Monday, May 30, 2005

Another Reality Check... and an Appreciation

I am mindful today of all of the men and women over the years who have given their lives in service to our country. It is not a matter of gratitude so much as an appreciation that each of the liberties we enjoy has come to us at a very high price paid by the blood of others.

I had intended to spend time this morning out at Riverside National Cemetery, but that didn't work out.
While I was in the hospital in April they were giving me injections to prevent blood clots, and at the time of my discharge it was anticipated that those would continue. My young surgeon, on the other hand, was under the impression that if one was going to develop a clot one would do so within five days. I didn't argue because, frankly, the idea of giving myself a shot in my abdomen twice a day didn't sing to me in the first place.
During my sixth post-op week my right lower leg became progressively more swollen as each day passed, and progressively more painful with each passing day. On Friday I was ready to admit the possibility that all was not as it should be. An ultrasound showed that the clot wasn't just below the back of my knee where the throbbing was worst... the clot just ended there. The tech couldn't see the top of the clot as the vein passed up into the torso.
My thinking is that it probably started to form some time ago, but that it didn't get my attention until the lower leg became blocked.

This past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they gave me my injections in the hospital. Today I'm giving them to myself at home... and taking Coumadin... and the leg still throbs because it takes about six weeks to dissolve the clot.
By the way, last week I got the new date for removal of my cancerous prostate... July 12... six weeks from tomorrow... and I have to be off anti-coagulants for at least a week before surgery.
I’m wondering if I didn’t have another lesson in humility coming. I was all psyched about running through my recovery process as quickly as possible... I wanted to spend a whole day walking the Del Mar Fair in a few weeks. I pushed it, and reality pushed back. Still, there’s a difference between recognizing limitations and accepting them.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Further Thoughts on Lies & Liars

I hate it when I let myself get sidetracked.
As CopCar and others have pointed out, my issue with Newsweek getting - in my opinion - punked on the story about desecration of the Quran by detention facility personnel is arguably no big deal. It is an old story in any case; and, whether it's the Quran or Moby Dick, it's a book. I am reminded of the furor that arose when the Taliban blew up the Buddhist statues carved into the cliffs in Afghanistan... it was ancient and it was art but they weren't blowing up the Buddha.
What I missed was the pattern. I am reminded of Dan Rather getting sloppy in documenting that George Bush pretty much blew off a lot of his National Guard obligation. That Mr. Bush did so was pretty well established in the public record by then, but suddenly the focus was shifted from Mr. Bush's failures to the failures of 60 Minutes.
That detention facility personnel have used practices offensive to Muslims in order to provoke responses from detainees has also been fairly well established in the public record, but once again the focus has suddenly shifted from those practices to, this time, Newsweek. Now Muslims are rioting not because we have offended them at almost every turn, but because of Newsweek.
Never mind the message... blame the media.
One must admit it... it works for them.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Thoughts on Lies and Liars

More or less as an aside, I need to say this about the dust-up from the item regarding desecration of the Quran reported in Newsweek.
Mark Whitaker says that the piece was legitimate and vetted, but that now their anonymous source has wavered... is no longer sure he read what he said he'd read. Newsweek has retracted the story and apologized.
In my opinion, Newsweek has just been punked. You get a piece, you run the piece, the crap hits the fan in part because of the piece... and suddenly your anonymous inside source isn't sure anymore. Gotcha!
In a time when God knows how many are dead because of the lies of the Bush administration, they are using you as a pinata because of a blurb that was entirely plausible based on proven disregard for Muslim beliefs and institutions at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, and you have no defense because you can't name your source.
Now the White House is saying that an apology isn't enough and you must do more to make up for the real consequences of your "lie." They want you to help them tell their version of the truth. One might reasonably ask when the White House will begin to make up for their lies.
Newsweek got burned on a blurb in its Periscope section... probably, again in my opinion, by the White House. One would hope they will have the confidence and courage to work through this without becoming another conduit for administration propaganda and disinformation.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Reflections on a Past Perspective

It has occurred to me (it's up at the top of the page) that my political awareness began with Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. Barry Goldwater seemed, to me at the time, to represent how we did things in Iowa. In particular (because I already had a sense of where I'd be the following September), if we were going to engage the communists in Southeast Asia then let's commit to that and get 'er done.
I've been thinking back to those times, not so much in nostalgia but to try to regain the perspective I had at the time on issues that now separate America. What were you people who voted for Bush thinking? Did I used to think that way?
My great-uncle believed that internal combustion engines were bad for crops. He parked his Ford in a shed down next to the road, and he farmed with two Belgian horses. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, things had to be done.The cows had to be milked twice a day. The livestock had to be fed. You don't feel well? It's dark/cold/hailing? Well, tell that to the livestock, and if it's okay with them then it's okay to skip your chores. Bucket's too heavy? Don't fill it so full and make two trips.
When it came time for harvest, the nearby farmers would all work together to get everyone's crops in... but as time passed there were fewer and fewer neighbors who farmed with horses. If you got sick or hurt, your neighbors had your back... but if you weren't able to make it anymore then it was time to "move into town."
He and his wife went to church every Sunday, a little one-room church you could see from his farm, but their mantra was "The Lord helps those who help themselves."
His son was a different sort of farmer. He embraced mechanization and technology, and bought the latest equipment... on credit, of course. A gamble? Farming is a gamble. He'd rent out the equipment he wasn't using himself. He knew all of the programs there were for paying farmers not go grow surplus crops.
When I went to live with the foster family many of the same themes continued. They had a cow, a pony, and poultry; and they had a couple of large garden plots on the edge of town. We all had our chores, and the chores all had to be done every day by someone.
I learned about gleaning there. The farmers outside of town would harvest their corn, but there was always corn that the reaper didn't get. We'd all go out and walk the fields and pick up the "missed" corn for our livestock. It was actually a win-win because we got the corn, and the farmer didn't have to hire kids to come out the next year to cut corn out of his beans. I also learned about hunting for wild mushrooms and berries in season.
We went to church on Sunday, morning and evening, and on Wednesday nights; but we didn't go to the "revival" meetings. They only had about one a year come into town. They did watch Billy Graham on television.
I was aware of the second Eisenhower/Stevenson campaign, and I recall that it was generally accepted as a foregone conclusion that General Eisenhower would win.
I remember, of course, the Kennedy/Nixon campaign. Both had paid their dues, serving in the War. Nixon looked unshaven... unkempt... but Kennedy was... you know... Catholic.
I moved into town in the summer of '61, but still worked farms in the summer doing yardwork in town the other three seasons until I was sixteen.
At that point in my life I didn't understand welfare. You worked. If you couldn't work then you found something you could do, but you worked. I'd had a paid job since I was eleven.
At that point in my life I never thought about abortion. There's not a farm kid in the world who doesn't know that sex is for reproduction. If you had unprotected sex and got pregnant you simply started your family a little earlier than you planned. (One store, in a town where everyone knew everyone else and their business, sold condoms.)
It never occurred to me not to fulfill my military obligation. It scared me when I got my draft notice toward the end of my second week in boot camp and realized that I wouldn't be able to report. My Company Commander explained to a few of us who'd received them that we'd be okay, and that we were no longer subject to the draft. (We burned our draft cards!)
I mean to continue to reflect on this... if toward no other end than my own peace of mind. I still don't know where the anger between right and left... between red and blue comes from. I wonder how much of it is manufactured in order to emphasize our differences.
There are right answers upon which we should all be able to agree. My understanding is that Buddhists believe one knows the truth because it is always and invariably true. In that context, can one be "pro-life" if one kills under certain circumstances? Is it rational for someone who is "pro-choice" to oppose the death penalty under any circumstances?
I think we should stop shouting and discuss these things.
By the way, in any election prior to 1964 I don't think there's any way that George would've beat a combat veteran. I could be wrong... again.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Thoughts on Place

This could turn out to be an introductory post, but I don't know that yet... I never know what I'm going to write about next. Ronni Bennett over at Time Goes By has been forced into the realization that she has to change her venue from her beloved New York to... where?
Appalachian Intellectual posted regarding some of hatefulness that has been vented toward the people of East Waynesville, N.C. (It was the pastor at the Baptist Church and he's resigned!) There are conservative Republicans in California and there are liberal Democrats in North Carolina. We may need to work on our tolerance.
Finally, I have been thinking about posting on my reflections about some of differences between red states and blue states... an issue with me as my intention is to move from the ultimate blue state smack into the middle of a bunch of red states. It came to me that my roots are in red states and that with a little reflection I can still see where they're coming from... for the most part.
I had an epiphany of sorts early last year... that I was never going to be able to retire in California, that I was working full time at a job that I do not relish in order to be able to live in California, and that I really don't care to live in California. I've lived in California since 1970 when I got back to the States. My last fifteen years in the Navy were in and out of San Diego. My kids were born in San Diego and I went to college in San Diego and after college I finally found a job in Southern California... not in San Diego, of course! I was already 42!
I grew up in the rural midwest... central Illinois and Iowa... a million years ago but I have never had a desire to return to the bitter winters or the hot, humid summers there.
My father's family was from Henry County, Georgia, and my only memories of it were of the summer. I got a chance to go back there last May, but it's become so... metropolitan Atlanta that it's just not an option.
During my drive through America last May I looked around, stopped by coffee shops, smelled the air... Tennessee sang to me... the Smoky Mountains sang to me... when I met my wife she said the Smoky Mountains sang to her (but her preference is for the Georgia side of them... she's from Clayton County, Georgia and had vacationed up around Rabun Gap). Today I'll be dipped if the MSNBC Travel Section didn't have a piece on 25 Things to Love About Asheville.
I know guys who are making it on their military retirement... but not in California. Worse, California has never really sung to me. This is where I got off the ship in 1985 and I stayed here, but I'm not a Californian. It remains to be seen whether or not I'll become at home in the Smokies, but they are calling me... and it's time.
In eighteen months I'll be 59 and a half, and I promised my wife's family that I'd have her back home in time for her birthday in 2006. I just need to hold off on breaking stuff for awhile.

