Tag Archive for Politics

Military Not Poor, Dumb, and Lazy Says Heritage Foundation

So, in a study that will shock (sarcasm) anyone actually involved with the military…the Heritage Foundation has pointed out that our service members are actually more or less representative of the population in terms of education and family wealth (via Freakonomics Blog on the NYT). This is not news, as it supports prior studies that revealed the same information.

The Northeast is underrepresented, but most enlisted service members hail from middle class neighborhoods and are more likely to have achieved a higher level of education than their civilian counterparts.

So, while statistics can be manipulated, this certainly argues against the idea that the military is an employer of last resort.

As always, the comment are as illuminating as the article. Definitely worth reading through them…


New GI Benefits Bill

If you haven’t already, check out the New GI Benefits Bill.

The new, increased benefits will be free to enroll (instead of the $1200 Captain Dad shelled out, which he ain’t getting back…grrr…). You are 100% eligible with 3 years of post 9/11 service, excluding service requirements from ROTC and service academies (check the link for full details).

Benefits will likely now be transferable to one dependent, but most likely that will not be retroactive, unfortunately for us.


My Favorite Egyptian

Back before I started up this blog, I was reading the Sandmonkey. Sandmonkey provided a fascinating look into another culture, another nation, and a really sharp mind.

As his blog became ever more popular, Sandmonkey became an internet celebrity–ever quotable, pro-US but independent, Arab but cosmopolitan. But he hadn’t set out to be an archetype, a role model, or a media darling. He never claimed to speak for anyone but himself, he just wrote. And what he wrote was exciting, if at turns random, frivolous, heartbreaking, and deadly serious.

The attention of course, changed his self-awareness and so it changed his blog. I imagine this must have been confusing, exhilarating, and frustrating all at once–a responsibility thrust upon him.

Now Sandmonkey’s called it quits. From what I understand, he is going to focus on real efforts towards genuine change, and he has also realized that perhaps he has pushed the effort too far in terms of his safety. His anonymity fading, he needs to consider how best to work towards a better future for himself and his country. Perhaps other efforts are worth the risk, but the blog just is not–not right now.

I hope one day I will get a chance to meet him, now that I am moving back to New York. Regardless, he is an interesting person who has the talent and passion to make a difference in this world.

I will miss his voice in the blogosphere…

Stressed? Need Help? HA!

So, I just finished posting a review of Sittercity on Mamanista, and before I went to bed I figured I would check my e-mail. Only the usual scary e-mail from Baby Center about all the horrible things that will happen if I do/don’t do x, y, or z.

Of course, I always click. Just because I know what they are doing, that doesn’t mean it does not work. Then I saw this title, which caught my attention for obvious reasons:

No, really? You don’t say? I thought the timing was interesting and also thought I would share this info with you.

Narcissist that I am, I originally assumed it was going to be about MilSpouses. Nope, even worse! It is about the women who are actually IN the armed services. I have often wondered how these women do it…they truly do deserve our support. I wish I had some call to action to go with this post–write your congressmen or hug a female soldier (wait, don’t do that, you might get seriously hurt if you aren’t a friend)…lemme think about it for a while. And if you have any ideas or know of any programs, please fill me in.

Here’s some information from the article:

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) – Mothers in the U.S. military are stressed, poorly paid and need more help caring for their children, according to a report issued by Congress on Friday.

Nearly half of all women in the active-duty military have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and 24,475 women are there now, the report by the Joint Economic Committee said.

Moreover, women get only 6 weeks of leave after the birth of a child, it found.

“Making sure military mothers have the quality child care, generous family leave, and access to mental health services they need is key to their family well-being and our national security,” New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney said in a statement.

[The Joint Economic Committee] said that women represent one in seven U.S. military personnel in Iraq, and that most are in the lowest-paid ranks.

However, military mothers are much more likely to be single or divorced, or married to other members of the military who also face deployment.

The report, available on the Internet at http://www.jec.senate.gov, said the military may be stretched to recruit and retain women if it does not provide better services.

Good News in Iraq–Which Arab Street?

