Strong opinions, weakly held

Month: July 2004 (page 3 of 8)

The New York Times is a liberal paper

New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent takes on the subject of the Times’ liberalism today. I think his examination is fair and thorough. Liberals are all too familiar with the justified scrutiny that Fox News is getting for its ideological bent, but something similar is going on on the right, where the New York Times is consistently decried as the voice of rampant liberalism. I think it’s better for the Times to try to define itself rather than pretending to be “fair and balanced,” which puts the paper’s defenders in a tough spot provides red meat to critics who know darn well that it isn’t.

Refactored markup

In the software world, when we improve the way something works on the inside without changing the way it looks from the outside, we call it refactoring. Markup can also be refactored to turn it from a morass of nested tables, FONT tags, and hackish markup into a clean, CSS-based design that works in any current browser, performs better, and downloads more quickly. The nice thing about all Web sites being open source from a markup perspective is that anybody can come along and refactor someone else’s Web site. For example, not long after the new, worse allmusic.com debuted, Monkey Do whipped up a new version in just a few days that fixed most of the problems people had with it. I think I’d probably refer to this phenomenon as the ultimate constructive criticism, I’ve seen Amazon.com and Yahoo given the treatment, among many other sites. Anyway, Jeffrey Zeldman has an interesting piece about what he refers to as good samaritan redesigns, and why businesses tend to react negatively to them.

Clean Slate

Wired News reports that Slate, which has been published by Microsoft from day one, is up for sale. Slate has a great stable of writers and I hope that they don’t go down the tubes if they’re bought. Jacob Weisberg, Fred Kaplan, Eric Umansky, Dahlia Lithwick, William Saletan, Timothy Noah, Robert Wright, Chris Suellentrop, Daniel Gross and many others that I’m forgetting make Slate the best online political magazine going right now. Without the Today’s Papers feature, I’m not sure I could go on.

Final(?) word on the Syrian Terrorist Orchestra

One thing that really stood out in my mind when I read Anne Jacobsen’s original story about the Syrian Terrorist Orchestra was her claim that a flight attendant told her that there were several air marshalls on the plane. If she were a normal human being and not a hysterical person siezed with irrational fear, that would have immediately set her mind at ease. If there were several air marshalls on the plane, it meant that the security folks knew there was something fishy on the flight and made sure that they had officers on the plane to keep things under control. The government can’t afford to put multiple officers on every flight, or even a single officer on most flights. If there were several such officers on the plane, it indicates that the government was suspicious of something and took extra precautions. So what’s the problem? It sounds like our security apparatus worked pretty darned well, at least in this case. Anyway, this post from Kevin Drum should be the last word, as it says that there were air marshals on the flight and that they even checked the lavatory for signs of bomb assembly during the flight. I await an interview with the musician.

The election

So, there’s a Presidential campaign going on these days, right? I haven’t been talking much about the elections, or the candidates, or Bush administration malfeasance lately mainly due to fatigue. Everybody already knows how I feel about George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, and everything else, and I just don’t feel much like talking about it any more, at least not no here, anyway. (I still talk about politics constantly with my wife and family.) I’ve also been very much into technical stuff lately, learning new things, working on my blogging software (if I feel ambitious I’ll set up a Wiki for it this weekend), and generally focusing on stuff that’s more under my control than who wins the Presidential election.

Update: As usual, The Onion knows exactly what’s going on.

More Syrian Terrorist Orchestra refutation

Apparently the big allegation in the Syrian Terrorist Orchestra article that airlines get whacked by the DOT for having more than one “young Arab male” in secondary questioning is completely untrue.

Update: The name of the band leader is now known. How nice that we’ve had the Jacobsens interviewed here there and everywhere for the past week or so, but not a peep out of the band leader, Nour Mehana. Maybe one of the talking head shows could have him as a guest and ask him about his nefarious plans.

Take that, Red Hat

One nice thing about big wigs at companies publishing their own weblogs is that you get to see them throw down on their competitors in their own words. Jonathan Schwartz collides head on with Red Hat today, and sideswipes IBM along the way. Fun!

More on the Syrian Terrorist Orchestra

Patrick Smith at Salon published a vicious debunking of the Anne Jacobsen “terror in the skies” story today that’s suitable for emailing to the credulous.

eBay and open source

Jeff McManus has a long post about how eBay’s developer relations department is reaching out to the open source community.

Second thoughts

So yesterday I blasted the first person account of a woman who encountered suspicious Arab men on a flight from Women’s Wall Street magazine with both barrels. Today I read this, from Bruce Schneier:

Read it through; it’s worth the time.

To me, this is exactly the sort of suspicious behavior that should be questioned. It’s not blindly correlating databases and profiling; it’s suspicious behavior on an airplane by a group of people. How do we build a security system where investigating this sort of thing is okay, while also protecting civil liberties?

Needless to say, when someone who you generally perceive as the voice of reason and good sense takes exactly the opposite tack on an issue as you, second thoughts are called for. The things that stood out to me from the article were the hysterical tone, the layer of conjecture that was spread over every seemingly objective observation, and the absurd conclusion. Obviously Schneier is more interested in how we include the observations of bystanders in a security system. So I’m going to assume that we just looked at the article in different ways and move on.

Update: Brock Meeks adds the following:

I thought this story was fascinating, too, when one of my sources alerted me to it. The story started to fall apart pretty quickly when I dug into it.

The woman at the core of this story fancies herself as a “creative writer” (just Google her) and indeed, it seems she got a bit creative in her narrative.

Another update: Further research seems to dismiss the idea that Anne Jacobsen (the author of the story) is the same Anne Jacobsen that Meeks is referring to.

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