aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Southern High Resolution Modeling Consortium (SHRMC) is providing daily forecasts of ground level particulate matter concentrations resulting from wildfires in the southeastern U.S. using the BlueSky smoke modeling framework developed by the U.S. Forest Service. Forecast results are displayed using Google Earth which provides an intuitive interface for displaying spatial information. If you have any questions or comments on these products please contact Scott Goodrick.
As an alternative to using Google Earth, overlays are also provided for Google Maps for both the reported wildfire locations and daily forecasts of smoke concentration. Note that Google Maps does not have the animation capability of Google Earth (version 4).
Via CNet News Blog:
The 6-week-old fires have burned a half-million acres. And they’re still outta control. These fires are a record for Georgia. That’s sparked debate over lack of fire-fighting resources, forest management outsourcing, climate change and the area’s worst drought in 50 years. When the flames finally die down, they’ll be talking about this one for a long time.
We need public diplomacy, not public relations
From an OpEd by Price Floyd, director of media affairs for the State Department until several weeks ago and is now the director of external relations at the Center for a New American Security:
We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.
Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been “selling” through our actions, which speak the loudest of all. [...]
We need a president who will enable the U.S. to return to its rightful place as the “beacon on a hill”—a country that others want to emulate, not hate; a country that proves through words and deeds that it is free, not afraid.
We need to demonstrate that we are willing to help out our neighbors and to do what is necessary to ensure that our country and its citizens are safe.
We must do the real work of public diplomacy, not public relations.
2 years and 2 days off: still flagged a sex offender
The Chronicle’s Wired Campus:
Jessica Davis, a 29-year-old senior at the university [of Colorado], was booted off MySpace earlier this month. Evidently the site had labeled Ms. Davis as “a registered sex offender in one or more jurisdictions,” a claim that left the student understandably horrified.
It appears that Ms. Davis was a victim of mistaken identity: She was mistaken for a sex offender with the same name and a birthday two years and two days apart from her own, according to the Sentinel Tech Holding Corporation, the company that designed MySpace’s database of sex offenders.
ABC quotes the notification email and no appeal response:
“It has come to MySpace’s attention that you are a registered sex offender in one or more jurisdictions,” the e-mail, sent early Saturday morning, May 19, informed her.
“MySpace is committed to removing registered sex offenders from its site, and will take all necessary means to block or remove anyone it determines to pose a threat to its users,” the note read, concluding with an e-mail address where she could appeal the decision.
Davis nervously jumped at the opportunity, punching into an e-mail subject line, “You have the wrong person.” [...]
On Wednesday, days after she sent a second e-mail to MySpace, Davis said she finally heard back.
“We do not keep records of removed profiles or images,” the response note reads. “If it was removed by MySpace it was because of a violation of our terms and conditions—which can include a number of things (underage, inappropriate images, cyber bullying, spam, etc). Please review our terms for further assistance.”
Savvy, or lucky, she went to ABC News. You’ll recall that several state Attorneys General demanded that MySpace turn over names of sex offenders. Was Jessica’s name among them? The story doesn’t say, though it notes she supports the MySpace sex offender database initiative.
So what of the company, Sentinal, hired by MySpace to track sex offenders? ABC did a follow-up story:
[Sentinel CEO John] Cardillo, who called the initial match an"unfortunate circumstance,” said that the database worked exactly as intended.
“It was so close,” Cardillo told ABCNEWS.com. “It was one of those rare instances where there was nothing else we could have done but flag her. If we get an offender and I’m looking at a date of birth that’s two days off, we’re going to assume were dealing with the offender.”
This is getting to be a scary numbers racket. MySpace has blocked 7,000 profiles classified as sex offenders. I bet some of them have common names (Jessica Davis among them) and if a birthday a couple of years and a couple of days off is the kind of precision we’re working with here, Jessica’s not alone.
When Wired’s Kevin Poulsen made news last October with his automated search of MySpace’s membership rolls looking for registered sex offenders he manually sifted the data to come up with a mere 744. Says he:
...it appears that MySpace isn’t taking the same care.
That means we’ll be seeing more cases like this. The incident also casts doubt on the usefulness of MySpace’s appeal process. Responding to Davis’ plea by sending her a form letter falsely accusing her of wrongdoing isn’t Solomonic jurisprudence.
Just how big is BIG GOVERNMENT anyway?
