Kats (wildrider) wrote,

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In which I couldn't leave well enough alone

I had to keep taking this test until I got the score I wanted:

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
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The final stumper? And I still call myself Catholic... more or less... (and I never said I was a GOOD Catholic, but my characters should have known that one for me.)

Today has been a very lazy day. There is fresh breadstick dough rising in the kitchen, I've done the vacuuming, and the living room is habitable for a change. I haven't finished my studying (I'm taking an insurance course for work - makes my yearly review look good), and there's a Mythbusters marathon on. I spent all my remaining money yesterday at the grocery store, but we got things we needed (although we got the most expensive apples - Honeycrisp - because they are also the yummiest), and ribs for dinner last night, which I rubbed with a dry rub and cooked slow in the oven instead of firing up the grill. We had them with a crispy fresh salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, snap peas and red & gold peppers) and promptly forgot to slice some of the yummy apples to eat with them. D'oh. rahirah found some absolutely delicious organic Italian dressing that goes very well with the cucumber salad. Still working on finishing off all the gingerbread - my goodness, that recipe makes a LOT of gingerbread!

This evening will be leftover ribs with my breadsticks, and potatoes with the gravy I just HAD to make from the rib drippings (they were too lovely not to use).

Things I REALLY need to do around the house: re-grout the bathroom shower, as there are pieces of grout actually missing - this isn't good.

Clean out the bedroom, pull up the old carpeting, lay the newly-cleaned rug, and put everything back (this is going to take some work).

I'm sure there's more long-term projects needed, but I can't remember what they are.

Op-Ed Columnist

Punished for Being Female

Published: November 2, 2006

Bride burnings, honor killings, female infanticide, sex trafficking, mass rape as a weapon of war and many other hideous forms of violence against women are documented in a report released last month by the United Nations.

The report, a compilation of many studies from around the world, should have been seen as the latest dispatch from that permanent world war — the war against women all over the planet. Instead, the news media greeted its shocking contents with a collective yawn.

The war analogy is not an overstatement. In many parts of the world, men beat, torture, rape and kill women with impunity. In Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city on the Texas border, 300 to 400 women have been murdered over the past several years. Many were raped and mutilated. The widespread belief that punishment for these crimes was unlikely was a “key factor” in their occurrence, the report said.

Each year thousands of wives in India are murdered and maimed — many of them doused with kerosene and set ablaze — by husbands dissatisfied by the size of their dowries or angry about their wives’ behavior. In Ethiopia, the abduction and rape of young girls is a commonplace way to obtain a bride. In many instances the parents agree to the marriage, believing that the raped child is no longer fit to marry anyone else.

In Pakistan, a woman cannot legally prove that she was raped unless four “virtuous” Muslim men testify that they witnessed the attack. Without those four witnesses, the woman herself is vulnerable to prosecution for fornication or adultery.

While it’s undoubtedly true that men maim and kill other men in astonishing numbers, what I’m talking about here is the way that women, by the millions, are systematically targeted for attack because they are women.

In some cases the sexual violence comes in vast, sickening waves. Just think, for example, of Darfur, Congo, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia. As the report noted, “The incidence of violence against women in armed conflict, particularly sexual violence, including rape, has been increasingly acknowledged and documented.”

More than 130 million girls and women are living with the consequences of genital mutilation, and many others have died from this barbaric practice. Jessica Neuwirth, the president of Equality Now, an international women’s rights organization, said, “Everyone who’s been cut knows someone who died from the cutting. They die from bleeding, or later from infection, or sometime later in life they have enormous health problems.”

The litany of serious abuses against women and girls can seem endless: child marriages, forced marriages, kidnapping and forced prostitution, sex slavery. According to the U.N. report, “A study in India estimated that prenatal sex selection and infanticide have accounted for half a million missing girls per year for the past two decades.”

The most common form of serious abuse against women and girls around the globe is violence by intimate partners. Huge percentages of female murder victims, even in such developed countries as Australia, Canada, Israel and the United States, are killed by current or former husbands or boyfriends.

A study of young, female murder victims in the U.S. found that homicide was the second leading cause of death for girls 15 to 18, and that 78 percent of all the homicide victims in the study had been killed by an acquaintance or intimate partner.

The U.N. report tells us what we should already have concluded: that this pervasive violence against women, “whether perpetrated by the state and its agents, or by family members or strangers, in the public or private sphere, in peacetime or in times of conflict,” is unacceptable.

Not only are we not doing enough to counter this wholesale destruction of the lives of so many women and girls, we’re not even paying close attention. There are women’s movements in even the smallest countries fighting against the violence and other forms of abuse. But they are underfunded and get very little support from those in a position to help. (Even in Afghanistan under the Taliban there were women who ran underground schools, and girls who risked their lives to go to them.)

There was a time when activists cried out for our consciousness to be raised. It’s not too late. We can start by recognizing that the systematic subordination and brutalization of women and girls around the world is, in fact, occurring — and that we need to do something about it.


Op-Ed Columnist

As Bechtel Goes

Published: November 3, 2006

Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission — to rebuild power, water and sewage plants — wasn’t accomplished: Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq’s population lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3 billion of taxpayers’ money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to the end of its last government contract.

