April 29, 2004

GIRLY

A storm's a-brewin' over at RWN where Hawkins is discussing women vs men bloggers. The background is too complex to summarize here -- you can read it on RWN -- but Hawkins goes on to ask an interesting question:

So let me branch out: Why are comparatively so few female bloggers of note in the political blogosphere?

Personally, I have come to suspect it's just a numbers game. On the whole, women aren't as interested as men in politics, so therefore there are a lot less women than men writing about politics, and hence there is a much smaller pool of female bloggers with the talent to move up the ranks.

Some people probably won't like that answer, but hey, why aren't there as many women who are sports fans as men? Why are there a lot more women than guys who enjoy romance novels? Maybe it's nature, maybe it's nurture, maybe it's some combination thereof, but men and women on the whole don't have the same level of interest in politics.

As an aside, I see nothing sexist in that quote at all. I'm reminded of a heated argument that erupted a few years ago when one of my female friends took extreme offense when my brother made an offhanded comment that his college basketball team could whoop any WNBA team. Cries of Sexist! insued, but there's nothing sexist about saying something that's probably true. But I digress.

Maybe that's why I'm having a hard time finding wives who want to talk about this stuff with me. Maybe that's why I was so disappointed to find out Kim du Toit is a man. But you know what -- it doesn't really matter. I started to write "it's too bad women don't want to blog about politics" and then I erased it because it doesn't matter. Who cares if you're a man or a woman; in the blogosphere, it's ideas that count. Reynolds and Green do a lot of recipe blogging, which should be a "woman's" topic. Who cares? They say important things on the majority of their posts, so they can write the occasional post about chicken, or whatever. I don't care if I'm writing back and forth with a man or woman, as long as we have common ground and we a trying to help each other grok.

I sometimes write about girly things like knitting or how I think Stephen Green is cute. But I most certainly will never give up trying to grok politics and current events so I can, as Hawkins joked, "have more time to blog about make-up and house plants." I can't even do make-up -- I've never bothered to learn how to apply it properly, and it shows -- and I have one houseplant that I just remembered to water after reading Hawkin's post. Make-up and plants ain't never gon happen on my blog.

MORE:

By the way, I just got introduced to Cassandra and Debbye through Hawkins' post. So far I like what I see. I need to check back in with them often.

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April 22, 2004

DENIGRATE

From Mohammad:

I wasn’t like this before. I was afraid most of the time. I have always looked for safety above all. I lost faith in the whole world and I wasn’t ready at all to make the slightest sacrifice for the sake of others. I was trying to leave my country and find a better job in a safe place, BUT, The brave solders (who don’t hold shares at Halliburton or Bechtel) who crossed seas and oceans and came to my country to fight for our freedom -and don’t anyone dare say the opposite, as I met so many of these soldiers and had hundreds of letters from them and there families and I know their motives; they fight for their country’s safety and for our freedom and they are proud of what they are doing- gave me the faith and showed me that man should not care only about himself, his family or his country, these are not enough to make a human being. These guys are MUCH better than me because I have to fight for my issue and they fight for me. They deserve the respect of the world and so do the people who support them. They always give me hope to go on no matter how difficult it seems.

A couple of my soldiers wrote yesterday that they don't think the military belongs at our elite universities because somebody smart enough to go to Harvard should do bigger and better things than the military. They're going to get yelled at today.

Yes, there are smart folks at Harvard. But so much of elite academia is self-perpetuating horse manure. I've never been to Harvard, but I did go to a fairly rigorous university, and many aspects of it were a joke. The students weren't that motivated, most of them simply wanted to regurgitate on the test and then go to their frat party, and a great number of them are now America-bashing MA students, cycling back through the system. In contrast, my students work their tails off to attend classes in addition to their more important job of PROVIDING FREEDOM!

I'm extremely disappointed to hear my student soldiers denigrate themselves like that. At Iraq the Model a soldier's inherent worth is obvious; why isn't it obvious to them? Maybe I should smoke them at the start of class...

MORE TO GROK:

Well, I tried to smoke them, but I got choked up. They were looking at me with the most interesting look on their faces; I realized that most of them consider their job to be nothing special. They don't think they're heroes, so for me to get choked up when I praise them is probably a hoot.

But they're all heroes to me.

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April 18, 2004

LIBERTY VALANCE

I saw via Amritas that James Hudnall wrote an analogy using The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

The thugs and criminals of the Middle East have had a free ride for far too long. The only way to civilize a place that has known only oppression and terror is bring the rule of law. A good John Wayne movie really illustrates that point. It's called THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALLANCE. The story illustrates the same thing that's going on in the Middle East. The place is the Wild West. It needs to be tamed if there is ever going to be peace there.

