August 11, 2012

RESTREPO

The husband and I watched Restrepo the other night.  I sat there numb with a choke in my throat the whole time.  From the moment the captain said, "When they told me I was going to the Korengal Valley, I didn't read anything up on it, I didn't want to, I wanted to go in there with an open mind..." until I fell asleep that night.

I thought about how many units this has happened to.  The willfully ignorant -- purposefully ignorant -- commander comes into an area, tells the "elders" to forget how things were done under the old unit and that this time, this time I will fix things.  And we will have cooperation and harmony and win your hearts and minds.  So we use whoever we can get to translate important policies -- my husband made the analogy that it would be like if the Germans invaded backwater Alabama and used Quebecois translators to talk to the natives --and hope that our message is being accurately conveyed.  Which it's absolutely not, because there is way too much cultural baggage that gets in the way of the words.  So some of them die, and some of us die, a year later the remaining guys breathe a sigh of relief and go home, and a new group of guys shows up, tells the "elders" to forget how things were done last year, and this year, this year it will work.


For a decade, we have been reinventing the wheel.  Led by people who decided not to study wheel-building because they thought their good intentions and gut feelings could guide them better than centuries of history and anthropology could.  

And the men under them died defending a valley that a few years later the US decided wasn't really worth the effort anymore and ceded it back to the Afghans.  Those grizzled old crypt-keeper, henna-bearded ingrates who care more about dead cows than dead humans.

I am jaded and broken.

I will never forget sitting on the arm of the sofa in my hotel room on Fort Knox, cheering as the Iraqis pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein.  Back when I thought everyone in this world deep down wanted to live in freedom.  That the world deserved liberty.  That all men were endowed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I just didn't realize that what makes many Afghans happy is to be left alone to bugger little boys and honor-kill their daughters.

A decade later, what I see is that most Americans don't even want liberty.  Not true liberty.  They will trade liberty for security nearly every time.  And if we can't get more than 15% of Americans to vote for personal liberty and responsibility, how in the hell did we think we could export that desire to the Middle East?

I really believed that what my country and Army was doing was noble.  But I was willfully ignorant too, ignorant that the task was monumentally too difficult to ever succeed.

And not worth it.

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May 14, 2012

YOU'LL HAVE TO KILL US ALL

This bit almost made me do a fist pump:

So it is necessary for more of us to do what Ayaan Hirsi Ali recommends: share the risk. So that the next time a novel or a cartoon provokes a fatwa, it will be republished worldwide and send the Islamic enforcers a message: Killing one of us won’t do it. You’d better have a great credit line at the Bank of Jihad because you’ll have to kill us all.

I love Mark Steyn.

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March 19, 2012

"INVIDIOUS ATMOSPHERE OF LIBERALISM"

It's been a long time since anything political has moved me enough to log in here and post it.  But this did it, this made me do the intellectual equivalent of a fist pump: A Burke For Our Times.  It reminds me of a more erudite phrasing of my granting the premise blog post.  Favorite bit:

Because what Burke forces us to do, if we really take him seriously, is to stand outside the invidious atmosphere of liberalism which permeates and stifles every last recess of modern society, to recognize it — for perhaps the first time in our lives — as only one form of political order, and that not the most just or appealing, and thus to rob it of any claim to self-evident truthfulness.  For at the level of practical politics, liberalism is just a certain kind of language, with its own connotative atmosphere — an atmosphere in which appeals to rights cow everyone into a cessation of debate, where appeals to freedom are generally hysterical and unqualified, where doubts about the virtue of "the people” are always akin to wickedness.  To stand outside that atmosphere for the first time is to realize that there is nothing obvious about these assumptions, that, to the contrary, there is great reason to question the rightness of the whole world view implicit in this language.  And the moment we entertain such doubts, liberal dogma loses the greater part of its persuasive force, because liberalism has always presented itself as a universal creed, as the commonsensical conclusions which all honest persons will arrive at in time, divested of the superstitions and prejudices of their own local traditions. 

Thanks to my imaginary friend Queenie for finding it.

