Thursday, December 31, 2009

On death and obscurity

I was drawn to the NY Times obituary page this morning because I just found out about the death of Kim Peek earlier in the week. He will forever be known as the pseudo-inspiration for the movie 'Rainman', but his intellectual ability absolutely dwarfed even this impressive portrayal. It is amazing to think that after decades of undoubted progress and breakthroughs in neuroscience, we have nothing short of terribly inadequate explanations for describing both the tremendous feats and tragic limitations of the human brain. With his passing, the world loses one of the most quizzical cases that will surely challenge scientists theories on the nature of memory for decades if not centuries to come. I strongly encourage you to take a few moments to read about his phenomenal life and, if you get the chance, search through the plethora of articles and documentaries that have chronicled his accomplishments and struggles.

While this initially drew me to the Times, I found myself reading more and more obituaries and as macabre as it may sound, will continue doing so in the future. I'm not in the slightest way schilling for the NY Times (from which I read articlesfairly infrequently, Paul Krugman aside), but they have a prolific obituary department that as best as I can tell is an industry anchor. As a subscriber, I had heretofore been reading the Economists lone obituary on a weekly basis, and found it to be a quite pleasurable and informative experience.

A couple of hundred words can do little justice to anyones life, but it certainly can act as a springboard into more intensive historical and cultural reading endeavors. Famed quadrapalegic singer-songwriter Vic Chestnutt, ex-Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, and burlesque pioneer/entrepreneur Alice Schiller are just a few of the fascinating characters who have passed away within the last week.

As I find it increasingly difficult to navigate the plethora of media content available and develop my daily 'must-read' blogs and new sources, I'd like to pay homage to this increasingly obscure journalistic art. Fortunately, the giants of politics, sports, business, and culture rarely go out with a proverbial 'bang' that suits mainstream news coverage, but instead do so with a whimper while surrounded by family and friends. We should recognize their incredible stories, accomplishments and contributions to the world that we live in nevertheless.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Olbermanns and Becks

I'm writing this in light of a recent observation that coincided nicely with a podcast I listened to today.

Karl Rove did much of his damage to this nation long before I cared about politics so I quite frankly don't know enough to judge his character and decisions from the bygone Bush days. I have however read several of his columns in the Wall Street Journal and while I've yet to agree with any of his opinions or find any cogency behind his arguments, I can at least say that I'd continue to read his pieces in the future with a guarded but open mind.

That's all really neither here nor there because my observation comes in light of his announced divorce (his 2nd might I add). I must say that I stand firmly behind the outrage of gay rights advocates (of whom I proudly count myself) in blasting this public figure who has stood firmly in opposition to equal rights on such standard frivolous bases such as the sanctity of marriage.

Home base, the Wall Street Journal, has no mention of this story. It's more popular brother at News Corp, FOX News mentions it in passing on its home page and links to Politico (another slightly rightward slanting outfit) that states the facts of his divorce yet fails to give mention to the discordant policies that he has promoted. Meanwhile, has the story front and center in all its hypocritical glory.

Whether the story is deserving of any real recognition is beyond me, and the NY Times and Washington Post both fail to mention it on their current home pages. Truthfully I could care a less about what he does, but I do certainly understand the outrage that many are dying to express. After all, few would argue that his controversial policy decisions are news worthy so when we see the straw foundation that these policies are built on I think it's at very least justifiable, if not earth shattering news.

The idea differential reporting (read: bias) by different news outlets is highly intriguing. Its not entirely clear that Rove is a good case in action, but the circus side show that was the 23rd congressional race in NY state was however flabbergasting. I was able to close my eyes and know which sites would report the democratic victor and which wouldn't. Weeks later it was clear which sites would report on the conservative candidate withdrawing his concession, and which ones would report on his eventual failure.

