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Thursday, September 30, 2004

I suppose I can talk about this now...

So I was lying in bed the other night when I heard 3 little booms so I headed to the bunker for a bit. Everyone was kind of wandering around outside except for me, I guess that makes me the new guy around here. At any rate, I'd say around 10 mins passed without anything else so I started heading off toward my room when I was surrounded by the bright yellow light from a distant flash. I scurried back toward the bunker and was just about there when the BOOM hit. I didn't know what it was at that point, I found out the next day though. And since I just saw it mentioned in an this article, I thought it'd be safe to tell the story on here.

It turned out to be a car bomb. I talked to some people that had experienced other explosions and they said that one was the biggest they had heard since they've been here. I don't know if that's good or bad. Only one US troop was not returned to duty immediately, but he's going to be just fine apparently so that's good.

As for me, my heart was pounding when I eventually went back to bed. But once I fall asleep, I sleep pretty well so that's nice. So at any rate, that's about the only excitement that I've had around here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Bush campaign is getting desperate...

I've been mentioning how imbalances in power don't last forever a lot lately. You know, I think that the whole old media vs. the blogs things is just that. On the one hand you have an administration that has skillfully tamed the traditional media into being their lap dogs. It is so bad that we have a cable station spouting their propoganda 24/7. While a certain percent of the population is all too happy to cheer on Fox News (in much the same way that the Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw, smiled when they plugged the brainwashing devices into his skull), I believe the Fox News viewers and their audience have merely succeeded in alienating people. It is the old media's compliance with the administration and their constant money whoring that have made them powerful, and it is this imbalance of power that has so inspired those without power that they began to use a new and novel means of communication to get their word out.

Now it is those on the internet that have more power. The internet definitely has its conservative contingent. If you're interested you can wade through the nauseatingly vile and dispicable posts and comments from Little Green Footballs, Right Thinking on the Left Coast, Instapundit, Free Republic, Lucianne, The Anti-Idolitarian Rottweiler, etc. Initially it was the conservatives that dominated the "blogosphere," but no longer. These days the real heavy hitters are the lefty blogs like Atrios, Daily Kos, Pandagon, This Modern World, Roger Ailes, Altercation, Tbogg, and so many more. These sites get hundreds of thousands of hits in a day. Keep in mind that at any given time Fox News only has 300,000 or so viewers tuning in to watch it, cable news isn't that popular over all. However, even each of the blogs share half of their readers with the other blogs, they still likely have more readers than Fox News has total viewers. The power has begun to shift and the media is slowly but surely realizing it.

The administration's re-election plan relies heavily on the old media. It has spent a great deal of effort carefully training the media to heel and to roll over on command and the administration clearly intends to use that trained media to do its bidding. What they didn't count on was the power of the "new" medium and the ingenuity of the disenfranchised. The administration would maybe be okay if all they had to do was discredit the unprofessional and admittedly biased bloggers. Fortunately (for us) the administration also has to deal with professional research organizations that are dedicated to being completely unbiased.

One such organization is the Annenberg organization. Annenberg has a site that is dedicated to fact-checking all of the things that come from each campaign. That site is www.factcheck.org. To be fair, there is plenty that Kerry and his campaign have had unflattering features on factcheck. However, by and large, it is the Bush administration that has had far more commercials that factcheck.org has shown to be complete fabrications. Fortunately for the voters factcheck.org can check an ad's facts on the very day that ad is released.

The most recent of the exposed Bush lies deals with Bush mis-quoting Kerry to make him sound like his positions on Iraq have changed. Fact of the matter is, Kerry's positions have remained totally consistent throughout and the portrayal as a flip-flopper or a vascillator are completely engineered by the Bush administration. That is Bush's only critique of Kerry at this point. Bush is frantically trying to hammer home the flip-flopper lie and he is being called on it to his detriment. The flip-flopper message's acceptance, though it remains firmly entrenched in the minds of the President's supporters, is fading away and there's nothing the old media can do to stop it.

This, my friends, is the last desperate flailing of a dying administration. Mark my words.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A day in the life of Joe Republican...

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.

The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

My thoughts on capitalism (a response to my cousin)...

My haloscan.com comment thingy is limited to 1000 characters, so I have to finish my thought on the main page.

I don't think that capitalism is bad in and of itself. Capitalism has in fact proven itself to be the system that works the best time and time again. However, as Klein points out, capitalism without rules to protect the people will ultimately ruin the people. Think of the business practices in the US in the 20s before the unions and collective bargaining. Think of the state of capitalist enterprises even today in Asia with their child-labor and sweat shops. This absolute free-market idea creates vast imbalances of power. And, as I pointed out in an earlier post, imbalances of power don't last long.

The roll of capitalism is (obviously) to build capital and that is often done without regard to people. The roll of the government should be (and in this country it has been for most of the last century) to protect people from the capitalists while at the same time allowing as much leeway as possible for the capitalists. In the case of Iraq, as Klein points out, the new government, our interim government led by Bremer, has removed absolutely all government protections that the previous regime had in place and has created new rules that are designed only to help the corporations. The Iraqi people are left with little recourse but to revolt in any way they can. Because of the laws that Bush and Co. have implemented in Iraq, the Iraqi people are now more distrustful of the Americans and more apt to follow the lead of terrorists.

Money may be a powerful motivator, but it can't match hunger or the desire to take care of one's family. If you think for one second that an Iraqi man is going to stand idly by and watch his family of five starve to death because the laws that Bremer enacted made him lose his only hope for a job, then you are crazy. Make no mistake about it, the increased tensions in Iraq are a direct results of the Bremer's interim government and the puppet Allawi regime. There is a core of terrorists that we have successfully legitimized and empowered. Unless something is changed, and quickly, this will only get worse.

A simple "no" would have sufficed...

So I got a little ahead of myself I guess. I figured this blogging stuff was going fairly well and that this being a political season and I being a semi-political blogger (as it turns out) and all I should maybe try to get a bit more exposure for myself. I suppose it just seemed like the right thing to do for whatever reason.

So what better way to get yourself known than to ask a couple of well established bloggers for a bit of a nod, nothing special or anything. Maybe a link, maybe a blogroll, maybe just a willingness to take a look over my way on occasion to see if there's anything they liked. I assumed there would be something eventually on here that would catch their eye ... maybe. At any rate, I figured hey, what the hell have I got to lose.

Maybe I am the victim of bad timing. All the heavy hitters are all spun up about the recent Billmon article in the LA Times (registration required I think). Suddenly someone is trying to turn the counter-culture into the next wave of sell-outs. I find it ironic that a former blogger now paid columnist for a major daily is chastising other bloggers for covering their costs or GASP actually making money at what they do. Hey, a dude's got to eat right? Billmon certainly isn't starving with his LA Times gig. Maybe Billmon is simply projecting his faults onto others. The bloggers of merit (Atrios, Tbogg, Kos, Kevin Drum, Pandagon, and maybe some righties I don't read them) are all fighting back at this article in true blogger style.

