November 30, 2005

DEBUNK

The other day I lost my temper with people who look down their noses at those in the military. Therefore, information on this study caught my attention on the news this morning.

Debunking the myth of the underprivileged soldier

...
According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.
...
In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.

Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don't hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation's population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data.

Second, we explored the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks, which range from 24.1% black up to 68.6%. These areas, which account for 14.6% of the adult population, produced 16.6% of recruits in 1999 and only 14.1% in 2003.

The full reports can be read here:
Is Iraq a Poor Man's War?
Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11

And for the guy who doesn't think anyone joins these days "for flag and country", what do you make of this?

After September 11, 2001, the educational quality of recruits rose slightly. Comparing 1999 enlisted recruits to 2003 recruits showed an increase in col­legiate experience. In 2003, a higher proportion of recruits had college experience and diplomas, and a lower percentage had only a high school diploma— a shift of about 3 percentage points.

That statistic would include close-to-my-heart recruit Tyler Prewitt, who left the baseball team at Phoenix College to enlist after September 11th and died in OIF II.

For flag and country.

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November 29, 2005

FAMOUS NUTJOBS

Dang, I just wasted a lot of time playing around with these lists of celebrity Republicans. The most surprising people? 50 Cent and John Malkovich.

I emailed my friends about 50 Cent and said "Did you know that 50 Cent would've voted for Bush if he weren't a convicted felon?" And then I realized that sentence has a grammatically ambiguous modifier...except for the fact that there's nothing ambiguous about which of them is the felon. So does that make the sentence ambiguous or not?

Man, I wish I was still in touch with my best friend from college; we'd have a blast analyzing that one.

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PUPDATE

We've got a problem: Charlie loves snow. So much that I can't get him out of it. And he's become a huge faker, ringing the bell that he has to go to the bathroom just so he can go outside and play. Ugh. I think I took him outside six times already today! He likes to burrow in the snow, flip it up in the air with his nose, and then eat it.

What a weirdo.

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November 28, 2005

CHECK IT OUT

Donald Sensing's Thanksgiving post is too wonderful not to share...

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November 27, 2005

OP-ED WOES

God bless the Stars and Stripes. For being a military newspaper, I'm often stunned at how many anti-war, anti-Bush opinion columns they print. I know I don't want to read that garbage, but maybe someone does, and they provide the service, even when it makes our president and our military look bad. Usually I just read the online version, so I don't bother with the AP junk, but occasionally I'll come across a hard copy of the paper and want to throw up, as I did when I read this piece, in which the author muses what his life would be like if he'd had to join the military...

What if, for instance, my parents hadn't gone into debt to provide me with a private-school education and the benefits it affords? What if, instead, I had taken the path followed by many in my hometown and pursued my American dream through the military? And what if I was writing these words not from the comfort of my office but from a forward operating base somewhere in the Sunni Triangle?

Perhaps this all can be written off as a neurotic intellectual exercise. But the persistent rumors of a draft (unlikely as one might be) do little to reassure.

Yes, many people join the military instead of having mommy and daddy foot their bills. They become adults at age 18 and deploy to the Middle East where their buddies' lives are in their hands as they sit on overnight guard duty at the Tigris River...instead of kickin' it at the frat house drinking Red Bull and vodka until they puke all over some girl and pass out in the bushes. Which life choice makes you more of a man?

Oh, the draft. It's comin' folks. Been comin' for three years. Except there's gonna be a drawdown of troops next year. So when are we all getting drafted?

Now, I'm sure a fair number of those in the military enlisted out of a lack of other options. I know full well that relatively few in my generation buy into the "for flag and country" bit, and that my sense of patriotic guilt would probably make for a good joke or two in the service. And the honest truth is that nothing less than a full-fledged draft could get me to say goodbye to my wife's puppy-dog brown eyes and put on a uniform.

Maybe I just lack the conviction of the soldiers deployed in Iraq. Or maybe they've just lacked my good fortune. Which of the two is the case, I'm not quite sure.

Actually, I know quite a few soldiers who joined "for flag and country", and I know many who joined just because they wanted a job but end up staying for their country. My husband called the Army a "labor of love" the other day; he could get out and see what other jobs he could find, but he stays out of a sense of purpose and duty.

And, yes, I bet many of them would think you're a tool.

