April 2007, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
Google Tries To Help Darfur: By adding information to Google Earth.
If you Google the word Darfur, you will find about 13 million references to the atrocities in the western Darfur region of Sudan -- what the United States has said is this century's first genocide.Here's what the map looks like now;
The red flames show destroyed villages; the orange flames show damaged villages; and the camera symbols are links to pictures.
- 3:46 PM, 16 April 2007
More: Let me add one more thought. The mass murder at Virginia Tech yesterday, which so horrifies us, would be routine in Darfur. The murders in Darfur are generally committed by groups of men, not an individual, and they are accompanied by many other crimes, but the number of deaths in one day, and at one place, would not shock anyone in Darfur.
- 10:26 AM, 17 April 2007 [link]
Many Are Called: But six are chosen. And the six on the jury today didn't include me. The case was a minor one, disorderly conduct, which is why they don't need the usual twelve.
But I may get chosen later this week. There's no trial tomorrow, but there are trials scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. (So I guess I will have to finish my income taxes tomorrow, after all, instead of asking for an extension.)
Just one juror was put off the jury; the defense attorney excused one woman. I asked her afterwards why she thought she had been excused and she said that she thought it was because she works for a pharmaceutical company that has developed a drug for treating alcoholics. (There had been drinking before the arrest.) The juror that was excused had also been the victim of crimes a couple of times, which might be another negative, from the defense attorney's point of view.
They ordered me to show up at 8:30 this morning, and they weren't kidding about the time. The building was locked until exactly 8:30. At that time a guard came, unlocked the building, and then checked us each through a scanner.
- 3:08 PM, 16 April 2007 [link]
Horrifying: There's not much more to say, at least for now, about the killings at Virginia Tech. Except, of course, that my sympathy goes out to all those who have lost a relative or a friend, especially to parents who have lost a child.
More later perhaps, when I know more.
- 2:49 PM, 16 April 2007 [link]
Working With Interpreters: Last Friday was the first time I had worked with professional interpreters. (Some of the 14 journalists spoke English, but most did not.) The equipment the interpreters used was unobtrusive; they spoke into small microphones and the journalists had small, earphones for the translations. The journalists who did not speak English asked their questions aloud in Russian, which the interpreters then translated for me, or for Andy MacDonald.
There was one curious aspect to the process that I had not thought about before the meeting. Reactions to what I said came in two phases; those who understood English reacted immediately, those who did not reacted after they heard the translations. I suppose those who work with interpreters regularly get used to that.
The experience gave me more appreciation for the classic ambassador/interpreter joke. (Which I will explain later today, if you don't know the one I mean.)
- 7:08 AM, 16 April 2007
Here's Jimmy Carter's version of the joke, which he tells well. (Perhaps he should have been a stand-up comic instead of president.)
- 12:31 PM, 18 April 2007 [link]
Juror Abuse: Let me start by saying that I am not complaining because this third call to serve on a jury, in a little more than a year, is a great imposition. For me, it is, at most, an annoyance. But for many others, as I learned in my two days waiting to be called last year, jury duty can be a serious hardship. And the summons that came from the Kirkland Municipal Court is particularly obnoxious. The front of the summons tells me to report there at 8:30 tomorrow morning. The back has these instructions:
In other words, I won't know for sure whether I will have to report tomorrow until after 5 this evening. And then, if I understand those instructions correctly, I will have to check each evening this week to see if I have to report the next day.
Let me add that the court is far enough away so that I will have to drive, and that, as far as I can tell, they will not pay me even a nominal sum for the duty, much less my expenses.
Let me repeat that, for me, this is a minor annoyance, minor because I expect to learn something and to get a few posts out of the experience. But for many others, it would be a serious hardship. A loss of a week's pay can be tough on someone with low income. A mother with young kids will find it tough to be away from them for a week. And a man or woman who runs a small business can face a significant loss of income from this kind of experience.
There is no reason for Kirkland to abuse jurors in this way. The city is not impoverished and could easily afford to pay jurors — assuming state law allows that. And it is absurd to keep jurors in suspense day after day. That may make it easier on the lawyers and the judge, but the uncertainty imposes a real hardship on many.
Jurors are an essential part of our court system. There is no reason that this court, this city, and this state can't treat them decently.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 2:14 PM, 15 April 2007
Correction As I learned yesterday, I will be paid for the jury service, ten dollars a day, plus three dollars each day for mileage. Odd that the court officials saw no reason to mention that, either in the summons or in the initial briefing Monday.
