WASHINGTON — Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress believe they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century.
In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance — would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.
Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed.
With Democratic strength reduced, President Bush (news - web sites), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield) are pushing for action.
Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership society," say workers and their families would become more careful users of healthcare if they had to pay the bills. Also, they say, the lower premiums on high-deductible plans would make coverage affordable for the uninsured and for small businesses.
"My view is that this is absolutely the next big thing," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose consulting firm focuses on healthcare. "You are going to see a continued move to trying to get people involved in the process by owning their own health accounts."
Critics say the Republican approach is really an attempt to shift the risks, massive costs and knotty problems of healthcare from employers to individuals. And they say the GOP is moving forward with far less public attention or debate than have surrounded Bush's plans to overhaul Social Security (news - web sites).
A study released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that supports research on healthcare policy, found that people with high-deductible policies were more likely to have trouble paying medical bills than those in traditional insurance plans. They were also more likely to skip care because of cost.
The study did not look at the combination of high-deductible plans with HSAs, but the report cautioned that the savings accounts might not solve all the problems.
Many experts believe HSAs could quickly become one of the main ways to obtain health insurance for people working in small companies or buying coverage on their own.
Workers at large companies with standard health plans may be less likely to experiment with HSAs, although many large employers are already requiring their workers to shoulder a bigger share of health insurance costs. The existence of a government-sanctioned alternative to the traditional system might accelerate that trend.
"We are not trying to do one big change for the whole country, all at once — like what sunk Hillary-care," said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a research organization that promotes conservative, market-based health reform.
"We want to let people choose this if it meets their needs, and not rip out the underpinnings of the current system."
But even the most ardent backers of HSAs concede that the country is not fully ready for them. They say critics such as Stark are correct to point out that there is little information available to consumers for comparing the costs of various medical options.
In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (news - web sites), Frist called for what would amount to a healthcare information revolution. Within the next decade, he said, patients should be able to gain online access to performance rankings and prices for doctors and hospitals.
"Increased access to more accurate information about care and pricing will make possible … the transformation of the healthcare system," Frist wrote. "Whether selecting their physician, hospital or health plan, consumers must be able to choose what best meets their needs."
A comprehensive system of healthcare information would be costly to create, and perhaps challenging for patients to navigate. On Thursday, Bush proposed some initial steps, such as computerized medical records and standardized information technology for medical offices.
His vision of an empowered patient calling the shots may stand little chance without a new information infrastructure.
Gingrich acknowledged: "You can't have an informed marketplace in a setting where you don't have any information."
What about drug costs? This kind of insurance plan can leave people vunerable to routine, chronic illnesses and once again, shifts the risk from the employer, who can moderate it, to individuals, who cannot. Health insurance allows people to get top quality care without regard to expense. If you have a market-based system, patients will choose the cheaper option, even if is not the best one medically. People already have to beg for expesnive care. Without some kind of universal, federally-run health care system, we will just make these problems worse. The US is the only western country where health care is not a fundamwental right of residency. Instead of creating an incentive for preventative care, this is designed to drive people even further away from treatment.
Why doesn't Congress try this first, and tell us how it works.
Any plan which relies upon people saving money, in a society where many workers already have to forgo company health insurance because they can't afford the plans, is aksing for a disaster. Any discussion of savings should start with "Americans have $8000 in credit card debt".
The Houston Chronicle August 29, 1999, Sunday 4 STAR EDITION
History gives lie to myth of black Confederate soldiers
TRUMAN R. CLARK*
A racist fabrication has sprung up in the last decade: that the Confederacy had "thousands" of African- American slaves "fighting" in its armies during the Civil War.
Unfortunately, even some African-American men today have gotten conned into Putting on Confederate uniforms to play "re-enactors" in an army that fought to ensure that their ancestors would remain slaves.
There are two underlying points of this claim: first, to say that slavery wasn't so bad, because after all, the slaves themselves fought to preserve the slave South; and second, that the Confederacy wasn't really fighting for slavery. Both these notions may make some of our contemporaries feel good, but neither is historically accurate.
When one speaks of "soldiers" and "fighting" in a war, one is not talking about slaves who were taken from their masters and forced to work on military roads and other military construction projects; nor is one talking about slaves who were taken along by their masters to continue the duties of a personal valet that they performed back on the plantation. Of course, there were thousands of African-Americans forced into these situations, but they were hardly "soldiers fighting."
Another logical point against this wacky modern idea of a racially integrated Confederate army has to do with the prisoner of war issue during the Civil War. Through 1862, there was an effective exchange system of POWs between the two sides. This entirely broke down in 1863, however, because the Confederacy refused to see black Union soldiers as soldiers - they would not be exchanged, but instead were made slaves (or, as in the 1864 Fort Pillow incident, simply murdered after their surrender). At that, the United States refused to exchange any Southern POWs and the prisoner of war camps on both sides grew immensely in numbers and misery the rest of the war.
The war was virtually over by then, and when black Union soldiers rode into Richmond on April 3, they found two companies of black men beginning to train as potential soldiers. (When those black men had marched down the street in Confederate uniforms, local whites had pelted them with mud.) None got into the war, and Lee surrendered on April 9.
Yes, thousands of African-American men did fight in the Civil War - about 179,000. About 37,000 of them died in uniform. But they were all in the Army (or Navy) of the United States of America. The Confederate veterans who were still alive in the generations after the war all knew that and said so.
The slave South rested upon a master-race ideology, as many generations of white Southerners stated it and lived it, from the 1600s until 1865. There is an uncomfortable parallel in our century with the master- race ideology of Nazi Germany. First, millions of the men who bravely fought and died for the Third Reich were not Nazis, but they weren't exactly fighting for the human rights of Jews or gypsies. And second, yes, as was pointed out in the movie Schindler's List, many thousands of Jews did slave labor in military production factories in Nazi Germany - but that certainly didn't make them "thousands of Jewish soldiers fighting for Germany.
We can believe in the "black soldiers fighting" in the Confederate armies just as soon as historians discover the "thousands" of Jews in the SS and Gestapo.
Sure, many black people fought in the Civil War....for the Union. When Confederate General Pat Cleburne suggested using black troops, he never got another promotion.
PORTLAND, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The American Nazi Party has volunteered to pick up trash along a quiet stretch of rural road in Oregon state, causing an uproar after getting a sign placed there crediting its work.
The issue has flared up in the same week that world leaders and aging survivors gathered in the Polish town of Auschwitz to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous Nazi death camp.
"American Nazi Party" reads the sign, which is part of the the "Adopt-A-Road" program, a widely promoted U.S. scheme encouraging local groups to clean up road litter in exchange for recognition on small signs.
The sign, located on a quiet stretch of road near Salem, Oregon, also lists the initials "NSM," which stands for the National Socialists Movement, another white supremacists group.
Marion County officials say there is nothing they can do about the Nazi litter pick up because barring the group from the program would violate its First Amendment free speech rights.
Any group sponsoring a litter pick-up must clean the roads twice a year. They must be a recognized organization, but it is usually a Boy Scout troop or civic organization.
Dear Senator Frist, Senator Reid, Speaker Hastert, and Representative Pelosi:
The United States military is too small for the responsibilities we are asking it to assume. Those responsibilities are real and important. They are not going away. The United States will not and should not become less engaged in the world in the years to come. But our national security, global peace and stability, and the defense and promotion of freedom in the post-9/11 world require a larger military force than we have today. The administration has unfortunately resisted increasing our ground forces to the size needed to meet today's (and tomorrow's) missions and challenges.
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.
There is abundant evidence that the demands of the ongoing missions in the greater Middle East, along with our continuing defense and alliance commitments elsewhere in the world, are close to exhausting current U.S. ground forces. For example, just late last month, Lieutenant General James Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, reported that "overuse" in Iraq and Afghanistan could be leading to a "broken force." Yet after almost two years in Iraq and almost three years in Afghanistan, it should be evident that our engagement in the greater Middle East is truly, in Condoleezza Rice's term, a "generational commitment." The only way to fulfill the military aspect of this commitment is by increasing the size of the force available to our civilian leadership.
The administration has been reluctant to adapt to this new reality. We understand the dangers of continued federal deficits, and the fiscal difficulty of increasing the number of troops. But the defense of the United States is the first priority of the government. This nation can afford a robust defense posture along with a strong fiscal posture. And we can afford both the necessary number of ground troops and what is needed for transformation of the military.
In sum: We can afford the military we need. As a nation, we are spending a smaller percentage of our GDP on the military than at any time during the Cold War. We do not propose returning to a Cold War-size or shape force structure. We do insist that we act responsibly to create the military we need to fight the war on terror and fulfill our other responsibilities around the world.
