aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The state of the GOP in the states
We know how McCain’s doing. But how’s the GOP doing in the states? Politico:
At a time when the GOP presidential nominee will need more assistance than ever, a number of state Republican parties are struggling through troubled times, suffering from internal strife, poor fundraising, onerous debt, scandal or voting trends that are conspiring to relegate the local branches of the party to near-irrelevance.
In some of the largest, smallest, reddest and bluest states in the nation, many state Republican organizations are still reeling in the aftermath of the devastating 2006 election cycle, raising questions about how much grassroots help the state parties will be able to deliver to presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.
The state party woes are especially ill-timed since McCain will face a Democratic nominee who may be considerably better funded and organized, and since Republicans will be facing an energized Democratic party that is shattering primary election turnout records.
“If you go back to 2006 most people would agree that not only did we lose our brand, that we damaged our brand significantly,” Anuzis said. “We are clearly rebuilding.”
The story begins with the dire straights of NY & CA (NY Dems are within two seats of taking a state majority for the first time since 1934, and Schwarzenegger says CA is “dying at the box office") then moves on to Alaska, Arkansas, New Hampshire and Kansas.
There have been better times to be a Republican:
“After twelve years of being in power, you tend to get fat and lazy, and in some cases arrogant with respect to your positions,” said Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican party. “There is no doubt that we have had people who have gotten caught up in both illegal activities and immoral activities and none of that helps the party as a whole.
What was that about lipstick and pigs?
Kevin Drum is among those noting that McCain’s got a lot of credibility in the bank:
Let’s recap. Foreign policy cred lets him get away with wild howlers on foreign policy. Fiscal integrity cred lets him get away with outlandishly irresponsible economic plans. Anti-lobbyist cred lets him get away with pandering to lobbyists. Campaign finance reform cred lets him get away with gaming the campaign finance system. Straight talking cred lets him get away with brutally slandering Mitt Romney in the closing days of the Republican primary. Maverick uprightness cred allows him to get away with begging for endorsements from extremist religious leaders like John Hagee. “Man of conviction” cred allows him to get away with transparent flip-flopping so egregious it would make any other politician a laughingstock. Anti-torture cred allows him to get away with supporting torture as long as only the CIA does it.
Remind me again: where does all this cred come from? And what window do Democrats go to to get the same treatment the press gives McCain?
Apparently, Democrats are able to go to the internet bank that is the people. Much as I hate to quote the TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW segment from The Chris Matthews Show, here goes:
MATTHEWS: Norah, TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T KNOW.
Ms. O’DONNELL: John McCain’s campaign announced that they raised $11 million in February. Barack Obama raised 55 million in February. Hillary Clinton
raised 35 million in February. That’s mean the Democrats outraised John McCain nine to one.
MATTHEWS: And that augurs well for them in the future.
Tweety has spoken. McCain will be pitching Viagra by January. And these women don’t doubt it.
Monday, March 24, 2008
GA Court Overturns Hadaway Contempt Conviction
ATLANTA - A long nightmare has ended for Elizabeth Hadaway, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court last year for not handing her daughter over to foster care after she lost custody solely because she’s a lesbian. A year and one day after a county court judge sentenced Hadaway to 10 days in jail, the Georgia Court of Appeals today overturned her contempt conviction. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented her in the appeal and secured the little girl’s return home from foster care last May, applauded the court’s decision.
“Just yesterday I was watching Emma hunt for Easter eggs and thinking how the possibility of going to jail and being separated from her again made it hard to just enjoy the moment,” said Elizabeth Hadaway, a 29-year-old paramedic who first took in the little girl when the child’s biological mother asked her to raise and adopt Emma. “I’m just so grateful that the court has lifted this burden so we can move on and I can keep focused on making sure Emma has a happy home and a good life.”
