April 23, 2009

MY RUN AT MISS AMERICA

Unliberaled Woman posted again on Miss California. You know, this story has really been bugging me. Unliberaled Woman is right that it's a huge double standard for Perez Hilton to say that she should've "left her politics out" when he asked her such a question. What did he expect? A majority of Californians recently voted to ban gay marriage, but he somehow assumed that she was not one of those people. And then got mad at her for not being what he wanted her to be. Unliberaled Woman said:

Its unfortunate that liberals continue to play from the standard persuasive tactic of your viewpoint must cater to mine despite your individualism because your perspective might be offensive to me despite the fact my perspective could be offensive to you.

I think that is a great way of phrasing this type of behavior. Don't ask a controversial question if you're not ready for a controversial answer. (And remind me again what's so controversial about the majority position in this country! Again, see The Occult Meaning of "Controversial" at Powerline.)

And honestly, when I heard Hilton's question for the first time, I thought of a way more radical answer. Let's see how well I play Miss America:

Perez Hilton: Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not?"

[Big vaseline smile] "Well, I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage." [Oy, that was a bit stumbly, Miss California. But I'm right with you up to here. Now here's where I'd diverge.]

I, however, am a firm believer in states' rights. As Connie du Toit said:

California can be whatever the people in the state want it to be. They can have universal health care, high taxes and wealth redistribution, environmentally restrictive building codes, labor laws that favor the laborer over the employer, and cliques and factions that support this or that version of political correctness. They can do that, and (as Ive said before) I would fight to the death their right to make those decisions.

I support the right of any state to legalize gay marriage by a statewide vote. If it passes, it is the law of the land. But I also support the right of states to ban the practice. And I firmly support the right of every American to "vote with his feet" and move to the state which best represents his principles and values.

So, no, I don't think that every state should follow Vermont's example of legalizing same-sex marriage...only the states which put the issue to a vote and decide through the ballot box to legalize it. And I would respect the vote of the American people no matter which option they chose in their states. That's what our country is all about.

Thank you.

(Yeah, I don't think I'd end up Miss America either.)

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April 11, 2009

HARMFUL?

I had to work this afternoon demonstrating another science kit. This one was aimed for four year olds, so it was pretty basic. But the kids seemed to have fun.

I thought of this recent Joanne Jacobs' post (via Amritas) while I was there. I was looking over the other science kits on display, and the one for the kids aged 8+ had a warning label: "This set contains chemicals that may be harmful if misused." On the back of the box was the list of contents: gelatin, sugar, baking yeast, and food coloring.

Now I freely admit that chemistry was my weakest subject in school, but I'm having a hard time figuring out a combination of those contents that could be harmful. Am I missing something? Or is this an example of warning labels gone wild?

It's a far cry from the 1950's kit with uranium and a geiger counter!

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March 27, 2009

UGH

Just another one of those days where everything goes wrong: it's a training holiday but my husband's company was made to work; had to run an errand for a friend and stood in line forever behind a lady on a cell phone who couldn't decide on a Gatorade flavor; still in pain but can't take meds because I had to go to work, etc. I didn't think it was possible to be in a worse mood today. It was. Remember my nice new windshield? Not so much anymore.

I give up. Let's go back to bed.

Posted by Sarah at 02:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 22, 2009

HERE WE GO

Tra la la, tra la la. Here we go down the slippery slope:

Sarah Anderson, an analyst with the Institute for Policy Studies and an advocate for more stringent controls on executive pay, said she hopes the AIG situation will prompt Congress to pass heavier taxes on executive pay even at companies that are not receiving government funds. [emphasis mine]
[...]
They need to put restrictions on all forms of compensation at these companies, Anderson said.

Posted by Sarah at 04:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 18, 2009

AIG BONUSES

Everyone seems to be talking about the AIG bonuses. The freakiest quote I've heard so far?

"We've created this mess. Everyone's responsible for allowing executives to receive these bonuses," said George Ayoub of Toronto, Canada, an American who was visiting Los Angeles. "Probably every company needs to be nationalized, and the government will own the corporations instead of the corporations owning the government."

Wow.

Guard Wife has a good post explaining contract law. And Glenn Beck got in the game and showed just how inconsequential this $165M is in the grand scheme of things.

And this is the problem with government meddling in business:

Experts in corporate law said the Obama administration has an important advantage in the controversy. In return for the bailout, the government now owns 80 percent of the company. "They're the big dog in the room now and can put some leverage on AIG to straighten this out," said attorney Jim Ervin, a partner at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff Llp in Ohio.

Now that Obama owns you, he can force you to break contracts, which, according to my understanding of Boortz today, means an even bigger payout:

Here's something I'm guessing you don't know. The Financial Services Division of AIG is headquartered in Wilton, Conn. In Connecticut they have a little gem called the "Wage Act." This law says that if an employee has to sue for wages payable pursuant to a contract they recover twice the amount that is contractually owed. That would have meant $330 million instead of $165 million. Add some attorney's fees on top of that. So ... you're running AIG. What would YOU do?

So tell me how getting worked up over this makes any sense!

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March 06, 2009

LYING BOOKS

Teresa found a list of the top ten books that Brits lie about having read. Heh. Well, I've read six of those ten books, and two of them in the original French. So la di da for me.

And I wouldn't read Ulysses or Dreams From My Father if you paid me. I took a course in college where the professor offered that if any one of us could 1) read and 2) understand Ulysses, we'd get an automatic A in the class. No takers.

Incidentally, I find it hilarious that people are lying about having read Obama's book.

Posted by Sarah at 03:46 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 04, 2009

DESIGNER BABIES

I thought I'd weigh in some thoughts on the "designer babies" thing that hit the news. I don't know if I'm gonna say what you think I'll say.

Two years ago, back when we thought we could control our destiny, my husband and I had a discussion about which month of the year we'd prefer our baby to be born in. Subtract 9 months, and that's when we should get to work. I can't even laugh at us because I still find it so frustrating. We also had a definite gender preference and a few other minor desires.

Nine months later, when I finally did get pregnant, I had been hit with a good dose of perspective. I wrote that I had decided that none of these preferences mattered anymore, and that all we wanted was a healthy baby to join our family.

But when that baby died, and then the next one did too, I started to lose that sense of perspective. I hate to say that I started to feel entitled to happiness. We now deserve to get exactly what we want -- boy and girl twins, of course -- because of the heartache and headache we've endured. And now at this point, if I could make it be twins, I would. I would also select for gender if I could. And one of my worst fears is spending these years trying to have a baby and then to get one who has severe health problems or birth defects. I would factor that out as much as I could.

So I kinda understand where these people are coming from.

I haven't yet had to do IVF. IVF is rough. It's painful. People who do it have been through years of sorrow and then endure physical, chemical pain in order to conceive. And I don't blame them if they want to tweak the results a little bit.

I don't see this becoming The New Thing. I don't imagine that people are going to bypass the regular old having-sex route to babies and opt to spend tens of thousands of dollars and give themselves painful shots, just so they can pick blue eyes.

And, from the CBS article, I don't give a rat's behind about this "worry":

Secondly, you're going to have the rich using these technologies, and that's going to advantage them further. It's not going to be something the poor get to do.

Cry me a river. Conversely, the rich aren't going to get welfare checks to raise their 14 babies.

I understand people's revulsion to the "playing God" aspect, but I've never heard anyone bring up this argument. I'm open to discussion on this idea, and I know I haven't thought every aspect through, but I can sympathize with these IVF patients that they feel they're due a little control in their lives. I grok that.

I heard Rick Santorum on TV the other day discussing this, saying that artificial insemination is an abomination against God. It reminded me of the time Bill Maher said that people who can't conceive should "take the hint."

The only abomination is being emotionally and financially ready to raise a family and to find yourself thwarted.

Posted by Sarah at 08:53 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 27, 2009

ANNOYING

OK, so I love my husband a little less right now.

I need something on his laptop. It is turned off. It is password protected.

I figured I could guess it. My husband is the only person in the world who could know my password based on the prompt question, but he would know it instantly.

My husband's prompt question is absurd. I have no idea what the answer is.

I can't get into his computer until he gets home.

Posted by Sarah at 09:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 25, 2009

UNSETTLED

I'll admit that I've been watching too much Glenn Beck lately, but I have worked myself up pretty good this afternoon over the future of my country and the world. Hugo Chavez cancelled Valentine's Day, China said flat-out that they hate us, and Iran and Russia are testing nukes together.

We're boned.

Posted by Sarah at 05:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 20, 2009

OY

From the latest cartoon hubbub:

"Just the fact that they put a monkey with gunshot wounds in his chest, it gives the idea of an assassination," said Peter Aviles, 48, a building superintendent.

I sure hope Peter Aviles was sufficiently outraged when Death Of a President came out. You know, the movie about assassinating George Bush, not just a drawing of a monkey that some people think was meant to be Obama. (Which I think was a lame cartoon, but not a depiction of Pres. Obama.)

Give me a break.

I like Powerline's take:

If the President is a Republican, it's fine to call him a "chimp." In fact, it's morally superior. But if the President is a Democrat, you can't call a chimpanzee a chimp lest someone think you might have been referring to the President.

It all makes perfect sense.

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February 15, 2009

BABY MAMA

Last night the husband and I watched the movie Baby Mama. We had thought about seeing it for a long time but we weren't sure if it would make us laugh or make us depressed. It turns out that it made me laugh until about the last ten minutes. Then I hated it, choked back tears, and wanted to strangle someone.

Spoiler alert: I am gonna talk about the end of this movie.

So here's how I thought the movie should end: Tina Fey meets Greg Kinnear's 12-year-old daughter and realizes that she can be happy just being a mother figure to this young girl, while also being in Stefani's life (ha, hilarious name choice, by the way.)

Instead, they made her have a whoopsie pregnancy.

Oh hey look, infertility is all about happy endings! She was trying so hard to have the surrogate baby that she didn't realize she'd gotten pregnant by the man of her dreams. And no miscarriage or nothin', she just had smooth sailing and the fairy tale ending of her own.

I hated that ending. God, I hated it.

After the movie, the husband and I were talking about the folk wisdom that once you adopt/give up/relax, you'll have a baby. Everyone has a story about someone they know who had that miracle pregnancy after they had exhausted all hope. Well, you know what? I know a couple, friends of my parents. Here's their story: They tried and tried and did every fertility test and treatment known to man, and then they gave up and relaxed...and never ever had a baby in their entire lives. No one ever tells that story, do they? No one ever says: I know this couple, they adopted a girl from China, and they never ever got pregnant with a child of their own, isn't that wild?

But Tina Fey got her one-in-a-million baby in the end. I think that makes a mockery of people's real struggles to have children.

I liked so much about this movie, but the end soured it for me. I much prefer the end of Raising Arizona. It makes me cry too, but in a much better way.

It reminds me to try to hang on to hope...when I have been feeling pretty hopeless lately.

Posted by Sarah at 11:22 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

February 13, 2009

DOING SOMETHING"

At least we're doing something. What a hollow statement. We don't have any idea if it will work, but at least we look like we care about the problem.

Seriously, everything coming out of DC these days sounds like it could've been dialogue from Atlas Shrugged.

And the Wesley Mouches of the world waste our money...

(via David)

Posted by Sarah at 05:16 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 10, 2009

DOOOOMED

Amritas pointed me in the direction of the latest Newsweek cover.

newsweekcover.jpg

And the corresponding article:

We Are All Socialists Now:
In many ways our economy already resembles a European one. As boomers age and spending grows, we will become even more French.

Sweet Jesus. We're doooooomed.

The article blames the whole thing on George Bush, and trust me, I think he deserves some blame here for his obscene spending problems. But the article was a little too triumphant about laying the blame at Bush's feet and washing Obama's hands of any culpability.

Nestled in this article is a little gem:

Polls show that Americans don't trust government and still don't want big government. They do, however, want what government delivers, like health care and national defense and, now, protections from banking and housing failure.

Oy. We're boned.

Posted by Sarah at 08:38 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

February 09, 2009

PAIN IN THE NECK GUESTS

As I was working today, I thought back to another quote from that Wal-Mart article that resonated with me:

As I patrolled the aisles, repositioning misplaced items and filling gaps in the shelves, I realized that Wal-Mart "guests" really are like guests. They are visitors who move things around and create a mess before they go home. Cleaning up after them was not very different from doing housework.

I've never been one to shove items where they don't belong, but now that it's my job to un-shove, I am even more diligent about it while shopping at other stores. I make sure to take unwanted items right back where I found them.

I spend a lot of my time putting stuff where it belongs. It never ceases to amaze me that I can almost hear a shopper's inner monologue: "I want to buy this purple yarn...(walks around the corner)...No, wait, I want this purple yarn...I'll just shove the three balls of other purple here, whatever." I am constantly pulling purple out of green and green out of orange, all day long. And taking cake decorating and beading supplies back to their own parts of the store.

It's ridiculous how many people just drop stuff wherever they are in the store.

Oh, and also how I spent two hours of my Christmas Eve making a pirate ship that was manhandled and destroyed within days of putting it on the shelf.

Posted by Sarah at 05:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 07, 2009

A SAFE ZONE

I didn't see Jay Nordlinger's My Kingdom For a Safe Zone when it came out, but I just saw that Varifrank linked to it. The stories are all too familiar, but the very last one is just abominable.

My personal philosophy is to always assume that I'm surrounded by Democrats. I never assume that someone agrees with me until I have it 100% confirmed, on his initiative. And even then, I am quite reluctant to go the full nine yards.

Only once have I heard a conservative make me uncomfortable in public like this. I was at my knitting group and a woman stopped by to see what we were doing. We told her we knit for preemies, and she remarked that she couldn't believe how tiny the little caps are. And then she said, "These babies can be born so small and still survive, and that's why I am pro-life." She continued talking for several seconds about abortion, and my eyes were like saucers. I am screaming in my head, "What are you doing, lady? Why do you assume that people want to have this conversation in the middle of a yarn store? Don't you realize you're being confrontational and controversial?" I found it horrifying, in the exact same way as when random tourists on the Vegas monorail blab on about Bush.

Despite the fact that I was sitting with a group of elderly women who knit for charity, I have never assumed that they are conservative or pro-life. I always assume that they disagree with me and that I should keep my mouth shut.

Sadly, these clods Nordlinger's readers wrote about haven't gotten the hint.

Posted by Sarah at 09:59 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 06, 2009

BOGGING DOWN THE SYSTEM

I grew up in a state that didn't require vehicle inspections. This is a new and highly annoying process for me. I just sat for an hour and a half so they could tell me that my three year old car isn't a safety or environmental hazard. What a surprise. And I got to pay $30 for the pleasure...and I go back on Monday with our other car.

All that waiting was giving me flashbacks to the emergency room last Friday. There was one story I haven't yet told from that night.

I decided to go to the emergency room because it was a Friday night. If it had been any other day of the week, I would've waited it out and called the next day for advice. But since I already had the procedure booked and needed to know if I should continue with the meds or stop, and since I know someone who nearly died from Clomid complications, I decided to play it safe.

It's darn near impossible not to eavesdrop on other people in the emergency room. All that separates you is a curtain, so all night long my husband and I were also privy to the medical business of the patient next to us. I am not going to reveal any details, but their presence was baffling and a tad infuriating.

The gist is that the daughter had a chronic problem that had been happening for months. The parents were separated and the mother was "too lazy" to make the kid an appointment. The dad said that he works here in the hospital and had asked colleagues about his daughter's problem, but since it persisted, they wanted to have it checked out.

On a Friday night. In the ER.

There was no emergency, no sudden change in her condition that made them feel that treatment was necessary, nothing like that. This dad just brought his three kids in to spend the night in the ER. My husband and I were there for eight hours, until 5 AM, and this family had arrived before us and was still there when we left.

That is not an emergency.

This family was clogging up the ER and making me and, more importantly, other people with more pressing problems wait longer. They were sapping resources. If you work in the hospital, can't you find the time to make an appointment for your daughter? Why are you taking care of a child's chronic health problem in the middle of the night on a Friday?

Because you don't have to pay anything either way, that's why.

Why make a regular doctor's appointment during the week, and have to ask for time off work and take the kid out of school, when you could just bring everyone to camp out in the ER all night. There is no cost difference, so it's just easier to do it off hours.

No wonder it took me so long to be seen. And I feel even worse for the guy with the gall stones; he really would've liked to have been treated faster.

I am sure that this family isn't the only one of its kind. They bog down the system for all of us. A problem that's been going on for three months is not something that requires ER care on a weekend. Make a normal appointment and free up that ER doctor for someone who really needs him.

Posted by Sarah at 12:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 05, 2009

CLOUDING THE ISSUE WITH THE FACTS

From John Stossel's We Can't Spend Our Way to Prosperity:

We should be suspicious when politicians, economists and the media declare a "consensus" and marginalize dissent. President Obama says, "There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jumpstart the economy."

That's not true. Last week, the Cato Institute ran a full-page newspaper ad signed by more than 200 economists, including Nobel laureates stating:

"We the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan's 'lost decade' in the 1990s ... Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth."

Doesn't that sound remarkably like global warming? There's no debate, everyone agrees, blahdy blah, and meanwhile the peanut gallery is saying that actually they don't agree.

My father is fond of saying, "Don't cloud up the issue with the facts." How fitting.

Posted by Sarah at 08:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 02, 2009

MULTIPLES

Julie at A Little Pregnant has a good post up about the octuplets lady. She says it all.

What I'd like to tangentially say relates to multiples. Two years ago, I would've freaked out to get pregnant with twins. I thought fertility drugs were scary and that people who risked having four to six babies were insane.

But a lot has happened inside my head in two years.

Now I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed for twins or triplets. I don't want to go through any of this ever again. I now understand the desperation people feel when they opt for riskier options. I will be thrilled if I have twins. I would prefer it to one baby.

Again, this is tangential to the octuplets lady. She is nuts.

Posted by Sarah at 06:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 28, 2009

SWING AND A MISS

A lady here in town kept insisting to me that Bush was going to invade Iran before the end of his presidency. For months, she insisted that the "bombing," as she called it, that she was hearing from on post was the most frequent since the Gulf War, which obviously meant that Bush had something up his sleeve.

I tried to gently contradict her along the way, saying that a surprise attack using infantrymen from here in town would not be something that Bush could hide from all of us. Airstrikes, perhaps, but not a Normandy Beach-style invasion. And that maybe the added noise coming from post was just training for regular old Iraq and Afghanistan missions. She insisted that Bush was cooking something up.

So when I saw her today for the first time since Inauguration Day, can I tell you how badly I wanted to rub this in her face? How I wanted to point out that for months she insisted that she had knowledge of some nefarious plot to invade Iran that plain old did. not. happen. And that maybe next time she oughtn't speak in such bold, declarative statements.

But I didn't, because I am a lady. But dadgum, I got tired of being polite while listening to her conspiracy theories.

Posted by Sarah at 02:01 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 24, 2009

NEW FOR THE SAKE OF NEW

Apparently there's been a suggestion made that, now that we have a black president, our schools should stop teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. The reasoning, as also blockquoted by Joanne Jacobs, is:

Those books are old, and were ready for new.

David Foster, who has made me think and smile for five years, reminded us of something he wrote back in 2003.

As C S Lewis said: If you want to destroy an infantry unit, you cut it off from its neighboring units. If you want to destroy a generation, you cut it off from previous generations. (Approximate quote.)

How better to conduct such destruction than to tell people that previous generations were ignorant and that we have nothing to learn from them?

I recommend reading his whole blog entry, as well as the Stuart Buck link he provides.

In the comments at Jacobs' blog, someone said that To Kill a Mockingbird gets less relevant the older you get. I 100% disagree. I read it first as a high schooler and then again when I was engaged. I wept through many passages, over the kind of man and father Atticus Finch is. I am certain that if I read it again now, now that we are trying to have children of our own, it would seem even more poignant.

Dangit, I'm gonna do that. I'm adding it to my George Bush 2009 Reading Challenge.

Posted by Sarah at 05:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

PRIDE

Last year I wrote about how I'm not a citizen of the world. Victor Davis Hanson explains why:

Whether Obama is President or McCain had won, no matter; it is still the US, and as a Jacksonian I pretty much pull for America--all the time. I am not a Socratic citizen of the world--given the thugs that rule most of Africa, the creepy places such as Iran or Russia or North Korea, the land of the Lotus-eaters in Europe, or the tribal dictatorships I've seen in the Middle East

His main point is annoyance at how, all of a sudden, a bunch of people are now proud to be Americans again. Like those ridiculous celebrities who pledge to say hi to their neighbors now that Obama is president. Over and over I've seen people on Facebook and in articles say that they can finally stop pretending to be Canadian and be happy to be Americans again. What a douchey thing to say.

I am disappointed that Barack Obama is our president. But the United States is still a way better place to live than anywhere else on the planet. I'm still proud to live here, even though I think Pres. Obama is going to take us further in a direction I don't like and don't want to live in.

I know Europeans who are ashamed of their countries. I know more of them who just simply don't care, who don't know their own anthems, don't wear their own flags, and don't have a single ounce of national pride. I pity them. I wish they knew what it was like to feel what I feel, to be so happy to be a citizen of the greatest country ever conceived.

And for the record, I have never pretended to be Canadian...

Posted by Sarah at 03:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

RUSH

Prez Zings GOP:

President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

Who said anything about getting along? Despite all the talk of bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle, most people I know have core values that they don't compromise on. Rush Limbaugh's program is about those core values.

Deltasierra says it best:

People are allowed to be unhappy with Obama's election, and they're allowed to be critical of him and of the government.

I will be critical of the government till the day I die. It's the only way to stay free in a free nation. That's Limbaugh's job, and that of those who share his beliefs. Don't disparage him his freedom to speak what he believes.

Just FYI: He has repeatedly said, especially in the last few days, that he doesn't want Obama to be a failed president. He wants his socialist policies to fail.

I agree with him. I don't want government health care. I don't want my tax dollars to pay for other people's useless lives and I don't want anybody else's tax dollars to fund my life! I don't want to try to be friends with terrorists and I don't want them in our jails, or set free to terrorize some more. I don't like Obama's policies. I have never made a secret of this, and neither has Rush Limbaugh or any other conservative talk show host I respect.

It makes me crazy that now that Obama has taken office, I am expected to put all my objections aside and adore this new president. I'm supposed to think of him as a blank slate as if all his campaign promises just vaporized after he took the oath of office.

Sorry. No can do. I don't have warm, fuzzy feelings I'm filled with a passion to keep our country free from the things Obama has promised he will try to do.

I too want to keep our country free from Obama's promises. Rush spreads that same message to 13 million people. That's a lot better than my 300...

Posted by Sarah at 02:04 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 22, 2009

BOONDOGGLE

I am neither an economist nor a historian, but this article at Newsweek made my eyebrows raise:

The New New Deal: The WPA fixed the economy by creating unusual careers. Should that be the plan for today's unemployed Americans?

I actually was under the impression that WWII fixed the economy, but perhaps it was the fact that

In our nation's capital, more than 100 men were paid to scare off pigeons. In Brooklyn, men and women worked as fire hydrant decorators. And in Boston, the government sponsored a project to make fish chowder. Indian tribes were paid to create new totem poles and other artifacts. "Rhythmic dancing"whatever that meanswas also sponsored, as was craft-making, or what the Boy Scouts might have called "boondoggling." In fact, the term "boondoggle," meaning any job or activity that is wasteful or trivial, was inspired by just these sorts of WPA projects. The best example from the FDR years? Government-funded research on the production and efficiency of safety pins.

The link to this article is "Will a New WPA Create Boondoggle Jobs?" It sounds like the answer is yes. That previous paragraph is in defense of the WPA, for heaven's sake.

"As we know from watching Congress debate the recovery plan, lawmakers have a great ability to let [random projects] slide through," says Nick Taylor, the author of "American Made," a history of the WPA. "But you would hope that these new jobs would at least be interesting."

"Interesting." Not, you know, effective or necessary.

"Most of this work is not rocket science," Eisenbrey adds, mentioning the nearly 800,000 skilled construction workers currently unemployed. What will these men and women build? Unlike 70 years ago, we should expect largely incremental improvements to existing structures rather than new projects built completely from scratch.

"Since so many of these new plans involve laying pipes in the ground, retrofitting buildings or improving public transportation," says Peter King of the American Public Works Association, "we're not going to be able look at different places and say, 'This project came from this investment.'"

Ah, I see. So we won't really know what our money is actually being spent on, and we won't be able to point to any improvements and say that they were a direct result of this new WPA. But we definitely need to do this to "fix the economy." Just trust us.

And this is my favorite part, the bold being mine.

So while we may not end this economic downturn with a slew of new parks and pools, we could end up with other unexpected benefits: for example, completely public wireless Internet access; a shorter commute on newly decongested highways; or, for those who live in cities, subway cars that aren't so crowded.

In an article about how the original WPA fixed the economy, the journalist says that we "may not end this economic downturn" with any of these projects, but at least we'll all get some free stuff out of it. And by "free," I mean "at a huge waste of taxpayer money for make-work nonsense."

Oh, this part is good too:

Alas, financing the arts isn't a priority in the new recovery plan, so bohemian types might want to consider teaching, fire-fighting or policing, all public sector jobs that will get a boost along with the infrastructure investment. Not interested? The WPA was often criticized (and occasionally challenged in court) for not providing the sort of employment that Americans were seeking.

"Alas"? I say more like thank heavens.

"Not providing the sort of employment Americans were seeking." If that doesn't make you guffaw, I don't know what does. So supply had nothing to do with demand. The Obama administration will invent a bunch of green jobs, and if a green job isn't what you want, tough toenails for you. We create jobs that we think are for The Greater Good, demand be damned.

Only in retrospect, and with the sheen of Walker Evans' photography, has the WPA gained glory.

Snort. If the glory of your program is only to be found in photos of people doing jobs that didn't need to be done, your program is hogwash.

The last line of the article:

Now get to work, Congress, so we all can work, too.

First of all, is this an article or an editorial? Secondly, gag. Pass this into law, Congress, so we can start wasting a bunch of taxpayer money to make everything eco-friendly.

Incidentally, via Greg Mankiw, the effects will not be felt for quite some time:

It will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed by President-elect Barack Obama will boost the economy, according to congressional economists.
[...]
The economy has been in recession for more than a year, but many economists believe a recovery may begin by the end of 2009. That would mean that most of the infrastructure money wouldn't hit the economy until it's already on the mend.

The economy will recover on its own, like the Great Depression economy eventually did, and everyone will heap praise on Obama because his make-work silliness just happened to coincide with the rebound.

Yeesh.

It's only day three of this administration? I'm going to have a heart attack.

Posted by Sarah at 01:41 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

January 18, 2009

GRRR

I knew I was setting myself up to be irritated when I clicked on the MSN link called Are We A New Nation Now? But I didn't really think it was worth blogging about until I got to the end.

And 2009 is only the beginning of the story. According to Pew, if current trends continue, the U.S. population will rise from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million in 2050. Eighty-two percentlet me repeat that: 82 percentof the increase will be attributable to immigrants arriving after 2005 and to their descendants. By that point, whites may make up only 47 percent of the country, ending centuries of a majority-white America.

Will the journey be smooth? That is doubtful. Politics can quickly turn mean. In hard economic times there is often a search for an "other" on which to blame the problems of life. In the wake of a possible terrorist attack, fear could easily lead to tension, resentment and discord. The good news about America, though, is that for all of our nativist fevers and periodic witch hunts, we tend, often after having exhausted every other option, to do what is right.

"Do what is right." You know, vote Democrat.

Grrr.

Posted by Sarah at 09:50 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 14, 2009

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

So apparently a school in Colorado decided that kids who hadn't paid for past school lunches couldn't get new school lunches. If you are in the red, you get PB&J.

Fantastic idea. Only I'd give them nothing, not even the sandwich. Sandwich fixins cost money too.

And look at the result:

In the first week of a new school lunch program preventing students from charging on overdue accounts, the amount of meal fees owed to the Steamboat Springs School District decreased from $10,000 to $2,800.

We saw this on the news the other night. They were interviewing parents who were mad about the policy. Poor widdle kiddies will starve. My instinct was to quote Kid Rock's "waahburger and some french cries" line.

Not all students are happy with how they were treated after the policy took effect.

Riley Toye, a fourth-grader at Soda Creek Elementary School, organized a petition of 29 classmates protesting how students were treated when they were refused food the first day.

Rileys letter, dated Jan. 7 and published on page 8 of todays newspaper, states that she doesnt think it is right that students were refused hot lunches. Riley said she has been bringing in bagged lunches for students whose accounts are overdrawn.

Fine. If you want to spread your wealth around and make lunches for the deadbeat families in your school, by all means go ahead. Oh wait, that's your parents' money buying those groceries, but whatever; Dad is on board anyway. But the school shouldn't have to keep passing out food for free to people who have no intention of paying.

Parents don't pay for past lunches and then get mad when the school stops serving their kids? Lame. Nice sense of responsibility. Oh, but it's The Precious Children™; we can't let them go hungry. Baloney. If they're hungry, maybe they'll nag their parents to pay their freaking bills. Or at least the parents might feel guilty enough to pay so their kid gets some food. Because obviously they don't feel guilty enough already just owing $100 in back lunch fees.

Other families didn't realize that their kids don't know that things cost money. This mom is awesome.

Farrell said one students mother would pack lunches for him to bring to school, but when faced with the options presented in the cafeteria, he often would choose to charge a meal instead. His mother did not know the account was being overdrawn until Farrell began mailing overdue notices to the family.

The student now has $57 in overdue charges, and Farrell said the mom has figured out a way to teach the student a lesson in the process of paying off the amount.

Now Im waiting for this little guy to do enough chores to make it up, she said.

When I was a kid, it would've taken me forever to make up $57 worth of chores, as I received one dollar per week allowance right up until the point that I got my first job. At twelve. Making one dollar per hour.

Side rant: I am turning into one of those cranky old people who say "Back in my day..." all the time. But I watched my neighbor pay her babysitter $30 for three hours of babysitting the other day and nearly fainted. Since when did babysitting outpace real jobs? When I babysat, I made $1 per hour, then $2 later on, until I turned 16 and got my first job for minimum wage: $3.85/hr. But now, minimum wage is $6.35 and babysitters make ten bucks? Really? I mean, this high school girl makes a third more money than I do! I need to quit my job and start babysitting my neighbor's kids. The problem is that when I do it, she expects me do it for free. /Side rant.

And apparently this problem is not just at the one Colorado school; a google search for the article found another school in Washington has the same problem:

Three months after the Edmonds School District changed the way it deals with hungry kids who come to school without lunch money, parents have paid back an estimated $25,000 to $27,000 in owed lunch money.

Am I the only person who never would've dreamed of going through the lunchline without money? Back in my day (heh) there was no charging your lunch to an account; it was a cash-only operation. No cash, and you bummed food from friends. I never would've expected the school to give me a lunch on credit. I never even would've thought to ask.

In an attempt to make parents pay, the district stopped allowing kids to charge food in September. If students owed money and went through the lunch line, cafeteria workers were instructed to throw away their food and give them a cold cheese sandwich instead.

Well, that's pretty wasteful -- if you're gonna throw away the food, you're not really saving the school district any money -- but the visual is awesome.

Maybe if these kids went hungry, their parents would learn a little responsibility. And maybe the lesson would also stick with the kids so that, when they grow up and have their own kids, they teach them that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

I say let the kids starve. But I'm a jerk like that.

Posted by Sarah at 04:40 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

January 13, 2009

BROUGHT TO YOU BY CARL'S JR

Today is the first day in a long time that my husband has gone to work and I've stayed home. When he's here, I stick to him like glue. And there have even been a couple of days where I worked while he was at home. Hence the lack of blogging; who wants to sit at the computer when the coolest person on the planet is in her living room?

Yesterday at work, I witnessed another example of what Rachel Lucas would label as Idiocracy Watch. Three women were trying to figure out the price of an item that was $5 and 70% off. They never even came close to guessing, just urging each other to figure it out. One of them eventually took her cell phone out and said, "Five...times...seven...zero...aw man, there's no percent function." So she deleted the math and started over, ending up in the same conundrum. It was what plants crave, seriously. Percent function? Dang. Finally, they turned to me and asked me what the price would be. I said that half of $5 is $2.50 and half of that again is $1.25, so it'd be somewhere around $1.40. They looked at me like I had explained relativistic physics.

Oy.

idiocracy.jpg

I know I bragged about knitting math, but really, I'm not that good at math. I can do arithmetic and algebra. And usually I prefer scratch paper. I would've struggled for a few moments to figure out 38% of a number. But 70% of a nice round number like five? Yeesh. And I was even WRONG by ten cents, so shame on me a little. But that was off the top of my head in about 15 seconds, so close enough. Closer than they got, which was "I was told there would be no math in shopping."

Posted by Sarah at 08:13 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

January 07, 2009

RANT

AirForceWife sent me a link to a heck of a rant...

Im pissed off by how soft many in our nation have become. How whimpy the tone, how spineless the resolve. What happened to that brutally real notion that people should be held responsible for his or her actions? Nowadays, it always seems to be someone elses fault, whatever it is. Got a life of poverty, its rich folks doing it to you.

Alcohol addiction, substance abuse, your mother never said she loves you. Having trouble finding work, its the white, black, purple guys keeping you down. Your car company is going under, its the unfair business practices abroad and an economic downturn. Hey, nimrods newsflash. LIFE IS HARD. The End. Get used to it, suck it up, get some spine, invent some if you have none, and GET ON WITH IT!!!!

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

January 02, 2009

STOP IT

Was logging off to go to bed and saw an article that got my blood all angered up.

Motorists are driving less and buying less gasoline, which means fuel taxes aren't raising enough money to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

That has the federal commission that oversees financing for transportation talking about increasing the federal fuel tax.

STOP TAXING US! Don't you take enough already? For the love of all that is holy, find the money to fix roads in the huge sum of taxes you already take from us.

The National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a 15-member panel created by Congress, is the second group in a year to call for increasing the current 18.4 cents a gallon federal tax on gasoline and the 24.4 cents a gallon tax on diesel. State fuel taxes vary from state to state.

In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel tax by 12 cents to 15 cents a gallon. At the same time, the commission will recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation.

So the government takes 18¢ per gallon and wants to take 28¢. From TaxFoundation.org, "Today, U.S. consumers pay an average of 45.9 cents per gallon in gasoline taxes. The federal gasoline excise tax is 18.4 cents per gallon while the average state and local tax is 27.5 cents." The oil companies only make something like 10¢ profit on each gallon. And boy, do people like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi like to go on and on about the obscene profits Big Oil makes.

The dilemma for Congress is that highway and transit programs are dependent for revenue on fuel taxes that are not sustainable. Many Americans are driving less and switching to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and a shift to new fuels and technologies like plug-in hybrid electric cars will further erode gasoline sales.

According to a draft of the financing commission's recommendations, the nation needs to move to a new system that taxes motorists according to how much they use roads.

So we're driving less and saving Mother Earth, but now that's bad because we're not paying enough in taxes. Hey, maybe they can do this thing Neal Boortz wrote about: In 2006, Oregon was considering outfitting all cars with GPS and monitoring how many miles you drive, then taxing you per mile. Hooray for Big Brother.

Charles Whittington, chairman of the American Trucking Associations, which supports a fuel tax increase as long as the money goes to highway projects, said Congress may decide to disguise a fuel tax hike as a surcharge to combat climate change.
[...]
"Instead of calling it a gas tax, call it a carbon tax," Whittington said.

Oh no, you did not just say that out loud. You're going to use PC buzzword bullcrap to hide a new tax, making people feel good because they're paying some imaginary carbon offset nonsense.

Stop taking our freaking money!

The ridiculous part of all of this is that roads is the one thing I think government should do. Sadly, instead they've wasted all our money on bailouts and wool research and rum rebates to Puerto Rico.

Grrr.

Makes me want to go drink a Sam Adams and throw some tea in a harbor.

Posted by Sarah at 10:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 24, 2008

SLEEP IS A JERKWAD WHO'S RUINING OUR MARRIAGE

I watch you as you sleep
I'm jealous of the night
I'd steal you from your dreams
Just to buy more time

Yes, it's true: I heard a Michael Bolton song today at work and it made me think of my husband.

When your spouse is gone, it is easy to romanticize everything. We're the greatest couple that ever existed and we never fight and life is always flowers and sausages. And then he comes home, and you realize you had forgotten the little things that have bugged you for seven years of marriage.

My husband is a sleeper. He loves sleep. He is a soldier; he can sleep anywhere: in the hard metal chair of a tank, on top of a tank with no pillow, sitting straight up, in the middle of a conversation, anywhere.

I am an insomniac who only sleeps because it's biologically necessary.

How on earth did I completely forget this about us?

He came home, and I started talking. And wouldn't stop. So he just fell asleep while I was talking. Not exactly what I had envisioned. So he decided to sneak in his sleep at other times, like in the middle of a movie or TV show. I DVRed seven months of our favorite shows and couldn't wait to watch them together, and he is falling asleep during them.

His sleeping is driving me nuts.

I couldn't wait for him to come home so I could be with him. And I know he's not doing it on purpose, but it feels like he is choosing sleep over me. And since I hate sleep, I cannot fathom why someone would do that. So I get grumpy and frustrated.

Mostly I am just baffled at why I thought he would come home and want to stay up for hours talking to me. He never was like that before, but somehow that's what I imagined when I thought of our homecoming. He wants to sleep, and I want him to want to be with me enough that he doesn't want to sleep.

And yeah, I know, "at war" and all. But I cracked up when I read Sis B's post because it made sense to me. This time around, my husband got plenty of sleep at war. This isn't a catching-up-on-seven-months thing; this is just who he normally is.

I just somehow had forgotten it. And it's hurting my feelings. Which is dumb.

I have felt gyped so far with our time though. His commander gave him a project to work on that was supposed to be done by Christmas. Well, they came home three days later than expected, so that meant that he had to use his long weekend and our first few days together to sit at a computer and work for six hours a day. So he gets done and just wants to eat and then sleep. And I keep wondering when it is that we're supposed to get to be together. I am resentful that we spent seven months apart and then he has to hole himself up in the computer room while I sit and knit alone.

I'm tired of being alone. I'm tired of sleeping. I'm tired of making foam pirate ships instead of being with him.
I'm ready for togetherness.

Posted by Sarah at 03:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 11, 2008

T2: NON-JUDGMENTAL DAY

I've only seen the Terminator movies once before, and I was excited to see T2 again. But...I had forgotten how frustrating it is. I mean, the premise of these movies is great: an unstoppable killing machine. (Though Lileks is right that "the abuse that was once reserved for the Terminator is now doled out to human beings, and they not only arent killed instantly, they are capable of acrobatic fistfights while hanging from one hand in a elevator shaft.") And this movie has the absolute greatest villain of all time. Robert Patrick turns my blood cold. He could play Santa Claus and I would be scared to death of him.

But the movie is just so interminably annoying. We're going to change the future and save three billion people from dying, but we can't kill anyone in the process because that's mean. John Connor might die and the world could end, but heaven forbid we kill a rent-a-cop. Enough with the lectures on morality and how evil technology is. Oh, and that speech that Sarah Connor gives about how all men do is destroy but women create because they have wombs blah blah blah. Give me a break.

I have lower standards than just about anyone when it comes to action movies. I will tolerate a lot of crap. But despite having the coolest bad guy of all time, T2 is really preachy. Stop with the voice-overs and get to the terminating already.

Posted by Sarah at 10:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 04, 2008

FOAM PURGATORY, NOT AS BAD AS FOAM HELL

Dear Mare,

Today at work I had to put together the small version of the foam gingerbread house. It is not nearly as maddening, so if you are looking to buy one of these for torture purposes, I suggest splurging on the big one.

Well, the little one isn't as bad...provided it actually comes with all its pieces. Which mine did not.

Sigh.

I did take a photo of the masterpiece I put together the other day. Behold, in all its glory:

valentinesfoamies.jpg

I also forgot to mention the other day that all I had to go on was a 2"x2" black and white photo of the thing. Hardly good instructions.

Each heart? Individually applied. I know I mentioned that. It's worth repeating.

Do not attempt this at home, kids.

Posted by Sarah at 04:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 02, 2008

HELL MADE OF FOAM

Dear AWTM,

I would like to apologize for the present I gave you last Christmas. I had no idea.

You see, I loved the story of Pink Ninja wanting an activity set. It's one of my favorite kid stories ever. So when I found the foam nativity kits that you can build yourself, I thought it was perfect: it was both an activity and a nativity set!

I had never put together one of those kits before.

As I mentioned, I received all the Michaels store decorations for Valentine's Day already. Inclosed were several of those foam kits for pink gingerbread-style houses covered in hearts. It's my job to put them together for the store display.

I spent two hours on that house today. I am 31 years old.

The base of the thing was 10"x15". The house was a two-story castle with a turret and a covered porch. Covered in hearts. Which you have to individually attach.

Every time I tried to touch the roof, it fell off. And then the ceiling caved in.

You see in this picture of the little gingerbread house, you see how the seams don't exactly match up? Now try building a second story on top of that. And adding a roof with seams that don't match. I was ready to shoot myself.

And it seems I'm not the only one who's been in foam hell this week.

Two hours and a glue gun later, the Valentine's house is presentable. Provided no one goes near it, breathes on it, or even looks at it too piercingly.

And I still have three more kits to make.

So, AWTM, I am sorry if your activity set turned into an activity that made you want to kill me.

UPDATE:

With photo!

Posted by Sarah at 03:16 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

FAIL

Lie, Cheat and Steal: High School Ethics Surveyed

In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards.

Let the record show that I have never shoplifted or cheated on a test.

Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today's young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.

"The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have (to cheat). The temptation is greater."

Even back in my day, we had graphing calculators that stored information in them. I don't remember any of my friends using that storage to cheat. But regardless, this person is gonna argue that greater competition and opportunity is an excuse for cheating?

Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

Sick. That's the result of parents and their unconditional love and praise. Heaven forbid you hurt little Johnny's self-esteem by telling him he needs to "live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life."

"A lot of people like to blame society's problems on young people, without recognizing that young people aren't making the decisions about what's happening in society," said Dzurinko, 32. "They're very easy to scapegoat."

FAIL. Young people will be making those decisions in ten years, and they have a foundation of cheating and stealing to build on. They're not scapegoats if they admit their immoral behavior. We are totally boned when they become businessmen, educators, and politicians.

"This generation is leading incredibly busy lives -- involved in athletics, clubs, so many with part-time jobs, and -- for seniors -- an incredibly demanding and anxiety-producing college search," he offered as an explanation.

FAIL. Getting into college is stressful, so I'm gonna go out and shoplift, you know, to take the edge off.

I find it incredible that all these principals and administrators are making excuses for these results. Actually, no, I don't find it incredible: I think it's the reason they came up with these results. Adults coddle kids entirely too much these days. They want kids to like them. You know what my philosophy is? Your teenager should hate you...until he's about 25. Then he should start to grok everything you did for him. I am still realizing all the lessons my parents taught me, and I try to inform them when I have finally understood why they did the things they did. And I'm glad they didn't try to "be my friend" when I was in high school. Shoot, my mother doesn't even try to be my friend today; she still lets me know when she thinks I have acted wrong.

"We have to create situations where it's easy for kids to do the right things," he added. "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer."

Weeping Jesus on the cross: FAIL.

There is nothing more important in school than having the right answer. I can't think of any other response to that last quote that doesn't involve cuss words. And you don't create situations for people to do the right thing; you teach young people the right thing to do and then expect them to do it, even when it's hard. That's what morals and values are for!

I don't have any kids yet, much less teenagers. But I have thought about it constantly for the past two years, and I have closely observed the parents around me, looking for what works and what doesn't. And you know how I said I love my husband with my brain instead of my heart? I will love my children the same way. I don't believe in unconditional live; I believe love is earned through thoughts and actions. And I vow that I will never watch my child become a shoplifter and a cheat and then make the kinds of excuses found in this article.

I have a friend who recently said, "Normally when a childless person talks about what she'll do when she has kids, I roll my eyes and think 'just you wait.' But with you, I actually think you will do all these things you say you'll do."

I considered that an enormous compliment.

Posted by Sarah at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 01, 2008

HUH?

Just heard on the radio: "The historic move to make Hillary Clinton Secretary of State..."

I don't get it. What's historic about it? We currently have a female Secretary of State. What, it's historic to give a former president's wife such an important job?

Yep, still cynical.

Posted by Sarah at 11:03 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 26, 2008

DISTRESS

I just heard this story on the radio and wondered what you think of it:

Jeff Russo says the decline of the textile industry left his family business, Greenville Industrial Rubber & Gasket Co. Inc., with about $1.5 million less in annual revenue.

So he can't understand why the federal government is now spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to bail out financial-services firms and, possibly, domestic auto makers.

Russo was so upset by the government bailouts that he started flying the U.S. flag upside down outside of his business on Poinsett Highway as a protest. Russo said he got no objections for about a month. Then a veteran complained, and a local TV station aired a report about his gesture, and he got a slew of e-mails and voice mails.

Tuesday, Russo said he loves his country and turned the flag upside down -- a sign of distress -- because he's concerned for its future.

"The government never once bailed the textile industry out. You're talking hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in this area, including my company. We lost a million and a half dollars a year," Russo said.

"You know what the government told us? Re-educate yourself. Go after new markets. They didn't give us a bailout. I'm trying to represent every small businessman in the country. We don't get bailouts. We're responsible for our business, our employees. The buck stops here. They never have given us a bailout, never will give us a bailout, and we are the backbone of this country.

"By doing this I think I am a patriot," Russo said. "I love this country, and I don't want to see it go down the tubes."

From The Flag Code:

(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

In searching for the article, I found other examples of upside down flags:

  • "discontent about not having a VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley" [here]
  • "to show they didn't agree with the way the presidential election was conducted" [here]
  • "unhappy with the results of the presidential election and the general state of the U.S." [here]

And these are all just from this month!

Some veterans have apparently complained in each case, saying it's disrespectful to the flag and not the distress signal that was intended in the flag code.

What do you think?

Personally, if I had heard any of the other three stories I bulletted, I wouldn't have bothered to write this post. But that first story really intrigues me.

Posted by Sarah at 03:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 25, 2008

REALLY? THIS IS WORTH IT TO YOU?

I have been feeling nostalgic for my middle school years lately and have been listening to The Wall often. I checked the wikipedia entry today, just to see what it says. I noticed something interesting:

For "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)", Pink Floyd needed to record a school choir, so they approached music teacher Alun Renshaw of Islington Green School, around the corner from their Britannia Row Studios. The chorus was overdubbed twelve times to give the impression that the choir was larger. The choir were not allowed to hear the rest of the song after singing the chorus. Though the school received a lump sum payment of 1000, there was no contractual arrangement for royalties. Under 1996 UK copyright law, they became eligible, and after choir members were tracked down by royalties agent Peter Rowan of RBL Music, through the website Friends Reunited, they sued. Music industry professionals estimated that each student would be owed around 500.

Does anyone else find this sad? It's not enough to say that you were a kid who got to sing on a Pink Floyd album? Instead, 15 years later, you sue the band to get 700 bucks.

And I love the idea that some "royalties lawyer" went hunting around for these forty year olds to let them know that they could sue.

I think we have collectively lost our everlovin' minds on this planet.

Posted by Sarah at 01:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 11, 2008

A PEEK INSIDE

All those policy plans that Obama put up on his change.gov website have all disappeared, replaced by mealy-mouthed hopenchange.

But there's a reason why he put up the policy goals that he did, and I assume that he still wants to enact that change, even if he's not brave/foolish enough to leave it on his website.

So the gun one, eh? It said this:

[Obama and Biden] also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets.

I don't have an assault weapon. I don't plan on buying one. But I still don't like this.

My husband and I were talking about this via IM today. I copied and pasted this part from change.gov, and he took my breath away with this:

Husband says:
and then they came for the assault rifles but I said nothing because I only owned a pistol....

And roger.

I read this entire Daily Kos thread on the matter, and it was interesting to see the Democrat gun enthusiasts get belittled. Stuff like this:

because you're a democrat that owns/collects guns, no one should fear you?
that makes no sense to me.
guns have only one use, and that is to kill. but that's nothing to be afraid of, by any means, right?

Luckily there were a few people who batted down all the arguments. This line by GTMule was genius:

Liberals (a club of which I am a (usually) proud member) want to have teachers help make education policy, engineers make energy policy, and people who are completely ignorant about guns make ALL gun policy.

Not once did I see anyone explain the 2nd Amendment the way I understand it, though. And strangely enough, several people referred to it as the 4th Amendment.

Interesting peek into the Democrat world though.

Posted by Sarah at 04:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 10, 2008

IDIOCRACY WATCH

I bought a Christmas card making kit, filled with scrapbook-type papers and stickers and stuff to make your own cards. There are also little scraps that say "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" and stuff. Plus these three doozies:

clause.jpg

Spellcheck didn't catch that one, did it?

Posted by Sarah at 06:24 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

HORRIFYING UNDERPANTS

I was in a clothing store today and happened by the ladies' undergarments section. There were lots of teenybopper-type underpants on display. I caught sight of one that had cartoon speech bubbles all over it, with phrases like "pizza," "BFF," and "me likey." But there was also a bubble with "2+2=5."

I find it so horrifying that our culture encourages girls to be airheads.

Posted by Sarah at 02:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 07, 2008

PROP 8

CaliValleyGirl and I were talking last night about the interesting results out of California. Obama took California 61% to 37%. But Proposition 8 -- the amendment to define marriage as a man and a woman -- passed 52% to 47%.

Forgive my crude tables, but here are the results:

Prop8.jpg

[Data found here and here.]

There are 81,986 more votes for Prop 8 than for the presidential race. My guess is that they voted for a third-party candidate; I wonder if anyone showed up to vote on Prop 8 but didn't vote for the president. (Knowing some of the conservatives' opinions about John McCain, it's possible.) Either way, that's less than 1% of the total, so let's just disregard for the purpose of this discussion.

For argument's sake, let's say that every single person who voted for McCain also voted Yes on Prop 8. That means that 1,547,718 extra people also voted for Prop 8. Even if we subtract those 81,986 votes, that's still a heck of a lot of Obama votes voting Yes on Prop 8.

Incidentally, I don't grant the premise that all Republican voters support Prop 8. If I lived in California, I would've voted straight ticket Republican but No on Prop 8. I imagine there are others in this world like me; many of them are bloggers I read.

So what I take from this is that politics is not nearly as cut and dried as it seems. A million and a half Obama voters presumably also voted to amend the state constitution to enshrine marriage as between a man and a woman. Whereas I, an evil Republican, would not have voted for Prop 8.

Leofwende also had a link up to an old NRO piece called The Fusionist that addresses these overlaps in politics:

For fifty years, most American conservatives have stood for three basic propositions: that American foreign policy should seek to end totalitarian regimes; that the domestic functions of government, and especially of the federal government, should be strictly limited; and that the moral precepts traditionally associated with Christianity (sometimes the formulation includes Judaism as well) should be upheld.

These propositions attracted distinct, though overlapping, constituencies to conservatism: defense hawks, libertarians, social conservatives. The coalition thus created has achieved some political success.

I see these three disctinctions, the three legs of the conservative stool (which substitutes "economic conservatives" for "libertarians"), as a Venn diagram. I am a defense hawk and a libertarian/economic conservative. I share little in common with the social conservatives, though I understand where they're coming from and don't begrudge them their say. I think most liberals, on the outside looking in, only see the social conservatives, or at least they overestimate how much weight the social aspect gets on every Republican's Venn diagram.

But the conservative's Venn diagram isn't on a separate piece of paper from the liberal one. Libertarians argue for legalized drugs and prostitution, a position more likely shared by liberals than social conservatives. That's how you got Ron Paul supporters ending up on the Obama side. Many Catholic Hispanics are pro-life but vote Democrat. (Don't even get me started on how I don't understand why Jews vote Democrat.) And apparently 1.5 million Obama voters have an overlapping Venn diagram with social conservatives when it comes to enshrining marriage in the constitution.

Ultimately, I think each voter has to decide what carries the most weight for him. I share two of the three stool legs, and the social stuff is far less important to me than the economic and defense, so I feel I fit comfortably on the right end of the political spectrum. Even when I strenuously object to some of the Republican positions.

If only the Libertarians could get more traction, and not the Ron Paul kind. I need a Libertarian party that is strong on defense. Boortz for President! I'd be on-board in a heartbeat. Hookers and blow for everyone!

UPDATE:

Just got on IM with my husband and said that I had just finished a long post on Obama supporters and Prop 8. He goes, "Yeah, lots of people are talking about that today." Imagine me doing the AWTM: Waaa waaa.

