Because of travel and uncertainty with my schedule I’m going to vote absentee in this election. There seem to be two good sites with wizards that walk you through everything: Go Vote Absentee and Long Distance Voter. Going into polls and waiting in lines seems like an anachronism. Someday I hope I can vote online.
How Design Can Save Democracy. AIGA tackles election ballots.
Have you seen the new US money they’re printing? I had gotten used to the 20s but I got a 10 at the grocery store the other day and it really surprised me — it’s totally orange. I miss the green. Bringing things full-circle, my second blog post ever was about meeting the US Treasurer and talking about the new colors. The more things change…
“The Pulse of Freedom is a site published by the protesters at Martyrs’ Square, Beirut, from a tent city.” This is an inspiring story: “A group of Web masters, graphic design artists, writers, and photographers stayed up all night for several nights in a row putting the Web site together.” They chose WordPress. “As far as I’m aware this is the first Web site of its kind anywhere in the world. The leaders of a democratic revolution are openly blogging about their experience from the center of the action.” Echoditto writes about their part in Blogging from Beirut. “I am writing this post from a tent city in the Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut, a place which is filled with the energy and excitement of a burgeoning democratic movement.” Hat tip: Mike Carvalho via email.
The FCC ruling pleases me in a way. Any shortsighted policy that discourages consumers from watching broadcast TV or raises the price of equipment for receiving broadcast TV is a step in the right direction from my point of view. Broadcast TV is an entrenched politically sanctioned zone of zero effective competition, with all the usual consequences. In addition I think it helps to make people stupid. Ideally it should be taxed into oblivion, but crippling it with DMCA measures is better than nothing I guess.
Of course even more ideally the FCC should be abolished and the airwaves should be auctioned, but that isn’t going to happen. Since government appears to be unavoidable at this time, it should behave as self-destructively as possible.
Lately it is with less frequency that news from the White House sends a chill up my spine, yet it seems the White House is using technical means to prevent spidering and archival of key documents. This is, without question, highly questionable. I hope there is a good reason for this or that it will be reversed quickly, but one has to wonder whether such a deliberate action could have been done by someone who is not a stakeholder, like a web lackey.
Of course this is a situation that could be addressed by technical means. A spidering robot that did not follow the robot exclusion rules could spider a number of public government web pages at set intervals, say twice a day, archive the results of the crawl, and a summary of the differences between the versions could be offered as a service of government transparancy. WhiteHouse.gov would certainly be worth watching and others such as the Fed could be interesting as well. It’s not a trivial task, but I would imagine one of the groups interested in such things would have no problem funding the development and mantainance of such a tool. For complete transparancy the tool could be open source. I can’t think of a legitimate objection that could be brought against such a service by operators of the websites in question. Bandwidth use would be trivial compared to the amount of traffic such sites must get every day.
Richard Allen, a member of the British Parliment, now has a WordPress-powered blog. How cool is that? Politician blogs in general are a great idea and I wish more mainstream politicians in the US would pick it up. (What if the President had a blog?) Look for more politician’s blogs in the future, as I’m exploring doing some web work for a local candidate.
I’m still holding on to my personal ban of war posting, as there is enough of that going on already, but a post by Lucian really grabbed me, though the commenter Walker has a good point about the story’s conclusion. Anyway my english professor gave me a copy of this poem today which really speaks, especially when you think about the story of Abraham and Isaac critically, in light of all its implications. It’s written by Wilfred Owen, who for those of you not familiar with him is widely regarded to be the poet (at least for England) of the first World War. He was killed in battle a year before the war ended in 1918.
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not they hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold.
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
I want you to learn morality from Hollywood. *applause*
Saw an interesting speech by Greg Palast today, in which he made a lot of very strong assertions about a number of issues, most notably of the 2000 presidential elections. He is not as much as a wack as I expected him to be going in, but I’m going to reserve further judgment until I read his new book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. I did get to have a brief but informative conversation with him after everything about his time “undercover” with Milton Friedman and situation in Venezuela, which he called the most badly reported story since Vietnam. He seemed like a very nice guy, despite his inflammatory views and writing. Check out some of the articles on his site if you’d like more background.
In his address to Congress in 1951, Douglas MacArthur said: “I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.” I’d recommend everyone read the entire thing. Hat tip: Mom.
