28 October 2009

Soldiers' Angels Conducts 4th Annual Online Valour-IT Fundraising Competition

PR Newswire: "This project changes lives," says Soldiers' Angels founder Patti Patton-Bader. "Wounded heroes say that being able to use a laptop helps them feel whole again. Physical therapists are actually designing therapy sessions around Wii Sports! And something as normal as a handheld GPS reduces stress and helps a hero cope. It's just amazing what this project does!"

The Marines are giving the Army a run for donations! Hoorah!! If you want to donate through the Combined Federal Campaign, Soldiers' Angels is CFC #25131.

I also recommend Carren's testimonial, "Once again, Chuck was able to blog. This is a post he wrote just before Project Valour-IT kicked off in 2005."

Please also consider stopping by Soldiers' Angels and Adopting a Soldier.

27 October 2009

Valour-IT Army Team ... It's On!

The Army Team is off to a good start, but the jarheads have moved quickly to take the lead! If you haven't already, click on the Army thermometer (or join the Army Team) and get those donations "Rolling Along"!

via Wolf at Blackfive: "Team Army would like to raise $250,000 dollars in order to help 250 wounded get the software they need and the laptop required. The VALOUR-IT goal is over a million dollars to help over 1,000 wounded- with this kind of purchasing power we can get discounts that afford more software and more hardware." Follow #TeamArmy and #ValourIT on Twitter!

25 October 2009

Valour-IT Update

Valour-IT 2009 Fundraising Competition starts Monday, October 26, and continues to November 11, so hurry up and join the Army Team!



Anybody can join the Army Team (and DONATE!) because the only eligibility requirement is the knowledge that the Army Team is the BEST team, with the BEST bloggers, who raised the MOST money in 2007 and 2008, and are going to three-peat this year!

20 October 2009

Budget Deficits for Dummies

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love $1.4 trillion



via ReasonTV

The Deconstruction of American Journalism

If government subsidizes newspapers, can we bring back the news council?

Ever notice that "accountability journalism" never means holding journalists accountable?

Previous:
An Anthology of Journalism's Decline

18 October 2009

Milblogs Lining Up for Valour-IT

It's time to fire up this old blog to promote this year's Valour-IT competition!

The Army Team has been on a roll (see 2007 and 2008), but we need to pick up the pace for 2009.

BLACKFIVE is sponsoring the Army Team, Greyhawk is providing air support, USNI has naval ops, and VC is coordinating leathernecks.

I plan on updates in the coming weeks with further instructions, but for now:

1. Join the Army Team, and
2. Prepare to donate frequently and generously!

20 June 2009

JibJab's Obama Original

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!


and how they did it!

14 June 2009

Crunching Numbers with Different Results

I crunched CBO's estimates for 2009 and came up with different results than the New York Times.
CBO 2009 Budget Projection
CBO's projections for 2009 went from a $710B surplus in its January 2001 report to a $1,842B deficit in March 2009, a change of -$2,552B.

  • The economic and technical changes from January 2001 to January 2004 and September 2008 to March 2009 account for -$1,099B, or 43% of the total change.
  • Legislative changes from January 2001 to September 2008, plus economic and technical changes between January 2004 to September 2008, account for an additional -$798B, or 31% of the total.
  • Legislative changes from September 2008 to March 2009 account for the remaining -$655B, or 26% of the total.
If we follow Leonhardt's analysis and don't blame the politicians for the economic and technical changes that resulted from the recessions, that removes 43% of the downturn; leaving a comparison of 31% of the downturn between January 2001-September 2008 and 26% of the downturn between September 2008-March 2009.

Think about that for a second. Without the economic and technical changes due to the recessions, CBO's budget projections for 2009 worsened between the 6 months from September 2008-March 2009 (26%) almost as much as during the 92 months from January 2001-September 2008 (31%).

Perhaps, that's not a fair comparison. A better one might be comparing the legislative changes during the economic downturns. For example, legislative changes from January 2001-January 2004 (-$629B, or 25%, over 24 months) and January 2008-March 2009 (-$655B, or 26%, over 14 months).