Hadaway’s struggle began in 2006, when a Wilkinson County Superior Court judge was on the verge of granting her request to permanently adopt Emma when he noticed in a home study that Hadaway was living with her female partner of seven years. The judge abruptly changed his mind about the adoption request solely because Hadaway is a lesbian. Although Emma’s biological mother told the court that she wanted the child to be raised and adopted by Hadaway, the judge denied the adoption and ordered that Emma be sent back to her biological mother. Hadaway met with the biological mother at a truck stop to hand over the girl. After accepting custody, thus satisfying the court order, the biological mother saw how distraught Emma was at being taken from Hadaway and again insisted that Hadaway should raise the girl. Because Hadaway took Emma back, the Wilkinson County judge then ordered that Emma be sent to live in a foster home and sentenced Hadaway and her attorney to 10 days in jail for contempt of court. The sentence was stayed pending appeal.
Emma, now seven years old, was eventually returned to Hadaway’s care last May after an expert commissioned by Wilkinson County Department of Children and Family Services found that the little girl was experiencing emotional trauma because of the separation from Hadaway. Next, a judge in another Georgia county granted Hadaway permanent custody. DCFS then let Emma return home, but not before she had been in foster care for three months, during which her welfare was seriously compromised.
“We’re pleased that the court has agreed with us that Elizabeth Hadaway shouldn’t do jail time simply for doing the right thing for her child, but it’s unfortunate that it’s taken almost two years of court proceedings to end up with things where Elizabeth, Emma, and Emma’s biological mom wanted them to be in the first place,” said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Elizabeth Hadaway did everything the judge ordered her to do, and she should never have been punished.”
Via Gay News Blog.
Look out for cyclists
Sifting the Spitzer wreckage
What are the lessons to be learned from the Sptitzer wreckage? I’m far too far away to know—and it may still be too early for any of us to know—but I have to wonder if the whole model of the crusading reformer isn’t outdated and ready for the scrap heap.
From yesterday’s NYTimes (Doug, it would have been great fun to have talked this one through over Citarella coffee!):
“People think it was hubris and that he must have been a fraud, but that’s not right,” another aide said of the former governor. “He was a very good man who lost himself due to a combination of factors.
“He wanted so much to change things in Albany, but it didn’t work out the way he planned. He couldn’t meet the expectations of the public or the expectations he set for himself. They said he was pushing too hard and not pushing hard enough, that he was Mr. Softee and a steamroller. He felt damned if he did and damned if he didn’t at every turn.”
In such circumstances, without the ability to adjust or relax, “it’s only a matter of time before you self-destruct,” the aide said. “Ironically, he knew full well that he was being watched. He even talked about it. He said: â€˜If we ever stumble, they’ll be merciless.’ Those were his words.”
The walk down the hallway over, Mr. Spitzer cried, one of the aides said.
“I couldn’t look,” the aide said.
Also over the weekend, The New York Post talks Spizer as sex addict. The Moderate Voice has a good primer on addictive personalities, especially sex addiction, with a podcast and links to other resources.
YouTube videos in High Quality
I thought I noticed something. It happened on March 14:
You may have noticed that we’re now giving you the option of watching some YouTube videos in higher quality. We’re making these streams available on certain videos, based upon the source file uploaded to us, and over time you’ll find a greater percentage of the library is available to view in higher quality. This feature applies to all eligible videos uploaded from the YouTube community, and is not restricted to partner content, so everyone can enjoy this upgrade.
How do you watch higher quality videos? On your Account page you’re now able to choose “always show me higher quality when available” or “never show me higher quality.” We suggest you select “always show me...” only if you have a fast internet connection, otherwise you might find that videos don’t play as quickly or smoothly as you’re used to. Higher quality videos also have a link right below the video player which will allow you to select between the normal or higher quality settings.
We want to help everyone understand that YouTube will continue to evolve with the videos you’re creating. We’re especially excited about offering this upgrade in video quality to our community of filmmakers and animators, who have been requesting this feature for some time. As more of you guys produce great-looking videos, we want to make sure they can be seen in all their glory. So we’ll continue to increase quality behind the scenes and make tweaks to support your uploads. (Remember, we can now support uploads up to 1GB in size.)
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Religious acceptance is a two way street
A report in The Forward (bylined Atlanta, which I think is noteworthy) finds that traditionally gay synagogues are now so well accepted that they are grappling with the high percentage of straight people and their families who want to join:
That difficulty has become particularly acute at Bet Haverim, where more than half the 300 members are straight. After some confusion with Atlanta’s gay newspaper, Bet Haverim’s rabbi, Joshua Lesser, asked that Bet Haverim be described as a “gay-founded” synagogue. [...]