The men and women of our military have performed magnificently over the last few years. We are more proud of them than we can say. But many of them would be the first to say that the armed forces are too small. And we would say that surely we should be doing more to honor the contract between America and those who serve her in war. Reserves were meant to be reserves, not regulars. Our regulars and reserves are not only proving themselves as warriors, but as humanitarians and builders of emerging democracies. Our armed forces, active and reserve, are once again proving their value to the nation. We can honor their sacrifices by giving them the manpower and the materiel they need.
Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution places the power and the duty to raise and support the military forces of the United States in the hands of the Congress. That is why we, the undersigned, a bipartisan group with diverse policy views, have come together to call upon you to act. You will be serving your country well if you insist on providing the military manpower we need to meet America's obligations, and to help ensure success in carrying out our foreign policy objectives in a dangerous, but also hopeful, world.
Peter Beinart Jeffrey Bergner Daniel Blumenthal
Max Boot Eliot Cohen Ivo H. Daalder
Thomas Donnelly Michele Flournoy Frank F. Gaffney, Jr.
Reuel Marc Gerecht Lt. Gen. Buster C. Glosson (USAF, retired)
Bruce P. Jackson Frederick Kagan Robert Kagan
Craig Kennedy Paul Kennedy Col. Robert Killebrew (USA, retired)
William Kristol Will Marshall Clifford May
Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey (USA, retired)Daniel McKivergan
Joshua Muravchik Steven J. Nider Michael O'Hanlon
Mackubin Thomas OwensRalph Peters Danielle Pletka
Stephen P. Rosen Major Gen. Robert H. Scales (USA, retired)
Randy Scheunemann Gary Schmitt
Walter Slocombe James B. Steinberg
If you ever needed a reason to cancle your TNR subscription, this is it. Why is Beinart, who must be running for the Pierre Laval seat at the Vichy Dem table, aligning himself with the warmongers who started this mess. Does he think this will make him tough? Well, he's still young enough to actually enlist. So I say we should encorage him. It would interesting if military recruiters got his e-mail address and office number. I mean, if he thinks the Army should be expanded, well, let him help expand it.
I thought this was some kind of joke until I saw Atrios post it up.
Now that it isn't, well, it's time to let Peter "Pierre Laval" Beinart how we feel about his armchair warrior status.
Why we know he's going to volunteer for infanty officer training, right? Straight to Benning or Lejune for him.
Make sure that he recruiters know he's ready, willing and able to serve his country in Iraq.
Nowadays soldiers are considered pros who signed up to fight for our country, so they should shut up, suck it up and do what they’re being underpaid to do.
When I discussed this national shame with Lt. Col. Roger Charles, USMC (Ret.) and President of Soldiers For The Truth, he told me “Hack, you’ve only got it half right.”
Then he gave me the hot skinny that his organization has been studying what’s really going down with Imminent Danger Pay (IDP) in order to inform the American public and the U.S. Congress and hopefully cause change. “Combat pay is a misnomer. Today there’s no such thing as combat pay if you’re talking about extra pay that goes to those who actually trade rounds with the bad guys. Military personnel who serve in cushy posts hundreds of miles from Afghanistan and Iraq earn the same amount as those who kick in doors in Fallujah or drive fuel trucks through RPG Alley and IED Boulevard between Mosul and Baghdad.”
So I made a few phone calls. And sure enough, the guys living the good life in places like Kuwait and Qatar – for example that bronzed, handsome lifeguard saving lives at the base pool – get the same $7.50 a day as our heroes facing the bear on the mean streets of Iraq and in the treacherous mountains of Afghanistan.
A soldier’s father reports that his son and his buddies – just back from Afghanistan – became very bitter when they went on R&R in Qatar and talked to Joes and Jills inside a fortress-like base so safe that soldiers are not authorized to carry individual weapons. And these lucky stiffs living in a relative paradise were also drawing combat pay!
Another loophole creates an even more gross inequity: senior officers – read generals and colonels – regularly fly into Afghanistan and Iraq on monthly 48-hour useless VIP visits in order to both collect their combat pay for the entire month and rack up tax breaks that can run almost seven grand a month. Not bad double-headers for Perfumed Princes who can barely tell a foxhole from a bidet.
“The problem of our paying an equitable combat pay is the Pentagon’s bottom line,” says DefenseWatch Editor Ed Offley (SFTT.ORG). “Two years ago the ink hadn’t dried on the last Imminent Danger Pay increase when the Pentagon bean-counters were hustling to cut it.”
LONDON (Reuters) - U.S.-led forces could leave Iraq (news - web sites) within 18 months, Iraqi interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib told Britain's Channel 4 News Sunday after Iraq's election.
"I think we will not need the multi-national, foreign forces, in this country within 18 months," he said. "I think we will be able to depend on ourselves."
Election officials said turnout had been higher than expected in Sunday's elections despite attacks by insurgents bent on destroying the poll.
At least 35 people died in assaults across the country.
President Bush, under pressure to start bringing troops home after the election, has said U.S.-led forces must keep going to help the new government get its footing.
Now, you have Iraqis, who except more power to be placed in their hands because of the election and a very reluctant US government.
Despite the lies about Iraqi effectiveness, we've seen exactly how effective they are today. Shut down the country, prohibit driving and they will do just fine guarding buildings.
While the media and the warbloggers cheered the election, their usual lack of perspective lets them miss the main issue, which is what happens when the Shia run the government. Allawi may have a job, but I doubt it. What is likely is that a Sistani-loyal government will take the place of the CIA stooge Allawi and then might start making demands on the US, like controlling combat operations and demanding trials in Iraqi courts`when US troops shoot Iraqis and other things the USG might not go along with. You know, like not having those death squads.
Also, the warbloggers missed the potential disaster of the Sunni non-participation. It isn't one yet, but if this is a Sunni rebellion, that was evident today. The question is if they will enter the government or attack it.
Everyone is pleasantly surprised this didn't turn into a bloodbath. But the real test was not voting, Sistani was going to get his votes, but what follows. Another thing the media glossed over was the expectation that a vote would lead to the end of the occupation. If that doesn't seem to be the case, the rebellion could grow rapidly.
There is a childish belief that "oh, the Iraqis faced down the terrorists". Well no. That's not true. Sunni turn out was abysmal and the Shia and Kurds were going vote no matter what. So the resistance laid low, as they have on other big days, only to increase the tempo of combat in the following days. The members of the assembly cannot remain anonymous forever. When they start getting killed, what then?
This is the first thing in 18 months which has gone even remotely right. The question is does it lead to peace and the end of the war or a violent reaction. John Kerry said the next few days would make all the difference. Judging from the backslapping, they don't seem to understand that.
If you're going to call a book "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," readers will expect some serious carrying on about race, and Thomas Woods Jr. does not disappoint. He fulminates against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, best known for forcing restaurants and bus stations in the Jim Crow South to integrate, and against Brown v. Board of Education. And he offers up some curious views on the Civil War - or "the War of Northern Aggression," a name he calls "much more accurate."
The introduction bills the book as an effort to "set the record straight," but it is actually an attempt to push the record far to the right. More than a history, it is a checklist of arch-conservative talking points. The New Deal public works programs that helped millions survive the Depression were a "disaster," and Social Security "damaged the economy." The Marshall Plan, which lifted up devastated European nations after World War II, was a "failed giveaway program." And the long-discredited theory of "nullification," which held that states could suspend federal laws, "isn't as crazy as it sounds."
It is tempting to dismiss the book as fringe scholarship, not worth worrying about, but the numbers say otherwise. It is being snapped up on college campuses and, helped along by plugs from Fox News and other conservative media, it recently soared to No. 8 on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list. It is part of a boomlet in far-right attacks on mainstream history that includes books like Jim Powell's "FDR's Folly," which argues that Franklin Roosevelt made the Depression worse, and Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment," a warm look back on the mass internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
It is not surprising, in the current political climate, that liberal pieties are being challenged, and many of them ought to be. But the latest revisionist histories are disturbing both because they are so extreme - even Ronald Reagan called the Japanese internment a "grave wrong" and signed a reparations law - and because they seem intent on distorting the past to promote dangerous policies today. If Social Security contributed to the Depression, it makes sense to get rid of it now. If internment was a good thing in 1942, think what it could do in 2005. And if the 14th Amendment, which guarantees minorities "equal protection of the law," was never properly ratified - as Mr. Woods argues - racial discrimination may be constitutional after all.
The reason they have to lie about history is simple, they are on the wrong side of it. Woods is obviously a racist, since only a racist could suggest that the North attacked the South. The great flaw in the conservative movement is race. They have to redefine history to make their racist view tolerable.
So they lie and repeat those lies to justify their policies. The way to nail this crap down is to make sure that they have to defend this bullshit with real scholarship and facts. Which they cannot do.
Cooking for Engineers takes a road trip. You have to hit the links to see the pics. It's pretty nice work.
