Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, September 30, 2004

When I'm done watching I'll have to rewind the tape back to the little back and forth that just happened on North Korea. It was suddenly a rather technical discussion. Bilateral negotiations vs. Hexilateral negotiations, plutonium vs. enriched uranium. If you're well-read on this subject, please get in touch with me.
Criticizing a War Plan Is Not Deameaning the Troops

"It is vital for us not to confuse the war with the warriors, ever." --John Kerry
"That's my jaaaaahb!"

Bush whines that he wakes up every morning thinking about how to make America safer, and about how the FBI Director comes in every morning to talk to him about homeland security. One wonders what he does on his record number of vacation days, and why he wasn't so enthusiastic before 9/11.
Bush Classic

"Of course we're after Saddam Hussein, I mean Bin Laden."

Bush:"The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice." What network? The one man is under house arrest. And that's it. What is he talking about??
Jim Lehrer is getting weird

He just called out to the audience, "90 seconds to air," and then in a pretty impressive falsetto, "Everybody Okay?"
Backrubbing; Jim Lehrer Gets Tough

I think the networks usually skip the backrubbing that goes on before a debate, so I've never seen it before. On one hand it's deadly boring, on the other hand its fascinating. Apparently it costs around $750,000 to sponsor such a debate. It was sponsored by a Florida Indian Tribe whose name I didn't catch. The debates are also sponsored by corporations and major nonprorits like AARP and American Airlines. Given the amount of effort and resources that have been exerted to make these debates happen, one would hope that their consumers (the American people) would pay careful attention.

Lehrer just carefully explained to the audience the rules of when he's going to talk and how they have to be very silent ("Bear very silent witness"--sounds like a crime is going to be committed, says a friend) and has appointed the first lady and Theresa Heinz Kerry as hall monitors to take names of people violating his rules. The camera swung around to the anchors getting ready in their booths, while on their own channels commericals are still going on. But the real deal is on C-SPAN. He's just rehearsed the buzzer for the audience, "Hey hear that? That's power!" and then "Tell me how much time before we go on the air please. Hello? Oh, it's not working."
Debate Video Pool Done By Fox Tonight

I just missed the C-CSPAN anchorwoman explaining the difference between C-SPAN's split screen coverage and other network's alternating camera shots. I'm not going to waste time surfing on other networks, but if FOX is providing the camera work, I wonder if all the networks have to use their cuts. I wouldn't be surprised if one could read some bias from something as simple as which candidate or audience member the camera focuses on at any given moment.

"Which is why the whole spin thing which is going to happen in this room behind me tonight is such a waste of time and effort," --Barabak on the fact that most people already know who they're voting for. So maybe it doesn't matter.
Getting Ready to Tape Debates on C-SPAN

Blink, blink. Wow. Mark Z. Barabak of the LA Times has some crazy awesome hair. It's shorter than this picture, but it still has that touched-by-the-Snow-Queen thing going.
Watch the Shrub Flip, then Flop.
(Please click on Permalink/Full Post below to read the whole thing.)

Andrew sent me this useful piece of analysis from the San Francisco Chronicle. It summarizes some of GWB's more relevant flip-flops, particularly on the not insignificant or overly complicated rationale for going to war in Iraq. If we, as a country, bought a bill of goods, this article might function as the receipt written in mutating ink. Marc Sandalow, the Chronicle's Washington Bureau Chief, nails it right here:
"Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament. And in order to disarm, it would mean regime change,'' Bush said at a news conference two weeks before he took the nation to war.
"And our mission won't change,'' Bush continued. "Our mission is precisely what I just stated.''
Six weeks later, speaking to workers at an Army tank plant in Ohio, the goal seemed to expand.
"Our mission -- besides removing the regime that threatened us, besides ending a place where the terrorists could find a friend, besides getting rid of weapons of mass destruction -- our mission has been to bring humanitarian aid and restore basic services and put this country, Iraq, on the road to self- government.''

Sandalow quotes Bush from a pre-invasion interview with Diane Sawyer
:"So what's the difference?'' Bush responded. "The possibility that he could acquire weapons, if he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.''

