Media Roundup for Mandel Bulldog Budget

The reaction to the Mandel for Controller Bulldog Budget has been amazing! Here’s a list of all the places it was mentioned online.

Technically Philly – “Use the coolest, most comprehensive City of Philadelphia budget visualization you’ve ever seen”

Made it to story #4 on Hacker News with over 60 comments

Tons of activity on twitter

Reddit Discussion

Flying Kite Media

Axis Philly video tutorial


City Paper

And a big thanks to Indyhall for hosting the launch event!

Philadelphia Budget Data Visualized

For the past few months I’ve been working with Brett Mandel on creating a data visualization of Philadelphia’s General budget. We used a treepmap from D3 to show expenditures categorized by department, but lets you drill down to al 217,450 expenditures.


Treemap of the Philadelphia General Budget
Treemap of the Philadelphia General Budget


We’re launching it today, so check it out and see what you can find. If you see anything interesting or find any errors, email me.

Historical Election: From Obama to Prop 8

I didn’t believe Obama had a chance to win until he won the Iowa primary on January 4, 2008, but an African American candidate winning in one of the whitest states in the country (91% white, 2.5% black) changed the political landscape forever. From that point on, Democratic voters decided to test their country and put forth the best candidate for the job… and not just the best one they thought could beat the Republicans. And on November 4th a historic candidacy became a historic election.

At the same time black America saw a historical milestone pass, gay America saw another regress. Proposition 8 in California and similar ballot initiatives in Florida and Arizona outlawed gay marriage. If there is one tradition in America worth keeping, it’s the continual expansion of civil rights to all people. I do not understand why people felt the need to explicitly deny the rights of others, especially in this day and age.

If you think being gay is a choice, you are an idiot. Just imagine if you could force yourself to marry someone against your sexual orientation.

If you think people are born gay and still deny them equal rights, you are a bigot and don’t believe in freedom.

Congrats to Obama and good luck to gay Americans everywhere. History will eventually be on your side, but as MLK said, “a right delayed is a right denied.”

31 Reasons Why Bush is a Bad President

You don’t always agree with everything your President does, but George W Bush made so many poor decisions during his presidency that I consider him the worst President in my lifetime (I was born in 1978, but can only remember back to Reagan).? I didn’t start out with a negative disposition toward him at all.? In fact, I voted for him in 2000.? That’s difficult for me to admit now, but in 2000 I actually thought Gore and Bush were politically similar.? Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative,” which is not so different from my facebook’s political label, “liberal capitalist.”? I thought then, and still do, that his Dad was a decent President who didn’t get re-elected because of a triple whammy of a bad economy, a tough opponent, and a Ross Perot.

A President doesn’t have to be the smartest man alive.? That’s what he has advisers for.? It’s clear that George W Bush’s biggest problem is that he’s not even bright enough to evaluate the advice he’s getting.? This caused him to make many mistakes over the last eight years, which I’ve listed below.? The President doesn’t have an effect on everything, so I tried to be fair and only include things where he has a direct or in-direct influence.? So here are 31 Reasons why Bush is a Bad President (I’ve tried to source everything as best as possible).

  1. Took more vacation time than any other President
  2. Invaded Iraq to get rid of WMDs which didn’t exist
  3. Implemented protectionist steel tariffs
  4. Outed a CIA agent for political purposes
  5. Fired prosecutors who refused to abuse their positions for political purposes
  6. Disregarded FISA laws and wiretappd Americans without warrants
  7. Never caught Osama Bin Laden
  8. Failed to plan for Iraq occupation after Saddam’s government fell and the subsequent occupation has killed 150,000 Iraqi civilians.
  9. Created a vague “enemy combatant” status in order to indefinitely hold foreigners and even US citizens without trying or charging them with a crime.
  10. Used torture to interrogate prisoners despite evidence that says information acquired through unreliable
  11. Prematurely said the mission in Iraq had been accomplished.
  12. Approved budgets that outspent our tax revenue by hundreds of billions of dollars.
  13. Poor leadership on response to Hurrican Katrina
  14. Little or no policy changes on our changing climate
  15. Didn’t veto a single bill for six years and when he finally did it was to shoot down the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.
  16. Passed the Military Commissions Act, which removes the right to Habeus Corpus, one of the most fundamental safe guards against tyrannical governments.
  17. Pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty
  18. Issues illegal “signing statements” when passing bills, saying which portions of the bill he will or won’t enforce.? This essentially allows him to rewrite legislation.
  19. Pushed for elections in Palestine that lead to a Hamas victory, and then tried to overthrow them.
  20. Allowed Don Rumsfeld to outsource much of the Iraq war to security contractors which are not subject to Iraqi or American military laws or standards.
  21. Tried to appoint his personal attorney, Harriet Myers, to the supreme court.
  22. Dangerous diplomatic philosophy that discourages peaceful negotiations with certain nations.
  23. Appointed John Bolton, a man who said “there is no such thing as the United Nations“, as the UN Ambassador.
  24. Consistent intellectual disinterest in his job.
  25. Failed to act on warning signs of the September, 11th attacks.
  26. Was dishonest with the American people about his National Guard service.
  27. Lied about giving up golf in a time of war.
  28. Dissolving the Iraqi army right after the war, putting thousands of trained soldiers into the insurgency.
  29. Believing Paul Wolfowitz that the war and subsequent reconstruction would pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenue.
  30. His policies contributed to a quadrupling of the price of oil.
  31. Lied to the American people that Saddam Hussein was working with Al-Qaeda

