That's my opinion, 2004

I have strong opinions about a lot of things so be forewarned. If you want to comment about what I write here, I invite you to jump to the Discussion Forum and leave a message.

One of my students pointed out that I had not written in my blog in quite a while and he enjoyed reading what I had written. So after a break of several months, I am back.

November 17, 2004

It is raining again here. Over 7 inches since last night about 9 PM. I was supposed to teach in Round Rock today but there is about 3 foot of water over the road at the bottom of the hill so I am staying home. If the rain lets up, I'll teach tomorrow. 

Here is a picture of the our meadow on Barton Creek. It sits about 5 feet above the creek bed so you know how much water is running in the creek. My digital camera got a bit wet in our hike to see the flooding hence the spots on the lense.

Below is an answer to a very derogatory remark made on the DS Democrats forum about the military. The writer claimed that those soldiers fighting in Iraqi are as much to blame for the problems as the rest of us. If they would have disobeyed orders and refused to fight, we would not have this problem. To begin with, most of the country supported the President and his reasons for invading Iraqi.  To refuse to fight, and some have, means you are a deserter and can be arrested and executed. When you are in the military, you obey orders and you believe your commanding officers know what they are doing.

As the child of a career Army officer, wife of a former Air Force officer, former Navy OCS candidate myself, and the mother of two military veterans, I can tell you that the members of the military fight because they believe their leaders are right. They are not mindless machines. To hold any rank above E6, a simple sergeant in the Army, you have to earn an associates degree. Many of the non-commissioned officers in all services now are college graduates. Discussions around the barracks might range from political theory to poetry or NASCAR and literature. These are not stupid people. They are, however, trained to kill and to fight. As one Marine quoted in this week’s Time magazine said, “This is all I know how to do.”

My daughter, wife of a captain in the US Army said, “This is what they train to do. This is what they are professionals at, war.” Her husband is not happy with the situation of the war. Many of his fellow officers are of the same persuasion. We are in a war we should not have started and will be mired in for years but they will fight it the best they know how because that is their job.

Traumatic Stress Syndrome caused by battlefield conditions is one of the most difficult emotional problems to treat with one of the lowest success rates for treatment. A small article in a back section of the Statesman recently said the incidence of TSS among returning Iraqi veterans is extremely high. If you want to understand what they are up against over there, read the article in this week’s Time about the fighting in Fallujah; it is chilling.  

Speaking about Time magazine, one of their editorial writers has an analysis of the election that I found thought provoking. He pointed out that many middle class and lower class American citizens are very frightened, not of terrorists but of the economic and social disorder they see in the country. They are parents who both work to keep a roof over the heads of their families and thus have less time to supervise their children. They are faced with lower wages, lower benefits, and lower expectations for their children. They are alarmed at social changes such as the acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle and abortion as a means of birth control. They see stories about drugs and violence in the schools, whether their children are involved or not. They are alarmed and worried and don’t see anything they can do but re-elect someone who claims to stand against change and the things they fear. It is a perception. When people are frightened, they go for the things that make them feel more secure: consistency, order, certainty, and comfort. He believes the Democrats lost because we didn’t recognize or relate to that fear.


November 5, 2004

The election has come and gone. Pat Rose managed to defeat a wealthy Republican to return to the Texas House as our representative. He was the only Democrat I managed to get elected. Yes, I am a Democrat.

Just a few thoughts about the election that I first posted elsewhere. These were in response to a long editorial piece by Greg Palast copied in our local Dems discussion group.

As for requiring a standardized election system all over the country, each county or state sets up their own system for voting. A national requirement would make it much easier to steal an election. The eSlate used in Travis County is due to be implemented here in Hays sometime next spring. The eSlates have been purchased but there was not enough time to train the poll workers and the election judges not to mention the public on how to use it. It will generate a paper record but that means each eSlate has to have a printer attached. More cost and maintenance headaches for election workers.

There is NO REQUIREMENT in Texas that an election judge or the poll workers take the training offered by the county or the state. To attempt to induce people to take the training, you get an extra dollar an hour if you take the training. Since the pay is very low and most do it out of a sense of civic responsibility, the extra money is not effective.