Finally, in January 2007 when Democrats took control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the CBO projected a $118B deficit for 2009. The economic, technical, and legislative changes from January 2001 to January 2007 (72 months) account for 32% (-$828B) of the total change from January 2001 to March 2009.

In the 26 months since Democrats took control of both chambers of Congress, CBO has added $1,724B to the 2009 deficit projection or 68% of the total change. Ignoring economic and technical changes (-$841B), legislative changes amount to 35% (-$883B) of the total change.

That means legislative changes alone, during the 26 months Democrats controlled Congress from January 2007 to March 2009, account for more of the change in the 2009 deficit than the economic, technical and legislative changes combined over the 72 months from January 2001 to January 2007.

Of course, my concern (apparently shared by many) over the current deficits is more oriented toward the future than the past. Legislative changes just from January 2009 to March 2009 (-$372B) account for 15% of the downturn with additional spending being proposed daily. As a result, the next CBO update in September 2009 may project a 2009 deficit that is much worse than the current projections ($1,825B to 1,845B deficit). In addition, total assets of the Federal Reserve have increased significantly from $869 billion on August 8, 2007, to $2 trillion now!

UPDATE:
CBO Director's Blog: August Monthly Budget Review





































CBO Projections
Projected 2009 Surplus/Deficit

2009 Legislative Change from Previous Projection

2009 Economic & Technical Change from Previous Projection

House

Senate

White
House

Jan 2000

444



R (223)

R (55)

D (Clinton)

Apr 2000

449

0

5

R (223)

R (55)

D (Clinton)

Jul 2000

624

-6

181

R (223)

R (54)

D (Clinton)

Jan 2001

710

-83

169

R (221)

R (50)

R (Bush)

Jan 2002

250

-317

-143

R (222)

D (50)

R (Bush)

Mar 2002

263

-1

14

R (222)

D (50)

R (Bush)

Aug 2002

133

-44

-86

R (222)

D (50)

R (Bush)

Jan 2003

104

-3

-26

R (229)

R (51)

R (Bush)

Mar 2003

62

-35

-7

R (229)

R (51)

R (Bush)

Aug 2003

-170

-151

-81

R (229)

R (51)

R (Bush)

Jan 2004

-268

-78

-20

R (227)

R (51)

R (Bush)

Mar 2004

-281

0

-13

R (227)

R (51)

R (Bush)

Sep 2004

-311

-50

20

R (225)

R (51)

R (Bush)

Jan 2005

-207

113

-9

R (232)

R (55)

R (Bush)

Mar 2005

-219

0

-12

R (232)

R (55)

R (Bush)

Sep 2005

-322

-110

7

R (231)

R (55)

R (Bush)

Jan 2006

-242

18

62

R (231)

R (55)

R (Bush)

Mar 2006

-225

21

-4

R (231)

R (55)

R (Bush)

Aug 2006

-305

-131

51

R (231)

R (55)

R (Bush)

Jan 2007

-118

94

93

D (233)

D (51)

R (Bush)

Mar 2007

-135

-14

-3

D (233)

D (51)

R (Bush)

Aug 2007

-216

-112

31

D (231)

D (51)

R (Bush)

Jan 2008

-198

49

-31

D (232)

D (51)

R (Bush)

Mar 2008

-206

-20

12

D (233)

D (51)

R (Bush)

Sep 2008

-437

-131

-100

D (235)

D (51)

R (Bush)

Jan 2009

-1184

-283

-464

D (255)

D (58)

D (Obama)

$180B TARP, $104B AMT+

Mar 2009

-1665

-195

-286

D (254)

D (58)

D (Obama)

Stimulus (ARRP) + CHIP

Mar 2009

-1842

-177

0

D (254)

D (58)

D (Obama)

$125B Reserve for Financial Stabilization Efforts

2001-2003 Economic + Technical

-349

Legislative

-629

Total

-978

(Bush)

2004-Sep 08 Economic + Technical

104

Legislative

-273

Total

-169

(Bush)

Sep 08-Jan 09 Economic + Technical

-464

Legislative

-283

Total

-747

(Bush/Obama)

Jan-Mar 2009 Economic + Technical

-286

Legislative

-372

Total

-658

(Obama)

06 June 2009

The Year the Media Died



As they said over at AJ's Mind the Gap, "The digital revolution will not be advertised."