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June 23, 2011

WRETCHED CULTURE

My problem with Civil Affairs and, if I may speak for him, my husband's reason for leaving the branch:

So the Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity is building schoolhouses in Afghanistan. Big deal. The problem, in Kandahar as in Kansas, is not the buildings but what’s being taught inside them — and we’ve no stomach for getting into that. So what’s the point of building better infrastructure for Afghanistan’s wretched tribal culture? What’s our interest in state-of-the-art backwardness?

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October 30, 2010

PUMPED UP

I barely follow politics lately and try not to let it work me up anymore because I can't waste energy right now being depressed about the direction of our country, but this open letter to Rush at Hillbuzz (via Amritas) got me all pumped up on dorkosterone.

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October 03, 2010

DUSTY BOOKSHELVES, MY FOOT

Via The Corner, I had to laugh at this NYT article about the Tea Party Movement.  I think the author is pretty ignorant of her subject matter.  It would be as if I tried to write a professional article on the environmental movement; I am not a part of it, I am fairly contemptuous of it, and I really haven't done the grokking necessary to understand why its followers behave the way they do.  (But I'd like to think I could do it better than she does because I've done it before.)

Her thesis is that "long-dormant ideas" and "once-obscure texts by dead writers" have shaped the movement.  (I find it amusing that she considers Hayek to be obscure, but I digress.)  She says of authors like Hayek and Skousen, author of The 5000 Year Leap, that:

They have convinced their readers that economists, the Founding Fathers, and indeed, God, are on their side when they accuse President Obama and the Democrats of being “socialists.” And they have established a counternarrative to what Tea Party supporters denounce as the “progressive” interpretation of economics and history in mainstream texts.

All told, the canon argues for a vision of the country where government’s role is to protect private property — against taxes as much as against thieves. Where religion plays a bigger role in public life. Where any public safety net is unconstitutional. And where the way back to prosperity is for markets to be left free from regulation.

Heh.

I think she's attributing parts of the movement to these books when really she wants to attribute them to Glenn Beck, but that dead horse has already been beaten, so she focuses on the books he promotes on his show.  I admit that I am out of the loop these days, but I have watched some Glenn Beck lately and I must say that I am impressed with his new approach to bettering America.  My summary of it is that he is moving away from pointing out how much Washington stinks these days and is instead truly trying to encourage Americans to "be the change you want to see in the world."  His plan calls for self-reflection and self-improvement, with a focus on "faith, hope, and charity."  He wants everyone to commit to becoming a better person, and once we're all better people, we will have better people running for office as virtuous candidates for whom we can vote.  We are a nation of individuals, and we will be a better country once we are better individuals.  It's a long-term strategy, something quite interesting to promote nightly on a news show.

Glenn Beck does encourage people to strengthen their religious devotion on the way to becoming a better person.  If the NYT wants to characterize that as "where religion plays a bigger role in public life," um, OK.  I think that's a negative oversimplification of what he's proposing from a journalist who wants to scare readers into thinking he is advocating the blurring of church and state, but maybe I'm nitpicking.  I think the scare tactic of saying that "any public safety net is unconstitutional" is more egregious though.  It's funny because it's technically a true statement, but by not explaining it, the article leads readers to conclude that Tea Party folks are Scrooges who are out to screw the poor.  I have never heard anyone say anything of the sort: they resent the safety hammock, not the net.  And Glenn Beck regularly encourages his following to tithe, either to a church or a charity of their choice.  He wants people to be more charitable, not less.

I just thought the article was an interesting example of someone who is obviously writing outside her level of understanding.  It's a window into the mind of someone who's trying to be objective while writing about something she clearly thinks is simultaneously hokey and dangerous.

It wasn't as bad as it could've been, but the undertone of contempt was clear.  And I bet she thought she was being fair and balanced.

The most interesting part of the article was this, in my opinion:

Doug Bramley, a postal worker and Tea Party activist in Maine, picked up “The Road to Serfdom” after Mr. Beck mentioned it on air in June. (Next up for Mr. Bramley, another classic of libertarian thought: “I’ve got to read ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ ” he said.) He found Hayek “dense reading,” but he loved “The 5000 Year Leap.”

“You don’t read it,” Mr. Bramley said, “you study it."

Across the country, many Tea Party groups are doing just that, often taking a chapter to discuss at each meeting.

