September 12, 2007
Imagine if a more reliably sober-minded sort say Zbigniew Brzezinski, David Broder prophesied six years ago that in 2007, Bin Laden would still be at-large and giving televised addresses in which he offered generous blurbs for Noam Chomsky, touted global warming, expressed disappointment with the Democratic majority in Congress and championed a flat tax so low it would make Steve Forbes blush like John Ashcroft at a Pussycat Dolls audition. Most of us would have suggested that Messrs. Brzezinski or Broder should open the window when they cook their meth.
September 11, 2007
So which is the real US? Someone from rural Wisconsin will have a completely different idea than someone from the barrio in L.A. Neither one of these places is less real, but you might not even recognize them as the same country if you saw descriptions of them side by side.
So which is the real Iraq? Is it Erbil?
Or is it Baghdad?
It would be hard for an Iraqi living in either one of these places to give a good bird's eye view on what the country as a whole is like. Just like someone from Wisconsin would be lousy at describing the barrio. It's just really hard to do. And even harder to do when you're an outsider.
My husband had a pretty good understanding of what his sector was like in 2004-2005. But he's the first one to admit that that means nothing today. His experiences are outdated, and the same neighborhoods are quite different two years on. And even while he was boots on the ground, he had no experience whatsoever with what was going on in Basra or Tikrit. His view was microscopic.
I have been thinking about this a lot tonight, ever since I read Thomas Sowell's latest article, which begins with the brilliant line, "Sometimes I feel as if I must be one of the few people left in America who is not a military expert."
For example, all sorts of politicians have been talking about all sorts of ways we ought to redeploy our troops. The closest I ever came to deploying troops was marching a company of Marines to the mess hall for chow.
But people who have never even put on a uniform are confident that they know how our troops should be redeployed. Maybe this is one of the fruits of the self-esteem that is taught in our schools instead of education.
If my husband's information on Iraq is microscopic and outdated, I can't begin to describe Congress'. An overnight trip to the Green Zone doesn't teach you a lot about what Iraq is like. You'd be better off reading a book on Iraq than sitting in a Baghdad hotel.
But these days, everyone is a military expert. Nothing has made that more painfully obvious than this New York Times article on General Petraeus' speech.
Under the timetable embraced Monday by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the number of American combat brigades would decline by one-fourth by next summer, to 15 in July from 20 now, with the prospect of deeper, if as yet unscheduled, reductions to come.
But such a move would raise the question of how the United States can avert an increase in violence in Iraq while carrying out a gradual drawdown. One approach embraced by many lawmakers would be to modify the American mission to emphasize the training and advising of Iraqi security forces so that Iraqis would be pushed into the lead and a vast majority of American combat troops could be quickly withdrawn.
This proposal, which was offered last year by the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel led by Lee H. Hamilton, a former congressman, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, has appealed to many Democrats and some Republicans who want to achieve a measure of stability in Iraq while shrinking the role of the American military.
But in his testimony on Monday, General Petraeus offered a very different vision. He proposed an American presence that would not only be longer and larger than many Democrats have advocated but would also provide for a greater American combat role in protecting the Iraqi population.
They may as well have started the article with "Most Americans we polled want to bring the troops home, but unfortunately some jerkwad named Petraeus is in charge and he doesn't want to listen to all of us." I mean, really. This is how they set up this article? "One approach embraced by many lawmakers"? As if they really have any clue what they're talking about. Didn't only one of the Iraq Study Group guys ever leave the Green Zone? They seriously set up this article about General Petraeus' speech as "Here's what we think is best but Petraeus disagrees." That is not only extremely poor journalism, it's oh so sanctimonious.
General Petraeus' grasp on Iraq is likely not perfect either, but it's probably as macroscopic as it gets. And they hired him to do a job -- assess what we need to do to win in Iraq -- and now no one wants to hear the results.
General Petraeus acknowledged that some military officers in Washington favored faster change in the American mission, but he said that his approach reflected his best judgment on how to cope with the violence in Iraq.
General Petraeus promised a more detailed discussion of the post-surge phase in March. But one point was made abundantly clear: if he has his way, in the next phase the United States will not rely largely on a program to advise and train the Iraqi Army while removing its own forces from the battlefield.
Translation: He says he's giving us his "best judgement," but it's not what we wanted to hear. Now, let's go write some more articles to try to sway public opinon so he doesn't have his way.
