Wednesday, November 30, 2005

TSA to allow scissors and small tools on planes again

Maybe this means you can knit onboard again, Sarah:

Airline passengers will be allowed to carry small scissors and tools onto planes, reversing a rule that led to confiscation of many thousands of sharp objects at airports since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a Homeland Security Department official said Wednesday.

For Flag and Country

Sarah has a great post up about debunking the myth that our current military is mostly made up of underprivileged soldiers, including this interesting tidbit:

In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.

In addition, the educational level of recruits increased slightly after 9/11:

After September 11, 2001, the educational quality of recruits rose slightly. Comparing 1999 enlisted recruits to 2003 recruits showed an increase in col­legiate experience. In 2003, a higher proportion of recruits had college experience and diplomas, and a lower percentage had only a high school diploma— a shift of about 3 percentage points.

The proof is in the pudding: more soldiers are signing up out of conviction, and not because they have no choice.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Girls Gone Wild

I found this at AFSister, and was screeching with laughter at recognizing myself in some of these:


  • We believe that dancing with our arms overhead and wiggling our butt while yelling "WOO-HOO!" is truly the sexiest dance move evah.
  • In our last trip to pee, we realize that we now look more like a homeless hooker than the goddess we were just four hours ago.
  • We drop our 3AM sub sandwich on the floor (which we're eating even though we're not the least bit hungry), pick it up, and eat it anyway.
  • We get extremely excited and jump up and down every time a new song plays because "OH MY GOD! I LOVE THIS SONG!"
  • The urge to take off articles of clothing, stand on a table and sing or dance becomes strangely overwhelming to us.
  • Our eyes just don't seem to want to stay open on their own, so we keep them half-closed, thinking it looks exotically sexy.

And drumroll on this one:

  • We begin leaving the buttons open on our button fly jeans to cut down on the time we're in the bathroom away from our drink.

Oh yeah...soooo sexy.

On the homefront

Soldier's Mom (via ArmyWifeToddlerMom) has a post up about what it's like to send your child to war, and reading it had me nodding in agreement, and seeing the similarities in my experience as a military girlfriend:

People -- especially other mothers -- tell me that they can not imagine what that would be like... that they would be a basket case 24 hours a day. Yes, that's it. It's like you live standing on your tippy-toes every day your child is away... and you live on the edge of breathlessness... a mental asthma attack gasping and gasping for strength and sanity and peace of mind. On the outside, we smile bravely and say, "you find the strength." And we do find the strength, but the truth is that we really only find distractions from our worry, our anxiety, our heartache.

We go to jobs. We try to maintain some semblance of our lives, but those lives have changed. And we blog. We write letters. We send cards. We shop for things to send our soldiers. We pack things for our soldiers. We stand in line at the post office to mail things to our soldiers.

We talk about them. We live for the opportunity to talk with them. Then we talk to others about what we talked about with our soldiers. And we wait for another chance to talk to them again.

[...]We talk or email other parents. We wonder what they've heard. We offer support when they're down (and we all get down) and we call when we're down 'cause we know they understand completely. We trade jokes, we trade information, we even trade recipes.

[...]Although we send one child (and my heart knows no limits to the compassion I feel for those mothers with two or more service members in the war!), we adopt many more... and eventually ALL soldiers -- every soldier, sailor, marine, airman -- become our sons and daughters.

We can not see a soldier anywhere without approaching them and thanking them and telling them that we, too, have a soldier.... because we all know that all soldiers have the same blood and speaking with that soldier makes us feel like we are talking to our soldier. We hug them if they let us -- and we hug them whenever we can. And we know somewhere there is a mom thanking us for taking the time to talk to (and for hugging) her soldier. She would do the same for me.

I can remember when I flew home last Christmas, and was on a flight with many soldiers returning home for the holidays, and I was in awe of the instant familiarity many had with each other, just because they all belonged to the military community, and instantly had some kind of connection.

