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October 16th, 2002:

A solution to that nasty Iraq issue

Numerous people have joked about how Saddam Hussein’s campaign song, which is apparently getting a lot of airplay in Baghdad these days, is Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. However, so far no one has seen that this is the key to the whole regime change thing. It’s simple, really: Tell the RIAA that Saddam is using a pirated copy of the song, which he’s got stored on a peer-to-peer file sharing server, and for which he’s paying zero royalties, then sit back and let their lawyers take care of it.

On second thought, an invasion might be the more humane thing to do.

The link love that dare not speak its name

I use this link to read TAPped on the American Prospect‘s web page. They have a “work in progress” blogroll down at the bottom which contains all of four links.

Today I stumbled across this alternate link to TAPped in my referral log. I’m not sure if this Movable Type-powered version of TAPped was an abortive one day experiment or a migration in process that may explain their recent four day absence, but I was nonetheless chuffed to see that the sidebar links included me. That’s some pretty nice company to be in, and I sure got plenty of traffic from the last time they cited me, so naturally I hope this is the TAPped of the future. Anyone from the Prospect care to comment on this?

Quiz time

Who said the following?

“If you’re going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you do with it. It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?”

Answer and citation under the More link.

(more…)

The homestretch

Coming into the final weeks of the campaign, John Cornyn has a lot more cash on hand than Ron Kirk does. I’m sure he’ll get money from the national party, but you can help, too, if you want.

We don’t need your federal dollars, thanks

It’s stories like this one that make you want to pull your hair out. Texas, like all states, gets federal money to help pay for health care for uninsured children (Children’s Health Insurance Program, called CHIP). This year, Texas is returning $285 million because it can’t use it. This would be great if it were because all of the uninsured children have had their needs met, but it’s not. It’s because Texas can’t afford to kick in its matching share because there are so many uninsured kids in our great state.

Federal data show Texas may have nearly 2 million uninsured children. Add adults, and nearly a quarter of the state’s population is without health coverage.

Those families tend toward emergency-room care that hospitals often have to subsidize, or they go to clinics supported by charitable donations and state taxes.

State Democrats and child advocacy groups say Texas Republicans are unwilling to use the SCHIP program to its fullest potential — a charge [state CHIP director Jason] Cooke called unfair. Currently, 508,000 children are enrolled, he said.

“Can we do better?” Cooke asked rhetorically. “We can always do better. But the fact of the matter is we’ve been out there enrolling kids very aggressively. And I think it’s debatable as to whether we could use all that $285 million by enrolling more kids.”

He said Texas shouldn’t use the SCHIP funding because it was rolled over from the program’s earlier years, before Texas had its program up and running. The state Legislature was out of session when Congress created SCHIP in 1997.

To spend all of the money now would temporarily drive up enrollment. Meanwhile, the state’s inability to use the federal funds has triggered a reduction in its share to $302 million for 2002 to 2004 — a $200 million annual cut.

“If you’re planning a budget and you know your income’s going to be lower, you don’t take on commitments you can’t meet,” Cooke said.

OK, so we’ve got about 20% of uninsured kids enrolled. Guess that “aggressive” signup program could use a bit of assertiveness training. And we really can’t go after all those uninsured kids because we have a big budget shortfall. Too bad back in 1997-98 when we were swimming in money we didn’t try to come up with a way to fund this. We had more important things to pay for, namely a tax cut.

We can debate the merits of CHIP and budget priorities all day, but the bottom line is that we’re paying for uninsured kids one way or another. Using the emergency room as the family doctor has got to be the least efficient way of paying for health care imaginable, so we’re paying more for these kids than we should be. Of course, once it’s a line item in a budget it becomes a target. How much better it is to diffuse the cost in a million hidden ways so no one really knows how big a bite is coming out of their own asses.

Thunder Ranch

An interesting article in today’s Chron about the Thunder Ranch, a high-end firearms training facility in West Texas that has been very popular with law enforcement groups.

Heidi Smith, wife of Thunder Ranch President Clint Smith, said she has been flooded with media requests seeking interviews with her husband for insights into the sniper subculture. She declined a request from the Houston Chronicle for an interview and tour of the facility.

But she did say the complex, about 96 miles west of San Antonio near Mountain Home, has had no contact with Maryland authorities about the shootings, in which nine people have been killed and two wounded since Oct. 2.

“Our only comment at this time is that anybody that we do (train) here has proof of no criminal background. We do not want to say anything, do anything until this is all over,” she said. “Until this is over and they capture this excuse for a human, we really don’t want to contribute to anything or say anything that would hinder the police in what they’re trying to do there.”

Clint Smith has trained snipers for police departments, and some of them have returned as part-time instructors. One course at Thunder Ranch teaches students in precision rifle shooting, hitting a target at up to 1,000 yards.

“Snipers are kind of like the Air Force. They stand off a little bit, they get to hit stuff. They don’t really kind of have to get dirty, and I don’t mean that ugly. But there is a detachment from it a little bit,” Smith said in a 60 Minutes II interview last year.

In the lexicon of snipers, Smith described the sniper target as a computer shielded inside a helmet that is constantly moving. He was referring to the human head of a hostage-taker with the computer being the brain and the helmet being the skull.

Take a moment to read these two articles about carrying concealed weapons from the Thunder Ranch web page. I personally would feel a lot more comfortable about the whole idea off CCW permits if I knew that everyone who had one had also undergone training like this