Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Thoughts on Choices and Consequences

I want to point folks over to Winston's blog today.
Being me, I googled "Corps of Engineers funding" and the first item was Will Bunch's article.
So many issues in society these days seem to be reduced to partisan rhetoric, and that's a shame because a lot of this stuff calls for penetrating questions and deliberate thought. The comments on Bunch's blog seem to be heading that way.
I suspect that if Mr. Bush had known then what he knows now he would have funded the flood control project appropriately. I suspect that if the voters of Louisiana had known then what they know now they might not have given him the opportunity to misappropriate their funding.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In Memory of Sgt. Thomas Strickland

A short post today...
Please take a moment to share the observations of Sgt. Strickland. They are somewhat profane, but he wasn't destined to be making any more like them. He was killed two days later.
Semper Fi, Brother.

Monday, August 29, 2005

American Legion, Where Were You When I Needed You?

This is a little late in coming...
I wasn't going to talk about the Resolution 169 from the American Legion convention last week, but I just haven't been able to let it go. I have a personal ax to grind when it comes to the American Legion anyway.
Twenty-some years ago I was writing letters to just about everybody to ask about extending the VietNam GI Bill beyond December 31, 1989. It seemed reasonable to me that someone who served during, for instance, the 1968 Tet Offensive should not be denied access to the GI Bill because they were silly enough to remain in uniform. What I was told at the time by the American Legion among others was that their constituency was predominantly WW II and Korean veterans and that they didn't think they'd be able to help me. That was okay... I had my twenty by the end of August, 1985, and I got my four years of VietNam GI BIll benefits. I would have liked to have stayed in a little longer... I missed Desert Storm... but that's life.
Now in August, 2005, the American Legion presumes to speak on behalf of the VietNam veteran in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
No. No, they don't. They do not speak for me.
We had absolutely no business in VietNam, and we have absolutely no business in Iraq. I am here to tell you that it is, in fact, possible for a military member to serve in a pointless war knowing full well that it is pointless. The public need not worry that we don't already know. The military relies on the public to keep us out of pointless wars in the first place.
I have no idea what their intention was when they authorized their Poobah to "engage whatever means necessary to ensure the united support of the American people." Since apparently very few, if any, of them were career military, I'm not going to worry about it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Aging and/or Getting Older

I came across this piece: Scientists Probe Anti-Aging Gene...
On the way to work this morning I had been reflecting on the difference between aging and getting older. It's
Ronni's fault, of course, that I've been noticing the age spots since yesterday.
There are things about getting older that I really do appreciate. I know I'm a better person now than I used to be. I'm glad that I've had the opportunity to gain some maturity and perspective on life. I'm told I could stand to gain even more.
I've read of a couple of cases of little old children, and obviously being able to identify and treat those defective genes would be a blessing for them, but this article goes on to speculate that finding a way to increase the activity of the gene "will show a way to improve our declining years. "
Actually I've been thinking that the years when I was doing a quart of scotch and two packs of cigarettes a day were my declining years, but that's another post.
This speaks to the whole concept of aging as a treatable condition... a disease?
I could live without the prostate cancer, but the article doesn't mention that... or the touch of arthritis I'm getting in my hands. The article does say that the gene "seems to delay many of the effects of old age, like the weakening of bones, clogging of the arteries and loss of muscle fitness." That could be misleading if it isn't related to the longevity issue. Developing atherosclerosis five years later if I'm going to live ten years longer is not such a good deal.
It says that the intention of the researchers "is not so much to prolong life as to improve the quality of our final years." That might be worth a few dollars and some research time.
Gene "therapy" just for the sake of seeing if I can live for a really long time? No, thank you. That would be sick.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

You Say "Po-tay-to" and I Say "Po-tah-to"

I admit it! I'm a sailor! Still...
The Base Realignment and Closure commission has voted to close the "crown jewel of Army hospitals", Walter Reed. Yeah, it sucks to be them... except that "staff and services would move" to the National Naval Medical Center "to create an expanded facility", and the expanded facility would be renamed Walter Reed. This is closing Walter Reed?
I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes, but if I was a suspicious man I might wonder if it wasn't the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesday that just got hosed in this deal. Maybe I'm a tiny bit partisan here, but I've experienced Army hospitals returning sailors to a frigate with casts on and even one with sytemic sarcoidosis to await a medical board. (Hello! It's a frigate and I'm a Corpsman!)
Anyway, I just thought I'd mention it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Tom Curry, Your Therapist Called. It's Time to Get Over It.