A year later, I now feel that I belong to sub-community of the military: the homefront. Those who wave goodbye, and welcome back, and hold our breath in between.

Monday, November 28, 2005

US Troops as the "Honest Brokers"

Major K. has a post up about how U.S. troops are trusted in Iraq, and often help out in situations requiring mediation:

[...] the average Iraqi will often (not always) trust us more than other Iraqis outside of their family when it comes to fair and humane treatment.

It's an interesting read.

Best Mascara Evah and other beauty product musings

Okay....$18 is an insane amount of money to spend on mascara, I admit. But man, it was sooooo worth it. This will be the first mascara that I will ever actually finish, before having to throw away becuase it's too old and clumpy. I use it all the time. Bad Gal Lash from Benefit. Good stuff, makes your lashes so long, people think they are fake.

Sephora is my temple of worship. I love going in there, and letting a gay man make me over, and walking out with products. By the way, that is a huge tip: if you let a gay man do your make-up, chances are it will turn out better than a woman. Many women know how to put on make-up, because they apply it on themselves and oftentimes they are just putting make-up on you, like they would on themselves. You become a facial double for them. This won't happen if a man is doing your make-up...not that he doesn't make himself up either, but usually, it means that he is ultra talented when it comes to make-up application. Sadly Sephora never really made it in Germany, and closed their stores here.

I am too embarassed to list any other make up purchases, because they were incredible splurges, and it's embarassing. But Bad Gal Lash was worth it.

A few days ago I caved in and bought some hot curlers...they were only 17 Euros, argument enough. And now I am an addict. I have to figure out how to use them, so I don't look all 70s. However, when the curls just turn into soft waves, it's gorgeous. I have got the straightest hair out, so waves are nice. Anyways, a few days ago I was chatting with my man over the webcam, and had my hair down, soft waves and all, and he said my hair looked really nice, which is HUGE from my boyfriend who isn't the most expressive of men. Usually, I will get a "you're hot" or "you look good", but rarely specific compliments., yes, 17 Euros well spent. (Man, to think I got a set of 20 hot curlers for the same price as that mascara...)

And the best anti-frizz serum for blowdrying my hair (ironically) straight, is Neutrogena, because it is just as good as other serums, but only costs about $4. (I.e. spend your bucks on mascara).

Still looking for a volumizing product to fall in love with though.

I guess that is the extent of the CaliValleyGirl Beauty Awards.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I love JLo

Okay, not really, but I just really don't like Heather Mills...and since JLo is her newest target, I had to rub my hands gleefully when I read this:

Meanwhile, Lopez has allegedly been goading PETA by claiming she eats a bucket of KFC chicken after every concert.The stunning star has been targeted by the animal rights campaigners, of which Pamela Anderson and Heather Mills McCartney are avid supporters, in recent months for using fur in her Sweetface fashion range.

Sources have now claimed she is purposely taunting the group further by saying she loves fast-food outlet KFC, another target for PETA because of the way they allegedly house and slaughter chickens served up in their eateries.

A PETA spokesperson fumed: "Is there not an ounce of compassion in this woman? It's no surprise that J.Lo would eat KFC".

Oh that made my day. Almost makes me want to eat KFC too. Eat KFC, make Heather Mills mad.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Absence makes the heart grow stronger

I haven't posted for awhile about the deployment, partly because I am unsure of what to write, and partly because what I have written always appears to be slightly depressing upon re-reading. And I don't want to post something mopey and sad.

It's difficult for me to understand this melancholy, I mean, here I am three months before the end of this one year trial. I should be gleeful, excited, exuberant. But instead I swing between a tired sort of contentedness when I think about this being over, and a resigned dejectedness that there are still another three months.

Now the deployment is officially longer than our relationship was before he left. It means, that for me, his absence has now replaced his physical presence as being the norm of our relationship.