“I think that was a profound transformational moment where most of us realized: â€˜Oh, this is the value of opening up our synagogue. We have created a community of allies,’” Lesser said.
Ironically, it is the open, inclusive atmosphere that Bet Haverim and other synagogues worked so hard to create that has made them attractive to a whole range of underserved worshippers. Gay-founded synagogues across the country report that they have relatively large numbers of non-white Jews, Jewish converts and intermarried families, as well as Jews who’ve never felt like they fit in elsewhere.
Via Stephen H. Miller who comments:
I also hear that something similar has happened in larger MCC churches as well. And even the gay-focused gun-defending (and training) enthusiasts, the Pink Pistols, recount that straights who are uncomfortable with NRA-type groups are joining.
Other minorities have long confronted issues of assimilation vs. independent institutions, and the need to strike a balance that preserves what’s best in minority culture while helping to enrich (and being enriched by) the larger community to which we all belong.
“ ’Peep Art‘—a reinterpretation of the Pop Art movement and homage to Andy Warhol and his muse Edie Sedgwick—is a revolutionary concept taking the Peeps Diorama Contest to an entirely different level.”
“The name is a pun, and the concept itself is the pun,” explains Ilana Greenstein, an operations officer for the CIA. “Pop art uses everyday images in art, and Peep art does the same.” With Peeps. Multiple levels of meaning. After two contests and more than 1,100 dioramas, we may finally have a submission that defines the Peep art movement.
Greenstein and Jane Dokko’s diorama exudes the austerity of a museum, but within the mounted frames it’s colorful chaos: Peeps cutouts splashed on a Jackson Pollock, “PEEP!” replacing “VAROOM!” in a Roy Lichtenstein piece and nine Warholized Peeps at the center of the action. And let’s not forget: Admiring the exhibit are Warhol and Sedgwick themselves.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Obama regaining in national poll
Via Joe Gandelman who has analysis and a round-up of blog reaction.
Meanwhile, the NYTimes says pastors across the country are planning to weave issues of race into their Easter sermons as a consequence of Obama’s speech.
Not everyone in Georgia loves Wal-Mart
A federal judge today upheld a Georgia man’s First Amendment right to criticize Wal-Mart’s business practices by using satire to compare its destructive effects on communities to both the Holocaust and al-Qaeda terrorists.In rejecting the company’s claim of trademark infringement, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta found that Charles Smith’s parody Web sites (www.walocaust.com and www.walqaeda.com) and related novelty merchandise were protected speech and that a reasonable person would not confuse their use with Wal-Mart’s legitimate trademarks. The court also rejected Wal-Mart’s claim that it has trademark rights in the “smiley-face” that Smith used in one of his parodies.
Public Citizen and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Foundation defended Smith after Wal-Mart sued the Conyers, Ga. man in 2006, claiming he infringed on its trademark by creating parody logos and Web sites built around the “Walocaust” and “Wal-Qaeda” concepts, including the image of an eagle clutching a yellow smiley face, similar to the one Wal-Mart uses in advertising. Smith also put the design on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items that he sold on CafePress.com.
Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr.’s decision reaffirms an important point of trademark law â€“ that even though a parody is placed on a T-shirt and sold, it nevertheless represents non-commercial speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment and, thus, is not a proper basis for a trademark action, said Paul Alan Levy, a Public Citizen attorney, who represented Smith along with Gerald Weber of Atlanta.
Oh. My. Gawd!
Via Matt Yglesias, “I’m speechless.”
LATER: Joe Sudbay (DC) at AMERICAblog, “It’s no Hillary4UandMe."
If it don’t make you ache inside you got no feeling left in you:
Around 1910, [Mary Ellen Noone’s great-grandmother Pinky] Powell lived on a plantation in Lowndes County, Ala., where “she would wash and iron for this white woman.”
“One day the lady had thrown away some of her old perfume and nail polish that had dried up. So [Powell] took it home and added some ingredients to the nail polish that made it pliable,” Noone says. “Well, when Sunday came, she got all dressed up and painted her nails and put on that perfume and went to church.
