Podcast of the Week: “How Did the Flint Water Crisis Happen?” by ProPublica


How Did the Flint Water Crisis Happen? is an important podcast by the investigative journalism agency ProPublica about one of the greatest criminal acts performed by a government against its people in American history.  This is an important listen for gaining better understanding of this still under-reported humanitarian crisis in Michigan.

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Worst Night of the Year Won’t Go Away


Believe it or not it’s been three years since I posted how much I hate Daylight Saving Time, and particularly the night in which we must “spring forward” the clock 1 hour.  I’m not looking forward to waking up tomorrow and dragging myself through the day.

I’ve nothing new to write, but here are my previous four posts on the topic:

EDIT ON MONDAY:  Here’s something that might make me wonder.  How about instead of having the time change occur on a weekend in the middle of the night, why not have the time change on a Monday afternoon.  That’s right, at 1 pm on Monday afternoon everyone sets their clocks ahead to 2 pm.  A shorter workday for everyone once a year!  And yes, employers, you still pay your hourly workers for an 8-hour day.

 

 

Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

Related Posts:

Worst Night of the Year Keeps Coming Back


A friend of mine called me “crankypants” yesterday because of it, but I still hate switching to Daylight Saving Time.  I’ve been congested and sleeping poorly the past week so I didn’t need to lose an hour of sleep on top of that.

Anyhow, I like this quote attributed to some unnamed Native American (who is thus probably entirely fictional) but speaks the truth:

When told the reason for daylight saving time the old Indian said… “Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.”

I also like this article “The 5 Stages of Daylight Saving Time” by fellow conspiracy victim Jennifer Fulwiler.

Earlier screeds against Daylight Saving Time:

March Madness?


I’ve read on several blogs and new sites about a recent study that apparently links research behavior at American universities with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. According to this study by Charles Clotfelter, after Selection Sunday when the tournament teams are announced, the number of articles viewed on JSTOR drop.  What is really frustrating me about this study and all the people passing it along as a done deal in correlation is that it does not take into consideration one important factor.

Clotfelter doesn’t mention — and I haven’t seen anyone ask — what effect that Spring Break has on research behavior.  Think about it.  Every March colleges and universities have no classes for at least a week and many students leave campus for recreation, volunteer service projects, and job recruiting activities.  Of course they’re not looking at JSTOR during Spring Break.  Even upon returning to campus, many students aren’t going to head straight to the library, especially if their mid-terms were before Spring Break.

So yeah, college students may be watching basketball, but maybe Professor Coltfetter needs to revisit his assumptions.

Worst Night of the Year…Redux


Daylight Savings Time begins today meaning that we will have a greater risk of on-the-job injuries according to Scientific American.  And The Christian Science Monitor reports that changing our clocks will cost us money.  The Monitor rightly asks why is that we spring forward again?

Ugh!  Join me in hoping that this silly — and dangerous — tradition will end someday soon.

Related posts:

Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Italian-American, it also helped that there was one day a year where everyone wanted to be Irish.  The element of pride was strong.

Things started to change when I moved to Virginia.  If people celebrated St. Patrick’s day at all it was at a most superficial and sterotypical levely.  Mostly it was just an excuse to get drunk.  I thought St. Patrick’s Day would be better when I moved to Boston, but even in this most Irish of American cities I find the magic of my childhood lacking.  I still look forward to St. Patrick’s Day but usually end up a little disappointed.  Here are some things that contribute to my ambivalence:

