Blacknell.net

Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: March 2007 (Page 2 of 4)

DC Voting Rights: More of the Same

Oh, I could go on about the paragon of hypocrisy and duplicity that is the Bush White House, or tell you (once again) that for all of his other faults, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) is trying to do right by DC.  But I won’t.  Because it’s pointless.  And it just brings out all sorts of hateful things that I should let percolate for a while.  So I’ll direct you to DCist’s recent coverage of the issue, which has been surprisingly good.  See this for the coverage of today’s debate, and then this for where things appear to stand now.

“I want less but better.”

Waldo points us to a MeFi comment that – I bet – really captures what those of us who’ve been kicking around the Internet for well over a decade are feeling:

It’s funny how [Bruce Sterling] points out the need to find out what is good. I used to use mefi for this because the consensus used to be trustworthy. Now I feel like I am walking to into the smoking area of a seventies high school where their english teacher has just taught them the phrase “nihilistic existentialist” is the technical term for high school cool and everything must suck. Everything good now suffers up to 50353 pricks trying to out cool each other. I’m one of the pricks but I don’t want to be anymore. I want to hang out with the neat people. Where the hell do I find them? I know they’re here and I love their contributions but I am just getting so tired of wading through the “Metafilter: some one liner here”. I don’t have the time anymore to wade through all the stuff.

[ . . . ]

I want less but better. Not less functionality and better design (sorry mr. jobs) . I want less information and better functionality. Or rather I want to have to wade through less information because of that better functionality.

Amen.

Administration Lies: What’s Different This Time

There’s not much to say about the scandal of the 7 fired US Attorneys that hasn’t already been said (especially by the top notch operation over at TPM Muckraker). And really, it hasn’t excited me all that much, because it’s simply a rehash of the same thing the Bush Administration has served us over and over and over again. There’s nothing new here. Well, except for one very important thing. First, though, let’s review the standard elements of nearly every Bush scandal:

  1. Action taken for a nakedly political motivation, public interest and established practice be damned
  2. Action noted online and analyzed a bit, only to be generally ignored by press
  3. Online reporters connect a few more dots, prompting some attention by non-WP/NYT press and a few members of Congress
  4. Add some additional percolation time
  5. Democratic Member(s) of Congress takes on the issue and demands an answer from the Administration
  6. Administration brushes it off/stonewalls at first, and then lies when pressed
  7. Information all but proving the lie becomes public

These are the ingredients of almost every Bush administration scandal we’ve seen. NSA wiretapping, intelligence reporting, “thwarted terrorist plots” – you name it, they’ve all pretty much followed the same script, which then culminates in:

    8. Democrats are denounced as partisan/undermining security, and it blows over with the help of a compliant press.

But that doesn’t seem to be happening this time, does it? In fact, we’re witnessing things we’ve not seen before – Republican senators calling for a resignation and mainstream press appears to be working hard on the story. So what’s different? I really don’t think it’s the Democratic control of Congress.

Rather, it’s that this failing of Bush’s isn’t tied to a policy that the Republicans and mainstream press have bound themselves to in public. And that gives Republicans an opening that they’re taking. Since November, Republicans wanting a future in elected office have been looking for a way to put space between themselves and this administration. But they’ve not been willing to do it on an issue that would open themselves to the same charges they’ve spent the past five years leveling. By jumping on Gonzales now – on an issue that they’ve never had a (public) hand in – they’re creating that space between themselves and the administration without having to face the fact that they’ve never had a problem with administration lies and purely political actions before. And they still leave the security/patriotism horse ready in the stable, in case they need to ride it again (and they will).

A380 Coming to IAD – But We Don’t Get To See It

 March 27th Update: reader pictures here.

While I doubt I’d ever want to fly coach in it, the plane dork in me is pretty excited about the new Airbus A380. The biggest passenger jetliner ever built, it’s a double decker that will carry between five and six hundred passengers at a time. This week will mark its first landings in the United States, with Airbus sending an A380 to LAX and Lufthansa an A380 to JFK today. LAX expects more than just media coverage:

Expecting “thousands of onlookers to line airport fences,” [ . . . ] officials have devoted “hours to meetings about where pedestrians should stand, what streets to shut down and how to provide security and traffic control[.]”

