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With A Little Help From The Fed
What would you do if I told you a tale,
Would you work up a Bail-Out for me?
Lend me some cash, a few billion or so,
To Fort Knox you should give me the key.
Oh, I get by with a little help from the Fed,
Profits stay high with a little help from the Fed,
Bonuses fly with a little help from the Fed.
What do I do when profits go away.
(Does it worry you to be so broke)
How such stupid investments go awry
(And capitalism becomes a joke)
When I get by with a little help from the Fed,
Bonuses fly with a little help from the Fed,
Sal'ries stay high with a little help from the Fed.
Do you need any money?
I need a new Ferrari,
Just tell us how much money,
An eighty foot yacht for me.
Oh, I get by with a little help from the Fed,
Continue to lie with a little help from the Fed
Gold parachutes fly with a little help from the Fed.
Do you know we will save you?
Yes of course 'cause I'm too big to fail.
What do you do if we turn out the lights?
I take all the cash and then I bail.
Oh I get by with a little help from the Fed,
Profits stay high with a little help from the Fed,
Taxpayers cry 'cause of that help from the Fed.
Do you need any money?
A new McMansion for me.
With more taxpayer money,
One for my wife too, you see.
Yes, I got by with a little help from the Fed,
Sal'ries stayed high with a little help from the Fed,
Taxpayers cried 'cause of the help from the Fed,
Yes I got by with a little help from the Fed,
With a little help from the Fe-ee-ee-ee-eeeed!
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I've come to the opinion that the observance of Memorial Day should be restored to its traditional date of May 30. We are honoring our soldiers who died fighting for our country and having an exact day to do this would be more respectful and meaningful than "the last Monday in May" which has turned into "Barbecue Day" for most people. Memorial Day
is more than a general observance of the sacrifices made by our fallen soldiers. In the beginning it specifically honored those soldiers who had died to free slaves. It seems to me that this day should be especially meaningful to the black community.
According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed on May 1, 1865 by liberated slaves at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina. The site had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died in captivity. The freed slaves disinterred the dead Union soldiers from the mass grave to be inhumed properly reposed with individual graves, built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch, declaring it a Union graveyard. On May 30, 1868, the freed slaves returned to the graveyard with flowers they had picked from the countryside and decorated the individual gravesites, thereby creating the first Decoration Day. Thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers paraded from the area, followed by much patriotic singing and a picnic.
At least we've kept the picnic.
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McMann and Me
Nate McMann is a perfect house husband. He’s home on weekends and he’s around the house all day. However, McMann is never home at night. It’s not a lurid affair or a dirty secret; Officer Nate McMann spends his nights from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM policing the streets of Longmont.
This fresh-faced young officer came to the Longmont Police Department after working in Clarksville, TN for five years on a special police task force related to curbing gang activity. McMann left Clarksville because it was a fairly small town and, as pointed out, “people you’ve arrested before don’t exactly thank you for it when they see you in the streets.” McMann had reached a point where he couldn’t safely go anywhere in Clarksville without carrying his gun, even if he was off duty, and so he decided to move with his wife and two young children to Fort Collins. “Clarksville is the kind of place where people only want to see the police is they call them,” McMann said, “here I actually feel appreciated by the community.”
I was granted the honor of going on a ride-a-long with McMann on the evening of Wednesday, October 15th. We met for the first time that evening at the Longmont Police Department . McMann is a young, gentle, boyish looking man, and upon seeing for the first time I thought he must be brand new, assigned to desk work. He did not convey the same kind of stern authority that I expect out of a cop. McMann grinned sheepishly, however, and told me that I would be riding with him for the evening, and led me into the briefing room.
Police briefings are terrifying. Not because they discuss big scary things, although the sign on the wall reading “never point a firearm at something you are not willing to destroy” is not exactly reassuring. The actual brief was fairly tame. The most important thing for us to look out for that night was a 75 year-old man who had escaped his nursing home and could be heading to four or five different states across the southwest. The scary thing about the brief was that all of the cops were incredibly amped up on caffeine and adrenaline. I certainly would never, ever want to be in a position where people this jumpy had their gun pointed at me.
The first thing McMann told me when I got into his car was that there was a big red button, and if anything should happen I was to push it and scream. This concerned me a little, because I thought it might be more useful for me to give the nature of the emergency and its location however he insisted that screaming would be adequate. McMann and I patrolled the south side of Longmont, and he showed me some of the worst areas. Apparently the apartments along south Coffman are a big spot for drugs and domestic violence. The 7/11 on Ninth and Lashley is McMann’s favorite spot to hang out and wait for trouble. He mostly catches DUI’s there, and the occasional pot smoker. I was able to show him one of my favorite alleys to walk through if I was looking for trouble, and in return, he showed me the house in town that controls the drug trade, the gun trade, the violence trade, the gang climate, and the sex trade. I asked if there really was a sex trade in Longmont and he told me that in the past six months he’d worked for the Longmont Police Department nearly ten women have been arrested for prostitution and all of them have been traced back to that house.
McMann told me the rules of a car chase—officers cannot chase a car unless they know the driver is wanted for an armed robbery or another violent crime. I asked him if that meant that if someone tried to pull me over for speeding I could run and nothing would happen. McMann grinned what was rapidly becoming his trademark sheepish grin and said, “I wouldn’t try it if I were you.”
Our only call of the night was to the home of a woman concerned about a man standing in her driveway and speaking to her. We found no evidence of theft or vandalism, and were also unable to find the man. McMann and his back-up made fun of the woman a little, although she didn’t see the humor in it. He promised her that if they found the guy who had spoken to her from her driveway, we would call her.
