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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Machine readable

My Friend Rob sent me an email with a link to a web log post which I'm turning around here: Librarian » Henriette Davidson Avram, 1917-2006. It notes the passing of this woman on April 22 and credits her with the introduction of the modern bibliographic record  MARC standards - Wikipedia. MARC  the ocean in which I drown daily. In these days of complete digital convergence MARC may not seem like much, but at the time it was developed - early sixties - it was a remar[c]able achievement. She was an honorary member of ALA, which hints that she may have been a database developer by profession not a librarian. Still what is appropriate, is a moment of silence.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Rumsfeld vs.

A lot has been written and said about those retired members of the armed services who are speaking out against Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld Retired generals speak out to oppose Rumsfeld |, and a lot is going on More Retired Generals Call for Rumsfeld's Resignation - New York Times. I want to focus on just one aspect of this; that these individuals should not be speaking publicly at all, Why Are They Speaking Up Now? because it undermines civilian control of the military. This is correct in principle. But I am that civilian. I need to have the information to judge the Presidents behavior and competency, and that of those persons he chose to serve in various positions. I need to hear the judgments of the professionals concerned, not have them suppressed because it could be construed as insubordinate to one who is ultimately merely an intermediary. The chain of command runs past General Pace, Mr. Rumsfeld Rumsfeld Defends His Record Against Critics - New York Times, and past Mr. Bush. In the United States of America, the people are sovereign. I would have no one forget this.

I notice the U S Navy, with whom I served, has not added voice to this debate yet. I can only presume this war has treated them well or at least has not created the same cause for anxiety. They may have already turned their thoughts to the next war.

Given the historic sensitivity regarding civilian and military interaction, some institutional deference is due At Pentagon, a delicate civilian-military balance | The military has a strong monopoly on the tools of coercion. As do the militaries of history's many nations. The historical record bears savage witness to the tendency to turn this potential into direct actuality; therefore, the military of the American republic must be careful in its roles, in its honorable standing, and in its usage! The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) directs active and retired officers ought not speak contemptuously of the President and his officeholders Civilians Reign Over U.S. Military by Tradition and Design - New York Times. This is a good rule, but it does not silence these individuals or disallow criticism.

What I need from these men and women is one good statement of their doubts, objections, worries, and frustrations. Published and promulgated. In an opinion editorial, in an magazine essay, a journal article, in a book, in an interview; however accomplished, it ought to be done Young Officers Join the Debate Over Rumsfeld - New York Times. But then respect for the process of democratic rule would council circumspection. No military officer should take on the role of a gadfly. Unless he or she chooses to take on the responsibility of running for office, or becoming an open and acknowledged advisor to someone running for political office. This is also their irrcontrovertible right.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006
Hill of Dreams

A few weeks ago I was playing around with Project Gutenberg and Wikipedia's reciprocal links. Which is a nice way of coming across writers you've never heard of, and being able to immediately browse their art. A library can do that for you as well, but I work in a library and in my private time, I stay away from them. In this way I found Arthur Machen and started to read The Hill of Dreams.

I won't inflict story spoilers on you, even given the story being written one hundred years ago. By the time I finished the story I assumed without conscious reflection that there was a hill. And I knew where it might be; Caerleon, Wales. Machen's birthplace, where the story is set. I went to Google Earth to find it. Isca! Romans, their amphitheatres, and legion encampments, on the valley plain by the river Usk. All this is still visible marked onto the land to the south of the city center- Google Local - caerleon, wales (you may need to go + scale one or two notches and re-center). The 300 year quartered camp of the 2nd legion is still half visible four thin grey rectangles mark the excavation of the centurion's barracks. The eastern side merges into the town . A museum is built where the bathes and Tribunes' offices lay. Just off the southwestern edge is the substantially preserved amphitheatre. But all this is on the flats by the river. Machen in his story placed the Roman fortress on a hill. I knew that hill must have its real world analogue. As I looked around for it I discovered first - Wales has a lot of hills. I set elevation exaggeration to 2x,  the angle of observation to around 45 degrees and eye altitude to varying heights below 10,000ft .  Looking over the land a mile or so north west of the town center I found a strange hill, and knew it was the one. Moreover there seemed to be an overgrown remains of fort-like ramparts visible on the hill top. Moving over to Firefox I attempted to examine this on the further Web. From I learned the history of the Legio II Augustus, and the name of the hill and its earthen mounds. The Lodge Hill camp Google Local - caerleon, wales, Lodge Hill or Belinstocke belonged to the Celts and their iron age Hill-top fort practice. Occupied during the two halves of Britain's iron age (pre and post Roman).

