16 June 2007


Chertoff urges passage of immigration bill

Mr. Chertoff also faulted much of the right-wing blathersphere for its opposition to the Senate bill.
Who talks like that? I only got 7 hits on Google for "right wing blathersphere" just now!

Besides CVBT above and Aces on CVBT:
Joy Reid (Sep. 5, 2006)
Whites Creek (Dec. 1, 2006)
pkgoode at DKos (Feb. 11, 2007)
Tom Philpott, twice (Apr. 23, 2007 and Apr. 19, 2007)
Well, then there's Alexander Cockburn: The Left and the Blathersphere (Jun. 19, 2006).


15 June 2007

Father's Day Greetings From Abroad

Father's Day Greetings

Bravo Bulldogs Beware!

Study: Sarin at root of Gulf War syndrome

As benefits administrators, officials and politicians argue the worthiness of studies on Gulf War syndrome, researchers say they have no doubts that they’ve found the root of the problem.

Sarin gas.

And they have advice for as many as 300,000 troops exposed to small doses of sarin in 1991: Don’t use bug spray, don’t smoke and don’t drink alcohol.
Information About Khamisiyah
J. Remodeling Effort: January 1998 – March 2000 (Figure 42)

Comparing each day’s hazard area from March 10 to 13, 1991.

Day 1: March 10, 1991 (Figures 43 – 44)

The 1997 hazard area generally extended in a north-south direction. Based on the wind models, the hazard area extended south-southwest almost 300 kilometers into Saudi Arabia, east of the city of Hafir Al Batin. The 2000 hazard area is divided in two due to slight differences in the wind patterns predicted by the meteorological models but generally follows a north-south axis. The hazard area extends approximately the same distance but to the northwest of Hafir Al Batin. However, the 2000 hazard area extended further to the east and south into Kuwait indicating possible exposure to US personnel not included in the 1997 hazard area. Approximately 70 percent of the 321 kilograms of chemical warfare agent modeled in 2000 had been dispersed into the atmosphere by the end of Day 1.

Day 2: March 11, 1991 (Figures 45 – 46)

Both models’ hazard areas have similar shapes. The 1997 model did not consider sunlight effects on the hazard area, but we added these effects for the 2000 modeling at the recommendation of the 1997 peer review panel. For the 2000 hazard area, the dispersion modeling assumed ultraviolet light from sunlight decayed the chemical warfare agent and thus reduced the size of the 2000 hazard area. Improved weather models reflected a shift in the wind to the south, which kept the 2000 hazard area mainly to the north and west of King Kalid Military City (KKMC), unlike the 1997 hazard area, which included KKMC and a much larger area to the west. Later nerve agent emissions evaporating from the soaked wood and soil in the Pit generated the four small hazard areas in the vicinity of Al Bussayyah and around Khamisiyah in the 2000 model. Approximately 89 percent of the 321 kilograms of the chemical warfare agent modeled in 2000 had dispersed into the atmosphere by the end of Day 2.

Distinct Army & Air Force Units in Khamisiyah 2000 Hazard Area
March 10-13, 1991
Company A, 1st Signal Battalion
Company B, 1st Signal Battalion

14 June 2007

On "Incompetent"

Bob Geiger

Here's exactly what Reid said:
"I guess the president, uh, he's gotten rid of Pace because he could not get him confirmed here in the Senate… Pace is also a yes-man for the president and I told him to his face, I laid it out to him last time he came to see me, I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was."
[UPDATE: Obtained: A Tape Of Reid's Conference Call With Bloggers -- Reid Did Blast Pace]


Press Release of Senator Reid
General Peter Pace is a distinguished military veteran and public servant. Unfortunately, in my opinion he was never as candid as he should have been about the conduct and progress of this war.
May I recommend Charles Stevenson's Warriors and Politicians: US Civil-Military Relations Under Stress? good review:
For the student of civil-military relations, Stevenson re-examines Peter D. Feaver's principal-agent model and its failure to account for Congress and questions the applicability of Samual Huntington's theories in the post-Cold War environment. He also looks at other big names on civil-military relations theory, offering shortcomings on their theories as well, such as Morris Janowitz, Eliot Cohen, Deborah Avant, Michael Desch, and Amy Zegart.