So maybe I just caught Atrios at just the wrong time with my request. Honestly, I didn't think it that taxing of a request, but I don't know what I expected exactly. I suppose the best I thought I would possibly get is for Atrios to write a polite if not curt email to say, no sorry can't or won't help you, keep it up though. What I really expected is for my email to go straight into the delete box without so much as a glance, never to be thought about by them (or me) again.

But oh no...

I'm telling myself that what he had to say wasn't directed towards me. I'm thinking that he gets a ton of "hey check out my blog" emails a day and that they felt the best way to respond was to make a post that outlines his personal policies. But it just seems odd that he would have a post that seems to answer my email so directly for any of that to be true. A character flaw of mine is to think that people have it out for me, which in itself is silly and probably more indicative of me thinking too highly of myself. But in this case it's kind of hard not to.

In his post "Blogging About Blogging" Atrios started off taking on the Billmon article and transitioned about half-way-down to talking about the good old days of blogging (way back in 2002). He talked about how he got a limited number of hits a day and he was glad he got them. Point taken, you started long ago way at the bottom and worked your way to the top and I should do the same. Atrios then gets to his recommendations. 1) No emailing from n00bs asking for links, you probably won't survive anyhow; 2) you want on the blog wow me with what you have to offer; 3) forget about the blogroll, I'll put you on it on my terms and besides they don't matter anyhow (blogrolls are how I've found pretty much every blog I read on a daily basis); 4) Sucks that you waited this long to get into the blogging thing; and 5) you want to get noticed, better be a superstar. He puts the finishing touch on by letting us know that he hates it when he has to deal with this kind of stuff.

My response to Atrios is "my bad." I didn't mean to take time out of your day by adding to your daily list of newbie beggars. Your advice didn't fall on deaf ears (and all in all it's perfectly legit -- albeit somewhat patronizing). I'm going to keep doing my thing. Remember this blog, atease.blogspot.com ("at ease" not "a tease"), and maybe take a look sometime on down the line if you can spare the time. And if you can't, then don't. My life (and my blog) will go on without your support or patronage (and vice versa obviously). I'm not trying to be a dick and I will continue to be an Eschaton reader (if you care). I guess I was just caught a little off guard by the whole thing. I wish I would have waited a day to write that email.

I got what I expected from Tbogg, which is to say nothing so far; which, as it turns out, is a relief. I'm not trying to piss people off here, and in this case no response is apparently better than some response. In any case, just to be safe, Tbogg, if you're checking this site out for some odd reason, don't link me if you think I'm too new, a lost cause, not worth it, or a painfully dreadful waste of time. If I have taken time out of your otherwise full day (as I did with Atrios apparently) then I apologize. Feel free to move along.

But if you're SubPop, I'm Soundgarden coming at you with Screaming Life/Fopp...

Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004

The votemaster over at www.electoral-vote.com is raising some serious doubts about the legitimacy of the polling data that we're getting.

Keep in mind that the polls for a given subset of a population are supposed to be representative of the whole population. So, the ideal poll would be able to accurately reflect what the entire population believes by sampling a relatively small percentage of that population. Of course no poll is ideal in that there is always sampling error. That is why there is a margin of error which is usually 3 to 5 points. If two different polls are done correctly on the same day they should each most definitely be within the other's margin of error. This year we have been constantly having polls on one day that show Kerry ahead by a few points and then the next day Bush will be up by 10 or 15 points. Or, as is the case today, we have two different polls covering the exact same topic in the same state that have completely different results. Today we have this:

Vision (R) has a new poll in Ohio showing Bush ahead 52% to 43% there. However, there is also a Lake Snell Perry (D) poll showing the race there to be an exact tie, with both candidates at 46%.

But why would this happen. The whole issue comes down to normalization. You know how everyone says that you can use statistics to show anything to be true? Normalization is how you do that.

When you take a poll, you choose people at random. In this case you have Republicans, Democrats and those who are undecided. In any given poll, you are not likely to have a sample set that is proportional to the whole population. That is to say that if the state has 55% Republicans and 45% Democrats, in a sample of 100 people you are not likely to randomly find 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats. So you will weight the answers from those that you do find with the population that you expect to find. So if you find 45 Republicans and 55 Democrats, you weight the answers of the Republicans so that the results should match up with what you expect to find. That is normalization.

Normalization in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact it can be a very useful tool that will help a pollster to get more accurate data. Normalization, however, can be misused. The votemaster shows us how:

Even pollsters who were once thought to be above suspicion are now suspicious. Gallup, for example, is now normalizing its samples to include 40% Republicans, even though the 2000 exit polls showed the partisan distribution to be 39% Democratic, 35% Republican. There is scant evidence that the underlying partisan distribution has changed much since then. Other pollsters also normalize their data, but most don't say how. Normalizing the sample to ensure the proper number of women, elderly voters, etc. is legitimate provided that the pollster publicly states what has been done.

So the Gallup poll is likely to be skewed toward the Republican candidate because of the normalization figures that they are using. Moreover, the only real data that we have for what Gallup should be using is the exit polls which indicate that they are weighting the Republicans' answers far to heavily. Other pollsters may very well be doing the same thing; however, those other pollsters aren't saying how they are normalizing the data.

All of this has a purpose. As much as people say that they aren't affected by polls, that clearly isn't the case. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. If an undecided voter sees that Bush is ahead in a state with a lot of undecided voters, like Ohio for instance, then that person is more likely to vote for Bush. If a person sees a poll that has Kerry 15 points ahead of Bush one day and 10% behind Bush another, that person may think there is some legitimate reason not to vote for Kerry. And those who are Kerry supporters may see a myriad of disheartening polls and decide that a vote for Kerry won't make a difference so they either don't vote or vote for Nader.

Make no mistake about it, this is a direct result of Bush's radical pro-corporate stance. Multi-state or national polls are, of course, run by corporations. While the individual pollsters may very well have the best intentions of being fair, if they are told by their management to use a certain number to normalize with, then that's what they use. What we are seeing is that almost no pollster is above this at this point.

