After all the swearing and googling and posting and enduring the crazed short-attention-span-theater that is #debian, I, um, stumbled on the solution to my USB problem.
You know how when you get real mad at something that won't work, you kick it?
That's pretty much what I did. I was on my 3rd USB card (I had downgraded myself all the way to a 2-port 1.1 in the hopes that something older would work easier). I was tired. I had heard "I dunno man, I'm stumped." from one too many helpful and knowledgeable people. So I shut the thing down, put all my body weight on the card, and cranked on the screw. I thought I was going to break my motherboard. Since it's worth all of about what's in your average change purse, the consequences wouldn't have been that bad. But, suddenly, there was a snap, and it was the sound of the card being seated in the slot.
This made me very angry and very happy all at the same time. After that, no more work was necessary.
So, Debian did turn out to handle Plug N Play just fine, once I got that Plug part down.
It was such a neat trick that I took the 1.1 card out (which, by the way, was not easy) and put in the one I started this whole process with, a 2.0 Iogear with 5 ports. I put all my weight on it, and cranked on the screw, and snap! It worked too.
The keyboard is great. It's paper-thin, really lightweight, and feels just like a Thinkpad. The trackpoint and navpad work under X without any work on my part. These little forward and back keys next to the arrow keys move between VCs in console mode, which is pretty nifty.
Now, time to get a USB set up on my laptop :P I think I have to take it to the shop though. It has a USB port built in, but it does this neat trick where when you plug something into it, it shuts the computer down. And it won't even turn on when there is something plugged into the port. Obviously some electrical stuff happening in there.
In the end, I had to drop back down to 2.4.22 from 2.6.6, because 2.6.6 (on the 3rd boot or so) broke my networking. Suddenly no connection, only "NETDEV WATCHDOG: eth0 transmit timed out" error messages. I didn't feel like dealing with the WATCHDOG, so I just went back to the old kernel, and all the USB stuff still worked fine, and so did the networking. Any ideas what that was all about?
So, um, how about those Red Sox? That was some brawl... Apparently, since the Red Sox couldn't land ARod, they decided to hit him with the ball and then kick his ass instead. Well, I guess it was ownership and not the players that was trying to land ARod, but it's a funny turn of events anyway.