August 2006


One of the hurricane projections has Ernesto tracking right over my home in less than a day.

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President Bush rambles on incoherently as NBC anchor Brian Williams interviews him during a shameful Katrina anniversary photo-op. Bush’s defense of his failed presidency is scary not for the willful lies but for the uninspected belief in his own infallibility.

He says (5:26 into this interview snippet)

The key to me is to keep expectations low.

Yep, could almost be no lower Mr. President. Mission accomplished.

Video via CrooksAndLiars.

And, yes, I rarely if ever mention the national political scene but local blogher ae over at arsepoetica stirred my ire by highlighting Bush and his madministration’s lackeys continuing condemnation of political dissent as un-fricken-American.

[ UPDATE: ]

Salt Lake Utah’s Mayor Rocky Anderson’s rebuttal via Anglico’s ‘blog on BlueNC.

Blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism.

A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president.

That is not a patriot. Rather, that person is a sycophant. That person is a member of a frightening culture of obedience – a culture where falling in line with authority is more important than choosing what is right, even if it is not easy, safe, or popular. And, I suspect, that person is afraid – afraid we are right, afraid of the truth (even to the point of denying it), afraid he or she has put in with an oppressive, inhumane, regime that does not respect the laws and traditions of our country, and that history will rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure.

In response to those who believe we should blindly support this disastrous president, his administration, and the complacent, complicit Congress, listen to the words of Theodore Roosevelt, a great president and a Republican, who said:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

Friday, September 6, 1996 – Fran!
Friday, September 1, 2006 – Ernesto?

Fran snuck up on the Triangle 10 years ago. Ernesto is days away.

I stayed up until 1am nearly a decade ago waiting to see what track Fran would take. WRAL’s ever reliable Greg Fishel predicted a hit between Rocky Mount and Raleigh. Even though the wind on Barclay Rd. was whipping up – the rain starting to “fall” horizontally, I went to bed unworried.

Next morning we awoke with trees down, little knowing we’d go days without roads, weeks without power.

Ten years on I don’t have to depend on Greg (though I’ll be checking in with him). The web offers an incredible smorgasboard of realtime sources for hurricane data.

One of the neatest is a “mash-up” of GoogleEarth and “glootons” hurricane tracker.

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Web 2.0 is a disputed frame of reference bounding the next generation of web-based, collaborative applications.

Once upon a time (a few short years ago), tech sales-droids touted ASPs (application service providers) as the natural replacement for individual applications. Net-based alternatives for accounting, human resources or even word-processing would be run and managed from centralized locations. Companies or individuals would “rent” rather than buy software. In many ways, it would be a return to the old lucrative mainframe time-sharing.

That hasn’t quite happened yet.

Instead, bits and pieces of these applications sprouted up on the web. First generation innovators, building upon the (almost) platform-independence of standards-based, Javascript-enabled browsers created dynamic client-server applications.

Unlike old-school client-server, both sides of the application ecosystem – desktop browser and HTTP servers – were quite flexible. Building on common standards – XML, HTTP, Javascript – developers were unbelievably agile – quickly adapting to new market conditions.

Second generation innovators stitched together (“mashed up”) these first gen applications to deploy many new unanticipated synergistic capabilities – maps and social data, photos and bulletin boards and video.

Web-based apps are seductive. Features and fixes come in a flurry. Popularity spawns copycats that thrive, spread, merge. Sites, evolving rapidly on Internet time, live or die based on attention-share.

What does that have to do with local activism?

Quite a bit, I believe. A question I hope to explore in-depth.

Today, Yahoo provided a simple tool to combine their free mapping service, Yahoo Maps, , with their free photo repository service, Flickr (an outside acquisition, by the way).

Not a novel service but one that was quite expensive a few years ago – tricky to implement within the last year.

My hope is that by melding two powerful, easily absorbed, sources of data, pictures and maps, I, and many other local activists, will be able to communicate more effectively.

Map below the fold….
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I shrunk this documentary video snippet (by Elijah) to a more manageable size (2.5M for 43M).

Videos below the fold…
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Here’s some great documentary snaps of the August 26th Weaver St. Market civil dance disobedience taken by my steady-handed, sharp-eyed 9 year-old son Elijah.

There’s more pictures over on Flickr under the wsmdancein tag.

