Archive for: June 2012
One of my favorite photographers, Cory Katz, a 25-year-old autodidact, has a show on at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, from now until July 16. Katz springs from that unlikely hotbed of artistic talent that is New Waterford. Yes, New Waterford.
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explains it in four terse sentences:
Europe has Greece. We have Mississippi. Europe uses the term “permanent bailouts.” We call it “Medicaid.”
And he illustrates the point with a map from the Economist:
[T]he poorest states like Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia rely on ginormous transfers of federal taxes in the form of unemployment benefits and Medicaid. Like the United States, the euro zone is all on one currency. Unlike the United States, the euro zone collects a teensy share of total taxes at the EU level and has no legacy of permanent fiscal transfers from the richer countries, like Germany, to the poorer countries, like Greece. The result is the chaos playing over your computer screen day after day.
Here in the U.S., states like New Mexico and Alabama are always “in fiscal trouble.” But it’s not news. In the last 20 years, the seven states in orange and red in the graph have accepted federal money worth around 200% of their annual GDP. Perhaps you’ve had a bar debate about whether we should boot Mississippi from the union, but that sort of thing hasn’t made its way to Washington.
Every once in a while, between pleas from search engine optimizers, deposed African Generals, and cut-rate Viagra pushers, spam coughs up a gem. Like the 5,711-word message I just received from Father Yahweh, yea Jehovah, Most High God, aka Linda Newkirk of Little Rock, Arkansas. It began like this:
It can now be reported that many of the wildfires in the western United States have been started by highly trained and well equipped foreign terrorists. It can also be reported that these terrorists are also responsible for the numerous explosions that occured in Michigan on the 6th and 7th of June 2012. You may not of heard of the Michigan explosions as there has been a news blackout in place.
One of the major explosions in Michigan that sent radiation monitors thousands of times higher in two different locations was the result of a tactical nuclear weapon. The underground nuclear explosion and numerous smaller explosions, that were sometimes heard in rapid succession, were aimed at setting off the New Madrid Fault! The smaller explosions were created with scaler electromagnetic technology. Both the US and the USSR are known to have developed this type of tectonic plate weaponry.
The purpose of this email is to expose those who were behind the attacks. For reports and background information on what actually took place in and around the Michigan Indiana border, visit the following sites. Link here [deleted], and additional link here [deleted].
It has now been revealed that the attacks were carried out by Russian Special Forces who were brought into the USA under the guise of joint training excercises with the US Military. There is plenty of corroborating eyewitness testimony following the prophetic warning you are about to read. There are also descriptions of the expensive motorhomes they are travelling in.
You haven’t heard of those June 6 & 7 Michigan blasts, have you? What more proof do you need? As you may have guessed, the central figure behind this dastardly conspiracy is none other than Barack Obama. Newkirk knows this because T.M., the militant Communist wife of V. M., a “level-headed Russian scientist,” told Tom Fife as much way back in 1992, when none of us had ever heard of Obama. Fife was setting up a software development joint venture in Moscow with scientist-colleagues of V.M.’s when e visited the couple’s flat one evening, and T.M. just blurted the whole thing out.
What if I told you that you will have a black president very soon and he will be a Communist? Yes, it is true. This is not some idle talk. He is already born and he is educated and being groomed to be president right now. You will be impressed to know that he has gone to the best schools of Presidents. He is what you call “Ivy League”. You don’t believe me, but he is real and I even know his name. His name is Barack. His mother is white and American and his father is black from Africa. That’s right, a chocolate baby! And he’s going to be your President.”
Doesn’t that put your worries in perspective?
[Update] Our friend the cranky physicist comments:
A true contrarian would look at the actual risks of the asbestos and it’s removal as well as the cost to taxpayers from how we overreact.
That was also my first reaction, because I get that not all asbestos is dangerous in all circumstances. But, hey, school ended today. Couldn’t they have waited a week?
A marshmallow cannon, actually, and he shot it inside the White House.
Contrarian may be the only blogger you read who actually owns a marshmallow gun.
When information is presented in a format computer programs can read, as opposed to a static, telephone directory-style list, fresh insights spring from the data. Contrarian friend Gus Reed prepared a compendium of revelations arising from Elections Nova Scotia’s annual political donations report—once we liberated it from the cloistered format favored by the former Chief Electoral Officer.
