Canal Water Review

"To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing." Hypatia "Yeah. That pretty much sucks canal water." cwr

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Eye of the Beholder

Charles Kuffner comments on a report that Travis County DA Ronnie Earle spoke at a fundraiser recently. His assessment:

All that said, I do agree it's not wise politics for Earle to have done this. He can't afford to let the editorial page tut-tutters make their inevitable case for moral equivalence between himself and DeLay, because once that happens, once this becomes a political squabble instead of a "cops and robbers" story, he's sunk. I hope they're clearheaded enough to draw a distinction, but I'm not confident of it. It sucks to be Caesar's wife, but that's the way it is.

I agree. Sometimes, no matter how [fill in virtue] we are, it's how we are seen that determines whether our [virtue] will be appreciated at its full and face value. Just because something is legal doesn't mean that it's a good idea to do it, especially when the whole world (more or less) is just waiting for you to screw up.

I do believe that Ronnie Earle is a genuine hero, a Texas treasure. We are privileged to be served by such a man. But the stakes are now too high to just give away credibility, so I'm hopin' that he'll be a little more choosy in selecting his venues for getting out his message in the future.

That being said, the folks in his audience probably needed to hear every word he spoke.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A birthday!

Monday was Canal Water Review's first birthday! And I missed it. Sigh. I hope the party was a grand one.

Lend me your uterus!

I have been avoiding thinking about all the anti-choice bills that have been filed in the Texas Legislature this session. It just seems too painful to put myself through the, well, pain of seeing the proposals, listening to the arguments, and thinking about the consequences of all this misguided claptrap that calls itself the Culture of Life and has nothing to do with life at all.

Avoidance is, however, impossible. As I wander through various of my more or less favorite blog sites, the screams of agony just get louder and louder.

Since I am still in my Indiana Jones mood (forget the bullwhip, gimme the gun), here's my thought:

We know that a hysterectomy is the second most frequently performed surgery for women in the U.S. There are 600,000+ hysterectomies performed in the U.S. each year. That's 1.2 million uteruses that could have been donated to deserving pro-life policymakers to help them do their own part to generate and, of course, protect more unborn lives.

So this is what I'm thinking. Maybe we should set up a non-profit Foundation for the Promotion of Self-Reliance in Protecting the Unborn. Then anyone who has a hysterectomy can donate her uterus (the ovaries would be helpful, too, but they are not necessary because we could also take in donated embryos from fertility clinics) to the Foundation. The Foundation, in turn, would select deserving policy-makers to receive their very own uterus so they can stop spending their time on trying to control everyone else's uterus and get busy making their own little unborn life to worship.

I would like to nominate Representative Will Harnett to receive the first.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Losing the war

Patrick Cockburn writes in The Independent about the status of the war in Iraq. He provides quite a bit of fodder for a discussion about whether the U.S. is actually losing the war.

There is no doubt that the US has failed to win the war. Much of Iraq is a bloody no man's land. The army has not been able to secure the short highway to the airport, though it is the most important road in the country, linking the US civil headquarters in the Green Zone with its military HQ at Camp Victory.

The failure, he points out, was "in part political."

Immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein polls showed that Iraqis were evenly divided on whether they had been liberated or occupied. Eighteen months later the great majority both of Sunni and Shia said they had been occupied, and they did not like it.

Other points:

  • The U.S. forces are over-armed, using howitzers for police duty.
  • They were designed to "fight a high-technology blitzkrieg, but not much else." Supply lines were long and poorly defended. Ignorance of the local culture led to many mistakes right from the start of the occupation.
  • The U.S. forces are too thin on the ground--and they are used more as a fire-brigade, fighting fires everywhere, but never putting them out.

Reasonable people can quibble one way or another regarding the elements of this failure, but I'm thinking that the evidence of failure abounds--and resounds with the death and injury of every American soldier, every Iraqi civilian, every roadside bomb, every victory shout from the "insurgents." Even so, as distressed as I am about the situation in Iraq, the question of winning or losing is not the most important point in Cockburn's article. This is.

The greatest failure of the US in Iraq is not that mistakes were made but that its political system has proved incapable of redressing them. Neither Mr Rumsfeld nor his lieutenants have been sacked. Paul Wolfowitz, under-secretary of defence and architect of the war, has been promoted to the World Bank.

Almost exactly a century ago the Russian empire fought a war with Japan in the belief that a swift victory would strengthen the powers-that-be in St Petersburg. Instead the Tsar's armies met defeat. Russian generals, who said that their tactic of charging Japanese machine guns with sabre-wielding cavalry had failed only because their men had attacked with insufficient brio, held their jobs. In Iraq, American generals and their political masters of demonstrable incompetence are not fired. The US is turning out to be much less of a military and political superpower than the rest of the world had supposed. [emphasis added]

How sad that this morning's conversation with My Prince, included the words:

The reason the U.S. has won so many wars is because we've had a stronger military than anyone else. Bush has done a good job of levelling the playing field.