LTG Martin Dempsey on Iraq

More Art Than Science

Q: You are scheduled to testify soon before a skeptical, Democratic-controlled Congress. How will you characterize progress in standing up Iraqi Security Forces after nearly two years year in this country?

Dempsey: If Congress allows me to articulate the progress we have made across the entire institution of the ISF, and not just focus on one [measurement] of violence or a particular suicide bombing, then I think I can make a case that the Iraqi government and security forces are evolving in a positive direction. But this is an evolution, not a revolution.
House Armed Services Committee


Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, USA (pdf)


Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq

C-SPAN video

13 June 2007

Fournier's "Accountability Journalism"

Jim Romenesko has posted an "AP house newsletter on Accountability Journalism" by Ron Fournier.

It's good stuff. I'm all for it. I also think it's doomed. It's putting the cart before the horse. Fournier offers a four-point "how-to" to hold public officials and leaders accountable by assuming that the structural and infrastructural requirements to practice "accountability journalism" are already in place at the AP. This is made clear in the introduction to Fournier's piece:

We have unmatched resources and expertise in every state to report whether government officials are doing the job for which they were elected and keeping the promises they make.
Is "unmatched" the same as "required"? What are the required resources and expertise to hold leaders accountable? Does the AP really have what it needs? Do AP journalists? Can they execute Fournier's four points without significant changes in leadership, culture, training and technology at the AP?

Fournier doesn't mention internal AP shortfalls preventing any of his suggestions and instead sounds confident that everything is in place. So, here are his four points - in green with short quotes - along with my thoughts (in black).

FIRST, we follow up.
After filing a story that you think puts a big issue to rest, put a reminder in your calendar six months out. "Check on X." Did the bill/executive order/jury verdict/committee vote/election result live up to its promise? Has the desired result come to pass? Is the new system working, and if not, who is accountable?
Never file a story "that you think puts a big issue to rest." Three things happen.

1. No one believes you. You can't "put a big issue to rest" in a news story. It's the height of journalistic arrogance.

2. It smacks of "journalism as lecture" instead of "journalism as conversation." In fact, if you think you've put the "big issue to rest" how open are you to questions, corrections or reader feedback?

3. You've already set the narrative bias for any follow-up. If you've put the "big issue to rest" then you've already identified "a plot with antagonists and protagonists." You've removed any ambiguity. More than likely, your follow-up will build on this narrative based on the same cause-and-effect relationships and set characters who act in set ways.

Here's a better idea. Before you file a story, put the reminder in the story (as well as on your calendar). What are the metrics you'll use to determine "success"? When will you follow up and how often? How will you report on the players who imagined, planned, approved and executed the "new system"? File a "big issue in progress" story rather than a "big issue put to rest" story. If you can't commit to follow up on a big issue in the story, then is it really a "big issue"?

SECOND, commit yourself and your leaders to the truth.
Why not devote a small portion of every government-and-politics story to accountability journalism? Reward the truth-tellers, expose the liars and help readers navigate the squalls of spin.
Know. Your. Bias. Be a Custodian of Fact practicing a Discipline of Verification. Confuse this truth-telling with "Gotcha! Journalism" or "Point Scoring" and you're toast. Recognize that this emphasizes being right and conflicts directly with being first. Accuse someone wrongly, or pass on false accusations, and your credibility suffers. Will your current correction policy win back what you've lost?

Fournier makes a number of references to Katrina. I'm not sure that's wise. Want to know where I go, who has my trust as a truth-teller, about what happened during Katrina? FactCheck.org (not AP). Want to know where I go to check up on the "truthiness" of the current crop of Presidential candidates? Yup, FactCheck.org. Does that tell the AP anything useful? Not really. It's just one person's preference. But since it's my preference (and my blog), I thought it worth mentioning.