I think this would've made a much better thesis.  Glenn Beck is prompting postal workers and regular folks to read substantive books.  I read Hayek last year and found it dense as well; the fact that Glenn Beck's viewers are devouring these intellectual tomes and creating book clubs to discuss them is phenomenal.  People are setting aside their Harry Potter and Twilight for Frederich Hayek!

But one would have to be less contemptuous of Tea Party people to write that story.

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August 10, 2010

THE SOLUTION TO GLOBAL WARMING

Today's amen goes out to Pat Sajak.  (Yep, THE Pat Sajak.)

Let’s assume that a third of the world’s population really believes mankind has the power to adjust the Earth’s thermostat through lifestyle decisions. The percentage may be higher or lower, but, for the sake of this exercise, let’s put it at one-third. Now it seems to me these people have a special obligation to change their lives dramatically because they truly believe catastrophe lies ahead if they don’t. The other two-thirds are merely ignorant, so they can hardly be blamed for their actions.

Now, if those True Believers would give up their cars and big homes and truly change the way they live, I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be some measurable impact on the Earth in just a few short years. I’m not talking about recycling Evian bottles, but truly simplifying their lives. Even if you were, say, a former Vice President, you would give up extra homes and jets and limos. I see communes with organic farms and lives freed from polluting technology.

Then, when the rest of us saw the results of their actions—you know, the earth cooling, oceans lowering, polar bears frolicking and glaciers growing—we would see the error of our ways and join the crusade voluntarily and enthusiastically.

How about it? Why wait for governments to change us? You who have already seen the light have it within your grasp to act in concert with each other and change the world forever. And I hate to be a scold, but you have a special obligation to do it because you believe it so strongly. Then, instead of looking at isolated tree rings and computer models, you’d have real results to point to, and even the skeptics would see the error of their ways and join you.

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May 08, 2010

THE MOTHER'S BURDEN

My present for my first Mother's Day was that my husband would take over feeding our daughter during the night while I sleep.  In the guest bedroom, with earplugs in, to guarantee that I sleep through the whole night.  I have been looking forward to this for two weeks, and there have been times recently that I would've done anything to not have to get up during the night to take care of a crying baby.  I have been exhausted again of late and have been getting really excited about my first night free from responsibility.

Yet when I put her down to sleep tonight, I cried.  I will miss her during the night.

Such is the mother's burden.

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April 27, 2010

I AM SPARTACUS

Here's what I said yesterday only better: Jon Stewart Flunks His Spartacus Test
(And I don't think Stewart's bit was that bad...but the article has good parts.)

-- I'm back.  I feel like I should elaborate.  Stewart is right that Comedy Central pays the bills and has the right to censor whatever they like.  He's also right that the radical Muslims are the true enemy and can bleep themselves.  But...shouldn't we hold a bit of contempt for Comedy Central for caving?  Paying the bills or not, they took the cowardly route, and he kinda excused them.  He made the bigger point, but I can see where Jeffrey Lord thinks that the bigger I-am-Sparticus would have been for Jon Stewart to berate Comedy Central for not standing with Parker and Stone.

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April 19, 2010

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF RIGHTS

I'm learning the ropes of taking care of a baby, but I still don't get on the internet that often.  (Example: my friend said, "So how about that volcano business?" and I said, "What volcano?")  However, today I did read something that got my goat.

Via Mark Steyn, who says, "No matter how fast Obama Europeanizes America, you can't out-Euro the Euros": Vacationing a human right, EU chief says

The European Union has declared travelling a human right, and is launching a scheme to subsidize vacations with taxpayers' dollars for those too poor to afford their own trips.

Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, proposed a strategy that could cost European taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros a year, The Times of London reports.

"Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life," Mr. Tajani told a group of ministers at The European Tourism Stakeholders Conference in Madrid on April 15.

And this is the slippery slope of rights.  Once we believed that we only had "rights to action."  Now by declaring that we have the right to health care, we have fundamentally shifted to saying we believe we have the right to someone else's labor.  So where does it end?  Once you have the right to money from another taxpayer's pocket, who's to say it should end with health?  It's good for your health to be stress-free, and vacations help you relax.

So then they're a right too.

I find this slippery slope frightening...

