Archive for August, 2009

Them’s fighting words

Rob Davis at Voice of San Diego cracks me up.

Recently he was in a protracted struggle with Mayor Sanders’ office over a CPRA (California Public Records Act) request. He had requested internal mayoral office e-mails dealing with plans for water cuts, and for whatever reason, Sanders’ people didn’t want to release them. So Rob bombards his readers with stories like “Pudgil Watch, Update 11” (Darren Pudgil is the mayor’s spokesman) and eventually threatens to sue.

I can’t discern whether Rob got anything useful at the end of all this process.

My experience with CPRA/FOIA requests is slim. A few years ago, I got great results from asking the San Diego County DPLU office for emails about Rancho Guejito. But subsequent requests to Supervisor Bill Horn’s office, eh, not much came back. Don’t know if they excluded interesting emails or simply never email about anything interesting.

Anyway, this time Rob has records describing the San Diego Airport Authority’s officials living well at the public’s expense. And he apparently has a sharp exchange with chairman Bob Watkins:

He suggested that a voiceofsandiego.org reporter couldn’t relate to business class travelers because the reporter didn’t make enough money. Watkins compared voiceofsandiego.org‘s examination of authority expenses to a “person who works for the Internal Revenue Service who’s making $40,000 a year and goes in and audits someone who lives in a $1 million home or $2 million home. They’re going to be skewed in terms of, ‘Wow, I don’t have that.'”

Them’s fighting words! I can imagine an offended reporter thinking “I could have been a rich slimeball like you, but I chose to serve the public honorably!”

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Watson out of touch

James Watson has a curious status in biology today. It would be impossible to find a scientist who would fail to acknowledge his accomplishments. At the same time, he is well known for making comments that would crush the reputation of other men.

This sentence in his recent NYT op-ed stuck out at me:

Hardly anyone I know works on Sunday or even much on Saturday, as almost no one believes that his or her current work will soon lead to a big cure.

Please! This sentence indicates that Watson hardly knows anyone who does the real physical work in the lab. Even though I don’t pipet all weekend anymore these days, I’m sure that plenty of graduate students and postdocs across the United States will be doing just that this weekend. All the evidence I get is that biomedical research is even more grueling and competitive now compared with a decade ago.

Let us keep in mind that Watson’s notorious book Double Helix describes science as a “clawing climb up a slippery slope, impeded by the authority of fools, to be made with cadged data…,with malice toward most and charity toward none.”

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