Jonah Goldberg: Progressivism's Achilles Heel

In other words, Obama had some major un-progressive coattails. The tidal wave of black and Hispanic voters who came out to support Obama voted in enormous numbers against what most white liberals consider to be the foremost civil rights issue of the day.

Serves me right for thinking I'm original without checking major blogs first. Or thinking I could say anything half as eloquently as Jonah Goldberg.

Posted by Sarah at 03:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 02, 2008

IDIOCRACY WATCH

AWTM wrote a post last week about a parent at the school who asked if they're supposed to read to their kids every night.

Today I was at work and this lady wanted to buy foam letters. It sounded like she was buying them for her teacher husband to hang in his classroom. She couldn't find the right size. She wanted the big letters of the alphabet, but they were $1 each, and she said, "I don't want to get those; I'd have to spend like $27 or something."

For heaven's sake.

Posted by Sarah at 06:21 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 26, 2008

JFK ON TAXES

I'm re-reading Larry Elder's The Ten Things You Can't Say In America, and I came across a timely point:

An economics major in college, Reagan further argued that lowering taxes would increase money coming into federal coffers because it kick starts people into working harder, smarter, and with less need to conceal income.

But guess who else felt that way? JFK. That's right, JFK. In the December 24, 1962, issue of US News and World Report, "Kennedy's Latest Word on Tax Cuts, Plans for Business," in urging a tax cut, Kennedy said that "it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low -- and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now.

"The experience of a number of European countries has borne this out. This country's own experience with tax reductions in 1954 has borne this out, and the reason is that only full employment can balance the budget -- and tax reduction can pave the way to full employment. The purpose of cutting taxes now is not to incur a budgetary deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous expanding economy which will bring a budgetary surplus."

Somehow I don't think Obama is the new Kennedy.

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

October 24, 2008

BREAD AND CIRCUSES

Obama and the Tax Tipping Point:

What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes? Economists Allan Meltzer and Scott Richard posed this question 27 years ago. We may soon enough know the answer.

Barack Obama is offering voters strong incentives to support higher taxes and bigger government. This could be the magic income-redistribution formula Democrats have long sought.

Sen. Obama is promising $500 and $1,000 gift-wrapped packets of money in the form of refundable tax credits. These will shift the tax demographics to the tipping point where half of all voters will receive a cash windfall from Washington and an overwhelming majority will gain from tax hikes and more government spending.

In 2006, the latest year for which we have Census data, 220 million Americans were eligible to vote and 89 million -- 40% -- paid no income taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center (a joint venture of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute), this will jump to 49% when Mr. Obama's cash credits remove 18 million more voters from the tax rolls. What's more, there are an additional 24 million taxpayers (11% of the electorate) who will pay a minimal amount of income taxes -- less than 5% of their income and less than $1,000 annually.

In all, three out of every five voters will pay little or nothing in income taxes under Mr. Obama's plans and gain when taxes rise on the 40% that already pays 95% of income tax revenues.

And we have Barney Frank saying outrageous things like this:

I believe later on there should be tax increases. Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of the money.

I put up a quote from Neal Boortz's piece To the Undecided Voter about how democracy fails when the scales tip and people can vote themselves more money. Andy McCarthy received a similar quote from this blog's namesake, Robert Heinlein.

A perfect democracy, a "warm body" democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction.... [O]nce a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader the barbarians enter Rome.

I think our country is in serious trouble.

But apparently Sarah Palin's clothes matter more than massive voter fraud and Democrat donation fraud.

"I love mankind; it's people I can't stand."

Posted by Sarah at 09:55 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 21, 2008

PRICE GOUGING

There's a story going on here in town that I simply do not understand. I thought maybe you could help me see what I'm missing.

A gas station owner has been fined $5000 for price gouging during hurricane season last month, when all the gas jumped. Most gas in town went to around $4.00, but apparently this guy was charging $5.50. And apparently he was the only one who raised his this high.

I don't see why this is illegal.

Gas is the most advertised commodity we buy. Ask anyone to tell you the price of milk or detergent, and I bet few people could do it. But everyone knows what gas costs. It's advertised on every street corner. If someone sold gas that day for $5.50, I would've had so much sticker shock that I would've kept going to the next gas station. Problem solved. If I did buy it there, well, I'm a sucker if it was $1.50 cheaper down the street.

But here's what I don't get. Let's say I own a store. I decide I want to sell a two-liter of Pepsi for $45. Is that illegal? It's stupid, but is it illegal? Is it price gouging? Is it only price gouging if there's a natural disaster?

I don't understand why this gas station owner couldn't set the price of gas at whatever he felt like. Is it because other gas stations would see his price and raise theirs? I know gas stations have price wars. Is there some regulating body that decides a price range for gas on any given day?

I really don't get this. What am I missing?

Posted by Sarah at 06:10 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

STIMULUS

Oh yeah, are we getting another stimulus check? Really?

Can we refuse it?

Because last week my husband bought me a Garmin for my birthday, I bought a handgun, I dropped some money buying clothes for my new job, and I had to pay for a fertility treatment.

We're doing a plenty good job of spending our own money right now. I don't need to spend someone else's.

Stop taking money from a taxpayer and handing it to me to spend. Cuz I'd just buy a Glock.

Oh wait, on second thought...free Glock. Hand it over.

Some rich guy is out his hard-earned money and I get a free gun. Sounds totally fair to me, right? Sigh.

Posted by Sarah at 08:58 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 20, 2008

GETTING THE AVERAGE

Some Soldier's Mom left a comment at AWTM, and this part caught my eye:

... and you just want to ask Barrack Obama, "Since when did it become acceptable in America to punish hard working people by taking their money and giving it to others because you think that's "fairer"? and that you can't imagine how he justifies giving tax "refunds" to people who don't even pay taxes! You see this as taking your "A" grades in school and giving them to people who got lower grades to make it "fairer".

Did I ever tell you that this is exactly what happened to me in France? I took a literature class, and we had some paper to write. After they were all turned in, the teacher reprimanded the class for missing the point of the paper. She explained what a good paper would've looked like. I felt pretty sure that what I had written was close to what she was looking for, so I was in the catbird seat. But then she laid this kicker on us: She had decided to go ahead and average all the grades and give us the average. I ended up with a C.

I wish I were making that story up. Or I wish it had been like a trick on the teacher's part, a way to teach us a lesson. Nope. It was real and the grade stuck.

I had done the assignment correctly and I got a C. Someone else who had turned in an F was feeling pretty awesome at this point.

I don't see how that's even remotely fair.

And Some Soldier's Mom is right that it's a good analogy for the taxes.

Posted by Sarah at 09:06 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 07, 2008

THE RICH

Lest anyone continue to say that the Republicans are the party of the rich...

Soros, Lewis, and the Sandlers form a core group of billionaire activists and Democrat partisans who have formed a group called The Democracy Alliance. They realized that they could magnify their power by working in unison and tapping other wealthy donors to further their agenda (the superb Boston Globe article Follow the money is a good primer on how money and 527 groups have come together to have a huge impact on politics in America).

The Democracy Alliance is a major avenue to help them achieve their goals. The roster of its growing membership consists of a list of billionaires and mere multi-millionaires who collectively hope to give upwards of 500 million dollars each year to further promote a left-wing agenda.

Posted by Sarah at 07:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 06, 2008

WHEN WE LEFT EARTH

I've been watching and thoroughly enjoying When We Left Earth. I didn't know as much about Mercury and Gemini as I do about Apollo, and I know hardly anything about the subsequent missions. It's been wonderful to see the original footage and relive those Apollo moments.

There are a couple tidbits I did learn that have made me smile. First, I didn't know that the LM on Apollo 10 was sent to orbit the moon without enough fuel to power itself off the moon. The men in charge of the space program knew that if they sent astronauts that close to the moon with the means to land, they would certainly land! To prevent them from jumping ahead in the program, they didn't give them enough gas to leave. And the crew joked that they totally would've tried to land on the moon if they'd been able to.

Second, Neil Armstrong left the LM a full 15 minutes before Buzz Aldrin did. You think that was the longest 15 minutes of anyone's life? Heh. Can you imagine sitting on the moon, waiting your turn?

I always am fascinated by the what-ifs of the space program. What if Ed White's first EVA had failed and he floated away from his Gemini shuttle? What if Apollo 8 failed to break the orbit of the moon and the crew was left to circle the moon for eternity? What if the LM of Apollo 11 crashed and Armstrong and Aldrin had to slowly die on the moon? Would there be a rescue mission to retrieve their bodies? So many what-ifs, and such a marriage of good furtune plus hard work to make it all a success.

I am looking forward to watching the final installment of the show to learn about the more recent missions.

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

September 26, 2008

DEBATE THOUGHT

If I have to hear the phrase "find bin Laden" one more time, I will flip my lid.

Posted by Sarah at 10:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 25, 2008

YOU DISGUSTING RACIST

OK, this is just too much for me.

Florida Congressman: Palin 'Don't Care Too Much What They Do With Jews and Blacks'

Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings pointed to Sarah Palin on Wednesday to rally Jews to Obama.

"If Sarah Palin isnt enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention," said Hastings. "Anybody toting guns and stripping moose dont care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks. So, you just think this through."

That is just so egregiously racist I can't believe it. Hunters obviously wish they were killing minorities instead of big game.

And let me take a moment to address the grammar of the line "Anybody toting guns and stripping moose dont care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks." I had this talk at home when my mom reprimanded my brother for using slang at the dinner table. I said that there's a time and place when slangy grammar is funny, and my brother had used it humorously. But a Congressman speaking this way on the record? Ridiculous.

Asked what the congressman meant, Hastings spokesman David Goldenberg told ABC News that he was trying to argue that Palin is an "extremely conservative woman who is out of touch with mainstream America."

If that ain't some revisionist bullcrap! No you weren't, you were saying that she's the type of person who wants to kill blacks and Jews.

After saying that Palin "don't care too much" about Jews and blacks, Hastings argued that African Americans and Jews should come together behind Obama because there are many issues on which they agree.

"Just like Jews, blacks care about affordable health care, energy independence, and the separation of church and state," said Hastings. "And just like blacks, Jews care about equal pay for equal work, investment in alternative energy, and a woman's right to choose."

Yeah, just like freaking white people care about those things too. What on earth do any of these things have to do with race? Hey, Jews, black people also like bicycles, fishing, and mac and cheese, you should band together to vote!

Asked about the Hastings criticism, Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella said, "Were taking a pass."

Heh.

UPDATE:

Bwahaha. Check out Rachel Lucas' demotivator.

Posted by Sarah at 04:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

I'M NOT SMART ENOUGH TO BLOG THE BAILOUT

A certain pinko commie emailed and asked what I think of the bailout. At the risk of making an Obama joke, it's really above my pay grade. I have been watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading articles about it to try to wrap my brain around the situation, but I'm just not so good at thinking in terms of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Here's one thing I do understand: money doesn't grow on trees. Our government doesn't have the money for the things it's already promised, like Medicare and Social Security. Now some want to add health care, and then there's this bailout.

I think we're boned. But I'm a housewife who knits during the Glenn Beck program, so what do I know?

CavX wrote a good summary of the situation, which fits my understanding of the problem. And I've read enough Thomas Sowell to know that there were dire consequences to lending money to people who simply couldn't afford it. Those chickennnnnns came home to roost, at the risk of making a Jeremiah Wright joke.

I heard a guy last night on the radio say that he makes $50,000 a year and bought a $400,000 house on an ARM. And this was touted as a good choice. I guess I just live on a different planet than some of these people, because my husband makes more than that and our house is less than half of this guy's. And we already own a good chunk of it.

But what do I know: I missed the Penthouse Party because I was too cheap to pay the cover charge...

Posted by Sarah at 01:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 15, 2008

VISIONS

Read Jonah Goldberg's Very Different Visions. Yes, who indeed is speaking for the "indispensable left-handed Samoans living on fixed incomes in the increasingly gay suburbs around Cleveland?" Heh.

Best Mike Huckabee quote ever: "I'm not a Republican because I grew up rich," he proclaimed, "I'm a Republican because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life poor, waiting for the government to rescue me."

I didn't grow up rich and neither did my husband. We started our marriage with no income for four months and $200 to our name. But every day since we've come a little bit closer to our goal of being fat, rich, white Republicans.

And our vision is the winner vision.

UPDATE:

Dang, we lost like eight grand overnight. Stupid Lehman jerks.

Posted by Sarah at 08:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11, 2008

BLEH

Yeah, so I drunk snail-mailed my husband tonight.
It's like drunk-dialing, only it won't get to him for two weeks.
I pent up four months of dead babies and deployment and unleashed it all on 9/11 coverage. Not good.

UPDATE:

I hadn't mailed the letter yet, so I got up this morning and read it. Ha. Don't worry, I didn't write the letter about depressing stuff; that's just what prompted me to grab a pen. It seems I wrote about T. Boone Pickens and Band of Brothers. It's very rambling and ridiculous.

Oh, and I feel fine this morning, and really...could a super-drunk person have cleared through Level 23 on Dr. Mario? I think not. I can handle my wine.

Posted by Sarah at 10:15 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

WHY I HAVEN'T BLOGGED

I tried to log in this morning to put up something about 9/11, but my blog was not cooperating. (And yes, I know that many of you try to comment and have your comments disappear into spam land. I promise to work on that soon.)

The beginning of my day was taken up with mundane chores -- taking the car to the windshield shop, grocery shopping, etc -- and I returned home, turned on the TV while I was waiting to go pick the car back up, and that's when it hit.

I watched a show on the History Channel called The Rise and Fall of the WTC. At the risk of sounding crass, I learned today to mourn the loss of that building along with the loss of the lives inside of it. I learned about Minoru Yamasaki and his innovative new construction. I learned about the technology needed to build such a heavy structure on soggy Manhattan. I learned that Battery Park was built with the land dug from the WTC site. And I learned about the creative minds who helped efficiently move debris once the buildings were felled, and the laser imaging that helped map the site for disaster workers.

In short, I learned about all the brilliant minds that came together to both build and clean up the WTC.

And I got mad, mad at the backward-assed culture that's never created a damn thing, only destroyed.

AWTM called me, wondering if I was OK, wondering why I hadn't blogged yet. Although I had tried earlier in the morning, 9/11 hadn't seeped into my brain yet at that point.

It has now.

We talked about our anger, about the laser beam, about how she had to explain to her children today that evil men flew planes into buildings and that's why daddy has to be away from the family so often.

And then I listened to Todd Beamer's dad on the radio, thanking our troops for continuing the fight. I cried as I put together my meatloaf.

I'm mad. And drunk. And there's a SpouseBUZZ radio show tonight about 9/11, and it ain't gonna be pretty.

So I didn't blog. But it's not because I forgot.

Posted by Sarah at 06:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2008

LIPSTICKGATE

I thought I'd weigh in on Lipstickgate.

Obama said, "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig." He was referring to how McCain is now also running as the candidate for change. Many folks are upset that Obama seemingly called Palin a pig.

Let me say, I thought it was the funniest, most clever thing to ever come out of Obama's mouth.

I mean, come on: that's a great comeback. I personally don't think it has to be taken as sexist. Palin used lipstick to get a laugh line and a round of applause; Obama turned the tables back at her with a well-known idiom.

I honestly thought it was the funniest thing Obama's ever said. But I'm nutty like that. People really seem to be freaking out about this and saying that it will cost Obama support. Hey, whatever makes people not vote for him...

But you know what's way more offensive than what Obama said? What Juan Cole said: "What's the difference between Palin and Muslim fundamentalists? Lipstick." That article is just sick.

Posted by Sarah at 09:10 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 21, 2008

FAIR

Also via CG, Rachel Marsden's article on the politics of the Olympics:

Liberals even want to redistribute other peoples Olympic wealth. American swimmer Michael Phelps earned an unprecedented eight gold medals during the games, and is now possibly looking at endorsement deals of up to $100 million all through years of hard work and sacrifice by him and his single-parent family. But in an interview this week, Ken Sunshine flack to world class leftist limousine liberati luminaries like Michael Moore, Barbra Streisand, and the Dixie Chicks said to CNNs Campbell Brown: I mean, were just talking about a lot of money. The Michael Phelps phenomenon is so unique and his story is so great, and he just fits the pattern perfectly that it almost isnt fair. I think what makes more sense are the people that won one medal or two medals and compare them. And its a double standard. We need to make it fairer and its not. In that case, Id like to use Ken Sunshines posh home in New Yorks Hamptons for half the year, please - because I dont have one, and it isnt fair.

When I read that, I was so shocked I went looking for more info. I found the video clip and also another blog entry at The Four Winds.

Did someone really actually say that we need to make the Olympics fairer? It's not fair that Phelps worked his entire life and devoted himself to being the best? You have to be kidding me. Michael Phelps deserves every dollar he can get out of the years and years of work he put into being the greatest Olympian ever. Good for him. I hope he makes enough money to backstroke in hundred dollar bills. He has to walk around on land looking like a frog stretched straight out; he deserves cash for his effort. Deal with it.

What is wrong with our world is people like this Ken Sunshine who think that it's only appropriate to win one medal. More than that is showing off. It looks bad. But you know what? Our American society is great because it doesn't have a concept of lagom, where you should be content to be mediocre and be happy with "just enough." We don't even have a translation for that Swedish word. And thank heavens we don't. We wouldn't have Michael Phelpses or Lance Armstrongs if we did.

Olympic swimming is about as fair as the world gets: a gun goes off, all the swimmers enter the water, and the person who works hardest and wants it most gets to the finish line first. There's no Olympic affirmative action, where the swimmer from Palestine gets to dive in first because (cue violins) he doesn't even have an Olympic-sized pool in his entire territory. Boo hoo.

More fair? I'd like to slap CNN in the mouth for even running such a ridiculous segment.

Michael Phelps, you rule. Enjoy your 8 medals and come back and win 9 next time.

(And don't even get me started on how they said product endorsements are sexist. The Four Winds answered that one perfectly.)

Posted by Sarah at 12:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 16, 2008

THROWING MONEY AWAY

About ten minutes into my trip towards Chicago yesterday, I was on the phone with CaliValleyGirl and winced as a rock hit my windshield. Thirty seconds later, a 10-inch crack made its way across the glass. Son of a. The last time we drove home, we hit a crow. This time I will need a new windshield when I get back. It's too expensive to travel.

Posted by Sarah at 11:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 11, 2008

NEXT

The dog and I spent 15 hours in the car over the weekend, so we settled in with a book on tape. Michael Crichton's Next didn't get spectacular reviews, but I found it unabridged at the library and thought that it would be good for the car.

After about eight hours of listening, I was starting to get really uneasy.

What I love about Crichton is that he always takes something we can do scientifically and then extrapolates it into the future to the ethical concerns. And yes, I am seriously nervewracked by some of the issues he raised. How about a woman who tracks down her biological father, a man who donated sperm 30 years prior, and says she's suing him because he knew at the time he donated sperm that he was addicted to cocaine, so he passed on his genes for addiction to her? Or what about a scientist getting sued because the meds he gave a woman didn't work, because he couldn't provide documentation that he gave her a placebo?

I have no problem with the technology. I have no problem with people profiting from creating the technology. I do have a serious problem with out litigious society and the ethics dilemmas this stuff will create. We're already sue-happy; just wait until you can sue your parents for procreating and passing along "faulty" genes.

I still have a couple more hours of listening to do, but as usual, Crichton is making me queasy. He's good at that.

Posted by Sarah at 03:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 06, 2008

KEROUAC SUCKS

I finally got around to watching this week's Army Wives. There's the obligatory TV scene where the daughter wants to date a boy, so she has to bring him home to get the third degree from her parents. My parents never behaved this way. Maybe it was because they already knew all my friends from sports and stuff at school, but we never had to have one of those TV dinners that sounds like an interview: "So, what are your plans after high school?" Did you? Is this really what normal families do, or just families on TV?

Oh, and the boyfriend starts talking about Jack Kerouac. Can I just tell you how overrated I think On the Road is? Gag me. Thus I loved the scene in Freaks and Geeks when Kim Kelly said, "I hated the book, alright? I have no idea what it's about, and the writer was clearly on drugs when he wrote it. I mean, it just went on and on and on like it was written in a total hurry. If I handed in something like this, there's no way I'd get a good grade on it, I mean, it's boring and it's unorganized, and I only read 30 pages of it anyway." (Found at 5:47 in this youtube.) Perfect summary of that crappy book.

I don't know how parents keep from rolling their eyes when high schoolers try to act mature. I don't think I'll be very good at it. I have told my mother recently that she was a good mom for not belittling me when I thought something was The Biggest Drama Ever. I'm afraid I'm gonna laugh at my kid someday.

Posted by Sarah at 05:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 03, 2008

THE COWBOYS

When I was visiting my grandparents, my dad's brothers were going on and on about Bruce Dern. I think it's funny when my dad's brothers get a hair up their butts about something. So one uncle lent me The Cowboys to watch. Best John Wayne movie I've ever seen. And my uncles were right: Bruce Dern is the Ultimate Bad Guy. Heaven help the boy who encounters Bruce Dern.

I couldn't help but think about the responsibilities and rewards given to these boys. They were all 12-15 years old and were gone from home all summer to drive cattle 400 miles. How many parents let their sons go four miles from their house these days without knowing exactly where they are? Heck, the first thing John Wayne did to test their courage was to make them all ride an untamed bucking horse. Imagine sending your 13-year-old son off for summer work with your family's best horse and pistol.

I also couldn't help but imagine my uncles watching this movie. They all would've been a little younger than the boys on the cattle drive when the movie came out. I wonder how it shaped them. Goodness knows their family followed the John Wayne School of Parenting.

A long trailer to the movie can be found here. Highly recommended.

Posted by Sarah at 09:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 02, 2008

HONESTY

John Hawkins found a study about honesty among liberals and conservatives. Excerpt:

When the World Values Survey asked a similar question, the results were largely the same: Those who were very liberal were much more likely to say it was all right to get welfare benefits you didn't deserve.

The World Values Survey found that those on the left were also much more likely to say it is OK to buy goods that you know are stolen. Studies have also found that those on the left were more likely to say it was OK to drink a can of soda in a store without paying for it and to avoid the truth while negotiating the price of a car.

This reminded me of someone from my past. My husband and I were friends with a guy in college who is a staunch Democrat. He got a job at Walmart while we were in school, and he routinely stole from the store while working there. He said it was OK to steal from corporations but not from mom-and-pop stores. He took all kinds of things while working there, from a winter hat to a beautiful pipe. It was pretty appalling.

The fact that he made a distinction -- that stealing from Walmart specifically was OK -- makes me think that his stealing was related to his worldview and political affiliation. I found the whole thing shocking and toyed with the idea of calling his boss and reporting him. Luckily, he quit the job before I had to make that hard decision.

UPDATE:

CaliValleyGirl writes about her opposite experience.

For the record, I agree with John Hawkins that it's a slippery slope to saying that all liberals are less honest. But in this one situation with the person I knew, he really thought it was OK to steal from Walmart because they were a big corporation. That's a messed up relativistic attitude: the act of "stealing" doesn't change depending on who you're stealing from.

Posted by Sarah at 03:30 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 31, 2008

I HATE GIRL CLOTHES

I know I am so absolutely going to have a girl...because I cannot stand baby clothes for girls. I am all about trucks and baseballs and turtles. I hate the flowers and butterflies.

My mother and I took a trip through the baby section today, and it's slim pickin's for a girl, especially if you don't want her to look like a tramp. Yes, even baby clothes are following this trend. I noted the following sayings on girl clothes 3-6 months today:

Princess
Angel
Diva
Spoiled Rotten
Princess With Attitude
Bling Bling

Yes, that's right: Bling Bling. On a shirt covered in diamonds and dollar signs. I mean, why don't we just go ahead and buy her the Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset and be done with it?

Ugh. I'm so having a girl.

She will wear baseballs and puppies for the first year. With one of those scrunchie bands around her head so people can tell she's a girl.

Posted by Sarah at 02:46 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 20, 2008

CHANGE IS EVERYWHERE

So I've been in season finale heaven this week, with all sorts of major characters dying and stuff. It's been a wild ride, and letters to my husband have been filled with synopses of shows because I'm a dork like that.

But I watched the finale of House, and what was the deal with the extremely conspicuous Obama bumper sticker on the hospital bathroom wall? How out of place and jarring was that? I mean, come on with the agenda.

Posted by Sarah at 08:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

MAN-BASHING AT MSN

Mare noticed my previous post and sent me another crap MSN article. Oh no, it's on.

Things a Man Should Never Do in the Company of a Woman

Reveal how much your car cost.
-- In my husband's case, it would be how little his car cost, since he prides himself in small car payments. And also how low the mileage is: we have a six-year-old car with 45,000 miles on it.

Clean your gun.
-- Not even. This is hot. You should definitely do this in front of me.

Polish high school trophies (which you still have displayed).
-- OK, this one is lame. But how many people are doing this? Oh wait, hang on, I fall into this category. I still proudly display an award I received when I ran high school track because it was an award for the person who put out the most effort despite being handicapped by a natural inability to run fast. I worked my tail off on that track to be good, and I had no God-given talent to rely on. That award is important to me. If my husband had something like that, you can darn well believe that I'd let him keep it and polish it whenever he wanted to.

Refer to your mother as your best friend.
-- Isn't it a good thing for a guy to love his mother?

Rap.
-- My husband doesn't do this really, but sometimes he does quote rap songs as if he's quoting Mark Twain or Socrates, and it is hilarious when he does it.

Check out our assistant/roommate/the baby-sitter.
-- The last time my husband came home from Iraq, he had spent 13 months without seeing a woman. (He was on an all-male combat arms FOB.) He stared like crazy when he got home, not out of disrespect for me but because it was such a novelty. It didn't bother me in the least.

Question our footwear.
-- I've had my husband question my footwear. You know, when I was wearing inappropriate footwear. He's no dummy; he knows that cute little sandals are gonna hurt like hell after lots of walking.

Blow-dry your hair.
-- High and tight. No need for this one. I think my dad blow dries his hair in the winter sometimes. I dare anyone to say my dad isn't manly enough.

Tip less than 20 percent.
-- My husband is fine in this department. I'm the one who's Mr. Pink.

Celebrity impressions.
-- His Cartman and Slingblade make me laugh.

Impressions of us.
-- So does his impression of me. I sound an awful lot like Glenn Beck's wife, and it makes me crack up. Gosh, I wish I could hear him do it now.

Forget to carry cash.
-- What a dumb addition to this list.

Flip it, flop it, swing it around, tug on it, adjust it, scratch it, or do anything that will remind us that it's just a goofy appendage and not a mystical source of pleasure and satisfaction.
-- Weird.

Wii.
-- He doesn't have one. He has an old PS2 and old games from 2002, because he made a pimp decision.

Boot and rally.
-- I have no idea what this means.

Screamat the dog, at the guy who just stole your parking spot, at Bill Belichick. Because, no matter how much Belichick deserves it (cheater!), when we hear you raise your voice, we have an idea of what we're in for.
-- My husband does have a tendency to shout at the TV, but I'm getting used to it. And if that's his only fault, then I can live with it.

Talk about former exploits. Ever.
-- Not a problem in our house.

Use the words bitch, slut, tramp, or whore, unless referring to another man.
-- He uses them when they're approproately funny. Sometimes about women. Deal with it.

Tell us you're going to kiss us. (Just get on with it!)
-- Had to throw in something cutesy there, right? Just to offset all the carping, bitchy other things you put in the rest of the list.

I thought I'd try, in Rachel Lucas fashion, to come up with a list of things women shouldn't do in front of men. But the whole concept is just dumb. Let men be men and women be women. If you like hanging out together, then you like the whole package. Why on earth do you want to be with a man who is reprogrammed to act like a woman? There is not a thing I can think of that my husband can't do in front of me, farting included. And there is not a thing he can say to his buddies that he can't say in front of me. Because I love him and I love everything about him. He doesn't need to hide part of his personality so I will stay with him.

He's perfect just the way he is.

Posted by Sarah at 11:12 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

A GROWN MAN

I almost passed this off as not worth my time, but I can't let it go. I read this dumb list of 18 things a grown man shouldn't have. Most of them I can agree with and my husband doesn't do. Some are things I actually do, like quote The Big Lebowski. But the kicker is the beer one: "Any beer that costs less than $20 a case."

First of all, part of being a grown up is realizing what you like and not buying something more expensive just so you can look cool. My husband doesn't have to drink with the label out, so he buys what he likes or he buys what's on sale. And he takes the money he saved that way and invests it in his retirement fund. That is definitely one thing a grown man should have.

Second of all, time and time again blind taste tests show that people don't know their favorite beer from a hole in the ground.

Blind Beer Recognition: The Quaffer's Nightmare
Booze You Can Use

One quote from that Slate taste test says it all:

In addition to saying which beers they preferred, the tasters were asked to estimate whether the beers were expensive or not--in effect, to judge whether other people would like and be impressed by the beers. One taster perfectly understood the intention of this measure when he said, in comments about Beer B (Heineken), "I don't like it, but I bet it's what the snobs buy."

And doing something just because you think it's socially acceptable or because you think others will regard you highly for it, that is not at all something a grown man should do.

A grown man is comfortable in his own skin. He will drink Pabst in public.

Posted by Sarah at 08:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2008

WHERE ARE THE WIFE ROLE MODELS?

There is one thing I hate about action movies: the wives. The wives are always whiny, self-centered nags. Every action movie wife is Adrian Balboa, telling Rocky not to fight. I get so sick of it. How many times can we hear some snotty witch tell her husband that she's "sick of him putting the job ahead of his family"? And every action hero takes it, lets his wife treat him like dirt while he keeps on killing the bad guys. I can't stand it any longer.

You know, I'm glad my husband has a job that he puts ahead of his family. Because my happiness is not the most important freaking thing on this planet. He doesn't live to make my life perfect; he tries to do a job that's bigger than him, bigger than us. And I am proud of that, I respect that. And I would never dream of emasculating him by saying I can't understand "what he's become," that I can't believe he forgot Timmy's basketball game, that I can't believe that he somehow thinks ridding the streets of evil is better than being home at a decent hour every night.

Seriously, this is what movie wives do. They destroy their husbands because they want their husbands to put them first, above everything else.

That's bullcrap.

I will never forget the post that Joan wrote at SpouseBUZZ about TV husbands promising to make it up to their wives. My husband doesn't have to make anything up to me; it's reward enough to see him do a job he loves well and to make an impact on this world. And yeah, that may mean he misses Timmy's freaking basketball game from time to time. Get over it.

You know, I was stressed out today. I cried a lot and I wished someone was here in the house to hold my hand and tell me that everything was going to be OK. But not once during the entire day did I feel upset that my husband was in Iraq instead of here. Not once. His job is more important than my crying stints. We signed up for selfless service, and by golly I take that seriously. I would never dream of making him feel bad for not being home on a day I needed him.

But apparently TV wives sing a different tune.

I hate TV wives. Except Zoe Washburne, she was cool.

Posted by Sarah at 11:14 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

MY LIFE IS SO BLESSED THAT I SPEND MY TIME GRIPING ABOUT MOVIES

When I was in high school, my brother and I wanted to see From Dusk Until Dawn. We finally rented it, and he was going to watch it with his friends and then bring it home for me to watch. As he was leaving his friends' house, he dropped the VHS tape and accidentally stepped on it, cracking the tape, making me unable to watch it.

I am reminded of that frustration today.

If you remember my saying so, I love crappy action movies. Our Blockbuster queue is filled with them now that my husband is gone. So I watched First Blood the other night (the first Rambo movie, to rubes like me who didn't know it wasn't actually called Rambo.) That movie is freaking weird. Why are some Oregon cops harrassing a guy who just wanted to eat in the local diner, to the point where they're all getting killed over it? Whatever, Stallone is hot.

So I returned the movie and was all set to watch First Blood II tonight.

Now imagine me saying "Weak. Lame." in my best Cartman voice: They mailed me another copy of the first movie.

I wanted Cambodia, not Oregon again.

Weak. Lame.

Posted by Sarah at 07:33 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 13, 2008

PUSH PRESENTS?

Last night my husband's friend commented appreciatively on my KitchenAid mixer. I told him it was my Surviving Deployment Present to myself. I remember how I had to force myself to get it because I thought it was so frivolous. A present, just for not falling to pieces in one year.

And then I learned that other wives had gotten enormous honkin' diamonds and Saabs.

Until today, I had never heard of a "push present," which apparently is a new trend. Husbands are supposed to waste money on wives when they deliver a baby, in addition to the money they waste on ridiculous old Valentine's Day. And I have a feeling that it probably goes down a lot like other people's Surviving Deployment presents did; nothing like blowing a huge wad of cash right when you need it most in life. I would think it was sweet if my husband got something for the baby or a little thing for me. But I sure ain't countin' on it. And I know for a fact that he would not buy expensive jewelery and I wouldn't want him to.

I don't think it's weird to get your spouse a gift; in fact, I've already got something in mind for my husband. But it's not a requirement, for heaven's sake.

My "push present" will probably be an increase in my life insurance policy.

Posted by Sarah at 07:19 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 10, 2008

STIMULUS

We got our Pelosi Money yesterday, but there's nothing we need to buy to help stimulate the economy. We had intended to spend it on sod for the backyard since we're having a really hard time making grass grow on sand, but the sod laying company can't get into our backyard unless we tear down part of our fence. That seems like a bad trade-off to me, so we're not going that route right now. Other than that, I can't think of anything to spend it on. Thanks for funding our IRA, Congress. You meatheads.

Posted by Sarah at 10:31 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 09, 2008

I'M NOT ANTI-WAR

Dragonfly found an interesting opinion piece called Anti-War Wounds. I don't relate to every opinion in the article, but it's well-written and makes a good point about "being the 'we.'" And about how it feels when people don't get that.

My husband fights this war. He risks his life every day. We have both made sacrifices for it. And to hear them say that its a waste of time, that it will never make a difference, that we should call the whole thing off well, if thats true, Im not sure Ill get out of bed tomorrow morning. There has to be a reason that our family and thousands of others are enduring this.

Yesterday someone called to say goodbye to my husband before he left, not knowing that he'd been bumped forward. And in the conversation, this person asked if my husband thinks that being in Iraq is worth it, if his job means anything, and if he thinks we should've gone there in the first place. How do you answer that question 1) politely and 2) succinctly? And then what do you do when that person says, "Well, I don't think it was the right idea in the first place"?

All I could answer was that my husband reads countless books, articles, and blogs about the Middle East. He's no robot blindly following Bush's orders. And he will do the best job he can with the brain he's been given so that he does make a difference down there.

You know, I've heard the saying that the soldier is the most anti-war person because he actually sees what war is, but I don't think I ever want label myself as anti-war. To me, that's like being anti-pollution or anti-cancer; it's a meaningless term. (I've written about this before.) There is war in this world we live in, like it or not, and sometimes you have to fight it. And if that time comes to my family, then that makes me pro-war. Do I think this time in Iraq has been perfect or easy? No way. But I don't have a crystal ball that can tell me what the world would've looked like if we hadn't gone to Iraq five years ago. It's possible the world might've been worse off. So you fight the war you're in with all you've got and don't waste time thinking about what might have been in some alternate dimension.

So please don't ask our military families to discuss that alternate dimension. It's pointless and off-putting.

Posted by Sarah at 08:02 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 03, 2008

CEREAL

What?

Mothers-to-be who skip breakfast and eat less are more likely to give birth to girls, while moms who consume more calories and a wider range of nutrients including, specifically, those from breakfast cereal are more likely to deliver sons.

Wait wait wait. If we want a boy, I have to eat more? Done and done. And I eat breakfast cereal every single day. Sweet, we're golden.

Yeah, um, Tessa brings up the logical question here: Don't males carry the deciding chromosomes? Still, it's an interesting correlation. And if I were any good at conceiving at all, I would give it a try, but we're just gonna have to take what we can get.

Now excuse me while I go eat my breakfast cereal.

Posted by Sarah at 07:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 02, 2008

YOU MUST BE KIDDING

Why Generation Y is broke

Let me guess...they're retarded?

The 28-year-old New York resident has a master's degree from a prestigious university, a successful career in photography, stamps in her passport from around the globe and, until recently, personal finances that were out of control.
[...]
"[Her accountant] wrote me a letter that said, 'You've got to get your life together! Most of these bills aren't even open.' It was a really humbling thing," Wallace says. "But the next time, all my receipts were on a spreadsheet. No one had ever taught me to make a budget or balance a checkbook."

You're kidding me with this, right? No one ever taught me this either. Actually, that's not true: I think I remember having to balance a fake checkbook sometime around middle school for a math class assignment.

But for real, you have a Masters degree and it never occurred to you that you should keep track of your money? Like maybe use Excel or something, the easiest thing in the world. It does the math for you! I'm sure you're also, like, a total math-ophobe. Like numbers and stuff, ick. Who can do that?

"We're in a generation that was kind of shielded from a lot of financial responsibilities," says Wong. "Twenty years ago, when you were in college you didn't have a credit card, and (now) all of a sudden we had to take on debt to go to college. Then we get out of college and we have to have that handbag and an iPod," she says. "It is so easy to take on debt."

OMG, you did not just say that.

Many of these attitudes are evident in our relationships with our parents. Not for nothing have we been labeled the "boomerang generation": We may not all be living in our parents' wood-paneled basements, but a recent Pew survey found that 68% of baby boomers with kids are supporting an adult child financially.

Yep, I know several of them. And on the other end of the spectrum, you have people like me and my husband who, three years after we got married, sent our parents money for all the things we owed them for over the years. The laptop that I swore to my dad I would help pay for when I was in college, yep, never did. So I paid him back three years after I had passed the laptop on to my brother. Because he's my father and not some money tree. Once I realized the true value of money, I realized how much I'd asked of my parents over the years. And I paid them back.

Because I'm a grown-up, and grown-ups don't whine if they can't afford an iPod and they don't take advantage of other grown-ups, even if they happen to be mommy and daddy.

Why do we seem to get article after article these days about why 20 and 30 year olds can't seem to get their shit together? Quit making excuses for them like they weren't taught this in school or it's predatory lenders' fault. No one made her buy the handbag. When I was in college, I had a credit card with a $10,000 limit. I never put a dime on it. It was for emergencies only, and I knew the freaking definition of an emergency. It sure isn't Needing An iPod.

And no one had to teach me that! My parents didn't have to sit down and tell me what I could or could not put on a credit card. It's common freaking sense to not spend money you don't have.

Yeesh.

Posted by Sarah at 07:44 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 30, 2008

WTF?

Hank Dagny (nice name) finds an appalling article called "Is 'early' retirement ... well, unpatriotic?"

When I hear my fellow baby boomers gleefully talk about their plans to retire ASAP, head for the Tuscan hills or otherwise continue their lifelong quest for "self-actualization," I have to bite my tongue.

It's not that I'm all work and no play. But there's just something -- lots of things -- wrong, in general, with retiring at 55, 62 or even 65. I would go so far as to call it profoundly selfish and unpatriotic.

For individuals, working longer can mean more income and savings and something to bequeath to one's children. For the nation, if millions of us worked until 67 instead of 62, Americans' wealth and consumption would increase appreciably, fueling stronger economic growth.

That added income would provide about $800 billion in additional tax revenue and reduce government benefit costs by at least $100 billion in 2045, according to Urban Institute calculations. This alone would cut the projected deficit in 2045 by 159 percent.

Well then, call us unpatriotic, because my husband's goal is to retire from the Army at 42 and be retired. Done. Finito. I don't know if that will stick because he might get bored being at home, but at the rate he's planning now, he will have the option of making it so.

And I dare some communist to say that what he's doing is "unpatriotic." He doesn't have to keep working an additional 25 years so he can fund social welfare programs. It's his responsibility to provide for himself and his family, nothing more. And as much as we've scrimped and saved and done without for the past six years so that we have the financial flexibility to do whatever he wants when he retires, I'll be damned if someone says that he has to work longer to help out deadbeats who didn't scrimp and save and do without.

Yes, we're selfish. I daresay the US would be a better place if everyone were a little more selfish, taking care of their own needs and doing what needs to be done to maximize profits and reach their goals. The Invisible freaking Hand.

Blood. Boiling. Calm. Down.

Posted by Sarah at 09:55 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 25, 2008

THE SUCKER TAX

Neal Boortz was talking about the lottery earlier today as I drove home from the commissary, and I couldn't believe my ears. He said he had read a study a while back that said that 50% of respondants said they planned to use lottery winnings to retire. I've been searching and cannot find this study, but I did find this:

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said a lottery would be the most practical strategy for accumulating several hundred thousand dollars, and that percentage was higher among lower-income people, with 38% of those who earn less than $25,000 pointing to the lottery as a solution.

Some Americans "both greatly overestimate their chances of hitting a lottery jackpot, and greatly underestimate their ability to build six-figure wealth by patiently making regular savings contributions over time," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of CFA, in a telephone press conference.

Knock me over with a feather.

This ties in nicely with a blog post AirForceWife sent to me yesterday. FrugalDad wrote a blog post called Language of the Perpetual Poor, which contained this gem:

If you are ever around a gas station on Friday night you see them lined up at the counter forking over $20 of their hard-earned paycheck for their chance at financial glory. And just try telling them that $20 a week in a mutual fund averaging 8% growth for 30 years adds up to $130,000. Who can afford to invest in mutual funds?

So there you go, there's your six figures. Shoot, you'd be better off putting the money in a coffee can, as one commenter said she started doing instead of going on on the office pool.

In searching for these shocking lottery statistics, I also came across this anecdote to put it all in perspective:

"'Suppose you have one friend in Canada. If you put the names of everyone in Canada in a hat and draw one name at random, you are 2.5 times more likely to draw your friend's name than you are to win the Big Game,' according to Cal State-Hayward statistics professor Michael Orkin."

Heh.

A big problem is that people are so mathematically ignorant that they don't even understand these odds. Here's how bad it is:

The study also identified a strong relation between financial literacy and retirement planning. Persons who understood finances more were more likely to take charge and plan for their retirement. Financial literacy was judged on the basis of being able to answer simple financial questions including:

If the chances of getting a disease are 10 per cent, how many people out of 1,000 would be expected to get the disease? Answer: 100. (Percentage of people answering correctly: 84.)

If 5 people all have the winning number in the lottery and the prize is $2 million, how much will each of them get? Answer: $400,000. (Percentage of people answering correctly: 56.)

Lets say you have $200 in a savings account paying 10% per year interest. How much would you have in the account at the end of two years? Answer: $242. (Percentage of people answering correctly: 18.)

This is just basic stuff, people. Yikes.

There are only two tricks to investing for long-term financial success: early and often. The lottery doesn't enter into it.

Posted by Sarah at 12:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 24, 2008

HOVERING

Just this morning, I was thinking about that mom who got arrested for leaving her child in the car while she put money in the Salvation Army bin. I watched a mom strap her kid into the car at Walmart, take her groceries out of her cart, and then leave the cart right in the middle of the parking lot instead of pushing it to one of the cart corrals. I hate when people do this! But I got to thinking, would she get in trouble for leaving her child unattended as she put her cart away? That's the same distance as it was to the Salvation Army bin.

I seriously thought about this all day, about moms who don't stray from child's side. I thought a lot about my own childhood, and about CaliValleyGirl's (she should regale you with tales of her childhood independence), and about leaving a child alone in the car for a few moments.

So I was fascinated to find this article this evening:

Would you let your fourth-grader ride public transportation without an adult? Probably not. Still, when Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun, wrote about letting her son take the subway alone to get back to her Manhattan home from a department store on the Upper East Side, she didn't expect to get hit with a tsunami of criticism from readers.

"Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence," Skenazy wrote on April 4 in the New York Sun. "Long story longer: Half the people I've told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It's not. It's debilitatingfor us and for them."

I honestly think it's cool that she let her kid ride the subway. I was only a little older than he when I rode my bike to school, an event which I immortalized when I previously wrote about letting kids have freedom:

On my last day of fifth grade, my mom let me ride my bike to school. Some of my friends who lived closer to the school got to ride their bikes often, but we lived in a neighborhood that was further away and so I was a bus-riding kid. (Oh, and every day my brother and I walked down the street to the bus stop and waited alone.) But finally my mom said I was old enough to earn the right to ride my bike to school. I just google mapped it, and it seems I rode roughly two miles. And I felt SO COOL. I was one of the big kids now. I was independent. I had Done Something Awesome. And without a helmet.

My mom and I talked about that not too long ago. She says looking back she can't believe all the parents let their kids ride bikes to school. And she's not sure she'd let me do it today. Even she has a hard time remembering when cartoon characters didn't need helmets.

I needed to ride that bike to school. Heck, I still remember it. As a crowning achievement, as a milestone, as a step on the way to Growing Up. The thing that scares me is wondering if I will be able to let my kids take those steps too.

The Newsweek article says this:

Back in 1972, when many of today's parents were kids, 87 percent of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked every day. But today, the Centers for Disease Control report that only 13 percent of children bike, walk or otherwise get themselves to school.

My husband is pretty adamant that we won't be driving our kid to his bus stop. And likely we won't have to; the local bus stop seems to stop every 100 feet to let a new kid out right in front of his house. We want to have a relaxed and groovy approach to parenting. (Ha, the last thing Sarah is is relaxed and groovy.)

Of course, these feelings are all theoretical. I want to be a cool, independence-fostering mom. But I've also been plagued by hovering thoughts.

I know a couple, they tried for eight years to have their daughter. She was born dangerously premature, and she ended up being their only child. She's now 30, and when I think about how hard it was for them to have this child, I wonder how they ever let her leave the house. How did they let her ride a bike or start driving or go to college? How did they ever let her out of their sight? She was irreplaceable. Literally.

Since having a baby has proven so hard, I can imagine it will be even harder to let my kid become independent. I will have to really work at not smothering the kid.

I will have to remind myself how I felt when I rode that bike to school. My kid needs to feel that too.

UPDATE:

Oh good heavens: I Left My Son in San Francisco.

Posted by Sarah at 05:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 23, 2008

KNOCK IT OFF, GOVERNMENT

John Stossel echoes a point I was trying to make via email to Sis B:

Politicians love a "crisis." John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all think that the government should bail out homeowners who can't pay their mortgages. When they say the government should do this, they mean the taxpayers, including those who are paying their mortgages. They also think the government should regulate the lending and investment industries further.

Why?

Because "crisis" justifies making government bigger.

It's why we now have a global warming "crisis" and in previous years we had "crises" over avian flu, the Y2K threat to computers, imaginary cancer spikes caused by pesticides, killer bees flying up from Mexico, and uncontrolled population growth leading to a "Population Bomb" that will bring "riots and mass starvation" by the year 2000.

In my email, I mentioned the HBO series John Adams and remarked how deeply it struck me when John Adams told Congress that it wasn't his place to give his opinion when they were deadlocked. Imagine any politician today saying it's not his place to give his opinion! Nowadays, politicans tie millions of dollars to their opinions and give both out freely. And imagine telling our early presidents that they need to help people pay for their homes or stop the spread of disease. No way that was the government's job back then. But it sure is now. Hurricane hit your city? Free trailers for everyone. And here's a voucher to go buy a new Gucci purse.

The term "predatory lending" just gets my goat. Forced lending? Ha. You can't make someone borrow money from you. If you make $30,000 a year and bought a $400,000 house, it's no one's fault but your own. I wish John Adams could be here today to stare incredulously at those people's faces and tell them to get real.

Posted by Sarah at 08:48 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 21, 2008

ONE LUCKY WIFE

Once again, I have the perfect set-up to rave about my husband. The internet makes it too easy, I swear.

John Hawkins found the most horrific article about why men don't do housework. Now there's room for complaining about my husband and his violent toothbrushing (the man brushes his teeth so hard that he sprays everywhere, showering the bathroom in white spots), which I have been known to gripe about on the phone with certain valley girls from Cali. But this article, it's just too much.

And yet everyone acts as if Jeremy deserves some kind of medal just for making a run to the supermarket. No one has ever suggested that Im a heroine for doing the things every mother is expected to do. I admit that my husband helps out more than many men, but heres another news flash: It isnt because hes such a fabulously enlightened being. Left to his own devices, he would doubtless park himself in front of the TV like some sitcom male-chauvinist couch potato while I did all the work. The reason Jeremy helps as much as he does (an offensive terminology that itself suggests whos really being held responsible) is simple: He doesnt have a choice.

Wow.

OK, I'll say it. My husband does deserve a medal for helping me around the house. I do most of the housework, and I'm darned lazy at it. Right now I am blogging in the middle of the day with election coverage on the TV, and I just set down my crochet project to pick up the laptop. La-zy. I did do several loads of laundry earlier, cleaned out my husband's dresser drawers, took out the trash, weeded the front flowerbeds, and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. But really, I still had time to watch two Laws & Orders, make a preemie hat, talk on the phone with Erin, my mom, and my mother-in-law, and eat several pieces of candy on the sofa. The fact that my husband helps make dinner, change the sheets, and load the dishwasher is indeed a sign of his sainthood. Because he woke up at 0430 this morning to spend more than 12 hours at work and then will come home to study for an economics final.

I'm the one who would doubtless park myself on the sofa all day, watching cop dramas and knitting to my heart's content. I clean up the house because I don't have a choice. It's my job since I don't have a job. And once he deploys, I won't have anyone around to shame me into doing housework. The house will probably be a disaster. Charlie sure ain't gonna pull his weight.

I'm lucky my husband puts up with piles of yarn, laundry, and dirty dishes at all. He could easily chew my butt for not working harder around the house while he's at work all week and getting his MBA on the weekends. But he doesn't care, as long as food's on the table and his socks are clean. And he'd have every right to ask me to do more. The oven needs cleaning, as do the windowsills.

I am the one who counts my blessings around here.

My husband is a dream.

Posted by Sarah at 05:16 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

NO GOOD MEDDLERS

I don't understand stuff like this at all.

Officials with Marriott International have agreed to meet with pro-family leaders to discuss the hotel giant's policy of selling in-room pornographic movies to consumers at some of its properties.
...
The letter stressed that pulling the plug on pornography would be in keeping with Marriott's public statement of "promoting the well-being of children and families."

What a bunch of meddling busybodies. If a businessman alone in his hotel room wants to pay outrageous sums of money to watch a dirty movie, why is it anybody else's business?

I mean, don't get me wrong, buying those movies at a hotel is dumb. They're expensive! Shoot, all in-room movies are expensive. Last week the Red Roof Inn wanted to charge us $5.95 to watch an episode of Dexter. Uh, no. But people have the right to spend their money however stupidly they choose. And if they want to spend it on certain types of movies, that's their business.

I just don't get how offering these movies, for a fee, harms children and families who stay in the hotel. This is like the easiest way to prevent your kid from watching dirty movies. If you share a room, there's no way the kid will see it. If the kids have their own room, you'll know about it immediately the next morning when you settle your bill. That's easier control over your kids than you have at home, where any kid at school can hand your precious baby a DVD to take home and hide.

And they're the easiest thing in the world to avoid. Don't want to watch them? Don't buy them! What a novel idea. Just skip that selection on the menu. It's not like the dirty movies are on every channel for free. That will only happen when you take your kids to Europe on vacation.

This kind of stuff drives me nuts. If you don't like sex/violence/nudity/Nip Tuck on TV, don't watch. Change the channel. But seriously, don't try to pressure advertisers and hotel chains to make it so no one can watch. That's manipulative and pathetic.

Incidentally, one time when I was in like high school or something, my family was at a hotel and tried to order an in-room movie. We hit the button, and the movie started, but something wasn't right: it was grainy, and the music was...funny. And then the name of the movie showed up, and gosh I wish I could remember what it was. Something erotic. Obviously the wrong movie had shown up on the screen. So my mom calls the front desk, but she's left the movie playing while she's dialing. My dad was like, "Uh, I think you might want to stop this from playing," while my younger brothers are shushing him and staring intently at the screen. Ha.

Posted by Sarah at 12:19 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 17, 2008

TOO MUCH ON HIS PLATE

My husband is on block leave right now, using his vacation days before he deploys. Three guesses as to where he is right now. Yep, he's at work, just like he was yesterday and just like he will be tomorrow. But in civilian clothes, cuz he's on vacation. Whoopity doo. Then he gets to come home, take an economics final, and work on a group project.

You know your life is particularly stressful when the pep talk you give is, "The next few weeks are going to be insane, but you just have to make it through them. And then you leave." When deployment is the light at the end of the tunnel, you have too much on your plate.

Poor husband.

