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Comments Credits
Comments by YACCS
Friday, April 30, 2004

A few things

A few things

First, hit the Planned Parenthood box. I've already been paid for it, but you need to sign the petition. Karen Hughes's comments comparing the pro-choice movement to Al Qaeda are deeply unpatriotic and she needs to know Americans will not stand for such vile slander.

Ok, I'm finally going to put up the Amazon/Paypal box this weekend. We're trying to raise enough money for a computer upgrade. The PC still lies dormant because I'm lazy and the Mac works fine. But this is not a state which can last forever. It must be repaired, with more memory and a faster CPU. Thankfully, we're not talking more that $200. But to be honest, I'd also like to buy a wireless router and some other stuff. Give what you can, a dollar is fine, seriously, I'm not greedy and I'm still convalescing, so, do what what you can when the box goes up and it will be used well. No beers, no porterhouses, just hardware and software and DSL fees.:)

As I said before, when I use money raised from the site, I'll tell you what it goes for. Unlike George Bush, I believe in accountability.

Once again, I have to thank the people who sent cards and gifts when I was sick. Thank you cards will be coming, now that I can write clearly. It was unexpected and I remain grateful as one can be.

I remain undecided about attending the Democratic convention, I think the GOP convention will make for great TV with the drunk cops rioting and all. However, unlike my peers, I probably won't be raising cash for Boston. You can take a bus from New York round trip for $20 to Boston and my sister lives near downtown, so no need to raise cash if I go. Unless you want to buy me stuff from Filenes and the Eddie Bauer outlet near Downtown Crossing.:)

If I decide to go, I'll let you know. But to be honest, most of those things are a great ego boost for the people covering it, but if I'm right, the news from Iraq will be more important.

Also, let me just thank you all for your responses and general civility with your comments. While we haven't gotten our weekly spot on Air America yet, or hosted a show, your contributions are what excite me and keep me going. And if you're just lurking, please post, the more the merrier. Besides, I don't have the greatest radio voice. Trust me on this.

Someone asked me why I write about food. Well, of all the responses I get, they are the best, the most honest. I'm hardly a foodie or even a food writer. I just love the way people open up about something where there are no right opinions.

posted by Steve @ 4:58:00 PM

4:58:00 PM

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A little humiliation and torture

A little humiliation and torture

The thing about the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated is that it is the result of braindead management and racism.

The whole culture of Abu Gharib was designed to control and humiliate Iraqi detainees. The photos come from a fairly wide culture of contempt. These are not the first prisoners to be abused by Americans or the first courtmartial to happen over this kind of treatment.

What is incindiary are the pictures of a woman humilating Arab men and dogs being sicced on them. These are gross violations of Arab culture and sure to assist the resistance in killing Americans. The idea of a woman humiliating men will go down poorly in the Arab world, as will the idea of dogs being used on prisoners.

Saddam didn't take pictures of the people he tortured, and more importantly, he didn't humiliate them for pleasure. Iraqis kept their torture secret.

The fact that the prison officials allowed contract interrogators to have supervisory roles with the prison guards is even more revolting.

Now, why did these things happen? Why would American, and now British, soldiers, seek to abuse, humiliate and then record their acts?

Because that is what you do when you have a racist contempt for those in your charge.

Omer Bartov, the leading German historian of the Eastern Front, helped create an exhibit of Wehrmacht soldiers abusing Russians a few years ago. The exhibit broke the myth that all of the abuses on the Eastern Front were done by the SS. Of course, this exhibit went down like a lead balloon. People were angry at confronting the lies they had hidden behind for decades.

The guards and the interrogators had a deep racist contempt for the Iraqis. They felt no need to treat them decently. When you can call them hajis and sand niggers, how far is it to allowing an Iraqi translator to rape a teenage boy, who was arrested for whatever reason? The abuse didn't come from thin air, but a casual racism which the US command has tolerated from its soldiers.

With communication limited, and a barrier of interrorgators and translators, it becomes very easy to be divorced from the humanity of their prisoners. So things which are clearly horrific, like pyramids of naked men and exposing their genitals, become a giantic joke. They aren't people, but things to abuse. They aren't like us, they can't even communicate with us. Their country is a mess, they needed us to save them, they don't even have a Taco Bell, why should we respect them as fellow humans.

Now, to Arabs, these images are akin to seeing child porn. It couldn't be more offensive or humiliating if you tried. A woman displaying the gentials of Arab men? Dogs? If you wanted a recruiting poster to kill Americans, this would be it.

The soldiers who did this had no clue. Not about Arab culture, the laws of war or the Geneva Convention and the general running the prison was more interested in looking good than running an effective prison. That doesn't mean they aren't guilty of vile abuses, but their superiors shouldn't get a free pass.

God help any Americans captured by the resistance now.

posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 PM

12:00:00 PM

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What are they afraid of?

What are they afraid of?

I am genuinely perplexed by the reaction of Sinclair Broadcasting Group to tonight's Nightline. I'm even more perplexed by calls to read the names of the 9/11 dead instead.

I honestly don't get this reaction.

Those Americans died in the service of their country. What is so wrong about reading the names of those killed in Iraq, whether in combat or in accidents, which Nightline expanded to do, after several parents called to ask why their loved ones were excluded.

I don't see this as any more political as the ceremonies for the opening of the WWII Memeorial on the Mall. I never knew that an accounting of war dead would harm the president and was "anti-war". Most sane people are against war.

But because they are so afraid that people might link our retreat in Fallujah, the general mayhem in Iraq and 724 dead, to Bush's failure to control the situation, they have to dishonor the American dead like this. And make no mistake, they are dishonoring the dead, denying their families the small comfort of seeing their loved ones honored on national TV.

If reading all the names is an anti-war statement, then it's an anti-war statement. If it isn't, it isn't. What it is to me is an acknowledgement of their sacrifice.

But the naked fear of Sinclair's bosses and their conservative allies is quite telling. They were just saying a month ago that casualities didn't matter. That it was less than those that died on Omaha Beach, or living in California. That Americans would take casualities to support the war on terror.

But when called on their bullshit, and faced with the real names of real people, most of who weren't even old enough to drink, they turn tail and cry politics. When their families were crying for their loss, they minimized it and used macho talk to excuse their callousness. Now, when faced with reality, all 724 people are really dead, they ran like the cowards they are.

If reading the names of the war dead is bad for Bush, so be it. It shouldn't be an excuse for the cowardice of Sinclair Broadcasting Group's naked and disrepectful politics.

Note:John McCain sent a letter to Sinclair today:

For Immediate Release
Friday, Apr 30, 2004
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) issued the following letter today to Mr. David Smith, President and CEO of Sinclair Broadcast Group, in response to the preemption of this evening’s Nightline program:

I write to strongly protest your decision to instruct Sinclair’s ABC affiliates to preempt this evening’s Nightline program. I find deeply offensive Sinclair’s objection to Nightline’s intention to broadcast the names and photographs of Americans who gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq.

I supported the President’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and remain a strong supporter of that decision. But every American has a responsibility to understand fully the terrible costs of war and the extraordinary sacrifices it requires of those brave men and women who volunteer to defend the rest of us; lest we ever forget or grow insensitive to how grave a decision it is for our government to order Americans into combat. It is a solemn responsibility of elected officials to accept responsibility for our decision and its consequences, and, with those who disseminate the news, to ensure that Americans are fully informed of those consequences.

There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.

[ back to press releases ]

posted by Steve @ 11:31:00 AM

11:31:00 AM

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The minimum wage

The Minimum Wage

Atrios has a post on Ben Affleck joining Ted Kennedy on Capital Hill to campaign for the minimum wage.

The current minimum wage, which has made Walmart millions by underpaying its workers and providing no benefits doesn't work. If calculated for real needs, the average mininmum wage should be around $!2.

Every time raising the minimum wage comes up, conservatives, who haven't worked for the minimum wage for years, think it will "hurt" business. Which is insane. The owner of Godfather's Pizza, a truly shitty fast food chain, had health insurance for his office staff, but his line workers were simply too "expensive" to insure or pay well. He testified in the mid-90's that raising wages would force him to close stores.

This, is, of course, a lie. Anyone who defends the penury which American law permits is either a liar or a fool. The current minimum wage has climbed two dollars in 20 years. No one ever correlates the cost of federal assistance to the working poor with the cost of a sub-poverty line living wage. If America's employers actually paid their least skilled workers enough to live on from one job, maybe American tax payers wouldn't have to suppliment their income with food stamps and medicaid.

Make no mistake, we are making up the difference between the minimum wage and the profits companies are making.

I watched Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego), talk about self-reliance and individuals coming together as service families lined up for free food given out by the Boy Scouts.

So many Americans have swallowed bullshit which comes from movies, not from actual American history. The West was the largest government grant program in history. Most farms failed long before the mandated five years of the Homestead Act. The real story of the West is the growth of cities, not the individual farmer, who usually failed badly and abandoned the farm for the city as soon as they could. I have to wonder about the sanity of any person, watching people line up for food and spout this drivel.

The minimum wage is a gift to service and retail businesses. It allows them to underpay for labor and profit. Even most fast food places have to pay around $7 an hour to hire anyone, so the legal minimum wage is fictional in most places. What the current mimimum wage does is depress wages for work and allow owners to save on labor costs.

Needless to say, this system doesn't exist in Europe, where the government covers the cost of benefits, like health care and encourages unionization. Too many Americans believe that they can handle their own problems, which is a myth best left on the movie screen.

posted by Steve @ 10:22:00 AM

10:22:00 AM

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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Humvees not up to job

Humvees not up to job

Noah Schactman of Defense Tech wrote this and sent it my way.


Raining hell on Falluja is a tactic bursting with political danger. So why do it? The answer, according to Newhouse's David Wood, is because thin-skinned American Humvees can't handle an up-close fight.

"A shortage of armored combat vehicles in Iraq is pressing U.S. forces into a cruel dilemma: either advance stealthily on foot, or hold up at a city's outskirts and use artillery, mortars and airstrikes," Wood writes.

"Using bombs and AC-130s is a strategic defeat," given the political repercussions, said Kenneth Brower, a weapons designer and consultant to the U.S. and Israeli military. "But we've had to use them."

In contrast, Israel has developed special armored vehicles for urban combat in Gaza and the West Bank, senior Israeli officers said, enabling them to drive up close to the enemy and use pinpoint weapons. Soldiers ride into Palestinian neighborhoods in tanks with turrets replaced by armored boxes with bulletproof glass, which allow the vehicle commanders to see 360 degrees without exposing themselves to fire.

American tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, like the Bradley, have notoriously restricted vision when hatches are closed. In city streets, they must operate with crewmen exposed in open hatches or be flanked by walking infantrymen to protect against side attack.

"We have a whole spectrum of vehicles that enable you to see where you are going and who shoots at you, without being hit," said a senior Israeli officer who recently commanded a brigade in Gaza.

"This enables you to advance inside the city and to get closer" to the enemy, said the officer, who spoke on condition that he not be identified by name. "As far as I can recall we have never used indirect fire in 3 1/2 years in the West Bank and Gaza."

See, if we had known we'd be colonial occupiers, we could have built a whole fleet of weapons for repression. Looks like we screwed up.

Of course, sending Humvees into areas with RPG's is insane. But then, what else is new in this war.

Maybe if we don't read the names of the dead in public we can pretend this isn't happening.

posted by Steve @ 11:56:00 PM

11:56:00 PM

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The dead matter

The dead matter

On 'Nightline,' a Grim Sweeps Roll Call

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, April 28, 2004; Page C01

ABC News's "Nightline" will devote its entire broadcast on Friday to reading the names of the more than 500 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who have been killed in action in Iraq.

As anchor Ted Koppel reads the names for the entire half-hour, viewers will see photographs of those killed since March 19, 2003, as certified by the Defense Department.

In its announcement yesterday, ABC News said the program was its way of paying tribute to the dead. And "Nightline" executive producer Leroy Sievers called it the program's way to "remind our viewers -- whether they agree with the war or not -- that beyond the casualty numbers, these men and women are serving in Iraq in our names, and that those who have been killed have names and faces."

That is good to know because otherwise we might be left thinking that Friday's broadcast, which ABC will simulcast on its Jumbotron in New York's Times Square, is a cheap, content-free stunt designed to tug at our heartstrings and bag a big number on the second night of the May ratings race

Atrios mentioned that the Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which owns several ABC affliates, is refusing to air this broadcast because they think it's a political stunt to undermine Bush.

I would suggest that you call them to ask why honoring American war dead is beyond them. It would especially help if you were a veteran. Also, don't be shy, if you're a member of a veteran's organization, let them know that these people would rather air a sitcom rerun than remember those who died for this country in combat. I'm sure they'll be airing stories on the new WWII memorial on the Mall. So why don't those who died in Iraq deserve the same respect and honor as those who died in other American wars?

Here's the list to contact the Sinclair stations which Atrios dug up:

Contact the Sinclair Broadcast Group at 410-568-1500 and ask them why they refuse to acknowledge those who have served this country honorably.

You can also contact your local affiliate:

WXLV, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point NC 336-274-484
WEAR, Pensacola 850-456-3333
KDNL, St. Louis
WSYX, Columbus OH 614-481-6666
WLOS, Asheville NC 828-684-1340
WCHS, Charleston, Huntington W VA 304-346-5358
WGGB, Springfield MA (413) 733-4040
WTXL, Tallahassee (850)893-4140

Be polite with them - recognize that it isn't their decision but you're nonetheless calling to voice your objection

Now, some of you have a point, maybe I do watch too much TV. But not as much as Lisa de Moraes, who also deserves a few e-mails for her unrelenting cynicism.

So, it would be a good idea to air the show about the dead on Memorial Day? When no one is watching and is sitting around drunk and well fed?

I think the idea is "not to tug on our heartstrings", but to remind the country of the cost of war at a time people may actually watch. I guess she's not watching the news every night to see a glimpse of her relatives in Iraq. It's only content-free when you don't have to see someone you know name being read. Otherwise, it's about all you will ever need to know about the Iraq war.

What doesn't surprise me is her complete cluelessnes about the topic. I hope ABC gets landmark ratings for this, although they won't. I would want them to air it during sweeps so people can see it. They should get as much publicity as possible for this, so people can at least see the names of the dead who didn't play for the NFL.

There has been no complete reading of the names of the dead in the media. If Nightline wants to sell Levitra while doing so, it's still a public service.

I don't think the Beltway crowd gets it. For many Americans, watching the news is hellish because they don't know if they'll see their relatives wounded or in combat. It's a frightening thing for many families. That machine gunner blasting away at unseen Iraqi positions is someone's son. That guy climbing out of a tank with a bloody face has a mother who had to see that.

The news is only news for those of us who don't have someone in Iraq. For those that do, it's a combination of expectation and horror.

It's easy to be cynical and snide about ABC's motives if we're not talking about your family.

I think it might serve as some small comfort to have your child's sacrifice noted by someone besides your family and local newspaper, regardless of the motives. After all, they're not coming back from the dead. A night of remembering the dead can't hurt, even if the motives are less than pure.

posted by Steve @ 1:28:00 PM

1:28:00 PM

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No good options

No good options

In Two Sieges, U.S. Finds Itself Shut Out
Officials See No Good Options for Ending Fallujah, Najaf Standoffs

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Robin Wright
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 29, 2004; Page A01

FALLUJAH, Iraq, April 28 -- Perched atop sandbags and peering through powerful binoculars, Marine officers manning front-line positions around this tense city can see the problem clearly enough, even through the swirling dust that gives Fallujah the sepia hue of a Wild West town: Military-age men in white robes swagger about with impunity, they say, hardening their defenses and resupplying their encampments.

The Marines say the men are Sunni Muslim guerrillas who have taken over this Euphrates River city and transformed it into a stronghold of resistance to the American occupation of Iraq.

But neither here, nor in the Baghdad palace that serves as the headquarters of the U.S. occupation administration, nor in the corridors of official Washington, is the solution to the Fallujah problem clear. Although American officials and Iraq's U.S.-backed leaders agree that the insurgents should be captured or killed, preferably before the Americans hand over limited sovereignty on June 30, no good options exist to accomplish that goal, according to U.S. officials familiar with the issue.

A further incursion into Fallujah -- the only way many Marine officers say the insurgency here can be squelched -- has been rejected by local and national Iraqi leaders as an unacceptable risk to tens of thousands of noncombatants in the city.

"There are a lot of different proposals on the table, but all of them are fraught with problems," said one senior U.S. official in Iraq, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The same dilemma confronts U.S. military commanders and civilian officials 130 miles to the south, in the holy city of Najaf, as they attempt to resolve a standoff with a radical Shiite Muslim cleric and hundreds of his militiamen. Even more so than in Fallujah, a full-scale move into the city by U.S. forces would fuel Iraqi anger and further poison relations between the United States and the country's Shiite majority.

As military commanders and civilian administrators scramble to craft solutions to the crises in Fallujah and Najaf, "all the choices are unpalatable," said a senior U.S. official in Washington who spent several months in Iraq last year and who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "No one likes the options."

A post on Atrios goes into great detail on the numbers of US forces, but the reality is that the Marines are facing the Iraqi Army, not just "guerrillas", which is being centrally directed by former commanders of the army, maybe the Republican Guard.

I nearly broke my TV, when ABC's David Wright said it was inevitable the Marines will win. It isn't. The Marines should have won already. If these were just guerrillas, the Spectre should have broken their backs. It didn't even come close. Instead, when the Marines tried to seize the train station, they got repulsed. Guerrillas can't do that. Soldiers can.

The Marines need a divisional push to seize Fallujah and they don't have the men. Not even close. When you get into urban warfare, you need men, not machines. If they launch their battalions into Fallujah, they'll get ground up.

Any time someone says the Marines can win, remember, every Iraqi has an AK-47. Shopowners, kids, ex-soldiers, and Iraq, a veteran's meeting would fill a soccer stadium, old ladies. When those .223 rounds start slamming into your house, picking up and shooting is easy. No guerrilla force has been as lavishly equipped and and as cheaply equipped as the Iraqis. They merely had to drive to dumps and pick up all the weapons they wanted. Saddam's gift to Iraq was free weapons. He may have starved and tortured them, but he gave them the means for self-defense.

So when a "guerrilla" leader in Iraq looks to face the Americans, his men go into the streets with all the weapons of a modern infantry platoon, machine guns, automatic weapons, rpgs, hand grenades, mines, and with most of the men trained professionally as soldiers. The lie that these are foriegn fighters and remnants is just that. The remnants died in frontal attacks last March and April and foreign fighters would have been killed without an Iraqi support network.

Imagine if you lived in Ohio and all of a sudden Britons, Canadians and Australian guerrillas showed up to fight the Iraqi occupation Army. How long would they last if they didn't have local support? A month? Maybe two? They don't have the local accent, they can't eat or hide out. They wouldn't even be an effective military force.

Instead, we are facing people who have enough military training to dig in and hold defensive positions, just like they did against Iran. Say the older guys were 19-20 in 1988. They're in their mid-30's now and the younger guys know the techniques of combat, even if they haven't been shot at.

Another thing, which should have been evident from the Iran-Iraq war was that the Iraqis are extremely brave when well led. The poor leadership of the Gulf War has not been replicated. Instead, the Iraqis are demonstrating a real courage on the battlefield. Even posting bounties on Kimmit, Sanchez and Rumsfeld for $15m. That's more like the 101st at Bastogne than some scared guerrilla force. The Iraqis definitely seem to have a swagger to match the Marines. And their leaders, unlike US reporters, know exactly the position the Marines are in. They are also experienced enough not to try and go on the offensive against the Marines. It may have thrown them off balance at Ramadi, but the cost was very high.

The US command keeps trying to minimize who we are facing, and anyone with a brain can see Fallujah has a coordinated, widely supported defense led by professionals. If it wasn't, the Marines would have rolled it up weeks ago. They didn't agree to a cease-fire because they were winning. And despite the talk, it is clear the "local leaders" are not in charge. Former Iraqi Army officers are. If we ever get the whole story of the defense of Ramadi, many American commanders will be proven a liar or very lucky they didn't press the issue.

posted by Steve @ 12:49:00 PM

12:49:00 PM

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Hey, we won the war

"Hey, we won the war"

Iraq Cellular Project Leads to U.S. Inquiry
A Pentagon official acted to award a contract to a group that included his friends.
By T. Christian Miller, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A senior Defense Department official is under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general for allegations that he attempted to alter a contract proposal in Iraq to benefit a mobile phone consortium that includes friends and colleagues, according to documents obtained by The Times and sources with direct knowledge of the process.

John A. Shaw, 64, the deputy undersecretary for international technology security, sought to transform a relatively minor police and fire communications proposal into a contract allowing the creation of an Iraq-wide commercial cellular network that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year, the sources said.   
 Shaw brought pressure on officials at the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad to change the contract language and grant the consortium a noncompetitive bid, according to the sources.

The consortium, under the guidance of a firm owned by Alaskan natives, consisted of an Irish telecommunications entrepreneur, former officials in the first Bush administration and such leading telecommunications companies as Lucent and Qualcomm, according to sources and consortium members.

Shaw's efforts resulted in a dispute at the Coalition Provisional Authority that has delayed the contract, depriving U.S. military officials and Iraqi police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers and border guards of a joint communications system.

That has angered top U.S. officials and members of the U.S.-led authority governing Iraq, who say the deaths of many Americans and Iraqis might have been prevented with better communications.

In interviews, Shaw said he had a long-standing personal relationship with at least one member of the consortium, but had no financial ties or agreement with the consortium for future employment. One other member of the consortium's board of directors is under contract with his office as a researcher.

Shaw said he was trying to help the group because it could quickly install the police and fire communications system, and because the group was using a U.S.-based cellphone technology called CDMA that had lost out in what he called a "rigged" competition last year for commercial licenses in Iraq. Three companies using European-based technology won contracts.

Additionally, Shaw said that he had been contacted by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, a Republican whose San Diego County district was packed with Qualcomm employees, and the office of Republican Sen. Conrad R. Burns of Montana, the head of the Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee, urging him to ensure that U.S. technology was allowed to compete for cellular phone contracts in Iraq. Issa confirmed they he had contacted Shaw on the issue. Burns' office did not respond to inquiries.

CDMA, which was developed by Qualcomm, is used in the United States and some countries in Asia. Its rival, a standard developed by Europeans called GSM, is used in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

"Hey, we won the war," Shaw said in an interview. "Is it not in our interests to have the most advanced system that we possibly can that can then become the dominant standard in the region?

Here is a GSM vs CDMA map of the world. Notice that ALL of the countries in the Middle East are GSM only. Introducing a CDMA network into the region effectively prevents local cellular companies from bidding on Iraqi work projects.

There is a long, taudry history of Darrel Issa pushing Qualcomm's CDMA, the worldwide loser in the GSM/CDMA battle, on Iraq.

As US troops were fighting their way to Baghdad, there was already a fierce bidding war to slide CDMA into Iraq. As the Register notes:

Spread-spectrum radio began life as a military technology; Qualcomm grew fat on Pentagon pork defense contracts in the late Reagan years as it sought to tame CDMA for civilian use. Which it eventually did, after many delays, and with some admirable panache. Only CDMA arrived, when it eventually did arrive - three years after co-founder Dr Jacobs promised - too late to make an impact on the cellphone industry as it was. The world had multilaterally decided on an older time-division digital technology several years previously.

The result is that the world has a single standard, and enjoys economies of scale and very, very cool gadgets. The USA on the other hand decided to allow four incompatible standards to battle it out, thus blocking innovation from overseas, and allowing cellphone carriers to play atrocious bait and switch games with cellphone users.

Like so many things connected to the CPA and Iraq, the whole wireless phone contracting process has been tainted with corruption. As fighting was going on, MCI was awarded a contract to develop a wireless phone network in Iraq.

WorldCom's Iraq deal assailed
Critics wonder why MCI got contract after fraud scandal

NEW YORK -- The Pentagon made an interesting choice when it hired a U.S. company to build a small wireless phone network in Iraq: MCI, aka WorldCom Inc., perpetrator of the biggest accounting fraud in U.S. business and not exactly a big name in cellular service.

The Iraq contract incensed WorldCom rivals and government watchdogs who say Washington has been too kind to the company since WorldCom revealed its $11 billion accounting fraud and plunged into bankruptcy last year.

"We don't understand why MCI would be awarded this business, given its status as having committed the largest corporate fraud in history," AT&T Corp. spokesman Jim McGann said. "There are many qualified, financially stable companies that could have been awarded that business, including us."

The whole Bush approach to Iraq's economy is about the same as GI's who robbed Iraqis during searches of their home. It was never about helping Iraqis, but getting rich. Foisting CDMA on Iraq was never in Iraq's best interest. Any more than the flag they cooked up.

As I watched the BBC News last night, Iraqis outside Fallujah took a new Iraqi flag and burned it. As I laughed, the presenter said that the locals called it the flag of the infidel.

It it any surprise that someone connected to this CDMA fiasco now needs a lawyer?

posted by Steve @ 10:38:00 AM

10:38:00 AM

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Money...that's all I want.....

Money...that's all I want.....

I admit that during my convelenscence that I watch a lot of TV. Part of the reason is that my cousin lost my reading classes, and at 39, I need them as much as I did at 12. And I needed them then.

But I don't watch it with an empty mind. If you catch Dr. Phil or Oprah, a lot of their shows revolve people's money problems. When a couple starts bickering, sure the glossy stuff is about sex and childcare, but at the root is money.

On Oprah, one family owed $92,000 in debt, many in legally usurious "payday loans". What did their family have for that massive debt? A computer on payments, a camcorder, a truck costing $700 a month. In short, junk.

The wife was addicted to spending. She bought useless crap because it made her feel good.

Here's a simple rule: never buy any electronics on time. If you don't have the cash, leave the flat screen TV at the store. Buying a depreciating asset with credit, which is what a computer is, is stupid. You have to replace it every three years. Which is why I use used ones and build my own. You never want to go in hock for a computer.

More and more, these shows are dealing with couples with financial problems. Now, the "expert" they had wanted people to cut their cable and cellphone bills. But that's bullshit thinking. You could probably save more by adapting the way you shop and eat than not paying for cable. After all, this isn't 1980. We now pay for TV. You can look to chop channels, like Showtime, or get a cheaper cellphone plan. He suggested that "you use a payphone". Well, that's not going to work if you have small kids and need to keep in touch with them.

One of the most expensive things you have in your home is your landline phone, yet most people never look at the bill. A lot of bills people get, they never examine. They just pay them.

The problem with a lot of the financial advice handed out on TV is that itn isn't realistic. People get in debt because of lving above their means. Hell, this woman was bitching about going to the dollar store with a Louis Vutton purse. Uh, honey, if you hadn't bought that pointless purse, maybe you wouldn't be broke now.

Americans have lost the distinction between quality and cost. They see some celebrity, who gets a whopping discount on their purchase, and they have to have them. I once passed by the Manolo Blahnik boutique in Midtown one day. You have never seen skimpier shoes. When you hear an actress praise these shoes, or Jimmy Choo's or a Vera Wang dress, they aren't paying retail. Hell, just the mention might be a paid endorsement. They may get it for free. The trick is to lure you in to pay the retail they don't.

Now, I'm not against quality. I will pay good money for quality items, like a suit. Now that I can wear them, I'd buy a Brooks Brothers suit without hesitation, if I had the cash. The same with a Mercedes or BMW. Why? Because if I can afford them, I know they will last me a long time. But this year's Armani? I am not George Clooney, sorry. I don't make that kind of cash. Nor can I pretend to.

Too many people go into debt, not for their own business or a home improvement, but over status items. A too expensive car, too much for their home, things they cannot hope to keep if times go south.

I'll never forget this. On an Oprah, a woman wanted to buy an $800K house while her husband couldn't come close to affording this. She had no idea about financial management, no idea of the down payment, the mortgage payments, much less the property taxes. All these very expensive things which would not only affect her income, but her lifestyle for years to come.

A fancy house is nice, but not when you work 60 hours a week to pay for it. And then can lose it at the first economic dowturn.

Just today, Dr. Phil was dealing with a family which had a deeply troubled nine year old, but the husband was working 60-80 hours a week. Well, what do you think happens when you spend so much time out of the home. Dr. Phil had to tell the guy to take some time off, and he wasn't the first guy to be told this.

We have a cycle of buy and bust with consumer spending, People are never educated in school about the basics of the economy. So many people define their lives by vanity purchases which have no real appreciable value. It's one thing to buy a Coach purse or bag which will last a decade or more, but another to buy a bag which will be unfashionable next year.

The fact that many people are more interested in toys, whether Xboxes and Playstations 2 or Air Jordan's, throwback jerseys, than the kind of purchases which bring real value, or even saving money. Yeah, Jay-Z looks great in a throwback jersey, but he's a multimillionare who can afford that stuff, most of us aren't.

The most amazingly stupid thing I've heard was on Suze Orman, where this guy took money from his IRA to buy a laptop and PDA. Wha? You take money from your retirement fund for a depreciable device which will have to be replaced in three years?

Oh yeah, the guy was unemployed at the time.

I also am bothered by the tightwads who become rich. This guy was chortling over shopping at Costco. Well, you know, some of the things I want can't be found at Costco. I don't take pride in buying in bulk and tying my purchases to coupons. It's unseemly. Just as displaying great wealth is vulgar, so is excessive cheapness. It's embarassing and degrading.

Saving money is smart, but being cheap is as sinful as being wasteful.

The smart thing to do is to live below your means. Live on less than you make and when bad times come, you may survive them without too much pain. If not, when they repo your car and foreclose your home, you have no one to blame.

posted by Steve @ 5:58:00 PM

5:58:00 PM

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What do you keep in your cupboard

What do you have in your cupboard?

New Wave Cooking: Do Try This at Home

Published: April 28, 2004

WHEN friends come for dinner we tend to cook what we know. There is no sense attempting sea urchin napoleons when roasted chicken and braised pork shoulder have proven to be crowd pleasers. But life gets dull without a challenge, so we decided to stir some risk and ambition into our routine, composing a spring dinner inspired by the new wave chefs, the ones turning culinary tradition on its head from suburban Barcelona to the Lower East Side of New York.

Even if you have never sampled their handiwork, you may have heard about such haute-cuisine iconoclasts as Heston Blumenthal, the chef at the Fat Duck in Bray, England, which recently earned three Michelin stars for a repertory that includes bacon-and-egg ice cream and sardine-on-toast sorbet (Carvel take note). There's Ferran Adrià, the chef of El Bulli in Rosas, Spain, and the de facto dean of avant-garde chefs, who spends six months of every year in a Barcelona lab refining such inventions as wonton wrappers made from the "skin" of scalded milk. On these shores are visionaries like Grant Achatz at Trio, who has introduced Evanston, Ill., diners to the pleasures of lobster slow-cooked with Thai iced tea.

They're the sort of chefs who consider themselves artists and philosophers more than fish grillers and asparagus poachers, testing the limits of a diner's trust (and often charging a king's ransom for the privilege), but succeeding far more often than they fail.

As for us, we had an agenda other than simply shaking off the winter doldrums with a night of kitchen gymnastics. We wanted to rifle through the chefs' high-concept tool bags for any techniques or tools that amateur cooks might take home. An encounter earlier this year with a bright red pixie dust at the Manhattan restaurant WD-50 had encouraged us: the powder had a fruity, exotic and deliciously intense pepper flavor. It was in fact a common bell pepper, Wylie Dufresne, WD-50's chef, revealed, dehydrated in a simple device you can buy on eBay for less than the price of a fancy cocktail, and then pulverized in a coffee grinder. If we could learn to tease sophisticated flavors from everyday sources, the exercise would be worth the risk.

So we ordered a dehydrator (rather than risk losing an eBay auction, we bought a brand-new Nesco/American Harvest dehydrator direct from the manufacturer, $59.95 at and went to work planning the menu. The cookbook "El Bulli 1998-2002," the nearly 500-page, nine-pound volume by Mr. Adrià and his associates seemed the ideal place to start, and fortunately a friend lent us a copy — it's about $200. Flipping through the book was an instant immersion in the new wave mindset, where sweet meets savory in alarming ways (olive and white chocolate, tuna and black currant), where hot and cold are transposed (barbecued corn sorbet, hot mayonnaise) and where textural expectations are upended wherever possible (cauliflower is couscouslike, almonds foamy).

Some of Mr. Adrià's tools seemed out of reach — anybody got a Pacojet, the Swiss-made, 2,000 r.p.m. frozen-food processor? Or a Thermomix, the German steamer/food processor? And the photos of the superminimalist kitchen at El Bulli with leagues of lab-coated chefs at attention, were intimidating. But the book got us thinking outside of the box.

Now most of us are not going to cook haute cusine at home, or even try. But this interested me because it covers a theme I've been thinking about for a while, what do you keep on hand at home.

There are a few basics which we all have, sugar, salt, black pepper, eggs. But whens someone raised the issue of canned olives, it set me to thinking. Fresh olives are available in delis, supermarkets, farmers markets. If you really wanted an olive, a nice, salty olive, this isn't the 1970's. Get fresh ones.

The same wirh cheese, bread and vegetables. We can get them fresh and eat them daily.

Americans tend to shop as hoarders. We get frozen food, hoard it, try to buy days out for bread and cheese and other things which taste best when fresh. When my mother was a girl, she went to the butcher for my grandmother, everyone did in the 30's and 40's. It was common and well understood. A supermarket was for canned goods. People expected to get things like milk and bread and meat as they needed them. Not to store and hoard.

We know most Europeans don't shop like this. They tend to buy as they need and cook as they need. But it is rare in France to cook at home for guests. Most eating in Europe tends to be either intimate, and at home, or takes place outside. Americans tend to cherish home cooking, even as more of us lose the basic skill of cooking.

But it occurs to me that to cook, you need some creativity and some flexibility and that requires both tools and basic food stuffs.

Everyone needs a good knife. A good knife matters more than most things, because it is so flexible. What is a good knife? One which has a reliable handle and feels good in your hand. That's it. Some folks might like a Wustoff, finely balanced and expensive, some might like a single cast piece of metal. It depends solely on your tastes.

A non-stick frying pan also is crucial. It can do most things on most days. I'd get one with an oven-proof handle. One of the great tricks of cooking is to start something on a stove and finish it off in the oven. You can then get crunchy and not oily.

I live without a food processor, but I can see it being useful. Unlike a bread machine. Most people get it, use it a couple of times and let it sit. Now, I know there are some of you who use it every day, and there are those of use who floss daily. You remain exceptions.

A deep, large pot is essential. It can serve as both pasta boiler and less admitted, a fryer. Instead of buying a dedicated fryer, a relatively deep pot can fry up most of what you need, especially with the metal basket most of the good pasta pots have.

What essential food stuffs should you keep around? A can of tuna, a can of salmon, rice, pasta, a lot of spices, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, at least one frozen piece of meat, breakfast meats, eggs, canned mushrooms, kosher salt, flour, olive oil, pizza dough, two kinds of cheese.

A quick pizza is a great dinner when you're wiped out. Omletes and even sausages sandwiches can be a filling meal. If you get frozen peppers and onions, you pick up a roll and you have a hero in five minutes. The thing is to keep around food that you can fix quickly and when tired. Not just frozen chicken fingers and Hot Pockets, but real food which doesn't take forever to cook. Kielbasa is a quick meal on its own. Kielbasa and eggs is heavenly.

Quick cook rice and salmon with onions is one of my favorite meals.

The trick to stocking your cubbard is to have food you can cook quickly. Which is not a Lean Cusine and a diet soda. Sure, you can cook that quickly, but it isn't really a meal. It's frozen crap ladened with salt, which is what preservatives really are.

You should be able to have a hot, fresh meal when you come home, one you fix. The key is to make sure that you have the basic ingredients and tools to execute a decent meal. Yeah, you can save money and have better tasting food, but with a little foresight and planning, you can actually have food you can enjoy when all you want to do is sit down and watch the black people get voted off American Idol.:)

posted by Steve @ 1:11:00 PM

1:11:00 PM

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Send Jobs to India? Some Find It's Not Always Best

Send Jobs to India? Some Find It's Not Always Best

Published: April 28, 2004

Even as the prospect of high-skilled American jobs moving to low-wage countries like India ignites hot political debate, some entrepreneurs are finding that India's vaunted high-technology work force is not always as effective as advertised.

"For three years we tried all kinds of models, but nothing has worked so far," said the co-founder and chief technology officer of Storability Software in Southborough, Mass. After trying to reduce costs by contracting out software programming tasks to India, Storability brought back most of the work to the United States, where it costs four times as much, and hired more programmers here. The "depth of knowledge in the area we want to build software is not good enough" among Indian programmers, the executive said.

If it sounds like "Made in the U.S.A." jingoism, consider this: The entrepreneur, Hemant Kurande, is Indian. He was born and raised near Bombay and received his master's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in that city, now known as Mumbai. Mr. Kurande is not alone in his views on "outsourcing" technology work to India. As more companies in the United States rush to take advantage of India's ample supply of cheap yet highly trained workers, even some of the most motivated American companies — ones set up or run by executives born and trained in India — are concluding that the cost advantage does not always justify the effort.

For many of the most crucial technology tasks, they find that a work force operating within the American business environment better suits their needs.

"Only certain kinds of tasks can be outsourced — what can be set down as a set of rules," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist of Global Insight, a forecasting and consulting firm based in Waltham, Mass. "That which requires more creativity is more difficult to manage at a distance.

Really? No kidding.

posted by Steve @ 12:38:00 PM

12:38:00 PM

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We are all guilty

We are all guilty

Nightline is going to read the name of every American soldier killed in combat on Friday. The Newshour with Jim Leher and This Week with George Stehpanopolous note the dead every week, but no one has read all of the known dead at one place and one time.

It would be nice if we could do the same for the Iraqis, but since there is no real government, they don't collect the names of kidnapped, raped and murdered girls, the crime victims and those gunned down by American troops. We many have killed 8000 people, but the occupation may have killed twice that many. Not even the anti-war movement sites those other, incidental deaths as our fault, but they are. The lack of security is as much our fault as an errant artilery shell.

There was a debate on Atrios yesterday, where some people tried to claim that the soldiers dying in Iraq weren't dying in their name because they opposed the war.

Well, that's a nice fanatsy, but the AC-130 pounding the shit out of Fallujah doesn't have a sign saying "Sponsored by Rush Limbaugh and EIB". It is an American plane, crewed by American citizens, not just like the readers here, but who may well have been readers here or be readers here. They don't come from caves, but nice homes, with nice American parents, and they live in America, supported by American tax dollars.

We would like to say that because we opposed the war, those horrible things happening in Iraq are not our fault. But they are.

We are all guilty.

It will be to our everlasting shame that we watched Bush get elected, then watched him lie about 9/11, prostituting it so badly that Karen Hughes could compare the pro-choice movement to terrorists. An idea Osama Bin Laden and other Muslim fundamentalists, who are rabidly anti-family planning, would agree with.

What was our response?

We let some anti-semitic wackjobs from ANSWER define much of the anti-war movement for a long time. With their "out of everywhere" signs and their refusal to let supporters of Israel speak, many of us were far too silent about their excesses. Now, no one says much, even as Bush's insane tough talk ensures more Americans will die. Our Congress looks for some kind of fix so this won't end like George Bush's others failures. Maybe if he hid in Alabama for a year and took Dick Cheney with him, we might salvage this.

The troops fight in our name because we cannot opt out of that. They fight for us because that is what you do when you take that oath. We can't say "oh no, I disagree with the war, so they don't die for me."


They die for you because the people you voted for sent them to Iraq, and your tax dollars keep them alive. They don't get to choose where they go or what they do there, except at the sharp end of the weapon, where every choice comes down to your morals.

The sad reality is that our troops are attacked, every day, while Iraqis stand around and watch these men die. When people bemoan Iraqi casualities, they forget a good portion of them were trying to kill Americans, and many others are killed in response to combat. The majority of Iraqis say nice things in polls, but the IED's still get planted, the militias still roam the streets and American soldiers die. This is a pointless exercise, a futile one, because you cannot fix anything when the reaction is indifference and silence.

We are all guilty. The bombs dropped and the bullets fired come from Americans no different than you or me. It does not matter to an Iraqi family if we oppose the war when their son is killed. Americans killed him. Our tax dollars are making their lives hell. Almost no one in our Congress wants to end this madness. So why should an Iraqi care if there is an anti-war movement. It isn't stopping the war for them.

The only way to reedeem ourselves is to force Bush from office and force Kerry to end the war.

We don't get to pretend the troops didn't die for us, that the bombs dropped aren't our fault. We pay our taxes, we obey the law, we let Bush wage this war, they died for us. Can you blame Iraqis if they aren't exactly impressed if you opposed the war personally. It isn't helping them. Our Americn soldiers are kiling their children and our lives remain undisturbed. The Iraqis have no such luxury.

The sad part is that we can't end the war on our own. But neither can we opt out of the consequences of waging it. We can't pretend we, as Americans, aren't stakeholders in this awful, as all wars are awful, war. We are all guilty and will be until it ends.

posted by Steve @ 8:50:00 AM

8:50:00 AM

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Army asks ski resorts to return its howitzers

Army asks ski resorts to return its howitzers

Wednesday, April 28, 2004 Posted: 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
The ski resorts say they will return the guns.

RENO, Nevada (AP) -- The U.S. military is demanding the return of five howitzers that two Sierra Nevada ski resorts use to prevent avalanches, saying it needs the guns for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain received the artillery pieces on loan from the Army and began using them last year to fire rounds into mountainsides and knock snow loose.

But the ski resorts received word earlier this month that the Army's Tank Automotive and Armaments Command at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois needs the howitzers back.

"I need to have them back in the troops' hands within 60 to 90 days," said Don Bowen, the Army command's team leader in charge of the howitzers.

"It's a very short timeframe to get them serviceable and back into the theater in southwest Asia. Afghanistan-Iraq is the immediate concern."

But we're winning, right?

posted by Steve @ 12:23:00 AM

12:23:00 AM

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

It was an ugly time

It was an ugly time

On the Daily Show yesterday, Bob Kerrey said he had left off his Naval service on his first resume. This from a Medal of Honor winner, one of three SEAL's to win the medal in Vietnam.

While Bush dregdes up Vietnam to discrete John Kerry, he forgets exactly how ugly a time it was.

I first became familiar with John Kerry in the mid-1980's, when I read the Winter Soldier hearings transcripts. They were bound, like all hearing transcripts, and lots of soliders were angry about their service in Vietnam. People forget the insane tension which had existed in the US during 1970-71.

Vets were caught in the middle between anti-war protestors, who had only recently gained steam, and the working class who'd fought in WWII and Korea. Construction workers attacked an anti-war protest in downtown Manhattan, while the White House chortled. Domestic enemies of Nixon faced the Huston plan, a full-scale violation of their rights. Only J. Edgar Hoover's common sense prevented the White House from making the Plumbers illegal break-ins state policy.

The US Army was collapsing, drug use exploding, combat refusals rife, fragging (the murder of officers and senior NCO's) common. People have forgotten how divided the US was. Veterans were routinely attacked on college campuses. Wearing a fatgue jacket with a unit patch was asking to be called baby killer.

And while stories of vets being spit on at airports were probably fictional, the open hostility they faced was not. Admitting service in Vietnam was an easy way to be scorned by both pro-war supporters and anti-war activists. The reason Vets now seem so self-protective and cloistered is that they only had each other to turn to.

The Nixon Administration was full of big talk, but their VA hospitals were rundown and as Bob Kerry found out, filled with rats, as one ran over his chest.

John Kerry joined the anti-war movement older and probably angrier than a lot of his peers. He knew the folly that he saw was wrong. So, yes, like a lot of angry young men, especially those who had been betrayed by both their government and their peers, said things which didn't sound great. But the cold hard fact was there were atrocities in Vietnam, as there are in every war. The Toledo Blade just won a Pulitzer for uncovering the activities of Tiger Force, a unit of the 101st which killed over a hundred innocent Vietnamese.

The vets who are so indignant about Kerry's public statements in 1971 are for the most part lying or didn't see enough combat to know people at war kill civilians as well as the enemy.

For Bush to drag this all up, especially behind the skirts of Karen Hughes, is insane. Bush not only supported the war, he avoided service in it, and thus benefitted from being a part-time soldier, which advanced his career, such that it was.

What people forget is that despite the success of John Kerry, Vietnam was like a giant weight on people's lives long after the war was over. To say the words "Vietnam Vet" was to create a stigma which lasted well into the 1980's. All those who didn't serve, the Clinton's, the Cheney's, they had their careers enahanced while those who did either downplayed their service or faced roadblocks. Bob Kerry didn't hide his military service for no reason. Employers simply did not hire Vets. They didn't and they never said why. My father worked with Vietnam Vets and they had a brutal time in the 70's and 80's.

Most people didn't go to Canada or lie to avoid the draft. Going to Canada was a lifetime decision. You couldn't expect to come back. Meanwhile over 30,000 Canadians served in Vietnam. So the idea that they wanted draft dodgers, deserters and draft avoiders has been overblown in popular legend. More than a few men with short haircuts were turned over to the FBI by the Mounties. While going into exile was a brave decision, so was facing the draft.

Bush made his decision, one that many people tried to make, which was to avoid service in Vietnam. The problem with what Bush did, as opposed to Clinton was that he supported the war. Now he's trying to denigrate Kerry's service, which should engrage people. Kerry didn't take the easy way out. He didn't avoid combat, and he could have, having served a tour off Vietnam on a destroyer. Instead, in a span of five months, he won three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star, a remarkable record for a junior officer. There is absolutely no question about his service or his personal bravery.

John Kerry did what George Bush never had the guts to do, which is face the Vietcong. Bush wanted the aura of military service and risk, without the actual risk of death. Now flying a jet is risky, but Bush couldn't even do that. At least a year of his service was missing from his record. They don't even know he showed up and they don't know why he was booted from flight status.

George Bush could have gotten his daddy to send him into an F-4 Squadron in Thailand, but he didn't. He wanted to emulate daddy without daddy's balls. He refused to fight in a war he supported. For God's sake, he could have been a supply officer at Udon, Thailand, stayed drunk and still served his country. Daddy fought the Japanese and was shot down. Bush wanted to be a pilot without the risk. A lifetime of personal cowardice which continues today.

posted by Steve @ 10:48:00 AM

10:48:00 AM

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The new Iraqi flag

The New Iraqi Flag

The new Iraqi flag reminds me of what the Israelis would impose over the West Bank, so everyone would know they had a colony. The colors are an anti-semite's dream, and Iraq is filled with Jew-haters, convinced they are being colonized by Israel, and who's people are buying up houses in Baghdad.

This flag is ridiculous, because it violates traditional Islamic and Arab rules for flags, which include green, white, black and red. Blue and white is most often seen on fire in the Arab world, because it is usually in the Israeli flag.

The colors in the Arab flag have specific meanings which respresent Islam and Arab nationalism. None of which are represented by the current Iraqi flag.

One would have to wonder, exactly why someone would pick a flag which reflects nothing of 1500 years of Islamic and Arab culture, and only make a nod to it by throwing in a crescent of the wrong color.

Riverbend has a rather concise comment on the new "Iraqi" flag:

I also heard today that the Puppets are changing the flag. It looks nothing like the old one and at first I was angry and upset, but then I realized that it wouldn't make a difference. The Puppets are illegitimate, hence their constitution is null and void and their flag is theirs alone. It is as representative of Iraq as they are- it might as well have "Made in America" stitched along the inside seam. It can be their flag and every time we see it, we'll see Chalabi et al. against its pale white background.

My email buddy and fellow Iraqi S.A. in America said it best in her email, "I am sure we are all terribly excited about the extreme significance of the adoption by the completely illegitimate Iraq Puppet Council of a new national piece of garishly colored cloth. Of course the design of the new national rag was approved by the always tastefully dressed self-declared counter terrorism expert viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, who is well known for wearing expensive hand-stitched combat boots with thousand dollar custom tailored suits and silk designer ties.

The next big piece of news will be the new pledge of allegiance to said national rag, and the empire for which it stands. The American author of said pledge has yet to be announced."

Now they can burn a third flag in Arab street demonstrations.

posted by Steve @ 10:18:00 AM

10:18:00 AM

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The wounded

The Wounded

The Lasting Wounds of War
Roadside Bombs Have Devastated Troops and Doctors Who Treat Them

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 27, 2004; Page A01

While attention remains riveted on the rising count of Americans killed in action -- more than 100 so far in April -- doctors at the main combat support hospital in Iraq are reeling from a stream of young soldiers with wounds so devastating that they probably would have been fatal in any previous war.

More and more in Iraq, combat surgeons say, the wounds involve severe damage to the head and eyes -- injuries that leave soldiers brain damaged or blind, or both, and the doctors who see them first struggling against despair.

For months the gravest wounds have been caused by roadside bombs -- improvised explosives that negate the protection of Kevlar helmets by blowing shrapnel and dirt upward into the face. In addition, firefights with guerrillas have surged recently, causing a sharp rise in gunshot wounds to the only vital area not protected by body armor.

The neurosurgeons at the 31st Combat Support Hospital measure the damage in the number of skulls they remove to get to the injured brain inside, a procedure known as a craniotomy. "We've done more in eight weeks than the previous neurosurgery team did in eight months," Poffenbarger said. "So there's been a change in the intensity level of the war."

Numbers tell part of the story. So far in April, more than 900 soldiers and Marines have been wounded in Iraq, more than twice the number wounded in October, the previous high. With the tally still climbing, this month's injuries account for about a quarter of the 3,864 U.S. servicemen and women listed as wounded in action since the March 2003 invasion.

About half the wounded troops have suffered injuries light enough that they were able to return to duty after treatment, according to the Pentagon.

The others arrive on stretchers at the hospitals operated by the 31st CSH. "These injuries," said Lt. Col. Stephen M. Smith, executive officer of the Baghdad facility, "are horrific."

100 killed, 600 wounded.

And the Iraqis have 800 dead and god knows how many wounded.

Our war in Iraq is not going well, except to the White House.

posted by Steve @ 10:04:00 AM

10:04:00 AM

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Monday, April 26, 2004

What's this crap about John Kerry's medals?

What's this crap about John Kerry's medals?

More nonsense from Karen Hughes:

Karen Hughes, a campaign adviser to President Bush, described herself as "very troubled" by the fact that Kerry only throw away his ribbons -- not the medals themselves.

"He only pretended to throw his," she charged Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"Now, I can understand if out of conscience you take a principled stand and you would decide that you were so opposed to this that you would actually throw your medals. But to pretend to do so, I think that's very revealing."

Here's a wonderful idea: why doesn't Karen Hughes shut the fuck up? What does she know about Vietnam, being under fire or being wounded.

Her boss was too much of a pussy to go to Canada, blow his eardrum out, much less go to Vietnam, happily sending a poor Texan to take his place, so he ran to Daddy's friends and got slid into a "champagne" squadron protecting the US from Mexico, and then coudn't even complete his service. He got booted off of flight status.

Meanwhile, people were trying to kill Kerry every day he was in Vietnam.

They're dragging out people who don't know the man, don't have Silver Stars and didn't serve with him to play the same game they did with John McCain. But their problem is that Kerry isn't going to take this, since it is the seminal event in his life, and seems ready to toss it back in Bush's face.

Bush and his campaign keep trying to press this issue, and it bites them in the ass. Kerry was fearlessly courageous, and won two medals in less than five months. While the Bronze Star is awarded frequently, the Silver Star is not.

It's nice to see the chickenhawks quibble over Kerry's wounds. Have any of them been wounded in combat? No? Any of them aware of the lifelong pain most shrapnel wounds can cause? No? Then they should all be ashamed of themselves. My father was wounded by shrapnel in a training exercise in Japan. It is still a nasty wound, decades later. And he didn't get a Purple Heart, either. It wasn't massive, but it sure as hell hurt. Anyone who hasn't been wounded and isn't a doctor is in no position to discuss this.

John Kerry was wounded in the service of his country. He was highly decorated. Unlike Bush, he went to Vietnam, already opposed to the war. Yet, he sought out combat duty, writing his request during the Tet Offensive and despite his opposition, served honorably. His actions were consistent with his beliefs.

There aren't many words I would use to express my contempt for this tactic. Why even raise the subject? Kerry served honorably, Bush slacked his way through. It shouldn't matter now. But it does. The Bush campaign is, dishonorably and disgustingly slandering Kerry's service. I don't care if his first Purple Heart was a scratch. He got it in combat. His third certainly wasn't, considering he picked up a SF Officer from the drink with a wounded arm. The man was so impressed, he put him in for a Silver Star, and he got a Bronze

George Bush avoided ANY service in Vietnam. He asked to not serve overseas. He wrangled his way into the Guard because of his daddy. He didn't even attend OCS. Yet, he allows his campaign to attack Kerry's war record?

Bush has been a coward his entire life. John Kerry clearly was not. If they want to compare the two records, let's do so. Too bad he can't get daddy to buy him a few medals now. Bush's entire career is the result of a father's errant love for his son. He never asked of his son what he asked of himself. Which is a tragedy. Maybe if he had, maybe his son wouldn't be the cowardly failure that he is today. He even has to hide behind a woman to attack Kerry. If he thinks Kerry didn't deserve his awards, why not say so himself? No, like a coward, he sends a woman to do his dirty work. If he were a man, he'd say it himself or drop the issue.

posted by Steve @ 2:09:00 PM

2:09:00 PM

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The C-O-N spiracy

The C-O-N spiracy

I don't watch American Idol, I watch Gilmore Girls instead. Why? I think the writing on Gilmore Girls is some of the best on TV and I think most of the people one American Idol can't sing to save their lives. Even though the subject matter may not, at first, be appealing, I will watch or read anything which is well written or compelling, which is how I've been drawn into watching Nova, American Chopper and Trading Spaces, even the Roman Empire in the First Century.

How do I know if the writing is good? Well, if I watch something and it makes sense, like many of the romantic complications on Gilmore Girls, something many shows get wrong or just recycle from movies (how many times can Ross and Rachel play at being a couple), then I'm going to watch it.

Of course, I have to excuse 24's plot holes because any group of writers who can keep the plot moving, which is a pretty hard task, deserves praise. You try moving a story along from plot point to plot point for 22 episodes. Few people can do it for two hours. Ever see the Battle of Algiers? That movie is captivating because it moves quickly and there are few movies which do.

But, if anything is a Rorhschact test on the American pysche, American Idol is it, at least with teenagers. And as this piece from Salon indicates, there is something else going on:

Take, for example, last week's results on "American Idol." As I mentioned in my last column, there are three extremely talented contestants on "American Idol" this year, all of whom happen to be black women. The other contestants range from just OK to cringe-inducingly bad. This past week, when Ryan Seacrest announced the three contestants who received the least number of votes, most viewers assumed that Diana DiGarmo and John Stevens, two white teenagers who should be practicing their box steps in show choir instead of paining the nation with their clumsy karaoke routines, would surely land in the bottom heap.

Not so, America! Instead, La Toya London, Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson, all of whom were praised to high heaven for their fantastic performances, were in the bottom three. The judges were asked what they thought of the results. They expressed disappointment, but reminded us that, after all, this is a democracy.

Others talked about a conspiracy.

Um, racism isn't really a conspiracy. It's pretty much out in the open. This is a racist country. Most people in this country are racists. Every single black person in this country knows it. Can't you just take their word for it? Even if you don't personally see evidence of racism in this country, can't you trust those who are in the position to see it, those who are telling you, day after day, that it's there?

Or do you not trust them?

Now, having seen just enough of the show to understand this, the black girls are the only ones with real talent. But Idol is as much about appeal as talent. And there is clearly a racial cast to all "reality" shows. Was anyone really surprised that Donald Trump, a man well known for his racial issues, didn't hand over a company to Harvard MBA Kwame? Or that in the history of reality shows, only ONE black contestant has won.

And as Dave Chappelle so adroitly pointed out, black male characters are usually driven off shows like the Real World?

The reality, however, is a bit more complex than racism. Remember, Ruben Studdard won the last season and Justin Guarini, who is biracial, came in second in the first season. I'd argue that it isn't racism alone, although that's a factor, but an unwillingness to vote for certain kinds of black people.

On reality skill shows, black men are at a disavantage. On talent-based shows, black women are at a disadvantage. While it is perfectly fine for black men to sing, and a lot of this is based on sexual attraction as much as talent, black women are simply discarded. No matter how talented black women are, they will lose to either a cute white girl or a man. Who do you think watches and votes on American Idol? White teenage girls. Why else do you think Clay Aiken came in second and got an insane amount of publicity?

As to the question if white people believe black people's claims of racism, of course not. No way in hell. White people live in a state of denial. Which is how, as Atrios keeps pointing out, Howie Kurtz could harp on Jayson Blair, seeing only his race, and not his asskissing and backstabbing skills, and ignore Jack Kelley, who wrote some of the most turgid, racially and ethinically tained prose since Theodore Bilbo published Segregation or Mongrelization, a copy of which is on Stormfront.

Unless directly confronted with evidence of racial bias, most whites will treat minority claims of racism with the sort of eyerolling denial small children get when monsters are under their bed. But unlike the monsters, whom to date have eaten no children, racism is quite real.

White people can see it, as in police stops of minority kids, and excuse it. They excused the beating of Rodney King "because he was threatening". He was on the ground, getting stomped, the only threat he posed was bleeding on their uniforms.

You can see that the most talented singers on American Idol gets the least votes. Why? Well, it just happens that they are black women. Even the show's hosts and judges were stunned by the result. Now, people will deny it, as they deny the open racism of US troops in Iraq, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

posted by Steve @ 1:20:00 PM

1:20:00 PM

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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Why abortion rights matter

Why abortion rights matter

Today's abortion rights march was successful and hopefully reminded people that pro-choice is not a slogan, but critical for millions of women and the people who sleep with them.

This is the nonsense Karen Hughes spewed today:

"I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life," she said. "President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."

Huh? What does 9/11 have to do with abortion? Nothing. Bush knows if he said he thought abortion was a sin next to gay marriage, he'd be doomed. But he is so close to the Jesus freaks we know his personal prayers include the "unborn". Except when it may embarass him or his kin.

The fact is that every doctor who worked in an emergency room before 1970 knew exactly what abortions were, because they would see the effects every weekend. Lye, hangers, self-infliction of wounds. Women were desperate to end their pregnancies and did anything to do so.

Hughes is offensive as hell, considering that her boss revels in death. Death row in Texas, death in Iraq. Hell, he's even been accused of paying for an abortion in his Prince Hal days. His daughter, Jenna, is rumored to have had two abortions, on the account she likes to get drunk and sleep around and there are witnesses for both. Although none for the abortions except people who can't talk.

Not that it should matter. No one should have a child they don't want and can't care for. Seeing teenage mothers struggle with children they can't take care of is far from a pretty sight. The pro-life movement makes claims to care about these kids, but you don't see them talking about adopting seven year olds.

Most people rarely ever discuss their abortions. It remains hidden long after the fact. There is little joy or casualness about the issue. No one does it frivilously or without thinking. The additional cruelty the pro-life movement inflicts on people seems both pointless and needless. No harridan screaming keep your baby is going to buy Pampers or clean shit 10 months later. And if they think abortion is bad, what about child abuse? Nothing like seeing a 14 month old with it's head caved in.

The pro-life movement is based on a smug sense of personal moral superiority, as in "we're saving babies". Which they aren't, of course. They aren't saving anything, just annoying and scaring the clinic workers.

But what's even worse is the way many of these folks are against birth control and sex education. The Army realized that abstinance education didn't work in 1940 and handed out billions of condoms. And don't think those 11 Bravos in Iraq are going without. Condoms are part of their basic equipment. But when a servicewoman gets pregnant, she either goes home and has the kid, or pays for the abortion out of her own pocket. Why? To satisfy the right wingers. No federal funds for abortion.

This ridiculous notion extends to foreign policy. No funding of family planning programs overseas, no matter how it benefits the people affected.

These people aren't just a danger to pregnant women, but to everyone's reproductive freedom. They want schools to tell kids not to have sex, which is as successful as their don't go crash diets and stop smoking dope programs. In other words, a complete and utter failure. No culture is as obsessed with sex and as ashamed of it. We pour $11 Billion into porn yet debate Howard Stern's language. America is a land of vast sexual hypocrisy.

It is important that the national debate not be reduced into a sterile conversation about abortion. I'm not going to have one in this lifetime, yet these people pose a clear and present danger to my reproductive freedom. I want to know my partner can get birth control so we might be able to plan when we have kids, or that I can buy condoms without a hassle any time or any place. Or that my niece and nephews are taught about sex and not some wacky absitnance program. Their religious impetus is fine for them but for most of us, who don't talk to Jesus every day, we'd like to live by common sense rules not dictated from God, at least directly.

Too often, the abortion debate is reduced to liberal spokeswomen on one side, and creepy bearded men using young women as their spokespersons. Most of whom are hypocrites and don't know it. Abortion is like combat in one sense, you have no idea what you'll do until you're faced with the decision. I'm sure some pro-choice women had their kids and kept marching. I'm positive some pro-life women have snuck into abortion clinics to dump their unwanted fetus.

The reason the pro-life movement offends me is simple: they are so certain of their cause and so indifferent to the consequences. No one chooses abortion casually. To vilify them or to act morally superior is dead wrong. It's a hard choice for anyone, at any time, one they wish they wouldn't have to make. To think, as Hughes's insulting words imply "we just need to respect life" is to reduce humn reporductive freedom to that of brood mares.

Part of freedom is to have the choice to have children or not and not have it dictated by people who think God has a pipeline to them and blessed them specially.

posted by Steve @ 7:43:00 PM

7:43:00 PM

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Why the Democrats are wrong about Iraq

Why the Democrats are wrong about Iraq

If you listen to John Kerry, you would think Iraq could be fixed. If you listened to Joe Biden, you would think all we have to do is defeat the insurgency and get the UN aboard. Even if you listened to Howard Dean, you would think the great sin was not getting the UN aboard.

The neocon's delusion was that we were invading France, 1944 and the Iraqi people were waiting for liberation. The reality is that we were invading Yugoslavia, 1943 and most of the country hating us.

The central problem is that we have no allies in Iraq. No Charles DeGaulle who was on our side. Instead, we had a shifty crook who most Iraqis will kill on sight. Without a base of support, no US occupation can last months, much less years. To be honest, I was surprised Sistani gave us a year. We will not get another one. I cringe when I hear Democratic politicians say we will need to be in Iraq for years. Because what legitimate government would allow us, the hated occupiers, to just set up bases there?

The British tried that game and were rewarded in 1941 with a Nazi-inspired rebellion.

The Democratic Party is in a bad position. They cannot say the obvious: we will be lucky to escape Iraq with our army. The American public still conflates the war on terror with Iraq and the reality is that the two are as related as lemurs and goldfish. So they say things, which if the Europeans didn't hate Bush with a passion usually reserved for mistresses, any EU MP would fall down laughing to refute. No, NATO isn't going to Iraq. No, the UN will not bail you out.

Then you get Biden as well as Howard Dean saying "we need arab troops on the ground."

Huh? Which ruler risks being overthrown by doing that? Egypt? Syria? Algeria? Morocco? Nope, nope, nope, nope. The Arabs are not going to join a fight being quickly tied to Israel's eternal war with the Palerstinians. Israel's assasination campaign has already had a blowback in Iraq. Those for mercenaries were killed inrevenge for the murder of Sheik Yassin. By endorsing Sharon's land theft for peace policy, even the Jordanians want nothing to do with Bush.

The new neocon theme "the other Arabs don't want democracy in Iraq" is nonsense. Arab states don't usually interfere in the internal machinations in other countries, except for the Saudi wahhbist imams, bringing madrassas to a country near you. They don't care how you run your counry as long as you control it.

Dean gets a lot of credit for being against the war, but his postwar solutions don't have much basis in current reality. Neither does John Kerry's.

The problem is security and we can't do anything to fix it. The Times says send more troops. Ok, where are they coming from? The National Guard Brigades will take six months to activate and become combat ready. And as a Times story so clearly notes, long deployments to combat sends Guard families into penury.

What no one says, and is self-evident, is that the US is missing it's Pakistani auxilliaries. We could use a couple of divisions of Pakistani troops to patrol the highways and Sadr City, but since Musharraf realized his head would be on a pike if he had agreed, they stayed home. We aren't misisng NATO, a few battalions of paras and mech infantry would be nice, but they won't change much. We need our Pakistani and Egyptian friends to kick in tens of thouands of troops. We had almost bribed the Indians into joining in and then that government realized that they were in trouble.

This constant expectation that The UN can make things right is also delusional. There is no evidence that the UN, any more than the US, can even be secured in Iraq, or that Iraqis want them there. While Sistani may trust them, to some degree, others may not be so willing.

Too many Democrats endorse the war aims without understanding what they truly entail. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said on CNN that we have to "crack that nut" Fallujah, or it would be "a symbol to the Islamic world". Well, you can't crack anything with a one to one ratio of troops and that is what we have with the Marines in Fallujah. To too many Democrats, it's all about making Bush's policy work, when there is no way it can ever work. Killing more women and children is no solution and no matter what lies the Marines tell, they will kill more women and children unless they evacuate the entire city,

It's nausiating seeing all the hype fortaking on the resistance, as if they are a few bandits and not whole battalions of the Iraqi Army. They're attacking in platoon and company strength for God's sake. I'm tired of people mouthing the platitudes that "we can beat them." "They're not a military problem". So why haven't they been beaten? Why haven't the ammo dumps been blown up? They cut the highway to Baghdad. Sounds like a military problem to me.

Now, a year later, you want to add more troops? A year of combat experience and training for the resistance? With our Iraqi forces nearly useless in combat?

The Democrats are checkmated by Bush's faux-Western resolve. What he says sounds great to many people who do not follow the news daily. He sounds like he's in charge. In reality, he's a babbling idiot scaring no one. But to call him on that plays into the GOP's hands. The Iraqis have taken everything we've thrown at them and not quit. Bush, who is sure briefed differently, pretends to America that there is both a point to this war and it has something to do with protecting America. That we are fighting Saddam groupies.

In my ideal world, the Dems would challenge Bush, claim he's losing the war and decide to end it so we can reenforce Afghanistan. But that's electoral suicide until we are truly embarassed in Iraq. The sad fact is that pictures of coffins and 100 dead will not change mids.

You would think our ready acceptance of cease-fires would be a hint. But until we lose a company in an ambush or see thousands of Sadr City residents flooding into the Green Zone with weapons or some other horrific disaster, no one will speak the truth, which is that we have already lost Iraq, It only matters how we leave it.

The sad fact is that Iraq is an immoral war fought for reasons bordering on fantasy. A particularly American fantasy, where we ignore history, the conduct of our troops (who gunned down four kids in a routinely miserable display of fire discipline), and wonder why the Iraqis do not see what good people we are. It is utterly ridiculous for John Kerry to say we can stay in Iraq for years, a position hardly different than the anti-war Howard Dean often annunciated. We broke it, we fix it is not a policy. It is not an explaination for 700 dead Americans. It is, most importantly, not going to work.

We need to get out of Iraq before we are kicked out of Iraq and then start over.

posted by Steve @ 3:24:00 PM

3:24:00 PM

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Welcome to Sadr City

Welcome to Sadr City

Mean Streets

April 4 began as a routine day in the slum. A 19-man patrol in four Humvees was escorting three Iraqi "honey wagons" on their rounds collecting sewage. Platoon leader Sgt. Shane Aguero noticed one unusual thing, though. "People were throwing more rocks than usual at the trucks and at our gunners. Our work crews were threatened at each stop. At the last place about 400 people said [to the workers] "˜if you come back we'll kill you.'" All three drivers hauled their cargo to the disposal site, dumped it and quit on the spot.

Next the patrol encountered a number of armed men in a mosque and told them the weapons would have to be confiscated. The militants refused, and the Humvees moved on after some muddled negotiations about how the weapons would be turned in at a future date. Around 5:40 p.m., the patrol rolled past the Sadr Bureau, headquarters for the political wing of his organization. Aguero noticed at least 200 men out front who "quickly ran away when we arrived. Another 15 or 20 people outside were waving their hands at us"”but to say "˜stay away'? Or to say hello? We couldn't tell". A block later, the soldiers heard a few rounds of small arms fire. "We couldn't tell where it came from, it was just three to five rounds," says Sgt. Jerry Swope of Austin, Texas, who was in the last vehicle, "we figured it was a lone gunman."

Aguero decided to try to detain the shooter. But as they tried to determine the source of the gunfire, suddenly more gunmen joined in from street-level and form second-story balconies. "We began to engage the enemy, then got back in our vehicles and headed north," he says. Sudden, Aguero found his unit heading into a Mad Max gauntlet of burning tires and road obstacles of every imaginable description: concrete blocks, metal market stalls, air conditioners, scrap metal, truck axles, even refrigerators. The burning debris put out so much choking black smoke that visibility was down to 300 meters.