On this topic of impartiality, a podcast from Planet Money raised an interesting observation. In talking about journalism at the turn of the century, they described a system of highly partisan newspapers that were funded by politicians and political parties of the day. It seems sacrilegious to us now, but Martin Gentzkow analogized this system to current legal proceedings in this country. The prosecution gives their side of the argument and the defense in turn pleads their case. Presumably, the jury is able to see the facts and make a (hopefully) rational decision on culpability.

Unbeknownst to me, this is how journalism once was conducted. Whether or not this system produced better results in terms of informed citizenry is debatable, but at very least it is debatable. Modern journalism has become obsessed with impartiality, and it can be legitimately argued whether or not this is a reasonable goal. Everyone knows that FOX news is right wing and MSNBC is left wing, but there is a gray Grand Canyon in between. I highly advocate Slate's stance of publishing their authors political leanings down to their electoral choices. Whether or not they try to let it leak into their writing, the way authors and editors feel about the world certainly influences their publications.

The danger of giving up on the impartiality dream is that people can choose to read only one side of a story where as no jury member would be permitted to step out of the courtroom until the defense gives their statements. I'd love to see how a legitimate news agency would fare by always having two sides of the story together. I suppose Hannity and Colmes is a terribly failed case of this in action whereby political leanings can just influence the relative strengths of the opponents.

Nevertheless, there are facts which should be told, and lies which should not be. Yet through emphasis, omission, selective experts, and a variety of other means a politicized case can be made out of almost any story. I'd love to choose the winner even if it means reading more than one story. As it is, I spend time reading several articles and am constantly establishing an encyclopedia of the leanings of various authors/papers in an attempt to see which news source is more impartial than the next. It might just be easier if FOX and MSNBC combined forces, and while I'm at it I'd also like it if my cell phone could make Oreo's and iron my clothes...

Monday, December 28, 2009

On my year in television

In my latest year end wrap up, I must preface by again warning you that I'm presenting nothing earth shattering here in the least. Rather, writing these provides a nice opportunity to give you an idea of my weekly news and entertainment sources so that you might be able to better understand where some of my views in the future stem from. I say 'television' loosely given the fact that I haven't turned my television on in months. But thankfully Hulu makes that all okay and I'm able to kill some time with the latest tv programs.

Let's start with the new additions:
Community and Modern Family are both hilarious; there I said it. I urge you to give them a try. I'm not looking for deep social commentary from my television time, and as relatively pure comedyies with just the right amount of 'cutsey'ness these shows are no exception. I suppose arguments could be made about the nature of the american educational system displayed in the former, and the diverse family portrayed in the latter, but when it comes down to it I refrain from taking prime time television too seriously. The mockumentary style is surely getting a bit trite, but Modern Family pulls it off wonderfully. And who among you isn't thankful to finally get to see Chevy Chase on a weekly basis?

Oldies but Goodies:
30 Rock continues to impress on an almost weekly basis, which seems like a given these days. And although I'm reluctant to say it, I just blazed my way through Parks and Recreation and found myself enjoying it as well. Again with the mockumentaries, I know. I didn't have high hopes for this one given that the star is from the much maligned SNL, but I've heard that this season is so much better then the first and I must say that I've been pleasantly surprised with this.

They're dead to me:
Once the NBC anchor, I'm inching ever closer to cutting the cord and quitting the office for good. I maintain a dwindling interest based solely off the characters who I have spent countless hours with over the years, and I keep my fingers crossed that some new plot lines will return it to its rightful place in my heart. Yet my patience is dwindling... it's just not that funny. My dwindling interest for the office, is no match for my complete and utter disgust towards It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Again, I once loved this show but this season has continued the disturbing trend of pushing each character to their absolute extremes. The mere sound of Charlie's voice just drills into my skull, and I can't even remember the last time that an episode passed without someone vomiting. It always was a gritty take on the path blazed by Seinfeld, but what was once grit has ebbed closer and closer to the sludge that collects in stagnant pools along the Delaware River.

