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Derivative Works from Daniel X. O'Neil

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John F. Burns and Iraqi KPIs

Today John F. Burns of the New York Times writes another of his calmly horrifying stories about Iraq. As usual, he calls a spade a spade and says that the long-feared Iraqi Civil War has already begun:

From the moment American troops crossed the border 28 months ago, the specter hanging over the American enterprise here has been that Iraq, freed from Mr. Hussein's tyranny, might prove to be so fractured - by politics and religion, by culture and geography, and by the suspicion and enmity sown by Mr. Hussein's years of repression - that it would spiral inexorably into civil war.

If it did, opponents of the American-led invasion had warned, American troops could get caught in the crossfire between Sunnis and Shiites, Kurds and Turkmen, secularists and believers - reduced, in the grimmest circumstances, to the common target of a host of contending militias.

But the real gem in Burns' story is the mangling of KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators. I often discuss and manage stuff like this in my day job-- helping companies and government agencies visually consume data that is most important to the health of their endeavors.

One measure of the doubts afflicting American officials here has been a hedging in the upbeat military assessments that generals usually offer, coupled with a resort to statistics carefully groomed to show progress in curbing the insurgents that seems divorced from realities on the ground. One example of the new "metrics" has been a rush of figures on the buildup of Iraq's army and police force - a program known to many reporters who have been embedded on joint operations as one beset by inadequate training, poor leadership, inadequate weaponry and poor morale.

Officers involved in running the program offer impressive-sounding figures - including the fact that, by mid-June, the Iraqi forces had been given 306 million rounds of ammunition, roughly 12 bullets for each of Iraq's 25 million people. But when one senior American officer involved was asked whether the Americans might end up arming the Iraqis for a civil war, he paused for a moment, then nodded. "Maybe," he said.

If the KPI is "how mant bullets were given to Iraqis", we're really succeeding.

Killer Websites: The Online Lives of People Who End Up Being Murderers

So for a while now I've been collecting webpages of killers. I haven't done it by any grand design, but whenever a news story comes out about a killer, very often you hear about (or can simply find on your own) the weblog or other info that the killer maintained before they turned to killing.

WjogLooking back, the first killer website I ever saw was probably the multi-colored Heaven's Gate site of the sicko San Diegan web designers back in 1997.They scared the shit out of me.

I started back again recently with Jeff Weise, the kid who killed himself and 9 others and kept a LiveJournal, had a Yahoo and an MSN profile, posted stories to bulletin boards, and sought community at Neo-Nazi sites. An active online life had he.

Then the track of the news took us to  Joseph Edward Duncan and his disturbing Blogger life called "Blogging the Fifth Nail". In the last post before he apparently went on a murderous and rapacious rampage, he wrote, " I wish I could be more honest about my feelings, but those demons made sure I'd never be able to do that". There are currently 1200 comments to his last post.

The most recent killer website I've seen contains relatively Not-Safe-For-Work photos on Jeanette Sliwinski, the woman who killed three guys on their lunch break with her car. More on her later.

But the killer websites I'm most interested in, and hear the most about, but am unable to find, is the "Isalamist websites" that claim credit for terror attacks. Where are they?

Get Your Knives Sharpened for the Holidays

As the summer family barbeque season is upon us, a friendly business near my house reminds us to get our knives sharpened.


Funny how the sweep of decades can pulse through a ruined life, and be punctuated so poetically at the end.  L. Patrick Gray III, Who Led the F.B.I. During Watergate, died yesterday.

Just one month after the exposure of Deep Throat. Just a short time after he broke his years of quiet margin-writing. He was a war hero. His feet were made of clay. Funny how time washes.

In the ABC interview this year, Mr. Gray said he had had to cash in all his insurance policies, sell his house in Stonington, Conn., and liquidate his stock portfolio to pay his legal bills. He returned to a quiet law practice as Louis P. Gray.

He made no public statements, but meticulously annotated books and memoirs about the era, haunted by what he called in the ABC interview "the days and nights of revisiting this particular episode in our history."

His family now plans to publish a book intended to correct public misimpressions that he was somehow complicit in Watergate.

"At no time did I feel I was dealing with individuals who were trying to sweep me into the very conspiracy that I was charged with investigating," Mr. Gray testified to the Senate Watergate committee in August 1973. "That's a madman's horror."

"In the service of my country," he added, "I withstood hours and hours of depth charging, shelling, bombing, but I never expected to run into a Watergate in the service of a president of the United States. And I ran into a buzz saw, obviously."

Thank You, Judith Miller

Judith Miller went to jail today.

"If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press," she read from a statement as she stood before Judge Hogan. "The right of civil disobedience is based on personal conscience, it is fundamental to our system and it is honored throughout our history," she said before court officers led her away, looking shaken.

Thank you.

City Ice Cream

City Ice Cream
I live in the middle of Chicago. I have always been a city person. I was born in the Northview Heights housing project in Pittsburgh and it is a point of pride to me that I have never lived in a suburb.

I like this picture because it was taken in the street and it is (to me) a validation/ representation of the things that I stand for and a way of life that I want my children to have.

My two kids rode their bikes (a relatively new phenomena for them-- they are 4 and 6) through the city streets for 8 blocks or so. They got tired, so we took a break. We stopped at this liquor store to get some ice cream and ate it right there. It's a good life.


Daniel X. O'Neil: Chicago-based writer and internet developer. I am a co-founder of and the People Person for EveryBlock, a site that pulls together local news and public information. I run dozens of personal projects and websites for clients, and also own half of a poetry book company.


EveryBlock: A news feed for your block.
CTA Tweet: Unofficial Twitter tracker for the Chicago Transit Authority.
CityPayments: Database of all vendors, contracts, and payments that have been posted by the municipal government of the City of Chicago
Wesley Willis Art: Site dedicated to the fact that Wesley Willis was an artist.
Wide Right Turn: An incomplete look at the role of variation in a capitalist society.


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    • Wesley Willis Art
      Site dedicated to the fact that Wesley Willis was an artist.
    • CTA Alerts
      Wireless notifications about service on the Chicago Transit Authority.
    • Wide Right Turn

      An incomplete look at the role of variation in a capitalist society.
    • Derivative Works Art Manifesto
      Humans own their experience of copyrighted content.
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      Simple form for creating Y!Q links to add relevance, annotate text, and provide more sophisticated layers of meaning to web content.