Political Animal


WHAT’S NEXT?….JEWS WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER OFF IF HITLER HAD WON WORLD WAR II?….Here in the great state of California the Republican party has been shut out of statewide office for most of the last decade. Why? Largely because they supported the anti-immigrant Proposition 209 a few years ago and thus became reviled among the large (and growing) Hispanic population.

So what is the vice chairman of the state Republican party doing to try and fix this sad state of affair? Well, in 1999, as part of his outreach effort, he distributed a newsletter with an article suggesting the country might have been better off if the South had won the Civil War.

I just don’t have the energy to deconstruct this today, but luckily I don’t have to. Geitner Simmons has done it for me:

It would be hard to exaggerate the moral idiocy of the California GOP official who circulated part of an essay that said the country would have been better off had the South won the Civil War, because ?the real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won.?

Geitner’s points about California history are well taken, and I would add that while California is not the South, we have a long history of bigotry ourselves, most famously (and viciously) against Asian immigrants during the first half of the 20th century. That alone should give anyone of either party pause before tacitly endorsing an attack on the post-bellum Reconstruction policies of the Republican party.


THE JOHN EDWARDS CAMPAIGN IS ALREADY IN TROUBLE….Eric Folley paid a visit to the John Edwards website and has some harsh words for it:

I took a quick look at the John Edwards for President website tonight. In a word, it’s bad. In two words, it’s really bad.

Technical problems:

  • The HTML doesn’t validate.

  • The CSS doesn’t validate.

  • Despite the accessibility statement linked from every page, it doesn’t meet WAI or 508 accessibility guidelines.

  • The javascript mouseovers for the contribute and signup links at the top of each page are wonky ? the tooltips-like popups rarely pop up correctly.

  • The cookies aren’t encrypted

I can hear it on Rush’s show already: “My friends, his website doesn’t even meet WAI or 508 accessibility guidelines! That’s exactly the kind of liberal hypocrisy we’ve come to expect from the Democrat party.”

We nerds sure can be brutal, can’t we?

DISAPPEARING DATA….Late Night Thoughts has

DISAPPEARING DATA….Late Night Thoughts has a post today about one of my favorite subjects, the transient nature of information today:

In the late 1970s, the Census Bureau discovered that the aggregated data from the 1960s Census could be read only using an UNIVAC Type II-A tape drive. At the time, there were only two of those in existence: one in Japan, and one in the Smithsonian Museum! A massive data rescue effort was mounted and by 1979 the data had been recovered….

Back when I was in the document imaging business this was a well-known but rarely mentioned problem. Instead, when the topic of data storage came up, it was usually treated as a purely technical subject: magnetic tape starts to deteriorate in 10 years, for example, while an optical disk has a lifetime of 100 years.

Physical media capabilities are important, but even more important is the logical structure of the data. If you wrote a manuscript on an 8″ floppy on a TRS-80 Model II twenty years ago, it wouldn’t matter if the integrity of the floppy disk was still OK. And even if you somehow dug up an old Model II somewhere, you’d need to have a copy of Scripsit, the word processor of choice for TRS-80s. And even if you found that, and somehow managed to transfer the data over a serial port (thank God for RS-232!), you’d still have a file that was unreadable on any modern PC.

For anyone who cares about preserving data for more than a decade or two ? a librarian like Emma, for example ? this is a huge problem. Even if you do a good job of recopying data every decade or so onto fresh media, what are the odds that the files themselves can still be read? Will JPEG still be an image standard in 2030? How about HTML? Or even ASCII?

The document imaging industry is dedicated to bringing about the paperless office, but the oldest joke in the business is that the paperless office will arrive at about the same time as the paperless bathroom. All things considered, that’s probably a good thing.

POSTSCRIPT: My example above was not chosen at random: a few years ago I faced exactly that problem with some old TRS-80 files. My solution? Luckily I had paper copies, so I scanned ’em and used OCR to read the text. If I hadn’t had the paper copies, I would have been completely up the creek.