We made a traffic stop which was a little more interesting. McMann very nearly caused a four car accident as he abruptly switched lanes to pull over a car with potentially fake plates. The two cars behind him came very close to hitting him, and he got darn close to hitting the car in front of him. Adrenaline and caffeine. McMann gave his location as Third and Airport. We were actually at the intersection of Boston and Hover. Once he corrected himself, two more police cars joined us in a matter of seconds to provide moral support while McMann checked on the guy’s plates and let him off with a warning.
After this incident I asked McMann to take me back to the station, as it was far past my bedtime. We said our goodbyes and I filled out the mandatory officer critique form. After promising McMann that I would do my best to make him look good in my article, I hopped on my car and drove home, vowing that if McMann ever tried to pull me over I would run just to see what happens.
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Feeling the Pinch
I've noticed an odd trend the past few weeks; an unusual number of co-workers have mentioned that they're having trouble sleeping. "Well", I ask. "Is anything bothering you?" The answer is always the same: "No, not that I can think of."
These people have seen their work schedule cut back from 60 hours per week to only 24. Many companies in our manufacturing field have shut their doors entirely. Money is tight. The election looms, and everyone seems to dislike both candidates. The stock market is dropping like a rock, dragging their retirement savings down with it. Gas prices keep rising. Many people commute 20-30 miles one way to work. The water in our lakes and rivers is at record high levels, and the rains keep coming. We've been through a tornado, floods, an ice storm, and a snow storm since Christmas. It's no wonder these people are tossing and turning, although they'd never admit to such a thing as "worry".
This coming week is our annual summer shutdown week. We have two paid shutdowns a year; one at Christmas and one the week of the Fourth. Usually, we all take advantage of the time off by traveling. This year, just about everybody is staying close to home. Most people are picking up whatever extra work they can. Mortgage payments are coming due, and their kids need school clothes.
Ozarkers are a tough, resilient bunch. Our Scots-Irish/English ancestors who settled this land (with no air-conditioning!) bequeathed to us a positive attitude and a deep faith in our own abilities. It's a great place to ride out these uncertain times.
Is anyone else feeling the pinch?
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I have spent almost all of my life trying to deal with the problem of race. But as a result of some back-and-forth with AFW on DL, I have in the last week completely rethought my thoughts of more than half a century on race. I now feel that race is a far less profound difference than heretofore.
If you slash my arm, I bleed red, white, and blue. And I have always known that my country’s most profound internal conflicts consisted of race from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement.
I grew up in Northern Virginia where there were zero black people in my elementary school and two in my junior high of ~1200 (with whom I never spoke). In the northern part of the county, there stood a two mile long fence preventing Black people from walking into white neighborhoods. When I got to Wakefield High School which was 30% black, it was a major culture shock. I can still recall saying to a white boy into the jv football locker room –“that was might white of you.” I was and am mortified that I could have been so insensitive, but transitions do take time.
Wakefield was an incredible high school. It was deeply tracked, such that I had fewer black students in my academic classes than the fingers upon my hands. One year, they tracked gym class as well, and despite my overwhelming klutziness, I was in the top track there because of my ADD. That class was two-thirds black.
After High School, I went to college in Jacksonville, FL – then one of the most benighted cities on the planet – we were #1 in venereal disease, cop’s shot per capita., and divorce.
Both Arlington, Va. and Jax were forced by the federal government to bus for integration. Arlington was a relatively civilized place, and Wakefield worked while I was there. In Jax, they began to provide chalk for the blackboards of black students.
When I moved to Boston, that most racist of all American cities, I endeavored to live in places where both black and white persons were welcome. In my last few years there, I lived in Jamaica Plain near the Green Street Station on the Orange Line. Black people were in danger at Forest Hills (the next further station) and White people took their lives in their hands if they walked to Eggleston Square (the next nearer to downtown). This was in the days of the Boston busing crisis where adults would avert their eyes towards the ground if they should pass a teenager of different race.
I resolved that I should make a difference. There is reason why I post as “from Queens.” My first wife said that she was unwilling to live in an all-black neighborhood. We moved to the materially-integrated Waverly neighborhood in Baltimore, near the intersection of 33rd and Greenmount. There were a couple of all-night businesses at 33rd Street and three at 32nd. The neighborhood had the best Chinese in all of Baltimore. It was at least a reasonable bet as I spent the next decade and one-half of my life in rehabbing an ancient building. Reasonable or not, it was an unsuccessful bet. The neighborhood collapsed under crack cocaine as I lived and labored there, and each all-night business closed. At some point I realized that I had the last white children in the neighborhood. One day the police came by and showed my ex and I (the parents of a 15 year old boy) photographs of a 15 year old boy lying on the street two blocks from our house with his guts extruded from bullets. The black kids in the neighborhood were utterly terrified. I have never before nor since seen such scared persons. They were also afraid of me, despite the fact that I always treated each of them with respect.
Racism has not cost blood of me or mine. I have twice been threatened with murder for purely racist reasons. My ex was once fire-bombed by the Klan and once stoned by black nationalists. I have borne several tens of thousands of dollars in cost to racist vandalism.
My new conclusion (with some thanks to AFW) is that racism is not the fruit of the following phenomenon:
When my Persian high school sweetheart returned from a summer in Teheran, she told me things – among them was how relaxing it was to be among person who looked like her, unlike Wakefield HS where she was a brown snowflake.
Up and until now, I have always thought that this was the root of racism. Persons desire to be around and to support persons who look like them – and this can get extrapolated to unbelievable evil.
I no longer feel that this is the correct answer, and I invite DL to beat me up and prove me wrong.
Let’s go back to St. Paul, who said that “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
Affinity based upon appearance is profound and immutable. My new theory is that racism comes from and only from the love of cash.
Prior to 1750, Americans were not particularly racist. There was much interracial marriage, particularly in the mountains. As I have said, I believe that Saint Abe Lincoln was African-American.
In 1750, Pennsylvania (gotta love those Quakers) became the first major jurisdiction in the history of the planet to ban slavery. William Penn owned slaves as well as other stuff, but the Quakers reasoned through their Bible to slavery’s underlying immorality.
People, however, made lots and lots of money from slavery. You could make boatloads of cash in the 1800’s by stealing persons’ lives to raise cotton for you. These people did not wish to think of themselves (nor for other persons to so think of them) as moral cretins. The old justification for slavery was that everybody did it. And in fact they did. When Pennsylvania killed this justification dead, a new justification was needed. And serious racism was born. In 1750.
It became an abiding philosophy after Darwin’s “Origin of Species” in the 1850’s (although there is zero evidence that Darwin was personally racist). Jim Crow and its associated murders and oppressions remain a deep blot upon American history. I have many friends from the Caribbean Islands, and racism is a far shallower shadow upon their lives than for American Blacks. Although slavery was far harsher in the Islands than in America, Jim Crow tortured. And southern politicians (although not businessmen) reaped a large reward.
There is the question of the Irish-Irish (as opposed to the Scots-Irish who have historically been outstandingly non-racist). When they arrived on these shores in the 1840’s, they were incredibly racist. The Irish overseers of the South were notorious for their cruelty – uneconomic cruelty. Irish New York City gave serious thought to joining the South in the Civil War.
In my Southern History classes, the professor posited that Irish racism came from the fact that Africans wore fewer clothes and were thought of as licentious. I thought and think this explanation weak. Why were the Irish so much more racist than the casually racist Swedes or Russians or Germans – whose racism seems much more akin to the feelings of my Persian girlfriend?
Here is an hypothesis which has three facts, but zero actual evidence.
Muslims took an enormous number (probably a couple million) of slaves from Europe.
Ireland lies a short sea-journey from Moorish Spain and was weakly-defended from 800 to 1500.
The Moors, who are historically depicted as black men, ruled Spain.
The Scots-Irish inhabiting the north shores of Ireland would have been unafflicted.
I hypothesize that the racism of the Irish grew from being constantly raided for slaves by black men for 700 years, although I have no evidence that such slave-raiding occurred. FWIW, I have twice married an Irish lass and have enormous, though mixed, admiration for the Kennedy clan who helped lead the civil rights movement.
Racism remains today a source of cash. While there is some real remaining resentment, Black and White people in America do generally treat each other as humans. There is an enormous hunger for race to just be over. The Jeremiah Wrights of the world are on the other hand well-paid. His congregation just built him a two million dollar house. There are still bucks to be made from racism. Ask Al Sharpton.
In conclusion, the root of racism is cash and not difference of appearance.
You may prove me wrong in the following ways – by showing that serious racism antedated 1750 outside of Ireland; by showing me a non-cash-motivated racism, other than random resentment, since 1750; or by something which I have not yet imagined.
Cash or immutable difference?
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It's really something else, this whole "Thin Blue Line" business. It's a very despicable form of corruption, that cops feel they should cover up for each other when one of them breaks the law, brutalizes or kills a citizen, plants evidence, or otherwise misbehaves. It's an incredible amount of trust that society places in cops. I recognize that their jobs can be incredibly dangerous. But why do cops feel free to award themselves immunity from prosecution for their own misdeeds, and why do we allow it? This a society based on the rule of law, a society where we all (in theory) decide just where the lines are through our elected representatives. It is intolerable to me that the very people who enforce our laws feel themselves to be above them. Why do we let them get away with it? Is it an expression of our gratitude because they protect us from those would prey on us? Then what about when the shepherd is actually a wolf? Should the imposter still have impunity because of his costume?
Is it even possible to eradicate this kind of groupthink sociopathic behavior? I am not sure. But for instance, in the military, which is inarguably a more intense environment than your average city police force, there is no shortage of whistleblowing by troops when their fellow soldiers go wrong. Most of the military abuse scandals, whether overblown as they often are or genuinely horrifying, only came to light because someone in the military snitched. The media would never have found out and neither would have the chain of command. Wasn't the extent of the abuse at Abu Ghraib in Rumsfeld's hands for many months before the media caught wind of the story? Don't get me wrong, I have every respect and admiration for the police. I'm not a cop-hater. I'm just thinking in terms of someone who both supports the police and recognizes that they can do something wrong. I just don't see the same kind of culture of critical thought and willingness to point out something is wrong in America's police forces. The Thin Blue Line, the Blue Wall of Silence...these terms didn't come about in a vacuum. What can be done?
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Gender, Politics and 9/11
I read this interview with Susan Faludi, Towers Fell, and Attitudes Were Rebuilt
, and I don't plan to read the book because the interview alone made me feel to gag.
So, according to Ms Faludi, after 9/11, American men became John Wayne (hear that, ev?) and American women went back into "nesting and baking". Female broadcasters disappeared off the air (hear that, Katie?) and our "founding trauma", that unhealed "American settlers’ vulnerability" that we've suffered through the centuries, was resurrected and bothered us all immensely and that's why we voted for Bush. Even Hollywood went prefeminist, which is very confusing to me because I thought we entered the postfeminist era when Demi Moore starred in Charlie's Angels.
