Since April, by my count, blogs and websites have quoted and/or linked to comments sent to this blog by Army Spc. Joe Roche in Iraq at least 286 times.
As it is possibly the most favorable profile of a human being I have ever read in a newspaper, I guess it would be churlish of me to express regrets that Stars and Stripes did not mention the role of the blogosphere in the story of how so many Americans stateside read and heard Joe's views these past months. After all, 286 blogs is quite a few, and I know Joe appreciates every single one of them (well, maybe not the coverage by Democrats.com).
So I won't. Here, then, is the Stars and Stripes article:
A 'Professor' in a Class by HimselfBack on April 7, Democrats.com expressed doubt that Joe could be real:
GIESSEN, Germany - Guys like Joseph Roche don't enlist every day.
In fact, his story is so novel that, at first, some of his colleagues didn't know what to make of this man from Minnesota.
His age, education, demeanor, globe-trotting ways and olive-colored skin (his father is from India) raised eyebrows and got folks whispering. Some suspected Roche of being an Army undercover agent. Others thought he could even be a member of an al-Qaida sleeper cell.
"There were a lot of guys who were wondering," Roche said. "I would tell them: 'I am what you see.' "
For the last two years - and for the next two - Roche has been a member of the U.S. Army. It is a calling that came relatively late in life, but one the cerebral college graduate felt he had to answer.
"He barely made [the deadline]," said Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Adelmann, the Minnesota recruiter who brought Roche into the fold.
Roche, who turns 37 next month, joined the Army just before his 35th birthday, the cutoff for new enlistees. Six months later he was in Iraq as a member of the 16th Engineer Battalion, based in Giessen.
During his 14-month tour to the Middle East, Roche distinguished himself in common and uncommon ways.
Supervisors note that Roche always accepted whatever job was given him. "There was never a complaint," Staff Sgt. Ezrah Brown said, "Never. Not once."
Brown, a 12-year veteran of the Army, called Roche "one of the best [soldiers] I've ever seen."
About the only time Roche did complain - sort of - was earlier this year, when he wrote an eloquent letter to Stars and Stripes to counter the "bad news" coming out of Iraq. In it, he asked his fellow Americans "to keep the faith."
The letter, which ran in the Be Our Guest section of the April 4 Sunday magazine, would soon endear him to tens of thousands of people, from his buddies in Baghdad to radio announcers back home, such as Rush Limbaugh, to the man who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
"Our troops know the historic importance of our work [in Iraq]," President Bush said in his acceptance speech last month at the Republican National Convention. "One Army specialist wrote home: 'We are transforming a once-sick society into a hopeful place. The various terrorist enemies we are facing in Iraq are really aiming at you back in the United States. This is a test of will for our country. We soldiers of yours are doing great and scoring victories in confronting the evil terrorists.'
"That young man is right. Our men and women in uniform are doing a superb job for America," the president said.
After the speech, the president's staff sent an autographed copy of the speech to Roche, something he proudly produced during a recent visit to his apartment in Giessen.
"I said things people needed to hear and wanted to hear," he said.
Speaking out publicly is something Roche has grown accustom to since junior high school.
As a young teen in Minneapolis, Roche spearheaded petition drives and gave political speeches on subjects such as prayer in schools and aid for the Nicaraguan contras.
After high school, Roche moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for seven years on conservative campaigns and issues. Eventually he returned to his roots to attend the University of Minnesota, earning a history degree.
"Talk to him about history, and you can learn so much," Brown said.
Before departing for Iraq, the staff sergeant gave Roche a nickname: the professor. While Roche's knowledge extends well beyond history, it is his forte, enough so that his superiors asked him before the unit deployed to brief younger soldiers about the intricacies of Iraq and the Middle East.
"He reminds me of the professor on 'Gilligan's Island,' " Brown said, referring to the popular '60s television show.
During the war, Roche was the driver for 1st Lt. Andrew Bischoff, then a platoon commander in Company C.
Bischoff described Roche as a shy, hard-working guy who is respected as much for his humility as for his knowledge.
"I've never seen anybody like him," Bischoff said. "People like that sometimes come across as arrogant."
Both now chuckle over how they would discuss current events and history as they drove around on missions. As they scanned the horizon for bad guys and improvised explosive devices, subjects such as the merits of the Prussian empire would help break the tension.
"It was like an interactive history channel," Bischoff said.
Over the years, Roche has held a variety of jobs: bus boy, hotel manager, police dispatcher and security cop. Prior to joining the Army, he spent a year in Israel with Sar-El, a nonprofit, nonpolitical volunteer organization.