The fact that our commander-in-chief refuses to acknowledge the difference between having weapons and being able to acquire weapons really ought to be expounded upon more. I also thought this noted change of emphasis was interesting
:"The president no longer expounds upon deposed Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's connections with al Qaeda, rarely mentions the rape and torture rooms or the illicit weapons factories that he once warned posed a direct threat to the United States. "

When I went to the White House (well, really the Old Executive Office Building) this spring, on a Journalism School field trip--with a class dominated by well-dressed women--we got a mini press conference with a "senior administration official" who was just about our age, and whose career was deeply invested in the war. An older, wiser classmate of mine who had once done PR for a major Washington Institution noted that our speaker used the word "rape room" at every possible juncture, and suggested he was "playing to the audience." But the Abu Gharib scandal had just broken (indeed, we had just been lectured by Seymour Hersh) and it fell a little flat.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Unsurprising Bad News

Well, North Korea claims that it has built nuclear weapons. Since most countries like to deny that they have nuclear weapons, I am inclined to believe them. Let us note that this a hideously poor country. How long before some Al Qaeda cash finds its way to purchase a bomb, some excess plutonium, or an expert or two? Of course, our commander-in-chief still insists the world has become safer under his watch. Head's up from Midkiff at TheBellman.
Radiation Persuasion

Yay! One of my favorite photographers (and I know a lot of good photographers) has finally started posting to his blog. He's starting off with some of his travel pictures, in honor of the Taj Mahal. Check it out.
Monday, September 27, 2004
A Memorial's Anniversary

"It's compelling beauty makes all men
Enjoy the glory of the bloom;
But the eye should take in every view,
The brighter shades, the shades of gloom.
--Urdu Poet Ghalib

Kings and peasants alike are unmade by the loss of their beloved. . .as we gaze upon this structure of petrified grief, let us recall that "the leaves of life keep falling one by one" and gather our own close in the interim.

Happy Birthday, Taj Mahal.  Posted by Hello

Thanks to Tiffinbox for the reminder.
Friday, September 24, 2004
"Bush's Lost Year" by James Fallows
To read the full post, please click on Permalink/Fullpost

It's time to talk about James Fallows' magnum opus in the October Atlantic Monthly--a summary of how the administration squandered 2002 by preparing for Iraq instead of fighting terrorism. In the paper copy, the pullquotes are done in the flag's blue and red, a town crier shouting out a desperate reproach to the Republic. They are almost painful to read:
"Let me tell you my gut feeling," a senior figure at a military sponsored think tank told me recently. "In my view we are much, much worse off now than when we went into Iraq. That is not a partisan position. I voted for these guys."


"The shift of attention to Iraq had another destructive effect on efforts to battle al-Qaeda: the diversion of the CIA's limited supply of Arabic-speakers and middle East specialists to support the mounting demand for intelligence on Iraq."

The article is only available online to paying subscribers, but this issue is chock full of amazing stuff:a profile of New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, a summary of the search for Osama Bin Laden, an examination of the Pakistani nuclear situation, and a look at Irish odds being laid on who will be the next pope, for just a sample. It's well worth your running out to buy. I actually subscribed to the magazine partially so I could access the online version of the article. The Fallows article alone should be required reading for anyone planning on voting for President this November. I had four major thoughts after reading the article:

1) Our military is excellent at "shock and awe", and in the short term (i.e. the first few months of the Afghanistan campaign and the first few weeks of the Iraq campaign) it is deceptively easy to use such military successes as an undeserved credit towards civilian policy makers (people like, say, Wolfowitz) when considering their ideas and plans about matters that have nothing to do with this particular strength. So, in the beginning of 2002 our relative success in toppling the Taliban gave an unreasonable credence to the Administration's Iraq plans. As critical thinkers and responsible citizens we really need to examine each plan and proposal on its own merits, and not just rely on some perceived track record, especially since such things are easily misunderstood or misrepresented. Fallows opens the article by remembering his own mood of deference to "Wolfowitz's" fresh successes.

2) We the people need to take a much more active role in demanding that our leaders specifically explain their "war" plans to us, and we need to be seriously interested in examining the boring details. It might have endangered the troops to tell the American people that the 3rd Infantry was going to make a lightning-fast march towards Baghdad; it would have have endangered no one to discuss things like plans for the Coalitional Provisional Authority, how we intended to fund and administer reconstruction, and how justice would have been applied. "Declaring that it was impossible to make predictions about a war that might not occur, the Administration refused to discuss plans for the war's aftermath--or its potential cost," Fallows writes. Way back in late 2002 and early 2003, I was still slightly skeptical that a post-Watergate Administration would lie so thoroughly. I actually did believe that Iraq might have some active nuclear program which we might need to deal with eventually. My main objection to war was vague but eventually correct--what on earth was going to happen afterwards and did we really have the resources to start this fight? I remember being enormously frustrated by the war protests, however. I now wish that boring questions of administration and bugets had been seriously and precisely raised by 10,000 people marching in suits and waving policy articles. It might have had a better effect than 100,000 people dancing in tie dye and shouting conspiracy theories. There's no way to prove the outcome would have been different, but I really wish someone would try it for once.