  • Wearing of the green – not bad in itself although some people really stretch the definition of green to include lime, chartreuse, olive drab and teal.  Worse, they wear all those colors at once.  I’m more perturbed by the self-imposed enforcers who critcize anyone in green.  In years past I’ve worn sweaters made in Ireland thinking it more authentic, but there’s no pleasing the Green Team.  Which brings me to:
  • Pinching – Who came up with this crock?  I lived 18-years in an Irish-American family interacting with Irish-American communities before I ever heard of the idea that you pinch people who don’t wear green when I started college.  People act as if it’s some ancient Irish tradition, but I’m certain it’s a fairly recently innovation created to appeal to everyone’s inner sadist and I hope it goes away soon.
  • Beads – It seems that wearing cheap plastic green beads is the thing to do these days on St. Patrick’s Day, even though it’s an obvious rip-off of New Orlean’s Mardi Gras.  Granted, both holidays are about a month a part, have Catholic roots, and have a lot of revelry, but IIRC even in Mardi Gras the beads are a cheapening of a richer holiday tradition.  Lets can this one too.
  • 364 days a year, one can visit a pub in the greater Boston and hear a great performance of Irish music – traditional or contemporary – and meet interesting people while quaffing a tasty Irish beer.  One day a year you can wedge yourself into an Irish pub with a bunch of drunken frat boys, listen to cheezy Oirish music and drink green-dyed Corona and pay a 20$ (or more) cover charge for the privilege.  Guess which day this is?
  • Danny Boy – once upon a time this was probably a lovely song, but these days this performance is not too far off the mark:
  • Parades on St. Patrick’s day are a good way to celebrate the arts, culture, faith, and history of the Irish people but (in America at least) they are tainted by homophobia, militarism, and racism.
  • The stupid t-shirts

Could be I’m just a grump.  I’m cheered though that my wife brought home Dubliner cheese and Irish soda bread for supper which we enjoyed with (German) beer and (Italian) pasta.  Then we danced to some Irish music with our little boy.  I’ll need to find some new traditions to make St. Patrick’s Day as memorable for him as it was for me.

Previously:

Stadium Naming Rights


The recent hullabaloo over CitiGroup’s 20-year contract to name the New York Mets new ballpark has reminded me of some ideas regarding stadium naming rights. Corporate naming of venues is a trend already unpopular with sports’ fans but not really all that new.  After all, the oldest surviving ballpark in baseball was named to promote the owner’s Fenway Realty Company. So I’ve put together a list of guidelines for stadium naming rights that may help future sports franchise, building management, and potential sponsors.

  • First, if the company owns the team and/or stadium, then naming is a no-brainer.  It may even pay off in the long run as fans in Chicago would be aghast if Wrigley Field ever changed names while in St. Louis, the Busch name transferred over to a new ballpark even though the chewing gum and beer companies are no longer tied to these franchises.
  • If the company doesn’t actually own the team, they should at least be a major employer with a long history in the city or region where the stadium is built.  Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts are good examples. Although if your company processes nuclear waste you may want to consider other options of advertisement.
  • If a stadium has been known by a certain name for years, fans will still call it by that name regardless of your attempts to rebrand it.  San Francisco’s Candlestick Park has been labeled numerous ghastly corporate names over the years but fans still call it Candlestick Park, and it is once again officially so.  A better approach is portmanteau renaming  like Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver or the classy callback of TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, although those names fail on other grounds.  Specifically:
  • Companies in the banking, telecommunications, and energy industries are right out.  These industries are too unstable for the long-term naming that sporting venues deserve with their frequent mergers, failures, and often ridiculous renaming of these companies.  I’d also rule out any company with .com in their name since they should know by now how to distinguish between what’s a proper name for a company and that company’s url.

So that’s my take a sensible approach for stadium naming rights.  As for CitiField, despite what some congress members have to say, I do believe that despite the support of taxpayer money, CitiGroup has the right to spend their advertising dollars for as long as they remain a company.  If the deal does fall through though, I think Gil Hodges Field has a nice ring to it.

Retropost: The Worst Night of the Year


A couple of years ago I wrote a post about why I think Daylight Saving Time is evil.  As we spring forward our clocks today, and try to shake off the sleepiness, have more heart attacks, feel more blue and find the roads even more dangerous than usual, let’s look back at my alternate plan:

A better solution is to just change hours. A regular work day would be 8 am – 4 pm. Baseball games would start 6:30 pm. Prime time tv starts at 7 pm. Bars that have last call at 2 am would now call closing time at 1 am. People stay up too late anyhow. My solution would mean that daylight would be “saved” and no one would ever have to change their clocks and most importantly, no one would mess with my sleep.

For more on the dangers and inconveniences of Daylight Saving Time:

RetroPost: What do Presidents do when their term is up?


