Monday, June 22, 2009


Last post for the day, because I thought it related to my two last posts. Peggy Noonan wrote the following regarding Iran:
When the young rise against the old, the future rises against the past. In that contest, the future always wins. The question is timing: soon or some years from now?
Read my previous two posts previous and you'll see why I find it ironic that Peggy Noonan, a Republican, wrote this.
I have received two books from my friend Tim since being here by David Foster Wallace as well as a recommendation to read him from another friend as well. I have, however, decided that he is not a good author. He is incredibly gimmicky and the more of him I read, the more I dislike the gimmick. In fact, I've quit reading his books and essays and wonder why more people haven't. Yes...the man played tennis and knows a lot about it. Yes, he finds himself in situations where his outsider status means he can look upon everything with a superior disdain (or not-so-thinly veiled desire to be part of it). But...why should I care? Also, there's really nothing to be gained from reading his essays. There are very few times where I thought of something differently, saw beauty where I hadn't before, laughed out loud, almost cried...felt anything really, other than a desire to put the book down or at least be done with the mind-numbing footnotes without having actually read them.

I thought for a moment about re-writing this post in Wallace's style, but Blogger doesn't allow for footnotes, and one knows one can't write in Wallace's style without at least 75% as many footnotes as there is text in the body. Likewise, I'd also have to refer to Wallace as "W" or "the auth." to let you know how thoroughly I've rejected accepted writing styles and how much more I have to focus on the overall story and can't be bothered with details like writing out a name.

That got me thinking, however, about other authors with particular styles I do appreciate and why. Like Peggy Noonan for example. Her short sentences, often ended with triads of things or emotions, seem to always move me, even when I disagree. Or Sedaris, who is just funny as all getup, but always follows the same arc to his stories (vignette followed by one or two line lesson learned/summation). least their writing, while repetitive and slightly gimmicky as well, elicits some emotion. With Wallace, I tend to feel like it's the literary equivalent of watching a documentary about...nothing. But a pretentious documentary about nothing.

Remembering Due Diligence

A friend of mine who had been at DLI the same time as I and has since gotten out of the Army and dedicated himself to fighting against Don't Ask/Don't Tell posted the following on facebook. I think it outlines very well the fight he's been waging, as well as proves that one person can make a difference. It's also a call to action for those of us who care to make change:

HR 1059. This was the original Military Readiness Enhancement Act, introduced by Marty Meehan of Massachusetts in 2005. When learning media sound bites in that rush between getting out of the Army in November of 2005 and launching the Call To Duty tour the following February, supporting

HR 1059 was a pretty good stock answer to any sort of inquiry regarding what can be done. I don’t think it ever exceeded 130 cosponsors, and we never saw it as a viable bill. Still, it was some movement in Congress – certainly more than in the past 10 or so years – and the beginning of the real movement for repeal. It seemed I had entered activism at just the right time.

HR 1246. This was the second bill introduced by Marty Meehan, still called the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. Marty would lead the bill until he left a seat that would eventually be filled by Nancy Tsongas, and the bill would be passed on to Ellen Tauscher of California. We still didn’t believe the bill was going anywhere, and served mostly as a means to bring attention to the issue and to gauge Congressional support. Again we instructed people to encourage their representative to sign on, and to just be more active in the movement in general. The bill maxed out at 149 cosponsors before it expired and, like its predecessor, never left committee. Though a few court cases existed challenging ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ on various grounds, repealing DADT in the 110th Congress was never viable.

HR 1283. This is the third iteration of MREA, this time introduced by Tauscher. Word is Patrick Murphy of Colorado will be taking over the bill soon, but the exact date won’t be known until Tauscher is confirmed in her new prospective space in the State Department. The bill already has 147 cosponsors, and for some reason the repeal community is much more optimistic about this bill than the last two. Perhaps a progressive intellectual President encourages that optimism. Or maybe edging so close to 150 cosponsors creates a certain excitement that we didn’t allow ourselves to feel before. I suspect a little of both, combined with the fact that the public, at least in this scenario, seems to be way ahead of Congress in terms of opinions on repeal. Regardless, the energy in the move for repeal seems to be bringing attention to options other than MREA and the courts that are at the very least intriguing.

Whatever path we choose, a real debate over repeal is brewing. Are we ready? Who knows. I think the momentum is such that we had better hope we are, as I don’t think we’ll have much of a choice otherwise. I know I myself wasn’t expecting this debate for at least another few years, and I think most who say otherwise are either lying or were simply idealistic these past few years.

I have to admit I’m a little nervous. This issue can quickly get out of hand, and the debate, if we’re not careful, can easily be reduced to ridiculous vitriol that is neither relevant nor productive. Jumping at any easy fix is not always beneficial in the short term, and risks must be carefully weighed. We need to be vigilant, we need to be strategic, and we need to be smart.

Fifteen years of hard work is resting on the next few decisions that are made regarding DADT. Let’s proceed with aggressive optimism, but more importantly, let’s proceed with prudence and due diligence.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Iran's population has a median age of 27

I read that line today just before lunch. I'm 28 years old. I was thinking the other day as we were on a convoy to some place unimportant and I saw kids running down the street that most of them had never known a reality, a daily life, in which uniformed, armed Americans weren't rolling past their houses daily. The people of Iran who are my age have never known anything but theocracy--and yet, they're in the streets risking life and limb for freedoms that we would never think twice about.

If I take nothing else from deployment, it's the realization that one can never take his view of the world for granted. There is no such thing as "un-biased" as each of us can only view the world through the lens we've come to acquire through experience, time and life (suddenly I think of the words, "a wise Latina..." but that's a post for another time). But, more importantly, while I've somewhat always known that, the differences between how I view the world, an Iranian, an Iraqi or a Chinese is far vaster than I had ever realized.

The flip side to this is that, while Americans have far more that unites us than separates, the same idea applies similarly to our subsets. Someone who grows up in NYC or Augusta, GA or rural Pennsylvania is not going to see life similarly to me, from rural San Diego. But, I'm beginning to realize, I shouldn't expect them to, but only try to find the common ground upon which we can build.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I wrote some years ago about how I liked the rule in TX that if you were in the top 10% of your high school class, you were admitted to the TX school of your choice. It leveled an un-level playing field and allowed kids an opportunity to compete they otherwise would not have had. While TX refused to fix the situation in its high schools and correct inequalities, this law trumped that.

Now, however, TX is changing the law because too many students are getting into the good schools. TX state Rep Dan Branch said:
“Texas doesn’t have that many national Tier 1 universities, and we were about to overwhelm our major Tier 1 university with automatic admissions..."

So, it seems, the program is over, or at least severely curbed because not enough of the kids who are already advantaged by a good high school are getting into college and TX is worried that kids from other high schools are lowering the quality of their colleges. This may not seem that absurd an argument until you realize that the same people worried about the quality of the colleges being affected by lower-quality high school graduates are the same people who refuse to take steps to rectify the situation in lower-quality high-schools.

The article is here and I recommend reading it.