Posted by Sarah at 10:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 15, 2008

CENSUS BALONEY

We had our mail held while we were on leave, and it just got delivered today. Some interesting pieces in there. First of all, via the university my husband is about to graduate from, there's a letter urging him to consider joining the Army. Heh.

Secondly, our 2008 Census Dress Rehearsal. Wanna know the choices for race?

  • Mexican, Mexican Am, Chicano
  • Puerto Rican
  • Cuban
  • Other Hispanic, write in Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard
  • American Indian or Alaska Native (print name of tribe)
  • Asian Indian
  • Chinese
  • Filipino
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Vietnamese
  • Native Hawaiian
  • Guamanian or Chamorro
  • Samoan
  • Other Pacific Islander, write in Fijian or Tongan
  • Other Asian, write in Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian

Oh yeah, and White or Black.

Christ on a cracker, where to begin? These are not races; these are national identities! We're really going to let Asians self-identify as Japanese, Korean, or Laotian but white Europeans can go f themselves? Oh, and remember, Arabs are considered "white." So we'll lump Swedes, Sicilians, Bulgarians, and Arabs all together, but heaven forbid we don't know whether you're Fijian or Tongan living in the US.

This makes me so mad I can't even see straight.

Who cares about any of this? You know what prevents us from moving from the color of one's skin to the content of his character? This bullcrap. I have the audacity of hope that one day we won't have to check stupid effing boxes like this, that one day we'll just all be called Americans.

Is that too much to ask? Really? Because otherwise I want a write-in tally for German-Irish-English-Native-American-American.

Posted by Sarah at 08:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

BOOO

Today is tax day, the craptastic-est day of the year. Well, OK, it wasn't tax day for us; we filed months ago because we were owed a ton of money that the gov withheld from my husband's retention bonus.

Anyway, today is the day for Boortz to shine. Read here.

Posted by Sarah at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2008

RANDOM REALIZATION

My husband deploys in about a month and I haven't given it any thought at all. In fact, it just now kind of hit me. We've been so wrapped up in trying to have a baby that we haven't had time to think about any other emotions. We haven't even talked about his leaving.

And all of a sudden, I am sad. I am really going to miss him while he's gone.

I went and read the things I missed about him last time he was gone. Ha, they're all still true. Mostly this time, I will miss his company. Last time, I had many good friends whose husbands were deployed with mine, but now...well, I don't have any friends here in town. All of my friends are internet-based, and when the husband won't be coming home at the end of the day, I fear time is going to drag.

But anyway, enough about that. My husband is signing out on block leave today, so tomorrow we're headed across the country to visit his parents before he deploys. And while everything is up to date in most of the city, they haven't gone as fer as they can go at his parents' house. My in-laws don't have internet access, so I will be taking a week off of blogging. Don't have too much fun without me...

Posted by Sarah at 02:32 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 02, 2008

"PUNISHED"

I considered writing about Obama and his "I dont want them punished with a baby" comment. Then I considered not writing about it because I am weary of thinking about other people having unwanted babies. But I will just say a couple of things.

As much as I want a baby now, that's how much I did not want a baby previously. I can't say that I would've used the word "punished," but I would not have been happy if I had gotten pregnant before I was ready. Not happy.

Right before my husband left for Iraq the last time, he was out on a training exercise for a month. During that time, my grandmother died. I was stressed with his upcoming deployment and being half a world away while my mother was losing her only living parent. And I was ten days late for my period. Even though my husband was in the field and there was no possible way I could've been pregnant, I was freaked out. I did not want a baby. I had been married for a year and a half, we had the same good relationship that we have now, and yet I did not want to have a baby yet. Not at all. I know we would've gone on to be OK with it and been a great family, but still I'm glad I wasn't pregnant back then. Even knowing what I know now -- how hard it's been to start a family -- I still can't honestly say I would've wanted it to happen four years ago.

Much less before I was married. No freaking way.

So that's my thoughts on that. I don't think "punished" was the right word to use, but I completely understand Obama's idea that a baby isn't always a blessed miracle. And while today it is really hard for me to think about all the unwanted babies in the world when we want one so badly, I still can't say I think it's appropriate to saddle young girls with a baby they don't want. Having to have a baby you don't want is the flip side of the coin to not being able to have a baby you desperately want. I wish no one ever had to live through either scenario.

Rachel Lucas has more thoughts on the matter: Reality always trumps idealism.

Posted by Sarah at 08:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 30, 2008

AFTERMATH

The husband is busy finishing up his MBA before he deploys, so that's why I'm writing about so many TV shows. Anyway, today I watched that National Geographic show Aftermath: Population Zero. I wanted to watch it after Lileks wrote about it, but I guess I remembered him writing more favorably about it. I checked his post again during the show and realized that it wasn't exactly a glowing report. What he said was this: "If the Aftermath show has any message, its how useless the world would be without people." I thought he meant that's what the program showed. Nope, that's just what Lileks himself took away from the story.

I can't get past the absurdity of the claim that all humans disappeared from the face of the earth in the blink of an eye, leaving their cars and microwaves running, but no animals were touched. I can't think of any scenario that would make that happen, so some of the animal scenes seemed pretty dumb. Though I did thoroughly enjoy watching a skunk eat Frankenberry cereal.

I did enjoy watching the physics of crumbling buildings. But overall I spent most of the time rolling my eyes at how evil and awful human beings have been for the poor earth. Yep, we ruined everything.

Lileks again:

Id love to read an interview with Gaia in which she says that her goal all along was to come up with a species that could produce Beethoven and make rockets to send the music deep into space.

Now there's something to mull over...

Posted by Sarah at 04:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2008

RIP, USS INDIANAPOLIS

I just watched a show on the Discovery Channel called "Ocean of Fear" about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. I had never heard this story before: the cruiser was sunk by the Japanese, and the survivors floated in the Phillipine Sea for four days, suffering dehydration, injuries, and shark attacks. Shark attacks. Can you imagine surviving a torpedo in war only to float among sharks for days? And then imagine having your hand bit off by a shark and being shoved off the raft to fend for yourself because your crewmates think you'll attract more sharks.

The wikipedia entry contains this sentence:

While the Indianapolis sent distress calls before sinking, the Navy long claimed that they were never received because the ship was operating under a policy of radio silence; declassified records show that three SOS messages were received separately, but none were acted upon because one commander was drunk, another had ordered his men not to disturb him and a third thought it was a Japanese prank.

Imagine if this happened today. I have never heard of this WWII disaster at all -- and perhaps that's just my ignorance -- but it would be a major scandal if anything remotely like this happened today. People like to blame Bush and Rumsfeld for everything under the sun, but it's not like mistakes haven't been made in previous wars.

And a commander getting too drunk to answer an SOS and letting 500 men die floating in the water, well, the word "mistake" doesn't even begin to describe it.

(And shows like this, this is why I usually watch reruns of cop dramas. At least they're fiction. This just makes my heart shudder. It's excruciating. I will probably fret about this story for the rest of the day.)

Posted by Sarah at 02:57 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO YOUR SUB-FERTILE FRIENDS

I came across a link on MSN to an article called We Can't Get Pregnant and It's Driving Us Apart. I read it with fascination because I can relate to many parts of it. And while our troubles aren't necessarily driving us apart, I can absolutely see how they might for some people. It is stressful, it is all-consuming, and it is heartwrenching. And if you deal with your emotions differently, it can be an awful process. My husband was strong and optimistic all last year, but lately he's been the one who's getting hit the hardest every month. We're trying to be a comfort to each other, but we're both stressed and disheartened. It's really rough.

And this paragraph, this just resonates.

Throughout this three-year ordeal I've felt perpetually sad. I've become a hermit because I don't want to hear friends who got pregnant easily say, 'Just adopt.' I want to watch my belly grow, feel my baby kick and give birth. Normally, my mom would be my support, but she keeps telling me supposedly inspiring stories about women who went through multiple IVF tries before conceiving naturally.

Everyone has a story to tell you. Everyone knows someone who had that Miracle Baby™, and they think that will make you feel more optimistic. It doesn't. And everyone says "just relax and it will happen." Everyone thinks they're being helpful, when really they sometimes cause more pain.

Two weeks ago I was at work when a young mother apologized for her two year old's behavior. I said it was no big deal, and I laughed and said that I like watching parenting styles in action. This girl asked if I have kids, and then followed with, "Well, why not? You have a wedding ring on; why don't you have a kid?"

Ick.

And even the people who are a lot less boorish than this chick, even they can punch me in the gut. My husband and I have finally taken the steps needed to start getting fertility testing done, to see if we can figure out what's going on. We don't mind telling people that we are taking this step, though we have decided that we are not going to discuss the details or results of the tests with anyone. But when I gingerly told a friend the other day that we have an appointment to get tested, she said, "Oh, I bet there is nothing wrong with you." Funny, I didn't realize you have a medical degree. Thank heavens you have determined that there's nothing wrong with us.

Other people have said that we just need to get drunk and have fun. To which I replied that if all we needed to get pregnant was booze, we'd be the fricking Von Trapp family by now. Also not helpful.

There's really nothing you can say to a couple who is disheartened and discouraged. But for starters, don't say things like, "You're lucky; I get pregnant every time my husband and I are in the same room!" For couples trying desperately to have a baby, being told they're lucky is a slap in the face. They don't want to hear about your husband's super-sperm and how fertile you are, because even though you don't intend it this way, it comes off sounding like you think you're a better human specimen than they are. For already fragile egos, hearing you talk about your hardy genetic material is painful. And they sure don't want to hear you refer to your fertility as a curse.

My two-cents is to never speak in declarative sentences. Don't tell them what you did as if it's the surefire way to get pregnant (got drunk, stood on your head, waited for the full moon, went to Hawaii). If it's worth a darn, they've already tried it by now. Don't say that you're sure it will happen for them soon, because you are not at all sure of that. There's nothing worse than having someone tell you they are sure you will have a baby; there are no guarantees in this process. And don't ever ever ever tell them to "just relax." I am ready to kick the next person who says that to me in the crotch.

Instead, play Obama and tell them you "hope" everything works out for them. Tell them you hope the testing brings them more understanding, that you hope that they don't obsess about it too much, and that you hope that they know that you care about them and are wishing them the best.

And then just be a friend. The couples going through this, they are miserable. They think about it constantly, and it is right in their face every two weeks. Their entire outlook on life -- what it means to be a parent, what one's role is on this earth, etc -- has changed because of this process, and it's a very vulnerable time. Please don't make it worse by telling them your best friend's sister's neighbor got pregnant unexpectedly and so of course they will too.

But these are just my thoughts; your mileage may vary. I am ultra-sensitive to anything that smacks of criticism or ignorance these days, and hearing that I should try to time the baby for winter because I'm a knitter just makes me want to slap someone.

Though I did get a big laugh when one friend said that we have too much money and education to get pregnant, and that our best bet is to start doing heroin and attending local high school proms.

Posted by Sarah at 10:37 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

MEN IN COMMERCIALS

This is so tangential to her post that I almost feel bad leaping off from it, but after Dr. Melissa Clouthier gives dating rules for women, she ends with this

This is a lot of rules, but what it comes down to, to me, is treating someone else the way you'd like to be treated. Men might be from Mars, but they're still humans. All the male-bashing that goes on is offensive. One of my least favorite commercials features a guy ordering a pizza which will come in 30 minutes. He asks his wife for sex and she bats her eyes and asks, "What are we going to do for the other 28 minutes?" It's meant to be funny, but it just seems like more of the same disparaging of men.

I too hate that commercial. I have also been meaning to say for a long time how much I hate that tax commercial where the husband is trying to use Turbo Tax or whatever and he's frustrated. And the wife comes up and says, "Maybe you could ask for help? Oh, that's right, you used a box." It is so condescending it makes my teeth grit just to write about it. Maybe you could sit down and figure out an insanely complicated tax code, you nagging cow. How dare you condescend your husband as he tries to save money for your family.

Nowadays I look at these commercials and wonder What Would Kim Do? ever since I read his masterpiece blog post on the issue. His least favorite commercial?

The scene opens at the morning breakfast table, where the two kids are sitting with Dad at the table, while Mom prepares stuff on the kitchen counter. The dialogue goes something like this:

Little girl (note, not little boy): Daddy, why do we eat Cheerios?
Dad: Because they contain fiber, and all sorts of stuff thats good for the heart. I eat it now, because of that.
LG: Did you always eat stuff that was bad for your heart, Daddy?
Dad (humorously): I did, until I met your mother.
Mother (not humorously): Daddy did a lot of stupid things before he met your mother.

Now, every time I see that TV ad, I have to be restrained from shooting the TV with a .45 Colt. If you want a microcosm of how men have become less than men, this is the perfect example.

What Dad should have replied to Mommys little dig: Yes, Sally, thats true: I did do a lot of stupid things before I met your mother. I even slept with your Aunt Ruth a few times, before I met your mother.

Thats what I would have said, anyway, if my wife had ever attempted to castrate me in front of the kids like that.

Commercials where the husband sucks abound, but one year Budweiser tried to turn the tables and made this as a Superbowl commercial:

Hmmm, apparently it wasn't too popular with the ladies. You mean you don't like being made to look a fool on TV commercials? That's funny, men take the abuse every day.

I will say that there is one husband/wife commercial that I do love: the Sonic ice cream mustache one. It makes me die laughing every time I see it. (Maybe you can only appreciate it if you have a lady mustache...)

Posted by Sarah at 07:48 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

AT 19

Ever since Bubba said that I'd be lying if I thought I wasn't self-absorbed when I was 19, I have been trying to remember my life at 19. I managed to come up with a few things that I did that year as a freshman in college taking 34 credit hours. I belonged to a Big Sisters program and mentored a little girl. I took high schoolers on a mission trip to rebuild houses. I volunteered for a gay rights group. I ate lunch once a month with the Kiwanis Club. I raised money for the Crop Walk. I loaned a boy in my dorm $600 when he needed to get his car repaired. And I began knitting, starting with a baby blanket for a nice couple who'd struggled to have their first baby.

Was I less mature then than I am now? Of course. But would I have had the sense and common decency to know how to behave and grieve if someone got shot? Get real.

There are 19 year olds out there who have far more responsibility and maturity than I did at that age. Many of them are serving in the military. Some of them are even parents. Those young men and women don't deserve condescension.

Gunnar Becker gave his life for his country at 19. Self-absorbed? Not even close.

Posted by Sarah at 04:53 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 14, 2008

WHY YOU?

I just watched a National Geographic special about the shooting of Ronald Reagan, and I got curious and started reading about Hinckley and Jodie Foster. I guess she doesn't like to talk about Hinckley, but she wrote a piece in 1982 called Why Me? about the event and its effect on her life.

Funny how she barely even mentions the people who got shot.

I mean, it's her story and she has every right to tell it in her way, but...how freaking self-absorbed. No, she shouldn't feel any real guilt that what happened to Reagan was her fault, because it certainly wasn't, but in a 5000-word article, she never once mentions how she feels that these men got shot? That's just freaking weird to me. It was all about her and how the media took away her privacy and how having her picture taken feels like being shot. Um, you know what feels like being shot? Being shot. Ask Reagan, Hinckley, Delahanty, and McCarthy.

Look, what happened to Foster is really scary. Some nut thought he was in love with her and decided to reenact Taxi Driver. That's spooky, and I can see how she'd be freaked out. But if some nut who loved me shot the president, I would be wringing my hands about the president, not about myself. Or I would at least mention him in the huge article I wrote about myself.

Posted by Sarah at 05:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 29, 2008

YOU NEED TO GET OUT MORE

I was just watching an old rerun of Law & Order, and the detective said that a suspect had an "arsenal registered in his name." Turns out he had five guns. An arsenal! Shoot, they should meet some of the people we know. One of my husband's buddies used his entire PCS weight allowance for ammunition. No joke. Five firearms is nothing.

Posted by Sarah at 12:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES

The Girl sent me a depressing study called Still At Risk: What Students Don't Know, Even Now. Seventeen year olds were asked basic questions about history and literature; guess how they fared.

What I thought was quite interesting was that the questions the students did best on were the "I Have a Dream" speech and Uncle Tom's Cabin. So Black History Month is achieving its goals. But I think we need a White History Month to even things out, since only 74% of kids knew which century Columbus sailed to the New World and only 52% knew what the book 1984 was about (apparently 18% thought it was about time travel, backwards!) Kids don't know what JFK said in his speeches, but they know what MLK said.

My kids are going to have to read, at gunpoint if necessary.

Posted by Sarah at 09:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 26, 2008

IT'LL BE A GIRL, FOR SURE

My husband and I both want a boy. We want a boy really badly. We always have imagined ourselves with a son. And so we laugh that when we finally, finally get pregnant again someday, we will probably definitely have a girl. Such has been our humbling experience with conception woes.

But no matter how much I'd like to have a boy, now that we've worked so hard to have a baby, any baby, this article -- "Sexual Satisfaction: Abortion and your right to accurate sex selection" -- makes me sick. There are so many people out there who would give anything to have a baby, boy or girl, and others are aborting because some stick they peed on gave them pink instead of blue? Some dubiously accurate stick at that? And then they're suing the company because they had a girl instead of a boy.

People never cease to horrify me.

Posted by Sarah at 10:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 25, 2008

WHAT A VACATION

I just finished reading the book Assassination Vacation. I have never encountered a book that I so thoroughly loved and hated simultaneously.

Some of the negative reviews on Amazon say that Sarah Vowell's writing is self-absorbed. As a blogger, heh, I live self-absorbed. I assume that people are going to want to listen to my talk of knitted monkey toes and reproductive health. So that didn't bother me at all; I found her voice charming and her style to be engaging. I also loved learning about the Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley assassinations. There were so many great tidbits in this book, and I came away knowing a lot more about the life and death of those three presidents. I also learned touching info like the fact that Ida McKinley sewed a picture of her dead husband into her knitting bag, a bag which is on display in the McKinley museum in Canton, Ohio. Now that I can relate to, that brought Ida McKinley to life for me.

I loved this book, save for the fact that Sarah Vowell has the worst case of Bush Derangement Syndrome I've seen in a long time. She can't talk about any of these assassinations without mentioning Guantanamo Bay, Rumsfeld, Abu Ghraib, etc. These tangential rants were a huge distraction in an otherwise charming book. And I mean a huge distraction. She starts out the book by sympathizing with the assassins themselves because she hates Bush so much, but quickly says that she doesn't want Bush assassinated because that would turn him into a saint. My lord. She also manages to claim that these three assassinated presidents pretty much got what was coming to them because they were Republicans. No word on JFK though.

I mean, seriously, what are you supposed to do when you come across the idea that the author feels sorry for Bill Brady but not for Ronald Reagan? Ouch.

The book could've been the perfect story of one woman's obsession with following in the footsteps of slain presidents, visiting the historical sites and marveling at the relics. Instead she turns a perfectly good book into a dated rant about the Iraq war. She made her own book irrelevant by forever linking it to 2004. It's her right to ruin her book like that, but dang. Does anyone really want to hear her liken Teddy Roosevelt to Paul Wolfowitz? Or compare Dr. Mudd's prison sentence to Gitmo? Sheesh, give it a rest.

So I don't know what I think of this book. I loved the pages where she managed to restrict her thoughts to the 19th century. But when she wandered, boy howdy did she wander. Blech.

Posted by Sarah at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2008

THOUGHTS ON RACE

I had a black roommate in college who would not walk across campus alone for fear of being lynched. One time I invited her and her boyfriend to a party, and afterwards she raved about how nice and accepting my friends were. She said she was surprised she felt so welcomed among the white kids, as if she expected the record to skip and the whole room to stop and stare when she walked in. I said that it really wasn't that big of a deal to the people I know. And that's when she revealed that the converse was not true: "There's no way I could take you to one of my parties because the black students simply would not accept you." Nice.

I knew an Eastern European foreign exchange student who thought he identified with black American culture more than white American culture, so he wanted to hang out with the black students. The first time he tried to go to a black party, they rudely asked him to leave. You have to admire his persistence though; he continued to attend their parties for weeks, being ostracized each time. Finally, a girl who was in one of his classes came up to him at his fifth or sixth party and asked him why in the heck he kept coming back when it was obvious he didn't belong. After many weeks of "proving himself," he finally made some headway, and the black students would say hello on campus and talk to him as if he were a friend.

I know these are just anecdotes, but my experience on a very predominantly white campus was that the black students self-segregated and imagined that they were being oppressed. No one even noticed when my roommate showed up at our "white" party. It was no big deal for me to include her, but she'd be going out on a major limb to bring me into her world. That's not the white students' fault; that's the black students' fault for closing themselves off.

I was reminded of these experiences when I read about Michelle Obama's thesis on race relations (via LGF).

"My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before," the future Mrs. Obama wrote in her thesis introduction. "I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second."

I can't speak for Princeton in the 80s, but this was certainly not the case at my school in 1999. And I wonder if my old roommate ever learned to relax around people, all people of all colors, and just be herself. I hope to goodness she doesn't still think she's going to get lynched.

This part of Peggy Noonan's editorial stuck with me too:

Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.

If Michelle Obama doesn't realize that she made it, that her life is not one "on the periphery," well, that's a damn shame. But it's not white people's fault.

Posted by Sarah at 09:51 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 23, 2008

MY HUSBAND IS A HERO

From the comments section of a Dr. Helen post:

I think the problem is that young men come to the realization that they are not really needed. Boys grow up instinctively wanting to be heroes, but the irony is that successive generations of male heroics have made the world safe enough that women no longer need heroes in their lives; they want "partners." It comes out sounding more like a business proposition, and a rather bland one at that.

My husband is the man of the house. He lifts the heavy things, handles the money, deals with car maintenance, watches baseball, and drinks beer. He also goes to war. He doesn't cry and he doesn't complain about having to work so hard. He is my hero, and I chose him because he is a man's man. I most certainly do need heroes like him in my life.

Sorry, but reading Dr. Helen's columns and comments is a depressing activity. I felt the need to defend my husband after all that reading.

Posted by Sarah at 09:35 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 22, 2008

GO DO THINGS

Along with registering my gripes with travel, I hereby register my gripes with Doing Stuff. Apparently a completely fulfilling life of staying in your cozy home watching movies that have been deposited in your mailbox is "uncool." We have to Go Somewhere and Do Stuff in order to be having A Good Time.

Lileks, of course:

But in the great middle expanse of your life, you not only want to spread out, you want to be left alone, and this is taking on the characteristic of an anti-social sentiment. You should be walking around the dense neighborhood window-shopping and eating at small fusion restaurants. You should be engaged. If you want to watch a quality foreign film, good, but you should not watch it home; you should walk down to the corner theater and see it in a room full of other people, and nevermind that the start time is inconvenient and you cant pause it to go pee and the fellow in the row behind you is aerating the atmosphere with tubercular sputum. This is how they do things in New York.

Apparently there's a movie theater in town where you can see a movie over dinner and drinks; you sit at tables and they serve you food while the movie is playing. Or something like that, I've never been. But another hip young couple here is always telling us that we should be Doing Things like going to this innovative movie theater, or schlepping to the big city to go out to dinner, or heading to the beach to surf, or doing yoga, or whatever else they do with all their free time. People look at us like we're freaks when we say we've never been to the big city that's an hour away, that we've never been to the beach, that we don't eat out in restaurants. Apparently we'd have "so much fun, and it'd be romantic too" spending fifty bucks for a dinner I can make at home. And what knitter wants to watch a movie whilst eating food? Movies were invented to help knitters feel less idle; I've gotten good enough that I can watch a movie with subtitles while knitting from a chart, but I still can't do much in the darkness of a movie theater. And certainly not with a plate of food in front of me.

Nevermind that we own French, Swedish, Korean, and Serbian movies and have animated discussions about Obama and deficit spending over our homecooked meals; life is not fulfilling unless you leave the house. The looks I get from people my age indicated that we're simply not cool if we don't Go Do Things.

Call me uncool then.

Posted by Sarah at 02:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

ALL IN GOOD TIME

My husband saw Castro's face on Drudge this morning, adorned with the phrase "The End," and got super-excited for cake. Sadly, there is no baking yet for Castro. But just you wait.

Past delicious cakes include:
Saddam's broken neck
Zarqawi in smithereens
Milosevic burns in hell
Bush wins and Arafat croaks
Saddam being dragged from that nasty hole
Uday and Qsay get what's coming to 'em (before I blogged)

Posted by Sarah at 11:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2008

TRAVEL

From an interview with Tyler Cowen:

My colleague and co-blogger Alex Tabarrok makes an interesting point. If you knew your life were much shorter you would travel to those places you always wanted to see. If you knew your life were to be much longer you would have more time to travel; again you would travel more. So, are you trying to tell me that your expected lifespan is just at that length where you shouldn't travel more? I don't buy it.

In case I haven't solidified my weirdo credentials enough on this blog, I will add more fuel to the fire: I don't really like to travel, and I'm not convinced I'd do more of it if my life were shorter or longer.

Maybe I'm just traveled out; I have been a lot of places. Or maybe I don't like the opportunity costs; I seemed just fine with travel when my parents or my college scholarship were footing the bill. I traveled the world on someone else's dime with nary a peep. But now that it's my money where my mouth is, it's suddenly not so important. I am sure that if we ever have kids, it will become more important to us, to help them see the world. It might be worth the cost then. But for now, we are oh-so-content to spend free moments in our own house.

There's no place like home, right?

I've also never been able to let go of something Paul Theroux said, that "travel is an expensive kind of laziness." You take pictures of stuff you know nothing about, just so you can show other people that you've been somewhere cool. And then speak with authority about the place. God, I hate the authority in travelers' voices. Spending the weekend in Venice does not mean you understand Italians or their way of life. I lived with a Swedish family for two and a half months, and all I can really say is that I understand that particular Swedish family. I don't delude myself that I now grok what it is to be Swedish.

I also know that one bad experience (or conversely, one good one) can change the way you feel about an entire country. I hated every aspect about living in France, but I'm self-aware enough to know that I lived a series of unfortunate events that molded my opinion. If I'd lived somewhere else with different people, like my distant relatives, I might view the entire country differently, and I probably would've continued my French career path. My bad experiences in France contributed enormously to who I am today: I discovered anti-Americanism and spent months defending my country to prejudiced Europeans. The irony is that I wouldn't be as American as I am today if I hadn't spent time in other countries, arguing why the United States is not the Great Satan.

The thing about this "expensive kind of laziness" is that travel is emotional while educating yourself is dry. My feelings about France are gut not brain, and quite separate from any knowledge I gained in my ten years of French study. My husband has never been to Iran, but I'd wager he knows more about Iranian history than many Iranians do. Because he reads books and learns facts. Sure, he doesn't have the glossy tourist photos to prove he knows Iran, but ask him about the Iranian Revolution and he starts a hundred years ago with names and dates. That's more valuable than a picture of us smiling in Tehran ever could be.

All in all, I think travel is overrated as a means of learning about the world. If you want to go see some place that you've studied and explored intellectually, I think that's fabulous. The most rewarding trips I took in Europe were to see things I'd studied: my visit to see the Iceman and my quest through the streets of Paris to find where Jean-Paul Marat was killed. But a picture of me in front of the Sphinx is no substitute for reading a book.

And I guess I'd rather read the books in the comfort of my own home than travel somewhere to get the photo taken.

Posted by Sarah at 10:28 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

ECO-

I thought this concept was wild:

The notion of ecoanxiety has crept into the culture here. It was the subject of a recent cover story in San Francisco magazine that quotes a Berkeley mother so stressed out about the extravagance of her nightly baths that she started to reuse her daughters bath water.

My husband and I have ecoanxiety, but our eco- is for economics. I get so excited when I find balls of yarn on sale for a dollar, but I stress too because it's an extravagance I don't need. We could be saving that dollar. I wrestle with myself in stores all over town because even though we save plenty, there's no such thing as saving too much for the future. So I guess I understand the feeling, even if I don't understand tying oneself in knots over the environment.

Posted by Sarah at 09:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 15, 2008

SLEEPER CELL

The husband and I have been watching the show Sleeper Cell lately. I remember reading reviews when this show came out that it seemed too PC because the members of the terrorist cell were all white. But AirForceWife recommended the show, and I know she wouldn't give it her stamp of approval if it were too hokey or actually-America-is-the-bad-guy feeling.

We have watched several episodes so far, and I really like how nuanced the show is. It shows all the different types of Muslims: the "jihad means inner struggle, Islam is a religion of peace" type, the "jihad means killing every single American" type, the "we should kill soldiers in Iraq, not plot terror attacks on innocent Americans" type, the conflicted "others are hijacking my religion" type, and even the goofy white kid who becomes a Muslim to tick his mother off. Plus it shows white people who mean well but who just don't get how hard it is to be a non-psycho Muslim today. I think it's really well done; it lures you into feeling sorry for some of the characters, and then you have to shake yourself and remind yourself that they're murdering a-holes. It's complex, and I like that.

I give it my stamp of approval too.

Posted by Sarah at 03:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 14, 2008

AMERICAN DREAM

My husband found a link: Homeless: Can you build a life from $25?: "In a test of the American Dream, Adam Shepard started life from scratch with the clothes on his back and twenty-five dollars. Ten months later, he had an apartment, a car, and a small savings."

I just love this. I thought Spurlock was full of baloney. Actually he was full of baloney, as he had his employer intentionally lower his wage to make his point.

Good for you, Adam Shepard.

Posted by Sarah at 03:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 13, 2008

VIGILANTE

Most bloggers talk about current events; I, on the other hand, like to discuss movies that are ten to sixty years old. That's how I make sure I'm not saying the same thing as everyone else. I talk about the outdated stuff.

At any rate, the husband and I watched the movie The Boondock Saints last night, and it got me thinking about vigilantism. Many of our modern heroes are actually vigilantes: Batman, Spiderman, Jack Bauer, Dexter. They right the wrongs that slip through our justice system.

But, I mean, why are there so many wrongs to right?

I re-read last night Bill Whittle's section of Responsibility dealing with prairie justice. He's right that if you read that section to someone from 1880's America, they wouldn't get it.

The idea of punishing the property owner while rewarding the thief would so violate their common sense, their keenly developed sense of responsibility, that they simply could not believe what they were hearing, and that is because for those people, cold, hard reality stalked them right outside their front door, and moronic inversions of cause and effect would quite simply get you killed. Thats why it was called common senseit was the Minimum Daily Requirement of intelligence and logic that one needed to survive on a daily basis. Those who didnt have it were too stupid to live, and had been eaten by wolves or prairie dogs, depending on just how stupid they were.

Reality has receded far from the front porch in modern America, and in those isolated towers of law offices, bureaucracies and faculty lounges, all manners of thought inversions can grow and prosper. I recently heard of a woman who sued a car dealership. It seems her son had stolen a car from said dealership, gone on a joy ride - drunk, of course - and gotten himself killed. The woman claimed that if the dealership had maintained adequate security, her son would not have been able to steal the car and hed be alive today.

This is madness.

What has happened in the last 100 years that has made us, as Whittle puts it, lose sight of "the difference between perpetrator and victim"? How did we get from Jack McCall to OJ Simpson?

We watch these vigilantes on TV and we cheer them on for doing the job that our police and courts cannot do. But isn't there something inherently awful about that? Why do criminals slip so easily through the cracks?

I think the best part of The Boondock Saints was the very end where they interview folks on the street for a documentary about the making of the movie (here on YouTube, at 2:30). The opinions were split on whether the brothers' vigilantism was moral or immoral. That end segment made the movie.

Prairie justice was harsh, but I'm not sure we're always better off these days. Sometimes I just want Dexter to go chop up some bad guys.

Posted by Sarah at 01:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

HELPLESSNESS

Of all of the emotions and thoughts that were running through my head that morning, the most overwhelming one was of helplessness. That feeling of helplessness has been difficult to reconcile because I knew I would have been safer with a proper means to defend myself.
       --Bradford Wiles, quoted by Glenn Reynolds

The other night when we were out walking Charlie, the neighborhood watch guy was out. He warned us that they were looking for two stray dogs, a pit bull and a rottweiler, who had been roaming the neighborhood. These dogs had already mauled and killed another dog, right in front of his owner on her front lawn. Animal control had been out and set a trap, but they weren't having any luck luring the dogs. He told us to be careful.

We just got back from a walk again today, and as we rounded a corner in the neighborhood, I spotted the rottweiler coming slowly from between two houses. We immediately turned, and I don't think the dog ever saw us. But it certainly was unnerving to walk the rest ofthe way home with our backs to where we'd last seen a dangerous dog. I couldn't help but wish we had some way to defend ourselves. I remembered reading Glenn Reynolds' article again the other day, and I felt Bradford Wiles' sense of helplessness.

And my husband is now uneasy that we're safe in our home while danger lurks outside. He's a sheepdog, and he feels awful about letting the wolf roam free. But we don't know anything about the legal ramifications of the situation; can one just go outside with a pistol and Atticus Finch a dangerous dog? Animal control has tried and failed to catch this dog, so the whole neighborhood is at his mercy.

I also worry about the many dogs in the neighborhood who are tied up outside. A vicious dog could come attack them in their own yards, and they'd be at a serious disadvantage if they're on a ten-foot leash.

And I worry about taking Charlie on another walk tomorrow.

Posted by Sarah at 01:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

THANK YOU, MSNBC

MSNBC is always good for blog fodder.

Article #1: The best-kept secret to home-heating savings

Solar panels look bold on a rooftop, and a Toyota Prius looks hip in the driveway. Geothermal heating and cooling has none of that sex appeal, yet perhaps unlike the others, it can clearly save you money -- and a lot of it.

"The problem is that we don't have some big, fancy piece of equipment outside," says John Kelly, head of a Washington trade group for geothermal companies.

This is just too rich. You know there are people out there who are dying to go green, but only if it's ostentatious. You mean geothermal is the way to go, but my friends and neighbors won't be able to tell I'm doing anything? Nevermind. What a riot -- it's good for the environment, but they're having a hard time marketing to ecotards who only want solutions that shout "Look at me, I'm saving the planet!"

Article #2: Smoky bar triggered fatal asthma attack

The secondary title on this one was "First case of secondhand smoke causing an immediate death, study says." You know they couldn't wait to print this one. A girl goes to work in a bar and dies from an asthma attack. Smokers killed someone! Smokers killed someone!

But she wasn't exactly winning any Healthy Teen awards:

Rosenman said the woman had asthma since age 2. Her asthma was poorly controlled. She had made four visits to her doctor in the year before her death for flare-ups, and had been treated in a hospital emergency department two to three times that year.

Although she had prescriptions for an assortment of drugs to prevent and treat asthma attacks, she was reported to only use them when she was having breathing difficulty.

On the evening of her death, she had no inhaler with her.

Maybe the headline should instead read that secondhand smoke triggered a totally unnecessary death. It's a shame that she didn't take her life-long asthma seriously enough to be properly prepared for an attack. That's not smoke's fault; she could've walked by a lady with massive perfume overload and had the same result. And don't work in a smoky bar if you have asthma, for heaven's sake. Smoking is gross, but this hysterical secondhand smoke nonsense is too much for me. And now we have some study that says that a teen with asthma just walked into a bar and straight-up died because of the smoke in the air. What a boon that will be for the End Smoking Everywhere types.

Posted by Sarah at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 09, 2008

WHO PICKS THESE MOVIES?

I felt an a-ha moment when I saw today that Crash made the list of Worst Oscars Ever. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought it was an overrated piece of garbage. And I disliked it for the same reasons that I disliked Brokeback Mountain: it was all agony and no hope. It was depressing for the sake of being depressing. I couldn't stomach a straight love story with that message.

And now I just spent twenty minutes looking for an old quote I read about Transformers so I could tie this blog post up with a pretty bow, but I can't find it so I am giving up. No poignant ending.

Posted by Sarah at 01:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 05, 2008

CELL PHONES

toothpaste for dinner
toothpastefordinner.com

Our cell phone contract is almost up, which means we're eligible for phone upgrades and such. We went in today to find out about fancy-pants phones like Blackberries. And the sales lady looked at us like we were the freaks for not wanting to pay $140 a month towards cell phones. Um, nope.

And if that weren't enough, we spent the rest of the day at the DMV.

Posted by Sarah at 07:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 04, 2008

HOW CAN WE MAKE JACK BAUER A PANSY?

The husband hated the last season of 24. I was not ready to let go just yet. But somehow, I think I might be able to stop watching now. Also, Butterfly Wife might need a new name for her hubs; seems Jack Bauer is going wuss on us.

On May 31, the shows head writers went in for a meeting at the studio to present their first big idea: sending Jack to Africa. In various incarnations, Jack would begin the season digging ditches, building houses, tending to orphans, providing security for an embassy or escorting around a visiting dignitary. One of the themes we discussed was penance, that Africa was a place Jack had gone to seek some kind of penance. Some sanctuary too, but also penance for things hes done in his life, Mr. Gordon says.

You know what would make 24 even better? They could feature a big gay pile to stop terrorism.

AirForceWife lent us Sleeper Cell; looks like we'll watch that instead. And I could use more Deadwood when they make it.

Posted by Sarah at 09:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

THREE CHEERS FOR OLD PEOPLE MUSIC

I loved this exchange between mom and teen about the Tom Petty halftime show.

We were surprised that they chose Tom Petty. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless. I half expected 50 Cent to come out halfway through and start doing a rap version, followed by Marilyn Manson screeching "Mary Jane's Last Dance" with Faith Hill on backup or something. Looks like they've maybe given up on the "get artists from all different walks of life and make them sing a song together" idea. "Also, make one of them wear a sweat sock on their arm. That will appeal to the youngsters." Blech.

Posted by Sarah at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2008

CAN'T WAIT

Mmm, only an hour left until I get to start eating foods that are terrible for me! We're having beefy cheese dip, basil-pesto cracker spread, and Paula Deen's version of pigs in a blanket. Oh yeah, and there's some football or something, whatever. We ate salad for lunch so we can gorge ourselves in front of the TV.

Also, I had a laugh today when CaliValleyGirl asked me how we pay such low taxes. Um, that's what happens when one of you has a job with an annual salary of $900. Knitting teacher doesn't exactly pay the bills.

Posted by Sarah at 04:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2008

RATATOUILLE

We watched Ratatouille last night. What was the deal with all the guns? Doddering old grannies in France do not keep shotguns in the living room, nor do quarreling couples go at each other with pistols. It was France, for pete's sake. France does not have a gun culture.

Other than that, it was good. But the gun thing was mighty weird.

Posted by Sarah at 08:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 31, 2008

THE END OF POVERTY

I heard on the TV last night that, before he got out of the election, John Edwards called Clinton and Obama and asked them to promise to keep hammering his message of ending poverty.

Ending poverty...from the most expensive home in his county.

Look, I have nothing at all against Edwards living in that house. But don't talk to us about how there's Two Americas and then live in the one that you have contempt for. That's ridiculous.

Someone who seriously wanted to help fight poverty could get by with a smaller house and use his "extra" money and time to do things in his community that actually help fight poverty: volunteer at an adult education program, donate money to the soup kitchen, whatever. But seriously, stop lecturing us about how we have to pay more in taxes and get by with less in order to end poverty.

End poverty. Snort. There's no such thing anyway; they'd just raise the bar for what constitutes the poverty level.

Posted by Sarah at 01:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 28, 2008

THE FLOWERS AND THE ROMANCE AND THE LIES UPON LIES

I read Rachel Lucas' fisking of 10 Things You Should Never Say To A Woman. She is spot on at how stupid they are. Actually, come to think of it, I have never had any man ever say any of those 10 things to me, so either 1) I have surrounded myself with high quality men since puberty or 2) the article is a bunch of hooey.

I will say though, that I have had the opposite experience of #2 ("They both look the same to me"). When we were registering for our wedding gifts, my husband thought I would be mad if he didn't express opinions, so he announced that he liked blue dishes. I searched high and low for suitable blue dishes, thinking that I should do something nice for him since he thought it was important. Turns out that weeks later when I broke down in frustrated tears and apologized to him that I couldn't find any blue dishes...well, he had no idea what I was talking about. He said he was just trying to be involved and pretend like he gave a whit of difference. That's when he got in trouble. Men, if you really don't have a preference, say so rather than making your woman tear her hair out trying to please you over something you made up just so you'd look "caring."

Also, I completely disagree with #9. My husband quotes movie lines to me all the time, and I think it's very romantic. Whether he's telling me in all sincerity that I am his Rushmore, or hamming it up and giving me a creepy "I wish I knew how to quit you," I think it's cute. Because for us, every day is Double Soup Tuesday, and every day we choo-choo-choose to be together.

I feel sorry for men trying to pick up women, worrying about offending her at every turn. Maybe if women weren't so full of themselves they'd be happy with a nice man who treats them like a person instead of a delicate little flower. And maybe poor men wouldn't have to change and fake everything about themselves in the hopes that some woman will like the new him.

Sheesh.

zoidberg.jpg

FRY: OK, you're on a date. What's the first thing you do?

ZOIDBERG: Ask her to mate with me.

FRY: No. Tell her she's special.

ZOIDBERG: But she's not. She's merely the female with the largest clutch of eggs.

FRY: Well, tell her that. And then?

ZOIDBERG: Then mating.

FRY: No. Make up some feelings and tell her you have them. Yes?

ZOIDBERG: Is desire to mate a feeling?

FRY: You're not even trying!

[Zoidberg buries his head in his claws and groans.]

ZOIDBERG: It's all so complicated with the flowers and the romance and the lies upon lies.

Yep, we quote that too. And yes, I consider it romantic when we do.

Posted by Sarah at 10:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 26, 2008

DOLPHIN LOVE

See, I told you, I freaking hate dolphins.

Killer dolphins baffle marine experts

It's not really the dolphins' fault; it's dolphin love that I hate. It's the tattoos and the t-shirts and the "healing dolphin therapy" crap.

The smarter a species is, the more it can manipulate its surroundings. Enter murder. Lo and behold, humans aren't the only creature with the brain power and time on their hands to kill for no reason.

Those darling dolphins do it too.

Watching the films, Aberdeen marina biologist Dr Ben Wilson explains yet another shocking phenomenon - that the dolphins use their incredible ultra sound abilties to home in on the vital organs of their victims that will cause most damage.

"The blows are carefully targeted," says Dr Wilson, who is a member of the Scottish Association for Marine Science. "And the attacks are sustained, sometimes up to 30 minutes.

So they intentionally cause maximum damage when they're killing for fun. How quaint. But at least they don't waterboard their prey; that's torture.

God, I freaking hate dolphin love.

Posted by Sarah at 02:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 25, 2008

I'M SO JITTERY!!

Holy cow, this is exciting. Erin just called me from her car on the way to the hospital; Tucker's birth mother is going into labor!

Stay tuned!

UPDATE:

Holy heck, I want to have a delivery like that! He's already here!

And I burst into tears as soon as she told me.
I am so happy for them...

Posted by Sarah at 02:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 23, 2008

I AM JOE'S BURSTING PRIDE

I was in the shower and realized that I had something stuck in my head. Was it a song? What was it? Then I realized that I was just chanting one sentence over and over; I was saying "My name is Sarah" in Farsi. Which is remarkable, because I didn't ever learn to say that. Apparently I have learned some Farsi just by being around it.

My husband took his oral exam yesterday. The proctor said he was one of the best students he's ever seen. I am beaming with pride.

Posted by Sarah at 09:32 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 22, 2008

NOT FUNNY

Hey, rednecks...your shenanigans are not amusing.

I was driving home from grocery shopping today when I saw what appeared to be a man injured or dead lying in someone's front yard. I immediately turned around to go back to help.

OK, so maybe I've watched too much CSI, but your pair of jeans stuffed with leaves to make it look like a body, that's not funny. It makes sense around Halloween, but in January I just get ticked off that I turned around on a major thoroughfare to try to help some non-existent victim.

Yeah, fake dead body jokes...not so funny.

Posted by Sarah at 11:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 18, 2008

ONE LUCKY BABY

Erin and her husband are all ready for this adoption. They've gotten fingerprinted, had a background check, had a home study from social services, gotten vaccinations for the dogs, answered awkward questions about their personal business, gotten friends and families to fill out forms to vouch for them, and paid a lot of money. Now they're just waiting for the baby to be born so they can take him home.

And I was thinking last night: Don't you wish every child who came into this world would be guaranteed the same things? That every family would've put time and energy into providing the perfect home?

Erin's baby is lucky; he is 100% wanted and will always know that his parents specifically chose him to be a part of their life.

I can't wait for him to come home...

Posted by Sarah at 07:33 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 10, 2008

COLORBLIND LYNCHING?

I heard on the news this morning about the golf commentator who made a joke about lynching Tiger Woods. I don't know what to make of it all, but one thing I did notice is that, if you look at the video, she obviously has no idea that she just said something offensive. There was no wincing, no wide eyes, no recognition whatsoever that she realized that she had just said something that could be construed as racist. None.

So what I wonder is this: isn't that progress? Is there something to the fact that a white woman could quip about lynching someone and have no notion of the racial overtones of what she said? I don't know, I'm really asking. It seems to me that it is a type of colorblindness to publicly make a comment like that. If she had any inkling that what she was saying was racist, she would've immediately reacted, I think. It's like she really didn't associate lynchings with black people. Heck, in a weird way, that's a good thing, right?

A colorblind lynching comment. How absurd. Makes me think of the South Park flag:

408flagbig.gif

I don't know what this means to people. I think the comment was in a different category altogether than Imus, and I genuninely don't think she meant to be racist. And Tiger Woods laughed it off too.

But Al Sharpton licked his chops and got ready for the cameras. Sigh.

Posted by Sarah at 10:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2008

HOW DELIGHTFULLY ABSURD

A comment my brain goes back to all the time came from Joe Willingham over at Porphyrogenitus:

Somebody needs to do a study of learned (both in the one and two syllable versions of the word) stupidity, as opposed to the natural kind. Liberals today believe things that are remarkably stupid, such as that all people are equally intelligent at birth, or that there is no such thing as intelligence, or it there is then differences in intelligence are socially determined and have nothing to do with heredity. That all differences between the sexes are socially constructed. That social classes are the result of a sort of conspiracy and could be abolished if we voted in the right government. That all "cultures" are equal in value. That the reason the Third World is poor is because of the machinations of the corporations and the US government. That we kinda sorta deserved the attacks on 9-11 because we've hurt the Muslims' feelings with our insensitive attitudes.

Waitresses and truck drivers are smart enough not to believe such patent absurdities. The amazing thing is that the majority of English and social science professors and journalists do believe them.

This quote popped into my head again this morning when I read Amy Alkon's slaughter of a HuffPo post, some piece of crap that says that we are all terrorists deep down.

Only an intellectual could say something so stupid.

Posted by Sarah at 09:16 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 30, 2007

RELIGIOUS GARMENTS

The other day, AWTM and I did indeed start talking about Jim Gaffigan. It was a good way to break the mood when we both got riled up talking about anti-Mormon bias. I made an offhanded comment about people not voting for Romney because of his underpants, which brought us to a serious discussion of temple garments and how offensive it is that people make a mockery of this religious tradition. Is it OK to mock someone for wearing a yamulke? Our Hindu friend from college wears the sacred thread; is that fair game? Or are we really so immature as a society that we have to snicker because we're talking about underwear? I don't get it. My husband insists that people get away with anti-Mormon bigotry because Mormons are "white." He's probably right: Sikhs have special underwear too, but you never hear anyone mocking Sikhs as being religious weirdos.

Sigh. Off the soapbox again...

Posted by Sarah at 11:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 24, 2007

NICE SCENERY, BUT...

Last night we watched Easy Rider. I sat there with a confused look on my face the whole time. Spoiler alert, but what in the holy heck was that? Someone's head gets chopped up with a machete and the hippies are like, "Man, whatever, let's go get some whores and drop acid in a cemetery"? And then get killed by rednecks for no reason whatsoever.

I do not grok that movie at all.

Posted by Sarah at 10:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 20, 2007

MSN HITS A NEW LOW

MSN published their most influential men and women of 2007. The list of men was predictable, the women laughable. I was heartened to read comments about the list, specifically

Appalled in St. Louis:

Your criteria or the people evaluating your criteria must be very warped. It is amazing to me that so many of your most influential women are from the entertainment industry. The real world is not populated by entertainers and they have much less influence with real people than you think. Why didn't you look to the world of business, education, law, charitable foundations and science where real changes are made that impact all of our lives? Quit being so incredibly shallow.

JaninaB

Stop for a minute and compare the list of influential men and women. Most of the men were politicians, businessmen, or social activists. Most of the women were in the entertainment industry. Some of them had done nothing more than be successful entertainers and attract gossip. Couldn't you recognize people who actually make a difference in the world??? Two thumbs down, MSN!!!

I couldn't have said it any better. Putting Benazir Bhutto on the same list as Hannah Montana is just insulting. I'm glad other MSN readers agreed. MSN could've come up with this list by polling people at a mall; shouldn't they instead use their resouces and reach to educate their readers about influential people they might not have heard of before, people in science or politics who are making a difference?

This comment said it all:

Hannah Montana? Really? There was a woman who came to the high school where I live and spoke to the students of her life. She works for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and she has survived two car bombings. She has survived attempted assassinations and has finally been able to flee to the U.S. Her brother and sister haven't gone to school in months because there were terrorist threats upon their lives. Members of her family have been killed off. She recounted her tale of her frightening trip here, and proceeded to write words in Arabic that were projected onto a screen "hope, faith, save us". I think people like this that come to save their country and help our own are much more influential that "the Obama Girl"

What I also found amusing was MSN's article on how they picked their influential people.

When the editors of MSN Lifestyle gathered for their annual assessment of the year's most influential people, a few namesmostly from the world of politicsimmediately bubbled to the surface. But as we discussed the election cycle omnipresence of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the prescient environmentalism of Al Gore, and the continuing emergence of Hugo Chavez, the conversation changed.

It started when the addition of George W. Bush to the list was proposed. The president, by any objective estimation, has had a rough year. Yet the difficulties of his presidency have emboldened the more liberal end of America's political spectrum to such a degree that an African-American and a woman are currently the frontrunners to become the next president of the United States. In this way, President Bush is more influential than either Obama or Clinton by themselves. Call it influence through anti-influence.

Let me get this straight. Bush is so bad that we have to resort to a black guy or a woman? Am I reading that right? We hate Bush so much that we're even willing to hand the reins over to minorities? And I thought Republicans were supposed to be the prejudiced ones. Sheesh.

Posted by Sarah at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 19, 2007

SUCH A SERIOUS VOICE

My husband was taking a turn around the internet in the computer room last night while I was already snuggled into a warm bed. Normally he has this nickname that he calls me around the house, so when I heard him call out "Sarah...," I felt something was funny. It seemed serious. Apparently it was serious enough that he used my real name to call out to me. What could he have found on the internet to make his voice sound like that?

Jamie Lynn Spears Says She's Pregnant

Yeah, you really don't want to know what I have to say about that.

Posted by Sarah at 09:33 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 17, 2007

NOW THAT'S A MAN

A cool post from everyone's favorite post-once-every-leap-year blogger: I didn't marry a girly-man
I'm considering paying someone to break into our home so I can see something that hot.

Posted by Sarah at 02:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2007

SEPATOWN

We watched Live Free or Die Hard the other night, with Lileks' review up on the laptop while we watched. One thing I did like about the movie was John McClain telling the Mac guy to shut the f*#k up. That summed up perfectly the difference between the old man and the new. Can we get more movies like that? Maybe John Wayne could teach Ashton Kutcher to be a man? Or pair up Steve McQueen with Stiffler? These new leading actors could learn a thing or two.

After it was over, somehow the movie Redacted came up. My husband chuckled and said that Pootie Tang made more money than Redacted. We looked at each other, grabbed the computer, and had a good laugh. Pootie Tang whooped Redacted in box office take. Niiiice.

Posted by Sarah at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2007

HATE, AND GETTING PAST IT

A couple days ago, I started to hate.
I hated everyone I know who is pregnant. I hated everyone who already has kids.

People keep telling me that there's a lesson to be learned here, that God has a plan for my life. But I'm not so sure I like the changes that have come over me. In the past year, I have felt more bitterness, more jealousy, and more hatred than I have ever felt in my life. I have grown so angry throughout this process. Having a baby is supposed to be a wonderful experience, and instead I am full of rage. I can't help but think that this is making me a worse person, that I would never have felt these feelings if I'd just gotten pregnant and had a baby the easy way.

I don't like what I've become.

And then the doorbell rang, and the UPS man left me a package. Ginger sent me a blanket from Sew Much Comfort. And her son made me some fudge.

