discarded lies: friday, may 26, 2017 12:21 pm zst
the only blog I ever ate headcheese for
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guest author: levi from queens
What to do about healthcare
What works well in American health care:
  1. Innovation: Medicine is a major source of foreign exchange as people from all over the world come to America for treatment. 30 years ago, the Harvard hospitals had at least three large hotels for patients and their families. I would bet they have more today. Only Switzerland is our current equal at punching above its weight; and not coincidentally they also have private health care. If the world has to depend on tiny Switzerland for most medical advances, advances will crawl. Joseph Lister doesn’t live in England anymore.


  2. Disease outcomes: Basically if you pick any disease, Americans will fare better than virtually any other country

  3. Contentment: Most people (polls say 68%) are happy with their medical insurance.

  4. Everybody has access to good medical care, whether through insurance, cash, the ER, Medicaid, the VA, the BIA, or Medicare.



What works poorly in American medical care:


  1. Cost: 16% of GDP is an enormous cost. However, medical care is a preferred good; i.e. when people have more money, they will spend a greater proportion of it on medical care. Food is opposite.

  2. Life expectancy: Life expectancy is mediocre in America for such a wealthy country. I find this an interesting conundrum. Is it possible that because the UK spends relatively little on the elderly (they have closed all of their geriatric practices), that they gain superior life expectancy by spending medical resources preferentially upon the young?

  3. Over-reliance on emergency rooms: Many people, particularly the poor and illegal aliens, get primary care from the highly-trained experts at the ER. This is a waste of a valuable resource.
    Malpractice: There is far too much malpractice in America. Would a single-payer system allow better monitoring of doctors, nurses, hospitals and their results?

  4. Malpractice suits: Doctors are sued far too often. They win about 7 of 8 suits, which implies that 6 of 8 should never have been filed. Some estimates suggest that malpractice suits create 10% of total medical costs – mostly through the practice of defensive medicine (which BTW is itself malpractice, but no doctor will ever get sued for it). Every major insurance company in the country has abandoned the writing of med mal; all coverage now comes from bed pan mutuals.

  5. Data: Because of HIPA and inertia, doctors have attenuated access to the medical histories of patients. I am substantially certain that this costs lives in ERs where each patient arrives as a tabula rasa..

  6. Lack of access to insurance: In many states, it is impossible to get coverage for pre-existing conditions. Others simply cannot afford it.

  7. Bickering with insurance companies over whether a procedure is covered.

  8. The dread Medicaid spend down: Everybody in America has access to Medicaid if poor enough. If you become seriously ill, you have to spend all of your assets to become eligible for Medicaid. As might be expected, people cheat enthusiastically. People hate the idea that they must forfeit the accomplishments of a lifetime for access to Medicaid just because they happen to fall ill.

  9. An extremely expensive and time-consuming process for new drug approval: This inflates drug prices and prevents many people from receiving the best medicine in existence. As I understand it, the FDA basically never turns down a drug, but just asks for more tests. At some point, the pharmaceutical decides not to put more resources into a drug. I presume this course of action prevents litigation for the FDA.

  10. Admin costs for routine care: I have read that clerical costs generate 30-40% of the cost of routine visits to a physician. My internist’s group practice has greater clerical than medical staff. And of course the insurance companies have still more clerical staff paid for by my fees.



There is another odd feature of American medical care: access is inchoate. In the UK or Canada, access is rationed, and the only way to get better care than others is political pull. In the third world, the only way to get higher quality care is money, which frequently means flying to the great medical centers of the U.S. In America, some people get superior care through pull (I once did for two sons when my FIL ran cancer treatment at Harvard); some people do so through money – the very wealthy check into clinics for two day physicals each year; some people get superior care through luck where they happen upon a superior doctor. The randomness of this process creates anxiety, but I would contend it a virtue.

By sheer numbers, the current system seems to need serious change – 11 listed faults to 4 listed virtues, although value-weighting might vary the result a bit.

Obamacare:

It is probably a misnomer to call it Obamacare. He has just laid out broad parameters and asked Congress to fill in the structure. However, he probably should have given some thought to whether his promises were possible:
No rationing
Everybody can keep their plan.
But lots more people get insured.
There may or may not be a government option.
No more money spent.

Self-evidently a unicorn.

Obamacare is substantially modeled upon Romneycare in MA, which is a financial disaster. The incentives line up such that it doesn’t make financial sense to purchase insurance until you are sick. Increasing numbers of Baystaters do just that; and the system gets fewer healthy insureds and more sick insureds; and costs sky. Obamacare deals with this problem by requiring people to purchase insurance.

IMO (and not so humble), this requirement is unconstitutional under the 10th amendment as well as the third through the 5th. Such requirement exceeds enumerated federal powers. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that insurance is not interstate commerce. Litigation will tell.

Enforcement comes via the IRS who will make a judgment as to whether you have adequate insurance each year. Since the IRS currently only considers the top half of the population and only carefully considers the top tenth, such an effort will strain the already stretched revenue-collecting capacity. I am sure that the rest of us will find conversations with revenue agents about our insurance wildly amusing.

Obamacare has some cost-cutting. They claim there is a half-trillion in Medicare waste. This number boggles. The government administers Medicare on the cheap – iirc only 6% goes to admin. I am certain that if the President pours more money into claims-handling, savings will outstrip costs. But they cannot get anywhere near a half trillion by cutting out fraud and waste.

Before Sarah Palin spoke of death panels, the bill clearly intended to have the government choose to cut off some care to the elderly (and others of lesser social worth). If Obamacare passes, such rationing looms inevitable in a few years, as it exists today in the UK (Brits name their death panels NICE).

Forcing healthy uninsureds into the system will pay for some of this. While some middle class families choose to omit insurance, the biggest group of insurance slackers is men in their 20’s. Men in their 20’s consume almost no medical care (because of the complexities of the female reproductive system, the same is not true of young women). When I was 22, I went in for a physical because I hadn’t seen a doctor in six years. The doc inquired as to why I had come in, heard my answer, told me I had wasted my time and money, and instructed me to return in a decade. Because of community rating where no account is taken of age or sex, young men are materially overcharged for health insurance. It is no wonder so many choose not to purchase. Young men provide vigor and creativity, win essentially all Nobel Prizes (although not awarded until later in life), fight our wars, misbehave outrageously, fill our prisons, and swell the poverty rolls. As a group, they have little in material resources – the joys of youth are adequate recompense. Obamacare envisions extracting large resources from this group. I do not believe, especially given social security taxes, that the world will be fairer if we extract still more resources from the young to cushion the elderly. I would prefer that 20-somethings were pouring their resources into babies.

Advocates of Obamacare have pointed to preventive care – a healthier country will cost less. Unfortunately, preventive care costs far more money than it saves. I do not deny the usefulness of preventive care, but the payoff comes entirely from better health and not from cash.

Electronic medical record-keeping is also touted as cost-saving after start-up. The Republicans have poo-pooed this, and savings in clerical costs will only be a trickle – largely offset by the clerical cost of forcing more people into the insurance rolls. (later I will discuss why I feel the Republicans underestimate the advantages here.).

I believe that our President felt that he could promise broadly, ram it through Congress, and provide the bad news later. He felt he had co-opted the Republican party by lining up big pharma and the health insurers behind Obamacare. He apparently didn’t realize that the Republican party has never been the party of big business. The larger the business, the more it resembles and becomes an arm of the government. Incidentally the bill includes a $10 billion giveaway to shore up under-funded union health plans – the Comgress apparently felt that a little something for everybody important would make the sausage palatable.

When the ordinary people of America looked into the provisions of Obamacare (and an amazing number of people have actually read the thousand odd pages—- not I), they became alarmed. Santa Clause stories have lost their impact.

Senator Baucus has thrown out the idea of a tax on Cadillac plans. I currently pay about 16k per year and would have to pay an additional tax of about $3500 under the Baucus plan. I would obviously drop the insurance if it were to pass. The revenue is fantasy. Senator Rockefeller has pointed out in high dudgeon that health insurance for coal miners will inevitably fall into the Cadillac category because of the inherent health hazards. I presume firemen too. I hope this idea fails to start.

THE REPUBLICAN ALTERNATIVE:

The Republicans have put forth an alternative for years. The basic pieces are:
Allow purchase of insurance across state lines. I could cut my costs by 75% if I didn’t have to insure for chiropractics, acupuncture( I believe), sex-mutilation surgery, drying-out facilities, and any other idiocy from the New York legislature.

Tort Reform
Also include community-rating, insurance of pre-existing conditions, Medicare efficiencies and electronic medical records.
Encourage Health Savings Account where people pay routine expenses and only consult insurance for major difficulties.
Something like health stamps to assist the poor.

This proposal has major merits. It is clearly constitutional. The interstate commerce clause will allow Congress to permit cross-state-line insurance purchase.

The Republicans have however not really discussed the major problems. The state regulatory system and particularly New York’s has admirably prevented insurance insolvencies and ensured that claims are paid in the event of insolvency. If I purchase Montana insurance, will the New York state guaranty fund be obliged to pay my claims if my insurer folds? We can solve this problem by allowing New York to regulate for solvency but no further.

