This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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The Dish on Iran

Mentioned it before, but one of the best sources of up to date information on Iran is Andrew Sullivan. If you aren’t checking there periodically, and you care about this at all, you probably should be.

The above assumes you are not prepared to give yourself a seizure trying to follow all the Twitter action in real time on Twitterfall or the like.

It Doesn’t Help

By the way, I just have to say, having CNN on in the background right now as I get ready to take Amy to school and to go to work, it doesn’t help at all that with perhaps a handful of exceptions, the people “anchoring” on the various American TV News networks are dumb as rocks. Most of the ones with any actual depth of knowledge or insight or even just raw smarts left years ago. So even when they do decide to pay some attention, they still sound like idiots… even when they are talking to someone who DOES have good information and knowledge they act as a hinderance to getting the good information out of them instead of helping to facilitate it.

Oh, and as others have pointed out in comments, all of this is really about the American side of things, and there may well be good international alternatives… but I do not have easy access to see them streaming 24/7, I just see bits and pieces of them, so I can’t judge how they are in real time. Even BBC TV News, which I watch fairly regularly, I only get at a few times a day, and only on weekdays, and that just isn’t the same.

Yes, Partly, but…

One take on why the mainstream media completely fell down for most of the weekend on Iran…

The Missing Iran Coverage
(Megan McArdle, The Atlantic, 15 Jun 2009)

One of Andrew’s readers asks where the MSM is on Iran. The New York Times and numerous internet sites have wall-to-wall coverage, including Andrew’s sterling work. Other outlets practically ignored the biggest story currently going on in the world over the weekend.

But I think Andrew’s reader’s question is ultimately a business story. Why doesn’t the MSM have more coverage? Because they don’t have the manpower. The cable networks are hamstrung by the fact that they don’t have much footage of what’s going on in Iran.

The print media is hamstrung by the fact that they’ve slashed their foreign bureaus to the bone–and then amputated the bone. There are too few journalists in too few places to cover a big story like this.

Yes, the above is all true. The “assets” needed for reporters “owned” by the main stream media to report directly from the scene just are not there like they might have been decades ago, because both television and print have pulled back massively internationally because over the years the profit model for keeping those resources just didn’t hold up. (Although I will say, CNN *did* have assets on the ground and just was slow to deploy them and give priority to this story.)

HOWEVER…. if anything the events of the weekend have proven that you can get quite a lot of information without having ANY assets on the ground… by doing a good job of aggregating sources that ARE on the ground, and by finding and presenting true experts where they exist, and by acting as an intelligent filter on top of the masses of raw information available. A number of online sources, including Andrew Sullivan who was mentioned above, have been doing an incredible job of that. And this includes plenty of compelling pictures and video that could have been used on TV nicely.

There is a lot that the mainstream media COULD have done… all with no assets directly on the ground, just with a handful of smart people making use of the information that was available and digesting and presenting the best of it to the people watching.

This STARTED to happen by Sunday afternoon, but Saturday this was completely and totally absent. From not just CNN, but from pretty much every “traditional” news source.

It has been obvious for quite some time that such sources were no longer a “good” source of news relative to the newer alternative sources in many many cases. (Although some of the original reporting for print has still remained valuable.)

This weekend though television media in particular proved that it no longer had any value at all in the realm of important live breaking news, the one area where it was still relevant and potentially valuable. They have now ceded even that ground.

Sure, they might not have been able to do it the same way they did Tienanmen Square because of lack of their own resources on the ground. But there would have been ways they could have done it. But they don’t know how. They are done.

Now the only remaining place where the TV news networks are useful is when you need something droning on in the background while you do other things, but want to keep an ear out in case something important happens… and actually, radio (probably via the internet, not the airwaves) is better for that. Oops.

Bold Prediction of the moment: Unless they completely and totally transform into something unrecognizable, in 10 years there will not be any American “24 Hour News Network” any more. Not one. They will all be gone, because they have no remaining value. It will just take awhile for enough people to stop watching for them to actually get the message and go under.

To Be Fair

Coverage on the major US networks of Iran is much better today than it was yesterday. A bit slow to the punch, and still no where near what it should be. And still completely eclipsed by various online sources. But better.

Useless News Networks

All kinds of stuff is going on in Iran right now. There should be wall to wall coverage. There isn’t. Just flipped through all the cable networks. What do I see right now?

Fox News: A report on sunscreens
MSNBC: Some court case in Texas
CNN: Palin vs Letterman

REALLY? You have got to be kidding me.

Meanwhile of course, I can find all of what I need on this online and in the blogs I follow, but really? Really? Come on.

I mean, this could blow over and be nothing, or it could be Iran’s Tiananmen square, or a coming revolution. Or, once again, nothing. But in any case it has potential to be huge. And Fox was sitting there talking about sunscreen? And CNN about Sarah Palin?

All of these networks really do deserve to go away and die completely.

Yo Ho Ho!!

Bring on the Pirates!

Pirate Party Wins and Enters The European Parliament
(Ernesto, TorrentFreak, 7 Jun 2009)

When the Swedish Pirate Party was founded in early 2006, the majority of the mainstream press were skeptical, with some simply laughing it away. But they were wrong to dismiss this political movement out of hand. Today, the Pirate Party accomplished what some believed to be the impossible, by securing a seat in the European Parliament.

