November 17, 2006
I've written so many times here about fraud, waste, and abuse. I can think of dozens of examples in my own life of how the government wastes money in the military community. And if they're wasting it in the few places I've been, I can't stand to think how much waste there really is.
I've got one word to sum up fraud, waste, and abuse: Pearl.
Pearl was our education counselor in Germany. She was brought out of retirement to fill the position. She gave soldiers so much wrong advice that it makes me ill, she couldn't write a grammatical sentence to save her life, and she constantly brought me her work and asked for help because she didn't understand. I made $8.50 an hour; she made over $60,000 a year.
And if there's one Pearl, there are surely plenty of others.
The government doesn't spend money wisely, and there aren't many checkups once it's spent to make sure they're getting bang for their buck. I don't want the government to have a dime more than they need.
* I AM: the Household 7. Most wives say they're the 6, but I work for a living!
* I WANT: my husband to be as happy as I am
* I HAVE: nine big plastic tubs of yarn, waiting to be used
* I WISH: my body didn't require sleep; I think sleep is a waste of time
* I HATE: disagreeing with people
* I FEAR: losing my husband to a car accident
* I HEAR: Charlie barking his fool head off as kids leave for school
* I SEARCH: for Charlie's kong toy; we threw it down the hall a year ago and never saw it again
* I WONDER: how long we'll be at our next duty station
* I REGRET: not meeting Bunker before he died
* I LOVE: the Apollo program
* I ALWAYS: knit while I watch TV; I don't know how to just watch TV
* I AM NOT: a feminist, by any stretch of the term
* I DANCE: to Elvis with the dog sometimes
* I SING: Swedish showtunes when I feel like belting it out; somehow my singing voice sounds awesome when it's not in English
* I CRY: at the end of Raising Arizona and most episodes of Cold Case
* HAVE A CRUSH: Yes, on every man I've ever met named Fred, which is my favorite name in the whole wide world. I have no idea why I'm hooked on that name, but I get giddy around every Fred I've ever met. I remember the day we met Angie's husband, and my husband went "oh lord, here we go" when we found out his name. Angie's Fred, on the other hand, has no idea who I am even though we've met several times, which obviously points to how cool I am. (By the way, just so I don't look like the only crazy one, my husband has a crush on one of my friends from college; he schemes for her to get divorced and then marry his best friend from high school.)
* WANT TO GET MARRIED: I'd sooner die than be at a point in my life where that'd be possible.
* GET MOTION SICKNESS: not really
* THINK YOU'RE A HEALTH FREAK: ha, I wish
* CURRENT HAIR COLOR: brown, same as it's ever been. It always makes me laugh when someone says I've changed my hair color, because I've never dyed it or gotten highlights or anything.
* EYE COLOR: blue or something. I've worn contacts so long that I can touch my bare eyeball with my finger and not flinch, which makes my husband want to puke.
* BIRTHPLACE: I am way too proud of being an Okie.
In the past week, there are 476 documents on Nexis heralding the magnificent achievement of Nancy Pelosi becoming the FIRST WOMAN speaker of the House.
I thought we had moved beyond such multicultural milestones.
The media yawned when Condoleezza Rice became the first black woman secretary of state (and when Lincoln Chafee became the first developmentally disabled senator).
There were only 77 documents noting that Rice was the first black woman to be the secretary of state, and half of them were issues of Jet, Essence, Ebony or Black Entrepreneur magazine.
November 16, 2006
The show ended up being the second highest rated show in the history of Headline News.
My mother-in-law read that I was a US history dummy and mailed us some history books. She asked my husband if I had had a chance to read them yet, and he snorted and said that I had a lot on my plate right now. Here's my birthday jackpot, thanks to my husband, Oda Mae, and CaliValleyGirl.
And that doesn't include the stash of cookbooks from my mom and mother-in-law. Nor the twelve paperbacks I got at Goodwill yesterday, nearly rounding out my Michael Crichton collection. (I swear I'd buy his grocery list if he published it.) Life is good.
I just finished reading Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. I completely recommend it for anyone my age, we who were too young to really appreciate Reagan as a president. That man was fantastic. I just started Island, and after about 100 pages, I'm still at that feeling where I can't decide if I'm liking it or not. I guess I'm not disliking it, but it's not what I expected.
My husband said I need to stop buying books and start seriously hoarding that money to buy, oh, a refrigerator, washer, dryer, sofa, and backyard fence. I told him that my books cost less than his beer, and last much longer. And that he's lucky his wife's Day of Splurging means spending seven bucks on paperbacks at Goodwill.
But I promised: no more books until after we move.
November 15, 2006
November 14, 2006
I mean this idea that it's normal for the state to be as big as it is in advanced social democratic societies is something that would have seemed incredible to anyone a hundred years ago. I mean, I remember being struck by - on September 11th - and I was writing a column a couple of days afterwards and, you know, we're all done with our initial reaction, so you're trying to think a couple of days ahead and find a new angle on it, and I happen to just notice that it was more or less (a hundred years after the) assassination of President McKinley. I was thinking, well, maybe I could tie these two things together, these two big traumatizing events and, you know, bookending the century, whatever - you know, just peck, peck, peck - we journalists always are going to peck.