No one is going to have a perfect picture of what will bring absolute success in Iraq. Most Americans couldn't even tell you how to stop crime in their own neighborhoods, but all of us are military experts these days. And apparently all of us know better than Petraeus.
Nevermind that we've never even heard of Erbil.
But I don't think I can do it.
Expressing pride on 9/11 is not the normal feeling, even if it is the pride of knowing that your family is working to make sure it never happens again. And, for me, any expression of pride has to come with an explanation rooted in politics. Because, sadly enough, 9/11 is still highly political. And SpouseBUZZ is not.
So I can tell you here that I feel good that, six years on, my anger is properly channeled and I've settled into a good pace on this marathon we're running. But I don't feel comfortable saying it there.
On 9/11/01 I was a stupid kid who didn't know a thing about the world. I hated politics, put my fingers in my ears any time someone mentioned Israel, and was shockingly naive about how deep the world's hatred for my country ran. I was at school that day and was annoyed that my fellow classmates all wanted to go home; I thought they all just wanted an excuse for a day off. New York was 800 miles away, so there was no reason we couldn't continue with our lessons. I was engaged to a guy in Army ROTC, and the severity of 9/11 still didn't sink in. In short, I was a complete idiot.
Today I started thinking that if 9/11 hadn't happened, my life would be quite different. My husband was slated to join the Army for four years of Finance. My guess is that he would've completed his commitment and taken his business mind elsewhere for more money. Certainly he wouldn't have stayed in and chosen to learn Farsi. We'd probably be somewhere in the Midwest, working and living like most of our peers.
Although I was too obtuse and self-absorbed to realize it at the time, 9/11 changed everything for me.
And 9/11 changed the blogging world too. Early in the morning of 9/11/01, Steven den Beste wrote a post about online gambling. Guess what he posted on the rest of the week, and more or less for the rest of his blogging career. If it weren't for the path that he and others like him forged, I might still be sitting with my fingers in my ears.
Without 9/11, I never would've learned to think.
From an article on MSNBC:
The total number of victims killed six years ago 2,974 includes 2,750 at the World Trade Center site. Forty were killed in Pennsylvania and 184 died at the Pentagon. Those numbers do not include the 19 hijackers.
As they damn well shouldn't.
MORE TO GROK:
September 10, 2007
So, what's your Lassie?
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards on Thursday unveiled a plan that would increase taxes for the wealthy and create tax breaks for the middle class.
Among the proposals, Edwards would make long-term savings easier for low-income families with Get Ahead Accounts that would match savings up to $500 per year.
Wow. We really live in a country where a presidential candidate wants to take money that belongs in the earner's savings account, launder it through the government tax system, and put it in the savings account of someone who didn't earn it.
What I hate about Republican candidates is that they never seem to cut through the euphemisms. There's always a way to rephrase what Democrats want to do that makes them look bad. All you have to do is point out that someone worked hard to earn that money, and the government took it away and put it into someone else's bank account. If you get someone to admit that that's what he wants to see happen, you reveal something about his character and values. If you let him call it pretty things like Get Ahead Accounts, you let him frame the debate. Republicans need to refocus things like this on the taking of the money and stop letting Democrats focus on the giving of the money.
John Edwards wants poor people to take home rich people's money. That's fine if he wants to start passing out his own hundred dollar bills, but it plain stinks when he wants to force the whole country to participate.
September 09, 2007
The Germantown administration on Wednesday defended its firing of three theater workers who tied stage-rigging ropes into hangman's nooses.
"I've seen plenty of stagehands whittling their time away by tying all kinds of knots," said Bob Hetherington, chairman of the department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Memphis.
"If they were trying to send a racial message of any kind, the fly system of a theater would be the last place anyone would see it."
But someone did see the nooses.
Another city employee, an African American, complained of a hostile work environment when he saw the nooses.
Laraway gave The Commercial Appeal his account of what happened.
"I was working with a gentleman I had never worked with before and we were talking about how to tie different knots. I asked him if he knew how to tie a bowline and he said yes. Then I asked him if he knew how to tie a hangman's noose, and I showed him.
So some people are sitting there with a bunch of rope, comparing different ways of tying them. Naturally, that makes them racist.
Geez Louise, have we completely lost touch of all common sense in this country?
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Steve Earl, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and Joan Baez break up the film with musical interludes.