As Bechtel goes, so goes the whole reconstruction effort. Whatever our leaders may say about their determination to stay the course complete the mission, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq they’ve already cut and run. The $21 billion allocated for reconstruction over the last three years has been spent, much of it on security rather than its intended purpose, and there’s no more money in the pipeline.

The failure of reconstruction in Iraq raises three questions. First, how much did that failure contribute to the overall failure of the war? Second, how was it that America, the great can-do nation, in this case couldn’t and didn’t? Finally, if we’ve given up on rebuilding Iraq, what are our troops dying for?

There’s no definitive way to answer the first question. You can make a good case that the invasion of Iraq was doomed no matter what, because we never had enough military manpower to provide security. But the lack of electricity and clean water did a lot to dissipate any initial good will the Iraqis may have felt toward the occupation. And Iraqis are well aware that the billions squandered by American contractors included a lot of Iraqi oil revenue as well as U.S. taxpayers’ dollars.

Consider the symbolism of Iraq’s new police academy, which Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has called “the most essential civil security project in the country.” It was built at a cost of $75 million by Parsons Corporation, which received a total of about $1 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects. But the academy was so badly built that feces and urine leak from the ceilings in the student barracks.

Think about it. We want the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. But if they do stand up, we’ll dump excrement on their heads.

As for how this could have happened, that’s easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability. Halliburton and other companies with huge Iraq contracts were basically in the same position as Donald Rumsfeld: they were so closely identified with President Bush and, especially, Vice President Cheney that firing or even disciplining them would have been seen as an admission of personal failure on the part of top elected officials.

As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Administration officials have made repeated backdoor efforts to close the office of Mr. Bowen, whose job is to oversee the use of reconstruction money. Just this past May, with the failed reconstruction already winding down, the White House arranged for the last $1.5 billion of reconstruction money to be placed outside Mr. Bowen’s jurisdiction. And now, finally, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of his agency next October.

The bottom line is that those charged with rebuilding Iraq had no incentive to do the job right, so they didn’t.

You can see, by the way, why a Democratic takeover of the House, if it happens next week, would be such a pivotal event: suddenly, committee chairmen with subpoena power would be in a position to investigate where all the Iraq money went.

But that’s all in the past. What about the future?

Back in June, after a photo-op trip to Iraq, Mr. Bush said something I agree with. “You can measure progress in megawatts of electricity delivered,” he declared. “You can measure progress in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people.” But what those measures actually show is the absence of progress. By any material measure, Iraqis are worse off than they were under Saddam.

And we’re not planning to do anything about it: the U.S.-led reconstruction effort in Iraq is basically over. I don’t know whether the administration is afraid to ask U.S. voters for more money, or simply considers the situation hopeless. Either way, the United States has accepted defeat on reconstruction.

Yet Americans are still fighting and dying in Iraq. For what?


Op-Ed Columnist
Insulting Our Troops, and Our Intelligence

Published: November 3, 2006

George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do.

They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.

They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to the U.S. military than to send it into combat in Iraq without enough men — to launch an invasion of a foreign country not by the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force, but by the Rumsfeld Doctrine of just enough troops to lose? What could be a bigger insult than that?

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than sending them off to war without the proper equipment, so that some soldiers in the field were left to buy their own body armor and to retrofit their own jeeps with scrap metal so that roadside bombs in Iraq would only maim them for life and not kill them? And what could be more injurious and insulting than Don Rumsfeld’s response to criticism that he sent our troops off in haste and unprepared: Hey, you go to war with the army you’ve got — get over it.

What could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in uniform than to send them off to war in Iraq without any coherent postwar plan for political reconstruction there, so that the U.S. military has had to assume not only security responsibilities for all of Iraq but the political rebuilding as well? The Bush team has created a veritable library of military histories — from “Cobra II” to “Fiasco” to “State of Denial” — all of which contain the same damning conclusion offered by the very soldiers and officers who fought this war: This administration never had a plan for the morning after, and we’ve been making it up — and paying the price — ever since.

And what could possibly be more injurious and insulting to our men and women in Iraq than to send them off to war and then go out and finance the very people they’re fighting against with our gluttonous consumption of oil? Sure, George Bush told us we’re addicted to oil, but he has not done one single significant thing — demanded higher mileage standards from Detroit, imposed a gasoline tax or even used the bully pulpit of the White House to drive conservation — to end that addiction. So we continue to finance the U.S. military with our tax dollars, while we finance Iran, Syria, Wahhabi mosques and Al Qaeda madrassas with our energy purchases.

Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century — to bring out the best in us. His “genius” is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.

And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country’s health, prove him wrong this time.

Let Karl know that you’re not stupid. Let him know that you know that the most patriotic thing to do in this election is to vote against an administration that has — through sheer incompetence — brought us to a point in Iraq that was not inevitable but is now unwinnable.

Let Karl know that you think this is a critical election, because you know as a citizen that if the Bush team can behave with the level of deadly incompetence it has exhibited in Iraq — and then get away with it by holding on to the House and the Senate — it means our country has become a banana republic. It means our democracy is in tatters because it is so gerrymandered, so polluted by money, and so divided by professional political hacks that we can no longer hold the ruling party to account.

It means we’re as stupid as Karl thinks we are.

I, for one, don’t think we’re that stupid. Next Tuesday we’ll see.

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