April 25, 2008

WELL PUT

An astute observation on how Obama and Clinton are tearing the Democrats in half:

Also, heard from a smart conservative strategist a day or so ago... this is what happens when your party is made up of groups that want government to do things for them (and spend time and resources) vs. when your party is made up of groups that want government to get off their backs and go away.

Government dollars, even with high tax rates, are finite. Sooner or later, a dollar has to be spent on either environmental protection or worker retraining programs, on scholarships or on expanding Social Security, on government-run health care or foreign aid, on infrastructure programs or on open space preservation. Sooner or later, a Democratic leader can only split the difference so much, and more resources will go to one instead of the other. Someone will feel shortchanged, resentments will build. Besides money, there's the finite resource of time, focus, and energy of lawmakers.

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THE FARCE OF THE CENTURY

I wrote over at SpouseBUZZ about my pre-deployment stress. With the fertility and my husband leaving, I have not been at peak mental performance lately. So how could I make it worse? How about reading the most stressful and awful book I've ever picked up.

I found the book The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Framing of Richard Hauptmann for fifty cents at the Goodwill. I thought I'd grab it and learn a little about the Trial of the Century.

I can't read this book for more than a chapter at a time. I cry too much. I get knots in my stomach and shortness of breath. I cry out in anguish and my husband has to ask me what they did this time. When I set the book down at night, I rant endlessly to my husband. I pace the room, I raise my voice, and I can't calm down.

I've even dreamt about Charles Lindbergh.

The Trial of the Century was a joke. It was a farce and a disaster. They executed an innocent man because they had no better suspect. Everyone who took the stand lied. Flat out lied: cops, expert witnesses, Lindbergh himself. God, how this book has made me hate Charles Lindbergh. They planted evidence, coached witnesses, tricked Hauptmann into damning himself, destroyed documents and evidence that exonerated him, and laid out a boatload of perjury as the truth.

And Hauptmann lost his life.

This website does a pretty good job of laying out the absurdities of the case and lining up the questions that Hauptmann's defense lawyer should have asked. Only he didn't, because he too thought Hauptmann was guilty. So throughout the entire trial, he only spent 40 minutes conferring with his client.

This book has gotten me in such a tizzy that I can't stand it. I find the whole thing so disgusting and reprehensible. I can't even recommend the book because it's too painful to read. I'm glad I learned about it, but it literally makes me sick to my stomach to read it.

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April 20, 2008

YEP

Via Insty, an excellent comment on taxes:

Clearly the government wants us to spend ourselves broke and throw ourselves on welfare. Then they will stop fining us every year. They fine us for speeding, for spitting in the streets, for doing things they don't want us to do: they also fine us for improving our property, investing money to grow the economy, saving money; the implications are pretty clear?

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April 19, 2008

GROKING RIBBONS

Any soldier worth his salt doesn't get wrapped up in ribbons and accolades. I learned that long ago, when I saw medals thrown haphazardly in a foot locker. And I took notice when a guy from my husband's armor unit showed up at his new finance unit and tossed my husband's OIF medals on a desk for him. Finance wanted to have a big ceremony for my husband; armor knew the medals were an afterthought. The men who earned the medals, they knew that the pride came in the work they had done, not the bits of ribbons they received for it months later.

Soldiers wear their uniforms with pride, making sure that everything is proper and in its place. But rarely do they care which ribbons they wear. In fact, I was appalled recently to overhear one soldier belittle another for his paltry chest collection, because I had never heard anything so vulgar in my life. I had never before seen anyone point to his hardware as "proof" he was better than someone else. (But this soldier proves himself a douchebag, time and time again.)

Remember when Mr. Miagi said that karate was in your head and your heart, but never in your belt? Real soldiers think the same thing about their ribbons.

And over the past few days, I have read a couple of slams on GEN Petraeus for wearing a chest-load of commendations when he testified before congress. Badger6 is right that the people who write these columns have no idea what they're talking about. It's not like Petraeus can simply decide not to wear parts of his uniform for fear of intimidating the public. Oh gosh, better leave a couple of these stars off my shoulder, lest someone think I'm trying to show off with four of them. I guess two of them will do for today; I'll leave the other two at home.

Badger6 is dismayed that a wine critic somehow got paid to write an opinion column about Petraeus' hardware. Me too. Because it seems obvious that this fella has never even met anyone who has ever been awarded a medal:

In more contemporary times, decorations have suffered a fraught reputation among the rank and file: nice to get but awkward to display if the memories associated with them are of violence, loss and the ineptness of commanders. There have been isolated incidents of Iraq war veterans returning their medals, and, of course, Vietnam War vets were better acquainted with this kind of protest.

Oh yes, the only reason for medals is so you can throw them on the White House lawn. I forgot. Silly me.

Cassandra found another piece griping about Petraeus' uniform. (You really must read her entire post: A Suspension of Contempt.) She says this:

Challenge the good General on his testimony. Challenge him on the facts if you wish. But check the ad hominems at the door. Just because he wears the uniform of the day doesn't give you carte blanche to take cheap potshots at medals that commemorate battles where better men than you will ever be have fought and died for ideals they believed were worth fighting for, even if you do not.

Petraeus doesn't wear those ribbons because he thinks he's better than everyone else. He wears them because they're a part of his uniform. And I bet if you asked him about them, he'd be humble and dismissive.

Go on, critics, ask him which ribbons he got for getting shot in the chest and breaking his pelvis. None.

It took me a couple of years of being in the Army community before I really grokked ribbons. I should've learned the lesson from watching The Karate Kid for the umpteenth time, but it took a while for it to really sink in. It took seeing real heroes brush off praise over the medals they did receive -- heroes like Neil and my husband -- and seeing those precious awards being treated like the hunks of metal that they are for me to truly get it.

I'm not surprised that some wine critic doesn't grok.

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April 17, 2008

OUR FLAG

What is this, f-ed up art day? First these wacko artists and now another one. Apparently some girl put a bunch of American flags on the floor for people to walk on, as art. Several people are talking about it, but I really like what Kat had to say. Please go read her whole post.

As for the provost who called the flag "just a piece of cloth"...

Typing that hurts my heart.

You know, I've lived in a couple of countries and I've met people from all over the world. And most of the ones I've met, they don't give a flying fig about their flag. Some of them were downright ashamed of their national identity and wanted no part of flags. When a friend and I found a shop in the Netherlands that sold flag patches from all different countries, we bought respective flags for all our exchange student friends. Some took those patches gingerly from our hands, half smiling and half wondering why on earth we would've bought them such a weird gift.

But my flag, it is not just a piece of cloth.

You know what the coolest part of that Aftermath program was? The end, where they said that once all traces of man are wiped from the face of the earth, when nothing is left to show we were here, there will still be an American flag on the moon.

I spent about ten minutes just now trying to find a story I'd heard once. I finally found it: The Mike Christian Story. And as I finished reading the story, I got a jolt when I realized it had been told by John McCain.

And it's times like this when I feel sad that we're relieved that some people didn't walk on a flag on the ground, when other people risked beatings and death in order to salute the flag.

It's not just a piece of cloth.

It's not.

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OH MY GOD

This "art project" is just beyond anything my brain can comprehend:

Beginning next Tuesday, Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself “as often as possible” while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

That's art?

The goal in creating the art exhibition, Shvarts said, was to spark conversation and debate on the relationship between art and the human body.
...
But Shvarts insists her concept was not designed for “shock value.”

“I hope it inspires some sort of discourse,” Shvarts said. “Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it’s not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone.”

What could you possibly think your art project is going to inspire me to talk about, besides the fact that you horrify me as a human being? Do you think people will go to the exhibit and say, "Huh, I had no idea there was so much blood during an abortion. Thanks to this display, I feel educated on the subject." You're unbelievably stupid if you don't think the only thing people will feel is shock and revulsion.

Look, even people who think that there might be some times when the morning-after pill or an abortion is the right choice for a woman, that time is certainly not whenever you feel like pumping yourself full of sperm and videotaping your miscarriage for a passing grade in art class.

And because these days I have a hard time seeing anything without my own lens of reproductive woes, this just appalls me on levels I can't even describe.

What in the hell is wrong with "artists" these days? Doesn't anyone just paint anymore?

UPDATE:

Here's another completely awful "art" exhibit. This time, a dog is chained up Tantalus-style, just out of reach of food. And left to starve to death. It's art!

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April 03, 2008

FREE PLAY

AirForceWife wrote the following recently:

A few weeks ago I read an article that summarized a study about kid play. The results of the study were ASTOUNDING. The gist of it was this:

For the last fifteen years or so, parents have been directing children's play more and more in an effort to help them learn earlier and more easily. Action figures are no longer generic, but so specific they can't even be kept in the same vinyl storage case. Rather than "free play" where kids interact together with a minimum of adult involvement, adults are now fully involved and moving their spawn from place to place and activity to activity without giving the kid a chance to just play.

And a lot of kids don't know how to "just play" anymore.

The results of the study showed that in trying to help our kids this way, we were actually stunting the evolutionary adaptions that kids self-teach themselves to problem solve and interact in society. These learned behaviors are the basis for everything else a kid learns. In effect, we are giving our kids learning disabilities by trying to give them learning advantages.

I am no longer teaching knitting classes, but I am still working at Michaels when they have in-store events. And my favorite thing to do is watch parents interact with their kids when they bring them in for the kid-geared free events.

One example was the day sponsored by Crayola where the kids got to try out these fancy new markers and paper. So the craft was to make a door hanger, you know, like a Keep Out sign. And it was fascinating how many parents didn't like the way their kid was coloring or what he was doing and literally took the markers from his hands and made the hanger for him.

Yeah, little kids color like crap. The door hanger will not have their name and a fancy drawing of a cat if the kid is 3 years old. But if he just wants to take one marker of every color and draw a mess of squiggles, why not? It doesn't hurt anything, and it sure doesn't teach the kid any skills when you take the marker away from him and do the craft yourself.

At the play-doh section, I saw one parent tell her kid his thing was ugly. And she was right, it was ugly. But dang. She made him re-do it.

I think this is related to the idea of "free play." One thing that I have learned from watching all this parent-child interaction is that I will have to remind myself someday to let my kid put whatever he wants on his door hanger. And not do it for him. No matter how ugly it is.

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BOO-YA

Let the going nuts commence:

Real Katrina hero? Wal-Mart, study says

"Profit-seeking firms beat most of the government to the scene and provided more effectively the supplies needed for the immediate survival of a population cut off from life's most basic necessities," Horwitz wrote in the study, which was published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "Though numerous private-sector firms played important roles in the relief operations, Wal-Mart stood out."

Stuff Mentioned That White People Hate:

free market solutions
corporations
evil Wal-Mart
the government sucking
bottom-up problem solving
how price gouging saves and appropriately distributes resources

(This blog post patterned off of the White People in the News category at Stuff White People Like.)

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April 01, 2008

SIGH

I finished reading Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom. I think for accessibility's sake I prefer Thomas Sowell's books, but without Friedman there would be no Sowell.

One thing that struck me was how little progress we've made in 46 years. Most of the points Friedman argues are the same points I've heard from the likes of Sowell, Stossel, or Elder. School vouchers, ending the minimum wage, a flat tax, the unsustainablility of social security: Friedman was talking about all of these things in 1962. 1962, for pete's sake. And we haven't done anything about it since then? These problems have been common knowledge for nearly 50 years, and still we manage to screw it up.

A lot of the book felt like it could've been written last week, since we still face the same stupid issues today. That is, until he starts using actual facts and figures.

In 1961, government amounted to something like $33 billion (federal, state, and local) on direct welfare payments and programs of all kinds: old age assistance, social security benefit payments, aid to dependent children, general assistance, farm price support programs, public housing, etc.

Then you see just how boned we are. Each of these programs alone is more than $33 billion these days.

We've had 46 years to take the advice of the world's greatest economist. Why have we been so stupid?

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