3) This frustration with inept anti-war petitioning, this painful sense of "our-side-dropped-the-ball-too," is partially provoked by what I consider to be one of the two most damning points of the article. The Afghanistan campaign and the Afghan people might easily be considered the first victims of the war in Iraq. By neglecting them, the president has committed a profound dereliction of duty. If we had invested adaquate manpower in, and paid proper attention to, Afghanistan, our efforts would have been far more justified and fruitful. One of the biggest things lost in 2002 was the opportunity of a century to do great things in Afghanistan. We could have reversed decades of bloody desert tides. ( People really need to think and about Afghanistan more, and that's a big reason I hope you'll go out and buy this issue of the Atlantic.) I recall huge swathes of the Anti-GulfWarII movement lumping the two countries and campaigns together, smothering anti-War petitions in blanket condemnations of any military action. Lumping Afghanistan in with Iraq is falling into the Administration trap of blurring together Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. By completely ignoring realpolitik, the anti-War movement cut itself off from its most compelling allies--policy makers and security experts desperate to keep resources in Afghanistan where they belonged. Our behavior in Afghanistan has been inexcusable. Fallows writes:
"The Administration later placed great emphasis on making Iraq a showcase of Islamic progress: a society that, once freed from tyranny, would demonstrate steady advancement toward civil order, economic improvement, and, ultimately, democracy. Although Afghanistan is a far wilder, poorer country, it might have provided a better showcase, and sooner. There was no controversy about America's involvement; the rest of the world was ready to provide aid; if it wasn't going to become rich, it could become demonstrably less poor. The amount of money an dmanpower sufficient to transform Afghanistan would have been a tiny fraction of what America decided to commit in Iraq. But the opportunity was missed, and Afghanistan began a descent to its pre-Taliban warlord state."
Fallows quotes James Dobbins, the Administration's special envoy for Afghanistan, about the American unwillingness to provide peacekeeping or counternarcotics or even allow others to do so--because that would tie up resources already earmarked for Iraq.

4) Of course that brings up the second damning point about this Administration, and also somewhat excuses my friends, the hippie protestors. It probably doesn't matter what anyone would have done or said--we are ruled by an Administration hellbent on following impulsive decisions. Aided by Tom Delay and Bill Frist, Bush's WhiteHouse has proven remarkably adept at avoiding any kind of oversight. Our President's antipathy towards critical thinking is bathing a whole nation in blood and knocking the limbs off our brave soldiers like so many leaves in a storm. Fallows writes:"There is no evidence that the President and those closest to him ever talked about the "opportunity costs" and trade-offs in their decision to invade Iraq. No one has pointed to a meeting, a memo, a full set of discussions, about what America would gain and lose." Later, he notes, "the administration could in principle have matched a list of serious problems with al ist of possible solutions." His quick list of such possibilities: serious weighing of the relative urgency of Iran, North Korea and Iraq. An all out effort to Understand Al Qaeda. Fundamental econsideration of relations with Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Reinvigoration of the Mideast Peace Process. A renewed focus on energy policy. Increasing the military's manpower and the government's revenue for spending on a major war. But instead, Fallows writes, "At the top level of the Administration attention swung fast, and with little discussion, exclusively to Iraq. This sent a signal to the working levels, where daily routines increasingly gave way to preparations for war, steadily denuding the organizations that might have been thinking about other challenges."