You probably do indeed lack conviction. Not everyone considers it the Worst Possible Thing In The World to get deployed. Some people, my husband included, think it's the most important thing they've done with their lives, and though they don't necessarily cherish the thought of deploying for another year and missing out on their own wives' puppy-dog eyes, they are more than willing to do whatever it takes to see Iraq succeed.

At the very least, when I read about the next soldier killed in combat, I'll make sure to take five minutes out of my privileged day to wonder: There but for the grace of God go I, drunk and naked, screaming bloody suicide at the thought of going back to Iraq.

And that is precisely why we don't want a draft.

There's nothing wrong with not wanting to go to Iraq. It's a normal, natural feeling. But I'm sick and tired of these crap-ass op-eds looking down their noses at soldiers. A fancy-pants degree doesn't make you better than someone who joined the Army. Can you repair track on a tank? Can you accurately fire a 50-cal? Can you make a delicious sugar cookie out of the remnants of your MRE? Oh, you can write. Judging from MilBlogs, so can most soldiers who don't have the "good fortune" of a "private-school education and the benefits it affords". They're writing and selling books, in addition to being mechanics, marksmen, chemists, nurses, and diplomats.

And I'm not convinced many of them would want to trade places with you.

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PUPDATE

Several people have asked about Charlie's Thanksgiving. We're not much for giving him table scraps, but he did hang out in the kitchen most of the day while we were preparing the food, scrounging what fell on the floor -- a bit of ham here, a crumb of bread there. But when we all sat down at the table, we heard an ominous noise from the living room. The husband remembered that our platter of summer sausage and cheese was still on the coffee table. I raced in to find Charlie wolfing down as much as he could before we caught him.

About an hour later, Kelly's son came in the kitchen and whispered, "Um, Charlie threw up." We all had a good laugh at the pile on the dining room floor: three un-chewed pieces of cheese and two un-chewed slices of sausage. No time for chewing when you have to eat as much as you can before someone finds you, right?

Because we had a full house, Charlie didn't get any naps that day. When everyone left after dinner, he crashed for the night. I think he had a pretty exciting Thanksgiving.

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November 24, 2005

STUFFED

We cooked for six hours, and our knees and feet are killing us. And so are our stomachs! But it was worth every minute...

thanksgiving.JPG

I like what Lileks said about Thanksgiving:

It’s a day that stands aside from the rest, a day on which the simplest and most essential things are revealed as gifts of indescribable worth. And then there’s pie.

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November 23, 2005

CONFLICTING EMOTIONS

Yesterday I wrote a post that I wanted to put up right before Thanksgiving; today it seems absurd to post something so uplifting when I feel so hopeless. Two horrible things happened today to shake my faith in humanity. Sometimes I hate human beings so much, and I fear I'll never be able to grok what makes people do the things they do. I'd never make a good pacifist: some people deserve extinction.

Nothing like heading into Thanksgiving in despair...

But I wrote this cheery post, and I want to still use it. I want to remember that though there are awful, evil people in this world, some people make up for it. And if anyone can make up for it, it's these two.

**********************************************************

Two years ago, I was very frustrated that I was losing all my college friends because of my blog. I went through a very rough patch where numerous friends emailed and said they didn't like me anymore because of my views. When my grandmother died, I learned a hard lesson:

I wish I had friends that I could talk to about how I feel about the world. I have my husband and my mother, and that is basically it...and my mother lives an ocean away and my husband will be gone for a year. We're new to our post here in Germany so I don't have any strong relationships yet, and despite my efforts, I don't hear from my old friends that often. When my grandmother died, I called my mom's best friend to talk about it, and I realized how pathetic I am that I don't have anyone I can count on anymore. And the few relationships I've been trying to hang on to really disappointed me this past week.

But I've been thinking about something lately, something that always makes me smile and know that now, two years later, I do have friends who care.

I met Erin in recycling class here. (Seriously, it's so intense we have to attend a class.) She and I were the only ones who showed up that day, and she gave me a ride home afterwards. We didn't really become friends so much as we became two people who really enjoyed running into each other on accident. When she started working at the commissary, I always was excited to go grocery shopping because I knew I could get in Erin's lane and talk to her for at least a couple of minutes.

