Pete Stark, a twenty (!) term Democrat from San Francisco, accused a San Francisco Chronicle reporter of contributing to one of his opponents. This took place while he was being videotaped, in the Chronicle’s offices. The reporter, who was in the room, said that wasn’t true. Then he said that he’d gotten the name wrong, and provided another name, the name of somebody who doesn’t work for the paper. This shortly after he accused his primary challenger of taking enormous bribes, another charge that he couldn’t prove, and wound up apologizing for. Watching the video, I think that a reasonable person would have to conclude that the 80-year-old Stark is experiencing the symptoms of dementia. His family and staff would do well to encourage him to retire from politics. →
Karl Rove’s nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, just got an anonymous $10M donation to fund attack ads against President Obama. This is the second $10M+ contributions that the organization has received anonymously. Is there anybody who thinks that we should have a political system that allows anonymous, unlimited political contributions? Anybody? →
- New York Times: Who’s on the Line? Increasingly, Caller ID Is Duped
Telemarketers are faking Caller ID information with apparent impunity, so that people believe that the IRS or the FBI is calling. (Just like spam!) The FTC has just filed their first complaint against a company for doing that. The FCC wouldn't comment as to what they're doing about it.
- Wikipedia: List of nicknames of United States presidents
John Tyler, Rutherford B. Hayes, Warren G. Harding, and Richard Nixon are the only former U.S. presidents who did not have a (non-derisory) nickname as president. ("Tricky Dick," for instance, doesn't make the cut.) President Obama does not yet have a nickname and, given how unusual his name is, I suspect he won't get one. The heyday of nicknames was the early 20th century, when a few popular given names reigned supreme—when three friends are all named "Michael," nicknaming is inevitable. The most popular names today are far less common than a century ago, making nicknames linguistically unnecessary.
- The Atlantic: What If the Law Required Campaign Contributions to Be Kept Secret?
If the process of collecting, tallying, and refunding campaign contributions was turned over to a blind trust, the effect on politics could be quite positive. Lawrence Lessig argues that it would become implausible to buy influence.
- journoterrorist: How to Build a Newsroom Time Machine
This group of college journalism students were assigned the task of producing a publication using only thirty-year-old technology. They learned a lot.
- MSNBC: Firm gives $1 million to pro-Romney group, dissolves
W Spann LLC was formed in March, gave a million dollars to a pro-Romney super PAC, and then shut down in July, right before their first FEC filing was due. Who gave the money? Nobody knows. Who started the company? Can't say. This is why the court decision to allow corporate contributions to campaigns is a disaster. We've got a presidential campaign getting an enormous amount of money, but nobody knows who it's from, and I'm not sure anybody's going to find out.
- Computerworld: eBay attacks server virtualization with 100TB of SSD storage
To deal with I/O demands of virtual machines, eBay saved a bunch of money by moving to solid-state drives. They replaced 100TB with SSDs, dropping their storage rack space needs by 50%, cutting their power consumption by 78%, and increasing I/O performance by 500%. SSDs are awfully expensive when compared to traditional hard drive, but surely they'll quickly pay for themselves in this instance.
- Sunlight Foundation: Use the Net!
Both Sen. Jim Webb and Mark Warner are still filing campaign finance reports with the FEC on paper. They've presumably each got small staffs who do all of their data collection and number crunching on computers, only to them print out their campaign finance reporters, snail-mail them to the FEC, who have to scan them in and key them in again. The result is a huge waste of federal dollars and a significant delay in making those reports public. The rest of the world—including every last member of the House of Representatives—long ago moved to electronic filing. What's the deal with Webb and Warner?
- PhysOrg: Study shows voter turnout can be increased with simple word change
This small-scale study found a substantial increase in voter turnout by asking people to be a "voter," rather than to "vote." No doubt this logic will be put to work on a larger scale within the next couple of election cycles, and that demonstrate whether this theory stands up or not.
- BusinessJournalism.org: When visualizing numbers gets ridiculous
A journalism pet peeve of mine is when reporters provide numbers without context. "The state spent $34.4B last year." Is that a lot? How did that compare to the prior year, or ten years prior? Or they'll put "$1M" next to "$1B." That's not helpful—use the same unit for comparison, listing "$1M" and "$1,000M." But some have gone too far the other way, providing meaningless visualizations. "That's enough dollar bills to stretch to the moon and back." What is the reader to do with this knowledge? Better to just use numbers to express numbers, and let their context provide context.