“On Monday, she went to the general store, and when she was ready to check out, the white owner asked her, ‘What are you doing with your nails painted up like a white woman?’ He proceeded to pick up a pair of pliers and he pulled out my grandmama’s nails out of its bed one by one.”
Noone, 65, says she often wondered as a child why her great-grandmother’s nails were so deformed.
“Every time I look at enamel red finger polish, I have a flashback, and I see red,” Noone says. “I still have that anger inside of me that someone would have that control over one person just because they wanted to feel like a woman.”
Of course I was pleased to hear Bill Richardson say just now on The Today Show that his endorsement came as a result of Obama’s speech on race:
I’m a hispanic. And I felt that what he said about being a nation of all us being together and not stereotyping, really clinched it.
I read Richardson as generous in discussing Clinton, and making the call, but as with John Lewis it was an intensely difficult decision and the Clintons didn’t make it any easier.
An example from the NYTimes today:
“An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.
“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.
I once had great admiration for Carville but that’s now long gone. He’s become a smarmy snake-oil salesman who will do whatever it takes to keep his spot on Meet The Press next to his fact-challenged wife.
John Edwards is unlikely to endorse either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton before the nomination is decided, according to interviews with several members of the former candidate’s inner circle.
At least three individuals who have recently spoken to Edwards expect that he will choose to stay out of the fight, though they warn that no one other than his wife, Elizabeth, can be certain of his thinking.
“My gut instinct, at this point: He’s probably going to remain neutral and sort of try to play on that Al Gore status as party elder,” said a former Edwards operative who is in regular contact with the former North Carolina senator and who asked that his name be withheld.
So for the moment it doesn’t look like there are any more big endorsements on the horizon. But then, times change....
Friday, March 21, 2008
Jeremiah Wright - in Macon; on Gays
Wright’s in the news in Macon for a planned October church* visit just days before the November election:
“I’m sort of echoing what Barack Obama said, I’m not going to disown him, no more than I would disown America,” [St. Paul AME Church Pastor Ronald] Slaughter said.
During Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s inauguration, he credited Wright for giving him vision for moving the city forward during an earlier visit to Macon.
Mayor Reichert is white:
“He may say some provocative and insensitive things,” Reichert said Thursday. “But overall his message is wonderful!”
Some accuse Wright of making racially inflammatory and unpatriotic remarks, but both these men will tell you people are missing the bigger message.
“I think we need to focus on the body of work that this man has accomplished, not on 30 second sound bites,” said Slaughter.
“It’s bad enough to take 30 seconds out of 1 sermon and concentrate on it,” Reichert said. “What do you mean? What did you say before that? What did you say after that? How does it all fit in? It’s even worse when you select this out of 20 years worth of sermons.”
As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.
At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians-a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.
Huckabee right on Obama and Wright
I have been talking to students about the Obama speech on race all week.
A mixed bag, to say the least. No easy summing up except to say that for a variety of reasons I’ve not been able to sit with any of them through the whole speech (and I wouldn’t say those I’m working with are particularly eager to—it’s long by YouTube standards). They are far more offended by Wright than I’d have expected of a generation that listens to offensive rap lyrics, plays games like grand theft auto, and watches some of the vulgar, offensive and violent movies and cable shows that are out there.
I was as surprised to find at least one religious conservative who votes Republican and emphatically stressed that she is not an Obama supporter say that just because the candidate’s preacher said something controversial, Obama should not be held responsible for the words of his preacher. She seemed to take offense at the idea that she would be held accountable for every word her preacher might utter. It makes me wonder how many other people there are like her around here.
I wonder that especially as I read the transcript of Mike Huckabee’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” from Wednesday. You’ll remember that Huckabee was the Republican who carried Georgia in the February primary and that he is himself a Southern Baptist preacher. His topic was Obama’s speech:
“Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could. And I agree, it’s a very historic speech. I think that it was an important one, and one that he had to deliver. And he couldn’t wait. The sooner he made it, maybe the quicker that this becomes less of the issue. Otherwise, it was the only thing that was the issue in his entire campaign. And I thought he handled it very, very well. [...]
“As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say â€˜That’s a terrible statement’ - I grew up in a very segregated South.