This article is a couple of weeks old, but I figured I would share with those of you who do not read National Review. I excerpted, but since it is mostly statistics, it is hard to cut.

The article’s premise is that although the Iraqi war may seem to be a public affairs failure on the “Arab Street,” Iraqis actually have a more positive view.

This is consistent with what my DH has been telling me.

Anyway, I’ll let the article speak for itself for those of you who are interested.

The Word on the Street: What do Arabs think? by RICHARD NADLER

The reaction of the Arab street to the war in Iraq is well documented. But what the street says depends on which side of it is polled […] Iraqis, with their newfound freedom of expression and wide array of media, are getting a broader and more accurate view of the world than their politically oppressed neighbors, who hear a steady barrage of anti-American vitriol.

Surveys conducted by Zogby International between 2002 and late 2005 record opinion in six Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. The post-war opinions of Iraqis have been measured by the International Republican Institute, the Gallup Organization, and Oxford Research International. The differences are stark. […]

In the six-nation sample, respondents consider Iraqis “worse off after the war” by a margin of 77 percent to 6 percent.

But Iraqis disagree. Most applaud the destruction of the Baathist regime. By 52 percent to 29 percent they rate their lives as better post-Saddam, and by 48 percent to 18 percent they expect their lives to improve over the next year. Asked, “Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?” 77 percent answer “worth it.” This includes 91 percent of the Kurds surveyed and 98 percent of Iraqi Shiites.

[…] a plurality of Iraqis consider their situation to have improved from Baathist days in terms of overall security, safety from crime, and freedom of speech. Pluralities also cite improvement in the availability of education, medical care, and basic household necessities.

he Arab street outside of Iraq considers the post-Saddam government illegitimate and undemocratic. […] Sixty-five percent said the transfer was “cosmetic”; only 4 percent regarded it as “positive change.” […] Arab respondents characterized the war as bringing less democracy rather than more by 58 percent to 9 percent. […]

By contrast, most Iraqis consider the new regime both legitimate and democratic. The idea of democratic government wins the assent of 74 percent of Iraqis polled. Sixty-six percent of Iraqis, including 89 percent of the majority Shiites, characterize the December parliamentary elections as “free and fair.” Sixty-eight percent of Iraqis, including 81 percent of Kurds and 90 percent of Shiites, consider their parliament “the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people.”

The surveys show that Iraqis want Coalition forces to leave — but no time soon. In a January 2006 poll, Iraqis preferred a withdrawal framework lasting two years or more to one of six months or less by 64 percent to 35 percent. Seventy-eight percent of Shiites and 85 percent of Kurds preferred the slower timetable. […]

According to Zogby International, the primary font of information in the region is “Arab commentaries in Arab media.” Among these, al-Jazeera, the Arabic TV-news station broadcast from Dubai, dominates the market.

In post-war Iraq, on the other hand, al-Jazeera’s worldview has some competition. Iraqis are able to see the progress their country is making firsthand, even as it goes largely unreported in the pan-Arab media. In addition, Iraqi media are much more diverse than those of other states in the region. They have swelled from three TV stations, three radio stations, and ten newspapers — all state-owned — to 44 commercial TV stations, 72 commercial radio stations, and over 100 independent newspapers. Opinion ranges from apocalyptic Shiism to classical liberalism to Marxism-Leninism. Some of these papers are friendly to the Coalition forces; others publish screeds blaming the U.S. for any and every problem. In short, the Iraqi press is free. […]

Woman Writes, "My Abortion is Everyone's Fault but My Own and My Husband's"

After coming across this article at one of my favorite blogs (Sandmonkey), I actually feel physically ill.

This woman blames the Bush administration for her decision to have an abortion:

I am a 42-year-old happily married mother of two elementary-schoolers. My husband and I both work, and like many couples, we’re starved for time together. One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

Boo hoo! Poor two income couple who has no time together! At least she admits it was her failure to insert the diaphragm. Of course, that is the actual source of the “problem” she is about to have…but nevermind reality. Today middle class people expect to be above reality!

The next morning, after getting my kids off to school, I called my ob/gyn to get a prescription for Plan B, the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy — but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. As we’re both in our forties, my husband and I had considered our family complete, and we weren’t planning to have another child, which is why, as a rule, we use contraception [...]