We used to joke before he left, that after the deployment, we could say we had been together a year and 8 or 9 months, and in actuality we really didn't have to put up with each other for a year, so that made it easy. We both knew it was just humor, and that the real sweat work lay in the year ahead.

When I look back on these last nine months, I am amazed. The ups and the downs, the usual relationship issues that one has, but with the added difficultly of thousands of miles of distance...but we are still going strong. In fact, stronger than before.

Before he left, I knew I loved him. But I didn't know how much. You know that relationship test they have, where one partner is supposed to fall, and the other will catch them? The falling partner must close their eyes, and trust that their partner will be there to catch them. Through this exercise trust is tested and built. Well, when I look at this deployment in retrospect, it seems like we have both been falling and catching each other the whole year. Because our relationship has really been tested this year, I have so much more faith in it.

So whenever I get a little depressed about this year of absence, I just think about what this deployment has given us both: increased appreciation for one another. A few days ago, a friend whom I don't see often, told me that since I had been together with my boyfriend, I have changed. Seemingly happier. And it's true. Even though he is thousands of miles away, we still have each other, and so much to look forward to.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Hillclimbers in Pakistan

Article about the continued relief efforts in Pakistan by US military helicopter units.

Flying with Big Windy

Found this article of a reporter's recent ride with Big Windy in Afghanistan:

Before noon someone decided the weather was clear enough to fly, and one of the flight crew machine gunners gave us a quick safety briefing.

It was full of gems: "If we crash – but, hey, we’re not going to crash," was one of my favorites. But if we did crash, we were supposed to stay in the chopper "until everything quits moving" – unless it was on fire, in which case we were supposed to get out right away. And he also gave us some advice on the best way to avoid running out of a crashed helicopter and into a mine field, but I got distracted watching a crew prepare the Apache gunship that would escort us, and I didn’t catch all of that part. (Hey, he said we weren’t going to crash.)

Roy writes of another ride here.

The article has a few pics and he also has a photo archive, where I found some more Chinook pics:
The Baghdaddy Baller
A close-up of the Baghdaddy Baller
View from Chinook cockpit of other copters (notice the teddy bear mascot?)
View out the rear door of Chinook

Always love seeing those guys in the news!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Generalizations about Language and Gender

I am prepping for my linguistics exam and have been reading up on how men and women communicate:

Suzanne Romaine writes in Language and Society, that men tend to challenge one another in conversations, jumping from topic to topic, vying to tell anecdotes about themselves, and do not feel a need to link their own contributions to others, likely ignoring what had been said before and stressing their own point of view. One the other hand, women tend to be more interactional and aim at seeking cooperation, they send out and look for signs of agreement and link what they say to the speech of others, tending to be able to talk about one subject for more than a half an hour.

Women share feelings about themselves and talk about relationships, whereas men rarely talk about themselves or their personal problems.

Some linguists claim that communication between men and women is similar to cross-cultural communication.

Romaine concludes that the different discourse patterns indicates a potential for miscommunication.

Well, duh.

Diplomatic Relations:
I was discussing with a friend (female) the disagreement resolving ways of men versus women. Women seek open talks, trying to see all the angles, and finding a common solution for both sides, whereas men prefer containment and occasionally appeasement (when it comes to females).

Of course, I'm not saying all men in the world are like this, because I haven't met all the men in the world. ;-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

About time!

Finally Britain is changing its archaic drinking times law, and pubs can serve alcohol around the clock, instead of having last rounds just before 11pm.

Tee hee

John McCain is funny:

I’m glad to be out of Washington. As you know, we Republicans aren’t having much fun there these days. Tom DeLay has been indicted; Bill Frist has been subpoenaed; senior White House aides investigated by a special prosecutor: the President’s nominee to the Supreme Court facing a difficult confirmation. Or as our friends at Fox News call it, a slow news month.

(via Arjan)

Al-Qaida says sorry?

