Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I have a computer at work, but because it's an Army computer, it doesn't allow me to see things like blogs, social networking, videos, most newspapers, magazines...you know, the good stuff on the Internet. I am able to get into the MWR once a day or so where I can use the Internet for a good thirty minutes. It is pretty tight in here with soldiers and Ugandans and Filipinos and smells like...soldiers and Ugandans and Filipinos who are working and don't shower too often. Needless to say, it's not pretty.

In any case, what I mean to say is simply that I have a lot of time to read during the day, but not a lot of time to write...at least on here. So, in those occasions I do have the opportunity to write, I will have to keep it short due to time constraints and the horrendous smell.

One of the first things I wanted to point out was that I had read an article about the economy in South Carolina that made me feel incredibly sad and impotent. Sad because these people seem to have no hope, even if though they haven't seemed to lose faith, and impotent because I suddenly realized that, other than my voting habits, I can do just as little to help these people as I can the Iraqis who live outside the wire. Knowing people are hurting and not being able to help is just a horrible feeling.
The article is here if you care to read it (and I recommend you do). The article is very well written and reminds me how varied experience is throughout the states. Growing up, I rarely, if ever, thought of life outside of California. I did in an abstract sense, but it wasn't until I joined the Army that I met someone who...say...didn't like the Beatles, or went to a High School that was just one building, or had never been to the beach. Those are all shallow examples, but I quickly realized that if people's life experience was so vastly different from mine in such shallow ways, then it had to be true of their deeper experience as well. I have tried to learn of those differences, and grow from them, but it is all too easy to become inwardly focused. I read an article like this, and it opens my eyes again, in a good--but difficult--way.

A second article I read was just a short graph on Andrew Sullivan's website (I don't believe he made the graph). But it showed the disparity between those whose parents have a college degree and those who don't. Below is a quote from a quote taken from Andrew Sullivan's website:
The truly amazing thing to me is that parental income isn't just crucial in getting to college, and getting through college -- its effects linger on, basically, in perpetuity. One of the most remarkable findings from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Economic Mobility Project is that a child from a family in the top income quintile who does not get a college degree is more likely to wind up in the top income quintile himself than a child from a family in the bottom income quintile who does get a college degree...
The article links to slides that Geithner used for a speech, but doesn't include the text of the speech. That being said, statistics are just good ways of lying, but they are quite shocking in any case. I'd be interested to hear from my friends who know more about economics than I what you think of this.
Comparing it against the article before, I was wondering if maybe we put too much stock in college degrees. It doesn't seem to me a degree should be (or is) a magic bullet that will keep someone from being poor. What good is a degree if you live in a rural area where there is no business? Maybe what we need is an economy that offers good jobs that aren't education intensive, but still give back to society in a productive way. This isn't to say that people who live in rural areas don't deserve education or the opportunity to gain a college degree...far from it. I just think we need to think more outside the box. (<-and yes, I realize "think outside the box" is trite and meaningless anyway...but I'm tired...and in Iraq...so give me a break).

Lastly, I just found out that a friend of mine (and a fellow member of the E3 Eagles) is running for Congress in California. His name is Anthony Woods. If you're from California, or care about progressive politics, I suggest you check out his page. I haven't talked to him since he announced he's running, so if you read this...Good luck!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Choices are rarely between two things, one of which is good and one bad. Normally, it's something that's good, and something that's also good, or bad, and also bad...otherwise it wouldn't be much of a choice. (For a fun example, imagine someone offering you an ice cream cone on a hot day or a kick in the groin...not much choice there. Now, imagine someone offering you a glass of ice cold water, or a chair under a misty, shady tree...not so easy now is it?)

The last month has thrown me into two situations that present me with the good/good or bad/bad scenarios that are much less fun to decide, especially when they're real life scenarios instead of the cool vignettes they used at school where you'd debate what to do about SGT X and then go back to your room knowing that SGT X isn't real. Once I got commissioned, SGT X became real, and now my decisions affect him/her in real life...so it's not nearly as fun.

