims and harsh attacks. But the lion's share of the blame should not fall on the group, whose ads, after all, have appeared in just three states -- and are the kind of strident attack that might easily have quickly dropped off the national radar screen. The SBVFT may have a questionable grasp of the facts, but they have been extraordinarily sophisticated in their manipulation of the media. To understand why this campaign has been hijacked by a small group of veterans bearing a thirty-year old grudge, it's worth examining the institutional susceptibilities of a campaign press corps that allowed the SBVFT's accusations to take on a life of their own. The SBVFT may have put themselves in the game, but it's a flawed media that made them stars.

[ 08/25/04 ]

@ Much has been made of Dick Cheney's 'break' with the Bush administration's position on gay marriage. The following day, of course, the administration added an 'anti-gay marriage' plank to the Republican platform. [bugmenot] [more...]

Many journalists and commenters consistently underestimate the level of discipline and coordination this administration exercises over its surrogates. Cheney's remarks were clearly designed to soften the impact of the anti-gay message that would be delivered the next day. The goal is to appease the hard-liners and at the same time present a 'reasonable' face to more moderate voters, all at the same time. The first Bush administration did something very similar when Barbara Bush appeared on Larry King during the 1992 campaign to say that she disagreed with her husband's stance on abortion. There's no dissent here; it's all in the script.
[ 08/27/04 ]

@ Campaign Desk on the damaging effects of media 'even-handedness', and Josh Marshall on 'the poverty of what passes as journalistic objectivity'.
[ 08/26/04 ]

@ In 'Life After Theory', Mark Greif holds forth hope that academia will move out of its reality-impaired ivory tower and back into the real world. Wouldn't that be a relief? (via medley) [more...]

A year ago I was asked by an English journal to referee a piece about weblogs that had been submitted by a French PhD. I've never read such a conglomeration of gobbledegook in my life. As a non-academic, of course, I wasn't in a position to comment on the writer's appropriation of theory, but as a practitioner, I sure felt qualified to access the intersection of her interpretations with real life. I responded as completely and truthfully as I could--to the point that my husband cautioned me I was stepping far beyond the bounds of my assignment:

The paper contains numerous unsupported or simply nonsensical assertions. Example: (p.6) "The pictures of physical locations [...] meet a similar need: because a diary is by definition stamped by discontinuity, because it is fragmented into a myriad narratives in discontinuous entries, the representations of body and space function first as devices of continuity...." How are pictures inherently any more continuous than dated entries? They may be--and often are--inserted into weblogs and diaries according to the convenience or whim of the writer, not in a reliable pattern. [...]
The most glaring error is with the paper's organizing principle, that online diarists struggle with a fear of being disembodied on the Internet, and assuage this fear by publishing pictures of the physical world and by talking about their everyday lives; or conversely, that their websites represent an underlying desire to be free of their bodies altogether. [...]
Textual analysis of the writing of everyday people can only go so far; and there is a real danger of over-analyzing (or misconstruing) their actions when viewed through the filter of other academic writings. As an example, when people publish "conventionally pretty" photographs, it isn't necessarily because they want "to reassure both themselves and readers about the serenity and sheer normalcy of their inner and outer landscapes"; it's probably because these photographs most closely reflect their acquired notion of good photography and they want to publish what they consider to be their best work. There are many factors at play here: constructed reality, personal pride, artistic impulse; but I would judge that "reassurance of normalcy" isn't one of them.

Was I too hard on the poor writer? Both the editor who had contacted me and the professor who ran the journal wrote me afterwards to thank me for my 'detailed review'.
[ 08/26/04 ]

@ Deconstructing Harry Potter.

We have, then, an invasion of neoliberal stereotypes in a fairy tale. The fictional universe of Harry Potter offers a caricature of the excesses of the Anglo-Saxon social model: under a veneer of regimentation and traditional rituals, Hogwarts is a pitiless jungle where competition, violence and the cult of winning run riot.

[ 08/26/04 ]

@ An oldie but a goodie: How to Deconstruct Almost Anything.
[ 08/27/04 ]

@ Mean Streets: America's Most Challenging Cities to Navigate.
[ 08/27/04 ]

@ A Little Weekend Reading: When Blobjects Rule the Earth. Transparency, complexity, and the world of enhancement. As I've said before, waste isn't innately useless material--it's a resource that hasn't been used. Highly, highly recommended. Also: the age of obscurantism.
[ 08/27/04 ]

@ "If they were lumberjacks then I wouldn't worry about them". The recommendation to reduce added sugars has been removed from the new Food Pyramid Guide.

Should added sugars be considered a health hazard? Until this month, the committee was evenly divided. Trade associations, which play a major part in the government's decisions on its food policy, say no. Nonaffiliated scientific researchers say a resounding yes.
And when the committee looked at two new studies, one published in May, the other published this week, they changed their minds and voted 8 to 3 to conclude that there is a relationship between the consumption of added sugars and health. [...]
The major message is "choose carbohydrates wisely." Since the 2005 scientific advisory committee did not include sugar as a major talking point, there is little chance that the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, which for the first time are writing the guidelines, will. The Sugar Association, the Soft Drink Association and the National Food Processors Association are hoping that that is the case.
"We prefer this way to the way it was in previous guidelines," said Cheryl Digges, the director of public policy for the Sugar Association, a trade and lobbying organization for beet and cane sugar growers. "We think there is too much emphasis on sugars. Sugars are just a part of the diet."

[ 08/27/04 ]

@ Study Links Sugary Drinks to Obesity, Diabetes Risk in Women (and by extrapolation, men). The soda industry calls the findings 'inflammatory'. [bugmenot]

Data collected from 51,603 women over an average of four years found that the women who gained the most weight were those who increased their consumption of non-diet drinks from one or fewer per week to one or more per day, the researchers found. Such women gained an average of 10.3 pounds, compared to an average of just below three pounds for those who consumed one drink or less per week.
In addition, those who had one or more drinks containing sugar or corn syrup per day were 83 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, compared with those who drank less than one such drink per month. Diabetes, a chronic blood sugar disorder that puts victims at risk for a variety of serious complications, is becoming increasingly common in the United States.
"Putting down all that sugar is not a healthy thing to do," Willett said in a telephone interview. "That's the bottom line."

[ 08/27/04 ]

@ In Korea, a judge has ruled that Coca-Cola cannot be held legally responsible for tooth decay.
[ 08/27/04 ]

@ Seven-Layer Bars. Let's not get stupid.
[ 08/27/04 ]

@ Gone fishin'. Enjoy the end of your summer! Back in a week.
[ 08/29/04 ]

@ Cornel West: Democracy Matters Are Frightening in Our Time. (via dangerousmeta)

Democracy matters are frightening in our time precisely because the three dominant dogmas of free-market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism, and escalating authoritarianism are snuffing out the democratic impulses that are so vital for the deepening and spread of democracy in the world. In short, we are experiencing the sad American imperial devouring of American democracy. This historic devouring in our time constitutes an unprecedented gangsterization of America -- an unbridled grasp at power, wealth, and status. And when the most powerful forces in a society -- and an empire -- promote a suffocation of democratic energies, the very future of genuine democracy is jeopardized.
How ironic that 9/11 -- a vicious attack on innocent civilians by gangsters -- becomes the historic occasion for the full-scale gangsterization of America. Do we now live in a post-democratic age in which the very "democratic" rhetoric of an imperial America hides the waning of a democratic America?

[ 08/29/04 ]

@ American Experience: Mamie Till Mobley
[ 08/29/04 ]

@ Websites for the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
[ 08/29/04 ]


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