links for 2009-09-15

  • There's a generations-old New Zealand story of eagles so big that they would kill and eat humans. It turns out they really did once exist, and not all that long ago.
  • The cost of pollution isn't an abstract concept like "the environment"—it's *us*. This impressive bit of investigative journalism reveals the terrible human toll of the Bush administration's willingness to functionally suspend many pollution laws. Shower water that leaves chemical burns. Children covered with sores and scabs from the lead, nickel, and arsenic in the bath water. There's been a huge increase in this sort of thing in the past decade, with states ignoring it and the EPA turning a blind eye.
  • President Obama sent in commandos for a daylight raid in Somalia, successfully killing the most wanted terrorist in the country. Bush had tried to get this guy for years, but Obama pulled it off. He skipped this Bush-era business of launching a missile from 500 miles away—it's all about boots on the ground. Bravo.
  • The Internet Archive has gathered up, from people across the nation, uninterrupted video from TV networks from the morning of September 11, 2001. It's hard to watch, but it's an important record. At some point I'll sit down and watch the whole day's coverage again, although I'm not looking forward to it.
  • Pennsylvania's budget situation is so awful that Philadelphia is shutting down their library system, effective October 3. No *libraries*? Jesus. That's one step away from Mad Max territory.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

8 replies on “links for 2009-09-15”

  1. Re the Philly story:

    Yeah, well, think about everything we’ve had to cut before getting to the libraries, Waldo. Filthadelphia has never been a more apt term (and try to convince Philly attorneys that they should come to your legal symposium and that the school should pay for it, when the state considered basically eliminating the money for the public universities, which would essentially make us private universities, in terms of finances. That was a tense financial aid application.). It’s pretty bad. I’ve only been living in Philly for about 3 years, but I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of homeless, and a downturn in the condition of the subways, the streets, the sidewalks, &c. (that being said, I bought a week’s worth of groceries at Reading Terminal Market for $8.02, all local, all organic, so, shove it, Virginia.).

  2. I should probably add that that $8.02 isn’t typical, and definitely doesn’t factor in say, bar tabs, evenings out, &c. But yeah, um, the threat of closing the libraries is seriously not a good thing. There’s a lot of university students here, for sure, and we have on campus libraries, but there’s also a lot of non-university students. (Frankly, when there are senior citizens literally crying on national TV, which yes, did happen, you should probably take that as a sign that your decision was Not A Good Thing.).

  3. Good for the American commandos. Trained well. Although the code name… “Operation Celestial Balance”.

    Celestial Balance? Really?

  4. I recently re-listened to archived audio from _Morning Edition_ from the morning of 9/11. That’s what I was listening to that morning–no TV in the house at the time. You’d think that without visuals it wouldn’t have had much impact, but listening to Bob Edwards’ voice as he tries to describe what’s happening as it’s happening…it’s definitely got an impact. In particular, there’s a moment when he’s reading from some prepared copy about what the president was doing at that moment, but he’s also watching a video feed and he sees the first tower go down, live, and he just STOPS reading, mid-sentence: for like four full seconds there is silence on the radio. Then he tries to finish the prepared copy, and then he can’t, and when he says “it appears that one of the towers has collapsed”–you just have to hear his voice. For me it really brings back the confusion and shock and sadness of that morning.

  5. Infinite Justice was already taken, Meri. (Color me skeptical about most any “top al Qaeda militant” story, coming from either admin. If they were all true, we’d be nailing the dogcatchers at this point.)


    Genevieve, Philly needs friends. And since I think it’s a smelly ()@#@hole, you’ll have to play that role.

  6. MB:

    I heart Philly, I wish it well, I wish I could stay here, but it would be in a better position to keep my friendship if a, it didn’t smell like dead people, b, SEPTA wasn’t the source of so many random scary people (actually, it’s kind of amusing, so nevermind), c, I couldn’t see Jersey from my (admittedly awesome) apartment (by which I mean remove Jersey, not remove my awesome roof-top deck) d, there wasn’t some chick outside right now going “OMG, I KNOW I look SO GREAT! I dyed it BLONDE, it’s so BLONDE! I’m like, it looks totally cute, you are so right!”, e, it didn’t have a law school that requiremed my presence within its unventilated halls on an almost daily basis, and f, it didn’t have a law journal that has required my practically constant attention since my installation as Supreme Dicta—er, Editor-in-Chief*.

    Oh, ok, fine, Philly. I’m there for you. If only for the entertainment value (any city that lets two Virginia law students have a conversation categorizing animals as “kind of bastards,” “should be terrorizing but aren’t,” and “potential aliens” should have at least one friend. Also, people from out of town are always shocked when they hear about the MOVE bombings.)

    * See what I did there? I’m getting really good at being pretentious. Amazing what 3 years will do to ya. Speaking of, I should be writing a brief.

  7. Waldo, the larger story out of Somalia isn’t just the different tactics being used today (though it’s easy to be impressed by that — a reluctance to commit ground troops to an engagement has largely defined our use of Special Forces in places like Somalia — especially Somalia — ever since Operation Gothic Serpent). What really impressed me was the shift in strategic focus that necessitated the use of shooters over cruise missile strikes or UAV-based missile strikes. The Intelligence Community has been patiently watching this guy for a while, waiting for him to get away from large population centers to minimize the risk of collateral damage. We frequently pay lip-service to collateral damage, and we definitely don’t like causing it, but we like it a lot less when our own men and women die, so frequently we will err on the side of launching a 1,000 lbs. warhead from 800 miles away to kill a stationary target who happens to be sleeping during the night in the middle of a crowded village, rather than risking precisely the sort of operation conducted earlier this week.

    In Afghanistan we frequently see that the collateral damage from our airstrikes cause our forces tactical gains at the cost of strategic losses — we kill a few militants, but we lose the goodwill of a village. Hopefully this operation signals within the larger picture a greater reluctance to use indiscriminating airstrikes near civilian populations we desperately need on our side going forward.

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