Read the article, pass it on, remember it when you vote in November.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Nuclear Security: Comments from Colin

(To read the whole post, please click on permalink/Full Post.)
Last week I wrote about the Administration's misplaced priorities in providing the nation with nuclear security. I mentioned the MMRS (Metropolitan Medical Response System) and Rep. Markey's fight to save the program from, amazingly, cuts by the Department of Homeland Security. I knew about this vaugely because my friend Colin McCormick, a AAAS Science Congressional fellow, was one of Markey's aides on this, but I had never actually talked to him about it. Colin (or, should I say, Dr. McCormick) is about to go back to coaxing photons into cool new formations, but he feels so strongly about the issue that he sent me the following email which was too long to post in comments:

Go Rupa. You're absolutely right that flaws in our nuclear power security are one of the biggest real-world threats we face today -- far more serious than the relatively minor threat of incoming nuclear balistic missiles that we are nevertheless spending $10 billion a year to defend against. The crux of the problem is that the nuclear industry, like all industries, resists government safety regulation for the simple reason that it cuts into profits. Case in
point:last fall a computer at a nuclear power plant I will not name was infected by the Slammer worm computer virus. This generic virus took down some safety monitoring systems for many hours, and one can only wonder what a targetted terrorist virus could do to our nuke plants. Despite the obvious threat, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) which is responsible for US civilian nuclear safety, refused to modify the rules governing computer security at nuke plants. Not necessary, they argued. Too expensive, was the subtext. Sadly, the NRC has industry's interests first, and the American people's second.

The Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) was the subject of an agressive attack by the Administration, despite the fact that the program is relatively cheap ($50 million) and highly praised as the most effective Federal first responder program by firefighters across the country -- I should know, because I was Markey's staffer on this and talked to lots of them before writing the legislation that helped save it. As best we could tell, the Administration was going after MMRS for three reasons.
First, it is too decentralized for their tastes, since each city gets to decide how best to spend the dollars they get for their local preparedness. This Administration hates not being in control. Second, it was a program they didn't create; they have launched the Cities Readiness Initiative to replace it, which as far as I can tell does the same thing in a worse way -- but is a "Bush Initiative". And third, DHS is in some serious trouble with funds for the Strategic National Stockpile, the Federal stockpile of anti-terror drugs. Specifically, DHS bought a hell of a lot of a particular kind of smallpox vaccine, that is of questionable effectiveness. Embarassing questions were being asked last spring about smallpox preparation, and I and others believe the Adminsitration was looking for a ready program to raid for cash to make a rapid purchase of another smallpox vaccine for the SNS. MMRS appeared to be an easy target. Thankfully their attempts in the spring to "reprogram" FY2004 money were blocked.[Ed. Check out this pdf.]
The FY2005 funds for MMRS are in fact not yet secure.
While the House appropriations bill for Homeland Security includes all $50 million for the program, the Senate bill includes no funds. When the two bills are reconciled in conference this fall, it's likely that the program will only get about half funding, meaning that over 100 cities in the US will have their funds to prepare local first responders for terrorist attacks cut in half. Why? In the bigger picture, I think it's ultimately because DHS --under this Administration -- wants things done its way or no way.
Rather than letting cities decide how to best prepare for attacks on their local turf, DHS wants to keep control and determine things from the top. Can't trust those locals, I guess. Wish somebody would tell the locals that before November.

I accidentally deleted the original of this post while attempting to use Below the Fold. If you want to read all of this, click on "Permalink/Full Post" below.

Saturday evening saw me and some friends all decked out in sleek dresses, smart shirts, fancy suspenders, a couple of very nice hats and one truly fabulous vest. We were four or five levels of email forwarding down the food chain from a vague promise of unique San Francisco fun: some kind of performance centered around a giant Rube Goldberg style machine powered by bowling balls. The instructions directed us to be ready as extras in an Al Capone style film. Uninformed, we charged ahead. . .

You wouldn't think that San Francisco has a middle of nowhere, but it actually does, located right next to the bay and near a PG&E station. At least that's what it seemed like as we sped up and down dark and deserted roads, cheering with delight whenever our novelist-driver executed another thrilling U-Turn. Finally we found the promised landmark--a large headless papier mache horse, unfortunately too flimsy to be climbed on a dollar's dare. Nestled in a hollow at Hunters Point, right up against the bay, we found our goal--the Lifesize Mousetrap. It's an impressive structure.Bowling balls make their way through the various improbable obstacles before finally causing a giant safe to drop on a piece of "cheese."