What I have said before and what I am saying now on the blog is that it will be Kerry by a landslide. On November 3rd everyone in the media will be dumbfounded and will be asking why Kerry won with such a large margin if all the polls were saying Bush by over 100 electoral votes. There will be accusations of scandal which will become the first hurdle of the Kerry whitehouse. It may even become the subject of a lawsuit by Bush immediately after the election.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Dollars and Cents

There are better things to talk about
Be constructive
Bear witness
We can use
Be constructive
With yer blues
And when you turned the water came in
Even when you turn the water came

Why don't you quiet down?
(I want peace and honesty, I want peace and honesty!)
Why won't you quiet down?
(I want to live in the promised land, I want to live in the promised land)
Why won't you quiet down?
(I want peace and honesty, I want peace and honesty!)
Quiet down!
(I want to live in the promised land, I want to live in the promised land)
I want to be free!

You don't live in a business world
You never go out and you never stay
We'll have goals in a liberal world
Living in times without good standing, babe
It's all over baby's crying, it's all over baby
I can see out of here

All of the planet's dead,
All over the planet so let me out of here
All over...

(Quiet down)
We are the dollars and cents and the pounds and pence and the mark and the yen and yeah
We're gonna gonna crack your little skulls
(Why don't you quiet down?)
We are the dollars and cents and the pounds and pence and the mark and the yen and yeah
(Quiet down)
We're gonna crack your little skull
we are the dollars and cents

Iraq: the hellish failure of the shock and awe free market...

Naomi Klein is by all accounts absolutely brilliant. Her book "No Logo" is the bible of any anti-globalization-minded person (No Logo is in fact sitting in my bag, waiting patiently for Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?" to be finished). They say that she has a way about her, an intelligence perhaps, profound knowledge of a subject maybe. Her theses are so well argued that they are simply unbreakable. Her arguments are so powerful as to inspire movements against entities like the IMF and World Bank. They even say that No Logo was the book that convinced Radiohead front man Thom Yorke to prevent any and all corporate logos from all of their tours and some say even inspired most if not all of their work post "The Bends" (Radiohead has since devised a mock logo that takes on the logo generation all on its own). Naomi Klein, in short, scares the crap out of the globalizationists.

In this column by Ms. Klein we get to learn exactly what the Iraq war was all about, and it isn't pretty. This isn't the view the Bush administration is giving us. It isn't the view that the media is giving us. Naomi has, through real on the ground in Iraq reporting, proved that Iraq was not for WMD, Saddam Hussein, rape rooms, or brutal dictatorships. Iraq was a war with one goal: set up a corporate utopia that the world had never experienced. The goal was to crush a state and replace it with one that was infinitely friendly to the corporations. What better candidate than someplace with a modicum of an infrastructure and no outside corporate influence in decades?

Naomi shows us why the violence we see in Iraq now is a direct result of this unimaginable greed. She shows us how unbelievable decision by L. Paul Bremer has directly cost thousands of lives. She shows us just how all those American lives were lost in the name of corporate greed. Your family, all of our families, sent over to fight and die for corporate interests that couldn't care less about them.

You need to read this article, you really do.

This article should be the downfall of Bush, it should be on the front page. We should be getting outraged sentiments from the news networks calling for the censure of the President. If there truly was a liberal media, we would be.

But there isn't...

Read this article and then on November 2nd, don't vote for Bush.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

My first home-cooked meal is going to be...

Barbeque babyback ribs. I'm going to buy them from Tacoma Boys and I'm going to use plenty of KC Masterpiece Honey Smoke barbeque sauce. I think I'll have corn on the cob on the side. It's going to be December so it'll be cold and rainy and it'll get dark at 4:00 pm, but I don't care, I'm grilling anyhow.

If Beth is nice to me, I'll wait until she gets home (assuming that I'll be home before she is)...


That this woman gets any air time proves that there is no liberal media...

When you read the following, understand that Ann Coulter is not mis-speaking her point of view and she is not in any way apologetic for her views. From Media Matters:

Coulter on women: "We're not that bright"

In a discussion of the "gender gap" in this year's presidential campaign, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter insulted the intelligence of her own gender, and then echoed Vice President Dick Cheney's claim that the wrong vote in November could mean death.

Assessing President George W. Bush's recent gains among female voters, according to some polls, Coulter remarked during an appearance on the September 23 edition of FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes: "I'm so pleased with my gender. We're not that bright."

Moments later, Coulter claimed that Bush is making inroads with women because "women, though they're not as bright, don't want to die any more than men." As Media Matters for America has noted, Coulter stated on September 7 that, if elected president, Senator John Kerry "will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."

Fact of the matter is Coulter argues that those who don't hold her views are terrorists. So any women out there that think you are just as smart as any man, you're a terrorist. Normally hate filled, haggish trash like her is of no consequence to any of us and is easily ignored. However, when people like Coulter get national air time to spout her bile over and over again (and not just on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC are in on the act too) they become a national problem.

Literally hundreds of people with views no less radical and retarded than Coulter's are pounding away at us 24 hours a day with the express intent of steering this country to the far right, and the networks are simply sitting back and letting them do it. With very few exceptions, the networks are either too scared to question the radical right or they are complicit in their lies.

Is there a liberal bias in the media? Not even close, never forget that.

Information about Nikon...

It turns out that Nikon is apparently a member of the Mitsubishi keiretsu. According to Wikipedia, "Mitsubishi is the name for a large group (keiretsu) of related Japanese companies that share the Mitsubishi brand name and (in general) descent from the zaibatsu of the same name." So far, I have found nothing bad about Nikon specifically and only a few current issues with the conglomeration in general, namely pollution and discrimination. The site Mitsubishi Watch gives some detailed insights on some reported racial discrimination at Mitsubishi. It appears, however, that Mitsubishi Watch does not deal in any way with the Nikon company.

For now, that's all that I can find about the Nikon company. Nothing too bad with them specifically. I'm going to keep looking though.

When I get home, I'm getting a new camera

It's either going to be the Canon EOS-20D:

or the Nikon D70:

I definitely need to do a bunch of research on these cameras to see which one will suit me better. This will be the last camera I get for decades so I want it to be worthwhile. Come to think of it though, I also don't want to support a company who has business practices that I don't agree with. I won't shop at Wal-Mart and I won't buy a Dell (again) because of their overwhelming support of the Republican party. Did you know that when dubya has a computer question (which I'd bet is all the damned time), he calls Michael Dell up directly? It's no wonder that just about every military computer is a Dell. It makes me wonder if there is some kind of scandal there. But I digress.

I'm going to check out responsible shopper to see what the facts are about Canon and Nikon.

There is no info about Nikon. For Canon they have this:

Maquiladora Canon operates maquiladoras, foreign-owned assembly plants
in Mexico where companies import machinery and materials duty-free. Source: Corporate Watch
Okay, what does that mean?

What's wrong with Maquiladoras?


