Friday, March 26, 2010

Say goodbye to still photos as mag covers?

iPad Sunset Mag Cover Spec from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Just one more change the iPad seems likely to bring. A few years from now, we'll probably all wonder how people ever could have enjoyed magazines in which the visuals didn't move. Via PitaPixel.

Crazy of Republicans to accuse Democrats of inciting political violence? Crazy like a Fox.

What's going on? Why is Minority Whip Eric Cantor accusing Democrats of fomenting political violence, when the real incendiary rhetoric lately has been coming from Tea Party activists and their Republican allies? It's not just a childish finger-pointing lie. It's classic disinformation. Billmon clarifies the difference (via Tom Bozzo).
The difference between disinformation and just plain lying is in the scope of the enterprise: A lie is intended to conceal a specific truth (e.g. "I did not have sex with that woman"). Disinformation, on the other hand, is aimed at constructing an entire alternative reality -- one in which the truth can find no foothold because it conflicts just not with a specific falsehood, but with the entire fabric of the false reality that has been created. It puts the "big" in big lie, in other words.
Billmon deconstructs the technique and points out that it's been pretty effective in muddying the media waters.
The idea is to string those phrases together in such a way as to verbally associate the Democrats with the very same conduct the Republicans are actually guilty of (i.e. incitement) without ever making the accusation directly.

What makes this particular example so cunning are the specific words used. Liberals complain that conservative protestors have worn guns to teabagger rallies, or waved signs warning that if "Brown can’t stop this, a Browning can"? Well, now the Democrats also have been accused of using "weapons." Has the RNC stepped over the line by showing Nancy Pelosi burning in a sea of fire? Well, the Democrats are also "fanning the flames." Did the GOP House members encourage their followers to think of themselves as a revolutionary army by waving "Don’t Tread on Me" signs from the House balcony during the HCR vote? Well, the Democrats are also "ratcheting up the rhetoric."
Straight out of the old Karl Rove playbook. It's crazy, all right -- but crazy like a Fox (double meaning intentional).

Oh, and that bullet that somebody supposedly fired into Cantor's office? It wasn't actually his office, just the same building, and in any case, it wasn't aimed at the building but was a spent round that somebody had fired into the sky and which broke a window in the building on the way down. But the qualifiers got dropped from a lot of stories, and the impression was allowed to linger that somebody -- no doubt incited by the alleged violent Democratic rhetoric -- took a shot at Cantor's office.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I've always loved this place and am glad it's going to be renovated and expanded, not torn down

I've Always Loved This Place: So Glad It's Not Going to Be Torn Down
I've always loved this place. (I like the sculpture too.) It's a a bookish oasis where you can spend hours without spending dollars, where there’s no admission charge, where books are free for the borrowing and you can roam as far as your dreams will take you without ever leaving your seat. It’s the Bernard Schwab Building, the central branch of the Madison Public Library.

The plans to build a new downtown library as part of a larger commercial development fell through, and Mayor Dave is now backing renovating and expanding the old central library. It's a solid structure that was designed for upward expansion when it opened in the mid-Sixties, and I always thought that was the best option. From the Mayor's announcement:
So, while I'm disappointed, I'm also excited about the prospect for a great library on the current site. We believe we can do it at a lower cost and roughly on the same timeline. We will need to count on less private fundraising in a tight environment for philanthropy. And because we'll use the existing superstructure of the building, we are essentially recycling it. The greenest building is the one you rebuild.

What we should not do is go back to square one. Looking for other sites would be way too time consuming, difficult and costly. I don't think that will be necessary because my initial discussions with alders have been very positive on the reconstruction. That's not surprising. After all, it was really the council that asked us to look at the reconstruction as a baseline to measure the other proposals against, and I know that many alders will be more comfortable with the lower costs.
Yes. Glad he came around.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"This is a big f - - - ing deal."

Speaking plainly: Vice President Joe Biden tells it like it is. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs agrees: "And yes Mr. Vice President, you're right..."

Via TPM LiveWire

Finding my way by applying Relativity Theory in downtown Washington, DC traffic

Applying Relativity Theory in Downtown Washington DC
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke
When I ducked into DC last fall for a quick visit to one of my favorite museums after completing some business in the suburbs, my GPS served me well. It led me right to the Phillips Collection, taking me through a back alley shortcut and delivering me right to an available parking space in front of the building. It was like magic (except for the parking space, which was just a lucky accident).