So will those of us in DC get a chance to line the fences for a look? Well, the JFK A380 will head on to Chicago and Washington (via Frankfurt and Hong Kong, it seems). A380 When I first heard about the Dulles landing, I was looking around for information about any public events or viewing areas at Dulles. Finding no public events planned, I took some solace in this article, which appeared to indicate a couple of daytime opportunities to see the plane land or take off. Unfortunately, that schedule seems to have changed. I called the Dulles Public Affairs office to ask about landing times, and they told me that the schedule has been changed to have the plane arrive late Sunday, and depart late Monday night, scrapping any chance of a daytime viewing. So while you might be able to catch a brief glimpse of the landing lights, any trip out to Dulles to see an A380 will almost certainly be disappointing.

I suppose seeing an A380 will be a common enough occurrence in the near future (the first delivery for regular commercial operation will be to Singapore Airlines this fall), but I’m still rather disappointed. And it’s a shame that Airbus and Lufthansa didn’t involve the National Air and Space Museum in producing some sort of public event. I would have loved to get a few shots of the latest wonder in the air from the observation deck. Ah well. I guess I’ll just have to buy a ticket someday.

Photo by albspotter.

Update: Crankyflier shows us what we missed.

Further update: I sure am getting a ton of Google/Yahoo traffic from folks looking for information about seeing the A380 at Dulles. Unfortunately, nothing’s changed – the A380 “is [still] expected to arrive at Dulles some time after 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 25 and depart some time after 9 p.m. on Monday, March 26” and Lufthansa is not planning any public event. Further, I understand that they’re parking the aircraft where there’s no clear view from any public areas at the airport (tho’ if you’re actually IN Terminal B, I’d take a walk along the gates to see what I could . . .). If you’re still looking for more A380 coverage, I’d head over to the Airliners.net Civil Aviation Forums. Or, you know, stick around here and check out some of my travel writing.

Final update, as it will soon all be in the past: Ben at USA Today appears to be on track to check out the plane at IAD tomorrow. Maybe he’ll tell us something interesting.

Race Report: St. Patrick’s Day 8K

First things first – I’m not a runner. In fact, I hate running. Cycling’s my thing. But I also dig adventure racing, and until someone can design a course that doesn’t involve running, I’ll just have to suck it up and learn to deal with running. So, in light of the cancellation of the last Quicksilver criterium, I decided to take a crack at my first 8km race, the St. Patrick’s Day Race. So, with that out of the way, here’s my take on it:

The St. Patrick’s Day Race draws a lot of runners (and a few walkers), and it’s easy to see why. The race is well organized, there’s a wide distribution of speed among the competitors, and the scenery is great.

Registration is handled through Active.com, and you can pick up your timing chip and shirt at the Old Post Office building up to two days ahead of time. This proved a smart move, and I didn’t envy those standing in the pick-up lines the morning of the race (not so much for the length of the lines as having to stand still in 30 degrees with a 20mph wind . . .). The swag is a white technical race shirt with an undated St. Patrick’s Day Race logo on it. A nice change from the usual cotton shirt that will end up in the “to donate” pile by the end of the year.

At least a few thousand runners showed up, and the course easily accommodated everyone. The starting area was organized by pace (and it seems our mayor Adrian Fenty did a job worthy of his spot on the front line, coming in at just under 34 minutes for 9th in his division). There was some slight bunching at the start, and then briefly when heading up the first (and only) hill, but that was about it. I’m a decidedly back-of-the-pack runner, so it was great that the course design allowed folk like me to get a few glimpses of the front runners as the race progressed. My only complaint here is more theoretical than practical – I passed a number of runners plugged into iPods. While I didn’t witness any resulting problems, it still makes me itch.

