Monday, June 29, 2009

Read This Now - Climate Change Can't Wait

Three important, incensed, and increasingly urgent takes on climate change legislation and it's squeaking through the house last week.

Paul Krugman labels climate change deniers traitors to humanity.

NASA's head scientist (New Yorker profile, sub. req. first time I've run into that sorry. blog update) thinks it may be too late already (too bad no one's listened to him as he's correctly predicted climate change for the past 30 years).

And Nate Silver examines the attacks on how much climate change will cost economically and puts things neatly into perspective (hint doing nothing would roughly equal wiping out 43% of the planet's population, in economic terms).

Our Oceans Are Haunted

Regardless of whether you believe in ghosts, ghost nets, traps, and pots in the form of lost fishing gear are a very real problem.

I started thinking about them a while back when the Shifting Baselines blog (currently defunct) ran a piece with video of teams capturing ghost nets in Puget Sound, more recently Tim Wheeler at the (now also defunct) Bay & Environment blog had an interesting story on paying out of work Virgina waterman (due to fisheries closures based on decreasing stocks) to round up ghost crab pots in VA's parts of the Chesapeake Bay.

That effort removed 8,600 pots and 61 nets containing more than 5,000 crabs, the going estimate is apparently 50 crabs per ghost pot a year. NOAA and the MD DNR estimated a couple of years ago that 42,000 ghost pots probably haunt MD's Chesapeake waters. Frustratingly that study has apparently yet to be followed up on even though they promised next steps and information on capturing ghost pots in late 2008. (A recent Environmental News Service article puts the number of estimated Chesapeake ghost pots at 150,000, albeit with no support)

The UN Environment Program released a report this spring on the growing threat posed by ghost fishing gear. Worldwide 10% of ocean debris is thought to be deadly ghost gear (that weighs in at 640,000 tons) which adds up to a lot of dead fish and other critters, none of which we get to eat either.

Here is the first video to pop up on YouTube, from Oregon Public TV...

(if you want to see more just type in ghost nets)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mama Finally Went And Did It

Even Paul Simon could only delay the inevitable. They've taken Kodachrome away...

PC Speaks At Radio & TV Whitehouse Correspondents' Dinner

John Hodgman on his own personally compelling story and the ability of the Obama Administration to deal with our nation's historic jock / nerd rift...

(via kottke)

Netflix Prize Won

Well, nearly so at least. The 10% improvement on Netflix's prediction algorithm needed to claim the prize has been achieved. The rules give all other competitors 30 days to best the 10.05% mark and then its all over.

Some very cool work has been done on the Netflix Prize and it's been interesting even just casually following the teams' progress.

Wired has the full story.

(vial Bloggasm)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

So Long Dan Froomkin

At least say bye bye to his WaPo online column / blog White House Watch. Erik Wemple at the City Paper has the story.

A lot happened while I was on vacation and I'll try to get to some of it at least. Froomkin's commentary was an often invaluable source for me during the W years and I am still reading through pieces from the last month in the RSS reader. Froomkin has written for the Nieman Watchdog Blog so look for him to possibly resurface there.

Froomkin signs off by promising an update at

Monday, June 15, 2009

Read This Now - Live Blogging Unrest In Tehran

You shouldn't be here you should be reading niacInsight.

Hundreds of Thousands Take To The Streets In Tehran

Despite Iranian authorities annoucing that today's planned rally for Mir Hossein Mousavi was banned and rumors that Mousavi had canceled huge numbers of people have taken to the streets of Tehran.

Here is YouTube video from BBC Persia with a heading claiming millions which is probably an exaggeration:

(via PA)

The BBC and AP are both reporting that the crowds have been fired upon with at least one protester killed, they are also both placing the crowd size at hundreds of thousands.

More video is available at the BBC site.

Earlier today Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered a review of the election results, which certaintly doesn't seem like the tactics that would be employed if they were planning on upholding the election and stifling dissent.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More From Iran

Laura Secor, for the New Yorker, has more on the unfolding situation in Iran including more video...

There can be no question that the June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential election was stolen. Dissident employees of the Interior Ministry, which is under the control of President Ahmadinejad and is responsible for the mechanics of the polling and counting of votes, have reportedly issued an open letter saying as much. Government polls (one conducted by the Revolutionary Guards, the other by the state broadcasting company) that were leaked to the campaigns allegedly showed ten- to twenty-point leads for Mousavi a week before the election; earlier polls had them neck and neck, with Mousavi leading by one per cent, and Karroubi just behind. Historically, low turnout has always favored conservatives in Iranian elections, while high turnout favors reformers. That’s because Iran’s most reliable voters are those who believe in the system; those who are critical tend to be reluctant to participate. For this reason, in the last three elections, sixty-five per cent of voters have come from traditional, rural villages, which house just thirty-five per cent of the populace. If the current figures are to be believed, urban Iranians who voted for the reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami in 1997 and 2001 have defected to Ahmadinejad in droves.
She ends by saying it remains to be seen whether this is Wenceslas or Tiananmen Square.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


So Iran is a bit of a mess currently.

The NY Times and Washington Post are both reporting on riots etc in the wake of a hotly contested presidential election that Iranians and international observers alike are calling stolen.

Juan Cole, writing at Salon, has the definitive (for now), run down:

The primary challenger to incumbent Ahmadinejad, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi, was widely thought to have a number of crucial constituencies behind him. Urban youth and women, who had elected a reformist president in 1997 and 2001, showed enthusiasm for Moussavi. He also showed an ability to bring out big crowds in his native Azerbaijan, where a Turkic language, Azeri, is spoken rather than Persian. (Azeris constitute about a third of the Iranian population.) It was expected that if the turnout was large, that would help Moussavi.

But not only did Iran's Electoral Commission announce that Ahmadinejad had won almost two-thirds of the general vote, it also gave him big majorities in major cities such as Tehran and Tabriz (the latter is the capital of Azerbaijan). These results seemed unbelievable not only to Moussavi supporters but to many professional Iran observers. Although candidates in Iran's presidential elections are closely vetted, and only four out of hundreds of applicants were allowed to run this time, once the candidates were certified the elections have been relatively free and fair in the past. If proved true, electoral fraud on the scale being charged by Ahmadinejad's rivals risks further undermining the legitimacy of the regime in the eyes of the public.
He goes on to point out that little was actually at stake in the elections, especially as concerns foreign policy since Iran's supreme leader holds all actual power.

(More from Cole on his blog)

The BBC also has coverage including video of protests.

Where Are They Now?

Via Rick Hertzberg comes this un-used SNL opening from the season finale...

Ahh No Va...

Read all about in the WaPo Metro section.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Stache Returns

Arizona Diamondbacks' pitcher Clay Zavada has arrived in the big leagues with a seriously big league stache. His facial hair harkens back to the good ole Rollie Fingers days.

Dr. Aaron Purlet, head of the American Mustache Institute, recently discussed Zavada and his stache on ESPN...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Going Commando

It's been long enough since we've posted the Daily Show or the Report, lets just turn this over to Stephen...

Love the cammo suit and the Bob Hope golf club. Bob probably wouldn't have played Iraq though, he liked a big room.

Jump! Jump!

The WaPo sports section has a story about Skins rookie WR Keith Eloi trying to get noticed by teams before the draft after having played college ball for Div. II Nebraska-Omaha. It's a fun little story that starts with the tale of how he umped into the back of a pickup truck, in his sandals no less, for a YouTube video. I think you know where this is going...

Apparently jumping out of a pool will get you more views though (1 million plus in fact):

And one more before I claw my way out of the rabbit hole before its too late...

Oh hell one more won't hurt...

Monday, June 8, 2009

On The Success Of Protected Areas

Results are starting to come in on the success (or lack thereof) of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which have been in use in the waters off of California and Hawaii for long enough to start to quantify some data and results.