For most of us, GPS technology -- whether on a cell phone or in a car -- does seem indistinguishable from magic. But GPS doesn't rely on magic; it relies on Relativity. GPS devices provide the most direct application of Einstein's General and Special Relativity most of us ever encounter directly in our lives.

I had been aware of this in a general sort of way, but awhile back Making Light provided this link to a great post by Richard C. Pogge at Ohio State that explains why the satellite-based navigation system had to be designed to take relativistic effects into account.
If these effects were not properly taken into account, a navigational fix based on the GPS constellation would be false after only 2 minutes, and errors in global positions would continue to accumulate at a rate of about 10 kilometers each day! The whole system would be utterly worthless for navigation in a very short time. This kind of accumulated error is akin to measuring my location while standing on my front porch in Columbus, Ohio one day, and then making the same measurement a week later and having my GPS receiver tell me that my porch and I are currently about 5000 meters in the air somewhere over Detroit.
There's more. Check it out here. Although there's no magic involved, the account of how Einstein's insights proved to be absolutely vital to modern electronic navigation is fascinating.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Historic moment -- and not one, single Republican vote. You could say they out-Foxed themselves.

Historic Moment and Not One Republican Vote
This was the scene last night as we watched the vote count on C-SPAN -- the moment that House approval of the Senate health care bill received the 216 votes required for passage (the Democrats eventually added three more). Not one Republican vote.

All over America, there were sighs of relief today as people began to understand some of the immediate benefits of health care reform. A lot of that anti-health care rhetoric of the Republican right is going to start looking really stupid really fast. To me, the Republicans -- by adopting the talk radio wingnut approach to health care reform -- looked a lot like lemmings rushing off the cliff into the sea.

T pointed me to a David Frum post that employed a different metaphor. He called it the Republican Waterloo.
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There's another metaphor that applies. You could say the Republicans out-Foxed themselves. And seriously underestimated Barack Obama.

House Democrats finally took care of "the great unfinished business of our society" last night

During my visit to Arlington National Cemetery last September I visited the graves of the Kennedy brothers. I don't weep all that easily, so I was caught by surprise when tears welled up and I had to dab at my eyes at all three sites, but none more so than at Teddy's grave. I had watched him laid to rest here on TV just weeks before. The flag still flew at half-mast.

Nearby his brothers had their memorials -- the eternal flame for Jack, and the beautiful I. M. Pei memorial for Bobby. Teddy's fresh grave was only marked by this plain white cross and the simple marker. With the passage of the health care reform bill tonight, he finally received a fitting memorial.

I was thinking then of how much he would be missed, especially his sane, compassionate voice during the emerging healthcare debate. Just days before, President Obama had quoted from a letter Teddy wrote him back in May. Some passages are worth recalling:
When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the president who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me – and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination . . .

But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege . . .
Tonight we watched more hours of C-SPAN at one sitting than we ever have in our lives. Despite all the flaws and compromises and imperfections in the bill, I was proud of what the Democrats, Speaker Pelosi and the President had accomplished. Politics is the art of the possible. If passing health care reform were easy in America, we would have had it years ago.

What passed for debate on the Republican side was appalling. It wasn't only that not a single Republican voted for the bill in either house, but that during the debate, I didn't hear any Republicans say they were also concerned about the millions of un- and under-insured, but there was a better way, and here's what it was. No, they were all about fear, partisanship and obstructionism. They didn't care about proposing practical alternatives. As a group, they just didn't care, period, and if there were some individuals who did they kept quiet about it.

Would Teddy have shamed a few of them into behaving differently if he had been there? Perhaps. But probably not. After all, the Republican Party hardly embraced Social Security or Medicare either. Why should we expect them to help take care of business now -- "the great unfinished business of our society"? We just had to do it without them.

UPDATE: Thanks to Anonymous in the Comments for the "I promised Teddy" links (click to see an extraordinarily moving picture of Barack Obama with the ailing Teddy). The reference is to the last lines of the Boston Globe's obituary for Teddy Kennedy.
Despite his illness, Senator Kennedy made a forceful appearance at the Democratic convention in Denver, exhorting his party to victory and declaring that the fight for universal health insurance had been “the cause of my life.’’

He pursued that cause vigorously, and even as his health declined, he spent days reaching out to colleagues to win support for a sweeping overhaul; when members of Obama’s administration questioned the president’s decision to spend so much political capital on the seemingly intractable health care issue, Obama reportedly replied, “I promised Teddy.’’
And tomorrow when the first of the health care reform bills is signed into law, he will have kept the promise. It's far from perfect, but we'll be able to improve it.