So I sort of rummaged around the clippings of President McKinley's assassination and realized that while people were upset about it, they essentially regarded it as the removal of a remote figure who played a peripheral part in their lives. To that point for most people in most parts of the U.S. the federal government did not impinge on their life in any way.
So when people talk about the modern social democratic state, you know, cradle to grave entitlements, we should understand that it is, in effect, a huge experimental departure from the normal course of human history - and the experiment as we can see in almost every other country apart from the U.S. has failed.
And if you need an even bigger dose of Steyn, check out his newest column:
If they'd done a Spain -- blown up a bunch of subway cars in New York or vaporized the Empire State Building -- they'd have re-awoken the primal anger of September 2001. With another mound of corpses piled sky-high, the electorate would have stampeded into the Republican column and demanded the U.S. fly somewhere and bomb someone.
The jihad crowd know that. So instead they employed a craftier strategy. Their view of America is roughly that of the British historian Niall Ferguson -- that the Great Satan is the first superpower with ADHD. They reasoned that if you could subject Americans to the drip-drip-drip of remorseless water torture in the deserts of Mesopotamia -- a couple of deaths here, a market bombing there, cars burning, smoke over the city on the evening news, day after day after day, and ratcheted up a notch or two for the weeks before the election -- you could grind down enough of the electorate and persuade them to vote like Spaniards, without even realizing it. And it worked.
November 13, 2006
To the eye, Bloody Omaha is just a sandy beach.
No white crosses, no huge memorial, no visible signs of those who sacrificed themselves and fought for freedom. No sign of those who fell for it.
Yet I remember "Joe" and "Tommy", heroes with no names but so many faces, who came here one day, fighters for a just cause, in a liberation army.
I was told about them, I read books about them, I saw pictures of them, and I watched interviews and movies. I heard their stories. The Joe and Tommy who got through this, told me about their brothers who didn't.
And they show me why they didn't fall in vain.
One day in July, standing on the sand of bloody Omaha a long time ago, I learned about Joe and Tommy. I learned that my own Grand Pa' and Grand Ma' once hid Joe, whose plane had been shot down, in their attic, to save him from Fritz. I learned that Fritz could have killed Joe and my grand parents for that. I learned that Fritz killed and imprisoned a lot of people because they weren't like him or just because they didn't think like him and disagreed with him. And I learned that Joe and Tommy came to stop Fritz acting like this and send him back to his country.
I know I wanted to thank Joe and Tommy for that.
So I guess I asked: "And where is Joe now? Where is Tommy?"
My parents probably answered that they were gone, back home long before I was born. Joe and Tommy didn't come to conquer like Fritz did, you know, hence they went back to their own countries. That's why, since I wasn't born when Joe and Tommy shed their blood to make sure I would come to life free in a free land, I learned about them by my father and mother, many years later.
And that's why I couldn't thank Joe and Tommy, like I wanted.
I know that today, there are fathers and mothers in Kosovo telling their kids about Joe and Tommy. I know there will be others tomorrow in Iraq.
I don't know if there are memorials to Joe and Tommy in Kosovo today and I don't know if there will be in Iraq tomorrow.
But I know that as long as I and other kids born free in a liberated land, here, in Kosovo or in Iraq, remember them, the fallen Joe and Tommy will live forever.
I know a fallen Tommy; his name is Sean Sims.
His own son lost him two years ago today.
But may he live forever in the hearts of kids born free in Iraq.
November 12, 2006
We picked one, and have spent the past two days alternating between ecstasy and trepidation. I guess there's no way to know if we made the absolute right choice, but at least we made it.
So now the moving begins! Man, I can't believe we just did this six months ago.
November 11, 2006
My husband's visible discomfort that he might not have another opportunity to put to use all he learned in Iraq, all he has digested and mulled over for two years, stands in stark contrast to the Iraqi quoted in this article:
Â“What was I going to wait for that would keep me on the force?Â” said Mohammed Humadi, a police captain who quit in August after one of his commanders was killed and beheaded. Â“Nothing was going to get any better. I have children, and if I were to sacrifice myself, it wouldnÂ’t change anything.Â”
I struggle daily with the two opposing camps of the War in Iraq: those who say that the US has no business trying to set up a utopia halfway across the world, and those whose idealism bubbles over into dreams of playing Iraq in the World Cup. But the one thing I do know is that it's a knife in my heart that my husband would give his life for Iraq while this Iraqi would not.
A knife in my heart.
November 09, 2006
Last spring I wrote a proud post about my husband answering the call for active duty Civil Affairs. We had begun to plan our life around this decision, because we considered it a done deal: they were desperate for people, my husbandÂ’s language proficiency score was forty points higher than they were looking for, and he had recommendations and award citations all stating that, yes, he does in fact walk on water and should be considered for the job. That made the two-line form-letter rejection email he got in May a crushing blow.
