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Checkers and balancers

As the president describes for us the state of our union, I'd like to highlight the latest in what is shaping up to be the Internet's most important democratic function.  More than giving everyone a voice and more than providing an essentially free platform for leaders to communicate with followers, the Web has proven to be an effective tool for the enforcement of accountability.

The early demonstrations of this ability were focused primarily on the media, making a mockery of its principle of objectivity and out-fact checking fact checkers in sufficient quantities to turn the world of journalism upside down.

We've also seen the Internet press accountability on consumer issues.  Just today I clicked (yet another) Best Buy nightmare warrantee story.  And this is the second "dirty store" series I've seen lately.

Within the realm of politics there has been a heavy focus on the fundraising possibilities of the Internet, but sites like TPM Muckraker and Porkbusters have taken up the task of exposing corruption and waste in government.  And the most significant aspect of the new "netroots" movement has been to channel that fundraising to support underdog local candidates.  The Internet is offering an answer to the unspoken question, "What are you going to do about it?"  And now a new group aims to use the Web (among other tools) to hold Democratic politicians accountable.  "It's like the Super Friends of progressive politics."  Daily Kos will be working with They Work For Us which seeks to hold Democratic members of Congress accountable to their constituents.  Legislators who run afoul of the group will face well supported challengers when they come up for re-election.

For all the political coverage out there, when was the last time you heard someone ask whether a politician was doing a good and accurate job representing his or her constituency?  (The description of the group, particularly how tied it is to ideology, is a little different in this post from Steve Rosenthal, though I don't imagine it's enough to disrupt the unity of the coalition).

Speaking of keeping people honest, CNN Debunks False Obama 'Madrassa' Smear - My first thought was that Obama has had his first introduction to Swift Boating, but I wonder if there's an element of the media learning its lesson as well and actually running down stories like this.  For that matter, there's probably something to be said for the way the Internet can spread a story in defiance of mainstream media gatekeeping to put mainstream media in a position of having to cover the story after all.

I finally figured out that the reason I keep seeing pro-choice blog entries is that we're in the midst of the Blogging for Choice campaign.  Like its pro-life counterpart, the March for Life, it marks the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

I saw the first episode of Dirt and thought it had promise, but frankly I was a little embarrassed by the cheap sex pandering (please make them stop saying "strap on").  I have the second episode in my DVR, unwatched, but it looks like cheap sex pandering is not going away.  (Grey's Anatomy is guilty of the same thing.)

The good news is that the Philippines and Nigeria seem to really like the U.S.  The bad news is that most everyone else is not such a fan.  The result showing how Americans feel about the U.S. handling of North Korea's nuclear program is interesting.  I wouldn't have expected many people to know what the U.S. government's handling of that issue is.  The comment thread on the story is a bit of a train wreck and makes this headline a little more obvious.

22-Year-Old Killed Amid Internet Lies - The role of the Internet in this one is weird.  If only the murderer had known how undesirable (?!) his online lover was he wouldn't have slipped into that homicidal jealous rage.

This guy nearly kills himself on a rocket scooter so you don't have to.  Start this one at 2:40.  The question is whether it would have done something cooler if he'd put his weight farther forward.

Get all the tech news you need (in 20 minutes a day) - It's basically a list of all the top tech sites.  Plug their RSS feeds into a reader and you'd have a pretty complete snapshot of that news category.  The lie in this and in the follow up note about using sites like PopURL is that it's a miracle if you can get away from them in only 20 minutes.  The reality is that you know you're going to click stuff and before you know it an hour is gone.

Speaking of losing more time than you'd planned, this game lets you move through levels quickly enough, and those levels are sufficiently different that you keep telling yourself, "Oh, just one more level."  Until your sandwich is stale and your coffee is cold.  P.S. I played it with no sound because it loads with a heavy metal soundtrack that's a bit too much for my workplace.

Speaking of free games, 101 free games.  Obviously I haven't downloaded all of these, so you're on your own here.

Tastespotting is a foodie group blog on which people post photos of food linked to recipes and articles about food.

Speaking of cooking, make your own magnetic spice rack.  (Might be safer on the fridge, but still a cool idea.)

By the way, I saw a version of the magnetic spice rack on Curbly, a community for home do-it-yourselfers.

Andy Griffith vs. Patriot Act

All McGyver Ever Needs…

Top 10 Magic Trick Tutorial Videos - I feel smugger already.

Hezbollah Riots in Lebanon (Continuously Updated) - Riotblogging from Michael Totten.  (Funny that he seems to feel self conscious about merely rounding up links and not being in the middle of it reporting first hand.)

I followed this link to see the original non-silhouette version of iPod ads, but ended up clicking through most of the gallery.  It's another nice collection of how advertising images are altered.  Most of the final photos are pretty surreal, so it's not a shocking expose like some of the transhumanism models we've seen, but still interesting.

Jared's best Subway ad yet.  I wonder if the couple will get a celebrity mash-up name.

The Beinart International Surreal Art Collective including Toddlerpedes from Jon Beinart.

Today's token StarWarsery:  The destruction of the Death Star done with hands and the new Honda X-Wing.

Service asks you to give up your SS and credit card numbers ... for safety's sake?  What's funny is that I saw the subject of this article before I saw the article itself and right away sent it to Bob to see if he thought it was a good idea for people to go typing their Social Security number into a random Web page.  In short, he said no.

Shoe Rolodex maintains law and order

The latest in the Second Life ping-pong assessment: Fortune's David Kirkpatrick reports on why IBM's Sam Palmisano and other tech leaders think Second Life could be a gold mine.

... and back again:  Virtual world's supposed economy is 'a pyramid scheme'

Speaking of virtual worlds, BBC plans online children's world - "Those building CBBC World said the emphasis would be on safety and responsibility, with no chatrooms or facilities for building new parts of the virtual world."  Hmmm... maybe it'll teach kids that computer worlds are boring.

The complete guide to PDFs in iTunes - I thought this was going to be about eBooks, but it's really about how-to instructions and sewing patterns and stuff like that (though it does look ahead to eBook possibilities).

A quick trip to the mailbag:

Dear Will,

Since first discovering your link, I have been an avid fan.

And, as an active supporter of the Carolina Trekkers in their endeavor to raise awareness for stroke research while discovering more of America, I hope you will take the time to CLICK on their site.

They have been featured in local newspapers and are destined to be featured again and again along their route.

Edie New and I have been best of friends since 8th grade.  Now in our fifties, life is just beginning in many ways.

Thank you sincerely for your time.

Best Regards,

Will replies:  I was totally expecting something related to Star Trek, not a bunch of ladies on a cross country horse ride.  But that's not to say I was disappointed.  In fact, I have an American friend living in Mexico who owns a horse there and has been trying to figure out how to get it to the east coast (of the U.S.).  She needs to follow these ladies' path.  (Can it really be this straight a line?)