Khalid Jarrar of Secrets in Baghdad described it as follows:
"the way the voting happened, is that you go to the voting center, and you go to the man that is your ration dealer, the oen that you take the ration from him every month, so you tell him that you are gonna vote, he marks your name on his list, and then you vote!!! "
Monday, January 31, 2005
You're watching a cartoon, and there's a family, and the mother is black and the father is white. Is this safe for children to watch?
You're watching a cartoon, and there's a family, and the parents are divorced, and the kids live with their mother. Is this safe for children to watch?
You're watching a cartoon, and there's a family, and the mother is a widow. Is this safe for children to watch?
You're watching a cartoon, and there's a group of people/things/animals living in one home, and they don't mention what their relationship is, and they all seem to be about the same age. Is this safe for children to watch?
You're watching a cartoon, and a bunch of children run around all the time and you never see their homes or their parents. Is this safe for children to watch?
You're watching a cartoon, and a girl introduces a bunny to her mommy and her mommy's "friend" who lives with them. Is this safe for children to watch?
All right, some people feel that their children should learn about alternative lifestyles from their parents, when they (the parents) feel that the children are sold enough, and ready to understand. What would they do if their 1st-grader came home and told them about the girl at school whom they eat lunch with. This girl lives with her mommy, and her mommy's "friend". Sure, you can keep a program off TV, but how do you keep your kids from noticing something like this in the real world.
I'm sorry, this just isn't something harmless, like telling your kids that those presents came from Santa, or something. No, it's not the mainstream, and it's really a very small minority, but families like this are out there, and all we have to do is tell our children that these people are different, but different's OK. And that's it. You're never going to be comfortable with your kids dating anyway, you know.
Friday, January 28, 2005
You may or may not remember my piece on this subject some months ago. It 's an issue that's important to me. It burns me up that people would dictate to others what makes a "legitimate" family.
A Rueters article, Security Clampdown Starts Before Iraq Poll, shows both good things and bad things about the upcoming election. The bad:
So, as we can see, the bad is pretty bad. I remember callously agreeing with a friend months ago when the January vote was first announced that actually going out to vote would pretty much just be asking to get shot. I dearly wish that we hadn't been right.
Since Wednesday, at least 48 Iraqis and seven U.S. troops have been killed in insurgent attacks. A helicopter crash also killed 30 American Marines and one sailor on Wednesday, the deadliest single incident of the war for the U.S. military.
President Bush has urged Iraqis to "defy the terrorists" and vote in the country's first election since an American-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003.
INSURGENTS DECLARE WAR ON POLLS
Insurgents have told Iraqis not to vote. The al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, says his followers will launch attacks on polling stations and has condemned Iraq's Shi'ites, most of whom are backing the polls. Voters will have their fingers marked with ink -- potentially making them a target for attacks.
Iraq's minister of state for national security said two of Zarqawi's lieutenants had been arrested, including the group's head of Baghdad operations, who was seized on Dec. 31.
...He said that while progress had been made since Saddam was toppled, "for the last month or so and particularly the last couple of days, we have been going backward."
But there isn't only a bad side. Despite all the mocking I do of people who say that *any* election is good, at the heart of it, that's actually true. I mock those people because I doubt their motives, I doubt their commitment to helping others. I'll take the results, when they're good, though. A poorly planned, badly run election is a step in the right direction. No, I don't think that we've done this right, not at all, but something's been done, and it means that people can keep trying. I'd like it to be the Iraqis who keep trying, rather than the U.S., though. I'm going to end this post on an up note, with a quote from the Reuters article by an Iraqi woman:
"I have been waiting for this day," Lamaa Jamal Talabani, 60, said outside an Amman polling station. "I have been dreaming of this day to tell my grandchildren that in the first election in the history of Iraq I was the first woman to vote."
Thursday, January 27, 2005
...as I said, it reflects the policy of the past, but it sets a bold, new goal for the future. And I believe this country is best when it heads toward an ideal world. We are at our best. And in doing so, we're reflecting universal values and universal ideas that honor each man and woman, that recognize human rights and human dignity depends upon human liberty...And you know what? I agree with the sentiment, there. We *are* at our best when we strive for an ideal. I know I've said that if we don't set the goal as high as possible that we can't hope to even reach some of the rungs on the ladder along the way. Still, this statement from the President made me nervous. Why? Because I don't think that his vision of an ideal world and mine match up.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
There are a couple of disturbing trends:
- The infamous "blood ritual" which accuses Jews of murdering Christians for ritual purposes has made a high-profile comeback in a major Russian newspaper. It came in the form of an anti-Semitic letter signed by 500 prominent people, including journalists and politicians.