I imagine there are millions of people who don't care for Senator Clinton. Personally, she reminds me way too much of my third ex. Having said that, I am occasionally surprised at the lengths some people will go to in order to put a dig in.
I saw this piece on MSNBC this morning by Tom Curry that was headlined: "'Hillary Care' in Uniform?" What Senator Clinton and a couple of her husband's former congressional opponents mean to do is to offer the existing health insurance for military families to the families of deployable National Guard and Reserve personnel. Mr. Curry put it this way: "Now, 11 years later, Clinton has found an alternative way of getting the taxpayer to help pay for coverage of thousands of uninsured workers."
Why are these "workers" uninsured? Could it be because they have been pulled out of their civilian employment for fifteen month deployments to the Middle East and, thus, lost any health insurance they might have had? Who, in this day and age, refers to deployable Guardsmen and Reservists as "uninsured workers?"
Mr. Curry manages to work into his piece that the Republican co-sponsor in the Senate led impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, and that the Democrat sponsor in the House was one of the few Democrats to vote for President Clinton's impeachment.
Okay, Mr. Curry, we get it. You can't let go of the Clinton stories from the '90s. The fact remains that offering Guard and Reserve families access to the health insurance program originally intended for active military families is simply the right thing to do regardless of who does it.

Another Outburst

Has anyone else noticed the lack of any hue and cry for Christian leaders to disavow the statements of Pat Robertson or even the acts of Eric Rudolph?
Is that something we do only when it's someone else's religion that's being co-opted by nuts?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Validation Is Not a Bad Thing

I saw this piece from yesterday's Jerusalem Times that pretty much says what I see as the real problem in trying to restore Iraq. I can't help but seize on anything that appears to confirm my beliefs.
There is no historical Iraq.
The Kurds are, as they have been throughout my lifetime, committed to a Kurdish state.
The Shi'ites have no desire or intention to accept any form of Sunni control, and feel no need to do so or to share.
The only people in Iraq who want what the Bush administration says it wants are the Sunni, and they are the ones we're left fighting in a war neither they nor we can hope to win.
The Sunni control four provinces and the proposed Iraqi Constitution can only afford to lose in three provinces. Mr. Bush said that it's up to the Sunni to decide, “Do they want to live in a society that’s free? Or do they want to live in violence?” One wonders what level of freedom they might enjoy as a more secular minority in a fundamentalist Islamic state, but it's a choice.
On a more positive note, if the Constitution is presented and if it does pass and if it is adopted then all they'd have to worry about is the inevitable civil war and we could bring the kids home!
Winston, I don't know how much is enough. I look at it, and I don't see a win anywhere. The President says that leaving too soon would leave America weaker... as if the thousands killed and wounded and the billions spent on this wild goose chase haven't weakened us already. I just don't know.
On a side note, Secretary Rice has allegedly assured the President that the rights of women were being preserved under the new Iraq Constitution, and “Democracy is unfolding.” Are there any bets that we'll see her shopping alone in Baghdad wearing slacks with her head uncovered anytime soon?

Friday, August 19, 2005

I Just Can't Leave Mrs. Sheehan's Issues Without Comment

I need to say a few words about Mrs. Sheehan wanting to meet with the President. I know I shouldn't, but I need to so I can let it go.
I've always felt that ad hominum arguments are really a pretty crummy basis for making policy decisions. My personal axe to grind is with the California mother who, unable to convince her son to wear his helmet before he killed himself, wept a motorcycle helmet law onto the books a few years ago. (I see you people in your shorts and shower shoes wearing a full-face helmet.)
I can empathize with Cindy Sheehan. I would only point out here that for every parent who has lost a child and wants to bring the rest of the troops home there is another parent who wants to "complete the mission" so that their child will not have "died in vain." Mrs. Sheehan does not speak for all Gold Star mothers.
My experience has been that the same thing holds true among the troops. There are guys who volunteer for back-to-back combat tours... regardless of the conflict... and there are guys who can't wait to get back to the world... and there are, of course, guys who want to "complete the mission" so that their buddies will not have "died in vain."
For the record, and in my humble opinion, the guy who made it back from Iraq to be killed in a drive-by shooting in Pomona died in vain. Dying in the honorable service of one's country is not in vain. Whether the war amounts to a hill of beans in the long run or not has nothing to do with it.
I've said before that I believe we have an ongoing responsibility to the Iraqis whose country we've smashed to pieces. That doesn't make the war right. That's just accepting responsibility for what we've done. We've made Iraq a breeding ground for terrorism and insurrection, and we ought to do what can be done to leave them in some semblance of stability.
Having said all that, I think Mr. Bush should meet with Mrs. Sheehan. I think he should spend five weeks (wasn't his vacation five weeks?) spending a day apiece in their home with a family that has lost a loved one or had a loved one come home with a catastrophic injury. I think he needs to bear a little of the consequences of his war.
There's nothing to be done now about the 1800 American lives that did not need to be lost in Iraq. The only thing to be done now is to mitigate the damage we've done as much as possible and withdraw, but we must do what we can to mitigate the damage.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Happy Birthday, Millie!

