Friday, May 29, 2009

Vrrrrooooom! More Great Online Info Displays

I'm a sucker for online info graphics, particularly of the interactive persuasion. If you read the political side of things here you'll remember my pointing out great NYT features on debates during the the election and somewhere in the archives here on page too I linked to the searchable/interactive map of tweets during the superbowl.

I'm not a race car fan at all, I just don't get it why would I want to watch a bunch of cars make 1,000 left turns? And, as this Indy car tracker from the Indy Star shows, the cars up front definitely don't do a lot of passing either.

If you're a diehard race fan I bet you'll be able to mine this feature for details about the 2009 Indy 500, if you're like me you'll appreciate it for its other qualities. Definitely go take a look, playing the entire race run through only takes a couple of minutes.

(via kottke)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good News For Crabs

Virginia, for just the second time ever, but the second straight year, will ban dredging for hibernating blue crabs this winter. This is very good news! Granted the Chesapeake blue crab fishery and population has big problems and they aren't all caused (nor will they all be solved by a ban) by catching most of the pregnant females each winter and destroying the next year's offspring before they're even sprung.

Still, leaving the pregnant females alone is always a good plan when you are trying to increase the population, whether you're talking about crabs or fish or deer or people.

As a Marylander I'm doubly happy about this because despite the MD ban on winter dredging which has been in effect for years and years the vast majority of the pregnant females hibernate in the relatively warmer and saltier VA waters of the Bay so there wasn't anything we could do but sputter in protest while our neighbors wreaked havoc.

Win Ben Stein's Money

These days you get to play the game every weekend by trying to find all of the errors hidden in his weekly NYT column.

Dean Baker
puts the most recent column through the paces...

People who get upset over the appearance of Ben Stein's columns in the Sunday NYT simply fail to understand their purpose. They are not to be treated as serious analysis of the economy or economic issues.

Rather, Stein's columns are meant to be treated like a puzzle. Readers are supposed to find all the various inaccurate statements and outright errors that appear in each column. They are like the game where two pictures are juxtaposed and the reader is supposed to find the twelve subtle differences between the pictures.

Bueller? Bueller?...

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Of Damien Walters

I am very impressed, this guy must be about the best gymnast in the world too...

I'm also impressed with the upgrades to embedded videos that YouTube has made.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Glenn Beck Doesn't Like Facts

Just in case anyone out there was confused or still wondering, Glenn Beck is a self professed ignorer of facts, some people call this lying. Apparently in his view as a commentator the truth just isn't that important.

Salon has video and transcript from Beck's appearance on the view:

Walters, though, continued the argument -- and in doing so, showed that she almost certainly doesn't watch his show.

"You are an investigative reporter," Walters said.

"No, I'm not," Beck responded.

"You're a reporter."

"No, I am not."

"So you check no facts at all?"

"No, ma'am. I am a commentator."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cap and Trade Is Not About Kangols and New Eras

But apparently most folks can't tell you what cap and trade is or even what it might be about. In a recent Rasmussen poll fewer respondents correctly identified cap and trade as dealing with the environment (24%) than thought cap and trade dealt with wall street (29%), or just straight up admitted that they didn't know (30%).

Matt Yglesias made a graph:Considering that cap and trade is the major step that we're planning on using to save the planet this is disturbing news. I'm not sure where the blame on this really lies but its probably safe to spread it around a bit. Lots of people think that the environment needs saving but don't know or care about what that entails, politicians aren't out there explaining things to the people (Al Gore made a great dent in educating the public about global warming with An Inconvient Truth but maybe we need a follow up tour) and reporters and news sources certainly don't do a good job of talking about this stuff, they'd much rather frame things as a he said she said ongoing debate over climate change rather than losing that story and explaining what the plan is.

Yuck all over.

(via EK)

Kennedy Still Battling Big C

Well Crap, I was all set to throw up a a happy post this morning on yesterday's news that Ted Kennedy's brain cancer was in remission and he was hoping to be back on the hill soon. Unfortunately that's not the case, Kennedy's office is not commenting so there isn't anything to add.