There is dark magic in the tangled ancient green of Lodge Hill. Unusual varities of plants, and things growing in unnatural forms. In Machen's words from Hill of Dreams:

"a round heap of fallen stones nourished rank, unknown herbs, that smelt poisonous...The earth was black and unctuous, and bubbling under the feet, left no track the darkest places where the shadow was thickest, swelled the growth of an abominable fungus, making the still air sick with its corrupt odor. [finally settling down in]... a lawn of sweet close turf in the center of the matted brake, of clean firm earth from which no shameful growth sprouted.[remembering]... his struggle through the dank and jungle-like thicket...ugly misshapen trees that hedged the lawn. Not a branch was straight, not one was free,but all were interlaced and grew one about another; and just above ground, where the cankered stems joined the protuberant roots. [he takes a afternoon nap]...And then he began to dream."

All named now by our taming phrase Upland ecology; (may subdivide geographically) [authorized Library of Congress Subject Heading]. Or as we read in the words of modern archaeology reports:

"Additional small-scale interventions were made in and around areas of mountain bike damage within the western entrance." ... "Intensive biological activity, in particular through tree and scrub root action, had resulted in severe reworking of the soil matrices,  effectively removing obvious boundaries between originally discrete layers and deposits." The excavation of Lodge Hill Fort, Caerleon, Summer 2000.

Indefensible mad growth! This I know: the woods keep their secrets, but are forever compelled to whisper of them to the chance passer-through.

Bathed in Google Earth's uniformly sunlight selected mosaics Machen's Usk river valley and hillsides look so deceptively normal, so deceptively familiar. All uncanny suburban split-levels, and swimming pools. But in the slanting distance looking south from over the subdivision that tracks up the slope of Lodge hill. The artificial gold hue on what is discernibly water - the Severn river as it broadens and becomes the Bristol Channel - points to another potential that is eager to share: most versions of the Grail legend maintain that you could see the Bristol channel from Arthur's ramparts. Lodge hill is Camelot. All of which my nephew, niece, sister and brother in law would have driven by a few years ago, on the m-4 motor-way crossing over the Usk, while on their way to Cardiff.

What muse, uninvited, insistent, unconscious, untrustworthy muse, is such a hill? In spite of the due caution called for do we look for our own hill? As a boy I had no hill. We were poor and  lived in a swamp - the great cedar swamp Google Local - Holliston, MA (center) - which despite its name was neither that great nor as I recall particularly filled with cedars. I can ensure you; though, the hills to either side, left and right edges of the picture, bothered me somewhat, at times.

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Monday, April 17, 2006
Border Protectionism

I often set myself a point when I stop addressing new information on a topic. Nothing like a deadline to bring things to a focus. When that doesn't help (and it didn't here) I assume there is more flux than usual involved. So what is the problem regarding immigration and undocumented workers that has requested so much fixing. The problem is the debate. I'm all for debates but this one  spawned by H.R. 4437, "Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005." seemed designed to create a traumatic big issue where a merely manageable problem existed act now: Responsible Immigration Reform Background.

First, the words we use. What do we think we are talking about here? Immigration and emigration equalling e + migration [to leave a place] against im (in) + migration [to come into a place]. Two sides of a single coin - two facets of a single individual. The pairing is not the pure dichotomy it appears to be. What is appearing in one place after departing another place is not merely an inconvenient material object to be considered abstractly, but a person. This individual who immigrates, will possesses properties of permanence, or transience, which speak to this individual, motivationally. His - her behavior will differ whether their role is as guest worker with or without possibility of citizenship. A process of converting external to internal proletariat. Implicitly questioning whether we will have stages, or types of citizenship, how that will change us Washington Monthly GUEST WORKERS. Of course we are not talking just about individuals, but populations of people. Some other word pairings to round this out: Sympathy, empathy or antipathy. Also anthropic [of or relating to the development of man] compared with misanthropy [hating or mistrusting man]. I vaguely recall economists like Julian Simon insisting the human ingenuity was an inseparable phrase, one that evaporated all problems. Ecco homo anyone? No? Oh well.