As we move forward into feminism or prefeminism or postfeminism or pre-postfeminism or post-prefeminism, I wonder what Ms Faludi's explanation would be for the Jewish lesbian who's in love with Ahmadinejad
while she acknowledges that in Iran she would not exist since there are no homosexuals there and if she did exist she'd probably be imprisoned for being a Zionist spy. And how would Ms Faludi classify women in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Pakistan? Are they pre-prefeminist perhaps? Or maybe they just don't need feminism, they're fine the way they are so we can just leave them alone because we have our priorities: writing books about our national settlers' traumas which are unconscious of course and it takes some brave and smart woman author to point out to us how stupid we are for even reading her drivel.
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"Scott Thomas Gleeson" is a pseudonym for a typical American soldier currently serving at His Majesty's pleasure in Iraq. To corroborate the facts, we sent it to crackerjack reporters at The New Republic, and asked them how it smelled. "Mmmmm," they said, adding, "Like freeze-dried chives."
It was a dark and stormy Baghdad night. There is a section of this city we wise-cracking infantrymen refer to as "Fruitcake Heights," because of all the human entrails constantly falling from rooftops. At least they think they're human. They don't taste like chicken, I'll tell you what.
My tactical battalion group had just finished dog-slicing detail in the outpost perimeter, when one of the guys, who had a reputation as something of a crank-yanker, took off his ACU pants, revealing his tan underwear. We thought it was only mildly amusing, until he told us to look closer, to reveal that his underwear was not made of cloth, but hundreds of Iraqi heart valves, stitched together. It was nice needlework, even had a Y-front fly.
"When did you find the time to make that?" I asked, giggling like a man waking from a nightmare on Christmas Eve, or like a crazy person.
We all laughed, even though it was not funny, under that scorching foreign sun, because, even though nobody would admit it in so many words, our very souls had been violently ripped from our very lives, like empty MRE's, when we volunteered to kill people. Kill people. Kill people, I kept repeating, silently.
Or I thought it was silently. "What's that? Kill people? Ha!" said somebody. "Man, you're crazy! Although, typical of American soldiers!"
On Fridays, the locals -- or "inferior foreign heathens," as we joshingly call them -- attend their prayer services. That's when the pranksters in my platoon like to sneak into the mosque and climb to the top of the minaret, and shoot Patriot missiles at goats. We hit this one goat, must have been eight miles away, right square between the horns, splitting it in half, like a cross-section diagram at the butcher shop, with the various cuts and shanks labeled for the purchaser.
"An apt metaphor indeed, for are we not all here to render the butcher's bill?" said somebody. I wondered how would he know I was thinking of the butcher diagram thing. I decided I must have spoken that thought out loud.
"Either that, or nobody said anything!" he said. We all laughed and laughed, in a grim humorless way, until the tears of joylessness streamed down our cheeks, our tender cheeks. None of us like Dick Cheney, not one little bit.
It was stormy the next day, too, only this time it was a sandstorm. We call them "sand storms" because they're like storms, but instead of water, it's sand falling. And we laugh and laugh.
Our sergeant had put us on "upskirt patrol," going into the market and lifting the dresses of female civilians, and give them Bibles. The blowing sand made it difficult to see under the skirts, so instead we just shot everybody with our M-60 Glocks. Sometimes I wonder whether they'll ever make another sequel to The Matrix. That would be cool. Do you like walnuts?
That bruise on my eye went away. Oh no, wait it's still there, I was looking at the wrong eye. If I could be in Lord of the Rings, I would be an Orc. What time is it? Is this 600 words yet? "Not yet! Crazy!" We laughed harder than ever, and then we ate chow and then went to get some rackspace, to prepare for another typical day.
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Why, Oh Why Are We Not Safe?
So, there's still a jihad against America. The Bush administration hasn't tidied up the world. Terrorism still exists. What a surprise! There's only been a jihad against the U.S. for thirty years, so why couldn't Bush fix things over the past six years?
After years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and targeted killings in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, the major threat to the United States has the same name and the same basic look as in 2001: Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, plotting attacks from mountain hide-outs near the Afghan-Pakistani border.Six Years After 9/11, the Same Terror Threat
The headline on the intelligence estimate, said Daniel L. Byman, a former intelligence officer and the director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University, might just as well have been the same as on the now famous presidential brief of Aug. 6, 2001: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
. Hopefully, we won't have to worry much longer. The next president will be a Democrat and I am positive he or she will take care of the terrorism problem once and for all.
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How would you have prevented it?
We now know that the murderer in the Virginia Tech massacre was "a sullen loner who alarmed professors and classmates with his twisted, violence-drenched creative writing and left a rambling note raging against women and rich kids."
Did his family know how disturbed he was? They must have, if everyone else around him noticed. As in the Columbine massacre, survivors said afterwards "I immediately thought it would be him." So the signs were there. What could be done about them? Did his parents ignore them? His professors and classmates certainly knew he was disturbed and his English teacher recommended counseling. His teachers said they couldn't force him to go to counseling but that's not necessarily true; the school let a lot of things slide in this case, they could have forced him to attend counseling or expel him. And if the school didn't force him to go, what about his parents, shouldn't they have done so?
People brought up the gun control issue immediately after the massacre. Is it a gun control issue?
