Thursday, June 30, 2005

I'm working on the template of this blog today

Please ignore any temporary ugliness while I try to pretend I'm technologically adept.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I was wrong

I finally got an answer on the MARC poster. It isn't a MARC poster.... it's a CSX poster. Hence, the wrongness of my suspicion that it was street activist art, counter propaganda.

Recently, the MTA received a number of inquiries from
MARC riders concerning the "Watch, Ride & Report"
poster which was commissioned by CSX last year.

MARC contracts with CSX for its commuter rail service
on the Brunswick & Camden Lines. Both lines are owned
and operated by CSX.

CSX displayed the poster at rail facilities during
the last year as part of its campaign to promote
passenger security awareness. You may consider
contacting CSX Corporate Communications to inquire
about its origin.

MARC did not post or distribute this poster.
Please note that the term "MARC Marshals" is a
phrase used on the poster named by CSX and is not
an official MARC program.

MTA Customer Communications

What's an old radical to do when business interests start co-opting old socialist and nazi art in a counter propaganda way. And when they do so using fake police forces. (So I was a little right)

I specifically asked MARC to provide me with a contact at "any other agency, business, or interest that may have posted this poster." Alas, what is clearly a form letter response didn't provide one, so I'll keep looking.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

we believe things when they fit in our view of the world

I came across a blog today while investigating the upcoming protest of Plattsburgh NY by Fred Phelps and Family AKA Westboro Baptist Church (more on this later). He restated something he read in the local paper that claimed there were 4,000 homeless people in NYC. He very simply believed this statistic. He seems proud of himself that the he'd known the estimate of 90,000 given by his college professor was way off, and pleased that his initial disbelief of it, and wonders at the impact on other students who believed
the number thrown out there by the admittedly liberal instructor and may have let that, and other unsubstantiated statements by their instructors, influence their ideologies in subsequent years.

Apparently, he didn't think twice about believing this number. It was clearly a much more believable number for him, and so merited no investigation. Tho' one might think that if one had a website/blog, they might be basically proficient in internet research.

So I was cranky, and didn't buy the 4,000 number. I lived in NYC for 3 years, my own experience said that there were more than that, by a factor of 10 or 20. I thought I'd look it up and email him the results.
At this point in the research and this story, I was simply mad at this guy for not checking his facts or reading the original article carefully enough to make him wonder if apples were being compared to oranges. Very hungry apples and oranges.

Had he pondered the incredible difference, or wondered at the genesis of this discrepancy, he could have simply Googled or Clusty'd the question.

So I did for him.
The FIRST response that came up in my search was a Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet
In February 2005 some 36,200 homeless men, women, and children were sleeping each night in the New York City shelter system, including 14,900 children, 12,600 adult family members, and 8,700 single adults. Thousands more sleep on city streets, park benches, and subway trains. Since 1998 the New York City homeless shelter population has increased by 72 percent, from 21,100 people in shelters each night to 36,200 people per night currently.
One of many advocacy research documents.

Even if one were disinclined to trust statistics put out by advocacy organizations, and presumed that the above liberal professor had friends in such liberal professions as social work and social justice, the simple fact of 36,000 beds being utilized each night would indicate that, hmmm, something is wrong here. But nope, not for this blogger, he bit into the 4000 figure right off, it proved his instincts were right all along and so a quick google was unnecessary.

The second result was a socialist newspaper. I skipped it without even looking, because if a professor at Plattsburgh State University was too liberal, this blogger would never
accept anything the socialists purported.

The third result was a WABC article in 2002 which noted the homeless population went over 30,000. Of course, they also cited the above advocacy organization, so maybe he wouldn't believe that either.

The fourth one tho', that's the NYC Department of the Homeless Services. And we all trust government statistics, so I was sure I'd find something to send him.

Their statistics page has several documents. This (pdf) is the result of a survey conducted by walking around the streets. It indicates they found 4,395 individuals who were on the street and not in shelters. It wasn't the homeless population, it was the population of people who weren't in a shelter that night, those that they could find.

