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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Lanae rules the school!

So Beth's best friend and maid of honor Lanae sent me something off my wishlist. Nice! She fueled the flames of my burgeoning anti-corporate leanings by getting the book "Culture Jam: How to Reverse America's Suicidal Consumer Binge--And Why We Must" by Kalle Lasn. I haven't read too much of it yet, but apparently Kalle Lasn was the originator of the AdBusters (for which there is a link in my blogroll). I'm definitely looking forward to reading it.

Well, unfortunately, I didn't get around to answering the remaining 5 kids' letters today. I'll try to get that done first thing in the morning. Beth really likes it when I answer the questions ... I mean she likes it a lot. She asked me to make up questions and then answer them she likes it so much. I just hope the kids liked it.

Thanks again Lanae and hopefully I'll see you the next time that I'm in California!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Some statues have all the luck...

That's the girl I get to see soon (w00t!). She's kissing some big bearded fellow from Heidleberg Germany.



I'll get you Bearded Man!!!!

Update: everything should be fixed now, and I hate Microsoft Internet Explorer with a passion. If you haven't thought about switching to FireFox, maybe you should.

The light at the end of the tunnel...

So I just now got an email from the C4 (which is the closest thing to a boss that I have) that told me who I need to work with to get my outprocessing done. Thanks to cousin Greg (who made the countdown timers for me) everyone knows that I only have 14 days left until I leave (actually, the date is set for the 12th and I may be leaving my FOB as early as the 9th or 10th and I may be in Germany as early as the 10th or 11th). Even though its only 2 weeks away, leaving just didn't seem real until that email. Now I'm starting to think about what I'm going to do when I get home.

Now I'm thinking about the flights, the one from Germany will seem pretty long in a "I can't sleep because tomorrow's Christmas kind of way". I think I got the gene that doesn't let you sleep when you're excited about something incidentally. I can usually sleep okay now, but I have a feeling that, like Granddad and now my Dad, I'll be up all night when I know something exciting is going to happen the next day.

And now I'm thinking about getting to Germany to see Beth. W00t!

Oh man, now I'm thinking about having to drag all my goddamned bags all over Northern and Central Iraq.

GAH!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

This says a lot...

(from Uggabugga)



Notice that except for March there have been more casualties every month in 2004 than there were in 2003 (and don't forget the war started in March 03).

Also, for a while I've been meaning to blog an entry that I saw on cursor a few days ago because it is pretty frightning. "Today's antiwar position -- it was a terrible mistake and it's a terrible mess, but we can't just walk away from it -- was actually the pro-war position during Vietnam."

Just when I think that I have succeeded at not letting them drag me over to the right, I find out just how successful that they've been at doing just that. terrorism is the new Communism. I wonder if we'll look back 5 decades from now and realize that terrorism didn't pose as much of a threat as everyone assumed that it did (as we have been doing with Communism since the end of the Cold War).

I know that this may go to far for some people, but the Republicans were never more in control than when Communism was such a huge threat. Sure JFK was president for a while but he won by the skin of his teeth. There was Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan. They all took hard line, ideological stances against Communism that put Democrats into the unwinnable position of agree and go along with them and the conservative agendas that followed or disagree and be painted as a "commie".

Terrorism isn't really that much different is it? The only thing is that terrorism will quite literally never end. So my question is this: Is the threat of terrorism by design? Is this administration actually fostering terrorism so it can take a similar hard line as other administrations did against Communism? Take a look at Iraq. About the only thing that we're doing successfully is creating terrorists (both in Iraq and elsewhere). And the Left is in the impossible position of either supporting the administration and its radical-right agenda or being painted as a terrorist.

Update: For some reason I neglected to give proper creds to the creator of that graph. It was made by Quiddity at Uggabugga, a fantastic blog. Check it out some time why don't you?

Well, I updated the site....

How do you like it? I was going to wait until I got home for some reason but I figured what the hell? I'm sure I'll be tweaking it for a while yet, but I definitely like it much, much better than the green.

Note to other bloggers: Please don't steal the template. If you like it I can work with you to get something similar.

I'm particularly happy with the header. Not so much because of the graphics, I don't think they're anything special. I like it first because I found a way to make the .png graphics maintain their transparency in IE (although I'm using firefox now) and second because I was able to make it so it overlaps the other boxes. Seriously, you have no idea how many days I struggled with that. I also like the colors way better. The green was okay, but it wasn't very soothing. Also the main contents were too narrow and weren't contrasty enough. I can now post pics that are 600 pixels wide (which I will be doing after I get my camera!) and the text is a high contrast black on a white background. I also changed the blockquotes to be more stylish. All in all I spent a lot of time on the Color Scheme Generator. I was also tired of the blogger bar. I know, it's better than the damned blog*spot banner, but it still sucked. Well, just a few minutes on google got me a quick and easy fix for that.

I'm just glad to be rid of the other template. Everyone and their brother with a blogger-hosted blog uses the "rounders" style and I was sick of sending people to sites that looked exactly the same as mine. I can now be certain that nobody has a site styled like mine (at least until someone steals it). Oh well.

Please give me any criticism you have!

If a picture is worth 1000 words...

How much is a Tom the Dancing Bug political cartoon worth?

This is the real reason the Conservatives won the election...

Adam Yoshida doesn't have much of a brain to keyboard filter. Maybe the excitement of the so-called "mandate" has made him woozy with power. Maybe he's just not so bright. Whatever the case, he states explicitly what he's willing to do to make sure his side wins:
And, while I’m at it, I’ll also ad that there are (unconfirmed) rumours that Obama himself is secretly a Muslim. Now, I don’t believe them but, if Obama ever runs for President, I won’t mind spreading them.

Now I'm not going to insult every conservative by saying that they all would do this exact same thing. Most people are not like Adam Yoshida, most people are honest -- at least I hope they are. Most people wouldn't knowingly pass on something they believe to be false as the truth for any reason let alone politics.

The fact of the matter is that there are conservatives that will pass on lies as the truth (e.g. Limbaugh, the entire Fox News establishment, Karl Rove, and Adam Yoshida) for political gain. The airwaves get so cluttered with lies and distortions that people don't know what to believe. Given the meteoric rise of Fox News (which simply because of the fact that they are on the TV have more credibility than any talk radio personality) it's no wonder that everyone seems to have become more conservative.

The only hope that I have is that ultimately their lies will collapse in on them eventually and that will break the bank so to speak. Until then, the only thing I can do is to point out that much of what you hear from the conservative media and the echo chamber of talk radio and blogs is absolutely false. Keep that in mind for 2006. Unless there is some kind of miracle and there becomes proof that there was serious election fraud in the last election

Saturday, November 27, 2004

More Kids' Letters...

It's been a couple of days since I last posted the answers to any kids' questions. I figured it wouldn't matter since they are all on Thanksgiving vacation right now anyhow. But, I may as well post a bunch today so Kelly can print them out and hang them up in the class.

So here goes!




Robbie (Kell, is this your Robbie? It doesn't sound like him.) didn't really have any questions. He did show me how much he likes to draw about the war. I wish I had a scanner. Robbie's picture was of an upset looking Army guy standing next to a fire. Thanks for the letter and the package Robbie and the drawings look great, keep it up!




Aleta (no last name given)writes:

"Are you really in the Navy?" I am in the Air Force and most of the other people here are in the Army. I have seen a few Marines here but no Navy people. There are a lot of Department of Defense civilians, Contract civilians, and even Iraqi National Guard people on my base, but no Navy.

"Do you go to war?" Technically, I'm in the war, but I don't do much in the way of fighting. You wouldn't believe how many people it takes to make sure the people who are actually doing the fighting have everything they need. I'm one of the people that doesn't fight, so in that sense I don't go to war.

"My Birthday is 11/11/1995. How about you?" April Fools day 1976. I was a Sophomore in college when you were born.

"Is it cool in your tent?" Fortunately, I don't live in a tent which is nice. My room is a pretty big metal trailer that I have all to myself. It's got A/C and heat and it even has power outlets (although they're European power outlets). I have a bed and even a couple of lockers to put my stuff in. They're nice except if anyone tries to attack us with mortars or rockets our trailers won't protect us at all so I don't spend a lot of time there.

"My Grandpa died from war." I'm sorry to hear that. I've only known a couple of people that died, although I didn't know them very well. I always feel sad for their families though.

"What do you guys do?" I spend my time helping the Army communicate with the Air Force so that problems don't arise. When I have some time, I like to write on my blog or read articles online or workout.

"Do you like to read?" I do like to read. Most of the things that I read are from news sources online but I also like to read books. I was introduced to some of my favorite books in school. When you get to higher grades, make sure that you do all the reading that they ask you to do. You'll be surprised how good books can be.

"Do you know girls there?" There are quite a few girls here but I don't work closely with any of them. Just the other week a new female Colonel took over for another Colonel that just left. When I first got here there was a female Lieutenant Colonel that I worked for. She was very nice and has since gone back to the US to be a Battalion Commander (which is a pretty big deal).

Thanks for your letter Aleta!




Eric writes:

"What city are you in?" I'm in Mosul, Iraq.

"Do you have guns there?" Yes, there are all kinds of guns around here. Everyone (including me) is required to carry a gun when they are outside.