Some of the spoilage results from voters not paying attention to what they are doing. A ballot that has more than one candidate voted in a race gets thrown out. When we do paper ballots as in the school board election, we always have one or more ballots were the person has voted for too many candidate. All we can do is pitch the ballot. We had people put the punch ballots in upside down thus their votes are backwards. That ballot is thrown out because the holes are in the wrong place on the ballot. The rates of spoilage reported by partisan columnists are excessive but some folks will see a conspiracy when things don't go their way. Even if the poll workers are not instructing the voters on how the machines work or keeping an eye on the voters, the rates should be much lower. It shows sloppy, partisan work by the poll workers and election officials. I am reminded of an old saying: "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity."

Provisional ballots are a nightmare. If the election judge has not taken the training, decisions are made as to who gets to vote provisionally and it is haphazard at best. Some are unquestionable, like the guy who showed up with his birth certificate and admitted to never registering to vote. Insisted on being allowed to vote even though we told him it would be thrown out. Maybe we need to go to the system used up north somewhere, you register on election day.

Just a few thoughts from a poll workers point of view.

October 23, 2004

Again the blog has been neglected but today, it seemed appropriate to add something.

We had 4.5 inches of rain last night. It was much welcome and needed. The rain was pushed in by a slow moving cold front out of the northwest. Not a blue norther like we get sometimes, but a gentle push of cooler, unstable air that collided with the warm, soggy miasma from the Gulf. They claim this weather will stay for the next week. But I doubt it. The front is not stationary. It is still moving but there is another one sliding across the Rockies from Seattle that may hold together long enough to take its place.

I am feeling my age today. My fourth child celebrated her 30th birthday this week. My children have lives of their own, some not what I dreamed of them having but they are adults and responsible for themselves.

This past week I had to violate one of my strongly held standards for my teaching. I had to pass some students that did not learn the material. It came down to either pass them or the company who contracted for us to teach them would find someone else to teach them. The department does not want to lose the contract so I passed them. Both actions, the pressure from the agency and the pressure from my coordinator, were wrong. We do not serve the student well when we certify that they know something they don’t. We cheapen the certificate for those who work hard to learn the material. There is much blame to spread. The agency does not screen the students well. We cannot control what they send us. Why teach a student how to use a word processor when they are functionally illiterate? Why certify they know how to use Windows and MS Word when all they can do is fumble around on the computer? We recommend they spend time practicing but if the basic concepts are not there, all the practice in the world won’t help.

I will be glad when the election is over but I doubt the divisions in the country will be healed when it is. We have become a nation of partisans; ill-behaved and hateful of those who disagree with us. I find myself snorting and thinking, how stupid when I see a vehicle with a bumper sticker for the candidate I don’t support. The voter turnout looks to be a record for our very apathetic nation. Perhaps the settling of the last election in the courts shook enough people up that they don’t want it to happen again.

May 26, 2004

Am I alarmist? I hear the Attorney General declaring that they have credible evidence that the Al-Quaeda might attach sometime this summer. They have not raised the color of the alert but it is an ominous prediction. I worry that if the election looks as if the
neo-conservatives, as they are called in the editorial pages, might lose, we will suddenly have a major terror threat and marshal law will be declared. Ridiculous you say? Didn't GW say once that he wished he could be emperor of the US? How easy to take control when you have people scared for their own safety? Hitler used that tactic. President for life, why not, isn't he of the monied elite, the aristocracy that know best what we peons need? Be afraid my friend, be very afraid. American would never fall to a Communist take over but a fascist one is very plausible.

May 25, 2004

A friend sent me an email disseminated from a non-profit organization against family violence. It was a horrible story about a woman soldier being raped by some of her fellow soldiers and not getting the treatment in Iraqi that she would have received here in the States. The organization was requesting emails be sent to officials demanding better protection for the women in the military.

My oldest daughter spent three years in the Army so I emailed her and then she happened to call so I talked to her about the story. She was sympathetic to the plight of the woman up to a point. She said she had seen far too many cases of a claim of rape that was not rape but a case of second thoughts. I told her of the violence of this one and she said yes, that must have been a true case of rape. But she warned me that we should not jump to conclusions unless we knew all the circumstances. While she deplored the act and agreed it was wrong and should be punished, she said that many young women in the military bring some of this on themselves. I challenged her and said that is the old tired refrain of "what did you do to cause this" towards the victim. But she disagreed and told of women she knew who flaunted their sexuality, flirted to get things done, and then wondered why the men were propositioning them. It made me think long about it.

