My friends at WPI have been posting about the fact that Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was chosen to be their commencement speaker this year. I’ve seen comments on both sides and there is a movement to protest the speech. Concerns have been raised primarily about Exxon Mobil’s corporate ethics and their contributions to global climate change. Based on the comments on facebook the protest group is attempting to be flexible and undisruptive in their actions. However the unfortunate result of this debacle is that this commencement is now about politics instead of the graduates. I can only hope that next month those on both sides of this debate will be able to celebrate together and focus on building a better future.
I listened the the TED talk on my iPod and thought this is amazing. Lessons and practice problems for a variety of subjects on one website. The format is better than many of the other open courseware sites I’ve been to online. The talk is embedded below. Enjoy!
Bob Woodward is not a lawyer, but he could have been one. When he stopped by UConn Law to give a talk today he emphasized the importance of looking at the evidence. Within the many anecdotes he shared, he emphasized the importance of evidence to back-up claims made in stories and how the stories can change based on context or with the passage of time. To emphasize this he told a story about sitting at a panel on aging with Henry Kissinger. At the panel they passed out a survey that asked questions about each individual’s personal life so that they could determine what age they would live until. Kissinger filled his out the first time, discovered he should have been dead four years ago, and then proceeded to go back and revise his answers until he announced that he was going to be alive for another eight years. Woodward did not hold back in accusing Kissinger of revising history in his writings.
Woodward’s allegiance to the importance of evidence was most visible in his discussion of the birther movement and Donald Trump. Trump, he said, is the Joe McCarthy of the modern era. Making assertions about Obama’s birth without any shred of his own evidence. Woodward expressed disappointment in the press for airing Trump’s concerns as news without any evidence being presented by the Donald. Furthermore Woodward described the overwhelming evidence of Obama’s citizenship including the two newspaper announcements, the actual birth certificate, the republican officials in Hawaii that certified the legitimacy of the certificate, and in spite of Trump claiming that nobody knew Obama, Woodward pointed out there are individuals that have stories about him from his younger days. These individuals are just not well-known.
I am especially glad that Woodward expressed hope for the future of journalism. He noted that there are other journalists doing work just as good as his Watergate investigation and thinks that the Apples and Googles of the world will have to start putting up money in this area. While Woodward was concerned that Google and others are taking the advertising revenue from these sites I think that this problem will be solved in part by the pay walls. Like it or not the “free content” ride on the Internet is going to be over soon and we’ll have to subscribe to Internet websites much in the way we subscribe to physical magazines or newspapers.
Today’s cool find is courtesy of my enjoyment of NPR and Planet Money. They had a partnership with an organization known as ProPublica. I decided to explore their website today and they have a fantastic section on data extraction and analysis. If you want to get started with data analysis they have some great techniques, especially for PDF extraction.
Obama’s deficit speech today demonstrates the power of the bully pulpit given to the chief executive. After the speech there was much reaction on twitter, facebook, and mainstream news outlets. I prefer to listen to the speech myself instead of listening to the talking heads, so I’ve embedded the link below. I hope that you too will listen to it and make your own judgement.