The show itself could have used some sharpenning, and the MC droned on with an impressive but somewhat monotonous drum and accordion one-man-band for accompaniment. Being short and wanting a better view, I scampered up the hill, "behind" the Mousetrap, and promptly froze. Next time I'll probably try basking in the body heat of strangers. ( "Shivering? Why, not at all. I'm just chilling out.") The MC just kept talking and talking with routines about protesting mice (some very cute little ones came up), about a fake Houdini who hadn't paid Union dues, about rats, about Al Capone, etc. etc. There was a large burning lamp that seemed to be part of the machine but with an inexplicable role; we finally and correctly determined its sole function was to look cool. "They just got back from Burning Man. They having a Burning Man hang over and need to have fire around," one woman opined next to me in the dark. I wish their hangover had been stronger and they had employed more such flaming devices. I reminded myself about how I spent Valentine's weekend interviewing Manhattan bouncers and doormen outside their clubs, in barely double digit weather, even though I had to dress to go dancing inside. Then the cold wasn't so bad.

When they actually ran the machine they didn't make much of a noise to indicate that they would stop talking and start doing. I think one friend missed a bit, and a second said an audience countdown would have been good. "It would have been more fun to build, than it was to watch" quoth the first. Still, it was pretty thrilling to see a bowling ball slide down a gutter and be lobbed through the air, and I would have liked an encore. Ah, the joys of watching gravitational potential energy convert into kinetic energy. My own suggestion was that they paint the bowling balls some sort of brilliant phosphorescent green. Slipping down the hill in heels, without an escort, proved to be an even more persuasive lesson in the conservation of potential energy, and I almost ran right into another woman who sportingly laughed it off. I rejoined my friends, and I think the consensus was we'd like our forays into San Francisco performance art to be more mechanically intense and less verbal. But it was a worthwhile adventure, and I greatly admire the builders for making their improbable dream a reality.

I got interested in reading about these things after I interview Bill Holzapfel for one of my first articles, almost five years ago now. He reminisced to me about his graduate school extracurricular activities: building duelling robtos for Survival Research Laboratories. I'll have to visit more such shows--Laughing Squid looks like a good page to watch.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Metablogging: Blogroll and Other Notes

Another short disappearance, due to travelling and spotty internet access. Some of you might have seen that I was using what internet access I had to finally redo the blogroll and work on some design issues. Since I am basically teaching myself CSS hacking into Blogger's preset templates for now (and I am using one of the older, less elegant templates) things are going to be a little dusty around here for a while. Please let me know if you spot any aggregious errors in loading, lay out, or linking. (Saheli [at] gmail [dot] com).

There are definitely still some blogs missing from the blogroll (list of blogs to your right), but I hope you'll take a look at some of the ones I've managed to add on. Pulling a few out at random:

I hope to make notes on the blogroll a more regular occurrence.
Friday, September 17, 2004
Why Voters Should Pay Attention to The National Guard

Fabulous article by William Saletan in Slate about why Bush's weak service in the National Guard (including the uncontroversial bits, like never signing up again after starting business school at Harvard) matter deeply in this election year. "Bush's abuse of the Guard in Iraq is what makes his abuse of the Guard during Vietnam an important consideration in this election."

The fact that 40,000 National Guard troops are stationed in Iraq today exemplifies everything that is wrong with this administration. Instead of defending the homeland--as they are uniquely qualified to do, and as they signed up to do--they are mired in a poorly planned war. It's only relationship to the war on terror is to make the problem worse.

The article ends by noting that the members of the Guard receiving two speeches, one from Kerry and one from Bush, responded to Bush with applause and Kerry with silence. Saletan seems to think that this is because the Guard is hoodwinked and blindly loyal to its commander chief and former member. I don't think this is a necessary conclusion. First of all, the audience at a National Guard Association meeting is, by definition, not likely to be composed of the people stationed in Iraq. Secondly, it is more likely to be composed of officers--and people knowing their officers are watching them. Travelling to Las Vegas costs money. Most of my veteran friends have told me in the past that the officer corps tends to be most loyally Republican, while the enlisted men and women may lean Democratic but hide that from their officers. I don't know how to empirically verify that, nor do I know how that applies to the Guard, but it seems quite plausible. A person may applaud one candidate but vote for another.

Regardless of the willingness of members of the Guard to dive into any assignment, however, it is the duty of the rest of us in the Republic to make sure that their pledge of sacrifice and obedience is not used wrongly or ineffectually. We are blessed with a disciplined military that is fairly obedient to the civilian Republic it serves, and we should not let that obedience turn into a complete horror. "Go, stranger, and tell the Lacadaemonians that we lie here, obedient to their words." If our fellow citizens must die, let us try to ensure that, like the three hundred at Thermopylae, their deaths are pointed towards a worthy cause.