- The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has demanded Russian authorities to investigate the brutal anti-Semitic attack on a rabbi near the Maryina Roscha Chabad community center on January 14.
This stuff chills me to the bone. I know who I am, and I know what Judaism's about. I do. I was taught by my family, I studied in college, I spent 7 months in Israel. I might be taking too much credit by saying that I know what it's about, of course there are aspects of religion and spiritualism that people study for entire lifetimes and only scratch the surface, but I'm trying to make a point, here. I may not know everything about Judaism, but I certainly know that it's not about killing Christian children to use their blood to make matzoh. It's not about "provoking ethnic strife". It's about following rules, and treating your fellow man with respect. Yes, there are wing-nut factions that are violent, but hell, even the most of the wing-nut factions are about separatism. You don't see hassidic guys out there trying to chat up non-believers and bring them into the fold. These guys don't have training camps where they plot the downfall of the non-believers. They just huddle in their small, dark communities, wearing their heavy coats and silly large hats.
I've strayed from the part that bothers me most, though - the blood libel story. Where does this come from, in this day and age? Aren't Matzoh factories out in the open for everybody to see? Can't people go see for themselves that it's pretty much just tasteless crackers? Don't they start to wonder why there aren't bunches of children missing every spring if it's true? How can people *think* that?
I'm nowhere near it, but I'm, well... afraid.
Democrats are actually speaking up and saying that she's not their choice for the position of Secretary of State. They're making noise about her role in convincing the people of the USA that invading Iraq was necessary. They're using the word "lie", and making the point that deceit of the American public is not a desirable trait in a high-placed government official. At least, not when we can all see through it so easily.
I still expect her to be confirmed, but I no longer expect it to be unanimous. This expressing of dissent in an organized manner - through discussion and voting - is exactly what I'm looking for. Democracy is about majority rule, not about suppressing dissenting opinions. If our representatives don't agree, they should speak up. And now it looks as if once again, they are. It's a good sign.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
I dislike the fact that people design and create weapons that can kill more efficiently, even when they pose less danger to the person wielding that weapon. I have spoken out about this, just yesterday. But today, I was thinking about gun control again, and how I would never go to war to depose a regime in another country unasked, but I would absolutely shoot someone who was breaking in to my house with the intention of harming me or a loved one. And if that other country with the unlovable regime that I've just mentioned, if they asked for help, I don't know that I'd be quite as loathe to provide it.
I'm anti-invasion, but not necessarily anti-revolution.
"America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling."
And I can't say that the idea of a robot that you can control from a distance and shoot stuff with isn't technologically cool. As gizmos go, it's pretty stylin'.
What is with my brain, already?
Monday, January 24, 2005
I saw the article, and I started swearing. I HATE the fact that people accept that we have to kill off each other's populace in order to establish which country is "right", now we're making it so that we can kill more people from a distance? Is it just me who finds the idea of being able to shoot people en masse without having to endanger the shooter appalling and inhumane? Actually inhuman?
Is the dollar's attractiveness really just a trend? MSNBC reports Central banks shift reserves away from U.S.It's true that the dollar has been strong for a long time, but now, according to this article,
...70 percent of central bank reserve managers said they had increased their exposure to the euro over the past two years. The majority thought eurozone money and debt markets were as attractive a destination for investment as the U.S.
Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned in November that there was a limit to the willingness of foreign governments to finance the U.S. current account deficit.So, these banks are finding that investing in places other than the U.S. is just as attractive to them now? Is the idea that we're a superpower fading out of fashion like so many straight-legged jeans? Does the Euro make you hips look smaller the way that pants with a slight flare do? OK, that's probably going a bit too far.
Still, this does not bode well. Conservative estimates state that we're (the U.S.) going to need to borrow another $500 billion dollars over the next 4 years. If foreign banks are less eager for the business from our government, that money could cost us more than we were "banking" on, or even worse, just not be made available to us. Now, I know that the government borrows from itself, as it were, using some sort of arcane system that I won't pretend to understand. How long can we keep doing this before our economy actually gets bad enough to collapse? How long before a fistfull of dollars is about as attractive as a fistfull of neon sweatshirts with the collars cut off? I don't think it's soon, but this is one trend that I'd prefer to see reversed.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I read about people who want smoking bans in my state, and I panic, for I am a smoker. I make comments like "Hey, there's no law against restaurants and bars being smoke-free, why don't you just go to them if you hate smoke so much". And I vacillate between feeling guilty and feeling like it's my right to feed my legal addiction when out for an evening's entertainment.
Health risk to myself and others! I'm not breaking any laws! I don't want to harm people! I don't want to give this stuff up! Conflicted Tami.