“And I think that you have to cut some slack - and I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you - we’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.
“And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment, and you have to just say, â€˜I probably would, too.’”
Emphasis mine. This may be the first time on this blog that I favorably quote Mike Huckabee.
Arianna beats Drudge
Could it be a digital indicator that the Blue states are taking back ground from the Red onesâ€“at least in cyberspace?
In February, for the first time ever, Arianna Huffington’s liberal political mega-blog and news site, the Huffington Post, has apparently surpassed the longtime mighty blog leader, Matt Drudge of the conservative /populist- leaning Drudge Report, according to recent traffic data reports from both comScore and Nielsen Online. (Both are pictured here.)
According to data from Nielsen Online, for example, the Huffington Post’s trafficâ€“as measured by monthly unique visitors in the U.S., at home and workâ€“has more than tripled since last February. In February of 2007, it had about 1.1 million unique visitors, and by February of 2008, unique visitors had risen to 3.7 million.
Lessig launches Change Congress
Change-Congress.org will be a bi-partisan, web-based effort to leverage and amplify the important reform work being done by others. Think of it as a kind of Google-mashup, but applied to politics. Our aim is not to displace primary reform organizations, but rather to complement and feed support back to these organizations. And in the process, we hope to make transparent just how broad and deep the support for fundamental reform is.
Change-Congress.org will develop in three stages. The first layer will give candidates and Members of Congress a simple way to signal their support for any mix of four fundamental planks of reform: (1) a promise not to accept PAC or lobbyist contributions, (2) a commitment to abolish “earmarks” permanently, (3) a commitment to support public financing of public elections, and (4) a commitment to compel transparency in the functioning of Congress. Once a candidate or Member selects the planks he or she supports, the site will give the candidate code to embed that pledge on the campaign website. Citizens too will be able to take a similar pledge, promising to support candidates who match their own vision of reform. When they do, they will be linked back to reform organizations that support each plank.
But the real contribution of citizens will reach far beyond simply making a pledge. Beginning in April, we will launch a second stage to the site: in a Wikipedia-inspired manner, wiki-workers will track the reform-related positions of candidates who have not yet taken a pledge. If a candidate, for example, has endorsed Public Campaign’s bill for public financing, we will record that fact on our site. The same with a pledge to forgo money from PACS or lobbyists, or any of the other planks in the Change Congress pledge. And once this wiki-army has tracked the positions of all Members of Congress, we will display a map of reform, circa 2008: Each Congressional district will be colored in either (1) dark red, or dark blue, reflecting Republicans or Democrats who have taken a pledge, (2) light red or light blue, tracking Republicans and Democrats who have not taken our pledge, but who have signaled support for planks in the Change-Congress platform, or (3) for those not taking the pledge and not signaling support for a platform of reform, varying shades of sludge, representing the percentage of the Member’s campaign contributions that come from PACs or lobbyists.
What this map will reveal, we believe, is something that not many now actually realize: that the support for fundamental reform is broad and deep. That recognition in turn will encourage more to see both the need for reform, and the opportunity that this election gives us to achieve it. Apathy is driven by the feeling that nothing can be done. This Change Congress map will demonstrate that in fact, something substantial can be done. Now.
Finally, the third stage of Change Congress will provide financial support to reform candidates. Following the model of Emily’s List, we will recruit contributors to support Change Congress candidates, both Republican and Democratic, who make reform a central platform of their campaign. Individuals will be asked, for example, to contribute $10/month to five Change Congress candidates. That support will make it easier for those candidates to spread the message of reform, and to define at least one central part of their candidacy to be about reform.
I have huge hope for that work.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Three-strike laws make criminals more violent
Ray Fisman, a professor at the Columbia Business School, says it’s tempting to invoke the law of unintended consequences in thinking about what was a well-intentioned but flawed piece of legislation:
“Three-strikes" laws have now been enacted in 26 states, often with the stated purpose of keeping society safe from violent criminals like Richard Davis. But a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that three-strikes laws like California’s, while discouraging criminals from doing things like smoking pot or shoplifting, may push those who do continue in a life of crime to commit more violent offenses. The study’s author, Radha Iyengar, argues that this is because under such laws, felons with a pair of strikes against them have little to lose (and often much to gain) by committing serious crimes rather than minor offenses.