The husband bought the movie right before he left, and since we owned it but I'd never seen it, I watched it today. I see what Hudnall was saying, but I also saw another parallel to the Middle East.

Stoddard tried to bring law and order to Shinbone, but law and order only work when they're respected. To a man like Valance, a man with no regard for the law, threats of incarceration and jurisdiction meant nothing. The only thing that kept Valance in line was the threat of force. Personified by the extremely cool John Wayne.

The EU and the UN would have us negotiate with terrorists, but you can't negotiate with people who have no respect for law and order. The only thing that terrorists respond to is force. Only when those who have no respect for the law are removed -- only when Liberty Valance was shot -- can law and order start to rule a land.

All the law books in the world won't help when the other guy is holding a pistol.

MORE TO GROK:

An Amazon reviewer of the movie was thinking along the same lines, and phrased them in a much nicer way than I did:

The liberal left has viewed the war on terror as a legal issue to be resolved through the court system. Preemptive strikes against terrorism are considered by the left as brutish Republican behavior. Evidence must be gathered, the terrorist rights must be protected, and courts of law must adjudicate the issues. But, terrorist, like Liberty Valance are evil. They feed off of the fear of others. Until we put the law books down, and pick up our .45s, terror will reign. Civilization was brought to Shinbone only after Liberty Valance lay dead in the street, his body riddled with bullets. The war of terror will only be won by the West when those who perpetrate it are killed. It is not a nice thought, but a necessary one.


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April 15, 2004

DEATHS

Beth points out a good article called Did I Get the War Wrong?

But what are the facts? The Human Rights Center in Kadhimiya has been set up by Iraqis themselves from the ashes of Baathism. They have been going methodically through the massive -- and previously unexplored -- archives left by the regime, which document every killing in cold bureaucracy-speak. The HRC has found that if the invasion had not happened, Saddam would have killed 70,000 people in the past year. Not sanctions: Saddam's tyranny alone.

Those who lament the deaths of the 880 Iraqis this month are right to be sad that life has been taken. But perhaps we should step back for a moment and remember how many lives have been saved since Saddam was removed.

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April 12, 2004

EXAMPLE

Last week I explored the Left-leaning tendencies of the textbook I'm using in teaching my ENGL 101 class. Today I started studying Chapter 9: Example.

The sample topic:

Write and essay that uses at least three extended examples to support the thesis that poverty exists in your neighborhood, town, or state.

Poverty is all relative; slums in the US are affluent neighborhoods in many places in the world. Wanna see what Iraqis live in near my husband?

hut.jpg

But OK, fine. Some people are poor in the US by US standards. It's just the unquestioning assertion that "poverty is everywhere" that bugs me somehow.

Because the topic is already specified in the wording of the assignment, the aim of your prewriting efforts should be to find the area of poverty in your neighborhood, town, or state you wish to cover and to amass specific details that you can include in your examples. If you are like most of us, you will find poverty just around the corner. As a prewriting activity, we suggest you take a drive to the affected area and look it over for yourself. [emphasis mine]

That's not an objective sentence for an instructional textbook.

I also laughed when I saw that one of the essays in this chapter, given as a model of good example writing, is by Maureen Dowd. If you don't think my textbook leans Left, you're smoking crack.

The real kicker was at the very end of the chapter. There's ususally a photo writing assignment, where there's some photo that's supposed to make you think. This writing assignment makes me ashamed to be using this book:

agoodlook.jpg

The photo of a young girl peering from among a group of burka-clad Afghan women is an example of how a garment can represent a strong tradition. Write an essay in which you use two or three other examples of clothing that represents a tradition among some group.

In my world, the burka is not equal to lederhosen or a grass skirt.

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April 11, 2004

CYCLE

In Albany, Ga., barber Marty Ford keeps the television in his shop tuned to Fox news so customers can get the latest from Iraq.

"Time," is a word he emphasizes.

"It's only been a year. We got rid of that government and things are on the mend. It just takes time," said Ford, 46.

I spoke Friday out of frustration. I'm still frustrated. I read all the reactions here about what we should do, and I feel every one of those reactions every day. My emotions are on a cycle, but my resolve is stalwart; we will see this through and we will succeed.