21 March 2009

The Fortune-Teller's Credibility

I am not comfortable with linking the rise of journalistic objectivity that began in the early 1900s to a desire for journalism with predictive intelligence measured by a predictive accuracy. This is a fool's errand and an infantilization of the news consumer.

Andy Cline at Rhetorica quotes Dan Conover at Xark!:

Predictive Intelligence. Modern journalism is based on the idea that impartially telling “both sides” of a story is more useful than “taking sides.” This approach has limited value in an information-rich environment where the goal is finding the signal in the noise. Credibility, therefore, is likely to move toward information sources that demonstrate their understanding of events and situations via predictive accuracy rather than claims of non-predictive objectivity.
I would prefer to see fewer claims of omniscience in journalism, not more, and certainly not some mystical ability of foresight.

Journalistic objectivity was based on the witness role of journalists. It was a concept that journalist should be able to "stand back" and "objectively" - "accurately" - "factually" - report events without a partisan's or participant's bias, which leads to "fairly report" being added to the list. It gained traction during a time when there was a desire for more "realism" in the news versus politically partisan views and mass media commercialization of news, including muckraking and yellow journalism. It was the rise of objectivity that separated the "news" section (objective) from "news analysis" and "op-ed" (interpreting news and predicting impacts).

The acceptance of "objectivity" as a standard in news journalism has lead to criticisms such as "He Said, She Said, We Said" and "The View from Nowhere" (see also "The Abyss of Observation Alone").

To provide a non-political analogy, consider "objective" reporting of a basketball game, the subsequent "analysis" of the players/coaches/owners/league, and predicting who will be in the Final Four based on [fill in the blank]. Reporting events as they happen, or recently took place, in a basketball game has very different requirements from the decision-making required to decide which team(s) will defeat the other team(s) for any specific game or over a period of weeks (March 17 - April 6, 2009). You can "take sides" on who will win before or during a game based on any number of factors and how you weigh the importance of each factor.

A couple of years ago, Dan Conover participated in a Pressthink comment thread discussing the reporting of the Sago Mine collapse. Here's an excerpt:
Breaking news. Fog of war. Write-throughs. Incomplete information. Competition. Pressure. Unreliable sources, official and otherwise. That's just the reality of reporting. Reporters and editors can couch it, hedge it, but it's still incomplete information.

I don't fault journalism for that. As a consumer, if I have to choose between incomplete information and a blackout, I'll often choose the incomplete version.

Where I think we should improve is in communicating the level of confidence we have in our information. American newswriting style tends to confer the illusion of godlike authority even when we're hedging our bets. Same with some broadcast media (but not all).

The language of breaking news is a code (passive voice, "in connection with," "including," etc.), and journalists recognize that those vauge terms signal the lack of comprehensive information. Readers/viewers/listeners may not speak that code. So either we have to teach it to them, or -- gasp! -- we could try being more blunt about how we evaluate the information we're passing along.

What happened in West Virginia was a double tragedy: First, all those workers were killed; and second, the misunderstanding spread from the rescue effort to the company men to the families so fast that nobody ever got any control over it. It took on a life of its own, and thanks to instant global media, it was everywhere all at once. A nightmare, but a reality. If you think ANYONE has the power to cap such things with just the right combination of tough policies and brains, I suggest you re-examine your concept of modern media. It's bigger than the people in it. It's ultimately beyond the control of its controllers. That's why it's such a fascinating subject. It's so big, nobody can even see all of it in real time.
Dan is addressing criticism over how accurately journalists reported an event and the limitations on the journalists to get it right. Now let's tack on the criticism that holds journalism accountable for accurately interpreting events or predicting future events. Why did journalism fail to interpret what was happening at the mine in 2004 and 2005 and then fail to predict the disaster in 2006?