Another strong feature of this debate has been hostility. I was looking for some quotes from Rep. Tancredo (last heard from back on 06 April - toward end of this piece) or the head of the Minuteman group (the group that likes to sit it cars and videotape license plates) they have been so forthcoming with pithy sound bites through all this, but when I looked for some in the articles of the last week which I still have up in Firefox I didn't see any. Consider the person I heard interviewed on NPR last Thursday (13Apr06) reacting to the marches: "they're illegals, they're all criminals, like any other criminal - arrest them now!" What is the source, reason, logic of this anger I thought as I listened to this. Where does it come from? There was also opinion from the always reliable Michelle Malkin to the hundred thousands who marched in dozens of American cities - the second set of rallies when djs and other advocates were counseling the demonstrators to bring American flags. I saw this via Tailrank (which I have been relying on in Blogdexes absence) [Tailrank similar to technorati and blogdex puts up a snippet of a web source generating attention on a given day (garnering links) along with a thumbnail and snippets from commentators]. "Communist Agitators" she was railing, and their fiendish tricks: American flags waved proudly, how obvious. A falling back to old and familiar categories of right-wing reaction. Unhinged indeed.

Behind all these hard views was some remarkable soft data This brings us into the realm of the Yankee Dollar. A CS Monitor article stated economists do not have data to predict what would happen if foreign workers were removed from the labor market Immigration debate crux: jobs impact | Would native unemployed take these jobs -- at the same wage rate? Nor does anyone seem to have a grasp of the final number of undocumented workers 11 or 12 million - or how many of them, with families and children, would desire to stay a citizens. Deal Would Put Millions on Path to Citizenship - New York Times, and similarly For illegal migrants, time in US may define status | There is one set of facts that is fairly solid: Annual Mexican Gross Domestic Product per capita is just under $7,000. It is almost $44,000 in the United States. Immigration debate seen skirting root cause. Those numbers again: Ranking 5th United States $41,400; and 69th Mexico $6,770 ( Data - Quick Reference Tables : GNI per capita 2004, Atlas method and PPP, The World Bank.)

What is real here? What is the most real, or at least more real. Borders? "[T]he proposed 700-mile, $2.2 billion barrier" -- "a major point of contention - not just for the US and Mexico, but for the US and the whole region" Latin leaders balk at US 'wall' | This maginot line against the poor and inconvenient will cost more than that by the time it's built - in dollars - in human lives. And it will never at any point be more than irrelevant: South of the border, fence is no deterrent | Politics then? The Minuteman 'movement' to (re)define a weak agenda, these conservatives didn't approve. The Presidents instincts to set up a guest worker program was not objectionable, but it may have lacked policy rigor. Unfortunate opportunistic attempt to latch on to this as a wedge issue was ill advised and incompetent, it misses it's point because it doesn't seek to understand. Amid these competing and incongruent aims GOP Chiefs Don't Want Immigrants Charged - Yahoo! News [note dateline carefully] political solutions collapse Effort to Pass Immigration Bill Collapses in Senate - New York Times. And those who kicked it all off, start fleeing the consequences Immigrant Bill Fallout May Hurt House GOP.

Jobs, livelihoods, family security, hope for the future. This in the end, is all that matters to those involved. This was the meaning of the marches US immigrants mobilizing for major 'action' | The urgency to be heard and understood. I am aware that all nations need to control citizenship - at the least in it's concept. I also know it can never be completely controlled by policy or even fully rationalized. I also believe that the United States cannot be the country we say we are if shifting standards on our social compact are employed. The salient point is we all (or our fore-bearers) came here and came to the property we hold here from elsewhere, and within the modern documented era American Pioneers -- or 'Illegals'. We can build a wall if we like, but justice will not supply us with anything we can hide behind.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006
Johnny always takes a little more than he needs, Johnny always

needs a little more than he takes.