We may be setting our daughters up for this sort of situations. What is standard behavior in small town, mid-America; what works and is perfectly acceptable in that small Iowa or Nebraska or west Texas town, may be asking for trouble in a mixed gender military company. My Sarah had her problems with men who thought because she was female and working in a combat unit, she was open to sexual activity with them. She was married and so were they but they still made advances. She was able to discourage most and reported one or two to her commander. She had a supportive commander and the men were told to back off. Many older men in the military have not yet accepted the presence of women. The younger men seem to be better prepared to accept a woman if she carries her own weight and does her job. But the commander sets the tone for a unit, whether it be a noncommissioned or a commissioned officer.

How many of our young women are still raised with the role model of "catch a man" and "flatter them and flirt" to get your way? My Sarah was raised by a mother who emphasized what you could do, not your sexuality or your looks. I have never been one to wear make-up or be terribly worried about how fashionably I was dressed. As a result, my three daughters got most of that sort of thing from friends. Now all three are competent adults, not worried about their looks or whether their clothing is in style.

While I deplore the attitude of "what did you do to cause the rape" I wonder if our society has not failed many of our young women and they unwittingly invite the act — if our emphasis in raising our daughters on how you look and attracting males does not hurt them in the long run. Develop yourself as a person first, then worry about a life partner. Become a strong individual in your own right and you will stand up to just about anything.

May 20, 2004

Who am I?

I am a mosaic.

Potsherds of my life

Make patters,


Colors gleam

Textures contrast

Surfaces attract


A glint of green

A glow of joy

A slime of grief


Sixty years

In little pieces

Come, listen to the story.

April 25, 2004

Why is it that you see ordained and consecrated, scholarly, highly educated men leave the Catholic Church? I think of a man whose lectures on the writings of St. Paul I am reading now. A former Benedictine monk, he is now married and is a highly honored teacher at a major private college. I recall many others whose author's bios list membership in orders and education at prestigious Catholic universities. I also read of men recognized for brilliance in their field being hounded out of the Church or isolated, assigned to remote and difficult locations as punishment for their studies - think of de Chardin, of Congar, of Küng, - the list can go on and on.

When the Church encounters an empiric or historic fact that will necessitate the restating or changing a teaching, instead of investigating and being flexible, they punish the scholar who pointed it out. Why is it that the hierarchy in the Vatican develops such a concrete world view? Perhaps, somewhere back in history, they decided they had received the entire of revelation, the whole Truth, and nothing would ever change. They decreed this and have been battling ever since to maintain that point of view in spite of ample empiric evidence to the contrary.

Hans Küng contents in his history of the Catholic Church that St. Augustine mistranslated Romans 5:1-2 and thus gave Western Civilization the doctrine of Original Sin and the vilification of sexual pleasure. He points out the taint of Manichaeism Augustine carried into his orthodox life. Küng's analysis of the historical record of the papacy led him to question some of the more monarchial tendencies of the papacy, including papal infallibility. Instead of asking for verification and discussion, as would a scientific or historical body, the Vatican demands a retraction and when it is not forthcoming, bans him from teaching.

Galileo was forced to recant his scientific findings but he did so reluctantly. In those days, the Church had the power to suppress, even execute, a scholar with whom it disagreed. Think of Copernicus burned at the stake for his contention that the sun was the center of the solar system, not the earth. The Catholic Church in the 21 st Century does not have this power and is becoming weaker because it insists on this point of view. Witness the widespread use of contraception by Catholic couples or the prevalence of cohabitation and divorce in Europe and the US . What about the reaction to the bishops who call for Catholics to vote against any politician who supports abortion policies? The laity are no longer ignorant peasants, conditioned from childhood to obey their "betters", the nobility, the hierarchy - the paternalism of the early 20 th Century has not been replaced but the willing laity have been. They are now questioning, studying, wanting answers.

The modern Catholic wants to know why. Independent thought and the priesthood of all believers causes them to want a reason for a decree, an explanation for a teaching, openness, and acceptance of responsibility. "Because I am the priest and I said so," won't work in the modern Western culture. The modern Western Catholic does not yank the forelock and bow in awe to the bishop, archbishop or pope.  



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