Yosemite National Park has often been called a photographer's paradise, but many visitors venturing into the Valley are unaware of the world class Ahwahnee Hotel. The Ahwahnee is not only an elegant mix of history and nature, but also has some of the finest dining in California. This week, I had the opportunity to tour their kitchen and get an inside peek as the Ahwahnee staff rushed to prepare for the Chef's Holiday Gala Dinner.
The Ahwahnee Hotel was completed in 1927 (to the tune of $1.5 million) to provide accommodations in Yosemite National Park fitting for visiting dignitaries who didn't want to "rough it". The Ahwahnee was not the first hotel constructed in Yosemite with this in mind, but it was the first designed to last. It is almost completely constructed of stone, concrete, and steel so that it would not meet the same doom as previous hotels in Yosemite - fire. The exterior facade of the Ahwahnee is constructed of poured concrete shaped and stained to resemble redwood. The only large wood construction in the hotel is the dining room which comfortably sits over three hundred.
If you're wondering about the name: The Ahwahnee name comes from the language of the Miwok Indians who lived in Yosemite Valley. They called the Valley "Ahwahnee" which many people agree means "Gaping Mouth" (although there is some disagreement about this). The Miwoks residing in Yosemite called themselves the Ahwahneechee while Miwoks residing in the Mariposa region to the south referred to them as the "Yehemite" meaning "some among them are killers". This word was most likely corrupted into the English name "Yosemite".
Throughout the month of January, the Ahwahnee Hotel features talks and demonstrations from guest chefs. The demonstrations are free on a first come, first serve basis while dining at the Gala dinner is $140 per person. Lucky for me, Tina and I happened to be vacationing in Yosemite. We decided to attend a demonstration by Josh Silvers (owner and chef of Syrah Bistro in Sonoma County, California) entitled "Romantic Dinner for Two" highlighting a New York steak, Clam Chowder, and Raspberry Chocolate Torte. Josh kept the room entertained and engaged throughout his demonstration and provided everyone a taste of the dessert.
The next day, we toured the Ahwahnee Hotel kitchen with one of the sous chefs as our guide. It was explained to us that, just recently, the Ahwahnee kitchen had it's ventilation system upgraded. Prior to the $1.5 million (yep, the upgrade cost as much as the hotel's original price tag, ignoring inflation of course) upgrade, the kitchen temperatures would fluctuate from over 100&176;F (38&176;C) in the summer to below freezing in the winter. Now the kitchens are kept at an even 65 to 70&176;F. In the photograph below you can see the extremely high ceilings of the kitchen. The original architectural design intended for the hot air to have enough room to rise above the busy kitchen. The windows at the top were the only ventilation, allowing hot air to escape and cold air to be let in. Now that air conditioning has been installed, the temperature is no longer a problem, but it does create a great deal of noise.
One man handles all the room service at the Ahwahnee, whose 123 rooms aren't all inside the main building but include cottages as well. Later, when we saw this man rushing outside with a tray, we knew someone had called room service for lunch in one of the cottages.
The refrigeration room held several refrigerator chambers side by side (I counted four from where I stood, but was told there were more). The chambers were designed to allow air circulation between each one to promote even cooling. Prior to the availability of condenser units, at the beginning of each winter, the hotel staff would go out to Mirror Lake (about 1.5 miles away) and cut 500 pound (225 kg) blocks of ice from the frozen lake. These blocks would be hauled back to the hotel and stored under straw and sawdust. When the refrigerators needed "refilling", the blocks were lifted by a winch and slid into these doorways situated above each chamber. Each of these doorways led to compartments big enough for ten 500-pound blocks of ice.
The ice is no longer used and condensers take their place, but one of the original refrigerator doors is still in use. (The others have been replaced with modern insulated doors.) This door is most likely filled with sawdust for insulation and in the photo below, it's easy to see just how thick the door is.
All the bread in the hotel is prepared in the only remaining original oven. The oven, getting close to eighty years old, is (according to the head baker) the most accurate and precise oven in the facility and beats all the new convection and conventional ovens. However, a sign hanging on the oven asks politely that you "Never Turn Off This Oven". The baker says it takes anywhere from four to six hours for the oven to heat up, so they don't turn it off. When asked if the heating elements will ever wear out through the constant use, the baker responded after a pause: "I don't think they'll wear out."
The pastry chef at the Ahwahnee is excellent, but she often finds that many people want to bring in their own cakes for weddings (which the Ahwahnee hosts about 300 per year). More often than not, these wedding cakes have fallen over or been crushed while been brought up to Yosemite over winding and bumpy roads. Sometimes, the cakes can be fixed, but other times the pastry department goes into overdrive to create a brand new cake. Should have ordered the cake from the Ahwahnee in the first place... Below, an assistant prepares pastry dough for the evenings countless pies.
The thing about computers is that they are unpredictable. No matter the brand or the company, they break down.
I could have bought an iBook today, if I wanted to convert my software. But this isn't a Mac/PC issue, it was probably a power supply issue, and Macs have them crap out as well. So unless Apple has unbreakable power supplies, it really didn't make much of a difference. So I bought the machine on sale. Why? It worked and was on sale. I had enough to buy any machine I wanted, thanks to you guys. Jen's call for extra money was nice, but unnecessary. I still have enough to get a white box, if I need to, which I don't. But thank you anyway. The kindness, as always, is appreciated.
So I went shopping for a new machine. I find it ironic that Jen thinks I should buy a new desktop, since her's is about to reach it's 10th anniversary sometime this spring. She's debated about getting a new TV (her's is a 13")for about a year. The thing about computers is that the more you pay, the smaller and lighter they are. You can pay $4K for one, but why? I just need to get online, play a game or two, and that's it. Nothing complex.
I got a Toshiba Satellite M35x-S161 because Comp USA had it on sale for $799 after the $150 rebate. It looked better than the Compaq at that price range, and of the three low end retail laptops you can get, Toshiba makes the best machines. None are horrible, but from the reviews I read, after the fact, it looks like a bargain.
Of course, it took four stores to find this bargain, two after dialysis. Now, some days, like some days after work, I would run home, get comfortable, watch Gilmore Girls from my bed and call it a night. But some days are better, and yesterday was one of them. So after searching Best Buy and Staples, after going to PC Richards and Circuit City earlier in the day, Needless to say, I found nothing, and spent the rest of the night watching TV, irritated. After all, it's not Groundhog Day, every day is different. Hey, it sounds scarier than it is. But like insulin or chronic pain, you learn to deal with it. I just thank God I write for a living and didn't have to quit being a cop or something. People still work on dialysis and the state will even help you find a job. I have to say that my life is 100 percent better after being sick than before. Even with dialysis and meds and the other crap which goes with any chronic illness.
The funny thing was that there was some nimord writing down the specs to the computers and squniting at them like they were naked chicks in a peep show. I wanted to slap the piss out of him for being annoying. Fucking idiot, go to a library and do some research. He probably didn't even know what he was writing down.
So today, I take the bus down 5th Avenue to CompUSA, and walk past the laptop section. I finally find it and ask the clerk to buy one. Then he tries to sell me the extended warranty.
"Do you want the two year or three year warranty?"
"None. It either works out of the box or it doesn't. It's electronics. And if it doesn't work, it's coming back"
"But that's only good for 21 days."
"No. Look, just sell me the computer, ok."
Why the fuck would I buy a useless warranty for a new computer. Extended warranties are a scam. You pay them $100 for what? If my machine breaks, I'll pay the repairs and parts, because it's cheaper than some dumbass extended warranty. Do I look like a techphobic parent of a college freshman? Well, actually, yes, but I'm not.
Let them sell that shit to the soccer moms. I know that's their profit margin on their boxes.
Here's the difference between me and Jen, at least when it comes to buying things: I can buy a computer in five minutes. Jen will take forever. I bought my TV after a couple of trips.
Oh here's why I will never buy anything large in Best Buy: the clerks would rather talk to each other than sell you something. Great to look at, shitty to buy anything in.
The best part of the Toshiba is the wide screen 15.4". It's a real gem. It's also nice to have a new machine for the first time in my life. I've always been skeptical about new machines, but it's nice to have one. Now to load some games on this.
When I was watching CNN International, I noticed a couple of things.
One: Shia and Kurds were eager to vote to actually have a say in Iraq's future. Having never had the chance before. Sadr decided to stay home, earning chits with the Sunnis who help fund him. But omninously, the Sunni stayed home. This is a bigger deal than the TV talking dogs make it seem. The country's ruling class pretty much stayed home and their intentions cannot be read at this point.
Two: The resistance usually doesn't strike on big days, but the days after. Why ruin election day, when you made your point with the Sunnis and then why not show that the Shias cannot govern any better. The point is that they have time, elections or not.
Three: I remember saying that elections would give the Shia power. Which is what they have done. Why is anyone surprised by this?
There are two real issues which our idiot press is glossing over:
First, many of the Shia voted to get us to go home. What happens when we don't go?
Second, I saw a young Kurdish woman say to CNN's, Nic Robertson "This is my country. I voted for my country." Uh, I don't think she was talking about Iraq. I don't think that played well in Ankara. Not for a second.
I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.
Moreover, as Swopa rightly reminds us all, the Bush administration opposed one-person, one-vote elections of this sort. First they were going to turn Iraq over to Chalabi within six months. Then Bremer was going to be MacArthur in Baghdad for years. Then on November 15, 2003, Bremer announced a plan to have council-based elections in May of 2004. The US and the UK had somehow massaged into being provincial and municipal governing councils, the members of which were pro-American. Bremer was going to restrict the electorate to this small, elite group.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani immediately gave a fatwa denouncing this plan and demanding free elections mandated by a UN Security Council resolution. Bush was reportedly "extremely offended" at these two demands and opposed Sistani. Bremer got his appointed Interim Governing Council to go along in fighting Sistani. Sistani then brought thousands of protesters into the streets in January of 2004, demanding free elections. Soon thereafter, Bush caved and gave the ayatollah everything he demanded. Except that he was apparently afraid that open, non-manipulated elections in Iraq might become a factor in the US presidential campaign, so he got the elections postponed to January 2005. This enormous delay allowed the country to fall into much worse chaos, and Sistani is still bitter that the Americans didn't hold the elections last May. The US objected that they couldn't use UN food ration cards for registration, as Sistani suggested. But in the end that is exactly what they did.
So if it had been up to Bush, Iraq would have been a soft dictatorship under Chalabi, or would have had stage-managed elections with an electorate consisting of a handful of pro-American notables. It was Sistani and the major Shiite parties that demanded free and open elections and a UNSC resolution. They did their job and got what they wanted. But the Americans have been unable to provide them the requisite security for truly aboveboard democratic elections.
With all the hoopla, it is easy to forget that this was an extremely troubling and flawed "election." Iraq is an armed camp. There were troops and security checkpoints everywhere. Vehicle traffic was banned. The measures were successful in cutting down on car bombings that could have done massive damage. But even these Draconian steps did not prevent widespread attacks, which is not actually good news. There is every reason to think that when the vehicle traffic starts up again, so will the guerrilla insurgency.
The Iraqis did not know the names of the candidates for whom they were supposedly voting. What kind of an election is anonymous! There were even some angry politicians late last week who found out they had been included on lists without their permission. Al-Zaman compared the election process to buying fruit wholesale and sight unseen. (This is the part of the process that I called a "joke," and I stand by that.)
This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament.
Many of the voters came out to cast their ballots in the belief that it was the only way to regain enough sovereignty to get American troops back out of their country. The new parliament is unlikely to make such a demand immediately, because its members will be afraid of being killed by the Baath military. One fears a certain amount of resentment among the electorate when this reticence becomes clear.
Iraq now faces many key issues that could tear the country apart, from the issues of Kirkuk and Mosul to that of religious law. James Zogby on Wolf Blitzer wisely warned the US public against another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Things may gradually get better, but this flawed "election" isn't a Mardi Gras for Americans and they'll regret it if that is the way they treat it.
I. like many of the media, were surprised the bloodshed was kept to a minimum. But the hard work comes after. Which is how does the US leaves. If Sistani is forced to evict the US, what happens then.
Even the military is wondering why the resistance is lying low. Well, because they strike afterwards. There's a second act here, we need to see what it is.
Freakshow of the Century Continues--Michael Jackson Trial to Start Real Soon
So what if I admitted on national TV that I like to share a bed with little boys? Yeah, I know, this story is a cheap shot and a gimmie, but I'm short on time today, and Gilly is still presumably hunting for a functioning machine. Besides, stories like this and the Internet go together like ants and picnics.
Now, nevermind the circus tent full of other "witnesses" that they are dragging out of the woodwork. The trump card here is Jackson's own admissions--on PUBLIC TELEVISION--that he thinks that sleeping with little boys is A-OK and "innocent."
All the prosecution has to do is turn to the jury and ask them:
"Would you let YOUR child sleep overnight in Michael Jackson's bed?"
That, combined with the other material details of the case--the secret alarmed door to the Gloved One's inner chamber, the pornography, and the defendant's own bizarre taped admissions and behavior--is probably enough to convict him no matter how unwholesome or biased the "witnesses" or victims' families are.
I say that if he gets off the hook on this one, major money changed hands, and it's on the judicial side, not the victims' side.
Mission Accomplished Part II--US soldier guarding empty polling booths in Sunni region Okay, I'm not Steve and can't write in his voice, but I know that this is a story he'd want up here today. As we've all heard from US news sources, our Chimp in Chief is calling the Iraqi elections "a great success" even though exact voting turnout numbers have swung wildly, and there was a near-boycott of the election in Sunni regions, and suicide bombers left their mark as well.
Some folks are still voting with high explosives out there--maybe they shoulda served more cookies and punch at the polls, like they did in NY.
Now, even the conservative voter turnout numbers have been remarkable, but if they exclude a large part of the country, it doesn't matter who got "elected." If there was a vote in the US and a huge chunk of the country had NO ballots cast, would that be a legitimate vote?
I realize that the LGF crowd will be saying "I told you so," and to them I say, remember this?
Or here, to make them feel better, I'll give them another photo from that day--a little bit of patriotic porn, Chimp Boy all dressed up:
Hey Kids! Help me think of a caption for this picture! Use the Comments Section! I'm sure that right now, he's just grateful that he never had to do time with the guys who would spend the next odd year or so getting bits blown off.
GillyBlogOfficePool Question: How much longer will we be in Iraq "supporting the legitimate voice of the Iraqi people" by propping up whomever eventually gets "elected?" Or fighting the winner if they happen to be a Muslim extremists?
Have fun with this thread--if you can't cry, laugh.
This is sort of what my wonderful dog Cuddles looked like. Okay, while Gilly goes and un-screws-up his box, let's talk about pets.
Pets you grew up with, pets you have, pets that you have had, people you know with odd pets (or your own odd pets), etc. etc. etc.
This is a thread to talk about companion animals.
I may say more about Cuddles (a basset-beagle mix who was part of my life for almost 17 years) later in the comments, or edit this thread, but in the meantime, I need to take delivery of my Chinese food (two kinds of soup and other starchy things that will Slip Down Well) and try to keep my sinuses clear.
Take care, and hug your pet (if it's huggable) on this cold night.
When bad things happen to good computers I just got a call from Gilly--he called from his dialysis session to inform me that his Thinkpad is dead.
No nothing, no lights, no signs of life.
I told him that it was probably a blown power supply. He is adamant about not just getting a new power supply for whatever reason--he claims he'll lose time in ordering it, etc, which I disagree with, but it's his nickel.
So, tomorrow, he's probably going to go get a cheap laptop and look at desktops (also cheap) at Circuit City.
Now, if it was me, I'd get a desktop for the Blog only because they break less. Also, the Thinkpad is a good machine, and if it's just a power supply that he can put in himself, just do it. This is New York City, and if he calls around, he can get the part.
Oh, and yes, while he does have an old refurb Apple laptop, it "barely works" online.
In the meantime, please continue to keep the comment threads lively--I will not be posting much if anything, as I have a very, very bad cold and have to try to recover before a major and mandatory family event on Monday.
Oh, and if you want to donate more money to Gilly, I know he wouldn't say no to it. *grin* I just hope y'all can convice him to (for once) spend his money on a NEW box/deck, with stuff like support and warranties and stuff.
No. 4 -- MYTH: Outsourcing Is Bad for American Workers
We've been hearing a lot lately about how American workers are suffering because companies are "outsourcing" their jobs to other countries. During the presidential campaign, both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told voters they were concerned about keeping jobs here at home. And CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has made complaints about outsourcing a running theme of his nightly news program.
Dobbs' new book, "Exporting America," says the government should limit free trade and immediately outlaw outsourcing of government contracts.
"Just because of cheap labor, we're destroying our middle class. That is just stupid," Dobbs said, adding, "Being stupid is un-American."
Wait a second. It's restricting outsourcing that would be un-American and stupid.
You may not like it that someone in India takes your customer service call, but outsourcing helps the middle class by bringing lower prices and faster service. Take E-Loan, for example. It gives customers a choice of whether to get their loan paperwork processed in America in 12 days or in India in 10 days. An incredible 87 percent of customers in the United States choose the faster loan processing offered by sending their paperwork to India.
It's true that in the last four years, America has lost more than 1 million jobs, but those were years when we had a recession. Look at the big picture. Since 1992, America has lost 361 million jobs, but during that same time we also gained 380 million jobs. Millions more than we lost.