The receptionist, however, informed me that my doctor did not prescribe Plan B. No reason given [...] The midwifery practice I had used could prescribe it, but not over the phone, and there were no more open appointments for the day [...]

But I needed to meet my kids’ school bus and, as I was pretty much out of options — short of soliciting random Virginia doctors out of the phone book — I figured I’d take my chances and hope for the best.

So, she’s gambling on the odds. Yes, they are actually pretty good odds, but she knows that it is possible given the time of the month that she could be pregnant. But she’s BUSY BUSY BUSY!!! Why bother to make some phone calls? She has better things to do. Note that she has a “complete” family–she has the full set. She just can’t be bothered.

I worried because the odds of having a high-risk pregnancy or a baby born with serious health issues rise significantly after age 40. And I thought of the emotional upheavals that an unplanned pregnancy would cause our family. My husband and I are involved in all aspects of our children’s lives, but even so, we feel we don’t get enough time to spend with them as it is.

I felt sick. Although I’ve always been in favor of abortion rights, this was a choice I had hoped never to have to make myself. When I realized the seriousness of my predicament, I became angry. I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.

It amazes me that people who call themselves “pro-choice” refuse to take responsibility for their own choices–what could have “prevented” her predicament would have been to (A) use a diaphragm (or condom, or some other form of birth control) OR (B) not gamble with the unborn life and prevent fertilization or implantation by call planned parenthood immediately after she realized her first mistake.

Apparently, one of the concerns is that ready availability of Plan B could lead teenage girls to have premarital sex. Yet this concern — valid or not — wound up penalizing an over-the-hill married woman for having sex with her husband. Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

Oh, the drama…it is not like the government is fining women for having sex with their husbands…She faced a hard decision because she CHOSE to have sex with her husband without protection. Would she prefer that the government take responsibility for her reproductive decisions and have her sterilized since “her family is complete” and she is on medications that are bad for pregnant women? Then she would be free from any responsibility for her choices, which seems to be what she really wants.

To this day, I don’t know why my doctors wouldn’t prescribe Plan B — whether it was because of moral opposition to contraception or out of fear of political protesters or just because they preferred not to go there.
In any event, they were also partly responsible for why I was stuck that Friday, and why I was ultimately forced to confront the decision to terminate my third pregnancy.

It’s Bush! It’s the FDA! The doctors! The pharmacists! Anyone but me!!!

[...] trying to get information on how to abort a pregnancy in 2006 is an even more Byzantine experience.

On the Internet, most of what I found was political in nature or otherwise unhelpful [...]

Not the smartest way to find the information, but I just did a Google search for Virginia Abortion and the second link was a list of Virginia providers.

This woman may be educated, but she ain’t too bright.

Calling doctors, I felt like a pariah when I asked whether they provided termination services. Finally, I decided to check the Planned Parenthood Web site to see whether its clinics performed abortions.

NOW she calls Planned Parenthood. This lawyer is super brilliant. Not to mention she is killing an unborn child…I suppose everyone is supposed to make her feel good about this.

She also goes on to rail against STATE policy–so now it is Bush, the doctors, the pharmicists, AND the state government.

They did, but I learned that if I had the abortion in Virginia, the procedure would take two days because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which requires that you go in first for a day of counseling and then wait a day to think things over before returning to have the abortion. Because of work and the children, I couldn’t afford two days off, so I opted to have the procedure done on a Saturday in downtown D.C. while my husband took the kids to the Smithsonian.

Wow. Again, she can’t be bothered with two appointments to terminate her pregnancy. She’s just too busy! If I get any “message” from this article, it is that this woman and her husband are too busy. One or both of them needs to reduce their workload since they have two young children and a marriage to care for.

It was a decision I am sorry I had to make. It was awful, painful, sickening. But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.

She HAD to make it, huh? Because she had decided her family was complete. Because the pregnancy is high risk (not that she actually had any tests done to find out if there were problems). Because she couldn’t be bothered to be responsible for her own choice.