It's a good column. Good numbers, great quotes from the National Guard recruiting website, and an important note that at least one Guardsman is trying to do something about Bush's misuse. Please go read it. Pass it around. Remember it when you vote.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Nuclear Safety

There was a time in this country when fighting nuclear threats was a fairly nonpartisan and politically popular thing to do. One might naively have thought that this was because American people and American politicans, while sometimes deaf to minor and medium problems, could rise to the occasion when facing an issue with catastrophic implications. I am now convinced it was actually because we love to have fairly simplistic problems to deal with--one huge enemy in the USSR, and one simple policy of mutually-assured destruction that we could throw a large amounts of cash at without thinking too hard. The kind of cash and effort we threw at that problem--building NORAD, lots of bombs, and a system to track incoming missiles and respond in kind--was a quintessentially suit-and-tie way of dealing with the problem. Money and power were concentrated in a few agencies, the need for cooperation and subtle and continuous policy was minimized, the public was little educated about the process, and accountability was fairly low.

Today we face much messier nuclear threat. It is not as massive--no amount of Al Quaeda wishful thinking and clever scheming is going to acquire the capacity to physically destroy the United States. But it is also more probable--the USSR didn't actually want to destroy us, and they knew that it was all or nothing with them--there was no such thing as a little nuclear scratch. Al Quaeda and its spawn and brethren would love to get their hands on dirty bombs and attack its enemies--including us. You would think there would be no clearer clarion call or higher priority for an administration and its attendant house and congress, obsessed as they are with mentioning 9/11. You would think that a government that went to war half way around the world on the merest whiff of a bearly plausible nuclear threat would rush funding to protect its cities from smaller fry. You would be wrong.

This spring I heard a bone-chilling presentation from Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the multitude of possible sources that an organization like Al Quaeda could try and grab nuclear material from. Last week he wrote of the miniscule funding the Bush Administration has given to preventing such thefts. Inspired by this report from the Center for American Progress, on Monday Matthew Yglesias wrote this excellent column, "Isn't It Ironic?," for the American Prospect:

So nuclear terrorism is the ultimate threat, but not so ultimate that it's worth spending money on preventing, inconveniencing the Navy, or overcoming the Bush admnistration's knee-jerk prejudice against treaties. We did, however, find $200 billion to invade Iraq with, over $500 billion for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and almost $2 trillion worth of tax cuts. It's sort of like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Or meeting the arms control treaty of your dreams and then undermining it for no good reason.

If you look at the Department of Homeland Security's homepage, there are three measly links on the Emergency Preparedness & Response component page. As Fred Kaplan noted in this Slate article, the Department of Homeland Security wanted to eliminate the Metropolitan Medical Response System, which trains first responders in urban centers to deal with emergencies like a dirty bomb attack. Congress saved the program (pdf of a press release from Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA), but one wonders why Secretary Tom ridge didn't want to increase funding for such an important program.

Yet still the president chases the pipe-dream of missile defense, with what Maureen Dowd recently called "an obsession worthy of literature.". The administration would rather continue pouring money into the secretive and monolithic corporations of the defense industry than go through the trouble of carefully funding firefighters and policeman in dozens of needy cities. It would be helpful if he explained this set of priorities and values instead of extolling his own virtue for giving out hugs at memorial services.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Rishi wonders if it is only in Alabama that a University's reaction to Ivan would be to cancel all the classes but not the football game?
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
All A-glow At Night

My mother gave me this image of the Temple of Lord Jaganath in Puri (Orissa, India). It's perhaps the most amazing structure I have ever entered.  Posted by Hello
Monday, September 13, 2004

Nirali apparently means "different" in several South Asian languages, and editor Ismat Mangla recently brought my attention to this sleek new desi publication for women. I like the peaches, strawberry and chocolate design--it pays homage to our doesn't-have-to-match color sensibilities without dipping into the overused crimsons and golds. I was afraid, skimming the contents, that it would be more of the same-old, same-old, but it does seem to have been able to take "classic" South Asian American Feature topics and put a bit of a fresh-lime twist in them.