I don't know, perhaps it is. My first thought in this wasn't "where did he get the gun?", it was the lack of security on campus because I believe that massacres like this one and the one in Columbine will happen again. I don't know what the procedure is for buying a gun, do they ask the person if he/she has a mental illness? And how could they check anyway, it's not like there's some central registry for mentally ill people. Anyone can buy a gun and I know that many people believe in carrying a gun for self-defense. But what do you do, walk around in your office with a gun tucked in your belt in case one of your co-workers goes nuts and decides to kill a few people? And what about kids in school? Let's say that you are a responsible person and you've trained yourself and your kids to use a weapon. Do you trust other 16-and-18-year-olds to carry weapons to school?
I think it may be too late for gun control in this country, millions of people have weapons and there's nothing we can do about it. But at the same time, I do wish we had some form of gun control, enough to make it harder for deranged wackos to get a gun. Maybe you should need a note from your doctor or insurance company that you don't have a mental illness. Is that a requirement now?
I know that murderous psychotics who really want a gun can get a gun whether there's gun control or not. I just wish we could make it harder for them. Impossible would be good too.
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Last week the Family Support Center on our base circulated an invitation from the Jewish Chaplain to military people to attend a "Teaching Pesach Seder". There was no discussion about it - hubby and I wanted to go. I've met the Jewish Chaplain many times, and he is truly a funny and sweet guy. He takes his job as a chaplain very seriously, and is a nearly constant fixture on base even though he is a reservist and isn't even activated.
Now, hubby had been to a few Passover celebrations, and the story behind that is truly cringe-worthy. My infamous Mother-in-Law had claimed Jewish descent in order to escape the Soviet Union in the seventies, and at that time in Chicago (the first place they emigrated to), there were myriad agencies to help resettle Russian Jews. Never one to pass up a free summer camp, large yard sale, dinner, money grant, or interest free loan, she would accept any of these services with alacrity. Hubby carries a tremendous amount of guilt about that to this day - eye rolling guilt.
Hence, hubby had a much better idea what was going on than we did. I did know the basic order of progression and the stories, but I had never actually experienced a Seder first hand.
I also didn't realize that there were so many Jews in the American military! That statement probably sounds completely 180 degrees different from how I meant it to sound as I typed it. What I meant was this: the Jewish religious community is vastly underserved on the bases that I have lived on. I'm not sure why, but there is definitely not a commensurate amount of activities and fellowship offered for these service-members. I do hope that more and more volunteers will step forward to help incorporate religious programs for them as time goes on. I know how I felt sending my husband to war zones in the Middle East and what my worries were. I can only imagine that the mental preparedness necessary to steel onself to enter an area of such anti-semitic hatred must be even greater. There were a few civilians attending who had no outside experience with the military. They seemed so interested in what was going on in the military aspect of the dinner that I do hope they will come back and volunteer. We really need them.
The dinner was hosted by the Jewish American War Veterans and a local American Legion Post. Let me tell you, I know and have experienced first-hand how important military retirees and veterans are to our military generation. From the Patriot Guard Riders who show up at funerals and rev their bike engines to drown out Fred Phelp's doofus followers to those who just take the time to talk with us as someone who understands, veterans are a priceless treasure. Quite often, as in the case with this "Teaching Pesach Seder", they see a need before we can put a name on what it is. And these veterans were 100% behind our guys (I use "guys" as a gender neutral term) - you could tell it in their pride-filled glances and their words. You could tell it in their actions, which speak the loudest.
The Chaplain started the evening by discussing the wine (Kedem Cream Malaga, by the way) and Grape Juice offered and giving us a story of the last two Passovers he has celebrated in Afghanistan. It seems that Jewish servicemembers in theater came from far and wide to attend his Passover Seder and it was very crowded. They had barely enough wine for everyone, but everyone left happy and in great spirits. Two weeks later, the Chaplain received a call from the Chapel Services at the Afghan base he had celebrated Passover on, "Rabbi, we are having a problem with your services! Those who attend them are finishing off two bottles of wine a night, and the STATE they are leaving in is going to get us in trouble! They told us that it is a Jewish tradition that if you open a bottle of wine you must finish it and they refuse to answer questions about non-alcoholic alternatives. Can we start furnishing grape juice instead?"
Our Chaplain started laughing uproariously. "Never!" he said, "Underestimate the ability of an American servicemember to find a way to consume alcohol within the rules!"
The Seder was done in Hebrew, with the explanations being given to us in English. Everyone had a little book of explanation at their place on the table. To my surprise and my children's surprise (and I think to hubby's surprise, too!), hubby remembered many of "his" parts and recited them along with everyone else. My son really enjoyed the rhythym of the prayers, and actually sat still during them, rocking back and forth. Later on in the car, my eldest daughter was humming the snatches of tune she remembered.
The Chaplain didn't merely explain the Seder, he also offered commentary. He reminded everyone that those who wished to destroy the Jews did not go away after Hitler and brought up Iran. During the four questions portion he told a story of the Warsaw Ghetto, which happened during the last Passover there - where a small child asked his zaide, "Will there be someone here to ask the questions next year?" And the zaide answered, "I may not be here next year, and you may not be here next year. But somewhere in the world a child and his zaide will be celebrating Passover and will ask these questions."
Everyone applauded at that.
And, of course, there was the infamous episode of the story of Jacob. My son had been rocking to the Hebrew being said and was very quiet when the Chaplain started to explain in English about Jacob. My son looked up very quickly with his eyes opened wide and said, "HEY! I'm Jakob! They are talking about me!" There was quite a bit of laughter over that, but my son was still hard to calm down. I think he might have thought he won a prize or something.
