Friday, May 25, 2007

An Open Letter to Wilton Sekzer

I just finished watching Why We Fight and was touched by the story threaded throughout the documentary of a retired NYC police officer named Wilton Sekzer. (Spoiler warning--this reallly is a great movie to watch, and if you're interested you might want to do so before reading). To catch up those who haven't seen the film, he lost his son in the 9/11 attacks and after hearing that Saddam Hussein was connected to them asked to have his son's name placed on some sort of a munition used in the Iraq war. Hopefully you'll glean the rest (especially the important parts) from my letter.
Dear Mr. Sekzer--

I'm so sorry for the loss of your son. I can't imagine what that's like. I've lost family members but never to a violent attack, and never my own children. Parents aren't supposed to outlive their kids. I remember having the same response as you when I saw the news coverage--wondering why they kept showing the buildings falling down over and over again and wishing that they'd just stop out of respect for the dead, the dying, and for thier families and loved ones.

I think I can understand your desire to have some sort of revenge--in part because I don't think it was purely a desire for revenge. It was a desire to make some sort of a tribute to him and to his loss. At the time you asked for his name to be placed on a weapon you thought it was a meaningful tribute, that it was a way for him to strike back at his attackers.

When the Iraq war first started I took the administration at face value too. I knew there wasn't a connection with Al-Queda they hate each other. But I beleived them when they said Saddam Hussein was a threat to us, and that he had weapons of mass destruction. I believed (and still believe) he was a tyrrant to his own people, and beleived Cheaney when he said the Iraqi people would welcome us with open arms.

You didn't make a bad call. Like you say in the movie, you acted on what you were told. I think the thing that chills me to the core is part of the email chain you read during the movie. It came from someone at a Marine Air Division in response to your request and read "Can Do, Semper Fi." My brother has been in the Corps for 20 years now, and served in Desert Storm and the Iraq War (several times). He is always faithful, the marine from your email is always faithful and so are all the men and women in our armed forces (even if they don't use the same motto). They have to be. Our democracy has to stop at the recruiting station or else the military will never be able to act. They have to follow orders that from their perspective appear to be legal or else the whole thing will collapse. If those stealth bomber pilots who dropped the opening salvo questioned every target, or even a single target then they wouldn't be able to function. The problem can come with who they have to be faithful to.

Your choice doesn't tarnish the name of your son, or reflect badly on you. I respect that you're a man of action--that when the news coverage was so devastating to you, that you called up the network and asked them to stop showing the buildings collapsing. I respect that you wanted to memorialize your son. Our military men and women aren't tarnished either. They made commitments and they're honoring those commitments. What is tarnished is our president and his administration.

Thank you for talking so openly about something so hard, for sharing your loss with us, and for your justifiable outrage.


Some highlights from the film:
  • A 2,000 pound smart bomb with "In loving memory of Jason Sekzer" written on it was dropped on April 1, just a couple of weeks into the War.
  • Of the 50 smart bombs dropped in the opening weeks of the war, all in an effort to hit leadership targets--none of them achieved their goals.
  • Civilian causualities during the opening weeks were about 90%. The smart bombs are not so smart.
The film discusses Iraq only as a talking point, it's actually about things that are far more disturbing than that--the relationship between military contractors and our government and this crosses political lines. The fact that our current president is a Republican is completely arbitrary. Democrats are just as invested in the war machine.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I prefer apples from the tree, thanks

I'll admit to being a wuss this Winter. I maybe averaged one day a week riding my bike into work. Now that I have fenders, maybe I'll take it up a notch during the next cold season. I have noticed, now that it's good Summer weather in the Springtime the return of one of my least favorite things: Horse apples. Now I am an animal lover (as in I love to eat them). And I understand that they need space to do their thing so that we can exploit them in various ways. I don't mind riding by cow pastures, or the sheep at the ag research station--a small price to pay. A pitance in fact, for things like mutton. But for a guy that never rides on horse trails. In fact, I pretty much only ride on the road, I see an amazing amount of horse excrement.

Now I've always been of the philosophy that we should share the road. So saddle up I say--but how about bringing a shovel along? Sure it's less toxic than dog poop, sure it's bio-degradable. But it sits there for months.

Perhaps I'll have to start a poop rellocation program of my own . . .

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Publication lag

Just got finished coding a study for our meta-analysis. I found two sources from the same authors, one in 1993 (a conference paper) and one from 2000 (a journal article). Turns out they're the exact same paper. So it took them 7 years to publish it. Having gone through the process myself I can believe it in theory, I once had a journal keep a manuscript for over a year--but 7 years from conference proceeding to journal article? Wow. Now, some of the lag has to be due to the authors (perhaps waiting to submit, revisions, etc . . . although the final article looks amazingly identical to the initial conference proceedings). But some blame has got to rest with the existing peer review/publication process as well. I have a hard time believing that the authors sat on this for 7 years.

A couple years back I took a subset of this data (preliminary results of the meta-analysis) and looked at lag between time of data collection and time of publication. The average was 4 years across 57 outcomes (not sure about the number of studies but something < 27). A different benchmark, because this includes time to prepare the manuscript whereas the authors in the study above already had a finished manuscript. And again, part of the time is the authors preparing the manuscript after collecting the data. But all of that said, this still seems to point to journals holding on to manuscripts for a long time. In our field, anything longer than a year from submission to print is probably too long and I'm willing to bet the average is actually longer than that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

That's Not Extremism and I *Sniff* Mean It!

Brett Shelton just sent me a link to this article in the Herald Journal. I should preface this by saying that I'm a card carrying Democrat (although I'm thinking of abolishing that practice--not because I prefer the Republicans, I still consider myself a liberal, but I'm starting to think that both parties are more than a little ridiculous.

All of that said, I'm having a hard time believing that this article was representative of the convention. How could any group of individuals honestly be this stupid even some of the time--knowing that they are in the public eye? A couple of choice quotes:

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to "destroy Christian America" and replace it with "a godless new world order -- and that is not extremism, that is fact," Larsen said

If you have to say that it's not extremism . . . then it's probably extremism.

At the end of his speech, Larsen began to cry, saying illegal immigrants were trying to bring about the destruction of the U.S. "by self invasion."

There's got to be a better way to say that.

Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as "Joe," said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil.

You know that makes sense, I always wondered why they called Utah a red state. Thanks "Joe"! Perhaps instead of asking for green cards we should start looking for bifurcated tails.

Senator Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, spoke against the resolution, saying Larsen, whom he called a "true patriot and a close friend," was embarrassing the Republican Party.

igns of intelligence (except perhaps the bit about him being a close friend). Although I do admire somebody who doesn't deny a standing friendship despite such an obvious need to distance yourself from the person.

Greene said she was disappointed in BYU professors who protested Dick Cheney's visit to campus, calling them "self-appointed intellectuals."

Ok, I'll admit that I'm not one to uphold the sanctity of the ivory tower. I agree wholeheartedly that intellectual pursuit happens outside the academy and that it should continue to be that way. That said--college professors are, by definition intellectuals. It's like trying to insult chicken by calling it "self-appointed poultry."

All of the speakers praised those gathered. Lt. Governor Gary Herbert said Utah County Republicans are "guided by correct principles"

This just isn't funny to me at all. It's an overt appeal to LDS church members (of which I am one) and is a specific reference to a message that we hear over the pulpit every election year. In part, that message states that we should pick candidates not based on their political party but pick those who, in our opinion, are guided by correct principles.

If the following is a Republican rebuttal to accusations of ethics violations, then they really have no leg to stand on:

. . . Cannon said Democrats have just as many corrupt party members as the Republicans but the media does not report Democratic ethics violations.

Here is my cut at an abstract of the article: Republicans have just as many members as Democrats who stray from correct principles, but hey--we're not Marxists, and we're not influenced by Satan--that embezzlement thing was the natural man all the way baby. Plus also *crying* we're not extremists.

Which truthfully (and thankfully) isn't the whole picture. At least according to this article Republican officials were denouncing Larsen's proposed resolution before it was even discussed at the convention. It's good to know they're not that moronic as a whole. I still wonder why they'd give him such free reign--he may be free to talk but can't you put a lid on something that has no shot at passing and is a sure bet to make you look incredibly stupid?