September 29, 2005

COLA

They're going to start normalizing COLA, giving everyone in Germany the same amount. This means that some folks are getting huge cuts in their paychecks, while we in our community will get more. Because we have always had the lowest COLA in Europe. So we're supposed to feel sorry for families in these other areas who are going to get less money and "end up on food stamps or something"? Families in our area make do.

I never understood how they calculated COLA anyway. My brother-in-law lives 20 minutes from Wurzburg. If he lived in Wurzburg, he'd get double the COLA, regardless of the fact that he already does all of his shopping in Wurzburg. I don't understand how that has anything to do with purchasing power. If we had to buy groceries and clothes on the economy, then I might understand, but we have a PX and commissary for that reason. If you choose to buy that 900 Euro DVD player off post, that's your problem; the government shouldn't have to subsidize it for you. Especially since the PX sells them for $39.

Remember that old article about COLA? "Every time the euro rises one euro cent in value against the dollar, the dollar increase in salary and benefits for local-national employees at the Navy Exchanges is $187,000 adjusted annually." COLA is just one of the ways the US government throws money down a hole in Europe. Send us home, where there is no COLA.

MORE TO GROK:

Oh look, more boo-hooing. American military families all over Germany have to pay childcare and phone bills, and people in our community manage just fine with half the COLA you've been getting all along.

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September 26, 2005

HEH

The Stars and Stripes got some good quotes from D.C. this weekend:

Jamie Santoro, a 40-year-old editor with a book company in Chicago, rode 18 hours with 40 friends to participate.

“I came because I think war is wrong in every circumstance,” she said. What about in fighting someone such as Hitler? “War is always wrong.”

Arianette Gosnell, 18, a student at Lorain County Community College in Ohio, drove out with her friends.

She was handing out flyers that read “RESIST OR DIE! NO SCHOOL ON NOV. 2!”

Asked what the group hoped to accomplish by not going to class for a day, she said, “Actually, I just got involved today, so I don’t know.”

Heh.

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September 25, 2005

LIBRARY

I swear I could've written this blog entry about the library. I volunteered there as a kid and longed for the day when I had logged enough time to be able to stamp the due date cards. Mostly I just shelved the children's books, but it wasn't a bad gig for a ten year old. And I have asked my husband about the library vs. Napster thing too.

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BLACK SANDS OF PROTEST

I've been reading through official reports and blog posts about the anti-war ralley in D.C., and I've been getting increasingly grumpy. The google experiment posts really chap my hide. Are reporters really just glossing over Brian Becker's credentials, or saying that Cuddy is a "novice"? Aren't there any internet connections in newsrooms? All it took was ten seconds on google to show these people's true colors.

But what got me the most was this acute statement at Protein Wisdom:


[from the original AP article]

While united against the war, political beliefs varied in the Washington crowd. Paul Rutherford, 60, of Vandalia, Mich., said he is a Republican who supported Bush in the last election and still does except for the war.

“President Bush needs to admit he made a mistake in the war and bring the troops home, and let’s move on,” he said. His wife, Judy, 58, called the removal of Saddam Hussein “a noble mission” but said U.S. troops should have left when claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction proved unfounded.

“We found that there were none and yet we still stay there and innocent people are dying daily,” she said.

Only in a story that is desperately trying to hide its bias would the author find, foreground, and quote, as her initial interviewees, a couple who are surely the least politically representative of all those attending this rally: a pro-Bush Republican tandem so unversed in the Administration’s reasons for being in Iraq that they believe we should pull out before the mission is completed, and are basing that belief on a tired liberal talking point that conveniently ignores all the other reasons the Bushies outlined for the Iraq campaign. So, while Ms Kerr is certainly correct to note that political beliefs among the rallyers varies, her choice to highlight the most unrepresentative of the variants to open the story betrays her own rhetorical agenda—and does so in a way that is so obvious I’d be surprised to learn she thought it might actually fool anyone.

That is just the thing that might slip by an unperceptive reader like me, but Jeff Goldstein is a top-rate grokker. Out of the thousands (maybe) of people at the protest, this reporter handpicks the one middle-aged Republican couple. As if they're even representative of the type of folks there in D.C. Come on, they're thrown in the article with Brian Becker and Cindy Sheehan, for pete's sake. You know this AP reporter had to interview dozens of people before she got this money-shot couple. Oooh, look, they used to support Bush!

God, this reminds me so much of Whittle's fable of Noam Chomsky and the Black Sand:

Let’s say we stand overlooking the ocean along Pacific Coast Highway. From high atop the cliffs, we look down to the waves and the sand below. I ask you what color the beach is. You reply, reasonably enough, that it is sandy white. And you are exactly right.