Let me know what shows I'm missing out on by not having a television. Or better yet, let me know about some good shows that I can watch online. I greatly appreciate any and all recommendations that don't start with a 'J' and end with an 'ersey Shore'.

**posted on Fingerprints.and.Snowflakes**

Sunday, December 27, 2009

On healthcare

Where do I even begin with this clusterfuck? I could have written several pages every week about the different aspects of this health care bill that have ever so slowly trudged their way through the house and senate, but now that this process is hopefully nearing its close I can hardly expect to hook anyone with a track record of insightful analysis.

Nevertheless, I've been unable to keep a straight face against arguments to date that the US health care system does not need some sort of overhaul so if you think you have one I'd love to hear it. I'm sure you've all heard the arguments that we as a nation spend more money per capita on health care and have far worse health outcomes than many developed countries. One of the few reasonable justifications that I've heard for this is that American ingenuity in health care technology and pharmaceuticals benefits the entire world but comes at a heavy cost. It's an often cited sink for our exorbitant health care expenditures, but I've struggled to understand the line of reasoning that requires this entire financial burden to fall on U.S. shoulders. It's entirely possible to shift some of these development costs on to citizens of other countries but this requires a change from the current way of doing things. Any type of sea change in the field will surely require some legislative kick start to reincentivize business models.

I accept that we don't want to curtail American supremacy in medical innovation, because it benefits us as much as the rest of the world. But there are still clear problems in the U.S. with respect to costs, incentives, access to and quality of care. In short, the U.S. system is fraught with frivolous lawsuits against doctors, free riders who receive treatment but don't pay, ridiculous administrative costs, perverse financial incentives for doctors to run expensive and unnecessary tests, legions of individuals who have been priced out of the insurance system, and zero transparency for patients and doctors to see the costs associated with their care much less be able to maximize their return on a cost-benefit curve.

These are serious issues that absolutely require reform, and while I have many reservations about the current bill that is under debate, I do sadly think that it is the best that we are currently able to get (I'll spare you my vitriol for the senate until a later date). Therefore its clear inadequacies and greatly reduced scope should not get in the way of legislators passing it and trying to take a deep breath before tackling these issues again and hopefully passing the serious reform which this bill clearly is not.

As a side note, I highly recommend the collection of articles from Timothy Noah and Planet Money about health care, and urge you to start with this one if you're even the least bit sympathetic to republican cries for fiscal conservatism which I admittedly am... or was.

**posted on Fingerprints.and.Snowflakes**

On my year in podcasts

Some year in recommendations are surely in order. So in my first installment: podcasts. It has been ages since I actually listened to the radio, that is, until I started my current job which affords me loads of listening time. And while I don't think I'm presenting anything ground breaking here, I really hope that if you have never listened to any podcasts or talk radio, perhaps I can convince a few of you to give one or two of these a try.

This American Life - The classic radio program that virtually defines the medium. I'd be greatly amiss to not mention this. Yet, I hope that most of you know it.

Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me! - Another NPR staple, it's the weekly news quiz that's both hilarious and informative, albeit in a highly esoteric manner. Is it an acquired taste? I hope so.

Slate's Political Gabfest, Slate's Culture Gabfest, and Hang Up and Listen (Slate's Sports Gabfest) - Finally a break from NPR, I find these gabfests with the editors of my favorite news site (Slate) to be so informative. While the political gabfest is what I personally look forward to every week, I must say that I'm extraordinarily thankful to the culture and sports gabfests for keeping me up to date on the latest stories from those realms which would otherwise fly under my radar. While I do feel a bit elitist getting my sports knowledge from Slate employees, I get over it pretty quick.

RadioLab - Just an absolutely fantastic radio program on par with This American Life. I urge you to download the old episodes as well (which are all free) and enjoy some educational *gasp* radio bliss.