My personal beliefs are that abortion is wrong unless the mother’s life is at risk or the baby will not survive outside of the womb–but since I recognize I came to that from a religious standpoint, it is not something I believe we can legislate.

However, I think we can legislate based on science. The
re are some clear stages here–conception, implantation, viability (although the actual date of viability is constantly changing and up for debate). Certainly a pregnancy should be protected once it is viable. Before that, it is murkier in ethical terms–though morally I personally believe it is crystal clear. It becomes clearer to me now having felt my baby grow inside me.

Now, this woman’s fetus was not yet viable…so while I find her decision morally repugnant, she does have a legal right. However, her refusal to take responsibility for her own decisions is disgusting. She had choices available at various stages but could not be bothered to exercise them.

Stossel had a report about how it is a “myth” that teachers are underpaid. I wrote into 20/20 with this response:

The report about teachers’ pay is missing part of the story.

First, teacher pay relative to others of their (A) education and (B) experience is
declining. You have to compare apples with apples, not just teaching with
another field. Rather than look at averages, you have to compare the
salary of a teacher with a Master’s Degree who has been teaching for ten years
with other workers who have similar qualifications.

You also mention, but barely, that many teachers work additional hours. While I was teaching, I worked 10 hour days, usually taking lunch at my desk to help more
students or plan classes. When I go home, I put in another 2+ hours on grading, preparation, and paperwork. Many weeks, I worked longer hours than my lawyer husband.

On a side note, teachers in upscale neighborhoods often cannot afford to live where they work.

Second, the pool of applicants in Boston vs. available jobs is a misleading statistic. The glut of teachers in one market does not mean there is a surplus in all markets. Also, not all applicants are of equal quality.

This leads to the third point. I am all for capitalism–but public education is a government, not a capitalist system. Schools are having difficulty recruiting bright young teachers–partially due to salaries, but also due to the lack of respect for
teachers in our society today. Market forces are NOT being allowed to work
here. Rather, schools are simply making due with inadequate teachers. Raise teacher salaries and you’ll have more qualified applicants. It will take a while to get the already tenured out of the system, but competition will kick in for new hires. You’ll have better teachers at the salaries they actually deserve.

Of course, salary is only part of the problem. Some highly educated, motivated people DO enter the profession fully aware of the sub par salaries–but retention is low. Lawsuits, legislation, and a cultural change mean that teachers spend hours in meetings, doing paperwork, and documenting various actions. Salaries have not rose to compensate us for this time.

I loved teaching, but I hated the nonsense that came with it. Now I volunteer in a classroom. I would rather teach for free a few hours a week than be underpaid for all of the annoyances that come with full time teaching.

Yale Statement on Special Degree Program (Taliban-Related)

I will be back blogging on a regular basis soon, but this was in my inbox…

Statement of the President of Yale

The criteria for admission to both the non-degree and degree-granting special programs, as published on the web, are: “Yale seeks applicants whose academic background, work experience, and community involvement are particularly suited to study at Yale. All candidates must present evidence of high academic potential, maturity, and clear motivation for their proposed course of study.” It is also noted that “Candidates should have a compelling educational reason to attend as a non-degree student.”

The published criteria are adequate in some respects, but they fall short of the standard that we should require for admission to Yale College. In the process of admitting a regular undergraduate for four years of study in Yale College, we look for character and achievement sufficient to predict that the candidate will make substantial and meaningful contributions to the betterment of society. We seek to admit not simply candidates who can do the academic work required for graduation, but rather those with the capacity to lead and to serve society with distinction. Evidence of an applicant’s character, as well as his or her academic potential, is always given substantial weight.

Our review has raised questions whether the admissions practices of the non-degree Special Student Program have been consistent with the published criteria, let alone the standard that should prevail.

Over the years, both the non-degree Special Student Program and the degree-granting Eli Whitney Program have served many students of whom the University is justly proud. But, the initial review I requested concluded that both the programs suffer from lack of clarity about mission, purpose, and standards. As a next step, the Dean of Yale College, and I, as co-chairs of the standing Committee on Yale College Admissions Policy, will convene a subcommittee…