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10/30/2003 Archived Entry: "The magic trick, she is solved!"

*blush*...it is always the simple tricks that *get* me. Translation: thanks to all who wrote in to explain the _very_ obvious ploy used by the card trick after which my last blog inquired. Gordon P. offered the most detailed explanation. He wrote, "The magic trick works by exploiting a human perceptual flaw called 'selective attention to detail': One is so busy looking for the card one picked that one does not notice that _none_ of the cards being shown were in the original pile --- so no matter _which_ card one picks, it won't be there !!! (And yes, I _did_ have to try it several times, and was quite puzzled until I decided to write down the list of cards, and caught on to the trick...) P.S. --- The trick also exploits another human mental limitation: The initial number of cards is seven, which is larger than the number
of items most people can keep in their short-term memory..." Lee K. adds, "By telling you to focus on the one card you selected, and by choosing similar-looking cards for the 4, it tries to make you forget the other cards."

Cartoons for today: Matt Davies' "Operation Form Letter" which takes a painful look at the co-ordinated, identical letters-to-editors that were "personally" written by troops in Iraq; Mike Luckovich's "Another AWOL" which comments in combination on the emerging reports of troops going AWOL and Rumsfeld's current woes; Lalo Alcaraz's "Fidel Bush" (no explanation required); and, Ann Telnaes' "Wrapped in the Flag" which blasts the black-out media policy imposed on military bases that keeps them from showing dead soldiers being shipped home.

Now, onto political commentary -- Talent On Loan From Rush Limbaugh!...

Two U.S. soldiers were reportedly killed in Iraq two days ago, "taking the combat death toll among U.S. troops in Iraq since the war higher than the wartime total." (Of course, Iraqi casualties are never widely reported by the American media. According to the UK Guardian, "As many as 15,000 Iraqis were killed in the *first* days of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq...Up to 4,300 of the dead were civilian noncombatants. And that number reflects only the first days.) "Bring 'em on" Bush sees nothing but cause for optimism in the rising death toll. The Washington Post (10/28/03) reports, "President Bush yesterday put the best face on a new surge of violence in Iraq as his top defense aides huddled to discuss additional ways of thwarting the anti-American rebellion there before it becomes more widespread. The president, speaking after attacks on police stations and a Red Cross facility in Iraq killed at least 35 people, said such attacks should be seen as a sign of progress ..." Apparently, the US *really* has the terrorists worried and on-the-run or else they wouldn't be hitting back so desperately. And, if the slant of the Bush reaction changes 180 degrees in the next few weeks, the White House has that contingency covered. As the Australian newspaper The Age explains, "The White House website effectively prevents search engines indexing and archiving material on the site related to Iraq. The directories on a site which can be searched by the bots sent out by search engines can be limited by means of a file called robots.txt, which resides in the root directory of a site. Adding a directory to robots.txt ensures that nothing in that folder will ever show up in a search and will never be archived by search sites....These changes were noticed and proved by readers because Google had archived them before the changes were made."

As the DC spin-jocks work overtime -- sometimes spinning, other times deleting or editing former statements -- here's one of stories you *won't* be hearing from the mainstream US media. Robert Fisk in One, two, three, what are they fighting for? provides on-the-street reporting from Iraq: "No wonder morale is low. No wonder the American soldiers I meet on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities don't mince their words about their own government. US troops have been given orders not to bad-mouth their President or Secretary of Defence in front of Iraqis or reporters (who have about the same status in the eyes of the occupation authorities). But when I suggested to a group of US military police near Abu Ghurayb they would be voting Republican at the next election, they fell about laughing. 'We shouldn't be here and we should never have been sent here,' one of them told me with astonishing candour. 'And maybe you can tell me: why were we sent here?'" Words like Halliburton come to my mind. Meanwhile, American soldiers are alienating the Iraqi public, e.g. by "confiscating" money from the Iraqi homes they search. The practice has become sufficiently common that "In one Iraqi city, for example, the 'Coalition Provisional Authority' - which is what the occupation authorities call themselves - have instructed local money changers not to give dollars for Iraqi dinars to occupation soldiers: too many Iraqi dinars had been stolen by troops during house raids."

Another story you won't be hearing from mainstream USA, especially in the wake of the acute embarrassment the Bush administration experienced from its substandard treatment of injured soldiers returning from Iraq to a medical "holding center" at Fort Stewart, Georgia: UPI reports, "More than 400 sick and injured soldiers, including some who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, are stuck at Fort Knox, waiting weeks and sometimes months for medical treatment, a score of soldiers said in interviews. The delays appear to have demolished morale -- many said they had lost faith in the Army and would not serve again -- and could jeopardize some soldiers' health, the soldiers said.... [One soldier's] knee and wrist injuries were severe enough that he was evacuated to Germany at the end of July and then sent to Fort Knox. His medical records show doctor appointments around four weeks apart. He said it took him almost two months to get a cast for his wrist." Why won't you be hearing more on this and related story? One reason: "A UPI photographer working on this [the foregoing] story without first having cleared his presence with base public affairs officials was detained for several hours for questioning Tuesday and then released. He was told he would need an Army escort for any further visits to the base. He returned to the base accompanied by an Army escort on Wednesday.This reporter also was admonished that he had to be accompanied by an Army public affairs escort when on base. The interviews had been conducted without the presence of an escort." In other words, the media will be given no access to injured soldiers that is not severely controlled by authorities. Unlike WWII, when bedside interviews with wounded soldiers was commonplace, the voices and faces of those wounded in Iraq -- if seen or heard at all -- will be filter, sanitized, so that all you hear is the official line of "Go Team America!"

I have only one first-hand story to contribute. In the course of writing my weekly column for FOX News, a few months ago, I received a letter from a woman serving in Iraq who was outraged at the sexual molestation scandal that was then hitting the Air Force Academy. She made some interesting points that cast the legitimacy of the claims of rape and other abuse made against "the system" into question. In short, she was defending the military and its treatment of women. Because her position was both informed and counter to everything else I was hearing in the media, I wanted to interview her for my column and -- given that FOX is well regarded by the military -- this prospect seemed bright. Two months later, I had jumped through hoops, talked to PR officers, been bumped up the ranks of people to "clear" me, etc., etc. Everything still seemed bright and in place for an eventual interview...except for me. How much bureaucracy and time delay did I have to go through to write one 850-word column which, arguably, cast the military in a good light? How much truth was likely to emerge from that kind of process? I just f*cking gave up. And, yes, my use of obscenity is appropriate.

Much more to report...but so little time!

Best to all,

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