Pictures below the fold (more…)

I thought Dean Jack Evans was UNC Chancellor Moeser’s first Carolina North QB.

From today’s Daily Tar Heel:

“(Suttenfield) had been in many ways a quarterback for town relations,” Moeser said. “I thought we weren’t on our side well-organized or properly organized.”

Nancy Suttenfield, former vice chancellor for finance and administration (and Moeser’s first big hire), moved on, along with a number of other high profile UNC administrators, to greener pastures over the summer.

I disagree with Moeser. My observation? Nancy’s efforts were professional and well-organized.

UNC’s progress on Carolina North wasn’t stymied because of Nancy’s lack of ability or talent.

UNC’s progress on Carolina North was stymied by her having to sell a lousy product to our community.

Ironically titled article in today’s Herald-Sun “‘Dancing man’ gets go-ahead to go back on lawn“.

Goes on to mention that it’s only 1 hour, 1 day once a week (of course with preapproval).

Few comments I hadn’t heard before:

“Milian said Thomas’ dancing set a bad example; other performers would think they could use the lawn similarly and the place could become overrun with jugglers, magicians and other entertainers.”

“Apparently Vivian Spiral, who brings the hoops, is the exception to the new rule. Milian said as long as she is not selling the hoops, she may perform at official Weaver Street Market events. He declined to comment how Spiral’s activities differed from Thomas’ dancing. ”

“The new program will be effective Sept. 15; no performances on the lawn will be tolerated before then.”

I wonder how tolerant Carr Mill management’s reaction will be to today’s dance dissension?

As a citizen, I came to my first Chapel Hill Technology Advisory Board meeting with a list of technology-related propositions that would help our town increase transparency while improving operational effeciency. Part of my proposal hinged on the use of open source software (OSS) – software that is flexible, reliable, transparent, “evergreen” and, based on selecting the proper open licensing, always in the public domain.

Various U.S. and European Union jurisdictions have whole-heartedly adopted both open-standards and the open source software (OSS) that supports those formats. For instance, Massachusetts’ is requiring use of Open Document (ODF) formats for longterm document retention.

Under my initiative, our citizen-owned information assets – the town’s geographical, environmental, financial, governance [minutes of meetings, etc.] records – would remain free and forever unencumbered by proprietary format and software restrictions.

Oh, and it would save us taxpayers a chunk of bucks – like the $253,000 our town unnecessarily spent on Microsoft Office license renewals (we could’ve doubled some of our town’s social program outlays on that savings alone).

I had some success, both before and after I joined the town’s Tech Board, getting limited Council adoption of a few open governance proposals. Open source adoption was a tougher nut to crack as both top town management and some IT staff were highly resistive to change.

Today’s Newsforge carries an article on Croatia’s adoption of OSS.

Last month the Croatian government adopted an open source software policy and issued guidelines for developing and using open source software in the government institutions. The Croatian government is concerned that proprietary software leads to too much dependence on the software suppliers. Open source software will make the government’s work more transparent, according to the government’s document, entitled “Open Source Software Policy.”

The document includes the following guidelines:

  • Government institutions will choose and/or develop open source solutions as much as possible, instead of using closed source alternatives.
  • The government will support development of closed source solutions that use open standards for protocols and file formats, and which are developed in Croatia.
  • The government will support the use of open source programs and open standards outside of its institutions.
  • The government will support the use of open source solutions in educational institutions; both closed and open source solutions will be equally presented to students

Domagoj Juricic, deputy state secretary at the Central State Administrative Office for e-Croatia and the leader of this project, explains what made the government publish the policy: “The use of information technology in government administration bodies is increasingly becoming important. So far, most of the software we use is proprietary software, so we cannot modify or complement it, or link software from different vendors. These software products impose rigid commercial conditions of use and limit our possibilities. In this way, government administration bodies may be led into a dependent position on the supplier of the software. This could lead to closed information systems, which make the success and efficiency of our eAdministration project more difficult.

Beyond efficiencies, adaptability, etc. Croatia desired control of their information assets:

“The state administration bodies create and exchange a lot of electronic documents,” Juricic says. “There is a great danger that documents cannot be opened and presented in readable form after a certain time, because we don’t have the licence anymore of the proprietary software, or the vendor can seize support of the old types of documents. Therefore we require the state administration bodies to use open standards for creating electronic documents.”