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March 30, 2010

I GROK MOTHERHOOD

Reader TK told me a long time ago that my post on lasik was an "honest account of the procedure."  I thought I'd try to do that for the first month of having a baby too.

Oh, and as an aside, I can't tell you how happy I am that I got lasik now.  I can see my baby in the middle of the night to nurse.  That is worth any money I had to spend and any disappointment I previously felt with my imperfect results.

A year ago, my husband was at SERE school.  We decided that having a baby is my version of SERE: you don't grok it until you've done it.  No matter how much you think you mentally understand what it's like to be starved and beaten, until you go to SERE and experience it, you really can't grok.  That's how I feel about having a baby.  Sure I knew that labor would hurt.  I knew that babies cry and don't sleep through the night.  I knew that my life would get difficult.

I knew it.  But I didn't grok it.

The first days home from the hospital were rough.  And that's an understatement.  I remember weeping frequently.  Wandering around the house in a daze because I had had no sleep at all.  Topless, because my breasts were leaking both milk and blood.  Unable to sit, because my episiotomy hurt so bad that I couldn't sit upright without severe pain.

No one fully explains that to you when they say "being a mother is hard."  Or "childbirth hurts."

My husband remarked that a woman goes through the most pain she will ever experience in her life and simultaneously gets slapped with the biggest responsibility she's ever had.

No one could possibly have helped me grok the sense of frustration and failure I would feel when my baby is in pain, when she gets severe gas, when she projectile vomits several times a day.  How manic I would get, googling over and over to figure out how to breastfeed better so my scabbed and bleeding nipples would heal.  How to prevent and cure her gas.  How to help her calm herself when she's obviously tired but simply won't listen to me when I beg her to just close her eyes and sleep.

I have done this for one month, in a fog of pain and exhaustion.  I cannot believe how hard it is.  I can't believe that most of the women in my life have done this before me and survived.  Without constantly complaining about it.  Because that's what I want to do.

It's getting easier.  Or at least more predictable.  I am starting to distinguish her hungry cry from her tired cry.  I am slowly learning how to fix both.  I no longer panic when she barfs all over me at 1 AM; in fact, I have learned to burp her while standing in the bathtub for an easy clean-up.  And when I jolt awake in serious pain because of a blocked milk duct, I know what to do.  And I push through the pain and feed her because that's what mothers do.

I am learning to be a mother.  It's far harder than I imagined it would be.

And I am now smart enough to grok that it won't get easier, just different.

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February 23, 2010

I MEAN, THE MAN HAS HIS OWN CURVE

If you love Art Laffer the way I love Art Laffer, might I recommend watching his ideas for how to fix the ecominy?  He laid them out on Glenn Beck last week; check out clips two and three here at Glenn Beck Clips.

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February 18, 2010

BROKEN WINDOWS

I think the broken windows fallacy makes perfect common sense once you hear it.  Frankly, I don't understand how one could argue against it.

So why do we continue to base policy on it?

The idea that government spending creates jobs makes sense only if you never ask where the government got the money. It didn’t fall from the sky. The only way Congress can inject spending into the economy is by first taxing or borrowing it out of the economy. No new demand is created; it’s a zero-sum transfer of existing demand.

The White House says the $300 billion spent from the stimulus thus far has financed as many as 2 million jobs. Maybe. However, the private sector now has $300 billion less to spend, which, by the same logic, means it must lose the same number of jobs, leaving a net employment impact of zero. But the White House’s single-entry bookkeeping simply ignores that side of the equation.

Even Washington’s transferring money from savers to spenders doesn’t create demand, since the financial system already converts one person’s savings into another person’s spending (as I detail here). A family might normally put its $10,000 savings in a CD at the local bank. The bank would then lend that $10,000 to the local hardware store, which would then recycle that spending around the town, supporting local jobs. Now suppose that the family instead buys a $10,000 government bond that funds the stimulus bill. Washington spends that $10,000 in a different town, supporting jobs there instead. The stimulus has not created new jobs. It has merely moved them to a new town.

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SMART WOMEN

Some recent reading that has made me excited about the task before me and happy that I will finally have a job towards which to apply my meager thinking skills.

I really feel this is the task I was born to undertake.