I want to mention HM3 Jeffery Wiener. Petty Officer Third Class Jeffery L. Wiener, 32, of Louisville, Ky., died May 7, in a combat related incident. Weiner was a Navy hospital corpsman assigned to II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). Here is the piece they wrote up on him in the Lexington, KY paper.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Thoughts on This and That

Today my ortho surgeon signed off on my return to work this coming Monday. I'm running the wheels off of my walker and am just a hair away from switching to a single crutch or a cane.
The urologist, on the other hand, has said he won't even think about doing surgery on me until I'm at least eight weeks post-op from the femoral rod. He says the risk of emboli is too great. Objectively, I can see his point. Subjectively, it occurs to me that six months (at least) will have passed since my biopsy. I've been racking my brain without success for a potential upside to leaving a cancer to do its work for six months.
Speaking of faith, I did see a couple of items in my reading today.
From WLOS in Asheville, N.C.: "East Waynesville Baptist asked nine members to leave. Now 40 more have left the church in protest. Former members say Pastor Chan Chandler gave them the ultimatum, saying if they didn't support George Bush, they should resign or repent. The minister declined an interview with News 13. But he did say "the actions were not politically motivated."
If you're okay with that tidbit, then you're going to love what they're doing in Kansas (and elsewhere). The Kansas State Board of Education wants to "alter the definition of science, not limiting it to theories based on natural explanations." Yes, it's another run at passing off creationism/"intelligent design" as science.
I'm not going to be hypercritical today. I suspect that defending the conceit that the entire universe was created for the pleasure and benefit of those humans of the Judeo-Christian faiths must be extremely hard work... although it has to be somewhat easier under the current Administration.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Thoughts on Values

I keep thinking that I'm going to get more disciplined in my writing. There are several things I mean to address, but then I get distracted as something catches my eye and then things seem to coalesce into another subject entirely... or perhaps not entirely.
I've been ruminating on Tamar's post the other day regarding the pervasive nature and global extent of politics. The next thing I'm reading is this piece in The Guardian about U.S.-Sudanese cooperation in the "Global War on Terror." Now today's MSN Quote of the Day is from Emmanuel Levinas: "Politics is opposed to morality, as philosophy to naïveté." It came to me that this could account for a lot.
I had intended to ask the six percent of voters who voted for GW six months ago but who now feel that he sucks in his job for an explanation. What changed? What was concealed from them in November that is apparent to them now? (Like they're all reading my blog!) It came to me that in run-up to November the talk was all about "values." The neocons just did a superb job of distracting people from their politics. Men who never served a minute in combat... who avoided service... were able to impugn the character of a decorated veteran by challenging his freedom of speech. They had better salesmen.
No WMD? Never mind because Saddam was a dictator and the U.S. doesn't do dictators... except throughout the 1980's when he was gassing Iranians, Shi'ites and Kurds somewhat indiscriminately. The U.S. is all about human rights and the principles of democracy... except in Saudi Arabia and China and Russia because business is business. In public we seek to condemn the Sudanese government in the U.N. for genocide while in the background we still do business with their intelligence apparatus.
Core values dictate that we must not take life, that we must not steal, that we must not bear false witness, etc. Politics dictate that "you have to go along to get along" and that the end justifies the means. You clean up Iraq as much as you can before you leave and you can write off the whole damn war as a humanitarian effort, and in a few years who will remember the lies?
Does it make any sense then for me to rant because politicians are amoral? Yeah, it does. It does because this is a republic, and these people do not in fact represent my values. From elementary school I've been told that we hold certain truths to be self evident, but there is little testament that our government values those truths. Our government is made up of politicians. Our government is made up of politicians because we are too damn lazy or distracted or otherwise engaged to think beyond buzzwords and sound bites.
Would it kill us to make the effort to identify and elect people to represent us who weren't so flagrantly for sale? I refuse to believe that George W. and Arnold Schwarzenegger represent our best and our brightest hopes for the future. Is it not possible to elect people you would allow to sit your kids?

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