"Maquiladora" literally means "assembly plant", and the word is often used in reference to Mexican plants that have sprung up near the U.S.-Mexico border since the passage of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. These maquiladoras receive shipments of parts from the U.S., assemble the parts into finished goods, and export these products to the U.S. Corporations profit from this system because they can pay $6 a day to Mexican workers instead of $6 an hour to U.S. workers, but laborers and communities tend to suffer. An increase in maquiladora manufacturing over the past six years has meant job loss for U.S. workers, the elimination of small Mexican businesses, the depression of wages for Mexican workers, and a host of environmental and health problems on both sides of the border.

Fewer Jobs and Lower Pay

As American corporations shift manufacturing to maquiladoras, more than 200,000 U.S. workers have been laid off. High-paying manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low-paying service jobs and have caused economic strife despite the booming U.S. economy. Because many Mexican workers cannot find work elsewhere, they flock to new maquiladoras, where they are paid wages that are 16% lower than wages in the Mexican manufacturing sector as a whole.

Problems Along the Border

A dramatic increase in the number of Mexican factories located near the U.S.-Mexico border has compounded pre-existing environmental problems in that area. Residents on both sides of the border face health-threatening air and water pollution, and high rates of birth defects in border towns have been linked to toxic waste from maquiladoras. U.S. corporations take advantage of less stringent environmental standards in Mexico, but authorities on both sides of the border perform inadequate inspections and fail to enforce existing laws. Much of the toxic waste from maquiladoras is unaccounted for and is most likely dumped without adequate precautions.

What Can Consumers Do?

Corporations can be encouraged to act responsibly, and in this case responsibility means not taking advantage of Mexico's less stringent labor and environmental standards. Ask U.S. corporations which shift production to Mexico if they are committed to maintaining livable levels of worker pay and reasonable environmental standards. However, since this type of responsible behavior is rare among companies which operate Maquiladoras, be cautious of any company that moves factories across the border.

Hmmm, I don't like that very much. I need to find out more info about Nikon.

Difference Between Me and You is That I'm Not on Fire

That is officially the funniest CD title of 2004. It's by a band named Mclusky. I'm not sure if they're any good, but Tiny Mix Tapes seems to think so.

Because of the laugh and the TMT recommendation, they're going on my Amazon wishlist!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Money is a very powerful motivator...

As I was standing in line for stir-fry (the best meal around here in my opinion) there was an Asian man waiting behind me. He wasn't in uniform so he was obviously not with the US military, but it wasn't obvious that he wasn't an American until someone came up and spoke to him in an oriental language (Cantonese perhaps). I was obviously interested to find out what he was doing here so I initiated a conversation with him.

It turns out that he is from Nepal. We didn't have time to get into what he was doing here, but someone else told me that the Nepalis are here as hired guns (mercenaries) basically. He was interested to know how long I'd been here and thought I was lucky to only have to be here for 3 months. I agreed.

He was here for over a year then he went home for on leave for a while and now he's back for a 6 month tour. His family is obviously distressed that he's here (but what family isn't distressed that their son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, or whatever is here?) but they were even more distressed after a group of 12 Nepalis workers were kidnapped and slaughtered by Militants in Iraq less than a month ago.

So the big question from me was "Why are you here?" I'm not sure what I expected him to say. Maybe he has to be here because of commitments made to his government at a different, better time (like me). I was sufficiently not surprised when he shrugged and said "the money."

Ahhh, money. It is the mother of all motivators. Money is the reason that people let their jobs prevent them from spending time with their family. Ironically, having lots of money means that it is lots easier to get lots more money; while having almost no money makes it harder to make more money. Money is more powerful than love, which is why money is the number one reason for divorce. Money is more powerful than any religion's God, people will do or say anything no matter how wrong for money. Given enough money you can buy love and power. But most importantly, with money you can get more money which gets you more power. Money's power becomes your power. Soon you are more powerful than God.

There's a catch though: imbalances in power don't last. In Communist Russia the balance of power was tilted too much toward the government so the people revolted. The communist philosophy crumbled because it neglected to factor in people's greed for power. This greed is what caused those in government to ignore the people and extend the government too far.

Capitalism is, I feel, in the midst of a similar failure. It is, after all, those with money who are in power in this country. The scariest thing is that it isn't the elected that wield the most power. Every politician is in the pocket of some interest who represents some rich client. Those rich clients are interested in promoting things like the "free market" and "tort reform" -- neither of which benefit the general population in any way. In fact both the so-called free market and tort reform actually hurt the average person. No market is ever free since corporations will wield their ever expanding power to gain power over the markets and tort reform prevents us from making the corporations liable for their wrongdoings.

Yet those in power sell us these ideas and many of the non-rich and powerful among us eat it up. Just goes to show, with money you can buy the will of the people. That is an imbalance of power. And those imbalances don't last forever...

Ayad Allawi best hope for Iraq or murderous con man?

Find out for yourself...

Friday, September 24, 2004

I'm making some changes to the blog...

You may have already noticed that there is a completely unorganized list of links over there to the right. You may also have noticed the nifty new countdown timer that I put up. These are all a part of the at ease blog modernization program. Information is power, and I am here to empower you. Or something.

One unfortunate result is that I now have my first advertisement. The people at www.blogtricks.com demand that you either pay them $10 a year or allow advertisements when you use their scripts. One of their advertisements was for the Marines. I just have to say that for Pete's sake, if you are going to join the military, do it right and do ROTC, get a pilot slot and fly cargo planes. If you don't you will be wishing that you had joined the Air Force and decided to fly cargo planes for your entire career. I promise.

At any rate, I hope to ultimately find a script that doesn't require my participation in advertising. Depending on how much of this blog you've read, you may have caught this post which details my disgust with advertising (particularly that advertising done by mega corporations), so it is only natural that I don't let any of that on my blog.

Coming soon: pictures. They'll be old pictures since I don't have a camera here, but they'll be pictures none the less.

What do Rembrandt and I have in common?

I just read on CNN that they now think that a visual defect may have helped Rembrandt. Apparently in his self-portraits, it is evident that one of his eyes is looking one way while his other eye is looking in a slightly different direction. They say that would have caused him to have no depth perception and would perhaps have made it easier for him to visualize what a scene would have looked like on a two dimensional canvas more easily than someone with normal vision.

I don't have the same problem as Rembrandt. I don't recall what it is called that I do have, but ultimately my left eye naturally focuses in a different place than my right. My right eye is dominant which means that the world that I see with my left eye is constantly out of focus. All in all that means that without glasses I am almost completely devoid of depth perception.

The thing is, when you are physically missing out on something your brain compensates for that loss. Those who are blind tend to develop more acute hearing or touch for instance. In the case of those with no depth perception, they are apparently more attuned to subtle differences in lighting, shadows, and colors than the normal person. The article indicated that there are more people without depth perception that are artists or photographers than there are in the general population. So maybe that explains why photography works for me.

