April 17, 2009

DON'T PIGEONHOLE ME (I'LL DO IT MYSELF)

[UPDATE: I tried to find a spectrum that I was looking for, but all I could find were circles and 3D representations. And so I settled for a graphic I wasn't entirely happy with because I was too wrapped up in what I was writing to stop and make one myself. So I changed the graphic. The original graphic to which Amritas' comment refers can be found here.]

Wife Unit writes about the role of government too: And My Answer.

I sent the following message to Mare via email the other day:

I also think that there are many issues where things are not black and white for me. I flop back and forth on abortion, for example. I am always willing to have a good debate with people who believe forcefully one way or the other because I am really still not sure what I think. I try to remember WWLD, what would libertarians do? So I unsettledly accept that the government oughtn't tell us what to do with our bodies. And for me, that extends to prostitution and drugs as well. But then, on the flip side, I think people should be able to smoke in public and also eat trans-fats :)

So yeah, I can debate. But on certain issues -- gun rights and taxes come readily to mind -- I feel pretty strongly about my opinions. But in other realms, I am up for discussion. Like education...I can find common ground with you and CaliValleyGirl, and we could debate the nuts and bolts.

Like Wife Unit, I have views that align me with donkeys and elephants. But that's because I don't define my views on the social scale; I define them on the responsibility scale. Social issues shake out far differently when you judge them based on personal responsibility (vs what is or isn't in the Bible, or what is or isn't traditional).

Part of the answer to Sis B's original question as to why there's a chasm between what her conservative friends believe and the government we've had is because I think the whole system is creeping leftward. However, that doesn't mean what it sounds like: I don't think the complete picture has Republicans and Democrats as the poles, where you have to fall as one or the other, or somewhere in between. Instead, the system is more like this:

politicalspectrum.jpg
And the system keeps incrementally shifting leftward while we sit fixed and wonder how in the hell we've gotten to the point where we are budgeting $3.2 billion towards "New Orleans storm protection" and $15 billion for Pell grants.

What I think it really boils down to is Whittle's Theory of Political Reduction:

I contend that there is a single litmus that does indeed separate the nation and the world into two opposing camps, and that when you examine where people will fall on the countless issues that affect our society, this alone is the indicator that will tell you how they will respond.

The indicator is Responsibility.

To the right of the spectrum is less government involvement / more individual responsibility; to the left is more government involvement / more shared responsibility. That's the It Takes a Village mentality. That's Obama's "be your brother's keeper" idea. That's the side of the spectrum I want to stop creeping towards.

To come full circle, I completely respect people who are pro-life because they believe the baby is already a human being endowed with the inalienable right to life. I also completely respect people who believe that the government has no business telling people what they should do medically or with their own bodies (a point I can also understand when debating euthanasia). I have a hard time figuring out which right I find more valid, to be honest. I struggle to not be a hypocrite and to be consistent in my viewpoints. So what I cannot stand are, say, Democrats who think the government has no right to tell them they can't have an abortion with their own body, but every right to stop other people from smoking because the second-hand smoke might hurt their bodies. I find that remarkably inconsistent and frustrating. I also, personally, find it inconsistent to say that government should decree that only men and women should marry, but that government should butt out of everything else. And I really don't understand when some Democrats claim that they want less government meddling than I do, or that they are in fact the party of "government butting out."

But we are all inconsistent beings. I try very hard to be mindful of when my opinions are conflicting and be honest about the fact that I am still working things out. Trying to grok, if you will. And I self-pigeonhole as a Republican because, as I said before, I am trying to "take the word back." Plus, it's how I vote, because, while they are far from perfect, I believe they are closer to me on the responsibility / government meddling scale than Democrats are.

But like Wife Unit, I don't caricature easily, I don't think.

Posted by Sarah at 04:19 PM | Comments (1751) | TrackBack

April 16, 2009

COMFORTING

I've said before that Carl Sagan's Cosmic Timeline has always helped me find perspective and peace. I am but a blip in time and my problems are too. Yesterday, Amritas sent me a Hudnall link on the same lines: You're Less Than a Speck.

I find such comfort in my cosmic insignificance.

Posted by Sarah at 08:27 AM | Comments (783) | TrackBack

April 12, 2009

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, OR THIS IS TOO HARD OF A POST TO WRITE

So many people did such a good job of answering Sis B's question. I concur with the fundamentals of what they said (and I would settle for a school voucher system any day as opposed to the soup sandwich we currently have.)

Any discussion of what I think the role of government is would have to include talk of rights. I believe we have inalienable rights to life, liberty, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, etc. Those are rights to be left alone. To not be meddled with. To live and let live. We need a system of government when our community gets too big to handle as an individual, but the role of government ought ideally to be to protect our right not to be meddled with.

My husband and I love watching the series Deadwood. You can see on this show the evolution of government: Jack McCall kills Wild Bill, and then, aw crap, now we have to have a trial instead of just stringing him up. And then maybe it would be a good idea to have a sheriff and so on. You see these people who moved West to be left alone now being forced to create a government of sorts as the community gets bigger. And they downright resent it. Seth and Saul wanted to move West to open a hardware store, so they bought land, erected a building, and started selling boots and pans. They didn't need a permit, they didn't need a building inspection, they didn't have to belong to a guild or pay union dues; they just set to work filling a need in the camp: hardware. Can you imagine what they'd think if they saw what has to be done to start a business today?

I'm not saying life was better in every way back then, but Deadwood illustrates the gradual relinquishing of complete individuality and the loaning, if you will, of some of your rights to an authority. People entrusted the sheriff with their right to life and their right to justice. In return, the sheriff mediated their disputes (most notably between Hostetler and Steve the Drunk. Which was enough to make you wish you didn't live under the rule of law, so you could choke that hooplehead Steve out and be done with it.)

I liked CaliValleyGirl's analogy of government as a home owner's association. We in the United States have entrusted our government with some of our rights. We are too big to defend ourselves individually, so we entrust them with our national defense. We needed a system of interstate roads, so we entrust our motorways to them. But I personally think that what we now entrust our government to do goes way beyond promoting the general welfare.

Broadly speaking, I think the difference between the left and right is that the left wants to entrust more things to the government. I think they see our country as one big family. In my family, I have a crappy little job where I make about $75 per week. My husband makes more than that in a day. But all our money goes into the same bank account, and I am allowed to spend whatever I think is prudent on clothes or yarn or books. My husband does not restrict my spending to only what I make, because we are a family and we love each other. And sometimes I think that the left sees our country as an extension of a family, where the person who makes $75 per week is entitled to the same equality of result as the person who makes $7500. I think that's illustrated by Lileks' Parable of the Stairs story about his tax refund:

I think the money should have gone straight to those people instead of trickling down. Those last two words were said with an edge.

But then I wouldnt have hired them, I said. I wouldnt have new steps. And they wouldnt have done anything to get the money.

Well, what did you do? she snapped.

What do you mean?

Why should the government have given you the money in the first place?

They didnt give it to me. They just took less of my money.

That was the last straw. Now she was angry. And the truth came out:

Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.

What I see is that James Lileks made that money and he should be able to use it to build stairs to improve his home. But this Democrat canvasser thought it should've all gone into the collective national bank account and then been doled out based on who needed it.

On the same note, after she wrote this post, CaliValleyGirl elaborated on the theme in an email. She wrote:

I mean, imagine you are walking down the street with my dad and you meet someone who asks you for money. And you say sure, and slip your hand into my fathers pocket, take his wallet, take out a $20, give it to the guy, and now you feel good, because you helped that person. But really, YOU didnt help that person.

This, to echo back to Sis B, is the left-wing mindset that I will never understand. Why should the stair money belong to all of us? Why should anyone be entitled to the fruits of Lileks' labor? And how do people justify taking money out of CaliValleyDad's pocket and giving it away to people who didn't earn it? (A question which, sadly, CaliValleyGirl never seemed to get an answer on.) The United States is not one big collective family with a shared bank account. It was never meant to be that. I don't know why we've drifted towards that; I find it maddening. I don't need to be Deadwood, but I don't want to be what we are right now.

I have heard Sean Hannity do man-on-the-street interviews with young people, asking them what people have the right to. Most of them quite readily agree that people have the right to shelter, food, education, transportation, and health care. I firmly believe that the government should grant none of those things as a right. In order for a penniless person to have any of those things, the government has to take Lileks' stair money and give it away. The role of government should be limited to enforcing the laws that protect our inalienable rights: the laws that prevent someone from coming into Lileks' house to steal his stair money, the laws that ensure that the contractor who builds the stairs will face justice if he doesn't fulfill his contract, and the laws that protect Lileks' right to defend his family should anyone step foot onto that staircase to do them harm. The government's role, in my opinion, has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not Lileks should get to have the stairs in the first place. If he earned the money for them, he gets them; he shouldn't have to relinquish his stair money so that other families can feed their kids or have a house.

Leonard Peikoff says it well in a speech I read back in 2000, a speech that resonated with me instantly and which obviously became a part of my knowing. I didn't realize how closely I'd echoed it nine years later in the beginning of this post until I googled it to quote here:

The term "rights," note, is a moral (not just a political) term; it tells us that a certain course of behavior is right, sanctioned, proper, a prerogative to be respected by others, not interfered with -- and that anyone who violates a man's rights is: wrong, morally wrong, unsanctioned, evil.

Now our only rights, the American viewpoint continues, are the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. That's all. According to the Founding Fathers, we are not born with a right to a trip to Disneyland, or a meal at Mcdonald's, or a kidney dialysis (nor with the 18th-century equivalent of these things). We have certain specific rights -- and only these.

Why only these? Observe that all legitimate rights have one thing in common: they are rights to action, not to rewards from other people. The American rights impose no obligations on other people, merely the negative obligation to leave you alone. The system guarantees you the chance to work for what you want -- not to be given it without effort by somebody else.

When I talk about Our Gulch, when I reference Fight or Flee, I am talking about my people. My tribe, as Whittle would say. And the people I want in my Gulch, they all have this same definition of rights. Most people I am friends with have this definition; most of the bloggers I read share it too. It seems to me that we are numerous. So to me, the interesting part of Sis B's question is this:

I think that part of what mystifies me about it is the vast chasm between what I hear regular conservatives saying they believe and the type of government that has been established under the guise of conservativism the past 8 years.

I am equally mystified by this. If everyone I know feels like I do about rights and the role of government, why don't we ever have a government that suits us?

I think the answer lies in compromise. My tribe was mad that Pres Bush was soft on immigration and that he signed the prescription drug plan. Many in my tribe were mad about the marriage amendment as well. I also remember vividly in 2004 when Bush won and said he was going to privatize Social Security. I couldn't believe my ears and was thrilled beyond belief. But it didn't pan out. The federal government is one whopping compromise where no one ends up happy with the result.

And it's not just Republicans who embody this chasm. Remember how Pres Clinton was "the best Republican president we've had in a while"? I am sure Obama supporters are mad that he hasn't completely pulled out of Iraq and that closing Gitmo is "complicated." It's the nature of politics that all presidents are going to govern from the center and end up ticking off their constituents.

Which is why I agree with Mrs du Toit and CaliValleyGirl that politics should be local, and that we ought to live in gulches. Another fundamental belief I have about the workings of government is that it should vary by locality. There should be very few federal laws; most things should be left up to the states, and then you could live in the state that you feel best represents your worldview. It would be far easier to get one of 50 states to suit you than it is to get the entire country to. People pay far too much attention to federal elections and lawmaking.

Towards the end, Sis B adds:

But when this election was done and the Republican party had its collective ass handed to it, my first thought was, "I hope that this allows the party to get back to the fundamentals of its beliefs and that they re-emerge in four or eight years with a strong, coherent platform." Seriously. I want the conservatives to get back to their roots and come back strong.

I don't see that happening.

I think I disagree with her. I think four years of President Obama will be plenty to make people in the center lurch rightward. And I hope we see a resurgence of conservative/libertarian principles on the national stage. I want Republicans to stop their pandering and quit trying to be Democrat Lite. I want to be the party of tough love. I want to be the party of individual responsibility. I want to vote for someone who denies the Democrats their premises. But, you'll remember, I was not a McCain supporter from the beginning. I supported Fred Thompson, who was far closer to my ideal politician than what I ended up having to vote for. Not perfect, but as close as it probably gets. (I don't imagine we could ever get away with President Z.)

So, at the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, I guess that's all I have to say about that. Sis B has now asked her Democrat readers to explain their side. If you are interested in this exchange of ideas, keep your eyes on this post and the comments.

For additional reading about the role of government from people whose brains work far better than mine, check out Mrs du Toit's The Day Liberty Died (via Amritas) and den Beste's Citizen Soldier.

Posted by Sarah at 04:32 PM | Comments (4516) | TrackBack

April 05, 2009

I REALLY DON'T THINK I'M THAT SNARKY

UPDATE: Everyone is giving really good answers. Make sure you still go over and read Sis B's comments section. And if Chuck Z can craft an answer without using the word "commie," then you can too! If you answer on your own blog, leave a trackback either at Sis B's or here, so we can read them all. I know Sis B said not to just quote people, but I keep going "Yeah, what she said, and what he said!" However, I did give this lots of thought last night before I read anything here and plan to try to answer on my own...as soon as I get home from making more foam houses at work.

Also, I would like to say that I lurve my imaginary friends. I know that many of you disagree with me on several issues -- AirForceWife, Andi, CaliValleyGirl, Mare, etc have all let me know when they do -- but when we boil it down to the essentials, just the basic framework we work under, we are all so similar. And that's why we read each other: we know we have common ground, and the rest is just details. It's also why we seriously need a gulch.

*****

Anyone want to try to answer Sis B's question?

I know I have a bunch of Republican readers and close friends, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what any of you think about actual issues. It's all hidden behind snark and namecalling and eye rolling and back patting and I seriously, honestly, to my core, want to know what you believe and why. I want to know what you think about how the government is supposed to work. What does a functioning government look like to you? Please, if you care to answer this question, do so without saying words like "libs" or "dems" or hippies, commies, fags, or any derivative thereof. I want to know what, if any, moral authority government should have. What is the government's purpose in relation to the economy? What powers should the government be allowed to have and what should be limited? What is your view of the constitution? What are your beliefs about ALL the amendments within the Bill of Rights, not just the second?

I think that part of what mystifies me about it is the vast chasm between what I hear regular conservatives saying they believe and the type of government that has been established under the guise of conservativism the past 8 years.

I am gonna take a stab at it when I get back home. It seems like a hard task to me, because I will not be able to grant any common ground. To answer this, I will have to start from the beginning and delineate all my premises. Because what's obvious to me is not obvious to a Democrat. Obviously.

On the other hand, it's easy. The government has the authority to do what the Constitution says and nothing more. End of story. (P.S. I completely freaked out a centrist Republican friend here in town in a discussion of education funding by saying that I don't even think there should be a Department of Education. If it's not in the Constitution, I don't want government doing it. That's why Republicans like me have been horrified by many of our own politicians. We see them as Democrat Lite instead of a true alternative.)

I will try to formulate my thoughts on the drive home. Husband, you start thinking too, because this will have to be a collaborative effort in order for it to be done right.

(And, keep in mind that my comments section is plain awful, so if you start a long comment here, for your sanity, please copy to the clipboard before you post it. Because nine times out of ten, it will disappear. I know this. I am working on moving and was going to do it right about the time I went crazy. I will get to it soon, I promise.)

Posted by Sarah at 10:01 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 05, 2009

SMACKDOWN

Rush Limbaugh challenged Pres Obama to a debate. Oh, if only this could happen.

I would rather have an intelligent, open discussion with you where you lay out your philosophy and policies and I lay out mine -- and we can question each other, in a real debate. Any time here at the EIB Network studios. If you're too busy partying or flying around giving speeches and so forth, then send Vice President Biden. I'm sure he would be very capable of articulating your vision for America -- and if he won't work, send Geithner, and we can talk about the tax code. And if that won't work, go get Bob Rubin. I don't care. Send whoever you want if you can't make it. You don't need to be leaking stories to Politico like this thing that's published today. You don't need to have your allies writing op-eds and all the rest. If you can win at this, then come here and beat me at my own game, and get rid of me once and for all, and show all the people of America that I am wrong.

Rush would crush Obama to smithereens.

In other challenge news, Greg Mankiw tells Paul Krugman to put his money where his mouth is.

How big of a dork does it make me to say that I would pay real money to see these two smackdowns go down?

It's like a blogger nerd's SuperBowl.

Posted by Sarah at 08:18 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 04, 2009

JUXTAPOSITION

Want to see a remarkable gulf between how the left and right view the world?

Point: Aspiring to Mediocrity: With hard work and success to be punished by Obama administration, productive Americans scale back.

Counterpoint: Your Idiot Hero Of Your Idiot Book For Idiot People

I recommend reading all the comments too. It stuns me how these two groups of people have fundamental differences in worldview and in their definitions of human nature.

Posted by Sarah at 11:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 28, 2009

CONVERSATIONS WITH HISTORY

I spent the day with some of my favorite people: I watched the Conversations With History interviews of Mark Steyn, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Davis Hanson.

And I totally snorted when I saw at the end of the video that the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of University of California, Berkeley. Heh. No joke.

Posted by Sarah at 05:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

IMPRESSED

Christopher Hitchens is one crazy sonofagun, but I was downright impressed when I read Michael Totten's account of their run-in in Syria.

The SSNP, I said, is the last party you want to mess with in Lebanon. Im sorry I didnt warn you properly. This is partly my fault.

I appreciate that, Christopher said. But I would have done it anyway. One must take a stand. One simply must.

Would you have had the guts to deface a Syrian Social Nationalist Party sign in Beirut? I think Hitchens is nuts, but I have to respect him for this.

I think a swastika poster is partly fair game and partly an obligation. You don't really have the right to leave one alone.

Wow.

He's probably lucky to be alive.

Posted by Sarah at 08:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2009

HISTORY OF HOME VALUES

When I saw this last night, I was floored. I completely recommend watching it:

Thank you, Glenn Beck, for doing this research and laying it out so succinctly.

Posted by Sarah at 10:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 26, 2009

IDLE RAILCARS

A link from my friend BigD:
Sales of Atlas Shrugged Soar in the Face of Economic Crisis

It's coincidental that she sent me this today, because my jaw hit the floor when I read this article this morning:

Tens of thousands of boxcars are sitting idle all over the country, parked indefinitely by railroads whose freight volumes have plummeted along with the economy.
[...]
The nation's five largest railroads have put more than 30% of their boxcars -- 206,000 in all -- into storage, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Now if that doesn't make you think life is imitating art, I don't know what will.

Posted by Sarah at 01:33 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 15, 2009

MEETING OUR FUTURE

Yesterday I had to work at a demonstration of various science kits you can buy at the store. I was kinda dreading it because it was going to be a huge mess, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. Most kids just wanted to get their hands dirty and sticky. But one family made it totally worthwhile.

A mother and two sons showed up specifically for the science demonstration. I was just getting to the end of mixing "quicksand": cornstarch and water. I filled the pan and showed the older boy (probably 9 years old) how your hand sinks in and it's hard to pull out. The boy looked at me and said, "Well, that's neat, but what's the science behind it?" Awesome. So I pulled out the paperwork that came with the kit, and we had a discussion of non-Newtonian fluids and the Law of Viscosity. And then we demonstrated together how the viscosity could be changed by applying pressure. He learned some science, and heck, so did I!

When I start to despair for the world, I am going to remember that kid and how I am sure there are others like him out there, kids who will be the pillars of our society in the future.

I needed to meet that boy. I'm glad I did.

And I am also glad that I have a monkey's job where I get to learn about non-Newtonian fluids.

Posted by Sarah at 11:37 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 06, 2009

LIKE A WHALE BIOLOGIST

Tom Coburn was on fire this week:

We are going to spend $448 million to build the Department of Homeland Security a new building. We have $1.3 trillion worth of empty buildings right now, and because it has been blocked in Congress we can't sell them, we can't raze them, we can't do anything, but we are going to spend money on a new building here in Washington. We are going to spend another $248 million for new furniture for that building; a quarter of a billion dollars for new furniture. What about the furniture the Department of Homeland Security has now? These are tough times. Should we be buying new furniture? How about using what we have? That is what a family would do. They would use what they have. They wouldn't go out and spend $248 million on furniture.

He rants about all the stupid crap that's in the stimulus bill. Another little funny line:

We have $75 million for smoking cessation activities, which probably is a great idea, but we just passed a billthe SCHIP billthat we need to get 21 million more Americans smoking to be able to pay for that bill. That doesn't make sense.

Seriously, read the whole thing. And feel your head explode.

UPDATE:

See also 50 De-Stimulating Facts.

Posted by Sarah at 12:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 31, 2009

BIPARTISAN

The first blogger my husband read was Matt Welch, waaay back in the day. Today Matt has a good post up that's kinda related to what irritated me yesterday. Money quote:

The other factor at play here, which Democratic ears seem unable to detect, is that Obama is skillfully turning the meaning of the word "bipartisan" into "the coalition that agrees with my magnanimous self."

Yep, disagree with Obama and you are destroying America and ruining democracy.

Hat tip to my husband, who runs in different blog circles than I do and always manages to find interesting stuff that I wouldn't happen upon. Also he is hot.

Posted by Sarah at 02:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 29, 2009

USING SCIENCE

KDeRosa blogs about schoolwork that's not exactly brainwork:

The competition challenges middle school students to design a city of the future with a focus on water conservation, reuse, and renewable energy. The students use the game SimCity (Deluxe 4) to help them build their three-dimensional models to scale. They have a semester to dream up and then construct their miniature cities entirely out of recycled materials. Supposedly, this inspires them to consider engineering as a profession.

He belittles the project, saying:

This is not how engineer's turn an idea into reality. It doesn't seem to me that the students needed to know any actual engineering or any engineering constraints to construct their models. So, this is how a non-engineer turns ideas into reality. And, I'm not sure this exercise , in any way, generalizes to any real-world situation.

I suppose the kids did learn how to play SimCity. Videogames 101. That's what kids need -- more time playing videogames. I'm sure SimCity is a neat program, but it's not exactly a precursor to AutoCAD or other real-world construction/drafing programs.

And how does building a model out of recycled mterials generalize to building real stuff with recylced materials? Someone explain that to me.

Found via Amritas via Joanne Jacobs, where Joanne writes:

My husband, born to be an engineer, built a color TV set when he was in high school. It worked. His father, also an engineer, built model planes as a teenager. They flew.

My first husband, a math-physics guy, designed an atomic bomb in fifth grade for a school project. It probably wouldnt have worked, he said. But hed studied the science and the math. It wasnt an art project.

My uncle built a working light show in his basement when he was a kid. He rigged up a Lite Brite to a Casio keyboard, so when he played certain notes, different lights lit up.

I wish I had developed more of an interest in these math and science projects when I was young.

To conclude with an awesome comment by hardlyb:

When I was in 3rd grade I made a sextant out of a protractor, a couple of pieces of wood, some string, nails, and thumbtacks. The trick, of course, was to calibrate it, and I cant remember what I did, but when I tested it that night against the North Star, it was dead on. Anyway, I turned the thing in after doing a presentation to the class, and I got an A. Then Miss GrumpyFace, the teacher from the class next door, came in to judge our contest. She awarded first prize to a diorama that had Native Americans and dinosaurs in it (the diorama was really a shoebox with plastic toys arranged in it), and she held up my entry as an example of something beneath contempt. She had absolutely no idea what it was, and hadnt bothered to ask.

I didnt really mind her reaction, because the realization that many of the teachers at my crappy rural East Texas public school were too ignorant and/or stupid to understand the work an 8-year-old was something that I, as an 8-year-old, found very interesting. It doesnt appear that things have changed much, except now they give all the kids a shoebox and some plastic Native Americans and dinosaurs. So the teachers dont ever have wonder What the hell is that thing?.

Posted by Sarah at 04:49 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

THE RAW DEAL

BigD sent me a link that was just genius. It was exactly what I was looking for when I wrote about the New Deal.

Why The New Deal Failed

Now before we get into the specifics of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, which was the name of his government program, I wanted to begin by announcing some of the results from a Fox News poll that was done over a year ago. The poll asked, "When the government spends money for programs, does it get the money from taxpayers, or does the government have an independent source of revenue?"

Let me start with the answer this way. Eleven percent weren't sure. They were undecided. Forty percent said government gets its money from taxpayers. Forty-nine percent said they have an independent source of revenue. So the answer to the poll was 49 percent said government has an independent source of revenue that it uses to spend money for programs; 40 percent said no, every time it spends a dollar on programs it has to get the dollar from taxpayers; and 11 percent were undecided.

Can you see why after this poll, when we have government programs that fail, it does not result in throwing those who perpetrated the program out of office? You have one group that gets a sizable vote-forty percent-that is mad about it. But there are others who say: "Hey, it's not my money. It's the government's money. At least they tried."

And it gets better from there...

Posted by Sarah at 02:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 14, 2009

I RSVP I DO

I have been a fan of the singer Jude for about ten years now. I love his music, and when I went to his concert in Champaign, IL, it was the best concert I've ever attended. (And also the last, because I'm old.) I got to meet him after that concert, when he stood around and shook everyone's hand and signed autographs.

And now he's on Big Hollywood revealing that he's a conservative.

Be still my heart.

I'm gonna go order his two most recent albums. I balked at buying an album named Cuba because I was afraid of it being a communist paean, but now I don't think I have anything to worry about.

And if you've never heard Jude's music before, this is the song to start with.

Thanks to Amritas for finding this post...and being the kind of friend who knows that I like Jude.

Posted by Sarah at 08:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 02, 2009

GRANTING THE PREMISE

Mark Steyn was sitting in for Rush Limbaugh today, so I made sure to tune in. I turned on the radio as soon as I was leaving work and was lucky enough to catch Steyn talking about something that irks me. He was talking with a caller about media bias and was saying that it only appears like bias to rightwingers because nowadays the left-wing position is actually considered the default. He used global warming as an example: the idea that global warming exists and is man-made is treated as the non-partisan, default position in American society.

I was just emailing about something like the the other day with a friend. I had pointed out CVG's post on Civil Discourse to make a point, and my friend countered by saying that CVG granted premises that he doesn't even grant, such as that the federal government should even be collecting income taxes in the first place. Thus, he said, she set herself up for failure in that argument because right off the bat she granted the Democrats most of their premises.

Income tax collection is what Mark Steyn would call one of those non-partisan positions. Not all of us believe the government should collect income tax, which gets us the label of right-wing wackos since that premise is nearly always granted.

The frustration I face vis-a-vis my worldview is that I reject so many of these so-called non-partisan positions. I don't grant the premises that everyone should have affordable health care, that global warming is a high priority, that college should be made more affordable, that guns should be more strictly controlled, that affirmative action helps minorities, etc. So in normal discussions with Democrats, I am always operating from a disadvantage, because "conventional wisdom" or "normal people" usually grant these premises. I'm always frustrated because I don't accept the underlying foundation of their arguments, which makes it hard to have a discussion because to them, this is the normal default position. To a Democrat, there's nothing left-wing about wanting to fight global warming; it's just an unremarkable given.

I believe that the Republican Party will never be a success if it keeps granting Democrat premises. It can't keep trying to find right-wing solutions to things that many right-wingers don't accept as the default. McCain let Obama frame the debates, which was infuriating to those of us watching at home and wishing he'd stop conceding that all of this stuff like health care and bailouts was even necessary in the first place. He was arguing details when he should've been arguing premises. Nobody I know wanted to vote for Democrat Lite, but that's what we were getting served.

True conservative/libertarian ideas can win if people would challenge the Democrat position as the default.

Posted by Sarah at 04:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 31, 2008

MORE JAMESES THAN DAGNYS

I never wrote a post when I finished Atlas Shrugged again, but this passage from Wizbang reminded me to blog it out:

While I obviously don't believe in exploiting the poor or the undereducated, I seriously have to wonder about a society that provides multiple safety nets for those who won't (or in the case of the mentally or physically challenged, can't) take risks and make sacrifices, yet treats ambitious, hard-working, self-sacrificing individuals as undeserving, or spoiled, or worse -- evil villains.

Unfortunately we still have a handful of robber-barons in the contemporary guise of crooked CEO's who reward themselves lavishly while building houses of straw. When those houses come tumbling down, the white collar professional, who loves his family just as much as the blue collar worker, who worries about his mortgage and car payments and retirement just as much as the blue collar worker, and who probably pays a lot more in taxes than the blue collar worker, ends up hurting just as much as the blue collar worker. Maybe some people think that seeing the white collar man suffer is payback or "justice" for the plight of manual laborers, but it isn't.

The part about the robber-baron CEOs reminded me of a blog post I saw right before I re-read Atlas and which stuck in my head the whole time I was reading:

Oh, how I wish I could be Dagny Taggart.

Oh, how I long for an enclave like Galt's Gulch.

It all sounds perfect. Utopia.

And it is.

But life isn't perfect and there is no utopia. There are only a few people who lead major corporations with the dedication and pride that the industry leaders in Atlas Shrugged demonstrated. Hank Rearden is my fucking hero. Seriously. If corporate heads were like him, I'd be [all for deregulation, too].

But they're not. For the most part they are slimy assholes who don't give a shit about their product. They don't value hard work, they run from it. The greed that they have is not the same kind of greed that is prevalent in AS.

I kept that post and its comments in my mind the whole time I was reading. The premises behind it have gnawed at me for months. And here's what I have to say about it.

I know a Hank Reardon. He is a man who risked everything to start a company that had an iffy chance for success. He continues to risk. And now that his company has done well, he gets emails and letters all day long about how greedy and selfish he is. His product should be cheaper, it should be made for the masses, it's not fair that some people can't afford it. How dare you set your price at a point above what I can pay? Oh, and by the way, your product is foolish and I wouldn't want one anyway. But make it cheaper, you bastard.

It makes me sick that he is beset by looters all day long, looters who don't stop for a moment to think about how hard he had to work to build the company in the first place and who couldn't care less if his company loses money during these hard economic times.

Norman Borlaug is a Hank Reardon. Everyone on Heroes of Capitalism is a Hank Reardon. You know that movie about the windshield wipers guy? He's a Hank Reardon. Anyone who's ever risked anything is a Hank Reardon.

Remember those train conductors in the book who stopped their trains in the middle of the night and walked away? They were Hank Reardons too. You don't have to have money and fame to be a Hank Reardon; most of the people in this world who take the risks and stand on their principles will be people we have never heard of.

Yes, some CEOs have made a real mess of things. But to dismiss the message and theme of Atlas Shrugged outright because not everyone in this world is Hank Reardon is foolish. What that blog post forgets is that Ayn Rand did in fact understand human nature; the majority of the citizens of the US in Atlas Shrugged were like James Taggart. There were bad CEOs and "slimy assholes" in the book, just like there are James Taggarts in real life.

To dismiss the book because there are more James Taggarts than Hank Reardons is to completely miss the point, in my opinion. It's like throwing the Bible out the window because there's only one Jesus in it. Well, he was perfect and we aren't all like him, so what's the point of this Bible book anyway? No one suggests we should roll our eyes at the Bible because Jesus is too perfect.

And no, I am not one of those Objectivist loonies who thinks Atlas Shrugged is the Bible. But I do indeed think that Hank Reardon is a character to be emulated, and the message of the book invigorates and rejuvenates me every time I re-read it. I think that dismissing the book because of its idealism is sad. When I read the book, I want to work harder to become more like its main characters, not reject it because it's too perfect.

The fact that Hank Reardons are rare in this world is the point of the book. There were only a few of them, but once they shrugged, the whole system fell to pieces. A company won't last long if it has an empty suit at the wheel, or at least it wouldn't if we actually lived in a free market. James Taggart would've failed on his own; it was the government regulation that kept him in business. The idea that "If corporate heads were like [Reardon], I'd be [all for deregulation, too]" is backwards because regulation and corruption went hand in hand in Atlas Shrugged. The Wesley Mouches of the world are the ones who gain power from regulation, not the Hank Reardons. As to the real world, it was the stupid government-imposed lending rules that caused our current bailout problem, and the piling on of government "solutions." The same thing happened with the New Deal: government meddling prolonged the economic agony. If we followed the Reardonesque idea of lending to people whose word meant a damn and who could pay the money back, we wouldn't have the mess we have. Sadly, it doesn't matter how many Reardons there are, if it's the Wesley Mouches who control the markets.

Regardless, it's enough for me to know that there is a handful of Hank Reardons out there. Our country and our system depends on them. And I refuse to lump them in with the bad CEOs and declare them all greedy thieves.

Anyway, to paraphrase one of my favorite SNL characters, Atlas Shrugged is a great book and if you don't like it, then I suggest you eat a bowl of hair because you are a dummy.

Heh.

Posted by Sarah at 09:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 08, 2008

SABRINA

I don't like many modern love stories, but I do like the old ones. I watched Sabrina tonight and took pause at this conversation between the Larabee brothers:

But you've got all the money in the world!

What's money got to do with it? If making money were all there was to business, it'd hardly be worthwhile going to the office. Money is a by-product.

Then what's the main objective? Power?

Bah, that's become a dirty word.

Well then, what's the urge? You're going into plastics now; what will that prove?

Prove? Nothing much. A new product has been found, something of use to the world, so a new industry moves into an undeveloped area, factories go up, machines are brought in, harbors are dug, and you're in business. It's purely coincidental, of course, that people who never saw a dime before suddenly have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed.

That's so Reardon-esque that it made me swoon.

And I wonder...does the 1995 remake have the same speech? I may have to watch someday to find out.

Why do I doubt it though...

Posted by Sarah at 09:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 06, 2008

CASHING IN MY CHIPS

[Cross-posted at SpouseBUZZ]

AWTM has the distinction at SpouseBUZZ, like it or not, of being our resident go-to person on reintegration. And I personally always felt fine letting her have that title, because I didn't really grok her experience. I always assumed that her discomfort with reintegration came from the fact that she had babies while her husband was gone, so they went from being just a couple to being a family. Or I thought it was because her husband came back changed. Or that they were having a hard time getting back in sync as a family when he got home. Since I had not experienced any of those things, I never fully understood AWTM's trepidation about reintegration.

But I wrote before that deployments are like snowflakes. I was talking about my soldier in that case, but I am starting to see that deployments can feel very different from the homefront too.

My husband's first deployment was harder on him than this one has been: tougher mission, less amenities, more danger, longer deployment time. He was out in the thick of things and had some difficult experiences. During that deployment, my life was relatively straightforward. Nothing big happened to me that year, so our focus was on my husband and how he would react coming home.

This time around has been the reverse. My husband's job is easier -- safer, shorter, and relatively cushy -- but my life has been tumultuous. I have gone through some pretty heavy emotional growth in the past eight months. And all of a sudden, we're single digit midgets...and I am starting to think that this reintegration will play out differently.

AWTM called me the other day and asked me how I was doing. I didn't even fully realize that I was so apprehensive until she began to drag it out of me. And then she told me something that I know will be part of my vocabulary for the rest of my life. She told me about an interview with Mike Myers in which he talks about how hard it was to lose his father:

I've always felt I was given these emotional casino chips which had no value until I went home and told my dad about things. My father was like my spiritual cash window. I would tell him about stuff, just to hear his reaction.

AWTM said that she and I and people like us need a "spiritual cash window." We need someone to vent to, to rehash every detail of our day with, to take note of every ebb and flow of our emotional cycle. We need someone to cash our chips in to. And for both of us, that person is our husband. So when our husbands are gone, we stockpile our emotional casino chips.

I seem to have a lot of emotional chips from this deployment.

I have started to realize this past week that I am afraid of overwhelming my husband when he gets home. I am afraid that when he walks in that door, I am going to unload on him like a firehose. I'm afraid I won't be able to pace myself...because I have over seven months of chips in my hands that I am going to dump on him at once.

And I've realized that I am also sad that he hasn't been here for me to cash my chips in to on a daily basis. He hasn't seen me grow moment by moment. He is going to get the insane recap version at the end, where I have to explain every detail of everything that has happened to me lately.

And how do you do that? How do you explain what you were feeling six months ago and still make it relevant? How do you tell someone that, while you are no longer feeling stressed about X, Y, or Z, you used to feel stressed about it and therefore would still like to cash it in?

Poor husband.

My husband does not have emotional casino chips. The last time he was gone, the majority of the fighting and danger he faced happened at the beginning of his deployment. By the time he got home eight months later, that was old news to him. That was over and done with. He didn't need to cash it in. And I remember feeling a tad hurt that he didn't need to do this, like what did he need me for if I wasn't his spiritual cash window? I didn't understand how he could've had these enormous life experiences -- to include watching a man die -- and not need to cash it in.

I just never knew how to put that feeling into words.

I have always known I am this kind of person, but it took AWTM acknowledging it and giving it a name for me to realize how important it is to me and how hesitant I feel about our reintegration this time around.

Because, boy, do I have chips that need cashing.

And all of a sudden, I understood what AWTM has been talking about for years. It clicked for me, and I realized that it wasn't just having her husband underfoot in the house, or that he had a daughter he had never met, or that he might be jumpy or less patient. It was that she held these chips too and didn't know how to cash them in.

I didn't realize that she was this type of person too, and I think we both felt some relief talking about it on the phone and realizing that we're not the only one who holds these emotional chips.

Heck, Mike Myers does too. Maybe he should read SpouseBUZZ...

Posted by Sarah at 07:25 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 04, 2008

HEART LOVE

Wow.
What Girls Want: A series of vampire novels illuminates the complexities of female adolescent desire

This almost makes me want to read Twilight. Almost.
It also makes me realize why I can't: I am no longer thirteen.

I have been thinking about being thirteen a lot lately.

I have been thinking about sitting on the sofa with a boy watching Pink Floyd's The Wall and thinking that after the movie was over, I would tell him I love him. And I did. And he smiled.

Three years later, he was dead. And I replay that night in my head, the delicious memory of feeling so grown-up and alive.

And that love, that love I felt for those illustrious three, it is nothing like the love I have for my husband. It was impetuous and consuming. It spawned poetry and diary entries. That was love with my heart. I am glad I experienced it; I am also glad I don't experience it any longer. It is an exhausting love.

But I have been thinking about it a lot lately and feeling nostalgic. That article gave me some insight into why.

And now I understand the Twilight craze.

Posted by Sarah at 03:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 01, 2008

DEATH WISH

Nothing to do but cut and run, huh? What else? What about the old American social custom of self-defense? If the police don't defend us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves.
We're not pioneers anymore, Dad.
What are we, Jack?
What do you mean?
I mean, if we're not pioneers, what have we become? What do you call people who, when they're faced with a condition of fear, do nothing about it, they just run and hide?
Civilized?
No.

I watched Death Wish tonight. This scene reminded me of something I read yesterday about Mumbai:

But what angered Mr D'Souza almost as much were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back."

If being civilized means that we let barbarians destroy everything we hold sacred, then count me out.

The last time I wrote about vigilantism, Amritas left this comment:

Is there a correlation between vigilante fantasy entertainment and an increasingly criminal-coddling society? (The rise of the Death Wish movies after the 60s might indicate that the answer is yes.) I don't think there was anything 'cool' about frontier justice 'back in the day'; it was a harsh fact of life. But nowadays such justice has turned into escapism and the reality is that people want to deny responsibility.

How much easier things would be if a Batman would come along and take care of the War on Terror for us. If someone else could take care of the barbarians at the gates. If someone else could go and fight the dragons.

If we could sit and watch from the sidelines while someone else polices the world.

But thank heavens there are some people in this world who are not sidelines people. From the imdb page on Death Wish:

After finishing The Stone Killer (1973), Charles Bronson and Michael Winner wanted to make another film together, and were discussing further projects. "What do we do next?" asked Bronson. "The best script I've got is 'Death Wish'. It's about a man whose wife and daughter are mugged and he goes out and shoots muggers," said Winner. "I'd like to do that," Bronson said. "The film?" asked Winner. Bronson replied, "No . . . shoot muggers."

Posted by Sarah at 08:30 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 27, 2008

A NEW APPRECIATION FOR THANKSGIVING

thanksgiving.jpg

Read Rush Limbaugh's The Real Story of Thanksgiving. And have a wonderful day.

Posted by Sarah at 12:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 26, 2008

WOULD YOU SHOW THEM HOW AN AMERICAN DIES?

I just heard about the attacks in India. It is horrifying.

Something caught my eye in the MSNBC article:

Alex Chamberlain, a British restaurant-goer at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that the attackers singled out Britons and Americans. He said a gunman, who appeared to be in his early 20s, ushered 30 or 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and ordered everyone to put up their hands.

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?' And he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything and thank God they didn't," he said.

Perhaps he just meant that they would recognize his accent, but the way I read it was that he would tell them the truth. If that's the right reading, he is very brave.

What would you do? Would you say that you're an American or would you lie and say you're Canadian or fake a French accent?

I think I would tell the truth. I hope I would.

Posted by Sarah at 04:22 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

I LOVE HIM FOR

I keep having these conversations with people, and then a few days later I read something in Atlas Shrugged and think, "Aw nuts, that's how I should've answered."

Right now I am at the part where Cherryl Taggart realizes that Jim isn't who she thought he was.

"Jim, what is it that you want to be loved for?"
"What a cheap shopkeeper's attitude!"
She did not speak; she looked at him, her eyes stretched by a silent question."
"To be loved for!" he said, his voice grating with mockery and righteousness. "So you think that love is a matter of mathematics, of exchange, of weighing and measuring, like a pound of butter on a grocery counter? I don't want to be loved for anything. I want to be loved for myself -- not for anything I do or have or say or think. For myself -- not for my body or mind or words or works or actions."
"But then...what is yourself?"
"If you loved me, you wouldn't ask it."

Last week, I met a neighbor, one of those people who likes to psychoanalyze everyone. I made a joke in the group about how my husband has never been described as "nice," which is true: my husband has many wonderful qualities, but "nice" doesn't really suit him. The neighbor asked me what quality first drew me to my husband. I sat for a moment, deciding between his intellect and his integrity. As I thought on, I realized I ought to indicate his intellect, since his integrity is something that I have grown to see over the years and not necessarily something I knew right from the beginning.

The neighbor interrupted my thoughts, saying that I was taking too long, that a real answer would come from the gut and not require so much deliberation.

I said, "His intellect." The neighbor looked at me like that was a cheap thing to be loved for.

What I wish I'd answered, what I thought of later that night, is that my love for my husband doesn't come from my gut; it comes from my brain. I love him with my mind, not with my heart. A quick response to that question would be false, because the response has to come from my thought process.

My husband and I were in the same friend group for about six months before we began dating. I remember vividly at one point telling a mutual friend that I could see myself marrying someone like Mr. Grok. I was reminded of that today when I saw who Cherryl thought she was marrying. And I realized that the love that developed for my husband was similar to what Dagny feels for John Galt: she loved him even before she knew he existed. I loved my husband's qualities before I ever had any inkling he would become my husband. In fact, he had declined my suggestion that we date. Weeks later, he came to me with his mind and said that he had made a mistake and we should be together. We figuratively shook on it, and that was that.

Effectively, our love was transacted like a pound of butter on a grocery counter.

My husband earned my love. I too had to earn it from him, and it took him two weeks longer than I to weigh the merits of it. And the moments when I feel the most love for my husband, the moments when it feels like my heart is swelling, it is really my brain swelling. It happens when he has excelled at a task, when he has become frustrated with himself because he didn't live up to his potential, or when he has displayed his sharp wit or keen intellect.

I don't think my neighbor would've understood that.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by Sarah at 09:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 24, 2008

ALL ALONG

I was just getting ready to leave for work when this email from CaliValleyGirl popped up:

Just wanted to make sure that you didn't slip in the shower or anything...no long email needed, just a sign of life!

Heh.

I am here, just busy. Worked all day Saturday. Stayed up until 3 AM online with Amritas. Babysat yesterday. Eek. I came home from the experience thinking that there's no way I can be a mother, that I will do a horrible job, that I don't have the patience.

And then I caught my favorite episode of Scrubs ever, and realized that I probably will find the courage.

I got in bed last night and grabbed my Atlas Shrugged. And I remembered something that I hadn't thought of until last night: the men of Galt's Gulch only lived there one month of the year. They weren't allowed to wall themselves off from the reality of life; they had to keep jobs and live amongst the looters. But they returned to the gulch once a year to be with likeminded individuals.

So really, we have this gulch. The gulch is any time we get together, at the Milblogs Conference, at a SpouseBUZZ, at a house in Ohio, or even just typing on the internet until 3 AM.

Seems like we've had our gulch all along.

Posted by Sarah at 09:40 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 22, 2008

MAIL

The best part about living in Germany was that sending mail to Iraq was free. No stamp necessary. And I milked that for all it was worth, sending articles and photos and many letters. 215 of them, to be exact.

This time around, I sent 45. Granted, we had more regular contact via internet, so there was less to say in letters. And he was deployed for half as long. But still...

I think I am proof that people abuse privileges they don't have to pay for.

Posted by Sarah at 08:47 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 21, 2008

DO NOT GROK

Am finishing up the Die Hard series and had one of those thoughts, which I promise I would've had even if my house hadn't been man-less for seven months.

Someone actually had this:

willis.jpg

and then said, nah, I think I'd rather have this:

kutcher.jpg

I mean, seriously, was she high?

Posted by Sarah at 07:42 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

A COMRADE

Yesterday I happened upon a private reading We The Living. I got this indescribable excitement and wanted to grab him and talk his ear off. Of course I didn't. I stared holes into the top of his head, but I couldn't even get him to make eye contact. Still, it kinda made my day.

Posted by Sarah at 09:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

SHE WAS A FOOL

I am not the Sarah who rejected the 99-Cent Dating Experiment. I think it's very funny and cute. If a guy had done that for me, I would've found it endearing. Of course, all of the gifts I can remember in my life had nothing to do with money: the handmade wooden keychain, "I love you" spelled out in pink Starbursts (my favorite flavor), a potted violet my 8th grade boyfriend walked a mile in the rain to buy for me. And my husband didn't have to buy me a thing to get me to fall in love with him: We went to a free production of Man of La Mancha, he baked cookies from a tube of dough, and he wanted to know my thoughts on Sartre.

I'd trade the diamond bracelet for the one made of Reardon Metal any day of the week.

Posted by Sarah at 09:25 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 18, 2008

TOUGHER LOVE

Dr. Helen quoted Ted Nugent (heart) -- "You don't need tough love in America, you need tougher love. " -- in her post about how we need to speak up:

Too many times, we let liberals get away with making fun of Republicans and those of us who do not agree with them politically. This needs to stop and the only way to do it is to speak up in the classrooms, public and at work. Remember that we are 56 million strong--those of us who did not vote for Obama. We are hardly alone.

As you know, I have been reading Atlas Shrugged again. Every time I read it, I remember how empowered it makes me feel. My husband mentioned a small dilemma today, and I said, "Tell them how you really feel; let them have it!" Then I laughed and said, "Sorry, I am being a bit too Reardon, aren't I?"

Reading this book makes me want to speak the truth.

On my flight the other day, while discussing the Obama book with my row-mate, the conversation turned to health care. This man, who was not an Obama supporter, said he agrees with "free" health care and thinks that it's something that the United States can do for its citizens.

I didn't say what I really wanted to say: Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.

And looking back, I kind of wish I had said that. At least the conversation would've turned a different way and perhaps it would've made this man think new thoughts. Instead I took the wimpy way out and reminded him that nothing is "free" in this world. I wish I had been more assertive in the conversation though. He was asking my opinions and I held back, for fear of sounding cold.

As I said in an email to a friend a while back, I wish I were more like an Ayn Rand character. I wish that I didn't worry whether my positions sound nice or not. The Nuge is right: we need tougher love in this country.

I wish I were bold enough to tell a stranger on a plane that I don't believe everyone is entitled to cheap health care. I'm not there yet.

I wonder how many times I'll have to read Atlas Shrugged before I have that confidence...

Posted by Sarah at 09:33 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 15, 2008

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

As I sat down on my cross-country flight, I noticed my seatmate was reading Change We Can Believe In. I rolled my eyes, thinking it would be a long flight. I then took out my Atlas Shrugged, hoping the vibes off of my book would vanquish the vibes off of his.

A while later, he starts chitchatting, asking me where I hail from. I told him I was originally from Illinois, and he pointed at his Obama book and said, "He must be your man then." I smiled noncommittally. Then he said, "I didn't vote for him; I bought this book so I could figure out what the heck he's planning on doing."

So we had a nice chat the entire trip, laughing and pointing out the inconsistancies in Obama's plan.

Moral of the story: Don't judge a bookholder by its cover.

Posted by Sarah at 10:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 11, 2008

OUR GULCH

We SpouseBUZZ authors have often mused about how fantastic it would be to all live on the same street. We laugh about it, but under that laugh is the sorrow of knowing it will never be.

Amritas and I were talking about this tonight, after I read AirForceWife's comment over at CaliValleyGirl's site and sighed and said, "I love my imaginary friends."

I think often about Mrs du Toit's post Fight or Flee:

Imagine the country with everyone having all their belongings in a moving truck. Then folks start looking around for a place that has people who are more like them (however folks want to define that), and they talk and share opinions to determine what it is they do want, and then everyone hits the road in their pre-packed moving vans, to move to where they can find camaraderie and fellowship with people of like minds. THAT is America. That is what the Founders gave us, but some folks didnt get the memo, or havent fully grasped what the Founders meant.