However, there are people who cannot see the beach for themselves because they are not standing with us on this very spot. This is where Noam earns his liberal sainthood. Noam takes a small pail to the beach and sits down in the sand.

If you’ve ever run sand through your fingers, you know that for all of the thousands upon thousands of white or clear grains, there are a few dark ones here and there, falling through your fingers. With a jewelers loupe and an EXCEEDINGLY fine pair of tweezers, you carefully and methodically pluck all of the dark grains you can find – and only the dark grains – and carefully place them, one by one, into your trusty bucket.

It will take you a long time – it has taken Chomsky decades – to fill this bucket, but with enough sand and enough time, you will eventually do so. And then, when you do, you can make a career touring colleges through the world, giving speeches about the ebony-black beaches of Malibu, and you can pour your black sand onto the lectern and state, without fear of contradiction, that this sand was taken from those very beaches.

And what you say will be accurate, it will be factually based, and you will be lying like the most pernicious son of a bitch that ever lived.

This Republican couple was the black grain of sand at this anti-war ralley, but they're put in the article to create a fake sense of balance. Yeah, sure, the Mall is teeming with patchouli-smelling, underarm-hairy hippies, but hey, there's also a Republican couple from a blue state there! It's completely sneaky and false to claim that "political beliefs varied in the Washington crowd" because you found one couple who wasn't wearing a Rachel Corrie shirt or raving about how it's all the Jooooooos fault.

It all goes back to the premise of The Argument Culture: take every issue and show that it has two sides. But if there were 2000 protesters in D.C., and even 50 of them were former-Republicans, they're a small minority. Don't interview one moonbat and one Republican and then say that the anti-war rally represented a wide spectrum of beliefs. That's completely disingenuous, because the sands of this anti-war protest were not black.


UPDATE:

Nearly everyone in the comments section is missing the point. Yes, I'm aware of the President's approval ratings. I do not deny the fact that some people who voted for him might not support the war. What I said, however -- if you actually listened to my words and didn't infer whatever you wanted so you could rant about approval ratings and WMDs -- was that those people are likely not representative of the folks who attend anti-war rallies. Look at any collection of photos from the rally and you'll see folks waving Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyeh and crap. That's the face of the hardcore anti-war protester, so it's journalistically dishonest to seek out the most mainstream protesters and paint them as the norm.

My post was about the journalist's manipulation; it had nothing to do with President Bush's approval ratings. Please stop taking my writing off into tangents I never intended.

MORE TO GROK:

Here's another example of "lying like the most pernicious son of a bitch that ever lived"...

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September 23, 2005

MOON

Last night my husband and I watched the final episode of From the Earth to the Moon. I must say that after this week's revelation that we might return to the moon, I watched this episode completely differently than I did nine months ago. The finality of it all really hit me the first time I watched it: Cernan would be the last man on the moon for forever, we'll never have another chance to leave hammers, rovers, or golf balls up there again, we've lost the gumption that got us to the moon in under a decade. But this time around I had hope, hope that we'd be back again.

When it ended, my husband turned to me and said, "I wanna go to the moon." I do too, I said.

I was saddened to read much negative commentary online about returning to the moon. I know it costs money and time, but I just want to go back. And to imagine a staging point for a future trip to Mars...well, that's just beyond my comprehension.

Hope is a wonderful feeling.

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OUTRAGE

You're not alone, Charles. I too am outraged.
Hamas To Convert Synagogue to Weapons Museum

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DISGUSTING

I realized after reading The French Betrayal of America that the divide between the US and France is even worse than I had thought. And these commemorative stamps just sicken me.

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September 22, 2005

WORRYING

We all know that the Worry Center in my brain works overtime. Yesterday, when my husband asked me why I had bought batteries and put them in a big flashlight, I told him that when I was lying in bed I realized that we didn't have a working flashlight in the house and that we might need one in case the electricity went out or something. He chuckled and said, "So this is what you think about after I've fallen asleep."

So when the dog gets sick, my worry mode goes to eleven. Charlie has been losing it from both ends, so to speak, and I've become a nervous wreck. I've been watching him and fretting all day, and calling my two best friends constantly to ask their advice, since they both have much more dog experience than I do.

Maybe worrywarts shouldn't be responsible for another living being...

underbed.JPG

[Charlie's developed a taste for solitude under our bed.]

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September 20, 2005

GASP

Hey, Deskmerc -- did you see this? Did your heart skip a beat like mine did?
Are we really going back to the moon?

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PERFECT FOR ME

I told my husband that since I'm not working, I wouldn't spend any money on the internet. I've already broken that promise today by purchasing At Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much, which I found via Knitty. I'll do better starting tomorrow...

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HOW COULD YOU?