I went to the commissary the day after my grandmother died, and when Erin asked how I was doing, for some reason I opened up and told her instead of just saying that I was fine. Erin looked at me and tears started welling up in her eyes. She said how sorry she was and how bad she felt for me. It was so touching because she was just someone I ran into in the grocery line, while friends I'd known for years had failed me. I knew that day that there was something special about Erin.

When the deployment started, Erin got a new and much better job working with a girl named Kelly. Kelly had the morning shift and Erin the afternoon, so when I got off work I would always pop next door for the last half hour of Erin's shift. One evening I stopped by to show off my newly knitted sweater, and it was Kelly in the office instead of Erin. I remember her being friendly but shy, and later Erin told me that Kelly had been so nervous to meet me that she didn't even say anything about the beautiful sweater I was wearing! Hilarious, since that was the reason I was looking for Erin in the first place.

During the deployment, I spent a lot of time popping in and out of their work. I taught them to knit and they taught me to quilt, though they've been much more prolific at their new craft than I have. I shared Thanksgiving with Kelly and Christmas with Erin, which was so generous because Erin's husband came home for R&R on Christmas morning: they opened their home to me on the day of their reunion.

The most exciting day was early in our budding friendship when Erin casually said something like, "I don't know what your views are, but I support the President and the War on Terror." You could hear my heart jumping out of my chest. We began to talk politics, longwindedly and often, and I learned that Erin and Kelly are basically South Park Republicans like me. Kelly and I bought Erin a W t-shirt for her birthday, and I've shared many a Larry Elder and Dinesh D'Souza book with them. Finally I had friends in my life, right here in the flesh and not just in cyber-land, who shared my worldview. And so I opened myself up and shared my blog address with them.

When Bunker died, I went right to Kelly's house. When I read an article that makes me so mad I could spit, I call Erin. Any time my heart hurts, any time I feel happy or sad, any time the dog does something to make me want to strangle him, I call their office. They trade shifts often, but most of the time I don't even care which one of them answers the phone, as long as Erin or Kelly is there to listen to me.

This Thanksgiving, I'm so grateful for my two best friends. I'm grateful that I met Erin, the wonderful girl who cried until Kelly and I let her take home a wounded stray dog, only to find that she's now mothering four unexpected puppies. I'm grateful that Erin introduced me to Kelly, a mother whose heart is so big that she's offered to adopt a relative's children in their time of need. Both of them are such bigger people than I am, and every day I thank heavens that I met them and wonder how on earth I'm going to part from them next year. But for today, I'm simply happy that all three of our families will sit down at the table together and share a fabulous Thanksgiving meal. (And it will be fabulous. We're making everything from scratch, and we even bought matching aprons for the occasion!)

Thank you, Erin and Kelly, for showing me that it is possible to have friends I can completely be myself around, even if Erin does make fun of my Richard Simmons exercise regime.

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LINKS

Atta in Prague?: An Iraqi prisoner holds the answer to this 9/11 mystery
Listen to the word on the 'Arab street'
And if you're mad about being misled to war, maybe you should've read the intelligence reports...

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November 22, 2005

ANNIVERSARY

A couple weeks ago I made a note to send my parents an anniversary card. Then I did the mental math and realized that this was their 30th. Yikes, I had to do better than a card! Anyway, I hope you two like what we sent. Congrats on making it to 30, especially in this day and age. I love you...

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BUT

Today the US military is offically handing over FOB Danger to the Iraqis. That's a great step in getting Iraq on her own feet. I was struck by the last paragraph in the article:

It was a bittersweet year for the Big Red One, with more than 100 soldiers killed and 1,000 wounded but great advances in combined operations with new, better-led Iraqi army units and 2,000 reconstruction projects worth about $1 billion.

The emphasis is mine, because what struck me was how the Stars and Stripes gets the "but" right. Most journalists seem to flip the two clauses: some nice stuff is happening, but it's a quagmire and American deaths is the most important thing. Stars and Stripes gets the focus just right, as usual. 1ID had a rough year in Iraq, but they accomplished so much. It's the accomplishments we should be focused on -- what these soldiers and marines did with their lives -- not the death toll.

Good on you, Stars and Stripes.