I read about Senator Biden telling Europe (in general, I guess, "Go, EU!") that they should stop whining and just deal with the fact that our President is our President, and will be until 2008. Part of me is horrified, because people should absolutely be allowed to express their opinions, but part of me sees the logic in the idea that if you don't just get past the complaining for a minute and work on something, no progress will be made. Another danger of this kind of thing is that by the time the changes that you've been screaming for are made, you're so used to not achieving anything that no one remembers how to get results. Sometimes, you have to work with what you've been handed, and hope that it gets better.
Free speech! Bad choices! Get something done! Conflicted Tami.
Finally, I am conflicted about my automobile choice. I was reading the latest over at Poetic Leanings, and he's talking about an old Doonesbury that was mocking SUV owners (and subtly mocking those who thought they could change SUV owners, as well). I love, love love my car/truck/SUV. It's a Ford Escape. It's high off the ground, so when I go through massive pond-like puddles (which happens more than you might think, living near where the canal meets the river) I don't worry about it, I go *over* them. It doesn't hurt my stupid arthritic hips and knees to get in and out. My goodness, I can fit all of my camping equipment in the back. Even when I go camping for a week or more and bring tons of stuff. It has a roof rack! It drives like a car!
Gas guzzler! Convenient and easy to drive! Ecologically unfriendly! Carries my stuff! Conflicted Tami.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Picked up that link on Running Scared today, so I went over to give it a read. My immediate first impression was "Hubris". Condoleezza (does anyone else cringe when they see the way that name's *spelled*?) is quoted as saying
"Now is the time to build on these achievements to make the world safer, and to make the world more free. We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom. And the time for diplomacy is now."American dimplomacy? Make the world more free? OK, perhaps she hasn't noticed that the world, if they don't already, is starting to HATE US. The more countries that we send soldiers to, the more we look like an empire trying to make sure that the sun never sets on us. It is arrogant and excessively prideful to assume that our way of life is the right way of life for everyone.
As a Secretary of State, I think that she'll do an A#1 crap job. Crap. I think that she'll insult other cultures, and dismiss the concerns of people with real issues because they don't "further the cause of freedom". And I'm frustrated as hell, because I really, really want to live in a country where the an African American woman can get this job... if she's the most qualified person for it. What in the world happened that this highly intelligent, seemingly very qualified woman is spouting words that make it seem like she's been brain washed? Because as it stands, I can't see how her appointment, which I expect to happen when all of the members of both houses (except Barbara Boxer) roll over like sleeping dogs, will do anything but send us sliding even further down the slope.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Someone stole $180,000 worth of nickels! That's 900 bags of nickels, weighing 23 tons!
So, if someone steals 3.6 million nickels, how does he cash them in without attracting attention? Police say it would have to be done very slowly, in small amounts and at many different places, like grocery store counting machines. And even if he were able to cash in $500 worth of nickels every day, it would still take an entire year.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Prince Harry Wears a Stupid-Ass Costume
Any story about royalty will always get my attention. Throw in Jewish indignation, and I'm all over it.
So, who's to blame for this idiocy? Everyone, of course:
Parents should make sure that their children understand that threatening political/militarily figures who are associated with death and loss are a really bad idea for a costume. A Nazi Stormtrooper isn't fun the way a Star Wars Stormtrooper is - ever. Actually dressing as Hitler is the only way I can think of to send a worse message. Now, I am of course, reminded of South Park, and the episode where Cartman dressed as Hitler for Halloween.
Prince Harry needs to remember that he's a public figure, and even things like a costume will be seen by the multitudes and taken apart teeny bit by teeny bit. And, in fact, I'm wondering about the report of his brother's costume, which I read included a "leopardskin leotard with matching tail and paws". Sounds... form fitting. Back to Harry - he needs to get it that he's under the microscope. But still...
People in General should understand that Prince Harry is 20. He hasn't dealt with a whole lot of soul-rending loss. He probably has no honest idea about how badly a costume like that can make people feel. I think that the President of Israel's reaction was probably reasonable. I expect that to him, dressing like a "bad guy" was probably the intent, and who hasn't wanted to dress as the villain once or twice?
Which brings me back to South Park again, and the episode where they realize that AIDS has been around long enough that it's finally OK to make jokes about it. "Yay, people are desensitized to the tragedy, we're all allowed to laugh, now!" Oy.
Indonesia Defends Restrictions in Aceh
Jakarta has long been edgy about a foreign presence in Aceh, where
separatists have fought the army for three decades for a homeland on Sumatra island's northern tip.
In Berlin, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told a news conference that he welcomed the presence of foreign troops helping relief efforts.