Now, while the Council, which nearly unanimously and quite precipitously, ditched our Technology Board, the necessity for implementing open standards, adopting agile technology-enhanced work processes, using the ‘net and ‘net-based tools to improve transparency and increasing productivity have not gone away.

The citizen chorus is gone but the song remains to be sung. Supposedly the Council will redress this issue come Fall.

And, yes, like many things in life that are worthwhile, implementing these changes can and will be difficult. Croatia’s government realizes that, so should we.

Kosturjak warns against euphoria with the policy. “Although the Croatian open source community is very positive about the open source software policy, we’ll see how serious the Croatian government is when the next step comes: the implementation of the policy. This will not be easy, as there are obvious practical problems. For example, most of the government bodies have now proprietary technologies together with proprietary file formats implemented in their IT systems. Migration to open standards and open source software can be technically difficult and painful. From the non-technical point of view, this is also a political and financial issue. We (the open source advocates) hope that the Croatian government will have the strength to actually implement the open source policy. Until that moment, the policy is just like an unsent letter.”

Ruby (of OrangePolitics fame) asked earlier today

I have only one question: when are we holding the first dance-in on the lawn?

Oh, and when are the owners and/or board or WSM going to take some leadership on this issue?

Looks like soon, very soon.

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“Hourly slots”, “a limit of one performance per week per artist or group” , “with the approval of Carr Mill” altruistically “free of charge to both the artist and the public.

The joint press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT
Nathan Milian, Carr Mill Mall Manager 942-8669
Ruffin Slater, Weaver Street Market General Manager 913-1592

Carr Mill Mall Adds Performances to Lawn

Carrboro NC (August 22, 2006) The community has long enjoyed the lawn in front of Weaver Street Market as a gathering place for Weaver Street Market events and Carrboro events such as the 4th of July Parade. Now Carr Mill Mall is adding another element to the list of lawn offerings: hourly slots where musicians, dancers, jugglers, and magicians can showcase their talents before a live audience. Carr Mill Mall manager Nathan Milian said the program, called “Live on the Lawn,” would serve as an outlet for artists wishing to share their work with the general public, free of charge to both the artist and the public. “We recognize the community’s desire for places of artistic expression,” said Milian, “and we are pleased that Carr Mill can provide such a place.”

Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill Mall worked together to design the program. “The program provides another way for the community to benefit from the lawn,” said Weaver Street Market general manager Ruffin Slater. “In addition to Weaver Street’s regular Thursday night and Sunday morning events, this program creates more opportunities for music and performance events,” Slater said.

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton applauded Carr Mill’s use of the lawn for events. “The lawn is the center of our downtown,” said Chilton, “and this program indicates Carr Mill’s commitment to use the lawn for the good of the community.”

Weaver Street Market will coordinate the program on behalf of Carr Mill Mall. Performers will apply at Weaver Street, and the Market will schedule the performances with the approval of Carr Mill. Performances will be scheduled on weekday evenings and weekends to respect the needs of the office tenants above Weaver Street Market. There will be a limit of one performance per week per artist or group.

The lawn in front of Weaver Street Market is part of the common area owned by Carr Mill Mall. Milian manages Carr Mill on behalf of the owners. “Carr Mill owners are very community minded.” Milian said, “we have worked hard to develop a program that satisfies the needs of everyone to the best of our ability.”

Milian said that Bruce Thomas, who he had previously asked not to dance on the lawn, would be welcome to apply to perform as part of the “Live on the Lawn” program.

###

I caught a small snippet on WCHL 1360 with someone (Milian?) claiming the lawn was turning into a sandpit – and the licensed for the lawn program was an attempt to manage that and parking problems. What a non sequitur.

Caught this young scofflaw just a short time after the private press conference announcing WSM’s new policy of “licensing” lawn performers.

The, short notice, private press event, held by Ruffin Slater, general manager of the Weaver St. Market (WSM) co-op, and Nathan Milian, property manager of Carr Mill mall appears to have been short on answers, including how the new, by permission only “Live on the Lawn” program will work.

Local radio WCHL1360 covered the event, so, hopefully more details will be forthcoming. Until then, we’ll have to scratch our heads about how the “limit of one performance per week per artist or group” will apply to free spirits like the young hoopers or even to the supposed reason for the new policy, dancing Bruce.