"Do you have a pistol gun? Do you have a bazooka gun?" Officers (including me) are allowed to have a pistol and I've also got a rifle. Mostly I keep the rifle locked up because the pistol is easier to carry around. If I ever need to travel on the road, I'll carry my rifle. I've only had to travel on the road once which is good. I have actually seen people with bazookas. I remember it specifically because I had never actually seen a real bazooka before I saw someone carrying one around so it was a new experience for me.

"Do you have planes there from the Air Force?" The place where I'm at doesn't have a runway, but there are lots of Air Force planes flying around all over Iraq. Last night I heard two fighter planes flying overhead and I've taken several flights on a C-130.

Eric, thanks for the letter and the drawing!




Andrea Torres writes:

"When did you start doing that?" I joined the US Air Force after I graduated college in 1998. Last year I started working with the Army as a liaison officer which is why I'm in Iraq.

"Have you ever been in the Army?" No, not officially. But I'm surrounded by an awful lot of Army people these days. I still belong to the Air Force though.

"Do you wear a uniform?" Yes, every day unless I'm working out or sleeping.

"One more thing, where did you come from?" I was born in Nebraska and I grew up in southwest Missouri. I went to college in Chicago, Illinois. That means that I have some idea of just how cold it gets in Minnesota. Although, I don't think it snows as much in Chicago as it does in Minnesota. I think maybe that it doesn't snow as much anywhere as it does in Minnesota! Well, Maybe North Dakota or New York State.

Andrea also attached a hand-made pop-up card that said "Thank you" on the inside. Andrea, thank you so much for the letter and the card!




George Sutton writes:

"I might join the Army when I am older." I'm not one to try to influence delecate young minds, but if you want to join the military, you should really consider the Air Force. And make sure that you go to college first then join up. You will like life a whole lot more as an Air Force officer than you would if you were in the Army or Marines. All the Army people I work with are frustrated that they didn't join the Air Force because of how we do our deployments. Trust me, I've worked for both the Air Force and the Army, I know.

"How do you like the Army?" The Army has advantages and disadvantages over the Air Force. Generally the Army is much less controlling over your every move than the Air Force. There are so many rules that Air Force people have to abide by and so many people who don't have anything better to do than makesure that everyone is following those rules exactly. It gets a little frustrating sometimes. Of course, the Air Force is better because you don't usually have to be in the middle of the war zone, you can fly if you work hard enough, and you don't have to be away from home for such long periods of time.

I think George is a future military man. He writes that he thinks that going in the wilderness undercover would be fun, that he loves the Army and he loves guns. He also drew a picture of a guy benchpressing 100lb dumbells. George, I've changed my mind, you would probably like being in the Army very much!




That's it for today and I've only got 5 letters left to answer. After I get done with them, I promise that I'm going to put those letters out somewhere where people can see them so you guys can have someone that will write actual letters back to you.

More tomorrow!

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Pie Chart From Hell...

If everything goes right, I should be leaving by the 10th of December which would mean that this would be the 2nd to last PCFH! Sweet! Without further ado...

Almost Done!

Tacoma is getting bigger and bigger! I can not wait to get back.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

This is awesome...

I just found this on Fark of all places...
Activist aims to sink Coke shares

Thu Nov 25, 2:39 PM ET


By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - A former Wall Street stockbroker plans to launch a hedge fund to short-sell shares in Coca-Cola Co. and give any profits to people in countries he says the U.S. drinks company has exploited.

Max Keiser, 44, a self-styled "investment activist", has teamed up with the son of the late entrepreneur Sir James Goldsmith with the aim of halving Coke's share price to $22 (11.66 pounds) in 12 months from its current value of around $40.

Profits from the fund would be distributed to the "victims of Coke" in a process supported and audited by Zak Goldsmith's London-based Ecologist magazine, which will decide where to donate any proceeds.

Keiser says Coca-Cola has poisoned land in India and trampled on human rights in Colombia, charges the company has frequently and vigorously denied.

"Coke's been down this year as sales dry up," Keiser told Reuters, attributing part of the fall in the stock to anti-American sentiment following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (news - web sites).

Earlier this month, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft drinks company, lowered its long-term earnings and sales targets, saying it expected demand for its products to remain weak in North America, Germany and other key markets.

Keiser hopes a campaign to boycott Coca-Cola products will undermine the company's share price, making money for his as yet unnamed hedge fund, which will sell Coke shares with the aim of buying them back more cheaply later.

"Our target for Coke is $22 as dissent is pushed back onto the balance sheet," said Keiser, a New Yorker living in London who runs investment activism website KarmabanQue.com.

Coca-Cola stock touched a year low of $38.30 in October, well down from highs of over $85 they reached in the late 1990s. They closed at $39.80 on Wednesday, before the Thanksgiving holiday, valuing the company at more than $96 billion.

"BLATANT FALSEHOODS"

"This so-called campaign is based on blatant falsehoods," Coca-Cola spokesman Ben Deutsch told Reuters by phone from Atlanta.

"It's unfortunate that anyone would attempt to hurt Coca-Cola shareholders by waging such an effort without knowing and recognising the facts," Deutsch added.

Keiser worked with Wall Street stockbrokers PaineWebber and Alex Brown in the 1980s before co-founding the Hollywood Stock Exchange website, a virtual exchange trading celebrity values which is now owned by broker Cantor Fitzgerald.

He plans to register his hedge fund by early next year, probably in Britain, and to tap a number of rich private investors to raise up to $100 million.


Iain Martin, editor of specialist London monthly Hedge Fund Manager, said Keiser's investment strategy had several merits and that his funding target was attainable.

"Hedge funds are attracting a lot of interest from high net worth individuals and institutions," Martin said. "I think there's no reason to think he won't achieve that total."


The full list of the transgressions of the Coca-Cola company is too long to post here. I do want to post some of the more egregious problems though. I encourage you to go to Responsible Shopper to see the entire list.
  • Human Rights The World Social Forum declared July 22, 2003 an international day of action against Coca-Cola and the start of a year-long boycott of all their products. The actions are in support of Sinaltrainal, the Colombian food and drinks workers' union. Managers at Colombian bottling plants, part-owned and operated by Coca-Cola, stand accused of paying paramilitary death squads for the assassinations of eight trade unionists, several counts of kidnapping and torture and the falsification of evidence and testimony that led to trade unionists being arrested on charges of terrorism. In March 31 2003 a US district court judge ruled that cases for human rights violations by paramilitaries on behalf of Coca-Cola, brought by Sinaltrainal under the Aliens Tort Claims Act (ACTA), can go forward. Source: Morning Star, May 20, 2003

  • Toxic Emissions or Discharges In July 2003 a BBC investigation revealed dangerous levels of toxic metals and a known carcinogen--cadmium--in a waste product from the company's plant in Kerala India and which the company had given to local farmers to use as fertilizer. The BBC radio show "Face The Facts" took water samples from the wells surrounding the company and had the fertiliser analyzed in Britain. Analysis conducted at the University of Exeter revealed that not only was it useless as a fertiliser but it contained a number of toxic metals, including cadmium and lead. The water in near-by wells also had levels of lead "well above those set by the World Health Organisation," the BBC said.

    The plant had also come under attack from local community members because of its use of water resources. In April the Kerala government revoked the water-use permit of the plant because of fears that the exploitation of groundwater would lead to serious ecological damage and drought. A Parliament member from a local district warned that disruption of water supplies could affect not just drinking water but also irrigation in an area known for its rice paddies. Since May 2002 there have been daily pickets outside the plant. Coke denied the charges and insist that groundwater levels have not been affected by it facility. The revocation was overturned in court. (See related Research item.)
    Source: BBC, Jul 24, 2003/New York Times, May 21, 2003

It just became clear what people want in a care package...

Coffee. None of this instant crap either. High quality, fancy ass coffee and lots of it. There was just a live Thanksgiving broadcast on Fox News of a guy (an Air Force Airman with a military working dog) who is in Iraq. Seriously, I'm maybe 1000 feet away from where they did that broadcast. The news anchor ... uh ... whoever it is asked one last question. "What do you guys need over there, a lot of us want to send care packages so what could you guys use?" The doofus said that he wanted handiwipes and some other such nonsense that we can get at the new BX they just opened up. We were all watching this on TV while he was saying this in the dining tent right next door and all the Army guys were yelling "Coffee! Coffee! Tell him you want Coffee!"

Too bad they didn't tell me that earlier, I bet there are an awful lot of people that read this that would love to send some coffee to the troops. You're going to have to hurry if you want it to get to me (although it shouldn't matter much because I don't drink coffee). I'm going to put up my address once again, but don't send anything for me just in case it doesn't get here in time. What I want you to do is put the address down just as I put it here:

Capt. Michael Lane
Or
TFO BCC Battle Captain
Task Force Olympia
APO AE 09334

There are a lot of guys here and they're going to be here for a long time. They have a freezer that they can put stuff in so don't worry about it going bad. Obviously my anti-corporate leanings would prevent me from buying Starbucks. If you are similarly motivated as me, never fear, I've done all the leg work for you. Here are five companies that sell coffee that "have passed [Responsible Shopper's] intensive screening process and/or are clearly on the cutting edge socially and/or environmentally."