- 8:24 AM, 20 April 2004 [link]
Ubuntu Updates: Another thing that just works is the Ubuntu automatic update system. Once a week or so, a small notification box pops up to tell me that there are updates available for that version of Linux. If I click on the box, I get a simple form listing the updates that are ready. (You can see an example of the form here. The number of updates in the example is quite high; typically there are two or three updates available, and they take just a minute or two to install.) If I choose to install them, I can watch the progress, if I wish. And if I just want some of them installed, I can choose from the list.
In contrast, Windows does not tell me what updates Microsoft is installing, though I am sure there is a way to find out. Nor does it let me know, once, when I boot up, that it has updates. Instead, Windows often interrupts me when I am doing something else. And the updates do not come just from Microsoft; today, Sun (I think) updated my version of Java. (And while doing so, frightened the firewall software often enough so that I had to keep intervening.)
My point here is simple: If you think that much of the software you use is needlessly complex, you are right.
- 9:24 AM, 15 April 2007 [link]
Email Change: If you look at the top right, you will see that I have changed my email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I haven't dropped the old address, so email sent there will still reach me, but I will drop it in the next month or so.
Note that, as I mentioned here, Google requires email names to be at least six characters long. Since "jimxc" was not long enough, I picked "jimxc1".
- 7:26 AM, 15 April 2007 [link]
The Laptop Just Worked: On Friday, when I gave the presentation to the visiting journalists, I took along my HP laptop, and used a projector to show the screen to the group. (It's rather hard to talk about blogging without a net connection that you can display.) Somewhat to my surprise, though I had done some tests earlier in the day, it just worked. The display I saw on the laptop was echoed on the screen. In fact, the laptop display's resolution was adjusted down to match the resolution of the projector, which was what I wanted.
Those who often do business presentations will probably be amused by my reaction, but I have seen so much poorly designed software that I was mildly surprised to have this system just work. (Well, mostly. The colors were inaccurate, and there was a bit of keystoning, but the screen was readable, at least for those in front.)
(On the whole I have been pleased with the laptop. The model I bought is no longer available, but some of the fancier ones in the 8000 series still are, for example, this one. Mine has, I think, two minor faults. The keyboard does not have a good feel, and the colors on the screen display are too sensitive to the angle of the screen. As far as I can tell, most laptops have both faults, though Lenovo laptops are reputed to have better keyboards, and the more expensive laptops often have screens that are viewable over wider angles. Neither fault is important to me.
If you are thinking of purchasing a laptop for a college student, you may want to look at this post, where I describe some of the faults — from my point of view — of many inexpensive laptops.)
- 7:03 AM, 15 April 2007 [link]
Need Some Help In Locating Those 14 Journalists that I named two posts down? Here's a map, with their 14 nations marked in red.
(Thanks to this travel site for the map. They intend it for people who want to show the nations they have visited, but I have used it for the nations that have visited me, including my favorite, Niue.)
- 1:06 PM, 13 April 2007 [link]
Kentucky Fried T. Rex? Maybe.
In a retrieval once thought unattainable, scientists have recovered and identified proteins in a bone of a well-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex that lived and died and was fossilized 68 million years ago.But that doesn't meant that we can't do so. And I will just say that I sure that cooks from Louisiana could make a very tasty dish from a T-rex drumstick. And so could American barbecue masters. (Just to be fair, I'll add I am sure that French and Chinese cooks could also produce something tasty from a T. Rex.)
(They were able to recovery these proteins because they have found, in a few fossilized dinosaurs, soft tissues. And they are likely to find more, now that they know to look for it.)
- 12:43 PM, 13 April 2007 [link]
Welcome Edward R. Murrow Journalists! Welcome to Ms. Oksana Musaelyan (Armenia), Mr. Zaur Latif Oglu Rasul-Zada (Azerbaijan), Ms. Marina Nevgen (Belarus), Mr. Jan Molacek (Czech Republic), Mr. Dmitri Kukushkin (Estonia), Mr. Giorgi Sepashvili (Georgia), Mr. Zhuldyz A. Abdilda (Kazakhstan), Mr. Azamat Imanaliev (Kyrgyz Republic), Mr. Aleksandrs Sunins (Latvia), Mr. Juozas Ruzgys (Lithuania), Mr. Petru Macovei (Moldova), Mr. Nazarali Pirnazarov (Tajikistan), Ms. Nadzhiye Osmanova (Ukraine), and Mrs. Sofya Vasilevna Alieva (Uzbekistan). Welcome also to the four Russian interpreters accompanying this group, Ms. Nadia Brunstein, Mr. Valo Motalygo, Mr. Vadim Erent, and Ms. Irina Klahn. It will be an honor to meet each of you.