Why would stiffer penalties increase violent crime? To understand this seeming paradox, you first need to understand the nature of California’s three-strikes law. Not just any offense gets you a first strike. It must be a so-called “record-aggravating” offense, which includes violent crimes like assault and rape as well as serious nonviolent crimes such as burglary or drug sales to minors. But after strike one, strikes two and three can come from any felony, including minor offenses like possession of marijuana or even stealing golf clubs or videotapes. A third strike carries with it a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years in prison.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of a two-strike criminal. The prospect of 25 years behind bars for a third offense is likely to give even a hardened criminal pause before he or she crosses the street against the lights. So we’d expect two-strike felons to commit fewer crimes. But suppose you’ve already decided to break the law-maybe you need to make a quick buck. Are you going to lift a few golf clubs from the local pro shop? Or are you going to hold up a bank? The potential haul from a bank robbery is obviously much greater, and the penalty is the same: Bank robbery will get you decades in the slammer, but if it’s your third offense, so will shoplifting.
AlterNet on Troy Anthony Davis
In a 4-3 decision, the court decided that not even the seven recanted testimonies were enough to merit a new trial. “We simply cannot disregard the jury’s verdict in this case,” wrote Justice Harold Melton. Never mind that the jury was working with hopelessly tainted evidence—and that two of the jurors have declared that if they knew then what they know now, they would never have voted to convict Troy Davis. As Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote in her dissent: “If recantation testimony â€¦ shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically.” But logic and morality have little say in a system that straps people to a gurney, outfits them with intravenous lines and murders them with a lethal cocktail. Once again, Troy Davis confronts this fate.
Even the most hardbitten death penalty lawyers and activists were stunned by the court ruling. Georgia defense attorney Chris Adams, a member of Davis’ defense team, called it “a heartbreaking day.” “I was very surprised by the decision on Monday,” he said over the phone on Tuesday morning. “We felt that the proper course was to hear all the witnesses â€¦ and then to make a judgment call.” Instead, the ruling means that new evidence that could clear Davis will likely never make it into the courtroom. To Adams, this is a travesty. This case, an “actual innocence case,” is “the kind of case you go to law school for,” he said. “You would hope all your cases would have this kind of significance—or that none of them would.” [...]
Barring a successful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Davis will once again find himself at the mercy of the state parole board. Asked if there is reason to be optimistic given the board’s past attention to the revelations in his case, Adams said, “Boy, you know, it’s really hard to feel optimistic about it today.” But when it comes to fighting for the life of an innocent man, there’s not much choice. “You’ve got to be optimistic.”
I look at our criminal justice system in this country and I ache. When I see that 1 in 100 Americans are in prison I ache. And that ache is related to the ache I felt as I watched Obama’s speech on race. But with Obama’s speech it was an aching hope. With this, it’s an aching hopelessness. Along with Obama, I see the need to bridge the two.
reCAPTCHA: Digitizing Books one word at a time
Luis von Ahn is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who developed the CAPTCHA - those squiggly series of letters which help us prove we are human when leaving comments or performing other internet chores that require authentication.
I know this because I listened to him speak with Dr. Moira Gunn in a Tech Nation interview available via IT Conversations. The whole tales worth the telling but the part that merits even more attention is this notion of the reCAPTCHA:
About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent.
Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.
To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult tostore on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.
reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form ofCAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.
Easter eggs at our house (again)
Doug’s decorating Easter Eggs agin. He attaches herbs with string and boils them in natural blueberry, onion skin and cabbage dyes. The house is odiferous, but the eggs are… wondiferous?
The photos are from last year…
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Sometimes, evil works.
Wired’s got an ode to Apple, How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong:
[B]y deliberately flouting the Google mantra, Apple has thrived. When Jobs retook the helm in 1997, the company was struggling to survive. Today it has a market cap of $105 billion, placing it ahead of Dell and behind Intel. Its iPod commands 70 percent of the MP3 player market. Four billion songs have been purchased from iTunes. The iPhone is reshaping the entire wireless industry. Even the underdog Mac operating system has begun to nibble into Windows’ once-unassailable dominance; last year, its share of the US market topped 6 percent, more than double its portion in 2003.