Coffee Traders
Counter Culture Coffee
Equal Exchange
Green Mountain Coffee
Thanksgiving Coffee -- how appropriate!

Of course if you think I'm just being a tree-hugging, liberal, pinko, commie and can't stand the thought of buying from a place named "Counter Culture Coffee", you can of course go to:

Peet's Coffee and Tea
Starbucks
Tully's
or even Amazon!

More Answers for Mrs. Sholl's 3rd Grade Class at Harriet Bishop Elementary...

Mrs. Scholl is better known to me as Cousin Kelly. The questions that I've been answering for the past few days have been from her class. As it turns out, it's been a pretty popular thing with the kids (and other people on the web too) so I'm going to keep right up with it. So let's get started...




Jordan Lee Gustafson (a very inquisitive young man) asks:

Are you in the Navy or are you in the Air Force? I'm a Captain in the US Air Force, but I so far been stationed at a Navy base (NAS Pensacola) several Air Force bases (Randolph AFB, TX; Altus AFB, OK; Robins AFB, GA; and McConnell AFB, KS), and an Army Base (Ft. Lewis, WA). I'm working very closely with the Army in my current job which is something that we're not very used to doing in the USAF.

Do you have an Army course where you train? When I'm back home I go along with the Army on some of their training. Usually, I'm only with them when they need to have someone there to help them understand how to deal with the Air Force. I went to a course called the Joint Readiness Training Course (we call it JRTC for short) in Louisiana last March and I went to an exercise called Cobra Gold all the way over in Thailand last May.

What do you wear? We have to be either in uniform or in our exercise clothes (we call them PT gear) all the time in Iraq. When I'm in uniform I wear my tan colored flight suit. Here's what I look like in it:



What is a war like? That's an interesting question. I suppose it depends on who you ask. If you ask the people that fly air refueling tankers (like I do), they would tell you that when you're at war, you spend a lot of time getting ready to fly and flying and not very much time sleeping. When we first started flying, the missions were pretty scary because we expected the worst. But as we flew more and more missions, we learned that it wasn't so scary.

If you ask people that are on the ground fighting, they would probably have something very different to tell you. They would say that war is scary and frustrating. The guys that are on the ground have to spend at least a year in the war and after a while worrying every day becomes very hard to handle. It isn't any fun which is why people like to get letters like yours so much, it takes their mind off of their situation for a while.

"What kind of guns do you use?? Whenever we're outside, we have to carry a weapon. Officers are allowed to carry M9 Barettas. They also issued me an M4 which is an updated version of the M16.

"Do you have to do math?" Heh, someone is wondering if they can ever quit thinking about Math. Well Jordan, my job doesn't make me do very complicated Math. The most I have to do is addition and maybe some multiplication. When I was a Navigator, we had to do lots and lots of math when we were using the stars to navigate. And I talked to the people that shoot the 155mm Howitzers (those are the huge guns the Army has) and they have to do some very complicated calculations to make sure they hit what they are aiming at.

"What is it like in Iraq?" The middle and southern portions of Iraq are very hot deserts. Northern Iraq (where I am) is hilly and even gets mountainous. It is very dry and gets extremely hot in the summer. In the winter it actually gets pretty cold and sometimes even snows. It never gets as cold as Minnesota, that's for sure.

"P.S. How many people did you kill?" I haven't killed anyone fortunately. That isn't what I'm here to do.




Jenessa Anderson writes:

"I think that if people are in the war they get really cool uniforms." I know that isn't a question, I just had to comment on it. The part of my uniform that I like the best is my GoreTex jacket. It's just the right length and has some great hidden velcro pockets and keeps out all the wind and rain. I've got one that's green and one that is desert colored. They're the best.

"I have to wonder, how big are your tents?" We don't live in tents out here fortunately. But I have lived in a tent before and they're just big enough to hold 12 cots (although that many people is uncomfortable). They have tents for other things though. There are tents just like the ones that you could see in the old TV show MASH (and sometimes it's actually the medical people who use those kinds of tents still, but now we call it the CSH and pronounce it "cash"). The biggest tends I've seen are ones that are used as either hangers or buildings. I have seen movie theaters and gymnasiums inside of those tents. They are so big that you can even hear your echo.

"Do you have TVs in your tents?" We live in trailers, but yes, some of us do have TVs in our trailers. We can even get cable set up in there if we want. I don't watch much TV so I don't need that in my room, but other people like to watch live sports which, because of the time difference, means that they have to be up very late at night.

"I always wonder what it would be like in the war. Is it fun or is it hard? I think it looks hard." Well that depends on what you're doing and how long you're away from home. There are some people that don't have to be gone all that long and get to do fun things like fly. Sometimes people who fly don't even have to fly all that much when they are at war so they get to spend more time having fun. Other people have to live in areas that aren't as safe for a long time and have to go and risk their lives and sometimes kill people. War isn't very fun for those people. Not very fun at all.

Did you need to go to Army school? When I went to college, I was in a group called the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). In ROTC I learned the basics of what it takes to be an officer in the US Air Force and the basics of how the Air Force is structured. There are other programs where you learn the same things: Officer Training School, and the US Air Force Academy. I was lucky to get into ROTC because I was able to have my entire college paid for.

Thanks for writing Jenessa and say hi to your twin sister Julia for me.




Erika Woodruff writes:

"My favorite animal is a dog. What is your favorite animal?" Well, lets see here. I like dogs a lot, but I also like other animals too. One of my favorite zoo animals is the sea otter because they seem so smart and playful. One other animal that I saw in Australia that I liked a lot is the Wallaroo. Those are like Kangaroos except they are a lot smaller. They are very friendly and lots of people have them as pets.

"Do you have an animal?" No, not yet. Both my wife and I are in the military which means that we sometimes have to leave for months at a time. In fact, right now both my wife and I are away from home right now -- I'm in Iraq and she is in Germany. She's having a much better time than I am right now. Pretty soon I'll be out of the military because we want to have children. I'm sure that we'll get a pet when I get out too.

Do you guys have schools? There aren't any schools out here for us. The military does have elementary schools in Europe and other places and I think those are a lot like elementary schools anywhere else. Actually, the best person to ask would be my wife, she attended some of those very schools when she was a kid. Beth?

Do you have a boss? The thing about my job is that I've got a lot of people who want to be my boss. My only real boss right now is someone that works all the way down in Baghdad and who I've only met once. I couldn't even tell you his name, I only know his title. That means that I have to be responsible and get everything done without anyone constantly watching over me. But like I said, there are lots of people that don't know exactly what I do and want to have the right to tell me what to do. Sometimes that gets a little frustrating.

"I sort of have a boss, but it is called a teacher. My teacher's name is Kelly Scholl." Okay, that's not a question, it's just cute.

Thanks for your letter Erika!




The next letter is from Summer (no last name given) and I want to take the time to reprint everything she wrote:

Dear penpal,

My name is Summer. I am in 3rd grade. My teacher is Mrs. Scholl. I am 9. Enough about me. What color do you like? What is your name? What do you like to do on your free time? Do you like where you sleep? Do you have a family? Thank you for taking care of the
[I can't make the word out]. Hope you like what we sent.

Sincerely,
Summer

P.S. Please write back!


Then Summer drew a gun with a circle and a slash (meaning no guns), the word weapons with a circle and a slash, and a picture of a bomb that you'd see in a cartoon with a circle and a slash and the words "in school" next to them. That cracks me up.

Okay Summer thanks for writing. I like Blue ... a lot. In fact, I like blue way too much. Ask my wife Beth, she almost has to force me to buy clothes that aren't blue. Seriously, it's just silly how much I like blue.

My name is Mike Lane, I'm Kelly's cousin.

On my free time when I'm in Iraq, I like to watch movies on my laptop and I like to workout. Also I like to read things on the internet, play around on Photoshop, read books, and write things on my blog. When I'm at home I like to ride my bike, take pictures, and mess around on the computer.

I don't mind where I sleep except that it is difficult to feel safe there. For about a week when lots of people were trying to hurt us, we slept inside of a palace which has big thick walls so nothing could hurt us. Everything has calmed down a lot so we are sleeping in our trailers again.

I do have a family, we all do. My Mom is in Missouri and my Dad is in Nebraska. My wife lives with me when we're home but right now she's in Germany. We don't have kids just yet, but we will pretty soon!

Thanks again from writing Summer!




Krista gets right into her questions:

"Do you have to wear uniforms? We do not have to in school." We have to be in uniform all the time unless we're sleeping or working out. Our uniforms aren't like school uniforms and the military is a lot more strict with how we wear them. We always have to wear a hat when we're outside and there are certain ways that we can push up the sleeves and sometimes we aren't even allowed to push up our sleeves. We're supposed to wear black socks but almost nobody actually does. By law, we have to display the flag of our country somewhere on our uniform (the Air Force wears it on their left shoulder, the Army wears it on their right). We also wear our rank and a name tag.

"How long does it take to get to Iraq?" It takes a pretty long time to get here Krista. We are about 6000 miles away from where you are, and I'm about 7000 miles from home. To fly here it takes a total of around 19 or 20 hours but we usually have to stop and stay somewhere over night.