Amritas and I got a little giddy, planning our gulch. We want Steven den Beste and the du Toits as neighbors. I want Varifrank on my street. And Baldilocks, and Lileks, and Whittle. I want my virtual neighborhood to become my real one.

Imagine the 4th of July BBQ conversations we'd have!

And, to paraphrase AirForceWife's comment, a community where you share common ground with your neighbors wouldn't be a FAIL.

But it honestly hurts my heart to even write this post.

It hurts to think about how wonderful it would be in our gulch.

Posted by Sarah at 11:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

IMAGINE YOU'RE ON A KIBBUTZ...

CaliValleyGirl's newest post lays a lot of foundation on her position and then asks a meaty question of Democrats at the end. I think I only have like three Democrat readers, but I would be interested in hearing your take on her question.

Posted by Sarah at 04:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 09, 2008

HOOAH

It's Whittle, baby.

On Tuesday, the Left armed with the most attractive, eloquent, young, hip and charismatic candidate I have seen with my adult eyes, a candidate shielded by a media so overtly that it can never be such a shield again, who appeared after eight years of a historically unpopular President, in the midst of two undefended wars and at the time of the worst financial crisis since the Depression and whose praises were sung by every movie, television and musical icon without pause or challenge for 20 months who ran against the oldest nominee in the countrys history, against a campaign rent with internal disarray and determined not to attack in the one area where attack could have succeeded and who was out-spent no less than seven-to-one in a cycle where not a single debate question was unfavorable to his opponent that historic victory, that perfect storm of opportunity

Yielded a result of 53%

Posted by Sarah at 05:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

CLEVER

Last night on TV, Stephen Moore said that Obama is the Democrat's Ronald Reagan. I think that's absolutely right, though it's the first time I've heard anyone say it.

Posted by Sarah at 09:21 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

"VIRTUE IS THE GIVING OF THE UNDESERVED"

I'm at the part in Atlas Shrugged when Mrs. Reardon comes to Hank and asks him to give Philip a job. Hank refuses, and his mother says:

That's your cruelty, that's what's mean and selfish about you. If you loved your brother, you'd give him a job he didn't deserve, precisely because he didn't deserve it -- that would be true love and kindness and brotherhood. Else what's love for? If a man deserves a job, there's no virtue in giving it to him. Virtue is the giving of the undeserved.

Interesting that I read that last night, and then read this Newsbusters article this morning (via Amritas):

Require 100 Hours of Service in College: Obama and Biden will establish a new American Opportunity Tax Credit that is worth $4000 a year in exchange for 100 of public service a year.

$4,000 in value for 100 hours is $40 an hour, tax-free. For most students, because they pay no federal income tax, this will amount to an annual handout of $4,000 less the value of the service they provide (bravely assuming that it's productive), which would be at most the private-sector equivalent of about $12 an hour with benefits, or $1,200.

Personally, I think that $12 figure is pretty high. But maybe that's because I am in charge of an entire program at my job and I only make $7.70. I should quit my job and start doing community service under Obama! Does my knitting count?

Newsbusters goes on:

Let's estimate that this puts 8 million kids in college at any one time (I think the number is higher, but I can't prove it right now). If they are required to put in the service (that's what the site still says), the program would cost Uncle Sam $32 billion a year (8 million x $4,000).
In the last fiscal year, the entire Department of Education spent $66 billion. This one program would expand the Department's budget by almost 50%, before adding a dime for administration.

There is no job these high schoolers could work at that will give them $40 per hour. Will high schoolers then cease to work, concentrating instead on doing all those community service hours so they can get their undeserved windfall? Why work at a minimum wage job when you can get $40 an hour for volunteering?

Hank Reardon responds to his mother with a classic line:

Mother, you don't know what you're saying. I'm not able ever to despise you enough to believe that you mean it.

I have a feeling that line will be running through my head every time President Obama suggests a new plan.

Posted by Sarah at 08:49 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 07, 2008

ECON DELICIOUSNESS

Leofwende had a link up to a blog I've never seen before. And I'm hooked.

Anti-Obamanomics: Why Everyone Should Be in Favor of Tax Cuts for the Rich

People have not grasped the profound insight of Mises that, in a market economy, in order benefit from privately owned means of production, one does not have to be an owner of the means of production. This is because one benefits from other peoples means of productionevery time one buys the products of those means of production.
[...]
In contrast, the view of redistributionists, such as Obama, founded in the most complete and utter ignorance, is that the only wealth from which an individual can benefit is his own.[...]The redistribution of wealth is allegedly necessary to enable an individual who does not own the wealth presently owned by others to benefit from that wealth. Only as and when their property passes to him can he benefit from it, the redistributors believe. This is the kind of largesse Obama intends to practice. It is taking funds from those most prodigious at accumulating capital, capital that would benefit all, and then giving the funds to others to consume.

Now, it's a very long blog post on economics, so it don't exactly read like Frank J. But this blog post does a good job of explaining why tax cuts for the rich are better than tax cuts for the middle class. I plan to tuck the $1000 example away in my brain in case I ever need to explain it to someone.

Leofwende linked to this post: The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis. I mean, duh, how could I not want to click on that? And after reading it, I finally clearly understand what happened to lead to the bailout.

I will have to keep reading George Reisman's Blog. Get my smart on.

Posted by Sarah at 07:56 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 05, 2008

R.I.P.

As if today could get any worse...

"Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton dies

I love Michael Crichton's work. His thoughts on horseshit remains one of my favorite arguments. The appendix to State of Fear is one of my husband's favorite writings. Airframe is a genius indictment of journalism. And I had hours of enjoyment and mental exercise listening to Next on my last car trip.

To this day, I have an irrational fear of velociraptors.

I would recommend any single one of his books. I am deeply saddened that he won't be around to write any more for us to enjoy.

What a loss.

Posted by Sarah at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 01, 2008

THE

An awesome bit of semantics:

I would like to focus on Obamas phrase the wealth.

I understand the use of the word the in phrases like the nation or the country or the public. Those are things or abstract concepts or generic groups of people.

Wealth, however, is the savings and equity of each individual. There is no the wealth. There is only my wealth and your wealth and Joe the plumbers wealth and so on. You can spread the SARS virus around or you can spread the love around, but when you starting talking about spreading the wealth around what you are really talking about is spreading my life savings or someone elses life savings around.

Via Amritas, of course.

Posted by Sarah at 12:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 28, 2008

HMMMM

Now this might be an explanation for something that's puzzled me for a long time.

Second, if ever you've been amazed when you heard people on the left say that mainstream liberal media outlets such as the New York Times are not liberal but "conservative," Obama's remarks about the Warren Court reveal where such people are really coming from. The reason they regard the mainstream media as "conservative" is that the mainstream media do not advocate the overthrowing of the U.S. Constitution, of free enterprise, and of property rights--and those are the things that true leftists/progressives, such as Obama, seek.

(via Amritas)

Posted by Sarah at 07:58 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 25, 2008

I WISH I'D SAID ANY OF THIS

I need to read Varifrank more often than I do.
Shoot, I wish I were Varifrank. That man can write.

His post about the blood on the carpet of your soul.
His post on the Truman-Dewey race.
And finally, Monster.

You know, just bookmark him.

Posted by Sarah at 06:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 10, 2008

FRAMERS

The Mrs has a neat post about what she'd do to change the Constitution. In it, she quotes Thomas Jefferson on his irritation with how people were interpreting the "promote the general welfare" phrase. I have never thought about that before, that the framers lived to see argument over what their words meant. Would that we could ask Jefferson a few more questions today...

Posted by Sarah at 07:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 09, 2008

RED DAWN

When my husband got online yesterday, I had just read this ridiculous article at Slate about how, if they remake Red Dawn, they better remake it with the Americans as the bad guys and Iraqis as the Wolverines. Husband's sarcasm meter went to eleven:

Husband says:
I don't remember the Wolverines kidnapping people for ransom and executing people in other religious sects
Sarah says:
yeah
Husband says:
or making videos where they behead Russian soldiers
Husband says:
I also don't remember the Soviets rebuilding hospitals in Colorado or training a new American army and giving them classes on human rights and proper detainee handling procedures
Husband says:
not like we're giving previously oppressed religious and ethnic minorities a voice in their government or anything
Husband says:
because I'm sure the Russians had their doctors assisting Georgians in hospitals and buying books for schools

Posted by Sarah at 06:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 06, 2008

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

There are so many great writers out there; I am always sad when I "remember" a blogger I haven't read in a while. I've been back on the du Toits lately because of the gun thing, and I just found this new post at The Mrs' site: Fight or Flee. It is full of ideas that felt comfortable but simultaneously felt completely new, things I've never thought about before but which made me nod my head. It gave me a lot to think about.

Posted by Sarah at 06:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NERDS

When I was subbing in the high school in Germany, a girl complained to me that she wanted to go to the homecoming dance but was afraid that she would only get an invitation from a nerd. I had to school her on how the high school nerd can go on to be a great catch.

I was reminded of this when I was flipping channels yesterday and saw the movie Can't Buy Me Love, which I liked when I was a young teen. In the movie, the school nerd pays the head cheerleader to go out with him and make him popular. Do you know who that nerd was?

PatrickDempseyBuyLove.jpg

McDreamy.

patrick-dempsey-versace-ad.jpg

Seriously. The actor who played a nerd in the 80's is now a hot doctor on TV. And who typified the 80's nerd?

AnthonyMichaelHallyoung.jpg

Anthony Michael Hall is now hunky Johnny Smith.

anthonymichaelhall.jpg

Never, ever discount nerds.

Posted by Sarah at 12:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 04, 2008

BECOMING A RIFLEMAN

Last week, I decided to buy a handgun.

Actually, that's not such an accurate statement. Kim du Toit and Bill Whittle helped me decide to buy a handgun a long time ago. But I'm just now getting around to turning theory into reality.

Kim du Toit's goal of turning us back into a nation of riflemen worked on me. I began to see gun ownership in a whole new light after reading his site. And he's right that

after reading my stuff, people have come to realize that they dont have to be ashamed of wanting to own a gun, of wanting to protect their families, of wanting to protect themselves, and of understanding that the Second Amendment isnt about hunting, buddy.

I began to understand what Mrs. du Toit meant when she said:

I expected other people to protect me. I expected my husband to do it when he was home and I expected a cop to be there to rescue me if something happened to my husband. Yet I was perfectly happy for a criminal to be shot, by someone else, if he threatened me or my kids. Shame on me.

It was the realization of that hypocrisy that finally pushed me over the edge. I should not expect others to do for me what I am not willing to do for myself. I was the one whose morals were all screwed-up. How dare I think that someone else should risk his or her life for me (be it my husband or a police officer) if I wasn't willing to lift a finger for anyone else or even myself?

It was after this realization that the real meaning of the Second Amendment became crystal clear. Not only did I have the right to defend my country and myself, I had the RESPONSIBILITY to do so.

And his essay on Why I Own a Gun is crucial, especially the section on Civic Responsibility. Plus, in his discussion of the Second Amendment, he combines two of my loves, grammar and the Constitution:

Now for the penultimate phrase: the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Not just the people who can afford to buy a gun license, or only the police or only Mayor Daleys bodyguards" -- it says, the people without qualification. Cant be much plainer than that, really --

-- except perhaps for the last phrase: shall not be infringed. Note carefully that the Second does not say, Congress shall not or government shall not or Mayor Daley shall not. The use of the passive voice is quite intentional: it is a clear, universal statement that the right to keep and bear arms cannot be circumscribed, by anyone or by any institution.

And that, my friends, is the perfect example of the role of passive voice. Take that, grammar check.

So Kim du Toit, who will be sorely missed when he retires from blogging soon, laid the foundation for me to accept my role as a gun owner. But Bill Whittle, he really solidified it for me. Allow me to repeat a quote from Freedom that changed so much for me:

We as a nation suffer an appalling number of handgun-related deaths each year -- perhaps 11,000 of them. The number is not important; each is a personal tragedy and those lives can never be replaced.

If we attempt to reduce this horrible number by banning handguns, we are taking away the property of a person who has broken no laws, by a government whose legitimacy is determined by a document that specifically allows that property, namely guns.

Destroy that trust by punishing the innocent, by pulling a plank from the Bill of Rights, and the contract between the government and the people falls apart. Once the Second Amendment goes, the First will soon follow, because if some unelected elite determines that the people can't be trusted with dangerous guns, then it's just a matter of time until they decide they can't be trusted with dangerous ideas, either. Dangerous ideas have killed many millions more people than dangerous handguns -- listen to the voices from the Gulag, the death camps, and all the blood-soaked killing fields through history.

The Framers, in their wisdom, put the 2nd Amendment there to give teeth to the revolutionary, unheard-of idea that the power rests with We The People. They did not depend on good will or promises. They made sure that when push came to shove, we'd be the ones doing the pushing and shoving, not the folks in Washington. And by the way, gun rights supporters are frequently mocked when they say it deters foreign invasion -- after all, come on, grow up, be realistic: Who's nuts enough to invade America? Exactly. It's unthinkable. Good. 2nd Amendment Mission 1 accomplished.

And thus I became a rifleman, even before owning a rifle.

And thus ends the poetics, and now we get down to the brass tacks of actually becoming an owner.

On Monday, I went to the webpage for our local sherriff's office. The link to info on handgun purchase is broken, naturally. I had to go down to the office, provide my driver's license and a thumbprint, and I got the paperwork. I needed a character witness, which proved a tad difficult. It had to be someone who lives in my county, who has this state's driver's license, and who has known me for more than six months. Finding someone who fit all three criteria was not easy; most of our military friends have licenses from other states. I ended up having to asking the girl who cuts my hair, which was a tad awkward. Luckily she said, "You just figured I was a redneck Republican who would agree to do this, didn't you? You were right!"

I returned the paperwork on Tuesday, and I picked up the permit on Friday. This afternoon I headed to the gun show and a couple of stores with my husband's friend. I haven't settled on one yet, but we plan to return next weekend to rent a couple at the range and see what is a good fit for me.

(And yes, I fully expect to get suggestions here.)

So Kim du Toit hooked another one in the twilight of his blogging. Plus, I got two permits, so I can buy one for my husband when he gets home too.

We're joining this nation of riflemen.

Posted by Sarah at 11:05 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

September 22, 2008

TAXES

My husband is deployed right now, so we don't pay a dime of taxes. And even when he's here, as a one-income family, we don't pay that much into the pot. But I, like Morgan Freeberg, try to look at what's best for the entire US and not just my own wallet.

Classic example of gulping the liberal koolaid without knowing you're gulping it: "Oh don't worry, that's a tax on super rich people, not you!"

The pattern is that if it can be categorized as a tax cut for 95% of us, then everyone should be thinking of it as a tax cut for all of us, even if the remaining five percent see their tax liabilities go shootin' so freakin' high that it ends up being a net increase. It all depends on your point of view: In my world, if we all end up paying more, then we all end up paying more.

But I notice if you look at this through the left-wing lens, whether you know you're doing it or not...like factcheck.org and the AP up there...then 95% of us pay less taxes.

We'll just pay more for goods and services, that's all.

Or, as commenter aharris said:

So, I can pay less taxes until those who produce the goods I depend on for my livelihood: gas, food, clothing, etc., start hiking prices to compensate for their increased tax burden. I can look to pay less in taxes and enjoy no impact on my life until my husband's division of the company who has to yearly justify its existence and profitability to its German headquarters can no longer show enough return on its investment vis a vis the tax burden on business in the US and the Germans decide to pick up and re-locate the entire division to Mexico where they already have a small plant in operation. My husband might lose his job, or if he's valuable enough, he might be offered a transfer, and all of a sudden, I am forced to face becoming a citizen of Mexico.

I don't care if my husband would take home more money under an Obama presidency because I am not shortsighted enough to make voting decisions based on what is best for me personally. Shoot, if I did, wouldn't I be anti-war? Bring the troops home and give me a tax cut, future of the US be damned!

And make my knitting for charity tax deductible while you're at it. Heh.

Posted by Sarah at 08:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 18, 2008

CALL ME A MORON

Don't you love when commenters rip on everyone else for being stupid...and then reveal their own shortcomings? I was watching a youtube clip of some Obama splices and saw this recent comment:

Hahahahaha. If you believe this clip to show the truth about Obama, chances are good that your IQ is way below average. The sheer amount of cuts mid-sentence in this clip is pretty much proof of that.

Besides, doesn't the US constitution explicitly encourage people to be critical about government and their own country? I guess morons just forgot that little tiny detail.

Maybe I am a moron, but I don't remember that "explicit" part of the constitution. Do you think he means the part of the Declaration of Independence about throwing off the despotism, or is he just running his mouth?

Or maybe he thinks that Thomas Jefferson really said that dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Heh.

Posted by Sarah at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2008

LUCK AND CHOICES

You know, I used to think people were exaggerating when they wrote that liberalism has broken the modern family by allowing the government to replace the father. I see where they're coming from, but I always thought it was a bit much.

Until it got explicitly spelled out:

In the Boston Globe on Friday, columnist Ellen Goodman frets that Mrs. Palin is a "supermom" whose supporters "think a woman can have it all as long as she can do it all . . . by herself." In fact, Sarah Palin is doing it with the help of her husband Todd, who is currently on leave from his job as an oil worker. But Ms. Goodman's problem is that "she doesn't need anything from anyone outside the family. She isn't lobbying for, say, maternity leave, equal pay, or universal pre-K."

This also galls Katherine Marsh, writing in the latest issue of The New Republic. Mrs. Palin admits to having "an incredible support system -- a husband with flexible jobs rather than a competing career . . . and a host of nearby grandparents, aunts, and uncles." Yet, Ms. Marsh charges, she does not endorse government policies to help less-advantaged working mothers -- for instance, by promoting day-care centers.

When I read the Marsh article, all I could think of is why on earth the government needs to step in and help people fix their luck or choices. Because that's what life boils down to: sometimes you get back luck, and you get cancer or your husband runs away with the maid, and sometimes you make choices in life, like to get divorced or have multiple kids with multiple dads. And sometimes luck and choice blur, like when you get knocked up at 17.

There's nothing we can do about the luck. Luck can hit any of us regardless of whether we're white, black, rich, poor, successful, or downtrodden. It was bad luck that Christopher Reeve was paralyzed, but he had his own resources for extensive rehabilitation and technology. Paralyzed poor people don't have that.

So is it the government's role to step in and save them?

I'm the wrong person to ask: I don't even want to take my government's prenatal vitamins.

A hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, your luck and your choices were your business. Got your arm cut off in the mill? There was no workman's comp or anyone to sue. Got a disease? If you were rich, you could buy some medicines to help prolong your life. If you were poor, you died. I don't think people went shouting to the government to give them free meds. Got pregnant out of wedlock? Your problem. Here's your scarlet A, have a nice life.

I didn't live back then, but I get the sense that people had a more healthy view of luck and choices than we do.

There is bad luck in the world. I can't seem to have a baby: bad luck. Especially since we made choices that would put us in an ideal spot to raise children. You know how people always say that you shouldn't wait to have kids for financial reasons because you'll never have enough money? Yeah, well, we have enough. I specifically didn't get a job when we moved into town so I could stay home and take care of a baby. We made all kinds of choices and now have been tripped up by luck. It sucks.

And I would feel the same way if one of us got cancer. That's bad luck, and you just have to deal with it. And if one of us died from a disease because we ran out of money to prevent it, that's life. It's harsh, but that's the way I see it. I don't want there to be a governmental guarantee that everyone gets to live to be 90.

I have a problem with the government stepping in to fix either luck or choices.

In the Marsh article, I kept thinking about luck and choices. When she said,

Palin is staunchly pro-life, but, beyond this very public position, she has a slender record on issues that affect working moms. She is a member of Feminists for Life, an anti-abortion group that also advocates for equal pay for women, for part-time and telecommuting situations for working moms, and against domestic violence. (The group supported Biden's Violence Against Women Act.) Presumably Palin shares these views. But, despite all her emphasis on being a working mom and breaking the glass ceiling, in her debut and acceptance speeches Palin never once mentioned her support for any of these issues or the legislation designed to address them. And she said nary a word about affordable child care.

Affordable child care is something the market should take care of, not the government. So is "part-time and telecommuting situations for working moms." I don't want Palin to promise to start legislating things specific to single moms.

Remember that blogger who wrote about why she's not a Republican? She's partially right, at least in my case, about the "'I got mine' attitude." I did make good choices in my life: I married the perfect person, scrimped and saved every dollar we made, waited to have children, etc. So I do kinda get mad at the thought of our tax dollars going to "funding for a vocational residential facility that included a child care center for students, as well as the funds for breast-feeding pumps, among other supplies, for a Women, Infants, and Children program for poor women." I'm a little happy Palin line-item vetoed that one.

And I realize that saying all of this probably makes me look like a mean person, but I'm tired of being made to feel mean for being squared away. My husband and I have our shit together, and I get a little tired of putting single moms on a pedestal and saying the government should square life away for them.

And I am really sick of folks ripping down Sarah Palin because she too has her shit together.

Marsh wrote about Palin like it was some giant stroke of luck that she "has a six-figure salary and an incredible support system--a husband with flexible jobs rather than a competing career, a close-knit community, and a host of nearby grandparents, aunts, and uncles to lend a hand on the domestic front." That one ain't luck, it's choices.

But I bet Sarah Palin, like my husband and I, wouldn't start singing a different tune if she all of a sudden were struck with bad luck. Or, say, her daughter's bad choices. I bet Sarah Palin sat her daughter down and said, "This is your lot in life; now you have to deal with it and deal with it well." Somehow I don't see her giving her daughter a list of entitlements she's now eligible for and promising that she'll legislate day care for students.

The title of Marsh's article is "Whine Not," in a sarcastic way. People went berserk when Phil Gramm said we've become a "nation of whiners." But I completely understand what he meant, especially since he prefaced it with, "We've never had more natural advantages than we have today." Because even with all our advantages, we expect more and more from the government. We expect them to save for our retirement, pay for our health care, and lower our price of gas. We expect the government to provide all the basics of life, apparently; they provide the meat and potatoes while it's up to us to work on the gravy.

I reject that entirely. It's the government's role to provide you with the plate; what you put on it is up to you. Some people will have a whole meal with gravy, while others may barely have rice. That's life. Government was never intended to make sure we all get the same stuff in the end.

Marsh ends with this explanation of why feminists reject Sarah Palin:

Feminism is not just about having the opportunity to do it all. It's also about having the support to do as much as you can. This is why, in the end, feminism needs to be tied to not just an identity, but to an ideology that encourages that support. Sarah Palin's free-market feminism fails that mission on almost every count, diminishing the trade-offs and sacrifices that haunt working moms.

And that is why feminists and Democrats will always be intertwined: it's not about the opportunity, it's about having the government provide the means to equalize everyone's lives. It's not enough that everyone can succeed if they make good choices; the government has to guarantee that, despite luck or choices, everyone will end up on equal ground. If you can't come up with the support on your own, as Sarah Palin did, then the government has to provide it for you...out of Sarah Palin's tax dollars, of course.

And as for that last line, how dare you think that Sarah Palin hasn't made trade-offs? You don't think it's a trade-off to make good choices? Think of all the fun my husband and I could've had instead of saving 50% of our income towards retirement and savings.

Listen, Marsh: Everyone makes trade-offs, even successful, rich people. Even people who seem to have it all and make it work. How dare you diminish what Sarah Palin has accomplished because she doesn't need to hold a palm out to the government asking for free breast pumps and WIC food. If more families were like the Palins, we'd be a lot better off in this world.

Because regardless of what luck and choices come their way, they are upbeat, hardworking, and self-sufficient.

It's too bad feminists can't see Sarah Palin for the inspiration she truly is.

Posted by Sarah at 11:07 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 14, 2008

THREE CHEERS FOR PRICE GOUGING

I admit that everything I know about economics I learned from Thomas Sowell, but this morning I feel like I know more than some folks on TV. I want to throw stuff at the screen when they start talking about gas price gouging. I just actually heard someone say, "The oil companies are making a profit and it needs to stop." Oh puh-lease. This can't be considered serious commentary.

Here's some basic economics:

What all this boils down to is that prices higher than what observers are used to are called "gouging." In other words, prices under normal conditions are supposed to prevail under abnormal conditions. This completely misunderstands the role of prices.

Why do prices exist at all? To cause things to be produced and made available to the public -- and to cause consumers to limit how much they consume. Why then do prices suddenly shoot up? Because there is either less of a supply available or more of a demand, or both.

And here's more, worded differently:

Prices are not just arbitrary numbers plucked out of the air. Nor are the price levels that you happen to be used to any more special or "fair" than other prices that are higher or lower.

What do prices do? They not only allow sellers to recover their costs, they force buyers to restrict how much they demand. More generally, prices cause goods and the resources that produce goods to flow in one direction through the economy rather than in a different direction.

Plus a breakdown of why price gouging is necessary and helpful:

One hotel whose rooms normally cost $40 a night now charged $109 a night and another hotel whose rooms likewise normally cost $40 a night now charged $160 a night.
[...]
What if prices were frozen where they were before all this happened?

Those who got to the hotel first would fill up the rooms and those who got there later would be out of luck -- and perhaps out of doors or out of the community. At higher prices, a family that might have rented one room for the parents and another for the children will now double up in just one room because of the "exorbitant" prices. That leaves another room for someone else.

Someone whose home was damaged, but not destroyed, may decide to stay home and make do in less than ideal conditions, rather than pay the higher prices at the local hotel. That too will leave another room for someone whose home was damaged worse or destroyed.

In short, the new prices make as much economic sense under the new conditions as the old prices made under the old conditions.

Too bad few people on TV have any sort of economic sense.

So people who don't need to gas up their cars this week will wait for next week, leaving the gas for people who really need it right now. Duh, that's how the market works during a crisis. And gas station owners will have to replenish their pumps with more expensive gas, so they have to adjust now.

Really, if I can understand it, it ain't that complicated.

Posted by Sarah at 11:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 13, 2008

JUXTAPOSITION

I read this this morning:

Jonathan Haidt, an associate professor of moral psychology at the University of Virginia, argues in an essay this month, What Makes People Vote Republican?, that its liberals, in fact, who are dangerously blind.

Haidt has conducted research in which liberals and conservatives were asked to project themselves into the minds of their opponents and answer questions about their moral reasoning. Conservatives, he said, prove quite adept at thinking like liberals, but liberals are consistently incapable of understanding the conservative point of view.

Then I read this:

I'm not even getting into the fact that the religious right teaches closed mindedness so it's almost impossible to gain new voters from their pool because people who disagree with them are agents of the devil.

Heh.

And a comment from the same post:

We remain a country of beer, bubbas, bibles and bigots, who are easily persuaded by a few billionaires to vote in the rich's best interests. It's inescapable.

Like I said, keep 'em coming, Left. Keep 'em coming.

Oh, and since I mentioned this to my mother when I was home and she had never heard of the elitist garbage that Michelle Obama has said, let me point out that she thinks $600 is chump change for buying earrings and that she complained to working women in Ohio that she spends $10,000 a year on her kids' piano and dance.

Honestly, I thought it couldn't get any better than when Teresa Heinz Kerry didn't know what chili was...but apparently it can.

Posted by Sarah at 09:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 03, 2008

A GUEST POST

When AirForceWife sent an appalled email this morning over the double standard shown at this link, I asked her if she'd like to bang out a post on it. The result is hardly "banged out."

I'm delighted to host this guest post from AirForceWife.

*********

The news of Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter didn't surprise me - it was me.

Or, rather, it was me about 17 years ago last month. Seventeen years ago, in August 1991, I discovered that I was pregnant before my senior year in high school ever started. I was an honors student, I was active in multiple clubs and organizations on campus, I volunteered at the local American Legion, I babysat, I even showed horses. I was also the daughter of a City Manager, which is pretty small potatoes compared to the position Bristol Palin finds her family in. But it is enough of a connection that I feel what she is going through as if it is happening to me.

The coverage of Bristol Palin enrages me, and it hurts my heart. There are legitimate issues to discuss about teen pregnancy - the thing is, those issues are only the excuse to uncover sordid and often untrue family rumors and cast aspersions on someone - and their family - who are going through a very difficult time in their lives. I had all of those same charges leveled at me when my seventeen year old self had to go to the grocery store with my enormous belly (I've always had large children) parting the crowds before me like Moses and the Red Sea.

People that I thought were my friends, parents of friends that I respected, suddenly started treating me like a leper. Not because I was sexually active, but because I "got caught". Even though many didn't want to admit it, what I did was no different than what many of their own children did. I was just blessed (or cursed) with fertility to rival anything modern medical science can discover. And I chose to keep my baby.

The injustice of it all still hurts me today. Even now, married for a gazillion years to my soul mate (who, by the way, never stinted to tell people that he never wanted children until push came to shove and children were no longer just a possibility but a reality) it hurts me to think back and remember the people who would see me at the store and pretend they weren't seeing me because they didn't want to talk about it. I heard the whispers behind my back, about how I "should have used protection", about how "that's what she gets for sleeping around." Not a one of them were true - as a Peer Educator, I put more condoms on bananas to demonstrate to giggling sophmores correct birth control usage than I could keep track of. I knew, and I practiced what I preached. But there's a statistic on a condom for a reason - because sometimes they just don't work. And anyone who has ever seen me with my husband can't think that either of us are worried about sowing wild oats, or that he is now one of the most devoted fathers on the planet.

And even more - my family was avowedly liberal. There was no "conservative hypocrisy" going on with us. Many members of my family encouraged me to have an abortion, and were quite upset when I refused. I was ruining my life, you see. It could be "fixed", I was being stubborn.

What happened to me in a smaller town (although bigger than Wasilla!) in California, I see happening to Bristol Palin on a national scale. And in the same vein, I see the very people turning on her who claim that we need to help others. Not a one of my Peer Educator compatriots had anything to do with me after I got pregnant with my first daughter. In fact, I ended up transferring to a continuation school to get my high school diploma. It was strongly encouraged; for my "state of mind", of course.

That is the reality of teen pregnancy that doesn't end in abortion when your family is in politics. People are gleeful, and people are mean. And the very people who accuse others of being hypocrites are often the biggest hypocrites themselves.

There were people who were wonderful. They didn't approve of my situation, but it was there. It had to be dealt with. A wonderful City Council member who was an Evangelical Christian scoured the yard sales at the local base for months to find me a high chair, a car seat, baby clothes, cloth diapers. She would bring these things to me a couple times a month. When my daughter was born, she was known to us as "Grandma Joan."

The Mayor Pro-Tem and his wife, devout Catholics, bought me a beautiful bassinet with a lace covering.

My Godparents - extremely devout Catholics - called every night for two weeks before I delivered and two weeks after to check on me and make sure that I had someone to talk to. They ran a crisis pregnancy center, they weren't about to let me fall apart.

The American Legion, where I volunteered and where my mother was the Commander, pooled together to provide other items a teen mother needs and can't afford.

And my family, my family pulled together to make sure I had a place to live, breastfeeding help, someone to drive me to the hospital. And they endured the rumors, too. It was their fault, of course, according to the conventional wisdom. It was something they had done wrong. I guess it always has to be someone's fault.

Bristol Palin will succeed. What happened to her is not ideal, but she has the support and, quite frankly, the genetics, to tough it out. I did - my husband enlisted in the Army at 17 and we both paid our own way through college. We're doing well now, we're happy and I believe that we've been successful in life. And there's really nothing special or unique about us.

It was hard, but nothing worth having is easy and sometimes life throws curveballs. Bristol Palin can do it, and I'm sure she will. But I'm also sure she will always remember how people treated her when they found out that she was a statistic. She'll remember what it was like to be the topic of an entire nation as though no politician's daughter has ever had premarital sex in the history of the United States.

My first thought this morning was this, "I think I should knit Bristol Palin a baby blanket." Because, as I did, I'm sure she'll remember all the nasty things people said and did. But I'm also sure she'll remember those who treated her with humanity and kindness and tried to help. I'd like to be one of those.

Just don't call me "Grandma AFW."

Posted by Sarah at 11:48 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 02, 2008

WHY SHE'S NOT A REPUBLICAN

A blogger at Reclusive Leftist wrote about Palin and got instalanched. Her comment section is an interesting read. Some Instapundit readers tried to point out to her why Republicans aren't so bad. She replied to one of them with this comment:

Ideally, the government would leave me alone completely and Id return the favour. Since thats not practical..

Well, theres the rub right there.

The fact is, there is a strong streak of libertarianism in Americans on the left and the right side of the political divide. Its part of our heritage, our history. Many of the most radical feminists and leftists I know want above all to be left alone. Americans prize freedom from interference, freedom to live as we choose. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Where we on the left and the right differ is when we come back to real world, where no one is an island. We cant be left alone, by the government or anyone else. We live in communities, in towns, in cities. Were a nation of 300 million, not a bunch of isolated Davy Crockets out there in the wilderness.

And when human beings live together in social groups, questions arise that dont obtain out in the wilderness. Poverty, pollution, interference between the needs of the many and the needs of the few. Your rights end at the tip of my nose, and all that.

The chief difference between liberty-loving leftists and liberty-loving rightists is that the leftists recognize that people who live in communities must be good neighbors. No one is an island. Rightists like to continue to pretend that were all Davy Crockets, that were all islands, and that no one owes even the slightest thought to anyone else.

The rich white Republican man likes to pretend that everything fortunate in his life is his own doing, that he has created his own reality all by himself, that he is not the beneficiary of being born into the right family and race and class and country.

And he likes to pretend that everything unfortunate in the life of the immigrant slave who sewed his shirt is because of her own doing, not because she was born into poverty or discrimination or urban blight. Why should it matter to him that she works for a dollar a day and is beaten by her employer?

The rich white Republican man thinks he has the right to pollute the river that flows by his factory because, in his mind, hes not responsible for anybody downstream. He doesnt even know or care that they exist.

This what the Republican idea of individual rights really is: the right not to be responsible. The right to do as you please no matter how much your actions harm others, and no matter how much you are dependent on others.

The most striking thing about the libertarian right is selfishness. It is the defining characteristic, really, a f*ck you to everyone else, an I got mine attitude.

So...I just found that interesting. I don't really agree with the underlying assumptions behind it, but I felt like it was at least a reasonable articulation of why she's not a Republican, like I tried to do when I wrote why I'm not a Democrat.

Plus, I thought it was hilarious that she said an instalanche is "like being inside an Ayn Rand novel."

Posted by Sarah at 05:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 24, 2008

LET THE RECORD SHOW THAT I AM NOT A RACIST

Stuff like this makes me mad:

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

OK, let me take this piece by piece.

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives.

Hopefully? That would be nice, wouldn't it, to finally put all of that in the rearview mirror. If we could be guaranteed that in writing, I might be able to get behind a 4-year Obama presidency just so "our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives." But I really don't think that will happen, even if he is elected. I don't expect that much to change overnight.

The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America.

The rest of the world can stuff it, frankly. This sentence is crap. Having a black president automatically makes us "less fearful and more open"? Gag.

But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to.

Let me put this in bold so you don't miss it: No, it does not follow.

There is more to the presidency than healing the wounds of slavery. That's not why we're doing this. Or it freaking shouldn't be. And if your children only think that whites and blacks are equal when there's a black president, you're not doing a very good job of raising your children.

In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

Again, the rest of the world can stuff it. And what a ridiculous last sentence that is. The author actually claims that we should get this race stuff out of the way instead of trying to elect the best equipped president. Heaven forbid the US act in "its own self-interest" to elect a good leader for the entire country; instead, we should be setting an example to the rest of the world that we like black people and want to give them a turn at being in charge?

That's what this boils down to: it's the black guy's turn, dangit. He deserves this. If you vote for the white guy, you're mean and you love slavery and wish it were 1860s Georgia again. Now let us have the black guy so other countries don't hate us.

Yeah, other countries don't give a rip. Plus, they're just as racist as we are.

And they're gonna hate us no matter what we do, healing power of ChangeHope or not.

I am so tired of being an insinuated racist. I would've voted for Colin Powell. I would vote for Michael Steele or Larry Elder. I respect the hell out of Thomas Sowell (pbuh). I am absolutely not a racist.

But I ain't voting for Obama. It has nothing to do with his skin color.

My big annoyance is that this presidential race is turning into Halle Berry's Oscar win. It's viewed as Something We Just Have To Do To Make Things Fair.

If Democrats are gung-ho about Obama because of the content of his character, then good for them. And if he wins, he'll be my president and I will marvel at how history was made. But I'm sick and tired of reading articles about how I'm racist for not voting for him. It's condescending to him and it's infuriating for me.

For the last time: It is not racist to vote for the Republican.

Posted by Sarah at 06:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

OUR VENNS OVERLAP

I had lunch today with the one friend of mine who still lives in my hometown. He's the pinko commie who reads my blog.

We talked a lot about stuff and junk, and I think I have a lot in common with his wife and liked her very much. And we talked about the blog, and how he still reads it, and what we agree on and what we don't.

And most of it we mostly agreed on.

This puzzles me, because he says, "I'm a Democrat and I like X and Y but not Z." And I say, "I also like X and Y but not Z, but I'm a Republican." How does this happen? What is the disconnect that we're experiencing that makes us agree on several things but find ourselves in opposing camps?

Oh, and I totally teased him that I think he has a lot in common with me, a hatemonger right-wing nutjob.

But Sis B and I are like this too. She calls herself tree-hugging and I call myself a crackpot, but when we get down to brass tacks, we agree on a lot of things. Just not whether there's an R or a D next to our names.

And I'm glad to have friends like this, friends whose venn diagrams overlap mine. Friends who still like me even though I run a kooky nutjob website. Friends who can laugh about our differences and shrug at our similarities.

Friends who pop into my mind when I start to hate on Democrats.

But how can we agree on so much and consider ourselves on different sides of the aisle? I find that odd. I also find it makes me think more about Whittle's Theory of Political Reduction.

My pinko commie friend, I think you're actually a Republican. Bwahahaha. Take that!

Posted by Sarah at 04:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 18, 2008

DUNCE

Oh how I wish this were made up. I really do.

I don't know that I can come up with one that's that bad. I once met a Canadian my age who'd never heard of the Berlin Wall. I said, "Did you not watch any TV in 1989?"

Shoot, I was embarrassed during the Olympics opening ceremony when I didn't know where to find countries like Benin or Comoros. I felt like a dunce.

Every time I feel like I'm on the lower half of the intelligence bell curve, something reminds me that maybe I'm a little too hard on myself.

Posted by Sarah at 12:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 07, 2008

TALKING POINTS

Elena did try to offer constructive advice in her comment on this post: "What are the positive things that Republicans are doing? Do you have any that you can keep on hand to turn a conversation around?" It's not a terrible idea.

But I agree with Blueshift (awww, a reader who's been with me since the beginning, and whose rare comment always makes me smile) that it might not exactly work:

What I would consider to be a positive thing like reducing the size of government, most liberals would consider a bad thing, so its not a matter of talking about positives of each party.

A bare positive for republicans is that they have staunchly defended the 2nd amendment as an individual right, and that has paid off in the SCOTUS Heller decision. This would also not be viewed as a positive to most liberals.

The problem is trying to come at things with Common Ground. I've written about this before.

I have no problem disagreeing on the details with someone as long as our basic assumptions are similar. Maybe you don't think we should stay in Iraq for longer than necessary, or maybe you think heath care issues are just as important as national security, or maybe you think that WMDs are a big deal and shouldn't have been overemphasized in the context for war, but as long as we're on the same page that 1) Bush is not Hitler and 2) we are engaged in a world war against terrorism, then I feel perfectly happy hashing out the details with you. I need what Lileks calls middle ground.

The problem is that, where's the middle ground in saying that Republicans are against interracial marriage? We could go back and forth with yes-they-are, no-they're-not all day, but when we're approaching life with such different basic assumptions, it's hard to have a real conversation.

And, this seems to keep coming up, this strawman that I think liberals are a caricature. I don't really think so. I hate hippies with a Cartman passion, but in my life, hippies are not the face of liberalism. I don't even know any hippies anymore; this is the Army, for pete's sake. Every liberal I meet wears the same uniform as my husband, so they're not easily identifiable by patchouli or a Che shirt. Honestly, I think they're just regular people who happen to hold vastly different underlying assumptions than I do. I feel like Republicans end up as the caricature in society: The rich fat white man stuff. The racist stuff. The Bible-thumping stuff. I am none of those things. And I get sick and tired of hearing that everyone like me hates gays and minorities.

Deskmerc (also a long-timer, also a smile-inducer) commented:

Elena: Ah! I see what you are saying. "Keep a mental list of good Republican accomplishments and things they stand for in case of political discussion".

That wouldn't work too well, in my cynical opinion. (I'm neither Republican or Democrat, I'm told my political stances are "confused", even by libertarians)

The problem, as I see it, is too many people operate their daily lives with preconceptions and assumptions about themselves, other people, and the world in general, and view things through a rather rigid lens, all the time, except in very narrow instances. (These instances are usually within their profession or area of expertise) In my opinion, this rigidity of thought limits discourse greatly, because something that challenges these preconceptions would require that they set aside something they cherish, and the first reflex is to disregard the conflicting information and just move on. You can't have a coherent conversation that way.

If you're talking to someone who already thinks that all Republicans are racists, I'm not sure you're going to make much headway. Or if, like Emily, someone tells you that "there are 'only a few countries in the 20th century that have invaded unilaterally; Nazi Germany and us in Iraq, twice,'" well, where do you go with that?

Lileks always says it better than anyone:

we live in an era of non-contiguous information streams. I believe one thing; someone else believes another and the bedrock assumptions are utterly contradictory. This is what drives me nuts about discussing current events with some people. Its like discussing the Apollo program with people who think it was all faked, or discussing archeology with those who believe the world is six thousand years old. I think the Iraq Campaign was part of a broad war against Islamicist fascism and the states that enable it; others think its all about oil and Halliburton jerking the strings of a Jeebus puppet. No. Middle. Ground.

Which brings me meandering back to Elena. It's a good idea, to have Talking Points about why I'm a Republican, but I'm afraid it would be useless. (And, for the record, like Deskmerc and others, I don't really squarely fit into the Republican Party. I mostly fall Libertarian too. I agree far more often with Neal Boortz and Penn Jillette than I do with Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. But, I choose to label myself Republican because I refuse to let it remain the dirty word that it is. I self-identify so I can try to help rub the stink off, what little effect I may have. Also, I get annoyed when people try too hard to pretend that we don't have a two-party system. I scoff at douchy Dems who must point out that they're actually Independents™, and I often feel the same way about people who doth protest too much that they're not Republicans.)

My mother thinks that my new-found gun love is because of the Army. It's not. All things being equal, if my husband weren't in the Army and I had found Bill Whittle's essay on Freedom, I would still feel the same way. It just resonated with me, as a Self-Evident Truth. But if you don't feel that way, if you don't believe that the Second Amendment is in many ways more important than the First, then you're never going to come to Middle Ground on a discussion of gun laws. And you'll get the discord and disconnect I got with my friend on this very issue. While I feel my heart soar when I talk about the Second Amendment, if someone else's reaction is the idea that, as my college Political Science professor said, the Second Amendment was a huge mistake, then all the Talking Points in the world about the great things I think the Republicans have done and stand for are useless.

And that's reciprocal, mind you. Democrat Talking Points leave me scratching my head too. But I feel like they get a fairer shake because they get to have all the "nice" positions. Free health care for everyone and a helping hand for minorities and the right to choose and all sorts of things that sound good and friendly. Despite the fact that they often don't actually work. But who needs results when you can sound "nice"? Republican positions of personal responsibility and a level playing field for everyone and trickle-down economics, those don't have the "nice" ring to them. The life-ain't-fair and suck-it-up stuff may be true, but people seem to like "nice" over "true." Which is why no Democrat I'm talking to will ever get warm and fuzzy to hear me say that affirmative action is outdated, that it's not doing minorities any favors to rig the system, and that the world should be every man for himself based on the content of his character. Even though that's Martin Luther freaking King's position. It still doesn't come off sounding nice.

But just exactly how is it that the party that does sound most like MLK on the issue -- that jobs should be given based on content of character instead of the color of skin -- is the party always labeled as racist?

So what does the Right have going for itself? Responsibility. Personal responsibility is probably the defining feature of why I find myself on the Right and the most important compass for my life. But, you know, Whittle said, "Freedom is the Platinum Visa card. We all want one. Responsibility is the credit rating." I just don't know if that Talking Point is going to win me any converts.

Posted by Sarah at 01:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 05, 2008

ON THE INTERNET IS BAD ENOUGH

Where on earth to start this post? I guess I'll start here:

I've also managed to confirm through talking to a few other conservative women I know who also live in liberal communities that they too keep their mouths shut about their politics. All of us share stories about listening to anti-Bush tirades at parties without rebutting them, or of smiling wanly at yet another laugh-a-minute comparison between Bush and a puppet, or Bush and a chimpanzee, or Bush and a Southern slave master, etc. We all feel that, while it's important that we vote conservatively so that larger issues are resolved in a conservative way, it's equally important that, to the extent we live in a community, we espouse those community norms.

When Mary Katherine Ham wanted to videoblog me at the last Milblogs conference, I made her laugh by saying that I blog so I don't have to talk. I don't do well in face-to-face discussion of current events and politics. I am not quick-witted or easily able to recall facts I've read. I avoid it. I also, like Tim, think that religion and politics are not for polite company. So I never ever ever ever bring up things that I think might be controversial. Never.

So I'm always amazed when other people do it.

Recently I was introduced to a friend of a friend. The conversation twisted and turned (unimportantly, so I won't relay all the details) until I said something about a diluted gene pool until we're all related to each other. This person, whom I'd known for all of 20 minutes, said, "Not if the right-wing Republicans have anything to say about it."

Yep, upside-down face.

I asked him to explain what he meant, because I really didn't know what he was saying. He went on to explain that, since Republicans oppose immigration and interracial marriage, if they remain in power, we certainly won't all end up related to each other.

And I'm not quick-witted, so I sat there with my mouth hanging open for a second, before I finally said, "I don't believe that's true; do you really believe that?" The other people in the room nodded in agreement, and the conversation moved on to other topics before my brain could even process what had just happened.

If I hadn't just felt like I'd been blindsided, I might've pointed out that I had two best friends in Germany, one who has a black husband and the other just adopted a mixed-race baby. And they're both Republicans. We're not exactly in sync with this guy's view of our party.

I couldn't shake the feeling for a long time of how utterly offended I felt at that moment. This person didn't know me, knew nothing about my values or voting habits, and yet chose to completely smear an entire 50% of the public. What on earth possessed him to do that? What made him so darned certain that I belonged on the same side as he does?

Or did he just not care?

I know the military is supposed to be overwhelmingly conservative, and still I would never dream of assuming that the people around me share my worldview. In fact, there were only two other captains in my husband's language class: one was a limousine liberal who lectures anyone who will sit still for five minutes on Pastafarianism, and the other gave a report on how the US should go through with nuclear disarmament in order to get Iran to. So I don't even think that my experiences in the Army have been that drastically conservative. Once I had to argue with an officer that Cuba was not in fact paradise on earth, for pete's sake.

So even though I now have all of you -- and how I heart you all -- and I'm no longer as lonely as I was five years ago when I wrote A Long Time Coming and The Meaning of a Word, and certainly not as lonely as I felt listening to a college audience sneer at Dinesh D'Souza, I'm still kind of a closet conservative when it comes to public life.

Well, maybe that's not really a true statement. I'd like to think it's just that I possess a little thing called Tact, and that it makes me a good person to not go around Proclaiming Things, you know, like all Republicans are racists who want to preserve white bloodlines.

But this brings us full circle to something I blog about regularly as The Dilemma. It boils down to me to a short passage from Carl Sagan:

Imagine that you enter a big-city taxicab and the moment you get settled in, the driver begins a harangue about the supposed inequities and inferiorities of another ethnic group. Is your best course to keep quiet, bearing in mind that silence conveys assent? Or is it your moral responsibility to argue with him, to express outrage, even to leave the cab -- because you know that every silent assent will encourage him next time, and every vigorous dissent will cause him next time to think twice?

Neo-neocon (which incidentally is where I began this link journey I've been on all day long) believes we must give these cab drivers "vigorous dissent":

The temptation to pass for liberal is very great. I understand; I do. I even feel your pain.

But I have come to believe that the costs of keeping silent are much greater than the costs of speaking upboth for Bookworm and her fellow closet Republicans, and for our country. And yes, even for her liberal friends.

The Bookworm she speaks of is the author of the quote that began this post, as well as this:

I know I should be speaking out when I hear statements such as these, but the sad fact is that I like these people. Barring their monomaniacal animosity towards Bush and the Republicans, theyre otherwise very nice: theyre hard workers, loving parents, good neighbors and helpful and reliable friends. Being the social creature that I am, I dont want with one word (Republican) to turn these friendships upside down and inside out.

Sigh. I understand. And that's why, four years after reading The Demon-Haunted World, I am still struggling with The Dilemma. And why I had nothing ready as a comeback when I heard someone completely tar and feather me as a racist by association.