Best wishes go out to Millie Garfield today for a very happy 80th birthday, and for many more years of good health and great happiness.
Hat tip to Ronni!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Thoughts on Linking

How odd is it that we blog about blogs?
I've been conscious of some of my linking choices over to the right.
I think it's important that I don't link exclusively to sites with which I always agree. That's how ditto-heads of all ideologies become inbred in their thinking; and I do recognize that there are many legitimate alternative points of view. There are times when I might actually be wrong!
On the other hand, this blog is a representation of me, and at some point I can't pass off responsibility for it. ("Hey I didn't say that! He or she said that! I just linked to him or her!") At some level the blogs I link to must speak to my values.
To remove the link must be seen as a criticism of the person, and that is unfortunate. It's exactly that, the criticism of the person, that I'm trying to get away from.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I Feel the Need for an Outburst

I just need to get this out so I can let go of it.
I saw this article about Texas no longer having a non-Hispanic White majority population, and what this might mean to the world.
Well, for one thing I think we need to avoid terms like "majority-minority population." I'm pretty sure that if the majority of a population is now made up of minorities then it must follow that there is no majority population to speak of... a plurality perhaps, but no majority.
My objection is not only to the nonsense of a term like "majority-minority" but to the wrong-headed conclusions one might come to in thinking that way. If Jimmy Smits really did get elected President I doubt that it would be any worse than having George W. Bush in office.
Anglos are outnumbered. Deal with it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Thoughts on the Responsible Thing to Do

The conundrum, at least as I see it, is that it's too late to stop fighting a war that never should have been fought in the first place... and this from a guy who really thinks that we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place.
Iraq isn't like VietNam which was, at its heart, a civil war to erase a political boundary. It isn't like Korea which, putting aside the communist ideology component, was also a civil war. Those wars presented opportunities for us to pack up our gear and let the indigenous populations work out their differences.
Iraq is an artificial construct... a political construct made up of at least three disparate populations with very little in common apart from religion, and differing even in their view of their religion. We pulled out the linchpin that had been holding the country together. However tempted we may be... and we are sorely tempted... to walk away from this trainwreck, we own this trainwreck.
Would it help to move Cabinet meetings from the White House to the Green Zone until it gets cleaned up? That idea kind of sings to me.

Monday, August 08, 2005

So I'm a little distracted...

This past weekend we ran out of coffee at home so I drove over to the very same Smart & Final where I stepped off the curb and broke my proximal femur four months ago tomorrow... two weeks before my scheduled surgery. Once again I am two weeks before my scheduled surgery. I walked very carefully from the car and back this time.
I don't want to dwell on the surgery. The cancer has now had eight months to develop since the biopsy, but there's nothing to be done about that now except to remove it. To tell the truth I'm more concerned about the surgeon reconnecting the plumbing correctly. Fortunately my surgeon was trained in the Navy down at the Naval Regional Medical Center in San Diego so it's more a function of my ability to heal correctly I suppose, but that's too much responsibility on me.
If any of you Intelligent Design fans have a plausible explanation for the prostate I'd be more than happy to hear it. From all that I've read, it seems to be right up there with the vermiform appendix as a part without a modern purpose other than as a site for pathology. If that's true then that's just mean.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Thoughts on the Space Program

This isn't a particulary mindful post, but the coverage of the current shuttle mission has been getting on my nerves.
There have been two shuttle disasters since the program began. If memory serves me, Challenger in 1986 should never have launched because it was cold and there was concern that seals might have shrunk or become brittle; and in 2003 everyone saw the debris strike Columbia, but no one wanted to use available technology to see if it had left a hole before reentry.
If the Administration is going to cancel the program then just do it. Don't make it about safety. We have no way of knowing whether or not those filler thingies have been poking out on every shuttle mission ever flown. We weren't looking before now. I would go so far as to say that you'd be safer in a space shuttle than in a humvee in Iraq, so what is served by the breathless announcements of another concern about the shuttle? I commented at Two Babes and a Brain that I'd clean the heads for a seat on a shuttle mission. Fly or don't fly; but stop being wusses about it.
We're Americans! We explore! Sometimes it ain't safe! It's either that, or we stay in our little cocoon and keep our fingers crossed.