"Do you lets bombs?" I don't have much to do with bombs although some of the Army guys do. The Iraqis have a lot of bombs that they try to use on us so we have to be very careful.

Thanks for your questions Krista and keep doing well in school!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I'm getting tired of the at ease design...

I'm in the process of creating a new template. I ran it by Beth and she said that everyone liked it much better. Go here and take a look. Let me know if you like it better overall and what things I could do to make it better. I haven't added all the bells and whistles yet, but I will before I transfer it over.

The ministry of propoganda in full swing today...

Gee golly, this Reuters News Article: sure sounds bad doesn't it? "Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School!" Those damned liberals are at it again! They want to not only make everyone an atheist, they want to completely dismantle our country's very framework. Drudge even has it in his typical 527pt blue dress font right there on his front page.

Of course, this is all propoganda that was issued to Rush and Drudge at the end of the mainstream news cycle. That plus the fact that it is a holiday means that this story will have time to fester in the court of public opinion for four days without having to face the bright light of truth. You can probably just imagine the dinner time conversations: "Goddamned liberals are at it again! Please pass the cranberry sauce."

So here's the real story. An overtly Christian history teacher decides to supplement the school's history classes with handouts that try to prove this country was founded on the Christian Religion. The titles of his pamphlets are:


  • Excerpts from the "Frame of Government of Pennsylvania" by William Penn

  • Excerpts from the Declaration of Independence

  • Excerpts from various state constitutions

  • A handout entitled "What Great Leaders Have Said About The Bible"

  • "The Rights of the Colonists" by Samuel Adams

  • Excerpts from George Washington's Journal

  • Excerpts from John Adams' diary

  • Excerpts from "The Principles of Natural Law" by Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui

  • A handout entitled "Fact Sheet: Currency and Coins -- History of 'In God We Trust'"



From this site I found a post that may very well be from the handout "What Great Leaders Have Said About The Bible":
What Great Leaders Have Said About The Bible:

George Washington...It is impossible to rightly govern the world without the Bible.
John Adams...The Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more than all the libraries I have seen.
Thomas Jefferson...The Bible makes the best people in the world.
Abraham Lincoln...But for this Book we could not know right from wrong. I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man.
Ulysses S. Grant....The Bible is the anchor of our liberties.
Rutherford B Hayes...The best religion the world has ever known is the religion of the Bible. It builds up all that is good.
William McKinley...The more profoundly we study this wonderful Book.. the better citizens we will become.
Theodore Roosevelt...No educated man can afford to be ignorant of the Bible.
Herbert Hoover...The whole of the inspirations of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ. To read the Bible is a necessity of American life.
Jesus Christ...It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.


The handout "Fact Sheet: Currency and Coins -- History of 'In God We Trust'" was written by the US Treasury and can be found here.

What the school was trying to do was prevent this teacher from indoctrinating the kids into believing his ideology. This teacher worked with the Alliance Defense Fund an ultra religious lawyer group founded with the express intentions of making the US a Chrstiain Theocracy. The founders of the ADF are:

  • Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ

  • Larry Burkett, founder of Christian Financial Concepts

  • Rev. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family

  • Rev. D. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ridge Ministries

  • Marlin Maddoux, President of International Christian Media

  • Don Wildmon, founder of American Family Association (And 25+ other ministries)



Seeing the Forest has done a bit more research on the ADF:
ADF defines itself by its ability to strategize and coordinate with lawyers all over the United States.
[. . .]
ADF also defends the right of Christians to 'share the gospel' in workplaces and public schools, claiming that any efforts to curb proselytizing at work and school are anti-Christian.


The bottom line is this, The school has no problem with the Declaration of Independence. The school is merely trying to prevent a teacher from imposing his religious beliefs onto his students. If this teacher had presented both sides of the argument and weighted each of the arguments equally, then nobody could possibly have a problem. However, I'm certain that this teacher didn't present his class with things like the following from Digby:

". . . Some books against Deism fell into my hands. . . It happened that they wrought an effect on my quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist." -Franklin

"... I am not afraid of priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance on whom their interested duperies were to be played off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develop itself." -Jefferson

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." -Madison

. . . Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind." -Adams

The 1796 treaty with Tripoli, negotiations begun under Washington and signed by Adams states:

[As] the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion

I'd expect to only see more of these kinds of lawsuits in the upcoming four years. Moreover, expect the barrage of propoganda from America's private propoganda institutions like Rush, Drudge, and Fox News to accompany them every time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More Kids's questions...

Reading the letters from these kids seriously makes my day. Here are some more answers to some of their questions. Just because I don't want to make everyone read something I've answered already, I'm just going to skip the questions that have already been asked.




To Joe (no last name given) who wrote his letter on his 8.5 year birthday and who was born exactly 20 years and 10 days after I was:

"How old are you?" I'm just over 28.5. Only a year-and-a-half until the big Three-Oh. I'm pretty sure I thought 28 year olds were called grownups when I was 8. Gah!

"What is your Favorite book?" That's a good question Joe. I would have to say that my favorite book is the first book I read that I really understood the deeper meanings: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. There are many interesting meanings and morals and it taught me how to find the deeper meanings in everything from books to poetry to music.

"Do you have a course you have to go on every day?" Life over here isn't the same as it is when you're in school. They won't send us over here until we've learned our jobs very well and can do them without having a lot to learn about them. Of course, we're always learning new things. Everyone should strive to learn new things every day, but we don't go to any classes.

Thanks for your letter Joe!




Britt Cavanor asks:

"What is the food like and do you like it?" Actually the food is pretty good here in my opinion. I've had a lot of cafeteria food in my life, all through my public school life, in college, and at various military bases all over the world. The US has paid a company called Halliburton to provide us with food. Halliburton has in turn asked one of its companies called Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR to us) to provide us with food. They have a big tent and everything is free for us (and we can go back as many times as we want -- oh man if I would have had that when I was a teenager!). The people that KBR pays to cook and serve our food are all from a country called Turkey which borders Iraq on the north. They mostly serve American food. One section has hamburgers, corn dogs, buffalo wings, grilled cheese, chili, and other stuff like that. They have a pasta bar where we can get spaghetti or macaroni and we can top it with one of the various sauces. They have a mai
n line where they usually serve chicken, beef, or pork dishes with 2 or 3 side items and bread. Sometimes they have a special line where they will make stir-fry or regional dishes. One of my favorite things is the Turkish Schwarma or the Kebab sandwich. I'm also a big fan of their macaroni and cheese (Don't tell my wife, but it's better than Kraft).

"When is your birthday?" I was born on April 1st. Yup, I'm an April Fool.

"Do you like it in Iraq?" If things were different and safer, there are definitely places that I would like to visit in Iraq. There are apparently ruins from biblical times in Mosul (Mosul is the biblical town of Ninevah). I would like to visit some of the places in Baghdad and I'd like to sample some of the local food. Unfortunately for everyone, Iraq is not a safe place to be, so I can't say that I like it here in Iraq.

"Do you have trouble sleeping?" A few weeks ago, it got a whole lot more dangerous for a while, lots of explosions, people were trying very hard to hurt us. During that week, it was very difficult to sleep. Things have gotten much better, and to be honest, I'm surprised at how well I'm sleeping right now. I hope that doesn't change.

"Do you have a lot of friends?" I have a small number of really close friends and a bigger number of friends that aren't as close. Thanks to my blog, I now even have friends that I've never met, I don't even know some of their real names! That's pretty fun.

"When you were in 3rd grade did you like it?" Let's see, I was in the 3rd grade 20 years ago (!) and I remember that my teacher was Mrs. Blizzard. I really don't remember a whole lot about 3rd grade, but I do remember that I had a lot of fun that year. That was also the year that I started Karate at the YMCA and then with my Sensei, so the 3rd grade was the start of very good things for me.

Thanks for the letter Britt, I'm glad you like school because it's extremely important in life.




Rachael Jarvis writes:

"Are you scared?" Sometimes we are Rachael. Not all the time, but when bad things happen you get scared. A certain amount of fear is a good thing, it helps you to keep yourself safe. But too much fear too much of the time is very exhausting.

"What are you in? I'm in the 3rd grade." Well, I suppose since I'm 2 classes short of my masters degree, the closest grade that you could put me in would be 18th grade. But really, after the 12th grade, you stop keeping track of grades.

"What do you look like?" I look just like this:



I'm the tall one.

Thanks for your questions Rachael. Keep up all the hard work in school




UPDATE: fixed the non-working picture...

Time to answer a few more letters!

Reading the letters from these kids seriously makes my day. Here are some more answers to some of their questions. Just because I don't want to make everyone read something I've answered already, I'm just going to skip the questions that have already been asked.




To Joe (no last name given) who wrote his letter on his 8.5 year birthday and who was born exactly 20 years and 10 days after I was:

"How old are you?" I'm just over 28.5. Only a year-and-a-half until the big Three-Oh. I'm pretty sure I thought 28 year olds were called grownups when I was 8. Gah!

"What is your Favorite book?" That's a good question Joe. I would have to say that my favorite book is the first book I read that I really understood the deeper meanings: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. There are many interesting meanings and morals and it taught me how to find the deeper meanings in everything from books to poetry to music.