That should be hopeful for people like Shirley and Ronnie Barnard. While it's true that they had to dig into savings and still worry about their long-term security, last year Shirley Barnard eventually found a new job as a secretary. The new position pays more than her old job at Levi's, and the Levi's work was harder -- hot, noisy and physically difficult. She says that her new job is much easier.
Her husband and some other former co-workers are still looking for work, but she told us some of her former Levi's colleagues are now working in better jobs than they had before. "Some of them have got, really got excellent jobs that they would never have even left Levi's for if the plant hadn't closed," she said.
And what happened to that Levi's plant? It's now being converted to a college. There will be new jobs for faculty and administrative staff, and right now there are construction jobs for workers building the new campus. This won't be talked about on the evening news, but these jobs are a product of outsourcing too.
Still, people like Lou Dobbs talk about the outsourcing crisis. However, in reality outsourcing is not a crisis. The crisis will only come if we try to stop it.
Well, John, that may sound rosy, but what happened to the Americans who had those call center jobs? Did they all get new jobs that paid more? And Levis paid living wages to hundreds of people. How many people will qualify for new jobs at the college and will they pay as much as Levis? See, what you forget is that outsourcing doesn't just lower prices, it lowers the standard of living of many people who counted on those jobs. No one will outsource Stossel's job, but when the middle class disappears, who will buy his idiotic books? Oh yeah, how much money did the community lose in the process?
No. 3 -- MYTH: Public Schools for Poor Kids, Not Politicians' Kids
Sadly, it's also a myth that the people who fight for public schools always send their own kids to those public schools. You'd think they would. They're so passionate about the public schools. But, no.
This is one of those do as I say, not as I do things. Politicans who promote public schools don't always send their kids to them.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has called public education the "cornerstone of our democracy." But when she and her husband lived in the White House, they sent their daughter, Chelsea, to the elite Sidwell Friends private school.
When asked about it, President Clinton told ABC News, "We had to make the decision just for our daughter."
Well, sure he did. All of us want to do that, but not everyone can afford a private school. So what do you do if you're poor and live where the public schools are bad?
The parent without money is stuck, stuck in the prison of the government monopoly.
"I wouldn't call it necessarily a prison," he said. But, he added, "It's not the best possible education system that's available."
Where will Jackson send his kids?
"They will probably do a combination of both public, private, parochial, secular. I want them to have the best possible education that I can provide for them," he said.
So, shouldn't Sylvia Lopez and Ivan Foster have the same options?
Lopez calls politicians hypocrites. "The legislators that send their kids to private schools, but don't think that we should have the power to do that, they're hypocrites.
And would the politicians ever send one of their kids to the public school in her Camden neighborhood? Lopez said, "No way. They would never send their children, their distant cousins. I doubt they would even send their dogs to get training from one of these public schools."
What John Stossel does not tell you is that vouchers would not give kids access to a private education. When asked by the New York Observer, leading private schools like Collegiate, Dalton and Spence pretty much said no way in hell would they take voucher kids, meaning, no niggers from Harlem unless they fit in. The sad reality is vouchers are a racist fraud. They use poor blacks as the shield, but the ultimate goal is to funnel money to white segregationist academies in the South. They will be the largest beneficiaries of a voucher program as poor whites flee the public school system. While public schools are defunded, these legacies of Brown would have billions of state dollars to run their schools with little public accountability.
Parents might get a fraction of what they need, Catholic Schools would take that money, but if the kid couldn't deal, it's back to the underfunded public school.
But Stossel went to Camden not Savannah to make his point.
Oh yeah, Jesse Jackson didn't ask for tax money to send his kid to school.
No. 2 -- MYTH -- Urban Sprawl Is Ruining America
Suburban sprawl is evil. The unplanned growth, cookie cutter developments is gobbling up all the space and ruining America. Right?
But in town after town, civic leaders talk about going to war! They want "smart growth." They say sprawl has wrecked lives.
So-called experts on TV say all sorts of nasty things about the changing suburban landscape.
James Kunstler, author of "The Geography of Nowhere," said, "Most of the country really is living in these mutilated and defective environments."
Kunstler and others say suburbs are despicable places. He calls them, "uniformly, low-grade miserably designed environments that make people feel bad." Even ABC News' "Nightline" ran a program called "America the Ugly."
What upsets many critics most is the loss of open space.
But is open space disappearing in America? No, that's a total myth. More than 95 percent of the country is still undeveloped.
They can't have back yards? Please! Remember, more than 95 percent of the country is undeveloped.
And even places that may look like soulless subdivisions to him are places where many people want to live. They have playgrounds, parks and back yards. What the busybodies call sprawl, others call homes they can afford.
Yeah, try breathing the air in one of these sprawl communities or go shopping. They are car traps, increasing pollution and illness. Backyard? Try your health. Are we counting the Grand Canyon as well?.
MYTH No. 1 Sharing Would Make the World a Better Place
We learn in childhood that sharing is a good thing. And it's true -- in families and small groups.
But would the world be better off if we shared everything? No.
Think about shared public property, like public toilets. They're often gross. Public streets tend to get trashed. Earlier I mentioned how people litter on public lands, and think about what you share at work. The refrigerator where I work is disgusting -- filled with food that's rotten. I found cottage cheese that was more than a year old. It's because it's shared property.
Russell Roberts, professor of economics at George Mason University, points out that private property rarely gets abused or degraded.
And there's an explanation for this. "When something belongs to everyone, it belongs to no one. No one owns it. There's no incentive to take care of it. It gets abused and degraded," Roberts said.
Private property sounds selfish. We think of rich people taking advantage of other people. But it works a lot better, Roberts said.
Compare dirty public toilets to privately run toilets. They're common in Europe, and cleaner, because their owners -- selfishly seeking a profit -- work at keeping them clean.
Ah, the core of conservative theory, self-interest is the best interest.
MOSUL, Iraq (news - web sites) -- The 21-ton Stryker attack vehicles pulled into the neighborhood of al-Whada just after noon. Their rear ramps dropped simultaneously, disgorging dozens of American infantrymen into the cold rain.
The soldiers had multiple tasks on this day. In addition to hunting insurgents and searching houses, they were to help get out the vote for Sunday's national elections. For the next three hours, soldiers armed with assault rifles and election fliers moved warily through al-Whada's muddy streets, trying to get Iraqis to embrace democracy.
The inherent danger of the mission was driven home at 3:30 p.m. A single shot rang out, and 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, 27, the popular leader of the 2nd Platoon, C Company, 3rd Battalion of the 21st Infantry Regiment, fell dead in the street.
"Treat him! Treat him!" screamed Staff Sgt. Steve Siglock, one of his closest friends. The shot that killed Hoe on Saturday was followed within seconds by a blizzard of gunfire aimed at his exposed platoon. It was already too late for Hoe, but his men stepped directly into the gunfire in a desperate attempt to save him while fending off the unseen insurgents.
On the campaign trail in Iraq, U.S. troops are almost alone. Violence has kept away the election monitors, international peacekeepers and nongovernmental organizations that normally perform the basic tasks of electioneering in nascent democracies. With not even the candidates out on the streets, the role of getting out the vote has fallen to thousands of infantrymen like Hoe, soldiers who are menaced by the possibility of instant death.
Aside from the troops, the streets were empty.
"The local population, they want to be hospitable, but a lot of times they're either nervous, just due to our very presence or due to the fact that as soon as we show up, several minutes later they're gonna start receiving mortar fire or RPG fire or small-arms fire near their homes" from the insurgents, said the Charlie Company commander, Capt. Rob Born, 30, of Burke, Va.
Born stopped to chat up a butcher hacking up a cow in his carport.
"Are you gonna vote?" Born asked cheerfully.
He handed the man a red-and-white leaflet that showed two Iraqis casting ballots. "One vote is more precious than gold," the leaflet said.
"If it's safe to go, I will. If it's not, I won't," the butcher told him.
The 1st Platoon was to escort two members of a tactical human intelligence team, or THT, to the medical clinic. The 2nd Platoon was to hand off an encryption device to U.S. advisers working with Iraqi troops near a hospital.
At the last minute, however, the orders changed. Hoe was ordered to escort the THT to the clinic.
"Nobody had a problem with it. It was just easier for us to transport the THT guys, so we swapped missions," Siglock recalled. In interviews, he and 15 other soldiers described the events that followed.
Hoe decided to pull up several hundred yards short of the clinic and take only one squad of nine soldiers to avoid frightening the clinic staff. When the men dismounted from the rear of the Stryker, however, the platoon was still a city block away, farther than Hoe had intended.
"Everyone remount," Hoe started to say, according to Thornton, who was still in the vehicle. Then he decided against it. "Nah, [expletive] it, we'll walk."