This is a game that can be, and has been, applied to any number of past and future events. Consider the failure to predict 9/11 and WMD in Iraq, WorldCom and Enron, or the current economic recession. (I'd like to see an update to Howard Owen's post on that.)

Journalism is systematically biased and regulary suffers scandals. I tend to categorize journalistic scandals into:
  1. Failed to catch/see that coming.

  2. Two wrongs don't make a right.

  3. Publicly persecuted the wrong (person/organization).

The first is the least egregious of the three and the last the most.

This is not just an "academic" distinction. There is a "so what" here. Predictive accuracy is an important measure of a scientific model's usefulness or a person's wisdom and expertise. There is an easy temptation to apply this metric to any business that provides information, as a tool to measure its usefulness. There is also a "bad news bias" toward labeling news journalists, analysts, Op-Ed columnists and the experts they rely on (and quote) as notoriously poor interpreters and predictors. Finally, the news industry is going through precarious times which creates a greater sense of opportunity for advocates to influence it.

Perhaps this (unrealistic) call for journalism to more accurately predict the future, is really a desire for more predictability in the critic's own life and not a prescription for what ails the news industry. Perhaps, a way to assign blame for events that impact you, but you do not control, is to accuse the media of not being enough of a muckraking watchdog or fortune-teller.

Only you can answer that - after honest, careful introspection. Want to understand why the problems with news journalism might be in your head?

Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear
Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs (pdf)
The Political Brain
You Can't Not Believe Everything You Read (pdf)

UPDATE:
Learning How to Think
Tell Us the Future. Then Again, Don’t.

15 March 2009

Devon Largio: Mythbuster

Devon Largio, who documented 27 rationales provided for war with Iraq between September 2001 and October 2002 (exsum-pdf, thesis-pdf), also documented that Americans were not "duped" into believing Saddam Hussein was involved in, or responsible for, the 9/11 attack by studying the Bush administration's rhetoric, media reporting and polling between July 2001 and May 2004.

When Osama Became Saddam: Origins and Consequences of the Change in America’s Public Enemy #1

While it appeared from publicly-reported surveys that Americans initially blamed Osama and only later blamed Saddam, our analysis shows that Americans were willing to blame Saddam immediately after 9/11 when survey respondents were presented with that possibility. Indeed, rather than seeing a sudden spike in Saddam’s culpability around the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, our analysis shows a steady decline in the percentage of Americans willing to blame Saddam, a percentage that has been dropping ever since the first days following 9/11.
...
News coverage and presidential rhetoric may have replaced Osama with Saddam over time, but Saddam was on the short list of most likely suspects from the beginning for most Americans. Rather than showing a gullible public blindly accepting the rationales offered by an administration bent on war, our analysis reveals a self-correcting public that has grown ever more doubtful of Hussein’s culpability since the 9/11 attacks.
Devon Largio published both papers in 2004 and has since graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Political Science and a J.D from Vanderbilt University Law School. She is currently a litigation associate in Kirkland's Chicago office.

This solid research has been ignored by such "luminaries" as Bill Moyers, Lance Bennett, Regina Lawrence, and Steven Livingston.

My Questions for Bennett, Lawrence, and Livingston remain unanswered.

Related:
Before Karl Rove, There Was Bill Moyers

08 February 2009

Bobblehead TV

Jay Rosen, Glenn Greenwald, and Bill Moyers sit around a round table and roundly agree with each other.

With lots of bobblehead comments at PressThink.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen in PressThink's comments:

There were several points [Greenwald] made that I wouldn't put the way he put them, or I might say, "no, that's not the reason."
Well, gee, if Jay (or Moyers) had actually said something like that, then maybe it wouldn't have been bobblehead TV! In fact, if there was a "no, that's not the reason" moment for Jay, why would he just sit there and not say it?