Andy MacDonald and I have been asked to answer questions about American bloggers. I would suppose, from your backgrounds, that you would be most interested in how blogs have affected American journalists. I will begin with two general observations, then tell you a little about what I have done, and then come back to the larger question at the end of this post.
A. J. Liebling, who wrote for the New Yorker, once observed that: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." When Americans got most of their news from a few television networks and from large newspapers, it was difficult for those without fortunes to reach the public. With the spread of internet access to most American families, that changed. Now, almost anyone who wants to have a "press" can have one. Matt Drudge had almost no resources when he started his site, but he broke stories that "mainstream" reporters were unwilling to touch, and now has an audience in the millions.
Money may not matter, but expertise does. Charles Johnson, who writes the popular blog, Little Green Footballs, was able to help break the Dan Rather forged documents story because, as a programmer, he had become an expert on fonts. When I want to know something about Supreme Court decisions, I can read Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times, but I think I get better analyses from UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh. When I want to know something about military questions, I often turn to one of the "milblogs" or to Donald Sensing, a Methodist minister — and a former artillery officer.
Bloggers can concentrate on areas where they have some expertise, and that is something I have tried to do. I am more likely to write a post on a subject if I think I know a little more about that subject than the average person. For example, because I had some methodological training years ago, I find it easy to recognize the "ecological fallacy", which I spot from time to time, notably in columns by economist Paul Krugman of the New York Times (and Princeton University). Because I have been studying vote returns for decades, I often come to different conclusions than most reporters; for example, here's what I had to say on the black vote in presidential elections, and here's a set of posts on turnout in the Democratic contest in 2004. (Some publications, notably the Washington Post, did eventually catch up with me on the turnout stories.) And because I have had some training in analyzing public policy, I did two posts, here and here, on how a series of presidents have cut federal taxes for poorer Americans.
Bloggers can also cover stories neglected by "mainstream" journalists; that's why I did these posts on Presidents Lincoln and Washington, and why I went to church to see the documentary, Obsession. And they can cover stories from a different angle; I covered the massive pro-illegal immigration rally here last year, in part because I did not think that "mainstream" journalists would even note the extremists there. (And I followed that post, with one showing families, so my readers would understand that the extremists were not representative.)
Finally, since bloggers are publishers, as well as editors and reporters, they can indulge themselves from time to time. Some, for instance, regularly write about their cats, often on Friday afternoons. At my site, you are more likely to find mountain pictures on Fridays, notably two series of pictures of volcanoes in Oregon, which you can find here and here. (I am immodest enough to think that you may like this picture from Crater Lake, which is in the second series.)
Now, back to the question that may interest you most: How has all this blogging affected American journalists? It has, I think, made their jobs less pleasant, because anything they write or say can become the subject of a critical blog post, which may get picked up by other bloggers, and spread all over the country. Some bloggers, as you know, even got Dan Rather removed from the post that he had held for so many years.
But blogging also has changed journalism in positive ways, and a few journalists are beginning to understand that. For example, the expertise developed by some bloggers is an enormous resource that journalists can tap. Although not all reporters understand this yet, some bloggers are, in effect, unpaid researchers, who dig up facts journalists can use — for free. (Though it is nice if you give bloggers credit when you borrow their material.)
Bloggers can help journalists in another, more controversial way; they can make reporting more accurate. When I write posts, I sometimes make mistakes, just as journalists sometimes make mistakes in their stories. When readers spot those mistakes and tell me about them, I correct the mistakes — and thank the person who caught my error. I thank them because they have done me (and other readers) a favor by making my work more accurate.
For similar reasons, the blogger who (correctly) needles a journalist about a mistake is doing that journalist a favor, though it may not feel like a favor. But if journalists want their stories to be accurate, they will understand that, however it feels, a correction is a favor — even if the correction comes from a blogger.
(More: If that isn't too many links for you already — and it probably is — you can find three collections of links to some of my more significant posts here, here, and here.)