You can make money in insurance in several ways. You can have lower sales and underwriting costs than the competition. You can have superior investment results. You can have lower losses. You can charge higher premiums for the risk. As the proposal essentially bans underwriting, there will be no major cost-savings here. As insurers pay medical insurance losses within the year, there can be no investment windfall – particularly as insurance capital must take a truncated return by sitting in short safe investments. Higher premiums will be throat-cutting as people flock to cheaper carriers. Insurers must pay their losses—our medical bills. Where then can the genius of the free enterprise system assert itself?

Tort reform will not happen with a Congress and Presidency of Democrats. Elections matter.

WHAT MIGHT GET DONE?

Electronic record-keeping could come. While some clerical savings might eventuate, the big savings would come from better medical data. Assume each person had a website with his full medical records included. People would no longer write out their medical history for each appointment with a new doctor (and at my age and infirmity, the history is long and numbingly boring) – but simply provide a link. The histories would excel, because they would not be captive to peoples’ memories. And ER doctors could look not just at test levels but at current tests taken in extremis as compared to prior tests in good health for clues as to sources of problems.

But the big payoff could come on the aggregate level. The data would live anonymously in a huge database of all medical treatments and results.

Medical costs have funny shapes. In the 1940’s, the extrapolation showed that TB would bankrupt the country from the cost of sanitaria. Antibiotics brought this cost to near-zero. Pictures of children in iron lungs break one’s heart – and also cost deeply. Drs. Salk and Sabin drove this cost and suffering to near-nothing. Malaria drained some of America’s people of vitality or life; we eradicated it. Smallpox is no longer even vaccinated for.

Costs for an illness steadily increase and then fall off the table when the remedy appears. Believe in the human mind.

If this data were aggregated, it could be culled. Perhaps (to be absurd), athlete’s foot cures gonorrhea. We could find these correlations. Medicine is practiced differently regionally. I once read of a procedure (probably the c-section) which was resorted to three times as frequently in Minnesota as in Texas. Now, either the Texas doctors are correct, the Minnesota doctors are correct, or both are correct (or in). This last could occur because of the genetic and behavioral differences between a largely Scandinavian population (primitive, phlegmatic, and a troll at heart) as compared to the generic white, Black, and Hispanic population of Texas. Gold can be found.

The costs of new drugs could plummet with fewer tests. If data existed on the population effects of a drug (as compared to gathered test populations), researchers could omit current late-stage, and very expensive tests. If a drug for a relatively harmless condition – say the runny nose – kills 0.05% of its recipients this drug is not worthwhile. Such effect would not be discovered in clinical trials of a few hundred people – but pharmaceuticals and the FDA could see it quickly on a population basis. It cannot be seen now until the lawsuits pile up. Both research costs and harms would fall.

Advocates have raised privacy questions – why should my dentist see my gynecologist’s findings? I would allow limitations by each person as to who could see what. I would also note that I would place no such limitations upon my own medical information – infections in one part of the body affect others; and gynecological information could indeed inform a dentist’s treatment and vice-versa. This system would provide far better information than the privacy walls of today – and information trumps.

While the medical research community has substantial statistical expertise, the insurance business has far more – particularly when looking at broad swaths of data. This would prove the competitive edge between insurers – locating the more effective treatment. The most successful workers comp insurers concentrate on getting people healthy and back to work rather than nickel and diming them. It could even lure traditional insurers back to health insurance or med mal. It would certainly allow far quicker pinpointing and curing of incompetent doctors. And the free market system will work more intelligently and humanely than any committee of experts; i.e. the death panels.

I cannot reasonably value this effect; I believe it gargantuan.

In some states (and most certainly not New York), malls have set up kiosks manned by nurse-practitioners for cash on the barrelhead routine consultations. These omit the admin costs (30 to 40% for insurance) of small dollar medicine. Nurse-practitioners have attenuated expertise, but enough for the routine. As Lady of Shalott has pointed out, 45% of doctors will consider retiring if Obamacare passes. Ignoring this inflated figure, each year we admit a larger proportion of women to our medical schools. Women as a group are far less willing to work the insane hours which male physicians as a group work. From whichever cause, our supply of medical expertise will likely shrink in the future.

Pulling admin costs out of routine care could make a material dent in medical costs. Shifting routine care to persons of lesser but adequate expertise could also help.

If people could purchase major medical insurance and maintain a Health Savings Account on a tax-preferred basis for the routine, we could save. Note that this is the precise opposite premise from Obamacare where all medical care, no matter how trivial, will involve passing papers from Cheyenne to Washington. This savings could reach a few per cent of GDP.

I envision people choosing to purchase catastrophic coverage with health savings accounts sopping the extra dollars paid now. These dollars can pay for routine care or be saved for later in life when the body fails. I would also allow the insurers to pay no-claims bonuses under some circumstances. One circumstance might be a healthy lifestyle where the most dangerous pleasures are foregone – obviously obesity, perhaps smoking although there is a cost to the blood test; lack of drug and alcohol abuse could also generate a bonus. Bonuses would be paid to the HSA.

I would further permit insurers to differentiate a no-claims bonus by age or sex; such that most young men could receive in the form of the bonus some fraction of their overcharge. Suppose the market average charge is equal to the charge for a man of 55, a man of 22’s market charge might be a tenth of that. I would allow the insurers to pay a fraction (half?) of that overcharge to the HSAs of all those who are overcharged.

In lieu of a tax, I would set penalties for acquiring insurance upon sickness. After a short (6 month?) period for all to acquire insurance, failure to do so would generate future penalty. I would mandate that insurers increase their deductibles by the premiums not paid (accreted for the time value of money) plus a penalty for each uninsured year – say $1,000 for the first year $2,000 for the second etc. I believe this carrot and stick would lure healthy people to purchase health insurance.

If people understand the costs of their medical treatment, they will in the aggregate purchase more wisely than when they do not understand and bear those costs.

Some sort of subsidy – health stamps – for the poor could be added.

Note that this proposal connotes decoupling health insurance from employment. HR departments (the devil’s spawn) would have less to do.

We should put more money into administering Medicare such as to lower costs.

We could perhaps ameliorate the dread Medicaid spend-down by placing a lien on assets instead of requiring their liquidation. The lien would allow people to use their assets for living but would forbid them transferring those assets to others. The assets would be collected at death. I have no clear picture of the costs of such a change – they might be prohibitive.
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evariste
Who wants to go to Iceland?
Who else fantasizes about an Icelandic pleasure trip? I've wanted to visit Iceland forever. It sounds like such an appealing and wondrous place.

Their currency has been hammered by the global financial crisis; it was trading at around ISK 60 per US dollar and now it's in the ISK 100 range. It was as low as ISK 120/$1 a few days ago. For one of the most expensive places on earth, this is an enormous discount. I'm soooo tempted to jump on this and buy some Krona. I have some cash lying around and it's not like I have to immediately go, so I can just buy it and sit on it till I'm ready to take a month off and have a fun trip.

Here's a fun article about a morning in Iceland on a 9-hour layover. I don't know if any of you listen to Bjork or Sigur Rós, but both of these Icelandic acts really convey the majestic landscape and ancient culture of Iceland through music in such a beautiful way. I feel like I know the country already, on a musicky plane.
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guest author: Jay D.
How I Became a Zionist
Hi. My name is Jay D. and I'm a Zionist. I thought I'll make that clear right off the bat so you wont have to ask me a million times. There. That said I have to warn you: if you're a regular American and your reading this for the first time, too late for you, buddy, you too are a Zionist and I'll tell you why.

First off, I'm a tough guy, I work in private security and I drink warm beer-enough said, you get my drift. One fine spring evening I was screwing around before my shift, just finished polishing my gun and buckle for like the tenth time and figured I'll go see what's going on in the world-if your in my profession you gotta keep up with the times. So I see this article about some dude hitting a girl in a wheelchair and I go to my favorite forum madison.com to see what my homies have to say 'bout that. Nothing. They still chewing on the breaking news item "Israel is spying on us". Man, those guys got their hand on the pulse, I'm tellin' ya. I used to hang out at Stormfront and VNN, but them dudes are pussies compared to "progressives" at madison.com. So I figure I'll google for wheelchair. And that's how it all started.

I stumbled on this weird looking blog called Discarted Lies. Never seen anything like it-no ads, no fancy stuff, just lots of typing. Hell, I can type with the best of them-I type like I talk, lots. Right off I zero on some floranista chick bellyaching about hatred, so I tell her politely to use her brains. Then I go to the fridge, pull a beer and let it sit under hot water for awhile. By the time I come back they are on me like flies on shit. All except that cba-whatever-the-fuck chick who decides to defend me, which is like the ultimate insult. I don't need no fat-assed Brit housewife who can't even spell her name in English defending me, I'm a security guard, remember?

So I'm pretty much holding my ground and gaining when this RWC dude comes out sly-like and asks me what is my opinion on the truth behind 9/11. And here I am, ready to like him, you know, he's right wing and into conspiracy, and kinda funny, but suddenly I smell a rat. When your in my profession you learn to recognize every rat by it's smell. Right off I think: I bet he's hiding a megaphone behind his back. Dammit, I knew it, I finally got a live one. Wait till I tell my buddies, they won't believe this. Man, it's happening... I take a swig of my warm beer, tuck my shiny gun behind the belt and carefully, nonchillantly-like drop a bomb: are you a Zionist, perchance?