We had just been back in the US for a couple of days, and my husband was completely depressed. He tried to find out why he had been rejected, but just ended up with more form letters. And he didnÂ’t want me to post anything about it because he was embarrassed. I was just angry. I couldnÂ’t understand why the Army would make such a stupid decision: they had someone who was begging to learn Arabic and deploy as much as they needed, and they turned their back on him. We figured the only thing that made sense was that Finance wouldnÂ’t release him from their grasp, which just made me madder. Which is more important, winning this war or running a cash cage? Neither of us could understand. He started talking about getting out of the Army, which naturally threw me into a panic. Our homecoming from Germany was not what we expected.
Fast forward to September, when my husbandÂ’s branch manager came to speak to the captains course. She explained that the Finance branch is dwindling fast, and since theyÂ’re overflowing with extra captains, maybe some of them might consider the new and exciting field ofÂ…Civil Affairs. My husband was stunned and outraged. When he finally sat down with his branch manager, he explained that he had already tried to leave for Civil Affairs. And she explained that Finance had blocked him; his packet never even made it onto a Civil AffairÂ’s desk. Information that wouldÂ’ve been nice to know in May, before he tore himself into knots thinking that maybe he couldÂ’ve used one more recommendation letter! So he asked if he could have another shot at Civil Affairs. As of yesterday, this looks promising. WeÂ’re still trying to figure out the exact schedule, but it looks like it might finally happen.
But in the meantimeÂ…
Since there are far more Finance captains than jobs, everyone in his course is getting farmed out to random taskings. He and another soldier were assigned jobs at the same post, but my husband got a Finance job and this other guy was assigned to a unit thatÂ’s deploying to Iraq in December.
My husband came home and asked me if he could trade assignments with the guy.
Every time I think I couldn't be prouder of my husband, he does something to amaze me. This other soldier just returned from a deployment, and my husband doesn't think it's fair that this guy should do another so soon when my husband hasn't been since OIF II. But there's more to his decision than just equality of downrangedness: my husband thinks that the War on Terror is important, and he has an emotional investment in the future of Iraq.
Our old neighbor in Germany was all set to get out of the Army when he got stop-lossed and deployed. He couldÂ’ve been quite bitter about it, but instead he sent out an email that really grabbed me by the heart. In it he said, Â“In Texas, people thank you for serving in the Armed Forces all of the time. I know they do not mean thanks Â‘for living in Germany, drinking beer, and eating bratwurst.Â’ When it is all said and done I will be able to look them straight in the eye and know I have done my part.Â”
My husband also doesnÂ’t think that people are thanking him for cashing social security checks for German widows so they can hide the income from their government, which was what he spent a lot of time doing in Germany. He wants his service to mean more than that. He wants to do anything he can to help our country win this war. He gets personal satisfaction and meaning from doing a job that matters in the world, and right now he thinks he could matter more on a deployment.
So he asked my permission. And I granted it.
Most people IÂ’ve told this story to think weÂ’re certifiably insane. But the truth is, everyone reading this knows how we feel about this War on Terror. And if we feel that way, we canÂ’t let some other family fight it for us. Morally, I canÂ’t support the war but hope someone elseÂ’s husband will go fight it. And I think we need the best and brightest soldiers out there doing the job if weÂ’re going to winÂ…and you all know I think my soldier is the absolute best and brightest!
So my husband traded assignments with this guy, in exchange for a case of Budweiser Select. I told him IÂ’m contacting Anheuser-Busch, because they should know that a man agreed to spend a year in Iraq for a case of their beer.
And then he got an email yesterday saying that heÂ’s going to Afghanistan, not Iraq.
At this point, IÂ’m throwing my hands in the air and giving up. He may or may not switch from Finance to Civil Affairs. He may or may not go to either Iraq or Afghanistan at the end of this year or beginning of next year. He got another email saying he could start Civil Affairs training in May, which is smackdab in the middle of when heÂ’s supposed to be in Iraq. Or Afghanistan.
WeÂ’re going house-hunting this weekend. Hopefully weÂ’ll find something and move me into it before my husband goes wherever heÂ’s going to do whatever it is heÂ’s doing. IÂ’m getting the hang of this Army thing and just taking it as it comes.
More when we know it, faithful readers.
November 08, 2006
By the way, my husband is "playing" Sherman in an exercise they're doing on his staff ride today. No one else wanted to touch Sherman with a ten foot pole. My husband, on the other hand, thinks he was a pretty smart guy.
Personally, I've just enjoyed teasing him about the "Civil War reenactment" he's participating in. Hopefully he can work in a game of grab-ass.
And a new essay up!
Yes, I actually said that sentence; I can't believe it either. But it came to me in a revelation while I stood in the grocery store with cow blood all over my hands: I really miss the vacuum-packed meat. What is the deal with going to the store and getting covered in chicken and beef juice? This plastic-wrap-over-styrofoam doesn't work, people! It leaks! Which is gross and slightly dangerous. It's not healthy to be walking around covered in raw chicken, right? I hate that. I miss the days of clean packs of meat in the commissary in Germany.
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