The street had become "a 300-meter-long kill zone," recalls Aguero. The vehicles swerved and ran onto sidewalks, rolling on the rims of flat tires, as gunmen kept up the barrage of bullets. Suddenly Sgt. Yihjyh Chen, gunner in the lead truck, collapsed after taking a hit. The Iraqi translator in his vehicle began administering first aid. Another soldier was shot, and began bleeding from the mouth. Then two of the Humvees became disabled. Aguero yelled at one driver to gun the engine to get his Humvee moving. That's when the engine literally fell out. It was time to bail. As they'd been drilled to do, the soldiers set out to strip the disabled vehicles of sensitive items and to "Zee off the radio""”to ensure critical communications codes and equipment don't fall into enemy hands.

Now the problem was how to secure everyone in just two Humvees. "I said, "˜Okay, take that alley 250 meters to the left," recalls Aguero. The two still-functioning vehicles pulled next to a three-story building, one facing forward and the other in the opposite direction. Aguero led the remaining soldiers on foot to the door, kicked it down, secured four startled Iraqi men in one room, and set up machine-gun positions on the roof. ("The Iraqis were scared," says Aguero. But not entirely hostile. "when it was over they tried to give us water," recalls Swope.)

All the while, gunmen kept up a battery of small-arms fire. Swope stayed with his vehicle to keep communications open to the battalion and the quick reaction force. Aguero ran up and down the stairs, checking the defensive positions on the roof and in the street. By this time, Iraqi militants were in the adjacent alley, lobbing grenades. One detonated a few feet from Aguero, peppering him with shrapnel and deafening him temporarily in one ear. Over the radio, Swope heard that the first quick-reaction force (QRF) sent to assist them had been ambushed two streets away. "That's when we realized the uprising was citywide," says Swope, "And we were going to be there awhile." (In all, Swope stayed in the alley, manning his radio, for three nerve-wracking hours.)

The gunfight had erupted just fifteen minutes after Volesky formally took command. "It was in my box," he says. The radio was alive with details of the engagement. "Contact! Contact! ...we're taking fire, heavy fire." From the camp other soldiers could easily hear explosions, and they saw the ominous arcs of tracer fire on the horizon. One of the quick reaction forces rolled out of Camp Eagle about at 2200 hours with Humvees, Bradleys and a couple big LMTV trucks. A civil-affairs team was part of the force. "We knew a big engagement was on," recalls Capt. Jeff Embree. Casualties had already begun to pour into Camp Eagle, soldiers moaning and bleeding in a truck driving noisily on its rims. Embree, who was in the last Humvee of the 18-vehicle convoy, says "we could see the tracer fire, there was a mess of traffic on the radio."

As the story notes, there are 2.5 million people in Sadr City. If 10 percent decide the US should leave, there is nothing we could do to stay.
It is a miracle only 12 soldiers got killed this day. If Bush has decided to move into Najaf, daily firefights in Sadr City will be common.

posted by Steve @ 11:00:00 AM

11:00:00 AM

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Thinking about love

Thinking about love

After watching Band of Brothers, I was struck about the love those men had for each other. Not romantic love, of course, but fraternal love. The love of men for each other because they had shared mortal danger.

We often think about romantic love, but that is often the most illusive and hard to define of all the kinds of love we feel. It is hard to explain why or how you give your heart to someone, without sounding completely selfish.

But fraternal love is something different, an unselfish love, one which comes from sacrifice and time.

When we see rows of coffins, whether on a tarmac or on a plane, each one of those people leaves behind those who loved them. Family members, friends from home, but most importantly, those they served with. All their little kindnesses, the shared meals, the pre-war adventures, the down moments, all lost.

When someone tries to minimize the death of those in combat by comparing it to traffic accidents or murders, they deny the pain and tragedy of teenagers killed in combat. There is no other kind of death as painful or as pointless. The hole from the death of any child is tremendously painful. But when it is a combat death, it is worse. Because while sacrifice has meaning, to that family, their child is gone,alone, far away, in the company of strangers.

We also forget that to many people, their friends are gone. It is just as painful to those who serve to see their friends die as it is for anyone else. The mental burden on those who serve doesn't diminish. Death is death and painful for everyone. Losing a friend is a painful thing and life-altering. It drives many people into madness, long after combat is over.

Fraternal love is the bond which holds the combat units of any military together. The closeness, the sense of shared sacrifice and suffering, keeps men fighting when the rational thing would be to flee danger. When someone is killed in that fight, and most people survive, it is a tragedy. The more we save, the more painful that each death becomes, the sharper the questions become around their loss, could it have been prevented?

It is the bonds of fraternal love and the horrors of war which forever marks those who survive it.

posted by Steve @ 9:56:00 AM

9:56:00 AM

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Saturday, April 24, 2004

The rules of work

The rules of work

I was just watching TLC's Not what to wear, where twin Filipina sisters dressed 10 years younger than they were. Their coworkers had nothing but negative comments on their clothes. Which was a problem, since they were accountants for ad agencies.

See, the first rule of work is look the part. Nothing marks the losers from the winners than the people who show up dressed work appropriate. In some places, you have to wear a suit, in some places, you have to wear a Spiderman T-shirt. But you need to look the part. Apperances matter, more than you would think. A lot of programmers, who are wickedly bright, can't get promoted because they never mastered basic hygene. You can't send someone to meet a client who reeks of not taking a bath.

That may seem minor, but it isn't. It's bad enough that no programmer think they suck, but to smell bad?

The second rule is be loyal. Now, a lot of people were waxing about how Tami Silicio did this great thing. Few of you, because you agreed with her actions, thought about how she was disloyal to her employer. This is a woman who'd already sued Halliburton (more on that later), and who's employment prospects were shaky, at least as an overseas contractor.

Now, if you're her boss, how can you trust her? You've already given her a chance, and this is how she repays you. In the greater scheme of things, her's was a moral act. But as an employee, she's completely untrustworthy.

Here's a simple solution: quit. If your company's morals don't match yours, quit. All of you rushing to Silicio defense, should consider another case of personal morals in the workplace. Many pharmacists are now refusing to fill birth control prescriptions because they consider it a form of abortion. Now, imagine you're going to get a refill, and the pharmacist now is making a moral judgment on your life. You'd be outraged, demand the pharmacist be fired. He's not there to make moral judgments on how you live, but to fill your prescription.

My feeling is simple: quit. Work in a place which allows you to pick and choose who you serve. Forcing your employer to accomodate your political beliefs is unfair to them and their customers.

Third, your company has a culture. Try to change it and you'll be fired. I once read a letter from a guy who said he could revolutionize the Internet, but that everyone he worked with was stupid. After I kept reading, I realized the guy was as loony as they come. The public rarely sees such letters, journalists always do.

Unless you're the CEO, you either deal with the culture as is, or you quit. Or be fired. Companies, as a rule, like friction free workplaces. So guy screaming about how this process or that process sucks, usually with no tact, is going to get noticed and then fired. There are ways to change things, usually involving politics and negotiations, otherwise, if you stick up, you'll be pulled out and tossed aside.

Being right is less important than being smart. People are right about a lot of things, few people are listened to. The person who fits in, establishes themselves as ethical and responsible, is the person who can say no and mean it. Credibility is everything at work and few people bother to establish it.

Fourth is protect yourself. Someone claimed that Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke were whistleblowers. They were anything but. They secured their incomes, pensions and new jobs before they ever said a word. Clarke waited until he left before he said a word about counterterrorism in public. Suing your employer will, in most cases, get you blackballed in that industry. Tami Silicio, in normal times, would have been unhireable as an overseas contractor, because she sued Halliburton for violating her rights.

Being right is one thing, few companies will hire someone who sues their employer in a given field. Companies are litigiation shy and want to avoid anyone who will unleash the lawyers. Even firing people is fraught with legal challenges.

If you know this, you don't then place yourself at risk. Unless you're hired to make policy, you have to live by it.

While some whistleblowers are genuine heroes, most have an axe to grind in one way or the other. While people sang the praises of Colleen Rowley, it is no mystery as to why her information didn't make it up the chain of command. She not only didn't coopt her bosses into endorsing her viewpoint, she dressed like a mouse and was socially isolated from her peers. Now, in the real world, you can be as right as rain, but if people look at you as a freak, no one will take you seriously. No one was going to risk their career for her.

Richard Clarke and Rand Beers were a lot smarter. Beers just quit and went to work for Kerry. He threw up his hands and walked away. Clarke took a different job, kept his notes and waited. So when he wrote his book, all the White House could do was call him a liar. They couldn't take any money out of his pocket. They had the effect they wanted, but they protected themselves in the process.

When Sherron Watkins ratted out her bosses at Enron, she was depicted as a hero. But when people talked to her coworkers, it became a case of who would drop a dime first. Watkins was described as an always screaming workplace bully, little better than her bosses. She was roundly detested by her peers.

What people need to consider is that truly ethical people will quit a job before they violate their sense of ethics. If someone expects to keep a job after violating their employer's trust, which in some cases needs to be violated, they are naive or delusional.

The fifth rule is that you aren't working with your friends. Too many people expect that their "friends" at work will support them. Well, if you get in trouble, they are usually the first people to run away. Always have a social life seperate from work, with different people. It's OK to get along with your coworkers, but your relationship is economic. Expecting them to be loyal to you over the job will often lead to disappointment. Your life should be seperate from what you do, unless you are in a band.

Why? Well, see all the glowing pieces on Google? How they fix lunch and dinner for their employees? Well, why do they do that? Because the fuckers never leave the place. They have people pushing 10-12 hour days easy. You cannot have a life and work for them. Any place where you can wear what you want and play with toys is going to ask for your soul in exchange. You will have no life as long as you work there. You will become socially and morally stunted.

I don't care if you can become rich, you will lose part of your humanity in the process.

posted by Steve @ 3:13:00 PM

3:13:00 PM

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