THIRD, make broad use of your sources.
Quality sources can help you identify areas where government is failing, where leaders are lying and where the truth is distorted or hidden. They can help you sharpen your analyses. Their opinions can give you confidence in yours (more on your opinions later).
The relationship between journalists and their sources is the most confusing, complex, opaque and frustrating aspect of the news for readers, viewers and listeners. I like what Rosenstiel and Kovach recommend from The Elements of Journalism, "Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information." I'm not sure this coincides with Fournier's advice on how journalists should interact with their sources. As a reader, I would prefer AP journalists follow Steve Buttry's advice. I do know that the way Fournier recommends journalists interact with their sources, I'd rather not be one.

I also think that Fournier's advice makes an interesting contrast with Brad Delong's recent post:

Jay Rosen should have listened to Brad DeLong and Susan Rasky's First Rule for Sources: Know Your Customers:

Nieman Watchdog > Commentary > Twelve things economists need to remember to be helpful journalistic sources: 1. Know your customers. Is the journalist... looking for a broadcast soundbite, for two paragraphs of context, or help in understanding... [the issues]? Is she on a tight deadline?...

If the journalist is looking for a particular quote, figure out whether you want to be the person who gives that quote--and if not, get off the phone. If the journalist is looking for two paragraphs that can be dropped into the story as "experts say the real issues are..." give the journalist your best two paragraphs quickly. If the journalist is looking to educate him or herself, you can have a conversation--but at the start reserve the right to approve whatever quotes they want in the end to use, so that you can be sure that they are quotes you are comfortable giving.

If not--well, then, the journalist will play you like Jim Rutenberg played Jay Rosen. It's not "them's the rules." It's the interviewee who sets the rules. It's "I let Rutenberg turn me into a sock puppet, and I'm unhappy."

THE FINAL POINT is the one driven home by Katrina: Write with authority.
We can be provocative without being partisan. We can be truth-tellers without being editorial writers. We can and we must not only tell people what happened in politics today, but why it happened; what it might mean for our readers and their families; and what it might reveal about the people who presume to be our leaders. Sometimes, they’re just plain wrong.
I agree. So I'll end this with this quote from The State of the News Media (2005):
To adapt, journalism may have to move in the direction of making its work more transparent and more expert, and of widening the scope of its searchlight. Journalists aspire in the new landscape to be the one source that can best help citizens discover what to believe and what to disbelieve - a shift from the role of gatekeeper to that of authenticator or referee. To do that, however, it appears news organizations may have to make some significant changes. They may have to document their reporting process more openly so that audiences can decide for themselves whether to trust it. Doing so would help inoculate their work from the rapid citizen review that increasingly will occur online and elsewhere. In effect, the era of trust-me journalism has passed, and the era of show-me journalism has begun. As they move toward being authenticators, news organizations also may have to enrich their expertise, both on staff and in their reporting. Since citizens have a deeper range of information at their fingertips, the level of proof in the press must rise accordingly. The notion of filling newsrooms only with talented generalists may not be enough. And rather than merely monitoring the official corridors of power, news organizations may need to monitor the new alternative means of public discussion as well. How else can the press referee what people are hearing in those venues? Such changes will require experimentation, investment, vision and a reorganization of newsrooms.
Your thoughts?

UPDATE: I had initially identified Fournier's how-to in the 2d and 3d paras. as having 3 points. I corrected this.

Don Herbert - Hero

In Framing "The Knack", I wrote:

I've always been a BIG fan of Bill Nye. We in the S&T community should be encouraging more uses of the New Media to communicate to the public taking lessons from Bill Nye. I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to Carl Sagan and can learn from his public enthusiasm.
I was sadly remiss. I - unforgivably - failed to mention Don Herbert, aka "Mr. Wizard."

I would like to correct that by noting his life, his passing, and that he was also someone I've admired greatly.
Herbert was a general science and English major at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse who was interested in drama, until his career as an actor was interrupted by World War II when he enlisted in the United States Army as a private. Herbert later joined the United States Army Air Forces, took pilot training, and became a B-24 bomber pilot who flew combat missions with the Fifteenth Air Force, flying out of a base in Italy. When Herbert was discharged in 1945 he was a captain and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Redefining the Desktop - Surface Computing

Microsoft Surface: Behind-the-Scenes First Look

Previous: Can you believe some of us still use chalkboards?