And ladies and gentlemen the results are good, maybe even great.

So promising in fact that the California Department of Fish & Game titled a report on the first five years of the Channel Islands MPAs - Results Show Positive Ecological Effects of Reserves (this link is a bit off the report is there though).

I can't say it any better than Mark Powell already did:

Wow, who's surprised? If you stop fishing in an area, then you get more fish and bigger fish. And that makes ocean ecosystems more healthy.
Powell also pulled the best bits from the report...
Many species of fish and invertebrates targeted by fishing outside reserves are bigger and more abundant inside no-take reserves, while non-targeted species’ abundances are essentially equal. Marine reserves have greater biodiversity and greater fish biomass than fished areas nearby. Studies of fish movement suggest that even wide-ranging species can benefit from the Channel Islands reserves and that some individuals move from reserves to fished areas. These results show that the Channel Islands reserves and other protected areas may contribute to the goals of protecting and promoting healthy ecosystems.
Following up on the news from the Channel Island MPAs Rick MacPherson pulled out the relevant details from some new reports on Hawaiian stocks and MPAs that show success in those waters as well...
The West Hawaii reserve system has been shown to have a number of benefits above and beyond impacts on yellow tang. Those include greater numbers of other targeted species, reduced conflict between collectors, commercial ocean recreation operations, and community members, and greater numbers of attractive and conspicuous fishes in reef areas which are readily accessible to commercial and recreational divers and snorkelers.

In addition, survey data provides clear evidence that the West Hawaii protected areas network, by sustaining adult stocks over large areas of the coastline, helps to ensure the long-term sustainability of yellow tang stocks in West Hawaii and of the fishery which depends heavily on this species. Increased fishing effort and catches in recent years demonstrate scope for severe over-exploitation in the absence of reserves, and suggest that additional management, including perhaps limits on participation as well as specific additional protection of breeding stocks may be necessary to optimize future fishery benefits.
It really is this simple folks, if we catch fewer fish or stop fishing altogether in a given area those fish will get bigger and produce more new fish, it only seems like magic.

Protecting areas on terra firma does a pretty good job as well, just check out this post.

Recessions Are Bad For Airlines, Deadly For Passengers?

So this is a pretty scary thought, albeit one that probably doesn't have legs. NPR's Planet Money graphed out commercial airline crashes in terms of recent recessions, and there isn't much correlation, a slight uptick for '91 and '01's downturns but even thats a stretch.

They go on to note that there are now reports circulating that Airbus had released a suggested equipment fix that Air France had not undertaken, the fix was a suggestion not an emergency must fix before flying type of thing. But could one of the underlying reasons that Air France had not fixed the equipment in question (which may have helped lead or even directly led to this crash) be the current economic climate and the need for Air France as a business to try and keep on budget?

Again probably not, but the whole notion is certainly attention getting.

Welcome To The 95th Percentile!

I didn't pay much attention to the NYT article last week that ran under the headline Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest, after all how interesting or informative can something in the dead tree media about the new media be?

Then via new media, bloggasm to be precise, I caught this nugget of data in the aforementioned article...

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.
Some people are upset with the times and see this piece as blog bashing. Not me. I think that the New York Times, the paper of record with all the news that's fit to print, has just placed Coppola Comments in the top 5% of all blogs on the internet. Welcome to the rarefied air up here readers.

You gotta love the internet.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

(Failing To) Save The Bay?

We've known for a long time now that we were killing the Chesapeake, and that we'd have to take pretty serious, even drastic, actions if we wanted to save the Bay. But while government officials have talked a decent game for the past 20 or so years, deadlines have come and gone and goal posts have been moved and things have not gotten better, in short the Bay is still dying and it's our fault.

The single brightest spot in the very small list of recoveries made in the Chesapeake has been the resurgence of Rockfish in the Bay, and that took a total moratorium that lasted for years.