I wasn't aware of this nugget:

The old head-hacker was sufficiently rattled by the critical pans of his Jordanian hotel bombings that he issued the first IRA-style apology in al-Qa'eda's history. "People of Jordan, we did not undertake to blow up any wedding parties," he said. "For those Muslims who were killed, we ask God to show them mercy, for they were not targets." Yeah, right. Tell it to the non-Marines. It was perfectly obvious to Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari and his missus what was going on when they strolled into the ballroom of the Radisson Hotel.

The whole article is worth reading. Mark Steyn is usually more dry. I actually smiled a couple of times.

(via Sarah)

My boyfriend is a bacon aficionado

I need to get this.

And check out the letter to Madonna while you are there. K., you are just too talented.

So we leave, the job undone. What happens next?

Neptunus Lex answers the question (scroll down about mid-post). (Via Homefront 6)

Update: This compliments the above well.

The Olsen Twins...Nazi Style

Look at these two girls here.

Cute aren't they? Kind of like the Olsen Twins...except they are a little different:

A little less cute now, huh?

Known as "Prussian Blue" — a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes — the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.

"We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white … we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."

They sing songs with lyrics like:

Rudolph Hess, man of Peace. He wouldn't give up and he wouldn't cease, to give his loyalty to our Cause. Remember him and give a pause.

In an interview they gave advice about how someone can put the lessons of pro-White music into everyday life:

Well they need to realize that this is not a game and that it is serious business even though it can also be fun to be around other racially aware people. A lot of young people like to dress in a way that gets them attention because they don’t know any other way to feel proud of themselves and special. Sometimes the way they dress doesn’t make them look as attractive or handsome as they could be. We think that they should work to look as good as possible by working out and dressing nice to show that people who are White Nationalists are not scary, but good people. The way that you look and act is activism in a way because you represent your family your beliefs and your race. You are a walking talking advertisement and our young people are the best advertisement so they need to realize this.

This is just sad on so many levels.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Iraq Lists

I love amusing lists made by soldiers, whatever the theme. This one's is: Things you never thought you'd get use to...

And this is my fav:

13. Memorizing routes to places so well that you can say,"right after the IP checkpoint with the 2 craters on the left side", and everyone knows exactly where you mean.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Now I've joined the amputees. It's a very expensive club to join. It costs you an arm or a leg."

The above quote is from Sgt. Mike Buyas, a double amputee. I found the story of his recuperation at Walter Reed and the stories of many others in a collection of video reports from ABC affiliate, KATU out of Portland, Oregon.

You will cry, you will smile, and you will be inspired.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

I got this email from a friend in Australia today:

hi b!

I was bored the other nite so was looking at this big left wing site in aust wrote them a question - see the response below - at first i thought it was a laugh but actually in reading it today it makes me sad - but then again maybe i live in kooky land because apparently i didnt even realise that my political rights in australia were far worse here than in cuba oh hang on - vive prime minster howard!


Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 1:04 AM
Subject: socialist policy
Had a look at your website amongst many things i saw that in your policies you support 'Solidarity with Cuba' and directly underneath it you support 'Right of self determination for the Tamil People' any hope of 'Right of self determination for the Cuban People' (ie free elections?) so people can express if they wish to keep authoritarian castro or not
Interested in your response


I've just returned from Cuba and would love to know what you're talking about really...
I don't understand it. Cuba is a very free country. Many people talked to me about how they are not happy (most liked castro though, a few didn't,), and because my spanish is crapped and i talked only to about 5% of Cuba's population who speaks english (and tends to be involved in the tourist industry and most likely to be less socialist than the rest of the country), I got to talk to the least happy people generall.
I just don't know where you even get this idea that he is authoritarian: is it from American big business media?
I think the main reason people think he's authoritarian is because he has been the president for so long: is that it? Because Cuba's politics is just not that simple and Castro's power is not that real anyway. He is more like a queen- not in the undemocratic sense, but his more like a figure head, giving speeches and things, but the actual policy decisions are made by a government much more democratically elected than ours. Of course, Castro is elected democratically too, but my point is it really doesn't matter as he isn't the essence of the political system there.
Frankly, our political rights here in a Australia are much worse. I've been arrested for protesting, but noone in Cuba has (usually its millions Cuban's protesting the US blockade and the US war).