"You can rest assured that we welcome even ... foreign troops. Their presence is based on our request," said Wirajuda.
On Wednesday, the Indonesian government said all foreign troops should leave the country by the end of March.
Anyone besides me think that Indonesia's cannily trying to avoid being "nation built" or "set free"? And while I think that the US is the most threatening in that regard, I don't think that we're the only threat. It must suck to live somewhere that doesn't have stable government, but probably less than it does to live somewhere that has a foreign power with troops on your land trying to insist that you elect one.
Go ahead, Indonesia, show us the door as soon as you're done with us. You're right, we're just the help, and we don't live there.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Now I'm imagining the kind of code it would take to maintain a list of banned flyers from an airline site. Hmm.
(as seen on Middle Earth Journal)
Amusingly connected: I recently gave a dinner party, and the conversation turned to the oddities of living in New Jersey, and never knowing what bizarrely b-list famous or infamous persons we might run in to at any point. One of my charming dinner guests mentioned unexpectedly finding himself at Crazy Eddie's house. I made beef pinwheels, tossed salad, and stir-fried vegetables, in case you were wondering.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Sometimes I wonder about working for a big corporation. Is it the kind of company that I'm proud to represent. Most of the time, my answer is "yes". I may not support the kinds of political candidates that my company is rumored amongst us to support, but I am proud of the amount of tsunami relief that they've (we've?) donated:
UPS tsunami disaster relief
The press release doesn't go in to detail, but the airlift support numbers alone come to 2.5 million. Plus, there's a program where they'll match employee donations (up to a certain amount) to the Red Cross and Unicef.
Besides the fact that I'm grateful that they pay me to play with computers, I'm also really glad that they take responsibility for helping out the less fortunate. It's nice to feel that way.
Thursday, January 6, 2005
Circuitously, via Brilliant at Breakfast, I found myself at the Al Franken Show blog, without a clue why I had never been there before.
Anyway, there's a piece on Bush not wanting to hear news that doesn't agree with him:
BUSH REJECTS BAD NEWS
The Nelson Report is a daily political tip sheet and analysis written for the past 20 years for the (US and Asian) corporate and government clients of Chris Nelson, a former Capitol Hill staffer and UPI reporter. (He was actually the first to break the looted explosives story before the election; Josh Marshall then posted it to his blog.) This Monday, he wrote:
There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear “bad news.”
Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. “That's all he wants to hear about,” we have been told. So “in” are the latest totals on school openings, and “out” are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that “it will just get worse.”
Our sources are firm in that they conclude this “good news only” directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.
Jill (B.a.B.) makes the point that "They used to make Masterpiece Theatre series about insane rulers like this. Now we call them the President of the United States."
Sure, that worries me, but I've had a brilliant idea - the advisors tell him as soon as the election is over that everyone living in Iraq is happy now, and that all the soldiers can come home. Mission Accomplished. And fighting that breaks out after we're gone we can pretend to be surprised about.
I know what the real problem with Social Security is. The problem is that the distribution of age in the US population is not even. We have more and more people reaching retirement age without an equal number of younger workers feeding the pool. This causes the benefits money to get thin, and possibly run out. Oh, and throw in on top of that the fact that the government has borrowed the money in the Social Security Trust Fund, so that the "security blanket" for the system is only there in name only. The government cannot actually pay that money back, as things stand now.
I also know how to solve this problem. No, really, I do. Raise taxes, and raise the retirement age. "But Tami," you cry, "We don't want to pay more taxes! We want a magic solution involving every citizen in the U.S. suddenly becoming a fiscal genius and managing to score big on the stock market! Or something similar as long as we don't have to make a sacrifice!"
Yes, I know that's what you want. I, too, would prefer to not have to tighten my belt at all. I'd like to be able to enjoy a nice sashimi dinner twice a week, and know that any old Xbox or PS2 game that strikes my fancy is mine for the purchasing. But the truth is that I have more than I actually need, as do many, many Americans. And I personally am working on a financial plan for my retirement that doesn't count on Social Security being there at all. But I'm fortunate, and I've had some good breaks, and I know that there are lots of people out there who don't have what I do. People existing at say, twice the poverty level - that's enough money that you don't get much help, but you sure as heck can't save a lot, either. People like that, who have worked hard all their lives will really be able to use the help that the government could give them after they retire.
I know that we spoiled Americans don't want to give up any of the money that we've worked hard for, not on a regular basis, but that's what will save this program. I didn't want to get my cavities filled, either, but I did it. I don't want to give up any more of the money that I earn, but I can, and I should. I'm not talking about communism here, just a little more altruism.