My Prince doesn't read The Independent. He did show up for his military service.

Alas, poor Newsweek

The story grows. Newsweek published a small story about prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Riots occurred in the Middle East. Folks on the right are blaming Newsweek for the riots. Newsweek partially distances itself from its own story by noting that its original anonymous source is no longer so certain about the specifics of the abuses that he once told Newsweek reporters about. Folks on the left are pissed that Newsweek is backing off of its story and thinking that they are caving in to political pressure.

Some folks think that they should boycott Newsweek because it reported the original story--"not supporting the troops" and all that. Some folks think that they should boycott Newsweek because it's not fully standing by its story--which has been reported elsewhere anyway.

And I don't even shed crocodile tears.

I ended my subscriptions (mine and the gift one for Mama) last year. After many years of subscribing for both of us, we both decided that we just didn't like some of the things that were showing up in Newsweek. Like the reports that John Kerry had selected John Edwards as his running mate that included not one, not two, but three homoerotic references to their camaraderie. Like the report on plans for the Democratic Convention that concluded with the snarky comment that the convention would be a John Kerry party, "whatever that is." Neither of us saw the need to pay hard earned money for that kind of crap in news stories, when all we wanted was news.

Let me point out that this was not a decision lightly made. I discovered Newsweek in my first stay in East Africa. Young and apolitical, I was starved for news from home. On my island field site, I had no television, no radio. I picked up the national newspaper now and then, but there was little news from the U.S. One of the little local shops was dedicated to school and office supply sorts of things, and, on one of my visits, I saw a copy of Newsweek there. It turned out that someone on the island was a subscriber and hadn't pick up his/her copy that week. So I was lucky enough to be able to buy it instead. Thereafter, I made regular trips to the little shop and sometimes managed to have the same luck. On those days, I read the thing from cover to cover. It was there that I first heard of Watergate. It was there that I learned that Sissy Farenthold was running for governor. It was my link to sanity for the fourteen months that I lived in a very different world.

When I came home, as soon as I could afford it, I became a subscriber to Newsweek. This means many years of reading the magazine, many years of watching the changes from serious news to ever lighter fare. As much as anything, Newsweek was an old friend. When Newsweek arrived each Tuesday, I would again sit and read the whole thing from cover to cover. It was just what I would do on Tuesdays. And I was really antsy when it didn't arrive until Wednesday.

But my old friend let me down. I decided that Newsweek needed to get along without me--if only for a year or so--while I got over my snit with its slips toward bias. What I didn't realize--until today--is that I really don't miss it.

I will feel some sadness if Newsweek suffers too much from this brouhaha, but not enough to spend my hard earned money for more crap.

UPDATE: So lemme be a bit clearer on the story itself. As Arthur Silber points out the Stateside response against the original Newsweek story is being reoriented to: "Newsweek lied, people died." That is also crap. Newsweek didn't lie. It just used a shaky anonymous source to report a story that had already been widely reported in an attempt to present the story as one that could be corroborated by a more or less official U.S. source rather than those "suspect" allegations obtained from released detainees from Guantanamo. People died, but not because of Newsweek. They died because of resistance to the repressive regimes under which they lived and/or because of protests against much larger issues with the U.S., which also include the widespread perception that the U.S. is making war on Islam.

I still don't care much for Newsweek. When my mama reads a supposedly objective news magazine and then asks me in a shocked whisper-- "Are they saying that Kerry is gay?"--I have to think they crossed the line into some alternate reality. When George Will's comments are printed in Newsweek, they are clearly labeled as opinion. I don't have to like what Will says to be able to tolerate his opinion in a news magazine. I do have to question how Michael Isikoff's reporting continues to be tolerated by the editors when he couldn't find objectivity with instructions printed on his keyboard.

The criticism from the right--including the White House now--is, as Silber suggests, just another attempt to intimidate the press. Too bad my subscription cancellation won't be strong enough to counter that, but it's all I've got.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Sexualizing America's children

Rep. Aaron Pena's A Capitol Blog provides an interesting insight into the things that attract the attention of our state's legislators. He points to this column published in the Houston Chronicle which refers to Rep. Al Edward's bill that attempts to de-sexualize Texas school cheerleaders' routines. Rep. Edwards has taken a lot of heat for introducing this bill, and the House has taken even more heat for even debating it when there are critical issues that need to be dealt with.

The heat may or may not be deserved, but Rep. Edwards should not be faulted for raising the issue. As Froma Harrop writes:

Yes, in the cosmic order of the universe, high-school cheerleading is small stuff. But it is part of a big problem: the sexualizing of America's children. That parents and educators let high-school girls perform erotic routines at public events simply shows how oblivious grown-ups have become. Why don't they just set up a pole in the gym afterward, and charge admission?