"Do you have a course you have to go on every day?" Life over here isn't the same as it is when you're in school. They won't send us over here until we've learned our jobs very well and can do them without having a lot to learn about them. Of course, we're always learning new things. Everyone should strive to learn new things every day, but we don't go to any classes.

Thanks for your letter Joe!




Britt Cavanor asks:

"What is the food like and do you like it?" Actually the food is pretty good here in my opinion. I've had a lot of cafeteria food in my life, all through my public school life, in college, and at various military bases all over the world. The US has paid a company called Halliburton to provide us with food. Halliburton has in turn asked one of its companies called Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR to us) to provide us with food. They have a big tent and everything is free for us (and we can go back as many times as we want -- oh man if I would have had that when I was a teenager!). The people that KBR pays to cook and serve our food are all from a country called Turkey which borders Iraq on the north. They mostly serve American food. One section has hamburgers, corn dogs, buffalo wings, grilled cheese, chili, and other stuff like that. They have a pasta bar where we can get spaghetti or macaroni and we can top it with one of the various sauces. They have a main line where they usually serve chicken, beef, or pork dishes with 2 or 3 side items and bread. Sometimes they have a special line where they will make stir-fry or regional dishes. One of my favorite things is the Turkish Schwarma or the Kebab sandwich. I'm also a big fan of their macaroni and cheese (Don't tell my wife, but it's better than Kraft).

"When is your birthday?" I was born on April 1st. Yup, I'm an April Fool.

"Do you like it in Iraq?" If things were different and safer, there are definitely places that I would like to visit in Iraq. There are apparently ruins from biblical times in Mosul (Mosul is the biblical town of Ninevah). I would like to visit some of the places in Baghdad and I'd like to sample some of the local food. Unfortunately for everyone, Iraq is not a safe place to be, so I can't say that I like it here in Iraq.

"Do you have trouble sleeping?" A few weeks ago, it got a whole lot more dangerous for a while, lots of explosions, people were trying very hard to hurt us. During that week, it was very difficult to sleep. Things have gotten much better, and to be honest, I'm surprised at how well I'm sleeping right now. I hope that doesn't change.

"Do you have a lot of friends?" I have a small number of really close friends and a bigger number of friends that aren't as close. Thanks to my blog, I now even have friends that I've never met, I don't even know some of their real names! That's pretty fun.

"When you were in 3rd grade did you like it?" Let's see, I was in the 3rd grade 20 years ago (!) and I remember that my teacher was Mrs. Blizzard. I really don't remember a whole lot about 3rd grade, but I do remember that I had a lot of fun that year. That was also the year that I started Karate at the YMCA and then with my Sensei, so the 3rd grade was the start of very good things for me.

Thanks for the letter Britt, I'm glad you like school because it's extremely important in life.




Rachael Jarvis writes:

"Are you scared?" Sometimes we are Rachael. Not all the time, but when bad things happen you get scared. A certain amount of fear is a good thing, it helps you to keep yourself safe. But too much fear too much of the time is very exhausting.

"What are you in? I'm in the 3rd grade." Well, I suppose since I'm 2 classes short of my masters degree, the closest grade that you could put me in would be 18th grade. But really, after the 12th grade, you stop keeping track of grades.

"What do you look like?" I look just like this:



I'm the tall one.

Thanks for your questions Rachael. Keep up all the hard work in school

Monday, November 22, 2004

This Artest guy has got to go...

Apparently some people are "caught off guard by suspensions' severity". Well I'm not. In fact, I'm furious that the suspensions weren't more severe. Anyone who went into the stands after the fans should never play in the NBA again in my opinion. Artest is lucky that I'm not the GM of the Pacers or the commissioner of the NBA because his ass would be out, for good.

Artest is the moron who asked to take a couple of months off when he was five (5!) games into the season so he could get some rest and work on his rap album. You'll have to forgive me for not giving a damn what this idiot wants. I was thinking about it this morning when I was walking into work. I caught a glimpse of the pad where the mortars hit and killed those two guys and the hotel where they initially thought that snipers had positioned snipers and how much all of that sucked. You know what Ron, we in the military could do various things to get sent home but we don't. Do you know why Ron? It's not because we get paid the big bucks. Ronnie gets paid more than 100 enlisted soldiers that are out literally putting their ass on the line every single day out in this meat grinder of a country. It isn't because we're not afraid, only an idiot wouldn't be afraid out here. It isn't because we're superheroes, we're just normal people. Ron, it's because we have the desire to honor our commitments. Many of us aren't planning on staying one second longer than we have to, but we aren't trying to weasle our way out just to get some rest. And I promise you Ron, we could all use rest a great deal more than you. So this cat doesn't get his way and he decides to pick a fight on the court. Better yet, he decides to take that fight into the stands. Well you know what Ron, you should be fired. They should never let you play ball in the NBA again you whiney, incompetent loser.

There are of course bigger problems at play here. The culture in the NBA has gone astray from being good sports and toward playground foolishness. This is nothing new, but it is starting to get out of hand. What started on the playgrounds of the inner cities made it on to the courts of the NBA because of the mass marketing machine of companies like Nike. Do you remember the Charles Barkley "I am not a role model" campaign? That's exactly what I'm talking about. Nike empowered Barkley and others to act any way they pleased on the court. Something not at all surprising happened, the white middle-class suburban kids (who are the ones Nike is really trying to woo) ate it up. The snowball effect took over from there. Now attitude is a virtual requirement to be in the NBA. The bigger the attitude, the bigger the endorsements. More endorsements mean more exposure and more exposure means more acceptance of those attitudes. Now we have fans getting into the act -- particularly evident by the pistons jersey-clad fan who went into the ring to take on Artest himself (I'm a pudgy short basketball fan, I think I'm going to take on a tall athletically honed pro basketball player, great idea). Everything is going berserk and now you have all the news organizations asking themselves what happened. Why are the players so mad? What made the fans throw things? Is this a sign of the decline of human decency?

I say yes, to an extent. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Nikes and Reeboks and Adidas of the world. They empower the players to act like asses and they convince the fans that acting like asses is something they should strive to live up to. Nobody seems to mind and, in fact, nobody seems to even notice. When something like this happens, people look around all bewildered and try to blame society. Nobody seems to notice that the society is being pushed to this by the corporations so they can rake in more money than many countries.

The NBA didn't do enough, this is only going to get worse...

This is too good not to mention...

I just got a box today from my cousin Kelly and her 3rd grade class. In the box were various magazines (lots of golfers in the group:)) and some misc. treats. Of course, I wouldn't be blogging about treats and magazines, I mostly wanted to tell everyone about the best part of the box, the letters from the kids. They're in the 3rd grade which would make them all 8 or 9 and they are very inquisitive. Kelly obviously gave them some ideas of what to write, but didn't dictate to them what they had to say. That's good, I've seen some letters from elementary classes that were all exactly alike. That's no fun for us:)

So, at any rate, the idea is that the guys up here would hopefully pick up one of the letters and write the kids back. I'm going to put those letters in a common area so that people can do just that. But, I have a feeling that most people will end up just passing them by, so I'm going to start answering all the questions as best I can from my point of view on here. There are too many letters to answer them all on here in one post, so I'm going to answer a few of the letters per day until I get through all of them.




Alyssa Sinclair asks:

"Is Iraq hot or cold?" Well, as of 10 days ago it was cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon. But today it is quite cold outside in the daytime too. Of course, it isn't Minnesota cold, it never gets that cold here. In northern Iraq (where I am) it did snow last year, but it still wasn't like Minnesota. In the summer it is much hotter than anything you've ever experienced though. Sometimes it will get to 130 degrees in the daytime and only get down to 95 at night. That's really hot.

"Is Iraq tornado alley?" See, this is the reason that I love getting these letters. Alyssa is clearly learning about the world around her and is interested in finding out how big that world is. Tornado alley is of course a big concern to those who live in the mid-west (including Minnesota at various points in the year). Fortunately, tornados are not something that we have to deal with in Iraq, but they do have lightning storms from time to time.

"How many people died? I bet it's like ten." Unfortunately Alyssa, there have been more than 1100 Americans who have died in Iraq since March 2003.

"Do you do anything fun?" We do have a morale program that gives us some fun things to do from time to time. We have basketball tournaments and dodgeball (yup, dodgeball:)) tournaments and other fun events like that, we have bikes we can ride if we want, and we can just go workout. They let us go on the internet to talk to our loved ones, they even have webcams so that we can let our loved ones see us.

Thanks so much for your letter Alyssa.




Madelyn DenHartog asks:

"Do you have beds?" Yes, actually we do have beds. The Army has paid a company called Halliburton to come to Iraq and give us places to live and beds (instead of cots) to sleep on. The thing that I don't like about the Army is that they don't give you pillows, sheets, or blankets. Fortunately when I was in Qatar recently I was able to get a good pillow to sleep on and I use my sleeping bag instead of sheets and blankets.

"Do you have TV?" Yes Madelyn, we do. In fact, the military has its own version of cable TV called Armed Forces Network (we call it AFN). The special thing about AFN that it is a government-provided television and radio network so there are no commercials. Instead of commercials they have public announcements that give us information about military matters or public service announcements that remind us to be healthy and nice to each other.

"Do you have things to do?" Yes, we do have things to do when we aren't working. We have contests and games, we can talk to our family and friends on the internet, or we can just sit around watching TV. Some places even have movie theaters and stores that we can go kill time.

Thanks for the note and the treats Madelyn. (People have already started eating the Oreos)




Brian (no last name given) writes:

"Are you in the war zone?" Yes, your letters are on a Forward Operating Base (we call it a FOB) in Mosul, Iraq (all of Iraq is a war zone). Here is a map of Iraq, you can see Mosul way up North close to Syria, Turkey, and Iran:



"What do you do in your spare time?" Well, fortunately, I have this blog to take up much of my spare time. When I'm not researching information to put on the blog, I like to watch movies on my computer or go workout. Other than that, I am either sleeping or eating.

"Where do you live?" I live in Mosul, Iraq most of the time. Since there are people out there that are trying to hurt us, I don't want to say on the internet exactly where in Mosul I live. Fortunately, I won't be living here for much longer though.

"How many soldiers in your force?" Unfortunately, I can't answer that question because it is classified. However, it is well known that there are somewhere around 140,000 American military personnel in Iraq.

"What is your favorite football team?" I really don't have a favorite football team, but since I live near Seattle when I'm not in Iraq, I suppose I should like the Seahawks. So I'll say the Seahawks.

Thanks for your letter Brian. I can tell by your spelling and your use of punctuation that you study very hard and pay attention in school. Make sure to keep it up!




I'll answer more letters tomorrow!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

You have got to be kidding me...

I saw this article on Fark. The article tells us how the Kuwaitis are planning on handing out 200 dinar ($680) to each and every citizen of Kuwait because of increased profits from oil. Wow, that sounds great, what could possibly be wrong with that?

1. This year Kuwait posted its 6th straight budget surplus.

2. According to Naomi Klein in The Nation:
Yet Iraq continues to make regular reparations payments for Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In the eighteen months since the US invasion, Iraq has paid out a staggering $1.8 billion in reparations--substantially more than the battered country's 2004 health and education budgets combined, and more than the United States has so far managed to spend in Iraq on reconstruction.

Most of the payments have gone to Kuwait, a country that is about to post its sixth consecutive budget surplus, where citizens have an average purchasing power of $19,000 a year. Iraqis, by contrast, are living on an average of just over $2 a day, with most of the population dependent on food rations for basic nutrition. Yet reparations payments continue, with Iraq scheduled to make another $200 million payout in late October.

3. According to Naomi Klein in The Guardian:
Since Saddam was toppled in April, Iraq has paid out $1.8bn in reparations to the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), the Geneva-based quasi tribunal that assesses claims and disburses awards. Of those payments, $37m have gone to Britain and $32.8m have gone to the United States. That's right: in the past 18 months, Iraq's occupiers have collected $69.8m in reparation payments from the desperate people they have been occupying. But it gets worse: the vast majority of those payments, 78%, have gone to multinational corporations, according to statistics on the UNCC website.

4. The point man for both relieving Iraq's debts and for enforcing the 1991 UN war reparations on Iraq has fallen upon one man: James "2000 Election / Fahrenheit 9/11" Baker. Mr. Baker has been appointed a special envoy to negotiate debt relief from the likes of France, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait by the Bush administration and has been appointed chief means of leverage by the in no way evil (sarcasm) Carlyle Group. James Baker met with the Kuwaiti government on the very day that the Carlyle Group's proposal was delivered to the Kuwaitis. That means that Mr. Baker was simultaneously representing the Bush Administration (and their supposed debt relief proposal) and the Carlyle Group and their insidious plan to make sure Iraq pays Kuwait Billions of dollars in war reparations that the now defunct Saddam regime incurred (all with a hefty billion dollar profit for the Carlyle Group of course). Gee, I wonder, did James Baker push the debt relief or the money-making debt enforcement?

I wonder...

God money's not looking for the cure
God money's not concerned about the sick among the pure
God money let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised
God money's not one to choose

Head like a hole - NIN

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Thanks for all the great sentiment...

I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to post their well wishes in the comments. It is greatly appreciated (especially now that I'm back in Iraq) and it definitely makes me feel lots less alone. The thing about working my job is that you tend to feel very isolated. I'm one of a handful of USAF people and the only Air Mobility Command guy in an Army world. Even when I go on the road to a place like Al Udeid (which is where I have been for the past few days) where I'm surrounded by USAF and AMC people, it's still difficult to not feel alone since I don't work directly with any of them. So at any rate, nice comments like you guys have offered have meant a lot.

Right now, I'm back in Iraq and I've only got 3 weeks left to go. I won't be very busy since all the movements are complete. At this point I'm going to focus on working any issues that I can with regard to the project I mentioned (vaguely) before. That should definitely carry me through until I leave.

I can't wait...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Sorry for the lack of posting ... I am alive and well still.

So the plan was simple. I was going to get on a plane today, it was going to take me back to Iraq and then I was going to try to figure out a way to get back to my FOB (Forward Operating Base) and then the next day I was going to find a way to the other air base that I've been going to off an on throughout my deployment. Maybe it wasn't that simple, but it wouldn't have been that difficult.

Then the plane broke. Actually, it was broken before the passengers even got out to it. So, here I am, still stuck in Qatar. That always seems to happen to me for one reason or another. Not that I mind though. Qatar is safe and sound, as am I.

Being that working airlift is, you know, what I do for a living these days, I was able to easily find and get myself on another flight. This time I'm going on a flight that will go directly into that other airfield that I keep vaguely referring to. I get to skip the middle man and I get to see what the crews see when they land there. So that's nice. Oh, and I don't leave for about 48 hours. After I get done there, it's a snap to get back to where I normally hang my hat and I'll be set for the final 3 weeks or so.

Sorry again for the lack of posting. The internets here aren't just slow, they are hella slow. What's more frustrating is the fact that just about everything is blocked. Besides, I only have 30 minutes at a pop. So it isn't like I can sit here and do a whole lot of interesting postings about my thoughts about the world. The world seems so much smaller here.

Oh, and I can't check my gmail right now, so if you've written me to tell me that I never call and I never write I haven't gotten that yet. I'll write and I'll call as soon as I can. Until then, take this blog posting as proof of my love (for all those that I love out there) and proof of my well being (for anyone who cares). I'm sure there aren't many people looking forward to me getting back to Iraq so I can have some decent comms:) I know that I'm not.

More soon...

Monday, November 15, 2004

I'm in Qatar safe and sound...

I'm as safe and sound as I've been in 2 months right now. You wouldn't believe how well I slept last night. I fell asleep immediately, and I didn't wake up until my alarm went off. It was awesome.

You know, the odd thing is that I still have the habit of analyzing all the loud noises I hear. Just yesterday I heard a distant boom (not sure from what) and although I didn't jump, I did say to myself, okay now did that sound like an incoming round? I guess you can't help but be amused. I'm as safe (maybe safer) here than I would be if I were in the US right now but my ear is still tuned to hearing and analyzing any loud booms.

You know, the other thing that I noticed last night is that I'm hypersensitive to the sounds that I am making. See, when there's a possibility that there may be mortars headed your way, you want to make sure that you don't scare other people by making loud booms of your own. Over in Mosul, you just can't go around slamming doors and dropping stuff on the floor. The funny thing is that until I got here I didn't realize just how careful I had been for the past couple of months. My helmet dropped on the floor and I immediately felt bad, and just as quickly I felt silly (and a little glad at that).

So I'm getting the chance to help the USAF make a real impact in Iraq that will help to save American lives. My own little corollary is that along with saving American lives, it will reduce the amount of fighting and therefore save lots of different people's lives. So that's good, I hope something comes of it. I know, I know, I'm being vague again. Sorry, but that's as far in-depth as I can go.

I've noticed some major differences in how the USAF and the Army treats people. The USAF is kind of like an overbearing mother figure that wants you to be more than just careful, it wants you to be extra careful. No going off base unless just about everyone knows about it -- they may as well put it in the paper for crying out loud. Every last thing is super-secret. So much so that you can't even say the base that you're at even if everyone in the world knows what it is. And when it comes to computer access, well the USAF computer "Moms" have decided what you can and what you can't look at on a daily basis (even when you're not on duty).

The Army on the other hand is like an inattentive Step-Father figure. The Army has a lot of things that it feels the need to get accomplished, and it needs its soldiers to go out and take some great personal risks to accomplish them. The thing is, the Army will only go so far to protect your safety when you're doing something that won't effect the Army's overall mission. So if you need to get home, you're on your own. They'll give you advice: "Take a helo if you can"; but they won't go out of their way to help you take that advice: "There won't be any helos for a couple of weeks, I'd say get yourself on a convoy." You're a number, a statistic, and they don't want to get all that close to you because there is a very real chance that you could get killed. With regard to computers, the Army is also concerned with "comsec" Communications Security, but they don't obsess with it like the USAF. Furthermore, you can access far more of the internets from Army servers even when you're o

That was a long, drawn out way of saying that I have very limited access to the internets right now and it'll remain that way until I get back to Iraq. Blog posting is going to have to be done via email until I get back. That means that some of the posts' formatting may be all messed up. I'll fix it when I get back.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A site you have to go visit...

Go take a look at http://astarfrommosul.blogspot.com/ as soon as you can. She calls herself Aunt Najma and she is a profound, intelligent 16 year old polyglot who lives in Mosul. Just reading her blog makes me feel like an idiot for being so nervous while I'm here. Any focus you may have had on my situation should be directed her way. I'm almost out of here, but she has to spend much of the rest (if not all) of her formative years dealing with this war from the pointy end of American firepower.

If you aren't moved, you are heartless...

Friday, November 12, 2004

On the road again...

I'm out on the road again in my normal place, but when I'm done here, I'll be flying directly to Qatar. I can't tell you how excited I am. Even this place which has been fairly quiet since the outset got hit today. Looks like no sleepy-poo for da Micahel (that would be my wife's term of endearment for me) tonight.

Also, my normal routine of sitting in front of an internets enabled computer all day (I said I was in Iraq, I never said I was out fighting) is going to be broken for the next week or so. So don't expect drawn out well researched posts for a little while. However, I will be trying to make sure that I check in from time to time since at ease has become my one major way of communicating with my family, oh and the rest of the world too.

So at any rate, I finished reading Johnny Got His Gun and was kind of nodding off to sleep when I thought I heard a couple of booms. They weren't loud or close; hell they may not have been booms at all. I'm a little jumpy these days. So I just headed over to the Helo battalion to use their computers. Now I'm just sitting here writing a post and watching an incredibly brave, tiny little mouse searching for food and only finding rocks.

I know how you feel little mouse.

A little bit of humor after some horror earlier. Like I said, a mortar hit this place today (no injuries or damage). I was in my hooch when it hit. I distinctly heard the wooshing of it flying right over my head and then the explosion. I had just gotten to my room and I was going to change into my PT gear. I had only gotten so far as to take off my ID card holder when the blast hit. I of course jumped and ran out the door and locked it on my way out. My keys were, you guessed it, in my ID card holder which was still in my room locked ever so tightly.

So after some waiting around for the keeper of the keys, I decided to see if I could jimmy the lock. No such luck. So I tried what any frustrated individual would try, I turned the knob as hard as I could. The door opened.

With all that's going on in the world, with all those dying around me, with the administration playing the exact same games as it has for the past 4 years all I could think about was opening that goddamned door. And all I can think to blog about right now is how I tried to get a door open.

Life is funny sometimes.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The triumphant return of the pie chart from hell...

You may have noticed that due to the various bs that was going on here the past week, there has been no time for the Pie Chart from Hell. Since I'm leaving on another trip today and since I'll be sans Photoshop for the next week or so, I'm going to go ahead and post my Friday feature today...

Without further ado, the Pie Chart from Hell...



Almost 65% complete, not too shabby!

Naomi Klein opens up the story behind the story for us once again...

The return of destroy the villiage in order to save it. From Alternet:
Die Now, Vote Later
By Naomi Klein, AlterNet
Posted on November 10, 2004, Printed on November 11, 2004
http://www.alternet.org/story/20459/

P. Diddy announced on the weekend that his "Vote or Die" campaign will live on. The hip hop mogul's voter registration drive during the U.S. presidential elections was, he said, merely "phase one, step one for us to get people engaged."

Fantastic. I have a suggestion for phase two: P. Diddy, Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the self-described "Coalition of the Willing" should take their chartered jet and fly to Fallujah, where their efforts are desperately needed. But first they are going to need to flip the slogan from "Vote or Die!" to "Die, Then Vote!"

Because that is what is happening there. Escape routes have been sealed off, homes are being demolished, and an emergency health clinic has been razed – all in the name of preparing the city for January elections. In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S.-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi explained that the all-out attack was required "to safeguard lives, elections and democracy in Iraq."

With all the millions spent on "democracy-building" and "civil society" in Iraq, it has come to this: If you can survive attack by the world's only superpower, you get to cast a ballot. Fallujans are going to vote, goddammit, even if they all have to die first.

And make no mistake: they are Fallujans under the gun. "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah," Marine Lt. Col. Gareth Brandl told the BBC. Well, at least he admitted that some of the fighters actually live in Fallujah, unlike Donald Rumsfeld, who would have us believe that they are all from Syria and Jordan. And since U.S. army vehicles are blaring recordings forbidding all men between the ages of 15 and 50 from leaving the city, it would suggest that there are at least a few Iraqis among what CNN now obediently describes as the "anti-Iraqi forces."

Elections in Iraq were never going to be peaceful, but they did not need to be an all-out war on voters either. Mr. Allawi's Rocket the Vote campaign is the direct result of a disastrous decision made exactly one year ago. On Nov. 11, 2003, Paul Bremer, then chief U.S. envoy to Iraq, flew to Washington to meet with President George W. Bush. The two men were concerned that if they kept their promise to hold elections in Iraq within the coming months, the country would fall into the hands of insufficiently pro-American forces.

That would defeat the purpose of the invasion, and it would threaten President Bush's re-election chances. At that meeting, a revised plan was hatched: Elections would be delayed for more than a year and in the meantime, Iraq's first "sovereign" government would be hand-picked by Washington. The plan would allow Mr. Bush to claim progress on the campaign trail, while keeping Iraq safely under U.S. control.

In the U.S., Mr. Bush's claim that "freedom is on the march" served its purpose, but in Iraq, the plan led directly to the carnage we see today. George Bush likes to paint the forces opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq as enemies of democracy. In fact, much of the uprising can be traced directly to decisions made in Washington to stifle, repress, delay, manipulate and otherwise thwart the democratic aspirations of the Iraqi people.

Yes, democracy has genuine opponents in Iraq, but before George Bush and Paul Bremer decided to break their central promise to hand over power to an elected Iraqi government, these forces were isolated and contained. That changed when Mr. Bremer returned to Baghdad and tried to convince Iraqis that they weren't yet ready for democracy.

Mr. Bremer argued the country was too insecure to hold elections, and besides, there were no voter rolls. Few were convinced. In January, 2003, 100,000 Iraqis peacefully took to the streets of Baghdad, with 30,000 more in Basra. Their chant was "Yes, yes elections. No, no selections." At the time, many argued that Iraq was safe enough to have elections and pointed out that the lists from the Saddam-era oil-for-food program could serve as voter rolls. But Mr. Bremer wouldn't budge and the UN – scandalously and fatefully – backed him up.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Hussain al-Shahristani, chairman of the standing committee of the Iraqi National Academy of Science (who was imprisoned under Saddam Hussein for 10 years), accurately predicted what would happen next. "Elections will be held in Iraq, sooner or later," wrote Mr. al-Shahristani. "The sooner they are held, and a truly democratic Iraq is established, the fewer Iraqi and American lives will be lost."

Ten months and thousands of lost Iraqi and American lives later, elections are scheduled to take place with part of the country in grips of yet another invasion and much of the rest of it under martial law. As for the voter rolls, the Allawi government is planning to use the oil-for-food lists, just as was suggested and dismissed a year ago.

So it turns out that all of the excuses were lies: if elections can be held now, they most certainly could have been held a year ago, when the country was vastly calmer. But that would have denied Washington the change to install a puppet regime in Iraq, and possibly prevented George Bush from winning a second term.

Is it any wonder that Iraqis are skeptical of the version of democracy being delivered to them by U.S. troops, or that elections have come to be seen not as tools of liberation but as weapons of war? First, Iraq's promised elections were sacrificed in the interest of George Bush's re-election hopes; next, the siege of Fallujah itself was crassly shackled to these same interests. The fighter planes didn't even wait an hour after George Bush finished his acceptance speech to begin the air attack on Fallujah, with the city bombed at least six times through the next day and night. With the U.S. elections safely over, Fallujah could be destroyed in the name of its own the upcoming elections.

In another demonstration of their commitment to freedom, the first goal of the U.S. soldiers in Fallujah was to ambush the city's main hospital. Why? Apparently because it was the source of the "rumours" about high civilian casualties the last time U.S. troops laid siege to Fallujah, sparking outrage in Iraq and across the Arab world. "It's a centre of propaganda," an unnamed senior American officer told The New York Times. Without doctors to count the dead, the outrage would be presumably be muted – except that, of course, the attacks on hospitals have sparked their own outrage, further jeopardizing the legitimacy of the upcoming elections.

According to The New York Times, the Fallujah General Hospital was easy to capture, since the doctors and patients put up no resistance. There was, however, one injury, "an Iraqi soldier who accidentally discharged his Kalashnikov rifle, injuring his lower leg."

I think that means he shot himself in the foot. He's not the only one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Yay! John Ashcroft is gone ... uh wait ... who is his replacement?

Well we finally got rid of John civil liberties Ashcroft. But, as I think any reasonable person understood, Bush has replaced Ashcroft with a person that is no more interested in civil liberties and is no less insane, Alberto Gonzales. Mr. Gonzales has been the consiglieri legal council to the President and has entertained the world with tidbits of opinion like the following:
'As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war,' Gonzales wrote to Bush. 'The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians.' Gonzales concluded in stark terms: 'In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.'

Gonzales also argued that dropping Geneva would allow the president to 'preserve his flexibility' in the war on terror. His reasoning? That U.S. officials might otherwise be subject to war-crimes prosecutions under the Geneva Conventions. Gonzales said he feared 'prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges' based on a 1996 U.S. law that bars 'war crimes,' which were defined to include 'any grave breach' of the Geneva Conventions. As to arguments that U.S. soldiers might suffer abuses themselves if Washington did not observe the conventions, Gonzales argued wishfully to Bush that 'your policy of providing humane treatment to enemy detainees gives us the credibility to insist on like treatment for our soldiers.'

Mr. Gonzales isn't as bad as Mr. Ashcroft, he is worse. Mr. Gonzales's memo led directly to the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison and at other areas in Iraq and elsewhere. Mr. Gonzales, acting as legal council, actually urged that we do not follow the rules of war so that our country could act with impunity. This, quite simply, was crass legal maneuvering to work around the Geneva conventions that Mr. Gonzales found too constricting. Gonzales's memo ultimately served to legally justify the Bush adminstration's procedures for interrogating terrorists and suspected terrorists by using torture.

Mr. Gonzales is not a man that fights to uphold the law, he is a man that fights to find ways around the law to accomplish his ideology. On the shiny surface visible to the media and the citizens of the USA, Alberto Gonzales is far less abrasive and outspoken (and less ultra-loony religious) than John Ashcroft, but he is no less dangerous to the civil liberties of the citizens of the USA. In fact, because Alberto Gonzales is likely to have a broader mass appeal than Ashcroft (based simply on his personality and perhaps his ethnicity) he may become far more of a problem then Ashcroft could have ever been.

Tell your friends. Tell the world.

Update: The Center for American Progress has more

Great, just great...

Well it looks like I'll be up all night long ... again:
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Gunfire and explosions echoed across the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Wednesday, but it was not immediately clear who the combatants were.
A Reuters reporter said residents were staying indoors as small-arms fire rattled and blasts from rocket-propelled grenades shook the city. U.S. helicopters flew overhead.

The U.S. military had no immediate comment on the clashes, which showed little sign of abating after more than an hour.

Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, has seen frequent outbreaks of violence in recent months, including roadside blasts, car bomb attacks and drive-by shootings targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.

As U.S. forces push on with their offensive against the rebellious city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, there has been a sharp pick-up in violence elsewhere in the country, including attacks in Samarra, Ramadi, Baiji, Baghdad, Baquba and Kerbala.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Adam Yoshida is a complex man...

Or maybe he's just insane...

This week Adam we find Adam cowering in the Vice President's super-secret bunker trying to avoid the impending onslaught of unhinged gun-weilding Democrats who are looking to kill any conservatives they come across:

When I read the postings at Democratic Underground these days I am struck by two emotions: delight and fear. These both originate in a single thought: Bush’s victory has caused many of these people to become unhinged. Initially, despising Democrats as I do, I am delighted at the prospect. However, when I think further about the implications of what I am reading I reprise the original thought in a difference tone: these people are unhinged.

As I predicted, we’ve already seen one Democratic suicide as a result of the election results. That’s not what I’m worried about. What I’m concerned about is this: what happens if one of these people doesn’t turn their gun on themselves first?

If you'll remember just a few days ago, Adam was the one who was looking forward to the day that the genocidal clensing of the Democrats (save for the moderate Democrat hot girls they would keep around as jesters) was complete:

If anyone needs to work to “bring the country together” it’s those on the left who have divided it so badly. Those who sought to destroy this great man should get down upon their knees and beg the victors for mercy. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll let a few of them linger on for the simple reason that they amuse us. My life’s goal is to see the Democratic Party virtually obliterated and left as a rump of people like Stephanie Herseth who both mostly agree with us anyways and are easy on the eyes.

That’s the future of the Democratic Party: providing Republicans with a number of cute (but not that bright) comfort women. [link not in original, all emphasis mine]
The hilarious thing is that these two posts are seven (7) posts and four (4) days removed from each other. That's right, the election caused Adam to get so giddy that he began to look forward to personally cleansing the US of Democrats and four days later Adam is pissing himself because he's afraid some distressed Democrat will hunt him down sniper-stlye. All I know is that I'm no professional psychologist, but from what I remember of psych 101, his insane rants are indicative of either bipolar disorder (manic after the election, depressive now) or schizophrenia (completely out of touch with reality). If I were him, I'd think about getting some serious help.

Maybe Adam's just mad because 93.5% of people think he's a loser.

Here's what happened yesterday...

You wouldn't believe how frustrating it is holding things like this in...
Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Mortar Attack on Mosul, Iraq, Base
Nov. 9 (Bloomberg)
-- Two U.S. soldiers were killed in a mortar attack on a military base in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition press office said in an e-mailed statement from Baghdad.

One soldier was killed at the time of the attack and the other died of wounds sustained in the assault, which came at about 10 a.m. local time, the military said.

A civilian contractor was wounded in the attack and evacuated to a military hospital in Baghdad, the statement said. None of the victims was identified.

The deaths came as U.S. and Iraqi troops in west-central Iraq battled for control of Fallujah, a city held by insurgents and one the U.S. and interim Iraqi governments say must be pacified for national elections to take place in January.


I knew both of the guys. One was someone I worked with at an exercise last February. I can't say that I liked him, but it's not like I wished this on him. You know, it's one thing to get killed while you're out fighting, but you know what he was doing? He had just gone back to brush his teeth and he just happened to be in his room right when a mortar round came crashing through the roof.

I hadn't worked with the other guy as closely, but he is an Air Force guy that works for the same home unit that I'm assigned to. His story sucks even more maybe. He had heard the first round or two and had gone into a bunker for shelter. A mortar round apparently hit a concrete barrier just right and had sent shrapnel hurtling into the bunker. He later died of his wounds.

I had just seen both of those guys around the other day. It's just wierd is all. I slept maybe 2 hours last night, every little sound had me jumping out of my skin. I was never so happy for my alarm to go off at 0530. I ran on the treadmill this morning, I haven't been running much since my knee started hurting last month. This morning, I felt like I could run all the way home.

All the way...

Tell me it isn't so...

Someone please tell me that the following don't mean anything:
  • In Broward County, Florida, election workers were shocked to discover that their shiny new machines were counting backwards. "Tallies should go up as more votes are counted," according to this report. "That's simple math. But in some races, the numbers had gone down. Officials found the software used in Broward can handle only 32,000 votes per precinct. After that, the system starts counting backward."

  • In Franklin County, Ohio, electronic voting machines gave Bush 3,893 extra votes in one precinct alone. "Franklin County's unofficial results gave Bush 4,258 votes to Democratic challenger John Kerry's 260 votes in Precinct 1B," according to this report. "Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, said Bush received 365 votes there. The other 13 voters who cast ballots either voted for other candidates or did not vote for president."

  • In Craven County, North Carolina, a software error on the electronic voting machines awarded Bush 11,283 extra votes. "The Elections Systems and Software equipment," according to this report, "had downloaded voting information from nine of the county's 26 precincts and as the absentee ballots were added, the precinct totals were added a second time. An override, like those occurring when one attempts to save a computer file that already exists, is supposed to prevent double counting, but did not function correctly."

  • In Carteret County, North Carolina, "More than 4,500 votes may be lost in one North Carolina county because officials believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. Local officials said UniLect Corp., the maker of the county's electronic voting system, told them that each storage unit could handle 10,500 votes, but the limit was actually 3,005 votes. Officials said 3,005 early votes were stored, but 4,530 were lost."

  • In LaPorte County, Indiana, a Democratic stronghold, the electronic voting machines decided that each precinct only had 300 voters. "At about 7 p.m. Tuesday," according to this report, "it was noticed that the first two or three printouts from individual precinct reports all listed an identical number of voters. Each precinct was listed as having 300 registered voters. That means the total number of voters for the county would be 22,200, although there are actually more than 79,000 registered voters."

  • In Sarpy County, Nebraska, the electronic touch screen machines got generous. "As many as 10,000 extra votes," according to this report, "have been tallied and candidates are still waiting for corrected totals. Johnny Boykin lost his bid to be on the Papillion City Council. The difference between victory and defeat in the race was 127 votes. Boykin says, 'When I went in to work the next day and saw that 3,342 people had shown up to vote in our ward, I thought something's not right.' He's right. There are not even 3,000 people registered to vote in his ward. For some reason, some votes were counted twice."

Okay, I want to be convinced that there was not election fraud going on. Tell me that in Florida the votes counted on optical scanners weren't skewed towards Bush after you see this page and this page. I want to believe that this wasn't a coup d'etat. I want to believe that I am not over here risking my fucking life for an administration that was elected by fraudulent means. Convince me that we live in a Democracy, because right now I'm starting to believe otherwise.

This has been a very bad day and I can't even tell you why. At least not yet. I want to go home so bad, you have no idea. I have never felt so trapped in my whole life. The days go by quickly, but I can no longer sleep at night. I'm in a daze most of the time and the only thing I can do is try desperately to keep my mind off of things. If you're wondering, yes, I'm just fine physically.

I just want to go home.
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