I've talked to CaliValleyGirl about this concept before, that someone has to be the vanguard, someone has to put a positive face on Republicans. Maybe it should be me? Maybe it should be the girl who once got told that she couldn't possibly be a Republican because she's so open-minded and curious about the world. Funny, I don't seem like a hatemonger.

But I still don't want to come out of the closet. On the internet is bad enough.

*****

By the way, when CaliValleyGirl first read my blog, she said it was like she could've written it herself. Cali, can we invite Lissa to our club? Because I absolutely could've written this post.

Which begs the question . . . why am I doing it in this blog???

Because Im tired of reading all sorts of things I agree with and then not being able to form my own, coherent opinion on it. Because I need to be more honest, instead of relying on assumptions. Because I need help figuring out what I believe in, and why, and then articulating it. Because as things go right now, I assume that my friends and family wouldnt agree with any of my viewpoints, so I keep them to myself where they do not get developed OR challenged. And thats not useful.

Finally, because I need to grow a thicker skin. When I said in my About page that Im a professional middle child, I meant it. I pride myself on my schmoozing skills, in that I can get along with and entertain just about anybody. But, conversely, I quake when writing things that I *know* my nearest and dearest think are wrong, wrong, wrong. I dont like rocking the boat, and Im pretty thin-skinned when it comes to their approval.

Read the whole thing, and then bookmark her.

And after all this time, and *hours* of reading and writing, I am absolutely no closer to solving The Dilemma.

But I got a big blog post out of it.

Posted by Sarah at 08:24 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

July 25, 2008

MY KIND OF MOVIES

CVG sent me an article that she knew I'd like: What Bush and Batman Have in Common

The funny thing is that my husband and I only pay money to go to the theater to see the very movies this article discusses, the superhero genre. The last movie we saw was Spiderman 3. Before that, 300. Before that, X-Men 3. And so on. So I was excited to see the new Batman and sad that I couldn't see it with the husband. His buddy and I tried to go the other night but it was completely sold out. Luckily, I did get to see it with my friend and her two sons this week.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. And Heath Ledger was just...wow. The whole time I kept thinking how tragic it was that the role messed with his head so badly but how unsurprising it was, considering how masterful his performance was.

Those are movies I want to pay to see.

Posted by Sarah at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ON THE VERGE OF PROFANITY

This is so sad it's frightening: Apollo 14 astronaut claims aliens HAVE made contact - but it has been covered up for 60 years

Really? Really?

Edgar Mitchell studied aeronatical engineering and was fortunate enough to have been one of only 12 men in the history of history who have walked on the moon, and this article just makes me shake my head in shame for him.

Aliens did not crash at Roswell. Anyone who believes in humanoid aliens is just stupid. I am not normally that blunt or rude, but alien visitors is just too much for me.

Here is a gem from the book A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I recommend to anyone who knows how to read:

Space, let me repeat, is enormous. The average distance between stars out there is 20 million million miles. Even at speeds approaching those of light, these are fantastically challenging distances for any traveling individual. Of course, it is possible that alien beings travel billions of miles to amuse themselves by planting crop circles in Wiltshire or frightening the daylights out of some poor guy in a pickup truck on a lonely road in Arizona (they must have teenagers, after all), but it does seem unlikely.

Later in the book, Bryson discusses the miracle that came to be humans, the evolutionary path that life had to take to get from primordial goo to a human being. And there's just no way that some other planet light years away also developed organisms with two legs, two arms, a torso, two eyes, a mouth, and everyfreakingthing exactly like us humans, only the head is slightly bigger and more lightbulb-shaped. No way, no how. Oh, and that those organisms could visit Earth without dying. We can't visit Venus or Mars without dying, but someone from another galaxy is smart enough to figure out how to travel through space but dumb enough to think he could just land in New Mexico and all would be groovy? So freaking unlikely that I am on the verge of typing cuss words in this post.

I am just flabbergasted that Edgar Mitchell gets to be on the wall of fame in my favorite museum in the world, when his view of the cosmos matchs up with any old Bubba who got an anal probe.

Posted by Sarah at 04:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2008

QUOTE

Ralph Peters on "the audacity of hope":

Audacity is for innovators, risk-takers and crusaders - for those willing to stand in the fire of public opinion and tell a million people they're wrong and here's why. Audacity's not for the passive mob hoping government will fix everything (while blaming government for everything).

Hope is the opposite of audacity. It's passive, an excuse for inaction.

Posted by Sarah at 04:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 10, 2008

I STILL HEART VARIFRANK (I JUST HAD FORGOTTEN HOW MUCH)

When I first started blogging, I read every single blog on my blogroll every single day. I was fastidious. Nowadays, I am so blog-scatterbrained; I don't think there's one blog I read every day. Thus I haven't read Varifrank in a while, so forgive me that these links are old.

I wasn't the biggest fan in the world of There Will Be Blood, but God how I love that "I drink your milkshake" line. I love how you can use it now and it sums up a whole concept in one little silly line. I just get tickled pink every time I see it. (Not to mention that you can also explain the concept using the names J.R. Ewing and Monty Burns.)

Varifrank, from a month ago: Canada to US: I Drink Your Milkshake! And you know exactly what the post will be about. I just love that line.

(Of course, my very favorite use of There Will Be Blood is this blog post from iSteve. Oh my, that was clever. I mean, that deserves an award or something.)

Oh, and Varifrank wrote a doozie two weeks ago when Wesley Clark opened his yapper. Priceless.

Posted by Sarah at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 04, 2008

SO BEAUTIFUL IT NEEDS NO COMMENTARY

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Reading this makes my heart soar. It marked the birth of my country, the beginning of a beautiful idea, and the start of that "shining city on a hill."

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

That last line, that brings tears to my eyes. These men knew they could be killed for what they were doing. They did it anyway.

My husband is not here this 4th; he is off doing his best to help the Iraqi people gain independence from tyranny. And I know how to make his heart soar today.

Mike Eruzione! Winthrop, Massachusetts!
Who do you play for?
I play for the United States of America!

Happy Independence Day, readers. And Happy Birthday, America.

Posted by Sarah at 09:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 29, 2008

ANGERED UP

Yesterday I found a clip of Dennis Miller going off on Obama. I went to YouTube and have been happily watching tons of Dennis Miller clips, including his appearance on Politically Incorrect. I then stumbled upon Penn Jillette's appearance on the same show. That one just twisted my gut into knots. I wanted to jump through the space-time continuum to argue against the moronic things that Nia Long was saying. They're talking about selling donor eggs from models, which apparently people wanted to buy so they could have beautiful children. (My thoughts: It's a waste of your money, but you have a right to waste your money.) It then became a debate on whether we should interfere at all in the reproductive process or if it's all part of God's plan. And Bill Maher says:

Here's a question then: Why does everyone have to spawn? Why can't the people who can't do that just take a hint?

To which Nia Long nods her head and says, "Right." Thankfully, my buddy Penn Jillette counters, saying that if science can help people, it should.

Do I even have to tell you what it does to my heart to hear someone say that if I can't reproduce, I should "take a hint"?

The debate later turns to making a law that people should not be allowed to get married until they're 26. A law. Seriously. The rationale is that people aren't mature enough to be married before that.

To quote AWTM, "Can I just tell you..."

I met my husband when he had just turned 19, and we got married a few months shy of his 22 birthday. By the time he was 24, he was already leading a platoon of men in combat in Iraq. Not mature enough? Please. He's got more maturity now at 27 than some 40 year olds I know.

The whole show was just a train wreck. I imagine Penn Jillette was just shaking his head after it was over, wondering how he ended up in a room of people who want to regulate who can donate eggs, what factors you can use to determine which eggs you want, how much science you can have in your life, and at what age you can get married. I can't believe he stayed as calm as he did.

Dang, that'll teach me to look for funny clips on YouTube. I'm a bundle of horrified nerves after that show!

Posted by Sarah at 01:12 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 26, 2008

NO CLOSER TO AN ANSWER

Tammi has been thinking in the micro about something I often think about in the macro.

Makes me wonder....what makes people feel so strongly about capital punishment? Why do some cling desperately to the sanctity of life while others draw that line so firmly in the sand and say "If you cross this, you no longer deserve to live"?

I don't believe it's something that comes with age. Or that it's a learned belief. Mama and Daddy were liberals. Mama still is. I've been a conservative for as long as I've been aware of politics. Oh, they never talked about this stuff in front of us kids, in fact it was only in the past 10 or so years that I learned about my parents political leanings. No. No influence there at all.
[...]
I woke up this morning wondering where does that come from? WHY do I feel so strongly about this? And why do others, those that go and picket executions for people they don't even know, believe just as strongly that they do NOT deserve to die? That there is nothing that one human being can do to another that warrants the loss of life?

I have wondered this and blogged about it before, about where we get our value systems and whether it's nature or nurture:

But where did it originate? Other people endured the hate and garbage in France, yet it didn't have the effect on them that it did on me. I must've already had the seeds of right-leaning ideas before I hit this point. But where did they come from?

I'd say both of my parents are fairly conservative, though we never talked about politics when I was growing up. I can't remember ever having a conversation about voting or foreign policy or anything of the sort. Did they somehow influence me in a subconscious way? Or was I born right of center and just viewed everything through that lens?

We talk about knee-jerk reactions, but isn't that just following your gut? The first blog I ever saw was U.S.S. Clueless and I immediately felt at home. Even before I had studied anything concrete about how the world works, I simply nodded my head in agreement and felt deep in my instincts that what Den Beste writes is true. No one had to teach me that; in fact, much of what we encounter in higher education these days should have persuaded me just the opposite. How was I not convinced?

I don't have any answers for Tammi. As for capital punishment, I said it before and I'll say it again.

I'm reminded again of the absolute horror my Swedish friend felt when she saw me clapping and cheering the day Timothy McVeigh was executed. But I feel the same now about Saddam as I did back then: If someone called me today and said they're short a hangman and could I come give 'em a hand, I'd say, "Give me a second to put my shoes on."

There are a few people out there that I'd have no problem putting my shoes on for. And when we're talking about child rapers, I'll just grab my flip-flops cuz it's faster.

Posted by Sarah at 11:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 22, 2008

IS HONESTY THE BEST POLICY?

I've been thinking about Heidi a lot lately, about how she never blogs about feeling bitter or jealous, or about feeling lonely that people's lives have moved on while hers hasn't. She must feel this way at times, but she doesn't express it publicly. I emailed her and urged her to write about it, because I thought it would help her.

I think I'm retracting that advice.

Writing about how I felt lonely over the weekend I miscarried has backfired a little, I think. I meant every word I said, and it felt good to write about it and get it out. I felt such loneliness that, even having my mother there, even if 75 people had called me and I'd gotten 20 bouquets of flowers, it still wouldn't have been enough to fill the emptiness.

And it was hard because it was Scheduled Sadness. It didn't spring up on me unexpectedly; I had to make a conscious choice to make it happen. And so I scheduled my day for sadness, and sat at home waiting for sadness to arrive. I sat all day and clicked around on blogs, and no one was posting...because they were out living their lives and being happy, while I sat with my thoughts, waiting for sadness.

In some ways, this time was harder than the first. And the support was so overwhelming the first time that it was hard not to make this time look underwhelming. Everyone did too good of a job comforting me last December.

But my blog post, the feelings I thought were important to write, made some people feel bad, which has made me feel worse than the original loneliness. It actually makes me feel worse than losing the baby.

Which is kind of stupid, but that's my personality. I worry more about how other people will react than I worry about how I feel. Sometimes I get over that and blog about my honest thoughts, but it makes me feel like absolute crap when I learn that something I blogged hurt people's feelings.

It makes me not want to be a blogger anymore.

And even though there are lots of comments about how people understand and have been through the same, if I hurt just one person, I feel like a failure.

I thought that writing honestly and openly was a good thing, but I am not always prepared to deal with the consequences of doing so.

Posted by Sarah at 01:14 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 21, 2008

YEP, ANOTHER "FEELINGS" POST

I forgot our wedding anniversary.

Or, more specifically, I forgot how long it takes stuff to get mailed to Iraq. And I missed my window.

Now, my husband? He blows it every holiday. Christmas, birthday, anniversary: I usually get a story. A story about why he couldn't get me the present he was going to get me. I am used to it; it's part of my husband's charm. Now it's just a running joke.

But this year he came through. He ordered something from Amazon, and it arrived plenty early. And wrapped! Amazing.

And I had nothing for him.

And then the day of our anniversary came, and I didn't even have hope and love to share with him. I had bad news and sadness.

He should've gotten a lovey-dovey anniversary post, like Mrs Hubs wrote. So I'll try now.

My husband is so absolutely exactly like me that it's scary. Specifically, we both grieve the same way. And he's been a big help, sending me sarcastic one-line emails that express our frustration and sorrow while helping put a smile on my face. For example, the email he sent when I told him his MBA diploma finally arrived in the mail.

Good thing the diploma didn't die in the mail causing me to have to start my degree all over again. You never know these days.

He's just the right amount of sarcastic and irreverent for me. But he also wrote a long, emotional letter too, about watching the other soldiers share the stuff their kids had sent them for Father's Day.

He's just perfect, and I feel so bad that he's so far from home right now.

But you know, he and I are also exactly alike in one other way. He said the other day that, even if our family is only ever me, him, and the pup, that's good enough for him. I feel the same way. I feel so absolutely lucky and awed every day that I found him. And he's enough to keep my heart happy for the rest of my life.

Husband, I'm sorry you got gyped out of an anniversary.
I love you.

Posted by Sarah at 11:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 19, 2008

WOW

Every once in a while, I read something that makes my heart stop. Usually it's not a big-time story. Often it's a science story. Instapundit had this one today, which brought wonderment and awe to my morning: Bacteria make major evolutionary shift in the lab

Posted by Sarah at 09:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 16, 2008

UPLIFTING

Remember when I thought I was looking back at infertility with hindsight? Go ahead and take a moment to laugh at me. I'm shaking my head too.

Anyway, I went and read A Little Pregnant again today because, well, because I'm part of the club again. And I read something very funny:

Let me say at the outset that nothing would make me happier than a good nursing experience. But nothing would make me sadder than the kind of experience I had with Charlie. (Note to universe: I am saying that in a rhetorical sense. I know there are worse things than ending up with a healthy, thriving baby who enjoyed the benefit of expressed breast milk for the first six months of his life. I'll thank you not to kick my ass in new and unexpected ways just to show me who's in charge here because, hey, you know what? I get it.)

Ha. There's someone who is on a first-name basis with Perspective. And I read something so uplifting, a little note from another former infertile-blogger who just had a baby:

I truly hope all my other blogging friends from the past have realized their dreams, as well. Being a mother is the most amazing thing I've ever experienced. I didn't think I'd EVER say this, but all the IF treatments and miscarriages that I've been through were sooooooo worth the end result - my beautiful boy. I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat if it meant it would result in him.

And that's just very cool. And very good to read today.

Posted by Sarah at 04:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 05, 2008

NOT JUST A QUIBBLE

I read a comment from someone over at RWN that frustrated me. The commenter was very civil and tried to be constructive, but what he/she said just doesn't hold water.

In my humble opinion, it hurts our country when we group ourselves and others into groups of "conservatives" and "liberals." In my experience I have met a lot of liberals, and a lot of conservatives, and I seem to get along fine with all of them. So, instead of listening to some "study" that suggests liberals are Satan's army of darkness, why don't you just try to remember that they are people LIKE YOU who only believe what they believe because they think it is what is best for their country. Instead of attacking their character, attack their ideas, debate with them on why they believe war is bad, or why we should spend tax dollars on certain things. Attack their ideas of big government, but make sure you don't advocate a different form of big government (sorry, if you don't want to spend money on health care, education, and welfare, then you can't want to spend a lot of money on war, it's called hypocrisy, besides, anyone who wants to spend lots of money and have a big government is a lefty, not a righty, so you may be at the wrong page.)

He/she lost me right there at the end.

The Constitution of the United States of America "provides for the common defense" of the American people. And (if my understanding is correct) Article I Section 8 allows the federal government to raise money for a standing Army and Navy.

Again, if my understanding is correct, there is nowhere in the Constitution that allows the federal government to raise money for health care, education, and welfare. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

So this is where that commenter lost me. Those two things are not equal. Liberals wanting federal health care, education, and welfare is absolutely not the same thing as conservatives wanting military defense.

One is specifically laid out in the Constitution and even mentioned in the preamble. The other is not. There is no hypocrisy here.

It seems like a quibble with this comment, but I think it's actually a huge deal. This commenter thinks that this is comparing apples to apples, which I think shows a gross misunderstanding of the original intent of the federal government and our Constitution. It's disingenuous to say we want health care, you want missles; see, we all want to spend money.

And this, I think, is what causes a huge disconnect between the right and left. Those of us who try hard to conduct ourselves as Constitutionalists have a big problem with things that go beyond the scope of the original document. People like this commenter don't even seem to have any historical grounding in what the federal government can or should do. So anything goes, and funding war is the trade off for not funding education. (Which doesn't even hold water either, because, for example, the US spends more on education than defense.)

National defense is not even on the same plane as all these other extras that people think the government should fund. To paraphrase Jules, it ain't the same ballpark; it ain't even the same sport. It's a shame the commenter has no grasp of that.

Posted by Sarah at 10:43 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 30, 2008

YOU'VE GOT ME PEGGED!

People who write at DailyKos are hilarious.

More frequently than not, military families lean conservative because, they figure, the conservatives like pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into the military industrial complex without any sense of accountability for how those dollars are spent.

Did you know that when you join the military, you have to decide whether you're conservative or liberal? Most people decide to become conservative.

Yes, I just love all the unaccountability in the Army. It's my favorite part. I love when they pump senseless dollars into stupid ideas. That's why I'm a conservative!

Thank goodness I decided to join the party that throws money down a hole. Not like those pesky Democrats, who are completely accountable for every dollar they spend.

Yay, Republicans! Now let's see if we can get the cost of the Iraq war to equal the cost of public education! Take that, liberals!

Sheesh.

Posted by Sarah at 11:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 24, 2008

MEMORIAL DAY

My father is the oldest of 13 children, so this weekend there are 42 of us together for my grandparents' 60th anniversary. And when you have that many family members, the gene pool is big enough that you can trace family resemblances across generations and branches of the family tree. Naturally one of the favorite games is to figure out who the young kids look the most like.

This evening all of us were in church together, lining the pews in family order. I was looking around at everyone, noticing how much my little 6 year old cousin looks like the old black and white photos of my father, noticing how much the back of my uncle's head looks like my little brother's, noticing which kid looks like his mom and which like his dad. And all of a sudden, my thoughts turned to the baby inside me.

Consciously or subconsciously, I have put the baby out of my mind. I convinced myself that there was nothing to be happy about and nothing to get my hopes up for. With all the excitement of 42 people in the house, I have not thought about the baby at all, not felt pregnant, not thought myself pregnant.

But in the quiet of church, as I looked at all these kids who look like their parents and aunts and uncles, I suddenly wanted a baby that looks like my husband. And like a flash, I remembered that a baby is inside of me now. And I wanted it to be alive so badly.

I started weeping silently in church.

Luckily my mother handed me a kleenex. And extra-luckily, the kleenex had a chewed up piece of gum in it. That made me giggle and helped me calm down.

And then the vocalist began a special song for Memorial Day.

I had never heard the song "More Than A Name On The Wall" before, and it hit me hard. Especially this part:

She said, "He really missed the family, being home on Christmas Day
And he died for God and country in a place so far away
I remember just a little boy, playing war since he was three
And Lord this time I know, he's not coming home to me."

My thoughts turned to Debey and her Gunnar, and I realized how stupidly selfish I was feeling. I was spending my Memorial Day service feeling sorry for myself. It was the reality check I needed. I stopped my silly crying and focused my thoughts to where they belong this weekend, to Gunnar and Sean and all the others like them who deserve to be memorialized.

I won't make the same mistake the rest of the weekend.

Posted by Sarah at 08:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 13, 2008

SHE GROKS

I've come across a complaint that SpouseBUZZ is too cheerful of a place. Man, I think it's sad that anyone would dislike the site for that reason. I just think we try hard to see the glass as half full.

Being of that mindset, I loved the post over at Fifteen Months called My Top 8 Tips For Surviving Deployment. My favorite is #5:

5. Everytime you feel like you want something from him to fulfill something missing inside of you, think instead of what you can do for him and the voids he must have being so far away from the colorful landscape of America. If you feel unloved or ignored or sad, do something that you think will make him feel loved, wanted, less alone. Instead of focusing on what things are like for you, try to think about walking in his boots a little bit every day.

All eight of them are such good advice for keeping deployment in perspective.

Posted by Sarah at 03:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 12, 2008

BOOKWORMS

Oh my gosh, I miss my husband so much right this moment that I can't stand it.

I found a blog post that I'm dying to discuss with him. Yeah, we don't get enough telephone time to discuss blog posts.

I hope the officers of her Majestys army may never degenerate into bookworms.

Husband, if you're checking the blog, you simply must read that post and also the comment by SmittenEagle it references. And then write me a letter about what you think!

Actually, I already know what you think.

When my husband started Civil Affairs training, he was given a stack of books to read. He was dismayed to learn that, months later, some of his classmates hadn't read any of them. And we're talking Bernard Lewis level books, not Lawrence of Arabia (which my husband read on his own two years ago). He was so frustrated that people could be in a class about the Middle East and have so little motivation to learn anything about the Middle East.

He, on the other hand, is a studier. He has a reputation in his unit for being a bookworm, a brain. And while my husband is a danged genius, really all he's doing is reading books on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. That should be a given for anyone in his branch of the Army. Instead, when he went to the branch library to check out a book on modern Iraq, he was the first person to ever have checked it out.

There's no danger of bookworms among his peers. Sadly.

Posted by Sarah at 04:27 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 11, 2008

MARKED PASSAGES

I read the book Gates of Fire because Neil from Armor Geddon said that I reminded him of a Spartan woman. What a compliment! I loved the book when I read it during the last deployment. My husband picked up the book about a year after he returned from Iraq, and he was almost mad at me: "Why didn't you suggest I read this book sooner?" Heh.

I'm reading it again now, and I noticed that my husband marked some passages when he read it. I love to see what he marked, like a window into his mind, illuminating what's important to him.

Like this passage:

War, not peace, produces virtue. War, not peace, purges vice. War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love, eradicating in the crucible of necessity all which is base and ignoble. There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.

And this passage, which I know must have struck a chord with my husband. If I were to say that anything haunted my husband from his first deployment, it would be that he wishes he had done more:

The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men's guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.

I like these marked passages; it's as if my husband is here beside me, reading aloud the things he finds interesting. It's nice to hear his voice in the house.

Posted by Sarah at 01:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

GOLD STAR MOTHERS

If you have a quiet moment today, please reflect for a second on our dear internet friend Debey. Think of her and all the other mothers who have lost their children in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe take a minute to go tell her that you're thinking of her today, that we are grateful that there are mothers out there who raised sons like Gunnar.

Posted by Sarah at 06:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 07, 2008

POETRY WEDNESDAY

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
  And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
  The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
  No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,
'Twere profanation of our joys
  To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
  Men reckon what it did and meant,
But trepidation of the spheres,
  Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
  (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
  Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined
  That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assur'd of the mind,
  Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
  Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
  Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
  As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
  To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
  Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
  And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
  Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
  And makes me end where I begun.

   -- John Donne

Posted by Sarah at 02:17 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Sarah at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Sarah at 08:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Sarah at 08:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Sarah at 08:54 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Sarah at 05:30 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

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 its 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!

Posted by Sarah at 09:09 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

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.

Posted by Sarah at 04:34 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

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.)

Posted by Sarah at 07:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by Sarah at 08:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2008

FREE VITAMINS AND OTHER DILEMMAS

Sis B left a comment in the last post. Excerpt:

As far as entitlement... I'm always at a loss here. I have been in situations when I desperately needed a hand up. I have friends who have needed that as well. All of us have used what little we could get by with and managed to get back up on our feet. That's the way "the system" should work.

However, I also know people who have lived in public housing for SIXTY years. Without ever trying to leave. People like that ruin things for everyone else who just need a boost.

I totally agree with this. This is what Bill Whittle meant when he said, "we no longer have a safety net; we have created a safety hammock." I agree that there are times when people need help, and there should be someone they can turn to in a pinch. But I fear there just aren't that many "The Pursuit of Happyness" people out there. I think once you get used to getting something for free, it's hard to let it go. Or once you get used to the government taking care of things, why do it yourself?

I have had a battle raging in my head like this for months now, over something so trivial but completely representative of my beliefs. And it's become a value struggle for me. It's over prenatal vitamins. In the military, we get all prescriptions for free, including prenatal vitamins. But only after you get pregnant, not just while you're trying. I've been buying bottle after bottle of these vitamins for over a year now, and every time I buy them, I get a little mad that I have to shell out the eight bucks myself when I think the Army should just let me have them. For the past six years, I haven't asked for hardly anything from Tricare, so I feel entitled to those damned vitamins, especially since they'd give them to me for free if my body would just cooperate and get pregnant. And when I did get pregnant, I got a bottle for free. When I miscarried, I wanted to go in before the pharmacy found out I'd lost the baby and grab more of the danged vitamins.

It's so stupid and trivial that it seems laughable to write about it. But I think about it all the time: why do I feel entitled to those silly vitamins? Why does it make me mad to pay for them? Simple: because in different circumstances, I would get them for free. It makes me feel like I should get them for free all the time.

How I hate to admit that I have had such a thought.

It's really playing mindgames on me. I don't like the realization that I think the government owes me prenatal vitamins. I don't like the fact that I want to get them for free. I am considering punishing myself for my bad behavior by forcing myself to buy them if I get pregnant instead of taking any of them for free; that's how ashamed I am at my entitlement mentality. And I think I have a pretty hefty libertarian streak in me; I can only imagine what other people think the government owes them.

OK, so let's expand out to something less trivial than vitamins. My husband went in the field this past week. He needed certain gear from CIF, but they didn't have everything he needed. So he was in a bind: he had to have it for the field, but he couldn't get it from the Army at that moment. So he had to buy his own gear, stuff he could've gotten for free if the supply sergeant hadn't been on leave when my husband inprocessed. Stuff like a pistol holster, magazine pouches, etc. It was infuriating to spend all that money on stuff he's entitled to. But it made me think about Kim du Toit's Walter-Adam Fund. His readers raised money to buy things that the Army was theoretically supposed to provide for soldiers, like scopes or rangefinders. But the du Toits insisted that soldiers who fought in our Revolutionary War fought with the guns they owned and shirts on their backs. That our nation was founded on people providing for themselves instead of waiting for the government to hand them what they need. And, the du Toits continued, that if some were willing to go fight, we should be willing to back them financially, and not just through our taxes. That we have a duty to go above and beyond what the government does for our troops.

Kim du Toit rephrased this very old and lost-in-cyberspace post when he wrote about renewing the Walter-Adam Fund.

I know, I know: the Army should be getting them this stuff, not private individuals. Thats the ideal. But anyone whos ever been exposed to the .mil knows that this doesnt always happenand in fact it cant always happen. Thats where we step in. Its not the governments Armyits our Army. The Army is supposed to feed and support these kids at all times, and they do a pretty good job of it. Yet, if they were fighting on our soil, and during a lull in the fighting a soldier came to your door and asked for some food and drink, would you turn him away with the words: The Army is supposed to give you food and drink? Of course you wouldnt. Youd empty out your pantry, or take food off your own plate if you had to.

In keeping with the NoRs motto of One Citizen At A Time, therefore, these funds are run on pretty much the One Soldier At A Time philosophy too. I cant get a regiment new tanks or Bradleys, but I can help improve the lives of a few soldiers, actual breathing individuals to whom I can write and speak, and then share that with all of you.

And if we can get them gear rather than just care packages, stuff which will help them kill enemy bastards, then so much the better. We are the Nation of Riflemen, after all, not the Red Cross.

This has stuck with me for the years, years, since I donated to the original Walter-Adam Fund. The du Toits believe so much in having the government stay out of our affairs that they're willing to put their money where their mouth is and spend their own money -- after they've already provided for our nation's defense via taxes -- to provide gear for the soldiers at war. I am humbled to write on the same internet as such people.

And it's a swift kick in the rear when I think that I've gotten hung up on vitamins.

The thing is, I don't like the feeling that I am entitled to anything, be it vitamins or a pistol holster. In the end, I am responsible for the baby I may have, and my husband is responsible for his own safety. If we waited for the government to do these things for us, they might not get done, even if it's the government's job to do it. They're supposed to give my husband the gear he needs. Well, what if they can't? Ultimately, we need to step up to the plate and assume the cost.

I'm rambling worse than Sis B thought she was. In the end, what I am trying to say is this: If something needs to get done, I need to do it. If my baby didn't get enough folic acid and then had problems, how could I possibly have the nerve to blame the government for not letting me have free vitamins. If my husband doesn't have enough rounds to be safe because he doesn't have magazine pouches on his body armor, we can't blame the supply sergeant for that. It's our lives and we're in control.

So what happens when we move to a society where everyone is getting more and more things for free? What happens when every woman gets free prenatal vitamins? I am certain that most of them won't have the same moral dilemma I have with receiving them. And what happens when the government says that everyone is entitled to affordable college or health care or social security? And then they run out of social security like they ran out of pistol holsters? Few people are gonna suck it up and go out and buy their own like we did. There's only so much social security money to go around, and what happens when people start screaming to get theirs?

Entitlement isn't just about welfare or government housing. It's about expecting the government to do anything for you, including things they're supposed to do (like pistol holsters). The only person you should count on is yourself. Buy your own vitamins, get your own magazine pouches, and plan for your own college or retirement.

If more people lived as if there were no safety net, we sure wouldn't have this safety hammock.

Posted by Sarah at 01:08 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 26, 2008

FRED SMITH RALLY

Last night I went to my first political rally, to support Fred Smith for governor. I met him last fall when I was invited with other bloggers to his home. And since our state primary is approaching in about five weeks (lordy loo, we still haven't gotten anywhere near voting here), Fred Smith is out and about, again with his good friend Lee Greenwood.

Now, all I really needed to know about this candidate is that Lorie Byrd is working for him. That's pretty much a good enough endorsement for me, and I probably would've voted for him just based on that knowledge. But I really like Fred Smith's stuff, and I hope he makes it all the way to the top. Most of my friends are internet-based, but if any of you reading this live and vote in the same state as I do, please consider reading about Fred Smith and voting for him in May.

So I got all pumped up on patriotism again last night, my drug of choice. Of course Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA" again, which brings the house down. And I can't get enough of the song he wrote for Fred Smith's campaign:

But honestly, the thing that touched me the most last night was something so small, so unnoticed. The stage in the auditorium had two flags on it, the US flag and the state flag. And before the rally got started, I noticed some men from Fred Smith's staff fussing around the US flag. They left and came back with a cinder block and lifted the flag stand up onto the block. A lady sitting behind me asked her husband why they were bothering with that silly brick.

The American flag was bigger than the state flag and was too big for its stand. It was dragging on the ground, and these men had set to work getting that flag off the floor.

My heart grew three sizes.

That's a heck of a campaign staff. No Che flags in this bunch.

Posted by Sarah at 09:34 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

March 25, 2008

IF YOU MAKE IT GOOD, THEY WILL COME

The Washington Post put out an article on why the recent crop of Iraq war movies aren't doing so well. What's their take?

For now, Kuntz agrees with Bochco: "We're bombarded by information about [Iraq] 24 hours a day," he says. "We already know plenty about it. We don't need to learn more about it from the movies. Right now, it's something people want to forget and escape from. I speak for the American public when I say, 'What a bummer.' "

I speak for my blog when I say, "What a jackass."

They go through this huge list of anti-war movies and wonder why the public isn't interested. Hmmm, let me take a stab at it: Make a movie like 300, and people will flock to the theater. Make the soldiers the freaking good guys, and you've got yourself a hit; make them rapists or dupes or Tools of the Bushitler Oil Junta, and no one wants to see your damn movie.

Maybe dumb people think the Iraq war is a "bummer" because all your movies present it that way.

You know, Neil tried to shop his blog Armor Geddon around as a book. No one wanted to buy it. They told him it needed more inner-angst. He needed to be more conflicted about his role in the war. He needed to not rejoice when they blew up a house full of terrorists. Eventually he gave up, because they weren't buying what he was selling: a book about a soldier who was proud of his platoon and proud to support the mission.

But I bet people would've bought his book. Regular, average, everyday Americans want patriotism, heroes, and victory. They don't want inner-angst and movies about soldiers who got stop-lossed and don't really want to be there.

Sheesh, any waitress or truck driver could figure this out. But apparently journalists from The Washington Post think it's a mystery.

Posted by Sarah at 02:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 21, 2008

SLICE OF LIFE

I read an article in The Australian the other day that begins like this:

A few years ago I joined some colleagues on an academic conference jaunt to a large private university in the American northeast. The approved conference itinerary was to take us directly from our swish Chicago hotel to the campus gates, in the hygienic manner of the modern business traveller.

For reasons too complicated to retell, on the return trip we found ourselves becalmed in a village in the backwaters of rural Indiana, in the old American heartland. The streets we strolled down were lined with wooden bungalows, and there was a flagstaff with the Stars and Stripes in every other front yard. We ate in rural diners by the highway with orange-tinted windows, stained wooden cubicles and waitresses with chequered aprons.

Much like Columbus, we had voyaged in search of streets paved with gold, and instead we had accidentally discovered America.

I remembered this article this morning as my husband and I ate breakfast at the Waffle House. If I knew a foreign visitor who needed to see a slice of the USA, I'd seriously make a stop at the greasy spoon. All walks of life, all races, all ages at the Waffle House, crammed into a smokey, loud, friendly place. And the work ethic at the Waffle House! Those cooks and waitresses move fast. None of this we'll-cook-your-schnitzel-when-we-damn-well-get-around-to-it business at the Waffle House, nosiree. The manager's washing dishes, six waffle irons are going, and waitresses are waiting in line to bark words like "scattered" and "smothered."

At the Waffle House, America is a spectator sport.

Posted by Sarah at 10:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 01, 2008

FLYING PIG MOMENT

My apologies to LGF for stealing his flying pig, but dang...

flying-pig.jpg

Angelina Jolie wrote approvingly about the progress in Iraq:

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?
...
As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.

(Via Insty, via Taranto)

Frank J wrote a funny post the other day about Obama called "My Solution to Iraq Is to Never Have Gone There." It was funny because it felt all too true; many people talk about fixing Iraq in the past tense, as if "we shouldn't be there in the first place" is an actual solution. So -- and I can't believe I'm typing this -- kudos to Angelina Jolie for dealing with the actual situation as it stands today and not wishing for some utopian non-invasion that doesn't exist. And kudos to her for reporting what she saw on the ground, despite the fact that (I'm guessing) it doesn't jibe with her preconceptions.

So, yeah, pigs fly.

Posted by Sarah at 02:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 20, 2008

COMPROMISE

Lots of people agree that Obama is low on substance. But no one can phrase it like Lileks:

On the radio today Medved and Hewitt both asked Obama supporters to call and say why they were supporting their man. Specifics, please. The replies were rather indistinct. He would end the division and bring us together by encouraging us all to talk about common problems, after which we would compromise. He will give us hope by giving us hope: for many, the appeal has the magical perfect logic of a tautology. It's a nice dream. But compromise is impossible when you have a fundamental differences about the proper way to solve a problem. I believe we can achieve a fair society by taking away your house and giving it to someone else. I disagree. It is my house. Then let us agree to give away half of your house. Compromise! But that is not a compromise. You have taken half my house. We have compromised on your behalf with those who would have taken it all. Let us not return to the politics of division. There are strangers living in my spare bedroom. Then we have truly come together. Look, this isnt a matter on which we can compromise, because we have conflicting premises. Youre pretending matter and anti-matter have the same relationship as Coke and Pepsi. They dont.

He goes on with more awesomeness. My pal Amritas once said that Lileks is the Mark Twain of our time. I love that. I just love how Lileks writes.

(You did say that, right, Amritas? Did I mix you up with Bunker?)

Posted by Sarah at 01:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 16, 2008

SWEET

I was reading about Obamamania today and came across this tangential comment by "a thirty-something, African-American female":

And finally, after Iowa something changed. I am what you might now call an Obamamaniac and am 'emotionally involved' as you say. But it's not because I think he is some Messiah. I haven't fallen in love with him. His campaign has made me fall in love with this country. His campaign has made me rethink assumptions I had made about huge swaths of this country. My only thought of North Dakota was a place not to go because of the color of my skin. Now, after Iowa, I realize my own small-mindedness and my own cynicism. Sure, some people out there will not want me around but I'll wait until they make that clear to me.

And that is just really, really cool.

Posted by Sarah at 09:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 07, 2008

CASABLANCA THROUGH ADULT EYES

The husband and I watched Casablanca tonight. He had never seen it and I hadn't seen it since high school. And the movie meant a whole lot more to me now than it did back then.

My husband remarked how absurd it would seem to modern viewers to have a woman leave the man she loves to stand for a cause. Nowadays, you'd never break up true love at the end of a movie, especially not for war aims. Rick makes Ilsa go because "the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." Few people talk like that these days. Fewer still think like that.

But Casablanca came out in 1942, long before the outcome of the war was certain. It was a beautiful story of sacrifice in difficult times. Rick and Ilsa gave up love for the greater good.

Posted by Sarah at 09:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

HEH

I'm officially too old for my new cell phone.

I went to set the ringtones, and absolutely none of them are appropriate for my age group. This one's techno. This one's gangsta. Eww, this one sounds like s-e-x. The "oriental" one, that's just racist. I have it set on just plain ringing like a phone because I cannot imagine using any of the provided files.

I am a fogey...

Posted by Sarah at 05:45 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 06, 2008

DISPENSIBLE

The Flag has to come first
if freedom is to survive.
--Col Steven Arrington--

Every once in a while, something on the internet takes my breath away.

Over Our Dead Bodies

This is something I don't like to talk about because it makes me seem cold and cruel. I also think it makes me somewhat out-of-the-ordinary. And some will think I'm plain psycho for even thinking such things. But I believe in the premise of this article, that man is dispensible for the greater cause.

My husband is one of those dispensible men.

I have tried to come to terms with exactly how that makes me feel. And Lord knows I don't ever want to have to put my convictions to the test. But should I have to, I will come back and read that article again and find solace, and I will try very hard to remember in my grief what I knew to be true before grief struck.

I have thought about this a lot over the past years, as you must when your husband's job is war. But I've thought about it in other scenarios too. There was an episode of 24 where terrorists hold a wife and kid hostage and send dad out to provide a detonator to the man holding a nuke. Dad would do anything to save his family, even enable a nuclear weapon.

No way.

I put myself in those shoes, and I just couldn't do it. There's no way I could kill 20,000 to save my 2. I'm not going to go Keyser Soze on my family, but there's no way I will cooperate in arming a nuclear device just to save my husband.

He and I have also talked about this in regards to Jill Carroll and the Brit hostages. I will not beg and grovel, I will not trade his life for the lives of others, and I will remember in my heart the brave Fabrizio Quattrocchi as I do the hardest thing that could ever be asked of a person.

My husband is dispensible.

I do not say that lightly. Not at all. The moment I typed the words, I felt the beginning of tears.

But my personal happiness is not more important than my country. I will do my best to remember this, even when I often think that the Middle East is not worthy of my husband. I will remember that surely there were wives who thought that their husbands' lives were not worth taxation without representation, the end of slavery in far away states, or fear of the domino effect. Yet they sacrificed their husbands, and I would do the same.

That is our profession. Harooh.

I think the movie 300 took people by surprise. The Spartans were not a perfect society, not by a long shot, but they lived by the credo that men are dispensible for Sparta. And the movie resonated with people because they still want to believe that such men are out there. They want to believe that 300 would step up and defend our country too, risking all.

But I think they're afraid that those 300 don't exist. Most of the moviegoers don't number among them.

Some have asked me how I'd feel to get pregnant before my husband deploys. The thought makes me sick to my stomach. I want to raise a child with my husband or not at all. But I asked him while I was pregnant if it made him feel better or worse that he would leave a child behind should something happen to him. He said he did find comfort in thinking like the Spartans, that only men with progeny should be sent to battle. Thus I pray we get pregnant before he leaves again soon, so he has the peace of knowing that his legacy lives on.

And as hard as it is for me to think of my husband as dispensible, it will be all the harder to think of that child as dispensible too.

But the flag comes first.

(Thanks to Kim du Toit for the article and for writing "Not all of us are at the mall. We are with you as surely is if were going out on patrol with you, or standing next to you in the chow line back at camp.")

********

I sat on this one for a while, mulling it over. And in the meantime, I came across an article that Baldilocks' father wrote.

If you are so convinced that an ideal is vital for your society, then shouldnt you make it your duty to live long enough to help your society to realise it? Once you are dead, of what use are you?
...
But, clearly, a soldier is much more important than a tool. That is why the law on self-preservation is even more significant to humans. Sure, a good soldier fights bravely in battle. But his bravery must include every stratagem that helps him to return to base unharmed.

Only then can he be available for another battle. Hence the saying: Live for your country: never deliberately die for it.

Trust me when I say that we also know this to be true. No one was more diligent about not dying needlessly than my husband was the last time he was in Iraq. (That's why he put two soldiers in jail when they failed to ensure the safety of the other men.)

My husband is the last man to promote swashbuckling or chest-thumping. But some must go to fight the Dragons, and those men must be ready to be dispensible.

Posted by Sarah at 08:47 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 03, 2008

THEY'RE NOT KEEPING IT ALL

The husband did our taxes this weekend and somehow, against all odds of us trying to contribute the bare minimum, we are still getting a refund. The husband just said, "Sweet, the government is hooking us up!" And I feigned horror and said, "Do not ever say anything of the sort again. They are not 'hooking us up'; they are merely only keeping $7000 of our money instead of $9000."

If everyone looked at taxes that way, maybe we could get some reform.

And as I was digging around for receipts on charitable contributions and my husband was trying to figure out how much state sales tax we could deduct, we kept muttering how nice the Fair Tax would be.

Posted by Sarah at 11:09 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2008

I WANNA RIDE IT ALL NIGHT LONG

I was popping in on people's MySpaces and came across this...

Have you ever tried to philosophize about life, as I am trying right now? I was on one of the three interstates (H-1) on Oahu the other day in bumper-to-bumper traffic while the other side of the road was packed with rush hour cars zooming by.... I thought to myself, "Life is like a highway." ...A few minutes of silence went by in my car... "You know, maybe life isn't like a highway." (end thought)

And for whatever reason, it just got to me. And made me laugh.

Sometimes I think we try too hard to make sense of things when, usually, they just are what they are. There's not much point to trying to make them deeper or more significant. And most metaphors suck.

I had my last round of bloodwork this week.
I'm finally not pregnant again.

Posted by Sarah at 09:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 15, 2008

DAYAKS

Some of us SpouseBUZZers are reading the book The Airmen and the Headhunters for an upcoming author interview. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, and it's just starting to get really exciting.

I don't want to spoil anything, but there's one event that I can't get out of my head. The Dayak people have finally decided that the only way to protect the American airmen is to start fighting back against the Japanese. But they needed a foolproof trap, so the Dayak leader asks the most beautiful young girls in the village to bathe naked in the river to distract the Japanese soldiers long enough for an attack. Nudity is not acceptable in Dayak society, but the young girls did it anyway to help protect the airmen. They laid the trap for the Japanese.

I have been thinking about how it must've pained the Dayak leader to ask the young women to do this. I have imagined my father asking me to expose myself in the middle of town for the greater good. I can't imagine asking so much from a young girl. And I've also tried to put myself in the girls' shoes, letting go of their shame in order to save lives by facilitating the taking of other lives. But if I could run naked through the streets of Baghdad, and it saved just one soldier's life, it would be worth it.

Maybe we should add Girls Gone Wild to the Surge?

Posted by Sarah at 08:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 13, 2008

PERSPECTIVE

Erin called me this morning to talk about me, my feelings, my life, my stuff. And then later in the conversation she reminded me of the date. All of a sudden I burst into tears, realizing once again how small and petty my own stuff is.

Today is not about me.

And so I sit here today with tears on my cheeks, thankful for all I have and thankful for men like Gunnar Becker.

Posted by Sarah at 10:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2008

HMMM

Remember when Halle Berry won her Oscar and the media crammed it down our throats that it was a major step for The United Racist States of America? How it was a major milestone for black people? That it somehow proved that we were healing as a nation from Jim Crow?

How come people aren't saying those things about Obama's win last night? Isn't being selected as the top Democrat in a ridiculously white state more groundbreaking than a black actress getting an award from her liberal peers?

I don't get it.

Posted by Sarah at 04:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 03, 2008

THE DILEMMA REARS ITS UGLY HEAD AGAIN

Bill Whittle lays a smackdown on a commenter. He then goes on to write:

Many people hear or read something like americans rant and think that because it is structured and literate there must be something to it. How many college students today, when presented with such nonsense, would read it and think that they are approaching the days of a Nazi state?

Lots.

Damn it! Lots of them would. Why? Because, like the 9/11 conspiracy troofers, no one bothers to call these people out. Thinking about this response took half again as long as actually typing it did: which is to say a few minutes. That is because I know how far from reality this diatribe is. These are things I think about every day, and likely, so do you. Realizing from scratch that his point was absurd, the specifics were easy.

We can no longer afford to let this anti-American garbage pass unchallenged. As a kind and secure people, we tend to let a lot of this go under the bridge, but this kind of crap gets more and more traction, and those days I think must come to an end for a while.

Now normally I do not employ personal ridicule, but I was writing in the heat of the moment and I thought it was no less than such a puerile attempt deserved. These people need to be challenged, factually defeated, thrashed, and mocked.

There was a time when common sense was prevalent enough that arguments this absurd would be laughed at on the street. I mean to return to those times, one self-righteous idiot at a time.

I have struggled with this dilemma for years, ever since I read Carl Sagan's story of the taxi driver. It's the dilemma from the monorail in Vegas, and my husband's right: as long as we keep giving people permission to promote crap, they will keep doing it. I blogged about it before the 2004 election, and now here we're already in another election cycle, battling the same baloney. And I am still struggling with the same dilemma.

By the way, Whittle is back. Settle in and read Forty Second Boyd and the Big Picture.

Posted by Sarah at 01:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 26, 2007

232

232 years ago this morning, George Washington and his Continental army won the Battle of Trenton, effectively turning the tide of the American Revolution and putting us on the road to independence.

From the last week of August to the last week of December, the year 1776 had been as dark a time as those devoted to the American cause had ever known -- indeed, as dark a time as any in the history of the country. And suddenly, miraculously it seemed, that had changed because of a small band of determined men and their leader.

A century later, Sir George Otto Trevelyan would write in a classic study of the American Revolution, "It may be doubted whether so small a number of men ever employed so short a space of time with greater and more lasting effects upon the history of the world."

(from pg 291 in 1776)

I couldn't be prouder to think that 232 years ago, bedraggled and freezing men were fighting to establish the wonderful country I now live in. And were paid $6 per month for the pleasure.

We owe them so much.

Posted by Sarah at 10:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 21, 2007

METAMESSAGE

I think the secret to a good marriage is meta-knowledge.

During a class on cross-cultural communication, we read the book That's Not What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships. That book was probably the most useful thing I ever read in college; it changed my life. (And people say that all the time, that books changed their life, but usually they're being hyperbolic. I am super serial here.) What this book teaches you is how your metamessage -- the tone of your voice, the way you're standing -- conveys a stronger message than your words, and how men and women typically employ different metamessage strategies. Once you're able as a couple to talk about your metamessages and not just the words you've said, it opens up a whole different level of communication.

This meta-knowledge -- for example, that men listen to complaining to find solutions, while women complain to create a social bond -- is a crucial part of getting along. My husband and I hardly ever argue anymore after reading this book because we are able to step back and actually say nerdy things like, "Right now I am acting like a stupid woman. I know what I am saying is unreasonable, and that you want to try to fix the problem for me, but I don't need you to fix it, I just need you to listen and nod along with me as if you understand what in the hell I'm upset about. It's OK if you just pretend you understand, that works too." Understanding that your emotional systems work differently is a blessing for a relationship.

I am so glad I had to read this book.

Anyway, I thought about this today when I read SarahJ's description of dropping the bookcase on her foot. Now there's a couple with meta-knowledge! If you can fight with this sort of self-awareness, you have a great relationship, in my opinion. You still have a busted toe because you were being a damned woman, but at least you don't have a busted toe and a divorce, right?

Heh.

(Todays links, as usual, found via Conservative Grapevine, the coolest round-up on the internet.)

Posted by Sarah at 09:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

I'VE GOT THREE YEARS TO BECOME GREAT

Wanna hear something humbling? Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by Sarah at 02:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 28, 2007

SELFLESS

Here's another funny quip about that woman who got herself sterilized:

Having children is selfish, says Vernelli, its all about maintaining your own genetic line at the expense of the planet.

I couldnt agree more. Every really selfish person I know has like twelve kids.

Why just the other day, as I was sitting, unbathed and exhausted, in the kitchen selfishly riding herd on three screaming children, all of whom were simultaneously demanding that I continue my genetic line by providing them with juice boxes, goldfish crackers, hairbows, wardrobe changes, sno-cones, candy, lunch, water, DVDs, computer assistance, reading assistance, diaper changes, judicial intervention, and milkey, he-a-uh (milk, heated up), I thought to myself, Man, am I selfish!

I had a discussion a little while ago with CaliValleyGirl over whether having children is selfish or selfless. I completely believe that it's selfless, that the point of having children is to raise adults who will provide benefit to society, not just to have a little version of me to cuddle. And raising upstanding members of society is hard. How much easier would my life be to just keep merrily knitting along in between vacations and spending money on myself? That seems like the selfish choice to me. I think instead that I have a duty to my society to breed at no less than replacement rate and breed well, so that my progeny make our country a better place.

But who knows, maybe I'm crazy. I did read America Alone while I was trying to get pregnant, so that may have screwed with my head.

Posted by Sarah at 09:07 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 26, 2007

FULL-THROATED ENDORSEMENT

My husband pointed out the article yesterday about the lady who got herself sterilized because breeding leads to global warming. My immediate reaction? Excellent. Almost with a Mr. Burns accent. If she honestly thinks that, then I don't want her breeding either. So it's a win-win.

Lileks nails it:

She expresses frustration that other people are unable to accept her decision. I suspect she means my mum by other people, and I suspect she confuses acceptance with full-throated endorsement."

Of course I accept these peoples decisions not to have children. What am I supposed to do, break into their homes, duct-tape them together into the double-backed beast and play whacka-chicka 70s porn soundtracks until theyre in the mood? But acceptance is part of the usual recipe: first we must tolerate, which no decent person should have any problem doing. Then we are asked to accept, which for most means slump-shouldered acquiescence. Eventually its not the norm, but its standing alongside it on stage, nudging its way into the spotlight.

As Mr. Garrison eloquently said, "Look, just because you have to tolerate something doesn't mean you have to approve of it! ... "Tolerate" means you're just putting up with it! You tolerate a crying child sitting next to you on the airplane or, or you tolerate a bad cold. It can still piss you off! Jesus Tapdancing Christ!"

And Lileks has more. Much more. Plus funny reviews of Redacted and Die Hardest.

Posted by Sarah at 09:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 21, 2007

OUR DOCUMENT

I had a discussion with my husband a while back about the Constitution. And how perfect it is. And how strange that seems, since it was written by mere men. And how I don't think I would willingly sumbit myself to any document written by mere men today, but have no qualms about accepting every sacred word that was written 220 years ago. And how odd that is. And yet how perfect I still think that document is.

My brain runs in circles.

But as I was reading The Second Amendment and the Personal Right to Arms (via Instapundit) this morning, I was struck by one paragraph that reminds me again how beautiful our Constitution is:

There is, to be sure, in the Second Amendment, an express reference to the security of a "free State." It is not a reference to the security of THE STATE. There are doubtless certain national constitutions that put a privileged emphasis on the security of "the state," but such as they are, they are all unlike our Constitution and the provisions they have respecting their security do not appear in a similarly phrased Bill of Rights. Accordingly, such constitutions make no reference to any right of the people to keep and bear arms, apart from state service. And why do they not do so? Because, in contrast with the premises of constitutional government in this country, they reflect the belief that recognition of any such right "in the people" might well pose a threat to the security of "the state." In the view of these different constitutions, it is commonplace to find that no one within the state other than its own authorized personnel has any right to keep and bear arms--a view emphatically rejected, rather than embraced, however, by the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. [emphasis mine]

The perfection of our Constitution lies in the fact that the people of the United States are more important than the government. Obviously this is common knowledge for anyone who knows a darn thing about the founding of our country, but it bears repeating, lest we forget just what a unique and wonderful experiment our country is.

I am just so happy to have been born here. It sure saved me the time and energy of having to get here.

And I really miss Bunker right at this moment. That man knew the value of the Constitution and would've loved that I was having these thoughts. I sure miss his attagirl comments.

Posted by Sarah at 11:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

I HEART BEN STEIN

Ben Stein was awesome today. If you missed it, you can always listen to the archives to hear how he got so danged pro-military, his financial advice, and what his favorite breakfast cereal is. He was great fun to talk to.

Posted by Sarah at 09:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

YARDWORK

Guess what my husband is doing at work today? Yardwork. Ha. They have all the captains and majors doing yardwork today. My husband told his Major buddy that he should refuse to do it and sit in the hot box while they all whistle for him à la Bridge on the River Kwai. We had a good laugh at that last night.

But I love what my husband said next: "But I am not going to complain about doing yardwork because there are people who are deployed right now, getting injured and killed. Yardwork is nothing compared to that."

I am so proud of my husband's perspective.

Posted by Sarah at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

INTERVIEWING BEN STEIN

Today on SpouseBUZZ radio we will be talking about Ben Stein's book The Real Stars and doing a short interview with the man himself. You can read more about Mr. Stein and the book at SpouseBUZZ. If you can join us live at 1430 EST, you can listen in here at Blog Talk Radio. Otherwise, all our shows are archived on the same page.

I want to put in a short plug for Blog Talk Radio. They provide a free service that has allowed us at SpouseBUZZ to do radio shows with some exciting guests. And by "us," I mean Andi, AWTM, and AirForceWife. I usually don't participate because talking on the radio makes me want to throw up. I remember having this conversation with Mary Katherine Ham at the Milblogs Conference when she asked if she could video interview me; I said, "I'm a blogger, I started blogging so I could write about things, not talk about them." She seemed to think that was pretty funny. I know a lot of people have moved on to radio, podcasts, and YouTube, but I'll stick with my printed word, thankyouverymuch.

But how often does the chance arise to talk to Ben Stein? I had to go for it. I mean, he's one of my two favorite Steins (er, Steyns).

Keep your fingers crossed that I don't say something dumb. And listen in on an interview with a man who totally groks.

Posted by Sarah at 09:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

LUCKY

My life is so awesome.

Last night I had a dream I was invited to a potluck dinner. I showed up and didn't have any plastic cups. I had to go find some, and ended up at a gas station where the man wanted to sell me cups at a dollar apiece plus a 33% tax rate. I was so mad. I woke up from the dream and was still grumpy as all get-out that I had gotten ripped off. And I went back to sleep and kept dreaming about those stupid cups, trying to find a better deal from someone else.

My real life is so devoid of stress that I spend my dreams arguing over $1.33. I am such a lucky person.

Posted by Sarah at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2007

VINDICATION

My Swedish friend just called; she saw what I wrote about her a few weeks ago.
I really hurt her feelings.

This post is about our resulting conversation. It is written to vindicate her. I am writing for the sole purpose of showing what a bonehead I am, because I want you readers to know that I screwed up, that I learned from it, and that the original post was never meant to be rude towards her.

She's a far better person than I am.

She was really hurt that I would use the word "superficial" in describing our friendship. She thought our friendship was fine, that it was deep, and that we've always managed to get along swimmingly. Sure, I like guns and she doesn't always get me, but she likes sports and doesn't feel like we have less of a friendship because I don't care about sports.

She then laughed and said that probably sports isn't the same thing as the Constitution.

It was really hard for me to explain why I wrote that post in the first place. I blog to work through things in my mind. To grok, literally. I needed to get this feeling off my chest and see what advice commenters would give to me. It wasn't a major problem; I didn't think it was something I needed to sit down and discuss with her. It was just a feeling I wanted to throw out there and see what you readers would say. And you came through for me with flying colors, giving me good advice and helping me realize that I was focusing on one small aspect of what it means to be a friend.

But my friend didn't have two weeks to work through things in her head; it was fresh to her and I needed to give her answers fast. I tried to explain why I wrote about it in the first place. If we had had a disagreement over health care or even Iraq, I am not sure that would've prompted me to write. But the right to bear arms is so fundamental, so important, so illustrative of someone's entire mindset. It's the 2nd Amendment that backs up the 1st. It's that important. That's why a discussion of firearms was a reminder to me of fundamental differences my Swedish friend and I have in our worldviews. It's not just that we don't see eye to eye on violence.

I am not even sure that I did a good job of explaining it to her again. I don't think I will ever be able to explain just how fundamental this right is in my opinion.

But she tried to grok. And that's what I had left out of the original post.

My Swedish friend may be European to the core. We may never really truly understand each other's values. But she always tries. She always listens and she always tries to see things from my point of view. She never judges me based on her own value system but tries to put herself in my shoes and offer whatever advice she can.

Like I said, she's a better person than I am.

What I conveniently forgot a few weeks ago when I got wound up over how deep (or not deep) our friendship is is that it's easy for CaliValleyGirl or Erin or AWTM to see eye to eye with me because they're almost always coming at the problem from the same worldview as I am. Shoot, it's easy for us to be friends. It's a far more impressive thing for my Swedish friend to have stayed friends with me for nine years, despite our differences, despite the fact that I couldn't care less about sports and she thinks knitting a gun for a baby is atrocious.

And what I realized through the course of our conversation is that our discussions are not superficial at all. I talk to her about other issues in my life, things I don't ever blog about. She made me realize that different friends fill different needs. If I want to talk to someone about linguistics, I would probably call Amritas over Erin, for the obvious reasons. If I want to talk to someone about the Army, Erin would make a better choice than Amritas. They're both my friends, but they have different expertise to fill different roles.

My Swedish friend definitely has a role to fill. And while she may not be the first person I'd call to say my husband wants to volunteer to go to Afghanistan, I would never feel like I had to hide that part of my life or values from her, and she would never make me feel weird about it either.

But she already knew this. She acted like it was the most obvious thing in the world, that it was bizarre that I'd even need to work through this sort of thing. All I could do is apologize and say that no one's ever accused me of being a genius. I hadn't fully thought it through when I blogged about it; that's why I blogged it. I wanted other people to point out the pieces of the puzzle that I had missed.

And I'm glad my Swedish friend gave me even more insight into what I was feeling. I'm just sorry that I had to hurt her feelings in the process. It was never my intention.

So the answer to my original post is that, yes, we can be friends despite our differences. Good friends. Or, at least we can if she still wants to be friends with me. I really screwed up.

All I can do is say I'm sorry for hurting her. Again and again.

Posted by Sarah at 04:46 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

CAMPUS LIFE

You know, I don't think you could pay me to go back to a college campus these days. I found some events on campus baffling enough back then, and I never paid attention to international news or current events. I just simply don't think I could stomach it these days.

Josie is at college, afraid of how she'll be treated when people learn about her husband and his OIF injuries. What a great post.

I feel for you, Josie, I really do. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes.

Posted by Sarah at 11:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 31, 2007

GHOSTS

Wow. I had no idea I was in such a minority:

A Gallup poll found that only 7 percent of Americans do not believe in telepathy, dj vu, ghosts, past lives or other supernatural phenomena, which may have more than a little to do with the soaring popularity of Halloween.

A few years ago, my husband and I were visiting his parents and sleeping in the guest room. I woke up in the middle of the night to a bone-chilling noise, a wailing, moaning, ghostly noise. The hair on the back of my neck stood up straight and my heart began to race. I still have no explanation whatsoever for what the noise was: the wind? the dog? my father-in-law groaning in his sleep?

I realized the next day that, if I believed in ghosts, I would forever tell that story as an encounter with one. I would swear that I had heard a ghost at my in-laws' house. But I don't believe in them. Instead I see that story as proof of how people say they've encountered ghosts.

But the truly interesting part was how I could not stop my body and mind from being frightened. Even though I absolutely don't think there was anything out there, my body went into panic mode.

Interesting stuff. But only 7%? Wow.

Posted by Sarah at 05:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 25, 2007

CULTURAL REFERENCES

My husband told me about this Harry Potter article linked on Instapundit and Althouse, and I found it hysterical:

Here is what I imagine the seven Harry Potter novels are about: I imagine that Harry is an orphan who had a bad relationship with his father (kind of like Tom Cruise in Top Gun or Days of Thunder or A Few Good Men or any of his movies that didn't involve Ireland). He escapes some sort of abstract slavery and decides to become a wizard, so he attends Wizard College and meets a bunch of anachronistic magic-using weirdos and perhaps a love interest that he never has sex with. There is probably a good teacher and a bad teacher at this school and (I'm sure) they eventually fight each other, and then some previously theoretical villain tries to destroy the world, and all the wizard kids have to unite and protect the universe by boiling black cats in a cauldron and throwing lightning bolts at pterodactyls. Harry learns about life and loss and leadership, and then he doesn't die. The end.

Now, I realize I don't have to guess at these details. I'm sure I could read the entire four-thousand-page plot summarized in four hundred words on Wikipedia, or I could simply walk into any high school and ask a few questions of the first kid I find who isn't smoking crystal meth.

No, you can't read the Wikipedia entry. Because if you don't know anything about the books, like I don't, then all you'll read is sentences like "Harry and Frimbleframp travel to the smigglefloop in a wimbdywhop to battle the canterstamp with a shimmelflap." It's utter nonsense if you don't already know what you're reading.

Anyway, the article is an interesting take on how pop culture brings us shared knowledge. And why you can't understand Kevin Smith if you've never seen Star Wars.

Incidentally, I saw the "Trapper Keeper" episode of South Park before Neil made me watch the Terminator movies. And I didn't get the cultural references. Once I saw the movies, I thought the episode was a lot funnier, plus I finally got the line in Family Guy where Adam West asks Meg if she's Sarah Connor.

But I still don't have any plans to read Harry Potter yet.

Posted by Sarah at 08:21 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 16, 2007

DESPITE OUR VALUES

My Swedish friend was so excited that my husband had organized a birthday surprise. So when I talked to her again last night, I asked what she thought of the surprise trip to the firing range.

She was horrified.

I expected her to think it was weird, or not romantic, but I didn't expect her to react so vehemently. She thought the whole thing was plain awful, and incomprehensible, and that all the commenters were horrifying as well. She even called her sister's American husband to ask him if he knows what the 2nd Amendment is (too cute) and whether he owns a firearm. She was really rattled by this and even started talking about Virginia Tech.

Then she reminded me of something that I hadn't thought of in a long time. When I lived in France, I was walking home late at night one night when a man on a moped drove up onto the sidewalk, pinned me between a van and a wall, and tried to grope me. Needless to say, it was a frightening experience, and for weeks after that, I walked around the city with my Swiss Army knife in my hand. I have no idea what I actually would've done with it if someone else had tried to attack me, but it made me feel a sliver of control over the situation and it helped me get over my fear. What I had forgotten was how crazy my Swedish friend thought I was for walking with a knife. Or at least, I didn't realize just how crazy she thought I was until she brought it up again last night, that thinking about me with a gun brought back memories of me walking the streets with a one and a half inch blade. Apparently something that barely registered in my brain today was seared, seared in hers.

I told my husband about this last night, and he said, "Wait, let me get this straight, she thought you were dangerous and crazy because you wanted to protect yourself from being raped?"

I explained to my friend that while we disagree on lots of issues -- death penalty, health care, etc -- the Gun Issue is so cultural that we typical Americans and Europeans will never begin to understand each other. We can't even talk about the issue because we're coming at it with completely different cultural baggage. She says that guns create violence; I say they deter it. No common ground.

After we got off the phone, I thought for a long time about our conversation. She can't read my blog; it makes her sick to her stomach. She's against everything I stand for, and vice versa. I'm not mad about that: if she had a blog, I wouldn't want to read it either! But I started to think about the fact that we are friends with each other despite our value systems. That we set aside everything we think about the world and everything we believe to be right in order to remain friends.

She thinks blogging is weird, that it's odd I would bare my soul to strangers on the internet. I kinda think it's weird that I've been friends for nine years with someone I have no common ground with.


UPDATE:

Oda Mae is right: This is a friend who would drop everything to take me to a hospital. She even said that she would fly to the US to meet my future baby. She is a good friend. Maybe that's equally important to the equation as our values.

Posted by Sarah at 08:22 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 09, 2007

PATRIOTISM AS PATRIMONY

There's too much going on in this Winds of Change post to even excerpt. Suffice it to say that I've kept it open on my desktop all day and followed all of his links. It's chock full of stuff to grok.

Patriotism Rears Its Head Yet Again

Posted by Sarah at 06:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2007

DISSENT

A very good explanation of why "dissent is the highest form of patriotism" doesn't really work.

Oh yeah, and Thomas Jefferson never said that. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Posted by Sarah at 04:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 27, 2007

WE DON'T HEAR THIS ENOUGH

Jay Tea wins quote of the day:

People who rejoice in their tax refunds are fools for thinking that "the government gave me money" instead of "the government borrowed all this money from me, then returned it with no interest."

Read the whole post.

Posted by Sarah at 11:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2007

WELL DONE

Rachel Lucas rips Sally Field a new one.
Breathtaking.
Via Oda Mae, who always finds the good stuff.

Posted by Sarah at 03:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007

NO MAN IS A FAILURE WHO HAS FRIENDS

Something wonderful happened today. Someone who barely knows me did something very kind for me. And tonight, I feel like this.

To Sarah, the richest woman on the internet...
It really is a wonderful life.

Posted by Sarah at 05:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

MACROSCOPIC

German co-worker was always leery of the US. She thought it was such a dangerous place. Of course, she was born and raised in rural Bavaria, and her only experience in the US was in her in-laws' run-down neighborhood in Detroit. I, on the other hand, know several families in the Midwest that don't even lock their front doors. Danger is in the eye of the beholder.

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?

erbil.jpg

Or is it Baghdad?

baghdad.jpg

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.

Posted by Sarah at 01:00 AM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2007

RIGHT

I have been thinking about something for a long time now, but I never blogged it because the moment had passed and I didn't think it made sense to revisit it. But now that the moment has resurfaced, I may as well.

I had a friend who was a fellow French major in college. She started a blog several years ago and mostly talked about personal stuff in her life. But right before the invasion into Iraq, she wrote a post about how the US is a big bully in the world and how we should listen to France. And I Went Off. I wrote a huge diatribe about why we should tell France to feck off, etc. The blog is long gone, so I no longer know her words or mine, but I know I probably came off too harsh. I think it took her completely by surprise, and definitely not in a good way. But I was right, by golly, and she needed to know why she was wrong. And I maintained that I was in the right for a very long time.

But what my tiff with Allicadem taught me, a full four years later, is that I was a bonehead. I might've been absolutely 100% right that we rule and France drools, but I should've handled the situation far better. Either I should've kept my mouth shut, or I should've treaded far more lightly.

In relationships, there are more important things than being right.

I screwed up, and it's too late to fix that mess. But being on the receiving end of Allicadem's mess brought me a whole new level of perspective. And I came away thinking a lot about my old friend and how, when someone is speaking from the gut, it's not always the best time to tell her she's wrong. Maybe I will make a terrible mother and I don't know being pregnant from a hole in the ground, but it probably wasn't a good idea to say so. She had the right to say it, but exercising that right may be followed by an entire comments section gang-up. I had the right to tell my friend that France is worthless, but exercising that right put a serious unmendable dent in that friendship.

So I personally learned a lot from an ouch situation, and I've managed to take that grokking and apply it to a new situation. I wrote at SpouseBuzz that a friend of ours is getting out of the Army, and the wife is starting to wear me down with her vitriol. I got a lot of advice to speak openly with the friend and to tell her how I feel, but I do not think I will take that approach here. I don't need to be right anymore, and I don't need her to know that the Army isn't evil. She is the one who needs to talk, whether or not I think she's right.

I feel embiggened that I learned from a mistake I made four years ago, that I was smart enough to finally realize it was a mistake and to break the cycle before I did it again.

It feels good not to be right.

Posted by Sarah at 12:18 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 31, 2007

PAST AND PRESENT

Erin just recounted an interesting story: a girl she went to high school with contacted her via MySpace...and this girl is now a boy. Hmmm.

Leaving completely aside the issue of transgenderism, I started to think how bold it was of this person to contact Erin. Seems to me it might be awful hard to reach out to people you went to high school with and tell them you've changed genders. Not bumping into them in the grocery store and having to explain yourself, but actively reaching out and seeing if people accept you. Wow. Made me feel pretty silly to be scared of letting people in on my blog.

So thanks to Erin's friend for bashing me over the head with perspective. And best of luck to him as he tries to mesh his old life with his new one.

Posted by Sarah at 05:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

HE FILLS GAPS

Leela: "Fry, this isn't TV. It's real life. Can't you tell the difference?"
Fry: "Sure. I just like TV better.

I'm always fascinated by our modern-day tales and legends, by the fictional characters we hold up as our inspiration for greatness. Sadly when I write about this, I often get insulted by people who think that I can't tell the difference between a TV character and a real person. But apparently a Serbian village is looking for inspiration in our modern-day heroes as well:

A Serbian village is hoping to channel some of Rocky Balboas fighting spirit with a 10-foot-tall statue of the fictional boxer portrayed by actor Sylvester Stallone.
...
Zitiste has repeatedly suffered flooding and landslides, gaining a disaster-prone reputation. Fed up, the locals contemplated how to change that image and revive the village one of the poorest in northern Serbia and came up with the idea of a statue of the tenacious fictional fighter.

I think that's pretty cool. If we have to be a cultural hegemon, at least we're exporting Rocky.

Posted by Sarah at 09:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 21, 2007

I LIKED IT

I'm going to do something completely insane here and link to something at Daily Kos. Because I liked it. I suppose I liked it because I thought the telling made the Marine look classy and the lefty look like a drunk pseudo-intellectual, but that's neither here nor there. I too sing daily praises that I was born in Oklahoma instead of...anywhere else in the world. Fat and Happy and No One Trying to Blow Us Up

Posted by Sarah at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

UM, IT'S ON

Folks, something I feel passionate about has come up, and a major fisking is in order. And someone named Monica needs a pimp slap.

In the swampy soup of hopefuls for the 2008 presidential election, there is a man with a funny name. (No, not that one.)

We're thinking of the one named Fred (Thompson).

Say it out loud. Do it. Fred. Fred. In the South, Fray-ud.

Fur-red-duh.

It has the tonal quality of something being dropped on the floor, something heavy and damp-ish.

Waterlogged paper towel.

Fred.

Ahem. Some of you may remember that I have a megacrush on every man on the planet named Fred. Yes, including this one. And the idea that we could have a Fred for president has indeed happily crossed my mind. So this Monica hooch better realize that she's walkin' on the flightin' side of me with this crappy-ass article.

London's Sunday Times last month interviewed a bevy of his ex-girlfriends, all of whom have drunk the Fred-Aid: "He's majestic," said country singer/Fredophile Lorrie Morgan. "Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us."

Fred?

Why? Is there something about the craggy actor we're not getting? Maybe he's ugly-sexy, like Mick Jagger?

Or maybe the name Fred is etymologically close to obviously sexy names like Dirk, Clint, James?

Grant Smith is an onomastician at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, who studies the branch of linguistics dedicated to proper names. He specializes in dissecting the monikers of political candidates and says he has a 65 percent success rate of predicting elections, based solely on name analysis. Not entirely convincing, but those odds would play in Vegas. "The name Fred is basic and homey," says Smith. "It should give people a reassuring image."

But is it, Dr. Smith, a sexy name?

Silence.

"I would not say that. The name Fred does not suggest blatant sexuality at all."

Speak for yourself, dude.

At the Fredquarters of the Fred Society in Palm Springs, Calif., "Head Fred" Fred Daniel has been defending his good name against charges of boringness and dolt-itude for 23 years. Daniel, 52, founded the society in 1984 by combing the Los Angeles phone book for Freds and sending out a 500-person mailing. There are 5,000 Freds in the organization now, but Daniel must fight for every member. "Unfortunately, Fred has fast fallen out of favor," he laments. From 1885 to 1896, it was the 15th-most-popular boy's baby name. But the last time Fred appeared in the top 1,000 was 2002.

Be still, my heart, there's a Fredquarters.

Fred.

We are trying to understand.

We are willing to admit that that some people find Fred Thompson, yes, sexy.

But we still cannot understand what that means.

What does it signify that we, as a country, are choosing to deem yummy a guy named Fred?

It signifies that you are a huge bitch for writing a 1000-word article making fun of a man for his name. His delicious, perfect name.

Seriously, this is journalism? This sounds like something my brother's basketball team would've come up with to rip on someone while playing X-box. How on earth did this ever get published? Maybe Monica's next article can be about how Giuliani will never be taken seriously because he has the same name as the little football player who could. Or how Mitt is something you use to take cakes out of the oven.

Good lord, journalists are lame. Lamer than any Fred I've ever met.

Posted by Sarah at 07:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 23, 2007

THE KEY TO MARRIAGE

Last night I asked my husband what the "key to marriage" was. He guessed people's first two responses but didn't guess that dishwashing was so important. We tried to put into words what we'd answer if someone asked us this question. The most concise wording I could come up with was "Treating your spouse better than you yourself would like to be treated." My husband summarized that as Respect, which is a pretty good answer.

We talked about the #1 answer too and why "fidelity" ranks so high. My husband joked that looking for Fidelity in a mate is like looking for Not Being a Child Molester in a babysitter: it should just be a given. Fidelity isn't the key to a good marriage; if you have a good marriage, you don't even have to think about fidelity. Never once in the entire seven years have I ever thought about my husband cheating on me.

This tied in nicely with this week's Army Wives, where the episode was cheating cheating cheating. One spouse did and one spouse resisted. Last week a SpouseBUZZ commenter said that in her circle of military couples, 9 out of 10 of them have had infidelity issues. I say she needs to find some new friends! My husband and I struggled to come up with instances of cheating we heard of at all during his deployment, from anyone we could think of on post. We barely came up with five, and one of them was from a gross "swinger" couple, so that hardly even counts. I know it happens, but 9 out of 10? Ouch.

So what would you say is really the "key to marriage"? And would fidelity poll that high for you?

Posted by Sarah at 11:12 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

EDUCATION

I really go back and forth on what I think "education" should be. Sometimes I think it should lean more towards teaching people a trade. Other times, like when I read The Closing of the American Mind, I think it should lean more towards teaching people to think. Unfortunately I think it leans towards neither right now: we seem to produce grads who can neither balance a checkbook nor recognize a syllogism. I don't know what the answer is.

But I sure know it's not this:

British secondary schools will drop Winston Churchill from a list of figures to be mentioned in history teaching. Also dropped: Hitler, Gandhi, Stalin and Martin Luther King. The schools will now be emphasizing "lessons on debt management, the environment and healthy eating."

The article's accompanying graph is chock full of frightening tidbits like "Less on electricity and magnetism, more on IVF, stem cells, vivisection and nuclear energy." Look, I hated figuring out resistance of circuits as much as the next person, but you have to work on hard things in school. It's not all debates on stem cell research. That's what your blog is for.

UPDATE:

The more I think about this, the stupider I think it is. It's like they're replacing tried-and-true schooling with whatever's in vogue. Science knows a heck of a lot more how electricity and magnetism work than how stem cells do. How are they going to pin down what to teach about stem cells when we're not positive how they work? The same goes for teaching how to make "healthy meals"; aren't we always hearing new studies that something that was once good/bad for us is now the opposite? Butter, margarine, eggs, chocolate, wine, how many times have we scratched our heads over new evidence on what we should eat?

Why are they abandoning the basics of education for stuff that's so subjective?

Posted by Sarah at 09:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 15, 2007

UNFAIR

One thing I've noticed since I've started trying to have a baby is how absolutely unfair the process seems at times. There are couples out there who have tried for years to have babies and would give anything for a child. And then there's these monsters:

A couple authorities say were so obsessed with the Internet and video games that they left their babies starving and suffering other health problems have pleaded guilty to child neglect.
...
Viloria said the Reno couple were too distracted by online video games, mainly the fantasy role-playing Dungeons & Dragons series, to give their children proper care.

They had food; they just chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games, Viloria told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Police said hospital staff had to shave the head of the girl because her hair was matted with cat urine. The 10-pound girl also had a mouth infection, dry skin and severe dehydration.

Her brother had to be treated for starvation and a genital infection. His lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking, investigators said.

I'm so mad I can't even think of anything else to say.

Posted by Sarah at 08:44 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 24, 2007

THE VILLAGE

If you haven't seen the movie The Village and you still plan to see it, don't read this post.

I don't do scary movies. I hate them. But when I saw the preview for The Village years ago, I always wanted to be brave enough to watch it. I finally did yesterday, and I'm really glad I did. It wasn't really that scary...at least not in the way a horror movie is supposed to be. On the contrary, the ending reveals something far scarier than monsters.

The Shyamalan™ ending isn't nearly as gut-socking as the revelation of opening the Box of Secrets: Utopias only work at gunpoint. A select few act as "Aristotelian gods" (what a delightful new phrase I've learned) and decide how the masses should live, but the only way they can enforce their society is through manipulation and fear. And though they think their society more moral and just than the outside world, it is a society based on lies. These things play out in the real world; I just didn't expect such a lovely allegory in this movie.

And naturally I found the exact opposite of the River Kwai experience when I looked up reviews of the movie: people hated it. Obviously I don't have the same opinion on what makes a compelling story as the majority of movie reviewers! But I personally think if they hated it, they missed the forest for the trees.

Or maybe, if I may be so snarky, they're the type of people who really think we could live in peace and harmony if we halted all progress, with some college professor to lead the way.

Posted by Sarah at 09:57 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 23, 2007

ECONOMICS

My husband came home from work with a small book called A Student's Guide to Economics. He breezed through it, since he's taken more econ classes than one human should take, and handed it to me. It's a little 50-pager about the evolution of economic trends from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman. I thought it was fascinating and quite accessible, so I thought I'd mention it here in case someone else is interested in an afternoon of light economics reading!

My favorite passages came from the section "Ignorance and Self-Interest," in which Heyne writes about people who propose policy as if they were "Aristotelian gods":

They grossly underestimate the amount of detailed knowledge that has to be used to provide food and housing for the inhabitants of a city; to assure enough but not too many physicians, plumbers, poets, and airline pilots; to make electricity and telephone service available to everyone; to maintain processes of discovery that will provide new and valuable answers to old problems of discomfort, disease, and disaster.
The dramatic failure of socialism that could no longer be denied at the end of the twentieth century was not, as many seem to believe, a consequence of the fact that people are selfish and put their own interests ahead of the interests of society. It was a consequence of the fact that no one is omniscient. We put our own interests ahead of the interests of most of those with whom we interact because we know what our own interests are, but do not even know the identities of most of the people with whom we cooperate every day.
...
The basic principles of economics will not be readily understood or appreciated by people who believe that economic theory explains the operation of an essentially immoral society, one governed by selfishness or dominated by the desire of "material welfare" rather than "human welfare." ... People who talk this way literally do not know what they are talking about.

Mmmmm. And there's more deliciousness where that came from.

Posted by Sarah at 09:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 20, 2007

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE

Surprise, surprise, Michael Moore thinks 9/11 was an inside job. The only thing he said that shocked me was at the end of his rant:

MOORE: See, Im not very good at the physics and all that. But believe me, the questions need to be asked.

I'm amazed that he even admitted that he has no idea what he's talking about. You think that might have something to do with why he still has questions? But apparently it doesn't matter what the answer is, only that the question gets asked. Repeatedly. Reminds me of something Bill Whittle recently said (er, recently in Bill Whittle Time):

"We're just asking questions" was the official, voice-over disclaimer. You hear that too from the 9/11 Truth crowd when confronted with the lunacy of their claims. We're just asking questions... Well, in that vein I'd like to ask some questions myself. Is Michael Moore a serial pedophile? I'm just asking, and I'm sure a lot of my readers would just like to have some questions answered. I heard that Rosie O'Donnell ate a baby at a Satanic Ritual once -- is that true? Can you please provide the evidence that this did not in fact happen? Thanks. Who has murdered more hookers: Bill Maher or Charlie Sheen? Come on, you can't tell me there's no smoke there. I just want a possible explanation...

I think it's a rare gift to know how not smart you are. I've met way more people who think they're smarter than they are than people who underestimate themselves. And a sure sign of thinking you're hot stuff is to argue these stupid devil's advocate ideas.

My husband has had the delightful fortune of running into several people like this lately. These people don't know anything about economics or business, yet they claim that the Chinese are gonna screw us on treasury bonds. It could happen, I'm just sayin'. Do you know how these bonds work? Well, not exactly. These people don't know a Sunni from shinola, but they claim to know all sorts of stuff about Iraq's civil war. They don't know thing one about how corporations operate, but they sure do seem to know a lot about how well Halliburton is doing. I'm just sayin', as I shrug my shoulders and grimace, it's probably a war for oil. Your evidence? Oh, you have none. And you don't care enough to go find any either.

My husband and I decided it would be more pleasant to discuss these issues with Markos Moulitsas than with any one of these devil's advocate people. At least you know where you stand with Kos and you know he will bring his A game. But how do you carry on an intelligent discussion with someone who thinks Manufacturing Consent might be how the world works but doesn't know anything about business, the media, or even Noam Chomsky himself? Noam who? And what's a blog? Yeah, you're a prime candidate in a debate on the media's stranglehold.

Devil's advocate arguments are the refuge of the intellectually weak. If your whole side of the debate consists of question marks and I'm-just-sayin's, then you need to work a little harder. And you need to stop holding strong opinions about things you don't understand.

Posted by Sarah at 08:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 17, 2007

LOVE AT FIRST LINK

Matt Sanchez asked the other day about the Deskmerc quote I keep up over on the sidebar: "While our troops go out to defend our country, it is incumbent upon us to make the country worth defending." I know that Deskmerc wrote it in my comments section a long time ago, but I can't find it and think it might have been back on blogspot, and all of those comments are long gone. But it so impacted me at the time that it became sidebar-worthy.

A google search comes up with quite a few hits for the quote, which means Deskmerc has made a name for himself!

I emailed him to joke that he was getting quite famous, and he emailed me back the following explanation behind the quote:

A physicist (Robert Parks, I believe, I may have him confused with someone else) was asked before a congressional committe in the 80's about the Superconducting Supercollider. Reagan had authorized federal funds be spent on the project ("Go deep", he said, and everyone assumed that meant "Build it.") The committee was asking the physicists all sorts of questions, such as "Will this cure cancer? Can this be used to defend the country? Are there any practical applications for this multibillion dollar device you want the taxpayers to fund?"

The physicist (I'm paraphrasing here) replied with "No, it will not cure cancer, and there are likely very few practical applications to the SSC. And it will not help defend the country. What it will do, is provide a tool to increase our knowledge of the universe around us, and in doing so, make our country worth defending."

So that kinda stuck on me for a long time, sitting in the background of my head waiting for some more context to pounce, I suppose. And along came a war in 2003 and many folks of many political stripes engaged in the "chickenhawk" accusation. If you aren't military, then you should have no opinion on the war, that sort of thing, and if you support the war, then you should go fight it!

But that's asinine, of course, and we all know that. Many people have no reason to join the military and fight, they can't or they just aren't up to it, and not everyone is. But there are different kinds of support that anyone can engage in, and probably the most important one is simply to be a good citizen, work hard at your job, whatever it may be, produce good products, turn out well rounded students, keep the gas flowing at market prices, mow lawns, sweep streets, babysit technical illiterates on the phone because they have purchase technology four times smarter than they are, was cars, fix cars, answer phones, WHATEVER, just do a good job. Do they BEST job you can, no matter how small, because in the end, it does matter to the guys on the pointy end of the stick.

I found, that after coming home in 92, that I could have cared less in many respects who won the recent election (Clinton? Who is he?) What mattered to me is that I came home safe, we did our job, my family was there when I stepped off the plane, and cheeseburgers hadn't been legislated out of existence. What sort of country will this current crop of military men come home to? Will it be a country where nobody did anything because we're too busy yelling at each other to accomplish anything, or will they come home at least to a place where everyone did their jobs?

There are guys out there who are getting blown up, stabbed, shot at, run over, dragged around. They put up with it because that's the job (anyone who joins the military not realizing this is an idiot) and the job is very satisfying, in the end, especially when we kick ass and win all the time. But what's more satisfying is that part when you come home and everything is still there (except when they build a new mall or something, and you wonder how the hell kids can grow up so fast these days) The only way that can happen, that coming home satisfaction, is if everyone does their part back home. Without that, what's the point in fighting in the first place?

So, while these guys go out and get shot at to make sure I can still have a job myself (I doubt certain Islamist factions would allow monster datacenters to be operated with impunity, especially if it has lots of porn, if they had their way) then I can damn well do my job the best I can. Like it or not, agree or disagree with the fundamental reasons for going to war or even fighting in general, these guys lay it on the line every day. Its not a rationalization, its an objective fact: without a military, none of us would be here. Its an uncomfortable fact for some who advocate for Departments of Peace, but that is the way of things. The least any of us can do to thank these people is to make the best of the jobs we can do, not litter, and keep the cheeseburgers coming.

We can all disagree on fundamental points of policy. We can even advocate withdrawing if that is the wish of the plurality. It is, however, a disgrace be a slacker, because for the professions that cocoon slackers from the rest of the world, slack is not an option.

It's rare when you can remember the exact first blog post you ever read from a blogger, but I know exactly how I found Deskmerc (it was his sadly defunct Cthulhu joke), and I've adored him ever since. His quote and the tank he made me are just two of the ways he's so awesome.

Spread his quote. And make our country worth defending.

Posted by Sarah at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

BASIC ECONOMICS

The best thing The Onion ever wrote was the Point/Counterpoint on Africa.
Point (college student): Nigeria is a land filled with culture.
Counterpoint (Nigerian): Get me out of this hellhole.
That sums up Africa and the West's relationship to Africa better than anything else I've ever seen. Except for maybe this new interview with a Kenyan economics expert:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid.

Read the whole thing to get a real economics lesson instead of the feel-good economics that Westerners think runs the world. And if you have more time, read the book Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.

UPDATE:

Marc's right; the article is from 2005. Hardly new, though I just found it today. Oh well, the message still applies cuz we sure didn't take it to heart over the past two years.

Posted by Sarah at 08:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

TRUE ROMANCE

This story (via Matt Sanchez) tickled me. Apparently a retired policeman and a retired Marine subdued a crazy man on a plane. I love that the old guys stepped to the plate. But I really, really loved what the policeman's wife said:

Hayden's wife of 42 years, Katie, who was also on the flight, was less impressed. Even as her husband struggled with the agitated passenger, she barely looked up from "The Richest Man in Babylon," the book she was reading.

"The woman sitting in front of us was very upset and asked me how I could just sit there reading," Katie Hayden said. "Bob's been shot at. He's been stabbed. He's taken knives away. He knows how to handle those situations. I figured he would go up there and step on somebody's neck, and that would be the end of it. I knew how that situation would end. I didn't know how the book would end."

I love that. "I knew how that situation would end." What utter confidence in her husband. I think that is so cool.

Posted by Sarah at 08:30 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

DELUDED

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh*t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.
     --Fight Club

Apparently a poll of 13-18 year olds found that 73% of them are Fight Club kids.

In fact, the teenage boys expected to make an average $174,000 annually. Teenage girls expected to earn $114,200.

The reality check:

Median earnings of men who worked full time, year round in 2005, the latest year for which Census Bureau statistics are available, was $41,386.
Women working full time made a median $31,858.
Fewer than 5% of the U.S. population makes more than $100,000, according to the bureau. Only one household out of six report a six-figure income, according to the Federal Reserve's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.

We live in a world of fine lines. I think about these fine lines all the time when I think about my imaginary children. We've taught every child in our country that anyone can grow up to be President of the United States, but I think we've forgotten to tell them that only one person actually gets to do it at a time.

Getting rich takes effort. It either takes a boatload of sacrifice and savings, or it takes extreme ambition and hard work. It's something you have to earn. That's why lottery winners usually end up right back where they started. It's why people like M.C. Hammer end up broke. If you don't get rich the old-fashioned way, you're less likely to understand what it means.

I plan to teach my imaginary kid to be old-fashioned.
And, as much as I enjoyed the movie, my kids won't be Fight Club kids.

Posted by Sarah at 08:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 08, 2007

OPENING MY MIND...OR TRYING TO

I started reading The Closing of the American Mind with rapt attention. I was gasping out loud through the first segment. The second segment got me bogged down a little bit in Socrates and Nietzsche, but I suppose I merely proved the author's point, that college students are no longer given a basic understanding of philosophy and thought. Touché, Bloom, I had a hard time with that segment. I'm wrapping up the third segment now, and I noticed the parallels between what I am reading in the book and this article, Idiot Compassion:

The world, viewed through the liberal's gray colored, politically-correct glasses, makes no discerning judgments, or at least incorrect ones. Hence, we get addle-brained protesters picketing to save the lives of serial killers on death row or human shields willing to give up their lives to protect suicide bomber cults and Islamic terrorists. Since all killing is bad, it must be bad to kill Islamic terrorists or convicted murderers. This idiot view, foregoes the greater good and lapses into solipsism.

I also found an interesting tidbit that would've come in handy when an old friend told me my anger made me no better than Mohammad Atta and that I should read some Gandhi:

The biographies of the Buddha reveal that in one of his early incarnations, he met a murderer of 1000's of men. Acting correctly and with compassion for all sentient beings, the Buddha's incarnation killed the murderer to prevent additional suffering. That is true compassion!

Last week when I was reminiscing, I also found an old email from Bunker in which he was flipping through Plato's Republic and thought I might want to give it a try. That dovetails nicely with The Closing of the American Mind, and so I might have to sit down with a little Plato and see if I can make myself smarter.

Posted by Sarah at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 27, 2007

WAR AND PEACE

I found a new blog today called The Shield of Achilles. He had a link to the story behind his blog's name, which comes from the design on Achilles' shield in The Illiad:

The engravings include two cities, one at peace and one at war. In the city at Peace, a man had been murdered, and an argument was ensuing over payment of blood-money. In the city at war, besiegers were divided over either sacking the city, or allowing it to pay a tribute for peace. Among other messages, one was clear: Times of War and Peace are both filled with conflict. Moreover, wartime is not always evil and peacetime is not always virtuous; while there is suffering in War, there is also courage, heroism and honor, and during times of Peace there is still murder, cowardice, and greed. Even people negotiating Peace sometimes have self-serving aims.

This is just genius. What a fabulous name for a blog.

One thing that has always frustrated me is the naive idea people have that war is the opposite of peace. All the people who want to Bring the Troops Home Now seem to think that if there's not officially a war going on, then there will be peace. But peace for whom? Before we went into Iraq in 2003, there was not peace in Iraq. There was no peace for Adnan Abdul Karim Enad, the man who tried to climb in Hans Blix's car to escape Iraq. There was no peace for the children who filled jails or the folks who went through a plastic shredder. There was no peace for the women raped by Uday or the families gassed by Saddam. Just because we weren't there, it doesn't mean everyone was flying kites and eating gumdrops.

Conversely, there's no "war" going on in North Korea or Zimbabwe, but I'm not sure I'd want to live in their "peace" either. France is at peace, but that doesn't help you if your car is set on fire during the night. And peace didn't do much for Pim Fortuyn either.

There will always be terrible, awful, inhumane, horrific things going on in the world. Most of them don't fall neatly under the bumper-sticker label of war. There is no such thing as peace; there's just calms between the storms.

Posted by Sarah at 10:43 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 23, 2007

THE KNIFE CYCLE

At the Milblogs Conference, Andi decided to kill me with her first question. I was expecting softballs, and instead I got a fastball at the head. She quoted an old blog post back to me, and I swear that for the first ten seconds of her speaking, I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't recognize the writing as my own, and I completely panicked. As she read the very end of the post, I finally figured out what I had written, and then I had two seconds to react. I think I reacted poorly, so I'd like to revisit the question here.

Andi wanted to know what was going through my head when I wrote about this:

My husband's visible discomfort that he might not have another opportunity to put to use all he learned in Iraq, all he has digested and mulled over for two years, stands in stark contrast to the Iraqi quoted in this article:

What was I going to wait for that would keep me on the force? said Mohammed Humadi, a police captain who quit in August after one of his commanders was killed and beheaded. Nothing was going to get any better. I have children, and if I were to sacrifice myself, it wouldnt change anything.

I struggle daily with the two opposing camps of the War in Iraq: those who say that the US has no business trying to set up a utopia halfway across the world, and those whose idealism bubbles over into dreams of playing Iraq in the World Cup. But the one thing I do know is that it's a knife in my heart that my husband would give his life for Iraq while this Iraqi would not.

I've had this feeling several times over the years, most notably one year after Saddam's statue came down. I wrote about the knife in my heart much more eloquently that year:

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 felt the knife again when I saw protestors in Pakistan carrying a sign saying "Our religion does not allow unconditional freedom of speech."

The past five years have been a cycle of conviction and doubt.

I read this comments section today at Standing By, and I don't know what to say. I don't want to argue for or against the war anymore; it's just my job to help my husband as he fights it. The fact that he still wants to fight it speaks volumes to me. He's the one who's worked with Iraqis. He's the one who's been to Najaf. He's the one who has to work on cultural cross-breeding. I will defer to his opinion on this matter in nearly every case.

But the knife in the heart comes in the cold sweat of realizing that his convictions could someday take his life. The perspective comes when I realize that it's better to lose his life to convictions than to cancer, car crashes, or crap.

I struggle. I think that's jarring for some people because they want me to remain this caricature of a warmonger. The times when I express doubt about the war are the times I get the most comments from anti-war types, chipping away at my armor or jeering me for setting down my flag when my arms get tired of waving. But I'm a normal human being who thinks about issues, not just some automaton who does whatever Karl Rove says. I actually think about this war, and some days I feel stronger than others.

I assume the Iraqis do too, which is why it's not always fair to cherry-pick things to doubt.

I figure I may never know the lasting effect of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I could be long gone before we really know the legacy of the War on Terror. But I can hope, hope my husband's work will bear fruit.

And doubt some days too.

Posted by Sarah at 10:47 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 19, 2007

NOT GROKKING

I don't understand the illegal immigrant issue.

Who is it who's arguing for illegals to stay here and get citizenship? And why do they matter? What does amnesty do for the US? Does it improve our relationship with Mexico? If so, why do we care? Does it improve our relationship with legal Hispanics? I thought many of them poll against amnesty.

What is the reason we haven't built that fence yet and that we've got an amnesty bill in Congress right now?

I'm serious here; I really don't grok.

Neal Boortz says it's the votes, stupid. He thinks that both parties are racing to be the one who helps illegals so that when they can vote, they'll vote for the party that got them in. Boortz is an awful cynical guy, but is that right? Is that the reason our elected officials are acting like fools?

I don't think the American public as a whole supports amnesty. John Hawkins found out that a mayor in Pennsylvania who's running on a strict anti-illegal platform won both the Republican nomination and the Democrat write-in! He got 94% of the Republican vote. I think the American people want that fence built and they want our existing laws to be upheld.

So what's the deal with our politicians then?

Posted by Sarah at 10:06 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 13, 2007

TRAFFIC

I arrived in L.A. on Friday and after a lovely lunch with CaliValleyGirl's family, we were off to San Diego. The Garmin said it was 110 miles. "Cool, we'll be there plenty early," I thought.

I never used to understand Crazy Aunt Purl's blog posts about traffic. Now I do. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Where I come from, miles and minutes are easily linked; here there is no such connection, save the fact that miles equal a boatload of minutes.

110 miles took us four hours. Seriously.
I now can crack up at all these posts about L.A. traffic.

Posted by Sarah at 05:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 08, 2007

ANGELS

When I arrived at the hotel on Friday, I had to wait because our room was in CaliValleyGirl's name and she wasn't in DC yet. I sat in the lobby and soon became surrounded by folks I learned were also there for the conference. Turns out they were all Soldiers' Angels.

Over the course of the weekend, I learned more about this organization than I'd known before. Sure, I'd participated in some healthy inter-service rivalry for Valour-IT, but I really didn't know a whole lot about the people involved. Holy cow, are these people amazing.

I have one soldier to take care of; these people take care of all of the rest of them. The extent of their service to others is just staggering. I have to take care of my husband, but these people take care of hundreds of troops they've never met. Unreal.

I was so excited to see a Soldiers' Angels pin in my goody bag for the weekend. And today I went and signed up to be on the Cards Plus Team. Writing cards, now that seems like something I'd be pretty good at (see previous post)!

Also, I was terribly excited to hear that Soldiers' Angels and Sew Much Comfort will soon be available on the Combined Federal Campaign list. I can't wait to make donating to these guys a monthly no-brainer.

A lot of you might be like I was: naturally I had heard of Soldiers' Angels and knew they were doing great work, but until I saw them in action, heard Chuck Z talk about how they changed his life, and shook hands with these selfless folks, I didn't fully grok what they do. Maybe I can transfer some of my enlightenment to you. Please, please at least hit 'em up with five bucks. They truly deserve it.

Posted by Sarah at 01:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 30, 2007

CONSERVE

Here's an excellent Cold Fury post about "putting the conserve back into conservative." It is the most sensible argument for going a little green I've ever read. My husband and I love to play the Stick It To Chavez Game. Every time we buy a new lightbulb or purchase a car, we try to imagine which choice would hurt Chavez the most. And if we save the environment a little along the way, all the better.

Posted by Sarah at 08:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

IF ONLY IT WERE SO

I finished Victor Davis Hanson's awesome The Soul of Battle last night. This is how the book ends, in the epilogue called "The End of the Democratic Marches?" published in 1999:

Had Epaminondas led the Allies in Desert Storm, he would have set up new defensible societies for the Kurds and Shiites, and held of the Iraqi Army until both cultures were safe from retribution. Sherman would have preferred to cut a swath through Iraq, leveling every one of Saddam's "palaces," torching his munitions factories and the entire industrial infrastructure of his war-mkaing, and destroying for good measure the homes of the Baath party elite, who should learn the wages of supporting a murderer. Patton, of course, would have headed straight for the Iraqi capital and not left until the Republican Guard was annihilated and Saddam Hussein was dead or in chains.
[...]
The great danger of the present age is that democracy may never again marshal the will to march against and ultimately destroy evil. In the era of television, the image of war's brutality in our living rooms may stop the attack; the education system of the present, with its interest in self-esteem, sensitivity, and the therapeutic, may not turn out sufficiently idiosyncratic audacious -- and well-read -- leaders; and instant communications may serve to bridle a mobile column at its moment of victory. But even a greater peril still in present-day democratic society is that we may simply have forgotten that there finally must be a choice between good and evil, that the real immorality is not the use of great force to inflict punishment, but, as the Greeks remind us, the failure to exercise moral authority at all. When men like Epaminondas, Sherman, and Patton go to war to stop evil and to save lives, there is a soul to their battle that lives on well after they are gone.

As Clinton said, Think about that the next time you're high.

Posted by Sarah at 07:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 08, 2007

THANK YOU

I got an off-the-record email from a reader whose job involves working on some next-generation equipment for the military, and I realized that we military families don't do enough to thank these people for all their hard work. My husband gets all the glory for his service to our great country, but these men and women working in research and design do the very unsexy job of testing equipment that will save my husband's life. And we never thank them, never make Budweiser commercials clapping for them in the airport, never give it a moment's notice that these people work long hours to figure out how to shave just one more pound off of the IBA without sacrificing quality.

We owe them our thanks.

If you're out there, if you read my blog and you work in the industry that makes this war machine possible, I thank you. From the depths of my heart. Your work makes my husband's work possible. You keep him safe. You keep our country safe. We need to remember you more often.

Here's a booming HOOAH! from this Army wife to those who make it possible.

Posted by Sarah at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2007

THE SOUL OF BATTLE

Here's what I want to know: Why do I live on an Army post named after a Confederate douche instead of the real hero of the Civil War?

You'll perhaps remember that my husband took on the task of speaking for Sherman at our last duty station. He has read much about this great man, including Victor Davis Hanson's The Soul of Battle. I sat down with this book a couple of weeks ago, forcing myself to slog through Hanson's offhanded knowledge of ancient Greece in order to learn about Epaminondas. (If Hanson says he's worth knowing about, then it's worth muddling my brain with B.C. timelines and maps of Peloponnese.) But what I really wanted was to get to page 123 and start The March to the Sea. I haven't been disappointed.

It has given me great pleasure not only to learn about Sherman but to see the passages my husband highlighted in the book, to see Sherman through his eyes and know what impresses him as a soldier. And to read about Sherman and smile, seeing at times a reflection of my husband.

What a good book. And I haven't even gotten to Patton yet.

(There's a blogger out there who speaks far more eloquently about Sherman than I ever could...)

Posted by Sarah at 05:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NEWSPEAK

Hey, did you hear? The Global War on Terrorism is over. Done. Finished.
[smacks dust of her hands]
Now what?
Oh, that's right...keep fighting a, um, global war on, um, terrorism.

I don't even know why they'll bother teaching my husband Farsi; they may as well just teach everyone Newspeak.

Posted by Sarah at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

WORTH THE EFFORT

I don't know who out there will take my advice and read this blog, but hopefully at least one of you will. I have just sat here for an hour and a half catching up on the neo-neocon's forty-year journey. Is someone out there interested in doing the same? You'll have to set aside time, for you'll need lots of it, but the journey is far worth the effort. Imagine you're reading a book instead of a blog! Grab coffee or cocoa and get comfy. Hit the link, scroll to the bottom, and begin the still-unfolding journey from Vietnam protester to neocon.

Posted by Sarah at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT IS SO?

I watched James Cameron's The Lost Tomb of Jesus the other day, and I found myself fairly convinced by what I was hearing. But at the same time, something nagging in the back of my mind made me feel like I was being led down the garden path. I was taken in by the statistical data presented, thinking that it seemed more than just coincidental. But then I read this article in Scientific American called "Has James Cameron Found Jesus's Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?", and now I don't know what to think.

I don't really have a dog in this race. Whether or not those are really Jesus' bones has no effect on how I have chosen to live my life and what kind of person I want to be. I just want to know the truth and not be manipulated.

The problem with documentaries is that the documentarian always has something he wants his viewers to see. The process is inherently manipulative. James Cameron thinks they're Jesus' bones, so he will present evidence that supports that conclusion. Similarly, Al Gore thinks man is causing global warming, and Michael Moore thinks George Bush is evi, so they present evidence of the sort. But I know for a fact that someone could make a documentary showing that dogs are vicious, dangerous beasts. String together footage of snarling pit bulls, stories of children who've been mauled by dogs, and a reenactment of the time my neighbor's yellow lab bit me in the butt cheek, and a documentarian could convince someone who's never been around dogs that they're nasty creatures. That doesn't necessarily make it so.

I don't care if the ossuary belonged to the Jesus or not; I'm not sure what would change if we ever could figure it out, and I don't even really think we can figure it out. The inscription doesn't say Jesus The Messiah, The Guy We Were All Talking About In The Bible with a stick figure being crucified, so it's not so easy to be sure. But I also don't want someone to use math to manipulate me.

Math is too precious to be cheapened that way. Come to think of it, so are Jesus' bones.

Posted by Sarah at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2007

SHE GROKS

If you haven't seen Pamela Hess' interview yet, you must devote nine minutes to watching this video. She's a reporter who went to Iraq to figure out how our servicemembers could possibly have such high morale. She never expected the lesson she learned.

Now she groks.

It is this understanding she's gleaned from Iraq that drives my husband and others to yearn to return to Iraq. My husband will most likely be deploying next year, and that's not soon enough for him: he asked me if he could volunteer to go this fall instead. He aches to go back before it's too late, before there's a drawdown or before President Clinton yanks us out of there. He feels like he's running out of time to get back there and help, and it's killing him. I told him that I understand, but that he's slated for language training and he would be a whole lot more useful if he did that first before he deployed.

(Ha -- People kept telling me there's no 100% safe time to have a baby in the Army; my husband's trying to purposely deploy during the nine months we've set aside. Our breeding plans aren't safe from his convictions!)

Pamela Hess managed to grok what fuels our troops. Let's spread her story.

Posted by Sarah at 09:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 21, 2007

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE HORSESHIT?

Whenever I think about global warming predictions, I can't help but remember Michael Crichton's Analogy of the Horses:

Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.

I've always thought there was a solution to global warming that we can't even fathom yet. Some energy source that will become so cheap and so available that we won't need oil and won't even remember when we relied on it. We'll scoff at oil the way we scoff at horses.

My husband is waiting for Mr. Fusion. Maybe we're closer than we think?

SCI-FI to SCI-FACT: Plasma Converter

I'd love to think that someday our discussions of oil and landfills will be moot. I have faith in science and capitalism to make that dream a reality.

Posted by Sarah at 09:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

CURRENT EVENTS

Over the weekend, I read a section of our local paper that reported on a fifth-grade school project. The children were asked to add one amendment to the Constitution. I was struck by two things: 1) how awful some of the ideas were and 2) how parrot-like others seemed. Lowering the voting age to 15, forcing people to recycle, and abolishing racism are just silly. I haven't spent much time with 11 year olds, so maybe I'm delusional in thinking they're capable of deeper thoughts than that. Surely they can understand basic concepts that make outlawing war and mandating jobs for everyone just not feasible. Right? Oh, who am I kidding: I fully expect my child to exit the womb with the mind of a 30 year old. This is really going to be rough for me.

But some of the more shocking amendments showed me just how much kids partially understand what's going on around them. One fifth grader came up with "Before the president can send troops into a war, he has to have a plan. And he has to share it with the country on CNN." Think she came up with that one on her own? Or the kid who said "Change the use of oil to corn juice. There's too much global warming now." Corn juice. He has gleaned something from the debate around him, but not enough to understand the subject. Thank heavens 15 year olds aren't voting.

Is it too much to ask that I'd hope that my kid would write "The Constitution should only be amended in extreme cases, never at the whim of fifth graders"? And that he could still get an A for that answer?

I started thinking about my imaginary kid and what I'd like his answer to be, and whether it'd make the paper, and how I'd blog about how proud I am of him. And then I realized that's 12 years from now, and how could I possibly still be blogging then...

Varifrank wrote today about how he's ending his blog as we know it. I've felt this was coming for a long time, not just from him but from everyone. How much longer will we all still want to hash out current events in this forum?

I, for one, don't see myself blogging in 12 years.

Posted by Sarah at 09:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 19, 2007

SELFLESS SERVICE

On Valentine's Day, my husband reminded me that it was exactly three years ago that he left for Iraq. I can't believe how time flies. I told him that I was happy he wasn't leaving again this Valentine's Day, and he got a bittersweet look on his face and said, "I'm not..."

When people like Rangel and Murtha and Kerry say that the only reason people are in Iraq is because they can't get a better job, I wish they could meet people like my husband. There are soldiers like my husband who grieve at not being in Iraq. There are soldiers waiting for the day they can get out of Walter Reed so they can get back to their unit. They are not stupid, and it's not bloodlust either; they just take their Army values seriously.

He started his training this week, but so far they've just done the boring stuff like PT tests and jumping out of planes. My husband has qualified to learn Arabic or Farsi, so hopefully he'll get assigned one of those and he can get to work at being all he can be.

Did I mention I'm the luckiest wife in the world?

Posted by Sarah at 09:51 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 14, 2007

WOW

I don't know how I missed this a month ago, but CaliValleyGirl pointed out the words from the MySpace of a soldier killed in Iraq. I really recommend reading what 2LT Daily had to say if you haven't already.

Posted by Sarah at 04:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007

RECYCLING

The German government charges the American armed forces for every pound of garbage that they dispose of, but they charge less for recycled materials than refuse. So, in an effort to reduce my "economic footprint" and save Uncle Sam some money, I dutifully washed plastic and cans and recycled every scrap of trash I could. I think my neighbors and friends thought that I was an Environmental Nut, but really I was just ticked that my government had to pay money to another government for my banana peels. Thus I breathed a huge sigh of relief when our plane landed back in the US so I could stop with the recycling nonsense. I haven't washed a piece of trash since.

LGF posted a Penn and Teller clip on the myths and complete bunk we've been fed for decades about the recycling movement. I highly recommend watching this show. There's a definite foul langage warning though, so maybe don't watch it while your kids toddle in and out of the room.

Now excuse me while I go put that empty Jim Beam bottle in the trash can.

Posted by Sarah at 10:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 09, 2007

"IT'S NOT IRONIC. IT'S JUST COINCIDENTAL."

Via RWN via Polipundit:
Police chief's pick stuns black leaders: Whitman names Hispanic to head special operations

It doesn't get any more karmic than this, folks. The Black Police Officers Association is furious that a qualified black woman was passed over for a qualified Hispanic. There aren't any Hispanics in leadership yet, so this was affirmative action at its definition. But because it was at the expense of a black candidate, it's "a travesty."

This is what happens when skin color is allowed to matter more than who can best do the job. I have no idea who would be the best division chief here, but when it becomes more important to have a collector's set of races in leadership rather than actually valuing, uh, leadership, then we're all screwed.

MORE:

An excellent comment on Polipundit's post:

Diversity?

I have searched for a long time to find out what the value of diversity is per se and I have never had an answer. It has been like Diogenes walking the street of Athens looing for an honest man.He emphasized the point by walking with a lantern in daylight.

Presumably diversity broadens an outlook by exposing people to other perspectives etc. I have never seen this to be the case. Outside of cuisine what do most people know or care about China or any other culture. There are people of course who know all about specific facets of a culture such as the mosaics on Persian rugs, ceramics from India, etc. But the vast majority of people know little and care less and I dont see them in anyway impoversied emotionally, physically, or spiritually.

I always mocked the denizens from NYC who claimed to be cultured as contrasted to the rubes from Middle America or from anywhere in New York State north of Poughkipsee. Their idea of culture was to be able to claim to be from NYC wherein you will find museums, opera houses, etc. They never spent an afternoon contemplating a Van Gogh etc.

You wont learn anything new about physics, chemistry, geography, etc from diversity and most moral codes are the same the world over. The great aspect of America is that diversity becomes blunted when one becomes an American. It was always this way and being an American was something to brag about and not something to be hyphenated.

The old days were better. Straight ahead

Posted by Sarah at 09:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2007

CONCERN

Apparently Muslims are mad that the terrorists in the new season of 24 are Muslims:

Watching the shows characters talk about detonating a nuclear weapon a few blocks from where she works unnerved Sireen Sawaf, an official with the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council, and a self-described huge 24 fan.

Its a great show, and I do realize its a multidimensional show that portrays extreme situations, she said. They have gone out of their way to have non-Muslim terror cells. But Im concerned about the image it ingrains in the minds of the American public and the American government, particularly when you have anti-Muslim statements spewing from the mouths of government officials.

Yeah, well I was concerned in Season 2 that the terrorist was not the Arab guy but his rich white girlfriend, because that's oh-so-likely. I'm concerned that portraying terrorists as Rachel Corries makes me have to take my shoes off more often at the airport. Pretending that terrorism comes in all shapes and colors concerns me because I think it's a red herring from the real issue. But my concerns don't get to be quoted in any newspaper articles.

You know, a terrorist was found in my hometown of Peoria. Guess what? He was Muslim. So was the professor in Florida. Maybe the official from the Muslim Public Affairs Council should be more concerned about the damage real terrorists are doing to her people's reputation and less concerned with Jack Bauer's neverending day.

More concern with this

9_11_pic.jpg

less concern with this

behrooz.jpg

Posted by Sarah at 08:45 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 25, 2006

THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

Lileks writes about Kurt Gerstein today and warns that it's "not exactly holiday reading." But he hints that it is, and I'll take it one step further. We don't have kids. We don't have any family or friends here to celebrate with. We don't even have a tree up. So what does Christmas mean without all that? It means being thankful for all the blessings you have, and what better way to do that than to think about how absolutely worse life could be.

I heard Glenn Beck on the radio a few weeks ago saying something I haven't been able to get out of my head. He was talking about the so-called War on Christmas and how people get all bent out of shape about whether the Seattle Airport has any trees in the lobby. He said that these people are entirely missing the point about Christmas. He said that we can't even understand Thanksgiving -- that we've reduced it to food and football -- so if we can't even understand Thanksgiving, how can we possibly begin to understand the true meaning of Christmas?

What he said really got to me. Christians survived communism, a fate far worse than drama about airport decorations. People have been persecuted and killed for their beliefs, and they certainly didn't need a tree or presents to understand what Christmas means. People who truly believe in the meaning of Christmas don't need an airport tree to make them feel Christmassy, and they don't need to whine about any War on Christmas.

We don't need the trappings of Christmas to have the Christmas spirit in our hearts. But we do need the Kurt Gersteins, the deployed soldiers, the stories that remind us that all our bitching and moaning about where the tree should be placed or how long the lines are in the stores is really and truly absurd.

Read the story of Kurt Gerstein. And then wipe away the tears and think about how good your life is. And enjoy your Christmas, with our without a tree.

Posted by Sarah at 10:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 24, 2006

FAR OLDER THAN THEIR YEARS

On this Christmas Eve, be thankful for the men and women who serve our country, many of whom are too young to even rent a car...

Posted by Sarah at 02:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

ANNOYED

What I love most about being home from Germany is that I can get things done in the morning. I can get up and make it to Walmart before the majority of shoppers do so I don't have to battle the crowds. I love that I can grocery shop at 0700 instead of waiting until 1000 at the commissary.

So this morning we ran to Walmart to try to beat the Christmas crowd because we needed a few groceries and because when we plugged our four-year-old phone into the wall, it started smoking. Hence, a replacement was in order. We got everything we needed and headed for the self check-out. And as I rang my items out, the big red light started flashing and I needed customer assistance.

I had committed the unforgivable sin of trying to buy Miller High Life before noon on a Sunday.

Look, we come from the heart of the Bible belt, and I have never had to think about these ridiculous and archaic liquor laws before. For the first few years of my drinking life, I lived in the state with the loosest laws and the smallest alcohol taxes. It never even crosses my mind that we can't buy something until I walk into a dry Walmart in Kentucky and wonder where the booze aisle is. Apparently you can't buy hard liquor anywhere in this danged country except for designated liquor stores, which always manage to be closed when you need booze (like Thanksgiving). And you can't even buy the soft stuff when you're supposed to be in church, I guess.

Talk about meddling.

I kinda think that if I want to get sloppy drunk at daybreak on Sunday, that's my own business. Why do we still have laws that are related to the sabbath? Shouldn't some hardcore separation of church and state folks be in a wad about this? I'm a little steamed that if my husband wants to have a Christmas Beer, we have to drive back out to the store later in the afternoon. Maybe we should just set ourselves up like Sweden, where you can't even pick the stuff out yourself and instead have to take a number and then tell the clerk to bring you a case of beer. Good heavens, can't we be responsible for anything ourselves, even our drinking habits?

I'm gonna go downstairs and drink a shot of something just for spite! It's early Sunday morning and I'm drinking! Mwahahaha.

Posted by Sarah at 09:36 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 11, 2006

STRUGGLE

My post from yesterday should not be seen as giving up or wanting out of Iraq or thinking we shouldn't have been there in the first place. This War on Terror is full of conflicting views for me. Well, not exactly conflicting, but complex for sure. No matter how freaking backwards I think Islam is and how often I think that these people don't deserve our blood to be shed to set them free, it's not really about that. This offensive war was started as defense, because they're the ones who wanted to kill us first. That's what I have to keep reminding myself when I wish they'd all just feck off and sharia themselves to death. I can't remember where I read/heard this recently, but someone smarter than I said that this war in Iraq is not like Vietnam because when we left Vietnam, we left our involvement with them altogether, but if we leave Iraq, it affects us. The result of what happens in Iraq deeply affects the United States. And that's why we can't let this be a Vietnam. We can't just wash our hands and go home, not only because it would be absolutely shameful for us to do that to Iraq again, but because this war is far bigger than Iraq. People scoff when talking heads say we fight there so we don't have to fight here, but if we left Iraq now, it would surely come back to bite us later.

And so I struggle, with wanting all men to be free, with hating absolutely everything about Islam, with feeling outraged that my husband is trying to get a job so he can help people who clearly don't want to be helped, and with knowing that in the end none of that matters. All that matters is that we win this. That we crush the fighting spirit in Islam that makes them think that they're winning. We have to. Period.

Posted by Sarah at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 06, 2006

OTHER PEOPLE'S INTERESTS

I'm with Lileks on this one: I like hearing about people's jobs. I guess soldiers must have massive experience with wives not being interested in their shop talk, because they always apologize for talking about it. But I love it. I want to know what people do, especially if it's something I know nothing about. My father has been in heating and cooling since college, and only recently have I started to understand what he does. I had the good fortune of being home on vacation on the night he taught a class on load estimating. He thought I was doodling the whole time; I was actually taking notes. And asking him questions in the car on the way home.

In fact, this desire to learn about other people's jobs was the source of my latest knitting project. One of my friends in Germany taught me binary code, which prompted me to make this:

binary.JPG

With light blue being 1 and dark blue being 0, the bag says 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100111, or "my bag". Oh, and the handle says 01001001 00100000 01110010 01110101 01101100 01100101, or "I rule".

Binary is awesome. I'm so glad my friend taught me.

Posted by Sarah at 10:24 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 02, 2006

DEMOCRACY

Long ago I wondered if we're born with our politics or if we learn them. I still think about this a lot. But now I've thought of a new twist: If I had been born a Muslim, would I embrace Islam or democracy? Some Muslims break away from their religion -- like Ibn Warraq or Nonie Darwish -- but many accept the worldview they were born into as the only way to live their lives. It's very 1984 to me; I can never put my finger on why someone would want to live under sharia when they know democracy exists.

Andrew McCarthy:

Islamic countries, moreover, are not rejecting Western democracy because they havent experienced it. They reject it on principle. For them, the presidents euphonious rhetoric about democratic empowerment is offensive. They believe, sincerely, that authority to rule comes not from the people but from Allah; that there is no separation of religion and politics; that free people do not have authority to legislate contrary to Islamic law; that Muslims are superior to non-Muslims, and men to women; and that violent jihad is a duty whenever Muslims deem themselves under attack no matter how speciously.

These people are not morons. They adhere to a highly developed belief system that is centuries old, wildly successful, and for which many are willing to die. They havent refused to democratize because the Federalist Papers are not yet out in Arabic. They decline because their leaders have freely chosen to decline. They see us as the mortal enemy of the life they believe Allah commands. Their demurral is wrong, but it is principled, not ignorant. And we insult them by suggesting otherwise.

Democratizing such cultures in anything we would recognize as democracy is the work of generations. It is a cultural phenomenon. It is not accomplished by elections and facile constitution writing especially, constitutions that shun Madisonian democracy for the State Departments preferred establishment of Islam and its adhesive sharia law as the state religion.

Having just read about the Constitutional Convention in my A Pocket History of the United States, I simply can't wrap my brain around this.

Posted by Sarah at 07:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

THE CHANGING HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

When I got those used books at Goodwill, I got an old copy of A Pocket History of the United States. Since I had been looking for a refresher, how could I pass up one for 50 cents? But there was another interesting aspect to this book: it was written in 1942. Before the PC era. So it's un-PC without specifically trying to be un-PC like more recently written books do. It's both strangely refreshing and extremely jarring to read things like "It was fortunate for the white settlers that the Indians of North America were too few and too backward to be a grave impediment to colonization. ... Armed only with the bow and arrow, the tomohawk, and the war club, and ignorant of any military art save the ambush, they were ordinarily no match for well-accoutured and vigilent bodies of whites." No one talks like that anymore! It's an interesting way to read history.

One of the things that has struck me most about this book so far is the preface. Written in 1942, it rings of patriotism and pride. It's worth it to me to type the whole thing out because rarely do we get to read something like this about our own country. (Please stick with me; I know big blocks of quoted text can make my eyes swim too):

America emerged out of obscurity into history only some four centuries ago. It is the newest of great nations, yet it is in many respects the most interesting. It is interesting because its history recapitulates the history of the race, telescopes the development of social and economic and political institutions. It is interesting because upon it have played most of this great historical forces and factors that have molded the modern world: imperialism, nationalism, immigration, industrialism, science, religion, democracy, and liberty, and because the impact of these forces upon society is more clearly revealed in its history than in the history of other nations. It is interesting because, from its earliest beginnings, its people have been conscious of a peculiar destiny, because upon it have been fastened the hopes and aspirations of the human race, and because it has not failed to fulfill that destiny or to justify those hopes.

The story of America is the story of the interaction of an Old World culture and a New World environment, the early modification of the culture by environment, and the subsequent modification of the environment by the culture. The first European settlers in America were not primitive men, but highly civilized, and they transplanted from their homeland a culture centuries old. Yet the United States was never merely an extension of the Old World: it was, what its first settlers anticipated and its founding fathers consciously planned, something new in history. The unconquered wilderness confronting the pioneer from the Atlantic to the Pacific profoundly modified inherited institutions and gave rise to wholly new institutions, and the intermixture of peoples and races modified inherited cultures and created, in a sense, a completely new culture. The new United States became the most ambitious experiment ever undertaken in the deliberate intermingling of people, in religious toleration, economic opportunity, and political democracy--an experiment perhaps still under way.

European historians and commentators, admitting readily enough the substantial virtues of the American people and the value of their political experiments, long asserted that American history was nevertheless colorless and prosaic. It is, on the contrary, dramatic and picturesque, and cast in heroic mold. There are few parallels in modern history to the drama of the swift expansion of small and scattered groups of people across a giant continent, the growth of a few struggling colonies into a continental nation of fifty states, or the spread of a new culture and of new social and economic practices so swiftly to the four quarters of the globe.

Makes your heart swell, huh? That was written by Nevins and Commager, the authors of the book. That was the United States in 1942. And then something happened, something that changed our nation forever. I don't exactly know what it is. My husband and I wonder about it often, why it is that WWII was the last justified war, why the Greatest Generation receives a praise no longer given to men, why no one speaks of the United States being "cast in heroic mold" any longer.

Nevins passed away before the updated edition of the book, so Commager wrote the preface alone in 1976. See for yourself what happened to the United States between these editions.

The first edition of this history was written at the beginning of World War II and was designed to present and interpret the American historical record not only to the English-speaking world, but also to the peoples of all nations who were interested in the evolution of the first constitutional and first democratic society at a time when both constitutionalism and democracy were in mortal peril. In the thirty-five years since its preparation, it has gone through five revisions and enlargements and has been published in most of the languages of the world.

This sixth edition appears as the United States celebrates or recalls two hundred years of independence. The decade since the last edition has been the most challenging, and perhaps the most sobering, since that of the Civil War and Reconstruction. In its preoccupation with war, its succeptibility to large-scale corruption, and its attack upon the integrity of the constitutional system, it discloses interesting analogies to that earlier decade. Thus, this last decade, too, has been a time of trial and disillusionment. It witnessed on the world stage a meaningless and futile war that did infinite damage to a distant people with whom we had no legitimate quarrel, and did irreparable damage to the social, economic, and moral fabric of our society. It witnessed on the domestic stage the ignominy of Watergate and all its attendant evils. It marked, in a sense, the real end of American innocence--the end of that long era that stretched from the Declaration and the Constitution to the Marshall Plan and the launching of the United Nations, when Americans could consider themselves as in some sense exempt from the truth of History and when they could take for granted that Nature and History permitted them to enjoy higher standards of conduct and of morals than the nations of the Old World could afford to indulge. It marked the end, too, on both the domestic and the international scene, of those concepts of an infinity of land and resources, of geographical and moral isolation, and of a special destiny and a special mission, which had bemused the American mind from Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Whether a United States chastened by experience and matured by failure can adapt herself in the third century of her existence to a new position in the world remains for the future to discover. Clearly she has the capacity to do so: immense natural resources, sound institutions, a proud heritage, and a people as competent to meet challenges and overcome trials as any in the world. There is no reason why she should not emerge from the current crisis more dedicated to the values and potentialities of her Constitution, more ardent in her response to her obligations to be vigilant against usurpations of power, more intelligent in setting the limits on that power, and more magnanimous in its exercise.

This is the same man who wrote the first preface. What happened? What turned him from pride in the greatest nation on earth to words like "meaningless and futile", "irreparable damage", and "chastened by experience and matured by failure"? The first half of our history contained slavery and a Civil War, yet there was no talk in that preface of "attendant evils" or "the end of American innocence." I wasn't alive, I don't understand; what happened to our country in the second half of the last century to make us so ashamed of ourselves?

Why do we measure the greatness of the US from the "Constitution to the Marshall Plan" and resent everything that came after?

The United States is the only place on this forsaken planet I would ever want to live, but we have some serious problems. Why can we no longer see our greatness?

Posted by Sarah at 10:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 26, 2006

BEATING MY HEAD AGAINST THE WALL AGAIN

A few weeks ago I asked what was wrong with our country that women were encouraged to covet Gucci luggage and expensive suits. Today I ask again. I just saw a segment on Fox where they talked about the worst possible Christmas gifts. I watched an "expert" say that the worst thing you can buy for your spouse is something practical. An appliance, something for the house, or even a foot massage bath? All wrong. Jewelry, that's the ticket. No wonder Americans' financial priorities are all out of whack. You know what I'm getting for Christmas? A washer. And my husband's getting a dryer. No jewelry, no gadgets, not even used paperbacks. We're getting practical things because we're adults and we don't need to spend money frivolously just to prove that we're in love. I must be the most horrible wife in the world because I give my husband what he wants for holidays: a contribution to his Roth IRA. I didn't realize that I had to throw money down a hole in order to show my love for him.

Where do they come up with these people who dole out this absurd advice? No wonder everyone in this country is drowning in consumer debt.

Posted by Sarah at 04:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 24, 2006

FYI

P.S. Gravy has always been the bane of my roasted bird existence, but this year we tried Alton Brown's version, made from a white roux instead of just stirring in cornstarch and hoping for the best. I used white wine, stock, and the turkey drippings, and it was wonderful.

Posted by Sarah at 06:28 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 02, 2006

GOOD POINT

Again with the Lileks:

I understand how some are using the gaffe to draw attention to a greater point re: the hard lefts attitudes towards the military, but if that wasnt actually the point Kerry was making then I cant jump on board and affirm the greater point. That smacks of fake-but-accurate.

He has a point, and we'll leave it at that. And just wait and see what happens next week.

Last night I asked my husband if part of being a grown-up means getting an ulcer every two years. I can see why less than half the country cares about voting: it's entirely too stressful to pay attention. Even when your personal choice is a no-brainer (dude, I vote in Missouri), watching the rest of it unfold is torture.

Posted by Sarah at 09:46 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 01, 2006

GEM

Gnat woke up with an earache on Halloween, which led Lileks to write this intensely insightful tidbit:

The school party was off, though, and that was a crushing disappointment. At least she didnt say its not fair. You never know quite how to respond to that. You want them to believe that things are fair and good and happy and full of sparkly unicorn-dust, and your inner Drill Instructor wants to bark Suck it up, half-pint! Theres a whole lot more unfairness rolling down the road and youd best learn how to get out of its way! Now drop and give me 20! Its not fair has an impotent and powerless ring to it, and Im glad she doesnt say it much. I think I drummed just my luck out of her early on, too; that ones poison. Luck is like Communism believe in it if you like, just dont base your actions on it.

My husband and I have begun to talk more and more frequently about how we want to raise our imaginary kids. And this gem of parenting advice -- thrown willy-nilly into The Bleat as only James Lileks can do -- really spoke to me.

My husband loathes people with an external locus of control, people who whine that it's always circumstances or bad luck or fate or someone else's fault that things didn't go their way. We talk constantly about how we can instill personal responsibility in our imaginary kids, and I think this nugget from Lileks is one idea we can keep tucked in our brains for future reference.

Posted by Sarah at 02:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 31, 2006

ELEPHANT

I started this blog as a way to talk about poltics and issues without having to talk to anyone from my Real Life. At that time in my life, I didn't have any friends who think like I do, and I wanted somewhere to vent. Because I would never dream of venting this stuff in public.

So today when I read The Elephant in the Room, I could completely relate.

Judith says that it's usually Democrats who shun Republican friendships, but I have found myself as the shunner before. I have a few friends with whom I can have rational and polite discussions about the war or politics, but I have more than enough experience with those people who Make Pronouncements:

Another thing [Democrats] do which Kornblat doesn't give an example of, but which we all have experienced: They always start political conversations. None of us do. We have learned that no one wants to argue issues on their merits, that the room gets very quiet and unfriendly, that people start screaming at you, or rant the most loopy beliefs and conspiracy theories. We just assume that is not a topic anyone can treat in a dispassionate manner.

But they always provoke political conversations. Well, not conversations, which would be enjoyable and enlightening. They make pronouncements. And look around the room to see if anyone not only doesn't agree, but doesn't agree enthusiastically. As a friend deep in the closet in the theater world put it, you can't just sit quietly and wait for the topic to change. No, you are suspect if you do not vocally endorse the official opinion of the group. You thought you were in a project meeting or a coffee klatch or a dinner party, and all of a sudden it has turned into the Communist Youth League Self-Criticism Session.

There are only so many times I can stomach pronouncements like "Whew, won't it be better when Kerry is president?" or "So can you believe this crap that Bush is pulling?" And it's not easy to be friends with someone who walks into work, slams a copy of Fahrenheit 911 on my desk and says, "You need to watch this so maybe you'll think twice about voting for Bush." And so I end up distancing myself from those people. It's fine to have a friend who's a Democrat, but it's a drag to have a friend who says you're no better than Mohammad Atta. Or a friend who can't even muster up any sympathy that your husband is at war because "well, you started it." Or someone who says your friend with the gaping hole in his torso from an RPG is has been brainwashed into fighting for lies. I don't have much use for people like that in my life.

What's funny is that now the scales have tipped in my life. I don't blog massive rants like I did three years ago because I have more people in my Real Life to talk to about this stuff. And this weekend was unlike anything I've ever experienced: being with a group of people who are even bigger rightwing nutjobs than I am! I spent most of the weekend with my jaw on the floor, and I came home squealing to my husband about all the stuff people had said. It was fun, it was fun to not have to tiptoe around to avoid offending someone. And the lone Democrat in the room got some gentle ribbing and jokes tossed his way, but we all got along marvelously. Common ground and all.

So I can't say I've never shunned, but I certainly am capable of being friends with Democrats. No seriously, I am. I just prefer people who join me in a pretend throw up when I say the name Christiane Amanpour.

Posted by Sarah at 11:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2006

BLESSED

The SpouseBUZZ conference was a success this weekend. I got to meet my fellow bloggers and we had a great connect with the wives at Fort Hood. If you're interested in our discussion, I liveblogged the panels here and here. But one of the most touching things of the weekend happened when I left Texas.

I sat down on my flight home next to a man on a cell phone, whom I initially assumed would be a quiet businessman. But when he hung up, he asked me what I was doing in Texas. And there's this feeling you get in the two seconds after you mention that you're a part of the military, a hold-your-breath feeling where you wait for the person's reaction. It was going to be a long flight, and I didn't want to deal with anything unpleasant. But this situation couldn't have been better.

I was sitting next to George Pearsons, the pastor at Eagle Mountain International Church. He was extremely interested in learning what military families go through. He asked me many questions about what military spouses experience and what we think about various political issues and current events. We talked nonstop for two and a half hours. He told me about a program they have at their church that supports families of military servicemembers called Troops 91, named after Psalm 91. I told him about SpouseBUZZ and encouraged him to let his parishoners know about our website if they're looking for a place to connect while their loved one is deployed.

Right before we landed, he said he wanted to do something special for my family. He gave me a donation on behalf of his church, saying that we should use this money to go to dinner or do something to cherish our precious time together. He said he wanted to give me this money "to bless my family." I couldn't believe how much money he wanted me to take! He wouldn't let me refuse, and we parted ways a little better for having met each other.

As I drove home from the airport, I thought about this money and I realized something: my family is already blessed enough. My husband said the exact same thing when I showed him the money and told him the story. So I hope Pastor Pearsons doesn't mind if I use his church's money to bless some people who probably need it more than we do.

I'm going to donate this money from Eagle Mountain International Church to two organizations that have a connection to SpouseBUZZ. I'll send half to Sew Much Comfort, an organization that makes adaptive clothing for wounded troops. And I'll send the other half to Project Valour-IT, an organization that provides voice-activated laptops to troops whose wounds prevent them from communicating via computer with their loved ones.

Pastor Pearsons blessed me with his money, but what he really blessed me with was his kindness. He was a wonderful listener, a concerned American, and a man who is genuinely interested in understanding how we spouses cope with life in the military. I was blessed to have been in Seat 19E yesterday.


(This post is cross-posted at SpouseBUZZ.)

Posted by Sarah at 02:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 23, 2006

ABOVE MY PAY GRADE

Yesterday I posted food for thought. Today I post the other side of the argument:
If we had known then...
If We Knew Then...

You wanna know what I think? I think I'm not smart enough to know.

I too thought of the idea of hindsight when I read Goldberg's article. Tactical mistakes were made during the Civil War and WWII, yet we look back on those two as wild successes. I just don't know how time will look back on Iraq. Someday when all of this is a short paragraph in a high school history textbook, what will that paragraph say?

I don't have all the answers to the War on Terror. I rely on my husband, who's been in two of the three Axis of Evil countries, to give me his informed opinion. I trust our government has far more information than I could ever have about the situation. And I go with my gut and hope that in the end my gut was right.

That doesn't mean I don't have doubts. I constantly refer to the Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States. I think that has a major bearing on whether democracy can work in the Middle East. Reading LGF does nothing to bolster my confidence. But despite my doubts, I still think that Saddam Hussein had to go.

I've just been feeling lately that I shouldn't talk above my pay grade. And isn't that mostly what blogging is? I don't have any delightful insight that you people need to read. Sure, I have an opinion on the CNN sniper video and Ted Kennedy offering to help the Soviets. But my opinion is nothing you can't read at Blackfive or Cold Fury, respectively. I think the New York Times is crap for their recent whoopsie, I think it's ridiculous to assume there's institutionalized racism at Cracker Barrel, and I think we need to have a serious investigation into Dirt-gate.

But what do I know anyway...

Posted by Sarah at 08:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 10, 2006

ANTI-WAR

Bunker used to wake up at the crack of dawn, so he was almost always the first person to read my posts and comment on them. He was always very encouraging in my quest to grok, and I wish he were here today to help me grapple with this post.

For you see, I just finished reading Flyboys.

I agree with nearly every review I've read that Bradley was a bit clumsy in trying to make the US and Japan equals in barbarity. At least I know I'm not the only one who ruffled at the fact that the first chapter of the book lays out America's "government policy of ethnic cleansing." But in his attempt to be fair and balanced with the war in the Pacific, Bradley did manage to do one thing: make me feel utterly and completely anti-war.

I cried myself to sleep every night I was reading this book. Bradley managed to bring the horrors of war to life in a way I've never quite experienced. Maybe it was the cannibalism that put me over the top. Maybe it was Jimmy Dye's white scarf. Maybe it was the fact that I personally think we're currently fighting an enemy that's more ruthless than the Japanese. But something in this book hit me in the gut, and I can't stop thinking about it.

My husband warned me about writing a post wherein I call myself anti-war. But I said that, if a blog named Trying to Grok isn't a place where I can be honest about my thoughts, then what's the point of writing on it? And so I confess that I see myself as anti-war. Except that anti-war doesn't really mean what the plain-faced words would seem.

I don't mean anti-war in the Sheryl Crow's Sequined T-Shirt way that most people mean when they call themselves anti-war. Most of those people actually mean anti-Bush. And I certainly haven't lost all my brain cells and begun to think that there actually ever could be a world without war either. I know there's no such thing as NO WAR, regardless of how many bumper stickers are printed.

But when you read about POWs having their heads chopped off and then being eaten by the enemy, when you read about the napalm that fell on Tokyo, when you read about the absolutely ghastly things that went on in the Pacific, you all of a sudden can grok a sentence you've heard over and over but never really gave much thought.

War is hell.

Posted by Sarah at 12:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 01, 2006

QUESTION

Go read this post by Hud, because I have a question about it...

If the global warming crowd is denounced as anti-capitalists who want to retard American hegemony, and the non-global warming crowd is denounced as selfish jerks who are ruining the planet, and any and all research being done is funded by someone who has an agenda either way, how on earth can we actually figure out what's going on? How can science be divorced from agenda? Isn't that the whole point of science in the first place? If both sides of the debate are accusing the other of being biased and bought, how can we ever know the truth?

Or can we ever know the truth about what the earth will be like centuries from now?

Posted by Sarah at 08:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 15, 2006

RACE RELATIONS

I've been thinking more about my post from yesterday, and I can't help but think that this simple act of buying a greeting card has encapsulated my view of race relations.

My college roommate (whom I've written about before) was afraid to walk across campus alone because she thought she'd be lynched. I am not making that up. I invited her to a party one night with some of my friends, and she kept asking me if it would be OK and if my friends would think it was weird. The next day, she said how much fun she had had and how accepted she felt. Well, duh. But she said that there was no way on earth that she would've taken me to one of her friends' parties, because none of them would've accepted me. But we white people are supposed to be the racist ones.

I always end up depressed when I watch Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, or other black comedians. I hope it's just schtick, but they seem to roll with the idea that all white people have an inner klansman. That we all secretly hate black people and can't stand to be around them. Well, if we've given any vibes that we don't want to be around them, I believe it's usually because we're scared to death that we'll offend them. In my reality, most white people bend over backwards to never ever ever do anything that could mildly be construed as offensive or racist when there's a Person Of Color in the room. We walk on eggshells to make sure we don't say anything rude. That is what's happening today between the races: white people are scared to death of hurting black people's feelings. That's how two French kids ended up as African-Americans.

You know what the conclusion to my card buying experience was? After I walked away from the rack, I thought that I might like to get another copy of the same card. Good cards are hard to come by, and I always like to have nice ones on hand. I went back to the rack and found a black lady perusing the cards. And I walked away. I was too nervous to walk my sour cream ass up to the Mahogany section and stand side by side with her to pick out cards. I was afraid of what she'd think of me. I was afraid that, rather than having her think "Cool, this white girl thinks it's OK to send a card with a black face on the front", she would wonder why in the hell some white girl has to come into her card section when there's two whole aisles of cards for white people. I think that's what a lot of white people fear these days. I wanted her to think I was cool and hip, but I was afraid that it would backfire and make her dislike white people even more. That's why white people switch off the rap music when they stop at a red light next to a black person. That's why we don't put the collard greens back. We're afraid that the things that could possibly bring us together -- the fact that this woman and I both liked the same greeting cards -- might be used to make us look bad. And so we don't bother to reach out in the first place.

I don't have any idea what it's like to be black, but I know that being white isn't always a piece of cake. We've got a lot of crap floating through our heads every time we encounter a black person, crap that I hope someday we won't have to waste time worrying about.

Posted by Sarah at 12:43 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 14, 2006

HESITATION

I love stationery and cards, so I always spend time looking for just the right thing to send. As I was looking at cards today, I came across one that was really nice. The photo was classy, the words were not schmaltzy, and it was the card I wanted to buy. But I hesitated...and then shrugged it off...and then hesitated again...and then finally bought it. I decided my hesitation would make an interesting question to pose on my blog: Would you think it was weird if your white friend sent you a Mahogany card? Or would you even notice? If you're white, would you buy a Mahogany card? And if you're black, would you send a Mahogany card to a white friend? If I send it, will I look like I'm "trying too hard to not be racist"? And if I don't send it, will I look racist?

So much social commentary surrounding one little card!

Posted by Sarah at 03:31 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

THE BEST 5 MINUTES I SPENT ALL MORNING

LGF found a MEMRI production narrated by Ron Silver called "The Arab & Iranian Reaction to 9/11" that Johnson calls "eye-opening." If you don't have time to sit through 42 depressing minutes of Jew bashing and America hating, let me summarize the first 37 minutes for you: They hate us. But please go over there and at least fast forward to the end of the film. At 36:47, there's a final segment called Reformists. These are the people we want to hear about; these are the Muslim people condemning the conspiracy theories and lamenting that their people were involved in 9/11. Go watch them, and hope there are more of them out there and that they continue to get a voice on Arab television. Be sad that there are 37 minutes of hate-filled voices and only five minutes of sanity, but go listen to those five minutes. They're our only hope.

Posted by Sarah at 10:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

COMMEMORATE

My husband suggested that we commemorate 9/11 by "doing things that would piss bin Laden off." So we had bourbon glazed pork chops for dinner and watched Team America. I drew the line at "wearing a really slutty outfit all day" though.

The internet and television were sad places yesterday. A week ago when I heard some networks were going to rerun their 9/11 coverage, I thought the idea seemed a bit weird. But I must admit that I was glued to MSNBC for hours yesterday morning. First of all, I never saw the real-time coverage five years ago (getting to class on time and all...) Watching the coverage with hindsight was extremely interesting; it was strange to know the exact minute a tower would fall and then wait for Lauer and Couric to notice it. When the second plane hit, all CNN could think was that there must have been a major problem with navigational equipment; no one could even fathom that someone had done this intentionally. So an idea I originally thought was silly turned out to be the best way to mark the anniversary, in my opinion.

I couldn't even begin to read all 2996 tributes; the ones I did read made me too sad to go on. The best part of a tribute I read yesterday? From Uncle Sam Ate My Baby, the blog where I learned about the 2996 project in the first place:

While Mercery Molina hopes that her father’s body will some day be found on the ground, I prefer to think that Manuel didn’t fall to the ground with the World Trade Center but rather that he just stepped up to Heaven from the 110th floor since he was so close anyway and just reached out and took hold of the hand of God.

What a comforting image that is. Also Angie's statement that the color of the sky in New York is "red, white and blue."

But the best 9/11 article ever written still continues to be the one James Lileks wrote in 2002.

And thus as it turns to September 12th, we can forget about 9/11 for another year. Last night my husband remarked how sad it is that people are only patriotic on the 4th of July, in love on Valentine's Day, and mad at terrorists on September 11th. He's right: we should be all of those things every day of the year.

Let's piss Osama off every day.

Posted by Sarah at 08:07 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 11, 2006

THE COLOR OF THE SKY

My high school English teacher burned the first sentence of the Stephen Crane story "The Open Boat" into our brains: "None of them knew the color of the sky." I always think of this story whenever I think of 9/11 because everyone knows the color of the sky on September 11, 2001. It's usually one of the first things a New Yorker will mention.

For many Americans, 9/11 was immediate. But for some of us, busy with grad school 825 miles west of the World Trade Center, 9/11 took a while to sink in. The lessons were slow in coming for someone who had never been to NYC. I'm ashamed now of how self-centered my life seemed back then, when nothing mattered except getting to class on time.

For most Americans, 9/11 is still not over. For some families, the loss of a loved one will never stop hurting. For those who walk around NYC, the empty sky where the WTC stood will always be obvious. For some, the consequences of 9/11 are subtle but very real: the volunteers who are slowly dying from the death they inhaled that day, the children who are growing up without a parent, and the people who survived the WTC, only to be filled with guilt and anguish over living. My cousin survived the fall of the Towers, waking up in a coma weeks later. She's only now starting to put the pieces of her life back together. The effects are subtle indeed.

And for those of us who only knew about 9/11 from the TV or papers, those of us who woke up to The Way The World Is after those attacks, life will never again be about just getting to class on time.

Today, five years later, I wonder what the color of the sky is over New York City.

Posted by Sarah at 07:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

FRANK PALOMBO

The hole left in the earth at the foot of Manhattan is nothing compared to the hole left in our hearts by Frank Palombo's departure from this earth.
--Steve Kennedy

When you sign up for the 2996 Project, you get an out-of-a-hat name and a photo. I stared at that photo a long time before I started my research, trying to get a feel for Frank Palombo.

PalomboFrank.jpg

All I could think about was how old-timey he looked, how he looked like a man from another era. And when I started reading about him, I realized he was a man from another era.

Frank Palombo met his wife when she was nine and he was 14 [1]. Nine years later they went on a date, and there went Frank's plans of joining the priesthood [2]. Their marriage brought ten children.

Ten children.

My heart dropped when I realized how "famous" Frank Palombo is among 9/11 victims. Major Giuliani himself attended Palombo's funeral and told his children, "Nobody can take your daddy away from you, you know that you are the son and daughter of a great man, a hero, a fallen warrior" [3]. New York Giants coach Jim Fassel has given both his money and his time to help raise the ten Palombo children, inviting them to games and eating dinner at their home [4]. But Frank's wife, Jean, doesn't want to be the famous 9/11 family; she turned down an invitation to be on Oprah [5].

I've been so impressed reading about Jean Palombo. She woke up on 9/11 thinking she was pregnant again. But God didn't bring her another baby that day; instead He took her husband. Through it all, she seems to have remained an incredibly strong woman. I want to weep when she describes her family's new life: "The children are happy because of the father they have, but they miss not being able to play with him, not being able to pray with him, not being able to learn with him, and not being able to be with him" [6].

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned yet that he was a firefighter. He was set to retire in January 2002 but instead was one of six firefighters lost from his Ladder.

Look at his photo again. Frank Palombo was a devoted Catholic and public servent. He organized youth group trips to see the Pope [7]. He loved being a father and even wanted more children. He seems more like a Greatest Generation than a Baby Boomer, doesn't he? He was like a man from a simpler time, an older generation that took pride in a strong family and a life of service to others. It's not common to find men like this these days, and I think the world is worse off for losing a man like Frank Palombo.

Remember Frank Palombo today for the simple but full life he led, a life devoted to his faith, family, and fellow men. And remember Jean Palombo and Anthony, Frank Jr., Joseph, Maria, Thomas, John, Patrick, Daniel, Steven, and Margaret Mary.

OTHERS TO REMEMBER TODAY:
Manuel Molina
Vincent Morello
Ramzi Doany
Father Mychal Judge
Mark McGinly
Scott Johnson
Robert Frank Tipaldi
Battalion 1 Chief Matthew Ryan
Chow Kwan Lam
Brian McDonnell
Zhanetta Tsoy
Chip Chan

(If I haven't found your tribute today, please leave me a comment so I can add it.)

Posted by Sarah at 06:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 04, 2006

TALES AND LEGENDS

Yes, Jack Bauer is a fictional character. But what is the purpose of our modern day tales and legends if not moral instruction? Don't we invent heroes because we wish to emulate them in some way, because their exaggerated traits are our ideal? We don't watch 24 because we want Jack to wimp out and take the easy way to appease the enemy; we watch it because we want our inner heroes to strive to measure up to our fictional heroes.

I wrote this a year and a half ago, and I still firmly believe it:

I'm also convinced that Flight 93 would've crashed into the White House or whatever its destination if the passengers on board hadn't been raised on good old fashioned Hollywood movies. If these men and women had never seen Passenger 57 or Air Force One, they might never have thought that they could've overpower the hijackers. One of the men on board even had a Superman tatoo; they were steeped in American culture and taught from day one that they can do anything they put their minds to. I honestly believe this is what brought Flight 93 down in a field instead of in D.C., and I'm ever grateful for the bravery those passengers showed.

But would they have had the guts to do it if they hadn't seen Wesley Snipes do it first?

I'm well aware that life isn't a movie and we don't always get a happy ending. But Fabrizio Quattrocchi had a fiancee and family too, and he still had the courage to defy the enemy. I'm saying I hope I'd do the same. You don't have to agree with me, but don't insult my intelligence by reducing my very serious and heartfelt post into pretending I don't understand the difference between TV death and real death.

Posted by Sarah at 05:49 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

VALUE

From Mark Steyn's newest on Centanni and Wiig:

[F]or the Fox journalists and the Western media who reported their release, what's the big deal? Wear robes, change your name to Khaled, go on camera and drop Allah's name hither and yon: If that's your ticket out, seize it. Everyone'll know it's just a sham.

But that's not how the al-Jazeera audience sees it. If you're a Muslim, the video is anything but meaningless. Not even the dumbest jihadist believes these infidels are suddenly true believers. Rather, it confirms the central truth Osama and the mullahs have been peddling -- that the West is weak, that there's nothing -- no core, no bedrock -- nothing it's not willing to trade.

We saw Jill Carroll on TV yesterday talking about how like totally weird it was to play along with terrorists for three months. How she was introduced to a woman whose goal was to be a suicide bomber, how she constantly reminded her captors that they were such good, wholesome people that they would never hurt her, and how she played their game until she was released.

As we watched, I grew frustrated. I told my husband that I really don't know what the survival instinct is like. Maybe the will to live can make you do things that you swear you wouldn't do when you're sitting comfortably on your sofa. But my husband and I share a thought that comes up every time someone is abducted by jihadists: "I love you more than anything in the world, but we don't negotiate with terrorists." I don't know how Carroll kept a straight face when a pregnant mother of three said she can't wait to give birth so she can become a suicide bomber. Could I play along with that, or would the look of disgust rise on my face and give me away? And is that something I would ever want to play along with even if I could suppress the disgust?

I have never forgotten Fabrizio Quattrocchi, and I keep him as an example of how I hope I would react if I ever found myself in this situation. I hope I'd stand up for what I believe in and show the enemy how an American dies. I'm saddened that Quattrocchi's family wishes he would've played along instead of giving his life for what he believed in. I know it would be far easier for me to give my own life than my husband's; I wept when Ken Bigley's family pleaded for his life because I knew I would not do the same. I wouldn't be invited on TV because they couldn't air the foul things I would have to say to my husband's captors.

I've really gotten into watching the show 24. I can't get enough of Jack Bauer, and I think I've recently come to understand why. Jack Bauer sees the big picture. He is willing to sacrifice anything -- his life or the lives of those he loves -- to do what he thinks is right to protect the US. He does what it takes to stop the enemy because he constantly keeps his eye on that 24th hour. His country matters more to him than anything else, and he's a character I have really grown fond of.

We in the West can't understand how a Muslim woman can hide explosives in her baby's bottle, but I'm starting to understand. They value their religion and way of life over any individual person, the same way Jack Bauer values his country. I hope we have many Jack Bauer Americans out there, because we in the West have to decide if there's anything worth dying for. We need to ask ourselves what we value, and how much. What is our way of life worth to us? Because I don't think we're going to get anywhere in this War on Terror if we can't find a good answer to that question.

Posted by Sarah at 08:12 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

BUSH JOKES

Many people have commented about the episode of Bill Maher's show where Christopher Hitchens gave the audience the finger. But no one has said anything about the other brilliant things Hitchens brought up. Really, I just couldn't get over how danged witty his jabs were; it always took the audience a second to realize they were being ridiculed. You should watch his performance here at The Malcontent.

Maher made joke after joke after joke about how dumb and religious Bush is. Seriously, he beat that horse. And I personally think Hitchens' best bit was getting fed up with it. At about ten minutes into the segment, he said:

I've been on the Jon Stewart show, I've been on your show, I've seen you make about five George Bush IQ jokes per night, there's no one I know who can't do it. You know what I think? This is now the joke that stupid people laugh at. It's a joke that any dumb person can laugh at because they think they're smarter, they can prove they're smarter than the President. Like the people who make booing and mooing noises in your audience.

My husband and I both agree that we will be relieved when Bush leaves office for the simple reason that hopefully we can put an end to the idiot jokes. No matter how many times someone points out that Bush's IQ is in the 90th percentile, probably slightly higher than Kerry's, no matter that Bush has degrees from Harvard and Yale, every yahoo with a computer likes to pretend he's oh so much smarter than Bush. I think Hitchens is right: people like to think Bush is stupid because it makes them feel better about themselves.

But it truly takes a simple man to think himself grand because he can make chimp jokes.

Posted by Sarah at 01:29 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 22, 2006

THE WRONG THING TO READ AT 3 AM

Charlie threw up at 0315, and I couldn't go back to sleep after we cleaned it up. I thought some internet would help, but clicking on this Amritas post in the middle of the night just made my head reel even more.

He says, among many other things:

Instead of focusing on over there, we should remember what we can do here. Specifically, tighten the borders. Minimize Muslim immigration.

But noooo. We want more 'security'. More war in East Ameraq. No attention paid to the Muslims that continue to stream into the West. We whine about the jihadists among them when it's too late - when they're already here - often with citizenship. What does that say about us? We want to be warriors, bravely defending our fortress - while we leave the back door wide open. Why? Because we also want to pat ourselves on the back for being free of bigotry. Aren't we wonderful?

I can't find anything there I don't agree with. Amritas has gradually come to see the war in Iraq as the wrong move, which I can respect because I've followed his thought process, and nowhere did it involve ideas like "no blood for oil" or "Bush is Hitler". Common ground goes a long way. And when I read things like the segment of Diana West's article he quoted, I find myself agreeing:

I wanted to make the world - that part of the world from which terrorism mainly springs - democratic, and therefore, safe.

Over the past few years, then, the United States has supported fledgling democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority ... But the fact is, when these peoples have spoken, what we have heard, or should have been hearing, in the expression of their collective will is that the mechanics of democracy alone (one citizen, one vote) do not automatically manufacture democrats - if by democrats we mean citizens who believe first and foremost in the kind of liberty that guarantees freedom of conscience and equality before the law.

On the contrary, each of these new democracies has produced constitutions that enshrine Islamic law.

This, as I understand it, is a big part of why Amritas feels we made the wrong move by going into Iraq. I can appreciate this argument, since I have fretted about the same thing in recent times. My husband and I worry constantly about the seven signs of non-competitive states, which I think wholly applies to the Middle East problem.

That said, I still see good in our presence in Iraq. Varifrank reminds us this week that Iran could've easily armed Hizbollah if Old Iraq had been in the middle to cooperate.

Even though there's a whole website dedicated to me being the world's biggest war cheerleader (yep, it's still up and running), I have never said that I have all the answers. I, like Amritas, simply fear and even hate Islam. But I don't know the best course of action for defending ourselves from it; I just know I'll support whatever it takes to get them to leave us alone.

Posted by Sarah at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2006

GRAVITY'S BURDEN

Last night we watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Meh. It wasn't that great, but it's easy to finish a so-so movie; it's only two hours of my life. However, I am struggling with applying the same concept to the book I'm reading. I've already sunk countless hours into Gravity's Rainbow, and I can't decide if I want to keep going or throw in the towel.

I've never not finished a book (well, except once, but I felt guilty for 15 years). I always think that there's got to be something of value in most books, so I hate to quit them. Maybe the good part is at the end, and I'll never know. But it's bad news when you're on page 140 of a 760 page book and every page feels like a chore.

Has anyone else read this book? Is it worth it? There are whole companion books dedicated to this monster; doesn't it seem like any book that you need two other books and several websites to understand is a bit ridiculous? When the Wikipedia entry starts "The main narrative thread (insofar as there is one)", that's not a good sign. Nor is the fact that the book was suggested for a Pulitzer and rejected by the board because it was "unreadable."

And I thought I'd type out a passage for you to mull over when I googled it and found that Photon Courier has written about the same passage. Because it's his favorite. The one that was practically my breaking point. Sigh. I know he's read my blog once before; maybe he can urge me to keep going in the book.

I will point out that he cut the passage way down though. Perhaps even he was daunted by a 16 line sentence.

At what point do you cut your losses with a book and move on? Or do you keep trudging through and hope that the end of the book brings enlightenment or at least satisfaction in knowing you didn't give up?

I don't like to quit books. But I also don't like dreading picking it up.

Posted by Sarah at 01:23 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

2996

I clicked on a link to Uncle Sam Ate My Baby blog because of the hilarious name. What I found was a wonderful thing called 2996. It is a project to honor those who died on 9/11; participants research a victim and post their tribute on the fifth anniversary. I signed up for a person immediately. They still need about 1200 people to participate, so if you have any interest in this project, please go to 2996 and sign up.

Posted by Sarah at 09:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 11, 2006

FED UP

I heard a lot on the news yesterday about how Americans have forgotten about 9/11, and how this recently foiled terror plot should help us all focus. But apparently some people seem to have forgotten on purpose, because they don't believe we're fighting a war.

dumbdu.jpg

Hawkins is right that if this plot had been successful, if hundreds more people had been killed in planes this year, these would've been the first people to blame Bush and Blair. You can't win.

So everyone's mad. The Democratic Underground is mad that Bush is elevating the terror level for political gain. And the Council on American Islamic Relations is mad that Bush blamed the terror plot on, um, Muslims:

U.S. Muslim groups criticized President George W. Bush on Thursday for calling a foiled plot to blow up airplanes part of a “war with Islamic fascists,” saying the term could inflame anti-Muslim tensions.

U.S. officials have said the plot, thwarted by Britain, to blow up several aircraft over the Atlantic bore many of the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

“We believe this is an ill-advised term and we believe that it is counter-productive to associate Islam or Muslims with fascism,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group.

“We ought to take advantage of these incidents to make sure that we do not start a religious war against Islam and Muslims,” he told a news conference in Washington.

“We urge him (Bush) and we urge other public officials to restrain themselves.”

Yes, because you know that after 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, etc, white people went bonkers and started rioting in the street and sawing off Muslims' heads with dull knives. We really need to prevent this from happening again. I mean, it's just be a coincidence that all these terror attacks over the past five years have been perpetrated by Muslims. We can't really blame Islam for any of this. It's obviously "counter productive" to say that there's causation here; I guess it's just correlation. So we owe you guys a big apology, Hasan Akbar, John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid, Muhammad and Malvo, Mohammed Reza Taheriazar, and Naveed Haq. The fact that you are all Muslims is just a big ol' coincidence, and any attempt to associate you with Islamic facism would be a grave injustice. We beg your forgiveness that while you were killing people, we might've offended you with a label.

Sorry, my sarcasm-meter just hit amaravatian levels.

Maybe Malkin is right: it doesn't even do any good to call them "Islamic fascists", because that assumes that it's an outlying fringe. Check out her scary graphs.

Laser beam. Laser beam. Laser beam.
Deep breath.

Posted by Sarah at 08:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2006

WHAT UP GANGSTA?

My husband read this article in Forbes, and we immediately became 50 Cent fans. We listened to his album in the car this weekend, which is a completely different experience when you know more about him. He wasn't just whistlin' dixie with that "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" slogan. It's extremely amusing to listen to the song "High All the Time" and know that 50 Cent doesn't even smoke weed; he's just a shrewd businessman who knows what sells. He made $50 million dollars in 2004 without even making an album. We can't help but be a tad impressed.

Posted by Sarah at 06:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 03, 2006

ONE TONGUE

I just finished reading Mario Pei's The Story of Language. Because I've taken so many linguistics and ESL courses, the basic ideas of the book were not new to me, though it was fun to read a book written in 1948 and see how things have already changed. French was still considered a much bigger player than Russian, Chinese, or Spanish, and 60 years ago, "corny" and "gimmick" were apparently too slangy to be accepted. The most fascinating part of the book by far was the last chapter. After a discussion in the preceding chapter of constructed languages like Esperanto, Pei sets the stage for an international tongue. He argues that "people now alive will be completely replaced, within less than a century, by other people whose habits, linguistic and otherwise, are not yet formed because the people are not yet born, and who can be given, with proper planning, any set of linguistic or other habits that it pleases their enlightened elders to impart to them." And so he goes on to say

What is needed for the solution of the world's language problem is simply a language, any one of the world's 2796 natural languages or of the five hundred or so constructed ones that have at various times been proposed; with, however, two qualifications: the langauge selected must have absolute correspondence of written symbols for spoken sounds, and it must be adopted, by international agreement, in all countries at the same time, not in the high schools or colleges or universities, but in the lowest grade of the elementary schools, side by side with the national tongue, so that it may be learned easily, naturally, and painlessly by the oncoming generations.

Thus within a century, we'd all speak a common native language.

Anyone who's studied a foreign language beyond school requirements knows that the longer you study, the more you realize how tricky communication is. The more familiar you are with the lexicon, the more you see it doesn't match up one-to-one with your native tongue. And true and exact comprehension between two cultures seems hopelessly naive.

Language buffs like me will get excited by Pei's concept. Economists like my husband will say, "That's stupid. The free market already decided on a language and it's English, baby. Lucky for us." But set aside the diplomatic nightmare of implementing a universal language -- and I'm certain that's the reason that it's never been done in the 60 years since Pei suggested it -- and imagine for a moment what such a world would be like. A world where virtually everyone is bilingual and they all have one language in common.

The thought makes my heart skip a beat.

Posted by Sarah at 08:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2006

SYMPATHY

There's no question that I support Israel in her current war. However, I do feel a sense of profound sadness for ordinary Lebanese people who don't support Hezbollah but are caught in a terrible battle in their own country. Via Amritas via Benjamin I found a blog called Lebanese Political Journal that is mesmerizing.

A week ago, I might have told you that my heart broke because my favorite World Cup team lost… I almost cried.
Now
I would do anything to watch my team lose - and bring down my sense of disappointment to that level again.

Follow these four Lebanese citizens as they try to grok.

Posted by Sarah at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

OH YEAH

Whew, Varifrank gives us both barrels in his discussion of proportional response!

And Varifrank also pimpslaps whiny people who want everything their way. He and others almost got on an airplane that quite certainly would've crashed, and all the passengers did was complain. I can't help but draw the parallel between these airline passengers and the sniveling jerks who are being rushed out of Lebanon. As one news commenter said this morning, there's been a travel advisory to the region for 20 years and yet people who chose to go there anyway won't stop complaining that the government took a few hours longer than Sweden to ferry them out for free. I think all passengers on that stupid cruise ship should be forced to sit through a reading of Whittle's Responsibility. And they should have to pay that 150 bucks too. Is there some way we can transport all those unused trailers from Katrina to Larnaca?

Posted by Sarah at 12:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006

CARTOON WARS

Though I'm many days late and several dollars short, I wanted to weigh in on the "Cartoon Wars" episode of South Park, which I finally got to see in reruns this week. I read all about it in April when we were in Germany, but I realized I didn't fully understand the episode until I saw it for myself. Sorry if this is really old news for people.

Apparently at the height of insanity over the Danish Mohammad cartoons, Comedy Central told Parker and Stone that they couldn't show Mohammad no matter what. So they built an entire episode around Comedy Central's lack of backbone. They included this brilliant speech:

Freedom of speech is at stake here, don't you all see? If anything, we should all make cartoons of Mohammed and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has a right to say what they want. Look people, it's been really easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades, we haven't had to risk anything to defend it. One of those times is right now. And if we aren't willing to risk what we have now, then we just believe in free speech, but won't defend it.

At which point the people of South Park all bury their heads in the sand. Literally. Parker and Stone are not allowed to show Mohammad just standing there, but Comedy Central has no problem with Jesus pooping on the American flag.

Nothing I read about the episode back in April really did it justice until I had seen it for myself. I'm quite surprised that Comedy Central let themselves look like such tools. And I'm sad that once again Parker and Stone show the world for what it truly is.

Posted by Sarah at 09:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 01, 2006

GOLDEN WIT

In the middle of this wonderful 50 Reasons Why It's Good to Be an American Man is a gem of an observation about Americans:

20. Low expectations. A few months ago I was outside a beer joint in Ecuador, peeing behind a blond horse named Gringa. Peeing behind his own horse nearby was an old friend, Enrique, who was in the middle of telling me about some unpleasantness he'd recently endured at U.S. customs in Miami. Officers there had refused to believe that a thirty-one-year-old banana republican earned enough honest bucks to own a vacation condo in Florida. Was he a narcotraficante? A terrorista? A narcoterrorista?! The interrogation concluded with an emasculating strip search, and the experience left Enrique thoroughly fed up with Americans. "I don't mean you," he quickly added. "You're different." For what it's worth, he's right: You'd never catch me rubber-gloving a rectum just because its owner looks a little Escobar-y. But my point here is that our rep has plummeted so low that it's almost impossible not to rise above it. Most foreigners, unless you're forcing them to play naked Twister or collaterally damaging their wedding parties, are pleasantly surprised by our lack of visible fangs. This has led to a happy paradox: While we're collectively in the toilet, we individually smell like roses.

Man, that applies to just about every conversation I've ever had with a foreigner.

Posted by Sarah at 06:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

JUST WOW

In my personal opinion, the UN has gone from being worthless to being downright disgusting.

The new UN Human Rights Council voted Friday to make a review of alleged human rights abuses by Israel a permanent feature of every council session.
...
The resolution requires UN investigators to report at each council session "on the Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestine."

It seems the UN has its fingers in its ears too, but I'm not optimistic that they will grow out of it.

Posted by Sarah at 10:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2006

MUSTARD GAS

I've heard some people are dismissing the "WMDs" that were found in Iraq because they're old. Actually, when I did some googling, I found that Fox and CNN interpreted an AP article quite differently.

Fox:

A defense official told FOX News that the weapons probably can't be used in their current form because of their age, but the report notes that they are still hazardous and possibly lethal to coalition forces.

CNN:

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the weapons were not considered likely to be dangerous because of their age.

Those convey considerably different meaning, huh?

Anyway, Kalroy reminded me of an email he sent me two years ago. An old WWII round was found off the coast of Delaware in 2004. When EOD came in to detonate the 11-inch round, the mustard agent was released. And this is what happened to the EOD person who came in contact with the round...

(Be forewarned that this photo is disturbing.)

I don't mean to gross anyone out; I know I haven't been able to get this image out of my mind for the past two years. But this round was obviously not too old to be dangerous. I don't know any specifics on the rounds that have been found in Iraq, but if an 11-inch round that's 60 years old can do this to someone who was opening it in a controlled situation, maybe we shouldn't be so quick to say that these rounds in Iraq are too old to be used as weapons. I know I wouldn't want to take my chances.


(Thanks to Kal for reminding me of this and providing the information. I'm also glad you're not working in this field anymore!)

Posted by Sarah at 04:02 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 16, 2006

TALK

My husband and I were talking about global warming the other day. We both think it's sad that many people don't even allow room for talk on the subject. I'm no scientist, and I've done zero research on climate. However, I am interested in any research on the topic and am not 100% convinced that there's anything like consensus or that we'll find definitive answers any time soon. I do think it's a shame that global warming has already become a "fact"; several scientists apparently don't consider it a fact at all. But I guess that I shouldn't be surprised that people would rather argue than talk.

Posted by Sarah at 04:21 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

June 09, 2006

WELL SAID

So far my favorite reaction to Zarqawi's death was from my friend Heidi: "May he rot in hell because I know that Sean and all the other soldiers did not let him in heaven."

Posted by Sarah at 12:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 05, 2006

HOME

Whenever my friends and I would talk about how much we missed Walmart, I always thought that that talk was mostly symbolic. Walmart became a symbol for everything that I missed about the United States: convenience, consumer choice, customer service, and buying a football at three in the morning. When we raved on and on about Walmart, I knew I missed the actual store, but I didn't realize quite how much until yesterday.

When we walked over to the food aisle, and I saw the whole left wall of Walmart (you know the one I mean: the meats and dairy), I honestly got a lump in my throat. I am not making that up for dramatic effect. All of a sudden I saw thirty feet of cheeses. And forty feet of yogurt. There was shelf after shelf of ground turkey, something my friends and I recently rejoiced to find tucked away in our commissary. And when I turned the corner and ran into pomegranate syrup, an ingredient that Erin swore she'd never see in her lifetime, I was overwhelmed.

Dozens of customers ignored the crazy girl wiping her eyes by the pineapple cream cheese and went about getting their items. I kept staring at them thinking how much they took it for granted that they could buy so many items for such low prices. I hope I don't soon forget the magic feeling I got yesterday when I reached for a gallon of sour cream.

When my husband woke up and rolled over this morning at 0600, he joked, "Wanna go to Walmart right now?" Yes, yes I do.

Posted by Sarah at 04:23 PM | Comments (27) | TrackBack

March 27, 2006

SCIENCE

My favorite episode of From the Earth to the Moon is "Spider", in which engineers build the LM. How do you design something to go somewhere we've never been and do things that have never been done before? These engineers had to tackle issues we never have to think about here on earth. And it seems scientists are working on these issues again as they prepare to go back to the moon as a stepping stone to Mars.

Once planners choose a base, the astronauts will immediately need to bring a host of technologies to bear, none of which currently exist. "Power is a big challenge," Toups said. Solar arrays are an obvious answer, but away from the poles 14 days of lunar sunlight are followed by 14 days of darkness, so "how do you handle the dormancy periods?"

Next is the spacesuit. Apollo suits weighed 270 pounds on Earth, a relatively comfortable "felt weight" of 40 to 50 pounds on the moon, but an unacceptable 102 pounds on Mars. "You can't haul that around, bend down or climb hills," Lee said. "Somehow we have to cut the mass of the current spacesuit in half."

And the new suit, unlike the Apollo suits or the current 300-pound shuttle suit, is going to have to be relatively easy to put on and take off, and to be able withstand the dreaded moon dust.

After three days, Apollo astronauts reported that the dust was causing the joints in their suits to jam, "and we're not talking about three outings," Lee said of the next moon missions. "We're talking about once a week for 500 days -- between 70 and 100 spacewalks."

Dealing with dust is also a major concern in building shelters on the lunar surface. Toups said it might be possible to harden the ground by microwaving it, creating a crust "like a tarp when you're camping." Otherwise, the dust pervades everything, and prolonged exposure could even lead to silicosis.

Dust also makes it virtually impossible to use any kind of machinery with ball bearings. Civil engineer Darryl J. Calkins, of the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, warned that the combination of dust, low gravity, temperature swings and the high cost of flying things to the moon is going to define the lunar tool kit in unforeseen ways.

"You can't put a diesel up there; you can't put a 20,000-pound bulldozer up there; and none of our oils or hydraulic fluids are going to survive," Calkins said in a telephone interview. "We may have to go back to the 19th century to find appropriate tools -- use cables, pulleys, levers."

And even then, it will be difficult to level a base site and haul away the fill because there's not enough gravity to give a tractor adequate purchase. Instead, Calkins envisions a device that can "scrape and shave" small amounts of soil and take it away bit by bit.

But in the end, "you have to learn how to do it, with real people," McKay said. "This is hard, but we can learn it. And if we do it right on the moon, we will be able to answer my ultimate question: Can Mars be habitable? I think the answer is 'yes.' "

I love that first sentence: "bring a host of technologies to bear, none of which currently exist." It reminds me of Michael Crichton's insight on the horse:

Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was.

I can't wait to see what these scientists come up with.

Posted by Sarah at 09:41 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 06, 2006

PATRIOTISM

Pericles asked a question that I thought about a lot last night and that I'd like to answer as honestly as I can.

What I'm not sure that you recognize, at least not consistently, is that people who disagree vehemently with you can still love their country passionately. I question the intelligence and competence of Bush and his ilk, but I have never questioned their patriotism. I completely disagree with their vision about what is best for America, but I don't doubt that they are motivated by a concern for doing what is best. Based on my observations, you don't always give the people with whom you disagree that same kind of credit. Am I wrong?

I do in fact think you are wrong. I don't doubt either that John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Ralph Nader think that their plan of action is the best choice for America. You make it sound like I believe they're all in some dark room musing, "How can we make the US worse?" I think that Hillary Clinton honestly believes that her plans for health care, education, or business are in our country's best interest. But do I want to live anywhere near Hillary Clinton's version of America? Heck no.

There's a big difference between questioning someone's patriotism and questioning their credentials. You question Bush's intelligence, which is your prerogative, and I question the intelligence of others as well. Back to George Clooney as always, my beef is not with his patriotism but his knowledge. Why is a college dropout who played a doctor on TV someone we go to when we want political commentary? I have a hard time believing that Clooney spends nearly the time I do online reading various news sources, so why does anyone care what he thinks? I asked a Lefty about this once recently, and she said, "Gosh, I never thought about it because I just agree with what he says." Questioning his expertise is not the same thing as questioning his patriotism.

I think the "don't question my patriotism" phrase is overused and most of the time is a red herring. It's like calling someone a racist for opposing affirmative action: it's the easy zinger that often has nothing to do with the argument. However, I tried to think about it a lot last night, and I realized that it depends a lot on how you define patriotism.

Do you define patriotism as simply love for your country? Do you define it as the thought that your country is better than others? Do you define it as putting your country ahead of yourself? Do you define it as being willing to sacrifice for your country? What's the definition? Because I know a lot of people who don't have any of these feelings for the US.

I don't know many people like you, Pericles. I feel I've sort of gotten to know you through your comments, and I basically get the impression that you love an ideal version of the US that's neither represented by the Republicans nor the Democrats. Please correct me if my assessment is wrong, but that's what I have gleaned. But most of the people I've come in contact with are nothing like you. I was a French and International Studies major and I got an MA in ESL. I was constantly surrounded by people who jumped at the chance to be anywhere but the USA. My colleagues consistently thought that France/China/Fill-In-The-Blank was better than the US. When they travelled, they were ashamed to admit they were Americans. They graduated and many looked for ways to leave the US and find something better. They thought the grass would be greener anywhere but the USA.

So do I question their patriotism? I do. They don't have any deep feelings for their own country. And any feelings they might have include shame and guilt. Is shame for your country patriotism? They don't have a deep love for America that transcends their hate for Bush. They just don't want to be in the US, period. I'm sorry if I'm a bad person for refusing to see them as patriots. I'm sorry that the internet is filled with stories of yahoos who hate our flag and our country. Yes, I question these people's patriotism, and none of them are Republicans. That doesn't mean that I automatically question every non-Repub's patriotism, but I can't help but notice the consistent trend.

I respect people who love our country even if "Bush and his ilk" don't fit the bill, but like I said I simply don't know many people like this. If Hillary Clinton were elected president, the US would move further away from what I consider the ideal, but you can bet I'd still wear my US flag pins and leave the big USA country code sticker on the bumper of our car. Because I love my country no matter who's at the wheel and I still think she's the best country in the world.

Posted by Sarah at 09:56 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

March 02, 2006

TAPES

Why isn't this as big of news as Cheney's hunting accident?

Inconveniently for critics of the war, Saddam made tapes in his version of the Oval Office. These tapes landed in the hands of American intelligence and were recently aired publicly.

The first 12 hours of the tapes — there are hundreds more waiting to be translated — are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn't lie when he cited Saddam's WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.

...

War foes have long asserted that Saddam halted his WMD programs in the wake of his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Saddam's abandonment of WMD programs was confirmed by subsequent U.N. inspections.

Again, not true. In a tape dating to April 1995, Saddam and several aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had found traces of Iraq's biological weapons program. On the tape, Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, is heard gloating about fooling the inspectors.

"We did not reveal all that we have," he says. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct."

There's more. Indeed, as late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program — something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD.

Why in the heck is it reported like this on Investor's Business Daily but reported completely differently on CNN? On CNN, the lead paragraph in bold is all about how "Hussein told his Cabinet in the mid-1990s that the U.S. would fall victim to terrorists possessing weapons of mass destruction but that Iraq would not be involved." And then in smaller font in paragraph two, it reads "Hussein also can be heard speaking with high-ranking Iraqi officials about deceiving United Nations inspectors looking into Iraq's weapons program." Why is CNN focusing on nothing and ignoring that Saddam tricked the UN, as the US suspected when we went to war? Everyone knew that Hans Blix was a impotent doofus, and this proves it. So why isn't it bigger news?

Apparently it's much bigger news that there's some tape of what Bush knew about Katrina, because that's what's on all the headlines right now.

I know these tapes came out two weeks ago, but why isn't anyone talking about them?

Posted by Sarah at 10:08 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

February 26, 2006

ROLE MODEL

My friend Angie is a little bummed that maybe her life hasn't turned out exactly as she wanted, and she thinks maybe she's past the point where she can fix it. I've actually had a blog post rolling around in my head for a while, and now seems like a good time to let it out.

When I was in middle school, every kid used to say that Michael Jordan was his role model. It was always Michael Jordan. For some reason I was thinking about that a few weeks back and how silly it seems now to me to have a celebrity as a role model when we've got plenty of real people in our life to emulate. One of our biggest role models as a couple was the Major at my husband's ROTC. He was extremely hooah and completely unassuming. He and his wife had been married for nearly ten years; they had just built their own house (literally, the Major built it with some Amish help) and were all set to welcome their first baby into the home. My husband and I thought that was a great way to be ready for a child, and we want to be as emotionally and financially ready as they were. We still talk about what a good influence they were on our life.

We moved here, and as I slowly got to know Angie, she became a new role model for me. (And my mom will vouch that this is true, because I rave about Angie all the time!) Angie has always felt somewhat inadequate that she didn't finish college, but the reason she didn't finish is because she and her husband decided when they got married that Angie's job was to raise their children. My parents made the same decision when they got married, but it's a decision that doesn't happen much in 2006. Angie and her husband knew that the most important thing Angie could do with her life is to raise these three little boys to be gentlemen, and she's doing a wonderful job.

I know during the deployment that Angie sometimes wanted to tear her hair out. I witnessed firsthand some of the trials of being with her boys, like when a temper tantrum broke out because the older brother ate the little one's imaginary strawberries! It's not easy to be a stay-at-home mom; how much quieter and nicer it would've been for Angie to drop the boys off at daycare and go to a job. But she stays home with them because it's her job to mold their character, teach them manners, and be their mommy. Angie deserves all the praise in the world for the no-so-obvious task of bringing up her own children.

I'm glad that I had a role model like Angie. If/when my husband and I have children, we too will make the same decision Angie and her husband did. And I will be the one to stay at home and break up fights over imaginary fruit. I'm happy that I met someone like Angie who also believes that raising a child is the most important job a woman has.

Angie, you may sometimes feel sheepish that you never finished that degree, but you display qualities far more important than a diploma, and people notice. I noticed, and I hope someday to be half as talented at motherhood as you are.

Posted by Sarah at 08:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

PROUD

Every time I walk by the computer, I check to see if CaliValleyGirl has any update on when her boyfriend returns from Arghanistan. I'm a bundle of nerves just watching her wait! Watching OIF III and OEF Who Knows come to an end has made me nostalgic for this time last year. I keep reading my blog entries from the end of February and the beginning of March, remembering the feeling of knowing that everyone -- including the company commander, battalion commander, and brigade commander -- was home while my husband sat in Iraq waiting to go to Kuwait so he could start the process of coming home. It was excruciating. But as I told CaliValleyGirl, as painful as the waiting game is, you completely forget about it the minute they walk into that gym.

I'm really proud of her, which is not meant to sound condescending. Dealing with deployment was made easier by 1) the community around me and 2) that gold ring on my left hand. Cali has neither of those. She dealt with her boyfriend's absence on her own at a German university, which I can't believe was easy. And she handled it with grace: the other day she told me how much she's grown and how much she learned this year, about herself and her boyfriend. I'm glad that she was able to see deployment as a learning experience and not a burden.

And I can't wait to meet up with her at the Taco Bell in a few weeks!

Posted by Sarah at 07:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 19, 2006

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER LESSON

We gave Charlie a bath this morning, and I decided to cut some of the knots out of his fur while he was drying. One clip of the scissors made him yelp and run away; once I nabbed him and brought him back to the living room, I realized I had cut more than I bargained for.

After his initial yelp, Charlie didn't seem to notice his wound so much. He was up and romping around with his toys; I was the inconsolable one weeping on the floor. And this, my friends, is Reason Umpteen why I can never have kids: I hurt Charlie. My carelessness caused him pain. Every time I look at him, I burst into tears again, even though he seems to have accepted the 8 shiny new staples hiding under his right ear.

stitches.JPG

I learned and emotionally (ugh -- and financially) costly lesson today, one that I won't soon forget. I have the power to hurt Charlie. Or my husband, or my child someday. I really don't like the thought of that.

Posted by Sarah at 03:12 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

CELEBS

My husband summarized an article about George Clooney for me, which was enough to make me not want to read the article. However, I did seek it out just to check one quote:

Clooney is as vain and materialistic as the next guy in Hollywood - "[F] it, I love my house in Italy. It's big and audacious and ridiculous, and nicer than any human being has the right to have" - but he is also one of the few really grown-up movie stars. "I have Irish Catholic guilt," he says, smiling, "and want to make up for [my successes]."
The way Clooney atones is by making, alongside the romantic comedies and heist numbers, a range of films that bring him a different kind of attention altogether.

My husband was absolutely mortified by the phrase "nicer than any human being has the right to have," as if some Equality Police could come and knock down half of your house because you're not allowed to live extravagantly. For him, the fact that George Clooney thinks that people shouldn't have the right to a big house is just beyond words. I, however, find something differently but equally reprehensible in this paragraph. Clooney's attitude reminds me of something I heard Ben Affleck say on TV right before the last presidential election. He was upset that he had gotten a tax cut because he said he didn't need the money and he would've rather the government kept it.

Do these celebrities want us to think that they don't have any will of their own? You know, the world is just the way it is and I wish it weren't but that's life so I gotta stay ridiculous rich. That's what we're supposed to believe?

Ben Affleck, if you want to take your $1.5 million tax cut and donate it to charity, guess what, you can! Hell, you can even opt to pay more taxes in Massachusetts, as O'Reilly trapped Affleck into admitting he didn't even know. Here he is, complaining that he couldn't give more in taxes, and all he had to do was, you know, give more. You could donate it to cancer research or stem cells or veterans benefits or all the other stuff you say you care about. You don't have to wait for the government to do it for you. Your hands aren't tied because they gave you your $1.5 million back; it means you have MORE OPTIONS.

Same for you, Clooney. No one is forcing you to live in a big house. If your wealth makes you feel guilty, then buy some land, build a modest-sized house on it, and start donating some of your money. But don't you dare say that the way you compensate for your Catholic guilt is that you make more movies. Even if it is Syriana and you think you're doing some good by educating people to the Ways Of The World, you're still raking in the dough doing it. That's supposed to make us feel better about you? Poor Clooney, he's so big and famous, he can't help but be a bazillionaire, but at least he makes Films That Matter. Are you serious?

Last night we got the Grammys here. I swear I nearly spat on the TV when Alicia Keys said "this is the most important night in the world." Get over yourselves, people. You know, I can accept it if you're filthy rich and lovin' it. I read once that Christopher Walkin will do any movie that's put before him because it's a job and he's in it to make money. I can respect that; my husband and I are out to make as much money as we can too. But to hear celebs ask for millions of dollars for each movie they do and then complain about being rich, that's too much for me to accept.

No one put a gun to Clooney's head and made him buy that stupid house. Get over it.

Posted by Sarah at 10:51 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

KUDOS

When I attended the University of Illinois, I used to get so mad reading The Daily Illini newspaper. I would seethe for days over some of their editorials, and I'm sure I could maintain this website by just blogging about some of the stuff they print (I don't visit their website anymore out of respect for my blood pressure). However, I was proud today to hear that they printed the "offensive" Mohammed cartoons. Good for them for actually reporting the news instead of censoring it to make sure no one's feelings get hurt...or embassies get burned down, as the case may be.

Posted by Sarah at 10:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 09, 2006

DOUBT

For the past few years, I've been a steadfast warmonger. I have believed that all people on this planet, given the chance, would choose freedom over chains. I have believed that everyone is worthy of democracy, that my country was doing something Good by opening up Iraq to democracy. I have continued to believe in the fundamental value of democracy, even as my husband began to scratch his head. I've been an idealist, but he's actually been to Iraq. The seven signs of non-competitive states have troubled his mind and made him wonder if Iraq really will be able to pull itself out of the Dark Ages. I have insisted that it must be so, that all people must want to be free. But my heart sank when I saw this today:

nofreespeech.jpg

This photo from Pakistan feels like a punch in the gut. It makes me want to cry, just as the al-Sadr photo did two years ago. Why doesn't my ideal chair ever match up to the real chair?

I don't want my husband to be right.

Posted by Sarah at 09:49 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 07, 2006

A TRUE FRIEND

On Thanksgiving I wrote about how happy I am that I've found my two best friends because part of the reason I started this blog was because none of my old friends agreed with me politically. It wasn't until we got into the Army that I started to make friends who valued the same things I do. In the comments section, Pericles said, "So we can safely assume that you've never distanced yourself from friends because of THEIR politics?" He says he was joking, and I don't think he meant to be rude, but I have thought about that comment for a long time.

It's true that once I started to meet people who agreed with me, it was easier to prefer their company to the company of others. I'd much rather nod in agreement than argue! But before that, back in college, more often than not I'd find myself talking down a road less traveled and then backing off when I realized the other person wasn't following me. I usually changed the subject or tried to find ways to agree. I began to feel more isolated, especially after my Dinesh D'Souza experience. But the war really tipped the scales; I have very little contact with anyone I was friends with before OIF. Heck, my maid of honor hasn't spoken to me in about two years. I have no problem with people growing apart, but it's sad to me that we could be friends when I knew others' political views but not when they knew mine.

However, there's one friend who has shown me that two people can be respectful of each other and put aside their differences. I met my friend from Sweden back in 1998, and we're still as close today as we were then. She's a Swede through and through; I don't think we agree on a single thing politically! However, we always manage to talk civilly and explain our positions in peace. Maybe it's easier because we come from two different worlds: we can easily shrug and say, "What else would she think, she's Swedish/American?" But we manage to make the friendship work even when we have fundamental differences in thinking: she about had a heart attack when I whooped after Timothy McVeigh was executed, and I nearly keeled over when she told me that Swedish parents receive School Supply Money from the government! She's been nothing but supportive about my husband's deployment, even though I know she's not such a fan of the military in general.

She visited over the weekend, and we had a wonderful time. She was interested in my husband's photos from Iraq and learning about the new functional area he's applying for. She even met my two best friends here; I wonder what it's like for her to listen to my right wing friends' conversations about re-enlistment and school bullies! Erin even thought later she should apologize for sounding so American, but I think it's good for my Swedish friend to hear us as we really are. She's tolerant enough to hear the truth!

So in response to Pericles' joke, I have indeed distanced myself from many people in my life who have expressed hostility towards my husband's career or towards my views. But it doesn't have to be that way. I am completely capable of accepting my Swedish friend just the way she is because she's willing to do the same. We have a wonderful friendship, despite the fact that we're ridiculously different. She's a true friend.

Plus she uses me for my commissary privileges to stay stocked in Starbursts. I can live with that...

Posted by Sarah at 07:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 30, 2006

BLOWN AWAY

Gone are the days when I spent three hours each morning reading blogs. Some reasons my lifestyle has changed are obvious -- I used to read blogs at work, Charlie chewing on cords is a big distraction -- but I've also just experienced a general leveling-off of my fervor. I hope to spike again one day, but for now, I've just got other things on my mind, I guess.

Thus it took a Cold Fury post to point out a Bleat to me. Reading Lileks used to be like brushing my teeth, but now it's sadly more like brushing the dog: I don't do it nearly as often as I should.

Lileks found an article that he says "should be taught in J-schools. This is Pulitizerian. Stick with it, and you’ll see what I mean." I read The Peekaboo Paradox and was blown away. This article is masterful. If you want to see true journalism -- not the crap that gets cranked out at Reuters -- read Weingarten's piece.

Posted by Sarah at 10:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

I had read that Google was going to be censored in China, but it didn't really sink in until I saw this post at LGF:

tiananmen - Google Image Search.

tiananmen - Google Image Search in China.

Make sure you click them both to see the power of censorship.

Over the weekend my mother, husband, and I traveled to France to visit our relatives. Somehow at one point someone brought up Scientology, which apparently is illegal in France. You can't be a Scientologist in France. For the French relatives, this seemed totally natural: Scientology is weird and cultish, and so it should be outlawed. But later I pointed out to my husband that this conversation typified a fundamental difference between Americans and the French (or insert a variety of other nationalities). I too think Scientology is a bit out there -- what else can you say about a religion that was started on a dare -- but I think people should be allowed to be Scientologists if that's what they want. I really had a gut reaction to hearing that ideas could be illegal.

When I was teaching ESL in grad school, I opened up our argumentative unit with a brief discussion of hate speech. I played devil's advocate, arguing both sides of the issue in front of the class so they could get an idea of how to write an argumentative paper. So on one hand, I argued that although many of us are repulsed by the KKK and Matt Hale, they should be allowed to have the same freedom of speech rights that anyone else does. And a Korean student promptly filed a complaint against me with the department, saying I was intolerant and bigoted.

I'm proud that in my country you're supposed to be able to say anything you want. The free exchange of ideas helps people understand the world; censoring things that make us cringe makes the world a smaller place. I'd rather refute Matt Hale than exile him.

Posted by Sarah at 07:21 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

December 28, 2005

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

The problem with reading a science book written in 1979 is that you want to know what has happened since. Sagan kept bringing up wonderfully exciting things that made me wonder what we've learned in the past 25 years. Some things I knew had not come to pass -- such as the bittersweet missed opportunity of a rendezvous mission with Halley's comet -- but other things I have been trying to research to see what we've learned since.

This is how it came to be that I felt a great excitement and inner peace for 24 hours. I learned of the oscillating universe theory.

I've never been a person who thinks much about the meaning of life or why we're here. I've always found more solace in thinking that I'm a small being in an ever-changing cosmos, that there's nothing more special about me than some long-extinct triceratops. I find peace and comfort knowing that the universe is far more complex and wondrous than I could ever comprehend, and that my life is inconsequential in the big scheme of billions of years. This thought that my life is but a blink in time helps me cope with seemingly monumental stressors in my life: high schoolers, deployments, the fact that the coat I wanted from Land's End is discontinued. All of this pales when I think about what has come before and will come after me.

In 1979, Carl Sagan said there was not enough evidence to rule out an oscillating universe. This would mean that the universe could continue a series of collapses and big bangs, in a neverending accordion squeeze on the cosmos. And I liked that idea. As I lay in bed, I imagined another go-round for the universe, with planets at different distances from their stars, possibly fostering new and different life forms. Or not. I imagined the cosmos as a big game of Yahtzee, then laughed that maybe God really does play dice with the universe. I felt excited and at peace, and I wanted to learn more.

So does learning that there's probably not enough matter in the universe to cause a Big Crunch make me disappointed? A little, but I'd rather know the truth. I suppose it doesn't even really bother me that the universe appears to be speeding up and eventally all stars will flicker out and cease to be. If that's what really will happen, then I can accept that.

But boy, did my mind do cartwheels at the thought of an oscillating universe. That was a great feeling, even if it was short lived.

Posted by Sarah at 11:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 27, 2005

REVELATION

I found an old entry by Vodkapundit that warmed my heart. He found an embed from Alaska who was struck by the magnitude of her job:

Think about everything you’ve heard about the conditions in Iraq, the role of U.S. forces, the multi-layered complexities of the war.

Then think again.

I’m a journalist. I read the news everyday, from several sources. I have the luxury of reading stuff newspapers don’t always have room to print. I read every tidbit I could on Iraq and the war before coming.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Maybe not wrong, but certainly different than the picture in my head.

I liken it to this; It was real struggle for me to choose to see the Harry Potter movies. I had read the books and loved the pictures I had in my mind of the details I read. I didn’t need to see a movie; I had a movie playing in my head of exactly how I perceived the stories.

I had similar notions about Iraq, Mosul, the war and what exactly soldiers do. And it was handily shattered like glass today by a group of soldiers, half of them younger than myself.

She goes on to end with one of the most insightful things I've ever heard a reporter say:

I’ve listened to the soldiers and Parrish about the missing pieces of the puzzles that don’t reach home. My selfish, journalistic drive immediately thinks “Perfect. A story that hasn’t been told. Let me at it.”

But I have a slight hesitation; I need to keep balanced. I can’t be a cheerleader, even if I have a soft spot for the hometown troops, especially after the welcome they’ve shown me. I still need to be truthful and walk the centerline and report the good or bad.

But then I realize it’s not a conflict of interest. If I am truly unbiased, then I need to get used to this one simple fact; that the untold story, might in fact, be a positive one. It takes a minute to wrap my mind around it, as a news junkie that became a news writer. The great, career-making, breaking news stories usually don’t have happy endings; they usually revolve around disturbing news, deceit and downfall. Nasty political doings. Gruesome crimes and murders. Revealing secrets.

But I’ve come upon something that is none of those. Not this aspect of it. There are politics to this war and controversies and investigations. But there is another side.

There are heartwarming and heroic stories coming out of Iraq, and journalists are not "selling out" if they report this good stuff. It was a huge step for this embed to realize that maybe the stories that need to be told are the ones with happy endings.

Posted by Sarah at 10:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2005

IF YOU WANT IT...PUH-LEASE

Beth sent me a good article:

Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the "Island of Misfit Toys" gang believe with all their might that, if America will just leave Iraq, all the terrorists will magically disappear! They believe that the UN and the EU can somehow make Iran's weapons-grade uranium go away. And if we all just put down our guns and give Cindy Sheehan a great, big Christmas hug, peace on earth will surely follow.

The husband and I heard John Lennon's "Happy Xmas" song this morning. I remarked that the line "War is over / if you want it" is about the biggest idealistic pile of crap ever. Gee, if we just wish real hard, war will stop all over the world.

Of course, I've been ticked at Lennon ever since I read this, so I was ready for a fight when his song came on.

Posted by Sarah at 12:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 22, 2005

LABELS

Some commenter said yesterday that America's far left is Europe's moderate. I thought of that today in passing while reading Broca's Brain. I think people look at the world quite differently depending on how they classify themselves. If you think of yourself as an American, you see the world differently than if you think of yourself as a Global Citizen, as it seems most Europeans do. And if you think of yourself as a citizen of the universe, as Sagan does, you look at issues completely differently. Thus when Sagan talks of global warming, he thinks all humans should work together to prevent Earth's habitat from being like Mars. When an American talks about it, he typically thinks about what is best for the US first. I think the label you give yourself says a lot about how you deal with The Issues.

Posted by Sarah at 09:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 15, 2005

WHAT?

Get. The. F. Out.

This season, America celebrates a holiday whose premise is that God himself came to Earth -- and was given the death penalty. Tookie Williams died at Midnight on the Feast Day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of God and patron saint of the Americas. How fitting that the GOP and the Religious Right lobbied for the execution -- and that Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Catholic whose church opposes the death penalty, made the final decision.

Celebrity executions, from Jesus to Tookie Williams, have whatever meaning human actions give them. And the meaning of Tookie's? That the Religious Right, that bastion of politicized pseudo-religion and hypocritical power-grabbing, pronounced its own spiritual death by shouting hosannahs for his execution -- as it has done for the anonymous dead before him.

No disrespect is intended by calling the Crucifixion a "celebrity execution." Quite the contrary -- the power and meaning of the Christ story as it was taught to me is just that: that God Himself would come to Earth anonymously and died despised and forgotten by all but a few, only to be redeemed on behalf of all. His celebrity came later, as a result of His sacrifice. The significance of the death lies in its affirmation of life, in the understanding of believers that it was an act of love -- love for life and the living.

This post, found at RWN, is just jawdropping. You have to be absolutely kidding that 1) this was written, and 2) the comments section is full of people who agree. And the last line...

Another Christmas is coming to the Americas, and another American is gone. If you pray, don't pray for him: pray for us.

Must...fight...urge to start swearing uncontrollably.

Tookie Williams was a murderer. He killed four people before my husband was even freaking born, and he's been wasting air ever since. He was a gangster and a thug, and I don't care how many dadburned children's books he wrote. He shot four people that we know of and laughed about it later. He never expressed regret for what he'd done, yet somehow he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. (Maybe Arafat will show Tookie his while they're both rotting in hell together.)

I clapped the day Timothy McVeigh was executed, and I clapped again Tuesday when Tookie was finally dead. Tookie may have "died despised and forgotten by all but a few", but he most certainly will not be redeemed, and should never be compared to Jesus.

The more I try to grok, the more I feel disgusted at mankind.

Posted by Sarah at 10:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

GOOD LUCK, IRAQ

purple_finger.jpg

Posted by Sarah at 08:37 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 07, 2005

TERRORIZE THIS

Hey, John Kerry...wanna see some of the kids my husband terrorized in Iraq?

kids 002.JPG

This kid he terrorized by building a school for him...

kids 001.JPG

This kid he terrorized by letting him wear his Wiley Xs...

kids 003.JPG

This kid he terrorized by giving him a water bottle when it was 130 degrees...

kids 004.JPG

The only thing my husband terrorized these kids with was his handwriting...

kids 005.JPG

John Kerry, you're out of your element here.

Posted by Sarah at 07:05 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005

MR AND MRS

When I lived in Sweden, I noticed that my friend had a bald eagle trinket on her desk. "Where did you get this?" I asked. "Maryellen gave it to me," she replied. "Ahhh," I said. "Who's that?" "Your fiance's mother!" my friend gasped.

Is it regional what we call adults when we're kids? When I was growing up, I never would've dreamed of calling adults by their first names. All my parents' friends, all the leaders of my clubs, every adult I knew was called Mr. or Mrs. In fact, I still think of most of my parents' friends as Mr. and Mrs. (Hi, Mr. Schultz!) I didn't even call my in-laws by their first names until my husband and I had been engaged for quite a while.

Tonight I started volunteering with the Girl Scouts, and I was mildly shocked that the girls call the leaders by their first names. I guess there's nothing wrong with that if it's the leaders' choice, but it struck me as a little odd, given that I can remember all my old Girl Scout leaders' names, but they all start with Mrs! I couldn't tell you those mothers' first names to save my life.

I've noticed that most people around her prefer to go by Miss + First Name, as in Miss Sarah. That's OK with me, being 28 and all, but don't any kids call adults Mr. or Mrs. these days? Or am I just a stuffy fuddy-duddy from Texas?

Posted by Sarah at 09:46 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 01, 2005

CELEBS

My neighbor moved over the summer, and she and I were instant messaging last night. She said that she had watched Barbara Walters' The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005 program on TV, that is until it started to sicken her and she turned it off.

I love how celebrities can't get enough of themselves. (My husband is brutal to celebs, calling them "people who are attractive for a living".) Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning fascinating? In what way exactly? The winner, the most fascinating person of the year, was Camilla Parker Bowles. Really. That's funny to me, because she's about the last celeb I'm interested in hearing about.

My neighbor was upset. "What makes Tom Cruise more fascinating than Sean Sims?" she asked. I know that's not the point of these stupid celeb-backpatting shows, but for regular Americans, the contrast can sometimes be rather striking. The last sentence of that article killed me:

Rounding out Walters' "Most Fascinating" list are "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher, Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice."

Really, how dare they lump Condi Rice with Teri Hatcher? Rice works her butt off as one of the most powerful people in the world; Hatcher pretends to be a slutty housewife for a living.

I told my neighbor about something I had seen on TV recently that had made me guffaw. Sharon Stone organized some benefit for Katrina victims, and lots of singers participated to raise money. I swear Sharon Stone started crying during her interview clip, saying what "heroes" these singers were. I laughed out loud. Heroes? For showing up and recording a song that regular non-millionaire Americans could buy to raise money for Katrina? That makes you a hero? I swear, celebs wouldn't know a hero if he bit 'em.

My neighbor replied to the Sharon Stone story: "That just means she has never really met a real hero before. She should talk to me, I live with one."

Amen, sister.

Posted by Sarah at 09:44 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 29, 2005

FAMOUS NUTJOBS

Dang, I just wasted a lot of time playing around with these lists of celebrity Republicans. The most surprising people? 50 Cent and John Malkovich.

I emailed my friends about 50 Cent and said "Did you know that 50 Cent would've voted for Bush if he weren't a convicted felon?" And then I realized that sentence has a grammatically ambiguous modifier...except for the fact that there's nothing ambiguous about which of them is the felon. So does that make the sentence ambiguous or not?

Man, I wish I was still in touch with my best friend from college; we'd have a blast analyzing that one.

Posted by Sarah at 05:58 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

INSPIRATIONAL

Apparently the American Film Institute is trying to pick the most inspirational film of all time. Good luck. The list of nominees is long, including movies that definitely belong (Apollo 13, Stand and Deliver) and some dubious choices as well (Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Moulin Rouge?) John Hawkins has a good list of his own choices; I agree with most of his picks, especially Spider-Man 2 and Rocky. I'd add a few movies of my own that either bring me to tears or have me jumping out of my seat cheering: 12 Angry Men, From the Earth to the Moon, The Great Escape, To Kill a Mockingbird, Rudy, The Lord of the Rings, Miracle, Amistad and Band of Brothers. In no particular order, all of which made the cut except for the HBO ones. Props to the AFI for including The Karate Kid, which is one of my all-time favorites, even if it is a bit cheesy. (For the record, my husband said that he never laughed so hard as he did in There's Something About Mary at the line "I guess I just wish they made movies like they used to make. You know, classics like The Karate Kid" because he thought that was the dumbest thing he'd ever heard. But the joke's on him, because his paycheck bought the whole trilogy.)

Posted by Sarah at 02:49 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 03, 2005

IRAN

(via LGF) There was a rally against the Iranian regime held at Berkeley. Although it was small, I'm glad to see people speaking out against this horrible theocracy. When my husband and I first got married, we lived near a wonderful Iranian family. During the build-up to Iraq, they half-jokingly begged my husband to invade Iran instead. They were so upset at what their country had become.

Posted by Sarah at 10:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

LETTER

My husband hates to write, and the only thing worse for him than composing at a computer is writing with a pen. He didn't write me much from Iraq, but when he did, I knew he had forced himself to sit down and do it. That's touching.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and I think deployments can sometimes bring out the best in a relationship. Mrs. Greyhawk found a letter from a husband in Iraq to his wife. It's positively breathtaking. You just have to see it to believe it.

UPDATE:

I swear I have never laughed so hard as I just did. I asked my husband if he had read the letter and -- right hand on a Bible -- he said, "Yeah. Was he talking about a chicken or a rooster or something? Man, there's a lot of them walking around Iraq. And how did he mail a bird to his wife? I don't get it."

My husband, the romantic.

Posted by Sarah at 11:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

TOTAL

Tanker sent me a link to an article about the perceived risk of investing in France. It reminded me of something that I forgot to share a few weeks ago. Someone recommended an international mutual fund to us, so my husband looked into it as a possibility. That is, until he saw that Total was one of its top holdings. "Guns, tobacco, and other vices are no problem," my husband said. "I'd invest in those in spades. But I refuse to invest in French oil companies." Despite protestations that Total is a very lucrative market -- well, no kidding: Saddam treated them well -- my husband put his foot down and said that we're not buying into that mutual fund. I was awful proud of him.

Posted by Sarah at 01:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

MOON

Last night my husband and I watched the final episode of From the Earth to the Moon. I must say that after this week's revelation that we might return to the moon, I watched this episode completely differently than I did nine months ago. The finality of it all really hit me the first time I watched it: Cernan would be the last man on the moon for forever, we'll never have another chance to leave hammers, rovers, or golf balls up there again, we've lost the gumption that got us to the moon in under a decade. But this time around I had hope, hope that we'd be back again.

When it ended, my husband turned to me and said, "I wanna go to the moon." I do too, I said.

I was saddened to read much negative commentary online about returning to the moon. I know it costs money and time, but I just want to go back. And to imagine a staging point for a future trip to Mars...well, that's just beyond my comprehension.

Hope is a wonderful feeling.

Posted by Sarah at 09:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

STAYING FOCUSED

911wreckage.jpg

How's your laser beam this year?

Posted by Sarah at 09:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

DILEMMA

I could use some advice on behalf of a reader who contacted me with an perplexing dilemma. This reader was conducting interviews at his job and interviewed an Egyptian man who set off a couple of warning bells. This Egyptian seemed "jittery and anxious" and became agitated when he learned that this particular job would not get him maximum money pronto; the man said that he was only planning on being in the country for a short time and needed to make as much money as possible as fast as he could. This reader couldn't help but shake the feeling of "terrorist" that was creeping in. The reader doesn't want to be "racist" but also doesn't want to be caught wishing he'd done something (like those who met Atta and got a bad feeling). The reader wonders if he should report this, and to whom.

So what do you think? Is it better to be safe than sorry, or is it intrusive to potentially shake up someone's life on nothing better than a hunch? I'd appreciate as much input as any of you can give me as to what you'd honestly do if you were in this reader's shoes. He needs our help.

Posted by Sarah at 08:53 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 06, 2005

ROLE MODELS

It seems at least one commenter thinks I write about President Bush too often. The explanation is quite simple really: the reason I write about him is because I think about him all the time. There are three men who dominate my life, three men whose respect I work hard to earn every day: President Bush, Bunker, and CPT Sims. In every action and every thought, I consistently weigh how these three men would judge me. Am I doing something that would make them slap sense into me, or would they be proud of me? You don't have to understand this, but it's a big part of what keeps me trying to be a better person every day.

So I'll quit glorifying our President when the other half of the world stops vilifying him.

Posted by Sarah at 10:48 AM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

FIGHT

I bought the husband the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy for his birthday, and we watched the movies again for the first time since the movie theater. As I watched preparations for the battle of Helms Deep, I told my husband that there's no way they would've herded me into the cellar. I couldn't imagine sending my husband and son off to fight while I stayed underground. The only exercise my arms get is knitting, but I would've fought, struggled to lift a sword, even though it surely would've meant death at the hands of an orc. But I would've had to try, had to fight.

Hey, maybe I'm a sheepdog.

Posted by Sarah at 08:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

QUEST

I read this story of the quest to appropriate a white cross from Cindy Sheehan's circus. It sounds like things have gotten a little more complicated in Crawford since a few weeks ago when Mrs. Sims' friend uprooted CPT Sims' cross; I guess the police are involved now in order to keep the peace at the peace protest. I love the irony in that one.

But something in this blog post really caught my eye:

Once the details were taken care of, we were given a tour of Camp Reality. There is one father who is trying to raise money to get a bronze statue (of the rifle, boots, and helmet) placed in the hometown of each fallen soldier.

Has anyone heard anything else about this idea? I think it's a beautiful goal, and I'd be interested in donating and advertising this fundraiser. Any chance any of you know more about this man? Google wasn't much help.

Posted by Sarah at 10:17 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

AMERICAN DREAM

My husband’s roommate in college came to the US from Poland. He was going to try to make his fortune in New York City, but there was a better deal for flights to Chicago at that time. He left with only the money in his pocket to make a new life for himself. He worked three part-time jobs while he was at college with us; I honestly can’t remember ever seeing him sleep in the entire time I’ve known him. I remember laughing when he finally saved enough to buy a piece of crap car on eBay, and my husband still sometimes brings up the moneysaving kitchen tips he learned from his roommate.

I talked to him this morning, and I can’t erase the huge grin from my face. He has a good job in the cellphone industry now, he’s working on his MBA, and he just bought his second house, one for him to live in and another to “rent out and build some equity.” I laughingly told him that he’s finally living the American Dream; he replied that he is doing so well that he’s actually getting fat. I am so happy for him.

I need to check on our other friend, a Bulgarian who I swear wore the same shirt and pants every day when I first met him. He’s just finishing up his internship in med school.

What a wonderful country ours is.

Posted by Sarah at 07:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2005

SUPPORT

It seems Prager's article on the Left's support for the troops caused quite a stir. I thought more about the outrage that article spawned after I read this line from David Horowitz's book, Radical Son:

Hands Off Cuba! and Bring the Troops Home! were slogans designed to consolidate majorities, but also to achieve agendas that would never have been defended by most of the people who eventually supported them.

Horowitz was talking about the Vietnam era, but I was struck by the parallel to today's cries. And it made me start thinking about all of the people who are offended by the suggestion that they don't support the troops.

My father has had little contact with the military. He didn't go to Vietnam, but he had friends who went and didn't return. He recently surprised my mother with a diatribe about how we should bring our boys home. My father votes Republican, so it's not a matter of politics; I assume he simply can't stand the idea of any Americans fighting and dying, especially when his only daughter's husband is involved. I don't think that makes my dad anti-war...and I would hope that he would be horrified to hear of the birds who have flocked together. That's what struck me about Horowitz's statement.

Who can honestly say that they don't want our soldiers and marines to come home? "Bring the Troops Home!" is a huge umbrella statement that covers many points of view, indeed "designed to consolidate majorities". The scary part is when people who fall under that umbrella don't know about the company they're keeping. ANSWER wants us to bring the troops home too, but they're an offshoot of the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party, organizing anti-war protests that I'm sure many unsuspecting, good-intentioned people attended. (Hey, if my father went to a protest, maybe some activist could hand him a "Bring Home the Troops" sign, you know, since he's got his hands full with his "Death to Jews" sign anyway.)

Several people emailed or commented to say that they had done X,Y, or Z for friends and family who were deployed. Fabulous. But by being on the Left, you need to be aware of the company you're keeping. Do you know about the reporters such as the one Toby Harnden met?:

Not only had [a well-known journalist] ‘known’ the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the ‘evil’ George W. Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. ‘Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.’

Many mainstream writers and people on the Left are actively hoping for failure in Iraq. So are Daily Kos' readers, and that left-wing blog gets more traffic than any other blog out there. Disgusting characters like Ted Rall and Michael Moore want to bring the troops home, and I wouldn't be caught under any umbrella with them.

Most Americans want the servicemembers to come home safe and sound, but if you google "bring troops home", you get a list of anti-war sites and writings. If you want to bring them home, then admittedly you don't want them to all die (which is more than we can say for some), but it's not the same thing as supporting the troops. Support has to be more than sending a box of deoderant and candy and hoping they don't all die. As Prager said, you have to support their fight too. That's where we argue semantics, and I think it's an important distinction. I wrote about this before, and I stand by my original assertion:

LT Smash points out that we have an all-volunteer military and that "the troops are committed to winning the war. If you don’t share that goal, then you are not, by definition, supporting them." People in his comments section disagree, but Smash points out two different definitions of supporting the troops: "Your definition would appear to be 'wish them good health and hope they come home safe.' My definition of 'support' is a bit more robust than that. In my world, 'supporting the troops' also means letting them know that you appreciate the sacrifices they are making, and believe in the cause they're fighting for."

I tend to think that the first definition should be an understood, that no human would wish that soldiers should be injured or die (though some of the posts on Democratic Underground might suggest otherwise). Therefore, it's not worth broadcasting, just as "I support cancer patients" or "I support the disabled" seem inane.

Not everyone agreed with Smash, as the volume of comments shows, but I do agree with him, as I do with Prager. You don't have to agree with me on the definition of "support" if you don't want to, but just be careful of which umbrellas you're under.

Posted by Sarah at 11:14 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

SAJAK

Raise your hand if you knew that Pat Sajak is a right-wing nutjob. I sure didn't, but I've had a fun time reading some of his archived articles.

But what's the deal with the new Wheel of Fortune? It was so much simpler when I used to watch it with my grandma; now I can't figure out what's going on a lot of the time. Since when did they get rid of bidding on dog statues and stuff?

Posted by Sarah at 08:31 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

I CRY FOR YOU

Charles Johnson posted a link on LGF, with no fanfare or explanation. I almost didn't click on it, but I was intrigued by the poetic name. And as I read But None Ever Cried for Me, I was filled with a sense of horror and shame.

In the words spoken by these politicians I hear affirmation that my child's blood, a Jewish child's blood, is of a different color. I shivered as I heard London's mayor, Livingstone, lamented that this was "mass murder... by terrorists bent on indiscriminate... slaughter... aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners...." and an ugly thought entered my mind.

What of the slaughter of my children, 'ordinary, working-class' brothers and sisters in Haifa and Jerusalem, Ashdod and Ashkelon? What about my working-class Jewish fellow citizens whose simple wants and needs are the same as those in London? Where is the determination to eradicate the vermin who have turned Israeli streets into infernos as they blow up buses, restaurants and malls?

Do those murdering and maiming my children deserve a state of their own from which they can peacefully continue to bathe my country in blood? Why are the snakes in London to be pursued and eradicated, while those who have killed young Jewish mothers, Jewish infants and the unborn are to be rewarded and feted as heroes in every corner of every continent in the universe?

We've let those Islamobarbarians kill in Israel for far longer than we've noticed. In our eyes, the Islamofascist fight started in 2001, but it's been going on for far longer than that. We pretend somehow that they're not the same people killing in Iraq and New York. But they are. They're the same sombitches, and they need to be stopped too.

Israel, I cry for you. I really do.

Posted by Sarah at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 08, 2005

UNITED WE STAND

unionjack.jpg

We are all Brits now

Posted by Sarah at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2005

F YEAH

I forgot what I had written last year, so I checked: last year's Independence Day post was hard for me too. It's like I want to say something profound, but every day is 4th of July when you love your country as much as I do. However, we did celebrate in a significant way: by watching "A Taste of Freedom" and Team America. Twice. And next year, we'll be celebrating Independence Day in our own country. I can't wait.

Posted by Sarah at 11:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

MESSAGE

Via Amritas I found a fascinating old article about a challenge I'd never even considered: how do you write a message for 10,000 years in the future? This is the problem the Department of Energy is working on for warning about nuclear waste.

Designing a "Keep Out" sign that lasts for 10,000 years and still holds meaning is not an easy task.

After all, about 10,000 years ago, the Sahara was a fertile savanna, and humans were just beginning to put down their spears and figure out how to grow food. Ten thousand years from now, Earth could conceivably be populated by extraterrestrials.

There's another website chronicling the magnitude of difficulty in writing this message. It's a mind-boggling task.

Posted by Sarah at 04:42 PM | Comments (3)

FREEDOM

There are things in this world that I hate to see. I absolutely hate seeing ignorant stuff like this...

bush_hitler.jpg

I feel disgusted when I see blatantly racist stuff like this...

racist_condi.jpg

And Ted Rall consistently has the ability to make me want to puke...

rall_tillman.gif

But the beauty of our country is that people have the right and ability to say whatever they want, no matter how vile it may be. I may be filled with rage at the sight of these drawings, but I'm proud that my country is a place where anyone can speak his mind. When we're free to speak, we're free to seek the truth. Mark Steyn expresses this same pride in his recent article on flag burning:

For my own part, I believe that, if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat senators want to make speeches comparing the U.S. military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It's always useful to know what people really believe.

Do I enjoy seeing this on the streets of Detroit?

burn_detroit.jpg

Of course not, but I certainly don't want to ban it. I believe that when people are allowed freedom of expression, their uppance will come if others don't like it.

Again Mark Steyn:

Banning flag desecration flatters the desecrators and suggests that the flag of this great republic is a wee delicate bloom that has to be protected. It's not. It gets burned because it's strong.
[...]
That's the point: A flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that's not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can't stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business.

Our flag gets burned because our country is important in this world. Go look at the montage of burning American flags around the world and feel proud that our country has had such an impact. A burning American flag is a sign of our strength.

Posted by Sarah at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2005

HAPPY FLAG DAY

America.jpg

Posted by Sarah at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2005

DEATH OF CIVILITY

When Tim left blogging, he did so because of what he calls "death of civility". Perhaps I am not old enough to notice any trends over time, but I have noticed people acting far differently than I would.

On our cruise we participated in an organized game of Scattergories. We split into five teams of six players and went to work. One of our categories was "foreign cities", which was a cinch for us. We used the name of a German city near us, knowing that it would never be a duplicate. Well, my husband and I got accused of cheating; the other teams refused to accept the name of a city they'd never heard of, saying that we must have made it up. We were steaming mad because to us our honor and integrity had been called into question, military values we take quite seriously. Our teammates were the oldest players in the room, two couples who were roughly 40 and 60 years old. The older gentleman threw a fit on our behalf, saying it was disgraceful that the other players in the room distrusted our word when we lived in Germany with the military. But in the end the young people in the room were not to be swayed. The six of us on our team left the game disgusted: twenty people thought that we cared more about winning a game than truth and honor. Twenty people thought that we were either too stupid to know the names of real German cities or too deceitful to be trusted. Twenty people thought that our accepting another team's word that avocado is a real ice cream flavor in Colorado was more natural than their accepting the name of a city that can be confirmed by any map. It was the death of civility.

I was reminded of that Scattergories incident and Tim's values when I read this exchange between a reporter and a Bush spokesman today. You don't speak like this to people in public. You don't accuse people of lying unless you have good reason to. And when you're a reporter, you really shouldn't let your complete distaste for the administration show like this.

The death of civility is all around us.

Posted by Sarah at 09:21 AM | Comments (8)

May 20, 2005

TWIN TOWERS

My husband and I have said all along the same thing that Donald Trump is saying: we want the WTC back. Not a garden of peaceful tranquility, not a beam of light, but the same symbol of capitalism and prosperity that the WTC was. I wish it could happen.

Posted by Sarah at 09:57 AM | Comments (4)

April 14, 2005

MISSED THE ANNIV

Ali says that what he wrote isn't a poem, but I disagree. It's wonderful.

I re-read what I wrote after the first anniversary of the fall of Saddam's statue. Funnily enough, we have one of those posters in our house: I like to think of it as how far we've come.

Posted by Sarah at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2005

SUPPORT

I had been emailing with a blog reader for a couple of months before she found out they would be stationed here on my post in Germany. A Soldier and His Wife arrived this week, and we all went out to dinner last night.

We talked a bit about Anheuser-Busch and how supportive they've been of the troops. They made that Super Bowl commercial, they have offered free passes to Sea World and Busch Gardens, and they donate two free beers to every soldier returning from Iraq. They are the King of Beers. We talked about how there really are people in this world who love soldiers, who want to show their support, and who go the extra mile to show their gratitude to the men and women who protect us.

I thought of that coversation again as I read this story from Russ Vaughn. And I cried like a baby at the dedication this woman showed to thank a soldier.

Posted by Sarah at 07:49 AM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2005

WRONG

This wonderful article called The Millionaire Next Door vs. the Politician in Washington hits on what I mentioned the other day.

The problem with college financial aid is that for two families with equal lifetime incomes, the one that consumes the most and saves the least gets the most financial aid.

This is the single greatest problem I noticed when I worked for the university and saw financial aid disbursement. The 25 year olds with three kids by three different fathers were the ones going to school for free. We're rewarding the wrong behavior.

Posted by Sarah at 10:10 AM | Comments (3)

February 17, 2005

NEVER

I started this blog as a way to try to understand the world we live in. Some days I do just fine. Other days I can't believe the monsters who breathe the same air as I do.

It started last night with this opinion column on the ROTC ban at Columbia:

Joining the military is flushing your education down the toilet. Why would people come here if they were just going to enter the military upon graduation in the first place? It’s like, “Well, I just spent four years learning about mankind’s accomplishments, but all I really want to do is kill people.” I’m not really sure how the Core curriculum is going to come in handy when you’ve been ordered to stack a group of naked Iraqi prisoners in a human pyramid.

I, and I suspect most students on this campus, embrace the “civil-military” gap that ROTC bemoans. The fact is, I cannot comprehend why anyone would want to be in the military at this juncture in American history. Meanwhile, our campus is one of the few remaining places where as students, we can be free from the ever-increasing “let’s roll” mentality that is becoming so dominant in this nation.

Wow. I am shocked someone would say something so nasty. But we're talkin' college kids here, so I'm not that surprised. What did in fact surprise me -- shock the bejesus out of me, to be frank -- was this email Greyhawk got, shocking because it's from a Department of Defense high school teacher:

I hope that your children's teachers offer you children the type of education where they see what a close-minded, blood-thirsty individual you are. You are the type of person who will fight for freedom, all right, as long as it is for the freedom of white, American males. Hitler loved people like you. Of course, like you, I am strictly judging you by your comments, not by actually knowing anything about you or your motivations. And, of course, like you, I am taking everything you say out of context without knowing anything about you. The difference is is that I am actually literate. In fact, aside from judging you to be a bigot, a sexist, and someone who probably didn't do very well in school at all, I would further judge you to be someone who has a hard time passing a pt test. Why don't you "ping the wife" about this one? She is probably happiest when you are not pinging her at all.

A teacher employed by the US Army wrote that letter to Greyhawk. I will never, never grok this world we live in.

MORE:

Neal Boortz
Paulie

Posted by Sarah at 09:50 AM | Comments (7)

February 16, 2005

HEH

Perspective: I may be feeling blue, but at least I'm not the soldiers who are face down in 6 inches of snow at the firing range today.
Realization: And it's hard to stay blue when you've got Taco Bell in your tummy and "MMMBop" is on the radio.

Posted by Sarah at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2005

GENEROSITY

I heard a touching story from my favorite reservist, a blog reader I've followed for his whole tour in Iraq. A husband and wife couple ran the alterations shop on his camp in Baghdad, and a few months ago the husband was killed by insurgents. No one knew what had happened to the wife until the other day when she reopened the alterations shop. My reservist says:

When we walked into the shop, it was packed with soldiers and the shelves were rapidly becoming bare. The wife was dressed completely in black but still had a smile on her face as she greeted us. I literally could find nothing to buy and she refused to accept money for nothing. Even her entire stock of fake Rolex watches were gone. One soldier even bought a bootleg Barbara Steisand movie just to give her business and money. No one laughed and one soldier thanked him for helping out as he walked out.

The generosity of the American (soldier) is beyond belief at times. I hope she restocks and stays open.

Something about that story just touches my heart.

Posted by Sarah at 08:40 AM | Comments (2)

January 31, 2005

YAY

Greyhawk has my favorite round-up of Iraqi voting photos. Many have quoted Iraqi blogs, but Varifrank takes my cake for favorite non-Iraqi commentary.

Posted by Sarah at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2005

BRAVE SOULS

Naturally I'm a little concerned about my husband today. But at the front of my mind are the Iraqi election workers:

The Iraqis know that not everyone in the room will survive the elections. “Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not next week,” one poll worker says. But maybe a month from now, insurgents will kill him.

Posted by Sarah at 10:52 AM | Comments (2)

GOOD START

The polls in Iraq have been open for two hours. So far so good.

Posted by Sarah at 06:56 AM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2005

VOTING

First Afghanistan voted.

afghan_vote.jpg

Now Iraq votes.

iraq_vote.jpg

Exile Mehsin Imgoter breaks down as he casts his absentee vote. Does voting mean this much to you? Michael Moore had to promise free underpants to folks just to get them to come to the polling place; one Iraqi in Canada drove 14 hours to cast his vote. Does voting make you cry? Would you risk your life to vote? Can we even begin to understand what Mehsin Imgoter is feeling?

Greyhawk's daughter wrote a guest post at Mudville Gazette; this part especially made me smile:

I think it’s wonderful that these people are finally getting the rights they deserve. I also learned in my history class that it took 150 years before women could vote in America. This opportunity is available to the women of Iraq today, that puts them one step ahead of America's first elections already. Who knows if this election will be a perfect election? What’s stopping a terrorist from shooting one of the candidates or voters? But, we must not give up.

We're not giving up. The military has set out a clear list of do's and don't's for coalition troops, and they're doing their best to prevent attacks on polling stations. My own husband has been working around the clock to make tomorrow happen, and I can't wait to talk to him after it's all said and done. Until then I stand and wait.

I stand and wait for Iraq to begin a brave new era in history, and though it won't be perfect overnight, it's a start. It's the start of peace, because there can't be peace until men are truly free.

Tomorrow is one of the most exciting days in Iraqi history. Let freedom reign.

Posted by Sarah at 10:49 AM | Comments (7)

January 28, 2005

CITIZEN

The United States gained another citizen yesterday; unfortunately he was unable to celebrate.
My heart celebrates for him.
Posthumous citizenship granted to Marine

Posted by Sarah at 09:37 AM | Comments (4)

January 27, 2005

FREEDOM

Bunker found an MSNBC headline that galled him, and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind:
Freedom -- At What Cost?

If you even have to ask, you don't grok.

I have always been free. Many, like Zeyad and Ziggy, have not, and they know the value of freedom firsthand. And though I have never had that value tested, I know what it's worth. It's worth sending my husband downrange, it's worth living alone for a year, and it's worth -- heaven help me -- becoming a widow, a fate worse than my own death. It's worth everything.

Jefferson said that "the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." If you don't understand that feeling, this war on terror is going to be rough for you. If you don't understand that 1400 Americans have died for a cause far greater than their individual accomplishments, then the next decade is going to be very long.

Perhaps in the meantime you could read What Are We Fighting For?

John Hawkins asked a phenomenal question a few weeks ago about immortality va. anonymity:

If you had a choice, would you rather be Leonidas, the king who died fighting in the Spartans' immortal stand at Themopolae against the Persians or Xenolas, the unknown Greek farmer who died at 90? Would it be better to be Davy Crockett who died fighting at the Alamo or Phineas Hogenbottom, a banker no one has ever heard of? Is it better to be Bob Wilson, nameless family man, or Nathan Hale who said, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" before he swung?

I can say that I will never forget the names Tyler Prewitt, Sean Sims, and Gunnar Becker. They gave everything for freedom, used their blood to refresh that tree of liberty that is taking root in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only way we honor their sacrifice is by understanding what an asinine headline that is.

Freedom -- At Any Cost

Posted by Sarah at 11:39 AM | Comments (18)

January 25, 2005

24 JAN

I have two younger brothers. They both live in Illinois and are both very important to me, but they are quite different. Middle Brother is intensely hyperactive and energetic; Little Brother is quiet and introverted. They're both fun to be around, and I care about them immensely. But I hardly ever think about them.

We wives spend so much time concentrating on Iraq -- watching the news for car bombs and checking with friends about the latest rumor -- that we sometimes forget that Iraq is not the only place in the world where bad things happen. We're so concerned with our husbands' safety that it's often our only concern.

My friend's brother was killed in a car accident on Sunday. I just spent the last two days helping her arrange emergency leave and travel orders so she could get home. We also had the worst night of weather that we'd had all season last night, so driving to the airport was no small feat this morning. I'm exhausted, physically and emotionally, but again I've been given one of life's lessons on perspective. And as soon as they wake up, I'm calling my brothers.

Yesterday MSNBC called 24 Jan the worst day of the year. My friend and I might have to agree.

Posted by Sarah at 01:17 PM | Comments (2)

January 20, 2005

CLARITY

I've had a remarkable evening of clarity. Over the past few weeks, I've worked myself into a tizzy about making plans for block leave after Iraq. Long story short, my husband and I booked a cruise and vacation for May, which once seemed reasonable but at this point is way outside the block leave window. We might end up losing the whole vacation if he can't take leave later, and it's been twisting my stomach in knots. I was worried about losing money if we don't get to go, worried about plans and organization and schedules...and then I got invited to go to dinner with CPT Sims' wife tomorrow night and I realized how infinitely trivial my problems are. It broke my heart to suddenly realize that there are people who would give anything to have my stupid vacation problems, and I felt ashamed to even be worrying about it. I finally let go of the stress and decided it doesn't matter. If my husband and I are together, I don't care where we are or how much money we lose. My problems are not problems.

Last I heard, Mrs. Sims still reads my blog from time to time. If she's reading now, I want her to know that she makes me a better person every day.

Posted by Sarah at 09:44 PM | Comments (6)

SELECTIVE

Seems John Earl Haynes has been reading the same kind of one-sided crap I have:

Haynes: Jamie: It is still early to judge what impact In Denial will have. Thus far the only reviews have been in conservatively-oriented journals of opinion. There have been none in liberal and left journals and no academic reviews.

Debate in the academic world on this issue is limited. Anyone whose knowledge of the historical literature was based on a reading of articles published in the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review, the two leading journals in the field, would believe that there was nothing to debate. Not a single article published in the Journal of American History and the American Historical Review in the last thirty years has taken a critical stance regarding the American Communist movement or a benign view of domestic anticommunism. In the same thirty-year period dozens of articles in these journals have taken a reverse stance: a benign view of the CPUSA or depicting domestic opposition to communism in highly negative terms. In these journals there has been no debate: only one side is heard from.

Read the whole interview, starting with Glazov's own experience with the gulags. Thanks to Amritas for the find.

Posted by Sarah at 07:21 AM | Comments (1)

19 JAN

He did it again! I always thought this was one of the coolest traditions. In fact, I used to take my English teacher three roses on this day; I did it for like five years before I moved away.

Mysterious fan marks Poe's birthday

BALTIMORE - The mystery man was dressed for the cold rather than tradition, and some spectators were not quite as respectful as in years past. But for the 56th year, a man stole into a locked graveyard early on Edgar Allan Poe's birthday and placed three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac on the writer's grave.

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum, who has seen the mysterious visitor every Jan. 19 since 1976, gathered with about 20 people Tuesday night to glimpse the ritual.

"It was absolutely frigid," Jerome said of the sub-20 degree temperature.

No one, not even Jerome, knows the identity of the so-called "Poe Toaster." The visit was first documented in 1949, a century after Poe's death.

This year, the visitor arrived at 1:10 a.m. in a heavy coat and obscured his face with a black pullover, Jerome said. He was not wearing the traditional white scarf and black hat.

"He put the roses and cognac at the base of Poe's grave and put his hand on top of the (tomb) stone. He paused and put his head down," the museum curator said. He left after about five minutes, Jerome said.

The visitor's three roses are believed to honor Poe, his mother-in-law and his wife, all of whom are buried in the graveyard. The significance of the cognac is unknown.

People who stand vigil usually respect the visitor's desire for anonymity, which, along with the visitor's quick moves and the cover of darkness, have kept his secret well.

But this time, some spectators "created a nuisance," Jerome said. Some entered the locked cemetery; others confronted Jerome after the stranger had departed and demanded that he reveal his identity.

For decades, a frail figure made the visit to Poe's grave. But in 1993 the original visitor left a cryptic note saying, "The torch will be passed." A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had passed the tradition on to his sons.

Poe, who wrote poems and horror stories such as "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart," died Oct. 7, 1849 in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern.

Bethany Dinger, 32, first became fascinated with the writer while doing volunteer work at the Poe House in high school. Wednesday was her third time watching the ritual.

"It's always amazing - you know it's going to happen and then it's just wow, he's here," she said. "We're just so in the moment - there's no talking" while the visitor pays homage.

Posted by Sarah at 06:42 AM | Comments (1)

January 08, 2005

THE SEVEN

I watched The Magnificent Seven again a few weeks ago, so I understand what VDH is talking about in his recent The Disenchanted American. I felt frustrated in the movie that the seven were doing more for the village than the villagers. And, yes, the more I learn about the world, the wearier I become. I grok these words:

We will finish the job in Iraq, nursemaid democratic Afghanistan through its birthpangs, and continue to ensure that bandits and criminal states stay off the world's streets. But what is new is that the disenchanted American is becoming savvy and developing a long memory — and so we all fear the day is coming when he casts aside the badge, rides the buckboard out of town, and leaves such sanctimonious folk to themselves.

Posted by Sarah at 09:53 PM | Comments (2)

December 31, 2004

INTOXICATING VANITY

I haven't said anything about the tsunami yet. When I first heard about it, I had two very cynical thoughts: 1) wow, that's a lot more deaths than in the war, and 2) how long until someone blames this on the US (which is why I found this humorous dialogue so funny). I don't really know what to say; how can you even begin to fathom 100,000 deaths? Entire islands under water? I can't even begin to grok it.

I do keep returning to one thought though. I first began to think about it when I read Cosmos, and the thought returned to me as I read Jurassic Park. Watching that silly The Day After Tomorrow right before the tsunami hit made me think about it even more.

Man cannot destroy the planet.

The big chunk of rock that occupies the third orbit around the sun will always be there. What is on it will continue to change though. I've always thought it was awful self-righteous when people say that man is destroying the earth. I don't attribute that much power to mankind. Man might destroy his own habitat, making it impossible for man to live on earth, this I will concede, but the earth will survive anything man throws at her.

I read something else the other day that is pertinent here:

In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals.

Man needs the earth a helluva lot more than earth needs man. The tsunami -- heck, all natural disasters -- is a good example of the precarious eqilibrium of adapting the background to our needs. Man wants to live near the water, for the bounty and the beauty of the sea. He tames the sea with retaining walls and houses on stilts, but this time the background won the fight.

I wish when people spoke of Kyoto, they wouldn't say that we're ruining the environment. We might be ruining our environment, making it more difficult for earth to sustain human life, I don't know, I'm not an environmental scientist. But the earth will survive all SUVs and aerosol hair sprays; it just may not be an earth we can live on.

And so I went looking for the exerpt from Jurassic Park and found that another blogger already made my point three days ago. He used the same exerpt:

You think man can destroy the planet? What intoxicating vanity! Let me tell you something about our planet: Earth is four and a half billion years old. There has been life on it for nearly that long: three-point-eight billion years. Bacteria first, later the first multicellular life, then the first complex creatures in the sea and on the land. Then finally the great sweeping ages of animals: the amphibians, the dinosaurs, at last the mammals. Each one enduring millions on millions of years. Great dynasties of creatures rising, flourishing, dying away... all this against a background of continuous and violent upheaval: mountain ranges thrust up, eroded away. Cometary impacts. Volcanic eruptions. Oceans rising and falling. Whole continents moving in an endless, constant, violent change, colliding, buckling to make mountains over millions of years. Earth has survived everything in its time. And it will certainly survive us.

If all the nuclear weapons in the world went off at once and all the plants, all the animals died and the Earth was sizzling-hot for a hundred thousand years, life would survive, somewhere. Under the soil, frozen the Arctic ice. Sooner or later, when the planet was no longer inhospitable, life would spread again. The evolutionary process would begin again. Might take a few billion years for life to regain variety and of course it would be very different from what it is now, but the Earth would survive our folly. Only we would not.

If the ozone layer gets thinner, ultraviolet radiation sears the Earth... so what? Ultraviolet radiation is good for life. It's powerful energy. It promotes mutation, change. Many forms of life will thrive with more UV radiation. Many others will die out. You think this is the first time that's happened? Think about oxygen. Necessary for life now, but oxygen is actually a metabolic poison. It's a corrosive gas, like fluorine. When oxygen was first produced as waste product by certain plant cells some three billion years ago, it created a crisis for all other life on Earth. Those plants were polluting the environment: exhaling a lethal gas! Earth eventually had an atmosphere incompatible with life. Nevertheless life on Earth took care of itself.

In the thinking of a human being a hundred years is a long time: hundred years ago we didn't have cars, airplanes, computers, or vaccines. It was a whole different world. But to the Earth, a hundred years is nothing. A million years is nothing. This planet lives and breathes on a much vaster scale. We can't imagine its slow and powerful rhythms... and we haven't got the humility to try. We've been residents here for the blink of an eye. If we were gone tomorrow, the Earth would not miss us.

And so earth won the battle in Asia this week, which we're not used to seeing on such a large scale. But don't kid yourself: earth will win the war too, eventually.

Posted by Sarah at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

December 30, 2004

CONSEQUENCES

My mother recently found out more information about the stabbing of the couple from my high school. The airman who killed both of them will face the death penalty.

The rumor around Peoria is that this airman tried to kiss Jamie at a party and she rebuffed him. So he killed them both. Obviously I was not there and do not know the actual details of what happened that night. However, if this rumor is indeed true, then this is one of the most frightening things I can imagine. If this is true, then Jamie did nothing wrong. Any wife could find herself in Jamie's situation, which is what makes this extra tragic in my eyes. If Jamie had been messing around or doing something foolish, then her death might make more sense, but she presumably had done nothing wrong. She turned down a guy who wasn't her husband, and they both died for it. I can't even begin to make sense of that. It worries me when I think about actions and consequences: getting into drugs, cheating, or hanging out with seedy friends are actions that inherently imply consequences; being loyal to your husband is not. I just can't get my mind around that one.

If the events really did happen the way the streets of Peoria say they did, then Andrew Witt should die.

Posted by Sarah at 03:06 PM | Comments (5)

WHITE?

Did you know that on the application to work for the Dept of Defense Dependent Schools, the race category of "white" includes anyone "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East"? I guess I've never thought before about which group an Arab might choose; apparently they choose the same one I do. "White". Interesting.

Posted by Sarah at 01:37 PM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2004

HOLY CRAP, DUDE

I've watched a lot of South Park in the last year, which has affected my vocabulary. I chuckled when I read this article the other day about the word dude because Stan Marsh is the reason dude is in my vocabulary. Now whenever something surprises me, I hear myself say in my head, "Holy crap, dude."

I got an email today that I thought was a hoax. So I checked it out, and it appears to be legit. Ben Stein wrote me an email.

Ben Stein, people. Wrote to me. Holy crap, dude.

God bless you and good luck with your blog. I hope it makes you happy.

And your husband is a star....

Love, Ben

Dang. I wish I had said more about how cool Ben Stein is when I wrote one sentence about him the other day. Just in case he ever comes back here, I want him to know that my husband and I used to watch Win Ben Stein's Money all the time and stare in awe at how many questions he could answer. (We were also thrilled to hear his voice in the "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" episode of Family Guy.)

But more than any excitement we have at watching him intellectually clobber people, I have enjoyed discovering his writing. I first read How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World? back in July, and then noted with glee that Stein had written in the comments section in response to a soldier's letter. Then the other day I ran across We Shall Overcome. I never thought Ben Stein would find the time to write to me.

If he reads this, I'd like him to know that I really admire and respect him. And that I consider it an enormous honor that he took the time to email me.

Holy crap, dude.

    MORE TO GROK:

    And read Col. Denman’s Luger too! Man, you all know how awful this week has been for me. Well, now I feel like Fry: "I'm walkin' on sunshine, woah-oh-oh!"

    Posted by Sarah at 09:37 AM | Comments (6)

    October 25, 2004

    HYPOTHESIS TESTING

    You know those moments when you're so sure that you know what the problem is that you spend hours chasing the wrong hypothesis? That's what was going on with my computer. My computer was blocking me out of only certain websites: Amazon, Hotmail, Blogspot, AKO, and Yahoo. My computer-knowing friend and I spent hours searching for viruses and trying to get the computer to recognize the certificate. When we had tested everything we could think of, my friend came up with one last-ditch plan: unhook the router. Bingo. All this time, the problem was the router and not the computer. It was a forehead-slapping moment; we started with a hypothesis that was too narrow. We assumed that it was a certificate problem, but we had assumed wrong. It was shades of motorcycle maintenance.

    It was progress, to figure out that the problem was the router and not the computer, but it was progress that came with the price of nearly five hours of faulty assumptions. But at least now we can start focusing on the right source of the problem. My computer tech knowledge has grown exponentially, which means I'm only half-a-moron now, and I've decided that having a computer is about as much work as having a pet.

    But at least now I can check my email and read blogspot blogs again!

    Posted by Sarah at 05:08 PM | Comments (2)

    October 22, 2004

    SUPERMAN'S ORIGIN

    The wealth of knowledge that's out there is one of the things I love about the blogosphere. Smash asks a question about Arabic, and a reader responds. I mention a fallen Soldier, and his friends and family all add their thoughts. And I ask for help on superheroes, and a faithful reader comes to my rescue:

    Although Nietzsche invented the word "Übermensch," it's a word, not a character. Superman's creators Siegel and Shuster were not educated men, so it's unlikely that they knew much about Nietzsche.

    OTOH, it is highly likely that Siegel and Shuster were heavily influenced by a 1930 Philip Wylie novel called GLADIATOR:

    "The parallels are obvious: Both Hugo Danner and Clark Kent grow up in rural small-town America, possessing powers far beyond the common mortal; both are imbued, from an early age, with a profound sense of fairness and justice; and they hide their respective secrets from the world at large. The resemblance is even more obvious when you consider the original 1930s conception of Superman [which was far weaker than later incarnations of the character]. Their powers are the same: great strength, skin so tough that it can withstand just about anything short of an explosive artillery shell, and the ability to jump so high and so far that it almost gives the impression of flight. And both, despite their superhuman status, espouse a political philosophy that celebrates the common human being over capitalist elites."

    [The early Superman has been described as a super-FDR - a costumed socialist activist. This political aspect was gone by the time the character attained iconic status in the 40s.]

    Nonetheless, the superhero concept as we know it today was invented by Siegel and Shuster. The individual ingredients (superpowers, costume, secret identity) had all been done before, but it was S&S that combined them into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Some claim that gods and demigod heroes like Hercules were the first "superheroes," but they lack the total package embodied by Superman.

    There's a new book that I'm going to try to buy ASAP, MEN OF TOMORROW, that goes into detail about the birth of the superhero genre. What excites me about the book is that it's the first history of comics to look into the Jewish roots of the majority of American superhero creators. The children of Yiddish-speaking immigrants created icons for all Americans - and the world. The Nazis hated the American Superman because he was the creation of Jews.

    Posted by Sarah at 07:22 AM | Comments (1)

    October 20, 2004

    SUPERHEROES

    I finally got to see Spiderman 2 tonight. I loved it.
    The scene in the subway train was one of the most moving things I've seen in a long time.

    To me, there's nothing more American than a superhero, an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances who struggles to do what's right no matter what the cost. Superman is of course my favorite, but Spiderman is very dear to my heart as well. I'm ignorant as to the origins of the comic book superheroes; maybe some of my comic-knowing readers can help me: are superheroes American in origin?

    I will be surprised if they aren't.

    Posted by Sarah at 09:50 PM | Comments (6)

    September 11, 2004

    THIRD ANNIVERSARY

    This week I have been thinking a lot about a post I read on D.G.C.I.:

    First, a little background. This is a conservative blog. We aren't shy around here about professing our support for President Bush and other Republican candidates. If you had missed that point, let me invite you to take a look around.

    We (the authors of this site) are Conservative Republicans. We write about Conservative Republican matters to our audience, who are mostly (go figger) Conservative Republicans. Makes sense so far, doesn't it?

    But over the last couple of months in particular we have noticed an increase in comments from Liberals. Not just trolls, although God knows we have our share of them, but from self-professed Liberals, Kerry fans, who sometimes even make a semi-intelligent argument, even if they're usually wrong.

    I don't hold that against them. For the most part, they're just misinformed.

    But what I have to wonder is WHY? Why are they here? We certainly don't have anything to offer them and their belief system.

    I have wondered the very thing time and time again, but what struck me the most was this exchange in the comments section:

    Three words: Know your enemy.

    You want to see blogs with some serious followers? Go check out Atrios, with its comments in the hundreds for every post. Go check out Pandagon, with its everyday readers of 25 or more. Go check out dailykos, and tell me Democrats are giving up and don't really like Kerry anyway.
    I dare you.

    Posted by: Norah at September 8, 2004 10:47 AM

    Three words: Know your enemy.

    And there's the basic difference between us. The only enemies I have are Islamofascist terrorists who want nothing more than to see both you and I dead.

    And the sooner you figure THAT out, the better off we'll all be.

    Posted by: dgci at September 8, 2004 06:13 PM

    And that's when it hit me. Laser beam.

    Last September 11, I was focused; I knew who the enemy was and my laser beam was strong. This year I find that I have gotten off target. (Actually, I get off target a lot because I'm a hot-headed person. Red 6 and I have discussed this extensively, since we're two peas in a pod in that respect. We both admire my husband for his ability to shrug off idiotarians and forget about them; Red 6 and I stew. We've recently learned to vent to each other, since both of us were previously dumping everything on my husband!) Returning to Nelson Ascher's post is a way for me to re-center. I wrote about this back in November:

    I write often about laser beams, because that symbol has helped me gain perspective. On September 11th, I wrote a long email to family and friends about what the two-year anniversary meant to me, especially as a military wife. I read everything that all my favorite bloggers said that day and felt the same emotions they felt. I also had a different friend from college who has her own blog, and I went to see what she had to say on that momentous date. Nothing. I tried all of her links, and no one had even mentioned September 11th. I tried all of their links, racing through the internet trying to find anyone in their circle of "liberal" friends who thought that this date still held significance. I found one person who said that he had written a post about September 11th but then deleted it because "it is important to remember the events of 9/11, but let's not dwell on them."

    I got so angry.
    And then I found Nelson Ascher's post.

    It stays at the top of my list of crucial reading, and I don't see anything bumping it out of the way. It has brought me great comfort ever since I read it.

    On this side of the world it has been 911 again for over 6 hours. I swear I'd rather not write anything today. I'd rather remain silent and just spend the day feeling that my anger and hatred are alive and well. They're stronger indeed. I also know I should avoid reading much today, because many, probably most things that are and will be published will make me even angrier. And the problem is not that I don't want to be angrier: I do want. The problem is that I do not want to waste a miligram of my anger on all the idiots who have been getting ready to show us how idiotic they are. We're at a point where to be too angry at, say, Chomsky and the BBC, Old Europe and ANSWER, second and third rate entertainers and academics is to give them a kind of victory. They deserve disdain. Anger needs to remain concentrated like light in a laser beam, we must direct it toward its rightful target: Islamofascism first and foremost. If we spend too much time getting mad at those who are but idiots we run the risk of forgetting, even if only for a second, that it is the Muslim/Arab religious fanatics who are the ENEMY. In a way, that's the idiots' main weapon: to attract a wrath that could be more usefully directed to the really dangerous enemies. Whenever we're not thinking about the Jihadists we are losing some very precious time. And anger.

    My anger has grown concentrated, like a laser beam, like Ascher proposed. I feel that anger burning inside of me every day when I read Little Green Footballs. I feel the anger when I watch the Palestinians dance in the streets, when I look at the Child Abuse Slideshow, or the Terrorism Promo Videos (now deleted but forever burned into my brain) that promote killing our President and soldiers. Writing my blog is a way for me to release that anger and hopefully connect with others who feel as I do. It is a way for us bloggers to remind each other that there's a reason we write: we're in a war of ideas, and as often as imams and Arab media spread theirs, we'll fight with anger and passion to spread ours. And it's a way for us to fuel our precious anger so that another September 11th will never happen.
    ...
    But I need to re-focus. Sometimes I too feel like our Spaniard, "Being the only one with one idea, while virtually all the people around me is against it." But that is a distraction from the true target of my anger, the laser beam I have worked hard to focus, and I need to take his wise and eloquent words to heart:

    "I just don't care about the criticism I receive every day, because I know the cause I defend is right."