It is worth a laugh.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bizarre, but funny

As I was leaving my apartment this morning, a woman and man were standing across the street looking at a parking ticket dispenser (in many European cities, they don't have parking meters, but instead have central meters, where you pay in money, and then get a ticket spit out, which you display on the dash of your car.) As soon as the women spotted me, she started wildly gesticulating at me to come over. So, I did. Quite puzzled, may I add.

When she doesn't start speaking, but instead keeps gesticulating with her hands, I realize that she is deaf. Okay...hmmm...but for some reason, she thought I would understand her sign language? Okay...

She keeps pointing to the meter, and to the place where it says in German: maximum 8 Euros. I really want to help, but I just am not understanding. Then her friend shows me his cell phone, where he has used the text function to type in something: French. this is really amusing.

So, I take out a piece of paper, and explain in French that 8 Euros is the maximum charge, and that they can stay for 4 hours for that. Then I give him the piece of paper, and he writes: Moins? (Less?) Okay, so now I am going to have to explain to them, that they are in the city center and they have to drive outside, to park for free. So, I try to convey that information on the paper. And then they thank me and they go off on their way.

And all I could think was, wow...they have balls. I mean, seriously. Coming to another country where they can't speak the language, and well, they can only commicate through sign language or writing. And how she was so unabashed in calling me over to help, and ask for directions. I mean, I don't know many people who will just ask people directions right away, and certainly not those who have the extra challenge of not speaking the language, not to mention not being able to hear. I was so impressed. I had such a smile on my face after that, practically made my day.

Friday, November 11, 2005

He started - no she started, brought to a literary level

I am still laughing: A Tale of Two Stories

This reminds me somehow of my boyfriend and me, (minus the vicious name calling at the end).

Veterans Day

So today is Veterans Day. Like Memorial Day, this is a day which didn't always have much meaning to me. I can remember when I was younger I would always mix up the words veteran and veterinarian; using the former, when I meant the latter. Technically anyone who has been in the services is a veteran, but for me a veteran is a combat veteran. Veterans were those guys who walked in parades, and to be honest something I saw more on TV and in the movies than in real life. A veteran was someone who fought a war over 30 years ago.

Not that I didn't respect veterans or wasn't thankful for what they had done, but their actions were so far in the past, that I was almost oblivious to their sacrifices.

But now I am dating a veteran. It's weird. I mean, he certainly doesn't look like the veteran, he isn't even 30 years old yet.

A week ago Sue sent me a video commemorating Veterans Day in Canada. And I watched the soldiers, young and old march by, and all of the sudden it struck me, that my boyfriend in 40 years or so, might also be one of those “old guys” walking in a parade, who had fought a war that was just a mere historical concept for many of the spectators.

Sap warning: And then I thought how extremely proud I am, and proud to think that if we get married one day, and have children, that our children can say that their Daddy served. That whenever they see a veteran, it will be more than just an abstract concept like it was for me.

Thank you to all our veterans for reminding us once again what sacrifice means.

Hugging, kissing, laughing, crying

Ryan's back home.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pot calling the kettle black

I am torn, very torn. For a while, during the riots in France, I felt a smidgen of what many anti-Americans may feel when something bad happens in the US. A small bit of Schadenfreude, mirth over their misery. And this post reminded me why. (via Sarah)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Big Windy in Pakistan video

This is a little old, but still cool.


I smiled when I saw this headline at Yahoo news:

Texas voters approve gay marriage ban

followed by:

San Francisco Voters Approve Handgun Ban

It almost like both places voted against the lifestyle of the other.

