Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Thursday, April 29, 2004
 
McSweeney's Delivers Again

Create your own Thomas Friedman Column. Too bad it isn't interactive. Via Sree.
 
 
Jack Shafer is giving his Hearst Media Fellowship talk and Jen Chung of Gothamist is here!
 
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
 
Remember the wounded.

Required reading for every American citizen, in my humble opinion: MSNBC/Washingtonpost.com's Karl Vick reports about More troops suffering severe head wounds:

"The remaining 40 percent to 50 percent of patients include those whom the surgeons send to Europe, and on to the United States, with no prospect of regaining consciousness. The practice, subject to review after gathering feedback from families, assumes that loved ones will find value in holding the soldier's hand before confronting the decision to remove life support."
 
 
Wha. . . .?!

United States President rubs a man's head after speaking at the American Association of Community Colleges annual convention in Minneapolis. (Reuters) (From Wonkette.)

I am speechless. I am without speech. No speech have I.
 
Monday, April 26, 2004
 
"Fraudulent Scheme to Deceive Voters."

An interesting recent FEC press release regarding my home district: Charles Ball for Congress, running against Ellen Tauscher in 1998, and its campaign manager Adrian Plesha are said to have engaged in "fraudulent misrepresentation of their opponent's party." Don't have time to look for local news articles on the subject.
 
 
Phylogenetics and Manuscripts

A demonstration of the use of phylogenetic trees (the mathematical methods for mapping out histories of descent) on text instead of genomes: phylogenetic trees of the varying manuscripts of the Canterbury tales, courtesy of Ruchira's Mathematics of Phylogenetic Trees Seminar homepage.
 
 
Every now and then, you just have to smile.

I wish I had listened to Nick and started reading Matthew Yglesias's Blog sooner. (Or MattY Matt Matt, as he calls him.) It's all very serious and policy heavy, but these lines, in an appeal for donations to various Democratic campaign funds, made me laugh out loud:

"One should also note that, McCain-Feingold aside, the amount of money a rich and generous person could spend trying to halt Bushism this year is nearly unlimited. Besides the Kerry campaign and its "Compliance Fund" you've got your DNC, your DSCC, your DCCC, several dozen competitive House and Senate races, state party organizations in the presidential swing states and the big Senate states, and, if you're seriously loaded, the soft money raising 527s. So, yeah, you're money's not going to do you much good if the whole country is ruined, so do what you can."
 
Sunday, April 25, 2004
 
Underidentified Expert Opinion: Academia, Nuclear Power, & Genomics

Absolutely fascinating Washington Post Op-Ed via Kevin Drum about how local op-eds with academic bylines are apparently often ghostwritten by PR firms, who unfortunately (or fortunately, for the sake of detection) recycle the same pieces over and over again. William Adler, the author of the piece, is a writer and close observer of the nuclear power industry and recognized the language in an op-ed by a local professor of nuclear engineering, about the skimming of nuclear-power fees from their intended destination (the Yucca Mountain project) to the U.S. Treasury. Adler found that the piece of writing had been quite efficiently recycled through the years, and chased its roots down to another scientist, a researcher at Oakridge National labs, who also happened to be a consultant to a nuclear industry PR firm.

The issues this raises are many fold. In Drum's comment section "asdf" writes, "Are there any enterprising young programmers out there who want to write astroturf detection software?" Adler himself uses the metaphor of literary DNA, which immediately brought to my mind the work of my friends Nick Bray and Lior Pachter, who specialize in hunting for genes in the Genome databases by comparing the large sequences of multiple species and analyzing the similarities. In fact, Lior and some of his colleagues have been able to posit hypothetical family trees, or histories of descent from common ancestors, for modern species by mathematically comparing many of their genomes at once---a method they've used to find genes hidden from other methods, which I wrote about for the Berkeley Science Review last fall. (PDF here.) I don't know enough about the computational parameters, but it would be fascinating if someone could use a similar kind of alignment technology to find all the descendants of a PR release and perhaps even map out each one's "mutation history." A possible collaboration between the Math department and the Departments of Mass. Comm., Sociology, Rhetoric or School of Journalism?

It would also be incredibly useful in catching these guys and figuring out which scholars are PR stooges and which are genuinely opinionated. There's nothing innately wrong with academics and scholars working with industry, consulting, etc.--staying isolated in the ivory tower isn't necessarily helpful. But these ties should be disclosed. Having disclosed their ties to industry, faculty can they lay out their case for why and how they aren't necessarily influenced by the people paying them to consult---after all, if they're paid consultants, it could be the corporation that's getting ideas from them, not the other way around. But by hiding these ties, the scholars look guilty. The first step to understanding when scholars are and are not influenced by corporate connections is being honest about these connections and opening up the conversation.

This is important because it's not good enough to just throw our hands up in the air and decry the use of experts. Several of the commentators in Drum's blog mentioned the book Trust Us, We're Experts with the cynical tone of people to whom this is old hat. Being cynically well-informed is not good enough, however. The public arena of discussion is vital to an open society and a healthy republic, and if scholars are misleading the public within that arena--especially scholars who are employees of public institutions---they need to be called on it, and the arena needs to be made aware of the problem. If it's not that much of a problem, or not really a problem at all, that needs to be confirmed and explained so that people keep paying attention to the public arena.

I wonder how many of these experts-for-hire have testified before Congress? Google Uncle Sam hasn't yielded any instance of the three experts cited in Adler's artilce testifying for congress, but that does not discount the possibility in general. My friend Colin McCormick (incidentally the editor of abovementioned issue of BSR) is now an overworked science fellow with Congressman Ed Markey, trying to fulfill a highly underreported and underappreciated Constitutional mandate of Congress---congressional oversight of the executive branch--in precisely this subject (along with many others) of nuclear safety and nuclear power. Should Colin have to do the extra legwork required to find out that testimony he's evaluating for his boss was written by someone in cahoots with PR firms for the very industries his boss needs to vote on regulations for? Maybe it's not a problem, but we ought to find out.

We ought to find out even if it isn't an issue precisely so that we can put the issue to rest. Cynicism in the public arena ruins the efficiency of the marketplace of ideas, and using the ends to justify the means will often backfire against even the best of causes---ask Brutus, that most honorable of men. As Ray Radlein writes in Drum's comments section, "You know what really pisses me off about this? I suspect that I would agree with most of the points raised in those letters. I hate it when "my side" of an issue pulls a crappy stunt like this." Causing a shift in policy that's not based on real policy concerns but on public distastes and shudders should not be the aim of good journalism.
 
Saturday, April 24, 2004
 
Fascinating new blog by an American criminal defense lawyer staying in Afghanistan to mentor criminal defense lawyers building up the new Afghani legal system.
 
 
This note from Radley Balko New
York Times correction
regarding Pete Coors made me laugh until my stomach hurt. Convolutedly via Brad DeLong.
 
 
Some notes from a reader on the U.S. treasury

R. Davis, who commented on my note about the Treasury Department's remarkable synergy with the RNC, has more examples at his website and a nice cache of information about the U.S. Federal Budget.
 
 
Blogmatcher and Career changing.

BlogMatcher, which looks suspiciously like Google (the author, Ryo Chijiiwa, writes, "Okay, the truth is, I dream of working for Google, and I wanted to work on my data mining skillz," in the Why? section of the FAQ) is rather nice--you stick in a blog that you like (say, mine) and it gives you a list of similar blogs based on the links. It's written by a college student, so I think it hasn't had adaquate resources to crawl and index as it ought, but the idea is cool and it's already supplied me with an immense list of blogs to check . . .some time near the end of May.

More notably than finding a new little webtool, however, I was struck by Chijiiwa's "My Life (or lack there of)" page. It's really quite fascinating. Born in Cerritos, CA and raised around the world because of an oft-transferred father, Chijiiwa says he was sent back to Japan to attend cram school, scraped his way into Keio law school, and was promptly utterly miserable there:

"Thrown in was a horrible living condition (no hot water, worms in kitchen, 40 minute commute time, smack in the middle of one of the world's most cramped and crowded cities) and what resulted was one very unhappy Ryo.
As unpleasant as it was, it wasn't a completely negative experience for me either. On the plus side, I lost 60lb of weight, had a great cultural lesson, I learned (eventually) that true happiness can only result from misery, and had the wonderful chance to find out where I didn't want to be, which is, in all seriousness, a start towards figuring out where you do want to be.
"

A summary of the kind of fairly cliche and standard "follow your bliss" and "no experience is a bad experience" dicta that abound and which are easy to toss off. But the tale he tells concretely proves the possibilities---from a miserable law student in Japan, to a community college in southern California, to a state collge in Northern California, Chijiiwa is now a programming whiz and student at the University of Chicago and well on his way to getting himself one prestigious if unconventional college degree. His story should be an inspiration to career changers and Renaissance folks everywhere.

 
 
Paperless world.

While cleaning my room I just had the mind-boggling realization that it's possible I haven't bought any paper this semester. In fact, I think the ream of paper sitting next to my printer is actually the same package I bought when I got to New York. I certainly can't remember the last time I bought some. I only plugged in my printer and installed the drivers on my "new" computer (barely newer than this blog) so that I could print out the required three copies of my master's project. It's not that I print a whole lot at school either. Last semester i must have gone through several reams of Journalism school paper, but while printing out some Lexis-Nexis searches last week I realized it was the first time I'd had to use the printer in weeks if not months. I'm still using the mega-pack of steno pads I bought near City hall last year, and I increasingly take notes on my laptop.
Why is there so much paper in my room then?! Well, I get an awful lot of hand outs from class, I buy and pick up an awful lot of newspapers and magazines, and I collect flyers and scraps and cards like crazy. But it's still significantly less than it was last semester. In fact, much of the debris in here is actually still the huge pile from last semester that I never adaquately dealt with. I no longer subscribe to the Sunday Times, sometimes browsing my roommate's copy while I eat, but rarely actually reading it in hardcopy. I no longer subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, reading it online. My already bad handwriting has gotten worse from lack of formal use. I take notes, plot out ideas, even draw things on my non-tablet laptop. I got tired of losing notebooks and digging for notes, so I started taking them on m laptop whenever I possibly could.
I think the biggest key to my not printing things out all the time was the simple fact that it's incredibly inconvenient to the arrangement of my room to have the printer be plugged in all the time. Like having a static-plagued or nonexistent TV, simply unplugging the thing made me stop using it. So perhaps the proliferation of cheap and easy printers is the biggest obstacle to achieving a paperless world. On the other hand, my wrists probably wouldn't mind the death of a few more trees.
 
 
For all my friends against SUVs. "You need one hand for the camera and one hand to flip the bird at the Hummer."--Courtesy of The Bellman.
 
Friday, April 23, 2004
 
"He jests at scars that never felt a wound."

--Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet. Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

"Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale." (Juliet.)
 
Thursday, April 22, 2004
 
Absolutely fantastic article in Salon about digital photography, hoaxes, and journalism.

Journalists, geeks, policy wonks, photographers, philosophers---there is something here for all of you. "A picture is no longer worth a thousand words." Farhad Manjoo hits a home run. For the geeks especially, I highlight the second half of the second page, and its mention of the work of Dartmouth computer scientist Hany Farid. Really fascinating.

It saddens me to note this in the same posting, but Tami Silicio, the woman who made the beautiful photo of the caskets from Iraq being carefully secured for transport home, has been fired. Link thanks to Andrew.

And for the geeks---it may be possible to lower or get yourself an Erdos number . . .. link thanks to Colin. If only I wasn't so broke.
 
 
Religion and Politics.

An interesting new blog, Jesus Politics on a topic that has fascinated me for years and years. (Also found via Matt Y.) The author writes, "My interest in Jesus goes back to when I was born on the "mission field" of Brazil where my parents were Southern Baptist missionaries. My interest in politics has been recently revived given the current state of political affairs. My interest in Jesus Politics is born out of my puzzlement of how so many Christians seem to be supporting the current government."

As a pretty religious non-Christian liberal who passionately believes in a secular state and has many liberal Christian and Atheist friends, I think a lot about the Venn diagram intersection of being religious, being liberal, and being conservative. They are all on continua and can be independant variables. (Continuums sounds so ugly.) I do think that the role of liberal religion in general and progressive religion in particular has been downplayed both by the vociferous left and by the right. This is both a detriment to the American political landscape and the American religious landscape. I have a lot written about this sitting on my harddrive, but I will wait until graduation to refine it and post it, I think. I do want to say that my thinking on this actually applies to all religions, and that I do think that in the kind of coastal, highly educated circles that I usually move in liberal Christians do seem increasingly alienated and isolated into hiding one or the other aspect of their identity.

Also, I am not making a blanket condemnation of religious humor. I'd say I have even less scruples about it than Kevin Drum, who writes,
"I too find this puzzling. I'm about as nonreligious as you can get, but even I understand the basics of in-group comedy: only blacks get to make fun of blacks, only Jews get to make fun of Jews, and only religious folks get to mock religion. That's both common sense and common courtesy."
Well, I'd say I hold to an extremely loose and unrigorous version of this rule. Only the people in the group are allowed to make really intense fun of themselves--and the rest of us are certainly allowed to laugh. (Before my fellow First-Amendment zealots jump down my throat I mean allowed in the sense of "allowed in pleasant company" not "allowed not to get arrested.") I've been deriving a great amount of pleasure from IslamicNews ("News You Can Lose") lately, and my Muslim friends seem to be able to enjot it even more. If I could make a really good version for my subset of Hinduism I would, but I'm afraid only my sister would get the jokes. There is no contradiction between humor and religion, and a great sign of the religiously celebrated quality of humility is the ability to make fun of oneself. But to automatically cry "oh, get a sense of humor," when someone points out disrespect, snark, or nastiness is disingenuous and fundamentally unkind. I may not always know disrespect when I see it, but I do believe it's real and deserving of criticism.
 
 
Got this New York Times Op Ed piece from Matt Yglesias, and I think he's right in evaluating it. Incredibly correct.

I also want to say that I think we don't really adaquately reward the Kingdom of Jordan for being relatively open and relatively un-fundamentalist, nor for integrating a large number of Palestinian refugees, unlike every other Arab country that complains about the mistreatment of the Palestinians. That they don't want to integrate any more Palestinians seems to be practically based on the lack of water. My admittedly uneducated guess has been for many years that if any Arab kingdom has a real shot at promoting progressive Islam and developing into an open society, it's Jordan. That our relationship always seems to pivot around their attitude towards Iraq is probably quite unfortunate; if it pivoted more around their aid to the Palestinians, I think that America's general perception in the Arab world would probably be much better.
 
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
 
Doonesbury

Well, I guess I don't have to deal with death on Doonesbury yet. And Trudeau makes a very good point by scaring me like that. It's not just the deaths in Iraq that matter. It's also the casualties--and I'm not going to stop referring to injuries serious enough to merit a removal as casulaties just because the administration wants me to. (See Atrios.)
 
 
Remarkable Synergy

Go to this tax-payer funded government site and read the bottom bit of text. Then go to this RNC website and read the second to last paragraph. Look familiar?

"America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the President's polices are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation."-- The US Department of Treasury AND the Republican National Committee. Your tax dollars and Republican campaign funds working together to get George Bush another term in office. Courtesy of Boing Boing via Talking Points Memo's Joshua Micah Marshall.
 
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
 
More rumblings about a draft
 
 
Pay attention folks. Diebold was aware of shortcomings early from the bay area Tri-Valley Herald. Watch out for that voting software.

I don't know what's wrong with optical ballots, myself. Punch cards are obviously problematic. If good old fill-in-the-oval is good enough to decide the future of children, it should be good enough to decide the future of nations.
 
 
A nice little piece from the Onion a.v. club about today's newspaper comics. Wish it was more comprehensive.
 
 
The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball . . .

Watch Asad Aboobaker sing and play guitar. (Open a WMV file. Right click to download. Requires Windows Media Player.) Video by yours truly.
 
Monday, April 19, 2004
 
Oh. Speaking of our dying soldiers . . .words escape me regarding this regarding this beautiful, terrible photo by Tami Silicio from the Seattle Times. Found on Atrios.
 
 
Sigh. It seems callous to be horrified at a tragedy in comic strip land when our real men and boys are dying daily in the field . . .but I'm not sure I can deal with Doonesbury death now . . .
 
 
From Salon's The Fix:

No, the most interesting Rice tidbit today may be that, at a recent dinner party hosted by N.Y. Times DC bureau chief Philip Taubman and his Times reporter wife, Felicity Barringer, and attended by other Times luminaries, the national security adviser was overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb--” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” Told of the slip, Rice’s spokesman laughed before offering his "No comment.” (New York magazine) "

O-kay.
Hosting dinner parties with National Security Advisers in attendance . . .don't know how I feel about that. I definitely did not fall into the "journalists should not have friends" camp during our ethics discussions last fall.
 
 
A heart breaking letter sent to Talking Points Memo's Joshua Micah Marshall from his friend in Iraq. The four abducted Italian bodyguards, including Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was executed last week, worked for Marshall's friend. The closing:

So for now I am too grief stricken to assess whether this was worth the adventure that is Fallujah but all I ask is ... how can we assault a city of 300,000 and not have the largest east-west highway secure for logistics and commerce by Military Police?? Allah only knows how many people were killed by ignoring a basic military principle ... secure your lines of communications and supply!


 
Sunday, April 18, 2004
 
Well, I'm home. You'll be able to read more about where I was all evening in a few weeks. But in the mean time, let me say that I've just discovered whole genres of amazing music. I will indeed miss New York when I leave.
 
 
I read the news today, oh boy . . .

I went to Princeton last night, to see my friend Asad sing in the 16th annual physics department recital. Video coming soon. He sang a Beatles Song, a Bob Dylan song, and a Paul Simon song. Afterwards I went to a Karaoke party in a lovely house in the woods, whose charming owner's charming dog (a nice big golden all American mutt named Denali) gave me some much needed pet-time.

Much is happening today, but you will read about it later, like in three or four weeks. In the meantime, I leave you with this observation from Slate's Today's papers:

"Israel has killed three Hamas leaders in the last year; the terrorist group announced that the man replacing Rantisi will remain anonymous."

Odd that that they didn't think to do that before . . .Also, if you get a chance, watch 60 minutes tonight: Mike Wallace interviews Bob Woodward, one of the few reporters to get real facetime with the President.
 
Saturday, April 17, 2004
 
The real and respected O'Reilly: The Fuss About Gmail and Privacy: Nine Reasons Why It's Bogus [Apr. 16, 2004]. (For all you nongeeky Journalist types who are still slackjawed with horror that I'm quoting O'Reilly---Tim O'Reilly is the king of computing books, not the blustering, rude Fox guy.) Courtesy of Robert Stribley.
 
 
An article by Douglas Brinkley on those who would seek to discredit John Kerry's war wounds.
 
Friday, April 16, 2004
 
Oh. It's spring!

I just went out to get some juice (gotta keep that Vitamin C pumping) and pick my graduation gown. And it suddenly washed over me--this delightful realization that somehow, someway, this crazy huge city has managed to crawl its way to spring. Broadway is lined up and down with flowering trees, and the islands between the north and south lanes are carpetted with daffodils. I saw a student walking down the sidewalk, barefoot. Behind me on the crosswalk, a little boy being tugged home too soon protested petulantly and sensibly, "But Mom! Central park is bigger than our backyard! Way bigger!" The air is warm and still enough that I didn't even need a sweater, and the sidewalks were already lined with carousers. In the alleyspace between my building and the one behind some of the spindly trees are covered in a fine net of new green leaves. For the first time in months my windows are wide and happily open, and I can hear that somewhere on this block an enthusiastic pianist has also opened a window; neighborly, we share both oxygen and music.

Mr. Gaiman has a complete and perfect spring.
 
 
Bathsheba Grossman's geometric sculpting--another one for the mathematical artists and artistic mathematicians, and also for the rest of us in betewen.
 
 
Some news from Iraq

Way to go, USA, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, reported by the AP for CNN.com:

"Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.

The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the U.N. Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.

The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.

The United States has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2003 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

No such weapons have been found, and arms control officials now worry the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.
"

The second to last sentence I quoted is badly written, since it could imply that United States cut off information sharing with the IAEA "on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction," when in fact it means that the United states invaded on that premise. But it does not explain why we have cut off information sharing, nor what the official DoD response is to this aggregious threat. I'm hoping that this is just the first run article, coming out in response to the UN IAEA press release, and that soon all will be explained. But I'm not too hopeful. The press, the public and Congress need to keep putting extreme pressure on the administration to deal with this problem--it's absolutely vital to our national security.



1st: Sgt. Dwayne Farr: Kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing African-American Marine in Fallujah. What a crazy, charming, terrible world we live in.
 
Thursday, April 15, 2004
 
Hungry Children in the Wealthiest Nation on Earth

A friend showed me this story on CNN.com by Heather Hollingsworth of the Associated Press: Kids taking food home from school:

For poor students who eat most of their meals at school through government-subsidized breakfast and lunch programs, weekends and holidays can mean going hungry.
So the St. Joseph School District, with the help of the local arm of America's Second Harvest, has started sending home backpacks filled with canned fruit, cereal bars and other single-serving foods. Similar programs serving thousands of children have started in more than a dozen other cities in the last few years.


America's Second Harvest and the St. Joseph's food bank in particular say that every dollar donated to them helps provide $10 worth of food to the hungry.


 
 
Stolen from Scott Rosenberg

"There is Beauty in everything ...Even in Windows system noises."
(opens up a flash page, requires sound.)
 
 
Three Cheers for India.

Or: The only in India department.

Make banana juice, not war.
Juicy rewards as Indian nuclear boffins split bananas instead of atoms
 
 
Busy Busy Busy

More so than usual, which is saying a lot. Tuesday afternoon was pretty full, starting with a meeting about the final project of nyc24.org, of which I am the production editor.Then we had a reception for the delightfully informative if understandably sombre Steve Coll, managing editor of the Washington Post and author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. I wanted to pick up a book and get his signature, but considering the fact that my room is overflowing with papers and unread books that I'm going to have to pack up soon anyway, I decided to postpone the inevitable purchase. Peer-pressure from my more thrifty classmates was certainly a factor. Now I rather wish I had gotten the book.
Had to run from the reception to class where we spent the evening with Mike Wallace, the legendary 60 minutes reporter. He told us tales of scooping Jennings and Brokaw on an interview with Khomeini during the Iran hostage crisis, and cornering Barbra Streisand on her relationship with her mother. Afterwards he stayed with us to watch GWB's 3rd presidential press conference, but made no comment on the magic tie. While it's true I don't watch TV anymore, I was a devoted ABCNews fan all the way upto college, and I had never seen that effect before. It was quite mesmerizing--to quote Atrios, "I want one of those magic ties. . ." I thought, as did John Martin and Mike Wallace and most of my classmates, that the press did a good job of applying some pressure this time. I do wish I could have seen the Daily Show send up though.
I've lost my voice and am otherwise slightly under the weather, so, what with everything else, blog entries might be few and far between. Keep yourselves entertained with this charming little flash "game," courtesy of Mr. Osborne.
 
Monday, April 12, 2004
 
The Smoking Gun Memo linked below has been discussed before:

Arizona Central

The Memory Hole

(links courtesy of Nick)

Regardless, though, it deserves to be reexamined and rediscussed in light of the release of the August 6 PDB. According to the New York Times article on the White House memo that accompanied the declassification of the PDB:



In a written rebuttal twice as long as the document itself, the White House sought Saturday night to drive home a single major point: that the briefing "did not warn of the 9/11 attacks." The idea that Al Qaeda wanted to strike in the United States was already evident, senior officials argued. They also said that while the document cited fresh details to make that case, they were insufficient to prompt any action.

. . .

At a time, in the summer of 2001, when Mr. Bush and his advisers have said that the vast bulk of intelligence information pointed to the danger of a terrorist attack abroad, the Aug. 6 briefing can be read as a clear-cut warning that Osama Bin Laden had his sights set on targets within the United States and had already launched operations within America's borders. Based in part on continuing investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, the brief spelled out fresh reason for concern about Qaeda attacks, very possibly using hijacked airplanes and conceivably in New York or Washington.

Depending on which side is arguing the point in this rancorous election year, the "patterns of suspicious activity" cited in the document will be presented either as yet another sign that the pre-Sept. 11 warnings were always too vague to act on, as the White House has argued, or as new evidence that Mr. Bush and his advisers were too slow to sense the danger at hand.

In making their case, White House officials who spoke to reporters in a conference call and issued a three-page "fact sheet" sought repeatedly to minimize the significance of the document.

"None of the information relating to the `patterns of suspicious activity' was later deemed to be related to the 9/11 attacks," the document issued by the White House said. The idea that Mr. bin Laden and his supporters wanted to carry out attacks in the United States, a senior official said, "was already publicly known," while the fresh concerns outlined in the document — about surveillance of federal buildings in New York, and a telephone warning to an American Embassy in the Persian Gulf — "were being pursued aggressively by the appropriate agencies."

End quote from the NYT.


Even if hindsight tells us that the particular men whom Agent Williams was reporting on did not, in fact, having anythign to do with AQ, and even if all FBI/CIA/National Security/White House officials could have been reasonably expected to imagine was hijackings for the sake of hostages and not for the sake of weaponry, a cabinet level meeting on terrorism (advising the Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Education of the situation) and the attempt to secure cockpits would have been better than nothing. It might not have prevented 9/11 but it would have been better than nothing. Saying that there is nothing Bush could have done differently before 9/11 short of bombing Afghanistan (see the pointless posturing over at Easterblog) is essentially equivalent to saying that all of our current domestic anti-terror measures are useless. A very concrete, and relatively uncontroversial if expensive and unpopular, measure would have been to secure cockpits--or at least, start securing cockpits. Try to start securing cockpits. Think about securing cockpits. Something.

Moreover, this particular report of Agent Williams was new FBI intelligence (post 2001 inauguration), and if this is not the new FBI intelligence referred to in the memo, whoever wrote the memo should have checked with FBI officials a couple of levels down to check and see if there were any new developments before giving the President the (obviously now false) impression that there were no new developments. Where I am generously interpreting the PDB as having given said false impression.
 
 
The Smoking Gun Website: 2001 FBI Memo Warned Of Bin Laden Aviation Cadre.
 
Sunday, April 11, 2004
 
I would just like to remind everyone that Al Gore's proposed budget included more than twice the allocation for an increase in military spending as George Bush's, including more spending on wages and benefits for troops.
 
 
National Security, Character and Politics


This is a long post. I hope you'll find it useful. I think it's vitally important we all take a deep breath and prepare to think a little lengthily, a little earnestly, about where we're going. It may not be fun or amusing, but I think it's important.

Read Fred Kaplan's Slate Piece Condi Lousy, about National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice's Thursday testimony.


Read more!


Then take a look at the The New Republic, April 12 & 19, page 13: "Both Houses--Everyone failed to fight terrorism," by Martin Peretz
(Click here for a link for digital subscribers, which I am not.) If you can't get a copy, here is one interesting passage:


"One of the few high-level officials who comes off well in Clarke's book is Vice President Al Gore. Twice during the Clinton administration, Gore led attempts to enhance the security of air travel. If the salient suggestions of his two efforts--one a commission focused on airline safety and security, the other his reinventing-government initiaitve that sought to reform the relevant bureacracies (including the FAA)--had been put into effect, the United States would have been less vulnerable to Atta and his colleagues. The Gore commissions recommendations--high tech baggage screening for explosives and better training for screeners--are now mandatory. But at the time, they were undercut by airline lobbyists and Republican congressmen. Even more controversial (and potentially valuable) were the commision's recommendations for passenger screening, which, a former Gore aide involved in both studies told me, were killed by Democratic congressmen and the American Civil Liberties Union. Other ideas--for protective devices in cockpits and sky marshals--were shelved by the commission when it became clear they too would be politically impossible. (Even The New Republic doubted their value.) Some of the Gore recommendations were put into effect within a week after September 11, but not all."




Here is the now declassified August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing.

Al Gore was an extremely proactive Vice President, engaged more substantially in the work of governing than any previous Vice President in memory, if not longer. It is a fair guess that he would have appointed a National Security Adviser similarly averse to passivity. Gore was also known for drawing connections between obscure pieces of information, and seeing their importance even when it was not obvious to many other politicans--hence his work on the internet. It seems highly likely that if the PDB above had crossed his desk on August 6, he would certainly have remembered the recommendations of his own commission. A workaholic President Gore would probably not have taken a month-long vacation---and would have done his best to use this new intelligence and his status as President as leverage in implementing measures he could not push through as Vice President.





The same issue of The New Republic has an interesting piece by Franklin Foer (subscriber's link) called Teenage Wasteland, describing the means by which John Kerry managed to offend the moneyed majority at his Episcopalian boarding school, St. Pauls (which he attended because of a childless aunt's charity.):

"Kerry responded strongly to his outsider status, compensating for it by working hard and intensely craving success. . . Unfortunately for Kerry, his boarding school comrades regarded ambitions as a cardinal sin . . .Where most of his colleagues viewed admission to Harvard and Yale as a fait accompli, Kerry stressed over his collegiate future. . . .Achievement wasn't frowned upon. But you were supposed to downplay your accomplishments, to make them look effortless. . .So, instead of winning him respect, Kerry's hard work earned him the derision of his classmates. . . .How then to explain the preppy hatred for Kerry? In part, the answer has to do with the changing times. During the late '50s and early '60s, the blue bloods' grip on power was coming to an end. For a long time, St. Paul's and the other New England boarding schools were the Ivy League's main pipeline. Every year, St. Paul's sent about half its class to Harvard and Yale. By the end of the '60s with the introduction of the SAT and a new democratic spirit in the admissions offices, that era of dominace had ended. As William F. Buckley lamented in a 1968 Atlantic piece, "You will laugh, but it is true that a Mexican-American from El Paso High with identical scores on the achievement tests, and identically ardent recommendations from the head-master, has a better chance of being admitted to Yale than Jonathan Edwards the Sixteenth from St. Paul's School." With his hardworking style, Kerry represented the new meritocratic ethic, where success wouldn't depend on blood and charm but the earnest accumulation of achievements. Of course, Kerry may simply not have been very likeable. But, at least in part, Kerry was hated because he embodied the emerging reality that the old insular world could no longer be so insular.
Strangely, the decline of the New England boarding school's prestige has hardly diminished their capacity for producing politicans . . .During his campaign for Kerry's Senate seat, Weld famously jumped into the Charles River, highlighting his devil-may-care attitude toward politics. . .The media actually wants Kerry to become more patrician, not less; to discover his inner WASP, and to adopt a carefree attitude."




From James Perry's review of Douglas Brinkley's book "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War" in the April issue of Washington Monthly:

"In spite of the danger and madness of the mission, Kerry in many ways loved the experience. He was a product of an elite boarding school (St. Paul's) and an elite university (Yale). In his entire life,* he had never mingled with such a collection of working-class Americans. The men who served with him came to admire, respect, and in time, from all indications, love him. They show up with him now on the stump, and their presence animates him. They do represent a band of brothers, and that speaks volumes for his character."




And now for a dose for the kind of self-important "look-at-me-as-I-buck-conventional-wisdom" cliched commentary we are in for, in waves, courtesy of Anthony Swofford in the April Issue of Details Magazine:

"If George W. Bush Spent one political season in Alabama ditching his National Guard duty, canvassing door-to-door 11 weekends and two weeks that year rather than twiddling his thumbs at a reserve base, who cares? Democrats rightfully cried foul when the Republican hyenas wanted to know the exact location of Bill Clinton's penis on various dates tduring thelate 1990s. So why must the Democrats now attempt to skewer Bush on a similarly benign issue? Bush's National Guard duty is superficial because was stateside Guard duty. He'd already dodged Vietnam thanks to his father's influence. That the affluent of this country do not fight its wars should be news to no one.
A mentor and close friend of mine avoided Vietnam by enrolling in graduate school. I am happy that my friend di not go to Vietnam and die or suffer a horrible injury. He did more important work than running jungle patrols and sitting ambush with a Claymore in his hands. . . .
By all accounts, John Kerry was a brave and selfless soldier on the muddy and deadly rivers of Vietnam. But the important questions about his political fitness will not be answered by the injured Green Beret he pulled from the bullet-thick currents. Nor will George W. Bush's presidential aptitude be buttressed by accounts of his days spent reading aircraft-safety manuals on a base in Alabama. Both men must prove to the electorate that they are capable of leading our country during war and peace . . .
That John Kerry led combat river patrols in Vietnam while George Bush led fight songs during his tenure as a Yale cheerleader maybe interesting--the latter even downright amusing. It's also wholly unimportant."




I recall that in the 2000 Democratic convention, Tipper Gore narrated a slideshow biography of her husband's life, and when she got to the war she paused to add, pointedly, "which we opposed," before continuing. A commentator remarked that this single phrase pointed out that the Gores were the kind of people who, even as college students, thought deeply about national politics and issues of national security and developed opinions on them--and that a similar slideshow of George W. Bush's life at the time would be rather vapid.

Let me count the ways in which Details gets it wrong and Washington Monthly gets it right.
1) First of all, any proof that GWB spent his campaigning time canvassing door to door?
2) Secondly, the Guardsmen who today face years in jail for running away from a war that has killed at least 363 of them. If the allegations are true, Bush has never suffered any penalty for running away from benign flying duty.
3) This, as are most, comparisons between Bush's character crimes and Clinton's are incredibly disingenuous and idiotic. Clinton never went about enacting policy that affected other people's sex lives. (Well, he did sign the DOMA, but that more accurately affected people's domestic lives.) Bush has enacted policy that very much affects peoples live's in the military. Therefore his life in the military is a bit more relevant.
4) Yes, many people dodged the draft to go to graduate school, including Clinton. Their time is, indeed, well accounted for if you believe, as John Kerry did, that the war was a colossal mistake and waste. The time of George Bush, however, is not.
5) It is not simply a matter of saying, "Ah well, one man chose to ride out this colossal waste of life in one manner and another man chose to ride it in another." If this were any other job, and we were looking these men's resumes, we would want to know what skills and propensities and types of character they had displayed in these formative years of their lives. Even reserving judgement about the politics of Vietnam and draft-dodging, the fact is very simple. John Kerry showed himself to be competent, intelligent and brave, capable of thinking on his feet, and winning over and leading a band of men who were not totally loaded down with a prepackaged, inherited set of prejudices against him. These are all highly transferable skills. George Bush has almost nothing to show for the analagous years in his life.

Yet I am afraid we are in for more of this superficial analyses and easy dismissal of hard work and intelligence. The Washington Monthly article (and presumably Brinkley's book) is quite astonishing, painting as it does a portrait of a man younger than me thinking and reading deeply in the most adverse conditions, and writing to his parents, about philosophy, war, strategy, and international politics. For some crazy reason we as a nation seem incapable of even guessing that a lifetime of hard work and intellectual engagement might actually be useful in the man who acts as commander-in-chief, and is responsible for integrating information from sources like, say, Presidential Daily Briefings, and deciding how to act on them. Unlike the snooty St. Paul's crowd and its misguided admirers, I, for one, desperately want a man in charge who is not afraid of trying hard and working hard, and who has shown that throughout his life. I, for one, desperately want the man who reads those daily intelligence briefings not to have a devil-may-care attitude towards politics. I want the man in charge to instill in his underlings a sense of fiery earnestness and initiative. I want someone who will lead his staff by example, such that his secretaries and advisers won't need scapegoats to blame for not making recommendations. If we can't convince our fellow Americans that this it is in our dire best interests to find the man who best fits that description, and put him in charge, then I worry very much about what future disasters lie ahead.

I also feel that reason and evidence clearly show that there will be a great difference between a man who has spent his life thinking about issues of national security and working hard on them, and a man who has not. Take a look around this world today, and considering nothing else but skillsets, as if you were simply hiring a businessman or an administrator, ask yourself honestly if there is no difference between Al Gore and George Bush. Keep the answer to that question in mind if someone tries to tell you that there is no difference between John Kerry and George Bush.



* Regarding Kerry's "elite" background and the novelty of his exposure to working-class men: Even liberals generally only apply the elite label to liberals---George Bush's background is equally elite (Andover and Yale), and less meritocratic. I haven't read Douglas Brinkley's book, but it seems possible that he did not detail Kerry's pre-college years yet, because I think Perry is wrong in this assertion that Kerry had never before associated with working-class people. From Foer's article:
"While his classmates summer in Europe (or even took private jets to the Continent for long weekends), Kerry spent his breaks working as a Teamster in Somerville, Massachussetts, for the First National Stores, loading food onto trucks."
 
Friday, April 09, 2004
 
Some beautiful entries in PhotographyBlog of pictures of Tenerife:


Santa Cruz Docks

Santa Cruz Centre

Mountain Village

Northern Coastline

Northern Coastline, Part II


 
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
 
That fine, fine music

Then one fine mornin' she puts on a New York station
She don't believe what she heard at all
She started dancin' to that fine fine music
You know her life was saved by Rock 'n' Roll
Despite all the computations
You could just dance to a rock 'n ' roll station
And it was alright.
--The Velvet Underground, "Rock and Roll"

Just got back from the New York City launch of Concerts for Kerry, music fundraisers for his presidential campaign. I actually went mainly because I've missed every other post-tour NYC concert by Bishop Allen, the Brooklyn-based band I blogged about way back in October. (Seems like a lifetime ago.) I've also been looking for a chance to see the venue, the legendary Knitting Factory, which I've wanted to experience ever since I read about John Zorn's historic histrionics there.

It is a very inviting space, though the stage seemed a little crammed, especially when the orchestral pop band Silent League came on with 8 or 9 players. An unscheduled singer (Rachel?) and her two acousitic guitarists opened, followed by the pounding, ferociously tight rock band The Head Set. These guys had tension bordering on fury, and singer & guitarist Jordan Blaugrund looked, danced, and belted out their songs in perfect, barely-contained rock star character. Despite being smartly dressed in a sports coat, he reminded me of this photograph of Iggy Pop, one of my favorite black and white portraits of all time. I definitely hope to catch their next show at The Luna Lounge on May 7. I picked up their CD, Ask Her Twice, for a cool $5, and while it sounds good, I definitely think they're better live. It might also help to have real speakers--I'll have to wait until I go home to a non-computer-speakers stereo system.

They were followed by Silent League, which had an hard time setting up on the small stage, and then some initial sound problems. At first, what with the delays and their multilayered sound (they had two keyboards, two to three guitars, a trumpet player, an electronic violin, and a saxaphonist who moonlighted with some sort of electric bells), they seemed just a little tame after The Head Set. But singer/keyboardist Justin Russo was able to carry them from breathy piano ballads to enormous harmonic crescendos that surrounded one like a hurricane of music. I have a feeling that unlike The Head Set Bishop Allen, Silent League might be even better recorded than live, and hope I can catch them at the Pussycat Lounge on April 22.

And then came Bishop Allen. A lot has happened since I last saw them at the Mercury Lounge---they've completed the incredibly long Support the Thunder tour, and I've gained much more of a sensibility for small-venue rock shows, as well as spent the intervening months rocking out to their Charm School CD. So I'm not sure what the difference was, but they were simply excellent. This despite Christian Rudder having some sort of tuning problem followed by his strap breaking. If anything, the mishaps added a touch of endearing charm to their blaring charisma.

They definitely rock harder and have a really confident stage presence now---lead singer Justin Rice pranced in leaps and bounds in between guitarist Christian Rudder and bassist C.O. while behind Jack Delimitraux danced large, seated at the drums. I don't know how Rice managed not to get tangled up in the wires, and I can't think of anything to compare his dancing style to, but I'd love to see him cut completely loose in a club one day. I was standing pretty near the stage, in front of C.O., and I was absolutely struck by her carriage. She danced with her shoulders in a way that was very appealing to me as a Bharat Natyam dancer, and managed to look both casual and glamorous in a purple polo, a wide cream-colored belt, jeans and Catwoman boots. While she probably actually moved the least of the four, something about her outfit and stamping out the rhythm really made me want to dance.

And I did, along with most of the rest of the audience I could see---something that even The Headset's intense pounding couldn't elicit. It might have also been the caused by the sheer joy and mutual affection that radiated from all four musicians, and especially from Rudder. He broke out into the widest, most earnest grin with each of Rice's crescendos or the lines he shares with C.O. as if he was singing an old favorite for the first time in years. Calling him and C.O. back-up vocalists seems insulting, really. C.O., especially---every now and then she dropped a breathy little line into a song like icing onto a cake.

Even when they were singing about ghosts and black aches and break ups, their skill and enthusiasm painted grins on most everyone's faces. Something I love about Bishop Allen is their songwriting -- lyrics you can sing along with that are anything but cliche -- and I think I wasn't the only one who was singing along. (Well, I was mouthing along, since I wouldn't unnecessarily inflict my singing on innocent bystanders even while drowning in an amped up band.) Their sound check was a really amusing mini-song where Rice sang "check check check" which I hope they record sometime. They played about three or four more songs, one of which sounded like a partial homage to the wonderful Velvet Underground song Rock and Roll. I can't wait for them to record another CD, but in the mean time, I hope to catch them at The Tank on May 8. Afterwards, Rudder said some of their new T-shirts should be available on their website in about a week.
 
 
Henry Kissinger and Foreign Policy

So I saw Henry Kissinger last night. I can't blog anything specific about it because it was off the record. But it wasn't very exciting anyway. The discussion afterwards with David Westin, President of ABC News, was much more interesting and dynamic. I don't know why some public speaker type events are so juicy and others are so dry. I can't imagine that Kissinger, whatever his other faults are, lacks in the ability to conduct a dynamic meeting.

I need to learn more about foreign policy, national security, and economics though. I'm reading Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and, obviously, Christopher Hitchens' The Trial of Henry Kissinger. My reading list in this field is pretty long though. I wish there were book groups about these kinds of books the way there are book groups for novels.

I had dinner the night before last with an old friend from Athenian, and we were reminiscing on the kind of reading that our American history teachers Phil Garone and Carl Fredricksen gave us as sophomores in high school---Leon Litwack was our base text (the same book that they use at Berkeley for American history), and we were routinely assigned chunks of books like Eugene Genovese's Roll Jordan Roll or Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. It never occured to us that we wouldn't be able to do the reading because it was above our heads--we were expected to do it, so we did. Honestly, I haven't had that level of multi-pronged engagement with nitty gritty issues of modern policy, history, and economics since high school. This was partly my fault for taking mainly Classics in college (for American cultures I took religious studies, and for International studies I took an course in 19th century diplomacy), but also because the big lecture followed by intensive office hours model that worked so well for me in physics doesn't really do much for me in these kinds of fields. I need the seminar style, the thorough and careful discussion of one book at a time. Actually, I know I could have found those kinds of courses at Berkeley if I had looked hard enough, without having to go through the gatekeeper classes, but there just wasn't time in four years what with physics, Classics, and biology. I've said it before, and I'll say it again---a Berkeley education really should take 5 years.

Right now I'm so amazed at what I'm reading I feel like I could easily enjoy another year of upper division or masters level course work in international relations and public policy, but who knows, the feeling might pass.
 
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
 
"Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it." ---William Penn

From the Trial of Henry Kissinger, by Christopher Hitchens: Chapter 4, "Bangladesh: One Genocide, One Coup, and One Assasination."

----------------------
"By 1971, the word 'genocide' was all too easily understood. It surfaced in a cable of protest from the United States consulate in what was then East Pakistan--the Bengali 'wing' of the Muslim state of Pakistan, known to its restive nationalist inhabitants by the name of Bangladesh. The cable was written on 6 April 1971 and its senior signatory, the Consul General in Dacca, was named Archer Blood. But it might have become known as the Blood Telegram in any case. Also sent directly to Washington, it differed from Morgenthau's document [informing the USA in 1915 of the 'race murder' of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey] in one respect. It was not so much reporting on genocide as denouncing the complicity of the United States government in genocide. Its main section read thus:

Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pak[istan] dominated government and to lessen any deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy, ironically at a time when the USSR sent President Yahya Khan defending democracy, condemning the arrest of a leader of a democratically-elected majority party, incidentally pro-West, and calling for an end to repressive measures and bloodshed . . . .But we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the grounds that the Awami conflict, in which unfortunately the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter of a sovereign state. Private Americans have expressed disgust. We, as professional civil servants, express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected.

This was signed by twenty members of the United States diplomatic team in Bangladesh and, on its arrival at the State Department, by a further nine senior officers in the South Asia division. It was the most public and the most strongly worded demarche from State Department servants to the State Department that has ever been recorded.
. . .
On 25 March, the Pakistani army struck at the Bengali capital of Dacca. Having arrested and kidnapped Rahman, and taken him to West Pakistan, it set about massacring his supporters. The foreign press had been preemptively expelled from the city, but much of the direct evidence of what then happened was provided via radio transmitter operated by the United States consulate. Archer Blood himself supplied an account of one episode directly to the State Department and to Henry Kissinger's National Security Council. Having readied the ambush, Pakistani regular soldiers set fire to the women's dormitory at the university , and then mowed the occupants down with machine guns as they sought to escape. (The guns, along with all the other weaponry, had been furnished under United States military assistance programs.)
. . .
Within a short time, Ambassador Kenneth Keating, the ranking United States diplomat in New Delhi, had added his voice to those of the dissenters. It was a time, he told Washington, when a principled stand against the authors of this aggression and atrocity would also make the best pragmatic sense. Keating, a former senator from New York, used a very suggestive phrase in his cable of 29 March 1971, callling on the administration to Promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore this brutality' It was ' most important these actions be taken now,' he warned, 'prior to inevitable and imminent emergence of horrible truths.'
Nixon and Kissinger acted quickly. That is to say, Archer Blood was immediately recalled from his post, and Ambassador Keating was described by the President to Kissinger, with some contempt, as having been 'taken over by the Indians' In late April 1971 at the very height of the mass murder, Kissinger sent a message to General Yahya Khan, 'thanking him for his delicacy and tact.' "

----------------------------------
(end of quote from Hitchens' book.)

“Our word idiot comes from the Greek name for a man who took no share in public matters.”

 
Monday, April 05, 2004
 
Pulitzer Prizes: Anticlimactic Moment of the Year Award

I thought the absolute lack of event that was handing in my master's project could not be topped, but watching the announcement (or lack thereof) of America's premier journalism awards has succeeded by leaps and bounds. Professor Gissler didn't even read the awards out, he just told the room of reporters that they would be handed packets. The packerts are just regular blue folders with a printed sticker stuck on top; not even embossed with a Columbia seal. The official website should be updated momentarily.

In the meantime I can tell you that the New York Times won in public service for the work of Barstow and Bergman in examining "death and injury among American workers," the LA Times won in breaking news for covering the Southern California wildfires, Toledo's The Blade won for covering Vietnam War atrocities by the Tiger Force, the Wall Street Journal won in explanatory journalism for its coverage of aneurysms and in beat reporting for stories on preferential college admissions, the LA Times won in national reporting for coverage of Wal-Mart, the Washington Post won in International reporting for covering the "voices and emotions of Iraquis as their country was invaded, their leader topped and their way of life upended." There was no award made for feature writing, and Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald wond for commentary. I'll have to check out the Pulitzer prize winning novel, "The Known World, " by Edward P. Jones---never heard of it.
 
 
Something, real or dream, went bump in the night and now I can't sleep again. Appropriately I found a nicely informative and yet still complex review of Hellboy by Slate's David Edelstein:

"Good superhero movies--from the first Batman (1989) to X-Men (2000)--are like superhero comics, in that they come from a distinct emotional place: that feeling of adolescent outsiderness that drives kids to live through . . .superhero comics. They inspire so many geeks (and geeks-at-heart) because they're about turning one's freakishness into an asset, making it a source of power and connection."

I definitely want to see this movie--along with about ten others. I just hope they last on the big screen past graduation, when I'll have some time.
 
Sunday, April 04, 2004
 
An interesting Salon.com article about friendly fire, by David Morris. I don't understand how $180 Million wasn't enough to create and deploy an anti-fratricide system. In this age of encryption and GPS technology, it seems like outfitting every soldier with an encrypted GPS communicator that only the Air Force can read would be a fairly cheap and simple way of revealing their positions to our bombers and only our bombers. You could hook it up to their heart beat so that it would be useless if they were killed. People buy GPS watches for their kids. How much could this possibly cost per soldier?
 
Saturday, April 03, 2004
 
FromToday's Papers, by Michael Brus--on the increase in job growth this month:

The WP and LAT both note, far down, that the number of part-time workers increased from 4.4 million to 4.7 million. An economist quoted elsewhere in those articles, Sung Won Sohn of Wells Fargo, notices in his online report what none of the papers do: Those part-time gains account for most of the 308,000 jobs.

Gee, you'd think that would be important information to point out. The second sentence does seem obvious from the first sentence, but economic numbers are confusing enough to most people without opaque reporting.
 
 
This Thorax Cake from They're Coming To Get You, Barbara, a horror movie reviewing website by two Barbaras, manages to be both incredibly gross looking and delicious sounding at the same time. And I say this as an adamant vegetarian. I guess watching so many horror movie makes one's stomach ironclad.
 
 
ThisAP Investigative story by Allen Breed and Martha Mendoza, about how property developers are getting breaks on property taxes intended for farmers is absolutely amazing.
 
Friday, April 02, 2004
 
And we're live:NYC24: Scavenging---with particular reference to fashion.
 
 
AuroraWebcam.com - a page about the Aurora borealis - a.k.a.The Northern Lights looks really cool.
 
 
Birds are strange, and so are women . . .

Once again, I find myself wondering if it's entirely too early to be at the Journalism School, or entirely too late. The birds are chipper at chorale practice, tweeting away on window ledges behind me.
 
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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Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

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

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
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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