I started thinking, and I started crying. I don't deserve a Sew Much Comfort blanket. I haven't lost nearly as much as the people who normally get those blankets, and I sure haven't done it with much dignity. Here I am, being hateful and feeling sorry for myself, and I get the most selfless gift imaginable from the most selfless family on the planet.

I'm working on being a better person, I promise. I have to earn the right to have that blanket.

Posted by Sarah at 02:07 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

November 17, 2007

OBSERVING RACE RELATIONS

I saw two very interesting and related events today that made me start thinking about race relations.

First, I was in the dollar store and a white dad and his white son were oohing and aahing over these "bling bling" toys. They were plastic necklaces shaped like dollar signs and stuff like rappers would wear. The white dad was using his outdoor voice to tell the kid how cool the bling was. And there were a whole lot of black people in the store who didn't bat an eye or seem to think this was at all weird.

Secondly, I later heard two middle-aged women at Michaels talking about beading and jewelery making. The white one told the black one that a certain type of magnetic clasp was "the bomb." And the black lady agreed.

Now I don't know exactly what each of these exchanges means on a grander scale. But it seemed to me today that elements of black culture are seeping into white culture, and the black people I observed today didn't seem to notice or mind. I thought it was pretty fascinating that in no way did the white people feel like they should watch what they said lest they appear to be co-opting someone else's culture or sound condescending, and the black people took it as fairly normal that a white lady would say "the bomb" or a white kid would want some 50 Cent style necklace.

I just thought it was cool. And I hope it does say something grander about our society.

Posted by Sarah at 04:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2007

NO POWER

Last night we lost power for over an hour. In the grand scheme of things, that's not a major tragedy, but it's so easy to forget how much we rely on electricity to do everything. What do you do when the sun's already gone down and there's no internet, no TV, no phone, no radio, and no heat? Most people make a baby, but we're already ahead of that game. It's amazing how life slows to a snail's pace when the power goes out.

But my husband said the silver lining was that we didn't give a dime to any Saudis during that hour.

Posted by Sarah at 09:39 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 11, 2007

WHO DOES THIS, PART II?

Do I have some sort of sign on my forehead that says "Tell Me How Much You Hate Bush"? It happened to me again in the airport last night, where some man wanted to rant about "those maniacs in the White House." What makes strangers think I want to talk about this crap with them?

Posted by Sarah at 12:52 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

October 25, 2007

DREADING IT

Boortz on what we can expect for the future:

As you undoubtedly have noticed, the 2008 campaign has, for Democrats, been nothing but new entitlement programs, expansions of old entitlement programs, and tax increases. This is the essence of what it means to be a member of the MoveOn Democrat Party. Create more government dependency, and tax those not dependent on government to pay for it.

Posted by Sarah at 04:50 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 07, 2007

I'M ABOUT DONE WITH THAT SHOW

I wasn't going to waste time writing about this because if I wrote about every time something on TV made me mad, well, this would become a TV blog. But I saw this link on Conservative Grapevine and immediately thought, "I saw that piece of crap episode."

The latest episode of the CBS crime show "Cold Case" depicted presumably devout Christian teens in an abstinence club as sexually active hypocrites who literally stone a member to keep their sins secret.

OK, look, I get that most of Hollywood is going to scoff at abstinence programs in schools. Fine. But there was something just so wrong about some of the scenes in this show. The cops kept rolling their eyes at the witnesses they interviewed from the abstinence club. Smirking and making smartass comments about how weird their beliefs are. And we're talking about the murder of a fifteen year old. The 40-year-old virgin might bring in some laughs, but seriously? Cops are sneering at 15 year olds who aren't gettin' any? It was just offensive. Who in their right mind looks down on abstinent 15 year olds?

So the show had the repressed Christian kids who kill the slut with the heart of gold. Now I'm rolling my eyes...

Posted by Sarah at 01:09 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 03, 2007

SAD NEWS

Awww, man. I just heard that Jim Michaels passed away last night. I'm going to miss him on Forbes on Fox. What a lovable, crusty old man...

Posted by Sarah at 05:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2007

CRIPS AND BLOODS...GUFFAW

I've been following the Hollywood debate articles between Ehrenstein and Breitbart. Breitbart's last hurrah:

I would argue the entertainment industry does matter because it is the way we send out the message to the world that we take our freedoms seriously. And with freedom comes deep responsibility and I don't think Hollywood quite gets that.

[Boos]

For one it's our second largest export behind aero-space. Surely if China has a responsibility not to send us toxic toys, we have a responsibility not to send them toxic entertainment.

Heh. Indeed.

When I read Ehrenstein's submission on Day 2, I had to read the beginning twice, and then out loud to my husband, just to make sure I was actually seeing straight.

A fortiori I'm not so sure about the "love my country" bit as I'm markedly disenchanted with the entire concept of all nation-states. Move an inch beyond language and culture and their meaning and purpose almost invariably mirrors that of the Crips and the Bloods.

I don't know how you can debate any details of our national image with someone who doesn't believe there should even be countries. This goes back to the idea of common ground. Lileks, in one of those Bleats I return to often:

My point? Simple: 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.

We can debate Hollywood's message and we can debate whether she projects a favorable image of the US around the world, but if we can't even agree on the validity of the concept of the nation-state, well, what's the point of debating anything after that?

Posted by Sarah at 08:44 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

GRRR

So here's something that happened over the weekend.

A man was in custody Sunday after police said he ripped the head off a tame duck that lived in a hotel lobbys ornamental pond.

Scott D. Clark, a guest at the Embassy Suites Hotel in St. Paul, cornered the duck early Saturday morning, grabbed the bird and ripped its head from its body while a hotel security guard and others watched, police said.

And let's look at the conclusion the article gives us.

If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, said Tim Shields, general counsel with the Minnesota Federated Humane Societies. Shields said the incident was unconscionable, and that having live ducks in a hotel lobby puts them at risk of being stepped on or run over by suitcases.

I think Embassy Suites needs to take another look at this and review how they keep ducks safe, or use fish like most hotels would use, Shields said.

So it's the hotel's fault for keeping ducks in the first place. They should've protected their ducks from every sort of harm that could possibly befall them, including having their heads ripped off. Oh, I get it, it was a failure of imagination.

What is wrong with our priorities when we feel blame has to be shared between the psycho and the hotel?

Posted by Sarah at 07:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2007

THE OBAMA HOOK-UP SCENE

My husband and I had a roaring good laugh at this article on Drudge: Singles will check out eligible candidates at Obama rally. It's not really that funny -- if I were single, I too would rather meet someone at a political rally than a bar -- but some of the quotes were just hilarious.

Even the invite for the event reads like a singles bash:

"Hope hits the Big Apple! Join us at Jay-Z's 4-0/40 Club on Thursday as we ride the winds of change from the hottest rally in New York. Move to the music, socialize with friends, and let your voice be heard as we celebrate with audacity."

Lindsay Schaeffer, 25, may even skip the rally for the nighttime bash.

That cracks me up. Why would someone waste time on the silly politics when she can just skip ahead for the hook-up scene? I want to date an Obama supporter, without all that pesky Obama stuff killing my buzz.

One ardent Obama supporter (who declined to give his name because he works in politics) says he'll attend both the rally and the after-party, and he doesn't expect to be going home alone.

He's confident for a reason.

"Let's face it: Leftie girls are easy," he says.

Bwahahaha. Nice.

Posted by Sarah at 09:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

TEAMWORK

I just really loved this article: Soldier Loses 160 Pounds in Order to Meet Weight Requirement

Especially this part:

Pfc. Trippany's father, an infantryman with 24 years of active-duty service, had a solution. She moved back home, started a special diet and began her body transformation.

"I did Jenny Craig for the diet and then for exercise I would walk four miles per day. My dad wanted me to keep a 3.6 mile-per-hour pace in order to keep my cardio up, so every day, for 17 months, my dad drove behind me in his truck while I walked," said Pfc. Trippany.

"My dad even moved the family refrigerator out to the garage and bought another refrigerator for the food I was allowed to eat and put that one in the kitchen. There was no way for me to sneak food as the family fridge had a key lock on it and I didn't have the code. So, I was really on lockdown."

I think that parents often need to let their adult children face their own challenges and tackle their own demons. The helicopter parent phenomenon is a little creepy. But I love the fact that, once she came to her father for help, he took her seriously and really helped her. He spent money for a new fridge and countless hours trailing her in the car because he loves her and wanted to help her reach her goal. She said she wanted to lose the weight, and dad busted her butt to help her do it.

I just think that's really good teamwork.

Posted by Sarah at 03:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 14, 2007

FORGIVENESS

I started thinking about forgiveness the other day when I was in Blockbuster and happened to walk by a movie called Forgiving Dr. Mengele. It's about an Auschwitz survivor who learns to forgive the Nazis for the genetic experiments they did on her. Ouch.

And I come back to forgiveness today with this headline: Amish donate cash to school gunmans widow

I'm thinking about the virtue of forgiveness. I would imagine that, in those circumstances, one might feel the need to forgive in order to move on. But as an outsider, I don't really forgive any of those bastards.

But no one's ever accused me of being nice.

Posted by Sarah at 07:11 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 11, 2007

REMEMBERING

Every year on this day, I spend some time refocusing. I remember my laser beam. But this year I feel pretty good, actually. I feel that my family is focused, that we're headed down the right path, that we will be useful to our country in the biggest struggle of my lifetime. My laser beam is intact, so today I will instead focus on remembering those we've lost, in NYC, in Bali, in Spain, in OEF and OIF. And daily in places that rarely get mentioned when people speak of jihad, like Thailand. This war is far from over.

From an article on MSNBC:

The total number of victims killed six years ago 2,974 includes 2,750 at the World Trade Center site. Forty were killed in Pennsylvania and 184 died at the Pentagon. Those numbers do not include the 19 hijackers.

As they damn well shouldn't.

MORE TO GROK:

Jay Tea writes at Wizbang that, while most remember the sadness, 9/11 was a day of rage. I re-read my old post about the first anniversary of 9/11, and I still have plenty of rage: Anger.

Posted by Sarah at 08:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 10, 2007

LASSIE

The Swedes have a word that we don't have, a word for your degrees of separation with celebrities. If your brother's friend was a finalist on American Idol, then that's called a "Lassie" (Wikipedia explains why). That's probably my biggest Lassie, but I just discovered another one: a girl who was on study abroad in France at the same time as I was is now on that show Sunset Tan. I watched an episode -- and remembered why I hate reality shows; one episode is plenty -- just for kicks, and, um, yep...that's her. Whew, she grew up to be a spray tanner, so all is right in the universe.

So, what's your Lassie?

Posted by Sarah at 01:32 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

PLAY MATCHING FUNDS WITH YOUR OWN MONEY

I missed this while I was on vacation a month ago, so forgive me for rehashing old news. But wtf?

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards on Thursday unveiled a plan that would increase taxes for the wealthy and create tax breaks for the middle class.
...
Among the proposals, Edwards would make long-term savings easier for low-income families with Get Ahead Accounts that would match savings up to $500 per year.

Wow. We really live in a country where a presidential candidate wants to take money that belongs in the earner's savings account, launder it through the government tax system, and put it in the savings account of someone who didn't earn it.

What I hate about Republican candidates is that they never seem to cut through the euphemisms. There's always a way to rephrase what Democrats want to do that makes them look bad. All you have to do is point out that someone worked hard to earn that money, and the government took it away and put it into someone else's bank account. If you get someone to admit that that's what he wants to see happen, you reveal something about his character and values. If you let him call it pretty things like Get Ahead Accounts, you let him frame the debate. Republicans need to refocus things like this on the taking of the money and stop letting Democrats focus on the giving of the money.

John Edwards wants poor people to take home rich people's money. That's fine if he wants to start passing out his own hundred dollar bills, but it plain stinks when he wants to force the whole country to participate.

Posted by Sarah at 11:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 09, 2007

IN A HANDBASKET

Via Boobs, Injuries, and Dr. Pepper blog, I learned that playing around with anything that can even be remotely construed as possibly maybe racist in some way can get you fired from your job.

The Germantown administration on Wednesday defended its firing of three theater workers who tied stage-rigging ropes into hangman's nooses.

...

"I've seen plenty of stagehands whittling their time away by tying all kinds of knots," said Bob Hetherington, chairman of the department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Memphis.

"If they were trying to send a racial message of any kind, the fly system of a theater would be the last place anyone would see it."

But someone did see the nooses.

Another city employee, an African American, complained of a hostile work environment when he saw the nooses.

...

Laraway gave The Commercial Appeal his account of what happened.

"I was working with a gentleman I had never worked with before and we were talking about how to tie different knots. I asked him if he knew how to tie a bowline and he said yes. Then I asked him if he knew how to tie a hangman's noose, and I showed him.

So some people are sitting there with a bunch of rope, comparing different ways of tying them. Naturally, that makes them racist.

Geez Louise, have we completely lost touch of all common sense in this country?

Posted by Sarah at 01:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SNOTNOSE PUNK ATTIRE

AWTM's son got a little upset at kindergarten the other day:

However, the other day upon picking Sir Rowland up from school, his teacher stopped me to tell me Sir Rowland was a little upset over one of the little girls t-shirts. It read. Girls are Smart, and in parenthesis said (boys are not). This upset Sir Rowland to no end. He was very upset, and made his teacher tell the little girl, that he a boy, was indeed smart.

One of my major pet peeves is t-shirts with suggestive and/or snotnosed punk sayings. What kind of person buys this crap for his child, let alone for one as young as a kindergartner? I think it's shameful enough when I see preteens wearing baloney like the "I may not be on time, but I'm worth the wait" shirt I saw a while back, or the kid in my neighborhood with the "Respect Me!" shirt. I was thankful to see an article at Slate a while back called Lolita's Closet: Unbearably Trampy Back-to-School Clothes. At least I'm not the only one who thinks that the teen shopping section is ripped right from the South Park "Stupid Spoiled Whore" script.

I know every parent on the planet, at one time or another, has uttered the words "my child will not wear that," but I seriously mean it. My child will not wear shirts with disgusting and degrading slogans. Period. Because I'm the mom, that's why.

MORE TO GROK:

My husband made a good point after hearing this story. He wonders how it would've gone over if a boy in the class were wearing a shirt that says that boys are smart and girls are not. Or, heaven forbid, insert a race or ethnicity. What would the teacher make of a "Puerto Ricans are dumb" shirt? Always curious about double standards...

Posted by Sarah at 08:30 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 26, 2007

RECOMMENDATIONS

I could use some movie and book recommendations. Here are some recent finds of mine, for what it's worth. Movies: Stranger than Fiction and Hot Fuzz. Books: Michael Crichton's Airframe and Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds. What do you have for me?

Posted by Sarah at 10:20 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

LOOKS LIKE I'LL BE STAYING HOME FOR A WHILE

If you were wondering what kind of anti-war movies are store for us, wonder no longer. There are plenty to choose from! You could see such gems as

In the Valley of Elah, a drama inspired by the Davis murder, written and directed by Paul Haggis, whose Crash won the Academy Award for best picture in 2006. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones as a retired veteran who defies Army bureaucrats and local officials in a search for his sons killers. In one of the movies defining images, the American flag is flown upside down in the heartland, the signal of extreme distress.

Other coming films also use the damaged Iraq veteran to raise questions about a continuing war. In Grace Is Gone, directed by James C. Strouse and due in October from the Weinstein Company, John Cusack and two daughters struggle with the loss of a wife and mother who is killed on duty. Kimberly Peirces Stop-Loss, set for release in March by Paramount, meanwhile, casts Ryan Phillippe as a veteran who defies an order that would send him back to Iraq.

Or how about

Brian De Palmas Redacted, focusing on an Army squad that persecutes an Iraqi family, is to be released in December by Magnolia Pictures.

Oh boy, I just can't wait. You remember how much I loved Crash, right? This should be even better.

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

(via RWN)

Posted by Sarah at 07:50 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 18, 2007

THEY WARMED OUR GLOBE!

Who knew that I was accidentally saving the planet? I wanted to have one baby and have instead had zero. Hooray for me! Via Steyn:

So how far are the ecochondriacs prepared to take things? In London last week, the Optimum Population Trust called for Britons to have "one child less" because the United Kingdom's "high birth rate is a major factor in the current level of climate change, which can only be combated if families voluntarily limit the number of children they have."

Thank heavens Steyn goes on to point out that the birthrate is not even at replacement rate in the UK, but whatever. Less babies means less global warming. Actually, it probably just means less environmentalists, because the only nimrods who will consider this are the hardcore greens.

I know, let's just all get in a big gay pile, à la South Park, and prevent the future from ever happening! Then there won't be global warming for sure! Derp!

And I love the word "ecochondriacs."

Posted by Sarah at 11:09 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 16, 2007

NUTJOBS ON A BOAT? SIGN ME UP

My husband and I found out we're not "cruise people" when he got back from Iraq. We hated it, and we don't really plan to do it again. But there's something so darned alluring about those right-wing nutjob cruises, you know, the ones with D'Souza and Steyn and Davis freaking Hanson. Now that I might like to do someday.

So I had a good chuckle at Venomous Kate's fisking of a reporter who "infiltrated" the nutjob cruise. I felt this reporter's pain on our cruise, where our dinner partners were much more interested in discussing the evils of our tablemate's pharmaceutical job than the evils my husband had just fought in Iraq. Poor thing didn't fit in, but at least her shipmates were nice to her; ours just accused us of lying.

Posted by Sarah at 09:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2007

ODIOUS MAN

I kept wanting to watch the movie United 93, and my husband kept coming up with excuses why he didn't feel like seeing it. He wanted to watch something funny, he didn't feel like a movie tonight, there wasn't enough time before bed. Finally I flat-out asked him why he obviously didn't want to see the movie. He replied that he just didn't want to see anything made by Oliver Stone. Ah-ha. Mix up, honey, Stone didn't make this one; he made the other one. Problem solved, and we watched the movie a few days ago.

I don't blame him. I read the book Case Closed a few weeks ago, and all I could think of the whole time was that I spent money in the theater to see JFK when I was 13, and I actually thought it was true. I was just an idiot kid, and it was all up there on the big screen, for pete's sake, so how was I to know that Stone based that load of crap on "evidence" that had been debunked years earlier? The man is just dishonest to the core. I can't believe I wasted any brain cells thinking there was a JFK conspiracy.

So I love it that, even though Stone can twist and turn a story into anything but the truth, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still won't let him make a documentary about him. Because

"It is right that this person is considered part of the opposition in the U.S., but opposition in the U.S. is a part of the Great Satan," Mehdi Kalhor, media adviser to the president told the Fars news agency.

Even folks who hate the US are still considered enemies with respect to jihad. Nice. It's a shame that lesson will likely go right over everyone's heads.

Looks like Oliver Stone will have to find some other story to twist up into bullcrap.

Posted by Sarah at 08:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 04, 2007

TODAY, AND EVERY DAY

Neal Boortz hates the 4th of July.

Trust me, you don't want me to work on the 4th of July. I'll just go into one of my insensitive rants about how Americans .. most Americans anyway .. no longer have any real love of freedom. Security is the word today, not independence. Oh, to be sure ... we want to be free to chose where we work (as long as we don't have to negotiate our own salary), where we live, where we worship and what's for dinner. Beyond that ... all too many of us want to government to step in and relieve us of the responsibilities and consequences of choice.

Reading assignment? Sure .. I have one for you. Go buy the book "1776" and read it. Read how American patriots in 1776 marched across frozen ground without shoes --- leaving a trail of blood --- just to fight for independence from Great Britain. Today? See how many people you can find today who would make that sacrifice for freedom.

Will get the book. And will think about what freedom really means today.
But 4th of July for patriots is like Valentine's Day for soulmates: superfluous.

Posted by Sarah at 10:09 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

1,2,3 WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?

In keeping with yesterday's theme, what do Rosie O'Donnell and jihadists have in common? They both dress their kids up like insurgents.

Quiz: Which one is Rosie's kid and which one is the Palestinian?

rosie_kid.jpg

Would you be able to tell if the skin tones were the same?

The Palestinians mean it when they dress their kids up like this. I have no idea what Rosie was thinking. Supposedly she's anti-war, but the fact she dressed her kid up with bullets suggests that maybe there is something she'd be willing to let her kids fight for. Obviously it's not the United States, though.

(found via One-Sided Exposition)

Posted by Sarah at 08:34 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 28, 2007

THE BEATLES

What do Lileks, Annika, and I have in common? We don't really get The Beatles.

I discovered The White Album when I was 12, and then heard everything else. That's doing it quite backwards, to say the very least. And I was a fan back then, from age 12 to about 15, buying cassette tapes and hanging out in freaking head shops downtown looking for memorabilia. But somehow a weird resurgence of Beatlemania hit my high school in 1995 and the Fab Four completely jumped the shark when the annoyingly popular girls from my school were camping out on the sidewalk outside Best Buy all night to buy the Anthology album. And got interviewed for the newspaper for it. I kinda dusted my hands off and thought, "Well, OK, that was fun while it lasted." I stopped listening to the most popular band of all time because they got popular. Heh.

But now, even though I'm old enough to not pick my music based on what's cool, I still can't listen to The Beatles anymore. I just don't feel the music. When I was 13, songs like "Mean Mr. Mustard" were cool because they were weird for the sake of being weird. Now they just feel weird.

I still very much enjoy the song "I Will." That's about it. I've come to think Quentin is right: I'm an Elvis fan, and you can't be both.

Posted by Sarah at 08:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 25, 2007

USEFUL IDIOT

Dear Cameron Diaz,

The next time you're in a country to "participate in a television show that celebrates Peru's culture," make sure you learn a little about the culture before you show up. Like learning that your Chairman Mao purse might tick the locals off, you know, since the Shining Path spent a decade killing Peruvians. And when you apologize with "The bag was a purchase I made as a tourist in China and I did not realize the potentially hurtful nature of the slogan printed on it," you reveal just what a dumbass you are. If you can't understand the hurtful nature of Mao Zedong, you really need to get a clue.

Sincerely,
Sarah

Posted by Sarah at 01:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

WORKER BEES

When I have a knitting class scheduled, I have to call in to the store in the morning to find out if anyone has signed up. I am always amazed at how put-out the cashiers seem when I call. I am always cheerful and it only takes them a second to look it up. But I always get gruff, one-word grunts from these sullen people. Is there anyone in my class today? "Hang on. Nope. Click." Do they not know how rude they sound?

I work for Michaels. I make about $50 per month, which is so low it makes me laugh. I can spend that in supplies for the class. But I love teaching people to knit, and Michaels gives me that opportunity. So I do everything I can to make people happy in the store. I take people's email and phone numbers and go home to find information for them. I type up patterns for them. Currently I am helping an elderly lady change her lace pattern to a larger size. Not easy. And she already knows how to knit, so I get nothing out of it. I don't get paid to do it, and she'll never take a class from me. But I want her to have a good experience in the store. That's part of my job, right? They didn't hire me to be stingy and grumpy.

I taught my mother-in-law to knit when she visited, but she was having trouble with a stitch once she got back home. We were unable to figure out the problem over the phone, so she decided to drive up to her local Hobby Lobby to ask for a little help. She brought her needles and yarn and just wanted someone to watch her to see what she was doing wrong. They refused to help, saying it was against store policy to spend time helping customers on individual projects. Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? My mother-in-law put the yarn back on the shelf that she was intending to buy and left. They could've taken ten seconds to help her purl and then would've made $15 in sales. Instead they got nothing.

I don't understand most workers. Yeah, it may just be your crappy minimum wage job to answer the phone, but your grunts and gripes aren't even worth eight dollars. Take some stinkin' pride in what you do instead of doing the bare minimum, and think about something larger than yourself for five minutes. You represent a company, and they don't owe you a paycheck for mediocrity.

Posted by Sarah at 09:32 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

THEY HATE US

At the risk of repeating myself for a third day and using again the phrase Aristotelian gods, here is a prime example of lefties looking down their noses at us country bumpkin Republicans and saying that they know so much better than we do what's good for us:

Even with the low poll numbers, liberals still feel stymied in conveying just how bad this administration is. It's been the ultimate frustration to consider the people who don't see Bush's malevolence: In 2004, rural America cited national security as their number one reason for voting for Bush. But people in the major cities, where there's actually a chance of being victimized by terrorism, people voted against Bush. Frustrating. In the cities, where most people are utterly at two with nature, people cited Bush's raping of the environment as a major reason to vote against him. In rural America, where people fish and hunt and generally do things outside, they voted for Bush. Sooooo frustrating. On Sutton Place and in Harvard-Westlake, where kids go to college after high school, they vote against Bush. In rural America, from where the majority of tragically killed kids in Iraq soldiers come, they vote for Bush.

And if that's not enough, let's throw a big heaping tablespoon of malice in with the condescention. Malice and condescention pie, yummy.

You could argue that even the world's worst fascist dictators at least meant well. They honestly thought were doing good things for their countries by suppressing blacks/eliminating Jews/eradicating free enterprise/repressing individual thought/killing off rivals/invading neighbors, etc. Only the Saudi royal family is driven by the same motives as Bush, but they were already entrenched. Bush set a new precedent. He came into office with the attitude of "I'm so tired of the public good. What about my good? What about my rich friends' good?"

This is how they see conservative values, folks. We're worse than fascist dictators. We really don't believe in things like supply-side economics; we just make policy like that up because we want to screw as many people as we can. We want to help rich white guys and blow up the levees around black guys. Bwahahaha.

The comments section would be funny if I didn't know it was true. They really think we don't care about the troops, hate Mexicans, look to our "pastors" for voting advice, seek to destroy the Constitution, and that AM radio is the same thing as Hitler's Beer Halls.

I really don't understand how human beings' brains can be hardwired so differently.

Posted by Sarah at 08:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 22, 2007

BRIDGE ON THE RIVER WHY

Tonight we watched The Bridge on the River Kwai. Never have I seen such glowing reviews for a movie I disliked so much. None of the characters were even remotely honorable. Heck, none of the characters even existed; for a movie that was supposedly based on historical events, it sure played loose with the facts. 16,000 Allied POWs died building that stupid bridge, and the movie didn't show a single one. Oh, did I say POW camp? I meant Happy Camp, where Japanese and British got along swimmingly. What a load of crap. If I were one of those real-life POWs who surreptitiously tried to sabotage the construction and survived the war only to find a movie made ten years later in which I collaborated with the Japanese and built them a purty lil' bridge, I'd be pretty f-in' steamed. And to sit through a movie where the main message is that all soldiers are mad, war is pointless, and bad guys and good guys are all the same deep down? I'd be out of my mind.

You remember how Neil was looking into publishing a book based on his Armor Geddon blog? You know why he didn't publish it? Because no one was buying what he was selling. They wanted more "internal conflict." They wanted him to struggle with his role in the war and the world. They didn't want to hear that the only regret soldiers like Neil have is that they weren't able to kill more bad guys.

War does not make all men go mad and lose their sense of right and wrong. But apparently making a movie in which they do will get you a 95% approval rating.

Posted by Sarah at 10:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 21, 2007

WE CAN DANCE IF WE WANT TO

Via Photon Courier, an article about the effect of protecting children too much:

Children are so cocooned by their parents that they rarely venture far from home and have little concept of space, volume and how the world actually works, David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, said yesterday.

The area in which children were allowed to range freely by their parents was a ninth of what it was a generation ago, he said.

CaliValleyGirl and I have discussed this at length and how we hope to address it when we have our future children. And boy do I think it's tricky today.

Remember when Lileks wrote about the new Winnie the Pooh character?

This year the new Pooh series will introduce a six-year old girl in Christophers stead. Im sure shes spunky and adventurous and kind and empowered, and Im just as sure my daughter will find her boring, because kids can smell pedantic condescending twaddle nine mile off. (Its one of the reasons many girls love Arthur his little sister is sixty-five pounds of smart, devious, narcissistic, naughty sass.) Heres the part that makes me truly sad:

The little girl wears a bike helmet.

Because you could fall down in the 100 Acre Woods and hurt yourself.

I swear, theyre going to put airbags on Barbies Pegasus next, and require thick corks on the point of all unicorn horns.

That's how ubiquitous safety has become: cartoon characters need helmets.

On my last day of fifth grade, my mom let me ride my bike to school. Some of my friends who lived closer to the school got to ride their bikes often, but we lived in a neighborhood that was further away and so I was a bus-riding kid. (Oh, and every day my brother and I walked down the street to the bus stop and waited alone.) But finally my mom said I was old enough to earn the right to ride my bike to school. I just google mapped it, and it seems I rode roughly two miles. And I felt SO COOL. I was one of the big kids now. I was independent. I had Done Something Awesome. And without a helmet.

My mom and I talked about that not too long ago. She says looking back she can't believe all the parents let their kids ride bikes to school. And she's not sure she'd let me do it today. Even she has a hard time remembering when cartoon characters didn't need helmets.

I needed to ride that bike to school. Heck, I still remember it. As a crowning achievement, as a milestone, as a step on the way to Growing Up. The thing that scares me is wondering if I will be able to let my kids take those steps too.

"A study by the Children's Society found 43 per cent of [British] adults thought children should not be allowed out with their friends until they were 14 or over." And apparently there's a debate in England over whether kids should be allowed to climb trees.

I fell out of a tree once. I also broke my front tooth playing tag once. I broke a kid's finger playing flag football in school. And once I fell in a ravine and couldn't get out, which was perhaps one of the scariest moments of my childhood. And I didn't tell my parents about it because I didn't want to lose my freedom to go play near the ravine.

I don't have kids yet. I nearly had a heart attack when brand new Charlie puppy ran out into the street in front of a car, so I know that I am going to battle overprotection. But it's a battle I'm going to have to have with myself if I want my kids to at least grow up with the independence I had, much less what my parents had.

Posted by Sarah at 08:25 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

HEH

Mark Steyn:

There are immigration laws on the books right now, aren't there? Why not try enforcing them? The same people who say that government is a mighty power for good that can extinguish every cigarette butt and detoxify every cheeseburger and even change the very climate of the planet back to some Edenic state so that the water that falleth from heaven will land as ice and snow, and polar bears on distant continents will frolic as they did in days of yore, the very same people say: Building a border fence? Enforcing deportation orders? Can't be done, old boy. Pie-in-the-sky.

Posted by Sarah at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 04, 2007

THAT'S AN EXPENSIVE FRIENDSHIP

My very first blog post was actually an email to Steven den Beste about a lecture I overheard at our on-post college. The professor was spending an awful lot of time bashing the US instead of teaching the subject matter. One of the things I overheard was:

he was lecturing about how, despite what any sources say to the contrary, the American government does not give any humanitarian aid to foreign nations. He said that all American aid comes with strings attached, unlike aid from other countries like Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany. He said that the US does not donate any money in the world for purely humanitarian causes. I couldn't help but be shocked by this statement, considering that he was lecturing to 16 American soldiers and family members. I thought it was rather gutsy of him to make such statements.

Four years later, this statement doesn't bother me as much as it did that day. I have come to understand that aid without strings is pretty stupid, and there's no reason to fault our country for wanting something in return for our help. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. By all means, string away! I think we could use more strings attached to the things we do (both at home and abroad).

However, I still think we give a heckuva lot of aid out that gets us very little in return. This is a perfect example.

AT-Bridge-005.jpg

That's a picture of construction being done on a bridge between Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

By summer 2007, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers team hopes to open a $43 million, more than 2,200-foot steel-span bridge that will link the two sides.

The bridge which will span the Oxus River, famously crossed by Alexander the Great during his conquests will provide a valuable trade route straight from Tajikistan to the ports of Pakistan, allowing overland movement of essential goods and hopefully, economic development in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations that avail themselves of the trade route.
...
Currently, the only way to cross the river is via a ferry that costs $15 per person, a stiff price for Afghans, whose average annual income is $800.

Project staff could not provide figures as to how much each side Afghan or Tajik would benefit economically from the bridge. But both sides of the bank already appear to be steeling themselves for a boom new hotels have popped up on either side and residents and government officials from both nations say theyre optimistic.
...
Walls, who in addition to serving as project manager is also a resident engineer and the contracting officers representative, said he also hopes the completed project will send a message to those who use it.

The people of Afghanistan and the people of Tajikistan see were building something constructive, he said. It shows America as doing something to help the country.

The United States gets absolutely nothing of economic value from Tajikistan. They don't have oil. Their main export is cotton, grown at the expense of their environment and the Aral Sea because of stupid Soviet planning. And Afghanistan means nothing to us save the terrorism aspect.

There's only one conclusion: We spent $43 million dollars to win the hearts and minds.

Seriously, I'd love for this professor to explain to me the selfish reasons behind fronting the money for this bridge. Halliburton didn't make any profit, and there's not a drop of oil crossing the bridge. We simply paid $43 million dollars so people in that region would like us and maybe think twice before joining al Qaeda. That's it.

The next time someone tells you that the US never does anything for humanitarian reasons, remember this bridge. Nothing in the world is a free lunch -- not even in Sweden, despite what this prof says -- but building a $43 million bridge just so people in the area will like you comes pretty damned close.

Posted by Sarah at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 03, 2007

INJUSTICE

Our best friend from college is Indian. He got a computer science degree and then got a work visa from his employer. And unfortunately, to my understanding of the system, his work visa is tied to the job he applied for, so he hasn't been able to be promoted once in the past five years. He's waiting patiently in line for his green card so he can advance in his job and become a bigger asset for his employer.

He's also one of the smartest and most informed people we know. He's the guy my husband calls when he wants to talk politics or foreign affairs. And if he has to get in the same line as Mexican fruit pickers, I will be royally disgusted with my country.

(this article also via Hud, who calls it the nail in Bush's coffin)

Posted by Sarah at 08:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 01, 2007

ALPHA MALES

Found this article via today's Bleat:

As America comes to terms with our diminished omnipotence in the wake of 9/11, the Iraq War and President Bush's international unpopularity, we're growing weary of Teflon-coated John Wayne stereotypes of masculinity.

Says you, maybe. As for me, I stand by my original assessment of what is hot. And for me, it's definitely still alpha males.

John Wayne is not a stereotype; he's an archetype.
And a hot one at that.

Posted by Sarah at 08:54 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 31, 2007

THE PROOF IS IN THE DONUTS

CaliValleyGirl said she often wants to run off and start her own country. Here's another reason to join her:

Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined a broad economic vision Tuesday, saying it's time to replace an "on your own" society with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity.

The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an ownership society really is an "on your own" society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

"I prefer a 'we're all in it together' society," she said. "I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none."

That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

"There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed," she said. "Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies.

Great googily moogily. That's an extremely scary worldview.

Of course "fairness doesn't just happen," because what people like Clinton want is fairness of result. And that requires that the government rig the system so that overachievers can't get rich and dumb people don't get poor. What's "fair" about the United States is that anyone who works hard can get rich, or at least move up the economic scale. Just ask the Combodian donut makers, who own upwards of 90% of donut shops in California. They came to this country, invested in a business where they could be successful, and work their tails off:

Its not easy work at all. As a family we are working seven days a week, the store is open 24 hours, and we have no family time. Its tiring, said a 26-year-old Chinese American who requested anonymity.

No one offered to make things more fair for these people. They came to the US and worked, instead of expecting the government to help them live. And they did it "on their own." I know several people from countries like Poland and Bulgaria who came to the US with the money in their pockets and worked like the dickens to earn every cent they have. If they can do it, anyone can. On their own.

They tried the "'we're all in it together' society" before; it was called the U.S.S.R. And it failed miserably because not everyone wants to work as hard as a Cambodian donut cutter. Is Hilary Clinton really silly-brained enough to think that this is the direction the US should take?

Hey, Cali, if we start this new country, I want the Cambodians to come with us.
Donuts rule.

Posted by Sarah at 05:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 18, 2007

LOSING TOUCH

My husband and I have been discussing parenting constantly since we decided to start a family. Our philosophy is that our job as parents is to turn babies into adults. Our child will be a child for about 1/5th of his life, so the real goal is to mold him into a good adult. Thus we constantly discuss which ways we think we can best achieve this goal.

One thing that does worry me is handing the kid over to a school. I know enough Neal Boortz and John Stossel to be completely disillusioned with public schools. But we also don't want to homeschool, so we generally discuss ways we can supplement our future child's education.

This story about elementary school kids using calculators is just sad. I think technology is great, but it's also taken us far away from the fundamentals. I remember getting a pizza one night and the cash register girl accidentally typed in $200 instead of $20. She couldn't for the life of her figure out how much change to give us without the cash register doing it for her; she had to hunt around for a calculator to do the math. Of course, at my job in college I also saw one girl count on her fingers how many hours her 12-8 work shift was. Sigh.

It's not only a problem with math though. Spell Check has killed our ability to bother looking words up. I had another blogger ask me how I could stand Movable Type since it doesn't have spell check, but if I'm unsure about a word, it only takes ten seconds to open m-w.com and look it up. That's way better than Back In The Olden Days when I actually had to do my homework sitting with a dictionary and a thesaurus. When I was teaching college English, I was just happy if students' papers didn't look like they'd text messaged them to me! Yeah, LOL is not appropriate for a college paper, folks.

We have so much power at our fingertips these days -- to be able to find cosines, definitions, and historical figures with a touch of a button -- but as wonderful as this technology is, I can't help but think sometimes that we're losing our grasp on basic smarts.

Of course, this is coming from the girl who patted herself on the back repeatedly a few weeks ago because she used the Pythagorean Theorem instead of a tape measure to figure out how big her knitting project would be. Look at me, I'm a flippin' math genius.

Posted by Sarah at 01:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 09, 2007

AMERICANIZING SHELLEY

After the conference Saturday night, CVG and I went to see Americanizing Shelley, a movie I had learned about through Andi's World. It was a cutesy little movie, at times a bit corny and formulaic, but I've never been one for romantic comedies anyway. Plus, this formula is no different than The Girl Next Door or Maid in Manhattan, and those are blockbusters, right? I did like a lot of the jokes because my husband and I have many Indian friends, so I felt like I was part of the in-group for the humor. It was just a nice little movie.

But apparently they had a heck of a time getting anyone to buy it. I bet you don't even need three guesses as to why:

One "well-known producer," Miss Gujral says, watched a short work-up of the movie and liked it for the most part. There was that pro-American element: Must Shelley, the titular foreigner, lose her anti-American stance by movie's end? The producer, shaking his head, said, "Some people never learn."

Another producer, a female, reacted this way to the short film's dedication to "our troops who laid their lives on the line for our freedom": "We can't have that; that's ridiculous. In this climate" Iraq was going south, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal had erupted "I'm ashamed to be an American."

I had read this article before I saw the movie, and the entire time all that kept running through my brain is "This, THIS, is what they consider nutty American propaganda?" An Indian girl doesn't like Americans until she gets to the US and finds out we're not all that bad. Sheesh, I've lived that scenario more times than I can count with people from France, Switzerland, etc. I can't tell you how ridiculous it sounds when someone says, "All Americans are X, well, except you...and him...and all the students here in our group." So all Americans are greedy/rude/stupid, except for every single American you've ever met? Riiight. Americanizing Shelley captured that reality perfectly, and that's considering Red State Advertising?

The main character didn't end up hating the US, so the movie pitchers had to "pull a Mel Gibson" and start their own film company. Is every movie supposed to be flippin' Syriana these days? You can't say anything good about Americans without having to resort to selling your own movie?

Even if this movie sucked, I'd tell you to go see it because I want American Pride Films Group to make money. We should all want them to make money so we can at least take steps toward loosening the stranglehold liberalism has on Hollywood. But the movie didn't suck; it was just a decent romantic comedy. With one line about how Americans aren't really so bad. The rest of it is jokes at the expense of white and brown people and everyday ridiculous romantic comedy scenarios. I can't even believe this movie is supposed to stand out for being too kind to America.

I swear, Crocodile Dundee couldn't even get made today.

Posted by Sarah at 11:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I WEEP FOR THE FUTURE

Professor Forced Out for Citing George Washington:

A tenured college professor is set to be fired for simply sending out an e-mail to colleagues containing George Washingtons "Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of 1789.

Already professor Walter Kehowski at Glendale Community College in Arizona has been placed on forced administrative leave and the schools chief has recommended his termination.

I can relate to this story. In the days after 9/11, I made the naive mistake of forwarding Gordon Sinclair's "The Americans" to my grad school email list. Yeah, not such a good idea on a college campus. While I didn't have a job to lose over it, I sure did bring the heat. One student went off-her-rocker mad, saying I was a racist and disrespectful for sending such garbage around. I was lucky that a couple of other students came to my defense. And, as I've written about before, my favorite professor took me aside and taught me a valuable lesson: "The last place it's OK to be American is in an American university."

What in the hell have we come to when quoting George Washington is now considered "'hostile' and 'derogatory'?

Posted by Sarah at 10:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 04, 2007

GODSPEED

I turned on the radio yesterday and heard the very tail end of a news report that included a quote from Gene Cernan. I wondered what he could be giving a quote for, but I soon forgot about it. This morning I realized what I had missed: Wally Schirra passed away. Lileks gives a fitting tribute and a lesson in courage.

He's already been to heaven three times, so finding his way now shouldn't be a problem. Godspeed, Mr. Schirra.

apollo7.jpg

Posted by Sarah at 07:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2007

ANGUISH

Do you know what one man has taken away from this earth? "One of the top five biomechanics researchers in the country, working on movement dynamics in cerebral palsy", and another professor whose "research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials, and more robust aerospace structures." Not to mention the countless contributions to society these Virginia Tech students could've made after they graduated. I can't even find the words to explain how utterly disgusted and sad I feel.

Posted by Sarah at 02:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

FIND OUT WHAT IT MEANS TO ME

When I was a substitute teacher, there was some sort of verbal exchange going on in the back of the 7th grade classroom. I intervened and must've said something about respecting the students around you -- I don't remember my exact wording, but I'll never forget the reply I got -- and the girl said, "My mom says I don't have to respect anyone who doesn't respect me first." Sheesh. I think about that girl often, especially when I saw one teenage girl who lives in my neighborhood walking down the street wearing a shirt that said "Respect Me!", as if respect is something you can demand without any give-and-take.

This notion of automatic respect is detrimental. You can't preemptively demand respect when you've done nothing to earn it. A person earns respect through his actions and words, not just by saying he wants it. I'm afraid as a society we're starting to get the concept of respect backwards, especially in these days of multiculturalism where everyone is supposed to be respected and revered no matter what.

I thought of that seventh grader today when I read about this poll out of the UK:

There have been calls for a wider debate on whether it is appropriate for the full veil to be worn in public at all. But a Gallup Poll to be published this week found most Muslims firm in the belief that Islamic women should be free to wear it.

While 55 per cent of all those polled thought that removing the veil was vital for integration, only 13 per cent of Muslims agreed.

Instead, they thought that the Government needed to change its economic and political policies toward Islamic countries and show greater respect to Islam.

That last line was the kicker for me. They don't have to do anything to earn the respect, they just should automatically get it. Most British Muslims are just regular upstanding people, but there's still a scary contingent out there that thinks the London bombing was justified and that "Western society is decadent and immoral and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end." Explain to me why people like that deserve respect when they certainly don't give it.

I'm kinda tired of this whole "you must respect me" nonsense, especially from a religion that has major global problems. I think Islam needs to start earning respect.

Posted by Sarah at 08:40 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

WHAT PEOPLE EARN

I just got around to flipping through the weekend's Parade Magazine, and it was pretty depressing. It was the annual edition of "What People Earn," complete with articles about how only rich people make any money. Sigh.

By most economic measures, 2006 was a great year. Despite rising interest rates, high oil prices and the sharpest housing downturn in 15 years, inflation was low, productivity rose steadily, corporate profits reached a 40-year high, the stock market soared and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.6%the lowest level in more than five years. Strong hiring in service businesses like education, health care, finance, travel and entertainment more than offset big job losses in the auto and housing sectors.

But in the midst of this booming economy, more than two-thirds of Americans told pollsters that they dont believe life for their childrens generation will be better than it has been for them. Only 27% of those surveyed last year thought the nation was headed in the right direction; and this year, 71% of respondents said the country was on the wrong track.

Why are the American people so stupid? Have we really become a country where we don't think we're making progress? That is just sad.

Im sorry to say I feel the rich are getting richer, and the rest of us are fighting to survive, says DeAnna Forman, who made $25,000 as a bartender in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. I feel like Im always trying to catch up. Kirk Kuchera, who earned $8,300 as a behavioral counselor for youth in Austin, Minn., agrees. It appears to me that the lower middle class continues to work its way down the economic ladder, while those at the top of the corporate ladder move higher and higher at an unbelievable pace, he says.

It appears to me that you need to take an economics class, or at least read a Thomas Sowell book. I know, when we type up the section not-so-cleverly entitled "The Rich Get Richer," let's not actually quote any rich people! Let's just quote bartenders and other player-haters who have a chip on their shoulder! Great idea, roll presses. How about actually asking one of these elusive Rich People™ how much money he had to spend in order to become rich, or how high his blood pressure is, or how many times his cell phone rings when he's on vacation. Then ask the bartender the same questions.

Experts are concerned about wage inequality too. Were in an economy that provides outsized, almost lottery-style gains to certain people in certain professions, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm.

"Lottery-style gains." Nice wording. Nevermind how many years you go to college or how hard you work or how creative or inventive you are...you've simply won the lottery if you strike it rich. It's just, like, so unfair, man, that the florist and the yoga instructor can't make as much as the CEO of Halliburton. (Yes, that's right, they put the CEO of Halliburton's salary right next to the Air Force staff sergeant's, coincidentally right above the salary for someone who works in product placement.) I should totally be able to be a high school counselor and have weekends and holidays off and also get lottery-style gains! Stupid rich people.

In summary: The future of this country is going to hell in a handbasket, except for all these Clampetts who somehow managed to become CEOs. And life's not fair.

Posted by Sarah at 06:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2007

SLAG OFF

Lileks writes about Hewitt's new book on Mitt Romney:

The point is made with greater clarity in Hughs book, which cautions against putting Belief into the mainstream pundits meat-grinder. Because once Faith is a fair target, every aspect of faith will be put under the microscope. If you can dismiss a candidate for his belief in the golden tablets, then transubstantiation is next on the list. You want to snigger about Mormon undergarments? Fine; the next time a Sikh runs for public office, quiz him about the same issue. You want to probe a Mormon for the ways in which their Jesus narrative varies, youd best do the same to a Muslim candidate. And if you cant see yourself standing up in a press conference asking a Muslim candidate whether Christians will have a problem with him because he doesnt think Christ died on the cross, youd best throttle back your zeal for digging into a Mormon.

Amen to that. I can understand how a person can believe one religion and reject others, how he might think someone else is wrong or misguided or ignorant, but I cannot stand it when someone thinks another's religion is weirder than his.

Posted by Sarah at 07:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2007

CAN OF KIDNEY BEANS

I found a great comment over at Blackfive by a guy named Geo(AeroEng). It was in response to a post wherein a lefty blog criticizes her fellow lefty bloggers for not sharing the love with linkage. She says that it's a shame that

people whose worldview is so narrow, intolerant, exclusive, and hateful are so much better at supporting their ideological soulmates than we on the left, whose values run to diversity, inclusiveness, a place at the table for everyone, human needs before defense contractors wish lists.

I know, I know. Muffle your guffaws. Geo(AeroEng) responds with:

Perhaps its because we on the "right" are willing to put aside differences for a common goal. Here on B5, I've seen posts and comments from the "religious right" to "libertarian" to "classical liberal" and many other unique (and stereotyped) view point. On many issues, we actually DON'T agree. I remember firestorms about topics from gays in the military to legalizing drugs. Regular poster debated regular poster. In the end, we agreed to disagree and behave civily. In the end, we know that we have some common ground and are willing to focus on that. We, unlike many on the left, are more than tolerant of other's beliefs differing from our own. Something to say about us placing a high value on freedom.

One pair of posts struck me as representative of why we, as a community, work. In the post concerning Cpl. Emery, Orion and Carrie had this exchange:

Orion: I may be pagan, but I'll pray for him and the Sarn't Major as well.
Carrie: Orion,
I don't care if you worship a can of kidney beans..
all the positive energy that we can muster is needed right now.
All of it.
Just do what you do.....it is all good.

On a place like the Daily Kos, I'm sure this would have devolved into a blow by blow against a certain religion (most likely the roles reversed or militant atheism vs. christianity/paganism). On the left, one must buy into the party line completely. Various groups fight for supremancy of THEIR goals and only theirs.

Here, it was cherished. WE don't give a hoot about every issue at once, only the important ones.

We know when to argue, we know when to unite, like any good, if slightly disfunctional family. Family looks after family.
Maybe the left just doesn't get it. In a way I pity them.

Amen to that. I think my blogroll is fairly diverse. I don't agree with everything my favorite bloggers say. And I thought I agreed with everything CaliValleyGirl says, until she disagreed with me about the 15 British sailors! I enjoy listening to Neal Boortz and Rush Limbaugh on the radio because I agree with them about as often as I disagree with them, and they disagree with each other often too. "The Right" is a very broad tent, but we band together with our common ground and face the problems at hand. I even was excited to find the blog But I Am A Liberal! yesterday, because the common ground is there for us too. I can disagree about the details, but I can't disagree about the basic underlying values.

I can't speak for the Left because I've never been a part of the Left, but I have a hard time seeing that it's the Giant Table With A Place Setting For Everyone that this blogger says it is. And what will they do in 2008 when their common ground -- that Bush is the root of all evil -- is gone?

I love being a part of the big tent that is the Right. And I continue to identify with and vote for people I disagree with on a lot of things, because at least our core set of values are aligned.

But I really need to put a stop to disagreeing with CaliValleyGirl.

Posted by Sarah at 08:42 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 08, 2007

A SAD DISPLAY

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
-- John Stuart Mill

After Nick Berg, after Ken Bigley, my husband and I have discussed on numerous occasions what we would do in the unlikely event that he was ever taken hostage. I've said before that we gather strength from brave men like Fabrizio Quattrocchi. And I nod in agreement with this retired Army colonel who expresses disgust and dismay with the way the 15 British sailors chose self-preservation above any other values.

What ever happened to name, rank, and social security number?

I know this war is different than one fought in the past. Steve McQueen kept bouncing his baseball with little fear of having his head sawed off with a dull knife. You never know today if you'll be brutally murdered on a propaganda video or allowed to convert and be released. But it's not worth it to me to sacrifice my honor on the off chance I'd get to go home. I've been brought to tears by Vietnam POWs in AFN commercials enough times to know that your honor is all you have in these situations. These Brits sacrificed their honor and their country just so they could live. That captain said that they couldn't fight back against the Iranians who were taking them because then they would've surely died. Isn't this a war? Haven't you prepared yourself for the possibility that you might have to give your life in it? If not, you have no business wearing that uniform. Keep your damn leisure suit; if I were the British military, I'd yank those soldiers' uniforms so fast it'd make their heads spin. But no, the Brits are letting these sailors make book deals.

What is wrong with us these days?

Is there nothing we'll stand for? Nothing worth dying for? Nothing even worth sacrificing a small amount of discomfort for? Couldn't these sailors have at least pretended that they felt bad about their total acquiescence instead of laughing about f-ing Mr. Bean with their captors? They looked like they didn't have a care in the world, as long as they saved their own asses. Woo hoo, we're going home, and all we had to do was capitulate and sell out our country to do so. What a deal!

If this is the stuff we're made of today, we're doomed.

MORE:

See also Cold Fury's The Seinfeld Sovereign

Also, cooler heads prevail hos Victor Davis Hanson, who begins with "Its probably a good rule to do the opposite of anything the Iranian theocracy wants. Apparently, this government is now doing its darnedest to be bombed. So, for the time being, we should not grant them this wish." Sithmonkey comes up with a great alternative to bombing Iran, which you should read here.

Posted by Sarah at 09:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 05, 2007

MORON

A writer from the Reform Party of Syria says Pelosi just turned the clock backwards for women:

As a Muslim, I fully understand respect of our religion by visiting US officials and I applaud that respect. Had Speaker Pelosi worn the Hijab inside a Mosque, this would have indicated respect but for Pelosi to wear it on the streets of Damascus all the while she is sitting with the self-imposed Baschar al-Assad who has come to symbolize oppression and one of the reasons why women are forced to wear the Hijab as they turn to religion to express their freedom is a statement of submittal not only to oppression but also to lack of women's rights in the Middle East. Pelosi just reversed the work of the Syrian civil society and those who aspire for women's freedom in the Muslim countries many years back with her visual statement. Her lack of experience of the Middle East is showing.