    I feel that my comments section has been pulling me off target for a long time now. Seb is not the enemy, though I send a hundred mental middle fingers his way. Neither was Florian or Rfidtag or any of the others who have tried to sidetrack me. You wanna know who the real enemy is?

    This guy.

    beslan.jpg

    These guys.

    berg.jpg

    And the guys who orchestrated this.

    911.jpg

    They are the enemy. All this other nonsense, all the forged memos and hats from Cambodia and plastic turkeys, is just a distraction from what's really important. D.G.C.I. told Norah that the sooner she figured it out, the better. I too could learn that lesson. My laser beam has scattered, to where points of light are now aimed at the likes of Michael Moore, John Kerry, and Seb. I need to refocus.

    I have thin skin. It takes about one week of getting to know me before you realize that I take everything to heart, everything personally. Blogging was supposed to be an exercise in toughness for me, a way for me to cowboy up and take the heat, but I find I've only improved by a fraction. And I've found that I don't care to work any harder at becoming less sensitive. Thus, my comments section can sometimes feel like more of a burden than a blessing. Every unkind word about our servicemembers, every personal insult, and every moonbat theory is like a bullet through my heart. The easiest solution I could think of is to close down my comments section, but I don't think I'm quite ready for that because there's nothing I like better in the morning than an encouraging word from Tammi or Bunker or John. But I have to do something because lately I have been feeling depressingly distracted. I started my blog as a way to release anger, but at times it feels like it has become the source of my anger.

    Jim of Parkway Rest Stop once told a story about Basic Training that has stuck with me: his tale of having to "police the brass". I think I've decided to police the brass of my comments section from now on. I'll walk through my comments section, and every bullet that pierces my thin skin will be picked out and discarded. The wounds will still burn, but perhaps the act of taking control over my own area -- the blogspace that I pay money to write in -- will have a calming effect.

    Tim already advised me to do this a long time ago -- "Frankly you have had the stress heaped upon you of your husband in a combat zone with car bombs going off like so many popcorn kernels. ...you are now waging a two front war. One in Iraq, one at your PC. I'm afraid it will consume you. I'm not betting you can make yourself not care...so perhaps you may want to remove yourself as a target." -- I'm just now going to take his advice. I think a good way for me to maintain focus and hone my laser beam is to police the distracting brass.

    At any rate, I really believe this year that we're all out of focus. This election is making us all point at each other instead of focusing as one nation on the looming threat that is Islamofascism. We're all drowning in a sea of Purple Hearts and superscript "th"s that have very little relevance to the current war we fight. And while we stand and point fingers at each other, those men in the photos above have not lost focus. They work diligently every day towards one goal: killing infidels. They'd kill Audie Murphy and Abbie Hoffman with the same indifference. We can't let ourselves forget that.

    As 2001 slips further and further into our memory, we can't lose sight of the reality we face. We can't let smoke and mirrors sidetrack us from our goals, nor should we sidetrack ourselves. We owe it to all of the victims of WWIV, and especially to these people, to never let our laser beams scatter.

    I'm working on my laser beam, every single day, and I sure could use your help.

    Other 9/11 Reading:
    Lileks 9.11.02
    Cox & Forkum

    Posted by Sarah at 09:11 AM | Comments (37)

    September 08, 2004

    YAPPERS

    Avery's got me rethinking the importance I assign to celebrities vis á vis their big mouths. Which is good, considering I can't go to a movie or listen to music these days without encountering someone I wish had just kept his/her yapper shut. I guess I should just give up and enjoy the entertainment, but boy do I hate putting money in idiots' pockets.

    Posted by Sarah at 04:02 PM | Comments (6)

    August 22, 2004

    LANCE

    A good article I missed (via Macker's archives): Lance Armstrong and Individual Glory

    I'd write about it if I hadn't just spent most of the day writing a final exam for the grammar class I'm teaching next weekend. I'm worn out. Just read the article and imagine what I'd say.

    Posted by Sarah at 09:34 PM | Comments (3)

    August 06, 2004

    GREATEST

    Carla shows that she and I have fundamental common ground...and that she writes those statements that make me wonder "Why didn't I think of that?"

    As something of an aside, there is another vital difference that makes the case for Bush over Kerry: Bush believes, I think, and has stated that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Kerry's politics are such that he could never say such a thing, much less believe it. I don't want a president who doesn't recognize the United States' standing as the most moral country (in it foundations) in the world.

    Posted by Sarah at 11:25 AM | Comments (3)

    July 14, 2004

    EXCEPTIONAL

    Via DGCI, I found this transcript from Rush Limbaugh's show about the Kerry appearance on Larry King. Larry King and Linda Heinz-Kerry had the following exchange:

    KING: What do you think, Teresa, would be the effect of another terror attack on the United States politically?

    HEINZ-KERRY: I don't know. I think most Americans subconsciously believe something is going to happen. It's a matter of when. And it's a matter of how.

    KING: Strange way to live, though.

    HEINZ-KERRY: Yeah. But you know, Europeans have lived that way and other people around the world have lived that way. Americans have been very safe, at least as a nation.

    Rush Limbaugh explained a serious difference in worldview between people on the Left and people on the Right:

    America is exceptional. America is the shining light, city on the hill, beacon of freedom, all this, prosperous nation, superpower. The left doesn't like that. They don't believe in American exceptionalism. They think this is an accident. It's not fair we should be more prosperous. It's not fair we should be safer. We must learn to adapt as the Europeans have. And her husband didn't step in and disagree with any of this.

    I encountered some of this in the class I took over the weekend. Our professor hails from Africa but has lived in Germany for thirty years. At times during the seminar, he seemed to be belittling the American response to 9/11. He too was operating under the viewpoint that these things have been going on in other parts of the world for much more than three years, and that al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism terrorism is nothing to get all worked up about. He kept pointing out how Americans think that terrorism started in September 2001 when in fact it's been going on in Europe for decades.

    My question is, why does it seem that we're the only ones to try to do something about it?

    Granted, 9/11 is much bigger than anything the Red Army Faction or other terrorist groups ever did, but why hasn't Europe been waging a War on Terror for the past few decades? It's funny that when France said "We're all Americans now," what they seemed to really mean is "We're all victims now." And Theresa Heinz-Kerry seems to agree. It sucks to live in fear, but hey, everyone else does it. That's not the type of mentality that I want running the country. I want "smoke 'em out"; I want "either you are with us or you are with the terrorists"; I want "bring 'em on." I don't want "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

    I don't want to cower like the rest of the world does. I want us to be exceptional.


    (Thanks for RWN for the quotes.)

    MORE TO GROK:

    Annika is a lot more blunt than I am...

    Posted by Sarah at 03:43 PM | Comments (6)

    July 08, 2004

    WARRIOR

    A second grader in Delaware wrote a very moving oral report:

    So Will I

    My grandfather remembers when he was in the Navy. He fought in World War Two. When I play GI Joes with him he would always take the gun he used when he was in the war. He would always tell me about the gun he use to use. When I grow and go to war I want to have the same gun and do the same things too.

    I have wanted to be a warrior since I was four. The reason why I want to be a warrior is so I can help others and be remembered. My dad doesn’t want me to be a warrior, but I am still going to be one. If I was alive when they had the Vietnam War I would have been in it.

    My grandfather was a warrior and so will I.
    The End

    And then he got yelled at by his teacher.

    (Via Iraq Now)

    Posted by Sarah at 04:49 PM | Comments (4)

    ROCK

    The reasons to like Kid Rock just keep escalating...

    It was a lazy afternoon at Russell Simmons' spread outside downtown East Hampton.

    The hip-hop and fashion mogul, his younger brother Joe (aka Rev. Run, who's filming a pilot of his own reality show for the ABC Family Channel), movie director Brett Ratner and his girlfriend, Serena Williams (recovering from her defeat in the Wimbledon final), were getting a little antsy on a rainy Monday, wondering what to do with themselves.

    Then Kid Rock arrived.

    So they all decided to drive into town and take in a movie.

    They jumped into various vehicles and headed for the United Artists East Hampton theater on Main St.

    Standing in front of the box office and perusing the titles, Simmons suggested that everybody catch the 7:15 showing of "Fahrenheit 9/11."

    Kid Rock balked.

    "I don't want to see that, it's all propaganda," the rock star said - sparking a prolonged political debate right there on the sidewalk.

    "Russell, don't you understand, everything we got in this country, we got from fighting," Kid Rock argued, according to Simmons' account. "It's just a movie. ... I'd rather go to the bar across the street."

    Kid Rock refused to see the movie, and said goodbye. The others bought tickets and went into the theater.

    A couple of hours later, Simmons returned to his parked car. On his windshield was a scribbled note:

    "Vote Bush. Bush Rocks," apparently written by Kid Rock himself.

    Man, I love that guy.

    Posted by Sarah at 08:49 AM | Comments (5)

    June 30, 2004

    BREAKTHROUGH

    Ali threw a party when he heard of the handover:

    Another friend approached me. This one was not religious but he was one of the conspiracy theory believers. He put his hands on my shoulders and said smiling, “I must admit that I’m beginning to believe in what you’ve been telling us for months and I’m beginning to have faith in America. I never thought that they will hand us sovereignty in time. These people have shown that they keep their promises.”

    As Bremer said, "A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq, A’ash Al-Iraq!"

    (via Hud)

    MORE TO GROK:

    More thoughts on The Power of Scraps:

    Historians will someday recognize June 28, 2004 as one of the most important days of our century. The United States, a nation of unopposable military might, invaded smaller, weaker Iraq and conquered it. We said we'd done it to rid the world of a murderous tyrant. Our detractors said we did it for oil, or for domestic political gain, or for any of a number of other contemptible reasons. We expunged the tyrant's government root and branch, then supervised Iraq's transition from the chaos of war back to a semblance of peace and order, despite many attempts to disrupt it. On June 28, we gave the Iraqi people freedom and autonomy, with a sincere promise of assistance should their embryonic republic encounter any difficulties it was still too young to handle.

    We gave our blood and treasure to liberate Iraq from the villainy of Saddam Hussein. Then we gave our word that Iraq would be freed from our supervision as well. Then we stood by it. That is the significance of Paul Bremer's "scrap of paper."

    (Via Bunker)

    Posted by Sarah at 08:30 AM | Comments (3)

    June 24, 2004

    NATURE OR NURTURE?

    In my attempts to understand the way people think, I started wondering about the nature/nurture split. It started with thoughts about another topic entirely, for much has been said about the biological vs. envioronmental influences in relation to homosexuality. I then started to wonder about how nature/nurture applies to politics.

    We've all met siblings who have vastly different political leanings, despite being raised in the same household and having relatively similar life experiences. Even siblings who are still young -- those who haven't gone off on their own to encounter the world -- can have wildly different worldviews. One sibling works for the military and the other writes a dissertation on the virtues of Mandela and Khadaffi. How can this be?

    Bunker's post was food for thought, which led me to The Motivations of Political Leftists and then to Why Are People Leftists?; these took me two days to read and digest. I then found a paragraph that echoed my questions: Leftists Are Born That Way, which is filled with interesting links that lead only to abstracts. I ended up with more questions than I have answers.

    I know of people who were Leftists but abandoned their worldview; many of them were prompted by 9-11 to reevaluate their beliefs. But for many of us on both sides of the spectrum, 9-11 only confirmed what we already thought we knew, though it taught us monumentally different lessons. I personally have leaned Right for as long as I can remember, and I simply hid my more right-of-center views from my college friends. My worldview started to really solidify even before I cared at all about politics; it was fueled by the anti-Americanism I experienced in France and at the riots in Goteborg, and by an epiphany at a lecture by Dinesh D'Souza, among other things. Only later did I get into blogging and current events...and the military.

    But where did it originate? Other people endured the hate and garbage in France, yet it didn't have the effect on them that it did on me. I must've already had the seeds of right-leaning ideas before I hit this point. But where did they come from?

    I'd say both of my parents are fairly conservative, though we never talked about politics when I was growing up. I can't remember ever having a conversation about voting or foreign policy or anything of the sort. Did they somehow influence me in a subconscious way? Or was I born right of center and just viewed everything through that lens?

    We talk about knee-jerk reactions, but isn't that just following your gut? The first blog I ever saw was U.S.S. Clueless and I immediately felt at home. Even before I had studied anything concrete about how the world works, I simply nodded my head in agreement and felt deep in my instincts that what Den Beste writes is true. No one had to teach me that; in fact, much of what we encounter in higher education these days should have persuaded me just the opposite. How was I not convinced?

    I sure don't have the answers to these questions. I have always leaned a bit right of center; what about you? Do you think you were nurtured into your views or have you always felt this way? Did you have an epiphany or a gradually developing worldview?

    Posted by Sarah at 01:10 PM | Comments (8)

    June 23, 2004

    BADGE

    Dennis Prager (via Amritas) divides Americans into two groups:

    Those who are ashamed of America for being hated and those who wear this hatred as a badge of honor.

    For weeks now I've been trying to understand those who disagree with me, and for weeks Amritas has been trying to get me to see that which Den Beste has said before: "It is more important what you stand for than who you stand with." I know this deep down, but my recent feelings of sadness and pessimism have been hard to shake. But tonight I finally understand what it means to be hated.

    Sometimes being hated is the right thing. Sometimes being hated is not so much a reflection of you as it is a reflection of those who hate you. And sometimes being hated is something you should wear as a badge of honor.

    I grok that now. Thanks for not giving up on me, Marc.

    Posted by Sarah at 10:06 PM | Comments (4)

    May 24, 2004

    ACCOMPLISH

    I have been trying to grok florian.

    I have no idea what kind of person florian is -- man, woman, old, young -- but I know florian doesn't live in the same America I live in. I also know that we don't have any common ground, and you all know how important that is to me. I can't figure out what florian intends to accomplish here.

    I'm not trying to be snarky at all; I seriously am curious why florian keeps reading my blog. I obviously care more about the American military than any other in-group I belong to, so posting links about turncoats is not going to make me re-evaluate how much I value our loyal and selfless servicemembers. Moreover, I obviously know that there are a few bad apples in the barrel, but I am absolutely certain that most servicemembers are not targeting civilians, as florian has tried to get me to admit. Every time florian comments, I tend to sigh and shake my head. I don't for one second consider re-thinking my position.

    Which leads me to wonder about the in-between: I have basically given up on any hope for grey area. I see the world in black and white these days. There are good guys and bad guys; there are rights and wrongs. Researching, reading blogs, and trying to grok every day for the past eight months has been a double-edged sword: the more I learn about the world, the less likely I am to compromise on what I believe. When I am faced with looney imams, kids with AKs, and auctions of Jewish body parts on LGF every day, I am way less likely to give any credence to someone's argument that radical Islam is not the enemy. And, when faced with soldiers who organize charitable organizations, beg to return to Iraq despite the four-inch bullet hole in the forearm, and turn in their idiot buddies who torture prisoners, I am not at all likely to happily sit by and let florian sully everything they stand for. The more I read and learn, the less likely I am to be wishy-washy on my positions.

    I do want to continue to grow as a person, and I do want to hear if someone disagrees with me on some details of my thoughts. But I don't learn anything from comments that are completely polar from my worldview. I could consider conceding some middle ground, but I'll never switch over to the other side. That, to me, seems to be what florian wants to accomplish.

    I'm very curious, florian: why do you read my blog?

    MORE TO GROK:

    Florian responds in the comments, and then I respond above.
    And is that really Steven Den Beste? I'm honored if it is.

    Posted by Sarah at 09:52 PM | Comments (5)

    May 14, 2004

    UNDERDOG

    I watched Rocky last night.

    When my ESL students and I would do our American Values unit, one of the values I always had to explain at length was "the underdog". Rocky, Rudy, the 1980 US hockey team, these are all modern-day American heroes and folk legends. It's something we as an ESL class spent some time discussing because, to my knowledge, no other culture values the underdog like we do.

    When the statue of Saddam came down last March, I was cheering the underdog. But watching Rocky last night triggered an analogy: we Americans are so familiar with the concept of bootstrapping that we sometimes have a hard time understanding why Iraq doesn't drink a glass of raw eggs and get to work. Iraq's Apollo Creed is Islamic Fundamentalism; the US arranged the fight but we can't understand why Iraq won't get in the ring. Having been raised on Rocky, Rudy, and Mighty Ducks, we easily forget that others don't have that tradition.

    Who but an American would ever write

    I fervently hope that someday, perhaps decades from now, Iraq will have a really top-notch soccer team. I hope that one day, they will get to the final round of the World Cup, and when they do, I hope it is Team USA they play for the championship.

    I hope that the Americans play a tough, aggressive, masterful game, that they use all of the speed and skill and power at their command. And then I want to sit there watching TV as an old man, and watch the faces on the Iraqi people when the game is over, because I want to see that the most relieved and joyous they can conceive of being, is the day that tiny Iraq got out on that soccer field and kicked our ass.

    Can the love for the underdog be taught? Can it be transfered to Iraqi society? Maybe our Air Force could drop copies of Rocky and Rudy on Iraqi cities so they can start studying. Someday I want to watch a movie about the Iraqi underdog who got to the top not because Allah was willing but because he worked his ass off. That's my hope for the future.

    Posted by Sarah at 10:33 AM | Comments (2)

    May 13, 2004

    FREEDOM

    I found this on Castle Argghhh's post Wahabism Delenda Est. It really got to me.

    doforfreedom.jpg

    Not all of us can run out and join the fight (though after watching the Nick Berg video, that's the only thing on my mind). Instead we have to fight for freedom at home. Deskmerc once said, "While our troops go out to defend our country, it is incumbent upon us to make the country worth defending." I have kept that on my sidebar to remind myself of my duty, but it's easy to get sidetracked and forget. Castle Argghhh reminded me today.

    Our duty is to make the country worth defending. That means prosecuting those who humiliate prisoners, and they will surely be dealt with. But it also means not turning a blind eye to what is going on in this world. It means each and every one of us -- we who grok -- have a duty to try to help others grok. Consider it a sort of political evangelicism; we need to spread The Truth.

    When someone equates Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg, we need to set the record straight. Pointing at someone's penis and sawing someone's head off do not a balanced scale make. When someone mistakenly says that both sides in this war on terror want peace, we need to remind them that radical Muslims are not working for peace by a long shot. Hippies want peace on earth; Muslims want death to Americans and Jews. When someone says that war is not the answer, we need to ask them what the f-ing question is.

    It is our duty to ask ourselves "What have I done today for freedom?"

    Posted by Sarah at 08:33 AM | Comments (5)

    May 09, 2004

    APOLOGY

    Why is Joe Lieberman the only one who groks?

    Er, not the only one. Some Iraqis grok too.

    Posted by Sarah at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)

    May 07, 2004

    GROK

    Tonight my cell phone rang in my pocket right as I was driving through the gate leaving our post. Since I thought it might be the husband, I really wanted to answer it, but since it's illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone in Germany, the gate was not the smartest place to answer the phone.

    Turns out it wasn't the husband, but a great surprise nonetheless: Tim.
    And look what he found for me...

    daybyday.gif

    Posted by Sarah at 10:25 PM | Comments (1)

    May 02, 2004

    WOW

    Nighthawk emailed me a link to an article about the Spirit of America fundraiser:

    The column describing Spirit of America's effort to raise $100,000 for the TV stations appeared in this space 14 days ago. Since then, the following has happened:

    Jim Hake, Spirit of America's entrepreneur founder, says they have received $1.52 million. Some 7,000 donations have come from every state, and one from . . . France.

    Amazing stuff.

    Posted by Sarah at 03:50 PM | Comments (2)

    April 26, 2004

    SUFFER

    I started to formulate a post while talking to Tim over the weekend, and it just came together on the exercise bike. I've managed to nail down more firmly why I feel I have a hard time fitting in, why I relate so well with my students but not as well with other wives.

    Soldiers signed up for this; wives didn't.

    I realize this will take some generalizing here, but bear with me. Soldiers know what they're getting into when they raise their right hand. They know the risks and agree to take them. Wives, on the other hand, seem to have a sense of "why me" when they fall in love with someone who has chosen to take that oath. There's some crossover of categories -- conscientious objectors, anyone? -- but for the most part, soldiers are willing participants in the war on terror and wives are dragged along kicking and screaming.

    The majority of wives I know either suffer in silence or express their bitterness at any appropriate moment. None are hooah the way I am. They look forward to the day their husbands leave this mess behind and get a regular job, and though they feel a vague sense of pride that their husbands are doing a noble job, they would welcome him home in a heartbeat and flip the Middle East the finger if they could. They seem to think that since they never took an oath, they are exempt from any obligations to portray Army Values and to selflessly support the mission.

    I don't think I've met anyone yet who feels the way I do (except for Tim, but he raised his right hand a while back.)

    I don't suffer. Sure, I miss planting kisses in my husband's dimples, but I don't feel the bitterness many wives feel over the separation. I don't feel angry at the President for forcing us to go through this, nor do I feel like I've been cheated out of 14 months of my life. I don't have any illusions that his return next April will signify the end of our family's involvement with all things Muslim, nor do I plan to inform him that I have personally decided he's leaving the Army when he gets back, as some wives will.

    My husband is contributing something to this world in a way that many wives just don't seem to grok. I think that's why I feel more comfortable with soldiers than wives, because there's common ground in the idea that soldiers are supposed to soldier. I'm having a hard time seeing that understanding in the wives I know.

    On Saturday, Tim asked me how I cope with the deployment. To be honest, I do most of it alone. But when I need empathy in a rough patch, I turn to Tim or Mike or Carla. When I need someone to be sympathetic and get my mind off of it, I turn to Marc. When I'm down, I turn to the blogosphere for support.

    I turn to you guys to help me cope. Thank you.

    MORE TO GROK:

    Amritas adds some insight.

    Posted by Sarah at 09:29 AM | Comments (7)

    MOSQUE

    I finished reading Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong? on the train, and one thing really caught my attention. I'm no expert on the history or nuances of Islam, but Lewis is, and I trust his analysis when he says

    Christians sometimes speak of "The Synagogue" and "The Mosque" to denote the religious institutions of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. But these are inappropriate terms, the projection of Christian notions onto non-Christian religions. For the Jew or the Muslim, the synagogue or the mosque is a building, a place of worship and study, no more. Until modern times and the spread of Christian norms and influence, neither ever had, for its own worshippers, the institutional sense of the Christian term.

    When the Marines bombed the mosque in Fallujah, Charles Johnson said

    The wire services are already reporting that 40 “worshippers” were killed at one mosque in Fallujah. But the simple fact, borne out by hundreds of posts here at LGF, is that mosques in places like Fallujah are not simply “places of worship;” they are centers of incitement, and hiding places/staging areas for murderers.

    Before reading Lewis' book, I thought Muslims were disgusting, hiding their weapons in places of worship. I figured they knew their religion was so intricately tied to jihad that it didn't really matter if they defiled their mosques. Now I wonder if maybe it's just our Christian upbringing that makes us unable to grok how a place of worship could be full of RPGs. If to Muslims a mosque is simply a building, then it's no wonder we see photos like these:

    gaza-mosque-bullets.jpg

    iraqi-mosque-worshippers.jpg

    And now I feel even less sorrow at bombing that Fallujah mosque.

    Posted by Sarah at 07:35 AM | Comments (1)

    April 20, 2004

    GROK

    Sam is dealing with a troll, and he had some very insightful remarks:

    Not to forget; that no single Iraqi accept and like to see the occupation of his country by a foreign troops. We all would like to see an end to the occupation but not by the way of chaos, looting, robbery, blood shed, abduction, killing innocent people, terrorist attacks, destruction of power stations and of oil and water pipes, dirty power seeking militias, force using to impose their own way of life on women and men, assassinations of university professors and doctors and intellectuals, and so on and so forth. A scale is of a complete havoc and destruction. This is not resistance at all. What happened in Falluja and by Sadr are part of what I listed above. Thugs are seeking power or money or pushed by terrorist of Wahabi origin to commit their crimes.

    Those who clap and shout slogans to Sadr on last Friday are the same people who did the same and more slogans for Saddam! Those who kill in Falluja are the same people who did the crimes of mass graves and tortures and Halbja chemical attacks by Saddam. Those who negotiate for them the Sunni Group and mediate for the release of hostages are the one who cried and regret the fall of the most tyrant regime on earth.

    Yes we have been liberated from that regime with the help of the coalition troops and the USA admitted that it is an occupying force. GWB and his aides and Ministers etc, always said that they like to help to build a free, democratic Iraq with open and strong economy. This sound very good for us and we would like to see it started as soon as possible. We know that it is delayed for a little while but the reasons are very well know? It is the others who do not like to see it started and we are always said that it should start sooner rather than latter. See who kidnap and kills the contractors and bomb the oil pipes and the water pipes? It is the above groups who do not like to see security and reconstruction as well as the regional countries.


    Posted by Sarah at 03:06 PM | Comments (2)

    April 16, 2004

    STUDENTS

    Can I just say again how much I love my students? Yesterday I got accused of not being pro-American enough in class. Me. Not pro-American enough. Hysterical. I spoke somewhat cynically about how our justice system doesn't always work as well in practice as it should in theory, and one of my students jumped on me for being too critical. As he and I "argued" back and forth, I realized we were basically saying the same thing, and when he concluded with "Well, I don't care because the United States is still the best country ever", I had to smile and realize that he was simply hurt that I had spoken ill of something he values so much. And believe me, I know how that feels.

    It's just so nice to stand in front of a class that groks the same things I do. When I say the word media, I hear boos in the back row. When I said that images of 9/11 cause a strong reaction in many Americans, one soldier (an immigrant American) mumbled, "Yeah, they make us want to get the mo@#&%kers." When I ask them to write about an incident in their life that makes them who they are today, the majority of them wrote about joining the Army and how it changed their life; they had been drug dealers, gangsters, and battered wives who have found personal strength and meaning in military values. They're my students and I adore all of them.

    If I could teach writing classes for soldiers forever, I would.

    Posted by Sarah at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

    April 15, 2004

    TOUCHING

    I hadn't checked my email account in a few days, and what I found brought tears to my eyes. Some Milblogs contributors are fighting to see who can donate the most to Spirit of America. Then Greyhawk jumped in and promised part of his tax refund, and also pointed out that our wounded servicemembers in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center here in Germany are in desperate need of toiletries and essentials since they've been medevac-ed. Soldiers' Angels fired back a response:

    We have sent 100 backpacks to Landstuhl filled with needed items ie socks, clothing, cd players, hygeine items att phone card
    we have also sent over 100 boxes of needed items. We also are sending the backpacks to the combat hospitals in Mosul and Tikrit and EVEYONE has been used.
    West Point class of 55 is donating we are trying to send more and they need it. A big call for slippers and tennis shoes, our guys are mostly coming in with no boots.
    The need is great there and Soldiers' Angels would be honored to work with you in providing for the wounded.

    It really touches my heart to know that so many people are donating and reaching out to our servicemembers. Now I need to go earmark some of that tax-free money the husband's been making for Castle Argghhh's contest...

    Posted by Sarah at 04:04 PM | Comments (6)

    April 12, 2004

    GROKKER

    I met an American tonight.

    I saw trouble coming a mile away during my German class while we were going over discussion questions for the genitive case. Question #8 was Wer ist der populärste Politiker Ihres Landes? (Who is your country's most popular politician?) Of course the Conflicted Reservist was first to insist that it is Kerry, bringing up the "fact" that Kerry is a Vietnam hero and Bush was AWOL. And then an amazing thing happened.

    There's a woman in our class from Italy. I believe she's married to a soldier, so I'm sure she's legally an American, but she proved herself a grokker tonight. She put the Reservist in his place faster than I could bat an eye. She turned to him and rattled off facts about Kerry's Vietnam record -- his Purple Hearts, his relationship with Fonda, his throwing away "his" medals -- that brought a look of utter confusion to the Reservist's face. It was immediately apparent that for all his grandstanding and prattling on and on about Kerry, he actually knows nothing of Kerry's background. Another soldier listened to my classmate's rant in disbelief; "no way" was the expression used.

    I learned two things from that exchange tonight: I'm not as alone as I sometimes feel, and most people don't know the first thing about current events.

    And that Italian woman is now my favorite classmate. As she turned back to her German worksheets in disgust, she said, "You need to do some research before you start talking."

    Posted by Sarah at 10:34 PM | Comments (4)

    April 10, 2004

    CITIZENSHIP

    Many times when I visit blogs, someone will say "read this" and I skip on by. If the name Mark Steyn or Victor Davis Hanson catches my eye, I'll linger, but often in my hurried mornings I'll miss out on an article because the blogger has not stressed how important it is.

    I'm adding this old piece (from 2002) called The Civic Education America Needs to my crucial reading list. (I'm also printing it and sending it to the Best Friend and the Husband.) Bunker dug it up and wrote about the citizenship grades he also received in school. I struggled to find a paragraph that would characterize this important piece:

    Restoring civic education—from the daily practice of its rituals to real mastery of the elements of Americanism—will not be easy, but such a shared sense of values is critical in such a vast nation that is otherwise not defined by a shared religion, common race, or dominant ethnic affiliation. After September 11, most Americans, in their slogans, flags, and posters, yearned for greater accord: “United We Stand” and “One from Many,” read some of the ad hoc banners. We are coming to realize that we cannot survive as a nation under today’s pernicious conventional wisdom of division and separatist cultural protocols—ideas based on misconceptions and outright untruths about the American past. Even the most jaded among us is beginning to sense that al-Qaida hates Asian, Hispanic, black, and white Americans alike—our women as much as, or more than, our men; Catholics, atheists, Protestants, agnostics, Jews, Buddhists, and Sikhs as infidels all. Our enemies see us as one united people even where we ourselves do not. And we are slowly re-learning the age-old lessons of war, that the spiritual is far more important than the material: that all the F-16s in the world will not guarantee us victory unless our pilots who fly them, mechanics who service them, and taxpayers who pay for them feel that they are shooting, repairing, and working for the preservation of their own common civilization that must not fall prey to barbarism.

    In the America I live in, citizenship is important. Belonging to the greater whole that is the United States is important. Working together to set aside our differences and build a more perfect union is important. Being an American is important.

    I'm taking a break from the computer today to go read my students' essays. Many of them wrote about what it meant to them to join the Army; that's just the pick-me-up I need today.

    MORE TO GROK:

    Apparently the America I live in doesn't include Hawaii, where Amritas points out the proposal to create a new ethnic-Hawaiian school district:

    The curriculum portrays the United States as a colonial oppressor of the Hawaiian people, and is designed to train children to become skillful advocates for race-based political sovereignty.

    God help us all.

    Posted by Sarah at 10:00 AM | Comments (7)

    GROK

    I don't really consider myself a cryer, but something about this week has put my emotions on edge. Last night I cried out of frustration. This morning I cry out of respect:

    But asked if he ever wondered about the decisions of generals and policymakers, he said, “I support them. I’ve got faith in them. If they’re telling us we’ve got to stay here, it’s for a good reason. Good will prevail. Ma’am, if the nation needs us to stay and fight, we’ll stay and fight.”

    This soldier, staying for an extra four months of duty with 1AD, groks.

    Posted by Sarah at 09:38 AM | Comments (1)

    April 08, 2004

    LASER BEAM

    I have a nervous stomach today, but it helps me keep things in perspective and keep my laser beam focused to read warbloggers.

    It helps to hear Bill Whittle say this:

    Then be silent and introspective, for today our men and women are dying for the one idea worth dying for. And take from their sacrifice not defeat and sadness, but a solemn and sacred appreciation that three or four nations throughout an entire world that quivers in fear of these savages has the guts and the courage and the will to finish this job and bring freedom and security to a people that may not yet have earned it.

    It helps to hear Zeyad say this:

    No one knows where it is all heading. If this uprising is not crushed immediately and those militia not captured then there is no hope at all. If you even consider negotiations or appeasement, then we are all doomed.

    It helps me to hear from my husband's best friend that he's jealous of those who get to take it to the enemy. His enthusiasm and confidence is catching.

    Posted by Sarah at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

    April 01, 2004

    REAL

    NotDeskmerc has an inspired post today about what happens to you when the war on terror touches your life. Amritas once said that blogging has made the abstract real: soldiers are now real people, like my husband or Smash or Hook. They're real people who miss their families, excitedly take photos of camels, and wear 100 extra pounds of gear in 130 degree weather. They're real.

    Please take a moment to go read NotDeskmerc's post. It's the story of a real soldier.

    Posted by Sarah at 03:33 PM | Comments (2)

    March 29, 2004

    TEENS

    Not all teens are morons. I just read via Tim about two who grok: 15-year-old Jessica Brasda and 19-year-old John Moreno.

    Posted by Sarah at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

    March 27, 2004

    GROK

    The husband is leaving today for a week-long mission, so he wrote a long email yesterday before he left. Two paragraphs stood out as blogworthy...

    The line for phones is HUGE! It doesn't look like I will be able to call tonight. What makes it worse is that I have to go out to XXXXX tomorrow for a week. So, if I don't get to call tonight, you won't hear my voice until next week. Emailing isn't bad though. I remind the guys about how hard we don't have it. Our grandparents generation fought in WWII where 1 in 4 died, hot food was unheard of and you didn't have waterproof jackets made of Gore tex. We finally got to the PX at FOB XXXX where one of the privates bought an X-box. Two of the others have TVs. I'd sure as hell like to get home as fast as possible, but it's not THAT bad. I guess I'm just frustrated at all the whining I'm hearing lately.

    And later on down the email:

    I haven't been doing as much reading as I thought I would. I still haven't
    finished the Bernard Lewis book. I'm looking forward to the Christopher Hitchens book. If I hear one more private that didn't finish High School wax philisophic about the problems and OBVIOUS solutions to complex foreign policy problems, I'm going to scream.

    Sounds like we're both dealing with under-informed co-workers! He closed by saying he was going to go read my blog; I'd bet you a DVD that makes him the only guy on his camp who gives up time communicating with his family to read the news instead. And I couldn't be happier.

    Posted by Sarah at 06:58 AM | Comments (4)

    March 24, 2004

    RINGS

    Maybe it's a coincidence, given the release of the movies, that over the past year I've seen many bloggers compare the battle between democracy and jihad to The Lord of the Rings. Would we have made that same parallel based on our fuzzy memories of those books? Perhaps not, but the parallel has been made, and there are moments like right now where I feel a surge of excitement and a call to battle. Reading Wretchard's post (via Europundits) sharpened my laser beam and reminded me once again that there's a war on. His post is one that stirs men's hearts and breathes life into their souls:

    By striking at so senior a terrorist target, the Jihadis will be in no mood for negotiations. They themselves will cast away the Peace Process and sheer fury will make them forswear their favorite tactic, the faux hudna -- thereby granting Israel a meeting on the battlefield. For this is Israel's mortal challenge to Hamas which has often said it would kill the last Jew. The message, now ringing in their ears, is that the Jew will kill the last terrorist, beginning at the top.

    Is this a call to arms? The pinnacle clash of civilizations?

    Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day. This day we fight! For all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!

    Posted by Sarah at 08:38 AM | Comments (1)

    March 23, 2004

    RE-GROK

    I was going to spend a few hours composing my thoughts before I responded to Joshua's comment on my post last night:

    do educate yourself on the occupation of palestine before you paint them as terrorists.

    In 1948 the state of Israel was created by the US and Euro powers to form an area for the displaced jewish population after the World Wars. They re-captured and re-constituted the land of the Palestinians and begain to occupy the land stealing it from the natives. All supposed "terror" groups are fighting for the right of self-determination. This was done with backing by the US, which gives more in aid to Israel then the entire continent of Africa, even the helicopters used in the attack on Yassin are funded and sold by the US govt. America sends aid and retains allied with Israel to have a foothold in the politics of the Middle East. Israel attacks refugee camps, destroys homes and bulldozes farmlands. They are setting up an apartheid wall. www.palsolidarity.com to learn more about peace making in palestine.

    feel free to email me about further discussion.

    honestly, retry to grok this one.

    So I got to work and saw that Oda Mae had already done most of the work for me:

    There is no such group as "Palestineans" - the Romans changed the name from Judea to wipe out memory of the Jewish homeland. The British re-named the region that as a joke after WWI. The peoples who lived in that region were the gypsy nomads of the mideast that no other country would accept - see Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and so forth. Basically, the third world squatters of the Arab region. No culture, no nothing. NEVER an established government of "Palestine."

    When the Jewish state was formed, the Jewish peoples did their best to co-exist. After all, many Jews already lived in Tel Aviv and had been coming for years back to THEIR homeland. The "Palestineans" would have none of that, with the help of their now-friendly neighbors in Lebanon and Jordan. With their backing and support, the Middle East Arabs tried to drive the Jews to the sea as part of a war against their "occupation" of THEIR OWN ANCIENT (Jewish - see Jerusalem and other Jewish towns mentioned in sections of the Bible) homeland. The Pallys lost. The Israelis defended themselves and in the process kicked Arab ass.

    Did they then drive the Pallys into the sea? Send them into the desert to wander for 40 years? Did they, fuck. No, they continued to try to co-exist with the blighted buggers, to behave in a civilized manner until FORCED by the Pallys to take more extreme action to protect their country and interests. Good on them. Upset by chekcpoints, those inconvenient pesky searches? Here's an idea - stop telling the entire world your one goal is to kill all Israelis and destroy their country and MAYBE Israel will play nice. But, you know, when you keep blowing up buses and restaurants and synagogues and such, you shouldn't be too surprised when you're then searched for bombs whenever you come across the border.

    Maybe you should read a bit of history NOT written by the PLO. No need to re-grok this baby! There's lots out there if you're looking for something other than propaganda.


    Well, good gosh, when you think about it, the old Third Reich was an ancient civilization. I mean, it was based on ancient German legends, right? And the fact that they were trying to remove the Jews because they weren't part of that original First Reich - well, yeah, it's all making sense to me now! You Neo-Nazis, brothers under the skin with those poor oppressed Pallys. Go at it and GET those Jews this time around. Hurry, the Pallys need you!

    They've created their own misery - now they're having to live with it. The Arab countries flooded peoples into "Palestine" where the right of return must be given if the Arabs had lived in 'their' homeland for two years. TWO - well, that makes an ancient civilization, don't you think? Check those figures in the third link to see the real picture.

    http://www.eretzyisroel.org/%7Epeters/mythology.html

    http://www.eretzyisroel.org/%7Epeters/mixed.html

    http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/return.html

    You will note that the articles, albeit some by Jewish authors, are extensively footnoted with sources. The Palestinean cause is a poorly disguised Anti-Semitism. Would there be this hoopla if the country was still "Southern Syria"? Nah, I don't think so. Nor would there be much of a Gross National Product.

    Sarah, in spite of the misleading hairstyle, I think Saruman was a bit complimentary. The guy was just a crippled Orc.

    When I was in college, my views on Israel were of the fingers-in-ears variety. (I wrote about this back in November.) I didn't want to even think about it, even despite my fiance's urging. Without doing a single piece of research, it seemed to me that both sides had merit: you can't just give away land that already belongs to someone else, but you can't just kill people because they've been given some land. Seemed like they were both in the wrong to me back then.

    But I daresay a week of reading LGF is enough to realize that something lopsided is going on. Just look at this photo again:

    palestinians


    Where are the parallel photos of Israelis? Where are the Israeli prisoners released from Palestinian jails who vow to kill again? Where are the Israeli children with ski masks and machine gun toys?

    So I have tried to grok a lot of info on Israel over the past two years, and I respectfully decline the offer to re-grok my position. For more on this topic, I defer to Nelson Ascher, the definitive voice on this issue, and point out this post of his. And if we're going to come down on Israel, then I agree with Vincent Ferrari (via Bunker): Let's remove all fences in the world.

    MORE TO GROK:

    Continued in Israel post.

    Posted by Sarah at 09:25 AM | Comments (13)

    March 16, 2004

    BOB ZANGAS

    I've tried to stay very detached from the deaths in Iraq, because it's easier to deal with if your fences are nice and strong. But this morning I weep.

    Kathy pointed out that a milblogger has died in Iraq. His is not a blog I've ever read before, but I went to read his final entry today. And I flat-out wept as I read it. One of the things he said should be highlighted:

    I know it is not my money that I am giving away and I am not interested in receiving thanks. But it points out to the fact that this is a society that is in desperate need of everything. It is like pouring a cup of water out in a dry desert. The water disappears and you are left with the feeling of “did it do any good?” Sometimes the answer is “yes.” Sometimes the answer is “no.” Sometimes you wait for the flower to grow. I don’t mean to sound depressed because I am not. I am enjoying this work immensely. It is very gratifying…as long as the flowers grow eventually. I have hope that they will.

    He ended his entry with a simple closing, one that breaks my heart to read today:

    Hang on to your dreams!
    Bob

    Smash suggests we pay our respects. I think that's a good idea. And, Bob...we'll make sure the flowers continue to grow.

    Posted by Sarah at 07:27 AM | Comments (2)

    March 11, 2004

    D'SOUZA

    LGF found a touching article called Defending America that caught my eye because it opens with a quote from Dinesh D'Souza. I've never seen any bloggers talk about D'Souza, but he was personally instrumental in helping me discover my beliefs.

    During my senior year in college I had to attend a mandatory lecture for a class on Malcolm X (which I took because I hated X and wanted to learn more about him. Learned more; still hate him.) This lecture was given by a speaker I'd never heard of before named Dinesh D'Souza. His speech was against affirmative action. We were a room full of students listening to his hour-long lecture, and I thought his argument was concise, informed, logical, and accurate. He opened up the floor for questions, and immediately everyone in the room pounced on him. No one agreed with him. People yelled, picked on him, argued, acted disgusted...and I sat there slowly realizing that the speech I had just whole-heartedly agreed with and understood was not received the same way by anyone else in the group. I started to really question my values and wonder why they were so different from my classmates' and the other listeners. That was the moment I realized that I had attended the lecture alone, quietly listened to a speech, formed my own opinion independent from anyone else's input, and found that no one else had heard what I had heard. That moment has stuck with me, and I consider it the turning point when I realized that I looked at the world differently from my peers. I have D'Souza to thank for that revelation, and I've never forgotten him. I've since read his books and have enjoyed them very much.

    Posted by Sarah at 07:43 AM | Comments (4)

    March 05, 2004

    SCREEDY GOODNESS

    Screed away, Lileks. That was just what I needed this morning. You know when someone says something that completely throws you off guard, and you stammer and miss the opportunity to make your point? And then hours later you know what you should've said and you curse yourself for letting the moment pass? I had one of those last night.

    There were a couple of stragglers at the party last night, and out of the complete blue one of them said, "Do you think Kerry will be elected President?" Now, I know that wives don't have rank, but since this woman's husband way outranks mine, I thought it in good taste to be vague, so I just said, "Well, I don't know," because it's true after all: I don't know what's going to happen. But another wife replied, "God, I hope so." The gist of the conversation was that Kerry would pull the troops out faster than you can shake a stick, and that means everyone's husbands come home, so Kerry's our man.

    I wish I had said something. Anything. I was just sorta dumbfounded.

    I understand the selfishness of wanting your husband to come home. I understand that we had spent 20 minutes of our meeting discussing who would come knocking on our door if our husband died in Iraq, and it wears on you after a while. And I understand that the military lifestyle takes its toll: one wife has been married six years and her husband's been deployed for three of them. But...

    What I wish I'd said is this: Our husbands' job is to protect the American people. This duty is better fulfilled by their being in Iraq now rather than waiting until someone attacks on American soil again. This war we're fighting now only exists because we didn't get the job done in 1991; would you rather have your husband stay in Iraq for a year now, or return to Iraq for combat in another few years when some new dictator decides he wants to start somethin'?

    I wish I'd said that. But how do you tactfully tell people whose husbands have been in the Army for years what it means to be an Army family?

    An Army family means selflessness. I have to come to terms with the fact that my husband might have to die to protect other Americans from future threats. Not an easy thing to accept, but that's part of the job, and that's what we signed up for. An Army family also means understanding the complexities and repercussions of our nation's actions. I'm not saying that every Army family will fully support President Bush, but "who will let your husband sleep at home" is perhaps not the best gauge for your vote. Army families have a duty to follow and understand world events, but to be willing and ready to do whatever the Commander-in-Chief asks of them.

    I'm not happy that my husband is living in Iraq. I'd rather have him home too. But I was shocked to hear other wives say that having their husband at home is the most important thing in their life. More important, seemingly, than principles and duty. Am I the only wife who gets choked up when she reads the Army values? Am I the only one who finds comfort in the fact that her husband's job requires selfless service?

    Selfless service is placing your duty before your personal desires. It is the ability to endure hardships and insurmountable odds because of love of fellow soldiers and our country. Placing your duty before your personal desires has always been key to the uniqueness of the American soldier. As citizen soldiers, we claim our service to the nation, state, and community to be an especially valuable contribution.

    In a sea of houses sporting Service Flags and yellow ribbons, why do I feel so alone?

    MORE TO GROK:

    Amritas suggests that selfless service is really a form of love.

    Posted by Sarah at 08:54 AM | Comments (11)

    March 03, 2004

    A STAND-UP GUY

    (via Tim) A 19-year-old Marine is going back to Iraq for his second tour because of his sense of duty to his country. Shockingly enough, some of his peers don't even realize that we still have troops in Iraq; America's short attention span is this Marine's biggest fear: "It gets to me. It's almost like 9/11. Everyone started throwing flags up on their cars, but now it's fading out. Same old news every night." So he's volunteered for two more tours, going back a little braver, a little wiser, and a little stronger because he's a Marine and that's what Marines do.

    He's also another servicemember who has parents who'd rather use their appearance in the newspaper to express their distrust of the current administration instead of pride and gratitude for their brave child. His mother: "'I don't know if there are weapons of mass destruction,' she said. 'If this is based on a lie, I'm gonna be really [angry].' Getting rid of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a good thing, she said, but, 'Is that worth the lives that have been lost over there? I have no idea. I don't want to lose my only son for a cause that might be a lie.'"

    Her son's response?

    Isaiah doesn't think highly of the folks who constantly question when troops expect to find weapons of mass destruction.
    "I think they should shut their mouths. You can't even find an AK-47 in someone's home because they can hide it so well," Schaffer said. "They really don't know what they're talking about."
    He stands firmly behind the president--and wishes Americans would stand just as firmly behind him and other troops.
    "President Bush sent us over there for a reason. And from a Marine's outlook, you start something, you finish it," he said.
    "God willing, we'll finish it."

    Godspeed, Marine. As my husband's company says, "Get 'er done!"

    Posted by Sarah at 01:53 PM | Comments (8)

    March 01, 2004

    SNIFF

    This made me cry. At work.
    Darling Ben Stein. (Thanks, Tim.)

    How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

    Posted by Sarah at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

    WOW

    Kim du Toit visited Dachau. This is one of the most poignant posts I've ever read.

    Posted by Sarah at 11:42 AM | Comments (3)

    ONE WHO GROKS

    An excellent post from Hardtack and Havoc on his impending return home from deployment. My favorite bit:

    The United States is at war. We can see that out here, it is as plain as the nose on your face, I am afraid I won't see that reflected back home. In fact, I know I won't. It wasn't there when I left so why should I expect it to be there when I get back. Never-the-less, the nation is at war. We are fighting the enemy in foreign places like Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and many others so we won't be fighting them in places like Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, New York, etc. The concept is simple: Take the war to the enemy. Does the American public care? More pertantly, DOES IT UNDERSTAND. The unfortunate side effect of taking the war to the enemy is that the war becomes very impersonal to the American people and unfortunately for us all, the American people have a very very short attention span.

    Read the whole entry...

    Posted by Sarah at 11:32 AM | Comments (1)

    FORGET THE IDIOTS TODAY

    Nelson Ascher's post from 9/11/2003 has since disappeared from the internet. I have mirrored it here because I refer to it often.

    On this side of the world it has been 911 again for over 6 hours. I swear I'd rather not write anything today. I'd rather remain silent and just spend the day feeling that my anger and hatred are alive and well. They're stronger indeed. I also know I should avoid reading much today, because many, probably most things that are and will be published will make me even angrier. And the problem is not that I don't want to be angrier: I do want. The problem is that I do not want to waste a miligram of my anger on all the idiots who have been getting ready to show us how idiotic they are. We're at a point where to be too angry at, say, Chomsky and the BBC, Old Europe and ANSWER, second and third rate entertainers and academics is to give them a kind of victory. They deserve disdain. Anger needs to remain concentrated like light in a laser beam, we must direct it toward its rightful target: Islamofascism first and foremost. If we spend too much time getting mad at those who are but idiots we run the risk of forgetting, even if only for a second, that it is the Muslim/Arab religious fanatics who are the ENEMY. In a way, that's the idiots' main weapon: to attract a wrath that could be more usefully directed to the really dangerous enemies. Whenever we're not thinking about the Jihadists we are losing some very precious time. And anger.

    Posted by Sarah at 08:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack