Monday, July 24, 2006

Heading to WordPress

I'm in the process of shifting my blog to WordPress, so if anyone actually reads this, please update your bookmark to http://hammhawk.wordpress.com/

Cheers.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Is W Our Most Conceited President?

I'm trained as a psychologist, but one thing that I find hard to ascertain in people is whether they're as conceited as they come across, or merely trying to mask their own insecurities.

I've come to the conclusion that W is really just a pompous prick. I've suspected as much most of the time and occasionally when he says or does something obnoxious, usually when he thinks it's a joke, and he sort of scans around hoping to see other people getting a kick out of it too.

But the recent G-8 meeting gave us some firm insight into what a jerk he is. Several observations:

1) Shit. I don't care that he cusses. I don't care that he did it in public. But I do care that he's from the "moral majority" party and uses the illusion of piousness to get his base to elect him. What do they say about the profanity? If he's doing it when he thinks the mics are off....

2) Irony. The situation he talked about isn't ironic. Harry's right, and we've elected a guy who never took enough English to know the difference between a bummer and irony.

3) Oaf. He acts like he and Blair are at some stag weekend where they can talk with their mouths full and just chew the fat. He also treats Blair like his lackey, when, as unpopular and misguided as Blair is, the guy can run circles around Chimpy when it comes to brains and eloquence. I think Blair has sold his soul to Bush, but the Brits are sharp enough to see it for what it is.

4) Assault. It's not cool to give an unsolicited shoulder rub to anyone, let alone a female head of state at a summit. Jeez. I've read that Germans tend to be less touchy than us, which simply reinforces the notion that W doesn't give a damn what other cultures do and just believes that they all want to be just like us. I wish she'd just tasered him in the balls.

All this is to say that I'm more sick than ever of being represented by a guy who takes his role so lightly and doesn't understand the magnitude of everything he does. If you're over your head, realize it and shut up. Don't make things worse.

But his conceit tells him that it doesn't matter because he's the king.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Science President

The first letter to the editor I remember writing was about Bush I (my first vote was for Dukakis). I took exception to his claim of being the "education president" and the "environment president" despite not doing anything for either cause. As a harbinger of sons to come, he popularized the notion that you could claim something and therefore make it so. That pissed me off.

Now W has never claimed to be the "science president" that I know of, but we've never had someone in such a high position who has such blatant distrust for scientific endeavors (missions to the moon notwithstanding). Now he uses his first veto to block legislation that has the real potential to save and improve human lives and has endorsement from such folks as Nancy Reagan and Bill Frist. Neither are friends of mine, but they can't be wrong all the time.

What struck me in Bush's veto yesterday was this line:
If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And I'm not going to allow it.
My question would first be, "Are fully formed humans less important than embryos?" Now pro-life people would say they're equal (I don't agree, but that's ok). But every day American taxpayers are compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of fully-formed humans. It's called war, and we're in an unnecessary one right now that's destroyed way too many. Generally speaking, no one is mourning the loss of these embryos. No one knows them. No one will miss their personalities. Only people who feel a spiritual bond with monozygotes love them enough to be bothered by their destruction, and that's ok, but they destroy a lot more life than that without sweating it.

In addition to Michael Kinsley's excellent early personal coverage of the issue, his more recent post is a slam dunk. The big point: fertility clinics destroy many (he doesn't cite a count) of the embryos that they fertilize in an effort to help people have babies. Yet, these clinics get praised for their pro-life agenda, but stem cell research, which endeavors to improve the lives of people already in existence, doesn't get funded because it's evil.

I'll admit that I'm not as romantic about the sanctity of life as a lot of people, but it all makes me think of the great Onion headline:
Miracle of Birth Occurs for 83 Billionth Time

Two Presidential Firsts

This is the first time that W (does anyone else have trouble writing "President Bush" comfortably?) will address the NAACP. He also just yesterday issued his first veto in 5 1/2 years. I doubt these events have anything to do with one another, but they're both head-shakingly symbolic.

First the NAACP. Clearly, the Uniter has been nothing of the sort, and it's taken some pride swallowing from the pro-business Gordon in order to pull this off, I suppose. For the sake of the Demos, I'd just as soon he never went, but I'm not reading much into his decision. What the hell is he going to tell them? Clinton knew he was among friends when he went, and he didn't have to force it; Bush is clearly out of his element, even if some of his best friends....