Assad could not have been happier because Syrian women, seeing a US official confirming what their husbands, the Imams in the Mosques tell them, and the society at large imposes on them through peer pressure will see in her wearing a Hijab as a confirmation of the societal pressures they are constantly under. No one will ever know how many women took the Hijab on after seeing Pelosi wearing it. The damage Speaker Pelosi is causing with her visit to Syria will be felt for many years to come.

That's what happens when you walk around with two ounces of knowledge and ten pounds of multicultural baggage. I'm sure Pelosi thought she was being respectful, but she merely confirmed the idea that all women -- even women who are third in line to the Leader of the Free World -- should be covered and submissive. Shame on her.

Posted by Sarah at 07:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 31, 2007

SOME SORT OF SHARK GOT JUMPED OVER SOMEHOW

So here's my take on 24 this season: Nope. If I wanted to watch political wrangling, I'd watch The West Wing. Or C-SPAN. Less talky, more shooty. Also, what is the deal with the running mates on this show? How come every season we've got something like a Ralph Nader-David Duke ticket? I know everyone hates politicians, but can't we for once have a Vice President who is not trying to take over the world and/or sell nukes to bad guys? Logan I could love to hate, but how necessary was it to have two completely unstable VPs in a row? The whole thing stinks. But, to paraphrase Lileks, the show could turn into 24 hours of nature photography, and I still would tune in every Monday.

Posted by Sarah at 07:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2007

RANDOM THOUGHTS

I want to know how John Edwards' 28,000 sq ft home has the same energy price as my 1900 square foot home! Whatever he's using, I want some.

Also, I have been meaning to write about this for a while now. The minimum wage hikes went into effect at my knitting job. So everyone gets an extra dollar per hour...and we all just got our hours cut. Now there's your basic economics at work! I am now a part of that group of people who end up making less because of the minimum wage hike. Thanks a lot, government jerks.

Posted by Sarah at 01:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

STEADY DIET OF INSANE

You know, there's a lot of disturbing crap on LGF. But after reading it for years, I've grown fairly numb to the shock value. Psycho Muslims, absurd protests, Jews are pigs and apes, yeah yeah yeah, every day. But this one, this one was too much for me to take.

Protesters in Oregon burned a soldier in effigy.

So let's counter that display of evil with a huge display of hope: Kurdistan is getting a mall. And a Hilton. These photos will take your breath away.

Posted by Sarah at 07:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 17, 2007

WHEW

We just got back from seeing 300. It was beautiful. And the line was all the way out the sidewalk and around the corner...not bad for a Saturday at 1:00. I hope they're making a ton of money.

Posted by Sarah at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2007

I'M SORRY, ARE YOU A SCIENTIST?

I'm sure by now you've heard that Al Gore uses twenty times as much power as the rest of us do. In his defense, the blog ThinkProgress explains Gore's consumption and ends with this statement:

There is no meaningful debate within the scientific community, so the right-wing busies itself with talk about how much electricity Al Gores house uses and even then they distort the truth.

I found this link at Jim Treacher's blog, where he makes the following hilarious post:

Not to mention that if I can barely afford my electric bill when I keep my thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and only turn on the lights at night to keep from tripping and breaking my neck when I get up to take a piss, how am I supposed to afford "carbon offsets"?

It's great that he's using solar panels and all that, but notice he's not disputing how huge his electric bill still is. What the hell is he doing in there? Is he a Terminator from the future and requires constant recharging? (That would explain pretty much everything.)

Which led me to his comments section and to this astute thought from Mark V:

By the way, that bit about there being no meaningful debate WITHIN the scientific community is bullshit. The ONLY meaningful debate out there is WITHIN the scientific community. And then it's among only some members of the scientific community.

The problem is there is no meaningful debate among the public at large. Thanks Hollywood and MSM!

Something that people across the globe need to remind themselves of every single day. I'm not even convinced that we have enough knowledge and technology to accurately predict global weather trends, but the only people remotely approaching this level of knowledge are climate scientists. Not Al Gore, not Hollywood actors, not granola kids on college campuses. Let's all stop acting like we're outside with thermometers doing the research ourselves and stop talking in absolutes.

Now excuse me while I go put on a sweater. We can't afford to heat our house above 65.

Posted by Sarah at 09:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 26, 2007

FREE KAREEM

I'm fumbling with how to say what I want to say this morning. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about Kareem.

In a landmark case for freedom of expression in Egypt, a young blogger has been jailed for insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak, drawing angry condemnation at home and abroad.
Abdel-Karim Nabil Suleiman, 22, a former law student at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, was sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Alexandria yesterday after being arrested last November over eight articles he posted on his blog.

Rosie O'Donnell may think that "radical Christianity" is just as big of a threat, but there's no story in the US that remotely approaches Kareem's. And if militant Muslims had their way, we'd all live under sharia, and we'd all be jailed for blogging our minds.

If that doesn't give you butterflies, I don't know what will.

Posted by Sarah at 08:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

HUH?

Apparently James Cameron has announced that he found Jesus' burial site. Can someone please explain to me how DNA evidence would be any use in proving that it's "the" Jesus? What on earth are they comparing it to?

Posted by Sarah at 08:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 23, 2007

POLL

I just have one thought on a recent poll. Here's a summary from James Joyner:

A recent Gallup poll reveals that Americans are much more likely to elect a black man or a woman president than a Mormon or an old man. More interestingly, theyd rather be governed by a homosexual than an atheist

Check out the poll results for yourself.

My take? The results are less about who we'd elect president and more about who we feel comfortable discriminating against. Would you vote for a black president? Only the biggest jackasses would say no. We as a society know that it's a big no-no to say we wouldn't vote for someone based on the color of his skin. But would you vote for a homosexual? More people feel comfortable saying no, relying on their religious compass or other reasons they think this would be a bad idea. And an atheist? People don't have any qualms about saying exactly what they think of atheists. They won't speak freely about race, but they will about lack of religion.

And the fact that people say they'd sooner vote for a homosexual than an atheist? Commenter Michael provides the moment of zen:

I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would make of that

Posted by Sarah at 08:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

FORMING CLOUDS

Via Conservative Grapevine: An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change

The suns brightness may change too little to account for the big swings in the climate. But more than 10 years have passed since Henrik Svensmark in Copenhagen first pointed out a much more powerful mechanism.

He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The suns magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.

The only trouble with Svensmarks idea apart from its being politically incorrect was that meteorologists denied that cosmic rays could be involved in cloud formation. After long delays in scraping together the funds for an experiment, Svensmark and his small team at the Danish National Space Center hit the jackpot in the summer of 2005.

In a box of air in the basement, they were able to show that electrons set free by cosmic rays coming through the ceiling stitched together droplets of sulphuric acid and water. These are the building blocks for cloud condensation. But journal after journal declined to publish their report; the discovery finally appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society late last year.

I won't claim to know the reasons why journals didn't publish this report, but could it perhaps maybe slightly be be that there's little room for dissent in climatology these days?

Remember that what you know about global warming is only what you've heard. That is, what has been chosen for you to hear. As Mark Steyn says, "Most of us aren't reading the science, or even a precis of the science. We're just reading a constant din from the press that 'the science is settled,' and therefore we no longer need to think about it: The thinking has been done for us."

This reminds me of a section in Bernad Goldberg's book Bias entitled "How Bill Clinton Cured Homelessness":

In 1999 [Philip Terzian, an editor at Providence Journal] wrote a column about a Village Voice study that showed that in 1988 the New York Times ran fifty stories on the homeless, including five on page one. But a decade later, in 1998, the Times ran only ten homeless stories, and none on page one. ... The conservative Media Research Center found that in 1990, when George Bush was president, there were seventy-one homeless stories on the ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN evening newscasts. But in 1995, when Bill Clinton was in the White House, the number had gone down to just nine!

Homelessness didn't stop when Bill Clinton took office; it just stopped being front page news. But our worldview is shaped by what's showcased on the news, what the Important Issues of the day are, and it can be manipulated based on what journalists think you should hear about. The issues don't go away just because they're not reported.

Svensmark formed clouds from cosmic rays. Just because no one wants to publish it or put it on the nightly news doesn't mean it didn't happen. And it doesn't mean it doesn't have anything to do with global warming. It just means you haven't heard about it yet.

But now you have.

Posted by Sarah at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 29, 2007

GRRR

Dear people who dabble in credit card fraud,
I hope you die of gonorrhea and rot in hell.
Sincerely,
Sarah

Yep, somebody bought somethin' on e-bay, and it sure wasn't me. I started this website to try to grok people whose value systems are different from mine, but this is over the top. I admit that I nod in agreement when Neal Boortz refers to taxes as stealing, or when my husband talks about "taking from those who can and giving to those who won't", but honest-to-goodness cheating and stealing is beyond my comprehension. Someone on this planet thought it would be OK to use my husband's hard-earned money to buy $900 worth of stuff. I hope they find "Ruth Belton" and lock her up. Or string her up, but I know that's too much to hope for.

Posted by Sarah at 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 06, 2007

PASSING THOUGHT

I know I'm a day late and a dollar short on this post, but I thought of it while I was unpacking boxes and just never got around to blogging it.

You know how Miss Nevada was stripped of her crown for being a skank? I was thinking that it's a lot more likely that girls of her/my generation would have something like this in their past to hide. How are we ever going to find First Ladies out of the Girls Gone Wild generation? Lots of college girls do dumb or slutty things these days, and with the prevalence of cell cameras, they'll never be safe from their antics.

Just a thought. Today's Girls Gone Wild chick is my kid's future third grade teacher...

Posted by Sarah at 02:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 03, 2007

WHERE THE HECK ARE THE SPELLCHECKERS?

Doesn't this hullabaloo over "Where's Obama?" remind you a bit of the time they gave the James Earl Ray plaque at a Martin Luther King celebration? Some typos should just never happen.

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

January 02, 2007

HISTORY

I'm still making my way through A Pocket History of the United States; I haven't gotten much reading in during moving time. I'm up to JFK though, and the book only goes through Reagan, so I should get there soon. I've been learning a lot and gaining perspective on our country's lifespan.

One of my favorite bits, from weeks ago, is on the Constitutional Convention:

They were aided in their discussions by the rule of secrecy which the Convention strictly kept. Publicity would have magnified the dissentions; it would have tempted members to make speeches for the galleries or press; and it would have laid them open to pressure from their constituents. The sober citizens of Philadelphia deserved praise for their refusal to pry into the Convention's work. Once at the dinner table Franklin mentioned to friends the old fable of the two-headed snake which starved to death because the heads could not agree on which side of a tree to pass; he said he could give an illustration from a recent occurrence in the Convention; but his friends reminded him of the rule of secrecy and stopped him.

Can you even for a moment imagine this happening today? There's no way that 39 men could work in secrecy to draft a constitution, but thank heavens it happened that way back then.

I also have noticed the book getting slightly less rah-rah about the US, as I mentioned in the preface and as several Amazon readers noted. However, it's not nearly as bad as another book I recently skimmed through. The Girl, bless her heart, loaned me a book called What Every American Should Know About American History. It has some interesting chapters and brings some knowledge to the table, but some of the stuff is just so biased. My husband was the one who noticed that the cover of the book shows six photos that sum up American history...and one of them is of Rodney King! And I about died when I read the two-page chapter called "The Cold War Ends" and there was not one single mention of the words Ronald or Reagan. Give me a break. I love that The Girl sent the book to me (please don't hate me), but some of chapters just killed me.

The Pocket History book isn't that bad, but I think the Red Scare deserved a tiny bit more than a brush of the hand, at least if David Horowitz is even halfway truthful.

Posted by Sarah at 03:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 27, 2006

WASTE

I just had one of those moments like Steve Martin in Father of the Bride, where he goes nuts and starts pulling hotdog buns out of the pack. I think that someone at the window factory got together with someone in the blinds factory and decided to screw the American public.

We went to buy blinds. Our windows are 54" wide. Well, you can buy 52" or 59". And 59" costs ten bucks more. So we proceeded to buy 59"s and have them cut about fifty dollars worth of blinds off and dump them in the garbage. It's funny because I'm not really mad about the price -- I would've bought 54"s for the same price -- I'm just ticked that I had to pay to waste blinds, that I had to sit for an hour and a half and watch them throw our money down a hole. Literally.

But at least tomorrow the sheets can come down from the windows.

Posted by Sarah at 05:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 30, 2006

TWO STEPS BACK

Dear Michael Richards,

This letter will remind you of the letter I wrote to the Abu Ghraib jerks. That's because I realized today that we've got ourselves an analogy here. Remember the SAT? Here's a good one for you:

Abu Ghraib soldiers : Iraq :: Michael Richards : race relations

Yes, Kramer, you're the Lynnie England of race.

The rest of us work hard to heal the wounds of yesteryear. We try to treat people fairly, we make sure we never say something that could offend, and we work to keep our country moving forward towards harmony between the races. And you come along and yell at someone about lynching.

What in the holy hell were you thinking?

When I first heard this story, I thought it was weird and dumb. But I really didn't think it mattered in the long run. Then I read this sentence in a completely unrelated article today:

If blacks are to fight the plague that is racial ugliness -- and racism remains one of the great threats to the Republic, no question about it, just ask that Seinfeld loser or Mel Gibson -- then we have to be honest with ourselves.

So now, thanks to you, people with an agenda can hold you up as the Paragon of Racism. See, white people are racist deep down: that Kramer guy called people the n-word. Just like how the Abu Ghraib soldiers destroyed the reputation of all the other honorable and admirable soldiers in Iraq, you have destroyed whatever credibility we white people have when we claim that racism isn't nearly as bad as some people let on.

Now my college roommate, who was afraid of walking across campus for fear of being lynched, will have more of a reason to think all white people really are out to get her. Now when some loser celeb says that the president hates black people, someone might honestly think that a tirade about lynching could just as easily come out of Bush's mouth as it did out of yours.

Black people everywhere will be waiting for the racist shoe to drop, thanks to you.

Most of us are not racist. We don't think lynchings are funny. We have enough of a moral or societal compass to know that what you did was completely out of line. And weird. Most of us don't have that crap bubbling right below the surface. Slight provocation won't give us n-word diarrhea of the mouth. We look at what you did as the strangest and most horrifying thing you can think of.

But to the black author of that article, it was just proof that "racism remains one of the great threats to the Republic."

Thanks a lot. All the progress that we white people have made to try to prove that we judge on the content of character: gone.

I hate you for that.
Sarah

Posted by Sarah at 02:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 17, 2006

TAXES

CaliValleyGenius has a post up about taxes.

I've written so many times here about fraud, waste, and abuse. I can think of dozens of examples in my own life of how the government wastes money in the military community. And if they're wasting it in the few places I've been, I can't stand to think how much waste there really is.

I've got one word to sum up fraud, waste, and abuse: Pearl.

Pearl was our education counselor in Germany. She was brought out of retirement to fill the position. She gave soldiers so much wrong advice that it makes me ill, she couldn't write a grammatical sentence to save her life, and she constantly brought me her work and asked for help because she didn't understand. I made $8.50 an hour; she made over $60,000 a year.

And if there's one Pearl, there are surely plenty of others.

The government doesn't spend money wisely, and there aren't many checkups once it's spent to make sure they're getting bang for their buck. I don't want the government to have a dime more than they need.

Posted by Sarah at 02:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 11, 2006

CONTRAST

The other night when my husband got home from his staff ride, his world had changed: a Democrat Congress, an Army without Rumsfeld, a potential slot in Civil Affairs, and a new deployment to a completely different country. He paced around the bedroom for a long time, talking out all the different possible futures and what he might accomplish in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I sarcastically added that, given the change from elephant to donkey, it might all be moot because the troops could be home. Agitated, he said, "I know, I know, that's why I have to get there as soon as possible so I can help before it's too late."

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.

A knife in my heart.

Posted by Sarah at 09:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 07, 2006

FINGERS CROSSED

Oh lord, here's what we have to look forward to: Democrat constituents screeching for impeachment.

Posted by Sarah at 06:23 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

SWEET

Here's something I don't remember noticing in July: Saddam specifically asked not to be hanged like a common criminal.

"I advise you as an Iraqi, if you were in a circumstance in which you have to issue a death penalty, you have to remember that Saddam is a military man and in this case the verdict should be death by shooting not by hanging," [Saddam] told the judge.

Justice, thy name is the gallows.

Posted by Sarah at 06:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MSN BLOWS IT AGAIN

I was intrigued by the MSN link called Women: 20 musts before 40. Geez, I've only got eleven years left! I'd better get in gear.

Uh, what?

All in all, MSN advocates $94,154 worth of consumer goods, plus pricetagless trips to see the Dalai Lama and a haircut from some famous L.A. barber.

Get real.

A Cadillac XLR roadster and Gucci luggage? That's what women need? Doesn't the average American household have something like $8000 in consumer debt? And MSN thinks that suggesting $4000 watches and trips to Mongolia is a good idea?

Seriously, what planet are these people living on? You know what women need by the age of 40? Maturity and self-respect. Then they won't fill that void with fancy suits, watches, haircuts, and cars.

Some of the suggestions were reasonable: a subscription to a smarty-smart magazine, a few jazz CDs, and some classic movies. Get people to broaden their horizons. Even a trip isn't a bad idea, though it's condescending to say that Europe is oh-so-yesterday and now the Third World is where it's at. Maybe MSN can encourage these women to adopt an African baby while they're there; it's all the rage, right?

I'm regularly disgusted and offended by the nonsense MSN prints, but this is just over the top. Who do they think their target audience is, suggesting a $78,000 car? Is Julie Greenwald hanging out on MSN trying to figure out what she should buy with her millions? I imagine most women who click that link are looking for more spiritual advice: find a hobby you really love, teach your children to waltz, volunteer for a charity that empowers you. Not more ways to spend money.

What the hell is wrong with our culture, that this passes as advice for women?

Posted by Sarah at 08:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

TV BLOGGING AGAIN

I've been ranting about TV elsewhere because I usually get it with both barrels when I write about TV here. Yes, I know it's not real.

Anyway, Teresa pointed out that Hollywood is not very good at writing realistic marriages. I was shocked recently to see that KFC commercial where the young wife is on the phone and she "signs" what she wants for dinner to her husband. And her husband's buddy doesn't get it, so he explains their secret language. Every time I see that commercial, I keep waiting for it to change. I keep waiting for the punchline to be that the husband is complete dufus who doesn't know anything about his wife. As it stands, that commercial is really stinking cute. It shows married people actually working in harmony, knowing each other on an extremely personal level. You never get that on TV.

Posted by Sarah at 11:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MORE THOUGHTS ON SADDAM

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."

Smash is right:

Unfortunately, the sentence is not to be carried out at daybreak. Appeals and due process will delay the execution for months, if not years. Saddam will get more consideration than any of his victims ever received, and arguably more than he deserves, but that's one of the many differences between freedom and tyranny.

I guess this is enough consolation for today. At least it made our household chuckle:

Thousands of Iraqis sang, danced and unleashed celebratory bursts of gunfire yesterday as Saddam Hussein finally faced the consequences of his tyrannical rule in a Baghdad courtroom.

Oh, the Iraqis and their celebratory gunfire.

The husband's leaving for a field trip tomorrow, or else a cake would be in order. I'll just have to remember the deliciousness of the dragging-him-out-of-a-dirty-hole cake. And dream of the deliciousness of the hanging-by-his-broken-neck cake I'll get to make someday. Yummy.

Posted by Sarah at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

YEESH

We're only living here temporarily, which means that I haven't got much of a social life. I don't have a single, actual, real-life human being friend here, unless you count the apartment complex staff. The only "conversation" I've had in the past five months has been the internet kind, which is bad because I've been living in a bubble. When you spend that much time in the internet community, you forget that we're such a small slice of the population.

I just caught the tail-end of a radio trivia gimmick, where a caller had to answer some questions. She had no idea who Dennis Hastert is, she couldn't provide a line from the "Star-Spangled Banner", and she didn't have the first guess what the Dow was at...in fact, she thought "the Dow" was a new type of WMD. I am not kidding. It might've been funny if it weren't so stinking depressing.

So beware the internet bubble. And be glad half the country doesn't vote.

Posted by Sarah at 10:38 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 24, 2006

ON TO GAME 4

Woohoo, the voodoo doll worked!
Go Cards!

Posted by Sarah at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2006

BREATHE OUT

Whew, my heart can't handle being a baseball fan. I thought for a while that it might be my duty-Judy to be a Tigers fan next week, but now the Tigers can eat it.
All hail Yadier Molina.

And my sleep cycle can't handle Eastern time zone. Look at me, up until midnight. I'm so off schedule from all these late night games that Charlie and I slept until 0945 this morning. I haven't slept that late since college.

And I sure can't sleep right now; I have to wait for all those butterflies to calm down.

Posted by Sarah at 11:49 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 17, 2006

FAILING CIVICS

Saw this on MSNBC today: A new study finds that even top undergraduates are woefully ignorant of history and civic government

I can't say I'm surprised at all. My college GPA was a 3.92 and I missed a couple on the sample test. Embarrassing. And my college did a pretty good job of forcing us to take a variety of courses. Still, even with all those requirements I never had to take economics, statistics, or anything like geography. I think we do a disservice to students by filling their schedules with stuff like "Environmental Global Warming" or "Gender and the Law". I took a class on serial killers, so now I know more than the average person about Ted Bundy but cringed when I got asked a question about the Revolutionary War. That's sad, but I have no one to blame but myself. I just wasn't mature enough from age 18 to 22 to take anything that wasn't fun. Fat lot of good my Russian literature and Japanese classes have done me since.

By the way, I've been looking for a good US history book because I think I could really use a refresher. Anyone out there have any suggestions?

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September 23, 2006

SPURLOCK SEEMS FULL OF BALONEY

Hud found a study that tried to replicate the Super Size Me movie and had vastly different results. My husband and I would like to try to replicate Spurlock's stint with poverty. We watched him on Oprah talk about how impossible it was to live on so little money...and then he takes his niece and nephew to the movies and buys everyone popcorn and candy. So the moral of the story is that it's hard to live like a baller on little money? Duh.

I honestly think I could live on minimum wage. Heck, we don't even try and we only spend half my husband's paycheck, and I spend $400 a month at the grocery store on gourmet mushrooms and cheeses. If we really tried, like going to Aldi and having my husband ride his bike three times a day to work instead of just one, we could cut that down to next to nothing. And we sure as heck wouldn't be 1) going to the movie or 2) buying outrageous Junior Mints there. If we were so inclined (and we might not be, since I love cooking and cable TV), we could spend very little money. To be honest, all we could think about while watching Spurlock on Oprah is how hard it would be for us to stay on minimum wage. If for some reason we both had to start from the bottom again, we'd race each other back to the top. Night school, adult education, something so that we'd make more money. And we wouldn't spend a dime more than we had to. Spurlock just sat around his apartment and complained about how much better his old life was and how hard it was to be poor.

Actually, the real experiment we missed out on came as a tardy inspiration. I should've gotten a job at Walmart when we moved here and seen how I was treated for the six months. That would've been interesting blogging.

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September 19, 2006

FLYING

I'm flying home this weekend for my reunion, so I looked up what is not permitted on the plane these days. I can take a corkscrew but not a chapstick? OK. I'm just taking my wallet and a book.

I also ran across this horrifying account of a mother watching her seven year old son get felt up by airport screeners (via RWN). She's right: is it really making us safer for someone to thoroughly check her kid's underroos? Sad.

Posted by Sarah at 11:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 18, 2006

WORDS vs ACTIONS

I just saw an interview with Maswan Rasmoudi from the Center for Islam and Democracy. (Or Raswan Masmoudi from the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, as the only google hit came up with. What the heck -- did John Gibson just get it totally wrong? I wrote it down word for word from the TV.)

Anyway, whoever this guy was, he gave the usual speech that Islam is being corrupted by a small minority of people who are attacking the Pope. Naturally, that's not mainstream Islam. OK.

It's easy to cherrypick certain ayat to show how messed up Islam is. Of importance now are the sword verses, those that say

to "fight and slay the pagan (idolaters) wherever you find them" (sura 9:5); or "strike off their heads in battle" (sura 47:5); or "make war on the unbeliever in Allah, until they pay tribute" (sura 9:29); or "Fight then... until the religion be all of it Allah's" (sura 8:39); or "a grievous penalty against those who reject faith" (sura 9:3).

These are certainly troubling passages, but there's plenty of troubling stuff in the Bible as well. In my opinion, the texts are not nearly as important as what followers do with the information.

I've never been 100% convinced that the Bible explicitly comes out against homosexuality. But I don't deny the fact that most Christians read the verses as admonishment and on the whole have adopted the worldview that homosexuality is wrong. No matter what the actual words of the translation of the Bible say, or no matter how I think they could be interpreted, it is a fact that most Christians aren't thrilled with homosexuality. It's the actions that matter, not the words that were written down 2000 years ago.

So when Raswan Masmoudi says that these Koran ayat are being taken out of context and abused by Osama bin Laden and a "minority" of angry Muslims, I call b.s. on him. It doesn't matter how he and his friends at the Center want to interpret the verses; what matters is that real live actual journalists were threatened with their lives if they didn't convert.

I can try to convince Christians that the verses against homosexuality are just as outdated as the slavery or "unclean during your period" verses until I'm blue in the face, but that doesn't make Christianity as a whole keen on homosexuality. Similarly, these folks can keep saying that Islam is a religion of peace and that jihad is a personal struggle, but that doesn't mean that it's going to bear out in reality. In reality, Muslims are threatening to assassinate the Pope.

You can't change the actions of a religion by claiming that verses of the holy book have been taken out of context. What matters is the actions.


MORE TO GROK:

Amritas makes a good point: A big difference between Islam and Christianity is that the words matter so much more in Islam. I remember accidentally starting a fight in my linguistics class because I asked how Allah could dictate the Koran but Mohammad wrote it down with no vowels. The vowels are what matter in Arabic! How could we be absolutely sure what Allah was saying without the vowels? It seemed like a completely illogical system. My teacher got really mad at me and asked how I dared call Allah illogical. And she was a Jew, go figure.

Posted by Sarah at 05:53 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 13, 2006

FLUFF

In ridiculous celebrity news, Britney Spears had her second baby in a year. However, she can't beat my mother-in-law: Britney's babies are 363 days apart; husband and his brother are 357 days apart. Keep tryin', Brit.

And my husband noticed this article that Kevin Costner doesn't approve of the new movie where President Bush gets assassinated. The fact that not thinking the President should be shot is newsworthy and controversial really says something about Hollywood these days.

Posted by Sarah at 07:55 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 31, 2006

BLAME GAME

MSN taglines are so danged catchy that I often find myself following their links. And today I found this hunk of baloney under the heading "Is your husband making you fat?"

When we live with other people, we tend to compromise our behaviors. On “Today’s Woman,” we look at whether your husband is making you fat. If you find yourself plopped down on the couch with chips in your hand at night or look in your cupboard to discover it’s filled with cookies, it might not be all your fault.

I find this paragraph so annoying that I don't even know where to start. First of all, if my husband enjoys chips or cookies and wants to use his hard-earned money to buy those items, I most certainly am not required to eat them just because they're in the house. (If you find your teen plopped down on the couch with a beer, is he free from blame because you were the one who stupidly had alcohol in the house and he couldn't be expected to control himself?) It is not my husband's fault if I choose to eat junk and then get fatter because of it; anything I have done to gain weight over the years is my fault and mine alone. I hate this constant blame-shifting. Suggesting a healty diet for both the husband and wife is a wonderful idea, but it's extremely condescending to target women by saying that it's probably their man's fault they're getting fat.

Posted by Sarah at 09:36 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

GULP

Bring the troops home now!

From Germany.

As if I haven't said this often enough, our posts in Germany are a huge waste of money. I just came up with another reason why.

Remember my heater in Germany? The one that kept our house at 80 degrees, whether we liked it or not? We didn't have to pay for that heater. Nor did we have to pay for electricity, water, gas, garbage, or anything else. Well, now we have to pay for those things, and I am appalled at how expensive they are. And how much we got away with in Germany on the government's dime.

We now have 1100 sq feet and a gas/electric bill of $130. We keep our house a disgusting 80 degrees now too because we don't want to pay for more. And I can't help but cringe when I think of all my neighbors who opened their windows in the winter because it was too hot in our houses in Germany. Think of all the money it cost our government to pump heat into houses where you can't control the thermostat, houses with an additional 500-600 sq feet. Man alive. Think of all the times we had every light blazing and the TV running all day long. We never had to deal with the consequences of our electric habits.

I told my husband last night that we're going to start lighting this house with candles. I'm far too tight to shell out $130 for electricity. And it will only get worse when we buy a house.

Why, oh why, don't they have thermostats in our houses in Germany?

Posted by Sarah at 09:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

IT WORKED

My mother and brother are flying between two big American cities tomorrow. I talked to my mom on the phone today and said, "Well, I love you, just in case." And though we were joking about how they're more likely to be hurt on the way to the airport, and how security will be tight tomorrow, I still got a lump in my throat. And it focused my laser beam even more.

I saw Nihad Awad from CAIR on TV last night, talking all that "terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, religion of peace, jihad is a personal struggle" nonsense. I remembered that baloney today when I read these harsh words on Ace's post:

Although I've usually been careful to use the preferred term "Islamofascist" as most "resepctable" commentators do, with the occasional sloppy slip-up, as a means of distinguishing peaceful, loyal Muslims from the terrorists--

I'm dropping that practice, as of today. Until the Muslim community can demonstrate it is, in word and deed, as opposed to the slaughter of its fellow citizens as true citizenship in the UK, US, Australia, etc., demand, I'm not pretending we have an "Islamofascist" problem anymore. What we have is a Muslim problem.

If the Muslim community wanted to eliminate terrorism, it could do so within a month.

As it's not part of the solution, it's part of the problem, and it's time to judge it as such.

I'm mad that my mom can't get on a plane without thinking the worst. I'm mad that terrorism has worked on me, that I'm scared today. I hate that after five years of this junk, I have little but contempt for the Muslim community.

Hand me my needles; I need to do some serious aggression knitting.

Posted by Sarah at 03:36 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

HUH?

Does anyone else think it's mildly offensive that Comedy Central is running "Red State Weekend" with a lineup of Blue Collar Comedy shows and movies like Joe Dirt? They're billing it as a "weekend's worth of movies for 50.7% of the country's population." Yeah, because red states like Ohio and Alaska are so into mullets.

Posted by Sarah at 09:40 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 11, 2006

DUH

Far be it for me to start talking about polls again, but let me throw a smidgen of perspective out there. The news shows are constantly talking about polls. There seems to be a poll for everything, from presidential approval to whether we should support Israel. And everyone acts like opinion polls mean something. Well, I got your poll right here:

Some 30 percent of Americans cannot say in what year the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington took place, according to a poll published in the Washington Post newspaper.

While the country is preparing to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives and shocked the world, 95 percent of Americans questioned in the poll were able to remember the month and the day of the attacks, according to Wednesday's edition of the newspaper.

But when asked what year, 30 percent could not give a correct answer.

Of that group, six percent gave an earlier year, eight percent gave a later year, and 16 percent admitted they had no idea whatsoever.

These aren't 17-year-old morons; these are grown-ups, people my parents' age, who have no idea when 9/11 happened. And we're supposed to care what people say in polls? Are they polling the same 300 dimwits who think 9/11 was an inside job?

I'd wager a lot of Americans still can't find Iraq, Israel, or Lebanon on a map. They don't know a Sunni or a Shi'ite from Shinola. Yet we call them and ask what they think about world events. Whatever.

(Poll link found via Hud)

Posted by Sarah at 11:12 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

TV

My family wasn't a big TV family. The only show I remember watching regularly with my parents was The Greatest American Hero. When I was six. I didn't really have time to watch TV in high school because I spent too much time on the phone. Man, I spent a whole lotta time on that phone. I didn't own a TV in college and was too busy there to care either.

When I got to grad school, I didn't know the difference between the networks, and I couldn't name a single thing that was on TV. But my roommate got cable. Her family was a TV family. And slowly, she began to teach me the joys of television. I was hooked. I used to walk around pointing out all of the things that I now know about the world because I saw them on TV. It was entertainment plus learning, and I soaked it up like a sponge.

Three years in Germany with a mere 8 channels of AFN was enough to get by on, but since we've been back, I've been feeding my love with a vengeance. What else am I gonna do while I knit teddy bears? (Oh yeah, remember when I said I was burnt out on knitting bears? I lied. I put the stuff away for two hours and then got it all back out. I've made like 5 more since.) Right now, I am completely obsessed with the National Geographic channel. And digital cable DVR. I record programs all the time, and every meal with my husband begins with me telling him everything I learned on TV.

But I have to stop taping the nature shows. I can't take it anymore. Why do they always have to write the narration from the point of view of the prey? Look at me, I'm a helpless sea lion pup, mere weeks old. Oops, I strayed too far from the group and I'm not strong enough to swim back. La di da. Crunch. That's the sound of a great white shark eating the pup whole. It's also the sound of my heart breaking. I've watched elephants killing men, the killer crocs of Uganda, black widow and funnel-web spiders, male dolphins enslaving females and killing their offspring on "Dolphins: The Dark Side", and the Mexican staring frog of Southern Sri Lanka. OK, not that last one. All of these animal shows are really starting to stress me out; I swear anyone who idolizes animals must not really know that much about them. I need to stick to taping shows about escape from Alcatraz and counterfeit money.

Anyway, TV rules. It can be a great learning tool and a source of hours of enjoyment. I also had a roommate who hated TV with a passion and thought that it sucked intelligence away from viewers. Unless of course they were watching a program about Ireland, in which case it was brilliant. For some reason, she had an Ireland fetish, and she even stooped so low as to watch Days of our Lives when they were in "Ireland", i.e. a different backdrop on the set. But no one ever accused her of being reasonable. I agree with Aunt Purl that folks who pretend that they're better than you because they don't watch TV need their chops busted.

A few weeks ago, I made a Kitty Carlisle reference when I was out on a first date. The guy I was with proudly told me that he does not own a television and (insert snotty tone of voice here) had not watched TV in over a year. Looked at me with one eyebrow arched.

Good grief. I mean it's fine if you don't watch TV, in fact I'd probably have a much smaller ass if I myself got out more, but I have about a real short fuse for people puffing up on Holier Than Thou, especially on a first date.

I guess I was supposed to recognize his utter superiority over those of us too weak and shallow to abstain from the TV, but all I just drawled out my best hillbilly accent to inform him, "You know they have them thar TV sets real cheap at The WalMart!"

Needless to say, he was not amused.
Needless to add, it was our first and last date.

P.S. Even though there was no National Geographic channel on AFN, I still learned a lot from TV in Germany:

1. Reading a book can make you a better pilot, especially if you want to be good at what you do.

2. You can't concentrate on raquetball if you're being sexually harrassed.

3. White frat boys who ask you for directions could be terrorists, and you'd never see it coming.

4. Even though OIF rotations are published in Stars and Stripes six months before they happen, you should never ever mention dad's impending deployment on a cell phone or IM.

5. Hamsters can park cars better than most humans in the Amberg parking garage.

Posted by Sarah at 10:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

UGH

This article via Hud reminds me of my thoughts a few weeks ago: What's Wrong With This Outfit, Mom? I always joke that my mom was lucky that baggy was in when I was young. Umbro soccer shorts and big t-shirts were all the rage; my only form of rebellion was an Avril Lavigne-ish phase where I wore my dad's pants when I was 18. Everything I wore was XL, to the point where a guy in college lifted me up and remarked that I was a lot lighter than I looked! My mom hated the sight of me in my dad's pants, but I daresay she was lucky I didn't dress like kids today (i.e. like a whore). There was a large group of high schoolers at the ballgame last week, and the husband and I kept pointing out things we'll never let our kids wear. He's adamantly against writing on the butt of girls' shorts; I stand firm against t-shirts with suggestive and/or snotnosed punk sayings, like the "I may not be on time, but I'm worth the wait" shirt we saw on a pre-teen at the game. Kids today are a mess.

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August 08, 2006

STILL FESTERING

I've been thinking about what happened on The View for days now, and I can't seem to let it go. I heard that Barbara was mean to Elisabeth and Elisabeth was mean to Joy, so I decided to go watch it for myself. I really don't think anyone was mean to anyone. It was a discussion of the morning-after pill; these things can get heated. (I thought the things that commenters said about Elisabeth Hasselbeck on blogs were far worse, but most comment sections are a nightmare anyway.)

What I can't stop thinking about is the Hypothetical Situation that Joy posed to Elisabeth. When we debate abortion, why is it that someone always has to bring up the "12 year old girl who's been raped by her father or uncle"? As if this is the norm and these are the only girls who really need the morning-after pill. I thought Elisabeth was completely right to point out that if we're talking about offering this pill over-the-counter, then the target consumer is not really the rape and incest victim. But abortion is always framed around rape and incest. That's the Rocky Marciano of the abortion debate: "That's they one!" But less than 2% of women who have abortions say they do so because of rape or incest. So why do we always frame the debate around these 2%?

If you're pro-choice, you can't keep trying to trip up pro-life people by throwing in the rape and incest red herring. It's disingenuous. I think being pro-choice is a valid opinion, provided you state frankly that when you say everyone has the right to choose, that means Everyone: the girl who gets knocked up at prom, the married lady who forgets her diaphragm, and even the uppity lady who aborts two of her triplets because buying the big jar of mayonnaise is so middle class. If you have the right to choose and a right to your own body, then you get to choose all the time. Limiting the debate to rape and incest absolutely skews what is actually going on in abortion clinics.

Posted by Sarah at 09:15 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 31, 2006

KINGDOM OF NONSENSE

We got HBO when we moved back to the US, so we've been trying to catch up on movies that we missed while we were in Germany. So far we've been unimpressed with most of them that we've seen: A History of Violence (too creepy), Elephant (too existentialist), War of the Worlds (too Dakota), and most recently, Kingdom of Heaven.

Roger Ebert writes:

The Muslim scholar Hamid Dabashi, however, after being asked to consult on the movie, writes in the new issue of Sight & Sound: "It was neither pro- nor anti-Islamic, neither pro- nor anti-Christian. It was, in fact, not even about the 'Crusades.'" And yet I consider the film to be a profound act of faith." It is an act of faith, he thinks, because for its hero Balian (Orlando Bloom), who is a non-believer, "All religious affiliations fade in the light of his melancholic quest to find a noble purpose in life."

That's an insight that helps me understand my own initial question about the film, which was: Why don't they talk more about religion? Weren't the Crusades seen by Christians as a Holy War to gain control of Jerusalem from the Muslims? I wondered if perhaps Scott was evading the issue. But not really: He shows characters more concerned with personal power and advancement than with theological issues.

And that's precisely why I didn't like the movie. Orlando Bloom comes off sounding more like a modern campus activist than someone from 1184. His rally speech sounded like a debate on reparations, not the Holy Crusades:

It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended. What is Jerusalem? Your holy palaces lie over the Jewish temple that the Romans pulled down. The Muslim places of worship lie over yours. Which is more holy? The wall? The Mosque? The Sepulchre? Who has claim? No one has claim. All have claim!

If Ridley Scott set out to make a movie where the premise is "all religions are equally dumb," then he succeeded. Because it sure wasn't a movie about the Crusades. It just wasn't really what I expected, but in hindsight, I don't know why I was surprised: it's so typical in 2006 to expect a movie where all people could live in harmony if white Europeans would just let them be. Oh, and where the Muslims win the battle of Helm's Deep. I should've seen it coming.

Posted by Sarah at 12:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 30, 2006

GROWING UP

An interesting article via Instapundit: A Nation of Wimps: "Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they're breaking down in record numbers."

I've managed to connect to one of the least pertinent parts of the article, but I couldn't help but notice this paragraph:

Adulthood no longer begins when adolescence ends, according to a recent report by University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank F. Furstenberg and colleagues. There is, instead, a growing no-man's-land of postadolescence from 20 to 30, which they dub "early adulthood." Those in it look like adults but "haven't become fully adult yet—traditionally defined as finishing school, landing a job with benefits, marrying and parenting—because they are not ready or perhaps not permitted to do so."

Using the classic benchmarks of adulthood, 65 percent of males had reached adulthood by the age of 30 in 1960. By contrast, in 2000, only 31 percent had. Among women, 77 percent met the benchmarks of adulthood by age 30 in 1960. By 2000, the number had fallen to 46 percent.

Granted, I've only grown up in one era, so I can't really compare my entry into adulthood in the 2000s with someone else's decades ago, but I can't help but feel that people my age are sometimes hopelessly immature.

The husband and I went to a party relatively recently, a housewarming picnic for a couple who just bought their first house. We didn't know any of the couples at the party, so we did a lot of watching on the sidelines, and as darkness fell, so did IQs. By the end of the evening, we stared wide-eyed as married women lifted up their skirts and flashed their thongs to distract single men during their men vs women beer pong game. Yes, you read that right. This party at a 30-something's new house in the suburbs turned into a night that rivaled anything I saw in college. And then of course we sat horrified as people grabbed another beer for the road and drove home.

These people all supposedly had jobs and relationships and should've been considered adults, but I've never felt more out-of-place or uncomfortable in my life. I'm not above admitting that I did some wild and foolish things in my college years, but that part of my life is far in the past now. These couples seemed to be having just another weekend of fun.

I have no idea if their behavior has anything to do with their upbringing or parents. I could speculate that it might have something to do with not being quite ready to be adults yet. I hear that the whole "failure to launch" thing is a real phenomenon in the US, and that people are less and less emotionally and financially ready to grow up than ever before. Could that be a reason why you'd flash your boobs at some random guy while your husband makes another trip to the keg? Is the world too big and scary to leave the comfort of the Fun College Years? I can't say I understand this, since I love every candle I add to my birthday cake; my husband and I constantly play a game where we imagine what we'll do when he retires and we're older and cooler.

I hope I can teach my children someday that growing up is one of the best things you can do. I'm trying to read articles like this and prepare myself, because I want to do whatever it takes so that my child isn't the one lifting her skirt at a housewarming party...

Posted by Sarah at 02:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 27, 2006

WAR OF THE WORLDS

Last night we watched the movie War of the Worlds. I read the book shortly before we moved and loved it. But the movie added a twist that H.G. Wells never intended: Spielberg made the main character a father. The book was about what one man will do to survive. I used to lie in bed and wonder if I'd have the strength: Could I forage for raw potatoes to eat? Could I kill and eat a stray dog? Could I kill a man who became a threat to my survival? The book made me think about all these things, because the main character was such a powerful figure. In the movie, however, the main character thinks only of protecting his children, a vastly different concept. One reviewer said, "Leave it to Steven Spielberg to turn the end of the world into a treatise on responsible parenting." A man will not do whatever it takes to survive if it means harming his child. The stakes were totally different in the movie, and I prefered the childless protagonist. (Also, if I had to hear Dakota Fanning scream one more time, I thought I was going to beat her senseless.)

Posted by Sarah at 07:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

DMV

OK, time to vent. Remember when we went and picked up our car from the port a month ago? Well, I've been trying to register it for that long. We want to register it in Missouri like our other car is because we're only going to live here for five months. Calling the DMV is even more ridiculous than going there, but I thought I had finally figured out what we needed and I mailed everything in two weeks ago. We got it returned today marked "rejected" because allegedly we didn't show proof of insurance; they returned all the documents to us, including...the proof of insurance paper. I called this morning and was told "whoops" and that I should send it back. But now our temporary plates on our car are expired. Can I tell you how angry this makes me? Someone halfassed his job and now I have no car to drive around for another two weeks while they actually do the job they were supposed to do two weeks ago. And amazingly, some people in this country want the government to do more stuff in our lives.

Posted by Sarah at 10:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2006

SHAMEFUL

If the proposed memorial to Flight 93 goes through as planned, it will be a disgraceful, disgusting monument to the hijackers instead of the passengers. Reading this information makes me want to throw up. I left a comment on the memorial website; I sure hope that citizen action has some bearing on the final memorial, but for some reason I'm not holding my breath...

Posted by Sarah at 07:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

HUH?

I find it interesting that it's OK for a teacher who believes Bush orchestrated 9/11 to teach a class on Islam because that's "encouraging students’ critical thinking by allowing analysis of even the most controversial ideas", but a science teacher who believes in creationism is considered kooky and ignorant. Isn't that kind of the same thing? Maybe we could get people who believe in the tooth fairy to teach dentistry...

Posted by Sarah at 08:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

PRIORITIZE

This article over at Hud's caught my attention, especially since I just finished gagging over Parliament of Whores. Imagine if we could get government to think before they spend!

So all the more credit to Mr. Lomborg, who several weeks ago got his first big shot at reprogramming world leaders. His organization, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, held a new version of the exercise in Georgetown. In attendance were eight U.N. ambassadors, including John Bolton. (China and India signed on, though no Europeans.) They were presented with global projects, the merits of each of which were passionately argued by experts in those fields. Then they were asked: If you had an extra $50 billion, how would you prioritize your spending?

Mr. Lomborg grins and says that before the event he briefed the ambassadors: "Several of them looked down the list and said 'Wait, I want to put a No. 1 by each of these projects, they are all so important.' And I had to say, 'Yeah, uh, that's exactly the point of this exercise--to make you not do that.'" So rank they did. And perhaps no surprise, their final list looked very similar to that of the wise economists. At the top were better health care, cleaner water, more schools and improved nutrition. At the bottom was . . . global warming.

Posted by Sarah at 08:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 01, 2006

WHEW

OK, I loved it. Kevin Spacey was perfect, the plot was good, and Lois was meh, but I never really liked Lois anyway. I thought some stuff was rather Smallville-ish, but I suppose that's inevitable. My heart ached for Christopher Reeve, but Brandon Routh did a good job, though there's no way on earth anyone could believe that Routh was supposed to be Clark Kent at age 35. But who am I to opine on the aging of Kryptonians? Overall, it was definitely worth the price of admission, and thank goodness it didn't come off as campy or multicultural or anything else I kept hearing about it.

Posted by Sarah at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SNIFF

We made plans to go see Superman this afternoon, and then I saw this "truth, justice, and all that stuff" article and I could just cry. I honestly don't know if I want to see this movie or not; I keep changing my mind every day.

But now that I know Hud liked it, I guess I can assume I will too.

Posted by Sarah at 10:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 26, 2006

GORE

Al Gore was just on Keith Olbermann a few minutes ago; they compared global warming skeptics to flat earthers and people who thought the moon landing was faked. That's a bit of a stretch, people. Then Olbermann said that people who don't believe in global warming are usually people who only think the earth is a couple thousand years old, and Gore starts quoting scripture on why people should pay attention to climate change. What? There are scientists who disagree with the hockey stick and data on carbon dioxide levels, but Gore just dismissed them all as "outliers" and shills. I'm amazed that Gore feels comfortable dismissing a paleoclimatologist as wrong and uninformed: what exactly is Gore's science background? He didn't even bother to memorize some data to refute Patterson; he just waved his hand and declared global warming to be a fact. How convincing...

Posted by Sarah at 07:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 20, 2006

HUH?

This article is a bit old, but I couldn't believe it when I read it via Powerline. Just wow. An older married couple gets all hot and heavy and "forgets" to use birth control. The lady can't get the morning after pill in her area, so she gets pregnant and has an abortion. And she blames Bush for her abortion. Wow. How 'bout blaming your freaking self for not being smart enough to calm down for two seconds and use some danged birth control? Do people ever take personal responsibility for anything these days?

Posted by Sarah at 10:19 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 17, 2006

GRADES

Ann Althouse posts about a high school with 41 valedictorians. Apparently that school rewards everyone with a GPA over 4.0, regardless of rank. That sucks. I thought my school's system was fair: 4.0 was the highest GPA you could get, but there was an entirely different ranking system for weighted courses. Thus someone who took all "basic" classes and got straight A's would receive a 4.0 but would not be anywhere near the top of the class; someone who took all "advanced" classes and got one B would be salutatorian, and those who took all advanced classes with all A's would be valedictorian. We had 8 valedictorians and 2 salutatorians. (Or was it 7 and 3? See how important it turned out to be?) Among the top 8, we all knew who really deserved honors. I went to high school with people who did relativistic physics for fun and calculus in their sleep. There were also valedictorians who simply knew How School Worked and did what it took to get the necessary A's. It's a shame there was no way to really distinguish between the geniuses and the rest of us folks, but I suppose what they've done after high school is the real proof of their smarts.

Incidentally, several of us got together once when we were graduating from college and compared when we had finally broken our 4.0s. One friend was bummed that he was the first to lose it, but we had to remind him that getting one B at Princeton was nothing to be bummed about!

Posted by Sarah at 06:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 09, 2006

WOO HOO

It's hard to put into words how I've been feeling for the last six weeks. My friends from Germany keep wondering if the magic has worn off yet, and I can honestly say that I'm thrilled it hasn't. I still bounce out of my seat when we pass a Dairy Queen or an Arby's. I walk slowly through every aisle in Walmart, trying to take it all in. And I laugh every time I notice something that is different from the way my life was for the past three years.

The biggest joke I've noticed is that my husband and I are complete suckers for advertising right now. Since we went for three years without commercials, we find ourselves buying into the hype. Sonic runs a commercial for a junior banana split, and I immediately want to go out and get one. Quizno's runs a new sandwich, and we go get it for dinner. We even saw some dumb commercial for a Crunch bar, and my husband and I turned to each other and said, "Heck, I don't even really like Crunch, but I sure want one now!" I find myself wanting the Nicer Dicer and the Total Gym and everything else I see on TV. I hope this wears off soon!

Another thing I've noticed is that I talk to everyone. Waiters, strangers, people in line...I just have this overwhelming urge to chat. I spent three years avoiding small talk and praying that salesclerks would not ask me any hard questions, so I can't stop jabbering at everyone. I love talking to people!

I'm also not used to air conditioning, so I'm freezing my butt off. I had forgotten how shocking it is to go in and out of buildings in the US, to constantly go from 60 degrees to 95.

And cruise control is heaven.

Posted by Sarah at 10:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

DAYQUIL

I've been fighting a cold for a few days, but keeping "bachelor hours" with our friend this weekend did me in. On the way home from Des Moines, I wanted to stop at Walmart to get some DayQuil. What I didn't count on was the asinine rules that are in place now for flippin' meth labs. Even though the Walmart is 24 hours, you can't buy DayQuil at 9 AM on a Sunday because you have to get it from the pharmacist and the pharmacy doesn't open until 11. Of all the annoying things! Luckily I could get Robitussin; apparently it doesn't make good meth. But I still had to get permission from a Walmart employee with braces to buy the stuff! If I were trucking out a cart load, maybe someone could raise an eyebrow, but I wanted one bottle and I was coughing my fool head off at the time. What has the world come to when we can't even buy normal over-the-counter medicines without suspicion?

Posted by Sarah at 12:01 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

EDUCATION

Last night we got an education. My father-in-law knows a guy at work who raises gamecocks. We went out to his house and learned all about cockfighting. It was extremely interesting, but also sad. You can tell this man loves these roosters, so I can't imagine how he could risk their lives. But he's been fighting roosters since he was six years old and is really knowledgeable about every aspect of their diet and breeding. I've never really thought of roosters as beautiful animals, but they really were. It was an interesting evening.

Posted by Sarah at 01:40 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 29, 2006

NOPE

I guess I want to comment on this rumor about an Atlas Shrugged movie. I'm so not going to see it. I love this horrible synopsis of the book:

The Russian-born author's seminal tome, published in 1957, revolves around the economic collapse of the U.S. sometime in the future and espouses her individualistic philosophy of objectivism.

My husband came home ranting about this, saying that Hollywood types might be surprised to find that the "economic collapse of the U.S." isn't because of global warming or Bushitler's junta. This book is about the triumph of capitalism, so it's ironic that they're considering Miss UN for the lead role. Seriously, Angelina Jolie is a fan of this book? She can read?

And I'd love to see the trainwreck that is Oliver Stone's version of The Fountainhead.

Posted by Sarah at 04:39 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 11, 2006

THINGS ON THE TV

I really like these new AFN commercials where a talking computer compares military benefits to the civilian world. I've seen ones about pay raises, vacation days, and medical care. I think it's important for soldiers to know how their benefits compare to the outside world because it's easy to gripe about the Army, but another job might not be any better.

But what I don't like on TV is being lectured to, especially by an ex-stripper. My husband and I watched the "Secrets and Flies" episode of CSI last night. The story revolved around an organization that finds mothers for abandoned embryos. The woman who was killed was a single Christian mother who adopted a leftover fertilized egg from a fertility clinic because she believed that every embryo is a baby from the minute it's fertilized in a laboratory dish. And the CSI cast openly rolled their eyes and scoffed at this organization. Catherine, the ex-stripper, pulled out all these quotes about papal precedent to argue with the head of this organization. The beat-us-over-the-head Message on the show was that pro-lifers are complete nutjobs, and all the CSI characters agreed. There was no inter-office discussion of the matter; it was just settled and blatantly woven into the script that this was insane.