That's when shit really hit the fan. Now, I seen crime, I fought crime, I done crime (heh, what I'm sayin', scratch that), but I ain't seen anything like it. I knew I was onto something when that mean dude evariste attacked me with that "there/their" shit. That's there number one tactic, you see. When you corner them like that they pull their red pencils on you, smart asses. And not just evariste, that chick with a cool name got real pissy as well. Oh, another thing before I forget! If you think only Jews can be Zionists, think again! Be very careful! They come in all shapes and seem to be pretty cozy with each other and kinda divided that grammar thing among them: the Hebrew God loves apostrophe's and punctuation and Jesus loves paragraphs, or so they tell you.

Anyways, they just started crawling out of every corner, like cockroaches. Israel has the right to exist, Israel is a democracy, Israel is surrounded by hostile nations, Israel turned desert into a garden, blah blah blah and all that crap. But alone I persisted, I stayed on course. But are you Zionists, I kept hammering in. Admit it! I knew that sooner or later they will crack under pressure. Oh, they tried everything to avoid the answer, even the oldest tanakh trick-answering a question with a question. I have to give them credit though, they put up quite a resistance. But hey, they underestimated me, lol. When you can get a kid to confess to stealing chewing gum, outing Zionists is a piece of cake. But even after they finally admitted it they kept yelling "Admitted what?!" lol.

Well, if I had any doubts left after 300+ comments I got my confirmation:

joem #302

How wass your chag? I saw the one post about your trip to Yerushalayim, but I haven't been here much, myself. How's your FIL doing? Should I still be making mi sheberachs for him?


Yerushalayim? What's Yerushalayim? Is it their secret meeting place? Sorta like Camp David? BTW, did you ever ask yourself "why David? Why not John, or Paul, or Christopher?" Heh. That's for me to know and you to find out. Oh, and also notice that it's OK for them to misspell words as long as they follow it with a lame excuse like:

This thread is jinxed for typos.

Frieds and friends.


Anyways, I beat the hell out of their, patted myself on the shoulder for escaping unscathed and pretty much forgot all about it for a couple of days until weird shit started happening. I logged onto my favorite forum madison.com and got a message "Access denied. Please wait while you are being redirected." Guess where I got redirected-yep, Discorded Lies. I rebooted, cleared my Internet history, nothing. I even got on mom's computer-same shit. A week later I was fired. A month later I got an eviction notice. And then Fluffy disappeared.

I called the cops, but they pretty much blew me off. Zionists stole your cat... yeah... right... I ranted, I raved. My mom tried to have me committed. The shrink they assigned to me, Dr. Rosenblatt, gave me a bunch of picture tests called... I don't recall, some Jew name. They all looked like a star with six points if you looked real close. He said I was all right, all I had to do was "comply", "go with the flow" and winked. A friend of mine with connections got me an appointment with some CIA dudes. They listened to my story, didn't say nothing and told me to go home. As I was leaving, I overheard one of them telling the other: "Call Shlomo". I knew then that I was done in. Can't fight them, join them. So I did.

It's all water under the bridge now. I'm doing much better. They are really not such a bad lot, those Zionists. RWC took me under his wing. I speak pretty passable Hebrew now thanks to annie and I got that paragraph fetish of theirs pretty well by now as you see but am still working on apostrophe's and punctuation. Evariste and the cool chick are still pouting at me cuz I don't always get it right, but all in good time, as they say. I am also learning Greek alphabet so I can write coded messages. They write them in Hebrew using Greek letters, you see. Dang, scratch that too, I can get in trouble for that, lol. I got Fluffy back. She was kept by Stormi who is there feline hostage operative. She took pretty good care of her. I get along with all the cool kids-floranista lets me putter in her garden, Aridog and packen let me pet their dogs once in a while and Jefe is teaching me how to fiddle.

I still don't know what a Zionist is, but I know it ain't that bad, pays the bills and they let me to keep my gun. If you are interested, gimme a holler, I'll get you in. If I'm not around (which means I'm on a covert mission), you can contact the Greek chick, but don't forget to tell her I sent you, or I won't get my commish. My e-mail: jayD@zionest.net.

Yours in Zion,

Jay D.

Shalom out.

P.S. Oh, one more thing. I don't drink Bud anymore. I drink Maccabee now. Cold.
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guest author: Sean Gleeson
Eight Reasons Why The Earth Kicks Ass
Today is Earth Day, a solemn day to reflect on the reasons why our planet really blows away all the others. This is a good thing, because we Earthites tend to focus on the negatives, and to envy all those things other planets have that we don't, things like pretty rings, and 94-day weekends, and lakes of methane. Yeah, we might not be the biggest planet, or the "hottest," or the cleanest. But before you pack your bags and buy that one-way ticket to Uranus, here are eight reasons why the Third Rock is the rockingest.

1. Apples. Is there anything as delicious as an apple? Sweet, tart, wet, crunchy, soft... but if you are ever on another planet, don't bother looking for one. All of them are on Earth! No other planet has Apple iPhones, either, which are also very good. And by the way, does Apple make any products whose name begins with an uppercase letter anymore? How long before they change the name of their company to "aPple"?

2. Roller Coasters. The "Kingda Ka," at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, is the fastest roller coaster on Earth. And that pretty much makes it the fastest one in the whole universe! Do you know why? I'll give you a hint: It's because other planets don't have roller coasters, that's why. And furthermore, if you tried to put the Kingda Ka on, say, Mars, it wouldn't even work, because the gravity is all screwed up there.

3. Stephanie Seymour. You might not know who Stephanie Seymour is, which would be a shame because she is number 91 on the FHM 100 Sexiest Women of 2000 (between Jeri Ryan and Monica Lewinski, if you can imagine). Do a Google image search for "Stephanie Seymour." And then tell me you aren't happy to live on the same planet as Stephanie Seymour (i.e., Earth). You can't, right?

4. Coffee. Fact: Starbucks only sells Earth coffee. Fact: If there were any coffee grown on other planets, it would be sold at Starbucks. Conclusion: There is no coffee on other planets. I don't know about you, but that right there is a deal-breaker for me. No coffee? No thanks!

5. News. Whether you're a "news junkie" or a "news, um, nonjunkie," you get much more and better news on Earth than you would on any other planet. Could you imagine a newspaper on Mercury? They could print one issue per year, with one page, to cover all the news that happens there. And even then, it would just be a boring story, like "Still 800 Degrees, Airless." And maybe a Maureen Dowd column.

6. Rope. Sure, it's true, the Golden Age of Rope is well behind us, and you probably don't interact with rope nearly as much as your grandfather did. But when you do need rope, nothing else will do. Try pitching a tent without it, or docking a boat. Without rope, you are in major trouble, just like the poor bastards on all the other planets, which don't have rope. Losers.

7. Licorice. I do not like licorice. Don't know why it's on this list.

8. The United States Army. Some people, mostly crazy people, worry about interplanetary warfare, but there is really no need. We have found no evidence that any other planets even have an army. That could mean that there are no other planets with armies. Or that there are, but they're too scared to show themselves. Either way, that means our Mean Green Machine is the undisputed ass-kickingest fighting force for thousands of light-years in any dimension. I do realize there are other branches of the service, and I mean no discredit to them, but the Army is the only branch that is suited to fight on other planets. The Air Force couldn't (because there is no air on other planets); the Navy couldn't (no oceans), and the Marines couldn't (no board books). So that leaves the Army. Hooah.
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evariste
Rebel without a cause, but with perhaps an urgent national question he'd like answered
Please forgive the rambling nature of this treatise, which was inspired by airforcewife's declaration that she is not a conservative, in this thread where we were discussing McCain and Giuliani. I'm not one either, I guess. Neither am I a liberal. I'm not just talking about liberalism as in being a Democrat/San Franciscan/whatever. I'm talking about the concept of liberalism that's discussed in the pages of VFR by Laurence Auster and New Sisyphus by Jourdan. As in, all the conservatives today are liberals, too. The disease of our times. Include me out.

I don't know if I'm a conservative or not any more. The older I get, the less certain I become of things I believed fervently just last year, or the year before. I started thinking critically about some beliefs and positions I took for granted, and suddenly half the stuff I read that I used to agree with seems like lazy, offensive, laughable, mindless propaganda. I am insulted and furious when I detect this stuff, and it's becoming a habit with me of noticing it. I can't not notice the agenda behind everything I read, and the lies I'm being told. Some of them very nice, flattering lies that I Want To Belieeeeve, lies about, for instance, how America's health care system is the greatest in the world. Furthermore, conservatives are selling out my country very effectively at the moment. I am terrified of the sinister military dictatorship in the East which is being coddled and fattened up and strengthened as it relentlessly re-arms and prepares to wage a terrible war on us in pursuit of its dearest goal, a total world dictatorship ruled from Beijing. They've been telling us how they want to get rid of us for thirty years now. Why isn't anyone listening? They mean what they say, they really mean it. But it's bad for business to point this out so conservatives rake in the cash and watch China usurp and prepare to destroy America. Oh well, at least profits are up this quarter.

