Wednesday, October 31, 2007

'Some US Diplomats Angry Over Iraq Posts'

An AP report tells of a heated meeting over forced posts in Iraq for foreign service officers. Seems not enough people are volunteering for posts inside the Green Zone and out in the provinces.

Oh yeah? I'd have never guessed.

In a report so full of pullable quotations I was having a hard time choosing, one came flying out at me, stronger than the rest. Consider this exchange between Foreign Service Director General Harry Thomas and a diplomat who served in Basra:

Other diplomats at the meeting did not object to the idea of directed assignments but questioned why the State Department had been slow to respond to the medical needs of those who had served in dangerous posts.

"I would just urge you, now that now we are looking at compulsory service in a war zone, that we have a moral imperative as an agency to take care of people who ... come back with war wounds," said Rachel Schnelling, a diplomat who served in Basra, Iraq and said the department had been unresponsive to requests for mental heath care.

"I asked for treatment and I didn't get any of it," she said in comments greeted with a standing ovation.

Thomas, who has been in his current job for just a few months, said the department was working on improving its response to stress-related disorders that "we did not anticipate."
Did not anticipate? Did not anticipate. Let that soak into your brain for a few minutes.

Is it in your head now? Good. Now share this article with people and encourage others to marvel at who has been placed in charge of American lives in this country - and I mean that beyond just the military aspects.

For background:

More than 1,200 of the department's 11,500 Foreign Service officers have served in Iraq since 2003, but the generous incentives have not persuaded enough diplomats to volunteer for duty in Baghdad or with the State Department's provincial reconstruction teams.

The move to directed assignments is rare but not unprecedented.

In 1969, an entire class of entry-level diplomats was sent to Vietnam. On a smaller scale, diplomats were required to work at various embassies in West Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
Entry-level. Awesome, right? What a wonderful connection we share with the Vietnam generation now. We dodged the draft, sure, just as we've dodged any requests to sacrifice a thing as this war continues. Pay no attention to that war behind the curtain.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Is The Saddest News. Ever.

Clam, 405, is oldest animal ever

They named him Ming, for the dynasty during which he was born. He was collected by scientists. Of course, Ming is dead now.

One scientist said Ming had the "most boring life."

Still. 405 years. Over.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A: No.

The LA Times asks: Colbert vs. Stewart: Has the student surpassed the master?

Colbert is cute and new and stuff - kinda. But he needs some better, more even writing (perhaps he should Shah-up his staff. I'm just saying . . . .). He's cool. But Stewart takes the cake in the most important area: relevance.

Verdict: Stewart.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Okay Alanis, THIS Is Irony

Don't you think?

2003: Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected when state voters recall Governor Gray Davis, an historic event partly motivated (or at least sold by) the increase in vehicle licensing fees triggered by a state deficit.

2007: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger caps a "disappointing regular legislative year by signing into law a bill that increases the vehicle licensing fee.

So let's review: 2003, the VLF increases automatically by function of law. Governor gets bounced from office for being there when the math worked out badly for him on his shift. And now, in 2007, the VLF increases as a result of direct action by the new Governor. How awesome is that? Aren't you just awed by its awesome awesomeness. Doesn't it just tickle all of your political funny bones?

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Problem With Realizing The American Dream

The Roundup excerpts from a Merc article (I'm too lazy to remember my log-in or re-register today) about Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez getting "pummeled" this week over how he uses his campaign accounts. His sin? Traveling a bunch on not-the-state's-dime.

Oh dear. Let me raise my hackles. Nope, they aren't going up.

But what's the real sin here? That his "lavish spending contradict[s] the image he cultivated over the years as a champion for the working poor."

Does it really? Damn, I thought he was a role model for the working poor. And Pitzer grads. I see no contradiction in working to achieve a powerful position and then benefiting from the expanded world view to which one can be exposed in that position - if one takes advantage of those opportunities. And Núñez frames it best: 'I think the fundamental question here is, should I use campaign funds for trade missions and educational missions, or should I be using government money, or should I be using non-profit entities that sponsor trips like these?'

It's campaign funds he's using. Let's be clear about that. This is money other people just give him. Under the law, it's given with no strings attached. If donors don't like what he does with it, they can stop donating. If he were using taxpayer money, perhaps the bitching and moaning would be warranted. If sketchy outfits were sponsoring his travel, that would be, uh, sketchy.

It's the great American paradox, isn't it? We've got so many Americans living in or dangerously near poverty (a level that is laughably rigged to decrease the number of people who technically meet the requirement, while hiding others who need help badly), yet true tax reform probably won't happen because everyone believes they'll make the $800k or so per year needed to trigger the scary-scary tax consequences about which the rich howl. Hell, I want to make that much. I probably won't. But once someone makes money, makes a name, puts themselves in a better position than his parents - boom! - he's an out of touch richie who must be of lesser character for no longer living the hardknocks life we're all supposed to work our way out of. Clear? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Anyway - give the guy a break. He's one of the most effective politicians this state has seen in a LONG time. Don't beat him up because it's an otherwise slow news week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fed Version Of Match Game Halted

Federal judge blocks crackdown on illegal immigrants' employers:

Among other things, he said, immigration officials "did not supply a reasoned analysis" for their decision to reverse a decade-old government policy of not prosecuting employers on the basis of a discrepancy in a worker's Social Security number.
What? They couldn't write down "because the fear of illegals stealing our jobs helps deflect attention from our gross negligence in managing this countries affairs while we've been off ruining things in the Middle East and this move to punish employers for helping illegals steal our jobs is a nice way to make it look like we are being productive?"

Shocking that they couldn't provide a reasoned analysis. Shocking.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Best Comment About The Changing SF-tude About The Homeless

From the Chron:

"Maybe there has been an epiphany," says David Latterman, president of Fall Line Analytics, a local market research firm. "People have realized they can hate George Bush but still not want people crapping in their doorway."