From the department of lost links Replacements Reunite For New Songs and half remembered minutia. I think I heard the other week that the Replacements are getting back together for a song or two Permalink - Hey Ma, We Told Ya So.... Chris Mars will not be drumming though - he's an artiste now and will only be providing background vocals. Can't hardly wait for that. It will be good to see Grandpa boy getting out. Strikes me when I saw the Mats back at the old 9:30 club Chris Mars was the only one capable of coherant english speech prior to the show . Plus - there may be a Jan Paul Beahms biopic (of sorts) What We Do Is Secret (2006) coming out this year, It's not the first and it won't be the last. I might expect it to be a cautionary tale, but I've been wrong before.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Recent slight differences of opinion have become apparent in the Bush Administration. Rice, in England, Concedes U.S. 'Tactical Errors' in Iraq - New York Times. Mistakes sure. Thousands - that sounds about about right to me. They're certainly were not a thousand - points of light - unless we're counting muzzle flashes. At this point the President didn't necessarily disagree Bush Defends Iraq Strategy but Admits Mistakes - New York Times. As an aside I thought it commendable of Sec. Rice to give up her cabin to British Foriegn Secretary Jack  Straw and I don't condemn him for taking it. They bonded, according to one of the press accounts of that junket, by reading through Cobra II together. But Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't believe we've made any real mistakes Rumsfeld Challenges Rice on 'Tactical Errors' in Iraq. Everything is going fine everything is going according to plan, or at least it will look better generations from now the divergent tones are struck Guardian Unlimited | Rumsfeld and Rice fall out over war tactics. There are two ways you can look at this. As proof of the man's essential divorce from the finer points of reality. From other perspectives; however, a functioning Iraq under U S control would certainly be nice, but a broken Iraq is the next best thing and preferable to a intact Iraq run by anyone else. Secretary Rumsfeld's view lies beached in madness, somewhere along those shores. But it turns out our Rummy in not history's only Rumi. There is also a Rumi named Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi - Wikipedia . While afixing a barcode to a recent book of his poems Forbidden Rumi: The Suppressed Poems of Rumi on Love, Heresy and Intoxication - Jalal Al-Din Rumi, I wondered if one Rumi could reach out to the other, across the centuries. Secretary Rumsfeld, I believe, along with the Vice President still harbors some conviction that weapons of mass destruction were in Saddam's hands and will be found yet. Rumi can offer some small advice on this mission, with the following poem of his:

Search There
Sometimes you get as frightened
as a camel.
Sometimes you get stuck in the mud
like a hunted prey

O young fool
how long will you keep running away
from yourself?
In the end the thing will happen anyway

Just go in the direction
where there is no direction
Go, search there

-- Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
(the Forbidden Rumi: the suppressed poems of Rumi on love heresy, and intoxication. translation an commentary by Nevit O. Ergin and Will Johnson. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2006 . pg 77)

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Thursday, April 6, 2006
Old Tom

I won't miss him, Tom DeLay's exit is big loss for House GOP | He leaves strategizing to the very end. After the primaries are over and he can annoint a successor DeLay Departing on Own Terms. Taking shots at McKinney Delay: McKinney Is A Racist. Taking 'shots' at current and former Supreme Court Justices  who are not part of the New Right. DeLay Says Justices 'Don't Get' Criticism - Yahoo! News.

"They don't get it", he says. "Didn't you see the comments of Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Ginsburg over the last couple of weeks?" DeLay, R-Texas, asked reporters after a speech to a group of Christian conservatives. "There's still a problem, they don't get it." The reference is to reports like this one for Justice Ginsburg Justice Ginsburg Reveals Details of Threat - Yahoo! News and later Ginsburg Faults GOP Critics, Cites a Threat From 'Fringe' and speech by Justice O'Conner which was reported with two articles in the Guardian Newspapers Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Dictatorship is the danger Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Former top judge says US risks edging near to dictatorship  although I saw it first in this in Slate O'Connor Forecasts Dictatorship By Jack Shafer, which I think remains the primary MSM (inc) coverage of this. It's a set of interesting reads. I figured plenty of hard right conservatives wanted to say: |O'Connor and Ginsburg - drunk on the firewater and off the reservation|, but it was Tom Delay who stepped up to the plate.

I hear old Tom is moving on, to Virginia. That being one reason he's saying goodbye to that house seat down in Texas. Seems to me that when he finally started reading the papers (and indictments) the insight hit him "lobbying. Well. thats where the money is..." So the speculation goes DeLay says "maybe".... I believe he was quoted as saying (and if not him exactly, some other Texan):  " Well, I been movin' down Florida (Virginia) Way, And I'm gonna build me the a-tom-ic  bomb. Well, I'm gonna hold time hostage down in Florida (Virginia), child. Ain't nobody, said ain't nobody gonna tell me what to do."

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Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Stanislaw Lem

The Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem died last Monday Solaris author Stanislaw Lem dies at 84 |, BBC article is a bit better BBC NEWS | Europe | Solaris author Stanislaw Lem dies.
When I was younger (high school) I read all of his books that I could get a hold of. He was somewhat of a mysterious figure in those days. I was deeply impressed by his books, all of which I still regard highly today. Just from memory this would include: The Investigation, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, The Cyberiad, The Futurological Congress, Star Diaries of Ijon Tichy, and of course Solaris. I have a poster for the tremendous original Russian movie film - Solaris (1972) of that novel (in a tube in my closet at the moment) It looks like this:A picture named solaris.jpg
I re-read Memiors found in a Bathtub during the period I worked in the Pentagon: I would recommend that if you get a chance. I always though the Investigators would make a good (and creepy) movie. Looking over the Wiki page for him Stanis?aw Lem - Wikipedia I see it has been film - The Investigation. I'll have to track that down. Lem did a lot of writing which was not science fiction. Some of which I knew about, but have never encountered.
Rock(et) on Ijon Tichy, terveet kadat.