12 June 2007

Protecting the Privacy of Public Officials or the Private Citizen?

Watching The Detectives ... Can Land You In Jail

State legislatures can amend eavesdropping statutes and wiretapping laws to specify that they do not apply to those bearing police credentials and acting in an official capacity. Accepting those credentials should constitute implied consent to having one's official actions recorded at any time.
Video recording leads to felony charge (June 11, 2007)

Cell Phone Picture Called Obstruction Of Justice (July 25, 2006) and Photograph the Police, Get Arrested (July 30, 2006)

State trooper charged with illegal recording (full text, April 12, 2006)

In summary, Pennsylvania's Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act is all about privacy -- the expectation of privacy we have in our communications. However, it recognizes law enforcement's periodic need to intercept communications to obtain critical evidence in criminal investigations to protect the public. In that regard, the Act strikes a balance by imposing certain requirements on law enforcement via the prior review by a prosecutor and/or judge as explained above. In protecting privacy, the constraints of the Act apply to everyone, law enforcement and private citizens alike.
Wiretapping And Electronic Surveillance Statute

(h/t: Insty)

UPDATE: Wiretap charge dropped in police video case
"When police are audio- and video-recording traffic stops with notice to the subjects, similar actions by citizens, even if done in secret, will not result in criminal charges," Freed said yesterday. "I intend to communicate this decision to all police agencies within the county so that officers on the street are better-prepared to handle a similar situation should it arise again."
Kelly was arrested under a Pennsylvania law that bars the audio recording of anyone's conversation without consent. Taking pictures or filming without sound in public settings is not illegal.
The law itself might need to be revised, Freed said.

"It is not the most clear statute that we have on the books," he said. "It could need a look, based on how technology has advanced since it was written."

In his own words ...

Don't read the media reports on Blair's speech. Read what he actually said:

My principal reflection is not about "blaming" anyone. It is that the relationship between politics, public life and the media is changing as a result of the changing context of communication in which we all operate; no-one is at fault - it is a fact; but it is my view that the effect of this change is seriously adverse to the way public life is conducted; and that we need, at the least, a proper and considered debate about how we manage the future, in which it is in all our interests that the public is properly and accurately informed.
UPDATE: Also see Roosevelt and Jefferson.

11 June 2007

Bleg: iPhone or Q?

'I've been debating whether I want to get the iPhone or Motorola Q. I figure I still have at least 18 days to decide.

The most prolific pro-iPhone writer I've found on the web is Daniel Eran Dilger at RoughlyDrafted.

Any other sources I should be reading?

UPDATE: Well, it's been decided. I got a Motorola Q from the family for Father's Day!

10 June 2007

Compare and Contrast

OCTOBER 26, 2004

Commissioner Hardeman commented that it was wonderful to have the Canadian Snow Birds during Fleet Week but everyone he spoke to wants to have the Blue Angels back. The Commission is not against having them back. Once they were gone, we know how much we missed them. He hopes that the Blue Angels will return next year.

Commissioner Hsu concurred with Commissioner Hardeman’s comments. People from around town and out of town expressed their disappointment that the Blue Angels did not perform during Fleet Week, especially the Fisherman’s Wharf merchants. They would love to see them next year and beyond.

Ms. Moyer indicated that we were all disappointed when the Blue Angels had a scheduling conflict and didn’t choose San Francisco. Unfortunately, the Port has very little control over the Navy and their decision not to perform in San Francisco.
Bill to halt Blue Angels flyovers will have to wait
The groups are calling for a permanent halt to the Blue Angels due to concerns over noise, the military recruitment that comes along with the event and public safety, pointing to the April crash of a Blue Angels plane during an air show in Beaufort, S.C....

San Francisco officials have not shied away in the past from taking strong anti-war stances or taking issue with the military.

In 2005, the board voted against having the World War II-era USS Iowa dock as a floating museum at the Port of San Francisco. Last year, The City’s school board voted to phase out the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program from public schools.

Most recently, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution that urged the U.S. Congress to secure immediate and safe withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Another brick in the wall
We don’t have to like San Francisco. We get paid to defend them. It’s our job.

The rest of the country?

We’re doing that for free.