The United Stats of America

This month’s TIME magazine takes a look at “The United Stats of America” in the wake of the national population passing 300 million on October 17th. Their website has some interesting maps, graphs and infographics.

Wild Wild Mideast

Shadow Company, a new documentary, covers modern private security forces in Iraq and around the world. I haven’t seen it yet but it comes highly recommended from all over, including media guru Ze Frank.

We traveled the world – from Iraq to Washington, from England to Sierra Leone – talking to politicians, journalists, soldiers and contractors themselves. While exploring the blurred lines between soldier and mercenary in today’s conflict resolution, it became clear: The Rules of War Have Changed. The modern US army cannot go to war, cannot even have dinner without these civilian contractors and their role is unlikely to go away any time soon. War is more and more in the public eye and yet held more and more in private hands. This sort of trend without the right legal framework and more open business practices has dire implications. It is vital for the general public to better understand the risks and rewards of operating this way.

Nick Bicanic, director

Screenings are limited but the DVD can be purchased now on the film’s website.

“Very Active” Hurricane Season

Today, the 1st of June, marks the first day of this year’s hurricane season. Colorado State University forecasters predict a “very active” year with five major storms expected, and an 82 percent chance that at least one will make landfall on the US east cost (compared to the normal likelihood of 52 percent).

Last year Katrina killed over 1,500 and cost billions of dollars in damage. New FEMA director David Paulison commented today on improved emergency measures, including better communication and evactuation plans.

We’ve gone through those [evacuation plans], we’ve rehearsed them, we’re very comfortable that those are going to work.

Paulison to CNN

Previously on CN:

Nuestro Himno

… translated “Our Anthem”, is a Spanish version of the US national anthem getting a lot of attention (and air-time) in light of the recent movement in immigration reform, featuring Wycleff Jean and several prominent Spanish artists. What does Bush have to say in response?

I think the National Anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be citizens of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the National Anthem in English.

Yeah, and I’m sure the Native Americans really wanted to learn our language … or, I don’t know where I’m going … yes I do.


When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, George W. Bush would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in Spanish, sometimes partying with a “Viva Bush” mariachi band flown in from Texas.

Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty

Wal-Mart: The New Southern Plantation

An interesting comparison between Wal-Mart and the southern plantation:

Throughout its career, at home and abroad, Wal-Mart has maintained two key policies: a paternalistic attitude and a powerful aversion to trade unions. To attract outside investors, the poorest southern states (…) often boast of their low wages. For Wal-Mart’s 1.3 million US associates, the situation is simple: there are no unions. Mona Williams, Wal-Mart spokesperson, explains: “Our philosophy is that only an unhappy associate would be interested in joining a union, so that’s why Wal-Mart does everything it can to make sure that we are providing our associates what they want and need.” Always assuming they do not need too much. (…)

Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, was only slightly exaggerating when he said that Wal-Mart was a modern plantation, with workers toiling in its stores rather than in the fields of the deep south.


Understand how and where zip codes are assigned and located in seconds. Just load the website and start typing your zip code; it will narrow your search the more you type and widen it when you hit backspace.

Created by Ben Fry at the MIT Media Laboratory. Check out his website for other interesting information design as well.


The Colbert Report premiered Monday (weekdays @ 11:30pm, following The Daily Show on Comedy Central), and if you haven’t yet caught it (fools), here are the first week’s episodes available for download, courtesy CommonBits:

Those are torrent files, BTW – so if you can’t use them, here’s the first episode for direct download:

American Tribes

a collaboratively generated geographical map of the US that visualizes how the country is organized culturally, as opposed to its traditional political boundaries. the map attempts to show how the country is divided into ‘spheres of influence’ between different cities at the national, regional & local levels.

information aesthetics

You can place a few votes with CommonCensus regarding what city has the most economic/cultural/etc influence on you and where you live, and contribute to the composition of the map. They’re saying its a little rougher than they’d like right now, so more votes = more resolution. Removing the context of state lines and city limits provides a more accurate representation of how we view our country and identify with other people. I’ve always thought the goal of visiting all 50 states was a little overrated, but visiting all these tribes would make a lot more sense, and be a more significant accomplishment to boot.

Update: CommonCensus has been getting some good attention lately, and they’ve updated the map to reflect all the new votes – now around 16,000. You can still view the 8,000 and 4,000 vote maps on their website, as well as another project they’re working on that applies the same idea to sports. The next update will be published at 32,000 votes, and so on – the resolution and accuracy improves as they obtain more data. Contributing takes only 12 clicks.