It’s hard to see how any of this would have happened had Jobs hewed to the standard touchy-feely philosophies of Silicon Valley. Apple creates must-have products the old-fashioned way: by locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed. It’s hard to see the Mac OS and the iPhone coming out of the same design-by-committee process that produced Microsoft Vista or Dell’s Pocket DJ music player. Likewise, had Apple opened its iTunes-iPod juggernaut to outside developers, the company would have risked turning its uniquely integrated service into a hodgepodge of independent applications - kind of like the rest of the Internet, come to think of it.
And now observers, academics, and even some other companies are taking notes. Because while Apple’s tactics may seem like Industrial Revolution relics, they’ve helped the company position itself ahead of its competitors and at the forefront of the tech industry. Sometimes, evil works.
Bundled unlimited iTunes with iPods?
A report by the Financial Times (registration required) cites unnamed executives who say that Apple is in talks with record labels to offer access to the entire iTunes music library for a lump sum price. The fee would be added as a premium option on an iPod or iPhone, or it could come as a monthly charge. It would allow downloading of any song at any time so long as the purchaser still owns the device, and the songs would be yours to keep.
This latest concept is similar to Nokia’s ”Comes With Music” program set to launch later this year. Nokia is reportedly rolling an $80 fee into the price of compatible phones for one year of access to Nokia’s music store, which includes music from labels like Universal.
Apple’s plan is different in several respects. Since the average iPod owner buys about 20 tracks from the iTunes, Apple wants to make the premium about $20, arguing that it should cover the average consumer’s downloads. Then the owner can make unlimited music downloads from the iTunes Store for the life of the device. Once downloaded, the tracks are yours to keep, even if you get rid of the original iPod or iPhone. And since iPod and phone owners tend to replace devices fairly regularly, the record labels would be getting the fee whether or not the consumer makes any further downloads. Silicon Alley Insider did the math and thinks it’s a good deal all around. But according to the Financial Times’ sources, the labels are looking for numbers closer to the $80 Nokia is reported to be paying.
One (Singular) Advantage of Being Black
Jonathan Chait makes an interesting point:
[Obama] may be liberated to operate at a high intellectual level in public because he’s black. I’m not trying to be Gerry Ferraro here; let me explain. Candidates like John Kerry and (even moreso) Al Gore were also very smart, but constantly forced to dumb it down lest they be tagged as out-of-touch elitists. Since the egghead image is so at odds with the prevailing stereotypes about African-Americans, he has much less to fear by speaking at a high intellectual level.
Of course, Obama is extremely intelligent—as smart as, or smarter than, any presidential candidate I can ever remember. Yet I don’t think a brilliant white Constitutional law professor could pull it off. Being black obviously disadvantages Obama in all sorts of ways. But this is one way where it helps.
And while at The New Republic, John McWhorter responded to the speech in a guest post there:
For a light-skinned half-white Ivy League-educated black man to repudiate, in clear language and repeatedly, the take on race of people like Julian Bond and Nikki Giovanni is not only honest but truly bold.
A certain strain of black bloggers will be blowing their tops for a week, while some black writers of mature years will remind us in editorials that Wright’s vision of America is more present-tense than Obama’s speech implies. [...]
Obama knows that anti-whitey sermons are, in 2008, Sunday morning’s gangsta rap--infectious confection.
I’ve been wondering whether the dust-up over Obama and Wright was mere political hardball or based on actual misunderstanding of black community dynamics. Obama has now clarified the latter, to an extent that ought to satisfy any reasonable listener.
Public corruption in Georgia
BULLETIN: Corruption investigation wider than thought. InsiderAdvantageGeorgia has learned from a highly placed source in the legal community that at least one state legislator has"been wearing a wire for the past year” in an on-going and potentially widespread investigation of public corruption in Georgia. This suggests that the federal government may have been involved in an investigation of corruption under the Gold Dome prior to the December, 2007 date suggested in stories related to the resignation and guilty plea by Rep. Ron Sailor. The investigation may reach across both aisles of the House and potentially the Senate according to the source. Updates to come.