I just think that this German political campaign is in very poor taste (via Oda Mae). I don't even know what else to say about it, other than to point out how inappropriate it is.

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ARGUMENT CULTURE

Jack Army is a saint of a blogger. He often points to views that he thinks can enhance grokking, not just stuff he agrees with. And he takes a lot of flak for it, as the extensive comments on another post about females in the military indicate.

I just finished reading the book The Argument Culture. Tannen's premise is that we set everything up as a battle in our society. Shows like Crossfire and Pardon the Interruption are typical examples of how people are pitted against each other to fight on TV for our entertainment. We live in a culture that values debate and naturally frames our issues as two warring sides (e.g. the battle of the sexes).

The argument culture urges us to approach the world--and the people in it -- in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done:the best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to cover news is to find spokespeople who express the most extreme, polarized views and present them as "both sides"; the best way to settle disputes is litigation that pits one party against the other; the best way to begin an essay is to attack someone; and the best way to show you're really thinking is to criticize.

This book was published in 1998; I'd love to hear Tannen's take on blog comment sections. She talks about the technology that makes email impersonal and incognito, moreso than any other communication that our parents/grandparents had before us. The comment sections on blogs takes this to an all new extreme. Fake names and fake email addresses make it possible for people to hide behind a cloak of anonymity...and to say whatever they want in order to win the argument.

Tim left blogging because of the Death of Civility, a theme I return to often here when the argument culture of blogging gets to be too much for me. When you read the comments section over at Jack Army's blog, you see how women behave in a way they'd never behave if they were face to face. The safety of anonymous comments gives them the guts -- or nerve -- to lash out at fellow human beings. And these are 1) all women who are 2) in or married to the military. They have common ground, yet the insults start flying from the safety of their own keyboards.

And Tannen is sure right that the issue of women in the miltary immediately becomes an "us vs. them" dichotomy. The comments section quickly breaks into two camps fighting against each other; instead of finding ways they could agree about women's role in the military, they focus on ways they disagree. Sadly, it becomes an "I'm all right and you're all wrong" type of fight, when in fact there could be a lot of grey area if they really tried to find it.

Interestingly enough, Tannen would say -- and I agree -- that this fight would probably never happen face to face. In a social setting, these women would find conciliatory ways to discuss the issue without labeling every female soldier as a slut and every military wife as a jealous hag whose husband is probably cheating on her. These women likely wouldn't dream of making that generalization publicly in front of women who belong in the opposite group, but they have no qualms about making those statements in an anonymous comments section.

It's fascinating really, this death of civility. And quite scary as well.


(Important disclaimer: I too am a blogger, and blogging lends itself to disagreeing; I am not an impartial reader pointing fingers at the women at Jack Army's blog. These are things that I just finished reading and need to digest some more and apply to my own writing, though I think I'm already averse to namecalling and flaming. I'm just surprised that I found such a telling example of this argument culture phenomenon a mere two hours after I finished the book.)

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September 18, 2005

HA

I got a big smile when I heard these evacuees on the radio Friday night. I'm glad Newsbusters got the story online. (And I'm thrilled with Hawkins' Conservative Grapevine, where I often find such gems.):

ABC News producers probably didn't hear what they expected when they sent Dean Reynolds to the Houston Astrodome's parking lot to get reaction to President Bush's speech from black evacuees from New Orleans. Instead of denouncing Bush and blaming him for their plight, they praised Bush and blamed local officials.
[...]
Not one of the six people interviewed on camera had a bad word for Bush -- despite Reynolds' best efforts.

Go read the transcript and see how bamboozled Reynolds was that these evacuees have faith in our president.

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September 16, 2005

OBSESSED

From Lileks, waiting to be called for jury duty:

We all sign in, which means a long queue of people in various moods from sullen to disengaged to temporarily-not-knitting-but-happy-to-know-that-knitting-will-soon-be-resumed.

Boy, do I know that feeling. I'm back on the wagon (off the wagon? I never remember which way that goes...); I've made a hat or scarf every night this week.

I'm starting to get this panic attacks about moving. My husband was barking at me last night to knock it off, but when you're an Unemployed Obsessive Planner, you have to throw your energies into something. I try to channel it into knitting and dinner, but for some reason I've been starting to freak out about moving.

We don't move for another nine months, you know.

I've started obsessively whittling down our collection of canned foods. Can't buy more than what I need now, because what if we don't use it up? So what if this is on sale, we may not get to it in time. And what to do about that huge bottle of shampoo: the future looked so bright when I had hair to my waist, but now the meniscus has barely moved. And the dog food, oh the dog food. Charlie will be making the switch from puppy to adult around the time we move, so what if we end up with too much puppy food left over? Or we buy some adult food and don't make it through the whole bag? We can't just throw it away.