There's no movement worth a damn to follow. I never was much of a conservative. Maybe the truth is that I'm discovering I'm a nationalist and a socially liberal open-minded person, and conservatives in this country aren't really very good nationalists, and I'm done compromising. If the Democrats get an F in Nationalism, the conservatives get an F+. Nobody has an acceptable and coherent position on the national question, which for me is: are we still a nation, and how can we hang on to it? What does it mean to say we are Americans, and this is America?

So-called conservatives appear at Spanish-language debates to pander to unassimilated foreigners who for some reason don't want to speak the national tongue but are allowed to vote in our elections. I don't care if they're citizens, if they don't speak English, they're not really American.

The war on terror is a joke. It was always a joke from the beginning. It was never taken seriously by the President of the Mall. "Go shopping, America". Thanks for the input. The masterminds of 9/11 got away. We invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and left the true regional menace, Iran, alone. A trillion more dollars in debt to China and thousands of dead American soldiers later, we get nothing for it. I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt out of it. We're appeasing North Korea, a dictatorship that can't even feed its own people, and letting them get away with murder. Our military is being asked to fight two half-ass wars on a peacetime footing, and be a global police force, and the military's leaders are hell bent on shrinking it even more, so they can buy expensive toys and feather their nests and get lucrative jobs with defense contractors later. Who cares how much the air force has to shrink as long as we can buy new airplanes and retire good, working, unsexy old ones? Our leaders are hell-bent on constructing Islamic states in Europe and Israel. Why? I've lost all faith in those who presume to rule in our name.

Iran has gotten more dangerous and so has Syria. Iraq was already beaten and defanged. Bush and Cheney lied to us to get us in there, and we all bought it, out of an abundance of patriotism and naivete. We didn't suspect the horrible truth, which I'm beginning to believe is this: they went in there to get the oil on preferential terms for their oil company buddies, and enrich their mercenary buddies and their defense contractor buddies. They really did. I believe this now. What's a few thousand dead Americans when you and all your friends and relatives can get incredibly rich off a needless and easy war, throwing a shitty little defenseless country with lots of oil against the wall? Do I sound like a DU member yet? Good. You know what? The neocons are all creeps, but they were all being used anyway. They just give a thin veneer of respectability to Bush and Cheney's project of looting the treasury for their friends. They wanted to invade Iraq before 9/11. 9/11 was just the excuse they'd been looking for for so long.

The war on drugs is an offensive and disgusting joke, too. Conservatives love it, though. Bill Hicks was right. It's not a war on drugs, it's a war on personal freedom. Why did it take a Constitutional amendment to ban alcohol, but it's OK for the government to ban a few hundred other substances, stroke of the pen, law of the land, go directly to jail? What's so conservative about preventing me from getting fucked up on the substance of my choice? People have been getting fucked up on plants and fungus for thousands of years. Millions of years, probably. The drug war has been around for sixty. All it does is give the government more power over you, your mind, your body, and your property. I love seeing court cases like United States vs. $164,000. Biggest prison population in the world, more people in jail than in all the world's repressive dictatorships, and most of them are there because they wanted to get high. And we make prison rape jokes. Knock it off.

What's so funny about prison rape? And why can't the authorities stop it? Because they don't want to. Because they use it as a tool, unofficially. Prison rape exists because it is allowed to exist by the same authorities. How dare any elected official like Bill Lockyer threaten a citizen with being raped in prison, and how can he keep his job? Bill Lockyer should have been lynched for it, I swear to God. Every time I remember it, I am enraged all over again. How the fuck does he dare? What kind of country is this? I am not an authority-worshipper. I am a free man and will remain a free man in my own mind no matter what happens. But a lot of what I'm observing happening in my country is killing me inside. Do you think Abu Ghraib was an accident? I don't. I think it's an embarrassing reminder of how fucked up our country's prison system is. What an embarrassment and what a shame and what a disgrace. Those West Virginia bumpkin rapist/torturers were all regular American prison guards in civilian life. They were just giving the Iraqis a taste of the authentic American jail experience. Think these guards didn't ever arrange for one of their fellow Americans to get raped in prison, or turn their head and let it happen? Think again. The rapists in prison are in cahoots with the authorities. Either they help them or they ignore what they're doing. It needs to stop. The authorities are letting us down and letting this continue, because it gives them a little more power to scare you when prison rape is rampant. Think about it. We are now in a situation where it is good for the authorities to allow a rampant prisoner rape situation.

Is that really the bargain in this country now? This is the new deal? Obey and conform or be sent to prison and raped? Welcome to the New Deal. I want to renegotiate the social contract if this is where we've ended up.

The free market is not everything. It's not a religion. A free market is a good way to organize some, maybe most areas of the economy. I care about my country. I am a fierce nationalist. I'm not a globe-trotting global citizen and I never will be. I won't even set foot on Mexican soil because they don't have the Constitution and the bill of rights, and I'll be goddamned if I let some goddamn Mexican cop jail me or force me to bribe him. I have too much self-respect to bribe anyone. The only country I've been to other than the US since I came home was Canada. I liked it. It's a nice place but it's not America. I don't know what I believe in any more, you guys. I really don't. I guess I believe in an America that doesn't exist, one that our own elites don't believe in. Our politicians and businessmen, they're all UN citizens, not US citizens. We the People are We the Fucked and Betrayed, over and over.

I'm sick of these corporate traitors and their police state and their war on personal freedom and their prison rape conformance-inducing machine. I'm sick of all the ninnies and nannies who want to tell me what to eat and what to listen to and what video games should be censored and what to think and what to read and to shut up and not ask for ingredients to be labeled by country of origin. I want to know what I'm eating. It's going in my body.

Hey, remember how Americans used to point out that you don't need an internal passport to travel in America, and that needing one is one more reason why Russia is a horrible country? Guess what? Surprise! We're getting internal passports now. "Real ID", and you can't fly without it. I think that starts in 2009. Whatever.

So what's a guy like me supposed to do? Keep reading New Sisyphus and VFR and fuming about everything? Why are there no serious leaders with serious thoughts and substance any more? I guess people like me are doomed to a lifetime in political wilderness, railing against a system that doesn't notice and doesn't care. They're buffoons on the left and buffoons on the right, and they're all my enemy because they're the enemy of my country. You know how Ahavat Yisrael is a mitzvah for Jewish people? Love of one's fellow Jews and Israel? Why don't we have any politicians who have Ahavat America and Americans? Isn't it crazy that so many of our politicians were declaring us to be racists and rednecks, who need to be shut up, when we got mad about the illegal immigration amnesty bill they were trying to railroad through? What's so horrible about liking being American and liking America and wanting to preserve it? Why doesn't anyone in power truly love America, Americans, and American ideas? Why are our leaders a bunch of jetsetting citizens of the world who want to rule Mexicans and Somalis instead of Americans? Can we toss them out and get some American leaders instead? Did we do something horrible, and God is punishing us by depriving us of good leaders? It really feels like that, surveying the field of would-be Presidents on both sides. I am not a citizen of the world. I came to America to get away from the world. I want Laurence Auster for President and Jourdan for Secretary of State. Or both for dictator. Whatever they want.

I'm afraid to publish this post, because it seems stupid and embarrassing to be free-floatingly angry without having any good answers. Oh well. Does anyone have good answers?

I'll leave you with the most depressing quote I've read recently. I don't know who said it, and the internet can't tell me for sure. But ever since I read it, I haven't been able to shake it. Here it is: When small men cast long shadows the sun is going down.

3 PM, 1/21/08: an excellent, powerhouse response at New Sisyphus, and a grateful reply from me in the comment section.
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evariste
Military Families: don't trust Montel!
A snake in the grass
If you're in the military or have family in the military, you may have received what—on the surface—appears to be an appealing offer, to appear on the Montel Williams show for a sympathetic episode about your perspective as a military family. If you're aware that Montel is himself a veteran, you might feel safe in agreeing to appear on his show.

Don't feel safe. Montel sold out. He's just as bad as any other lying, politically motivated media figure who looks down on the military and thinks of your life and sacrifice as nothing more than a political football and a way to get ratings.

They're lying to you. They're waiting to ambush you with their own agenda, embarrass you on national TV, and make you out to be weak, vulnerable, exploited dopes. They want to use you as a tool to attack your chain of command and our elected leaders. As milblogger airforcewife on military.com's SpouseBuzz tells it, they've already tried it on one brave group of military families, who responded by letting them have it and walked out on the taping. It looks like they haven't given up, and they lack all sense of shame, honor, or dignity—they're trying to round up more unwary, trusting people to feed to the wolves. Don't be Montel's sucker! And let them know exactly what you think of their dishonest tactics. Call producer Michelle Pearson at (800) 987-5446, extension 392, and give her a piece of your mind. Or email her your thoughts at m_pearson@montelshow.com. Do either or both of these things-but the last thing you should do, right after joining the Taliban, is agree to appear on this exploitative liar's show and help his vicious agenda.

Shame on you, Montel Williams.

Here's airforcewife's email to Michelle Pearson of the Montel Williams show, in response to her clueless attempt to gather more sheep for the sacrifice in the comments section of the same military blog where her show's shenanigans had already been exposed by a would-be victim who wasn't having any of it. Can you get any more tone-deaf than that?

Ms. Pearson:

I am an author on SpouseBuzz, the blog on which you posted several invitations for military people to appear on the Montel Show in a show about "teen families and deployment." I have tried to reach you several times by telephone, but there was never an answer.

It's rather odd that you chose one of my posts in which to leave that comment, as I was a part of a military group that did indeed accept an invitation to a Montel taping about "deployment issues", only to be ambushed and have the subject be one about Anthrax. I was a part of the group that left, and I later posted about that experience and the betrayel we felt by Montel (whom we had assumed we could trust because of his veteran status). In fact, I posted about that experience on SpouseBuzz itself, and it was then linked to by several other blogs and has been quite the topic of discussion.

Quite honestly, I could never in good conscious give my blessings to any military person to appear on the Montel Williams show, as not only my experience was in being used to fulfill agenda; but there have been other military families who reported the same issue with being used also.

Montel Williams has a right to free speech, and as a former military member he should understand that we, in the military DO NOT. Not unless we get out. His misinformation at the taping we attended reduced the wife of a deployed airman to tears. And really, there is not much we can do about it except to realize that Montel is not as honest with military families and issues as his public persona holds him to be.

My husband has deployed twice in the GWoT, both to Iraq and Afghanistan. It is only a matter of time until he deploys again. I am NOT a victim, and neither is he. If Montel really cared anything about military people at all, he would admit the mistake that was made in his program and include more rounded information. Most of all, he would apologize to the people he hurt - the very people he is claiming to help and support.

I doubt that will happen, just as I doubt the issue will be brought to his attention. I'm sure you will find people to sit on the show that will fulfill the agenda he wants to bring to the public. However, it will not be anyone that I have spoken to and made aware of the bias inherent in Montel's shows.

Someday, perhaps, I hope someone will portray military families as they really are - strong, strong families that choose this life and live on pride. The pride that Montel tried to wrench away with us on that show.

airforcewife


Let the Montel Williams show know that they should just give up on trying to smear our brave volunteer military men, women, and families, because each and every one of them knows that Montel's name is mud with from here on out! And please let as many people as you can know about this. Show them to airforcewife's original post about Montel's deception, which is located at the SpouseBuzz blog, here. Spread the word, and let these people—who aren't worthy to lick your shoe—know that they can't get away with this kind of deceitful ambush any more!

UPDATE: Andi's World has more from other military spouses who were ambushed, and other blogs where Montel's producers are trying to snare the unwary.
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evariste
WSJ reports Apple to release a phone tomorrow!
Nerds have been salivating over an Apple-designed cellphone for months and years. Including me. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that they're gonna do it. I am so excited. I've been holding off on buying a new cellphone in anticipation of Apple releasing one. I'm glad I waited.

Tomorrow, I won't be following any news because I want to watch the Steve Jobs keynote, which is far more entertaining than any movie, without knowing too many spoilers ahead of time. So don't post anything juicy about Apple in the hippo tomorrow or I'll kill you, because Bloggie is one place I'll be reading. Here's a link to a place to watch for the stream to show up without risking seeing any spoilers, if you like watching the Stevenote too. It runs from 9 AM to 11 AM zst, so the stream'll probably be up by about 1 or 2 PM.
"People familiar with the situation" have apparently informed the WSJ that Apple is launching the Applephone (or whatever it's called) as early as tomorrow. (See, even the kings of MSM aren't omitted from the Apple rumor mill.) They don't really give any more than that, but it's the WSJ, and conventional wisdom kind of states that when the business journal of record goes on the record, you should perk your ears up and listen (at least). Maybe we're interested just because we want to be done printing rumors and rumors about rumors from blogs and papers alike.
It's worth noting that the WSJ also broke the news that Apple was switching to Intel chips. I think Apple must leak stuff to the WSJ that it wants to pre-publicize on the eve of big events.
no comments yet
evariste
A Delusional Megalomaniac, To The End....
Comical Ali may have been the sanest, most reality-grounded member of the Saddam administration.
Lawyers act to prevent execution
On Thursday, Saddam’s chief lawyer implored world leaders to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying the former dictator should enjoy protection from his enemies as a “prisoner of war.”

“According to the international conventions, it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary,” Saddam’s lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, said in Amman, Jordan.

“I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities,” he told The Associated Press.

Meets with half-brothers
Saddam met with two of his half-brothers on Thursday and passed on personal messages to his family, a lawyer said.

Badie Aref, one of Saddam's lawyers, said the rare meeting with maternal half-brothers Sabawi and Watban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, who are in U.S. custody, was at the request of the ousted Iraqi leader and took place inside his heavily guarded prison cell in Baghdad.

Aref said Saddam was in very high spirits and had sensed “something was happening relating to the sentence” when prison guards took away a small radio he had been given several months ago.

“He met Sabawi and Watban and gave them letters to his family in anticipation.... He is clearly unaware of the details of what is happening around him and prepared to give his life as a martyr to his country,” Aref told Reuters by telephone.
Cognac to Spiny Norman, who is hearing rumors that Saddam has already been hung like a dog.
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evariste
Pollard's crimes greater than previously known?
Israel wasn't the only country to which Jonathan Pollard gave US intelligence, according to the FBI.
According to new evidence released by the FBI on Monday, Jonathan Pollard not only passed classified information on to Israel, but also to Pakistan and Australia.

In a presentation given by FBI agent Ronald Olive, which was broadcast on Channel 10, it was revealed that Pollard was also involved illegally in arms sales to Taiwan, France, Kenya, Afghanistan, and Argentina.

In his report, Olive made no mention of what type of information Pollard passed to Australia and Pakistan, nor of how it was transferred.

Olive also said the FBI had initially believed Pollard was spying for the Russians, and that they'd had no idea at the time that Israel was involved or that Pollard was even Jewish.
It's worth noting that Olive has written a book about Pollard.
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zorkmidden
My pet peeve
Suddenly, everybody's a Nazi. The N word is losing its meaning and the horrors associated with it are being diminished. The slur-du-jour, as it's called in the article (I've called it insult-du-jour but I like his term better), is thrown about carelessly, without any regard for accuracy or appropriateness. Another thing that saddens me: seeing Jews calling other Jews "capos" during arguments or disagreements. What happened to plain insults, arsehole* and idiot are not good enough any more?

*I think "arsehole" sounds more elegant and sophisticated than "asshole". It sounds like less of an insult and it could almost be considered a compliment at times. Don't you think?
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zorkmidden
Embracing rejected knowledge
I think the above is an accurate term for how conspiracy theorists think and act.
In a sense, the extremist explanations for 9/11 are merely an update of conspiracy theories that have been evolving ever since the Crusades, according to conservative columnist and analyst Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, who has written two books examining conspiracy theories.

Virtually every major conspiracy theory hatched over the past 900 years has featured one of two key elements, Pipes says. One is so-called “secret societies,” such as the Trilateral Commission — an influential coalition of influential private citizens — as well as suspected government cabals; the other is the Jews.
The lie that just won’t seem to die: The Jews were behind 9/11 attacks
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evariste
Jordan's Prince Hassan attacks Arab leaders
Prince Hassan was supposed to be the next King of Jordan, after his brother, King Hussein, but at the last moment, after decades of being the Crown Prince, King Hussein demoted him in favor of his son. Another Al-Gore–like figure who had the ring snatched away at the last moment. Prince Hassan: Arab leaders stole billions from their people
Jordanian Prince Hassan Bin Talal, who was the Jordanian heir apparent until Abdullah was crowned as king, launched a sharp verbal attack against the leaders of Arab countries during a Kyoto conference.

"The Arab leaders stole billions of dollars from the Arab people and spent it on weapons to fight Israel, which they will never defeat, instead of using the money for health and education purposes to aid their people," he stated.

Speaking at the world conference of the interfaith group "Religions for Peace", Prince Hassan also attacked the Iranian nuclear development program. Hassan spoke against nuclear armament, especially on Iran's part, and said that it needs to be made sure that the nuclear project in Iran does not reach the stage of nuclear weapons. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was present at the conference.
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zorkmidden
A network of monsters
On a web site catering to pedophiles, Sonali brags that he has "a healthy close relationship" with his 10-year-old daughter: "We have been in a ‘consensual sexual relationship’ almost two months now." These online pedophile communities not only provide tips on how to get near children, they also provide support and justification to predators like Sonali, who adds "I am so happy to find this site. I thought having a sexual attraction to my daughter was bad. I now do not feel guilty or conflicted.” And I want to throw up. From Their Own Online World, Pedophiles Extend Their Reach.
In the conversations observed by The Times, the pedophiles often discussed their personal lives. Their individual jobs were described as being a disc jockey at parties (“a high concentration of gorgeous” children, a man claiming to hold the job said); a pediatric nurse (“lots of looking but no touching”); a piano teacher (“I could tell you stories that would make you ...well... I’ll be good”); an employee at a water theme park (“bathing suits upon bathing suits!!!!!”); and a pediatrician specializing in gynecology (“No need to add anything more, I feel”).

The most frequent job mentioned, however, was schoolteacher. A number of self-described teachers shared detailed observations about children in their classes, including events they considered sexual, like a second-grade boy holding his crotch during class.

The man relating that story held up that action as an expression of sexuality; he was not dissuaded when another participant in the conversation suggested that the boy might have just needed to go to the bathroom.

Some pedophiles revealed that they gained access to children through their own families. Some discussed how they married to be close to the children from their wives’ previous marriages. Pedophiles who said they were fathers described moments involving their own children, such as a man who told of watching his sons change for swimming in a locker room, complete with details about the older boy’s genitals and emerging pubic hair. Others insisted they would never feel any interest in their own children, but commented on the benefits presented by parenthood.

“I have a daughter and have never been attracted to her,” a man with the screen name of jonboy wrote. But, he added, “I did find her friends very attractive.”
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zorkmidden
Careful, your Jewhating is showing
Hamas should hire Jonathan Steele, senior foreign correspondent for the Guardian, as their PR chief:
The elections in Palestine, the freest of the four recent polls, could have provided both stability and democracy. One party, Hamas, won a clear victory in a contest judged by all national and international observers as free and fair. Having won, it sensibly offered the losers - Fatah - posts in a government of national unity.

If this has not happened, the fault does not lie with Hamas. Fatah militants refused to accept the voters' verdict gracefully, they rejected the coalition offer, and outside powers have increasingly interfered by holding Hamas to international blackmail and demanding it reverse its positions or see Palestinians starve. The latest disruption of the election result was President Mahmoud Abbas' attempt to force a referendum defining relations with Israel - a move that was unnecessary, divisive, and likely to produce violence at a precarious moment when Palestinians need unity.

The moral in Palestine is not that democracy brings instability, but that it is the failure of powerful forces to accept democracy's results that causes instability.
Unbelievable. I wonder if he can say this to the Shalit and the Asheri families face to face. On second thought, what am I talking about, I'm sure he could.
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zorkmidden
Identity theft
Infosecurity Europe carried out an exercise in London in order to raise awareness of identity theft. They posed as market researchers and stopped people in the street to offer them a chance to win chocolate Easter eggs if they took part in a survey. Four out of five people surveyed gave out enough information to have their identity stolen. 80pc give personal details to bogus street researchers
During the two-minute interviews, every commuter surveyed gave his or her name and address, to allow the chocolate eggs to be sent to them if they won the fictional draw. Eight out of 10 gave their date of birth, while nine out of 10 gave their phone number.

When the commuters were asked if they gave any of their Easter eggs to their pets, 86 per cent went on to reveal their pet's name - a piece of information often used in passwords on internet sites.

The researchers were also asked if there was a tradition of giving Easter eggs in their family. When asked for the names of their mothers' and fathers' families, 80 per cent revealed their mothers' maiden names.

Mother's maiden names are key pieces of identity information used by banks and utility companies in identity checking procedures.

By the end of the survey, the researchers had enough information to steal their victim's identity. The researchers gave no verification of their own identity.
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guest author: packen
Of broken laptops, outsourcing and staying the hell away from BestBuy.com
This is a public notice intended to spare you the agony I had to go through while performing a seemingly simple task of ordering a computer through a supposedly reputable source such as BestBuy.com. Comrades, don't do it.

The saga began about a month ago, when my genius son dropped his laptop off his bed and broke the motherboard. Must be some kind of a rite-of-passage for young geniuses--either drop them or sit on them.

The price of computers in Israel is rather prohibitive, so I decided to ship one from here. Not so fast, cowboy. The cost of shipping alone(appr. $180) is just the tip of the iceberg, there is also such a thing as duty tax which is totally incomprehensible not just for us dumb Americans, but also for seasoned Israelis. Our dear comrade annie, to whom I am forever grateful, spent considerable amount of time and effort dealing with Israeli bureaucracy when a much more elegant solution presented itself--Michael's friend was coming over for Pesach and agreed to bring a computer back with him. Hallelujia! With a very narrow window of possibility, we chose the company with the shortest (claimed) processing time--the venerable BestBuy. And that's where real fun begins...

[What follows is the blow-by-blow account that I kept for my own records, so if it's kinda dry and boring, please forgive me, it definitely didn't keep me bored.]

On April 7 (Friday), around 7:30 am, placed an order with Bestbuy.com by phone for a Compaq notebook Presario V5120NR at $749.99. Asked Vikram-the-sales-support if there was a problem with shipping to an address other than my own address. Assured that there was no problem at all. Also informed that it is imperative that the computer is delivered next week, as the recipient will be leaving the country next Sunday. Was assured that this would not be a problem, as the orders are usually shipped in 0-1 days. Ordered second day delivery to make sure. Provided the sales rep with two telephone numbers, one at home, one at work. Received the following confirmation:

April 7, 7:50 am

Order Confirmation
April 07, 2006
Order Number: BBY01-113030000055

Dear packen:

Thank you for shopping at BestBuy.com. We have received your order, and it will be processed as soon as possible.

Shipping: We will send you an e-mail that includes the shipping date and tracking number of your item(s) once they are packed and ready to be shipped from our warehouse. Your credit card will not be charged until we ship the item(s) to you.

Cool.


April 7 (Friday), 5:30 pm

Came from work, found a voice mail from Jennifer at 866-597-8428:

“We need to verify some information.” No indication given that there is a problem in processing the order or what kind of information is needed. Called back, office closed.

April 8 (Saturday), 9 am

Called Jennifer, office closed till Monday.

Checked on-line status, order in process. Called customer service number to make sure everything is in order and asked if any additional information was needed. No information needed.

Well, obviously, whatever Jennifer needs can wait till Monday.


April 9 (Sunday), 8:19 am

Order Update
April 09, 2006
Order Number: BBY01-113030000055

Dear packen:

We encountered a problem while processing the order you placed on 04/07/2006. We will process your order as soon as possible.

Thank You.
Best Buy Customer Care

Called Customer Service, was assured that there are no problems, credit info verified, order in process. Was informed that the e-mail was just “a computer-generated e-mail, please ignore.”

Fine, whatever. Computers are known to generate ignorable stuff.


April 9 (Sunday), 4:23 am

Order Cancellation
April 09, 2006
Order Number: BBY01-113030000055

Dear packen:

There's been a change to the status of your order.

Your order has been canceled because we were unable to verify your information.


Called Customer Service, s/w Julie/Vikram. Per Julie, credit company declined, delivery address not on their files, need to call credit company to add address and call back for the completion of processing.

Called credit company and added delivery address.

Called Customer Service back, s/w Tiara/Vikram, informed that credit company has delivery address on file. Tiara said cannot reprocess order, because price went up from $749.99 to $849.99. Need to re-order at higher price. Asked to speak w/supervisor, was transferred to Gayle/Vikram (second level of Customer Service). Per Gayle, need to order at higher price and appeal with their “Investigation Department” for refund of $100, which may take 3 days to reply. Asked to speak with her supervisor. Obviously, second level of CS is as far as they go.

Incidentally, Gayle was not as nice as other Vikrams. The gloves were off. I'm nearly in tears, stuck between a rock and a hard place. I need the damn computer. Now.


Called Bestbuy.com, s/w Brendan (an American!), placed new order at $849.99, explained the situation, was transferred to Corporate Office.
He was very sweet, btw, and basically told me that I was being screwed, it was his idea to transfer me to Corporate office.
Spoke w/Janet, the only helpful person so far, explained the situation. Janet created a case #261925. Her e-mail address janet@bestbuy.com. While on the phone with Janet, Janet called bestbuy.com and spoke w/Mavik/Vikram. Mavik’s case #261930. While still on hold with Janet, received following e-mail from Bettina/Vikram at 6:28 pm:

packen
Notice: no "Dear".

I am Bettina with Best Buy Customer Care.

I understand your concern about your order having been canceled, however I suggest that you contact your lending institution concerning your order. As a result of your order being canceled we can not honor the sales price.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
We look forward to your next visit to one of our stores or to www.BestBuy.com.
Yeah, right.


Sincerely,
Bettina
Best Buy Customer Care Team

Informed Janet of the above e-mail and forwarded to her. Janet informed that the case with Mavik will be reviewed and I should hear from them in 3 days. If no reply, or a negative reply from Mavik, need to call Janet at on Wednesday after 12:30 pm. She will speak w/her supervisor re a refund from Corporate Office, but cannot promise anything, since the Corporate Office deals with retail and is has no authority over bestbuy.com, even though technically they are the same company.
WTF?


Meanwhile, decided to reply to Bettina’s e-mail, the rationale being that if I don’t reply, they may take it as my acceptance of their decision. Sent the following e-mail to Bettina:

Bettina,

Please explain why my order was cancelled without any prior notification.

I received the following e-mail at 8:19 a.m. on April 9:

Order Update
April 09, 2006
Order Number: BBY01-113030000055

"Dear packen:

We encountered a problem while processing the order you placed on
04/07/2006. We will process your order as soon as possible.

Thank You.
Best Buy Customer Care"

I immediatly called Best Buy and was assured that there is nothing wrong with my order, it was just a "computer generated e-mail", my credit card has been verified and the order is in process.

At 4:23 p.m. I received a cancellation notice.

You give me no reasons to believe that this was done solely to extract an extra $100 from me. I find such business tactic from a reputable company highly inappropriate.

Sincerely,
packen

April 10 (Monday), received the following reply to the above e-mail.

packen,

I am Kimberly/Vikram with Best Buy Customer Care.

Your order was canceled because our Verification department was unable to confirm your information with the resources they have available. Please verify your personal account information at: [blablablah] and make any necessary changes concerning shipping and payment data.