A couple of years ago I wrote What do Presidents do when their term is up?, possibly one of my most well-researched and better written posts.  In it I examined the post-Presidential career of every US President who survived his Presidency.  The post was prompted by a suggestion that if Hillary Clinton became President, that her husband former President Bill Clinton could be appointed to her vacant spot in the Senate.

Well, now we have the answers to that question.  Looking back at the post, there are a couple of things that make me chuckle.  First,  Hillary Clinton didn’t get elected President, but left the Senate anyway to join President Obama’s cabinet.  Second, I noted that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer would appoint Senator Clinton’s successor, but since that time Spitzer’s governorship has come to an ingnomious end.  Instead, Governor David Patterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand as New York’s new junior senator.

And thus Bill Clinton continues his “retirement years” as the husband of the Secretary of State.  Meanwhile, as of January 20, 2009 we have another former President George W. Bush. I can only hope that he follows the example of Jimmy Carter in making his post-Presidency years better than his time in office.

This post will be updated again anytime any of these men does something interesting.
This post will be updated again anytime any of these men does something interesting.

Remembering Odetta


I don’t usually do celebrity obituaries on this blog, but I want to make an exception for the folk musician Odetta who died yesterday at the age of 77.  She was a talented musician with a powerful voice and amazing guitar skills.  I call her a “folk musician” but she adeptly performed and interpreted all types of music — blues, jazz, spirituals, and folk ballads from all over the world.  It’s quite impressive to hear a black woman sing The Foggy Dew, a song about the Irish rebellion.  Like other artists of the Folk Song Revival of the 50’s & 60’s, Odetta dedicated her efforts to the Civil Rights movement and other positive social change.

Just watch this clip below of Odetta singing and strumming “Water Boy” and try not to be blown away.  I dare you.

I first became acquainted with Odetta through a boxed set of LP’s that my mother owned called Folk Song and Minstrelsy, which despite the odd name was a collection of artists of the Folk Revival.  One entire record of the four-disc set was dedicated to Odetta songs.  I’m particularly fond of “No More Cane on the Brazos” which demonstrates Odetta unique guitar skills.

On March 18, 2000 I saw her perform at Club Passim in Cambridge.  I particularly remember her standing in the middle of the audience singing a cappella, her voice filling the room.  I also remember that Susan & I were the youngest people there who weren’t brought along by our parents.  After the show, I spoke with Odetta and she noticed the age discrepancy.  I told her about listening to my mother’s record and she responded:

“Ah, propaganda!”

That night I bought a copy of her album To Ella (dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald, and do I ever wish I saw her perform when I had the chance).  Odetta signed it:

“To Liam —
Go Well —
Stay Well —
Odetta”

Book Review: The Devil We Know by Robert Baer


I listened to the audiobook of The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (2008) by Robert Baer and I can tell you right now that this isn’t going to be a good review because this book presents such a different understanding of Iran than any other perspective I’ve ever encountered.  Here are the highlights as I understand them:

  • Americans and the West in general have a distorted view of Iran and especially of what Iran wants.
  • Iran is a country that is trying to modernize, participates widely in the internet, and even watches a lot of American television.  They are not like some other Islamic states trying to return to pre-modern times.
  • Iranians desire empire and wish to be recognized as a major player in Middle East politics, perhaps even a superpower.
  • We should not be scared that Iran will build and use nuclear weapons nor that they desire some nihilistic destruction of the west. What Iran actually really does do and what they’re capable of is actually more unsettling if unnoticed by the West.  Iran succeeds through asymetrical tactics and weapons
  • Through proxy wars, Iran has carried out their quest for imperialism throughout the Mid East.  Baer asserts that through Hezbollah, Iran won the first military conflict against Israel in 2000.  Through cunning and strategy Iran has achieved many military goals and won over the support many Muslims even Sunnis & Arabs who traditionally are at odds with the Shiite & Persian Iran.
  • Nations the US currently allies with are weak (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE) or not really states at all just strong armies (Pakistan).  Plus the oil fields in Saudi Arabia are emptying out and Iran’s hegemony has them in position to control the oil supply for the future.
  • In general, Shiite Iran is hierarchical, commands come only from leaders with extensive religious trading, and they carry out their campaigns with specific goals and targets in mind.  Sunni Arabs are not hierarchical, leaders with no religious training give out commands (such as Osama bin Laden), and carry out attacks for slaughter’s sake alone.  Western governments have successfully negotiated peace with Iran because they can not only find someone to negotiate with but because they are open to negotiation.
  • Continuing on the present course will require a huge outlay of money and military force to either contain Iran in a 30+ year Cold War or to actually engage them in battle.  In addition to losing many lives and bankrupting the country, Iran would shut off our supply of oil. Baer does not believe the US populace would stand for any of this.
  • In the end Baer gives several reccomendations for the US to bury it’s pride and recognize Iran as a major power, grant them a role in restoring order to Iraq, and allow nations artificially created after WWI (such as Iraq and Pakistan) to be disolved into smaller states.  Baer believes this realpolitik approach to Iran’s de facto superpower status is are only sensible option.