OK, so what am I talking about? I had to recommend a soldier for the first time to get an article 15. The outcome is that said soldier (SGT X), is no longer going to be on Team Hero with the rest of us, and he lost a pretty awesome professional opportunity that would have taken the second half of his deployment. Why did I do that you ask...well, SGT X just couldn't get to work on time regardless of how many chances, stern talkings-to and counselings I wrote. The thing is, SGT X is also, without question, the best soldier I have at the job he does. So, do I allow a House-like soldier ("House-like" references the television show that I recommend you all don't watch because it's a by-the-numbers piece of crap complete with poorly scripted lines recited by poorly acting actors) who is convinced he doesn't have to "play by the rules" because he's just too good and valuable to be lost, or do I recommend him for the punishment knowing I will be losing a valuable member of the team? See...bad/bad. Or, good/good, depending upon how you look at it. In any case, I made the decision and now, I'm here...about to sit on my first article 15 hearing. Not fun.

Secondly, I got my first OER, that's like a performance review in the civilian world. The OER was kinder than I had expected. I'd always said that when it came to my conduct/performance in the Army, I would try hard not to listen to anyone telling me to do things a certain way. I figured, I would do them my way and, if "higher" liked it, then I could stay in and maybe I would be happy in the Army since I was, after all, doing things "my way." If, however, "higher" didn't like my way, then we would part ways and, in the end, at least I'd have some military experience and I wouldn't have spent five years jumping through hoops trying to be something I'm not. Well, apparently my way wasn't frowned upon, so that's good. I do, however, have to decide what the future holds for me.

What I'm about to say is ironic, and I realize that, but in general, I don't feel like I get a sense of service that I thought I would. (The irony is coming...wait for it...wait for it...) So, I think if I got out of the Army and pursued other venues, maybe I will get that sense of service I long for (<-that was it, if you missed it). I'm not really enjoying the intel world, but I do like leading soldiers. Unfortunately, because I'm an intel officer, I won't be leading soldiers any longer once we get back to Fort Hood, and that means the intel world and the life of an intel Officer beckons. So, what's the choice I have to make? What do I want to do when I go back? Here are the options:
  1. Stay in the current unit and be a desk jockey doing paperwork and other organizational things on Battalion Staff. The upside: I don't have to go be an intel Officer & I would learn valuable organizational skills I currently lack. The downside: it's a miserably thankless and boring job far from the soldiers, so what little sense of service I currently get will be much lower.
  2. Try to be a Battalion S2 (intel officer). The upside-er...I'm not sure. Technically it would be a great career move and, if I stayed in the army, would give me a lot of good experience. The downside...I haven't seen a happy S2 since I've been here. The hours are long, the job is thankless and there's never an "end" (imagine, if you will, someone putting pieces from three separate puzzles in front of you with no photo to guide you. Every few hours, they put more pieces there in a pile and, for a year, you just keep nugging away trying to piece together these puzzles. The puzzles are never finished and, in a year, you just give your half finished puzzles and a big stack of pieces to someone else. Oh, and the whole year, other people come and yell at you for the puzzle not being finished...that's intel work.)
  3. Possibly do option one for a half a year and then be a Minority Outreach Officer for West Point. The upside to this one is obvious, besides the fact I'd have a chance to work at school again (and anyone who's read this more than once knows I bleed black and gold), I'd also have the opportunity to maybe bring some high-school aged kids into an experience that helped formed me. The downside? I don't know if I want to "opt out" of the "real" army like that or not. It feels almost like cheating, especially with the unit probably going to Afghanistan in a year (that's just a guess, but probably a pretty good one).

So, there you go, another decision...good/good/good and bad/bad/bad. So what do you do then?

And, more decisions to come...do I go to Grad School on the Army's dime, but then owe them more time? Do I get out and risk...risk what? everything? Damn choices...life was so much easier without em.

Friday, April 10, 2009

I don't have a lot of time (as you can tell by my monthly posts, if that), but I read an article today (Connecting the Dots: The Link Between Gay Marriage and Mass Murders), the premise of which is stated here:
"It most certainly is not my intention to blame the epidemic of mass murders on the gay rights movement! It is my intention to point out that the success of the sexual revolution is inversely proportional to the decline in morality; and it is the decline of morality (and the faith that so often under girds it) that is the underlying cause of our modern day epidemic of mass murders.

In response, I have posted a link to Steven Pinker's TED talk, where he argues that we currently live in the most peaceful time in the history of humanity. It's interesting and far more persuasive than the article.