- 4:32 PM, 12 April 2007 [link]
Visitors Coming: And so I will be spending part of the day preparing to meet them tomorrow. I won't be baking a cake (which is just as well), but I will be preparing a post to welcome 18 journalists from "New Independent States". The 18 are being sponsored by the State Department, and are being welcomed to the Seattle area by the World Affairs Council.
This means that I will have to put aside some other work for a few days, and perhaps longer, since I have been called for jury duty next week.
- 9:28 AM, 12 April 2007 [link]
Good Question from Jay Leno:
On the April 10 "Tonight Show," host Jay Leno joked about Democrats boycotting the Fox News Channel/Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate. Wondered Leno, "How are you going to stand up to terrorists when you're afraid of Fox News?"I've been wondering about that myself, but I am afraid I know the answer.
- 12:52 PM, 11 April 2007 [link]
Nancy Pelosi Dances with . . . , well, I will just let you see her partners, though I will say that they aren't as nice as wolves.
(By way of Kesher Talk.)
- 9:09 AM, 11 April 2007 [link]
Fudge Factors And Climate Models: Freeman Dyson makes a sensational charge.
Concerning the climate models, I know enough of the details to be sure that they are unreliable. They are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behavior in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.(For some readers, a brief explanation of fudge factors may be in order. Let us suppose that you have decided to prove that shorter skirts are causing global warming (as well as higher stock prices). You construct a mathematical model for the last fifty years or so and find a weak fit to the data. Now, by adding variables in a trial-and-error fashion, you can eventually get a very good fit, at least for those fifty years. And so you will be able to say that shorter skirts cause global warming, and give exact predictions on the degrees of temperature rise per inch of leg exposed. And that is what Dyson says has happened. It is easy, by the way, to fall into such statistical traps accidentally, and more than one honest researcher has done so.)
If you have read my disclaimer on global warming, you may recall that I have had doubts about those climate models for years. What Dyson says in that interview gives me even more reason to be dubious about them.
- 12:43 PM, 10 April 2007 [link]
Darfur, Afghanistan, And Iraq: If you read the New York Times, you know that many on the left think that we should intervene in the Darfur region of the Sudan; we should, in other words, taken on a conflict with an Islamic state at a time when we are already fighting two wars against Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Similarly, many Democrats, as Charles Krauthammer notes, want us to switch our efforts in the war on terror from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Of all the arguments for pulling out of Iraq, the greater importance of Afghanistan is the least serious.Now ask that Martian whether it makes strategic sense to shift our efforts from Iraq and Afghanistan to Darfur, as many on the left would have us do. The Martian would probably back away from the questioner slowly, as many do when they fear a speaker is unhinged.
Why do so many on the left prefer interventions in strategically irrelevant places such as Darfur, or strategically marginal places such as Afghanistan, to intervention in strategically central places such as Iraq? I think, and this idea is not original, that they prefer those interventions precisely because Darfur and Afghanistan are strategically irrelevant or marginal. Leftists are ashamed when they see us acting in our own interests, and so they prefer interventions in Darfur and Afghanistan over Iraq, not in spite of the fact that they are strategically irrelevant or marginal, but because they are.
(I'm not against helping Darfur; I just think it can best be done by mercenaries, or, if you prefer, private security firms.)
- 10:56 AM, 10 April 2007 [link]
Imus Apologizes To Sharpton?!? Let's stipulate that Imus should apologize for these remarks.
Imus made the now infamous remark during his show Wednesday.And today Imus went on Al Sharpton's show to apologize.
Imus should apologize to the team, and to his listeners, and probably to others. (And perhaps should get fired for trying to talk like a rap star.)
But to Al Sharpton, a demagogue whose race baiting has led to riots in which people died, a demogogue who has used anti-Semitism many times in his campaigns, a demagogue who used the Tawana Brawley case to ruin an innocent man's life? No, that's just crazy.
In a just world, Al Sharpton would spend the rest of his life apologizing, and trying to repair some of the damage he has done.
(I haven't seen a definitive analysis, but I am inclined to think that Sharpton is mostly a charlatan, as well as a demagogue. I suspect that he does not believe many of the wild charges he makes.)
- 5:27 PM, 9 April 2007
More here, here, and here. Jeff Jacoby reviews Sharpton's demagogic career; Michelle Malkin provides comments, and links to more; and the Gateway Pundit suggests that Imus spend the two weeks suspension apologizing on Sharpton's show. I think that's reversed; it would be better for Sharpton to spend the time apologizing to Imus — and to so many others.
- 9:46 AM, 10 April 2006 [link]
Why Didn't Armand Hammer Get Hammered? In this post, three weeks ago, I mentioned that financier Armand Hammer (who employed Al Gore's father) had been a Soviet agent for much of his life. So, why, you may have wondered, was Hammer never prosecuted for his services to Lenin and Stalin?
Edward Jay Epstein, the author of Dossier, gives a straightforward answer. Though J. Edgar Hoover had been on to Hammer from the very beginning of Hammer's work for the Soviets, much of the evidence Hoover had gathered could not be presented in court. For example, there was the $75,000 that Hammer claimed the Soviets had given him for oil machinery.
The FBI had been able to determine from the serial numbers on the bills that much of the money was disbursed to the Soviet underground in America. Jacob Moness, the man Hammer swore in his debriefing he had never heard of, was one of the principal recipients of these funds. A burglary of Moness's office had uncovered records detailing sums of money advanced by Hammer. (p. 173)An FBI burglary, to be explicit.
And Hammer, understanding his vulnerability, cultivated powerful supporters in both parties, brilliantly. So Hoover had the evidence, but couldn't use it openly, and had to be careful about how he used it privately.
- 3:01 PM, 9 April 2007 [link]
Who Won In The British Hostage Crisis? At least some Iranians think they won.
Hardliners in the Iranian regime have warned that the seizure of British naval personnel demonstrates that they can make trouble for the West whenever they want to and do so with impunity.And some of those weapons will be used against British troops.
Those who believe they won usually keep on playing, so we can expect more trouble from them, and soon.
- 11:03 AM, 9 April 2007 [link]
Evidence Would Be Helpful: Seattle Times editorial writer Lance Dickie began a piece on the problems of Puget Sound with these two assertions:
The first is a statement about pollution in the Sound. I expected Dickie to follow it with data showing that pollution is worse now than it was ten or twenty years ago. He did not.
The second is a statement about public opinion. I expected Dickie to follow it by citing polls. He did not.
Is either statement true? I don't know. I did a brief search last night, looking for data on pollution in the Puget Sound and got mixed results. If what I found is representative — and I don't know that it is — the Sound is improving in some ways, but getting worse in others. The second statement, that no one believes that the Sound is getting worse, strikes me as extremely dubious. I have seen a lot of poll data on environmental issues, and the public generally has a far more negative view of pollution trends than they should.
Though both statements strike me as dubious, I am willing to be persuaded — but I would like to see some evidence first. If Dickie has evidence for either assertion, he should share it with his readers, rather than expecting us to accept what he writes on faith.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 7:00 AM, 9 April 2007 [link]
Five Thousand Posts: Roughly. If you look at the link in this post, you will see that it is numbered 5002. Since I number them in order, that means that I have done roughly 5000 posts since beginning this web site. Roughly, because sometimes I start a post and never finish it, and sometimes I have done posts for Sound Politics or for Oh, That Liberal Media without numbering them.
After the first 1000 posts, I did this review, and after the first 2000 posts, I did this review. If I have time this week, I may do a review of the first 3000, and then later do the first 4000 and the first 5000. (My schedule is a little uncertain, since I have been called for jury duty next week.) I do find these reviews helpful, and hope that you find them interesting.
(This brief Sound Politics post got the 5000 number, if you are wondering why 5000 is missing here.)
- 6:20 AM, 9 April 2007 [link]
Worth Reading: Richard Lindzen attacks alarmism on global warming.
Judging from the media in recent months, the debate over global warming is now over. There has been a net warming of the earth over the last century and a half, and our greenhouse gas emissions are contributing at some level. Both of these statements are almost certainly true. What of it? Recently many people have said that the earth is facing a crisis requiring urgent action. This statement has nothing to do with science. There is no compelling evidence that the warming trend we've seen will amount to anything close to catastrophe.That's Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor of Meteorology Richard S. Lindzen saying that, not a failed presidential candidate with no significant education in science.
(Those who have read my disclaimer will note many similarities in the arguments. That's because I have tried to incorporate the ideas of Lindzen, and other prominent scientists, in that disclaimer, adding some political ideas, and my own experience with large simulations.)
- 4:49 AM, 9 April 2007 [link]