Planet Money - A great economics podcast that also has an extensive blog. Or is it the other way around? Either way, they do some great work and continue to find their niche in the world of economics. They cover the entire spectrum from international finance down to quizzical economic conundrums which feels way too broad in scope sometimes, but just right at others.

While that's probably my core weekly listening, some honorable mentions are:
Talk of the Nation
To the Best of Our Knowledge
The Naked Scientists

Please let me know if you have any recommendations. I'm really struggling to find a remotely intelligent 'conservative' news program. The Wall Street Journal has been consistently disappointing over the last year so I'm trying to fill that gap.

**posted on Fingerprints.and.Snowflakes**

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On Avatar and 3D

Like many others, I was quite bored after a christmas day spent eating and loafing around the house and I decided to go see Avatar in 3D. There's been tremendous hype surrounding this film and I don't want to get too far behind on my cultural knowledge by boxing myself in with science and politics. This is my take:

I never really see movies in the theatre, it has never been a visceral experience worth paying exorbitant fees for. That being said I like movies. I like cheesy epic action films, art house dramas, judd apatow bromances and self righteous documentaries alike. Few however, are worth paying for, much less in the theatre, but I decided to make an exception last night because I wanted to experience this film it all it's glory. And I'll be damned if I'll be seen wearing 3d goggles in my own home a few months from now.

So in the over all 'spectacle' aspect, the film was whole-heartedly worth it. Plot: fill in pretty much any cheesy epic movie about 2 groups of people fighting one another(think Dances with Wolves, The Patriot, The Last Samurai, etc.). It's really no better than any of those films and in some ways a bit worse. Some lines of the film oozed with so much cheese that it truthfully made me cringe. And there were plenty of token stereotypical characters that just had absolutely no place being there. Normally never one to care in the least about political correctness, I was a bit shocked at some rather overt racial undertones. Considering the fact that the natives in the film are these enormous, blue, cat/human hybrids, it seemed a little bit odd that they would also need to be built around African-American actors. I'm struggling to think of one of the 'earthlings' that was of a non-anglo saxon ethnicity(except for the Indian, who was of course a scientist). Halfway through the film I realized that the Na'vi all seemed to look African and was quite frankly shocked to go home and see that all the main characters were indeed of African or Native American ancestry. It doesn't offend me in the least, but nevertheless seemed a bit odd and unnecessary given the obvious distinctions between the two warring clans.

The film also grossly perpetuates the rather absurd stereotype of the noble savages who are in touch with mother earth and love all creatures. This is unshockingly contrasted with the cut throat capitalist over-agressive americans. However, I never expect a big budget blockbuster to tackle issues of serious weight and hope that most other viewers give little credence to this aspect of the film as well.

Like many reviewers though, I urge you to ignore the trite plot-line and shallow characters and just see the film for the piece of art that is the world of Pandora. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, and as for the 3d... well for better or worse you soon forget that its even there. I kind of liked that though: I don't need to see constant shock factors that are supposed to impress me with the technology of 3d. Instead, I think this film did a great service to the technology by really integrating it into almost every scene but never in such a way that it seems like it was added in without purpose.

As a piece of digital art the film succeeds. It's an piece of art to experience, and a ludicrously expensive one to make, but I must say that I accept the critical arguments about this being a possible niche for the future of film. I don't want to condone spending this amount of money to make a pure entertainment based film, but it was a refreshing way make an experience in the theatre that is so different from one I would have if I waited and rented this film.

You won't get the true experience by sitting at home, and you sure won't experience it by reading a script(*cringe*). If you're going to pay to see a film in the theatre, why not make it one that was made for this medium?


So it's been quite a while since I've written anything for fun or relaxation. And it's been longer than quite a while since I've published any such content in a public forum for anyone to see. So, we'll see how it goes. Far too few people in my life seem to share my diverse set of interests, and thus my thoughts rarely leave the confines of my head. Sometimes they are eager to get out, and often times when I view my life in hindsight I'm kind of glad that they don't make it out. So this is an experiment. Below are two stream of consciousness ramblings I wrote in the past few months on some current news stories. They have little relevance now, except to serve as examples on how I write and approach an argument. Plus they make me look far more productive than I am. Thanks for reading.

An old post... On SEPTA and unions

I'm sure there are no shortage of commentators on both sides of this SEPTA/Union issue, but I'd nevertheless like to add another one to the list. Quite frankly, I'm finding myself on the side of populist rhetoric and public outrage on this one. I don't tend to side with the public on a lot of large issues, and I guess it's really because I try to break most issues down into a myriad of pieces and evaluate them all. But this SEPTA strike need not be broken down; it is preposterous. It should be ended as soon as possible by any means necessary, and any contract that doesn't prevent this from happening in the future is an outright disgrace to the city of Philadelphia and it's predominately urban inhabitants.

Many of you know that I don't even ride SEPTA and instead take great pride in cycling. So why do I care? Let me count the ways:

1)The already tragic school system of Philadelphia leans heavily on SEPTA to get their ever diminishing numbers of children to and from school. Striking is not merely a slap in the face to the present day under served communities of this city, but it's a slap in the face to this entire city's future.

2) Back in the great strike of 2005 I grumbled that the Regional Rail and LUCY services are among those that are not part of this antiquated union. The consequences of this were as I struggled to make it to Temple on a daily basis, the far wealthier University City students living in and around the area would have no problems. Likewise, while north, south, and southwest Philadelphia were virtually shut down, the only inconvenience to the, again far wealtheir on average, suburbanites was backlogged rides. In hindsight, I looked at this under the view that the regional rail and lucy unions should also be able to strike but that the ruling elite would never allow such blasphemy. Now that I've grown up a bit, I see why these integral transport systems have binding arbitration clauses and am baffled that the currently striking 234 labor union doesn't. The class dichotomy between the branches of SEPTA served by these unions is still there, and strikers are absolutely fooling themselves if they don't think that their actions have a disproportionately negative impact on the lower classes of Philadelphia. Of course, my high minded analysis assumes that the labor union and it's constituents would somehow care. Well, judging from their salaries, I can confidently say that not a single full time employee of SEPTA belongs in the 'lower class' so thinking that they might feel some sense of moral obligation to the communities they serve is wishful thinking at best.

3) I'm not going to judge employees salaries because I'm sure many of these jobs are stressful and employees probably deserve a fair amount of their compensation. That being said, I do have a good friend who works as a mechanic in the city and makes approxiamtely half of what an entry level mechanic working for SEPTA would make. I don't think that his current compensation level is 'fair' based on the talent that I know he has, but such is the efficiency of a competititve market. The fact that public sector jobs with better job security and far better benefit packages can still pay astronomically higher wages is just outrageous. The benefits are where I draw the line. 1% of their health benefits! You've got to be kidding me! This is a complaint! And the pensions, few private employees will remember what a pension is in a few years and the fact that contributing a little more to their pensions is a serious issue in this debate is preposterous. Who gets pensions anymore? And why? This is the same system that is currently bankrupting corporations such as GM as well as constantly dragging down federal and state budgets. Any pension at all should be taken as a blessing, as should cost of living related raises given the state of the economy and the Pennsylvania state budget, upon which SEPTA is a highly inefficient and costly drain.

4) Oh unions, how I hate you so. It would make my life to see Michael Nutter or Ed Rendell go Reagan(whom I despise in virtually all policy decisions except this one) all over them. These are jobs that could be competitively filled for somewhere in the range of 12-15 dollars an hour, 10% mandatory healthcare contributions, and zero pensions. If anything, I'm being far to leanient here in making that statement. This union serves no purpose, except to empower workers who should empower themselves through good service. When most people want a raise, they approach their boss and point to a record of attendance, service, and acheivements and let their merits speak for themselves. Workers without merit have no hope but to join a union. And I'm not being critical of the workers here(at least not all of them), but rather the union that holds them down and keeps them on an unnecessarily even playing field. Everyone is hurt by an unproductive employee, and the ability to sack an employee for clear violations and inadequate performance is integral to the functioning of all profitable businesses. Look no farther than the tragic new york public school system for evidence of how unions force employers into absolutely wasting public dollars (look up the rubber room if you're curious).

5) Can somebody please quantify the amount of co2 emissions that are being added to the atmosphere on account of drastic increases in single occupancy vehicles? We can just lay this bill right on the union door steps, as well as one for all of the lost hours that people have spent sitting unproductively in their cars whilst spewing noxious gases into the atmosphere. They struck in the face of these forseeable and undeniable consequences to public and environmental health for what? An extra 2% raise?

I've tried to be relatively organized in rebuking the union strike but all of these issues over lap that I see in hindsight my numbering scheme is sort of pointless. Nevertheless, the detrimental effects that this strike is having on the public school system and underserved communities are undeniable consequences of this childish game. The unions and their heinous ability to stifle free market competition is clearly the cause. I'm being careful not to defend this city, because I know that SEPTA and Phildelphia have enormous inefficinecies and that corruption accounts for a fair amount of loss that would easily cover the demands of the current strikers. Yet, while I agree that this should be cleaned up, and productivity should be raised I think that the money saved should be either returned to tax payers or pumped into desperately needed infrastructure improvements rather than already bloated salaries.

I'm running out of things to complain about so I'll bid you adieu.

An old post... On Fort Hood and the death of logic

I preface arguments a lot, and this case will be no different as I desperately try to not step on any toes. The Fort Hood incident last week was an absolute tragedy. If the generally reported facts turn out to be true, and this lone gunman murdered 13 innocent people, I trust that the justice system will find him at fault and punish accordingly. With all of these general facts, I have no qualms. But, and there is an enormous 'but', the simplistic reporting of this and other recent cases makes my rationality cringe. It appears that Maj. Hasan was under watch by authorities, at least at some point in time. This has been taken by some to be a good thing: authorities were able to intercept potentially dangerous motives and contacts with terrorist links. However, the fact of the matter is that investigators dropped the ball and concluded that Maj. Hasan was not a threat. Why they did so is certainly cause for investigation and I join the growing calls to find out the details. If it comes out that some conclusion about political correctness is the reason for dropping his case, then I will be up in arms with the rest of the county.

My suspicions, however, are that investigators are watching or have been tipped off to hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of civilians and military personnel alike under similar suspicions. Applying a post-hoc analysis that concludes that Maj. Hasan should have been arrested for his previous, perfectly legal might i add, actions simplifies the picture to an absurd degree. You're absolutely right if you think this incident could have been prevented if he had been arrested months ago for his dubious ties to radical clerics. But you're absolutely foolish and deluded if you think that applying this criteria wouldn't result in grievous constitutional and human rights violations to the thousands of innocent people who, unlike Maj. Hasan, have no intention to, and never will commit a heinous crime such as this but ended up on the same watch lists for various reasons.

I hope that most of the country is in agreement that suspicion of future acts isn't enough to arrest someone. Perhaps his previous actions weren't enough to get him arrested, then what reasonable step do authorities take in such a case? My ignorance in such matters will surely show here, but continued surveillance seems to be an obvious choice touted by the media, but would continued surveillance short of patting him down for weapons when he left the house every day have stopped this crime? To the best of our knowledge he didn't tell anyone what he was going to do before he actually did it, so just what would further surveillance have done in this case? As the public deems more and more people to be to innocent to arrest but to dangerous to not keep an eye on, we have to acknowledge the obvious limitations of funding, manpower and technology required to do so. Clearly, some people have to be absolved from suspicion so that more resources can be dedicated to those individuals who represent more probable threats. Plainly stated: we can't watch everyone all of the time even if we wanted to. Nor can we monitor minute by minute the actions of everyone who talks with radical clerics. It's just not possible unless politicians give a deluge of funding to security agencies and authority to do so under public approval.

