Monday, May 30, 2005

And One More

It occurs to me that I left out something very important in a previous post. The one about my not having a soft, chewy center.

I forgot to tell you all about how lucky I am. Not for surviving the surgery. I doubt there was much question about that. No, I'm lucky because of the wife. More specifically, I'm lucky to have met her and even luckier that she said yes when I asked her to marry me. One day I'll blog about that. It's a neat story.

I'm lucky because this kind, gentle, warm woman stayed at the hospital during my surgery, by herself, alone with her worries. I'm lucky because she worried about me, but didn't let it show when I needed her to be calm, gentle, and warm.

I'm lucky because this wonderful woman is caring for me during my recovery. I had the surgery, but she has to change the dressing. She has to look at the results of the surgery.

I'm lucky because she reminds me she doesn't want bad things to happen to me, and that she doesn't like it when I'm hurting.

I don't deserve to be this lucky. I don't deserve to have someone so kind care so much for me. And I'm never going to forget it.

Thank You

It's Memorial Day. I won't be decorating any grave sites. But I've been thinking about all the people I know who fought for my country, even in an unpopular war. I've ranted about the debacle in Iraq, but I appreciate all the men and women who are there. I'd prefer they hadn't been sent, and I'd really like to see them come home now. But I thank them for their service.

I also thank my father for serving in Korea. I never knew my wife's father. He died before we met. But I am thankful for his service in World War II. I do know her uncle who served in the navy in that war, and I'm thankful for his service.

I grew up during the Vietnam war. I knew two soldiers from my home town who died over there, and a few others who made it back home. Some were never quite the same. I'm thankful for all of them.


My extended family has been an oddity all my life. For some unknown and never explained reason, we never visited and rarely talked about my dad's side of the family. We often visited and were visited by my mom's family. I have wonderful memories of the farm my mother grew up on and time spent with her siblings and mother. But I know very little about my father's siblings or parents.

His older sister died while I was young. My little sister was a flower girl in Dad's sister's daughter's wedding. Odd way to say that, I know, but it's hard to think of her as a cousin, or Dad's niece. That was close to 30 years ago. I know so little about all these cousins I have, and their children. And some of them lived very close to where I grew up. A couple of them are even a little famous in music circles. Still, we could pass each other on the street and have no idea we're related.

Last week I got an email from one cousin announcing plans for a family reunion in August, and for a celebration of his parents' 50th wedding anniversary. This would be my father's brother.

I remember visiting Dad's mother once. Main thing I remember is that her husband (Dad's stepfather) drove an oil truck, and that their telephone had no dial. Town was so small you had to connect through an operator. This was in the 60s, in a rural area, so it's not that surprising.

I also remember visiting Dad's father once, I think in Michigan at a campsite. I remember he tried to frighten us with stories of an Indian burial ground. And I remember being a little scared, but laughing about it, too.

I have many more memories about my mother's family. And I'm a little sad and a little angry that I don't know more about my paternal relatives. I'm not even sure how many there are.

So I've always envied my wife for being close to her extended family, able to discuss their day-to-day activities with some understanding, able to trace her lineage to each relative named, or at least come close. That sort of family connection has been missing in my life, which explains why I have no sense of belonging anywhere.

So I think we may go to my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary celebration. I think it's about time I meet my cousins. I know I feel awkward and out of place. But one aunt died while I was young, so I never got to meet her. An uncle died just a few years ago, and I never met him. I think it's time to reconnect, and maybe find a bit of myself in this people.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I Don't Have a Soft, Chewy Center

So my week began with a tired, achy feeling that I blamed on allergies. Pollen and such. Nasty this year. Oh, then there was that pain just below my right shoulder blade.
I had a pimple forming, I thought. Probably aggravated by rubbing against a seat back. Little bit of pain, then it would pop and go away. Except it didn't. It got bigger and redder and tender to the touch, and more painful.

Woke up with a fever early Wednesday morning. Now the area was warm to the touch in addition to being tender, large and red. Wife began to worry. Better see the doctor. Give it one more day.

Thursday morning I saw my primary care physician (PCP) who referred me to a surgeon. Saw the surgeon after lunch, told me I could have surgery in his office that day with very painful administration of local anesthesia OR I could wait until Friday to have it at the hospital with general anesthesia and a nicer environment. Hmmmm. What would you do? I chose door number two. That meant going to the hospital for pre-admitting, which took more than two hours, filling out forms I'd already filled out that day. But I got an EKG and blood work out of it.

Got to the hospital Friday morning to wait for the surgeon sometime after noon. Still in pain, still very red, still warm. Finally got into a hospital gown, onto a gurney, wheeled in to pre-op. Every single person had to introduce themselves and ask me what was being done to me that day. I hope that is just to make sure I know what's going on and what is to be done to me and not because they aren't really certain. As I was wheeled in someone asked if I was their patient, to which the orderly pushing my gurney said, "No, you did heart surgery." I'm thankful she knew that I didn't belong to those people!

So they start me on an IV and I begin to dose off. I remember moving on to the operating table, being instructed where to place my arms, and being told they were going to start the anesthesia. I remember the surgeon saying hello to me from behind a mask. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes in a different room, on my back, with someone hovering over me that I didn't know.

Then I felt my wife's hand on my arm. Knew it was her without looking. Then being told I had to wake up. Eventually found my way home and to bed, pain pills on the way. Later discovered that I had a two and half inch incision across my back, an infected cyst (about the size of a quarter) had been removed, along with a great deal of infection.

That's why I haven't been blogging much, and may not for a few days. My wife and I had planned a get away to New Mexico beginning the 31st. If the doctor tells me I can go, we are. I'll update as I can.

Oh, yeah. Had my "exit interview" at that place at which I used to work this week. One major source of stress and frustration gone. Probably the reason I've dropped over 30 pounds in five months. And why the surgery provided the first real sleep I've had in about as long. But that's another blog entry for another time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

FBI Tries to Invade Privacy

We missed this story last week when it first appeared in USA Today. It's a chilling reminder of the power the Bush administration wants over your life.

It was a moment that librarians had been dreading.

On June 8, 2004, an FBI agent stopped at the Deming branch of the Whatcom County Library System in northwest Washington and requested a list of the people who had borrowed a biography of Osama bin Laden. We said no.


Since the passage of the Patriot Act in October 2001, the FBI has the power to go to a secret court to request library and bookstore records considered relevant to a national security investigation. It does not have to show that the people whose records are sought are suspected of any crime or explain why they are being investigated. In addition, librarians and booksellers are forbidden to reveal that they have received an order to surrender customer data.

Our government has always possessed the power to obtain library records, but that power has been subject to safeguards. The Patriot Act eliminated those safeguards and made it impossible for people to ask a judge to rule whether the government needs the information it is after. In the current debate over extending or amending the Patriot Act, one of the key questions is whether a library or any other institution can seek an independent review of an order. Even the attorney general conceded in a recent oversight hearing that this is a problem with the law as written.

Fortunately for our patrons, we were able to mount a successful challenge to what seems to have been a fishing expedition. If it had returned with an order from a secret court under the Patriot Act, the FBI might now know which residents in our part of Washington State had simply tried to learn more about bin Laden.

With a Patriot Act order in hand, I would have been forbidden to disclose even the fact that I had received it and would not have been able to tell this story.

We shouldn't have to give up our privacy in order to fight a vague notion of terrorism.

Leave My Child Alone

There's a little know provision in the "No Child Left Behind Act" that requires schools to provide children's personal information to the Pentagon so the children can be recruited into the armed forces.

From the Leave My Child Alone web site:

School districts are required under Section 9528 of the No Child Left Behind Act to release student records to military recruiters or risk losing funding, but they are also required to inform families of their Opt Out rights. Notification varies wildly across districts, and it's a bit of a crapshoot whether families know or not.

Here's how to start fixing that, and here's how we'll help you. To opt your own child out, you must submit an Opt Out letter by "snail mail" to your School District Superintendent.

Working Assets has built an online tool to help parents OPT OUT. Visit the web site for information and assistance if you want to keep the military out of your child's private information.


I probably shouldn't have enjoyed the incident so much. But I did.

Driving cross town today, I fell in behind a black, sharp-looking Cadillac CTS with Arkansas license plate "GOP4ME." Knew it had to be a Republican, right? Dealership label indicated the car was purchased in Harrison, Arkansas, a pretty conservative area (including the HQ of the KKK, not that there's a connection).

The driver zipped away from the stop light at Kings Ave. heading east on Grand, exceeding the 20mph speed limit along SMS's border. Ended up behind the driver waiting at the stop light at National, zipped away again past Rountree Elementary. Caught up with the driver waiting for the light at Fremont, zipped away again. Caught up again at the light at Glenstone.

By now a pattern had been established and little sterotypes began running through my head...expensive car, personalized license plate, obvious fondness for GOP, speeding past a school and through a residential area. I know the stereotype isn't accurate. I know I shouldn't pass judgement. But hey, it was just in my head, playing a little game while driving cross town.

Then it got really good.

The east leg of the Glenstone-Grand intersection is kind of kooky. A convenience store on the northeast corner, a liquore store on the southeast corner. Both have parking that more or less is just an extension of the street pavement. No curbs, no dips. But just past that, Grand narrows a bit and curbing begins. It doesn't pose a problem unless you're not really paying attention, or you have money to burn, or you just don't care.

The Cadillac CTS driver fits into one of those categories, but I don't know which. True to form, the Cady zipped through the Glenstone-Grand intersection and had hit probably 35 mph by the time it got to that curbing, which it hit solidly with both passenger side tires. Both tires popped with a loud hiss as the air was driven out of them, the locking hub caps went flying, and the Cady kept on driving along Grand, riding the rims. It went over the railroad tracks a bit further east before turning into the parking lot of the martial arts studio on the south side of Grand. This was more than two blocks past the point of "explosion" and may have been about the first point the driver figured out what had happened.

As I drove past I could see the driver was talking on a cell phone. Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps the cell phone call will cost a bit more than the driver anticipated, what with needing a couple new tires, possibly new rims, the tow truck charge, etc.

I probably shouldn't have enjoyed the incident so much. But I did.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Bush Quote of the Week

President Bush, speaking at the Republican National Committee Gala on Tuesday, provided a great reason why there is a problem with Social Security.

"And that's why I'm talking about Social Security. And the debate has only just begun. (Applause.) But I believe the side of reform is going to prevail, because the American people now are beginning to realize we have a serious problem when it comes to Social Security. And that problem begins with people like me."

(emphasis mine) I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh Really?

So the State Department is trying to "undo Newsweek damage" by spreading "the word abroad that America respects all religious faiths."

The United States, the cable said, "is a tolerant society in which freedom of religion for all faiths is ardently defended....
From the Los Angeles Times (10/16/03): "The Pentagon has assigned the task of tracking down and eliminating Osama bin Laden…to [Lt. General William Boykin] who sees the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan." Boykin, referring to a Muslim opponent, commented that "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol." Here we have a high-ranking American military officer - sworn to uphold the Constitutional concept of religious freedom - blatantly expressing his intolerance of non-Christians.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune (5/3/05): A task force will investigate allegations of anti-Semitism and other reports of religious intolerance at the Air Force Academy after cadets lodged dozens of complaints in internal surveys, officials said. Some cadets accused evangelical Christians of harassing both Christians and Jews. Some Jewish cadets said they were blamed for the death of Jesus. The academy, which abuts Colorado Springs, said it first learned of reports of religious intolerance during the survey of cadets and said it will cooperate with the investigation. A preliminary report on the investigation is due by May 23.


Curious New Virus

So there's a new computer virus being spread via email around the Internets. I've already received several messages from it, which confused me greatly.
Seems this virus is a bit more sophisticated than previous versions, and spreads messages of neo-nazi hate.

Once the Sober.q virus infects a computer, it sends out e-mails with links to stories that present a pro-Neo-Nazi viewpoint. A small percentage of the links send computer users to a Web site that attempts to infect the user's computer with the virus.

Vincent Gullotto of McAfee Inc.'s antivirus emergency response team told the Associated Press that the Sober.q virus has been much more successful than previous versions of the Sober virus at sending spam and infecting other computers.

The spam sent by the virus promotes articles with titles such as '60 Years of Freedom: Who's Celebrating?' in reference to the end of World War II; 'Dresden Bombing Is To Be Regretted Enormously' in reference to the bombing of the German city of Dresden during World War II. Some of the virus infected e-mails take users directly to the website of the NPD, Germany's ultra-right wing nationalist party. Other stories speak out against immigration and warn of ethnic Mafia groups. The links and articles are either in German or English.


More on Bush's Hypocrisy

Kevin Drum (Political Animal) has more evidence of hypocrisy among the Bushies over the Newsweek story.

• Newsweek's source blew it. But it was a source they had used before and they had no reason not to trust him.

• Hundreds of items similar to Newsweek's story have been published in the past year, all of them true. The torture at Abu Ghraib was far worse than this, and other reports of Koran desecration have been published in the past year as well. They inspired no riots, and there was no special reason for Newsweek to think their report would inspire any riots either.

• The Taliban stages a resurgence every spring, anti-Americanism has been on the rise for some time, and the rioters in Afghanistan are responsible for the riots in Afghanistan. The Newsweek story is clearly just a pretext, and another story would have done just as well given their obvious animosity toward America.

• Under any other circumstances, conservatives would heartily agree. The phony outrage over this is just a cynical excuse for the usual press bashing. Newsweek should buck up.

As near as I can tell, the Pentagon has demonstrated more genuine outrage over this incident than they did over months and months of disclosures of similar (and worse) actions at Abu Ghraib. It's revolting.


Pot, Meet Kettle

So the White House is in an uproar over the Newsweek error. It's also full of hypocrisy.
Let's be clear. The basic facts of the Newsweek article are not in question. In fact, the Pentagon is investigating the allegations.

Let's also be clear that last Thursday, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon that rioting in Afghanistan was related more to the on-going political reconciliation process there, than it was to a controversial note buried in the pages of Newsweek claiming that the government was investigating whether or not some nitwit interrogator at Gitmo really had desecrated a Muslim holy book.

The hypocrisy comes from Whitehouse spokesman Scott McClellan:

"It's puzzling that while Newsweek now acknowledges that they got the facts wrong, they refused to retract the story," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "I think there's a certain journalistic standard that should be met and in this instance it was not."

"The report has had serious consequences," McClellan said. "People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."

Keith Olbermann says it better than I:

Whenever I hear Scott McClellan talking about ‘media credibility,’ I strain to remember who it was who admitted Jeff Gannon to the White House press room and called on him all those times.

Whenever I hear this White House talking about ‘doing to damage to our image abroad’ and how ‘people have lost lives,’ I strain to remember who it was who went traipsing into Iraq looking for WMD that will apparently turn up just after the Holy Grail will - and at what human cost.

Read the whole thing. Then shake your head in wonder.

Friday, May 13, 2005

As We Predicted, It's Sellars

Drury University today named John Sellars as the school's 15th president. We viewed Sellars as the odds-on favorite two weeks ago when the finalists were announced. And at 3:05 a.m. today we identified him as the new president, based on a little investigative reporting. Lost Chord: We're First With the News. (ow! patting one's self on the back hurts one's arm!)

Googling the Future

John Leo's column in the May 16th issue of the U.S. News & World Report is about the future history of the news media.

The year is 2014. the press as we know it no longer exists. Traditional reporting has collapsed. News is churned out by the media giant Googlezon. (Google has taken over many companies and joined forces with Amazon.) The news consists of blogs, attitudes, discoveries, preferences, claims, and random thoughts, gathered and shaped by computers and a few human editors, then fed back to ordinary people who produce the continuing conversation. The New York Times is off the Internet. It still publishes, but the newspaper has become a newsletter read only by the elite and the elderly.

This is the finding of a clever, eight-minute mock documentary, EPIC 2014, produced by the fictional Museum of Media History (in reality, journalists Matt Thompson of the Fresno Bee and Robin Sloan of Current, a new cable news channel in San Francisco). Thompson and Sloan recently added a short section taking the history up to 2015. The mockumentary is starting to reach a mass audience at a time of unusually high anxiety for the news industry. The news business has been hobbled by a string of scandals and credibility problems. Skirmishes between reporters and bloggers seem like the beginning of a long war between old media and new. Newspaper publishers are nervous--some would say paralyzed with fright--over polls showing that young adults are not reading papers. Their audience is dying off. A lot of young people say they get their news from a brief look at headline news or from late-night comedians.

The 8-minute Flash movie is worth a view. Check it out.

Bet on John D. Sellars

As Drury's new president. Why?

He was among the finalists for the same job at SMS, has a strong record for fund-raising, and was the only male finalist for the Drury position. I don't see the univesity naming a woman as president just now, as much as I'd like them to.

However, the main reason I'm betting on Sellars is that his position as Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement st Syracuse University seems to have been filled. Thomas J. Walsh is now listed in that position on the Chancellor's Cabinet part of the Syracuse U. web site. But Walsh is listed as a vice president on the directory page of the site, where Sellars is still listed as senior vice president.

Thin evidence? Maybe. But KOLR10 learned the name of the new SMS president before it was officially announced by calling the office of each finalist to see if they would be available on the day of the announcement. Only one said no. That was Dr. Michael T. Nietzel, SMSU's ninth president.

Still, another finalist, Janet McNew, provost and dean of the faculty at Illinois Wesleyan, has announced that she will leave that position, effective July 31, 2006, following a one-year sabbatical leave. Of course, that announcement was made April 22nd, so it isn't strong evidence of a move to the Queen City of the Ozarks.

License Plates for Body Armor

We picked on the Oklahoma legislature in a previous post. We also pointed out problems with body armor issued to troops in Iraq. Now let's combine the two.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives recently passed legislation to create “Patriot Plates,” special license plates which help buy body armor for Oklahoma troops sent to Iraq.

For every $35 plate purchased, the state will donate twenty bucks to a special fund to buy bulletproof vests and other pieces of armor to keep soldiers safe.

The legislation was proposed by State Rep. Ryan Kiesel, who said he got the idea after meeting with soldiers from his district. “They were being sent to Afghanistan or Iraq with no body armor or Vietnam-era body armor.”

We don't mean to mock Oklahoma for this action, which is truly a good thing. We know of some parents who have personally bought body armor and shipping it to their sons and daughters. We also know the stories of soldiers srounging in scrap yards for homemade armor. We've even read an interview with Patrick Resta of Iraq Veterans against the War. Resta served as a combat medic in Iraq, His aunt and uncle were killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th and about three weeks later he was called to active duty as part of homeland security. He served for one year at Ft. Jackson, SC. Then, less than one year after leaving Ft. Jackson, he found out that he was being deployed to Iraq.

I wasn't surprised at all that I was sent to Iraq. What did surprise me though was how my unit and myself were sent into combat unequipped and unprepared and it didn't seem to bother anyone.

Isn’t Donald Rumsfeld's job to arm and protect America's soldiers? Isn't he ashamed other people have to pick up his slack?

Toyota Hypocrisy

Toyota has an ad running on national television which begins with a father coming home, saying hello to his wife and kids, and largely being ignored by them. The kids are absorbed with whatever drivel is playing on the television.

So the father loads the family into the Toyota Sequoia for drive into the country to observe nature. The children become fascinated by the beauty of nature. The tag line includes something about a family adventure.

What I find disgustingly stupid is the premise of taking the children away from television to ride in the family car to observe nature. The idea, in reality, is wonderful. I wish parents did this all the time. But I doubt that the children would be interested today, nor do I think the parents would think about it or put up with the whining such an action would likely induce.

Sixty-eight percent of 8 to 18-year-olds have televisions in their bedrooms, 54% DVD players, and 31% PCs, according to a recent study. I think that is ridiculous. I'm not opposed to having more than one television in a household. But I don't think children should have television in their bedroom. There's a much bigger rant that goes with that thought, but it's not directly related to this post.

The hypocrisy of Toyota is using the idea of bringing the family together to enjoy nature instead of watching television to promote an SUV which comes with a DVD entertainment system:

A family adventure awaits with the 2005 Sequoia. Loaded with features like a standard 282-hp i-FORCE V8 engine with VVT-i, comfortable seating for eight, an available rear seat DVD entertainment system and tons of versatility, quality time with the kids is now even more unforgettable.

If you want your children to enjoy nature, don't put a damn video screen in the family car for them to watch while driving through nature.

♫ Oooooh-klahoma, Where the Pols Ban Books They Think Are Gay ♫

(title courtesy SpeakSpeak News) Now that Alabama's attempt to ban gay books has failed, Oklahoma decides to try a different tack.

The Oklahoma House of Reps passed a resolution that would ban books about gay families from the children’s sections of public libraries. The resolution asks libraries to “confine homosexually themed books and other age-inappropriate material to areas exclusively for adult access and distribution.”

Resolutions are not laws, and are typically reserved for such hard-hitting action as naming the Month of May Arthritis Awareness Month, or “commending the Frontier High School Mustangs boys and girls basketball teams for winning the Class A Championship; congratulating them for being only the fifth high school to win both the boys and girls championship in the same year; and directing distribution [of the resolution to the public].”

Full story here.Now

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Drury's New President

The university plans to publicly introduce its new president at 10:30 a.m. Friday, in front of Olin Library.

(In case of rain the announcement will be made in the Harwood Reading Room on the second floor of Olin Library.)

Who will it be? Will Springfield news media investigate beforehand and break the story early? Who will have it first?

Midtown Mudhouse Closing Lobby

Few official details are available, but the word from employees is that the Midtown Mudhouse will be closing its lobby beginning Sunday, May 15th.

The lobby area will be used for the Mudhouse's roasting and internet sales operations. Evidently the Mudhouse could not resolve parking issues. The building's previous occupant, Pasta Express, had a deal with Drury University to use Drury's parking lot for the Shewmaker Communication Center next door. That meant just about anybody could park in the Shewmaker lot without fear of a ticket from Drury Security, provided one didn't register one's car with Drury.

With Drury planning to build a new business building on its parking lot on the southeast corner of Central and Drury Lane, the Shewmaker lot will soon be the only off-street parking lot on the south part of campus. Perhaps Drury was no longer willing to provide free parking to Mudhouse clientele?

On a related note, Tindle Mills has closed its store on Central across from Central High's football stadium. Drury University has expressed a desire to purchase the Tindle Mills property as part of its long-range plan. At least part of the property would be used for a parking garage. One wonders if the store closing is the first step toward building a facility?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

This Site is Certified 68% GOOD...

by the Gematriculator. Chatter, by Ron Davis, is certified 92% GOOD (ha! Knew I was more evil than him!). is 59% evil is 68%
evil! is 95%
evil! is 77% good

This is fun!

Most Boring Web Page Ever

Really. You should go visit it. You'll be amazed. Seriously. Go. Now. (which is another Moody Blues reference, for those keeping score)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

We Don't Do Body Counts, Unless We Do

"A Marine task force swept through a wide area of western Iraq near the Syrian border, killing 100 insurgents . . . American military officials said Monday." (The New York Times, Tuesday, May 10, 2004)

We don’t do body counts,” said General Tommy Franks, US Central Command (The San Francisco Chronicle March 23, 2002) in response to questions regarding the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Late News Better Than No News?

The Monday, May 9th issue of the Springfield News-Leader contained a story about a U.S. Senate bill that would limit access to information provided by the National Weather Service. A bill that was introduced April 14th.

The Palm Beach (FL) Post ran a story about the bill on April 20th. The blogosphere picked it up the next day. A Google search results in many links to editorials against the proposal shortly thereafter, but few news stories until May.

This is not end-of-world news, and there certainly have been far more important news stories to fill the pages of local daily newspapers. Perhaps this particular story didn't deserve space until a slow news day.

Still, the News-Leader's associate editorial page editor, Brian Lewis, lamented in his Sunday column about the lack of coverage of the genocides taking place in the Sudan and Darfur. He asks:

Why do we know so much about the extravagant wedding of a woman from Duluth, Ga.? And Michael Jackson?

The mainstream media (MSM) are gatekeepers. They decided what news to include in any given news cycle, and what to leave out. No news organization can possibly cover everything. I know this. I've taught this.

Yet I can't help but see hypocrisy in Lewis' column.

Protecting the Troops

The U.S. Marine Corps. has recalled thousands of defective body armor vests it issued to nearly 10,000 troops headed for Iraq.

An investigative story in The Marine Times provides details:

The Marine Corps issued to nearly 10,000 troops body armor that government experts urged the Corps to reject after tests revealed critical, life-threatening flaws in the vests.

In all, the Marine Corps accepted about 19,000 Interceptor outer tactical vests from Point Blank Body Armor Inc. that failed government tests due to “multiple complete penetrations” of 9mm pistol rounds, failing scores on other ballistic or quality-assurance tests, or a combination of the two.


But according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and interviews with officials at Natick, the Marine Corps and Point Blank, the service rejected that advice. Instead, the Marine program manager responsible for fielding the vests, Lt. Col. Gabriel Patricio, and Point Blank’s chief operating officer, Sandra Hatfield signed waivers that allowed the Corps to buy and distribute vests that failed to meet the Corps’ minimum standards and specifications.

Faced with the imminent publication of this story, the result of an eight-month investigation by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps on May 4 issued a Corpswide message recalling 5,277 Interceptor vests from 11 lots that failed government ballistic performance tests — slightly more than half the total vests issued to Marines from questionable lots.

The Corps has not said what it intends to do with the more than 4,000 other vests the testers urged to be rejected that are now being worn by Marines. Nor has it said what it will do with the remaining 10,000 that it accepted over the objections of the test labs but which haven’t been fielded.

Despite signed waivers acknowledging that the vests were substandard, the Marine Corps questioned the accuracy of the government test results all along. The Corps pulled samples from some of the challenged lots and had them tested at a private, commercial lab.

Patricio and other officials with Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Va., said the second tests show that the vests meet safety standards and do not put Marines at increased risk of injury.

“I did not ignore warnings or advice from my staff. I simply looked at all the factors involved as the program manager and made the decision that I needed to make based on all the information that I had,” Patricio said in a May 3 telephone interview. “The decision was mine and within my immediate authority as program manager” to waiver and accept the rejected vests. Patricio recently retired from the Corps and now works as an independent acquisitions consultant.

While each vest has a unique serial number on it, Point Blank would not provide a list of serial numbers from the lots Natick said should be rejected. Point Blank said that information was “proprietary.”

Blame is being placed on the tight schedule to get body armor to troops about to go to Iraq. Field commanders weren't told of the waivers.

The waivers came at a time when U.S. forces were facing increased risk from roadside bombs, ambushes and intense urban combat. The military rushed to field the Interceptor armor to all its troops, not just those typically involved in close combat, pushing the vests to the field as quickly as they were produced.

But Donald Rumsfeld says you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want. Or something like that. And the death toll is now over 1,600.

The Correction and Salvation of Children

I'm not a parent. Nor do I attend church regularly. And this is one of the reasons.

Ronald E. Williams of Believers Baptist Church (508 School St., Winona Lake, IN 46590 (219) 269-2376) relishes in beating his, and others', children:

Many parents today are in a position where they Biblically hate their children because they are not acting against their natural feelings and disciplining themselves towards the Godly habit-pattern of consistent correction.


The other aspect of this word "correction" is training through physical scourging or chastening.


One thing is certain, correction with the rod should and must start very early. In fact, correction with the rod should start much earlier than our contemporary godless and irresponsible society believes is normative.


In my position as the director of a rehabilitation ministry for troubled teenage girls, I receive phone calls daily from desperate parents all across the United States. They have children for whom all hope seems to be gone because they did not start the use of the rod of correction while there was hope as the Scriptures mandated. I do not mean to discourage parents with older teenagers, who have suddenly been exposed to God's inspired instructions in this matter. As long as you have a child under your authority and your home where you can directly supervise and correct him, there still is hope that you may turn that child from his wicked ways and break his will. You may still teach him to submit to authority in his life.

A good illustration of this hope is found in the case of a mother who called me from a distant state about her troubled teenage daughter. This teenager had gotten into such continual mischief and wickedness that the desperate mother went to the local hardware store and purchased a lock and chain with which to lock the girl to her body. This unorthodox measure kept the girl in her home at night but fell far short of Scriptural methodology in changing the heart! I explained to the mother that we did not have room to receive the girl at the time because our beds were filled. However, I mentioned that I could give her a possible answer for her predicament. I also said, "But I doubt that you will follow through." The mother, hearing that there might be a solution to her crisis, desperately implored, "Yes, I will take your counsel. What is your solution?" I then proceeded to explain that the mother should get a stick that would not break and get after that daughter until the daughter asked for peace in their relationship. The mother hesitated in silence for a time on that long distance telephone call, and then seemingly made a firm commitment before me and the Lord that she would do so. She answered, "Alright, I will!" I then forgot about the mother and her call inasmuch as we receive several calls like this daily.