The WaPo Sunday Magazine cover story this week features stunning aerial photos of the Bay but the story that accompanies it lays out the sobering status of the Chesapeake. The Post also has a special online section up titled Failing the Chesapeake Bay with an ongoing series on the Bay's health and some interesting graphs, photos, and facts.

President Obama and the EPA along with the Governors of the Bay states recently made renewed promises to cleaning up the Bay and restoring the Chesapeake to some measure of its former grandeur. Only time will tell if they really mean it this time, in the end talk is always cheap, only actions, costly though they may be, will bring about the needed change.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Bay Daily is probably the best place to keep up to date with the Bay. The Baltimore Sun's excellent Bay & Environment blog has sadly fallen victim to the most recent round of budget cuts at the Sun, which is a shame. The Bay needs all the help it can get, and solid local reporting remains a niche that we had come to rely on local papers to supply. Blogs are managing to step it up in this area but the going is slow.

Hey Kids Ryan Howard Eats His Veggies And So Should You

Phillies slugger Ryan Howard got a tour of the organic garden at the White House last week...

Why are these guys wearing suits to go rummage around the garden and compost etc?

(via DCist)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is This The Death Knell Of Traditional Media?

(via bloggasm)

And if it is, is that a bad thing?

Good On Ya Giant

Giant Food has donated the commission award for selling the winning Powerball ticket in Washington DC to the Capital Area Food Bank. That's a much needed $100,000 going to the food bank, nice work Giant!

Food banks across the country have been struggling to keep up with increased demand and decreased donations brought on by the current recession so this is a particularly timely donation.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Read This Now - Why Do We Spend So Much On Health Care?

Excuse me while I get out my drum.

Ok now go read Atul Gawande's latest piece in the New Yorker on run away health care spending and the culture of commercialism that has spawned it, as always you should be reading absolutely everything the man writes.

The most interesting tid bit to hit me was that the quality of care almost always goes up as the overall spending goes down (see Mayo Clinic).

When you look across the spectrum from Grand Junction to McAllen—and the almost threefold difference in the costs of care—you come to realize that we are witnessing a battle for the soul of American medicine. Somewhere in the United States at this moment, a patient with chest pain, or a tumor, or a cough is seeing a doctor. And the damning question we have to ask is whether the doctor is set up to meet the needs of the patient, first and foremost, or to maximize revenue.

Live Free Or Die

On Wednesday New Hampshire became the sixth state, along with Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Iowa, to uphold the ideals of equality upon which the United States was founded and afford all of their citizens, gay and straight, the right to marry as they see fit.

Interestingly, in an interview over the weekend, former VP Dick Cheney appeared to get with the program and endorse same-sex marriage while also stating that the federal government didn't have any business attempting to regulate the institution.

This morning the NYT urged New York to join it's New England neighbors.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good Transparencies - More Fun (and informative) Than A Barrel Full Of Monkeys

Good Magazine always runs a graphic of some uber creative sort packed with interesting details on an interesting and frequently timely topic. Last week they made the entire collection (currently 80 images) available on Flickr.

I enjoyed this recent break down of the sea of garbage...

Unfortunately the graphics are a bit too small to read fully on Flickr and when you launch them at Good's site they are really just too large to be of much use. Perhaps the editors are trying to send us a message; buy the magazine already!

Seriously though back to the garbage for a minute, this is just gross and a huge problem...

if that piqued your interest you can watch Charles Moore's Ted Talk here.

(Good transparencies via kottke)

Improv Everywhere Is Improbably Cute

They threw a random wedding reception as their latest prank, or mission if you will which is what the group terms them...

visit Improv Everywhere

Monday, June 1, 2009

Read This Now - Richard Clarke Was There

One of the current arguments of the day coming from Bush apologists and torture pushers is that you have to remember and imagine what it must have been like to be them and inside the White House in the days after September 11 and that given those circumstances they made the right call.