I suppose it all comes down to how much of a responsibility people feel for supporting others, just because they're there. Perhaps the people out there who haven't managed to arrange to have sufficient funds to support them in their retirement aren't my problem, after all. Or maybe people should stop thinking about the "Grasshopper and the Ant" and start thinking more along the lines of the "Humanitarian and the Prosperous Country".
Wednesday, January 5, 2005
"The request by Mr. Gonzales produced the much-debated Justice Department memorandum of Aug. 1, 2002, which defined torture narrowly and said that Mr. Bush could circumvent domestic and international prohibitions against torture in the name of national security."...
"The revision stated that "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms." It rejected the language in the earlier memorandum, which said that only physical pain "of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure" constituted torture punishable by law."Well, I'm glad that the revision reflects what I feel is the only civilized opinion to hold on torture, but the idea that a government official sought to circumvent international law gives me the bad kind of chills.
Now, the cynic in me wonders if it's always this way, but these people are just dumb enough to get caught.
Tuesday, January 4, 2005
They're sneakin' round the back door, the pro-lifers are. At least, that's how I'm reading this. Seems that according to surveys, about 92.6% of women who are not sterilized, pregnant or trying to conceive do use birth control, but that the number of women involved here is so large, that this increase of just 2.2 percent of women over two years is enormous. Big.
...analysts called the spike a troubling development that translates into at least 4.6 million sexually active women at risk of conceiving a child they had not planned on.
Trussell has determined that half of all unintended pregnancies occur among the more than 95 percent of women who used some type of contraception, probably because the method failed or was used improperly. That means the other half of unintended pregnancies came from the sliver of the population not using birth control.Half. And why would women of child-bearing age be taking this kind of risk? The article mentions that yes, unplanned pregnancy can be a happy surprise, but more often than not, unplanned pregnancy happens to women who are not psychologically or financially prepared to have a child. So back to the question - why?
Many physicians put partial blame on federally funded abstinence-only education programs that by law prohibit discussion of contraceptives, except to detail their failure rates.The article also mentions that funding that had previously been used for birth control is now more widely spread out to include other things, such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood reports that if you do the math and adjust for inflation, their 2003 budget for Title X Family Planning was 57% of what it was in 1980.
"We are spending an enormous amount of money on something that hasn't been shown to work," Trussell said. "It's a giant step backwards."
Another quote that I find ever so helpful:
"Pregnancy is not a disease. . . . The women making these choices are making a conscious choice. They are not stupid," said Leslee J. Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. "Women don't want to use birth control because of the side effects. And a lot of men refuse to use a condom.""...a lot of men refuse to use a condom." I'm sorry, is there an actual reason there? And women don't want to use birth control because of the side effects? Are these women thinking that the side effect of having to feed, clothe and house a human being for a large number of years is a better choice?
So what do we have?
- Less education about birth control methods
- Less government funding for family planning
- A government that talks about "family values" all the time
I think that people should have children when they both want them and are prepared to care for them. And if you have children, you should be prepared to understand that creating a human life is possibly the most important thing that anyone can ever do. Having a baby as a "side effect" demonstrates irresponsibility and a refusal to see reality. Children are too precious for that.
Monday, January 3, 2005
She's Not All Talk
A woman on a hobby expedition turned out to be a welcome source of communications in India. Wave of Destruction, Wave of Salvation (registration probably required).
She was there to work a ham radio connection in an area of the world where such things are strictly regulated by the Indian government and not at all common.
PORT BLAIR, India -- About one month ago, Bharathi Prasad and her team of six young ham radio operators landed in this remote island capital with a hobbyist's dream: Set up a station and establish a new world record for global ham radio contacts. In the world of ham slang, it was called a "Dxpedition."As it turns out, she was able to establish communications with the outside world when there was no power or phone lines. This is the kind of work that a lot of ham operators prepare for. Sure, the hobby is fun for people with technical leanings, but it's also an excellent resource during any kind of disaster. Ham radio can be used under the kind of conditions that cause other technologies to crumble and fail. A lot of people don't know this, and I'm personally thrilled to see it mentioned in the media. I've had my license for a little over a year, now, so I'm really biased.
Some web sites you can look at if you want to look into the whole ham/disaster relief thing:
Amateur Radio Disaster Services
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)
National Association for Amateur Radio home page
They were talking about this on Slashdot, as well. A lot of the comments focus on the fact that broadband over power lines (BPL) is a proposed technology that can cause interference with radio signals. It's an interesting discussion, although be warned that sometimes Slashdot comments discussions get a bit... juvenile. OK, a lot juvenile. But if you like techie stuff, you've probably already read stuff like this, anyway.