I obviously know only a little about Iran and the Mid East in general, and Baer seems to be stacking the deck to support his thesis and has certain obvious prejudices (especially against Sunnis/Arabs.  Yet its a compelling argument, and a very nuanced understanding of today’s Iran.  It’s not likely that American politicians will follow any of these suggestions, and perhaps with good reason.  Still it’s an eye-opening account that challenges the accepted wisdom.

Some professional reviews:

Author Baer, Robert.
Title The devil we know [sound recording] : [dealing with the new Iranian superpower] / Robert Baer.
Publication Info. Westminster, Md. : Books on Tape, p2008.
Edition Unabridged.
Description 8 sound discs (ca. 74 min. each) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.

Get out the Vote


Tomorrow is Election Day.  While the Presidential Election is well-publicized, if you’re like me you may find it hard to find information on the other elections and ballot-initiatives that are taking place.  Here are a few resources I’ve found and I hope this may help any readers in making informed decisions when voting.

  • Imagine Election – for Masachusetts voters, creates a web version of what your ballot will look like in your district.
  • Elections Division – the Commonwealth of Massachusetts election website, more comprehensive but less user-friendly than Imagine Election.
  • The Swiss Army Librarian recommended both of the above resources in a great post that explains the ballot in the way a librarian helps a patron.
  • 2008 Ballot Guide – Boston.com’s summary of the 3 ballot questions facing Massachusetts voters.
  • Ballotopedia – a wiki for ballot measures nationwide.
  • League of Women Voters – always a good organization for information on elections.
  • Protect My Vote – resources for what to do if you’re not allowed to vote or think your vote may not be counted.

Also, f you’re voting in Boston, bring some canned food to help the poor!

I personally believe that local government has a great influence on our daily lives and communities, perhaps even greater than the influence of the President, so please take some time to researche the candidates and issues, and then vote!

Papal Mass in Washington


Yesterday, I watched Pope Benedict celebrate Mass with 48,000 people at Nationals Park in Washington. I wouldn’t usually do this because like fireworks, there’s something about Mass on tv that just isn’t the same. I’m also something of a “low church” kind of Catholic, to use an old fashioned term. But I was home from work and really curious. Since I’ve become active in liturgical ministry in recent years I wondered how they would share Eucharist among 48,000 people and whether people would kneel on the cold, beer-stained concrete of the grandstand during consecration. I also hoped I might see my friend Edward who was in attendance.

I didn’t find out the answers to these questions, but I’m really glad that I watched the Mass courtesy of live web streaming on USCCB’s Papal Visit Site. From all appearances, it looked like a joyous, hopeful, and prayerful celebration. I found it much more moving than I expected. I was especially moved by the liturgical music for the Mass which was a diverse mix of the standard contemporary Catholic songs, music of the many different cultural communities of the Washington archdiocese, and even a communion meditation by Placido Domingo! Pope Benedict is known for his fondness of music and I suspect he enjoyed the best that the American church offers in this joyous and prayerful liturgy. The diversity of the music also tied in well with what Benedict said in his homily:

“Two hundred years later, the Church in America can rightfully praise the accomplishment of past generations in bringing together widely differing immigrant groups within the unity of the Catholic faith and in a common commitment to the spread of the Gospel. At the same time, conscious of its rich diversity, the Catholic community in this country has come to appreciate ever more fully the importance of each individual and group offering its own particular gifts to the whole. The Church in the United States is now called to look to the future, firmly grounded in the faith passed on by previous generations, and ready to meet new challenges – challenges no less demanding than those faced by your forebears – with the hope born of God’s love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5).”