Or, if your personal account information is correct, contact your
lending institution to verify that all your information matches their
records. If you feel this is an error, please place your order again.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
We look forward to your next visit to one of your stores or to the www.BestBuy.com.
Oh yeah, don't hold your breath, bastards.


Thank you,
Kimberly
Best Buy Customer Care Team

April 10 (Monday), 11:45 am. Called credit card company to verify that they have all the necessary information and whether they approved the second purchase. S/w John. Per John, there are two purchases pending, one for $749.99 approved on Fri and for $849.99 approved on Sunday. Credit card never denied credit and couldn’t care less which address it is delivered to. All BestBuy had to do was press the button and have funds transferred to their account. John said that the decision to cancel the order was solely Bestbuy’s. John advised to call Bestbuy and have them process the order placed on Friday.
Easy for you to say, John.


Called Janet and informed of the above. Janet placed a call to Bestbuy’s Fraud Department, s/w Trisha. Trisha transferred her to Jill who promised a refund on credit card for the balance between the sale and non-sale price, which may take a few days.

Called Bestbuy.com customer service, s/w Ivy/Vikram, to verify status of the new order. She informed me that it is on hold for verification with the credit card. Informed that I just spoke to credit card that both payments are approved and pending withdrawal. She then said that they may be looking for other information, probably from me. Advised that I’m on the line and will be more than happy to provide whatever verification is necessary. Ivy stated that this needs to be done by the Verification Department. Asked to be transferred to the Verification Department. The Verification Department does not accept inbound calls. Informed Ivy that if they are calling my home number, I’m not there and am trying to prevent the same scenario from happening again. Ivy verified my billing information and shipping address. Asked her if this means that my order will be processed. No, it doesn’t mean anything, still needs to go through the Verification Department. Asked what happened to their guarantee that orders will be processed within 0 to 1 days. Was informed that this claim is false and it normally takes 3 days. Also said that the Verification Department needs to verify that the recipient actually lives at that address and they have to follow their “procedures”. Terminated the call due to sheer frustration.

As an aside: I was calling from work and may have raised my voice somewhat. The bitches sitting on the other side of the divider from me ran to the supervisor and ratted that I was rude to the customer and using profane language. I think I said "imbeciles" and "damned" in the course of the conversation. This is just to show you what I work with.


Arrived home at 5:30 to find a voice mail from Scott asking to call back within 24 hours for verification. Called the number, office closed. Left voice mail with name, account number and shipping address. Asked for call back at work with verification.

April 10 (Monday) 9 pm: Checked status of order: Order in process, checking inventory. Bestbuy.com website indicates
Item Sold Out.


April 11 (Tuesday), 7 am. Called Customer Service, informed that order is process, delivery will be posted as soon as the item is shipped. Asked if the item is sold out. No, the item is in stock and will be shipped later today or early tomorrow morning. Informed in no uncertain terms that if item not shipped not shipped by tomorrow, there will be hell to pay.

The item was shipped Wednesday, at 4:30 pm.

WHEW! And it looks like they will refund me $100, will see. So, a few more questions remain:

1. Who will refund me for at least 7 hours I spent on the phone?
2. If I do get my refund, will it be followed by
We look forward to your next visit to one of your stores or to the www.BestBuy.com
?
3. Will it be addressed to "packen" or "Dear packen"?
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zorkmidden
The missing women
According to one United Nations estimate, 113 million to 200 million women around the world are demographically "missing." Read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's article on Gender genocide: Women go 'missing' by the millions. I thought this was an excellent point:
Women are not organized or united. Those of us in rich countries, who have attained equality under the law, need to mobilize to assist our fellows. Only our outrage and our political pressure can lead to change.

The Islamists are engaged in reviving and spreading a brutal and retrograde body of laws. Wherever the Islamists implement Shariah, or Islamic law, women are hounded from the public arena, denied education and forced into a life of domestic slavery.

Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values - an "Asian," "African" or "Islamic" approach to human rights.
(a thimbleful of the good cognac to barnstorm)
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evariste
UN still can't decide what terrorism is
Actually, they do know what terrorism is. They're just trying to figure out a way to define it so Palestinian terrorism isn't terrorism.
The UN appears no closer to working out a consensus on a definition of terrorism – a key element holding up the adoption of new UN Comprehensive Anti Terrorism Convention – than it was at the start of this sixtieth session of the UN General Assembly last fall. Achieving a Comprehensive Anti Terrorism Treaty is one of the principal objectives set by heads of state attending this special anniversary session. Nevertheless, UN legal committee negotiators continue to wrangle over phrases that continue to convey major differences over the application and scope of the convention. The drafters, members of a working group of the UN General Assembly’s Sixth (Legal Affairs) Committee ended their week-long meeting March 3rd without even setting a new date to reconvene. All 191 UN members have a seat on the working group.
Ah. There's your problem, right there...
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zorkmidden
Refugees in Japan
In 2004, the U.S. accepted 21,148 refugees, France 15,866, the U.K. 12,925, and Japan 15. Even though Japan is not poor and is a leading international aid donor, it ranks 98th in refugee acceptance worldwide and last among the top 30 industrialized counties. Japan is a close neighbor to China, the third largest refugee producing country in the world, yet it has accepted only three Chinese refugees in 23 years. Worse, Japan has an informal arrangement with China, where Chinese refugees who arrive in Japan by boat, are automatically returned to the Chinese authorities where they pretty much face death. The following is an extensive report on Japan's restrictive immigration policies, Policy of Exclusion of Refugees - Part 1 and Part 2.
Behind the closed refugee policy, a history of accepting refugees slanted towards national interest emerges contrary to the perception that Japan does not have much experience in accepting refugees. From the 5th century, large numbers of Koreans, victims of wars between competing states, fled the Korean peninsula to Japan, according to Homma Hiroshi, a professor of law at Hosei University. Given the fact that the Korean peninsula was more developed than Japan, many were assimilated well and made valuable cultural and productive contributions.

Japan continued to accept both immigrants and refugees from neighboring lands, until the Tokugawa closed Japan to outsiders in the years 1600-1868. This action was taken ostensibly to protect the country from Christianity and from invasion by Western powers in the 17th century. In the late 19th century, Japan's reformist Meiji government opened Japan once more to the outside world. But a closed-society mentality, nurtured during the Tokugawa era, persisted at the grassroots level, according to Professor Homma.

Japan did accept White Russian refugees after WWI and Jewish refugees during WWII. However, those accepted tended to be the wealthy or intellectual elite. After the Vietnam War, the government accepted around 10,000 "Indochina refugees" for resettlement between 1978 and 1984. This was done by cabinet decision under immense American pressure. But it proved to be an exception rather than the beginning of a new openness. Professor Homma concluded, "In 1981, Japan ratified the 1951 Convention, but closed attitudes towards foreigners have not changed, nor has accepting asylum seekers regardless of national interests."


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evariste
Sensei slaps down student
Natan Sharansky, avidly admired by both Bush and Condi Rice, slaps their pretensions into the dirt. I've been saying for a while now that his actions show that Bush has read Sharansky, but failed to understand him.
Natan Sharansky said President Bush’s policy of democratization has failed because Bush rushes tyrannies to elections.

Bush has repeatedly cited Sharansky, a former Prisoner of Zion and a former Israeli Cabinet minister, for 18 months in touting democratic reforms in the Arab world.

“Despite what I believe to be the president´s genuine commitment to promote sweeping change, the policy shift hasn´t matched the rhetoric, with one glaring exception: an intense focus on holding elections everywhere as quickly as possible,” Sharansky wrote Sunday in the Los Angeles Times.

“This has been a mistake because, although elections are part of the democratic process, they are never a substitute for it.” One result of the policy, Sharansky said, was the victory of Hamas, a terrorist group, in Jan. 25 Palestinian legislative elections. “The recent election of Hamas is the fruit of a policy that focused on the form of democracy (elections) rather than its substance (building and protecting a free society),” he said.
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guest author: packen
Fun with Angels
I am the kind of a person who absolutely cannot fall asleep without reading, no matter how tired I am, so having run out of all the reading material recently, I stopped at our make-shift library at work to grab something. The library, unfortunately, reflects the literary tastes of my co-workers and you are lucky if you can get a hold of the latest Grisham novel. While sifting through volumes of Danielle Steeles and company (I would rather read White Pages) I stumbled on a book about angels–“An Inquiry into the Existence of Guardian Angels, a Journalist’s Investigative Report”, by Pierre Jovanovic. The book is basically a compilation of testimonies from people who had near death experiences.

Now, I’m not saying this is a must read, since the writer’s style, even though very enthusiastic, leaves much to be desired. As far as the existence of guardian angels, I will leave that to our panel of experts–after all I’m just a lowly commie. One assertion in the book, though, triggered my curiosity. The author claims that we are being watched over by guardian angels and every time we are saved by the bell, so to speak, it’s actually not a coincidence, but the work of our guardian angels.

Again, I’m not trying to argue for or against it, but I thought it would be kinda fun to know if any of you have experienced or know anyone who had experienced similar “miraculous” events which seem to be too bizarre to be explained as mere coincidences. I’ll go first:

Exhibit 1.