Florian quotes Riverbend, not one of the Iraqi blogs I read. No common ground. In response, I quote Healing Iraq:

It is the most foolish and selfish thing to say "pull the troops out", or "replace them with the UN or NATO". Someone has to see us through this mess to the end. Only a deluded utopian (or an idiot peace activist) would believe that Iraqis would all cosily sit down and settle down their endless disputes without AK-47's, RPG's, or mortars in the event of coalition troops abandoning Iraq. Please please don't get me wrong, I am not in the least saying that I enjoy being occupied by a foreign force, I am not a dreamer who believes that the USA is here for altruistic reasons, I am not saying that I am happy with what my bleeding country is going through, believe me when I say it tears my heart every day to witness all the bloodshed, it pains me immensely to see that we have no leaders whomsoever with the interest and well-being of Iraq as their primary goal, it kills me to see how blind and ignorant we have all become. Iraqis are dying inside every day, and we are committing suicide over and over and over. Some people call me a traitor or a collaborator for all the above and for speaking the truth as opposed to rhetorical, fiery speeches which have been our downfall.

Zeyad too is going through the cycle of reactions. No one wants to see people dead, but war is sometimes the only avenue to peace.

My instincts tell me that.


MORE TO GROK:

Re-reading what I wrote back in November helps too.

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April 09, 2004

CHAIR

This photo made me start crying.

statue.jpg

The caption at AP:

On the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, an American soldier removes posters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that were hanging Friday April 9 2004 on a statue on Firdos Square in Baghdad, Iraq. One year ago, U.S. soldiers pulled down Saddam Hussein's statue from this very place. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

One year ago today, I was so happy for the Iraqis. I sat on the sofa at Fort Knox and cheered wildly as they tore that statue down. I wept for the Iraqis and their newfound freedom; now I weep for their newfound vengeance.

If you remember, the statue of Saddam wasn't the only thing to come down from that pedestal last year. The American flag an overzealous soldier hung up there was quickly taken down, lest the world think we came as conquerors. We were there to give Iraq to the Iraqis, and they've repaid us by burning our dead and hanging them from a bridge.

I just finished reading Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. It was written by an Australian woman who spent years studying Muslim women throughout the Middle East. The last chapter was the most interesting, where she recounted her frustration in dealing with women who accepted the status quo. No matter how many times she tried to point out that the oppression of women is a distortion of Muhammad's words in the Koran, the Muslim women refused to believe that the way they were living was not in accordance with Allah's will. You open the Koran and point to a specific passage, and it still doesn't help.

We can point to all the good things we've brought to Iraq -- removal of Saddam, strengthened economy, freedom of speech -- but it doesn't seem to do any good. They hate us. They chose to hate us even before we showed up, and nothing we point at will make them change their minds.

You know how Plato said that stuff about the ideal chair and the real chair? One year ago my mental Iraqi was the ideal Iraqi. I imagined that they cowered under Saddam and longed for freedom in the way I would long for it if I were oppressed. I imagined that they would be grateful to be rid of such a foul leader and ready to start anew in Iraq. The majority of Iraqis, in my mind, were the ideal. Turns out there are a lot more real Iraqis and less ideal Iraqis than I had guessed.

I look at that soldier and wonder what he must be thinking. Damn, are we here again? Full circle, with just another hateful man's face atop this pedestal? Have we made any progress at all in this past year?

This week it feels like we haven't. This week I want to say, "Give the Iraqis their al-Sadr and let's go home." This week I've lost sight of the reason all of this matters. My laser beam has burned out, my ideal chair turns out to be some junky armchair at the side of the road, and my tears are flowing for that soldier who has to climb to the top of that pedestal again one year later and tear down the image of another dangerous leader.

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April 05, 2004

EXAMPLES

David from Photon Courier asked for more details about the textbook items I discussed this weekend.

These examples came from an exercise on sentence generating in Chapter 3 The Sentence: Combining, Generating, Judging, which had nothing to do with persuasion, argumentation, or anything other than grammar. In fact, on the first page of the chapter where it introduces independent and dependent clauses, the sole example given is:

The level of poverty and squalor in large cities is appalling when one considers our country's wealth.

Can you pick out the dependent clause? Ha. The directions for the sentence generating exercise were to add a clause or phrase to each sentence provided (to practice working with dependent clauses and description). Thus these three sentences:

a. One of the odd things foreigners notice about Americans is their intolerance.
b. This intolerance frequently extends to race, creeds, and role expectations.
c. It often baffles foreigners, many of whom regard the United States Constitution as enshrining just the opposite principles of tolerance and understanding.

were fleshed out into this example given at the end of the chapter:

One of the odd things foreigners notice about Americans--whether Republicans or Democrats, urban dwellers or country folks--is their intolerance. This intolerance frequently extends to race, creeds, and role expectations, carrying with it a willingness to shun and physically punish the ones perceived as different. It often baffles foreigners, many of whom regard the United States Constitution, with its emphasis on respect for individual freedoms, as enshrining just the opposite principles of tolerance and understanding.

And the other sentences didn't lean Right by any stretch. My quick version of their topics:

1. A new real admiral takes over a fleet and waits for the enemy.
2. Baby boomers worry about infation and interest rates.
3. We must worry about nuclear holocaust.
4. Americans are intolerant.
5. Tennis is a sport for the millions.
6. We all struggle over physical traits that make us feel different.
7. The government should provide jobs for everyone.
8. Imagination is more important than knowledge.
9. Geoffrey was far from his goal of climbing the hill.
10.My anthropology teacher loved teaching.

The other seven are blandly non-controversial. Why the examples about intolerance and socialism?

How about another example from the chapter?

The pure individualist is an unhappy person whose memories of selfish behavior haunt her.

Compare that to the non-controversial example that follows it:

Newton's analysis of the light in a rainbow was a brilliant achievement that few people have matched.

There was one example of sentence combining that was not really biased either way:

a. The trouble between the Israelis and Palestinians is a clash between two cultures.
b. These cultures are fighting for supremacy in the Middle East.

(That one could have been a lot worse! Or a lot better...)

The only Right-leaning sentence example I could find was way down in Chapter 14 Causal Analysis:

Admissions quotas based on sex, ethnic background, or age are bad because they discriminate against the capable student.

No Right-leaning sentences in Chapter 3, though one of Joanne Jacob's readers says that we can find the same number of Right-leaning examples as we can Left-leaning, so this doesn't mean anything. On the contrary, I think there are more Left-leaning examples in Chapter 3 than I'd consider balanced.

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April 04, 2004

HUMOR

Two of my students already seem to have figured out that I like to have fun in class. Their homework last week was to add their own clauses to the sentences in the exercise that included the Lefty examples. Their responses:

"Too many jobless people with nothing to do are beginning to overpopulate Starbucks; that is why our government must provide a job for everyone who is willing and able to work."

"One of the many odd things foreigners notice when they come to the United States about American people is their intolerance, but most of them are the same way when Americans come to their country."

Good to see they have a sense of humor.

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April 03, 2004

AGENDA

Is there any doubt that academia leans to the Left? Check out these examples on independent/dependent clauses from the textbook I'm using in my English class:

3. It may seem profitless to worry about a nuclear holocaust--a third world war in which entire continents could be wiped out. However, after we study the historical trends of world powers and realize how simple it is to create nuclear power, common sense dictates that the possibility must be confronted honestly.

4. One of the odd things foreigners notice about Americans--whether Republicans or Democrats, urban dwellers or country folks--is their intolerance. This intolerance frequently extends to race, creeds, and role expectations, carrying with it a willingness to shun and physically punish the ones perceived as different. It often baffles foreigners, many of whom regard the United States Constitution, with its emphasis on respect for individual freedoms, as enshrining just the opposite principles of tolerance and understanding.

7. When a poor, unemployed woman, struggling to keep her children clothed and fed on a paltry welfare check, sees her neighbor working as a waitress even though the neighbor's husband has a steady job as a mechanic at the local Chevrolet dealer, she may become resentful. The waitress, of course, may feel guilty, knowing that she has a job whereas her neighbor has not been able to find one. That is why our government must create an economy that is healthy enough to provide a job for everyone who is able and willing to work.

So no matter what I say in my classroom, I'm unwillingly supporting this textbook whose blatant Leftist agenda makes me cringe. Americans feel guilty about their wealth, are going to cause a nuclear holocaust, and are so intolerant that other countries look down on them.

Tell that to Sweden, North Korea, and France, respectively.


MORE TO GROK:

Yes, I was indeed a last-minute hire (hired exactly eleven days before the class started), but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. The school I work for has campuses all over the world, nearly everywhere that servicemembers are stationed. They encourage uniformity of text and syllabus so that someone who takes this class in Germany is getting just about the same thing as someone taking the class in Bosnia or Okinawa. The decision on the texts is made at a much higher level than little ol' me.

And one of the students did comment on these sentences when he turned in his homework. He said, "What's with all the depressing examples?"

MORE:

Check out my students' examples from their homework.

MORE:

See a detailed look at Chapter 3 here.

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NAUSEUS

Just keep scrolling through LGF today.
Everyone's there: Hitchens, Simon, Hanson, etc.

The short version for my mama: Daily Kos is the biggest left-wing blog out there. When the contractors were killed in Fallujah, he wrote this:

I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

Then he deleted it (but not before lots of people saw it) and put a longer more nuanced post up instead. I read it and dove into the comments section until I felt like choking and had to look away.

Here's what I don't like:

Back to Iraq, our men and women in uniform are there under orders, trying to make the best of an impossible situation. The war is not their fault, and I will always defend their honor and bravery to the end of my days. But the mercenary is a whole different deal. They willingly enter a war zone, and do so because of the paycheck. They're not there for humanitarian reasons (I doubt they'd donate half their paycheck to the Red Cross or whatever). They're there because the money is DAMN good.

Kos, if I may use your own words, Screw you.

I don't want someone like Kos even thinking of my husband. I don't want him commenting on his bravery or defending his honor or talking about him or even thinking about him. The thought makes me sick, to be honest. The idea that someone who doesn't care one bit about the death of Americans who are working in Iraq to try to bring infrastructure and economic growth gets all sappy and noble when talking about soldiers makes me sick. I don't care for Kos' empty Support Our Troops claims, and I'm fairly certain my husband doesn't either. My husband is not there to "make the best of an impossible situation"; he's there to clean up the Middle East so that people like Kos never have to face a terrorist.

A commenter:

It doesn't matter what the Falluja attackers saw in these 4 men. I see in them war profiteers who's interest in Iraq is soley pecuniary. I am not obliged to consider them my representatives nor to feel any sympathy for them. As a member of the human race, I am obliged, and I do, feel sympathy for their families; no one should have to see the bodies of their loved ones desecrated in such a way. These guys should've thought of that possibility before signing up.

What is conspicuously absent from Kos' comments section is a condemnation of the f-ing Arabs who burned these bodies and beat them with sticks. Instead, these four deserved what they got because they were out to make a profit.

I'm so nauseated right now I can't think straight.

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April 01, 2004

NOT CALM

Today was supposed to be the calm day after three hectic days of class registration and beginning a new job. I've already worked 42 hours this week and I still have to work Friday and Saturday. But today was a normal 8-hour shift with nothing going on in the evening.

It was supposed to be calm.

Instead I turned on the computer this morning to this LGF post:

I’m just going to ask one simple question.

Why hasn’t the United States already launched an overwhelmingly armed operation to recover the remains of our citizens murdered today in Fallujah, and punish those responsible?

Their body parts are still hanging from that goddamned bridge.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Uh oh. What happened? Scrolling, scrolling. Oh my god. The photos. The disgust. I don't care if Satan himself were killed on Times Square, American adults would shield children from seeing the carnage. We'd cover their eyes, distract them somehow, pick them up and carry them away. We wouldn't give them f-ing sticks to poke at burned bodies.

Not calm.

Then at the end of my work day, I got an email from my little brother: Mom's in the hospital because of her blood pressure. Told myself that someone would have written a more pressing email if something were really wrong, and came home to call Dad. She's OK now, just her blood pressure was 202. I blame it on blogs; I knew the stuff posted on LGF was bad for your health.

Not so calm.

And then I sit down to Lileks, finally...he kept me waiting all day, you know. But it was well worth the wait. Lileks is not calm today either. He's switched on. He's on fire. He's ticked. It was worth the wait to read his take on how Kerry should have answered the questions on MTV, to feel his outrage at Kerry's distortions and selective memory, and to nod my head as he works himself into a frenzy.

Is the world angry at North Korea for killings its people? Angry at Iran for smothering that vibrant nation with corrupt and thuggish mullocracy? Angry at Syria for occupying Lebanon? Angry at Saudi Arabia for its denial of women’s rights? Angry at Russia for corrupt elections? Is the world angry at China for threatening Taiwan, or angry at France for joining the Chinese in joint military exercises that threatened the island on the eve of an election? Is the world angry at Zimbabwe for stealing land and starving people? Is the world angry at Pakistan for selling nuclear secrets? Is the world angry at Libya for having an NBC program?

Is the world angry at the thugs of Fallujah?

Is the world angry at anyone besides America and Israel?

Not calm today. But then no one ever said knowledge of how the world works was the best thing for your blood pressure.

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