Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pesky police, blogging dangerously, questionable pins, and surplus water

An apartment complex in the northwest Chicago suburbs is annoyed at the police for blocking off all but one of their thirteen entrances and setting up a checkpoint at the remaining one so they can hand out "crime prevention tips". To quote the complex's attorney, "the Village of Rolling Meadows has in essence said they can barricade a community for the purpose of handing out fliers." Is this some backhanded way to do the same thing DC tried just a week or so ago? I'm especially annoyed at this because I donated a number of books to the Neighborhood Resource Center that the handouts are promoting, and it irritates me to be associated with such officious assholery.

We have more on the Associated Press' policies regarding quotation. They've declared that anything five words or more requires licensure via a website they've just launched. (Five words will cost you $12.50; I haven't looked to see if the rates go up for longer quotes.) Patrick Nielsen Hayden responded by announcing that he would be shortly "putting up my own Web form through which people can PayPal me money in exchange for my promise to not blow up the moon". (Hm. That's more than five words. Patrick, please don't blow up the moon; we're still using it.) Once again, the New York Times goes soft on the AP, "reporting" that this is the AP's "attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt". No, dear, that's not what it is. It's the AP trying to save its increasingly endangered business model. Not that we haven't been seeing that for years out of the old media establishment.

For some bloggers, though, a nasty lawyergram from the AP is not their greatest concern. The University of Washington reports that at least 64 people have been arrested since 2003 in connection with their blogging activities, mostly in China, Egypt, and Iran, but also in Britain, France, Canada, and the United States. Better watch what you say!

On to politics: The big news today is, of course, that Al Gore has endorsed Obama. This was telegraphed rather aggressively (Gore announced it to Obama's donor list last night, for example) and is not really news, nor is it particularily unexpected. Does anyone really expect Al Gore to endorse any of the four Green party candidates? At least that would be slightly more likely than endorsing McCain.

Others are apparently not so happy about Obama being the prospective nominee: Illinois State Senator Kirk Dillard, who lent his name and face to Obama's primary campaign attesting to Obama's capacity for bipartisanship, is now asking Obama to stop running the ad in which Dillard appears. Apparently Dillard was more than happy to be standing for Obama when he was running against Clinton, but now that he's running against McCain, he's having second thoughts. Perhaps this is because Dillard's contention in favor of Obama's talent for bipartisanship is at odds with McCain's campaign strategy. I'd love to hear what Richard Lugar has to say on the issue. (Frankly I think Lugar would be a great choice for Secretary of State in the Obama administration.)

Apparently not all Republicans are as reluctant to stand for their beliefs: at least one vendor was sighted at the Texas Republican Convention selling buttons reading "If Obama is President... will we still call it The White House?". The same vendor had some other choice options, including "Press 1 for English, press 2 for deportation."

Now, on to stuff that really matters. The Mississippi River continues to flood large swathes of Illinois and Iowa. There was at least one major levee failure in Gulfport and several locations are expecting (or already experiencing) flood levels higher than the previous records set in the Great Flood of 1993. So far, the 2008 flood may not have the impact that the 1993 did; the 1993 flood lasted months, not weeks, and we were far less prepared then than we are now, mainly because the 1993 flood occurred at the start of a major economic upturn and the government was therefore willing to spend money to dramatically improve the infrastructure. Nonetheless, Iowa is already estimating 1.5 billion dollars in flood damage, and this time we're in the middle of a prolonged downturn with a President who doesn't seem to care that much about a pair of blue states like Iowa and Illinois. Things don't look good for Iowa. And it doesn't help that the Red Cross has already run out of money. If you're in a position to help out in downstate Illinois, eastern Iowa, or Missouri, please answer Obama's call and volunteer.