First, Smart Women

This isn't a politically correct thing to say, but I knew - even at 18 - that I wanted to marry and have children. What's more, I wanted to raise my children myself. It made absolutely no sense to me to place a home and family last on my "to do" list when it was first or second on the list of things that were important to me. And it made no sense to me to spend years and years prepping myself for a high powered career I would have to give up almost as soon as I attained it.
[...]
I raised two fine sons and ran a household well and efficiently. And my support enabled my husband to have a family and concentrate on his career. A lot of folks sneer at that sort of thing, but I always wondered why society would want only the "stupider" sort of women to raise the next generation.

Second, at The Thinking Housewife (a site I might need to read more of).

Teach your daughter that grades will not be the most important factor in her future. It is important for her to learn for the sheer pleasure of knowing too, not just to win approval. Someday she will be a woman and engaged in the project of loving a man and starting a small society together. This is primary. All she learns can be put to use in this task. Every interest she has and every scrap of knowledge will be of value. Let her know how exciting it will be for her.

And thirdly, from an anecdotal history of Abigail Adams:

How could America produce "Heroes, Statesmen, and Philosophers," she wanted to know, if it didn't also produce "Learned women"?
[...]
Abigail never doubted that women were men's intellectual equals. ...  Unlike the radicals, she believed that women found their highest fulfillment within marriage and the family.  With a better education, she said repeatedly, a woman would be a better wife and mother and contribute more in the long run to the well-being of the new nation than if she were uninformed.  Well-educated women, she insisted, could help their husbands safeguard republican liberty; they could also rear boys qualified for leadership in the young republic and girls who in turn could become the devoted mothers and wives of patriots.

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January 31, 2010

I HEART ART

If Art Laffer thinks we're boned...well, yikes.

“In anticipation of known tax increases the economy will shift income and output from 2011 -- the higher tax year -- into 2010 -- the lower tax year. As a result of this income shift, 2010 will look a lot better than it should, and 2011 will be a train wreck,” he predicts.

Read the whole scary thing.

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January 21, 2010

A CONTRACT

A good link via CVG: Is it really about the AIG bonuses??

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January 20, 2010

THE SCOTT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD

I happily watched the results of last night's election in Massachusetts and couldn't believe what I was seeing. It's definitely a step in the right direction, and if solid people keep running for office, we may see the pendulum swing the other way. Thank goodness.

I only wish Dean Barnett were still here to see it.

Massachusetts elected a Republican. Anything is possible. And now that Democrats have that fear and Republicans have that hope...well, I am excited to see what might happen in the fall.

Oda Mae pointed out that there's already a Hitler video. I love the Hitler meme, and this one is particularly good.


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January 08, 2010

THE DOMINO'S MODEL

This is genius.  Genius of Domino's, genius when applied to the GOP, just genius.
What the GOP can learn from a pizza chain
If something isn't working, you can either bury your head in the sand or face it head on and change.  I wish the president of Domino's were running the US government right now.
Mea culpa video here.  Makes me want to go try a Domino's pizza again.

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January 05, 2010

RATIONALITY UNDER INTERROGATION

Jonah Goldberg wonders if terrorists, even if they know Americans cannot kill them in custody, would still break under the stress of interrogation.  (Read the whole thing for a complete understanding of the post.)

All I can add on this matter is what I know secondhand from my husband.  After a week of "interrogation" at SERE school, he said he probably could've murdered one of the guards without hesitation if he thought it meant escape.  The same guards he rationally knew were paid employees there to train him.  And that if he ever saw one of them out at Walmart, he's not sure he could see them as normal human beings.  He barely wanted to speak to them once the training was over.

So I think that letting terrorists read our playbook is a bad thing, but weeks or months of interrogation probably destroys whatever rationality one may have towards the situation.

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January 04, 2010

WHO OWNS THOSE MINUTES?

Think the government doesn't think it owns you?  That it needs its hand in everything?  That it needs to be the middle man in every transaction?

Washington D.C. is suing AT&T for the amount of money leftover when DC residents don't use all the balance on their prepaid calling cards.

The government thinks it owns whatever minutes you don't use when you buy a calling card from a private company.

But hey, whatever, at least we "retain the right to keep and bear arms"...

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