Finally, it was time for the food. There was a LOT of food. And as we got in line to get our portions, I could not help but think of Bigel.
You see, they served Chinese food.
It was definitely a wonderful night.
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Don't piss off the firemen
Firemen douse Rudy’s image as 9/11 hero
. So Rudy wasn't prepared for this disaster, as if anyone was. What I know is that his refusal to take the $10 million donation from bin Talal made me feel very proud. Would I vote for him? I don't know yet. Would you?
Several American news organisations are preparing exposés of the “untold story” of 9/11 after Giuliani’s dispute with the firefighters became embarrassingly public last week. He was the only leading presidential candidate not to appear at a Washington gathering of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which accused him of showing a “disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen” after the September 11 attacks.
Behind the union’s attack lies the grief and anger of families who believe their loved ones need not have died that day and their conviction that some bodies would never have been recovered had Giuliani had his way.
Jim Riches, 29, had been helping to rescue office workers in the north tower when it collapsed. In the dust and debris, his fellow firefighters did not realise that the south tower had already crashed to the ground. Despite the terrifying noise, survivors say they thought only the top storeys had toppled. They never heard the order to evacuate. “My son could have had 30 minutes to escape,” Riches Sr said.
The firefighters were still using the antiquated “handie-talkie” radios that failed to work during the 1993 bombing of the twin towers, when Giuliani was also mayor. He not only failed to replace them, but also located the city’s new emergency command centre at the World Trade Center against the advice of key officials. It proved useless when it was most needed.
Lack of communication also meant that warnings from police helicopters about an imminent collapse failed to get through.
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Your Friendly Jihadi Bus Driver
According to the FBI, terrorists are working as school bus drivers
but it's nothing to worry about, the FBI is sure they don't mean any harm.
Members of extremist groups have signed up as school bus drivers in the United States, counterterror officials said Friday, in a cautionary bulletin to police. An FBI spokesman said "parents and children have nothing to fear."
Asked about the alert notice, the FBI's Rich Kolko said "there are no threats, no plots and no history leading us to believe there is any reason for concern," although law enforcement agencies around the country were asked to watch out for kids' safety.
The bulletin, parts of which were read to The Associated Press, did not say how often foreign extremists have sought to acquire licenses to drive school buses, or where. It was sent Friday as part of what officials said was a routine FBI and Homeland Security Department advisory to local law enforcement.
It noted "recent suspicious activity" by foreigners who either drive school buses or are licensed to drive them, according to a counterterror official who read parts of the document to The Associated Press.
Foreigners under recent investigation include "some with ties to extremist groups" who have been able to "purchase buses and acquire licenses," the bulletin says.
But Homeland Security and the FBI "have no information indicating these individuals are involved in a terrorist plot against the homeland," it says. The memo also notes: "Most attempts by foreign nationals in the United States to acquire school bus licenses to drive them are legitimate."
Kolko said the bulletin was sent merely as an educational tool to help local police identify and respond to any suspicious activity.
It was not immediately clear whether the extremists intended to do with the school buses. One counterterror official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said it was likely that the foreigners investigated were merely employed as bus drivers, and did not intend to use them as part of any terror plot.
And the FBI is sure about that, right?
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State of the Union
I didn’t realize that Matt Drudge had somehow purloined a copy of the State of the Union address and broken the embargo to publish it 40 minutes before President Bush was due to give it. I don’t read Drudge much any more, anyway. I’m down to loading his site once every day or two, lately.
Once again flouting decades of tradition, Internet maverick Matt Drudge broke the gentleman’s agreement last night between the White House and the Washington press corps by posting the full text of the president’s State of the Union address 40 minutes before it was delivered.
Drudge is in the wrong here. There’s no compelling reason to break this speech 40 minutes early—it’s just a manifestation of the mindless, infantile narcissism of a shameless self-promoter. But I guess he’s bragging about it, like he really accomplished something by passing on pilfered material that he had no right to.
Drudge didn’t respond to requests for comment from ABC News this morning but recently has been heard to boast on his Sunday night radio show, “That’s what we do here at the Drudge Report. We break embargoes.”
His suffocating smugness is overbearing. Good for you Matt Drudge. You’ve really done everyone a huge service. Is it really something to crow about that some jerk emailed you the speech and you slapped it on the web? You’re a real gumshoe.
It strikes me that Drudge’s casual violation is—admittedly, not to the same degree—as detrimental to the civic order as when the news media’s notoriously unreliable election-day early exit polls dishearten voters and affect the outcome of the election. The State of the Union address is a national event. Drudge ruined it for personal acclaim. I just don’t see what public interest exists in spoiling it forty minutes early. Of course, there isn’t one-why am I looking for it in his actions, when Drudge, himself, didn’t weigh it for a moment? The White House offers the press corps advance copies of the speech as a courtesy; I expect that will soon stop—especially if the speech about to be given is in any way exciting. So Drudge may have spoiled it for all of you in the oldline media. I’m not shedding any tears for you, though.
Perhaps I’m making too much of this Drudge thing. It rankled. Onward.
Not that I was watching the State of the Union. Like many Americans, I don’t want to hear what George W Bush has to say any more. He’s talking, but not many are listening. On the other hand, China Confidential was listening, and his take on it buoyed my dragging spirits somewhat. He says:
The good news about President Bush’s State of the Union speech is that he put nuclearizing Islamist Iran and its murderous Shiite Lebansese proxy Hezbollah on the same level as Al Qaeda.