Hoe joined the formation, the two-man intelligence team behind him. The soldiers began to walk toward the clinic on a street that ran along an open field. On the other side of the field, about 250 yards away, stood a mosque.
The shot rang out from a building near the mosque. Hoe was wearing a bulletproof vest, but the bullet hit him in the exposed crease behind his left shoulder. It traveled through both lungs and punctured his aorta before exiting his body through his right armpit. He died almost instantly, doctors later concluded.
"Ow," Hoe seemed to say as he fell.
"In my opinion, it was an ambush initiated by a sniper," Siglock said. The sniper probably identified Hoe as the platoon leader by his proximity to his radio operator, Pfc. Jerome Roettgers, 23, of Cincinnati, who was trailing Hoe with a two-foot antenna.
As Hoe lay in the street, Siglock relayed the unthinkable to Myers, the platoon sergeant: "2-7, this is 2-1, 2-6 is down."
Hoe's radio call sign was Tiger 2-6.
The message bludgeoned the platoon.
Fire From the Mosque
In the brief moment of shock, at least five insurgents opened up on them. The shots came from across the field; muzzle flashes were seen coming from the tall minaret of the mosque.
The men got Hoe into an alley, which the platoon then sealed off with a Stryker. Myers and the platoon medic, Spec. Rusty "Doc" Mauney, took over. Mauney gave Hoe two quick "rescue breaths" and took his pulse. Hoe had none. Mauney thought he might have missed it because of the noise from the gunfire, but the firing stopped and Hoe's condition was the same.
Hoe was dead, but his men refused to believe it.
They loaded him into the Stryker and drove to the combat support hospital about seven miles away. The 21-ton trucks raced 60 mph through the streets of Mosul, fishtailing around corners, air horns blasting.
Inside the lead vehicle, Mauney frantically performed chest compressions while Myers gave Hoe mouth-to-mouth. "I was covered in his blood," Myers recalled somberly. "We were doing the compressions, and every time there would be something coming out of something and hitting me in the face. There was swelling in his chest area; the blood was pooling up in his chest. We turned him on his side to get the fluid out of his lungs, like you'd do when somebody is drowning. A large volume of blood came out at that point."
"Don't give up!" Myers shouted at Hoe. "Don't you [expletive] quit on me!"
Mauney and Myers helped carry Hoe into the emergency room. A doctor walked over to Myers to see if he too had been wounded. When the doctor learned that Myers was covered in Hoe's blood, he took out a white rag and tenderly wiped off his face, "like I was some kid who had candy all over him," Myers said.
The rest of the platoon gathered in a dirt parking lot that had turned into a swamp. The men were soaked. It was still raining, but no one sat inside the Strykers. Nearly everyone was smoking; they burned the cigarettes to the butt and then used them to light more.
Mauney was still in the operating room when the chief surgeon shook his head and announced, "Time of death: 1602."
Mauney walked outside and smoked. A doctor came out and handed him Hoe's soaked pistol belt. The medic kept thinking about the previous summer. Hoe had been hit by a car while jogging, and Mauney went to his house every day to change his dressing.
"Hey, Doc, I never saw a medic who makes house calls," Hoe's new wife, Emily, teased him. Then she said: "Well, I don't have to worry about him over there with you looking out for him, do I?"
"I was just sitting out there in the rain, holding his pistol belt, and that was going over and over in my mind," Mauney said.
By then, Gibler, the battalion commander, had arrived. He wanted to break the news to the platoon, but Myers insisted that he be the one to do it.
Gibler, Myers and Born, the company commander, walked out into the rain. The platoon was gathered around the Strykers. Some of the soldiers already knew. Some knew but didn't want to believe it.
"Nainoa didn't make it," Myers told them.
'You Caught Your Wave'
The men were crying now, all 40 of them. Born started to speak. "I know how close you all are. . . ." He broke down and turned away.
Myers announced that anyone who wanted to could come inside the hospital and pay their last respects. At first, no one moved. Then slowly the soldiers shuffled forward.
Hoe rested on a gurney in a remote hallway. He was covered by a blanket except for his face.
His men walked slowly around the gurney until they had nearly formed a circle. Then the entire platoon, all 40 men, knelt beside their platoon leader and prayed.
The men rose and moved on. Some reached out and stroked Hoe's cheek. Some leaned over and whispered into his ear.
"Vaya con Dios," said Moreno.
Why are Americans dying to encourage Iraqis to vote? It's their country. Yet, they not only passively watch the guerillas, they run to tell them when we show up. That unit wasn't there five minutes before they got lit up. How many more young men die before we realize how futile this is.
That young officer died handing out election leaflets. Not hunting the enemy, not protecting Iraqis, but telling Iraqis to vote in their own country. I wonder what would have happened if Iraqi cops or guardsmen were asked to do the same. They would have run like their asses were on fire.
Iraq is so dangerous, we have companies of 11B's canvassing for votes.
That, in and of itself, is a sad, sad fact. Losing a good officer makes it just that much sadder and pointless.
Taking a dive in boxing or knobbling a horse in racing are as old as the sports themselves. Even team sports - such as baseball, football and cricket - have long been afflicted by match-fixing and dodgy gambling, mostly by influencing money-hungry players.
But sporting corruption has taken a relatively disturbing twist this week in German football: the active involvement of the referee. Robert Hoyzer, a lower-league official, has admitted fixing at least five matches in return for a five-figure sum, alleged to be from a Croatian betting syndicate. At the heart of the scandal - the largest to hit German football since more than 50 players, officials and coaches were caught up in corruption in 1971 - was a cup game in which Bundesliga side Hamburg SV lost a 2-0 lead against lower-placed opposition as Hoyzer awarded two dubious penalties and sent a player off.
Hoyzer's admission, after initially denying the allegations, has sent German football into shock. Hamburg - whose manager had to resign shortly after the cup match as the team's form nosedived - are considering taking legal action. The German football association, the DFB, has been deeply embarrassed by the scandal and is changing the rules so that referees will know only two days before a game which one they will officiate. It is unclear, however, how this measure will stop last-minute betting on games where the official has already been bought.
More serious is the thought that fans and teams will no longer accept a controversial decision as flawed but honest. "We cannot link every questionable decision to what is happening at the moment," said Torsten Frings, a midfielder at Bayern Munich. "That would slowly bring about the death of football."
Equally worrying for authorities is the murky nature of the people behind the corruption. The recent corruption in cricket was largely sparked by Asian-based betting syndicates. Officials in Europe are worried about eastern European gangs, citing the alleged involvement of Croatian betting rings in Berlin in the latest German scandal.
Another growing problem is that the result of matches no longer has to be fixed for a punter to clean up at bookmakers. It is now possible to bet on almost anything in sporting contests: who wins the toss in cricket, how quickly the first corner will come on football, even who will finish last in horse racing. This creates a whole series of other areas to be policed. When one English Premiership football team a few years ago booted the ball out of play almost straight from the kick-off, many asked whether some players had had a small flutter.
The DFB and German football are hoping that Hoyzer is just an isolated case so they can put this scandal behind them as cricket, baseball and all the other sports affected have done. But Hoyzer himself sounded less certain things were over. Ominously, he told German television that there were "a lot of other people" involved.
Of Europe's four major leagues, the EPL, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga, the last one is the shakiest. Having lost millions from TV contracts, and suffering from a decline of interest compared to the booming EPL and the well-funded La Liga, the last thing they need is a cheating scandal, especially tied to East European mafias.
In Europe, sports betting is not only legal, but common. So you can walk down any high street, place a bet on you team and then go to the match, no bookie, no phone calls, no debts. The problem is that fixing games makes it that much more serious because of the impact.
If German football is corrupt, one of the sports most important leagues, will be seriously tainted. Everyone knows Serie A has issues, no one wants the Bundesliga to develop it's own issues beyond what they have now. Especially as the EPL's popularity in the US and Asia is exploding. FIFA has to be wary that any scandal could hurt the image of the sport. If Hoyzer isn't alone, this could cause a major crisis in European football.
The Condoleezza Rice nomination was a sorry spectacle, but not in the way everyone is saying. Frankly, I think Sen. Barbara Boxer was completely within her rights - as rude and as typically middle-brow as she was - to criticize Condoleezza Rice. Cabinet appointments are a time-honored way of expressing opposition to presidential policies.
No, the sorry spectacle is the grand fog of racial confusion that the Rice hearings illuminated. On one side we have some Republicans and conservatives accusing Democrats of some veiled form of racism or sexism for giving Rice a hard time. On the other side we some Democrats denouncing Republicans for even bringing Rice's race and sex into the discussion. This is all about policy, they insist. In other words, nonsense all around.