The bigger news is pulling out the V pen. One major beef I have with this guy is his claim to be conservative. How can a true conservative be so reluctant to kill spending? Now I'm truthfully in favor of gov't spending to right wrongs, but conservatives are supposed to be so good with money. And althoughI know conservatives are supposed to endorse the "culture of life" stuff, but they're all supposed to oppose governmental interference. This is pandering to the right, and just evidence of his fear of science.

Come to think of it, I need a separate post on this issue. Comin' up...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Principals to Second-Degree Murder"

I don't profess to know what happened at hospitals in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, but I am pretty pissed that a doctor and 2 nurses who showed incredible grit and compassion have now been arrested on charges of murder.

We've heard from reasonable sources of doctors basically risking their own lives for other people, putting themselves on IV fluids to keep working, and fending off their hospitals from desperately irate people. I suggest that in such moments of unimaginable struggle, they should be thanked, not arrested, for putting extremely ill people out of their misery.

Plenty of healthy people died in Katrina and her aftermath, but these were people who were not long for this world. It's likely to me that the only compassionate thing to do was to end these people's lives humanely and painlessly. I'm all for raging, raging, against the dying of the light, but we have a seriously screwed up priority system when we believe that dragging people's lives out as long as possible at any cost is the way to go. We need to factor dignity and comfort into this equation.

I know that if one of my parents was desperately ill in the hospital during such an emergency, and I couldn't get them out, that I know there's a good chance I would be aware that they may die in the coming days. That's how it goes sometimes. I would hate missing the chance to say goodbye, and although I don't know for sure how I'd respond, I feel almost completely certain that I would thank the doctors for showing mercy toward my loved one and would lobby to drop any charges against them.

I sure as hell wouldn't claim that they were playing God, as Sheriff LA Attorney General Charles Foti said.

Full disclosure: the pic on this page is of the house directly across the street, where our infirm neighbor died during shortly after the storm. Could I be held for negligent homicide? Well, if so, her entire family, who tried and failed to get her to leave, as well as several other neighbors could be too. I wish I or someone had been there to give her an injection and end it, instead of letting her die of heat, thirst, starvation, or whatever it was that did her in while we were away. They didn't even recover the body until we called the police, several weeks after she died.

It's a big day for life-and-law events, as I hope to post on soon.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Slidell's Sheriff Strain

Here's another letter to the editor that apparently won't be published:

[update, 18 July 06--Was published this morning, unedited, above the fold!]

Like many other people, I was alarmed by Slidell Sheriff Strain said that anyone in St. Tammany with dreadlocks or “chee wee” hairstyles should expect a visit from his deputies.

I asked friends and my students what he meant, and very few had heard of a “chee wee” hairstyle, so I’ve decided to give Sheriff Strain the benefit of the doubt and assume that his approach does not constitute racial profiling.

Because “chee wee” doesn’t appear in the dictionary and apparently isn’t in common usage, I’ve decided that it refers to hair that is straight and brown or gray, sometimes with a bald spot in the middle. This would clearly describe such unwanted thugs and criminals as the late Kenneth Lay, Jack Abramoff, and Ted Bundy. Think how much the country would have benefited if Sheriff Strain could have locked up Jeffrey Skilling, Dennis Kozlowski, and Timothy McVeigh before they struck. The list goes on.

I’m so glad that the good sheriff has decided to pre-empt crime by these types and get them off the streets so they can’t torment the rest of us with regular hair. So if you live on the northshore, keep an eye out for suspicious figures with these hairstyles and alert the deputies!

I just saw that Michael Homan had a similar perspective on the mystic coif that Strain thinks is so commonly discussed.

Now, predictably, Strain is saying he was taken out of context, but this is racial profiling, pure and simple. No offense to people who live in the 'burbs, but it's people like Strain (and Gretna's sheriff) and the masses who support them that give suburban living a bad name and make people like me that much more committed not to live there. Sure Nagin's Choco-City comments have given me some 'splaining to do with people from around the country, but I still don't feel much need to distance myself from them, perhaps because I was the "profiled" group in those comments. So I might have been offended (I wasn't), but at least I didn't have to be particularly ashamed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On Loss

Well, Slim died 2 weeks ago, so I guess I can swing a post-intense-grieving period post. It was interesting (not fun-interesting, just huh-interesting) to monitor my grief, since that doesn't happen often, and since I didn't really know how I'd respond. I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know if I'd immediately feel ok since it was his time, or what.