The bad news is that he repeated nonsense about crusading for democracy in Iraq, where, contrary to the President’s assertion, “the people” have proven that they don’t want to live in peace and actually prefer psycho-sectarian bloodshed.
That said, the good news outweighs the bad, in our view. The President signaled that Tehran’s days are numbered: the turbaned tyranny is slated for elimination.
Eager to see whether Confidential Reporter was reading the tea-leaves too optimistically, I read the speech for myself.
In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah — a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.
Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon’s legitimately elected government.
In Iraq, […] Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads.
If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. [ed: hmm, sounds good to me]
The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran, and made it clear that the world will not allow the regime in Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.
6 mentions of Iran in 2006, 2 related to its nuclear ambitions. Only 5 mentions, only one of which related to nuclear ambitions this year. I’m not perceiving a burning urgency to deal with Iran. I am amazed that he mentioned the worse-than-useless “Quartet”, harped on the goal of a “Palestinian state”, and kept calling countries like China and Russia “partners”. I guess I didn’t miss much of importance by missing the speech.
What did you
think of it?
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He dreamed big and tried a lot
Interesting interview with David "Axis of Evil" Frum, who now admits it was a "critical failure" to not include Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in that infamous axis: The Bush Administration is Caught Half-Way Across a Bridge
Frum: With the concerns clearly defined, it was very difficult not to mention North Korea since they are such a blatant case. But I think there was one critical failure: Not to consider at all Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: That sounds like a really late excuse.
Frum: If you are looking for states that sponsor terrorism, I think there is no state in the world that has a worse record than Pakistan. And if you are concerned about the spread of extremist ideology, there is no state in the world that has a worse record than Saudi Arabia. So, if you are going to criticize what we did and said five years ago, the question should be how can you omit Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The simple answer is probably: Because they were and they are close American allies.
Frum: There was too much readiness to believe that Pakistan wanted to completely cooperate with the West, and that is a big part of the problem in Afghanistan. And if terrorists ever get their hands on a really terrible weapon, the history of that weapon will ultimately be traced back to Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been very helpful in many ways, but if you are thinking about the people who put gas bombs on German trains, they get their ideas from teachers paid by the Saudi government.
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Iran is 'ready for anything'. Are we?
'Iran ready for anything in nuke row'
. The West on the other hand... ElBaradei doesn't even want sanctions imposed on Iran, he wants a French negotiator who will "reach out".
Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, speaking to representatives of World Wizo in Tel Aviv on Thursday, said that "if diplomacy fails, we will have to think about other options."
He reiterated that while everyone in the international community agreed that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, there was a difference of opinion on how to stop the Iranians from going ahead with their nuclear program.
Regev expressed hopes that sanctions imposed by the international community against the Iranian elite, which "make it difficult for them to travel abroad and to shop in Harrods," would be effective.
So the Iranian elite won't be able to shop at Harrods, big deal. They'll just stay home and play with their nukes.
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Vote for me because I don't know what I'm doing
Obama launches 2008 White House bid
. Since when is political inexperience an advantage? And does he stand a chance against Hillary?
Sen. Barack Obama launched a presidential campaign Tuesday that would make him the first black to occupy the White House, and immediately tried to turn his political inexperience into an asset with voters seeking change.
The freshman Illinois senator — and top contender for the Democratic nomination — said the past six years have left the country in a precarious place and he promoted himself as the standard-bearer for a new kind of politics.
"Our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, commonsense way," Obama said in a video posted on his Web site. "Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions. And that's what we have to change first."
Any time I hear politicians talk about "big problems that demand solutions" I feel to hide my wallet.
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What are our other options?
The President is facing criticism for his decision to send more troops to Iraq and his response was that the critics must offer an alternative.
I agree and I would like to know what that alternative would be.
"We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Members of Congress have a right to express their views, and express them forcefully."
"But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success. To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible," he said.
Many Democrats favor a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops beginning within a few months and in their own radio address, they labeled the troop increase "misguided."
"It is a step in the wrong direction -- more of the same at the very time when we need a new direction in Iraq," said Rep. Tim Walz (news, bio, voting record), a freshman Minnesota Democrat who delivered the address on behalf of his party.
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With Republicans like Arnie, who needs Democrats?
Aztlan Governer Schwarzenegger has inexplicably decided to extend the same free, comprehensive health care enjoyed by the native sons of La Raza to the occupying white European invaders of the land. California’s Governor Seeks Universal Care.
Mr. Schwarzenegger estimated would cost $12 billion, calls for many employers that do not offer health insurance to contribute to a fund that would help pay for coverage of the working uninsured. It would also require doctors to pay 2 percent and hospitals 4 percent of their revenues to help cover higher reimbursements for those who treat patients enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.
“Everyone in California must have health insurance,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, in a tone that seemed as much a threat as a promise.
The plan includes elements that only an hour after his announcement provoked opposition from many powerful interests, including doctors and the governor’s Republican colleagues in the Legislature.
But the speaker of the State Assembly, Fabian Núñez, a Democrat, said in a statement, “I’m glad the governor is on board with coverage for all kids.”
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McAuliffe's Thighs of Pleasure
Read all about Tony Blair lookalike Terry McAuliffe's disturbing encounter with Yasser "Thighmaster" Arafat's wayward hands...
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two years after President Bush's re-election victory, former Democratic honcho and Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe is airing his frustrations with John Kerry's campaign in a revealing and waggish memoir.