Or maybe it just explains why I'm bad at sports like tennis or baseball...

Finally fixed the damned blogger nav bar...

I couldn't figure out why the nav bar was a big mess. I saw that it had happened shortly after I emailed one of my posts to the page. Apparently there are some bugs with that email function. Whatever the case, I finally fixed it.

That's good, it was driving me nuts...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I'm already running low on words...

Well this isn't good. I haven't even been here half a week and I'm alreay running short on things to say on the blog. Even if the things I am doing weren't classified, I still wouldn't post them because they're not all that interesting. Coordinate this with these guys, find out the answer to this question for those guys. I have a lot of down time, at least right now. That down time is a problem that will manifest itself into a real issue in a few weeks I think. Maybe things will pick up around here.

There are other USAF people here. They are liaisons between the Army and the fighter aircraft. Apparently it is a requirement to have a USAF person talking to the fighters that support Army troops. Whatever the case, they have a bunch of people over here. Normally that would be a good thing, to have USAF people that you know around when you're surrounded on all sides by Army people. But it isn't.

See the thing is the ASOS guys (that's the other USAF people) like to think that they own the AMLOs (that's me). In years gone by they actually did own us (we were called TALOs then). Things have since changed, but the ASOS isn't interested in giving us up. Fact of the matter is, particularly with the Strykers, there just isn't any reason for AMLOs to be down with the brigades. We make our money by greasing the wheels (as it were) of the higher eschalons. Generally the airlift request process works very well. There are sometimes when the Army has some questions or concerns and they don't know where to turn. That's when they turn to me. When the US military has been somewhere for a while, we usually get into a groove and things don't usually change that much. At least not in terms of airlift movements around the theater. All of that means that I'm not going to be a very busy boy.

Well that and when they have a General that wants me to find him a flight so he can go on leave. I'm going to have to figure out a way to prevent people from trying to use me as the I Corps travel agent.

I haven't heard from Beth in a while. I think it's probably been more recent than it feels though. I am acutely aware of the passage of time here so a couple of days has felt like about a week. Hopefully everything is good with her and she'll email me soon. Maybe I can look up her crew online. I'll try that out.

At any rate, I'll close this one for now. At the very least everyone knows that I'm no worse for wear for another day...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I'm glad I told everyone about the blog...

Hopefully, I can keep up the pace. It's neat to be able to post something that people are going to read, I just hope I can keep up with the responsibility of adding at least one worthwhile post a day. Right now it's easy since I just got to Iraq and I'm still trying to get settled in. I've got a lot to talk about outside of my work. I have a feeling that this job will get routine and boring after a while, I'm worried that is when my blogging may suffer.

I initially thought about doing a political blog ala Atrios or Tbogg, but I decided that I didn't have the political chops. Most people who know me know where I stand on issues: decidedly to the left. I was never a supporter of Bush, but four years ago, I reasoned to myself that a President couldn't make that much of a difference in anyone's personal lives. I reasoned that we would all be no better (or worse) off than we are now. I wasn't really very political other than the fact that I knew I was to the left.

It wasn't until the aftermath of 9/11 when I became much more politically active. Not unlike most everyone else in the country, I rushed out and got an American flag in some kind of show of solidarity. I wanted our country to be unified in its response, I wanted the world to have our back. And initially, we were and they did. But something changed all of that.

In the days when the undertow of the far right was at its peak -- when pundits who claimed liberals were terrorists and that those who did not support the Iraq war were not American were legitimized in print and on TV -- that a friend of mine (Kelly, that's you) and I were talking about the Iraq war. Kelly mentioned something I hadn't considered: we would be better off if Saddam weren't in power. It didn't make sense, it wasn't what we were being taught on TV. That statement was completely contradictory to everything that the administration had told us. Come to find out, he was right. Thus began my journey to the far left.

I am more versed now I suppose. I can argue the merits of universal health care and I can tell you what is wrong with the "free market". I have my opinions, and I have found that I have pretty good researching skills (although with google, who doesn't?). I know all the good sites (Cursor, Media Matters, Center for American Progress, Air America Radio, Responsible Shopper, Sweet Jesus I Hate Bill O'Reilly, etc.) and I visit them frequently. I know what corporations are bad and which ones are good. I won't buy a Dell or shop at Wal-Mart just on general principle.

But within me lies the heart of a genuine type B personality. I am not one to ever back away from a good debate (particularly over the internet, face-to-face isn't my strong point unless the debate is religion). The one exception to that rule is with people that I care about. I am not interested at all in letting my opinions distance me from those that I care about, so I rarely bring it up. As far to the left as I am (and have been for so long), people in my family are surprised by it. To be fair, I am surprised when I hear people in my family talk about their disdain for Bush. I guess sometimes you have to let people know who you really are to really get to know them. Good or bad, right or wrong.

But that wasn't really what I was getting at. My point was that despite the fact that I am decidedly more educated about politics (et cetera) now than I ever have been, I still don't think I have the ability to do what Atrios, Kos, or Pandagon do (and I'm certainly not as snarky as Tbogg). So ultimately, I'm not going to try to out blog any of those guys. I'm just going to be me. And as my cousin Greg brought up, this is, ultimately, my journal. I will be glad I have it some years down the line.

All in all, this has been a good thing. But for now, my time is up at the computer and I am super tired...

You can post comments anonymously...

I don't know why blogger asks you to create an account to make
non-anonymous comments. What a pain. If you have avoided making
comments to my blog because it asks you to create an account, simply
click on the blue "Or Post Anonymously" text. Just remember to sign
your name at the end to let me know who you are...if you want to that

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

It didn't occur to put this on the blog...

Silly me. Yesterday, I should have put on the blog a happy anniversary message to my wife. I'm new to this blog stuff, so it didn't occur to me. Well at any rate, happy anniversary Beth (wherever you are right now) and I love you very much. The last 2 years have been absolutely wonderful even though we haven't really gotten to spend all the time together that we would have liked. I am definitely looking forward to a bright and wonderful future with you.

I can't believe how fortunate I was just to have met Beth, let alone marry her. If you are reading this blog and you don't know her, you are unfortunate. You are missing out. I just want you to know that.

I Love you Beth...

Day 2, the routine begins...

So I decided to get right on my routine today. Last night I went to bed at 2130 with my alarm set for 0530. I knew I probably wouldn't sleep throught the night yet, but at least I can stay awake until 2130 now. I suppose I could have slept through the night last night if not for the slamming of a door. Normally, the slamming of a door doesn't have much of an affect on me, but, given the fact that I'm in Northern Iraq and this is a place that has been known to have its share of mortar attacks, I was wide awake with my heart racing. I calmed down when I didn't hear anyone leaving their room to go to the bunkers. A couple of minutes later, I knew everything was all right when I clearly heard someone leave their room and walk (not run) through the gravel. I'm still a little nervous obviously.