What do you say when Republicans dominate tech-friendly votes, except that I’m glad that the party that makes the most economic sense is evolving to align with my views on technology as well. The article is by Declan, which means it is excellent. Now all we need is a tech-savvy president. Vote for Matt in 2020! (At which time I’ll be 36, the youngest I’ll be able to run.)
Iraq Agrees to Readmit Inspectors, U.N. Says–and not a moment too soon. It was starting to get hot in here.
98% of the last 200 hits on swcdesign.com have been from images.google.com; I don’t often get hits from there so I decided to investigate what was causing such a ruckus and huge spike in traffic. Well it turns out a picture I made last year right around this time is on the tenth page of results for searches on “911” in Google images. On the tenth page and it hundreds of people a day have been following the link. I think it speaks a little to people’s thoughts at the moment, I know that personally I rarely go past the second page of results, especially on Google.
More importantly, it’s a somber reminder of the fast approaching anniversary of a date that at least in my mind I’ve been avoiding. Yesterday a lady told me a story about her brother who signed a lease that morning on an office in the WTC and was on his way to look at it when the first plane hit. Her other brother was forced to jump in the river when the towers collapsed. Both were okay. Every time someone mentions the event it seems I hear a new story almost too incredible for belief, but you know they’re mostly true. Still the incredible stories of survival only seem to whet my taste for real answers to the events.
Three hundred and sixty-four days later, what have we done? We’ve bombed the hell out of a third world country, caught a few underlings, spent $80 billion, took away more than a few personal liberties, and we’re now at the brink of war with an oil superpower. Very smart thing to do during a recession. I admit that I’ve always supported the Bush administration. Bush himself isn’t the most competent guy but he handled an emergency relatively well, and he surrounds himself with some of the best and brightest in the country (with the notable exception of John Ashcroft and John Poindexter). Now you have talk of Colin Powell not coming back for a second term, of course assuming that the administration makes it that far. The backlash has been brewing for weeks; people want results. Eighty billion dollars and they can’t even produce a body? The news media is pouncing in its traditional fashion, and there has been a rash of meta-news and meta-meta-news, and the world doesn’t need any more of that here. I won’t be posting Wednesday, but what I’m going to keep in my mind is that the terrorists were trying to destroy something much larger than the twin towers last year, and it’s up to everyone on a personal level to make sure they don’t succeed.
According to the world’s smallest political quiz I’m right on the board of libertarian, conservative, and centrist. It’s comfortable here.
Myth America 2002
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
(from this morning’s NYTimes)
Here are a handful of myths that cause what’s left of Europe’s left to misperceive U.S. foreign policy:
Myth 1: America is temporarily dominated by self-serving isolationists who reject treaties designed by sensible Lilliputians to tie down the superpower Gulliver.
Reality: In the past decade, the U.S. saved Europe from becoming an economic vassal to Iraq, which was on its way to conquering Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. A few years later, as Europe temporized, we led NATO’s defeat of Serbia’s takeover of the Balkans. Recently, we drove Islamist terrorists, who threaten Europe as much as America, from their training bases in Afghanistan. Is it too much to ask to protect our 250,000 troops defending freedom abroad, along with aid workers and journalists, from a treaty enabling publicity-hungry prosecutors to harass them?
Myth 2: (flip side of first myth) We’re interventionist bullies, with no regard for the sovereignty of countries whose threatening leaders are better dealt with diplomatically.
Reality: Saddam Hussein has been jerking around the United Nations for seven years, ignoring his surrender agreement and buying off French and Russian defenders while building a nuclear and germ-warfare capability for delivery by North Korean missiles or, more likely, through terrorist cutouts. Sanctions, dumb and smart, have dismally failed; the danger of nuclear blackmail grows to head-in-the-sand Parisians and Berliners as well as vulnerable New Yorkers. Brits and Turks may reluctantly help us, but European handwringers and Arab monarchs want a free ride.
Myth 3: The Bush administration, with its disdain for treaties, does not understand the nuances of dealing with nuclear-armed Russia, which must never be allowed to feel humiliated.
The Dallas Fed has posted a PDF of a letter from Tom Ferguson, one of the people overseeing the rollout of the NexGen notes. Hopefully there will be no Coca-Cola machine downtime.