Conspiracy theory

America goes to war. A debate follows about whether the nation could have avoided the costly conflict. Defense manufacturers are accused of conspiracy in influencing the decision to enter the war, since they have had the most profit from the war, while the conflict has cost America many lives.

A congressional inquiry is made, and the senator leading the committee proclaims: “when the Senate investigation is over, we shall see that war and preparation for war is not a matter of national honor and national defense, but a matter of profit for the few.”

The senator also goes so far as to suggest the the president had withheld essential information from Congress as it considered a declaration of war.


No...try 1934.

5000 Social Workers

A severe disconnect: France has declared a state of emergency...and promised 5000 new social workers for the "problem neighborhoods".

The article goes on to explain that as of January 2006, and additional 5000 jobs for youth counselors in schools in the "problem neighborhoods" will be created. In addition 100 million Euros will be approved for social work in the neighborhoods.

A while back, I worked at a PR company. I was pretty satisfied with the job, but the company was suffering from poor morale amongst its employees. The complaints were the usual: poor leadership being the biggest: our boss was a perfect example of the Dilbert Principle.

So one day, upper-management decided to do something, and an email was sent out to all the employees. To improve morale, the company had...(drumroll please...)...created a new logo! The new logo should inspire us all. It was a pyramid, made up of many smaller triangles, representing us all. My colleague turned to me and said...”well, I guess we know where we are," and pointed to the triangles on the bottom line. Let's just say the new logo didn't do much for morale. We all kind of laughed about it, but it just showed how disconnected management was from us.

And that is somewhat my reaction to the problems in France right now. It seems like the government has absolutely no idea what to do.

The kids need jobs, something to give them more to do than burn cars and steal (idle hands do the devil's work), and listen to demogogues preaching hate. And what does the French government suggest? Creating 5000 new social worker jobs to talk to these kids.

That's a bandaid on a bullet wound.



Sarah posted about Ted Nugent's appearance on a talk show and I thought this was such a gem:

He (Donny Deutsch) 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."

I have become a military groupie

A few years ago, I was absolutely clueless about the military.

Couldn't tell a Chinook from a Blackhawk, a Bradley from an Abrams. Infantry, artillery, what's the difference? And I honestly didn't care that much. But now, I want to know everything. If a soldier lets me, I will question them for hours on their training, their field, their experiences...anything and everything.

And wars also interest me so much now. How wars come about, i.e. the political side. And also planning, i.e. the logistical side.

I have managed to bring these into my studies. My topics for my upcoming exams are: The American Aviation Industry during the Second World War, The origins of the American Civil War, and the Origins of the Cold War. And if I could, I would try to bring some military related topic into my English linguistics exam...;-)

Monday, November 07, 2005


I was googling for a particular quote about war, and happened upon a distinctly anti-war site, with a lot of quotes along the likes of:

There is nothing that war has ever achieved we could not better achieve without it.
Havelock Ellis


Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles, but in avoiding them. A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.
Norman Vincent Peale

(I am still laughing at that last one...)

But the above cartoon was just so amusing, and certainly has elements of truth in it, that I just had to post it.

Four Seasons

Christy's husband, Ryan, came home Friday....I am waiting with bated breath for photos. And in December more guys will be returning home. Watching other women's men coming home is almost like unpacking the Christmas decorations...the anticipation...soon my soldier will be on his way too (everything becomes so relative after a while...after almost 9 months, 3 months is "soon").

I spent part of last week at my boyfriend's place. His lives in a cute little town, about a three hour drive from where I live, surrounded by fields and forest. Since he has been gone I have seen the place go through many different seasons: I watched the snow melt, and spring arrive. Then summer came and I was able to enjoy BBQing on his balcony. And this past week I had the heating turned on, and watched leaves fall off the trees.