The course is generally designed around the eastern end of the Mall. It starts in front of the National Theater, heads down Pennsylvania Avenue, up towards Union Station, back down and across the Mall, a jog around a federal agency I can’t recall, and then back across the Mall and up Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s almost entirely flat, with the only hill being a gradual 70ft. elevation change. Something a guy like me can appreciate. The water station at 5k was welcome, but the hidden jig to the left when you thought you were almost upon the finish line was just cruel . . .

The race was a good experience for me, which is something I wouldn’t expect to say with regard to running. I didn’t feel like an elephant among antelope, but I got to see the antelope run. The good organization made sure that I could direct all of my efforts and worry to the race, and not logistics. All in all, the race served the runners well, and I expect to be back next year.

Next effort: Kidney Kare 5K in Carrboro, NC

The Proper Way To Hang a Confederate Flag

Irony abounds:

[Robert] Hurst walked into the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science this past week and saw an exhibit by [artist John] Sims, including a Confederate flag hung from a noose on a 13-foot gallows in a display titled “The Proper Way to Hang a Confederate Flag.”

Hurst asked the museum to remove the display, along with 13 other pieces by Sims.

[ . . . ]

Hurst, commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter, said Friday he has lost respect for the museum, calling the display of Sims’ work “offensive, objectionable and tasteless.”

Perfect, really. Just perfect.

Update: Welcome, all. I go out for a run and come back to an avalanche. Click here for the main page.

Further update: a picture of what’s causing all the uproar. Also, if anyone wants to see what just kind of ugly it is attacking this art, check out the comments. Really quite lovely.

Voter ID Requirements: Some Data

Voter ID requirements certainly get people excited. Democrats (mostly) fight them, arguing that they reduce access to the polls. Republicans fight for them, under the guise of reducing voter fraud. I’m coming to understand, however, that neither side really has any solid data to back their claims and theories up. So this Slate story covering the findings of a university consortium study on the matter (the Cooperative Congressional Election Study) makes for interesting reading. Some specific findings:

  • half of the survey respondents said they were required to present photo ID, even though in 2006 the laws in only Indiana and Florida required this of all voters
  • poll workers asked for such identification very frequently in the South (65 percent) and rarely in the Northeast (22 percent)
  • just 23 people in the entire sample—less than one-tenth of 1 percent of reported voters—said that they were asked for photo identification and were then not allowed to vote
  • African-Americans were asked to present photo ID more often than whites—54 percent of the time versus 46 percent

These are all interesting – if somewhat inconclusive – findings, and I recommend the whole article (and hey, Waldo, maybe you can put that Edward Tufte education to good use!). The author really draws only one conclusion at the end, one my experience as a volunteer voter protection attorney bears out:

To return to the finding that half of survey respondents said they were required to present photo ID despite the rarity of relevant state laws, this result is instructive because of what it suggests about how rules are not followed. Both sides of the voter-fraud debate assume that registration requirements matter because poll workers will apply them as instructed. In truth, this country continues to rely on barely trained volunteers to administer the actual process of voting. Any plan to combat fraud or increase access, let alone upgrade voting technology, must take into account that it will be administered largely by amateurs.

Something to consider next time we engage each other on this subject.

Portraits in Cravenness: John McCain

A simple question:

“Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”

Apparently, it’s a question John McCain couldn’t answer.

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad

A slight modification of Dony Permedi‘s master’s thesis project in animation:

Working hard for your ISP, are you?

Via Dave Farber’s IP list:

[T]he CEO of Compete Inc. revealed that ISPs happily sell clickstream data — and that it’s a big business. They don’t sell your name — just your clicks — but the clicks are tied to you as a specific user (User 1, User 2, etc.).

How much are your clicks worth? About 40 cents a month per user (per customer)… and the Compete CEO estimates that there are 10-12 big buyers of this data. In other words, your ISP is probably making about $5 a month ($60 a year) off your clickstreams.

This is news to me, and I like to think of myself as someone who pays attention to these things. More here.

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