Nathan Milian underlined the graciousness of Carr Mill’s owners in providing “an outlet for artists wishing to share their work with the general public, free of charge to both the artist and the public.” Is that the same public that already supports Carr Mill’s business with their hard-earned wages?

Milian, again spinning furiously, proclams this is “another way for the community to benefit from the lawn.” No mention on how Carr Mill’s tenants benefit from the community.

Applications for the new lawn license are not currently available (as of 4:30pm) but I’ve been told the office will have some tomorrow (Aug. 23rd).

The whole mess remains a cautionary tale for Chapel Hill as our Council rushes to turn over public-owned lands to private control. We need stronger requirements protecting open access to what will have been citizen-owned assets.

I believe in strong property rights. Carr Mill’s owners are free to set the public access rules. If empty stores are a result of an


empty lawn,

so be it.

Rep. David Price adds the local dimension to today’s Houston Chronicle review of the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill

I hope the credit card companies are happy.

After almost a year under the so-called bankruptcy reform that Congress enacted at their behest, the law has proved to be what it appeared: a love letter to lenders.Pitched as consumer protection, it was passed after eight years of political arm-twisting by credit card issuers who didn’t want to lose fees from indebted customers when they filed for bankruptcy. You may have noticed that their concern about lending to people who can’t pay hasn’t stopped them from stuffing your mailbox with 25 offers a week for easy credit.

“All it’s done is make it more time-consuming and more complicated and, for debtors, more expensive,” says Randy Williams, a bankruptcy lawyer with Thompson & Knight in Houston. “Most people don’t believe that this accomplished anything that it set out to do.”

It hasn’t lived up to the claims of Edward Yingling, president of the American Bankers Association, who said after it was enacted that it “strikes just the right balance” and would ensure the bankruptcy system remains “sympathetic and fair.”

Loren Steffy,Houston Chronicle

Other local activists have been able to excuse Price’s support for a bill that callously punishes folks whose only crime is falling prey to a asset-sapping serious illness.

Me? I’d like a representative that will consistently stand up for those in greatest need.

Tip via the excellent local academic ‘blog CreditSlips.

“the book says, we might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”

Dr. Bergen Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense as bowdlerdized in the fantastic movie Magnolia

UNC’s current Moeser administration likes to announce major modifications to their developmental plans and strategies either in the deep doldrums of summer or the chilly recesses of winter. True to form, the administration and Board of Trustees modified their stance on the current collaborative process, embodied by the UNC Leadership Advisory Committee, while our community took their summer break

Starting out at May 26th’s board meeting, a couple UNC-CH Trustees unleashed a few impolitic bon mots:

“I think what the town should interpret out of that is there is a very strong sense of urgency about Carolina North and it is time to deal with Carolina North..The time for talking about it and trying to build consensus is coming to an end.

Trustee and local developer Roger Perry, N&O, May 26th, 2006

This precipitous expression of irritation from local land baron Perry came after just a handful of LAC meetings. Trying to avoid the same kind of historical missteps UNC has made with previous community outreach efforts, the LAC spent those meetings establishing groundrules, process and goals. Luckily the talk continued. As of today (Aug. 20th), the LAC, after relevant discussions, has accepted a number of key principles created by Chapel Hill’s recently disbanded Horace-Williams Citizens Committee (of which I was a member – of which I believe had much more work to perform).

“I believe the voices that choose to be the greatest obstacles to this at the moment will be the voices that have the least impact, in the end, I believe it will be taken from our hands at some point by the leadership of this state.”

Trustee Rusty Carter, Herald Sun, May 26th, 2006

Carter’s remark echoes Senator Tony Rand’s 2001 threat to remove Chapel Hill’s zoning authority over the University. Beyond zoning, the town has very limited means to corral University developmental malfeasance. Even with it, the town could barely mitigate travesties like UNC’s encroachments upon the Mason Farm Road neighborhoods.

“It is our intention to move forward with the momentum of Carolina North…We would like to see this committee be a very active part of it, but if they choose to spend the next year not arriving at any definitive parameters, we are going to continue our momentum. That’s not out of any sense of animosity; it’s out of a sense of practicality and obligation.”

Trustee Rusty Carter, June 1st, 2006 Daily Tar Heel

What’s missing, for Carter and some of his fellow trustees, it appears is BIG MO! Wasn’t BIG MO coined to describe the momentum football teams need to build up to crush their opponents?