To be fair, I’ll also list all the things I think he’s done right:

  1. Negotiated a deal with North Korea to end their nuclear program
  2. Negotiated a deal with Libya to end their WMD program

So far he’s 2-31.

Super Tuesday! NJ Primary Voting Rules

So, you want to vote in tomorrow’s primary election? Here is how (source):

1. Are you registered to vote?
Yes: Good.
No: You can’t vote in tomorrow’s primary, but use this as a good reminder and register!

2. Have you voted in a primary before?
Yes: You can vote for your declared party. If you want to switch parties you can, but not before this election.
No: You can vote for whichever party you want, but you will have to declare your party at the polling station.

3. How do I change my party?
You have to file to change your party 50 days before the date of the primary.

Letter to Rob Andrews

The other day I wrote a letter to House Representative Rob Andrews concerning the Berman Bill just introduced into Congress. The Bill would allow copyright holders like the RIAA and MPAA to disrupt illegal peer to peer file traders using technological means. They wouldn’t be able to delete any files or use viruses, but they may be able to use Denial of Service attacks on individuals without any guidelines for how much evidence is actually needed. Also, the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution would ensure this law applied to all copyright holders. This means I could theoretically shut down your Internet connection if I suspected you were trading my files (I won’t). Read on for the text of the letter.Dear Representative Andrews,

I recently learned of a Bill introduced by Representative Howard Berman from California that would allow copyright holders to use technological means to discourage or prevent individuals from breaking copyright laws. The bill limits the liability of the copyright holder in doing things that would otherwise be illegal, and although methods like deleting files and using viruses would be forbidden under the Bill copyright holders would be allowed to use what is called a “Denial of Service” (DOS) attack.

A DOS attack is one of the following:

1. An attempt to “flood” a network, thereby preventing legitimate network traffic
2. An attempt to disrupt connections between two machines, thereby preventing access to a service
3. An attempt to prevent a particular individual from accessing a service
4. An attempt to disrupt service to a specific system or person

All of these disruptions are illegal under current US laws. The problem with deputizing copyright holders like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is that performing DOS attacks does not just hurt the individual copyright law breaker. It also harms the individual’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) and all of the ISP’s customers by clogging up network bandwidth with “noise” in an attempt to disrupt copyright violations. Bandwidth is not free for ISP’s and eventually this cost is recovered at the expense of home users. The Bill contains a clause preventing copyright holders from causing “economic loss to any person other than affected file traders,” but I suggest you talk to an Internet Service Provider about the cost a DOS attack will have.

Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution the Bill would also apply to any copyright holder, and not just the MPAA and the RIAA. The Bill would allow any individual to carry out their own DOS attack on copyright law breakers. Strangely, the Bill does not even include guidelines for what level of evidence is needed when preventing copyright infringement. This would allow individuals and organizations to carry out attacks with minimal suspicion.

Even though I am a copyright holder myself I strongly urge you to oppose this Bill, because it does not do enough to protect legal data transactions and ISP’s from the collateral damage of DOS attacks.

Ben Garvey
Oaklyn, NJ

Here are some links to more information:

Text of the Berman Bill:

Information About Denial of Service Attacks: