Saturday, August 12, 2006

52 millionth web log 

I believe it was Immanuel Kant who said "Two things fill the soul with ever increasing wonder: the starry heavens above me and the growth of blogs around me." Or something like that.

Truly, though, these technorati graphs at Big Picture are jaw-dropping. They show that the total number of blogs in existence has continued to double every six months for over 3 years running. In the time it took you to read that last sentence, 20 more posts were added to the blogosphere. I bet they were all good ones, too. (Let's do an experiment and click the "next blog" feature on the header and link to whatever we find. We'll do it once and see what some random blogger just posted...Oh lucky day! It's Your Right Hand Shoe Thieves blog! (Wow, that wasn't nearly as boring as I feared. Heck, Lovely and I would watch Project Runway with those gals!)

Blog growth is amazing. For example, when Michael created 2 Millionth Web Log in October of 2003, there weren't even two million blogs in existence. In fact, there were more prisoners in the U.S. than bloggers. Michael wrote: "It seems that everyone and their grandmother has a web log these days. My initial post reflects this. [2 Millionth Web Log] is also intended with all due irony-- this summer the United States prison population passed the two million mark."

Since that post was written, the number of blogs mushroomed from under two million to over fifty million, and tons more are created each day. I'm particularly impressed by the growing number of excellent blogs concerning themselves with New Orleans, Louisiana and the Katrina aftermath. There's so many, I can't even read them all any more. Yet, despite the rapid growth, I think our "Pelican" community is a relatively close, tight-knit bunch. We've been through a lot in the past year, and this shared experience bonds us in many unique ways. I think that, despite all our differences, there's a certain immediate familiarity here that is remarkable.

I will make two predictions: LA bloggers will always have interesting stuff to discuss in the 'gret stet', and we will create MANY exciting opportunities to work together and effect positive change in the coming months and years ahead.

Ok, that's enough backslappery for now. I need your hive mind. Take a look at this 3rd graph in the aforementioned link. Here, I'll reprint it (click to enlarge).

Notice the sharp, massive dropoff in daily posting volume right before the Hurricane Katrina spike. What accounts for that? Considering that blogs are growing geometrically, how can there be a freakish, nine month "bottom" in total daily posts? How and why do you think this downward "spike" occurred? My first thought was "Well, maybe all the Gulf Coast bloggers evacuated, and this caused the drop." While I doubt that's the reason, I can't come up with much else (everyone on vacation, Blogger down, school started...?). But it has to be one of the sharpest posting "drops" in the history of weblogging. I wish the Technorati graph had an arrow explaining that monstrous downward deviation.

Also, in the other graph you'll notice that there was a huge spike in the number of blogs created immediately after Katrina. It appears that nearly 200k new blogs/day were created in early September 2005. That remained the highpoint for many months (again, during geometric growth) until April of '06, if my reading of that graph is correct.
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Friday, August 11, 2006

"Ramifications from New Orleans" 

Fox business analyst: "You remember the ramifications from New Orleans, that a lot of dissatisfied people here could ultimately join up with the Muslims or sympathize with them."

Link via World Class

Update: Oh hell yes! Michael at 2Millionth creates a new interpretation of a classic graphic which I will reproduce below. Enlarge and enjoy.

Great work! (There's a link explaining the Bolshevik reference in the comments.)
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How do we properly celebrate Burt Reynolds? 

Last week, while drinking scotch at a punk rock bar in Chicago, Ratboy and I came upon an almost metaphysical conundrum. Consider this:

If you were to have a Burt Reynolds film night, and if you could only show three of his films, which 3 would you choose and on what basis?

Don't laugh. Think about this, it's important.

Would you go with actually good films (Deliverance), the films that made him a superstar (Smokey and the Bandit) or would you go with his bad films (none come immediately to mind) or his raucously bad films (Cop and 1/2)?

Or would you choose to show three mustache films or three non-mustache films. Or a mix?

Which three? It's almost impossible to decide, but we are committed to doing so.

By the way, this Burt Reynolds question isn't purely academic. A B.R. film night will happen this winter (attendees will dress as Burt, or Sally or Dom...), so your thoughts in the comments will be taken into consideration. No jokes, please.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Straw dogs of war pigs have the power!! 

Important conversations about terrorism are occurring in the wake of the foiled bomb plot in England. Read them.

Also, the other day, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice discussed the Middle East in Crawford, Tejas. During the Q & A, Bush constructed perhaps the largest straw man "argument" he has ever used. And that's saying something, too, because some of his previous creations were bigger than the Burning Man effigy.

Assuming you can perservere through the tortured syntax and thought fragments, you'll find a huge Strawdaddy in the second quote:

But what the American people need to know is we've got a strategy -- a strategy for freedom in the Middle East which protects the American people in the long run.

(big snip)

Now, I've talked a lot about the universal appeal of liberty, and I readily concede some people aren't willing to -- some say, well, you know, liberty may not be universal in this sense -- America imposes its will. We don't impose liberty; liberty is universal.

It's one of the interesting debates of the 21st century, I think, that some would be willing to say it's okay for people not to live in a free society. It's not okay for us. If you love peace, in order to achieve peace you much help people realize that which is universal -- and that is freedom.

Whenever Bush says something's "interesting" you can bet it's duller than children's scissors, and an insult to your intelligence. Who, precisely, is arguing that it's "okay" for people to live in unfree societies? This is supposedly the great debate of the century, and it's a total straw man. A real debate might include questions such as: should America risk blood and treasure trying to export the gospel of freedom to the Middle East via military occupation? ("God help the army that is forced to fight for an idea rather than an objective.") Might we try "strategies for freedom" that don't create more terrorists than we kill? Shouldn't we have finished the job in Afghanistan rather than leaving too early for Iraq? ...etc.

I think Bush honestly believes that if you are opposed to his project in Iraq, then you are against freedom in the Middle East. Those are the only two possibilities in his mind. For him, the straw man isn't a sly rhetorical device-- it's how his mind operates.

I know people have different definitions of "freedom", so here's mine: a free country is one where undiapered goats can prance around on a hill with carefree abandon; where exposed goatnads are celebrated, not persecuted. (Medium Jim knows what I'm talkin about.)

Double hat tip to Norbizness
* , **, ***
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The Story of Post-Katrina New Orleans 

Charles C. Mann writes the best, most accurate political overview of post-K New Orleans that I've seen. I'm not saying his piece is exhaustive or perfectly accurate, but it's very, very good. I think non-residents and attentive readers will find it invaluable. (It's long, though, so allocate some time.)

I was thinking about excerpting several paragraphs of "killer quotes", but they wouldn't do the article justice, and I'd rather incorporate them into other posts.

From Fortune magazine:

The long, strange resurrection of New Orleans

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Sense of Duty 

Nola bloggers Markus, Ashley, and Ray are all quoted in today's LA Times. They talk about a shared "sense of duty" they feel about returning to help rebuild New Orleans.

My favorite quote from the article is from Ray's wife Gina Andre: "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something so important," said Andre... a native Texan who had never lived in New Orleans. "Being an architect is like being a rock star here."


Also, American Zombie is describing some very interesting "apparent conflicts of interest" which have occurred during Nagin's administration. An intrepid (freelance?) journalist would do well to investigate the claims made in AZ's last few posts. I bet there's something to them.

Update: Scoutprime finds a depressing story. (Actually, I'd been wondering why all those cop cars and bystanders were at the St Charles/Jefferson intersection last night at 8:25pm.)

Update #2: Ray has more.
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BNOBo's world 

A recent Gambit Weekly article states:

[S]ome of the best ideas since Katrina -- embodied in the Mayor's Bring New Orleans Back Commission reports -- are apparently gathering dust according to one civic activist..... Based on months of public hearings, the BNOB report makes recommendations on every facet of post-Katrina New Orleans, from public transit and health to criminal justice and education.

Recommendations on "every facet"? Hmm. I don't mean to quibble, but that's an overstatement. Luckily, though, reading that overstatement jogged my memory and reminded me of a glaring ommission in the BNOB report. During the winter a concerned New Orleanian who works in the Social Services field asked a BNOB committee member about the group's recommendations for the city's urgent and overwhelming daycare needs. Abashed, the committee member replied that the topic of daycare never "came up" during BNOB deliberations.


But how important is daycare, really?

Well, here's a couple lines from last week's front page story in the Times Picayune. It's titled: "The extensive loss of day-care centers could threaten New Orleans' economic recovery, a new report says". The subtitle is "Crisis in Care".

With 80 percent of New Orleans' licensed child-care centers gone, neighborhoods citywide are lacking a basic service that could impede the city's economic rebirth, according to a study released today.
According to the study, the city still lacks any coordinated plan for returning child care to neighborhoods that need it most.

The "multi-faceted" final BNOB report does not address the critical lack of daycare services in New Orleans.
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"You're gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola company." 

Blageuer links to a CityBusiness article pointing out the differences between LBJ's response to Hurricane Betsy and President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. I've touched on this episode before, but this particular account of Johnson's visit to New Orleans adds a new detail I want to emphasize. Here's an extended excerpt, but read the entire article if you have time:

When Johnson landed in New Orleans the evening of Sept. 10 [the day after the Bety hit], he went to Washington High School on St. Claude Avenue where many had sought shelter.

Johnson's White House "Daily Diary" describes the scene.

"It was a mass of human suffering. Calls of 'water, water, water' were resourced over and over again in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages. The people all about were bedraggled and homeless ... thirsty and hungry. It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction."

[LBJ speechwriter Bob] Hardesty remembers Johnson reaching out to the thirsty crowds.

"People were in the shelter and he asked what they needed and they said, 'We need water.' He looked at the officials and said, 'You have a Coca-Cola bottling plant here, don't you?' They said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have a 7-Up bottling plant here, don't you?' They said, 'Yeah.' Then he said, 'For God's sake go out there get some soda and bring it back here.'"

Johnson returned to Washington, D.C., that same day and immediately called Robert Phillips, director of the Government Readiness Office of the Office of Emergency Planning, to begin the process of delivering aid and knocking down obstacles.

"We've got to cut out all the red tape," Johnson said. "We've got to work around the clock. We've got to ignore hours. We've got to bear in mind that we exist for only one purpose and that's to the greatest good for the greatest number.

"Bring to these people the kind of assistance they need in this emergency which is worthy of a great government and a great country."

Looting Coca-Cola property in a time of intense need? Hmm.

Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit, White House spokesman Scott McClellan held a press briefing. He described how President Bush's Gulf Coast flyover was a "very sobering" experience. Then he discussed the President's views on looting (Sept 1, 12:26pm):

Q: Scott, ... you cited the President's zero tolerance for insurance fraud, looting, price gouging. Does he make any allowance for people who have yet to receive aid who are taking things like water or food or shoes to walk among the debris?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard from the President earlier today about his zero tolerance. We understand the need for food and water and supplies of that nature. That's why we have a massive effort underway to continue getting food and water and ice to those who are in need. There are ways for them to get that help. Looting is not the way for them to do it.


Q Looting is a problem.

MR. McCLELLAN: Looting will not be tolerated. The President made that clear that it should be zero tolerance when it comes to looters.

Minutes later, a CNN reporter at the New Orleans Convention Center stated that "thousands of people" were living there in "horrible conditions" with "nowhere to evacuate". The reporter asserted that "People have been sitting there without food and water and waiting... People are eating potato chips to survive and are looting some of the stores nearby for food and drink."

So, President Johnson personally visited New Orleans after a massive hurricane, and ordered that drinks be "looted" from a business in order to help thirsty catastrophe victims. Conversely, President Bush proclaimed he had "zero tolerance" for looters-- even those looking for food and water.

"Zero tolerance on looting"-- what a nice, tough, clear phrase that is! It just rolls off your plump, hydrated tongue, doesn't it? If Bush indeed has "zero tolerance" for looters of food and water, he should inform LA Attorney General Charles Foti so that an investigation may commence.

That's what "zero tolerance" means. It means you're tough. Not like that wimp LBJ. He was "soft" on looting.


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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My new After the Levees post is up. Check it.

Actually, before you skim my snarkasm, do yourself a favor and really read Stirling Newberry's post at TPM Cafe. He elegantly summarizes the Fed's current stagflation tightrope walk, and the political and economic issues at play in today's rate-hike decision. The analysis is accessible and, I think, very accurate.
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Monday, August 07, 2006

You say EYE-ran, I say ee-RAHN 

The Cunning Realist calls it "steaming", I call it "martingaling". Either way, it's obvious: the Bushies and NeoCons are desperate, and they think the only escape from their world-historic strategic blunder is to continue doubling down-- with other people's blood and treasure.

I say: let's call the whole thing off.

I'm "steaming" when a President sends troops on a bogus, near-impossible "nation building" mission and then justifies his blunder by making vague appeals to "freedom", and straw man arguments like "the world is better off with Saddam Hussein gone". The American public deserve so much better than that! Why do they accept public officials talking to them like they're children-- especially when the stakes are so high?

Hell, I'm "steaming" when I read quotes like these:

1. "I was going to get a memorial tattoo of all the guys [who died in Company B], but there's not enough room on my arm."

2. "This week an Iraqi doctor, in our bureau for an interview, said in his opinion the ongoing violence here can be directly blamed on the occupation of his country by foreign forces who have failed to repair the basic infrastructure. Shortages of fuel [!] and electricity have led to economic stagnation, he said, and poverty is helping to drive the insurgency against coalition troops and Iraqi security forces."
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Iraq: the model of religious fear 

The destruction of perhaps the world's oldest Christian Community continues.

The Catholic News Service reports:

Half of all Iraqi Christians have fled their country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.

Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Andreos Abouna of Baghdad said that before the invasion there were about 1.2 million Christians in the predominantly Shiite Muslim state. Since then the overall number has dropped to about 600,000, he said.

"What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq," the bishop said. "When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous -- dangerous for the future of the church in Iraq."

The bishop said 75 percent of Christians from Baghdad had fled the capital to escape the almost daily outbreaks of sectarian violence.

I've made the following statement twice before, but I'm unable to improve on its crispness:

Hundreds of thousands of Christians who spent a lifetime under Saddam Hussein now find conditions in Iraq unendurable.

Sadly, that's not the only tragic, underreported story about the cleansing of minority groups in Iraq. From the Observer:

The country is seeing a sudden escalation of brutal attacks on what are being called the 'immorals' - homosexual men and children as young as 11 who have been forced into same-sex prostitution. There is growing evidence that Shia militias have been killing men suspected of being gay and children who have been sold to criminal gangs to be sexually abused.

H/T the Flaming Liberal
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Forging for the Future 

Big Event wanted a report on our trip to Chicago and the Lollapalooza show.

But why write a report when one can just embed some videos in a blog post?

These Flaming Lips clips really capture much of the experience-- a lotta balloons and dancing aliens and santas, and breezes with herbal notes and good feelings all around. Not too hot, either! Lovely and I enjoyed seeing some "Kanye was Right" t-shirts circulating among the crowds.

Chicago's Millennium Park was as good as advertised. If not, better. It's a tremendous, inspiring model for the new New Orleans to follow.

Lagniappe Lip vid here-- this one goes out to Lovely.
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Vote for Jefe 

Not sure if he'll make your wildest dreams come true, but Jeffrey has faced some unique challenges over the past year as a librarian in New Orleans. I think he deserves national recognition.
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