Yea, verily. And, 2 percent Republican that I appear to be, I say that, not because I am getting more prudish as I am getting older, nor because of some longing for the good old days when kids could be kids and not miniature adults. Nope. I'm saying that because it's just plain stupid for parents to hypocritically want their precious children to be protected from evil influences while allowing them to actively participate in simulated sex in public as part of a family-oriented activity and still think that they can blame someone else when little Melissa turns up pregnant--or with that gift that keeps on giving, genital-herpes-for-virgins (the oral version).

With age comes wisdom, my child

I couldn't resist following the link provided at Burnt Orange Report to another one of those "what kind of X are you?" Poor Byron scored 20 percent Republican, much to his consternation. I am similarly consternated (well, it should be a word!) at my 2 percent score. I prolly should have answered "go solar," but I really, really wanted some payback for polluters.

I am:
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism. Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Texas Heroes (Part IV)

Uncle Son's medals Posted by Hello

We lost another one last week. This time, my side of the family took the hit. My mother's brother had another stroke and died. This leaves her with only one sister and one brother now--only three of ten left living.

This brother--my Uncle Son--was one with whom Mama was very close, so that meant that she was very much grieved by his loss and also that she had to attend his funeral. For someone in her frail health and severely handicapped condition, this was no easy task.

I rented a "luxury" car so that she would have a comfortable seat. It turned out to be quite comfortable--all leather and easily adjustable with electric controls. They don't make luxury cars like they used to, I guess (not that I ever had one), since there was no room in the trunk for her wheel chair. We might have made it, but the spare tire was placed so awkwardly that there was just no way to fit it in. Fortunately, we have a spare, smaller chair designed for travel, so we threw that in instead. Along with a large seated walker and extra padding for the motel bed she would sleep on.

There were adventures along the way, but I'll forego those to get to Mama's beloved brother. He had a real name, but the family always called him Son. And Son was her favorite, younger than her by about 16 months.

There are three things that I remember Uncle Son for. One is his music. He played a mean guitar and once had his own band. Mama said that he taught himself to play the guitar while sitting by her bedside when she was so ill those many years ago. He entertained her to take her mind away from the pain. In later years, I remember Uncle Son coming to our house for Christmas Eve. In those days, while Mama could still entertain a houseful of people, all sorts of relatives and near relatives and just close friends came over for an evening of singing and nibbling. The nibbles might have included such delicacies as Spam Salad sandwiches or the ever-impressive Vienna sausages wrapped in white bread and stuck on a toothpick. The singing was all gospel all the time. We didn't mess around with Christmas carols--we just got down with some really old songs that everyone knew by heart. Uncle Son played his guitar, and we all sang. It is still among the most wonderful memories of my earlier life.

Another thing that I remember Uncle Son for is his sense of humor. He could always make a joke about whatever was going on. We see this as something of a genetic trait among people in our family and always rejoice when it pops up in yet another generation. As much as we grieved for Uncle Son, we also laughed to remember his pranks and the joy he gave us.

The third thing that I remember about Uncle Son is that he was Mama's favorite brother. This is not just because he was funny and musical, but because--even though he was her "little" brother--he took care of her like one thinks a brother should (with love and just a little meanness). Mama's illness kept her from school for two years. That put her behind for graduation. Apparently, Uncle Son lagged a bit behind, too, so that he could--as he promised my grandfather--take care of Mama at school. They were seniors together, and graduated together, but not before Uncle Son got to remind Mama that she was still a sister to be properly tormented. Mama tells a story about the day that Uncle Son decided to hook her foot with his and start pulling her down from her desk. Her left hip was locked so that she could not bend at that joint; she was effectively helpless as he dragged her down. Son thought it was funny even though I suspect that Mama was more than a little panicked. There were other stories--all now told with great laughter--all speaking of a brother-sister relationship that was very special. It was also "special" that Uncle Son's wounds in the war crippled him for a time and gave him his own limp, hardly noticeable when I was old enough to think about it, but severe enough in the early days of his recovery to give him even greater empathy and compassion for my mother. In later years, I saw the special love that Mama had for this brother and realized, with much gratitude, that it was fully returned when Uncle Son stood by her at Daddy's funeral. He was her rock then as he had been in those dark days of her illness. There's no way I wouldn't have done everything I could to take her to say her final goodbye to Uncle Son.

Sadly, I realize that there is much that I do not know about Uncle Son's military service--his rank, his unit. We know that he entered the European theatre through Italy. We know that he was wounded when he tried to save another wounded soldier stranded on the battlefield, but was himself hit by sniper fire. Those medals include a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. I don't know what the other battle ribbons and medals are for, but I took several pictures so that I could look them up.

This, however, I do know. He was a hero to my mother. That makes him a hero to me.