Mangla's cover story on getting South Asians into politics had fresh faces and an important new statistic:" Yet a recent report released by the IACPA indicates that only 37.75 percent of eligible Indian Americans voted in the last election." The obligatory moan-and-groan piece on a community gathering & bragfest was about a language group I'd never even heard of before. (Konkani?) The profile of Indian-American Actor made good (Kalpen Modi, better known as Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle) noted his vegetarianism and political activism. And instead of gushing over the usual Little Indias (Cerritos/Fremont/Jackson Heights), Nirali made it out to Seattle, home to one of my own desi best friends--and frequent contributor of links--Rishi Batra.

I was quite amused by the beauty section--I've certainly had my share of "primping from the pantry" familial advice. My own favorite replacement for the turmeric facepack: Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic Cream, with Sandalwood oil. It's a nice ointment for any skin that needs some TLC, not just a feminine beauty aid.

Well, I'd be even happier with a Renaissance in women's magazines, period, not just desi women's magazines, but any good website makes me happy. Check it out. (Update: And of course, Seshu Badrinath was way ahead of the curve. He's linked plenty of great stuff, as usual.)
Comic Relief

More old news, but I thought I would link them here before I lose them, and in case any of you missed them. You know all about the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But have you given adaquate time and attention to the Swift Boat Veterinarians for Truth? How about the Pleasure Boat Captains For Truth? Row Boat Veterans for Truth? And then there's the matter of allegedly forged historical documents. But why should we stop with Vietnam? Have any of you taken a look at the Constitution lately? That calligraphy is mighty proportional.
And then for stuff that should be satire, but isn't: Bush's Compassionate Conservativism seems to involve a badly misplaced heart. Maybe an OB/GYN needs to "practice some love with" him.
Been A While.

The blog is back. My absence was due to a number of conspiring factors: busy-ness, spotty internet service, the distraction of redesign, and a general malaise with the awful awful news that just kept pouring out of the screen.

Speaking of which, this probably unconciously started with the Beslan Massacre. Even though I'd rather wish she hadn't taken up lamb again, I was moved by Belle Warring's cooking blogpost reaction: You can smell their heads. Still alive. When Violet was just newborn she smelled a little like lamb, which made me somewhat disinclined to eat it. Now she just smells like milk and clean things. She's sleeping on the sofa next to me right now. Zoƫ is sleeping on a sheepskin on the living room floor. Safe. No one can get them, because the doors are locked and I'm watching them breathe.

Rational, unsentimental reactions are hard to pull off: when Matthew Yglesias tried, people jumped down his throat, and he finally closed off comments. Since its all old news now, anyway, my best contribution is to suggest you pay a visit to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent's donation page. Unfortunately, there almost certainly will be another terrorist crisis, and they will probably be there to help.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Happy 5231

Check out the moonrise, sometime around midnight. It is the 8th day of the waning fortnight of the month of Sravan. Three Cheers For The Flute Player!
Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com


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01/01/2003 - 02/01/2003 / 09/01/2003 - 10/01/2003 / 10/01/2003 - 11/01/2003 / 11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 / 12/01/2003 - 01/01/2004 / 01/01/2004 - 02/01/2004 / 02/01/2004 - 03/01/2004 / 03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004 / 04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004 / 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004 / 06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004 / 07/01/2004 - 08/01/2004 / 08/01/2004 - 09/01/2004 / 09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004 / 10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004 / 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004 / 12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005 / 01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005 / 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005 / 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005 / 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005 / 05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005 / 06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005 / 07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005 / 08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005 / 09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005 / 10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005 / 11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005 / 12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006 / 01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006 / 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006 / 03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006 / 04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006 / 05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006 / 06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006 / 07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006 / 08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006 / 09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006 / 10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006 / 05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010 / 09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014 /

Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Green Ink!
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
India Uncut
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Scott Rosenberg(
Rox Populi
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman

Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud

A Note on Comments
Haloscan is not very good at counting comments. If a comment thread is more than three months old, and you think there might be comments, please click the comments link even if it indicates zero comments. It won't display the true count properly. Thanks!

A note on permalinks
I find that a lot of people don't know about permalinks. When you want to have someone read a specific blog entry, then you should find that blog entry's permalink, click on that, and send them the resulting browser address. Otherwise they will just be sent to the blog in general, and between your reading the blog entry and your correspondent's or audience's getting to it, a whole slew of material may have pushed the entry off the front page. In this blog, the permalinks are the timestamp at the end of the entry. (Feel free to frequently send your friends and family permalinks from my blog!)

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