Seems as though you can add screwing that announcement up to the list of great things that Harry Reid has done lately, along with allowing an amendment opening National Parks to guns to be slapped on to the credit card relief bill, and his inability to differentiate between moving detainees from Guantanamo to State side detention facilities and releasing the detainees into the US.

Maybe you didn't hear it here first but, Harry Reid is an idiot.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Read This Now - Trains In America Run Slower And With Less Service Than In The 1930's

Ouch! This is definitely a disgrace especially when you consider the fact that much of the rest of the world offers great train service. While Europe and Asia have spent the past 100 years developing and enhancing trains and rail systems here in American we've been busy dismantling and scuttling them. The technological regress is astonishing.

Writing for Slate, Tom Vanderbilt has much more...

But Obama's bold vision obscures a simple fact: 220 mph would be phenomenal, but we would also do well to simply get trains back up to the speeds they traveled at during the Harding administration. Consider, for example, the Burlington Zephyr, described by the Saturday Evening Post as "a prodigious, silvery, three-jointed worm, with one stalk eye, a hoofish nose, no visible means of locomotion, seeming either to be speeding on its belly or to be propelled by its own roar," which barreled from Chicago to Denver in 1934 in a little more than 13 hours. (It would take more than 18 today.) An article later that year, by which time the Zephyr had put on the "harness of a regular railroad schedule," quoted a conductor complaining the train was "loafing" along at only 85 mph. But it was not uncommon for the Zephyr or other trains to hit speeds of more than 100 mph in the 1930s. Today's "high-speed" Acela service on Amtrak has an average speed of 87 mph and a rarely hit peak speed of 150 mph. (The engine itself could top 200 mph.)

What happened? I put the question to James McCommons, author of the forthcoming book Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service. As with most historical declines, there is no single culprit but rather a complex set of conditions. One reason is rail capacity. From the Civil War to World War I, the number of rail miles exploded from 35,000 to 216,000, hitting a zenith of 260,000 in 1930 and falling by 2000 to less than 100,000—the same level as in 1881. Capacity dropped because demand dropped—people moved to cars, and freight moved to trucks. Despite a World War II train boom fueled by troop movements and fuel rationing, trains have been on the decline since the late 1920s; as a 1971 New York Times article on the debut of Amtrak noted, "railroads asserted that, as an industry, they did not make a profit on passengers after [the] 1930s. They blamed buses, planes and autos and expensive union contracts that increased wage costs after 1919."

Make sure to read the whole article, it will shock you.

The Elephant In The Room

So President Obama went to Notre Dame today and gave the commencement address and instead of ignoring or brushing over the controversy surrounding his speaking there Obama decided to speak about debates and controversy and working together to make the world a better place in the context of abortion.

Text of the speech can be read here.

Interesting Mail

So the newspaper industry is slowly or maybe quickly dying, or at least changing drastically in the face of the internet. Luckily for you news still gets delivered in magazines. If the standard waiting room fair is too blase for you the WSJ has a rundown of inventive magazines that will certainly puzzle the mailman. Some are goody boxes, others fabulously expensive and filled with limited edition art, some come in frisbees and others come in cans, one is printed on the inside of a t-shirt.

The article is worth a look.

Or you could just teach the computer to buy stuff on e-bay, you might not be able to read everything that comes but it sure would keep the mail interesting...

(as always visit xkcd for the scroll over)

Getting Your Money's Worth

In Friday's edition of In The Loop in the WaPo Al Kamen had this little nugget on the inner workings of getting business done on the Hill...


Speaking of Iran and that region, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sent out a "Dear Colleague" e-mail Tuesday asking for signatures "to the attached letter to President Obama regarding the Middle East peace process."

The letter says the usual stuff, emphasizing that Washington "must be both a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel" and noting: "Israel will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement."

Curiously, when we opened the attachment, we noticed it was named "AIPAC Letter Hoyer Cantor May 2009.pdf."

Seems as though someone forgot to change the name or something. AIPAC? The American Israel Public Affairs Committee? Is that how this stuff works?


In fairness AIPAC does not directly give money to politicians.

Google Traffic Is Cool

I don't know how long it's been up for or how it works, or even if it's accurate but Google Traffic is at the very least an interesting idea and pretty cool looking.

Unfortunately the traffic maps are not embeddable (they supposedly offer live info so that makes sense) and I don't feel like doing a screen capture, but follow the links to check it out...

DC, NYC, Boston, B'More

It looks like most major metropolitan areas are wired up and as the above links show the Bos-Wash corridor is certainly online.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Read This Now - Better Know The Defense Secretary

The Washington Post has a great profile of Defense Secretary Bob Gates' quest to remake the military. It's a fascinating read that gives a glimpse at what's driving Gates and sheds some light on the intransigence that rules so much of the military bureaucracy.

Tom Ricks also highly recommends it.

No Good Will Come

So President Obama has decided to flip flop on releasing more detainee abuse photos that the administration had announced it would release in accordance with a court-order earlier this week.

Obama's decision to side with Cheney and attempt to sweep away concerns about the Bush Administration's advocacy and use of torture is a terrible terrible move.

As Tom Ricks just reiterated, we will learn nothing from our mistakes if we choose simply to ignore them. Which by the way is not even half of what fighting the release of the photos is, rather than just ignoring the problem Obama is now actively working to make it more difficult to deal with.

Obama's insistence that releasing the photos' could hurt American soldiers in the field and that there really isn't anything new in them and they aren't really that shocking is exactly what his predecessor had to say in these situations. And they were both lying.

It's terribly frustrating to see Obama protect the previous administration. On Thursday Joan Walsh said:

He's flip-flopped on FISA and the photos and other issues in between, and they've all had one thing in common: His decisions ultimately protect those who broke the law to spy and torture. Obama can still do the right thing on torture prosecutions, but I'm losing faith that he will.
and sadly she is right.

Glenn Greenwald is very worked up over all of this and he lays out a laundry list of wrongs the Obama Administration has committed since taking office. It's not pretty people, but you should go read the piece.

Obama has done a tremendous amount of good in his first four months in office but, especially as the story continues to unfold and flesh out, he's really stinking the joint up when it comes to the rule of law and torture.

Rachel Maddow has a good rundown of what we now know:

Also photos believed to be from the set that Obama is currently seeking to keep hidden are being published by an Austrailian news agency.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Democrat ? - PA

The first big political ad since Senator Arlen Specter became a Democrat is out. The spot id from America Rights at Work a union lobby that is pushing Specter to back EFCA.

As Greg Sargent points out, this makes it even clearer that if Specter doesn't do the right thing the unions will back a primary competitor against Specter. It seems increasingly likely that Specter will either need to consistently deliver strong progressive votes until the primary or face off against a real Democrat.

A good place to start would be by canceling his slated appearance at an upcoming right wing sponsored "anti-islamist" conference.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

One Thousand Paper...

There might be that many folds in some of Simon Schubert's more intricate pieces but he isn't making paper cranes or origami of any type. Schubert makes small folds, and lots of them, in paper to create an image, mostly 2-D it looks like, that vaguely resembles a light charcoal drawing.

Visit his site for many more.

(via Kottke)

It's Hard To Beat A Good Tabbouleh

And yes if my girlfriend made it without tomatoes I might have to leave her...

(via Eat Me Daily)

Legalize It

Seems that back in 2001 the drug scene in Portugal was awful, so the government up and tried a different tactic, the decriminalized most drugs. And....well, it worked according to a recent report from Glenn Greenwald (the very same) for the Cato Institute.

The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.
As Freakonomics mentions drug use and HIV rates are down and people seeking treatment is way up.

This does help explain why when I was in Lisbon a couple of years ago a guy started yelling at me form across one of the city's main squares. "America! Hey America!" he yelled (I was the only person over 5'10 or with blond hair for miles) and when I turned to look he continued; "America! Hash-Hish!" he yelled grinning and waving two huge bags.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Read This Now - Accountability Round Up

Actually rounding up those individuals responsible for the gross violations of the rule of law and human rights that led to the US torturing scores of so called enemy combatants and other detainees under the Bush regime would be a great place to start in the search for accountability.

For a number of reasons that seems highly unlikely. The best round up of the current situation that I've seen to date comes from Dan Froomkin, you should check it out.

Secondly, while it's certainly worth exploring why any number of people were either actively or passively complicit in our torture regime -- and I'm all for some national self-flagellation here -- that has nothing to do with whether senior administration officials willfully broke the law, and whether they should be held accountable. It doesn't change the law.

Torture - What's In A Word

A whole lot if you're the NYTimes and have as yet to describe the interrogation techniques authorized and encouraged by the Bush regime as such.

Andrew Sullivan
is a bit hot under the collar about this, especially in light of the NYT's description of the torture of a former US POW held by the Chinese in the 1950's in the pilot's recent obituary...

You will notice how the NYT defines torture when it comes to foreign governments - isolation, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation. Much milder than anything the US did to one of its own citizens, Jose Padilla. But the parallel is almost perfect: these are, after all, the exact Chinese Communist techniques that were reverse engineered from the SERE program. So you have a perfect demonstration of the NYT's double-standard. If Chinese do it to Americans, it's torture; if Americans do it to an American, it's "harsh interrogation." Does Jill Abramson really expect us to take this lying down?

Read This Now - Walter Pincus Diagnoses The Newpaper Business

Walter Pincus has been in the game for a long time, he knows intimately it's ins and outs, it's ups and downs and in the May / June issue of the CJR he takes a look at where the industry is today and how it got there.

American journalism is in trouble, and the problem is not just financial. My profession is in distress because for more than a decade it has been chasing the false idols of fame and fortune. While engaged in those pursuits, it forgot its readers and the need to produce a commercial product that appealed to its mass audience, which in turn drew advertisers and thus paid for it all. While most corporate owners were seeking increased earnings, higher stock prices, and bigger salaries, editors and reporters focused more on winning prizes or making television appearances.
The whole piece is more than well worth reading.

Well Sheeeeeeeeeet

Little Mac is getting back in the ring. Punch Out for Wii is coming soon, check out Doc...

(via Kottke)

Read This Now - More Torture Documents Coming Soon

Greg Sargent pulls this nugget from the depths of a WaPo piece on Dick Cheney's continued support of torture...

The White House has decided to declassify and release a classified 2004 CIA report about the torture program that is reported to have found no proof that torture foiled any terror plots on American soil — directly contradicting Cheney’s claims. The paper cites “allies” of the White House as a source.

Dem Congressional staffers tell me this report is the “holy grail,” because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works — and its release will almost certainly trigger howls of protest from conservatives. Tellingly, neither the CIA nor the White House knocked down the story in response to my questions, with spokespeople for both declining comment.
This certainly looks to be something to keep an eye on. Will calling Cheney's bluff finally shut him up? I kind of doubt it, but it should be fun to watch.

Yes That Dolphin Is Pink

Technically it's an albino Bottlenose, but this dolphin's coloration is a stunning shade of pink.

Read the article from the Telegraph (UK).

Picking On The Post

Since I woke up this morning it's been getting increasingly gray outside, the radio (NPR) says that it should be around 60 and rainy by this afternoon.

How does the Washington Post decide to start the week off? With this hard hitting piece of photo-journalism as the above the fold lede...

That caption is a bit hard to read in this format (interesting that the photo does not appear in any other form on the WaPo website...) it reads:

The sun is shining on Bobby Migliaccio as he charges home during a kickball game on the Mall. Migliaccio, of Lauerl, plays in a league called NAKID (No, Adult Kickball Isn't Dumb). Yesterday's great weather is likely to continue, with sunny skies lasting for three straight days.
Yeah, and you wonder why I'm picking on the Post again. When you can't get the weather even close to correct, and you make that false bit of information the lede in the paper, despite everything else happening in the world, why should you expect to be taken seriously as a journalistic institution?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Marriage Progress

Maine recently became the fifth state to legalize Gay Marriage and the Nation's Capital, Washington, DC just voted 12-1 to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

If you guessed the lone dissenter was Marion Barry you were correct, if you guessed he would say something fairly crazy you get bonus points.