My brother-in-law is a surgical radiologist at a major hospital in New Hampshire. One day he and his colleague and friend were calibrating a magnet on some kind of a new state-of-the-art brain scanning device. They were all set to go and needed to run a test. Instead of going to all the trouble of fetching a patient, my BIL suggested that they scan his colleague’s head. Sure, why not? Now, his friend is a strapping healthy man in his mid-thirties, the father of a brand new set of twins. So they scanned his head and lo and behold, the scan showed a huge brain aneurysm on the brink of bursting. He was immediately rushed into surgery and is now as good as new.

Exhibit 2.

This one happened about 18 years ago, but is still very fresh in my memory. It involved none other than [Archangel] Michael, although he doesn’t remember this at all.

When we first moved to Madison, Michael was about 18 months old, and we were renting an apartment in a then rather nice complex catering to mostly professionals and visiting college professors. Among our neighbors was a Black minister and his family, including a 14-year-old boy and an 18-month-old boy. The teenager was a nice serious kid whom I owed big time. One day I was cleaning out my car outside the building while Michael was playing in the ditch below. I checked on him periodically and he was picking flowers like a good boy. I didn’t worry much, since there was a fence right at the bottom of the ditch and no place to go. All of a sudden I saw the teenage kid who was playing basketball by himself suddenly bolt toward the fence and take it in one jump. I looked down–no Michael. Ah, there he is, hoofing it through the adjacent yards toward a busy street. Unbeknownst to me, there was a small hole underneath the fence, probably dug out by the racoons. The kid brought him back and I thanked him profusely.

A couple of months later Pete and I were on our way to work, late as usual. Pete was dropping Michael on the way to work and they left for Pete’s car which was parked at the very end of a very long parking lot. I left 5 minutes later and was heading toward the underground parking garage. As I was about to descend the stairs to the garage, I glanced toward the end of the parking lot and saw Pete kinda aimlessly pacing back and forth with Michael in his arms. There was something about Michael, though, that didn’t seem right. As I peered closer I realized that he was all black. Oh shit, I thought, did he fall into mud or something? I called out to Pete and he started waving madly at me with his free arm. As I jogged closer I realized that it was not Michael, but a black baby wearing nothing but a diaper. Pete looked like a fine mess, greyish in color with his eyes bugging out, obviously in shock. Took him awhile to collect himself and tell me what happened.

He got to his car, strapped Michael in his safety seat in the back, handed him his mandatory bottle, got in the front seat, started the engine, put the car in reverse and was about to pull out when Michael threw his bottle on the floor and started screaming like a banshee. Already late and pissed, Pete put the car back in park, got out, bent down to retrieve the bottle and as he did that, right from behind the front wheel crawled the baby, dragging a teddy bear behind him. Had Michael not thrown his bottle at precisely that moment, the baby would’ve been crushed.

Now we had to figure out what to do with the baby, whose diaper was leaking pretty badly all over Pete. His parents’ car was usually parked in the garage next to mine and we often left at the same time. We checked the garage–the car was gone. I knew the building they lived in, but not the apartment. We found the apartment rather quickly by process of elimination–out of four names on the mailboxes two were Chinese and one Polish. Piece of cake. We rang the doorbell, nothing. As I pounded on the door, it opened inside by itself, revealing an absolutely pristine living room with no signs of life. We yelled with no luck and decided not to venture inside for fear of finding something gruesome. We headed toward the rental office instead.

As we were walking away, the sliding door opened and the teenage kid appeared, all sleepy-eyed and bewildered, he had no clue that his brother decided to take a hike. We told him what happened and since I already owed him one, promised not to tell his parents if he promised to be more responsible next time.


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zorkmidden
A touchiness about touch
Many residential treatment centers in America have "no-touch" policies, originally introduced to protect staff members from allegations of sexual abuse or harassment. There are certain "good touches" allowed, like a high five or a handshake, or a pat on the shoulder, but hugs or other forms of touching are a no-no. This policy is controversial in itself not only because touch is an important aspect of human interaction, but it's beneficial and often therapeutic, especially in children and teenagers with attachment disorders.

Schools have also introduced "no-touch" policies, to protect students and staff from any allegations of improper behaviour. But what these policies have done is create an anxiety about what's proper behaviour around children and this anxiety often leads to extremes: Don't touch those kids!
Piper tells me that the anxiety about touching children is now 'mainstream'. 'Even schools that said, "this isn't a problem, we're touchy feely" - we found that they were panicking. They were adapting their behaviour in ways of which they perhaps weren't aware.' In some cases, particular individuals might be okay to touch, but only to the exclusion of other teachers. Piper cites one headmaster who said 'I'm okay, because I have 25 years of experience, but I wouldn't trust my staff'. At another school, staff would go to matron if a child needed to be touched - if they had a bump on their head that needed checking, for example - rather than check it themselves.

The normal, everyday interactions between adults and children are being viewed as poisonous. Decent and competent child professionals end up watching each other and themselves for signs of suspicious behaviour, a situation that Piper describes as a 'perfect panopticon'.
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evariste
Flip Coup Flap
The Philippines is busy crushing a military coup attempt against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the 20th anniversary of the people power revolution against dictator Marcos and his shoe-crazy wife. Sadly, getting rid of Marcos hasn't done much of anything for the country in the last 20 years. GDP per capita has remained stagnant:
philippinesgdpcapita.jpg
[source: pdf]



Arroyo is accused of illegitimately taking power by voter fraud. Philippine politics are notoriously unstable, unfortunately for them, and for us as well. We're in the middle of renegotiating our security aid agreements with the Philippines, which is often a useful ally in the war on terror. We hold 20 war games with them every year, and 1,000 brave Marines have been helping to rescue survivors of the mudslide that buried an entire village alive.

Get it together, Philippines! Hint: exporting millions of your people to do manual labor overseas for menial wages will not improve your country. Keep them at home, and educate them.

In most Arab countries, even lower-middle-class families have live-in maids. These are either Filipina or Sri Lankan young ladies. They earn the equivalent of $50 a month (the Sri Lankan girls less, because they're black), most of which they send back home to their families. It's really sad that this is better than they can do back home.
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guest author: AM42
Would You Loan $1000 to a Complete Stranger?
Prosper.com is betting that you will. Launched earlier this month, with little fanfare, Prosper is hoping to connect people with money to people who need it. For a fee, of course. Could this become the eBay of loans?
A decade ago, when Chris Larsen co-founded online loan broker E-Loan, he purposely took aim at traditional mortgage lenders, many of which he thought deceived borrowers and charged too much. Now, he intends to shake up a whole new swath of the financial services business. With Prosper Marketplace, a San Francisco startup he's launching Feb. 13, Larsen aims to carve out a new business -- this time by doing a number on check-cashing "payday" lenders that charge usurious interest rates.

Essentially, Larsen hopes to create an eBay-style loan marketplace. Prosper matches people who need small loans, but can't get them from traditional banks, with willing lenders. Says Larsen: "We let people on both sides, borrowers and lenders, participate in the credit marketplace directly."

Anyone who is looking to borrow money- up to $25,000- can create a listing on Prosper, so long as you're a U.S. resident with a bank account and a Social Security number. You can borrow money for whatever purpose you wish, and you can even specify the maximum interest rate that you're willing to pay. Now, you don't have to post your real name, or any other personal information in your listing. However, you do have to submit to a credit check, the results of which are shown on your listing as a letter grade. This helps prospective lenders decide if they want to loan money to you or not. Most borrowers will have a grade from A down thru E. If you have excellent credit, you could even score a 'AA' grade. If your credit rating taken a serious beating, expect a grade of 'HR' which is assigned to 'high risk' borrowers.

Feel like lending money? Well, you can do that too. Just go to Prosper and fill out a registration form for free. Once you're registered, you can 'bid' on a loan. You don't even have to bid the full amount of the loan; just specify how much you're willing to lend and the minimum rate you want for it. Prosper will take the bids with the lowest rate and combine them into a single loan for the borrower. Like anything else, there is a risk. In this case the risk is that the borrower will default on his loan and you'll lose your money. That's why they recommend that you make multiple small loans instead of one big one. It's just like investing.

To help reduce the chance that a borrower will default on a loan, Prosper has set up groups. You don't have to join a group in order to borrow, but joining one can help your chances of securing your loan. The idea is that you will be less likely to default on your loan since it will hurt the rest of your group.

A quick browsing shows that most of the 159 listings as for debt consolidation. However, you might want to consider loaning money to vladik so he can buy a motorcycle. Or how about putting up the funds for jerrydehoog's 'bathroo' remodel? Hey, he even posted a picture of his grandma and a bunch of dogs.
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zorkmidden
Too dangerous and not appropriate for women
Alissa and Anders Johnson are among the best ski jumpers in the world, not surprising since their father is a former coach of the U.S. national ski jumping team and has been training them since they were toddlers. What's surprising is that Anders can compete in the Winter Olympics and his sister can't, even though she's ranked much higher in the women's rankings than he is in men's. Women are not allowed to compete in ski jumping in the Olympics because, as Gian-Franco Kasper who's the head of the International Ski Federation said, ski jumping is "too dangerous for women" and "not appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

Funny that, since women have been actually competing in ski jumping for several years already. I wonder if Mr. Kasper thinks that the "ladies" are not smart enough to decide for themselves what's too dangerous or inappropriate. Rules let a brother fly, but clip sister's wings.
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