I recognized one of the cantors, Stephen Bell, a deacon who will be ordained as a Paulist Father in June. I feel like I know him personally, but actually I just know him from when he participated in the BustedHalo Cast a couple of years back (apparently he does know a lot of people though). He has a rich and sonorous voice and it was lovely that he could share his gifts for leading the people in praising God.

The Pope’s homily was also moving with its message of hope. Like Dirty Catholic, I realized that I’d never heard the Pope’s voice before. It’s an obvious German accent, but softly spoken. My friend Edward put it best when he said you expect power from that accent so when you hear it gently spoken it’s “sort of like a powerful man tenderly holding an infant.” Like many Europeans he shames us monolingual Americans by being able to communicate fluently in multiple languages.

I’m particularly pleased that he was able to honestly and empathetically discuss the clerical sex abuse scandal in the homily. I’m even more happy that he met with some abuse survivors for an open conversation after the Mass. Hopefully this will be the beginning Church taking some responsibility for the wrongs of the past and working toward that hope for the future the Pope so eloquently foresees.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to tune into more of the events as the Pope visits New York (even though he’s going to the home of the Yankees, ick). The coverage provided by USCCB was excellent, albeit the screen for the the streaming video is tiny, but I read elsewhere that on tv news the reporters were chatting over the Mass and cutting to commercials so this was much better. Rocco Palmo as always deserves accolades for his Whispers in the Loggia where he’s publishing the text of all the Pope’s public comments as well as much more papal visit coverage.

library links for 19 February 2008


To start things off today a fun Sesame Street clip, “No Cookies in the Library” (via the new WorldCat Blog):

And now a couple of links about reading and writing:

links of the day for 15 February 2008


links of the day for Valentine’s Day


I’m late on this, but love is enduring.

Happy VD to everyone!

links of the day for 12 February 2008


And for once, most of the links are actually from today.

  • Memories of Shea: The Great Gatsby (Loge 13, 12/10/08) – The Mets’ little-known literary link.
  • American Insanity: Killer Commutes by Paul Dorn (Bike Commute Tips Blog, 2/11/08) – I could have written this paragraph – “As a survivor of a suburban childhood, I will never mow a lawn again, let alone pay for the “privilege” of yardwork with car payments and fuel bills. I’m happy to enjoy parks maintained by union-scale professional municipal gardeners.”
  • Three articles on an Open Access proposal at Harvard University:
  • More on Open Access from Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog (2/12/08): A Quartet of Open Access Arguments
  • Why does the U.S. Have An Electoral College by Joe Miller (FactCheck.org, 2/12/08 – I did not know this: “The winner-take-all system is not federally mandated; states are free to allocate their electoral votes as they wish.”
  • Airbrushing Ronald Reagan by John J. Pitney, Jr. (Britannica Blog, 2/12/08) – apparently Reagan wasn’t Reaganesque.
  • Courts Endow Corporations with Unalienable Rights by Jeffery Kaplan (AlterNet, 2/12/08) -“The founding principle of our country is right in the Declaration of Independence: all people are ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.’ It is not for judges to decide who is and who is not a human being.Nor should the courts play Creator by endowing legal constructs like corporations with human rights. Our constitutional rights exist to prevent large, powerful institutions — whether governments, corporations, or other entities — from oppressing us humans.”

library links of the day


I’m so far behind on these “of the day” posts.  I’ll start this one off with a fun clip from the Star Trek animated series:

via Librarian In Black

And now the links, focusing mainly on Library 2.0, library humor, and all of the above.

election links of the day for 7 February 2008


Here’s a special edition of links of the day to follow-up on Sooper Dooper Tuesday.  I was kind of bummed that a) candidates I liked policy-wise (Kucinich then Edwards) dropped out before I could voted and b) that voters of my state went for a right-wing corporatist and Mitt Romney.  One thing I miss about living in Virginia is that I was able to vote for candidates in all the parties.  In Massachusetts, I temporarily became a Democrat and voted for Obama as he’s seems the best of the who’s left although I’m not really enthused by any of the candidates.