Cop dramas have been doing this for a while. I wrote a while back about similar propaganda in Law & Order. I'm tired of shows painting right-wing ideas as looney. I honestly don't think this "embryo adoption" thing is that weird. If a couple is willing to give away their extra embryos and someone is willing to take them, then everybody's happy. But you should've seen these CSIs' faces: they were completely disgusted by the whole thing. I don't understand why.

I'm not 100% sure what my view is on abortion. I struggle with one fundamental paradox: If an unwed teen gets pregnant, then we start talking about "at what day is it actually a baby", but if a happily married couple gets pregnant, it's obviously a baby from day one. I know when I get pregnant that it will be a baby from the beginning, and I don't care what day the heart starts beating or the blood starts circulating. So if it's a baby for me, I should see it as a baby for everyone. But I still can't say that abortion is absolutely murder. My thoughts on the topic are kind of messy, and thank goodness I've never had to really work through them.

That said, I respect people who do think that it's murder, and I admire someone who might consider adopting an embryo to give every baby a chance. I certainly would never roll my eyes at her or argue with her about what the pope said in the 16th century (which is what the CSI did). All other things being equal, I respect the right-wing position on abortion more than I do the left-wing position, even though I fall somewhere in between. So why is it obvious that the message on TV is that the right-wingers are nuts?

Posted by Sarah at 07:09 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 03, 2006

MR SMITH

Yesterday I actually sat and watched an entire hour of Al Franken. It wasn't as torturous as I thought it would be. I thought Tim Russert did a great job of keeping Franken honest, and I would love to see Russert interview someone like Ann Coulter the same way.

At one point, Al Franken said that what he'd really like to see is for Bush and Cheney to come clean with the world. He said they should give a "six hour long speech" (wow) in which they delineate everything they did wrong in Iraq. He wants their mea culpa to include everything from inaccurate pre-war intelligence to not stopping the looters after the fall of Baghdad. Franken said that after Bush and Cheney admitted they had been wrong about everything under the sun, then the international community could forgive them and the Democrats would gladly sit down and draft a bipartisan plan for Iraq.

I started thinking about transparency in government. The husband and I have been watching 24 recently. "President David Palmer" is probably close to everyone's ideal president. He went straight to the media when he learned his son might've killed someone. He ratted out his campaign contributors when he figured out they were dirty. And he divorced his wife during the primaries because she became too power hungry. In watching 24, you can't help but think that if all politicians had half of Palmer's integrity, the world would be a better place.

But if everyone wants Mr. Smith to go to Washington, why does it never happen in real life?

There are things that Bush and Cheney could've done differently with Iraq. I'm sure they know this. But I honestly don't think that it's appropriate for anyone to give a six hour apology while the war is still going on. And I honestly believe someone would still find something that Bush left out of his six hour speech to complain about. Lord knows there are times when I wish for more honesty in Washington (Would someone please step to the plate and call Cynthia McKinney a race-baiting bitch?) but I don't expect it to ever happen. Politics is a tricky game, and any one thing you say can haunt you for life (see "Read my lips", "I did not have sex with that woman", and "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.") No matter what Al Franken says, I don't think a big apology would make any of his opponents respect President Bush more, and I guarantee something from his apology speech would become a soundbite in the next election.

I often think I'm too thin-skinned to blog, so I know for sure that thin-skinned people certainly can't get into politics. I lie in bed worrying about how President Bush sleeps at night knowing his face is superimposed over a swastika; I'm sure he must be the type of man who waves it off and keeps going. We need our politicians to be thick-skinned, aggressive, and tough. We need them to play the game at the level that everyone else does, like it or not. Mr. Smith really wouldn't last long.

We may think we want Bobby running Ewing Oil, but in a world of dirty dealers, JR's the man for the job. Sad as that may be.

Posted by Sarah at 07:29 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

FOCUS

I just had a long talk with Erin about how pessimistic and depressed I've been feeling lately. I can't read LGF without wanting to cry. My stomach is still in knots about Iran. And I just watched Season 2 of 24, which is reason enough to want to crawl in a hole. I'm losing it. And then I remembered Smink's advice:

First, go buy a six pack and swig it all down.
Then, watch “Ace Ventura.”
And after that, buy a Hard Rock Café shirt and come talk to me.
You really need to lighten up, man.

I don't have a Hard Rock shirt, but maybe my "I saw the Pope -- Des Moines 1979" shirt will work? And we certainly have beer and Ace Ventura. That's what my husband and I will do tonight, because I sure need a way to relax.

I also found that my spirits were lifted reading the Tanker Brothers blog today. I realized that I want to focus on reading MilBlogs for a while; soldiers always make me feel rejuvinated.

Posted by Sarah at 04:44 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 07, 2006

DEFEATED

I get discouraged often. The other night, my husband comforted me as I defeatedly moaned about demographics and jihad. I fear Iran's nukes. I fear the birthrate. I fear what will happen if we don't put our foot down and say, "It's just a cartoon, dammit." I did mention to my husband that I feel awful pessimistic about the future of the world, so I pity those who honestly believe we live in Bushitler's Oil Junta; they must fret a lot more than I do. My moaning has got nothin' on these people.

When I get discouraged about the future, I just remind myself that we live in the last second of December 31st. There's so much more to come...

Posted by Sarah at 03:49 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 05, 2006

CONTEXT

Why is it always the West's fault for not understanding Islam? Why is Islam itself never to blame? A Muslim college student wrote:

It does not come as a surprise to me that so many “unbiased” Western news sources carry extremely resentful outlooks regarding Islam.
There is a lack of distinction between orthodox Islamic values and the actions of a minority of Muslims. Western media outlets frequently present a correlation between these two classifications and often interpret Islam out of context. Unfortunately when it comes to reporting Islam, a lack of understanding, quoting sources out of context, and ethnocentric viewpoints seem to be trademarks.

And then in this debate, another Muslim suggested that in order to reform Islam,

we'll have to have a lot of help from rational Muslim minds around the world who buy into the argument that we--you, me, George Bush and Don Rumsfeld (i.e., all of us as Americans)--are not out to get them. ... We could enjoin Western scholars in that process and have them talk through external perception problems with what Islam proposes.
...
If we had an American Muslim FBI director, or the deputy Defense secretary was a Muslim by faith, or one day we had an American Muslim secretary of State, these officeholders would do a world of good by setting an example of how secularism, tolerance and belief can coexist, much the same way Condi Rice and Colin Powell did for black people everywhere in diffusing race as a factor in service to our country.

So the solution to the problem of Islam is that all we Western white folks have to coddle Muslims for decades and have some sort of new affirmative action that gets Muslims into positions of power so that they don't believe we all think they're evil? Give me a break. (It hasn't even worked that well for black people, since many of them hate Rice and Powell anyway.)

When the big news stories broke about Catholic priests molesting children, no Catholic said, "Well, it's not my priest who did that, it's some other priest who misinterpreted scripture." Catholics everywhere were outraged. Why aren't Muslims everywhere outraged? Why is it so easy for them to say "Well, I lead a good life, so it's not my fault if other Muslims misinterpret scripture."

The solution to Islam's problems is not a Muslim Condi Rice. Lord help us if we have to wait that long. The solution is for individual Muslims to be as outraged as individual Catholics were. Mansoor Ijaz says that he has never believed Allah wants him to kill Jews, but unfortunately many Muslims do believe just that. And they outnumber Ijaz. It's not my job as a white Westerner to make sure that Muslims don't feel offended; it's their job to make sure their religion doesn't offend. (And the solution is definitely not just to have Muslim editors making sure nothing in the newspaper offends Muslims. Good lord.)

The common complaint is that Islam is taken out of context. Please tell me what the correct context is then, because I don't know of any other way to interpret "We will wipe Israel off the map."

Posted by Sarah at 09:52 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 01, 2006

JUST WOW

Back when I was in college, I was naive. I thought that people in the US liked the US. I learned the error of my thinking after 9/11, when I forwarded Gordon Sinclair's 1973 broadcast to my fellow students and professors. The email backlash shocked my naive self, as students rushed to label me jingoistic and insensitive. One professor pulled me into his office the next day and offered me some wisdom I've never forgotten: "The last place it's OK to be American is in an American university."

I was reminded of that today when I read that Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former ambassador-at-large for the Taliban, is currently a student at Yale. I have many of the same questions as Varifrank, such as "Are there any students at Yale whose mother or father died on 9/11? Any children of NYC fireman at Yale? Any non-Taliban Afghani refugees in Yale? Any of them women?" Mostly I just want to know who had the brilliant idea to invite this jackass to the United States and let "an ex-Taliban envoy with a fourth-grade education and a high-school equivalency" into one of our most lauded universities for the sake of diversity and oneupsmanship.

Why are our universities so durned un-American?

Posted by Sarah at 10:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

SICK

I read something this morning that I can't really get out of my head. I don't really want to write about it, but I can't stop thinking about it. It's the last paragraph of this article in Slate:

And that is why as a Muslim American I am enraged by the publication of these cartoons. Not because they offend my prophet or my religion, but because they fly in the face of the tireless efforts of so many civic and religious leaders—both Muslim and non-Muslim—to promote unity and assimilation rather than hatred and discord; because they play into the hands of those who preach extremism; because they are fodder for the clash-of-civilizations mentality that pits East against West. For all of that I blame Jyllands-Posten. We in the West want Muslim leaders to condemn the racial and religious prejudices that are so widespread in the Muslim world. Let us lead by example.

I for one am getting a little tired of having to lead by example. Terrorists saw off any heads they can get their hands on, but Abu Ghraib is the worst thing that's happened in Iraq. Insurgents regularly hide behind civilians, but an American soldier shoots an insurgent under somewhat dubious conditions and he's raked over the coals. I'm sick and tired of being held to a higher standard.

But more than that, there's something so galling about the phrase "they fly in the face of the tireless efforts of so many civic and religious leaders—both Muslim and non-Muslim—to promote unity and assimilation rather than hatred and discord." Come again? Who's promoting unity? Who's trying to assimilate? The whole freaking Western world has bent over backwards apologizing for non-existant flushed Korans and splashed urine and stupid cartoons. Everyone's apologizing and getting fired and being suspended from school papers; can we point some freaking fingers at those who are burning down embassies, for pete's sake? Promoting unity, my foot. The Free Muslims Coalition held an anti-terrorism rally last May, and guess how many people showed up. Maybe fifty. Fifty. My god, it makes me want to cry. How can this writer actually think that Jyllands-Posten is the Muslim community's biggest problem?

Apparently the cartoons prevented Muslims from assimilating. Give me a break. There's a clash of civilizations going on allright, and I think Islam is winning. Schools are changing their art curriculum because drawing people is against Islam. A Muslim girls' basketball team wants to play other teams, which of course means that all men have to be barred from the arena. In Michigan they're blaring the call to prayer over loudspeakers. If this is a fight between East and West, I often feel like the West is losing. The internet has become a disheartening place for me, where I simply dread reading that half of Palestinians support suicide bombers. Or that Israel should be wiped off the map and the Holocaust never happened. And no one in the West stands up to this nonsense. No one says "We're drawing humans in art class because that's what happens in a flippin' art class and you just have to deal with it." No one holds Muslims to the standard that every other religious group is held to:

Some Christians believe they are required to wear particular sorts of clothing. Some Jews and Muslims don't eat pork. They don't claim that their religion requires other people to wear special clothing or avoid eating pork. Tolerance and ecumenism can only do so much. They have nothing to offer a Muslim in Afghanistan who is personally insulted and enraged about an image that appears in a newspaper in Denmark.

I'm sick and tired of the world tiptoeing around Islam. Hitchens is right: we should stand with Denmark and stand up for our values, instead of apologizing because some drawings made people go completely insane. What is wrong with the world?

I just can't take it anymore.

Posted by Sarah at 11:14 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 15, 2006

BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK

My college roommate senior year was black. She was a nice enough girl, but we had Culture Clash on more than one occasion. One of the most disheartening things I ever witnessed was her relationship with an African student. Not an African-American, an actual African. This guy was one of the most genuine and friendly people I've ever met, and smart too. He and my husband had many business and economics classes together, and he was active in speech/debate. He also belonged to a fraternity. Real nice guy. But apparently he wasn't Black Enough. I had to watch my roommate try to turn him into a thug so he wouldn't be an outcast in the campus black community anymore. She said flat-out that black people didn't really like him and he needed to change his behavior. She "corrected" his speech, advised him to quit his white fraternity and join the black one, and generally nagged the guy about not being truly black. It was a depressing thing to watch. Luckily they eventually broke up, and I hope this guy has done better for himself. He had the potential to be successful, as long as all the "advice" he got didn't sink in.

(This memory prompted by LaShawn Barber.)

Posted by Sarah at 04:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 04, 2006

READY

Well, we finally crossed over the '05-'06 barrier, and now we're less than five months from moving back to the US. Longtime readers will know how we've longed to see this day on the horizon. You know what I'm ready for?

I'm ready to have one vet, one doctor, one optometrist, and one car mechanic, all of whom speak English. Monday I had to go to a German clinic and buy new glasses, all in German. I speak terrible German, but the glasses guy said I speak it better than anyone else he's worked with. That's pathetic. I'm tired of feeling anxious about not knowing words like timing belt and prolonged diarrhea (which the dog had, not me). I'm sick of the sinking feeling in my stomach when I realize I have to go Out Into Germany to take care of business. And I'd really rather get itemized receipts, instead of having the vet hem and haw after he's done with Charlie and go, "Mmm...41 Euro?"

I'm ready to buy a variety of groceries and beauty products. Gruyere cheese? Can't get it at the commissary. Nor can we get tamari, ground poultry, or chipotle chilis. My neighbor, who happens to be the best dentist in the world, suggested I use ACT mouthwash. I bought one bottle and then waited three months for the PX to restock. Finally I gave up and bought it online. Do you know how hard my mom laughed when she heard I had bought seven bottles of mouthwash online? But we can't get it here. They've also been out of Woolite carpet spray for pet stains since July. Sigh.

I'm ready to go to a freaking Taco Bell.

I'm just ready for peace of mind. I'm ready to know that I can buy or do anything I need to. Or I can at least call and ask for information. (Ahh, to make a local call for free -- what a treat.) I'll be able to take care of myself, instead of begging German acquaintences to help me read my mail and call the phone company for me (on the English Hotline, where no one speaks English.)

I'm ready to go home.

Posted by Sarah at 10:05 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 27, 2005

LAZY?

Pericles thinks I'm being unfair in lumping together regular anti-OIF Democrats with the likes of Michael Moore and Cindy Sheehan. I guess he might have more of a point if Michael Moore hadn't sat in the VIP box with Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention. Michael Moore is embraced by Democrat leaders, as Judicious Asininity points out:

DNC Chairman Terry McCauliffe praised Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, as this article by NRO's Byron York makes clear. And McCauliffe wasn't the only ranking Democrat to praise the movie:

In addition to McAuliffe, other Democrats at the Washington screening included Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Montana Sen. Max Baucus, South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, New York Rep. Charles Rangel, Washington Rep. Jim McDermott, and others. Harkin told the Associated Press that all Americans should see the film. "It's important for the American people to understand what has gone on before, what led us to this point, and to see it sort of in this unvarnished presentation by Michael Moore."

Michael Moore isn't nearly as fringe as Pericles apparently would like him to be. Pericles is right that Cindy Sheehan hasn't won the hearts and minds of big-name Democrats, but small-fry Democrats love her and say things like:

Fortunately, the grassroots of the Democratic Party do not agree with Kerry and Clinton. They want the troops out of Iraq. Many claim that this rift between the party grassroots and the D.C. Democrats is a fundamental identity crisis. They see the party as having no legitimate direction. No heart. No soul. They are right.

If Democratic politicians had a soul, they'd be standing shoulder to shoulder with Sheehan's supporters at candlelight vigils across the country. But that won't be happening anytime soon. The Democrats in D.C. aren't even sure Sheehan's actions are justified. They aren't even sure that her son died for an unjust cause.

The futility of the Democrats in Washington grows graver by the day.

They want an overthrow of their party and a major shift to the left. And I don't think it's "intellectually lazy", Pericles, for me to notice this. When John Kerry links to Daily Kos, it indicates acceptance of the "loony left".

Pericles says that "it makes it much easier for you to defend the war if you can depict everyone who opposed it as coming from the looney left", but I know that's not true. Many of my relatives (both my side and my husband's) don't support OIF. Many military wives I know don't support it either. Those people don't have a political reason for their feelings; they simply don't want people they love to have to die for someone else's country. I can get my mind around that feeling, even if I don't share it. They're a similar type of anti-war to Cindy Sheehan, to be honest, though I've never heard any of my relatives blame President Bush. They simply don't want there to be a war.

But people like Murtha and Pelosi are not in this category. They oppose this war on political grounds, and They. Blame. Bush. Just like Cindy Sheehan does. Just like Michael Moore does. Just like Pericles does, I think. Bush hatred has drawn all these people together, and they're all under the Democrats' tent, like it or not.

Posted by Sarah at 11:25 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 21, 2005

SO SAD

One of my favorite bloggers disappears and resurfaces so often I can barely keep up with him. His blog-restarting ritual reminds me of the way the X-man Nightcrawler bamfs into thin air. Since this blogger teleports himself around the blogosphere and pops up where he's least expected, I can no longer keep up with the name of his blog or the name he's using for himself. From here on out, I'm calling him Bamf. (Deal with it, dude.)

Bamf normally deals in humor alone, so I was surprised to find one of the saddest articles I've read in a long time: the excavation of priceless tokens found at a concentration camp:

A child's ring. Twisted reading glasses. A few gold coins: scraps of personal dignity, hurriedly buried in a last act of defiance to keep them from falling into Nazi hands. Israeli archaeologists helped by survivors are writing a new chapter in the terrible history of the German death camp at Majdanek, Poland, by excavating grounds long thought to be empty.

Their findings show how the doomed Jews furiously dug into the grassy ground with their hands to bury what personal possessions they had with them before they were murdered in the camp's gas chambers.

Posted by Sarah at 10:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2005

NUGENT

My friend Erin was outraged when she saw the way Ted Nugent was treated on the Donny Deutsch show. (She's at that point in blogging when the media is really ticking her off.) She told me all about it, so when I clicked over to the rerun of the episode last night, I was intrigued.

I ended up so impressed with the way Nugent defended his positions, and so perturbed at the way Deutsch twisted his words around. As one blogger summarized the show:

Donny Deutsch' interview yesterday with "conservative-libertarian" rockstar Ted Nugent and wife was absolutely priceless. There's no transcript of it online but if I find it I will link it. The bottom line: the Nugents enjoyed being thrown the kind of questions one can expect from a mainstream Manhattan media star who doesn't like gun ownership and "supports the war effor in Iraq, but ...". The Nugents, with a smile on their face, cruised comfortably through the interview while Deutsch was getting visibly irritated as he lost ground as the chat went on.

What absolutely killed me about the interview was Deutsch's condescending smirk the whole time. After every commercial break, he re-introduced the segment as an interview with "ultra-conservative" Ted Nugent. (As if he'd ever introduce someone like Ted Kennedy as ultra-liberal.) And since I agreed with nearly every thing that Ted Nugent said, I found myself wondering if I too am an ultra-conservative. Of course, Donny Deutsch thinks he's completely moderate and middle-of-the-road, even though he was droning on and on about animal rights, gun control, and evil Fox news, the Rocky Marciano for every bias-blind liberal. You could just hear Deutsch's voice dripping with sarcasm, since he obviously thought that the Nugents live in a Fantasy World of human-centric personal responsibility. He snidely asked Mrs. Nugent if "the family who stays on the Right stays together?", to which she cheerfully and good-sportedly replied yes. He also went into a long spiel about how rockers are typically into sex, drugs, and liberal agendas and then asked Ted Nugent how he managed to end up on the "to put it nicely, far right side?" Nugent responded immediately with the most wonderful comeback: "Dicipline."

Nugent had some wonderful quotes. When Deutsch was droning about the poor baby Bambis that Nugent hunts, he asked Nugent if he thinks that animals have any rights at all. Nugent said that "rights are uniquely human", that we should treat animals humanely and with respect, but that they certainly don't have rights. When Deutsch started babbling about mink coats, Nugent laughed and said, "A leather jacket is a fur coat with a haircut."

Naturally, Donny Deutsch thinks Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. Nugent disagreed, citing the flypaper strategy of Iraq -- which he called "baiting the monster" -- and said that the Bush administration should've better articulated this strategy for the public. Deutsch just waved him off with a hand, completely dismissing what he'd said as if he'd not even listened. No fakey-fake "hmm, interesting theory" that talk show hosts normally give, just eye rolling and sighs.

On the topic of personal responsibility, the Nugents started talking about health. The Nugents said that our country has real problems with obesity and smoking, so "how can you demand health care when you don't care for your health?" When Ted Nugent said that lifelong smokers and Krispy Kreme eaters can't just expect the American government to foot their medical bills, Donny Deutsch looked at him like he had a foot growing out of his head. On the topic of gun control, Deutsch kept twisting Nugent's words, as if Nugent wants every fender bender to end in a hail of bullets. Another blogger lays out the ridiculous statistics that Deutsch threw at Nugent, and when Nugent rejected them, Deutsch looked at him with those Fantasy Land Eyes again. When Deutsch asked if the Nugents believe guns should have trigger locks to protect children, Nugent responded by saying that he taught his son that "the trigger lock is in your spirit and mind." That's the most important thing you can teach your child about gun safety, but Deutsch just looked at the Nugents like they were the worst parents in the world.

Incidentally, when the subject of parenting did come up, and when Nugent said that the Osbornes are terrible parents and that Sharon Osborne should be "slapped silly" for the way she lets her children walk all over her, Deutsch had a field day. He started lecturing Nugent on beating women, even though he clearly was using "slapped silly" in its figurative and colloquial sense. And that's when the most important part of the segment happened, in my opinion. Donny Deutsch said something -- and I wish I had been fast enough to write it down verbatim -- about how Ted Nugent has some kooky ideas about gun control, so he wouldn't put it past him to be a wife beater too. That's the scary part. Liberal Donny Deutsch was so out of his element talking to a conservative that he didn't even know what it means to be conservative. He equates Nugent's lifestyle of hunting and self-reliance with some backwards, backwoods notions of male dominance and aggression. Conservative apparently means caveman to Deutsch. By saying that he wouldn't be surprised if Nugent walked up and slapped Sharon Osborne, he laid out a perfect example of how liberal Hollywood types really don't know anything about middle America.

I'm glad I watched the show. Ted Nugent was articulate and entertaining, and Donny Deutsch came off as a huge pansy. I know why Erin got mad at the show, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

UPDATE:

Cali, you can watch it here, though the buffering is acting funny for me.

Posted by Sarah at 12:43 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 06, 2005

FRANCE

Through Right Wing News, I found a Hugh Hewitt interview of Mark Steyn on the riots in France. A few lines really brought back memories:

I went to one of these suburbs that's currently ablaze three years ago. And what was interesting to me is I had to bribe a taxi driver a considerable amount of money just to take me out there. They're miserable places. But what was interesting to me is that after that, I then flew on to the Middle East, and I was in Yemen, and a couple of other places. And what was interesting to me was that I found more menace in the suburbs of Paris than I did in some pretty scary places in the Middle East.
...
They're places where people who are not Muslim feel very ill at ease. They're places where the writ of the French state does not run. The police don't police there. They basically figure if you go there, you're on your own. You're taking your own chances there. I mean, I don't think Americans understand quite the degree of alienation of some of these groups. You know, there's a French cabinet minister whose title is the minister for social cohesion.

I lived in Angers, France, from 1998-1999. Angers has a population of about 150,000, and I lived right on the edge between the city of Angers and one of these Muslim suburbs. And what I experienced as much as French culture was French-Arab culture.

When I went to get my student train discount, the woman at the counter asked me where I lived. The horrified look on her face should've been my first warning, but it wasn't. The real warning came three weeks into my stay as I was walking home alone in the rain at night. A man on a motorbike drove up on the sidewalk and trapped me between a van and the wall. He started speaking too quietly, and as I strained to hear what he was saying, he grabbed my breasts. I twisted his arm around and took off running. Luckily, I ran into the middle of the street in front of an oncoming car, and the man in the car yelled at the motorbike guy while I escaped. Thus began a year of avoiding the people in my neighborhood.

When we rode the bus, people threw trash at us. We witnessed fights when Arab teens tried to pick up girls. One Brit I knew had a knife put to his throat on a bus. The bus drivers let the Arabs smoke on the bus because if they gave them some concessions, they might be spared real trouble.

When we went to the neighborhood grocery store, young boys (around 12 yrs old) threatened to kill us. One evening while I was on the pay phone, some teens knocked on the glass and said, "Tell your boyfriend that when you get off the phone, we're gonna rape you."

I know that a lot of my problems with France were actually problems with French Arabs. But I lived about half a mile from a police station, and not once did I see a police car check out the area. A man tried to grab me on the street a stone's throw from a police station, which says something about how scared these punks are of the authorities.

France has major problems that have been festering for years. As I watched the footage of these Arabs throwing stones at the public bus, I was not surprised. I'm just surpised it didn't happen sooner.

You know, we kept hearing all this stuff ever since September 11th, you know, the Muslim street is going to explode in anger. Well, it finally did, and it was in Paris, not in the Middle East.

Read all of Steyn's interview, and be very afraid for France.

Posted by Sarah at 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 26, 2005

SAD JOKE

I'm sick and tired of people picking on Condoleezza Rice for not being black enough. Powerline cuts to the core of a very depressing and demeaning op-ed about how Rice just doesn't get it. According to Eugene Robinson, she was too busy playing the piano to understand racism, and she lives in this Fantasy World where people are judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin, which apparently is a bad thing.

Last night I caught an episode of The Chappelle Show that I'd never seen before. It included a "race draft", a humorous take on sports drafts where different races chose multi-racial people to belong to their group. (For example, Tiger Woods was drafted by the black race, defining him once and for all as black.) When the white group came to the podium, they drafted Colin Powell. The black race said they'd negotiate a trade: they'd throw in Condoleezza if they could have Eminem.

I know it's just a joke, but it's a shame there's an element of truth to it. It's sad commentary that the black race would rather embrace Eminem than Rice and Powell, two of the most educated and powerful people on the planet.

Posted by Sarah at 10:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

THE NEED

Amritas writes about how the need for a foreign language can be an indicator of success (I'm really oversimplifying his post here; it's much more interesting in its entirety). One of my friends emailed me last week. We haven't talked in a while, which became obvious to me when she said, "I imagine your German's probably awesome by now!"

Before I moved here, I couldn't understand how people could be stationed in Germany or Korea and come home not speaking the language. Now I completely understand this. Until you see how a military community operates, it's hard to really imagine it. My Swedish friend bought me a German paperback book as a gift when she came to visit two years ago. At the end of her weekend here, she apologized for giving me the book, saying that she didn't realize how American my life still was, even though I was smack dab in the middle of Europe.

We speak only English all day long. We spend dollars at our stores, where we can buy 110-volt appliances and Region 1 DVDs. My husband and I don't have any German friends except for a few wives, most of whom speak English quite well and sit around moaning about how they'd rather be in Kentucky where they could go to Walmart at 10 PM. We don't need to speak German.

That said, we try to speak it whenever we're out on the town. We do just fine with our restaurant and department store vocabulary. Sometimes we get the Rolled Eye Treatment from German shopkeepers who'd rather conduct business in English anyway, like last weekend when I started giving someone my address in German and she looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. I sighed and repeated the exact same thing in English, at which point she finally wrote it down. The Germans in our area don't want us to speak German, so it's an uphill battle with the girl in the train station who begged, "Can you please just speak English so this will go faster?" when I tried to purchase a train ticket in German.

We're perfectly capable of learning German. I learned French and Swedish just fine, and my husband taught himself basic Arabic, for pete's sake. But the motivation just isn't there, because the reward for speaking German on the economy is rolled eyes and groans. So why bother?

(This is not to excuse those people who rave on and on about how much they loooove living in Europe but don't even bother to learn how to order food from a menu. I hate when we run into those types when we're out on the town. If you want to homestead here permanently and be a Squatter after you retire, then learn freaking German, you boors.)

Posted by Sarah at 11:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 18, 2005

UN

OK, here's what I don't get. The top google hits for a search on Mugabe include the phrases "Zimbabwe strongman", "descent into dictatorship", "people dying in Zimbabwe", and "Mugabe's terror campaign". He's banned from entering the EU, except for when he's invited by the UN, like he was Monday for the 60th anniversary of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. So Mugabe, dictator of a country where "an estimated 3.8 million people" are starving, has this to say in front of the UN (via LGF):

Mr Mugabe used his speech to lambast President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose governments have been among his severest critics.

"Must we allow these men, the two unholy men of our millennium, who in the same way as Hitler and Mussolini formed [an] unholy alliance, form an alliance to attack an innocent country?" asked Mr Mugabe, apparently referring to Iraq.

"The voice of Mr Bush and the voice of Mr Blair can't decide who shall rule in Zimbabwe, who shall rule in Africa, who shall rule in Asia, who shall rule in Venezuela, who shall rule in Iran, who shall rule in Iraq," he said.

And what did the UN do after he went on this tirade that had nothing to do with feeding the hungry?

Some delegates to the Rome meeting applauded Mr Mugabe's condemnation of the Western leaders on several occasions during his speech and then at the end.

So a real life dictator goes to the UN to call Bush and Blair dictators? And people clap? The UN is such a joke.

Hey, Mugabe. Maybe you'd better look at your own tactics before you start pointing dictator fingers at others. I'd say "using violence and murder as an electoral strategy" is a far cry from Bush and Blair. But hey, you seem to fit in fine with the Oil For Food crowd.

Please, can we just end this charade that is the UN?

Posted by Sarah at 09:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 09, 2005

CRASH

We watched the movie Crash last night. It was horrifying.

I went into this movie blind: the only thing I knew about it was that people thought it was good. I didn't realize that the entire thing was about race. And boy do I mean it was about race. Everything the characters say and do is racially motivated. Every scene is about race. The bottom line in this movie is that we're all racists.

Am I really too naive? I thought this movie was completely unrealistic. I'm sorry, but the DA's advisor is simply not going to mutter "f-ing black people" to a black detective. No way, no how. I'm not denying that we haven't all felt ourselves in these characters' shoes at one point or another, but the downright racist things they utter in every scene are over the top; people just don't talk openly like that. A white man might inwardly grumble about affirmative action, but he's not going to openly belittle the black woman working for the HMO.

I was disappointed with this movie because I had high hopes, and we don't rent movies that often. But I just can't enjoy a program where I hate all the characters, and the only guy I could stand in this movie was the locksmith.

I've never been to LA -- maybe LA is from Mars and the Midwest is from Venus -- but this can't be real life. People just don't think about race every waking second.

Posted by Sarah at 10:04 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

October 08, 2005

DALLAS

I was too young to watch Dallas, but thanks to the magic of DVDs, I've been enjoying that bit of TV history. I mentioned to my husband that it's interesting how simple the plotlines are. To a generation raised on M. Night Shyamalan and CSI, the thought that you could base an hour of TV around "Jock has a heart attack" seems amazing. Dallas is not boring by any means, but it's sure not fast-paced TV like we're used to.

My husband told me about the pending movie plans for Dallas. I had no idea this was in the works, but now that I know the characters, I certainly can't see Brad Pitt as Ray Krebbs! My friend and I were talking the other day about how the idea of beauty shifts over time. We remarked that Charlene Tilton would never have been cast as Lucy today, because by today's standards she's fat. Even though she's not fat at all; she's voluptuous and womanly. I was grossed out to find that they're thinking of casting Lindsey Lohan as Lucy for the movie. Maybe Lohan circa 2004, but not now. There's just no way I'd choose this

lohan.jpg

when Lucy's supposed to look like this

lucy.jpg

Give me a curvy, thicky-thick Lucy any day. And a JR who looks like Travolta.

Posted by Sarah at 11:35 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

ARGUMENT CULTURE

Jack Army is a saint of a blogger. He often points to views that he thinks can enhance grokking, not just stuff he agrees with. And he takes a lot of flak for it, as the extensive comments on another post about females in the military indicate.

I just finished reading the book The Argument Culture. Tannen's premise is that we set everything up as a battle in our society. Shows like Crossfire and Pardon the Interruption are typical examples of how people are pitted against each other to fight on TV for our entertainment. We live in a culture that values debate and naturally frames our issues as two warring sides (e.g. the battle of the sexes).

The argument culture urges us to approach the world--and the people in it -- in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done:the best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to cover news is to find spokespeople who express the most extreme, polarized views and present them as "both sides"; the best way to settle disputes is litigation that pits one party against the other; the best way to begin an essay is to attack someone; and the best way to show you're really thinking is to criticize.

This book was published in 1998; I'd love to hear Tannen's take on blog comment sections. She talks about the technology that makes email impersonal and incognito, moreso than any other communication that our parents/grandparents had before us. The comment sections on blogs takes this to an all new extreme. Fake names and fake email addresses make it possible for people to hide behind a cloak of anonymity...and to say whatever they want in order to win the argument.

Tim left blogging because of the Death of Civility, a theme I return to often here when the argument culture of blogging gets to be too much for me. When you read the comments section over at Jack Army's blog, you see how women behave in a way they'd never behave if they were face to face. The safety of anonymous comments gives them the guts -- or nerve -- to lash out at fellow human beings. And these are 1) all women who are 2) in or married to the military. They have common ground, yet the insults start flying from the safety of their own keyboards.

And Tannen is sure right that the issue of women in the miltary immediately becomes an "us vs. them" dichotomy. The comments section quickly breaks into two camps fighting against each other; instead of finding ways they could agree about women's role in the military, they focus on ways they disagree. Sadly, it becomes an "I'm all right and you're all wrong" type of fight, when in fact there could be a lot of grey area if they really tried to find it.

Interestingly enough, Tannen would say -- and I agree -- that this fight would probably never happen face to face. In a social setting, these women would find conciliatory ways to discuss the issue without labeling every female soldier as a slut and every military wife as a jealous hag whose husband is probably cheating on her. These women likely wouldn't dream of making that generalization publicly in front of women who belong in the opposite group, but they have no qualms about making those statements in an anonymous comments section.

It's fascinating really, this death of civility. And quite scary as well.


(Important disclaimer: I too am a blogger, and blogging lends itself to disagreeing; I am not an impartial reader pointing fingers at the women at Jack Army's blog. These are things that I just finished reading and need to digest some more and apply to my own writing, though I think I'm already averse to namecalling and flaming. I'm just surprised that I found such a telling example of this argument culture phenomenon a mere two hours after I finished the book.)

Posted by Sarah at 11:25 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

ADVERSITY

It rained non-stop over the weekend, which is a real pain when you have a dog. I dreaded the moments when he'd go to the door and ask to be let out, because it meant raincoats and shoes and muddy puppy feet.

But that's the worst thing I have to deal with in my life right now.

From The 3rd World View (via LaRochelle via Poretto):

Bangladesh faces this kinds of tragedy [i.e. hurricanes] every year and still it is a developing not a stagnant country. The media do not propagate the courage and efforts many Bangladeshis show each year to start their life all over. If the calamities would not only be the central idiom of the media, the world could have learnt many tips for tackling these kind of calamities.

Daniel Brett writes a striking post "What America can learn from Bangladesh":

"Last year Bangladesh faced a natural disaster which was an altogether larger disaster than Hurricane Katrina and the casualty figures were probably lower than the casualties sustained in the New Orleans disaster. But the disaster was contained due to the survival instincts of the Bangladeshi people, their ingenuity in the face of adversity and their culture of hard work. Rather than shoot and loot, Bangladesh immediately used its modest resources to limit the impact of the floods before international aid arrived.

The fact that the economy was able to recover from the floods so soon is a testament to the ability of Bangladeshis to pick themselves up and go about rebuilding.

The Americans have never really faced such adversity...Bangladeshis place great importance to social and family ties and these have brought them through a multitude of natural and man-made disasters. Bangladesh's experiences show us that, in the face of disaster, money does not make society more cohesive or better organised."


On the whole, Americans know very little about adversity. When the husband and I were talking about this last night, he said that whenever he starts to feel like his life sucks, he remembers the people of Iraq. These are people who faced death threats and drive-bys, people who could be the only surviver in a vehicle attack and still come in to work the next day. These are people who love nothing better than clean bottled water; even folks as high on the food chain as the mayors would gush over a bottle of water, my husband said. He remembers these things when he starts to feel his priorities slipping.

I'm glad we live in a country where death and destruction aren't rampant, where the worst I have to deal with is a smelly wet dog. But perhaps it makes us short on the gumption it takes to overcome real adversity, the gumption our forefathers had to leave everything and come to the New World. That's a bad thing to forget...

Posted by Sarah at 04:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

WHAT?

I'm not sure I think it's very fair that the New Orleans police worked their butts off for a week and now want paid vacation since the national guard showed up. The guardsmen were brought home early from Iraq, which means they've been working their butts off for a year. And the police get the all-expense paid vacations?

My husband worked every day around the clock for nine months before he was allowed two weeks of R&R, which were deducted from his vacation days. And the police can't work at this pace for one week before they need time off?

Apparently they need some days at home to sift through all the loot they stole from Wal-Mart.

Posted by Sarah at 08:10 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 01, 2005

STEALING

I once dated a boy with a confusing value system. His philosophy on stealing was that if you don't safeguard your belongings, you deserve to have them stolen. He absolved the thief of wrongdoing and placed the responsibility of ownership squarely on the owner. If a store didn't have security cameras, how could thieves be blamed for taking advantage of such a system? I quickly realized that he and I would never have common ground and that the relationship was doomed to fail. How can you possibly build when mommy says stealing is bad and daddy says it's OK? There was no future in that relationship.

I was reminded of him yesterday as I watched the footage of the looting in New Orleans. I cannot fathom what was going through those people's minds. What made them think that it was acceptable to steal merchandise just because the windows were broken? In whose worldview is it OK to steal during a national tragedy? In a time when all feared for their lives, individuals were cashing in on misery.

CNN currently has a poll up: "Can looting be defended by neccessity?" Right now, the vote is split 45/55% towards No. But the problem is that many people weren't stealing out of necessity. We're not talking Jean Valjean and his loaf of bread here; we're talking cash and jewelery.

Looting broke out in some New Orleans neighborhoods, prompting authorities to send more than 70 additional officers and an armed personnel carrier into the city. One police officer was shot in the head by a looter, but was expected to recover, said Sergeant Paul Accardo, a police spokesman.

On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Mississippi, people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses.

Someone shot a policeman in the head over this. That is not necessity; that is greed. That is stealing, justified in someone's warped mind because The Man was too busy saving lives to guard the stores.

That's disgusting.

Posted by Sarah at 10:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 28, 2005

HEAD SEWN TO THE CARPET

I honestly thought that nothing the PC crowd could do would shock me anymore.

I was wrong.

Millions of Lutherans will be able to sing a new song -- actually some 300 new songs -- to the Lord in an updated worship book that offers more options for contemporary worship and less emphasis on exclusively masculine images of God. [emphasis mine]

...

Denise Leslie, a delegate from Hope Lutheran Church in Cleveland Heights, said using language for God that includes women is important because "when you hear gender-neutral, things suddenly become more clear and comfortable."

Ho.Ly.Crap. Church has gone politically correct.

Posted by Sarah at 03:20 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 20, 2005

LIES

I started thinking today about lies. Why is it that we seem to have an endless parade of adults charging liar-liar-pants-on-fire?

Just because you're ignorant doesn't mean the other person is a liar. That was the case when we played Scattergories: people had never heard of the German city we used, and so they called us liars. Moreover, just because you want something to be false doesn't mean the other person is a liar. That was the case with Grey Eagle, where she and her other commenters insisted that I am a liar, even when I gave proof (in the form of URLs to slutty websites that female soldiers were running). And just because someone turned out to be wrong, doesn't mean he's a liar. That's the charge that President Bush faces every day: googling Bush lies brings 7.5 million hits, even when the Clinton administration was also convinced there were WMDs.

What is the problem here? Why are grown-ups running around with less class and manners than the 7th graders I taught? Why is civility dead?

Maybe calling someone a liar makes these people feel better about themselves and their shaky hold on truth. As Pirsig said, people are typically only zealous about things that are uncertain. But I get so sick and tired of the liar charge. Can't we all try to behave like adults?

Posted by Sarah at 07:52 AM | Comments (34) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

USELESS

Apparently the Left thinks that in order to properly gain support for their anti-war beliefs, they need to repeat the word "useless", specifically in reference to Cindy Sheehan's son's "useless sacrifice" in Iraq.

In my life, I have known many people who have died before their time. Car accidents, drugs, suicide, drowning, and murder have taken people I knew and cared about. So did the game Red Rover, when my brother's friend died when tightly linked arms made him fall and hit his head. There's nothing more senseless or "useless" than dying during a game at Vacation Bible School. Young people die from being impaled with a golf club or mauled by the family dog. Those deaths are useless indeed.

I submit that dying in Iraq is about one of the most noble deaths for a young man or woman. There's no honor in getting hit by a bus, but the sacrifice that these soldiers and marines are making is anything but useless. These 1853 Americans have died for the good of not only their own country but for the good of Iraq. They have died so that others can be free.

That's about the most useFUL sacrifice a man can make.


MORE TO GROK:

Our nation's sons have given their lives so that Iraq's mothers can find peace.

Posted by Sarah at 10:33 AM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

August 08, 2005

WHY WE FIGHT

I saw an AFN commercial today about Frank Capra's Why We Fight movies. Apparently Capra used clips of Hitler's speeches to explain what we were up against. I noticed the stark contrast between Why We Fight and a series of commercials that runs on AFN called Why We're Here. These commercials are all about the feel-good stuff that's going on in Iraq: school openings, meetings with Iraqi councilmen, playing with children. These commercials are interesting, but they sure have a different focus than Why We Fight.

Let's make a movie out of LGF. Someone get footage of imams around the world calling for the death of Americans. Let's add Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl, mixed with Saddam chopping off hands. How 'bout the folks who were cheering in the streets on 9/11? Or footage of those Hamas training camps? And let's show Why We Fight.

If we never demonize the enemy, we'll never truly mobilize.

Posted by Sarah at 07:50 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack

July 29, 2005

FATWA

I sat down to write about how North American Muslims are issuing a fatwa against terrorism. It's about time, I say. The article states

Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington and a member of the Fiqh council, said: "We hear from our fellow Americans very often that Muslims have not spoken aggressively about terrorism, that Muslims have not made their voices very clear. I disagree. Muslims have made their voices very clear from day one. So maybe we needed to do more. The more you do, the more you realize you need to do."

Anyone who's ever read LGF knows that these Muslim voices have never been clear. Hmm, what does LGF have to say about this anyway? Oh: The American Islamic Leaders' "Fatwa" is Bogus. Great.

In fact, the fatwa is bogus. Nowhere does it condemn the Islamic extremism ideology that has spawned Islamic terrorism. It does not renounce nor even acknowledge the existence of an Islamic jihadist culture that has permeated mosques and young Muslims around the world. It does not renounce Jihad let alone admit that it has been used to justify Islamic terrorist acts. It does not condemn by name any Islamic group or leader. In short, it is a fake fatwa designed merely to deceive the American public into believing that these groups are moderate. In fact, officials of both organizations have been directly linked to and associated with Islamic terrorist groups and Islamic extremist organizations. One of them is an unindicted co-conspirator in a current terrorist case; another previous member was a financier to Al-Qaeda.

Where are the moderate Muslim groups? I keep hearing how Muslims are afraid of being branded as extremists, how not all Muslims are terrorists, how Muslims fear for their lives because of the actions of a few...but where are the moderate Muslim voices to stand up and say enough is enough? Kalroy found some of these voices, but like him I too am waiting for the Million Muslim March. We need more of this and we need it to be more publicized. I'm waiting for someone to stand up and say that we won't tolerate this:

bomb.jpg

That's an x-ray of one of the bombs from London. Whoever devised this bomb -- loaded with nails to inflict maximum damage on innocent Londoners -- is a monster. Remember the other day when I talked about umbrellas? Moderate Muslims are under an ugly umbrella with terrorists, and I for one would like to see them issue a real fatwa against these atrocities.

Posted by Sarah at 11:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 13, 2005

GRRR

Last night my husband and I had a meeting with a financial advisor, and the longer I sat through the meeting, the madder I got. You have a ROTH IRA, you get taxed in the end. You have a regular IRA, you get taxed now. You die with money and you have all these death taxes to pay.

Why, oh why, are people punished for saving their money wisely?

Forget "what would Jesus do"; I find myself often wondering What Would Our Founding Fathers Think? How would they react to knowing that, because my husband and I saved all his deployment money instead of spending it on big screen TVs and cars, we now have to fork over taxes to the government if we want to invest it?

It's our money, dang it.

Posted by Sarah at 10:51 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 11, 2005

TOUR DE BLAH

Dear Tour de France,

Riders in the Tour should not be allowed to wear yellow. Sponsors with yellow jerseys make it extremely difficult to find the Maillot Jaune. Because other teams wear yellow, some people drive four and a half hours to see the peloton and can't even find Lance when it comes whizzing by. And that makes some people really irritated and sad.

Sincerely,
Sarah


We drove to Mulhouse yesterday for the finish line, and I was quite disappointed with my Tour experience. We waited for two hours at our spot at about 750 meters from the finish line, and then when Rasmussen finally arrived, this is the photo I got, thanks to the jackass standing next to me.

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That's the winner of the stage, right behind the stupid balloon some guy waved in my face. I managed to get a good photo of Voigt and Moreau as they took second and third, but then the peloton came screaming by and I couldn't even find Lance, but I got to listen to my husband rave about how cool it was to see him. And then it was all over; only the people in the VIP section could see the end ceremonies, so we walked back to the car and that was that.

We discussed how the Americans would run a Tour de France: lots of big screens and food vendors and selling souvenirs and crap; a big stadium area for the end ceremony so everyone could enjoy it. As it was, we felt like no one really cared if spectators came or not. It was kinda weird, and rather disappointing.

I'm glad we went because it was something neat to say we've done, but I'm not sure it was worth nine hours in the car yesterday. I'd rather watch it on OLN.

Posted by Sarah at 08:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 08, 2005

T-SHIRT

I got an email from Mrs. Sims today. She belongs to a support group for OEF and OIF widows. Apparently most of their correspondence deals with anti-war messages they see and hear, things that would have made their husbands cringe. Mrs. Sims was especially appalled by a t-shirt she saw and the accompanying message from its creator:

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The background of this image is created by the names of about 1,700 U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq between March 21, 2003 and June 13, 2005. The names are in alphabetical order, with half the names on the front, and the other half on the back. The names are small, but easily read without magnification.

I think of this product as both a scathing indictment of George W. Bush and a memorial to the brave young soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq on behalf of their country. Perhaps someday they will get the memorial they deserve in Washington. Until then, this will have to suffice.

This t-shirt is not a monument to soldiers; if it were, the Bush slur would have been left off. You made this t-shirt for selfish reasons, as you admit later. Don't even try to sugarcoat it.

Bush is most famous for lying about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was this lie that arguably was most responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, not to mention thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

But Bush has lied in many other areas as well, from denying global warming to boasting about an improving economy that is actually on the skids. His lies are legion, and have spawned a cottage industry of books including The Lies of George W. Bush by David Corn and Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them by Al Franken.

Blah blah blah. If you want to make an anti-Bush shirt, do it. Just leave the fallen soldiers and their families out of it. Putting their names on your shirt implies that they support the message you're peddling for twenty bucks a pop...

I want to acknowledge that a number of relatives of fallen soldiers have contacted me to express their displeasure (or disgust) with the products I sell that bear the names of their loved ones.

Uh, gee, ya think? I know a few of those names, and I'm disgusted; can you guess how disgusted their wives and mothers and brothers are?

I admit that I did not contact the families of soldiers to get their permission. This would have been a monumental exercise, and would no doubt have proved impractical given the differing opinions among various family members.

It would've been too hard and most of them would've said no, so I just went ahead and did what I want regardless.

Of course, this product is not meant to be a statement on behalf of the families or the fallen soldiers. It is a statement on behalf of those who believe that this war was a tragic and terrible mistake -- and not an innocent mistake.

Ah, there's the selfish reason. You didn't make this t-shirt as a monument to the fallen, as you claimed in the beginning of your justification. You made it to prove your own point, using the names of people who don't agree with you and probably would like to punch you in the face if they ever met you. Hope you feel good about that.

I should also like to point out that many of the soldiers who died in Iraq believed that they were fighting for democracy. Democracy is built in large part on freedom of speech. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects these products, and all such similar examples of free speech.

Why does this remind me of the South Park commercial against Harbucks Coffee? ("It's time to stop large corporations. Prop Ten is about children. Vote yes on Prop Ten or else you hate children. You don't hate children, do you?") If you don't like this shirt, well then you must not believe in democracy and free speech and stuff. Oh, and you're disrespecting your husbands because, naturally, they would've fought to the death for my right to make this t-shirt. Isn't that how the saying goes?

Finally, I would like to express my sincere condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones in this war. No matter what they believed, or which side they were on, those who died will be missed.

Dan R. Frazier

In the end, as disgusted as I feel that Mrs. Sims knows her husband's name is on a shirt that makes her sick, I'm sure that the owners of these shirts will someday be ashamed. When Iraq is on her feet, as Germany and Japan are today, these shirts will have been burned or hidden. I'm confident that history will justify CPT Sims, not Dan Frazier.

Nonetheless, I send my condolences to all of the spouses, parents, and siblings of those whose names appear on this nauseating t-shirt. I know this shirt is not in our name.

Posted by Sarah at 11:52 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 02, 2005

ABUSE

Look at all the abuse going on at Gitmo! Abuse against the soldiers, that is. And look at the punishments solders get for fighting back against the prisoners: demotion, garnished wages, extra duty, etc. What a gulag...

Posted by Sarah at 06:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

1890

Here's a Reuters article that really chaps my hide, via LGF:

World’s oldest person celebrates 115th birthday

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutch woman who swears by a daily helping of herring for a healthy life celebrated her 115th birthday on Wednesday as the oldest living person on record.

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, a former needlework teacher, was born in 1890, the year Sioux Indians were massacred by the U.S. military at the Battle of Wounded Knee.

WHAT??? I supposed they're trying to give us some sort of frame of reference for just how old she is, but let's look at what else happened in 1890, events Reuters skipped in order to use Wounded Knee:

Oscar Wilde publishes The Picture of Dorian Gray
Otto von Bismarck dismissed
Idaho is admitted as the 43rd state
Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park established
US stops minting $1 & $3 gold coin & 3¢ piece
Daughters of the American Revolution founded
Ellis Island opens as a US immigration depot

And the list goes on. Heck, Reuters could've said that this woman was born the year before basketball was invented! All of these give us a frame of reference as well; why Wounded Knee?

Posted by Sarah at 09:47 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 03, 2005

SEMANTICS

It's not really possible to count how many words there are in the English language, but it's a lot. And many people agree that English has more words than most other world languages. Anecdotally, I remember noticing the problem when I was learning French and I wanted to distinguish between jump, hop, and leap; French only has the one jumping verb. There's no distinction in Swedish between winking and blinking, though I'm sure flirters would disagree.

English has plenty of words to describe everything quite accurately, which is why I get so angry when people start conflating the definitions of words. I'm mad that what happened at Abu Ghraib gets labeled as "torture" when we have the word "humiliation" to differentiate the two concepts. The word torture loses its specific meaning when it covers the spectrum, just as jump shouldn't cover both leaps and hops.

I've been especially mad this week over the misuse of the word "gulag" by Amnesty International. "Gulag" is a very specific word used to describe a very specific type of penal system. It is entirely not appropriate for discussing Guantanamo Bay.

The Jawa Report has a well-researched post about what exactly a gulag is. We have plenty of words in the English language to accurately define the differences between the gulag and Gitmo; let's use them.

Posted by Sarah at 08:21 AM | Comments (2)

June 02, 2005

SIGH

Amritas points to an article about "a Los Angeles school board proposal to require all high school students to take college prep courses." One paragraph caught my eye:

Campbell pointed out that some of the students excel in the school's culinary and performing arts classes. But because most of those classes don't qualify as college prep courses, she worries that students will miss out on those subjects.

I missed out on several things in my high school because I was taking college prep. I sure would have benefitted more from typing and computer classes than chemistry! We didn't have culinary classes, but I would've liked to take one.

Know what I do now that I'm an Army wife with two degrees? Cook and type.

I have a friend here on post who quit college when she decided to get married. While her husband was in Basic and AIT, she went to cosmetology school. She makes way more money cutting hair in her home than I did teaching college English. She has a skill that's marketable no matter where she moves, while I'm stuck because apparently I need a PhD to do what I want to do. It wouldn't even have to be in anything related to teaching college English; I just have to have the piece of paper that says I studied something.

So I'm a housewife who cooks and types instead.

I guess it suits me just fine though. If I had it to do all over again, I would've studied mechanical engineering like my dad. I always loved physics. But at least the way things are now, I'm not too bummed to be locked out of a job that only paid me $800 per month in a system that was extremely frustrating. Moreover, I don't necessarily think that Army wifeing and careers go hand in hand. My first loyalty is to the military and my second is to my own job prospects. Not surprisingly, being an out-of-work professor fits easily with our PCS rotation :)

Posted by Sarah at 10:46 AM | Comments (3)

SAD

One of the most depressing blogs out there is Babalu Blog. I swear every time I go there, I feel like crying, and today is no exception. Val Prieto got to talk with a Cuban who's visiting the US. Commenter Kathleen summed up how I too felt after reading this story: "All this time we've been saying how fidel has ruined Cuba, turned it to shit. The truth of it makes me weep. I can't think of a word in English, or Espanol that expresses how much I'd like to see castro gone. What can we say to this visitor? Yes, we know what has happened to your country, how much your people have suffered. Sorry, the world just doesn't care. Sometimes I'm truly ashamed to be human."

Posted by Sarah at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2005

MOVIES

Hud writes about the death of the movie theater. My husband and I went to the movies twice while we were home, but it's eight bucks a pop these days! For the price of the two of us, we can buy the movie instead and watch it as many times as we want. I much prefer going here on post, where the price is cheap and the National Anthem is rockin'.

Also, I'm a nerd, and I prefer to watch movies at home because I can knit.

Posted by Sarah at 10:42 AM | Comments (2)

May 26, 2005

OH, HUSH

Bunker heard another ridiculous statement about how someone's freedom of speech was being trampled. Seriously, do people even know what that means? Have we become so comfortable in our Sanctuary that we can't even discern real oppression, real torture, or real human rights violations? Remember when I was reading The Gulag Archipelago? Remember how the first person to stop clapping at a tribute to Comrade Stalin, after 11 minutes of straight clapping, was sent to the gulag? Or the woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to walk past a truck full of bodies? Or the man who had doodled on a newspaper photo of Stalin? All of them gone. Disappeared. Dead. That's a freaking example of not having freedom of speech. Heck, even Europe's closer than we are, where Oriana Fallaci can be prosecuted for being "offensive to Islam" in her book.

Anyone in the US who barks "freedom of speech" doesn't even know the meaning of the term. They live to see another day, don't they? They don't go to trial for the things they've said, do they?

They need a civics lesson.

Posted by Sarah at 07:10 AM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2005

TRANSLATING

This Amritas post about translating reminded me of a class I took in France. I signed up for it because it was called "Communication et Langage", but I didn't realize until I was weeks into the class that it was under the science dicipline and was a course about animal communication (I kept thinking we'd do a bit on animals and then make it to humans: we made it as far as gorillas.) One exciting aspect of the class was that my animal knowledge was pretty poor. I found that I could understand everything in the class except for the names of the animals. So I would write down what I thought I was hearing and then try to guess what animal it was by the description of how they communicate! And then I'd get home and look in a dictionary and go, "Oh, badgers!" It was a funny language learning experience because I knew everything in the sentences except for the key word!

Translating is hard, by the way. When I lived in France, my mother and uncle came to visit me, and we all went to visit my relatives. One elderly relative was very witty and was always making jokes and references to things that happened hours prior, and my mom and uncle always wanted to know why everyone was laughing. Then all the French relatives wanted to know why it took me three paragraphs to explain a one-liner...usually because I had to explain something that had happened two days before that I hadn't translated back then because I didn't think it was important. My brain was so tired at the end of that week.

When we first moved here to Germany, I was hard at work translating a Swedish play. I got twenty typed pages done before I got my job, and I haven't touched it since. I want to finish it after we get home from our vacation; I enjoy translating as a hobby, though I doubt I'm that good at it. I started translating this play because it's so good that I want others to be able to read it, and I can't even find an original Swedish copy, much less one in English translation. So I decided to make my own. I wish I could translate my favorite Swedish book too.

Posted by Sarah at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

JERKS

Teaching 7th grade has made me think a lot lately about parenthood. It scares the bejesus out of me, to be honest. I look at all these kids all day long, and I worry that my kid could be a jerk. I honestly think some aspects of it are luck-of-the-draw. Sergents' kids are jerks and captains' kids are jerks. White kids are jerks and black kids are jerks. Boys are jerks and girls are jerks. I really don't know what it is that makes a kid act like a complete fool, but I am scared to death that my own kid will be a jerk someday. 7th grade has really shut down my maternal instinct.

Posted by Sarah at 03:53 PM | Comments (8)

April 09, 2005

SKEPTICAL

I have been thoroughly enjoying the book The Skeptical Environmentalist. It's amazing how things that we've been told our whole lives -- the "litany", as Lomborg calls it -- are not exactly true, or at least not exactly testable. Acid rain? Didn't happen. Exxon Valdez? Not as bad as everyone claimed. 40,000 species extinct every year? Ha. Global warming? Well, I'm just starting that chapter, but so far it's pretty untestable. It's an amazing read because one-third of the book is references and endnotes; Lomborg did his research. I'm disgusted by what makes it into science without sources.

Much of what Lomborg points out is the cost-benefit analysis of environmental issues. Sure we could save ocean-dwelling amoebas by banning fertilizer, but at what cost? Recycling paper might seem like you're helping the environment, but for the cost and effort, it's apparently better to burn the paper and plant new trees. I like Lomborg's approach of balancing nature and cost.

If you're interested, the introduction chapter is available on Lomborg's website. It's a good read.

Posted by Sarah at 02:34 PM | Comments (8)

March 18, 2005

STUPICA

Today the husband and I took a day trip to Nuernberg. We visited two very polar things: the oldest bratwurst restaurant in the world (dating back to 1419) and the Neues Museum, a museum of modern art. The bratwursts were awesome, and we intend to visit that restaurant again. The museum...well, I often think modern art should be called "weirdo art".

Back in the day, artists were praised for how closely their art could ressemble reality. Art was good if the shading was correct, the proportion was in perspective, and the figures actually looked like human beings. I'm no art connoisseur, but I figure that's the gist. Art was supposed to be beautiful. The Coronation of Napoleon is beautiful. George Washington Crossing the Delaware, though wrong, is beautiful. And I can even get a bit more modern. Some van Gogh is nice. I like La Grande Jatte. One time in college there was a student exhibit and one person had put together this sculpture with all different clear glass cubes filled with things: buttons, cotton, twigs, fireants, flower petals, string, etc. I was fascinated with that piece, and I even went and got my husband from his dorm room and dragged him back to see it. I loved that thing, even if it was weird. But what I saw today took weird to eleven.

If you zip-tie a bunch of old blankets together, is it art? If you spraypaint the body of a VW Bug silver, is it art? If you paint a giant canvas only green, is it art? Is a display of cell phones? When you enter a museum, you're supposed to be able to tell if something is a bench to sit on or a piece of art. But the straw that broke Andy Warhol's back for me was art by Gabrijel Stupica. I just don't understand.

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Old timey classic art was art because it took extreme talent and skill. I can't draw a Rembrandt. But this? Who decided that this was art? How did Stupica become famous? I don't understand modern art because I don't understand who decides that it's good. There were perhaps three things that I liked in the Neues Museum, and the rest was just weird or lame. The ones I liked, I wanted to stare at. But I still don't understand why they're art.

And then we went to a restaurant that people have been eating at since they thought the earth was flat...

Posted by Sarah at 07:09 PM | Comments (5)

March 13, 2005

HYPE

The husband and I watched FahrenHype 9/11 yesterday. I thought it was a very good rebuttal to the Michael Moore movie, and I'm sad that nearly no one in the US will see it. Why can't FahrenHype 9/11 get the theater time that the original did? I personally thought it was better made anyway. The whole time I was watching, I kept wishing that my Swedish friend could see it, since she got treated to Fahrenheit 9/11 on German prime time TV the night before the American election.

I felt the worst for the soldier who lost both of his arms; he had no idea he was in Fahrenheit 9/11. His footage was from an interview conducted with Brian Williams in which he explained what it feels like to lose a limb. His statements had nothing to do with the war or politics, and he certainly wasn't talking to Michael Moore. Moore used the footage without consulting this soldier, which is completely despicable in my eyes. Many of the people in Fahrenheit 9/11 had no idea they were going to be in a Michael Moore movie.

Moore is sneaky and corrupt. I wish more people could see FahrenHype 9/11 so they can get a more balanced view of the truth.

Posted by Sarah at 11:17 AM | Comments (4)

February 15, 2005

GRRR

I think this is disgusting. In a comparative religion class, no one should be forced to bless Muhammad. Must they also refer to Jesus as "Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior"? I find this outrageous. Comparing religions should be a factual analysis of traditions and customs; students shouldn't have to participate in those customs in the class.

Posted by Sarah at 08:46 AM | Comments (2)

February 08, 2005

WHAT?

Mud wrestling? My husband's platoon barely has time to eat or sleep, and some units in Iraq have time for parties that would make fraternities jealous? What on earth is going on?

I've avoided writing about it so far, but one of the hardest things about the deployment for me to handle is the difference in mission. Some soldiers are working around the clock while others have so much free time that they're bored or causing trouble. Where is the sense in that?

I know I'm biased and think that my husband works harder than anyone else in Iraq. And maybe he does get more down time than I'm led to believe. But his company's sector is the size of Kosovo, so he doesn't even have time to go to the gym or talk to me. He's allowed 30 minutes on the computer, but often he doesn't take the full time because he's got too much to do. When he was in Najaf, he fell asleep on the phone with me: his platoon was working four hour shifts with two hour breaks (four on, two off, four on, two off) for an entire month. Not all units in Iraq are doing that.

I am trying to understand the distribution of missions in Iraq, but I can't. I hope that when my husband comes home, I can ask him more about what he's done. Perhaps I've misunderstood, but I think at the end of the day my husband would be far too tired to go to a mud wrestling party.

Posted by Sarah at 08:21 AM | Comments (8)

February 04, 2005

MERLE GROKS

I hear people talkin' bad
About the way we have to live here in this country,

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Harpin' on the wars we fight,
An' gripin' 'bout the way things oughta be.
An' I don't mind 'em switchin' sides,

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An' standin' up for things they believe in.

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But when they're runnin' down my country, man,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

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I read about some squirrely guy,
Who claims he just don't believe in fightin'.

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An' I wonder just how long,
The rest of us can count on bein' free.

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They love our milk an' honey,
But they preach about some other way of livin'.

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When they're runnin' down my country, hoss,
They're walkin' on the fightin' side of me.

Posted by Sarah at 11:29 AM | Comments (4)

January 22, 2005

ESSAY

I had heard about Ahmad Al-Qloushi before -- the Kuwaiti student whose college political science professor in California failed his pro-US paper and told him to get psychiatric counseling -- but until I read this post at the Rottweiler, I didn't know I could actually read Al-Qloushi's essay. The English teacher in me was intrigued.

A lot of people in the 'sphere, political science profs included, said they also would have given the essay an F. Several commenters have expressed the idea that if a student can't perform at a higher level than Al-Qloushi, he has no business being in college. That brings up a very delicate issue that I struggle with every day.

The university I work for is specifically designed for soldiers. There are no requirements of any kind for entrance, other than a high school diploma or GED. No ACT, no SAT, no high school transcript; if you want in, you're in. Some of our students are very bright, others are not. Some want to get an education, others want promotion points and couldn't care less about the content of the class. Some, I hate to say, probably have no business being in college, but they are.

So when I grade their essays, by what standard should I grade them? By my own, based on my classes at Truman State University? By a universal standard of Perfect Writing, as if that exists? Or by the standard of other students and how they match up to each other and what we've learned in the class? I generally have taken the latter approach, for better or for worse. I don't know of any other way to grade them; I walk the fine line between grade inflation and concrete benchmarks every day. I teach them structure, and if they follow it (or attempt), they do well. My students do not leave my class thinking like Den Beste or writing like Lileks, but hopefully they leave my class a little better than they came in.

Ahmad Al-Qloushi's essay ain't the greatest in the world. But I've seen far, far worse in my classes. He was also attending a junior college, not a top-rated university, which is where many of his critics work. I'm not saying that he deserved an A, only that perhaps his peers' papers weren't much better. He'd fit in perfectly in my class, where I have many non-native soldiers who write quite poorly. Hell, even my American-born soldiers make the same grammar mistakes Al-Qloushi made.

I'm not trying to justify a grade either way for this student, since I'm not a political science professor, but I can't help but wonder what the rest of the class' essays looked like. Were they similar, and thus did they also fail?

Posted by Sarah at 09:41 AM | Comments (7)

January 21, 2005

MONEY

My husband's brother returned from Iraq safe and sound yesterday. Just a short six weeks until both boys are home.

And, in honor of the boycotts, yesterday I spent money on a Kitchenaid mixer, Bill Whittle's book, a TV/DVD for our education center, and a trip to Fort Lauderdale. Take that, protestors!

Posted by Sarah at 06:47 AM | Comments (3)

January 19, 2005

ESSAYS

The other English professor here offered to lend me a publication he uses in his classes that is a compilation of outstanding essays from incoming freshmen at Loyola University. It seemed like a good idea, but I just flipped through the entire thing, and I don't see myself reflected in any of the essays. Not a one. I don't see myself in essays entitled "Reagan-Era Backlash" or "A Socially Unjust Relationship in Wartime America" or "Dissenting Patriots." I don't hear my voice in essays about how money is the root of all evil, how war is always bad, and how the American Dream is "a prevalent [idea], but not a realistic one." And I sure as hell don't want to read an essay about how the 9/11 terrorists were acting under their own sense of justice, thus we can't judge them since justice means different things to different people. Plus I'm pissed off that the prof who lent me the book has dogeared the page on the essay "The Unjust Aspects of U.S. Foreign Policy."

There's not a single voice in this book that speaks to me. There's not a single incoming freshman I can relate to. I keep thinking about that kid from Protest Warrior and getting more and more depressed, knowing that his is a lonely voice.

Posted by Sarah at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

January 18, 2005

OH HUSH

John Kerry whines:

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the U.S., saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots.

Like my brother. Who would've voted Republican.

Posted by Sarah at 06:37 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2005

CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER

I finished reading The End of Racism the other day, just in time for Martin Luther King Day. I've been thinking about the content of people's character lately. I don't care what color someone is as long as we can find some common ground. I have common ground with Baldilocks, Amritas, Vinod, and Zeyad, and we're all different colors. (Conversely, I have little in common with Wonkette, and we're exactly the same shade of pale.) Blogging is the great equalizer: often you read someone for months before you figure out what they look like, but it doesn't matter because relationships are based on ideas and brains instead of looks. CavX could have three eyeballs, and I wouldn't even care.

I'd say that the military is about the least racist place you can be. The Army discriminates on rank, not color, and there's so much intermarriage and living side by side. Everyone has the same experience in the Army, regardless of color. And my husband joked once that where in the civilian world could most of his big bosses be black (like his COL and MAJ were at the time). Unfortunately though, there are still a lot of people who feel the thumb of racism. Many of my black students write their essays on black issues, on racism, on discrimination. I wish sometimes we could move beyond those issues. I wish we could make it to "the end of racism." I just have a hard time trying to grok why we can't.

Eric posted MLK's essay War and Pacifism over at Thank My Recruiter. We're fighting a war now against people who want us dead because of the content of our character. They want us all dead, black and white. We need to find our common ground and band together to protect our country's character.

Posted by Sarah at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2005

LAUGH-IN

Apparently in 1970 there was a popular comedy show in the USSR patterned off of Laugh-In. So Laugh-In dedicated an episode to making fun of the Soviet version of the show, creating a Soviet "party room", Soviet jokes about the past and lack-of future, and a crappy looking wooden wall that they told Soviet knock-knock jokes from. Hilarious stuff. They were poking fun at the bad guys in WWIII. It's too bad times have changed; we're not even supposed to suggest that there is an enemy in WWIV. Apparently in the show 24, the terrorists were portrayed as...horrors...Muslims.

CAIR said it called for the meeting Wednesday -- which included representatives from CAIR's Southern California office and from the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council -- to "address the depiction of a 'Muslim' family that is at the heart of a terror plot in the popular program."

The Washington, D.C.-based group said it was concerned that the portrayal of the family as a terrorist "sleeper cell" may "cast a shadow of suspicion over ordinary American Muslims and could increase Islamophobic stereotyping and bias."

CAIR's statement today said that in addition to distribution of the PSAs, "FOX also gave meeting participants assurances that the program will be balanced in its portrayal of Muslims. Network representatives said that they had already reviewed existing episodes and removed some aspects that could potentially be viewed as stereotypical."

Thirty-five years ago, Laugh-In made the joke "Vy is the chickenk crossing de road? To defected to Poland, but he'll be back!" Today we're not even allowed to make-believe that the people we've been fighting for four years could be the bad guys in a drama. Heaven help us.

Posted by Sarah at 02:58 PM | Comments (2)

January 15, 2005

PRESCRIPTIVE

As an English professor, I walk the fine line between prescriptive and descriptive grammar. I'm a descriptivist, so if I were the only English teacher my students had to deal with, it wouldn't be such a big deal that I just ended that clause with a preposition. But the students leave my class and move on to a prof who studied in England and is much more prescriptive than I (or should I just go ahead and say "me"?). I don't care if they use contractions or end a sentence with the dreaded preposition, but he might.

Funny story: I once saw a student in my Swedish class insist to our teacher that you can't end a sentence with a preposition. She was horrified that you can do that quite comfortably in other languages and not feel the wrath of your 5th grade teacher.

Amritas has been writing about Ebonics for a few weeks now, and I've been meaning to jump into the conversation. Finally I couldn't stay away when I saw this, a quote from Labov with Amritas' interjections:

Linguists are building on sand until they can answer basic questions: what are the test-retest reliabilities of judgments of grammatical acceptability [that are essential to the Chomskyan enterprise -A]? Under what conditions do introspections match speech production? [That is, under what conditions do linguists' introspective judgments of grammaticality match what is actually being said by speakers? I can declare that a certain structure is 'wrong' in my office, but if millions use it without any impediment to understanding, then it is I who am wrong. -A]

We say things all the time that are completely comprehensible but grammatically wrong. So what makes them "wrong" if we can understand them? Why do I bother pointing out all the places my students need the past perfect tense in their narrative essays when nine times out of ten it makes no difference for understanding the story? Why is it like fingernails on a chalkboard to me when my students use the wrong relative pronoun, when no meaning at all is lost? Why do I even bother reminding them that "between you and me, he is taller than I"?

One of my German friends heard something on the TV that she was convinced was wrong. She was flabbergasted to learn that "It is I" is correct. I'm sure she's never heard it before. Another German was mad to learn that "Me and my husband are going on vacation", though common, is incorrect. They don't hear the prescriptive versions very often.

So what's a girl to do? For now, my strategy has been to refresh my students' memories on the prescriptive versions, all the while with the caveat that languages change and that someday "It is I" will likely be considered wrong since virtually no one will be saying it. But for now they have to sit on the cusp of language change, like it or not.

Posted by Sarah at 08:24 AM | Comments (5)

January 13, 2005

CUSSING

Oh. My. Lord. Michael Tucker reads my blog. Why anyone reads my blog I'll never understand, but this is huge.

Who the heck is Michael Tucker? Only the guy who filmed Gunner Palace. That's all, no big whoop.

Gulp.

Anyway, gathering self, Tucker is upset that his film will be given an R rating. Yep, soldiers cuss. Tucker humorously quotes General Patton: "You can't run an army without profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight it's way out of a piss-soaked paper bag." He also alluded to a recent editorial by Jack Valenti about how some ABC affiliates didn't show Saving Private Ryan because of the swear words.

But there are swear words and swear words, and never the twain shall meet.

One of my students and I had a long discussion over the summer as he was trying to gather ideas for his paper on the FCC. One of the things I brought up was how lots of naughty ideas can be expressed without using swear words. The examples I gave him were two songs: "What's Your Fantasy" by Ludacris and "The Bad Touch" by Bloodhound Gang. These songs get played all the time on the radio, but they allude to things far more explicit than the f-word alone would conjure. There are no swear words in "whips and chains, handcuffs / smack a little booty up with my belt" or "love, the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket / like the lost catacombs of Egypt only God knows where we stuck it", but they sure put some images into your mind! You don't need swear words to be explicit.

Conversely, you don't need to be explicit to have swear words. The swearing in Saving Private Ryan is a fact of life. Put 20 men in a life-threatening situation, and you're going to get some colorful language. But it's different than the swearing in a movie like Clerks -- which is also a fact of life but is there for humor -- or the movie Team America -- which I swear Parker and Stone use just to make people mad. The swearing in Gunner Palace is a reflection of reality; it's surely not meant to be titillating like scripted swearing.

When the WTC came crashing down, and the media was recording history in the making, we all heard swear words uttered in fright and horror. Do our children remember that day as a tragic moment in American history or the first day they heard the s-word on TV? Somehow I doubt that's the most important part of the story. The most important part of Gunner Palace or Saving Private Ryan is not that some GI used the f-bomb, but that some GI was there making history.

Posted by Sarah at 09:49 AM | Comments (5)

January 11, 2005

INHERIT

If you wear a Swedish flag on your clothing in Sweden, it means you are a neo-nazi. I was utterly shocked when my friend taught me that when I lived there. (This knowledge is echoed by singer Maja Ivarsson here, so it's not just that my friend is crazy.) I can't imagine what it must feel like to be ashamed of your flag.

Apollo 11 just landed on the moon: it was amazing. I only wish I had seen the original. And I realized today how freaking cool it is that there's an American flag on the moon. Had we not landed there until 2005, there would be no flag, but we landed in 1969, when it was still OK to think the United States was the best country in the world.

My husband hates the inclusive "we": I certainly had no hand in the moon landing, so I shouldn't put myself in Armstrong's pocket. But I've inherited the mentality that pushed the US to be first. I've inherited the vision that NASA embodies. I've inherited the drive that made Americans work their asses off for ten years simply to go and walk around on a hunk of dust. I'm a product of past determination and success.

There's an American flag on the moon and millions of dollars of equipment floating around in space because Americans decided they were going to the moon. I'm proud I inherited that history.

Posted by Sarah at 06:46 PM | Comments (15)

THE DUKE

This weekend I also caught a John Wayne double header: Rio Bravo and El Dorado. (I didn't leave the couch much, being sick and all.) Um...is it just me, or are they the same movie? How did John Wayne get away with that? Sheriff gets dumped by a girl, sheriff turns into a drunk, The Duke sobers him up, everyone jokes that he needs a bath, the fresh new sheriff catches the bad guy and puts him in jail, the other bad guys try to bust him out, they capture one of the good guys and offer a trade, there's a shoot-out, John Wayne wins. Oh, and there are two sidekicks: a young whippersnapper named after a state, and a crotchety old man who guards the jail.

Of course I loved them both, because who doesn't love John Wayne (plus Ricky Nelson and James Caan), but that's the same freaking movie.

Posted by Sarah at 07:07 AM | Comments (4)

January 10, 2005

FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON

My neighbor thrust the series From the Earth to the Moon into my hands and urged me to watch it. The last thing I need in my life is another four DVD box set, so I reluctantly opened it today while I was home sick from work. I have been loving every minute. I'm glad that my knowledge of the space race is scant, so each episode has a surprise ending for me. I have been thinking about the similarities and differences between military and astronaut wives. I have been thinking about the technology race with the Soviets and how it's the last time we've had real competition as a nation. I've been thinking about how this competition drove us to put a man on the moon in a decade, which should have been unthinkable and often was dangerous. I've been thinking about all the poor astronauts who aren't named Aldrin, Armstrong, or Glenn and how underappreciated they are. I've been thinking and getting goosebumps all evening, and I highly recommend the series if you have the chance to see it.

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

KID ROCK

I thought I should say something about the kerfluffle over Kid Rock playing the inauguration, but there's nothing else to say except I'm all fer it. Kid Rock understands the threat of terrorism, he split with his friends when they went to see Fahrencrap 9/11, and he's performed in Iraq because he loves his country.

I do think there is something larger at work here. Many of the bloggers who disagree with Michelle Malkin have discussed the future direction of the Republican party. I think this Kid Rock dilemma is indicative of the split between the old timey GOP and the South Park Republicans. We're at a bit of a crossroads here, and the decision over whether or not to include Kid Rock is nothing to sneeze at.

I know that the GOP isn't just fat rich WASPs, but that stereotype still exists for many on the Left. Kid Rock's inclusion at the inauguration could do a lot to break down that stereotype and show young people that it's OK to be a Republican.

Posted by Sarah at 08:22 AM | Comments (3)

January 08, 2005

NAPSTER

I love the South Park episode where the boys get arrested for downloading music and Lars Ulrich is crying because he has to save up before he can get his gold-plated shark tank bar installed next to the pool. According to Hud, music sales are up. There are two things I don't understand about the Napster hullabaloo. First of all, why don't book authors try to ban libraries? I mean, hundreds of people can just walk in there and read their books for free. Why don't authors get their underpants bunched about book swapping? And secondly, I have bought several CDs this past year, but all from sites like half.com or the Amazon market. The artists don't make any money when I do that either. Why would they freak out if I can download one song for free, when I could get the entire album for $3.70 from someone else and not give them a dime? If it's really about losing money for artists, why aren't they concerned about losing money in other ways? What about music clubs where you get 10 CDs for a penny? Don't they get less money that way too?

Posted by Sarah at 06:54 AM | Comments (3)

December 28, 2004

THE CSI EFFECT

I borrowed some CSI episodes from a friend, and I'm about overdosed on the show. Last night I spilled a squirt of lotion and my immediate thought was that it would really confuse forensic experts. I need to get out more.

However, in watching the show, I started wondering if the popularity of shows like CSI or Law & Order has had an impact on jurors. And apparently it has; there's even a name for it: "the CSI effect"...

But the programs also foster what analysts say is the mistaken notion that criminal science is fast and infallible and always gets its man. That's affecting the way lawyers prepare their cases, as well as the expectations that police and the public place on real crime labs. Real crime-scene investigators say that because of the programs, people often have unrealistic ideas of what criminal science can deliver.

I wonder about the effect of high expectations. I know that I personally have read articles about the unreliability of witnesses, even in classes such as neurolinguistics. I'd be skeptical of any witness testimony. Too skeptical? I don't know. Perhaps. One mantra that CSI drills into the viewer's head is that people can lie but the evidence can't. I think that lesson might be in the back of my mind if I were a juror.

One thing that I have learned from the show, that I hope I never have to put to use, might be how to intentionally leave evidence. In one episode, one of the CSIs went on a ransom drop and kept leaving intentional clues for her fellow CSIs to find. Sometimes, when my mind wanders furthest, I think about that use of forensics.

Of course, my favorite Onion article ever was "Area Man Has Complete Prison-Survival Strategy", in which the man lies in bed and makes plans for what he would do if he were jailed. My imagination frequently runs away with me like that.

Posted by Sarah at 08:19 AM | Comments (4)

December 23, 2004

TV SUCKS

CavX laments the values being portrayed on TV these days and notes that the last show to "reflect the values of the average American was probably The Cosby Show." I'll drink to that. TV is such crap these days. The only thing we watch in this household is Smallville, which represents Superman's values, so how can you go wrong there? I also never miss a rerun of Happy Days. Arthur Fonzarelli is one of the greatest role models of all times: he's the coolest guy in town, but secretly he wishes he were Richie. (Oddly enough, Lex Luthor fills the same shoes in Smallville.)

We also are big fans of animated shows (Futurama, South Park, Family Guy, The Simpsons). I remember when my brother got interested in The Simpsons early on, I thought it was a terrible show with terrible values. I mean, Homer was always choking Bart. But that was the extent of my knowledge about the show. As I've started to watch earlier episodes, I've seen some very heartening things. Homer may be a bumbling fool, but he loves his family and always puts them ahead of himself (see "Colonel Homer" or "I Married Marge"), and Fry may be a fool, but he loves Leela (see "Parasites Lost" or "Time Keeps On Slipping"). And the women on the shows don't treat the men nearly as badly as un-animated women do. I stopped watching Everybody Loves Raymond the day Debra drove Ray to rip up his Super Bowl tickets. I couldn't believe that she could be so selfish as to refuse him the happiness of going to the Super Bowl with a buddy. Modern women treat men like dirt on sitcoms, but Marge is always patient and loving. She loves Homer for who he is, not who she can make him into. Leela's not there yet -- she preferred the parasitic Fry -- but she doesn't try to make Fry something he's not; she just doesn't date him. (I'm hoping she comes around in Season 5; Nibbler needs to get to work on his promise!)

Several years ago, I had an argument with a feminist: she said that it was demeaning to take on gender-specific roles in the household, even if you don't mind. I said that I was perfectly happy with doing the dishes and laundry while my husband mowed and took out the trash, so why should we switch chores just to avoid being gender-bound? She was appalled; I was bewildered.

I'm a pretty old fashioned girl. One of my students brought in The Good Wife's Guide to show me as a joke. To be honest, I don't really think it's that funny. I think one of the best ways to success in marriage is to care about your spouse more than you care about yourself. Caring for my husband means recognizing that he works harder than I do every day, and that my stupid problems of arguing with my co-worker are nothing compared to what he faces in Baqubah. Caring for him means wanting him to come home to a clean house and yummy food. Caring for him means bringing him a beer or going to get him a cookie. The trick is that I do those things because I want to, not because he expects or forces me to. That's the key to success. My goal is to make his life better or easier, which makes him happier, which makes me happier. It has nothing to do with being trapped in gender stereotypes or forced to act like Susie Homemaker. There's nothing inherently wrong with traditional gender roles; the only problem is when someone is forced to fit a role she doesn't want. I willingly accept the role, and I'm happy to do it. TV women these days consistently seem to resent that role, and thus end up paired with unhappy husbands. They don't care about their spouse more than themselves; they care about "being equal." I'm just not interested in watching that.

So anyway, the phone just rang and I've lost track of where I was going with all of this. If I were one of my students, I'd lose points for having a weak thesis. In summary: TV sucks. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go see what's on.

Posted by Sarah at 09:39 AM | Comments (11)

December 20, 2004

AGENDA

Tonight I watched The Day After Tomorrow. The social agenda in that movie was almost as bad as Superman IV.

Posted by Sarah at 10:59 PM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2004

OBSCURITY

Every once in a while, I find myself wondering what Saddam is up to. Especially when I see him cavorting with Satan all the time. (I still think Saddam should be forced to watch South Park episodes starring himself. Cruel and unusual? You betcha.)

So it's always fun to find an article about what Saddam is doing these days. Oh look, he's starving himself to prove a point.

A year after his capture on December 13, 2003 Saddam, once the most visible symbol of the country he ruled for 33 years, has faded into obscurity amid the daily insurgency that has engulfed Iraq.

To quote John Kreese of the Cobra Kai: "You're nothin', you lost, you're a loser." But don't let Saddam fade too much away; we have to keep ourselves pumped up for the day when he's executed.

Posted by Sarah at 09:00 AM | Comments (2)

December 13, 2004

MONEY WHERE MOUTH

I got a little frustrated the other day. My former roommate writes for an anti-war publication. Sigh. It was no surprise, really; if you met her, you'd instantly recognize her as anti-war. But something about seeing her name there in black and white really irked me.

I figured out what was bothering me so much the next day when I read an update on the Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge. Many blogs that I read every day are raising insane amounts of money for Spirit of America to help Iraqi citizens. LGF alone has raised over $14,000. Apparently one of LGF's readers went over to one of the biggest left-leaning blogs and asked why none of them had considered contributing:

Why aren't you involved in Friends of Iraq Blogger Challenge? Whether or not we agree on the war, can we not agree that it would be best for a Free Iraq to get off the ground? Not only for the US but for the Iraqis themselves?

Your side whines that conservatives are cold and cruel, but when it comes to demonstrating compassion with your own money (as opposed to someone else’s) the Left seems rather reluctant.

I’m here to throw down the gauntlet. LGF has hit the ten grand mark.

Can you compassionate Leftists beat us?

It was a snarky challenge, but a legitimate one, I think. The response his question generated was quite disheartening. Most commenters just called him names (remember, this is the lefty blog that linked to that ass who called me fucktard dumb...), while others refused to participate in Spirit of America because, naturally, their money would just be funneled back into Dick Cheney's pockets.

And I realized what was bothering me.

My old roommate writes poetry to speak out against the war. Atrios' readers use their filthy mouths to denigrate right-leaning bloggers. But what have they done of substance? If you oppose the war, shouldn't you support helping Iraqis put their country back together? Regardless of whether Bush looks like a chimp or not, shouldn't the idea that someone is raising money to help the common people of Iraq be a good thing? If you believe the war was wrong, shouldn't you believe the people of Iraq were right and thus want to help them?

It's warmongers and chickenhawks who have raised $62865.72 so far for the people of Iraq. As far as I understand, there's not a lefty blog among the participants. I find that very sad.

My old roommate writes anti-war poems. I donated to Spirit of America. Which one of us has done more to help the people of Iraq?

Posted by Sarah at 09:26 AM | Comments (100)

December 06, 2004

UNCONDITIONAL?

Is it possible for "unconditional love" to go one step too far? This question has bothered me since the day I saw Kip Kinkel's parents stand behind him. Then I saw John Walker Lindh's parents stand behind him, and now this strangler's cousin stand behind him. Am I the one who's nuts? Just because you're related to someone doesn't mean you have to stand behind them when they murder people, does it? If one of my family members -- be it cousin, brother, or husband -- strangled three people in cold blood, I sure as hell wouldn't stand up for him. I don't have children, so I can't really speak on the love that parents have for their children, but aren't there some things that cross that unconditional love boundary? Like coldhearted murder? Parents in the audience, please help me on this one.


Posted by Sarah at 10:17 AM | Comments (7)

December 04, 2004

BENT AT COLLEGE

Over at Bunker Mulligan, an interesting discussion started in the comments section. Later Bunker addressed the issue: "concern that Republicans are becoming a bit over the top regarding the liberal bent on college campuses." I missed out on the discussion while I was sleeping, so I thought I'd hop in now.

Yes, I am guilty of dismissing academics...and I'm one of them. When the professor who is teaching Writing for Business proclaims himself a communist and the sociology prof keeps raving about Dude, Where's My Country?, well, it's easy to dismiss them. I have started looking skeptically at all professors, especially when they're writing articles like the one that drove me insane last spring. They don't all deserve to be dismissed, but far too many of them bring their personal agendas into the classroom. Heck, that's what made me start blogging in the first place.

Bunker talks about how none of his students could ever tell what side of the issues he stood on. I wrote about this over a year ago, and I'm just going to re-say the same thing here.

***

At Joanne Jacobs, we find a link to the Chicago Tribune article about critical thinking in a high school classroom:

The topic of class discussion was "Iraqification"--a term associated with the transfer of responsibility for Iraq's security from American soldiers to the Iraqi people -- and the students did not lack opinions on the subject.
Leading the Advanced Placement World History lab at Noble Street Charter High School in Chicago, teacher Joe Tenbusch asked his students at what time during the Iraq conflict more people have been killed.
"After we won," said Victoria Janik, 16, with a smirk, bringing nods and smiles of agreement from her peers, who had been pondering President Bush's possible motives for favoring Iraqification.
While some educators might find the exchange valuable--or, at worst, harmless--an outspoken group of social studies teachers around the country say such classroom scenes breed cynical, anti-American attitudes.
High school students, they argue, simply are not mature enough to engage in critical thinking. Teachers should focus on imparting a solid knowledge of history, economics, American traditions and government--in short, the ideals and values of a free society.

Joanne points out that there's no dichotomy here (you don't either teach thinking or facts); there's instead a relationship between how much you know about a topic and how well you can critically think about it. She adds,

In this case, the student is right in thinking that U.S. casualties (not "people") are a factor in the desire to give more authority to Iraqis. The question is whether she knows other facts. How many people did Saddam Hussein kill, directly and indirectly? How did the Occupation go in Germany and Japan after World War II? How did South Korea become a democracy?

Her commenters begin a discussion of the capability of teachers to actually teach critical thinking. Reader Tom West aptly points out,

Possibly, just possibly, teachers have a wide range of opinions like the rest of the humanity. Some support the current government, some support the last, some support both, and some support neither. Teachers are not a monolithic lot. To teach critical thinking requires that you be able to explain both sides of an issue, even when you don't subscribe to both sides.

I can think of one instance when I tried to do this and did it well. I was actually quite proud of myself. I was teaching ESL at the University of Illinois, and we were doing a unit on persuasive writing. Since one of the major issues on campus is the Native American mascot there, I decided that this would be a topic that they should understand since they were students at the university but that the students (who mostly came from Korea and South America) wouldn't already have an opinion on. And since I had been heavily involved in the debate on campus and had read the entire Chief Illiniwek Dialogue Report to the Board of Trustees, I knew both sides of the issue like the back of my hand. I told my students that I indeed heartily supported one side of the issue, but that I would not tell them which side I supported, and that they were going to learn about both sides. We read the whole Dialogue, watched a video tape, reported on the protestors carrying picket signs through campus, and had a two-hour discussion where they asked me questions about what people on the campus believed. We covered both sides; for every question they asked, I reported what the pro-Chief and the anti-Chief people would reply. After our information gathering, the students wrote their persuasive papers on the stance they had developed (whether the Chief Illiniwek mascot should be retained or retired) and turned them in. The next class period we had an in-class writing assignment where the students had to write a one page paper saying whether they thought that I personally supported the Chief or not. The result? Half of the class guessed I did, and the other half guessed I didn't. And I never told them which side I was on.

The reason this worked is because I was determined to let these students decide for themselves. It didn't matter to me which side they chose, as long as they read about the issue and formed logical and informed opinions. And I didn't want them to cop out and write the "easy" paper, the one that agreed with the teacher. We spent an equal amount of time on both sides, but the dicipline had to be mine. I was the one who did the most work, having to argue for both sides equally as passionately and equally as strong. I had to be impartial, I had to keep secret my involvement in the debate, and I had to let the students learn, even if what they were learning disagreed with my opinion. I don't think most teachers are willing to do this. It's easier to be like Professor Cockroach and talk off the cuff about one's own opinions and side of the story. It's much harder to give a reasoned debate for both sides, and many teachers don't care enough about their students to want them to learn how to learn. They just want them to regurgitate. I think it's a real problem in education, and I think we're doing a real disservice to our students. Heck, I didn't learn how to learn until I started reading blogs and writing my own. Can we make blogging a school subject?

***

(back to 2004) It's much harder for me to do this with the war. It's difficult for me to argue for both sides, so I just don't do it. I don't talk war in the classroom. Sometimes my students try to get going, and I let them go back and forth together, but I never chime in. They're also not allowed to write any of their papers about the war because 1) they're not allowed to ignore any Army Values in my class, 2) I have read far too much about the war to ever concede that they will have done enough research, and 3) I know cannot objectively read a paper that's anti-war. And since I don't want to introduce anything into the class that's not objective, both my view and theirs are off limits. I can, and do, objectively read papers on many things that I disagree with, but the war is too close to my heart for that.

Universities these days just don't seem to have enough honest debate from both sides. I took a class once on Malcolm X, and any time someone said something even remotely unfavorable about Malcolm X, the black students immediately got angry. My roommate took a class where the teacher gave her an F on a paper because "you know I don't agree with your viewpoint, so why would you think of writing on this topic?" I once taught a class where, heaven forbid, I used the argument that hate speech should be protected under the First Amendment as a sample argument for a persuasive paper, and a Korean student went to our director and turned me in as a racist.

Sigh.

Posted by Sarah at 10:11 AM | Comments (2)

November 19, 2004

FASTING

Apparently a little boy in Iran was killed for breaking his Ramadan fast. When Ramadan started in Iraq, US soldiers were given strict rules: no eating, drinking, or smoking in front of Iraqis during Ramadan. However, my husband says that none of the Iraqis he works with were observing the fast. The American Arabic translators scolded the Iraqis for chowing down in the middle of the day, but the Iraqis just shrugged their shoulders. Now that there's freedom to choose -- a freedom that doesn't exist in Iran -- the Iraqi people are free to decide if they want to fast. Saddam's not watching any longer.

Posted by Sarah at 07:16 AM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2004

DEPRESSION? REALLY...

Dear therapy-seekers in Florida,

I understand that some of you are upset that Kerry lost the election. I would've been pretty upset if President Bush had lost as well. I would've been down in the dumps. I would've been concerned for our nation's future. I would've wanted to gripe about it to my friends. I might've cried for a brief moment. I understand it's a big deal. But now we have a group of you seeking therapy for your depression, which they've given the catchy name of Post Election Selection Trauma.

You want to know what depression is? Spend the weekend mourning your friend's husband. Sit on her sofa trying to chitchat and ignore the lump that's rising in your throat. Watch her child playing with car keys, oblivious to the sorrow in the room. Take time off of work to go to a memorial service for four brave men who were killed over the weekend. And then come talk to me about depression.

One of my students wrote something this week about America being the "land of the too-free", that people in the US have it so good that they don't even know what real problems and suffering look like. He's dead on. I'd like some of you Post Election Selection Trauma patients to spend a day in Mrs. Sims' shoes and then tell me what real depression feels like.

Grow up, people.

P.S. And while we're on the topic of "things that burn me up", I hope I never meet the disrespectful and disgusting SSG Fitts. CPT Sims' wife read that article, you bastard.

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

November 14, 2004

ARAFAT

I mentioned I'd like to write something about Arafat, and the wife has been bugging me to keep my word. I don't think I could add very much new information on how vile the man is, but I thought I would offer a few observations. I'm only 24 years old. I paid pretty close attention to the news growing up. We weren't an overly political household but we stayed well informed. My only memories of Arafat and the PLO are the historic and now failed peace agreements done during the Clinton Administration. People my age have no political memory of Yasser Arafat or the PLO pre 1993. For me and all the other twenty-somethings who wave Palestinian flags and rant about the Likudniks who are responsible for the squalor the Palestinians live in, Yasser Arafat has only been a political leader. Sure, since 2000, he might be complicit in terror attacks. He could have done more to stop the EU aid-receiving Hizbollah jihadists, but with Bush and his proxy Sharon tearing everything up, can you blame those poor Palestinians? After all he is an elected leader. More elected than Bushitler no doubt, we 1980s born know-it-alls quip.

What most young people don't remember is that before 1993, Arafat was synonymous with terrorism. The PLO was a guerilla organization very much like Al Qaeda. Here are just a few highlights of President and Nobel Laureate Arafat and his PLO merry pranksters in the '70s and '80s.

8,000 individual acts of terrorism between 1969-1985 alone.

The massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

The attack on the Maalot grade school that killed 21 children.

The hijacking of four airplanes in the 1970’s and an Italian Cruise Ship in 1985.

The man who had been exiled from both Egypt and Jordan was invited to Oslo in 1993 from his exile in Tunis, to sit down with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Here, the Osama Bin Laden of the '70s and '80s was given his own autonomous region to govern and a workable roadmap to getting a completely independent nation. I could go on about the numerous failed opportunities in the '90s, but they are so numerous I won't even name them. It is an almost undisputable fact that Arafat was offered 97% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza strip and on behalf of the Palestinian people replied, "NO. All or nothing."

I think we all know how that turned out. And what has Arafat, as the leader of the autonomous Palestinian territory, managed to amass besides failed opportunities in his ten years at the helm? Oh, about $7 billion! Estimates vary from $300 million to $7 billion, but he's no doubt worth a fortune. Since the 1970s, the PLO has been receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from Arab states and many other western nations. I don't know the exact numbers but it would make a nice shame graph for an ambitious blogger.

This man, who used the plight of the Palestinian people in Refugee camps as political capital, has wealth measured in billions. And yet, he was lauded by Western diplomats and journalists. An anchorwoman for the BBC reported his death with tears in her eyes. Nearly every Foreign Minister in Europe attended his funeral.

Yes, I'm well aware of his George Washington status with the Palestinians. He was powerful human symbol and forceful advocate; Palestinians united behind him in their pursuit of a homeland--or so says Jimmy Carter. I can think of another powerful advocate who rallied a humiliated people to a great pursuit. He felt the same way about Jews as Arafat.

Are we so afraid to call it like it is? Will Osama Bin Laden someday sit down with an American president to negotiate the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia? Arafat has proven that you can move from terrorist to statesmen. He was able to do so because we allowed it. "Give peace a chance" is a really comfortable slogan. When facing a monster, it can me more comfortable to listen to him than to fight him.

I would just as soon homosexuals have every right that I do. I don't really care about abortion. I'm not crazy about the Patriot Act but I'm a one issue voter. And President Bush and I agree on one thing: this, while certainly tragic, is preferable to this.

-- the husband

MORE TO GROK:

Update from Sarah: If you seek his monument, look around you.

Posted by Sarah at 05:40 PM | Comments (8)

November 12, 2004

DEAD

Though I haven't mentioned it, I'm well aware that Arafat will be pushing up the daisies soon. Except he'll be encased in concrete instead of in his family's plot sleeping under a pile of garbage and filth for eternity, which would be sweet justice. Regardless of where the old terrorist's bones reside, our household was thrilled. I haven't blogged about it because the husband is formulating an Arafat post that will be up sometime before he leaves this weekend. Stay tuned...

Posted by Sarah at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2004

SORRY

So apparently a lot of hippies are taking photos of their signs, saying they're sorry that Bushitler was re-elected. I've made my own photo to show what I'm sorry for.

sorry.jpg

Posted by Sarah at 07:04 PM | Comments (6)

October 28, 2004

IMPROVED

Well ain't that a kick in the pants. Guess who's taking care of Arafat...

Posted by Sarah at 11:16 AM | Comments (2)

October 23, 2004

FRAUD

A terrorist is registered to vote. A terrorist is registered to vote!

You know who's not registered to vote? My brother. He registered in his college town back when he was in school, and he procrastinated and didn't leave himself enough time to re-register in his new city. He figured he'd just have to drive back to his college town on 2 Nov, but when he called the board of elections, they told him they'd removed him from the list. Apparently they sent him something in the mail that he didn't reply to, so they crossed him off. So now he can't vote.

Michelle Malkin reports that many states have trouble removing the names of people who have died or moved away, and that that voter list can often dwarf the population count. Illinois was sure quick to remove my brother though.

So a terrorist will be voting, but my brother will not.

Why oh freaking why don't we have to provide identification when we register to vote? At many places you have to show an ID to check into a hotel or rent a movie. (Hell, I have to show ID to Soldiers with M16s when I want to buy groceries; ID is just a way of life for us.) In the US, a driver's license is proof that you're who you say you are, and at least in Illinois, if you don't drive, the DMV will make you a valid ID card instead. No one is disenfranchised. No one is discriminated against if they don't drive. And no freaking illegal alien terrorists will end up on the lists!

Every poll known to man shows Bush ahead right now, but I ain't sleepin' easy when Mary Poppins and Nuradin Abdi are registered to vote.

Posted by Sarah at 09:13 AM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2004

WOW

As I read this article (via Powerline) about high school textbook bias, I was reminded of the times I've written about my own textbook. And I remembered something I meant to blog about last week.

Chapter 13: Classification/Division starts with Act 2 from Shakespeare's As You Like It, the "all the world's a stage" monologue. The following is a "question on meaning and technique":

4. What characteristics typify the soldier? Are these characteristics typical of soldiers today? Why or why not?

OK, here's what Shakespeare wrote:

Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the 'pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.

Maybe someone else can help me decipher that, because I am not completely sure what the heck the old bard was saying. I've never been a huge Shakespeare fan. The reason I even stumbled across this question is because I absentmindedly flipped open the instructor's manual during breakfast last week and found the jaw-dropper sample response to what typifies a soldier. This is the instructor's manual answer to question #4:

The soldier is swaggeringly masculine, wearing a bristly beard and uttering swear words. He is also ambitious to earn some honor on the battlefield, even if doing so means death. Yes, soldiers today--especially regiments like the marines--are seen as having considerable "machismo." However, many young people today hate the army because it represents war, which is no longer a chance for honor but rather for annihilation of the human race.

You have to learn to laugh at stuff like that...otherwise you'll cry your eyes out.
I hate this f-ing textbook.

Posted by Sarah at 06:51 PM | Comments (6)

October 11, 2004

DEMEANING

One unfortunate side effect of the Bush=Hitler meme is that we can no longer look at Hitler without comparing him to Bush. We can't read about WWII and think of the horrors of those years without the knee-jerk satisfaction of how not-Hitler Bush really is. Lileks did it today:

In Klemperer’s book there’s an anecdote about a professor who is talking with some colleagues, telling jokes. Hitler goes to heaven. He talks to Moses, and says so, you can tell me. You set the bush on fire yourself, didn’t you?

He’s reported. He goes to prison for ten months.

And, as Klemperer notes, he was “an Aryan.”

Ah, but don’t we have the Big Lie? The WMD debacle? This is one of those things that makes me just turn off the radio or TV or hit the back button or whatever it takes to decamp.

I did it with Stalin back when I was reading The Gulag Archipelago:

I dare anyone who thinks the Patriot Act is killing democracy to read this book, where the first person to stop clapping at a tribute to Comrade Stalin, after 11 minutes of straight clapping, was sent to the gulag. Or the woman who happened to walk past a truck full of bodies. Or the man who had doodled on a newspaper photo of Stalin. All of them gone.

It's a crying shame that I can't visit a concentration camp without the smug satisfaction that today's Bush-haters have no idea what they're talking about. I don't want to think about Bush at a concentration camp. I don't even want the Bush=Hitler thought anywhere near my head, because it's completely demeaning to the real people of that era who died for nothing. I've seen a lamp made out of Jewish skin; how DARE anyone make that comparison to President Bush.

It's disgusting, and I'm disgusted that every time Hitler comes up, we find mental ways to disassociate him with Bush. I think that's revolting.

Posted by Sarah at 08:35 AM | Comments (5)

October 09, 2004

HOWARD! HOWARD!

Excellent news out of Australia!
Now we just need some good news of our own in November!

Posted by Sarah at 05:11 PM | Comments (1)

ELECTION DAY

Come on, Australia. We're counting on you.

Posted by Sarah at 08:21 AM | Comments (3)

October 08, 2004

CONFLICT

My mom got an email forward from a friend about The Impending Draft. The email is so laughable that it's not even worth fisking. It includes all the talking points -- Ready Reserves, North Korea, "I have a son in college" -- and is quite ridiculous. But the more I looked at it, the more I thought, heck, I'll sign a petition against the draft; I don't want any un-trained, un-motivated, spolied kids who don't want to be there having to back my husband up out on missions. I only want Soldiers and Marines who have volunteered to serve this great country of ours out there fighting, not immature brats (you know, like John Kerry was back when he was declined for a deferment in Vietnam and then went on to make home movies about his heroism.)

So I clicked on the link to the petition. Heh. It's not a petition against the draft; it's a petition to Demand Honesty. The aim?

I demand to know how George Bush plans to guard the homeland, protect against threats abroad, and stabilize and occupy Iraq -- without resorting to a draft.

Yes, we need troops to fight in Iraq. We need lots of them. Many of my students are leaving in January for their second year in Iraq, and of course that sucks. But I've listened to John Kerry -- god help me -- and I don't see how his plan is going to require any less boots on the ground.

Kerry said in the debate last week:

That's why, in my plan, I add two active duty divisions to the United States Army, not for Iraq, but for our general demands across the globe. I also intend to double the number of special forces so that we can do the job we need to do with respect fighting the terrorists around the world. And if we do that, then we have the ability to be able to respond more rapidly.

Two active duty divisions is an addition of roughly 40,000 people. Where are they going to come from? More active recruitment? Tell that to Michael Moore, Kerry; since you parrot him on other issues, you might want to review his segment on the recruiting Marines. (Oh, and the money will come from cutting crucial defense systems and weapons programs. Way to go, Kerry.)

Kerry has also disingenuously suggested that he would start pulling troops out of Iraq in January. What he specified in the debate last week though was

I didn‘t say I would bring troops out in six months. I said, if we do the things that I‘ve set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months.