At any rate, I woke up at 0530 and jogged down to the (mortar-proof) gym and worked out for an hour. After that, I went back to my room and took a shower. The neat thing about here is that the KBR contractors (more on them in a minute) pump in potable water to the bathrooms. This is something that you do not get anywhere else that I've been. Even in the nicest places in the theater like Bahrain or Qatar you can't drink anything but bottled water. The other nice thing is that the showers have great water pressure and you can make them as hot or cold as you like.

One thing that I learned from being in the desert all those other times is that it's the little things that make the biggest difference sometimes. Having indoor workout rooms, nice showers, and real toilets can really make a big difference when it comes to dealing with working for 14 or more hours a day, every day. Of course you long for home, especially when you are slogging along only half-way done with a TDY that doesn't seem like it's ever going to end. But with the right routine and the little things, the time seems to go by so much faster.

The other things that are nice around here are the food, the room, and the people that I'm working with. Everyone is super glad that I'm here. I can't really say that there is going to be all that much for me to do honestly. Really, the Army has all the requests in process and things are pretty much going as well as they can right now. I think mostly, they like the idea that I have some kind of "in" with those that ultimately make the decisions about some key factors that are going to affect their movement in and out of theater. I think that more of my money is going to be made with helping them come up with backup plans that they'll use when their plan falls apart because of a broken jet or whatever.

I think mainly, I just make them feel more...at ease.

And right now, I am plenty at ease myself...

Welcome to Iraq new guy...

So when I arrived yesterday, I first called the person that I'd be working with, partly to check in but mostly to find out how in the world all of this was supposed to work. I knew coming in that I would be working at a compound that was separate from the air base. Furthermore, I knew that I would have to take a bit of a convoy to get over to the compound where I would be working. What I didn't know was how I was going to work out the travel arrangements. And what fine travel arrangements they were.

I don't want to give real names, so we'll call the person I'm working for LtCol Smith. When I called LtCol Smith, she had to make a couple of calls to arrange transportation for me over to the palace (where I will be working). She found out that someone from the office would be at a meeting of some kind the following morning and that they would be picking me up some time after 0900. With that, she encouraged me to sleep in and give her a call tomorrow to get a more exact time when my ride would arrive. I obliged her with the sleeping in (as much as I could since my body clock is still all messed up) and had a leisurely morning of MRE eating, email checking, and DVD watching.

At about 1100, there was a knock at my door. I bookmarked my chapter in Eric Alterman's What Liberal Media? And answered the door. The guys helped me drag all my goddamned bags to the HMMWV and away we went. They mentioned that we would make one stop then get some lunch. Following that, we would be doing a bit of a tour of the town we're in. Now, I'm not so new to the military, and I know how much people like a good joke, so I laughed that last part off as a jab at the new guy. Come to find out it was no joke.

After lunch, another guy and I were waiting for two of the other dudes and I said, "when you said we were going on a tour of the town, you were kidding right?" He looked at me almost half surprised and said, "oh no sir, we're going on a convoy to a couple of Iraqi Police stations as an escort to a Colonel. It will be fun though." Well, needless to say that really didn't sound like very much fun at all to me. He assured me that since the HMMWV we were in was up-armored, there was basically minimal risk of getting hurt. He told me about how another such HMMWV had hit an Iprovised Explosive Device (IED) that blew out all the tires and caused some other damage but left the people inside fully in tact. Or how another time, a similar HMMWV had actually driven away from an RPG attack. All of the above made me feel better, but still.

So we had to wait for about 30 minutes before the Col arrived so we could get this convoy started. Once we were ready to go we strapped on our Body Armor and our helmets and locked and loaded our rifles (M16 for them M4 for me). Way before I was ready, we were on our way. I'm not sure what I expected of Iraq, but I don't think I expected it to be as run down as it is. It is more run down (but less smelly) than Thailand. There were lots of people everywhere. For the most part, everyone seemed like they were just going on about their lives. Everyone just kind of stopped and watched our 4 HMMWVs go by. I saw maybe 2 people glaring out of everyone I saw. The rest of the people kind of watched with mild to no interest, except for the children.

We passed by a lot of kids along the way. There were some that were a bit older, maybe 10 or 11, who seemed like the rest of the adults who were walking with a definite purpose, only, unlike the adults, their gaze was transfixed on us. Then there were the younger kids. I remember there was one boy riding a horse-drawn cart that yelled something (which would have been impossible to hear) as we drove by. Another little girl was looking desperately for an American to smile and wave at; I happily smiled and waved back at her and it was obvious that she saw me. One little kid caused a bit of a scare when we were stopped by making some weird gesturing toward us to someone who we couldn't see around a corner. A little later we saw that he was gesturing to his (assumedly) younger siblings who were, I must say, very cute. They were jumping out from the corner of the building and waving and then running back for cover. One kid had a stick and was pretending to shoot us. Fortunately, that was a close as we came to any trouble.

The ride really wasn't that big of a deal, but I still wouldn't want to do it again. Fortunately, I'm here now and for the foreseeable future, there won't be any reason at all that I would have to leave this location. I'm anxious to actually start my routine tomorrow. I should be getting the internet set up at the desk that I'll be working at, which will be very nice. And, all in all, it doesn't appear that my job is going to be all that tasking.

Now, let's just hope that there aren't any mortar attacks...

Monday, September 20, 2004

Finally in Iraq...

Well, I finally made it. After 8 very nice (and very unexpected) days in Qatar, I made it to Iraq. I think I made the right decision to travel as a passenger (rather than crew) because, I didn't have to deal with all my goddamned bags. Actually, the flight was really easy and it turns out that it wasn't such a big deal.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

It was the longest short goodbye in history...

You know how earlier I said "Long story short, I'm still in Qatar, and I got to have yet another last night with Beth for the next 3 months"? I expected to have tonight with Beth, but the USAF had other ideas. Turns out they have to deadhead back to Frankfurt for whatever reason. They think that they'll actually end up back in Qatar in a day or two for a few more nights, but by that time, I'll be gone. The worst part was that from when she walked back in the room from her flight, she told me that she only had 45 minutes before she had to catch the bus to leave again. Because of that, we had almost no time together today. That makes me sad, but I'm so very happy that we got to spend any time together at all. And, let's be honest, it was a wonderfully rare long visit we got to have in Qatar. So like I said, it was the longest short goodbye in history.

So she's off saving the world, one mission at a time and I'm here waiting for my ride north. Funny story though. If you recall, I had checked into a room and put most of my baggage there and I was keeping my overnight type stuff in her room since I was actually going to be sleeping there. So when she left, I of course needed to vacate her room. So I hiked what stuff I had there over to my new room. Well wouldn't you know it that the power was off. I could hear what sounded like a fire alarm in the distance which I speculate tripped the power to a certain number of trailers. I saw a fire truck rolling toward that area when I was on my way to the computer room so hopefully, it'll all be taken care of before I get back.

Well you can't win them all, and you certainly can't expect you luck to last when it comes to the military, so all in all, I feel pretty damned fortunate. In case you're wondering, I'll be leaving tomorrow late morning for Iraq. Like I said before, there is very little chance that the flight I'm on will pull the same crap as the last one and not go all the way there. So it is very likely that I will be emailing to the blog from Iraq very, very soon.

I may have another entry to post before I make it up there though...

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Still (still, still) in Qatar...

Well, I'm still in Qatar, but it isn't for a lack of trying to leave. So get this. I guess it was a day-and-a-half ago now that I called up the people at the AMD and had them come and get me and all my bags (which are now becoming my very own cross to bear), I kissed Beth goodbye for the last time for the next 3 months, and I drove off to pick up my weapons and then to drop me off at the C-130 squadron. I was there for about an hour waiting for the crew and for everything to get going. No sweat, I was finally on my way.

For the next 2 hours we were alternately loading up and unloading our heavy ass bags and sitting around in the big gray oven that is the C-130. I was seriously drenched, but I hadn't seen anything yet. So we finally get loaded up with cargo and 20 or so people and taxi out and took off. Our itenerary had 3 stops, one in Southern Iraq and two in Northern Iraq (naturally, I was the last stop).

The air that felt like a cool, refreshing breeze once we got to altitude quickly became a freezing version of hell due to my completely soaked clothing. I roughed it out for the relatively short flight and I was glad when we descended into some warmer air when we landed. Once we rolled in, and the crew was out dealing with the ATOC, I started to hear some rumbling about how I was the only reason we were going to our third stop.

At any rate, we took off again shortly and I again found myself in the freezer trying to find some way to stay warm. I actually ended up covering up with my interceptor body armor (that's the good kind that parents had to have bake sales to raise the money to buy for their children in Iraq not so long ago) at one point. That flight was even shorter and we were once again in the warm desert air. By the time we landed, it was obvious that the crew had made a decision that we weren't going to be going to my stop.

I was struck by how nice of a night it was when I got off of the C-130 to talk to the "pretty much" ATOC to see if they had any aircraft scheduled to go from where we were to where I was going any time soon. The answer was, not surprisingly, a resounding "no". So without much of an option, (who wants to be stuck in Northern Iraq when you could be stuck in Qatar?) I hopped back on the C-130.

This flight was the longest of the three that night, and I was a little annoyed that the crew decided not to take me all the way there (they told me it was the AMD that had made that decision). Plus, I was all kinds of worried about what the hell I was going to do when I got back. How the hell was I going to get all my goddamned bags back to the billeting given that I would have to walk almost a mile from the nearest bus stop? When I left, Beth's crew was supposed to be going on an out and back, but I recalled that the would have been gone by the time I calculated that we'd get back. So I devised a plan in my head. I would go talk to the C-130 schedulers and see if there was anything going tomorrow, I would then get myself on that flight, ask them if I could leave my bags in their squadron and walk my weapon down to the armory myself. I would grab my backpack (which has all my clothes and my dopp kit and is easy to manage) and hop on a bus and get my way back to the camp and get a room.

So we land and drag all our (everybody now) goddamned bags to the C-130 ops building. I unloaded my goddamned bags and loaded the goddamned things into the C-130 morale building. I then went right into the C-130 schedulers and asked them if they had anything going to where I was going tomorrow. Nope. My plan just fell apart. So without any other options, I called the AMD. I got ahold of a LtCol that I knew in the 349th and told him what had happened. He had nothing for me, nothing at all. He suggested that I find my way to the AMD and we'd work it from there. Well crap. Now what?

I decided to take the long shot to see if the C-17 ops would let me have a key to Beth's room. I figured they'd still have their rooms since they were doing an out and back. So I went over and asked what was up with Baum's crew. They got reset. It was good news, so it didn't really register. "They got reset?" I asked as if I were expecting the guy to look at me like I was crazy and tell me that no, they had gone home. "They got reset, they're legal at 1800z" he said without a hint of enthusiasm or cordiality.

So now, I am giddy like a school boy since I know that Beth is still here and will still be here for another 24 hours at least. Now the only pressing problem was finding a way back over to the place she was staying for me and my goddamned bags. So I scurried on over to the C-130 squadron to find out if they had anyone going over to the Coalition Campground (CC for short). I figured that in some way they owed me one. When I found out that it was the crew that had flown me around Iraq, I knew they owed me one. At that point, I didn't mind in the least that they would have to take me up to drop off my weapon. I knew by then they had neglected to tell the AMD that they had 1 person going to where I was going on purpose so they wouldn't have to go. Fine fuckers, you can drag me and my goddamned bags around. Oh, and you can wait for me while I turn my weapon in.

So we make it to the CC and Beth isn't in her room. I find her without much trouble watching Alias and we make it to the room and everything ends up okay. Right now she is out on a short flight and should be back before I have to leave. Just in case, I called the AMD and had someone come and get me and my stuff and check me into billeting. I also put my name in as a pax on the next flight (in a day-and-a-half) so that the AMD would automatically know that the crew had to stop where I am going.

Long story short, I'm still in Qatar, and I got to have yet another last night with Beth for the next 3 months.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Summer Lovin...

She was good, you know what I mean...

Well Beth actually showed up, and I actually got to meet up with her in Qatar. Wow, if you wouldhave asked me a couple of years ago if I ever thought I'd do it with my wife in Qatar, well, the answer would have been "I hope so".

In all seriousness, it was wonderful to see her. I would have been a big ball of stress if she wouldn't have been here, so I'm really glad that she was. Now I'm just sitting here waiting for my ride to the C-130 that is going to take me Northward. I'm not so much looking forward to this, but I guess I really don't have much of a choice. Only 2 years (to the day) left of this.

I can't wait until December.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Like Spinning Plates (dedicated to the Bush administration)...

While you make pretty speeches
I'm being cut to shreds
You feed me to the lions
A delecate balance

And this just feels like spinning plates
I'm living in cloud cukoo land
And this just feels like spinning plates
My body's floating down the muddy river

Sweet! Beth's on her way here...

Just got an email from Beth. Apparently she's going to be here in just over 7 hours. Nice. I could definitely use a hug right now. I'm leaving tomorrow and my stomach is all upset again like it was before I left. You may have gathered that from my last post...then again, I'm thinking that I'm the only one that reads my blog.