Previous:
Before Karl Rove, There Was Bill Moyers

29 January 2009

Get the Governance Right, Then I'll Subscribe

Over at PJNet, Leonard Witt proposes that newspaper subscribers should offer to "buy" the newsroom, placing it in a cooperative trust owned by its readers. In the comments, he writes the following:

Which sounds like the better deal: Now at $4.50 with no say or $2 with ownership.

Here is the governance starting point: We want high quality, ethically sound journalism and we want the news told without fear or favor.
I like the cost with ownership versus the cost without ownership. Who can argue with that? But how does that gain subscribers? I'm not subscribing to any newspaper right now, so my equation is $0.00 with no ownership, which works for me from a cost/value perspective. [UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not the only one, "Stop the Presses? Many Americans Wouldn't Care a Lot if Local Papers Folded"]

I completely reject the governance starting point. Meaningless drivel. A mission statement based on journalism-by-bromide. I agree with Jay Rosen on this point:
Can you tell me about the kind of bias the mainstream press should have, in your considered view? Can you describe a recommended bias and how it operates?
No fair fudging your answers with lines like: "the press should have a bias toward accuracy, facts, truth, fairnesss, and the sweet light of reason." That tells us nothing.
How about an actual mission statement? Make clear what the most important things are to inform their readers about (i.e., schools, infrastructure, law enforcement, judiciary, legislature, executive, but no arts, lifestyle, sports, etc.).

Require "show your work" journalism by posting documents, interview notes, transcripts and audio online, and a URL with the printed story to the online version. Require moving to a Web2Print publishing process, if not already in place, and smart hyperlinks in the online version of the story to the reporter's references, as well as to the websites of the story's sources and subjects.

Zero-tolerance for anonymous quotes. A journalist in "our newsroom" can state that something has happened or is happening based on his own reputation without resorting to anonymous sourcing. Lie to us and we find out, you're fired. And we will find out. We're also online and we love to dig deeper and fact-check.

Each reporter working in "our newsroom" will have to report the number of stories submitted and the number of stories published, average time spent preparing each story, average word count per story, and the range & average Flesch-Kincaid index number for his/her stories. Also, accuracy counts. Corrections submitted by the newsroom owners get appended to the news story and published online. Owners grade (promote) the importance and validity of the corrections. Too many important factual errors, and you're on probation with an extra editor assigned to review your stories. No improvement over six months, you're gone. Lapse back within a year, you're gone.

Would any reporter agree to work in a newsroom "owned" by subscribers with such accountability requirements? Who knows? With the current economy and financial outlook for newspapers, maybe.

Is that the kind of data that I would want from a reporter working for me? You bet'cha!

27 January 2009

An Opportunity Overlooked

Over at Small Wars Journal, they quote Vice Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr., making the following observation:

With respect to your comment concerning participation in the blogosphere and the upcoming milbloggers conference, let me speak pretty plainly - most of the blogs I’ve dropped in on and read on a regular basis leave me pretty cold. Too many seem to be interested in scoring cheap, and anonymous, hits vice engaging in meaningful and professional exchanges. There is also a general lack of reverence for facts and an excess of emotion that, for me, really reduces the value of the blog. Incorrect/inaccurate data and lots of hype may be entertaining for some, but just doesn’t work for me.
There will be, and needs to be, professional, fact-based blogs and irreverent, emotion-based blogs. That is representative of the public conversation where wonks and citizen-participants pontificate, discuss and debate.

It is important, I think, to try to participate on both, but not necessarily equally. A knowledgeable, fact-based comment (with links) or guest post on an emotional, point-scoring blog post can make a difference. This should be obvious for anyone following IO and its potential impact on the author of the blog, other commenters, and lurkers.

Harvey's comment is focused more on "What can blogs do for me?" I think that's a one-dimensional view of what's possible.