Lately I’ve been wondering just how big our big government is. But the way I’m wondering is on a per capita inflation adjusted basis. I wonder when I read, for example, that only recently gas prices (when adjusted for inflation) beat the all-time high reached in March of 1981. I wonder when I read that the 20Ã‚Â¢ stamp from that same year would be equivalent to 45Ã‚Â¢ in today’s dollars (the 13Ã‚Â¢ stamp from 1975 would cost 50Ã‚Â¢ today). Our new 41Ã‚Â¢ stamp is a relative bargain.
Small government types are always talking about the Founding Fathers and the Early Republic. Let’s talk then, too, and figure out just how much government per capita we had, because it looks to me like this country’s growing like gangbusters (an increase of 35 million people in the last decade) while the Right keeps yapping about the need to shrink government.
I find myself in complete agreement with D. Sidhe who, in History is Made by Stupid People (calm yourself; that title is an Arrogant Worms song), wrote yesterday:
For some reason, I’m pro-government. Always have been. People who say things like “Government doesn’t solve problems”, or “Name one good thing the government’s ever done”, or “Capitalism can do that better” baffle the living hell out of me.
Give me a few minutes, and I could name at least three dozen government programs that are important enough they need doing but that capitalism isn’t capable of, or interested in. Let’s start with orphan drugs. People with rare diseases, for which drugs aren’t available because any given company can make more manufacturing Cialis than something maybe a thousand or so people across the US take. Unless we’re willing to just write these people off, telling them, well, yes, a cure exists, but you can’t have it because there’s not enough profit in making it, taxpayer subsidies seem like a good solution.
Rural electrification, there’s another good one. No for-profit company is going to string wire all the way out to some tiny hamlet in the Ozarks for the sake of a few hundred people. For that matter, no for-profit hospital is going to spend much if any time treating the indigent in their ERs if they’re not made to. For-profit schools is another good way to say “MacDonald’s Training Academy”, and no kid is going to learn literature or citizenship or art there. Anybody want to explore the concept of capitalistic fire departments? Remember, your non-covered neighbor’s housefire can very quickly become yours, and even if the fire department saves your home, you’d have less damage if they put out the fire when it was still two houses away. Road building, police departments, prisons, the military, you want to see what happens when they go capitalistic, Iraq is rather instructive.
There’s an awful lot of stuff I’m perfectly happy to pay taxes for so everybody can use, and so no one person or group controls how it gets used. If civil courts are replaced with the sort of arbitration my bank tells me is my only option if we have a disagreement, those of us who aren’t hiring and paying the arbitrators will never see justice. If the roads are maintained by auto companies, you can just keep your bike in your garage. If Microsoft is the only source of funding for the local aquarium, you can expect to have to wait outside with the field trip kids while they hold their monthly employee banquet. When the Wall Street Journal gives PBS more money than anybody else, you can expect to see programming where some B-list columnist quizzes guests as to whether the economy is going “great” or “really great”.
So government can absolutely solve problems, and paying taxes is how we have a government with an interest in and an ability to solve problems that are important, rather then just profitable. And right off the bat, I have an adversarial stance toward anyone who tells me smaller government is inherently better--which is not to say I’m any happier with those who propose that larger government is inherently better. It’s not the size, as they tell us, it’s what you do with it.
Me, I’m pro-government too. And size, while not determinative, matters. If you look at the correlation between income and Government spending as a percent of GDP, I expect you’ll find a positive correlation. Here in the South where conservative is the norm, those with a liberal bent or made uncomfortable by the excesses of what contemporary Christianist conservatism has become will often say, “I’m a libertarian; I believe in less government.”
I’ve been known to snap back, “If you took all the countries in the world, all the places on earth, and measured those with more government versus those with less government, I bet you’d find that those with more government have a higher standard of living and greater human liberty.”
Though not precisely right (the old Soviet Union was big bad government) it makes the point. I firmly believe that larger governments are generally helpful and good. It’s time we start saying so. Yes, government must be kept in check, but with size it can sustain the stable institutions that facilitate contracts, property rights, commerce, antitrust policy, education, infrastructure and everything else that a peaceful and free civilization requires.
Meanwhile, my new retort to those who wear the libertarian label is that I lean towards a flavor of libertarianism too - Libertarian Paternalism.
Via The News Blog.