Pop singer Cat Stevens, "who couldn't be here tonight" because he found himself on a US no-fly list after changing his name to Yusuf Islam, got a nod.
The egregious statement is bolded so it can sink in for a minute. Do they really think we're stupid enough to swallow that cause and effect chain? Cat Stevens was flying all over the place and then changed his name and accidentally got mistaken for a terrorist and now can't fly? Balderdash! Cat Stevens changed his name back in 19freaking78. He hasn't been Cat Stevens for nearly 30 years. And he's on the no-fly list because he's suspected of contributing money to Hamas, not because his name has the word "Islam" in it. And nice use of the phrase "found himself," as if the action were agent-less. He "found himself" on the list, instead of performed actions and made statements that had the authorities looking in his direction. It's all just a big snafu, right? Poor Cat Stevens just accidentally can't fly anywhere now. Mean old Bush.
If that isn't the biggest whitewashing of why Yusef Islam couldn't be in Michael Moore's movie...
However, the other day upon picking Sir Rowland up from school, his teacher stopped me to tell me Sir Rowland was a little upset over one of the little girls t-shirts. It read. Girls are Smart, and in parenthesis said (boys are not). This upset Sir Rowland to no end. He was very upset, and made his teacher tell the little girl, that he a boy, was indeed smart.
One of my major pet peeves is t-shirts with suggestive and/or snotnosed punk sayings. What kind of person buys this crap for his child, let alone for one as young as a kindergartner? I think it's shameful enough when I see preteens wearing baloney like the "I may not be on time, but I'm worth the wait" shirt I saw a while back, or the kid in my neighborhood with the "Respect Me!" shirt. I was thankful to see an article at Slate a while back called Lolita's Closet: Unbearably Trampy Back-to-School Clothes. At least I'm not the only one who thinks that the teen shopping section is ripped right from the South Park "Stupid Spoiled Whore" script.
I know every parent on the planet, at one time or another, has uttered the words "my child will not wear that," but I seriously mean it. My child will not wear shirts with disgusting and degrading slogans. Period. Because I'm the mom, that's why.
MORE TO GROK:
My husband made a good point after hearing this story. He wonders how it would've gone over if a boy in the class were wearing a shirt that says that boys are smart and girls are not. Or, heaven forbid, insert a race or ethnicity. What would the teacher make of a "Puerto Ricans are dumb" shirt? Always curious about double standards...
September 07, 2007
I am not here to represent Leonidas; his actions speak louder than my words ever could. I am here for all those voices which cannot be heard: mothers, daughters, fathers, sons - three hundred families that bleed for our rights, and for the very principles this room was built upon. We are at war, gentlemen. We must send the entire Spartan army to aid our king in the preservation of not just ourselves, but of our children. Send the army for the preservation of liberty. Send it for justice. Send it for law and order. Send it for reason. But most importantly, send our army for hope - hope that a king and his men have not been wasted to the pages of history - that their courage bonds us together, that we are made stronger by their actions, and that your choices today reflect their bravery.
We are made stronger by their actions.
Consequently, we have a severe talent deficiency in the military, which the draft would remedy immediately. While Americas bravest are in the military, Americas brightest are not. Allow me to build a squad of the five brightest students from MIT and Caltech and promise them patrols on the highways connecting Baghdad and Fallujah, and Ill bet that in six months they could render IEDs about as effective as a Just Say No campaign at a Grateful Dead show.
First of all, my husband just whooped MIT's butt at that Fast Money MBA Challenge, and he went to a state school and chose to be in the Army. So I'm thinking he could do just as well at "patrols on the highways" as Ivy Leaguers could. Hell, he would do better since he wants to be there instead of being forced to be there; I don't care how smart you were at school, if you don't have the drive and desire to apply your brain power to a problem, you ain't gonna fix it either.
But secondly, and here's my real contribution, smarter doesn't always make you a better soldier. My husband likes to tell one anecdote: The guy in their company with the highest ASVAB score, so presumably the smartest soldier, was the one my husband had to put in jail in Iraq. The best soldier they had, the one everyone wanted to work with, was the old gangbanger.
There are plenty of smart people in the military; I'd rather talk to Jack Army about the Middle East than anyone at Caltech. But book smarts isn't always what the Army needs, especially if it's been forced to be there. Somehow I get a little giggle imagining this Marine corporal trying to organize a squad of drafted Ivy Leaguers. I'm not sure it'd go as swimmingly as he thinks it would.