Thanks, Winston!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Wartime Presidents

In fairness, Dubya is not the first President... or Texan... to morph himself into a wartime President in the apparent absence of a better idea.
On August 4, 1964, USS Turner Joy and USS Maddox reported that they had been attacked by N. Vietnamese PT boats in the Tonkin Gulf. On August 7, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution was passed and Lyndon Johnson became a wartime President.
There are stories about whether or not the destroyers were attacked or even engaged by the PT boats. There are questions about whether or not the ships were in international waters at the time. Whatever the facts of the incident were, the resulting Tonkin Gulf Resolution and escalation of the war in VietNam took a lot of the wind out of Senator Goldwater's anti-communist sails at the end of his bid to unseat Johnson.
So, what do you think? Is it a Texas thing? Is it an oil thing? What?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Thoughts on Religious Instruction as Science

I was going to take a pass on this topic. I've spoken to it before, and I don't want to give offense; but I am increasingly mindful of my mortality... today I do my autologous blood donation... and it begs reflection.
People are pushing... again... to include the teaching of so-called "intelligent design" in science classes as a contrast to evolutionary theory. I don't believe there's a scientific argument to be made for that.
There is a mystery of life. Any competent biologist can expain the soup of hydrocarbons and enzymes that constitute the forms of life, but there has been no scientific explanation of the instant of creation when life itself actually began. That's where religion lives... in that instant.
As I've said before, I grew up in a Baptist church in the rural midwest. Every good thing that happened was said to be a miracle... a blessing from God... while every bad thing was dismissed as beyond our understanding. Eventually that started to piss me off. I'm not a rocket scientist, but I'm not stupid either.
I've seen intelligent designs. I've never seen a car born with only three wheels. I've never seen a house sprout an extra room. I'm sorry, but if you're going to teach religion as science... that we were created by an omniscient and omnipotent being... you're going to have to explain genetic mutation. Why do we have a blind spot in our eye? Frogs don't. Explain cancer! It looks like trial and error and survival of the fittest to me!
I could reflect for days on life... where it comes from, what it means... if all life was created in the same instant then how can there be good life and bad life, or superior and inferior life?... if life is precious then how can some life not be precious? These are not scientific questions. There is no proof to be found... not in this lifetime anyway.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Little Horatio Meets the World

"Grandpa's going to post me on his blog!?! What in the hell is a blog?"

I'm not sure what my point was here, or if there even was one.

I've been giving some thought lately to what I'm doing here. Blogging has not been fulfilling its therapeutic role in my life. It's important that I not allow myself to simply rant, but that I reason things out. It's not productive for me to let out that I hope Jane Fonda's damn bus burns up with her in it. I need to find where within me that feeling comes from, and heal that place.
I found a piece over at DailyZen recently... I'll link to it if I can get the link to work today... that says, in part:
If you view things through your ego, then love and hatred arise uncontrollably, and you cannot avoid indulging feelings. When you indulge feelings, then you are being subjective. When you are subjective, you are ignorant. When you are ignorant, you are mixed up and confused; you are only aware of yourself, not of principle.
I think this is why when I simply ask whether or not Judge Roberts is one of the twenty best legal minds in the country I get a defensive response from our old friend, Anonymous. This is not a partisan blog.
There's nothing I can do about the fact that the neo-conservatives won the last two elections, and there's no cohesive strategy among Democrats to change that anytime real soon. The things that I feel are going wrong with America have been going wrong for at least twenty-five years or more. The people who are still defending the Watergate cover-up, the people responsible for Iran-Contra, the people responsible for setting up Noriega and Hussein and then knocking them down are all doing quite nicely, and will most likely continue to prosper for some time to come. Even when their people are out of office they can successfully tie up any significant changes for as long as it takes until they can find a marketable candidate.
The good news is that historically these things are cyclical, and this, too, shall eventually pass. The timing of that is up to the registered voters of the United States, and so long as they remain too frightened to take back responsibility for their lives I won't hold my breath.
What concerns me is what this is making of us as human beings. We're discussing acceptable methods of torture, and then going across the hall to debate the ethics of stem cell research. If you honestly believe that Karl Rove pointed Bob Novak toward Ambassador Wilson's wife not knowing exactly who she was or where she worked or what she did there then I guess I'm happy for you, but tell me... is this what you thought things would be like when you were growing up?

Monday, August 01, 2005

How to Win Friends and Influence People

So Mr. Bush made his anticipated recess appointment of John Bolton to the post of UN Ambassador... a man with no discernible capacity for diplomacy representing the United States to an organization for which he has absolutely no regard.
The word "hubris" comes to mind.