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November 21, 2005

INSPIRATIONAL

Apparently the American Film Institute is trying to pick the most inspirational film of all time. Good luck. The list of nominees is long, including movies that definitely belong (Apollo 13, Stand and Deliver) and some dubious choices as well (Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Moulin Rouge?) John Hawkins has a good list of his own choices; I agree with most of his picks, especially Spider-Man 2 and Rocky. I'd add a few movies of my own that either bring me to tears or have me jumping out of my seat cheering: 12 Angry Men, From the Earth to the Moon, The Great Escape, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rudy, The Lord of the Rings, Miracle, Amistad and Band of Brothers. In no particular order, all of which made the cut except for the HBO ones. Props to the AFI for including The Karate Kid, which is one of my all-time favorites, even if it is a bit cheesy. (For the record, my husband said that he never laughed so hard as he did in There's Something About Mary at the line "I guess I just wish they made movies like they used to make. You know, classics like The Karate Kid" because he thought that was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. But the joke's on him, because his paycheck bought the whole trilogy.)

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PUPDATE

Today Charlie experienced his first snow. At first, he wouldn't even leave the sidewalk, but once I stepped into the snow and he saw that it would clump up and he could eat it...well, it was on. He was having the greatest time, which was cute, but unfortunately it made forcing him to go to the bathroom nearly impossible. He had a blast romping around, and he's awful cute with a pile of snow on his nose.

snow.JPG

I know I rag on Charlie a lot, but he's been getting much better. This past week has been surprisingly uneventful: he didn't eat anything he wasn't supposed to, save one more knitting needle (I'm just going to have to start putting my projects away while I'm not working on them.) He's been sleeping ten to eleven hours at night, and he no longer fusses in the morning to get out of his crate. He's also getting more attached to us and wants to follow us around the house rather than sneak off and chew on stuff. He keeps improving every day.

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SO SAD

One of my favorite bloggers disappears and resurfaces so often I can barely keep up with him. His blog-restarting ritual reminds me of the way the X-man Nightcrawler bamfs into thin air. Since this blogger teleports himself around the blogosphere and pops up where he's least expected, I can no longer keep up with the name of his blog or the name he's using for himself. From here on out, I'm calling him Bamf. (Deal with it, dude.)

Bamf normally deals in humor alone, so I was surprised to find one of the saddest articles I've read in a long time: the excavation of priceless tokens found at a concentration camp:

A child's ring. Twisted reading glasses. A few gold coins: scraps of personal dignity, hurriedly buried in a last act of defiance to keep them from falling into Nazi hands. Israeli archaeologists helped by survivors are writing a new chapter in the terrible history of the German death camp at Majdanek, Poland, by excavating grounds long thought to be empty.

Their findings show how the doomed Jews furiously dug into the grassy ground with their hands to bury what personal possessions they had with them before they were murdered in the camp's gas chambers.

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HA

The Screedblog's awesome today. Lileks rips Vonnegut via The Princess Bride. Priceless.

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November 20, 2005

HEH

I laughed into my pancakes this morning when my husband told me Johnny Depp is disillusioned with France:

DEPP: 'I CAN'T STAY IN RIOT-RAVAGED FRANCE'

Hollywood star Johnny Depp is so shocked by the riots raging through France, he's considering abandoning his home in the country.

The FINDING NEVERLAND heart-throb moved to Europe when life in Los Angeles became too violent.

He has since divided time between the two continents - but he fears France will be scarred permanently by the current troubles.

He says, "It's insane, that setting cars on fire is the new strike.

"I went there (to France) to live because it seemed so simple.

"Now it's anything but. I don't know how they'll recover from this."

Hahahahahahaha. Newsflash: life isn't "simple" anywhere.

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November 19, 2005

FED UP TOO

An excerpt from Cold Fury's sweet rant on the disheartening damage President Clinton just did (a great post, by the way: read the whole thing):

The Marines and Army are involved in a couple slam bang fights as we speak, reducing a couple large pockets of Al Qaida fighters that have festered for a long time without intervention. Yet day after day, we hear nothing about where the fighting is going on, what’s really happening, who is being apprehended or killed, why the fight is in a particular place, what the strategic significance is, or how our young men and women are making us proud with their dedication to the mission and the country and their workaday, exceptional-is-the-new-ordinary heroism. Instead the only headline I ever see is “two Americans killed.” Or “five Americans killed.” Or “seven Americans injured in bombing.” Really? The only impression I get from the MSM is that the U.S. troops are basically lined up like metal ducks in a shooting gallery, being picked off one at a time without actually doing anything positive, not carrying out missions, whatever. I guess they are just wandering around in the ‘Raq, wearing do rags, listening to the Stones, smokin’ dope and waiting for their hitch to end.