- Does Nova Scotia have a party of the rich? Not according to the donations made in 2010. When Gus plotted the proportion of donations against their size, all three major parties showed a remarkably similar distributions:
- Vote tallies for the three major parties in the last several elections have shown sharp geographical variations. Is the same true of people who donated to political parties in 2010? Here’s a list of the top 10 cities and towns whose residents contributed to each party.
Draw your own conclusions. Gus’s report has more of this, including a list of everyone who gave more than $1000 to a Nova Scotia political party in 2010. Download it here.
Elections Nova Scotia plans to release the list of 2011 political donations today [Update: Or not]. Wouldn’t it be great if the new Chief Electoral Officer could find his way clear to releasing the data in a format that makes searching for insights easy rather than hard?
In a series of posts last September, Contrarian revealed that Nova Scotia’s Chief Electoral Officer had degraded the format used to report political donations over $50. For the first time, she released the file as a scanned PDF that cannot be searched or readily copied to other formats.
Helpful Contrarian readers promptly hacked* McCulloch’s degraded files, enabling us to republish the data in the searchable, text-grab-friendly format used in previous years’ reports. Today’s long overdue follow-up provides the data in two new, even more useful and interesting formats:
- An Excel spreadsheet readers can view, parse, and re-use in ways limited only by their imaginations and programming chops.**
- An interactive Google Map showing every donation to a registered Nova Scotia political party in 2010.
[Direct link to map] Dots on the map are color-coded by party: orange for NDP, red for Liberal, blue for Tories. The larger dots stand for donations over $1,000. Clicking on an individual dot brings up the donor’s name and address, and the amount of the donation. Use the + and – slider on the left side of the map to zoom in and out; click and drag the map to focus on a particular town or neighborhood.
Over the next day or two, I’ll post some other useful ways of visualizing this data, produced by a particularly creative Contrarian reader.
Google is not perfect. It has trouble geo-coding rural route addresses and post office boxes, so these sometimes appear in odd places or even as overlapping donations sharing a single location.*** The optical character recognition (OCR) process required to decode Elections Nova Scotia’s deliberately degraded file may have introduced a few errors into the data. If you notice any, please use the comment link at the top of this page to let me know, and I’ll try to correct them.
I expect political junkies will find playing with the map mildly diverting. Is it also important (as I maintain) or dangerous (as Election Nova Scotia professes to believe)?
Chief Electoral Office Christine McCulloch, since retired, contended that crippling her legally required disclosure report was necessary “to protect contributors from ‘data-mining.’” In fact, Nova Scotia law contains no such requirement, and the one judicial precedent runs counter to her policy. In a moment of hyperbole this week, an Elections Nova Scotia official offered the preposterous suggestion that the spreadsheet I am releasing today could even be abet identity theft.
About the worst that could happen is that someone could — could, but probably won’t — use the spreadsheet to develop a direct mail solicitation list. A company wanting to do that probably has access to more sophisticated OCR tools than Contrarian. As a practical matter, the Elections Nova Scotia’s lockdown only impedes ordinary Nova Scotians seeking to use the data in creative, citizenly ways.
Earlier this month, the President of the United States issued an executive order directing all federal departments to implement application programming interfaces, commonly known as APIs, to give software developers direct access to their public data. This will lead to creative, entrepreneurial uses of public data that enhances its value to the people who paid for it.
In Nova Scotia, we’re moving in the opposite direction, responding to overblown privacy concerns by locking up data that used to be freely available. This is a recipe for turning our province, which overflows with digital programming talent, into a information age backwater.
I hope Nova Scotia’s new Chief Electoral Officer will reconsider this policy with an open mind. More importantly, I hope cabinet ministers and senior officials will consider the economic and cultural benefits that will accrue if their departments ease their grip on the many kinds of data they gather.
[UPDATE II:] Elections Nova Scotia plans to release the 2011 political donations data Friday.
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* Many readers contributed time and skill to this effort. Hearty thanks to JS, PGH, WF, NMK, and most especially, mapping guru WCR.
** The spreadsheet only lists donations to registered provincial political parties. It does not include donations to individual riding associations or to candidates in the 2010 Glace Bay byelection. The manner in which Elections Nova Scotia tabulates these simply makes it too much work.
*** An interesting example is the large orange dot just south of TransCanada 104 east of Antigonish. Clicking it sometimes brings up John “Nova” Chisholm’s $2,500 donation to the NDP (!); and sometimes Carl Hartigan’s $1,000 donation to that party. The two men have post office boxes and very similar postal codes. You may have to zoom in and out to different resolutions to see both donations. [UPDATE I:] Hartigan, I’m told, is a close associated of John Nova’s.