Note to self, don't send blog entries from the Ft. Lewis OWA email account. If anyone out there cares, I'll fix the formatting of my last post as soon as I can.

So at any rate, I'm nervous, excited, and tired all at the same time right now. As it is boring around here, I will probably have more to write later.

Still in Qatar...

Argh! Jet-lag sucks. It's been so long since I've had to deal with it that I've forgotten how bad it is. Last night at 7:00pm I was so tired that I was falling asleep standing up so I went to bed. I woke up at midnight and could not get back to sleep for the life of me. I am determined to get on a schedule, asleep at 9:30pm and up at 5:30am, so I stayed in bed until 5:30am. My mind was absolutely racing. I hope I can sleep through the night tonight.

I checked with the CAOC and it turns out things aren't as bad in Mosul as my imagination would have me believe. I'm still obviously nervous as hell. I know, realistically, that this TDY is going to end up being fairly typical and probably not all that exciting. My biggest daily challenge will probably end up being fighting off the boredom. I really don't think that I'll end up being all that busy to be honest and there's only so much email one can check during the day.

But there's just that fear of the unknown. Unlike my previous trips, I will actually be in the war zone, although I won't be "in the shit" as they used to say. I'm working in the 4 level (logistics) so I'm a few layers away from the front lines. I know this, and I tell myself this, but there's still a nagging worry.

Maybe I should have gone to Canada.

Now I'm reading all these articles that detail just how the Iraq war is starting to become the forgotten war. Don't believe me? Just go to www.cursor.org to see for yourself. This war isn't even the main topic of the news anymore. Over 1000 US dead now, which is more dead per day in 2004 than in 2003. If major combat operations were over, if we had won this war well over a year ago, we should be loosing fewer people, not more. Just sayin'.

I'm also worried about the election. I know, it's yet another thing that I can't do anything about (except cast my vote and try to get as many people as possible to cast their votes the right way). I've made this prediction to myself, in my head, but let me just say it here. I am saying Kerry in a landslide. Although, perhaps it would be sweeter justice if Bush got the popular vote and Kerry got the electoral vote and the Presidency. Maybe then people would be pushing for reform of the electoral college. There I go daydreaming again.

At any rate, I'm concerned about what will happen if Bush gets re-elected. So far we're going down the toilet with the economy (holding up the economy with a deficit can only last for so long), national security (we are less safe now than we were before the Iraq war), education (the states are struggling to fund the reforms required by the No Child Left Behind Act since that act was so underfunded), the environment (with the ironically named clear skies initiative -- clearing the skies of birds according to Al Franken), etc. etc. etc. It's frustrating to be an American right now.

Anyhow, I guess this is a long enough post for now. I'll probably be headed to Iraq tomorrow. I'll post before I leave if I can (or maybe tonight) or I'll post when I get there and get my computer account set up (if there is sufficient access to the unclassified internet when I'm there).

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It works...on with the blog!

Okay, so this trip has worked out fairly well so far. Before I left I mentioned how damned nervous I was. Honestly, I couldn't even eat, just ask Beth. Not so much because I was on my way to Iraq, moreso because I just didn't know how well the transportation thing was going to work out.

Well here's how it did. Beth dropped me off at the reserves squadron (geeze I love that girl) after having taken me to an ATM and the crew welcomed me with open arms. The crew wasn't even all that pissed when they found out that I had left my ATM card in the machine and I had to commendeer the bus driver to take me to go see if it was still there (it wasn't and has been cancelled). They didn't even seem to mind hauling my 5 heavy ass bags onto the jet (my willingness to help them load all the bags helped I'm sure).

We left about 10 mins earlier than scheduled and we got into Campbell Army Air Field to load up some stuff there. Unfortunately there was lightning within 5 miles so we couldn't refuel the jet and the crew ran out of duty day. So we had to spend the night in Tennessee. I guess that would have been stressful, but when there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, there isn't much of a reason to stress out. So I just went with the flow and had pizza with the crew.

Early the next morning, we took off for Frankfurt. Surprisingly, I was able to get a lot of sleep. I didn't wake up until I smelled the distinct odor of jet fuel in my sleeping bag. Turns out one of the things we loaded was slowly dripping JP-8 (just a guess) on my foot (which was inside the sleeping bag). Super. So I proceeded to clean that up and inform the loadmaster which subsequently woke me up completely. I got about 7.5 hours of sleep anyhow. I then watched Rushmore and realized again just how great of a movie that is.

We landed in Frankfurt at around 9:00 PM local time. I was half way expecting to have to wait until the following morning to be able to take off for Qatar. As it turns out, there was a crew leaving for there in 30 minutes. There was also a crew leaving later the following afternoon and Beth was actually going to be landing there that very morning. But, given that it was the 13th and I wouldn't get there until the 14th and that I was supposed to have been there on the 12th, I decided that I should take the earliest possible flight. So that's what I did. You know, it probably wouldn't have made that much of a difference, but you just never know.

So with a layover in Balad Iraq, I can now increase my official been there country list by two (Germany and Iraq) and made it to Qatar in the absolute heat of the day. The last time I was here was 2 years ago. I barely recognize the place. The building they dropped me off at was right where the old tanker building had been but I didn't even know where I was. Crazy. I called the AMD and they eventually sent someone out to pick me up -- who incidentally was very gracious and drove me around to the armory and to billeting and waited for me to get my room and drove me over to the CAOC. When we were driving around I started to recognize where I was and how it had changed. Amazing.

Anyhow, I'm in a 10' by 10' room with at least 2 other guys (one bed is made but I haven't seen anyone sleeping there yet). The AC works well but my bed sucks. I can feel every single spring digging into me and it is way too soft. I'll remedy that tonight with my thermarest and I'm actually looking forward to going to Iraq so I can get a better bed. Weird.

Well I'm weary so I'll stop now. More tomorrow perhaps...


I am in Qatar (on my way to Iraq) and I can't log into my blogger account to add posts. So I thought I'd check to see if this email post function actually works. If it does, that'll be really handy.

I'll cross my fingers...

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Okay, so I haven't left yet

So I'm sitting here stressing about my trip to Iraq. I'm worried about getting on the plane. I hope the 728th AS doesn't give me crap about hopping on. Once I'm on the plane I can quit worrying about that. I couldn't get on the SIPRnet to get the goddamned contacts that I need when I get to Qatar, so I'm going to have to wing it when I get there. So once that is taken care of, I'll start to worry about my next thing: getting to Mosul. I have no idea how that's going to work, and I'm nervous that it won't all be on a plane. I am of course worried about actually getting to Mosul and, you know, if it is going to be dangerous when I get there.

I'm thinking too much maybe.

I've got everything I need, so that's one thing I've got going for me. More to come...
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