So I'm grumpy, still mad at that original blogger for not checking things out before repeating them, but now the NYC survey smells incredibly rotten. Only 4,300 un-sheltered homeless? This smells like the kind of rotten that is on a 650 calorie energy bar that proudly advertizes Zero grams of fat as if ingested unused sugar isn't turned into fat in your body.

Even so, my ideology, my worldview means that I'm just as likely as the aforementioned blogger to believe what is most similar to what I already believe, so the right thing to do is to keep investigating.

Their search for volunteers went out like this:
Project HOPE 2005, the annual census of New York City's homeless, will take place on February 28th, when around 2000 volunteers will set out to assigned areas to count the number of street homeless they encounter between the hours of 10:30pm and 4am. The information and statistics gathered on this night are crucial to all policy-making and aid initiatives at DHS and throughout the City government for the remainder of the year.
They used a "scientific method." They divided the city into small areas, groups of city blocks, or a park, divided into low and high density (of homeless people), then walked through a RANDOMLY SELECTED AREA for four hours.

It's named much like a military operation naming aggressive action Operation Fuzzy Bunny of Freedom.

Project Hope. Like,
i hope i don't get mugged,
i hope I don't find any frozen dead people.
I hope i can count them from a distance.

That's like trying to estimate the gay people in Massachusetts by randomly sampling Taunton, Framingham, Turner's Falls, and Stockbridge, and one known high density area, say, the South End of Boston. But without counting the gay people where you know for sure they are, like, say, Provincetown, Cambridge, Northampton, you aren't going to get a statistically accurate anything.

I'm all ready to email him when I discovered that his identity didn't exist on his web page and it wasn't possible to email him. (tho' the subsequent use of whois led me to identify him as male).

So I opted to link to his plattsblog site and talk about it here.
Plus, now i'm mad at the NYC Dept for Homeless Services, helping M. Bloomberg lower the # of homeless people one statistic at a time.

Well, here's a lovely article by the Coalition for the Homeless about the under counting in this survey. They do a great job of debunking this silly idea of random sampling homeless people, methodological flaws, and other data.

So my blogging rant can stop

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I'm sticking my neck out against blogosphere public opinion. I predict that the MARC poster is subversive art, not Homeland Security

There’s an incredible thing in the blogosphere today – we are willing to believe that our Homeland Security folk (or even the Maryland Transportation Administration) would put a Watch, Ride, and Report poster on the Maryland Trains. I believe that people are stupid, but not stupid, ya know? Agencies under Geo. Bush using Soviet looking posters? I can't see it happening.My penchant for accuracy go the best of me... and my declaration, at 2:06 pm is that it's public art as social intervention.

The site that the photo is on is of Railroad photography, not the MARC railroad itself. Responses on blogs that are discussing this today have included people seeing this poster in various places, and one guy says he called, and the Maryland Transportation folks say it's not theirs.

I can find no web presence of an entity called the "MARC Marshals" as the poster reads. The security/police for MARC is the Maryland Transit Administration Police (MTA).
The use of the word "Marshals" suggests Air Marshals, so it would seem to make sense on quick glance, but I think not.


The Billboard Liberation Front's discussion of "Questions for Redressing the Imposition on Public Space"

Looks like the Propaganda Remix Project OBEY -= Manufacturing Quality Dissent since Engineering Propaganda

or The Praxis Group, "a Minneapolis-based unit which stages site-specific, unsanctioned and unsolicited projects within the confines of public spaces which are privately owned."

or Propaganda Billboards that can be found here

Other satire and subvertizing posters like this can be found at here

And a nifty film of made by robbie conal “guerilla etiquette and postering guide” is at (needs quicktime) The rest of the website's cool too.
Clearly, this site is doing wheatpaste, not getting posters inside "official" displays...

My opinion, and I'm sticking with it until someone proves me wrong.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Cold McDonald's French Fries...

are gross.

Does anyone know why? Like, do you know the science of why they're tasty delicious when hot and disgusting when cold?

Michelle? Anyone?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Mark Felt and COINTELPRO

Remember CointelPro? The FBI's Counter Intelligence Program designed to illegally harass, discredit, injure and kill people who opposed US policies?