With 99.9% of the districts counted the Pirates have 7.1 percent of the votes, beating several established parties. This means that the Pirate Party will get at least one, but most likely two of the 18 (+2) available seats Sweden has at the European Parliament.

OK, so this is very tiny in the big scheme of things, but it is a good sign. May they continue to have electoral success in the future.

And if they ever show up on a ballot I have an opportunity to vote for, they almost certainly have my vote.

Plouffe Piece

Just finished listening to David Plouffe speak. Interesting, but nothing new I hadn’t heard talked about before, including things he has said before, but also others analyzing the campaign. Kind of like watching C-Span, but in person. Good overview of an inside look at the Obama campaign though.

Edit 20:41 UTC – This of course coming from someone who likes watching C-Span. :-)

Stan the Man

I have never met the General. I have however met two of his brothers.

Of the two brothers I met, one seemed to have integrity… although he once told me a story that disturbed me involving him shooting a neighbor’s dog and seemingly enjoying it. The other brother, in the end, seemed to have few redeeming features and no moral compass I could recognize other than doing whatever it took to get ahead. I guess over time we’ll see how General McChrystal, who to me is the “third brother”, fares. Now, I know that it is not proper to judge someone by their family, but overall I can tell you that if the General is anything at all like his siblings, the thought of him in charge of anything strikes fear into my heart. The bits below from and old Esquire story don’t inspire any additional confidence.

Acts of Conscience
(John H. Richardson, Esquire, 1 Jul 2006)

“Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. ‘Will

ever be allowed in here?’ And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in: “they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators.”

They could keep a prisoner on his feet for twenty hours, and although the rules required them to allow each prisoner four hours of sleep every twenty-four hours, nowhere did it say those four hours had to be consecutive–so sometimes they’d wake the prisoners up every half hour. Eventually they’d just collapse. “This was a very demanding method for the interrogators as well, because it required a lot of staff to monitor the prisoner, and we’d have to stay awake, too,” Jeff says. “And it’s just impossible to interrogate someone when he’s in that state, collapsed on the ground. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Within the unit, the interrogators got the feeling they were reporting to the highest levels. The colonel would tell an interrogator that his report “is on Rumsfeld’s desk this morning” or that it was “read by SecDef.” “That’s a big morale booster after a fourteen-hour day,” Jeff says with a tinge of irony. “Hey, we got to the White House.”

“Was the colonel ever actually there to observe this?” “Oh, yeah. He worked there. He had his desk there. They were working in a big room where the analysts, the report writers, the sergeant major, the colonel, some technical guys–they’re all in that room.”

To Garlasco, this is significant. This means that a full-bird colonel and all his support staff knew exactly what was going on at Camp Nama. “Do you know where the colonel was getting his orders from?” he asks. Jeff answers quickly, perhaps a little defiantly. “I believe it was a two-star general. I believe his name was General McChrystal. I saw him there a couple of times.” Back when he was an intelligence analyst, Garlasco had briefed Stanley McChrystal once. He remembers him as a tall Irishman with a gentle manner. He was head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the logical person to oversee Task Force 121, and vice-director for operations for the Joint Chiefs.

(via Andrew Sullivan)

I have mentioned General McChrystal before on this blog here and here.

Last Swine Flu Dashboard Enhancements

Well, last for tonight anyway, it is way past my bedtime.

I switched things around so the main page of the Swine Flu Dashboard is a “Summary View” with only the “all data so far” graphs of the six things being tracked (deaths, cases and death rate worldwide and US only). For these I changed the trend line to be based off of a one week time period. There isn’t yet a full week of data, so that means the entire trend line may still shift. Parts of it will turn red once those parts are “fixed”.

I have then moved off onto a separate “time frame view” looks at each of those six numbers on a “previous week”, “previous month” and “previous year” basis. Obviously these will be more interesting once there is data over a longer time period. For this view I’ve made the trend lines dependent on which time frame you are looking at. They are based on 2 days for the weekly view, 2 weeks for the monthly view and 2 months for the yearly view.

Anyway… that’s it for tonight.

Swine Flu Dashboard Adjustment

After watching the updates over the past day, it became clear that the CDC was only updating once per day, while Wikipedia was updating constantly as new information came in. When there was a CDC update, that data would get reflected in Wikipedia very quickly. So overall for responsiveness, Wikipedia was a better source. So I changed the data source for the US numbers on the Swine Flu Dashboard to be Wikipedia, just as with my world numbers. (Links to the specific Wikipedia data sources on the Swine Flu Dashboard itself.)

Also, using the magic of wiki history, I went back and backfilled my data to include at least one data point per six hour interval going back to April 30th (UTC). Before that in the wiki history it seems like the standard for what was a “confirmed” case was not yet clear, and so numbers had been reported differently and were higher.

Anyway, now the four times a day update for the US numbers will actually catch changes more than once a day, and the historical numbers are just as nicely filled out as the new numbers.

Oh, and the curves are actually starting to look a bit exponential now, whereas they had previously been looking more linear.

Woo!