Three weeks later, I received a phone call from this same mother. I had forgotten who she was and was reminded of her identity only when she reminded me of the lock and chain she had purchased to secure her daughter. I remembered who she was at that point since that was a unique method of restraining the girl. I asked, "Well, what has happened since our last conversation?" The mother replied that she had taken my advice to secure a large stick that would not break, and to quote the mother, "I wore off her behind!" I chuckled at the mother's response and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story. She went on to explain that she was simply amazed and dumbfounded at her daughter's change of heart following the severe thrashing that the mother gave her. It seems that the daughter, for the first time in sixteen years, chose to obey her mother when she realized that the mother was unflinchingly determined to break the girl's will and to settle for nothing less than complete obedience. The mother then said, "And it has lasted for three weeks! But I think she needs it again this week." This dramatic illustration of how one mother solved the problem of breaking the will of her daughter points up how God's methods really can and do work. But a parent must be fully purposed and determined in his heart that he will obey God no matter what the consequences.

Of course, this "man of God" knows the beatings he advocates may be frowned upon by the authorities. Therefore, he encourages parents to beat their children in the privacy of their own home:

Christian parents must be very wise today in how they carry out Godly correction. I would encourage you to be vigorous and consistent in the application of these procedures in the privacy of your home. I cannot completely tell you the grief I have shared with so many parents who have telephoned me and asked me in tears to somehow help their daughter. They have asked to get their daughter back from the welfare authorities or other bureaucrats. You see, many parents who have educated their child with the rod of correction in order to make them do right have found out in shocked disbelief that even the authorities of our local and state governments are against the implementation of this Godly method of training a child. Countless parents could give you vivid testimony of how various authorities have come to their door and have taken away their children because the parents were observed correcting their child with the rod of correction as God ordered them to do. You must correct your child in the privacy of your home so that the fruit of your training will be so indelibly fixed on the child's heart that you will not have to use the rod of correction in a public setting and expose your family to this very real risk in today's permissive lawless society.

Read the entire directive, if you can stomach it. And then, if you have children, please hug them. Then hug them for me.

Then go read about about a special kid with a special (and sane) dad.

I Feel Better

The odds of dying from riding a streetcar in 2002 were 1 in 71,985,305. The odds of dying from contact with hot tap-water in 2002 were 1 in 7,198,531.

My wife will like this one. The odds of dying from exposure to electric current in 2002 were 1 in 894,227. For more fun death statistics, check out this page put together by the National Safety Council.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Recovering Baptist

I'm a recovering Baptist, due in part to items like this. East Waynesville Baptist Church has just kicked out all its Democratic members.
From the Ashville, N.C. Citizen-Times:

WAYNESVILLE – Nine members of a local church had their membership revoked and 40 others left in protest after tension over political views recently came to a head, church members say.

Some members of East Waynesville Baptist Church voted the nine members out at a recent scheduled deacon meeting, which turned into an impromptu business meeting, according to congregants.

Chan Chandler, pastor of East Waynesville, had been exhorting his congregation since October to support his political views or leave the church, said Selma Morris, a 30-year member of the church.

“He preached a sermon on abortion and homosexuality, then said if anyone there was planning on voting for John Kerry, they should leave,” she said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard something like that. Ministers are supposed to bring people in.”

Repeated phone calls to Chandler today have gone unanswered and he was not available at the church or his home to comment on the allegations.

It's not clear whether the church's tax-exempt status could be jeopardized if the claims about Chandler are true.

So do we now have a full scale war lanched against liberals? Is this evidence of the radical right's promise to "eradicate liberals"?

Frankly, if a group wants to kick out some of its members, that seems OK to me. However, that group should not be referred to as a church, nor should it receive benefits (tax or otherwise) of being a church. There are many churches I do not wish to associate with, but it has nothing to do with for whom I or members of that church vote. It's because I disagree with their belief system, but not their right to have said system.

The above doesn't fit into this view. I hope the IRS investigates and acts appropriately. But I won't hold my breath.

Pardon me while I LMAO

LadyGrey at applecidercheesefudge links to this article about mingling human cells with those of lesser beings.

What caught my funny bone was LadyGrey's comment in response to what has scientists worried:

"Particularly worrisome to some scientists are the nightmare scenarios that could arise from the mixing of brain cells: What if a human mind somehow got trapped inside a sheep's head?"

I admit, I couldn't make it through that last paragraph without snickering. OMG! What if, like, you were trapped in the brain of a sheep! And, like, couldn't get out!

Stop. Think about that for a moment. Let the imagery fill your head. Damn, I wish I could draw!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Freedom of the Press, Iraq Version

A cornerstone of American democracy is freedom of expression, and consequently, the press. One might think such a "value" would be included in the democracy we're helping build in Iraq. One might be wrong.

One thing that had been better for Iraqis since Saddam's fall is freedom of the press. If you could avoid getting shot, ambushed or car-bombed, generally you could write or say whatever you wished. That seems to have changed. Mohammed al Dulaimy of Knight Ridder Newspapers has details:

A photographer for a Baghdad newspaper says Iraqi police beat and detained him for snapping pictures of long lines at gas stations. A reporter for another local paper received an invitation from Iraqi police to cover their graduation ceremony and ended up receiving death threats from the recruits. A local TV reporter says she's lost count of how many times Iraqi authorities have confiscated her cameras and smashed her tapes.

All these cases are under investigation by the Iraqi Association to Defend Journalists, a union that formed amid a chilling new trend of alleged arrests, beatings and intimidation of Iraqi reporters at the hands of Iraqi security forces. Reporters Without Borders, an international watchdog group for press freedom, tracked the arrests of five Iraqi journalists within a two-week period and issued a statement on April 26 asking authorities "to be more discerning and restrained and not carry out hasty and arbitrary arrests."

While Iraq's newly elected government says it will look into complaints of press intimidation, local reporters said they've seen little progress since reporting the incidents. Some have quit their jobs after receiving threats - not from insurgents, but from police. Most Iraqi reporters are reluctant to even identify themselves as press when stopped at police checkpoints. Others say they won't report on events that involve Iraqi security forces, which creates a big gap in their local news coverage.

"Big gap in news coverage" is certainly something America's mainstream media understands. But then, freedom of the press in Iraq has been a bit bothersome for quite some time, as noted here, and here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

John Conyers Gets It Right

You may have heard about the London Times story regarding a secret U.S.-UK agreement to attack Iraq months before the new product was even rolled out. Then again, you may have not.

Despite widespread reporting in the blogosphere, few newspapers or news networks bothered to even mention the report over the weekend. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) says he is disappointed the mainstream media has not touched the revelations.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media in the United States was too busy with wall-to-wall coverage of a "runaway bride" to cover a bombshell report out of the British newspapers," Conyers writes. "The London Times reports that the British government and the United States government had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in 2002, before authorization was sought for such an attack in Congress, and had discussed creating pretextual justifications for doing so.

The Times reports, based on a newly discovered document, that in 2002 British Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a meeting in which he expressed his support for "regime change" through the use of force in Iraq and was warned by the nation's top lawyer that such an action would be illegal. Blair also discussed the need for America to "create" conditions to justify the war.

Conyers says he is seeking an inquiry.

This should not be allowed to fall down the memory hole during wall-to-wall coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and a runaway bride," he remarks. "To prevent that from occuring, I am circulating the following letter among my House colleagues and asking them to sign on to it.

Conyers letter is available through Raw Story.

Secret File Not So Secret

Perhaps someone should explain to the Pentagon how to correctly create redacted PDF documents so that they can't be unredacted.

In March, U.S. troops in Iraq shot to death Nicola Calipari, the Italian intelligence agent that rescued the kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena. The U.S. commission on the incident produced a report, releasing a redacted version to the public as a PDF file. However, the commission failed to properly secure the PDF file so that all confidential information in the report is available just by copying "hidden" text from the PDF and pasting it to a word processor.

The uncensored report can now be directly downloaded as a Word document here. (

Ball Magnet, Part 2

Wife and I saw our first Springfield Cardinals game, from a skybox, no less.

On Saturday, we were guests of the dean of the SMSU libraries who received tickets via the SMSU Foundation, which leases a skybox with KTXR. The view was good, the company excellent, and the ballgame...well, not bad. Cards lost in a game full of errors.

I previously wrote about our adventures at Hammons Field and the attraction foul balls had for us. This time we weren't hit with any foul balls, although a couple came pretty close. I think it was the extra elevation, which we unfortunately won't get to enjoy again for some time. One foul struck the press box area right above us, fell just past our seats into the lower deck. I might have been able to catch it if I tried, but I figured I'd more likely fall over the rail. Besides, we're bound to get hit with another foul ball when we return to the lower seats!

Also got our first look at the video screen. It's nice, but isn't as viewable with the sun still kind of low in the sky. Night games are probably better. There also seemed to be a sync problem, creating quite a bit of flicker. That bug will be worked out, I'm sure.

One note to the folks at Opfer Communications (who operate the board), keep in mind that small text may work while watching TV at home, but not in a stadium when you're sitting some 400+ feet away, even on this screen. A spot that ran before the game began ended with some quite small text. Impossible to tell what the message was.