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Sunday, April 2, 2006
Perfectly Exempt, The FEC's take

The FEC now has final draft rule of a rule on internet communications out. the short version is that the Web log world is perfectly exempt FEC Won't Regulate Internet Politics - Yahoo! News so let's see how we like it now FEC Rules Exempt Blogs From Internet Political Limits. It seems to me thought this is not the last word on this. There are several entities to be accounted for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and its intent, Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) Bill, the Tom Allen (D-ME) and Charles Bass (R-NH) Bill, and now FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION 11 CFR Parts 100, 110 and 114 [Notice 2006 - XX] Internet Communications rule making Agenda Document No. 06-20 (FINAL RULES AND EXPLANATION AND JUSTIFICATION FOR INTERNET COMMUNICATIONS) . That is a 96 page document that is a lot of fine print. Better for my purpose, there is a two page back-grounder/FAQ - apparently from the office of Commissioner Lenhard. I thought I found this in the Ars Technica post on this FEC releases draft rules for Internet political communication, but I don't see it now. A portion of this in its own words:

Q. How do the new rules affect Internet political activity by individuals?
A. The new rules explicitly exempt from regulation the Internet activities of unpaid individuals or groups of individuals. An individual or group of individual[base ']s ability to develop web-pages, send electronic messages, provide hyperlinks, forward material that has been cut and pasted from political websites, or otherwise use computer or Internet resources for political activity are all exempt from regulation. (§ 100.94 and § 100.155) [emphasis added]
Q. What about bloggers who receive compensation from campaigns?
A. Under the new rules, a blogger who receives compensation is not required to disclose such payments. However, campaigns must continue to report such disbursements on their FEC filings.
Q. Do I need a disclaimer on my website?
A. Regardless of the content that appears on an individual or group[base ']s website, a disclaimer is not required unless the individual or group is a FEC registered political committee. FEC registered political committees must place disclaimers on all of their websites that are available to the general public. (§ 110.11) FEC Internet Rulemaking--Background and FAQ

Judging from statements and press releases I've seen everyone seems happy or at least relieved with the FEC's ruling. Mostly I am too, but I want to take a look at some of the main statement. It makes clear that voluntary activities - regardless of how much your time and expertise might be worth - it is not a political contribution. You can inflict as much of it on the political landscape as you want. Further it doesn't matter if the campaign you may be aiding has any idea who you are or not. They don't even have to know you are a volunteer. The document states the new rules allow for those who may be "acting independently."(notice 2006 xx, 56).

Even web loggers receiving formal compensation is not a problem for the FEC. And with no disclaimer. There could be a modest disclaimer, I think. Perhaps one of those international signs; a little icon with one hand dropping money into another maybe? Under the rational for not regulating this, is the basic concept that this will be documented by the campaign's filings to the FEC. Months after the campaign is over, and the winner has settled comfortably into his or her office and its everyday care.

If a web logger suddenly develops a deep appreciation of candidate Y's natural statesmen-like brilliance, or more likely comes across with vituperative attacks on a candidate, that makes free use of phrases like "the eldritch horror of candidate X". I would assume at that point that they are wired somehow into the political campaign, and discount the communicated information accordingly.

Similar to the process that brought about this set of rules, a Federal judge has directed the FEC to either explain why 527s (an appellation designating independent political action committees, such as Move On) are not an issue requiring regulation, or begin to develop rules for them. FEC Ordered to Rethink '527' Rule . Also to consider is the effect of future legislation. The bills before congress may sort this out but it was not entirely clear from what I've seen so far. The issue will gravitate to big money pipelines and the battle-lines may redraw according to fundraising fortunes.

If the FEC is going specifically point to these types of on-line behavior and say this is protected even encouraged speech, look for it to be pushed to limits that beg to be considered abuse for the next couple of election cycles. Particularly from loosely coordinated cascades of astroturf. Caveat Emptor!

Addendum 06Apr06:  Campaign Finance Measure Approved
House Bill Would Cap '527' Donations, Used Largely by Democrats

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