Unlike other political autobiographies that read like pollster-approved campaign material, McAuliffe doesn't pull his punches in writing about his rise from a scrappy Irish kid from Syracuse, N.Y., to chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Some of his harshest criticism are aimed at the 2004 campaign that he was once responsible for defending. McAuliffe calls the Kerry campaign gun-shy, incompetent and distracted from the mission of defeating a more organized Bush campaign.
McAuliffe said the Massachusetts senator's presidential campaign was so afraid of offending swing voters that it didn't defend his record and backed away from criticizing Bush at critical turns.
The book is full of comical revelations from McAuliffe's years among the power elite - getting a startling leg rub from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at a dinner, watching movie stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow smooching during a showing of "Good Will Hunting" at Camp David and being chastised by former President George H.W. Bush during the 2000 election for treating his son with such "disgrace."
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Bush to tout "sacrifice" theme; "surge"
US President George W Bush intends to reveal a new Iraq strategy within days, the BBC has learnt.
The speech will reveal a plan to send more US troops to Iraq to focus on ways of bringing greater security, rather than training Iraqi forces.
The move comes with figures from Iraqi ministries suggesting that deaths among civilians are at record highs.
The US president arrived back in Washington on Monday after a week-long holiday at his ranch in Texas.
The BBC was told by a senior administration source that the speech setting out changes in Mr Bush's Iraq policy is likely to come in the middle of next week.
Its central theme will be sacrifice.
The speech, the BBC has been told, involves increasing troop numbers.
The exact mission of the extra troops in Iraq is still under discussion, according to officials, but it is likely to focus on providing security rather than training Iraqi forces.
The proposal, if it comes, will be highly controversial.
Already one senior Republican senator has called it Alice in Wonderland.
The need to find some way of pacifying Iraq has been underlined by statistics revealed by various ministries in the Iraqi government, suggesting that well over 1,000 civilians a month are dying.
I have an idea for President Bush. It's a crazy idea but it might just work. How about making the other sonofabitches sacrifice?
You know, the enemy? How about discarding the strategically crippling Limited War mentality
we've trapped ourselves in, and letting our troops destroy the enemy, win, and come home? Now the plan is to "bring greater security"-does that mean our warriors will be given even more
police and social work duties?
What a joke. I look forward to hearing the President's plan from his own mouth, but it isn't sounding good so far.
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13,000 Saudi males in our colleges
Brought to you by President Bush,
who apparently couldn't think of a better country to seek up to 20,000 students a year from than Saudi fucking Arabia. The arguments against Saudis are familiar: they act like arrogant landlords when they're guests in this country; they enjoy freedoms here that they deny us there; they don't respect women; they have no sense of personal responsibility because their ride is fully funded by their government; and young Saudi males are dangerous by definition, as fundamentalist Wahhabis who have been raised to hate Americans, Jews, and anyone who isn't a Muslim. Another Bush administration domestic policy triumph. A really cunning President would ask for 20,000 female
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the number of students from Saudi Arabia dwindled in the United States.
In the wake of the revelation that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, the number of new students arriving in the United States plummeted from more than 4,000 in 2001 to 1,008 in 2005, according to the U.S. State Department.
But a program initiated by President Bush and Saudi King Abdullah has brought about 10,000 new students to U.S. colleges during the current academic year, bringing the number of Saudi students for the fall semester of 2006 to 10,936.
The previous high mark for Saudis studying in the United States was 10,440, in the 1980-'81 school year, according to the International Institute of Education, a New York-based nonprofit group.
An additional 3,000 Saudi students are expected for the semester beginning in January. Most of the Saudi students are fully funded by scholarships from their government.
Nail Al-Jubeir, spokesman for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., said the leaders of the two nations are committed to reversing the recent trend of Saudi students staying out of the United States.
"Hopefully, the goal is to get something like 20,000 in the United States in all fields," Al-Jubeir said.
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Duke Rape Case Travesty Degenerates Into Farce
Crooked District Attorney Mike Nifong and the head of a private DNA lab criminally colluded
to suppress DNA test results that exculpated 3 Duke University lacrosse players accused of raping a black stripper. Brian Meehan, the chief at the private DNA lab, admitted under oath that his report omitted the exculpatory evidence, and that Mike Nifong and his investigators were aware of the results.
Mike Nifong should be unemployable for the rest of his life. In fact, he should go to prison for prosecutorial abuse, and pay restitution to the Duke students-as should the falsely-accusing stripper, who has, unfortunately, just given birth to a child. The state legislature should impeach Mike Nifong. And Durham County's voters should be ashamed of themselves for putting this scumbag back in office for another term. What a fucking shame.
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Breaking: Arabs hate us!
Arab attitudes toward U.S. grow more negative
. I am shocked, dismayed, heartbroken and I don't know what to do about it. Fortunately, James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute has the answer: "What the poll says to me is Baker-Hamilton are right." We just need to earn the trust of our Iranian and Syrian allies, you see.
The survey released by the Arab American Institute found that more than 80 percent of people in Saudi Arabia and Egypt had negative opinions of the United States, similar to previous years, but attitudes worsened in Morocco, Jordan and Lebanon.
The biggest increases were in Jordan, where negative U.S. ratings climbed to 90 percent from 62 percent and Morocco, where they grew to 87 percent from 64 percent.
Attitudes toward American people, movies and democracy were more negative than positive in most of the five countries.
Only U.S. education was viewed more positively than negatively in the five countries.
Notably, residents had negative attitudes toward most U.S. policy in the region. Opinions were most negative about the Iraq war and the Palestinian conflict, but also opposed the United States' policy on Lebanon, its promotion of democracy in the region and its challenge of Iran's nuclear program.
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