September 06, 2007
Love My Tanker does a good job of fisking this article. I will just point out a few things, less diplomatically than she does.
"I don't know one military family that is still together or anything like they were before the Soldier in the family went to war," 30-year-old Mylinda, whose husband was among the first Marines to be deployed in Iraq, told AFP.
We're still together and exactly the same as we were before. Only better. My husband has matured as a man, as a leader, and as a citizen. He is a far better person for having been to war because he now understands things that most of us only know from books. If he's changed at all, it's for the better. Me too, for I had to spend a year being self-reliant, not whiny, and strong.
"Now, you have boy scouts fighting over there. They get kids out of high school, put them in boot camp and then send them to fight.
"When they get out, all they know how to do is kill someone."
Yes, my husband now knows how to kill someone. He also knows how to talk to people about electricity, gas shortages, getting along with their neighbors, and training to be soldiers themselves. Because he went to war, he changed career paths and now is learning to speak their language so he can continue to talk to them about how to make their countries better. Talk to them. If he was just going to kill them, he wouldn't need to waste six months learning to speak their language.
My husband is a better person because he's been to war, and we're a stronger couple because of it. Better. Maybe you could interview someone like us next time.
FbL points out that this article got picked up at Islam Online under the title "Unseen American Victims of Iraq." Great.
I wrote about the making of an heirloom over at SpouseBUZZ.
I am so happy about this project.
September 05, 2007
Soldier looking for way to get his dog back from Iraq
He's got pictures of this cutie on his blog.
September 04, 2007
When a scandal involves a Republican, his or her party affiliation is mentioned in the lead. When it involves a Democrat, party affiliation typically is mentioned deep in the story, if at all.
But media bias is not the main reason why Republicans suffer more from scandals. Democratic voters expect Democrats to steal on their behalf. Lawmakers are judged on the basis of how many goodies from the federal treasury they can shower on their constituents.
Instead, Sen. Craig copped a plea. Because of that, he should disappear from public life as swiftly as possible and embrace full time the anonymity he cherishes in his sexual encounters. Not, as the left urges, on grounds of "hypocrisy" because he's a "family values" politician who opposes "gay marriage" yet trawls for rough trade in men's rooms. A measure of hypocrisy is necessary to a functioning society. It's quite possible, on the one hand, to be opposed to the legalization of prostitution yet, on the other, to pull your hat down over your brow every other Tuesday and sneak off to the cat house on the other side of town. Your inability to live up to your own standards does not, in and of itself, nullify them. The left gives the impression that a Republican senator caught in a whorehouse ought immediately to say, "You're right. I should have supported earmarks for hookers in the 2005 appropriations bill." That's the reason why sex scandals take down Republicans but not Democrats: Sex-wise, the left's standards are that whatever's your bag is cool which is the equivalent of no standards.
September 03, 2007
And three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record: You're so cool, you're so cool, you're so cool.
1) Get everything ready and get hyped up to start the project.
2) Sit down and quilt the first row.
3) Go to start the second row; top thread doesn't catch and I quilt several inches before I realize I'm sewing without thread. Remove entire quilt from machine and rethread.
4) Start again, only to find that the second time I inserted the quilt, the bottom layer got a wrinkle in it.
5) Pop in a Futurama disc and spend 40 minutes tearing all stitches out.
6) Finally make second row.
7) Without changing a single thing, start third row and find that tension has completely changed and a big knot forms on underside of work.
Cut everything out, spend 15 minutes unquilting.
9) Take all thread out, rethread, try on actual quilt because I'm a moron: tension still berserk. 5 minutes of unquilting. Unthread, take apart every removable piece of the machine, blow on it like an old school Nintendo, put it all back together, try again, this time on scraps: tension fine.
10) Put quilt back on machine, tension goes berserk.
11) Grit teeth, clench fists, shut off machine and return to my knitting where there's no #$%& technology between me and my craft.
Total time spent: all morning
Total rows quilted: 2
If I didn't want the finished project so badly, I'd throw the whole thing out the window.
September 01, 2007
Hey Mom, when I wanted those Guess jeans in 6th grade, instead of telling me that I didn't need to wear a certain pair of jeans in order to make the right friends, maybe you could've said acid wash causes acid rain.
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