How'd we get here? Well, that's a long story. But let's start with Bush's victory in 2000, which presented a real dilemma for Democrats who'd spent the 1990s playing the race card like it was an expiring coupon. It was Bill Clinton who really transformed the rules of the game when it comes to diversity-mongering. The most obvious symbol of this enlightened thinking was the famous declaration that his cabinet would "look like America." This meant that "diversity" would be achieved once you've appointed a crayon box of different colors (and sexes, though that ruins the metaphor).
Oh right, there is one good reason not to do that: hypocrisy. If you believe in a colorblind society - as Republicans allegedly do - such litmus tests are a violation of principle. But let's put that thought aside for a moment.
Bush's strategy was greeted with moderate success at first. Then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle declared in May 2001, "I'm pleased that the White House has chosen to work with us on the first group of nominations." Even the hyperpartisan Sen. Leahy said he was encouraged. The New York Times welcomed Bush's nominees as "eclectic and conciliatory." Why the warm welcome? Well, largely because over half the nominees were blacks, Hispanics or women. Peter Beinart of the New Republic caught on to what was happening at the time, warning that Bush had taken the "specious logic" of liberal multiculturalism "and driven a truck through it."
Eventually the Democrats came to the same realization - and followed Beinart's hypercynical advice and took dead aim at the minority nominees. Miguel Estrada, for example, a very well-qualified Hispanic whom the Bush team hoped to groom for a Supreme Court seat, was singled out by Democrats because he was a Hispanic and therefore so much more threatening. In response, Republicans went batty and played exactly the same game the Democrats had played. Sen. Pete Domenici, for example, deadpanned: "I want to say to Democrats . you don't have to be afraid. . They (Hispanics) are good lawyers and great judges." Sen. Rick Santorum called Democratic policy "complete discrimination."
And so here we are today. Different players, same game. Republicans bought the racial logic of Democrats for partisan gain - and it worked. Democrats abandoned the same logic when it stopped working for them. Both sides should be ashamed of themselves.
But, as a conservative who actually believes in color-blindness, I have to say that the Democrats deserve the lion's share of ridicule in this mess. Yes, Republicans are being hypocritical, but they aren't putting their hypocrisy into law. Democrats may claim a sudden conversion to colorblindness, but they still reflexively claim any opposition to affirmative action is ipso facto evidence of racism.
And, more to the point: They started it.
No, my racist friend Jonah, people like misgenist Strom Thurmond started it. They were the ones obsessed by race.
Clinton merely wanted a cabinet which regflected an increasingly diverse America. I know NRO believes in white man's privledge, but clearly by ignoring blacks and latinos, he would have to ignore some of the country's brightest minds.
What Bush did was find barely qualified blacks and latinos, like Miguel Estrada and Janice Brown and said "approvethem, they're colored." It was not about their race, but their minimal qualifications for the jobs they sought. Estrada wouldn't give a straight answer on abortion, Brown objected to the Bill of Rights being in the Constitution. Now, we know NR and NRO would never just hire a Negro to look good, but Bush was clearly playing the Clarence Thomas card, hire any incompetent if he's black and conservative. And if people oppose him, they're racist. Man on dog Santorum was wrong, Estrada was not a good lawyer and Gonzalez's legal skills may have condemned the innocent to death because he zipped through their cases.
To say that the Dems singled out Estrada because of his ethnicity is a lie. It was his inability to answer direct questions.
Oh yeah, on to Rice. She is incompetent. Has been from day one. She is a joke to our allies and her word is worthless. The fact that she is widely regarded as an embarassment to black people is secondary. Clarence Thomas in a dress. She was the worst NSA in modern history and will probably go down making William Rogers look like Metternich. Her color is probably the only reason she has a job where she could fail so badly and get promoted.
But for the racists at NRO to object to racial politics is comical. It's like ManU fans complaining about Chelsea buying players. They are in no position to say a word.
It’s not often these days that Arsenal and Manchester United are heard singing from the same hymn-sheet, but Gunners’ striker Thierry Henry and United defender Rio Ferdinand joined forces as the Frenchman launched his ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’ campaign to counteract the racist tendency in European football.
As part of the campaign, ’Stand Up Speak Out’ black-and-white wristbands, available for a £1.50 charity donation, are being launched, together with a pan-European advertising campaign, and the players of both Arsenal and United will all wear the wristbands in next week’s eagerly awaited Premiership clash at Highbury.
If such unity sounds remarkable, so is the story of how Henry came to devise this initiative.
He was motivated to do so by the racist slur against him uttered to Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes by Spain coach Luis Aragones.
The Arsenal striker revealed that he would be prepared to meet Aragones, who was filmed using the racist term to describe Henry during a Spain training session last year.
Henry said he could still not believe the Spain coach’s comments, and warned that the "game was suffering" because of the enduring racism problem in some countries.
"It makes me think of a proverb - you can always forgive but I will never forget," he declared.
"I could meet him, I would have no problem with that. I can forgive but it will always be in my mind."
Aragones has been investigated but not yet punished for his racist comments, having insisted he was merely trying to motivate Henry’s Arsenal team-mate Jose Reyes.
But Henry observed: "There is no possible reason to say something like that.
"When I heard about what he had said, I was preparing for a game with France and I thought someone was telling me a bad ...................
At this week’s launch he was joined by Ferdinand in bridging the recent divide between their two clubs, and revealed just why he had been prompted to do something constructive about this issue.
"I was asked what I wanted to be done and I said that I would like the authorities to step in a bit harder, but then I thought that I could bring everyone behind me in the fight against racism," he said.
"We are suffering out there as human beings but the game is suffering as well. We are aware that this campaign cannot change everything but doing nothing will certainly not change anything.
"Sometimes you don’t understand quite how hard it is to keep cool out there on the pitch in the middle of this kind of thing.
Race is the hidden subtext in modern European life. The Spanish behavior was excretable but racism has a long history in European football. But it clearly reflects a deeper problem that Europeans have in dealing with their increasingly multicultural societies. The racial taunting is nothing new, but as blacks gain a larger profile in European life, stands have to be made to ensure this kind of behavior is curtailed.
As an American, that kind of racial taunting is pretty much unknown. When Rush Limbaugh implied that Donovan McNab was being praised for his race and not his blinding talent, he was quickly forced to apologize and was fired from ESPN. A sports team, on any level, which tolerated that kind of abuse would be quickly sanctioned. Even the use of Confederate Battle Flags has been the subject of controversy, as has the use of Indian team names. Open racial taunting is simply not accepted in US sports.
OK, Cary's advice here isn't horrible, but the letter was interesting enough to get comments on.
Demanding the big rock She wants her fiance to spend three months' salary on her engagement ring. Is that fair to the man?
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By Cary Tennis
Jan. 28, 2005 | Dear Cary,
About a year and a half ago, my husband's and my best friends broke up. She was unhappy and disappointed with him; he was rejecting and cheating on her. We all got together and got married at the same time, and they had been together over 12 years. They have a son (whom the husband never wanted) who is now 3. Since then, he has been through a couple of new girls, and she has recently moved in with her boyfriend of about a year. He is the complete opposite of her ex-husband, and is a very good man. I thought he would be her rebound man, since he was the first one after the split and is not really her type, physically or culturally. She has said right from the beginning that she's not really attracted to him or passionately in love. She has been honest with him about that, but he hung in there. She now says that she loves him, but not like the way she loved her ex. He is good to her, and is trying hard with her son, who is a willful boy, to say the least.
My concern is that she may be in this relationship for the wrong reasons, but maybe I think that because I was raised very differently from her. I never expected a man to take care of me or that I would be dependent upon anyone. My friend sees this man as a way out of a financial hole. While my husband and I were progressing in our careers, our friends were working low-wage, dead-end jobs, despite high levels of education and potential. My friend has had severe financial difficulty, particularly since the baby and the split. Her job is better now, but she still couldn't support herself alone. Her boyfriend's company pays their living expenses, and he has always saved his money -- he doesn't believe in living in debt. This support is enabling my friend to get back on her feet financially. Her boyfriend is very generous, and she takes good care of him.
They have a conflict, though -- they have been talking about getting married and she is adamant that she wants an expensive engagement ring -- worth three months of his salary. She says that she doesn't want to be greedy, but after the split she told herself that her next guy would be fairly well-off and the ring is an important symbol of that to her. I tried to tell her that's a lot of B.S. put out by the diamond industry, but her upbringing was more traditional and she wants this. She's also starting to lobby for a new, more expensive house, which he would pay for. He doesn't believe in spending money on rings, he would rather spend it on something more worthwhile -- like a vacation or furniture or a house. He has also depleted his savings setting up their current home for her, and needs some time to recuperate, but my friend is working herself into a tiz over the ring.
My question -- is this a normal expectation that women have? It seems very antiquated and unfair to me. Is it right for my friend to expect an expensive ring? I see a lot of women wearing them -- am I the weird one for thinking it's ridiculous? Actually, I think part of the problem I have with this situation is that I see her as selling her soul for material goods. She loves this man, but does she love him enough? I don't know.