When I left his apartment this time, I unplugged the fridge, turned off the water heater, bundled up the trash, and closed the door with the knowledge that the next time I go there will probably be just a few days before he returns. On the drive home I realized I had left two apples on the counter in his I will have that decomposed mess to look forward to.

Only one more season to go through...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Dutch Chinook Crash (Hard Landing) in Afghanistan

I have noticed that a few people are coming to my blog after searching for information on the Dutch Chinook which had a hard-landing last Monday in Afghanistan...I have nothing about that incident, but know someone who was there.

Celebrities and Politics

Dick Tracy versus The Terminator:

In a celebrity standoff, actor Warren Beatty and his wife, Annette Bening, tried to crash Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign rally at an airplane hangar here and were barred from going inside after a confrontation with the governor's aides.

A celebrity standoff...*snicker*...maybe they should do a dance-off and see who gets the most applause. Let's forget about the issues here...

Only in, scatch that...only in California.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

“Supporting the troops, but not the war” and its half-sister “supporting the troops, but not the president”

Everyone is posting their two cents on this issue, so I thought it was about time I publicized my thoughts.

The war in Iraq, and to a lesser extent, the war in Afghanistan, are central issues to American political life. In fact, they are central issues to just plain American life. There is no getting away from it. You turn on the news, there are pictures from Iraq. You watch evening programming and “Over There” comes on. You drive to the supermarket, and the car in front of you has a yellow ribbon magnet on the back.

There is no other issue like this in America, which demands that you take a stance. You would really have to look hard to find someone who has zero opinion on the conflicts. And by forming an opinion on this conflict you are to a certain extent aligning yourself with a political party. “You are either with us, or against us”, both sides seem to be screaming.

There are two extremes, while most people are kind of in the middle. On the one side, you have the so-called Patriot Police, who claim that supporting the president is a prerequisite to supporting the troops. Then on the other side you have Cindy Sheehan and the likes of the Code Pinkers, who claim that if you really support the troops, you have to be against the war and anything that puts them in harm's way. And suddenly the American soldier has been thrown into the center of this conflict. There is a tug-o-war from all sides, all claiming to have the soldier's best interests at heart.

During the Vietnam War, anti-war protesters made the mistake of aiming their wrath against soldiers. Which was ever more the absurd considering that there was a draft at the time, and many soldiers were in the military against their will.

This time the anti-war movement has learned from its mistakes, and decided to change the tone of their protests. They are no longer protesting against the soldiers, but just against the war and the president.

However, one can't help to feel that they are veiling their anti-military stance. Protesting ROTC at colleges, recruiting offices, and Walter Reed doesn't smack of military support. They portray soldiers as victims of the government. Soldiers have been tricked into a military career through promises of an education, and socio-economic chances previously previously out of their reaches.

The military career is not a prestigious and respectful one in their eyes. It's not a choice anyone would make out of a sense of duty, or even a career that one could possibly enjoy. It seems that their way of combating war is to make sure there are no more soldiers to fight it. Which is about as logical as getting rid of all the police, to reduce crime.

Also when you read something like this, you can't help but think that anti-war protesters just aren't on the soldiers' side, no matter what they claim:

Members of Families for Peace, Code Pink and Global Exchange told a news conference in Amman that they had sent 600,000 dollars' worth of humanitarian aid to residents of the Iraqi town of Fallujah displaced by last month's massive US-led assault.

In an allergic reaction to anti-war protesters claiming to have soldiers' best interests at heart, there have been knee-jerk reactions on the right, stating that one has to support the president or support the war, if you really claim to support the soldiers. However, this is flawed logic.

Soldiers are supposed to remain apolitical. They abide by the oath they made upon joining the military:

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Regardless of whether they like or agree with the president, they must obey orders coming from the president or officers commanding them. Whether or not they agree with the US involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are contractually bound to perform their duties. That is just how the military works. Its members can't vote on whether or not they want to take part in a conflict. That is up to the members of Congress and the President, who were elected according to procedures outlined in the Constitution. The only influence the soldiers can have on the outcome of these decisions is like everyone else: by voting in presidential and congressional elections. By the time they are given orders, it is beyond their control.

A friend of mine, a captain in the infantry, summed it up best: “I don't support the president. Presidents come and go. I support and defend the Constitution.” It doesn't matter if a soldier supports Bush or not. Kerry could have just as easily been the commander in chief now, and soldiers would be obeying his commands. The luxury of “supporting” the president doesn't even come into the equation.

On the topic of "Support the Troops but Not the War", Sgt. Hook writes:

I’ve heard this mantra many times and I can understand where some might see nothing wrong with such a statement. From a soldier’s perspective (mine), supporting one without the other doesn’t work. A soldier goes to war believing in what he or she is doing. We don’t pick up arms to fight an unjust war, ever. It is the core of the American soldier and what makes our Army the greatest in the world. By supporting the troops but not the war, you are discounting our beliefs, our values. We don’t like war. We aren’t a bunch of brainwashed, imbecilic war mongers. We are warriors who believe that when our nation calls, it is for a just cause. And we answer that call for we will always support America and defend our way of life. Always. So when Americans don’t support what we are doing for them, then from a soldier’s perspective (again, mine), they aren’t supporting the troops either.

I disagree with Hook. I personally know a few soldiers who are against this war in some shape or form, either America's reasons for invading Iraq or the way the conflict is being handled. But they perform to the utmost in their duties, and they fulfill their mission and support their brothers and sisters in arms. They also witness firsthand the positive effects they are having in Iraq.

Steven Kiel, a reservist serving in Iraq writes this:

I understand some people in America are calling for us to come home, no matter the consequences. I understand some are wary of this conflict and their confidence is shaken. It’s difficult for a soldier to hear those things and not begin to question himself and his mission.

To support the soldiers, one must see the good in the missions. If one's lack of support in the war or the Bush administration blinds one from seeing anything positive in America's involvement in Iraq, it is impossible to support the troops. You might as well join Cindy Sheehan.

And that's all she wrote...Your two cents would be greatly appreciated.

Tell me something I didn't know..

This article pretty much confirms what everyone already knows:

The Defense Department risks continued decline in the condition of its equipment, due to extended use in the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.
GAO analyzed the fleetwide condition of 30 types of equipment and found that readiness rates for most had declined between fiscal 1999 and 2004. The drop was the most noticeable in the last two of those years, because of continuous high use and the advancing age and complexity of the systems, the report stated.

Items such as Army and Marine Corps trucks, combat vehicles and rotary wing aircraft have been used far past their normal peacetime levels, GAO said.

The report (GAO-06-141) used a color coded system - red, yellow and green - to describe the condition of Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force equipment and to establish whether the Defense Department has identified strategies and funding plans to meet its requirements.

Inventory of three pieces of equipment -- the Army's CH-47 D/F Chinook transport helicopters, the Marine Corps' M1A1 Abrams tanks and the Navy's P-3 Orion maritime patrol planes -- scored red on the GAO list, indicating that problems with them are so severe that they require immediate attention by the military services and Congress.

Immediate attention...I wonder what that means.

Restaurant haven for wounded vets

I actually had trouble swallowing my cereal while reading this, because of the lump that formed in my throat.

Kids and Love

I am one of those grumpy aunts...I love my nieces and nephew, but make them entertain me, instead of the other way around. I love asking them questions and teasing them. And their reactions and answers are just priceless. Somehow children are a window into the purest unadulterated (now I am seeing where that word comes from) truth. They tell it straight, without packaging it in incomprehensible rhetoric and forgetting the point.

And sometimes there are amazing gems of wisdom that come out.

Sue has a post up (you need to scroll a bit) about kids' answers to the question: What is love? A sampling:

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
Terri - age 4

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
Emily - age 8