Ninja Warrior: The Fireman


Remembering The Berlin Airlift, 60 Years Later

by Kyle James
September 14, 2008 · This summer marked the 60th anniversary of the Allies' airlift of food and medicine into West Berlin in East Germany, an attempt to avert a potential crisis from a blockade by the Soviet Union.

The first major standoff of the Cold War began on June 24, 1948, when the Soviet Union cut off all road, rail and water connections to West Berlin. Moscow hoped that the blockade, by starving this city in the middle of the Soviet-controlled part of Germany, would force the Allies to abandon it.

Two days later, Operation Vittles began, and American and British cargo planes hauling milk, flour and medicine began flying in from West Germany. The 15-month airlift was lauded as a great humanitarian and political success, but there were also human costs to the operation.

"Our enemies who had once dropped bombs on us were now bringing us food and coal to heat our homes with," says Berlin resident Erika Demitrowitz, who was 24 when the airlift began. "I can remember the day the airlift was over — we picked all the flowers we could and took them to the Americans. That was our thank you."

When the airlift ended on Sept. 30, 1949, more than 2 million tons of food, coal and other provisions had been flown into West Berlin. The Soviets gave up their blockade, and West Berlin remained a democratic island behind the Iron Curtain until the fall of the Berlin Wall.

'Freedom Is Not Free'

At a recent 60th-anniversary ceremony at Berlin's Tempelhof airport, the center of the airlift operation, a band played "The Star Spangled Banner" while one of the DC-3 planes used in the airlift circled overhead.

Veterans in their late 70s and 80s sat next to a 65-foot-tall concrete sculpture commemorating the airlift. Three curved prongs at the top of the memorial symbolize the air corridors that pilots flew during the operation, and the names of about 70 servicemen who lost their lives during the airlift are inscribed on the base.

"Their ultimate sacrifice is yet another example that freedom is not free," said Gen. Roger Brady, the commander of U.S. air forces in Europe. "In fact, sometimes it comes at a great cost."

Eleanor Howard of Valdosta, Ga., knows this all too well. In the main hall at Tempelhof, she chatted with other veterans and their wives whom she accompanied to Germany. She remembered her husband, Capt. William R. Howard, who flew in the airlift.

"Bill was such a fine Christian man, and so good looking!" Howard said.

Capt. Howard's plane went down in bad weather while coming back from a delivery to West Berlin on Aug. 24, 1948. Eleanor was waiting at home on the base for him with their 8-month-old son, William Riley Jr., wondering why her husband was late.

She said at one point she looked out her window and saw what every military spouse or parent dreads.

"I saw the base commander come riding up and I saw the base chaplain and I literally turned to stone," Howard said. "I knew something had happened. And so I opened the door to a sea of sad faces and they told me Bill was gone."

Remembering Those Who Sacrificed

Thirty-one Americans lost their lives in the airlift, as did 39 British and nine Germans.

Capt. Howard's son, Riley, was with his mother in Berlin. Though he never really knew his dad, he said he is extremely proud of what his father and the other airlift pilots accomplished.

"They knew this was a sacrifice," Riley Howard said. "They took it on with that idea, that ideal to help other people that were in need. That's why that generation was considered the greatest generation."

Many Germans share that sentiment — and the emotional tie between Germany and America is still strong, despite recent differences over U.S. foreign policy.

American pilots also dropped chocolate to Berlin children during the airlift, and Gail Halverson was one of the first "candy bombers."

"We only worked for them for a few months, and for 59 years they've been spoiling us with gratitude," Halverson said. "It's incredible."


Finally, video evidence of Slovakia's 82-0 slaughter of Bulgaria

By Greg Wyshynski

NHLSarok, a hockey blog based in Slovakia, has posted three videos on YouTube from the now-legendary women's ice hockey Olympic qualifier that saw Slovakia squeak out an 82-0 victory over Bulgaria.

The box score (.pdf) chronicled the carnage; seeing these videos provides some valuable (and painful) context for this embarrassment. Eighty-two goals seem a little more reasonable when you witness Bulgaria's defensive system; which involves either skating with beer league-level velocity, or standing around picking daisies while Slovakia shoots at a goalie with the reflexes of a corpse.

Again, we hate to kick a national women's ice hockey team when it's down, but we'd love to set up a series of match races between the Bulgarian players and the Mites on Ice that skate between periods of NHL games. We can even set the whole thing to reggae music, just like they do for the kids.

Video No. 1 begins with the score tied 0-0, which incidentally was the last time anyone associated with Bulgarian women's ice hockey felt an emotion with a tangential resemblance to hope.

The second video skips all the way to 77-0, at which point Bulgaria has decided to reject the concept of goaltending and play with six skaters -- a wise decision, as pulling the goalie has fueled many a rally. Although not many that would require a goal every five seconds.

Video No. 3 features -- we kid you not -- a Bertuzzi-like attack from behind from a Slovakian player (!) against a foe from Bulgaria during a stoppage in play. Slovakia's Anna Dzurnakova was given a misconduct and a match penalty for the roughing from behind, and what passes for a women's hockey brawl followed. The clip ends with the scoreboard infamously reading: 82-0.


This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.
White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.


Have I missed out on a male-grooming memo? Am I a lone caveman in a world of trimmed bodies?

Charlie Brooker
The Guardian, Monday September 15 2008

The other day I was enduring The Sex Education Show on Channel 4, in which a self-consciously "liberated" presenter called Anna ran screeching around the place like a one-woman hen night, banging on about boobs and willies in a bid to "get Britain talking" about sex. And the script essentially ran as follows:

"Hey, Britain! Let's all be honest and open, yeah? Penises! There! I said it! Some are big, some are small! Here's a photo of one! Are you shocked? You mustn't be shocked! Although it's OK to be amused! Tee hee! Aren't we pushing back the boundaries? Isn't this healthy? Come on, we're all adults. This is good for us! Celebrate it! Vulva! Wow! Can you believe I just said that? Condom! Orgasm! Clitoris! Etc!"

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for snickering nob gags and frank images of nudity, but I'd rather not have them accompanied by some tissue-thin justification about "healing the nation" or "getting people talking". Just tell us a joke, show us your bum and piss off.

Anyway, as luck would have it, Anna did show us her bum. Sort of. In a mirror. While she was trying on lingerie, because this was a modern documentary, see? Just as in London you're famously never more than 4ft from a rat, so in 21st-century factual entertainment shows the presenter is never more than four minutes from a pointless TV stunt. Like trying on some frilly pants. Or getting a bikini wax.

The bikini wax section caused me some anguish. After braving a "full Hollywood" (where they suddenly rip the whole lot clean away, like DLT having his face pulled off), Anna held a little chat with a studio audience, encouraging them to help heal broken Britain by loudly discussing their pubes. Things were ticking along predictably - ie a 50-50 mix of words and chortling - when something upsetting happened. They asked the men in the studio whether they trimmed their pubic hair, and almost every single one of them put their hands up.

Then they read out the results of a survey they'd done, which claimed that, yes, 60% of men trim their pubes. What, really? 60%? Huh? And then they asked the women in the studio if they preferred the male trimmed-pube look - and they all nodded like Churchill the car-insurance dog. First I felt woefully out-of-touch.


"I just don't think so - men will be waxing next?"

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