Jon Stewart will now offer some context...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Gaywatch - Marion Barry
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

(via DCist)

Happy Mother's Day - Semi NSFW

Welcome to the guaranteed viral video success follow-up to dick in a box...


How To Get Kids To Play The Flute

Well this sure makes me think it would be pretty cool...

Impressive, reminds me of Rahzel...

It's pretty cool watching this stuff on line but I can tell you it's fairly insane seeing it live, if you ever have the chance make sure to check it out.

(via JA on facebook)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gender Preferences Indeed

Everyone is thinking about who might be or should be the next Supreme Court Justice, and some folks are decrying the looming discrimination facing white male candidates.

Only, Adam Serwer looked it up and the numbers are a bit staggering...

There have been 110 Justices on the Supreme Court. Of those, two have been women, and two have been black. The other 106 have been white men.
I'm gonna let Ezra Klein bring it home:

And though few would publicly argue that the Court has a duty to be liberal or conservative (or stacked with young appointees who have very low cholesterol), the institution does have to be considered legitimate. It is responsible for a country that's 51 percent female and whose law graduates are 48 percent female. Its highest profile cases revolve exclusively around things that happen in a woman's body. If we were aware of those facts and were stocking the Court from scratch, there is no doubt that we would strive for more gender balance.

Viewed from that perspective, the situation clarifies considerably. The reason white men are disadvantaged in this nomination process is pretty simple: They are not, right now, what the Court needs. They are not the best candidates for the job.

Isn't It Ironic...

No. not rain on your wedding day (that's just pretty crummy, but not very ironic). On the other hand those flashy new laptop hunter commercials from Microsoft appear likely to have been made on Macs (at least everyone who works at the ad agency behind the spots uses a Mac, you do the math).

What The President Had For Lunch

President Obama was joined by Vice President Biden for lunch at Ray's Hell Burger (if you don't know, you should) and what seemed like most of the White House press corps...

View more news videos at:

And yes this is news.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Have A Smart Phone?

(none of the images returned in a google search for smartphones contained the IPhone, interesting no?)

Help Wired test out national 3G network speeds. For the next week Wired is asking folks to run an app on their smart phones which will test the 3G network's capabilities in their location and then make the data available on a big old map, you also get to rate your satisfaction with your carrier.

At the end of the week Wired will report back with the results.

Full details and instructions are up at the Gadget Lab.

Quote For The Current Political Landscape

At the end of piece last week tangentially related to President Obama's first 100 days in office but more about how the Democratic Party came through the primary battles and how the Republican party is, not so slowly, flushing itself down the tubes; Salon's Joan Walsh nailed today's political landscape and how it's viewed...

Sadly, the only people who are reliably missing how marginal the Republican party has become are the leading lights of the mainstream media. They report on John Boehner and McCain, Newt Gingrich and Palin, Grover Norquist and Michele Bachmann, as if they matter and make sense to most Americans. When will media elites turn to the real story: A modern American party is committing slow suicide, because it consciously chose a path of elitism and exclusivity, while the Democrats fought a brutal battle, but came back together around the values of inclusion and equity that the political success of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – and Michelle Obama – represent. No doubt Sojourner Truth is smiling.

Friday, May 1, 2009

So Long Souter

The news of the day is without a doubt the story that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning on retiring at the end of the Court's current term. While Justice Souter has not technically made a public announcement as of yet, NPR broke the story last night and now it's everywhere.

Speculation is also quickly piling up as to who President Obama will appoint to fill Souter's seat.

I'm anxiously awaiting Jeffery Toobin's take on the situation, he offered a quick run down of candidates in February when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced her cancer diagnosis, and although her retirement is no longer thought to be imminent the list may well be the same, and Toobin said to look for a non-judge appointee as the current Court is the only one to be made up entirely of former judges.

I'll be keeping an eye on The New Yorker's News Desk today.

Mr. Kelly Will Take You To School Now

Gene Kelly was pretty much the man...

Color me impressed.

(via Kottke)