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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I Guess It's Someone's Attempt At Humor


You can find this advertisement in the latest issue of The Nation. It seems the fitting metaphor for that which serves as dialogue amongst the "enfringed" left. I encourage all you Howard Dean wanna-bes to go out and get you a couple of these to practice your debating skills on.
Photo courtesy of The Nation.
Click on image to enlarge.
Posted by Hello

On The Path To A Virtual Library

There is welcome news coming from Google:

Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database

By JOHN MARKOFF and EDWARD WYATT

Google, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web.

It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet effort by various parties. The goal is to expand the Web beyond its
current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections. (link)

I have been wondering for years now why we warehouse books at all. Several years ago when I was living outside Detroit, the local community built what can only be described as the Taj Mahal of libraries. I would drive by this massive building with its huge windows, cedar siding and luxurious copper trim, with its beautifully landscaped grounds, and my thought was always the same. What a waste of tax dollars. All the information that was kept inside this structure that was the size of a (two-story) department store could be digitized and kept in a server in the trunk of my car.

I have wondered for years now why we don't eliminate the printing of books altogether (As Harold Ramis said in the movie, Ghostbusters a hundred years ago, "The printed word is dead.") and provide all texts ever written as downloads or, at a minimum, provide books on disposable CD's.

Now Google is taking the first step toward creating the virtual library. Next someone with deep pockets, like Bill Gates, needs to develop and make available for distribution to every child in the country a simple miniature portable virtual book (a scaled down version of the laptop) to which literature, etc. could be loaded from this library.

We are on the verge of something really huge. Strap yourselves in, folks. This is going to be an exciting ride.

So Which Side Is Right?

Do you want a good example of why you should get your information from as many sources as possible each day? We have today a story that two journalists touch upon. It has to do with Mary Frances Berry, the outgoing chairwoman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. First here is what was written about her in the New York Times:

The panel is a watchdog, exactly as President Dwight Eisenhower intended when he persuaded Congress to establish it in 1957. Mostly it has been run on a part-time basis by academics like the first chairman, John Hannah, then president of Michigan State; the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who was president of Notre Dame; and, most recently, by Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania. The panel helped created (sic) momentum for the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 and for the creation of civilian review boards to ease tensions between the police and minorities in the 1970's.

An equal-opportunity critic, Ms. Berry has harangued presidents of both parties for nearly 25 years. What finally did her in, apparently, was a 166-page report criticizing Mr. Bush's leadership on civil rights that appeared in draft form on the commission's Web site before the election. It was ultimately rejected by the commission's conservative majority, but Ms. Berry sent it to the White House anyway with a plea to Mr. Bush to "embrace the core freedoms and values enshrined in our civil rights laws."

They made sure to refer to her as "Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought at the University of Pennsylvania." It gives her respectability. And you'd think, after having read that blurb, that Berry was an effective, tireless champion of the downtrodden who lead the commission on a crusade against injustice.

Perhaps.

But here is what appears in the
Washington Times this morning:

Mary Frances Berry, U.S. Civil Rights Commission chairman, is resigning. Those scratch marks on the floor may be from her fingernails as they dragged her from the building by her feet. Miss Berry has been a member of the commission for 24 of its 47 years — a record probably unmatched even in Washington, a city of sinecures.

She isn't exactly going quietly. Until a few days ago, Miss Berry was preparing for a legal fight with the Bush administration over the duration of her term. She insisted her tenure did not end until Jan. 21, though her contract specifically has her last day as Dec. 5. She now acknowledges a legal battle over a six-week stint might be a little much.

Miss Berry departs with mismanagement accusations swirling about her. The commission is small potatoes, Washington-wise, with a budget of only $9 million and a staff of 70. But no one knows how that money has been spent over the last 12 years, while Miss Berry presided with an iron hand.

Peter Kirsanow, a black conservative commission member, says the agency management is "completely dysfunctional." Recordkeeping is called "indecipherable," and there has been no independent audit (required by law) for 12 years.

The mismanagement was not limited to money. Miss Berry ran the place like a Soviet commissar, holding all the levers of power and ruthlessly stifling dissent. Miss Berry made sure her personal stamp was on every document issued by the panel. Even when in the minority of commission members, she would suppress the majority view and publish her own.

Under Miss Berry's direction, the Civil Rights Commission published an utterly fallacious finding about the 2000 election in Florida, that "countless Floridians ... were denied their right to vote."

When Commissioners Russell Redenbaugh and Abigail Thernstrom issued a minority report showing, among other things, that the commission had not interviewed a single Floridian denied the opportunity to vote, Miss Berry ruled the minority report could not be considered an official commission document because they had used the services (free) of a scholar named John Lott. It was not permitted, Miss Berry asserted, to use outside analysts' services - even for free.

As the saying goes: Both sides may be wrong about Mary Frances Berry but both sides cannot be right. Either she was a respectable commission chairwoman or she was a bumbling, scheming tyrant.

I provide many, many links off to the left of my weblog for you to be able to seek out the truth. And
there is a truth here. I encourage you to find it.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I miss Bill Clinton. He and the gaggle of clowns with whom he surrounded himself - Janet Reno, Robert Reich, Madeline Albright - were always good for getting my day started with laughter. Remember Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders? I knew old Bill had his own quirky sense of humor when he appointed her. What a boob.

And of course there was his wife. She provided a few chuckles as well. "No, your Honor, I don't know how those billing records that had my fingerprints on them got in my bedroom closet." Or remember this one? I loved this one. "I swear I was able to make $100,000 in trading cattle futures by reading the Wall Street Journal." I'll bet she was a total riot at those White House state dinners; doing shots, crawling off in the corner with some sailor, plotting the government takeover of our healthcare system. She was great fun.

Yes, I miss those days. Days when the president of the United States would come before the people and declare, "I did not have sexual relations with that ... what? You found what on her blue dress? Oh. Well. I did not have SEX with that woman. She wanted to taste my cigar so I ..."

Well, wild Bill still comes back occasionally after all these years to provide entertainment. Today we are reminded of the presidential pardons he granted hundreds of criminals - friends? - just as he and Hillary were packing up all the belongings that belonged to us (They even stole our furniture. I loved those guys.) and were leaving the White House.

CLINTON'S RICH LEGACY

December 14, 2004 -- The already ugly United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal has now taken yet another distinctly despicable turn. As The [New York] Post's Niles Lathem reports, local and federal prosecutors believe that Marc Rich - the one-time fugitive financier who received one of Bill Clinton's last-minute-in-office pardons - was a central figure in negotiating illicit oil deals on behalf of Saddam Hussein.

Moreover, it appears that Rich began spreading Saddam's oil largesse to on-the-take international politicians after Clinton, at the end of his term, gave Rich full legal exoneration from the nation's biggest tax-fraud case — over the heated objections of his own Justice Department. (link)

Yes, I miss those days. By comparison, George Bush and his bunch are downright ... honest.

I'm thinking, just for laughs, Bush should appoint Bill Clinton to the soon-to-be-vacated position of Ambassador to the United Nations. For several reasons. First, he would fit right in with all the thieves and lowlifes that wander its halls. Then too, the United Nations has become one huge (expensive) Comedy Central and little Willy would find himself in familiar company. And I suppose it would be fitting that, since the U.N. has proven itself to be totally irrelevant, Bill Clinton would make the perfect representative for the USA.

Yeah, I miss him. Like I miss a hemorrhoid.