Roche was in Israel on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck New York City and the Pentagon. Roche, who is not Jewish, figured if he could give of himself in Israel, he should do the same for his homeland.
Upon his return, he walked into Adelmann's office and declared his intention to enlist. A year later, as the clock was winding down, Roche followed through.
Adelmann, who spoke by telephone from his office near the University of Minnesota campus, said he would never forget Roche.
"Most people are like: 'What's in it for me? How much money can I get for college? How much of a bonus do I qualify for?' " he said.
"Joe just wanted to join."
Rightwing Front Groups Disseminating Tokyo Rose-Type Propaganda as Our Soldiers DieI think the existence of Joe is now totally verified.
The National Center for Public Policy Research and other NeoCon front groups have been disseminating the following piece of propaganda this week as our soldiers die -- an essay entitled "Keep the Faith: A Letter from Iraq," allegedly by a soldier with the U.S. Army serving in the 16th Combat Engineer Battalion.." Progress is amazing.... Every day the Iraqi people stream out into the streets to cheer and wave at us as we drive by. When I'm on a foot patrol, walking among a crowd, countless people thank us -- repeatedly.... This is why you hear bad news and may be receiving an incorrect picture... The reality is one of an ever-increasing defeat of the enemies we face..." etc. ad nauseum. We challenge soldiers with the 16th Engineers to verify the existence of a Joe Roche in their ranks...we suspect if there is, he may not realize he "wrote" this essay (remember the bogus letters sent to papers that had soldiers' names falsely signed to them?
Congratulations to Joe on this coverage in Stars and Stripes, and thanks again to all those in the blogosphere, talk radio and newspapers who shared Joe's words of optimism about America's mission in Iraq this year. And even more thank to those of you who participated in the still-ongoing care packages project inspired by Joe.
Vladimir Putin certainly is an interesting fellow.
Recently, for example, in a move widely seen as isolating to President Bush, Putin announced he would send the Kyoto global warming treaty to the Russian Duma for ratification.
A Putin-Bush split? Not so fast. Putin made statements Monday that have widely been seen as a virtual endorsement of President Bush's re-election.
So are Bush and Putin on the same page, or off it?
Canadian scientist Dr. Tim Ball appears to lean toward the former. In a letter published in the October 18 (Canadian) National Post, Dr. Ball writes, in part:
Vladimir Putin may not be in favor of Kyoto at all... By referring the treaty to the State Duma lower house, the ex-KGB spy may very well have set up a situation where Kyoto can still be killed without having to take the blame himself.Addendum (10/22/04): It look like Dr. Ball was a bit too optimistic.
In fact, there is strong opposition in the Russian parliament to the protocol and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has already predicted tough Duma battles ahead.
Certainly the Duma would have plenty of high profile support if they rejected Kyoto. Besides the April, 2004, conclusion of the Duma's committees for ecology, the economy and international affairs that "Ratification is inexpedient given the U.S. pullout and the non-participation of many countries ...", climate experts across Russia and around the world have spoken out loudly against Kyoto on scientific grounds.
So, Putin sends Kyoto to the Duma who eventually reject it. Putin then sorrowfully explains, "I did my best but in a democracy you can't overrule the people."
...I hope this is Putin's plan. Kyoto is an enormous mistake and Russia would be doing the world an important service by killing it for good.
Enviropundit reviews the joint resolution to authorize the use of United States armed forces against Iraq with an eye to determining, with 20-20 hindsight, if the justifications hold up.
Michael Kinsley thinks the Bush campaign is so artful it could even turn signing the Declaration of independence into a political minus:
President Bush: "My opponent, you see, wrote -- or he helped to write -- this document, this so-called Declaration of Independence. And in it, see, he says something about how we hold these truths to be self-evident. Now, self-evident is just a fancy word -- or actually it's two words: Of course I know that! I can count! -- it's just a fancy way of saying you don't have to say anything because folks already know it.There's more. Bush supporters won't agree with Kinsley's main point, but there is a lot of delicious satire in this op-ed.
"In other words, he's saying that you don't have to tell the truth. Well, I just happen to disagree with that. I think the truth is one of the most important things in our great country. The truth is American. And it's good. It's good to tell the truth. But my opponent disagrees with that. He thinks you don't need to tell the truth. And I happen to think that's wrong. It's a difference in philosophy, you see."
Newspaper Headline: "Kerry Opposes Truth, Bush Charges; Opponent Responds, 'Issue Is Complex' "...
Speaking of parodies, check out Dr. Galen's amusing (and, I suspect, accurate) "test of the efficacy of gin soaked raisins in treatment of mild to moderate osteoarthritis."
Beldar, a trial lawyer, has an interesting post up today about sexual harassment litigation generally and O'Reilly v. Makris (and Makris v. O'Reilly) specifically. See also an earlier Beldar post on the strategies being employed by the litigants in this case.
As long as you are over there, I recommend also this post about people to whom we Americans owe a debt of gratitude.
Various talk radio hosts have spent a lot of time today talking about claims by some interest groups that the 2004 election will be stolen by one side or another.
Project 21 was on this story a month ago.
During last night's debate, President Bush was asked how the federal government would find the funds to pay current retirees' Social Security benefits if younger workers were to be permitted to privately invest some of the funds they presently pay in Social Security taxes.
The New York Times has asked the same question. I have taken a stab at answering it:
The New York Times complains that President Bush did not explain how he would pay for partial privatization. Perhaps not for the first time, it is thinking backwards. Partial privatization is designed to reduce the draw on the federal treasury, not to expand it.
Workers today are contributing more money than Social Security needs. The excess tax funds are spent on other things, such as National Public Radio, U.N. dues, the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal expenses that the New York Times supports, but conservatives often do not.
Enacting partial privatization now would reduce the amount of dollars available for discretionary programs the New York Times likes, but workers could pay less Social Security taxes now without current retirees losing a penny in benefits.
What if today's workers continued to be taxed the same 12.4 percent, but the excess amount, or some similar sum (such as 3 percent of payroll), was conservatively invested for the worker's own use after retirement? The answer: Even without benefit cuts, workers wouldn't need so much money from Social Security.
Maybe Social Security, which many people now believe is destined for bankruptcy, needn't be insolvent after all.
During last night's debate, it was alleged that women in the U.S. are not receiving equal pay for equal work.
This helps set the record straight:
The left-wing has complained about so-called 'pay equity' for years. As the U.S. Senate's Republican Policy Committee has pointed out, however: 'The average wage gap between men and women is 26 cents (and falling). But this figure does not account for factors unrelated to sex discrimination that affect income: age, education, occupation, number of years in the workforce, and experience. Controlling for these factors shows women are actually paid 98 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The remaining 2-cent adjusted wage gap could be caused by sex discrimination, but it could also be caused by measuring errors, unaccounted for differences between men and women, or a combination of these factors. The 2-cent adjusted wage gap could also be more than made up for by the non-monetary benefits of female-dominated jobs, including better supervisors, fewer risks, easier commutes, and more flexible hours. Former Congressional Budget Office Director June O'Neill writes, 'When earnings comparisons are restricted to men and women more similar in their experience and life situations, the measured earnings differentials are typically quite small.''"
Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, writing in Newsweek:
"I wonder if President Bush could look into the eyes of Christopher Reeve's family and tell them that it's because he values life so deeply that he is preserving clusters of cells in freezers -- cells that resulted from in-vitro fertilization and could be used for embryonic stem cell treatment -- despite the fact that more people will die as a result of his decision."If Patti Davis can prove that statement, she should stop wasting her time writing for Newsweek and put her talents to work as a research scientist. She also should stop waiting around for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and show her proof to private financing sources, who, business being business, will gladly fund a sure thing.
The fact is that no one knows if federal funding for additional embryonic stem cell research will ever save even one life.
An additional fact is that embryonic stem cell research beyond the stem cell lines eligible for federal funding is not illegal in the U.S. Davis apparently wants Newsweek readers to believe Bush has made it so. He couldn't even if he wanted to -- he doesn't have the authority.
"...never let anyone call our hopes 'false.""Maybe not her hopes. But her writing sure is.
In the newest Bush v. Kerry Battleground Poll, which no doubt will receive much publicity today, I noticed something odd that won't be in many headlines.
Likely voters polled said Kerry would do better at "creating jobs," but said Bush would do better at "keeping America prosperous."
Maybe Battleground respondents were thinking of non-prosperous jobs and/or a prosperous economy without new jobs...?
Sometimes poll results make no sense at all.
...the two nations of North America are on diverging paths. Take, for example, missile defense. This is an American issue tailor-made for Canadian politics in that it requires absolutely nothing from Canada. It's going to happen anyway, it's got the support of both parties south of the border, and because by "national defense" Americans generally mean "continental defense" we'll get the benefits of it - as we do from the U.S. nuclear deterrent - without putting up a dime. In that sense, it's almost a textbook definition of U.S.-Canadian "cooperation": we get to be supportive without being helpful. Indeed, we don't even have to be supportive. We just have to refrain from being non-supportive. And in return some of that great gushing torrent of Pentagon gravy will come the way of Canadian defense contractors.
But sorry, even that's too much to ask...