And the thing he's "set out" is to bring more allies to the table to share the load in Iraq. The problem is that he keeps repeating that, knowing full well that Allies Not in Formation on Kerry's Troops Plan: Nations have a hard time supporting his proposal to use their soldiers to fill out the force in Iraq:

"Some Europeans are rather concerned that Mr. Kerry might have expectations for relief [from abroad] that are going to be hard to meet," said one senior European diplomat in a statement echoed in several capitals.
...
The French and German governments have made clear that sending troops is out of the question. British officials have made no such categorical statement, but they have expressed concern that their troops are overstretched.
Although Japan has supplied a 550-member noncombat force as a symbol of its international commitment, analysts there see little chance the nation would agree to send more.
Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Andrei Denisov, ruled out a commitment of troops. "We are not going to send anybody there, and that's all there is to say," Denisov said.

So Kerry is simply smoking crack if he thinks that he's going to get allied forces to replace our troops on the ground. There won't be anyone replacing the troops already there, so his plan won't work. It's all bogus. (And I think he knows it too, but that's a story for another day.)

Kerry also said during the debate that he would support sending troops to Darfur, Sudan if needed:

Right now all the president is providing is humanitarian support. We need to do more than that. They‘ve got to have the logistical capacity to go in and stop the killing. And that‘s going to require more than is on the table today.
...
But I‘ll tell you this, as president, if it took American forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I‘d be prepared to do it because we could never allow another Rwanda.

So our troops do not seem to be more likely to be in garrison (that means staying at their home bases) if Kerry is elected. That's a misrepresentation on his party's side. Kerry's plan -- only leaving Iraq if we're replaced by other allies, deploying to Sudan if necessary -- is not a benefit for our troops. It will not reduce the number of deployments or make extra soldiers or Marines any less necessary.

Maybe we should also be worrying that Kerry might need a draft. After all, it was two Democrats who initiated the draft legislation in the first place...the same legislation, I might add, that was voted down 402-2.

There's not going to be a draft. The last thing anyone who cares at all about the American military wants are ungrateful punks ending up in the ranks. Let the adults handle the job of defending America; the frat boys and hippies can stay at home.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And so here's my problem. I find myself in an enormous conflict between Roark and CavX.

Roark's philosophy was not that he was going to try to get others to see architecture the way he did. He just kinda thought you were born with it. If you saw things his way, you had common ground. If not, he didn't want to have anything to do with you. Not in a rude way, but in a matter-of-fact, we-have-nothing-to-discuss way.

On the other hand, CavX, through patient perseverance, has managed to covert many lefties that he works with. He lays out the facts, over and over, until the people admit that there can just be no other way of looking at things. And they're won over; CavX has created right-wingers.

So which way is right?

Lots of people thought that President Bush lost the debate last week. They say he's a horrible debater (whereas Kerry appears to be a Master Debater. Sorry, couldn't resist.) But I understand completely where President Bush is coming from: he's Roarkian. I imagine that Pres. Bush was wondering why on earth he had to debate Kerry -- a man who spends most of his time debating himself on the issues -- to prove that he'd be a good President. I imagine he thinks that if his track record doesn't speak for itself, then what else can he say? If you have no common ground at all, where do you begin? The Bush Doctrine has liberated two countries, forced Libya to disarm, unraveled the enormous Oil-For-Food scam, and brought the hope of democracy to millions of people; if he has to sit down and explain to you why that's good, then what's the point? That's why he looked like he was "smirking" during the debate; it pains him, just as it pains me, to hear the string of nonsense that comes of of Kerry's mouth. He tries, but he just can't understand the way Kerry looks at the world. I completely understand that, for that's the reason I have spent a year trying to grok. These things are self-evident to me and to President Bush; if a majority of Americans and voters can't see that, then maybe they don't deserve to have him as their president.

I admire CavX's style, because it's so unlike the way I think. He's methodical and patient; I fly off the handle and want to either rip heads off or end the conversation. I wish I had his skills of persuasion; then maybe my co-workers would stop trying to convince me that Bush is bad.

Which brings us full circle to The Draft. When we get emails like this, or when our co-workers praise Fahrencrap 9/11, what is the proper response? I can't help but think of a passage from The Demon-Haunted World:

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?

Sagan ends this section with "Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom." I just don't know what to think anymore. On the one hand, I think that some people will never see what I see, no matter how articulately I might lay it out, and it's not worth my sanity to try to beat them over the head with Truth. On the other hand, people are going to be voting next month based on bullcrap like this email forward on the draft, and unless we make a serious effort to counter the media and the junk science, we run the risk of losing President Bush.

If that happened, he would likely go home shaking his head, wondering why people just couldn't see what he saw. He shouldn't have to sugarcoat two toppled regimes and almost the whole deck of cards out of the picture.

My ballot is already in the mail; it's a bit late to be thinking about this topic. But who are we going to be over the next three weeks, Roark or CavX?

Posted by Sarah at 07:42 AM | Comments (8)

September 15, 2004

IRAN

When my students do course evaluations, the overwhelming suggestion they offer me is to be tougher on them. They think I'm too nice and encourage me to put boot to ass when it's needed. I'm getting better about being strict -- it's something I work on all the time -- because I know that I'm not doing them any favors by letting them walk all over me.

I thought about that today when I read this article on the difference between how the US and the EU want to deal with Iran. The US wants to put boot to ass, while the EU wants a vague timeframe and an evalutation from ElBaradei. Iran is going to turn out like some of my students, the ones who come up with every excuse and lie under the sun for why they need extensions and special treatment. And the EU is going to fall for it, like I did when I first started teaching.

Believing the best in people is good. Believing the best in people when they've given you no reason to trust them is dangerous, especially when nukes are involved.

Posted by Sarah at 11:29 AM | Comments (10)

EXPIRED

I missed the chance to talk about a milestone from Monday: the assault weapon ban expired. From what I understand of the issue, and from the passionate papers my students have written on the topic, I think that's a good thing.

Posted by Sarah at 10:28 AM | Comments (5)

September 13, 2004

CRUEL

Wow. Ever since I decided to start deleting people, it seems they are just trying to push my buttons. Zapping them has been fun, but this comment from "Dufus Galant" (IP address 66.41.206.40 for anyone who knows about those things) literally made my jaw drop. I'm not even deleting it; everyone should go and see the cruelty that exists in this world.

Posted by Sarah at 10:12 PM | Comments (25)

August 29, 2004

IRAN

When I read the book Alas, Babylon two years ago, I could hardly put it down. It's the story of the aftermath of nuclear war and how the remaining people struggled to survive. I've been thinking a lot about it lately as I've been following Iran's nuclear progress over at LGF. The thing is, a series of articles showing Iran getting closer and closer seems to have little impact on anyone, but picture it as a narrative or a movie, and it starts to seem important. Picture ominous build-up music and scenes of putting the final touches on while the protagonist races to get there in time. That's what I fear we're facing, though the boring articles describing the scenario really play down the urgency. But Alas, Babylon is never far from my mind.

Posted by Sarah at 07:46 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2004

PHOTOS

Erik of No Passaran discusses a French photo exhibit that will feature photos from Abu Ghraib but not from the mass graves found in Iraq as part of the "most important photos of the year":

Now I would like you to ask you to take another look at the photo of the father bestowing a final kiss on the dried skull of his son. (It should not escape notice that the place this skeleton was dug up at was the burial grounds of… Abu Ghraib.)

Which pictures do you think Ghirayer Ali would deem "the most important photos of the year", Monsieur Leroy? Those showing some of hundreds of thousands of murdered Iraqi civilians dug up from the Iraqi sands, including his son at Abu Ghraib, or the snapshots documenting US troops humiliating prisoners (a good portion of which were those who murdered their countrymen in the first place)?

Before I'm accused of catering to base emotionalism, I will take back the question, and ask a more general one: which of the two groups of pictures do you think your average Iraqi would deem "the most important photos of the year", Monsieur Leroy?

I have a lump in my throat from looking at that photo...

Posted by Sarah at 02:56 PM | Comments (1)

August 21, 2004

DARK STAR SAFARI

I've been meaning to write about Dark Star Safari since I finished it, but I just haven't made the time yet. I'm making it now.

Beth recommended this book. Since I read The Power of One last year and went from zero knowledge of South African society to at least a passing level, I thought I'd give Dark Star Safari a try. I know that there's always a lot more to learn about foreign continents.

Beth's review of the book leaned towards the parallels with Iraq:

Reading the book has led me to ponder to comparisons, America and Africa, and Iraq and Africa. Theroux's book could/should serve as a stark warning of some major mistakes that could be made in trying to promote a democracy in Iraq. What it comes down to more than anything else is do the Iraqi's want a true democracy? And if they do, are they willing to go thru the struggle, take the responsibility, and resist those who would hinder the outcome?

That's an interesting parallel to make, one that I had forgotten Beth had made until I looked it up again now. Setting up the conditions for people to be free won't work if the people don't yearn for freedom. Similarly, setting up the conditions for progress won't work if people can't see the big picture.

When I was a French tutor at my college, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: students memorized formulas for putting together hypotheticals. I tried hard to teach them to think of the meaning attached to the hypothetical sentences. I encouraged them to think of what they wanted to say and then use the fitting tenses. They ignored me; the formulas were easier. My students invented intricate mnemonic devices to remember which tenses went together, completely abandoning meaning as a criterion. No matter how many times I tried to explain to them that they should view French as a language and not a math problem, they didn't want to listen. I always saw that chart in our book as the give-a-man-a-fish method: the students couldn't extrapolate from it or do anything that didn't plug neatly into the formula. But the students didn't want the teach-a-man-to-fish method because it was harder than mimicry.

I thought a lot about the giving vs teaching fish proverb while reading Dark Star Safari. Theroux is certainly an Afrophile, but all of his observations, no matter how much he tried to provide context, presented Africa in a horrifying light. Theroux does not sugarcoat the situation; he presents the good with the bad, which is admirable since I'm wont to smell agenda in everything I read. What he taught me is that Africa is a beautiful and mysterious continent that is completely screwed.

The problem Theroux lays out is that the Africans have been given so many fish that they'll never bother to learn to fish: they always know another handout is around the corner. All of the relief workers and foreign aid are killing the African initiative; Theroux relates countless stories of Africans who shrug off problems and say that aid workers will fix it. Foreigners move to Africa, start programs, get run out of town or move on when they get frustrated, and the whole program crumbles and dies. Theroux painted a dismal portrait of the endless cycle of foreign aid and dwindling African spirit. The Africans don't see the big picture of helping themselves, because in the short-run another aid worker will come and do it for them.

Kim du Toit has advocated letting Africa sink. The first time I read his essay, I thought it was too extreme. Now I'm not so sure. I'm not saying I advocate "a high wall around the whole continent, all the guns and bombs in the world for everyone inside" as Kim does, in typical Kim fashion. But I don't see a solution to Africa's deep-rooted problems anywhere on the horizon.

I thought Bill Gates was the height of magnanimity when he gave millions to AIDS in Africa; now it seems like fish-giving at its worst. Throwing money at the problem will not do anything to solve Africa's suffering. I sure can't offer a solution, but I know it ain't money.

Good book. Check it out if you're looking for a depressingly realistic read.

MORE TO GROK:

I forgot that Bunker wrote a similar post (complete with giving/teaching fish idea) back in July. I must've subconsciously plagiarized him...

Posted by Sarah at 10:12 AM | Comments (5)

August 05, 2004

MUSIC

Since dc is so interested in the group of bands that is touring the US supporting Kerry, perhaps he'll be interested in this link via LGF; it seems even commenters on an anti-Bush site want musicians to shut their yappers.

Posted by Sarah at 07:24 AM | Comments (2)

EQUALITY

That war cheerleaders website berated me for saying that I value an American life over a non-American one. So I supposed that site's owner will also berate this Muslim woman for saying "the blood of a Muslim is for us more precious than the Ka’ba , but the blood of [Paul Johnson] is the blood of a dog because he is an idolatrous infidel.”

But I won't hold my breath waiting for it...

Posted by Sarah at 07:20 AM | Comments (1)

August 01, 2004

FAHRENCRAP

I just got back from watching Fahrencrap 9/11 with some friends; the one husband mailed his bootleg copy from Iraq, so we thought we'd give it a look. I thought I'd have a lot to say after I watched it, but I only have three words for Michael Moore. Boring. As. Hell. Seriously, my friend put it best when she said it was like watching one of those videos in middle school where you knew there would be a quiz but you could barely keep your eyes open. Maybe it was because I've already read so much commentary about the movie, but I found myself looking at my watch a lot. There were a few funny bits that kept us going, but that's not saying much; there were funny bits in Dude, Where's My Car? too, but it ain't winnin' any awards. I can't believe people had to pay money to see this movie.

Oh, and I could've gone my whole life without hearing Michael Moore say "who's your daddy"...

Posted by Sarah at 12:07 AM | Comments (13)

July 26, 2004

MANUAL

My mom let me in on some happenings in P-town: seems one of my high school friends' dads has been voted as principal of a local high school. Big whoop, right? Well, he's white and the high school is predominantly black, so

Members of the NAACP, Citizens for a Better Peoria and the 'African American Leadership Alliance' held a press conference Friday morning. They say they are concerned about the process by which William Salzman got approved as the new Manual High School principal.

Apparently "local black leaders have complained for months that a core group of board members have discussed district matters in private and without input from the board's two black members." OK. Whitey's getting together in secret and trying to keep the man down. Riiight.

Ross said she's "not one to cry racism" regarding the hiring, but the surprise vote shows a "lack of sensitivity" on the part of some board members.

Lack of sensitivity towards what, exactly? I know I don't know the whole story, but Salzman was already the assistant principal, he received over 100 letters of support from faculty and parents, and the summer is coming to a close and they need a principal.

Why on earth can't a white man effectively principal Manual?

Posted by Sarah at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2004

SPITTING

What's with the spitting? I have been known, at the height of my athletic days (read 16 years old), to spit. But to spit on someone? I'm not sure I could ever do that. (I can barely stand the episode of South Park where the moms are trying to get the kids chicken pox; they make up a game where Kenny spits in Kyle's mouth...ugh.) So how can people spit on Lance Armstrong? Spitting on someone is the most degrading thing I can think of, and they do this to a man who overcame cancer and is on the way to winning his sixth Tour de France. I'll never understand.

(via Smash)

MORE TO GROK:

And look at this horrible photo.

Posted by Sarah at 09:14 AM | Comments (3)

July 18, 2004

LORE

This, via Greyhawk, is one of the funniest things I've heard in a while:

I had to pull radio watch in the War Room last night, and somebody left a copy of the April edition of People Magazine there. So on radio watch, I read how Survivors Rob and Amber are in Love, Kelly Osborne is in Rehab, Omaarosa has a suprising past, and how Reese Witherspoon and hubby Ryan Phillippe bought a house in Los Angeles for 4.9 million. And you know what, after reading that magazine, for a split second, I was glad I was here in Iraq, and not back in America.

Hawk talks in the same post about the lore that people spout off as fact, namely that no one is interested in joining the military anymore because of the deployments. I understand that to not be true, even though I've heard several of my students say the same thing. We talk often in our class about avoiding "lore", like Americans are the fattest people on the planet or more black men are in prison than in college. These common-knowledge bullcrap statements are thrown around all the time because people think they could be true and never bother to research them. Same with the enlistment: it seems plausible that people would no longer want to join the military knowing the dangers involved, but it seems that recruitment and retention rates are steady. That article took me ten seconds to find; why don't most people bother to take those ten seconds before they propagate lore?

Posted by Sarah at 09:16 AM | Comments (5)

July 17, 2004

FINE LINE

There's a strange fine line you walk when you're a white girl who likes rap music. One of my students was writing his paper on the FCC and he wanted to use Eminem as an example of censorship but couldn't think of a good way to work it in. I quoted him a couple of lines from an Eminem song that I thought he could use, and he looked at me in awe: "You know Eminem?" We then talked at length about different rap albums, he made a couple of recommendations that I haven't heard yet, and we had a nice time. He even dared me to teach class in ebonics and encouraged me to use more slang! It was a pretty funny conversation, but it was nice that I never once got the feeling that I was "stealing his culture", which is the feeling I often get when I express interest in rap. I told him I especially enjoy the music for the language and that I can relate a bit to Nelly's Midwest tales, but I know that I certainly can't relate to many of rap's messages the way that he -- a young black kid from NYC -- can. I would never pretend to.

Which is why what John Kerry did at the NAACP looks especially foolish and freaky to me. You can express respect and admiration without making yourself part of the in-group. You can share common ground, but there is a fine line you need to respect.

Posted by Sarah at 09:40 AM | Comments (5)

RECYCLING

Bunker wrote about recycling the other day, and I was reminded of his post this morning when I saw a news clip on the Pentagon Channel here about a recycling program at Ft Knox (no hit on google though). Apparently they're tearing down some old housing, and they've decided to recycle what they can. People in the area are encouraged to come take cabinets, doors, wood, etc while the buildings are still standing. One man interviewed said that he was using the wood to start a new business -- a campsite for kids -- and that he's saved $35,000 so far in supplies from being able to take wood from the recycled buildings. Ft Knox also has saved over $100,000 in not having to pay to dump the materials. Now THAT is a recycling program I completely support, one that pumps money back into the community.

This morning the AFN News channel was on and on about Martha Stewart. I switched over to the Pentagon Channel and caught their news broadcast instead. Top stories: the tale of a group of MPs in Iraq who are transferring duties over to the Iraqi police, the birthday of the Army Rangers, and the recycling program at Ft Knox. Much more interesting, in my opinion, than Martha Stewart.

Posted by Sarah at 08:20 AM | Comments (2)

July 16, 2004

MINORITY

California education chief calls preschooler 'stupid dirty girl'. See also Anger, Boiling over. (via Allahpundit)

The California State Education Secretary made fun of a little girl's name. The NAACP got involved, saying it never would've happened if the girl were white. Um, the girl is white. And when the NAACP figured that out, they said

"Race is not a factor in this issue," Dymally said in Thursday's statement, adding that Riordan had apologized a second time. "It is time for us to move on."

So the State Education Secretary makes fun of a six year old, and it's no big deal, as long as she's not a minority. For the love of pete.

Reminds me of a story back in high school. Our teacher was calling roll on the first day and came to our Indian friend's name, which she proceeded to make fun of, saying it sounded like the noise you make when you sneeze. He was a little taken aback, but retorted with the funny quip, "Well, at least I'm not a Pollack," since her name was obviously Polish. He was kicked out of class and sent to the Dean. As he got up and walked out of class, he said, in a calm tone I'll never forget, "But you sneezed my name."


Come to think of it, those two stories aren't that related. Well, except that they both involve jackasses.

MORE TO GROK:

My bad: Dymally is not associated with the NAACP. They made ridiculous errors and bad judgement calls independent from one another.

Posted by Sarah at 01:50 PM | Comments (4)

July 12, 2004

CLASS

My class this weekend was pretty good. We all thought it would focus on the current terrorist events, but instead the prof mostly lectured about terrorism in the 70s and 80s. It was interesting because I didn't know that much about pre-9/11 terrorism, and it helped me gain better perspective on terrorism as a whole. I appreciated the experience.

And I loved being in class with Soldiers. A long while back I wrote about a professor who was using his class time to discuss his anti-war views, and I thought that active duty soldier students shouldn't have to be exposed to that in a class the military is paying for. However, after this weekend, I trust that Soldiers can hold their own. There were several students who actively challenged the prof when he said things they disagreed with, and there were also two clowns in the back row who were calling bullshit under their breath and mumbling quips about making parking lots. When the prof said things that we didn't agree with -- that Europe's position on the death penalty is much more enlightened than the US's, that al-Qaeda was nothing to be worried about, that we should understand the root causes of the Palestinians' beef -- there was always a hand in the air to voice an opinion. Even though the prof knew his stuff, none of the students simply took his more opinionated statements at face value.

Bunker's back in the building with a great post about the relationship between government and society. There was an interesting, and tangential, moment in class when the prof said that the US was no better than Iran or China for having the death penalty, and that even though roughly 85% of the population supports it, a civilized society would not allow it. He pointed to Europe as being more modern and classy for having banned the death penalty. I went home that night and checked on the stats; I found that support is declining in the US but rising in Europe. (Here's another interesting site.) I just don't see how abolishing something that anywhere from 50 to 70% of people support is a sign of civilization or modernity. Why should a government say, "We know you want this, but we don't think you're capable of making such a grown-up decision so we're just going to decide for you"?

Another thing that came up in class was the "America has no culture" meme. The "American culture is nothing but Coke and Nike and Big Macs" crap. And then the prof said that American culture is no different than European culture. I strongly disagree. (Den Beste's said it all before; see here and here and here and here. And many other places too.) The many problems we're facing today vis a vis alliances and the UN are a direct result of the widening gap between cultures. We're not, as one student jokingly said, "not good enough to be British." We do indeed have a culture that goes beyond Supersize. Just ask Abkow Edow and Madina Idle.

All in all a good experience. Some bits I disagreed with, but for the most part the prof did a good job of just reporting the facts, which is hard to come by in education today.

MORE TO GROK:

David of Rishon Rishon points out two posts on the difference between American and European culture: The Freeholders and Happy Independence Day, USA.

Posted by Sarah at 08:30 AM | Comments (4)

July 07, 2004

RIDDLE

Q: What weighs the same as a rhinoceros but is missing from the homepages of the major news sites?

A: The uranium found in Iraq

RIDDLE #2:

Q. What is the appropriate response to the UN when they whine we didn't ask permission to transport uranium that could be used for dirty bombs?

A. The same response the American delegate made at the UN in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut when the Canadians condemned the actions taken by American in apprehending Terrance and Phillip.

Posted by Sarah at 06:54 AM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2004

GAMES?

I wrote a long time ago about how strange I thought it was to see my cousins playing Catch Osama in the summer of 2002. But that was nothing compared to seeing these Swedish kids play Behead Nick Berg.

I just can't think of anything else to say.


MORE TO GROK:

This video, Seeds of Hatred, found in the comments at LGF is worth watching too.

Posted by Sarah at 07:39 AM | Comments (1)

June 23, 2004

FUMING

I went to LGF this morning and started reading over a bowl of cereal. At the fifth post down, I froze with the spoon halfway to my mouth and let out a nice loud godammit. They killed Kim Seon-Il. I'm not surprised, but now I'm mad as hell. Fuming mad. How many more heads do they have to hack off before the rest of the world gets mad too?

My "bring it on" yesterday was just the start. Every day, I get angrier and angrier, and it only steels my resolve.

MORE TO GROK:

I hope Amritas is wrong, but his words ring true in my ears:

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I know what barbarians can do. I also wish his death will not be in vain, but I know what the Left wants to do.


Posted by Sarah at 08:09 AM | Comments (7)

June 20, 2004

PREJUDICE

I am prejudiced.

Actually, I don't really think that's the right word, since the definition of prejudiced includes the phrases "formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge" and "an irrational attitude", neither of which do I think qualify in this instance. But there's no other word for having a negative opinion of an entire group of people based on two years of research.

So we're gonna go with prejudiced.

I don't know that many Muslims one-on-one. I am friends with one Muslim family from Iran who begs my husband to invade their country every time they see him. I know of a few Muslims in the Army, including one who is wonderful and one who scares the crap out of me. On an individual level, I'm sure I could like many Muslims. But on a larger scale, I have no love for Islam.

I personally don't care what someone believes in private, and I think everyone has a right to believe or not believe whatever he chooses. There is however a major difference in the way each religion presents itself to the world. What are the major current news stories dealing with Christianity? Whether the 10 Commandments should be in a courthouse or whether Christianity should be mentioned in the EU Constitution. What are the major news stories on Islam? Beheadings, suicide bombings, and honor killings. Those two things, to quote Jules, "ain't the same ballpark, ain't the same league, ain't even the same f*ckin' sport."

Den Beste just found a hazily-attributed speech on the Muslim world. One section addresses the fundamental differences in "common ground":

The civilized world believes in democracy, the rule of law, including international law, human rights, free speech and free press, among other liberties. There are naïve old-fashioned habits such as respecting religious sites and symbols, not using ambulances and hospitals for acts of war, avoiding the mutilation of dead bodies and not using children as human shields or human bombs. Never in history, not even in the Nazi period, was there such total disregard of all of the above as we observe now. Every student of political science debates how you prevent an anti-democratic force from winning a democratic election and abolishing democracy. Other aspects of a civilized society must also have limitations. Can a policeman open fire on someone trying to kill him? Can a government listen to phone conversations of terrorists and drug dealers? Does free speech protects you when you shout “fire” in a crowded theater? Should there be death penalty, for deliberate multiple murders? These are the old-fashioned dilemmas. But now we have an entire new set.

Do you raid a mosque, which serves as a terrorist ammunition storage? Do you return fire, if you are attacked from a hospital? Do you storm a church taken over by terrorists who took the priests hostages? Do you search every ambulance after a few suicide murderers use ambulances to reach their targets? Do you strip every woman because one pretended to be pregnant and carried a suicide bomb on her belly? Do you shoot back at someone trying to kill you, standing deliberately behind a group of children? Do you raid terrorist headquarters, hidden in a mental hospital? Do you shoot an arch-murderer who deliberately moves from one location to another, always surrounded by children? All of these happen daily in Iraq and in the Palestinian areas. What do you do? Well, you do not want to face the dilemma. But it cannot be avoided.

These are real dilemmas that we face because of the nature of radical Islam. Charles Johnson gets a lot of crap for Little Green Footballs, but most of what he does is just link to articles about what's really going on in the Middle East. Sure, he has his own opinions on the matter, but he's not fabricating these stories of bus bombings, crazy imams, or auctions of Jewish body parts. Those things are really happening in the world, despite what anyone thinks of Charles' weblog. And I do think that those things are disgusting and antediluvian; I won't apologize for saying so.

No, not all Muslims are terrorists; I have nothing but respect for Zeyad, Ali, Omar, Muhammad, and other Iraqi bloggers. But Muslims as a group have some serious problems, and when these problems cause them to fly planes into buildings and kill my countrymen, then they're walkin' on the fightin' side of me. And I will not apologize for enjoying Allah's t-shirt, especially when others in this world feel no shame at wearing a Burn Israel Burn shirt.

Yes, I have a real problem with Muslims, especially since very few of them are standing up and renouncing the horrible things LGF reports on. When the moderates start taking back their religion from the loonies, I will have more respect for Muslims, but until that day I will remain prejudiced.


(I'm sure that's not what Can't Win wants to hear when he asks, "Do you have deep-rooted hostilities towards Arabs and the Islamic faith?", but it's the truth. And I'm pretty sure a few of my regular readers agree with me.)

Posted by Sarah at 11:57 AM | Comments (11)

June 19, 2004

BEHEADING

I went out to dinner last night and Oda Mae outted me: now everyone knows I'm a blogger. I had my own version of this conversation, and we all had an interesting discussion about current events and the news.

I came home after 2300 and hit the button on the answering machine: "Hi. I know you're at dinner, but I was just upset. Those son of a bitches just beheaded that Paul Johnson who was in Saudi Arabia." Even though I was tired enough to fall asleep in the hallway, I got on the computer. I looked at the pictures. And I started thinking before I went to bed.

Besides studying the French Revolution, I had never really given beheading much thought. And now in the past month I've learned of three beheadings. Nick Berg. Sieng Padkaew. Paul Johnson. I never in my life thought I'd see someone's head being held up for the camera, or someone's head sitting in the small of his back. That's footage for Kill Bill, not reality.

But that's really happening in the world. I think we do need to face the music. We need to be honest with ourselves about how our enemy plans to win this war, and we need to start telling it like it is.

Seppo wrote Thursday about war propaganda (Thanks, Bunker) and its role. By ignoring the growing threat that these Islamists pose, by turning a blind eye to the videos and photos they themselves take of their murders, I too fear we might ultimately lose the War on Terror. Or not have the fortitude to see it through. As Seppo said: "What is it that the networks believe we've lost in 60 years? What values and strengths held by my grandfather do I not have? And who in the hell gave them the right to make that judgement for me?"

I read Nick Schultz' article on Saddam's torture tapes this morning. I have a stomach of steel for these things, but I gasped out in fright as I read the descriptions of torture. I covered my eyes and cringed, and that was just reading the description. Then came the ending that made me take notice:

I must confess that in recent weeks I had begun to harbor some doubts about a war I had supported. And I was not the only war supporter to begin second-guessing recently. We doubting Thomases had been perhaps most perplexed at President Bush, steadfast in the wake of mounting Coalition deaths, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and other bad news. Did this man not see what we were seeing?

There is no doubt that he had. But President Bush — along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has also remained resolute despite withering and unfair criticism at home — had also seen things that we had not. Seeing this footage helps one better understand the mindset of President Bush and of his stalwart British ally and explains their resolve in the face of tremendous difficulties and setbacks. Seeing these films and ones like them out there, will, I believe, make any fence sitter shed his doubts about the appropriateness of destroying Saddam's regime. If anything, they make one wonder, almost shamefully, how and why it took the civilized world — or at least part of that world — as long as it did to rise up against it.

The enemy makes videos of beheadings to rally terrorists and feed their bloodlust. I think we need to see these images -- face this reality -- so that we don't lose sight of how our enemies plan to win.

And then we need to make damn sure they don't succeed.

Posted by Sarah at 11:45 AM | Comments (15)

June 15, 2004

AVOID

Amritas writes briefly about what's been going on in my comments section. He writes about how trolling is wrong, no matter if it's from the Left or Right. His last line hit me like a ton of bricks:

If we can't get along, let's just avoid each other.

I've worried in the past about the growing divide between Left and Right. I'm sure it's always been that way, but before the internet, the only people you could talk to about politics were people you actually knew. The internet has allowed us to meet scores of people who think like we do...but has also brought us in contact with scores of people on the opposite side. Before the internet, calling someone who disagreed with you a clueless fucktard was probably a bad idea, because you'd most likely have to keep working with that person or attending social events together. But on the internet, whoo boy. Fake email address, fake name, and the insults just flow. Why not, it's not like you ever have to see this person.

I keep coming back to February. And I can't get that graph of book purchases out of my head. We obviously can't get along anymore (as the wave of insults in my comments show), so we will only get better at avoiding each other.

We're a country with two political parties, but we may as well be from different planets.

Posted by Sarah at 08:27 AM | Comments (6)

June 14, 2004

STATISTICS

I wrote several blog posts yesterday that aren't going to get posted. I wrote one about people with bad manners and a lack of common decency. I wrote another about my growing frustration with the divide between Right and Left and how I was starting to feel sympathetic towards the Left until they started calling me names. I also wrote one about how I do indeed understand basic statistics but that I hadn't planned on 2000 people descending on me like vultures so I perhaps didn't word my post in a way that everyone could understand. And I wrote about how chilling I think it is that every one of the commenters wrongly assumed that I bring my politics into the classroom and force it on my students.

In the end, none of these topics matter. Those who came over from Atrios will have forgotten about me by now, save the occasional one who will pat himself on the back for calling me "intellectually bankrupt" and "a gathering threat to democracy". All that really matters are my regular readers, the faithful who understand what I was trying to say even if I didn't phrase it as well as I could have.

I got lots of instruction on statistics in the comment section. No, I am not a statistician or a math teacher. I could learn more on the topic, and I would like to. However, I do have a decent understanding of p-values and sampling and the way that polls can be manipulated. Many people focused on my mention of the 615 people and completely ignored the other things I had to say. Yes, 615 is 50% of the poll size and a "statistically sound" sample size to make the claims that the LA Times makes. I am not arguing that the statistics are bad; I'm arguing that opinion polling is imprecise and not worth betting the farm on.

Gemini was one of the only commenters that I appreciated hearing from. I would like to address what he/she had to say.

I was trained as a statistician (bachelor's and master's degrees). You are making common mistakes that many people make about polls.

Polls are neither Godlike in their accuracy nor total b.s., like the person in your followup article tries to assert. They tend to be as good as the objectivity of the person or organization conducting them.

That's an interesting point, because I no longer trust the organizations who do the polling. None of them. If I have learned anything in the past two years, it's that all sources are biased, even the ones with the best intentions. I don't put much faith at all in the objectivity of any person or organization. In contrast, it seems that lots of people do blindly assume that these polls are conducted by robots who have no political agenda. That's why in my class we discuss how every single media source has bias of some sort, from Fox to the BBC. Every single one. We discuss how it's impossible to avoid but as long as we're aware of it we're ahead of the game. (I don't tell my students which sources I think are more biased than others; that's what bad teachers do.)

One should always read polls with a careful eye. Here are some things to look for:

Read the questions carefully. Are they worded objectively? People with agendas can word the questions in such a way as to get the results they want.

I stated already that I don't think that all the questions were worded objectively. Some of them were decent straight-forward questions, but some were not. I mentioned Q48, but I also think that we might have seen different results for several questions if the words George Bush had been substituted with United States (as in Q16: Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?). The mere mention of our President's name can send some people into a frenzy, regardless of what the question is asking. These questions with President Bush's name in them were split pretty hard down the party lines; I imagine that the answers might have been slightly different if his name had been left out. It's subtle things like that which will affect the outcome of the already-too-close-to-call results.

Was the sample a random sample? Deliberately not taking a random sample is one way to skew results. It's also why all self-selecting polls (like internet polls) are unreliable - the respondents have not been selected randomly.

What universe was the sample taken from? Likely voters? Registered voters? All citizens? Results are likely to vary for different universes and are generalizable only to the universe they came from. For example, you can't take a sample of "likely" voters and then say that all Americans have the opinions found in the sample - only "likely" voters do.

The sample was not purely random, since the LA Times states that "the entire sample of adults was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age and education." I'm no expert, and I've wasted enough time on this topic already, but I'd guess that voting patterns do not correlate perfectly with census data. My guess is that things like age and education are indicators of who votes, so making the poll fit census data instead of voter demographics is less realistic. But whatever, I can let that one slide.

What I cannot let slide is that, while the LA Times felt it necessary to weight the sample based on demographics, they did not feel it was important to weight it based on party affiliation. According to Mickey Kaus, "the party breakdown in the LAT poll was 38% Democratic, 25% Republican, 24% Independent." (Thanks, Tanker.) Don't you think that might have an effect on the poll results as well? The LA Times spent time and energy tweaking for race and sex; why couldn't they poll an equal number of people based on party affiliation? That seems to me to be a much bigger indicator of political opinion than race or sex, so the LA Times should have tried to minimize that effect.

[snip] Sampling is not a perfect science, but the results from reputable organizations are usually accurate, as long as one understands just what they represent.

That's just my point; for all the hatred I incited, few people actually discussed the poll itself. I'm not sure any of them understood what it represents. No one at all commented about the missing 55% in the original AP report. That's the type of bias I was pointing out in the first place. Why comment on what <20 + 25% of people think we should do, without mentioning the rest, unless you've got a point to make? Why not report that 73% said that there should be no specific date for withdrawal, unless that's not considered newsworthy? I don't think any of these results actually mean anything (the only thing that matters is the actual vote in November), but if they must report on it, they could do a better job.

What I was trying to originally point out is that many people are headline readers; they see the headline Poll: Voters Say Iraq Didn't Merit War, and they don't actually read the article or think about how the questions were worded or how the poll was conducted. They place great faith in the polling process because it's "up to statistical standards", without thinking much about the fact that opinions and feelings are not easy to scientifically measure. A sample size of 1230 for coin flips or jellybean colors or dice rolls is absolutely acceptable, but public opinion is a much trickier thing to measure.

All I tried to say is that polls don't really matter, especially close ones. If a poll of 1230 people showed that 80% of people thought Iraq didn't merit war, then perhaps there would be something substantial to worry about. But polls about presidential popularity and opinions on war where the percentages hover around 50% are worth a grain of salt, in my opinion. A slight change in wording could tip opinion the other way. I'm amazed that Atrios' readers spent their time calling me names rather than entertaining the possibility that I could have an honest point here.

Incidentally, one of the things I teach my students when doing research is an attention to detail. If you're writing a paper on marriage and you use Britney Spears as an example, then you'd better spell her name right. I repeatedly tell them that when they ignore the easily-checked details, it really weakens their argument; how can we trust that your argument is sound when we can't even trust you to check spelling and details? I found the same thing going on in the comments; why should I take advice on paying attention to details from people who didn't bother to notice that 1) I am a female 2) I don't teach at a DoD's school or 3) that I'm not a Christian evangelical?

Come to think of it, why should I take advice from people who call me "clueless fucktard dumb" or say that I write "incredible dumbfuckery", that I "have no business teaching anyone anything", that I am "a gathering threat to democracy", that I should "shut the fuck up", and that I probably "don't even have a high school diploma, let alone a college degree"?

UPDATE:

Darkwater wrote me a huge email and included a lengthy comment here. I have read both, and I'd like to point out something that I think is apples and oranges.

I *strongly* take exception to your point that "polls don't matter, especially close ones." In my years of dealing with statistics, some of the most illuminating results have been the ones where the p-value is on the hairy edge of the rejection regime. Some of the most interesting tests I've been involved in are the ones where there is no clear answer to the question of whether "system A" is better than "system B". Such tests force the decision-makers to readdress what information they wanted to get out of the test, and reassess their appetite for risk before going ahead with a test.

Darkwater does military testing for the Department of Defense. For him, I assume close calls are controlled experiments measuring, as he said, whether 'system A' is better than 'system B'." That's science. Opinion polling is not science. There are way too many variables that can't be controlled for. A large part of our population relies on caller ID and answering machines to screen their calls; those people will not be participating in the polls. Neither will people whose primary phone number is a cell phone, where they'd be paying for the call. But let's say the poller does get through to someone who agrees to do the poll, and three questions into the call that person realizes he's not informed enough to accurately answer the questions. He can either 1) stop the poller and excuse himself, 2) answer "no opinion" on everything, or 3) guess at what he thinks the "right" answer is. Based on what's been going on in the media, do you think someone will guess that President Bush is doing a good or bad job with Abu Ghraib? People who don't pay that close of attention might not know that the investigation into Abu Ghraib was nearly complete and court martials were already beginning before CBS ever got ahold of the story. But the way the story splashed across the front pages, someone who is not as informed might assume that it's being handled poorly and that "bad job" is the answer the poller is looking for (the poller works for the media, the media says it's a bad job...). That's just one example. There are many people out there who don't read blogs and don't stay up-to-date on politics, yet they might still give the poll a stab. And they might try to guess what the "educated" and "right" answer to each question would be. That's not scientific. Opinions are not hard facts. Using the scientific method to check System A against System B is science (the implementation of either system might then have to mingle with politics, as Darkwater implies, but the actual research is scientific.) Calling a bunch of people and asking them questions is deeply flawed. Though the statistical analysis of the data might be sound, any experiment where someone can try to guess the "right" answer is not hard science.

That's all; I'm done discussing this poll.

Posted by Sarah at 09:06 AM | Comments (47)

June 11, 2004

TRUTH

OK, just to clear something up, even though it's 0100 and I really shouldn't be tackling this subject at such an hour: it seems I pissed some people off when I wrote about Objective Truth. Believe you me when I say that I do think that there is truth out there. I think there's a right and wrong, and I just recently wrote a post about thinking in black and white. I haven't changed my mind in one week. I think there's real true-ness, as in facts that can be proven, but I don't think there's "Objective Truth", as in something that everyone accepts as truth.

Was Reagan a national hero who deserves to be on the $10 bill or is it that "the world will be a better place without that fascist f*cker's presence to soil it"? How can those two things be so polar? Isn't there Objective Truth out there? I don't think most people are capable of it. If we were capable of Objective Truth, then we wouldn't have such a shocking juxtaposition of opinions on Reagan.

So, to try to better explain what I meant, I do think that there are facts out there, but I don't think that most people are able to look past their bias to see them. So we end up with two truths.

For real, it's way too late to be writing this.

Posted by Sarah at 01:11 AM | Comments (24)

June 09, 2004

DEMARCATION

One of the hardest parts of being informed about current events and politics is constantly being aware that there is no such thing as Objective Truth out there. Things that I consider Conspiracy Theory are someone else's Obvious Facts. Things I think are Indisputable are labeled Lies by others. One man's Hero is another man's Hitler. I guess I shouldn't have been shocked then to find that I could read numerous blog posts on all my daily reads praising and honoring President Reagan, but that there were still many posts out there that demonize and disrespect our former president. And that the lines are cleanly drawn between Left and Right. It's no big surprise that the names on that list of bloggers who bash Reagan include Ted Rall and Daily Kos. The demarcation zone is always right where I expected it to be. It's tedious, really, to know that you're always stuck preaching to the choir, that I'm posting the same thing now that I said back in February. Will we ever reach a point where we understand each other?

Posted by Sarah at 08:55 PM | Comments (7)

June 07, 2004

OIL

This is where I kinda want to do an I-told-you-so dance:

Although Iraq is a major petroleum producer, the country has little capacity to refine its own gasoline. So the U.S. government pays about $1.50 a gallon to buy fuel in neighboring countries and deliver it to Iraqi stations. A three-month supply costs American taxpayers more than $500 million, not including the cost of military escorts to fend off attacks by Iraqi insurgents.

It was never about oil for the USA. If I hear that again I'm gonna slug someone.

Posted by Sarah at 08:40 PM | Comments (13)

June 01, 2004

BUTSTILL

Normally I write my posts completely off the cuff, but I have put a lot of thought into this one. I even made an outline. It is something that has preoccupied me for a few days now.

I have been accused a couple of times recently of being too close-minded and of seeing things only in black and white. No one likes his flaws pointed out, and I am the first one to admit that I am especially bad at taking criticism. Though I may write with fire and brimstone, I'm entirely too sensitive for disagreement and unpleasant situations (in fact, my students' repeated criticism of me was that I was "too nice" and got too personally involved in their success and failure.) If someone suggests I am close-minded, I will agonize over that characterization for days, as I did this weekend.

I recently read Nighthawk's soul-searching and felt the same questions rising inside of me. Should I be more open to listening to those in opposition? Should I periodically re-examine my values to make sure they're still sound? Do I have an obligation to listen patiently to all sides of the argument and withhold judgement?

My poor mother, who is sick as a dog, has listened to me on the phone for the past three days as I've worked through my faults and beliefs. She has been infinitely selfless as I have prattled on about my own issues, and she was there for the eureka moment today when I realized what has been bothering me.

Should we legalize drugs? Maybe. How do I feel about euthanasia? Well, I can see both sides. What about cloning issues? Hmm, that's a tough one. In most of the social issues I can see valid arguments for the pro- and con-; I even contradictably agree with points on both sides. I don't have a black-and-white approach, and I like to hear what others have to say. Even on issues where I do have a stronger opinion -- like the marriage amendment or stem-cell research -- I can easily see the reasons why someone would argue for the other side. I'm up for debate on any of those topics.

However, when it comes to the War on Terrorism, I believe there is a concrete right and wrong. I don't see this war as a "social issue" that can be debated like abortion or captial punishment. I think this war is necessary, just, and beneficial, and I can find overwhelming evidence to support that belief. What I cannot find is a rational reason why we should not fight this war. I just can't find it. The reasons I have heard from the other side all seem to ignore the evidence I see as plain as my nose and instead focus on butstills.

The butstill. My friend and I were discussing that last night. Someone told her the war was a mistake and gave the example of a (heartbreaking) story he had heard about the death of an Iraqi child. In response, she told him stories of new prosthetic hands and grateful Iraqi bloggers. She asked if he thought those things were a mistake. His response: "No. But still..."

There's always a butstill. Rarely is it followed by anything else. Most of the opposition I've heard to this war is first a denunciation of President Bush and then a butstill. I've seen the anti-war arguments torn to shreds twice recently, first by the lead singer of Iced Earth and secondly today by Marek Edelman. To me, this war makes perfect sense; I am having a hard time seeing this as anything but a black-and-white issue.

I've done a lot of thinking about whether I'm close-minded. The conclusion I came to was that there are some times when being open-minded means being wishy-washy. There are some times when standing firmly for something you believe to be irrefutable is entirely appropriate. I think Den Beste was right when he said, "there are some kinds of situations where the answer is simple, and in such cases if someone still tries to find a more complex nuanced answer it shows that he has no backbone."

So I'll remain close-minded about the War, but if anyone wants to debate me on euthanasia, I'm all for it.

MORE TO GROK:

Tammi also writes about thinking in black and white.

Posted by Sarah at 10:17 PM | Comments (7)

May 30, 2004

BEHEADING

Another beheading by the Religion of Peace. Mind you, this one has nothing to do with Abu Ghraib. Has everyone in this world lost their freaking minds? Where are the moderate Muslims to denounce this abhorrent practice? Where is the outrage from the people who are oh-so-worried about human rights? Amnesty International devotes the majority of their 339 pages to the US, and freaking China looks down their nose at us for Abu Ghraib? Are we all living on the same planet here?

To quote a commenter on LGF:

Overkill was passed one month ago, we are now in absolute terminal freefall.

Posted by Sarah at 03:25 PM | Comments (4)

May 28, 2004

NOTHING

Tim pointed me in the direction of a letter to the editor in Eugene, Oregon and suggested I might want to fisk it. To be honest, I've been reading and re-reading it, and I have nothing to say to this woman. I have nothing to say to someone who suggests a "yellow ribbon should denote cowardice", to someone who said that going to war was "taking the easy way out", to someone who urges us to "tie a blood-red ribbon on your arm" in protest. What could I possibly say to counter such contempt?

However, I do find one line to be worth comment:

I would like to honor all the women and men who refuse to fight any battle that is not their own, whether it's for oil, power, money, government or greed.

We should never fight battles that are not our own. White men should not have fought to abolish slavery. Men should not have sided with women to get the vote. Americans should not have stopped the Nazis from taking all of Europe. If we all mind our own business and leave people alone, then peace will reign over our planet.

Maybe it looks that way in Eugene. I doubt the Kurdish parents who named their sons Dick Cheney and George Bush agree.

Posted by Sarah at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

COMPATRIOTS

While we're still on the subject of the comparative value of life, I would like to highlight some comments.

First from Carla:

The U.S. government, by the people, for the people, is authorized only to act on behalf of U.S. citizens--not on behalf of any other. As a servant of the people--not a *ruler*--the federal government should only act in Americans' interests. No matter what, even if florian (or anyone else) thinks that an American human life is equivalent to any other, the U.S. government *must* not--is not permitted to--and therefore must always value the lives of Americans more than the lives of any others.

That reminds me of the inane comment from the Beastie Boy who was mad that President Bush puts Americans ahead of people in other countries. That's his job as the American President! What would you rather he did, MCA?

And from Bunker:

People in this country share something with me that those in other countries don't. People who want to denigrate that opinion need only ask themselves (honestly) whom do they cheer for in Olympic events.

Shared values. Common ground. As I read this I was thinking about the love-it-or-leave-it idea. I guess I just can't understand Americans who value other countries over their own. If citizens of other countries are more valuable to you, and if you feel you have more common ground with them, then go live with them. For all the moaning about the "rich cultural heritage" and the lack of hegemony in other places, I don't see the mass emigration. (I imagine this is a matter of the ideal vs. the real: it's one thing to ideally value the 35-hour work week and six weeks of paid vacation that France has, but it's a whole different story to really move there, find a job, and pay their taxes.) I think it's perfectly natural to value your own compatriots more than anyone else in the world, and I find it puzzling when someone else doesn't.

If you don't prefer your compatriots, get new ones.

Posted by Sarah at 02:47 PM | Comments (1)

May 27, 2004

REPLY

Florian responded to my question, and I managed to glean a couple more things about him (still don't know the sex though; I'm going with male for argument's sake). He's old enough to remember the Cold War, American enough to call them "our" soldiers, and his moral compass is skewed enough to compare me to Stalin.

I'd like to respond to a few things he said, and then be done with it. He's free to come and watch this "cheerleader" if he wants, but I won't continue to waste my time trying to grasp his point of view.

You say you care about the US military, but I don’t think so.

Are we talking about the same Sarah here? Anyone who reads this blog knows that I care more for soldiers -- both the individuals themselves and the higher idea of "the soldier" -- than anyone else I know. I love them all, unconditionally. Florian lost me here, but I kept reading anyway.

You think you do, but there is something else underneath it. If you did, you wouldn’t trash our soldiers by calling them “turncoats” when they decide it is their duty to tell the truth about the war. You would listen to them, the Zinnis, the Ritters, the Tagubas, the Masseys. Instead you disgrace the service of generals, of men and women who put their safety and security at risk by listening to their conscience.

Florian lists four soldiers I should listen to who are doing their "duty to tell the truth about the war". Maybe Florian would do well to listen to some other soldiers doing their duty: Bowser, Miller, Walsh, and others. Or soldiers who are also trying to tell the truth, like Connable, Wiggles, or Sutton and Darby? Or the Iraqis who are trying to make their voices heard: Alaa, Ali, or Sam. Why do you not consider anything that these writers say as "truth", Florian?

You say you don’t remember the Cold War, but I do, and there is a kind of a Stalinism in your ability to immediately cut down fellow soldiers and colleagues who stray from the party line.

Soldiers have a right to disagree with the politics of a war. There were a handful of soldiers in my class who disagreed with our presence in Iraq, and there are some in my husband's battalion who disagree as well. No one is going "Stalin" on them. However, they have agreed to abide by certain Army Values, and although the Loyalty Value does call for a soldier to reject an illegal order, it does not allow them to openly criticize their superiors and make their own decisions about how American foreign policy should be enacted. Whether or not you agree with the hierarchy system, Florian, those in charge pass the orders down for things to happen. The military would be useless if anyone at any level were allowed to let personal decisions and emotional responses dictate behavior. That's just the way it is. If you want to call me Stalin for thinking that the military as an organization is more important than your four individuals' opinions, then go ahead and call me Stalin.

You say you care about Israel, but I don’t think so. If you did, you would honor the “never again” spirit in the actions of these soldiers. They understand the lesson of the Holocaust -- that soldiers and civilians must never blindly follow immoral orders or support immoral policies. Staff Sgt. Massey told his CO he felt they were committing genocide --murdering civilians, desecrating bodies. His CO called him a wimp. You probably would too.

The lesson of the Holocaust. How about the lesson of those countries in the world who let Hitler build and build until he was powerful enough to kill all those people? How about the lesson Bill Whittle gave us this week, that 30 or 40 soldiers could have prevented WWII? If the French had stood up to Hitler's rumbling, the Holocaust could have been avoided. How's that lesson grab you? Don't boil WWII down to "soldiers and civilians must never blindly follow immoral orders or support immoral policies"; the lesson I take is that one pre-emptive effort can prevent millions of deaths.

Why do I read your site?

Partly fascination. At your site people call others “conspiracy theorists” and “nutcases” even though they themselves believed in the nutty “Saddam Behind 9-11, Ready To Use WMD” conspiracy theory. At your site I see the pathology of a woman who uses the word “vaginitis” to mean cowardice, who says the life of a child holding a US passport is worth more than one who doesn’t.

No one here has said that Saddam was behind 9/11. Many of us believe that Iraq provided money and backing for terrorism, but no one has said Saddam was involved in 9/11. You made that up, and I don't appreciate it.

Since I'm a woman, would you be more comfortable if I wrote about how the female soldiers at Abu Ghraib should have been above the males? Would that fit with your worldview better than how I really write, where I'm comfortable enough with my gender to use the appropriate slurs for a wuss?

And you twisted my words around with the child v. child thing: I said that an American life is worth more than any other nationality's life, no matter if it's a woman or child. I don't see that as pathology, just honesty.

Partly to monitor the war cheerleaders’ websites, the collapse of the war effort in the drop off of comments, the doublethink. To read the open diary of a war cheerleader and see the effect of, for instance, the torture policy revelation -- in your case, spontaneous crying and a recourse to Ben Gay and puppies. Then after a few days the return to the denial mode -- the “just a few idiots did it” argument.

I don't see any "collapse of the war effort", so I don't know what you mean by that. And I did react horribly to what these errant soldiers did at Abu Ghraib; no amount of puppies or Ben Gay will make me justify their actions. (Nice dig there though. Way to mock my personal life. My grandma died last fall too; wanna make fun of that?) Nobody is in denial mode here; the morons are being court martialed and dealt with, and everyone I know wants to see that happen.

Partly info: The great links you disagree with -- the vet turning old war posters into antiwar posters, the thoughtful antiwar writers. Strangely, you don’t target extremists -- maybe because you don’t see yourself as one -- but reasonable dissidence, and then I learn about them too. Thanks.

Um, see the problem is that there never was any vet making anti-war posters; there was a man pretending to be a vet to get attention. Micah Wright was