Not a single news article that I have read on this topic has discussed the number of individuals currently under these types of FBI/NSA investigations. Ideally we can separate the good from the bad, but do we honestly think that we'll always find the bad guys and never wrongfully punish an innocent individual? Of course not, and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to save as many innocent people as possible and prevent these actions in the future. Yet, as rational thinking individuals it is our responsibility to recognize that there are conflicting ideas and limitations that will always prevent authorities from predicting every case. I was thankful to read about people actually recognizing the existence of some sort of proverbial 'bar' that needs to be lowered. Somewhere along the line Maj. Hasan was investigated and subsequently passed a litmus test. Lowering the bar might have caught Maj. Hasan, and doing so now might prevent future incidents. Yet, can someone please at least give a passing mention to the unintended consequences of doing so? We have to recognize that as we lower that bar, more and more innocent people are going to become false positives and have their privacy and speech rights trampled upon. Many may lose their jobs or be incarcerated regardless of whether or not they intend to commit a crime.

Investigative standards exist for a reason and they are hopefully set at some optimal point whereby we catch most of the bad guys and don't wrongfully punish too many good guys. There was recently a tragic incident of child abuse in Philadelphia where 10 year old Charleeni Ferreira was beaten to death by her parents who had been abusing her for years. Teachers have since spoken out about their suspicions with some even taking proper steps to report to this case to authorities before the tragic climax. Again, you'll find no argument here against culpability of these parents or the fact that this crime could have been prevented. I'm not fully aware of the facts of this case, and perhaps it should have been obvious that this girl was in eminent danger, but let's say for now that it wasn't that obvious and investigations stopped for a reason. I propose to have a reasonable discussion about the limitations that would come from lowering the standards required to continue investigation to a point that would have ultimately saved this little girls life. Do we ever believe that a standard exists whereby we will catch every case of child neglect? Each lowering of the bar required to remove children from suspected neglect may save some children's lives but it will certainly come at the cost of removing others wrongfully which will destroy families and lives. I'm not proposing where we as a society should draw that line but merely that we discuss inevitable consequences of doing so without resorting to populist uproar about how obvious a case was in hindsight.

The media needs to be far more responsible and instead of selectively quoting 'prescient' individuals who knew these incidents were going to occur, should be asking how many other individuals know things about people that are outright lies at best and damning condemnation at worst. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I've met several people throughout my life that would make me say 'I'm not surprised' if I found out that they committed a violent crime in the future. Yet, I don't think that any of them should be jailed, and chances are none of them will never actually do anything wrong. Catching criminals is a tough business, and the aforementioned cases are tragedies that in hindsight seem preventable but only at a cost to individual freedoms that society absolutely must keep in mind.

While that's really the end of my thesis, my ramblings prevent me from stopping before lambasting the recent Wall Street Journal editorial by Daniel Henninger that attempts to use the Fort Hood incident for overarching arguments about torture, the patriot act, and the Afghanistan war. I can't even begin to say how vitriolic I find this to be, and the statement about terrorists killing us in Afghanistan or on our home soil is offensive in so many ways. I long to understand how a reputable news source could sink so low as to say that calling off investigations on CIA torture is in any way related to the delusional acts of a lone gunman in Texas. Not once did the article mention the other lone gunman in Miami, or the serial killer uncovered in Ohio. Yet, we're lead to believe that Maj. Hasan's actions are different from these and are somehow a call to action to increase surveillance, prevent prosecutions against torture, and continue the war? Please.

Maj. Hasan's alleged crime was heinous and he deserves any punishment that stems from it. It was, however, no more or less heinous then the other acts of multiple homicide that came to light in the previous week. They are far more similar to one another than they are different and branding them separately as manifestations of terrorism, workplace frustration, and psychoses is terribly misguided.