This is a nice time to remind people that the Patriot Act is not without precedent. The difference is that before, the Federal Govt, via the FBI, violated constitutional rights extra-legally, now they're doing it within the permitted baloney of the PA.

The Salt Lake Tribune says today (
MR. Watergate Deep Throat was an "imperfect hero."

Now that Felt has outed himself, the most famous mystery of the Watergate affair, which brought down Nixon's presidency, has been solved.
The larger questions, though, go beyond "Deep Throat's" identity. Was Felt a hero or a traitor? He seems to have wrestled with that question himself for years.
He was a hero, though like others, not a perfect one. The political dirty tricks of the Nixon campaign in 1972 were bad enough, but the president's attempt to cover up the wiretaps, burglaries and other misdeeds approached the tactics of a police state.
Felt was right to cry foul, even if he used cloak-and-dagger methods to protect his own identity.
Were his actions criminal? Possibly. He did reveal secrets of a criminal investigation. But there is little doubt that by doing so, he served the greater good.

One blog says "
Felt's leaks were disloyal on a personal level, but were loyal to American democracy. This is what makes him a hero."

Chuck Colson and Pat Buchanan lament that W. Mark Felt was a snitch.

"I'm still in a state of shock," Colson told "Today" show host Matt Lauer. "I never thought anybody in such a position of sensitivity in the Justice Department would breach confidence. And if the FBI can't be protected to keep confidences, then it shakes you - it shakes the citizens' confidence in government."
Rejecting the description of Felt as a national hero, Buchanan said
"there's nothing heroic about breaking faith with your people, breaking the law, sneaking around in garages, putting stuff from an investigation out to a Nixon-hating Washington Post."

He didn't mean, of course, the COINTELPRO activities mentioned below, but sneaking out to meet reporters.

Mind you, this is the same Pat Buchanan who

"opposed virtually every civil rights law and court decision of the last 30 years, published FBI smears of Martin Luther King Jr. as his own editorials in the St. Louis Globe Democrat in the mid-1960s. "We were among Hoover's conduits to the American people," he boasted (Right from the Beginning, p. 283)."
(see more at the Fair Report of Feb 26, 1996.)

So, Is W. Mark Felt a hero?
W. Mark Felt was a high ranking official during most of the time of

The Church Committee Report on INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS (Book II, section A. Violating and ignoring the Law) states that

"Internal inspection at the FBI has traditionally not encompassed legal or ethical questions at all. According to W. Mark Felt, the Assistant FBI Director in charge of the Inspection Division from 1964 to 1971, his job was to ensure that Bureau programs were being operated efficiently, not constitutionally: "There was no instruction to me," he stated, "nor do I believe there is any instruction in the Inspector's manuals, that inspectors should be on the alert to see that constitutional values are being protected." He could not recall any program which was terminated because it might have been violating someone's civil rights.

Thus, Felt testified that if, in the course of an inspection of a field office, he discovered a microphone surveillance on Martin Luther King, Jr., the only questions he would ask were whether it had been approved by the Director and whether the procedures had been properly followed.

When Felt was asked whether the Inspection Division conducted any investigation into the propriety of COINTELPRO, the following exchange ensued:

Mr. FELT. Not into the propriety.

Q. So in the case of COINTELPRO, as in the case of NSA interceptions, your job as Inspector was to determine whether the program was being pursued effectively as opposed to whether it was proper?

Mr. FELT. Right, with this exception, that in any of these situations, Counterintelligence Program or whatever, it very frequently happened that the inspectors, in reviewing the files, would direct that a certain investigation be discontinued, that it was not productive, or that there was some reason that it be discontinued.

But I don't recall any cases being discontinued in the Counterintelligence program.

As a result of this role definition, the Inspection Division became an active participant in some of the most questionable FBI programs For example, it was responsible for reviewing on an annual basis all memoranda relating to illegal break-ins prior to their destruction under the "DO NOT FILE" procedure."

I'm very glad that Deep Throat blabbed. It mattered to us as citizens. Immensely.

But it doesn't make him a hero.