By Robin Givhan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2005; Page C01
At yesterday's gathering of world leaders in southern Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United States was represented by Vice President Cheney. The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance, such as French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin, were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.
The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.
Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood. It is embroidered with his name. It reminded one of the way in which children's clothes are inscribed with their names before they are sent away to camp. And indeed, the vice president looked like an awkward boy amid the well-dressed adults.
Like other attendees, the vice president was wearing a hat. But it was not a fedora or a Stetson or a fur hat or any kind of hat that one might wear to a memorial service as the representative of one's country. Instead, it was a knit ski cap, embroidered with the words "Staff 2001." It was the kind of hat a conventioneer might find in a goodie bag.
It is also worth mentioning that Cheney was wearing hiking boots -- thick, brown, lace-up ones. Did he think he was going to have to hike the 44 miles from Krakow -- where he had made remarks earlier in the day -- to Auschwitz?
I wonder if one would normally dress like they were going to see a Wyoming Cowboys game to visit the largest cemetery on earth. More people died at Auschwitz than any other single spot on earth and Dick Cheney dressed like it was a pain in the ass to be there. The ex-Soviet soldiers, barely living on pensions, had more dignity and dressed better. So did the survivors. Only Cheney decided dressing like my 9 year old nephew was appropriate for the occasion.
Washington is a very insular place. And no place more insular than the White House.
Oh yeah, he was playing dress up as well. That is an AF-issue parka used for cold weather air crews. You see it on units stationed in Alaska. At least he didn't wear a bright orange Navy parka, the one they use for trips to the antartic.
It was so clear that Cheney could not give a shit about the occasion or what it meant, that his clothes reflected the boredom of a child trapped at the funeral of a distant relative.
We can't have the president cold at the largest grave on earth, can we?
I'm watching Nightline's town hall on Iraq and it's the same shit in a different day.
Sen. George Allen (R-VA) should never be in a room with a serious thought. Thankfully he talked so much that Richard Perle had to keep his mouth shut. Joe Wilson kept talking about "internationalization" as if any European government could survive such a vote. Marty Meehan (D-MA) made some sense about setting a time table for leaving Iraq.
Two years later, it's like watching a debate frozen in amber.
No one wants to say the obvious, that we are losing and our fate is quickly slipping from our hands. Train the Iraqis was the mantra. The only problem is that the Iraqis hate Americans, as much for the poor services as the random shootings. Allen repeated the party line that the Baathists were doing all the killing. Which is a nice slogan, but clearly not true. The fact is that the resistance has excellent intelligence, constant observation and a cloak of silence. This has resulted from a combination of fear, patriotism and American racism.
The war is growing by the day and in Washington, we're having the same circular debate.
My solution: cut and run, before we are forced to leave at gunpoint. Sistani has NEVER defended the Shia cops who are dying or called for Shia men to join the Army. Instead, he has waited and remained silent. The idea that he can cut a deal which keeps the US in Iraq and live is ridiculous. They can get to him if they want.
They keep talking about millions of Iraqis going to vote, when only a quarter of those living outside Iraq are going to bother and no one is shooting at them.
It was just disappointing to see the same debate about Iraq as if things have not slid downhill like a mudslide.
The one thing which the election may do is bring some reality to Iraq policy, if not at DOD, up on the Hill and in the media.
Update:This is from someone who atteneded the Nightline meeting
I just came from the townhall meeting hosted by Ted Koppel at St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House in Washington D.C.
The topic is IRAQ: Why Stay?
The panel consisted of Joseph Wilson, Sen. George Allen (R), and Rep Marty Meehan (D)
There was some good dialogue, but mostly ended up that time was given primarily to the pro-war agenda. There were a few outbursts that will probably be edited out, and one major outburst from a Rabbi Waskau that you will not see because it was during a commercial break.
I am posting this now, so you are aware, and will watch Nightline, but am going to keep adding to this diary continuously until I can accurately describe the event as I witnessed it.
Diaries :: NewWay4NewDay's diary ::
It started out seemingly okay. People were asked to submit questions to producers.
I submitted a question... it was about the effects of Depleted Uranium on our military personnel and Iraqui Civillians, and I wanted to ask what has been done to protect our troops from exposure to radioactive dust particles, and wanted to know if the Veterans Administration is prepared for the long term health effects to soldiers & their offspring caused by over exposure to DU.
The producer told me that since there were no helath experts on the panel, it was not a proper question for the theme of the show, and So, I restructured my comment, and she said it was better and would run it by the executive producer: "As a navy veteran who was deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991, I am concerned that America is not prepared for a resurgence of Gulf War Syndrome" and that the Veterans Administration is ill-equipped to deal with the long term health issues faced by soldiers who have been exposed to Depleted Uranium".
So, We all sat and waited for the program to begin.
It starts out with a Democratic congresswoman from Illinois (can't remember her name) underscoring that she felt the war was based on a lie etc.
Then Ted Koppel asked if their were any military people who wanted to respond. The first woman who got the mic (I think by accident) was a woman who had lost her husband in the war last year and said she was a part of a group (I think Millitary Famlies Speak Out, but not sure) who gave a heartfelt plea to pull out of Iraq before anymore spouses had to go through what she had gone through.
From there, it started becoming clear that the pro-war people were going to be given more time to speak than people who dissented. The next comment came from a woman who also lost her husband (actually in the same unit as the other wife) and she gave a patriotic speech about how poud she was that he had died for his country etc and that we needed to finish the job of bring freedom to Iraq.
So, it went on this way, with the pro-war side taking precedence.
Then, during the third commercial break Rabbi Waskau stood up and loudly said, "I was invited hear to speak, but then was told I could you would not allow anyone from the religious community to sit in the front row and that I would be allowed to make a comment later if I would take a seat in back. But now I have been told that I will not be allowed to speak at all."
(upon hearing that, I realized that nobody had spoken from a religious/faith based perspective, and wondered if that was indeed intentional).
He went on, "So I will ask my question now during the break so as not to cause embarrassment to you Mr. Koppel"
Ted Koppel said, "Thank you, go ahead"
The Rabbi spoke: "You do not want the religious community to speak beacause we DO see the BIG picture (reffrencng a marine who had spoken earlier saying that people who were for ending the occupation in Iraq di not see the big picture) "We know the story of the Pharoah, who tried to hold back God's people, and that the Pharoah's lust for power was so great that we pushed his army against the Hebrews again and again no matter how many time's he failed... he continued to deny the circumstances until the amry of Egypt was beat down and depleted at the expense of his subjects." (I wish I could communicate the eloquence with which he spoke)... "President Bush is the Pharoah, and he has stripped the American people of basic social services such as healthcare and education in order to arrogantly keep up his holy war. I will no longer stand for the U.S. governmen and the media denying the religious community our voice. The common people of the Untied States and of Iraq and elsewhere are suffering."
Then he said he was done, (there was definitely some applause during parts of his speech) and he was escorted out the church where the Nightline episode was being taped.
Antother outburst happened toward the last half hour when a tall older African American gentleman went up to a mic without permission and siad, "ask Richard Perle about the PNAC... that's all I've got to say... I'm outa here!"
Then, it went on and during the last break their was a similar occurence as to the rabbi's, when an Iraqi spoke loudly saying, there are many Iraqi's here sitting in the back, and we were told we could speak, but have been denied."
Before it went further, Ted Koppel said they would be given a chance to speak in the last seven minute segment.
However, when the show started again, one man was brought to the microphone from another section... not from where the first Iraqi said he and others were sitting. That one man said he was an Iraqi and represented the majority of Iraqi's and he supproted the U.S. freedom fighters, and only a small percentage of Sunni's were angered by the U.S. presence in Iraq. that was all.
Ted Koppel went to the closing statements and let each of the four guest panelists have their say, then started to do his closing.
I was upset that nothing was said about the health of our troops mentally, physically or otherwise.
So, I satrted chanting "GULF WAR SYNDROME" over and over again, very loudly so it filled the church and drown out Ted Koppel.
He replied, "I am sure I have no idea what you're taking about"
and I yelled, "It's about Depleted Uranium!"
Then I shut up, and he finished his closing and it was over.
As I was waiting to filter out with everybody else, I heard one of the Iraqi's, who was very upset, talking to a producer: "This is not what we expected, we were told we would get a chance to speak in the press release you sent us, and you did not give us the chance to say what we came to say."
The producer just kind of appeased him... nodded and stuff.
I think they will probably re-shoot Ted Koppel's closing.
I just wanted you to post this so the whole story could get out there... pass it on as you deem appropriate.
I am really feeling at this moment that the media is intentionally trying to appear as they foster "free speech" and "open dialogue", but are actually doing everything they can to keep dissenting views muted and to a minimum.