Chancellor Moeser recently appointed Dean Jack Evans, husband of 10-year veteran council member Pat Evans, to a two-year, $208,210 per year, position as “quarterback” to drive the Carolina North project forward:

“What we need, and what we have in Jack Evans is a quarterback, someone who will be calling the signals, actually planning and coordinating the planning of all of our team — leading that team to make sure that this project continues to move forward,” Moeser said today.

Chancellor Moeser, N&O July 27, 2006

With the selection of his new quarterback Moeser signalled a change of strategy.

Two teams now: offense – heavyweight UNC and defense – the local, as Moeser says, “wary” community.
Evans, former Dean of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler business-plex – current representative to the NCAA/ACC, will earn his pay pushing for completion of a project whose underpinnings and goals are suspect.

And he’ll be hellbent to do it.

“Whether or not it’s Jack Evans in this role or somebody else, there is a role for someone to state the urgency and importance of this…”

Evans, Chapel Hill News, Aug. 16th, 2006

I understand the importance, the Mayor and Council understand the importance, the folks “wary” of the direction of this project, all of us, understand the importance of this project.

Many of us will be living with and, as NC taxpayers, paying for, the consequences of Evans’ two years of quarterbacking for decades to come. Our concern is not born of ignorance of the project’s greater importance to the wider fortunes of our State but of a healthy respect for the adage that “Haste makes waste” and the waste it will make is of our cherished town.

Time to put away the plaintive wail that the citizens of our communities DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE of the Carolina North project. This continued claim, quite frankly, is pure-T, grade-A horse shit.

What does Evans think of the current process? Last May he suggested the strong possibility that the effort will end up accomplishing nada:

Evans said he saw two possible scenarios from what Strom was saying. In the first, the committee reviews the list of principles to find those principles on which there is disagreement. After discussion of those disagreements, the committee will find those areas that may not be able to be reconciled, if there are any. Under the second scenario, the committee would merely identify those areas of disagreement without attempting to remedy them. “I hope that is not what we are doing,” Evans said. If that is the case, he said, the committee would merely be conducting an “intellectual exercise” without any real promise of accomplishing anything.

Dean Jack Evans, UNC Gazette, May 06, 2006

The town’s representatives and the Mayor has always made it clear that their participation was not a negotiation but a dialogue (more like multi-logue considering the 4 sets of representatives). Unfortunately, it looks like the LAC’s efforts are being superseded by the new “offense”.

Is it going to be “50 yards to the goal line – hard-charging Jack, his band of trusty trustees, pressing forward – crushing the weak defense”? Hard to say.

Beyond what happened over the summer, there’s Evans’ recent letters and this week’s LAC meeting (August 24, 2006, at 4 p.m. in the Redbud Room of the Friday Center) to help deconstruct Moeser’s tenor.

I’m also trying to wrap my head around Evans’ claim that “the space crunch on the main campus means Carolina North will have to accommodate academic needs.” (Whoa there Trigger! Moeser has always emphasized research and living only, discounting academic usage – which made some sense considering the nearly incredible [and expensive] increase in space on Main Campus since he became Chancellor).

Over the next week, I’ll be ‘blogging a series on CarolinaNorth: Evans’ New Principles, Specifications, Outcomes in an effort to understand and predict UNC’s future directions.

If you can’t wait or wish to do your own analysis, here’s some primary source material:

[UPDATE:]

Evans’ “counter-offer” is a reflection of the proposals on the table – proposals based on the guidelines developed by the Horace-William’s Citizens group (of which I was member). The principles and a schematic chronology of their development is here. (Thanks for the tip Barnes).

The other day I passed on a call from the Downtown Partnership for volunteers. Folks in “bright blue t-shirts” (as local crack WCHL reporter Dan Siler emphasized throughout the week) would hand out coupon and information packets to returning students. The hope? Spur more interest in our fine downtown.

I was signed up for the Sunday morning shift. Turns out I wasn’t needed.

Liz Parham, Director of the Downtown Partnership just called to let me off the hook (drat, I really wanted a 2XX bright blue t-shirt!). They and their Saturday volunteers handed out 3000 packets by 1pm.

Way to go Liz, Laura and the rest of the crew!

Liz said they might do student “grab bags” next year. I hope they’ll consider adding this little goodie from the Orange County Board of Elections.

encl: Voter Registration Form [PDF]

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