It's such a Woman Thing to ask your husband "What are you thinking?" when he's quiet. (I know, I know, I've listened to Seinfeld, but it's hard not to ask.) More often than not these days, my husband's response is "Iraq". He's thinking about Iraq. Constantly. What he was doing this day last year, what he could've done better, how they could've f-ed up the bad guys a little more in this situation or that, and what he'll do differently the next time he goes. He thinks about it all the time -- about how he can be a more effective soldier, not how poor and miserable he was.

And at no point was he just walking around waiting to get killed or go home.

My husband takes his job seriously, and he took it extra-seriously while he was in Iraq. He put a couple of soldiers in jail for disobeying the rules, for pete's sake. He didn't sit around reading existentialist garbage and thinking about how, like, life has no meaning and war is not the answer. He's not a puppet, he's not a sitting duck, and he's not a mindless automaton under the control of the Bushitler Oil Junta. He's a man who helped the US Military take one more step towards winning the War on Terror.

So maybe, just once, he and the other brave men and women like him could get some good press for a change. Or some indication to the American public that they're winning this war. Is that too much to freaking ask?

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QUICK LINKS

Interesting article on what happened to Iraq's WMDs: Where the WMDs Went
And an article whose name says it all: I took Saddam's cash, admits French envoy

UPDATE:

Read SGT Rausch's letter to Hook: Taste of Freedom
The Real Pro-War Crowd: Who They Are and What They Want (Chaos, Anarchy and Death)
And the Western media ran with a completely despicable fakery, once again: McCarthyism 101

And a good quote on a worthwhile Donald Sensing post:

I stand by every word, including what I wrote about WMDs. Why? Because it’s worth remembering that the only reason we have certainty now about Saddam’s WMD programs is because we invaded Iraq.

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November 17, 2005

ANTI-IDIOTARIAKNITS

I joined an elite new webring that I'm really excited about:

antiidiotariaknits.jpg

I guess that means I need more knitting content on my blog. So for the "knits" end of the deal, here's the sweater I finished yesterday:

redsweater.JPG

And for the "anti-idiotaria" side, read Cold Fury's post on lies (via Hud).

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November 16, 2005

FAREWELL, RED6

Yesterday we said good-bye to Red6. Today he moved on to his next duty station, where he will try to get back to Iraq as fast as he can. His wife deploys next week, and he's hoping to end up with her downrange. I'm so glad that he gets to finally be with his wife, but I'm terribly sad to see him go.

I still remember the first time I met him. My husband came home one night at OBC and asked if he could invite someone over to dinner. Since my husband does not make friends lightly, I knew this guy must be someone special. As they sat and cracked up together over The Simpsons, I knew they were going to be friends.

We moved here to Germany while Red6 was still at Ranger school. Once my husband realized that this duty station was pretty good for a 12A, he called Red6 and suggested he try to get switched to come here. A day later it was done, and Red6 was on his way. He showed up while the unit was at gunnery, so I helped him get settled while the husband was in the field.

My husband's company had a strange mission in Iraq, so for the first six months of his deployment, he didn't even have a "home base": they bounced from FOB to FOB to Najaf and back. But Red6 was stationary, and since he had an internet connection in his room, he really helped me through the deployment while my husband was out of communication. We'd chat about TV and tell our spouses' embarrassing college stories and other silly nonsense. We'd try to work as many Futurama references into our conversations as possible. He was a lifesaver for me when I had no way of hearing from my husband, and I am so grateful that he was such a good friend to me.

I'm really going to miss listening to my husband and Red6 talk shop at the dinner table. Most people might find that really boring, but that's how I've learned most of my information about the Army and deployment: I loved being a fly on the wall while they talked about things that either pumped them up or burned them up. The two of them seemed to agree on most things -- the good and bad about the Army and armor and Iraq -- and they just got along so well. We're really going to miss him.

I know we're going to keep in touch, but I hope we run into each other again someday. I'm glad that he and his wife are finally together again, and I hope they kick butt together in Iraq.

So long, Red6.


I have to say goodbye now. There ain't no turtles where daddy's a-going...

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