There are many many things wrong with this argument, but Richard Clarke was inside the White House at the time and he says Cheney in particular is full of it...

I have little sympathy for this argument. Yes, we went for days with little sleep, and we all assumed that more attacks were coming. But the decisions that Bush officials made in the following months and years -- on Iraq, on detentions, on interrogations, on wiretapping -- were not appropriate. Careful analysis could have replaced the impulse to break all the rules, even more so because the Sept. 11 attacks, though horrifying, should not have surprised senior officials. Cheney's admission that 9/11 caused him to reassess the threats to the nation only underscores how, for months, top officials had ignored warnings from the CIA and the NSC staff that urgent action was needed to preempt a major al-Qaeda attack.

And Then There Were Two...

Well, not just yet there aren't. Minnesota still has only one Senator and former Senator Norm Coleman with an assist from from Governor Tim Pawlenty is continuing his obnoxious quest to deny the citizens of his state full and equal representation in Washington.

The State Supreme Court heard arguments in the case this morning which means that things are inching along at least, but shouldn't be taken to mean that things will be wrapped up any time soon.

TPM says that for what it's worth the Justices gave Coleman's lawyer a hard time. For all the details head over to TPM and check out Eric Kleefeld's continuing coverage of the Mess in Minnesota...

David Who?

I recently finished Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece on David vs Goliath situations and I had the same beefs that a lot of readers seem to have had. Suffice it to say that the piece is structured around a really flimsy basketball analogy.

I just saw Ezra Klein's wrap up though and I definitely agree with his bottom line on Gladwell:

But Gladwell isn't an academic and he's not a traditional reporter. Insofar as he has a beat, it's modern fables. Stories with a point. He's like Aesop for the corporate class. To wit, the grasshopper isn't really a lazy insect. But then, the point of that story is the importance of hard work, not the characteristics of different bugs. And it's true that hard work is important. Similarly, full court press doesn't guarantee victory for weak basketball teams. But the point of that story is that weak agents need asymmetric tactics, which is also true. You get this in his books, too. Gladwell's core competency is finding fun stories that illustrate interesting -- and even true! -- concepts. It can be a bit precious and, in terms of the stories, occasionally wrong. But it lets him explore useful theories in a readable way. If you want to attack the work, you really need to go after the legitimacy of the basic theories. Questioning the stories doesn't get you very far.

Liar Liar

It runs in the family must be Liz Cheney's excuse but her dad Dick, has pretty much run out of them at this point. I haven't commented on the great Cheney fib fest because he's a sad old man with a horrendously mistaken notion of reality who won't let go and he doesn't deserve your attention.

But the Cheney's, and other Bush and torture advocates and apologists, just won't go away and the main stream media seems more than happy to help them burn through the bottom half of their collective wardrobes. So here is Rachel Maddow with a similar takedown...

(via PA)

Way To Keep It Classy Lebron

So Lebron James, the face and future of the NBA, didn't want to shake the Magic players hands after his Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs because he's a winner? Does that mean he only shakes hands when he wins? How did he think that was the right explanation?

Farewell To Fisher

Marc Fisher is changing jobs at the WaPo and you'll no longer have his doggedly determined columns to look forward to or his always entertaining blog for that matter. Fisher will be running a new experimental local news team within the Post, it remains to be seen how this stab at local coverage will work out but as City Paper points out you don't just take your number one local columnist out of print without intending to put him to use elsewhere (insert your own joke about newspaper downsizing here) so hopefully things will go with the project.

It should at least be something worth watching especially considering all of the talk and concern of late over the future of local news and reporting in the face of increasingly hard times for local papers. I'd offer that this is an area where blogs may well be able to step in to the gap quite readily. The ist family of blogs already does a ton of local coverage, although they are often directing readers to local papers content if that content didn't exist would the ists be able to step and create it or would the papers take them down as collateral damage?

Only time will tell.

While you're waiting go read Fisher's farewll column.