Or actually we can, my husband says as he stares at me in horror. It costs $7.50, so it's not the end of the world.

Of course, last time we moved, I shoved a whole bunch of foodstuffs into my suitcase because I couldn't bear to throw it all out and buy the exact same thing over again when we got to Germany. I guess it serves me right that I ended up with sesame oil all over my entire wardrobe.

You see why I knit now, right? It occupies my mind. It keeps me from worrying that I've just bought a new bottle of tarragon and there's no way we can get through the whole thing before we move.

I'm just happy to know that knitting will soon be resumed.

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SIGH

Those two students who cussed at me? Nothing happened to them. No punishment.
So I found a solution: I'm no longer a sub.

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September 15, 2005

MAN

This is too touching for words: Iraqi Soldiers Donate to Katrina Victims.
(via Malkin)

And this article on the "bad working conditions" at Wal-Mart reads like a Scrappleface entry. What a joke.

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September 14, 2005

POETRY WEDNESDAY

Annika singled me out as a poetry lover, so I gotta do something for Wednesday. Go read the first page of my favorite book of poems, This Is My Beloved by Walter Benton.

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September 13, 2005

UNRULY

I went to high school with a girl who had never been in trouble but had always been curious about what went on in the Dean's office. Finally, in her last week as a senior, she asked the English teacher what one would have to do to get sent to the Dean. Cussing brought ten demerits for every letter of the swear word, so this girl giggled and then triumphantly announced the shortest swear word she knew; the teacher sent her down to the Dean to collect her thirty demerits. That's the only instance I can think of in all my years of schooling where someone cussed in class.

So far I've been cussed at twice as a substitute.

If you're reading this and you're a parent, I hope your kids know better than to swear in class, both directly to the teacher or to other students (I heard the m-f word yesterday from across the room.) Or that they know the proper way to ask to use the restroom (hint: it's not "hey, lady, I gotta pee.") Or that they don't start fistfights in the classroom (I broke two of those up today.)

I never would've dreamed of acting this unruly, even with some of our most hated subs. I don't know what the deal is with kids today, but I'm not optimistic about my desire to create one of these beasts.

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September 12, 2005

ADVERSITY

It rained non-stop over the weekend, which is a real pain when you have a dog. I dreaded the moments when he'd go to the door and ask to be let out, because it meant raincoats and shoes and muddy puppy feet.

But that's the worst thing I have to deal with in my life right now.

From The 3rd World View (via LaRochelle via Poretto):

Bangladesh faces this kinds of tragedy [i.e. hurricanes] every year and still it is a developing not a stagnant country. The media do not propagate the courage and efforts many Bangladeshis show each year to start their life all over. If the calamities would not only be the central idiom of the media, the world could have learnt many tips for tackling these kind of calamities.

Daniel Brett writes a striking post "What America can learn from Bangladesh":

"Last year Bangladesh faced a natural disaster which was an altogether larger disaster than Hurricane Katrina and the casualty figures were probably lower than the casualties sustained in the New Orleans disaster. But the disaster was contained due to the survival instincts of the Bangladeshi people, their ingenuity in the face of adversity and their culture of hard work. Rather than shoot and loot, Bangladesh immediately used its modest resources to limit the impact of the floods before international aid arrived.

The fact that the economy was able to recover from the floods so soon is a testament to the ability of Bangladeshis to pick themselves up and go about rebuilding.

The Americans have never really faced such adversity...Bangladeshis place great importance to social and family ties and these have brought them through a multitude of natural and man-made disasters. Bangladesh's experiences show us that, in the face of disaster, money does not make society more cohesive or better organised."


On the whole, Americans know very little about adversity. When the husband and I were talking about this last night, he said that whenever he starts to feel like his life sucks, he remembers the people of Iraq. These are people who faced death threats and drive-bys, people who could be the only surviver in a vehicle attack and still come in to work the next day. These are people who love nothing better than clean bottled water; even folks as high on the food chain as the mayors would gush over a bottle of water, my husband said. He remembers these things when he starts to feel his priorities slipping.

I'm glad we live in a country where death and destruction aren't rampant, where the worst I have to deal with is a smelly wet dog. But perhaps it makes us short on the gumption it takes to overcome real adversity, the gumption our forefathers had to leave everything and come to the New World. That's a bad thing to forget...

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GI BILL

I guess it will help retention, and the article doesn't spell out which MOSs will be affected, but as a rule I do not support the idea of extending the GI Bill to spouses. I personally think that this is a benefit that the soldier receives in order to better himself, not his spouse. Spouses already are eligible for no-questions-asked military scholarships that cut their tuition in half, which I think is a very valuable benefit. Thus, I personally think the GI Bill belongs to the GI.

Posted by: Sarah at 11:28 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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