The first day was awful. I was a wreck. I felt nauseated and could cry at any mention. It's that time that I question why I'd want to go through something like that that's inevitable if I keep having pets. Lots of cliches. I felt guilty for killing him and guilty for any minute my mind was on anything else. And I felt bad not to be able to explain things to Denali. Then Day 2 (Thursday) was somewhat better. Still an awful funk, but not as acute. Going into the office the first day was hard, seeing pix I have of him there, but I could basically function. Then Friday it had settled down into just a sadness to be missing him. I showed my morning class pictures of him and could keep it together, although I was mildly choked up. Still, it was nice to show them why I'd missed class. I really like my students.

Those of us in New Orleans have all lost a lot, and there are more losses on the horizon. Even those of us who're fortunate not to have lost jobs or houses (there aren't many of us) have close friends who have, or we've lost friends themselves. Joe & Karen moved to Austin the day after Slim died, making that time even more bleak. Editor B has lost (at least for now) his beautiful cat Lucy, which sucks. And we've all lost the (relatively) easy life.

Some of us have lost spouses--people are throwing the term "Katrina divorces" around--and I know E and I have had our struggles. We've all lost some money, some piece of mind, what little faith we had in the good ol' US of A. We've lost some of our open-mindedness. Some friends are writing off anyone who leaves the city, but I kinda understand.

Still, it doesn't help that we seem to have lost our mayor.

It's just been tough, and many of us feel so uncertain about the future that we're constantly unsettled. This puts us all in a perma-funk, despite the wonderful actions of people we know.

I'm grateful that we're almost 6 weeks into hurricane season and--knock on wood--have not had much to worry about yet. It's still not the heat of the season, but we're grasping at any hopeful straws we can find.

For example, I've found Sudoku. Fun, that.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Slim, c. September 1992-28 June 2006

Below, Slim on his first day with us, September 1993. Right, Slim's last photo session, June 2oo6.






Today is one of the saddest days I've ever had. We put to sleep our beloved friend Slim, who had been with us almost 13 years. My students were in kindergarten when he was born.

I posted on him a while back, but I wasn't even as ready as I thought I'd be for his loss. He was such a good friend and a tolerant, happy guy.

I was grateful to be with him for his final breaths, which came at the hand of our old friend and vet Matt. Nice to be somewhere where they understand how hard it is. It was also nice that Matt's dog Chloe has separation anxiety and was in the room too. Somehow that gave life to a death situation.

Slim had been fading for a while, but just the past couple weeks were much worse. For a while he's had trouble knowing when he needs to go out, but lately he'd had more and more trouble getting up and lying down. Just couldn't seem to find comfort. But because he was still eating (and having snacks on our way in this morning), we just didn't see the clear signs. But he'd lost a lot of weight, and it was painful to watch him as his legs struggled to hold him up, but unable to let himself down.

So E drove and I sat and hugged him in the back seat of the car, on his dog bed. He's always hated being in the car, so the shivering was par for the course, but somehow it seemed worse. We left Denali outside for the journey, just not knowing what he'd make of the situation. As usual, Slim had trouble getting out and stumbled a little going in.

We hoisted him onto the table in the exam room, where they'd put towels to make him comfortable and, I presume, to absorb any fluids he lost. Matt explained what would happen, and we stuck around. After a few whispers of love, Matt started injecting the tranquilizer, which put him to sleep-sleep. As he faded, I told him what a good boy he was and how much I would miss him. I couldn't tell him enough. Then he was asleep, and Matt said that he wouldn't know we were there, so if we wanted to leave for the next step, we could. E went to the car, but because he didn't seem any different, I stuck around and continued to tell him how much I loved him. Crying the whole time. Matt injected the "euthanasia solution," then listened for a heartbeat and declared it over.

For a minute, that felt a little peaceful. But then I had to leave him, and I just didn't want to. I knew he was gone, but I also knew I'd never see him again. It was crushing. Eventually, I said a final goodbye, rubbed his ear one last time, and thanked Matt for his kind service.

E and I hugged in the car, and I drove us home. I felt one thing I didn't expect; I would have given anything for one more night with him. Not that I didn't have a lot of nights with him already, and he'd stopped enjoying our time together as much as he once had, but I just wasn't ready to be done with him. But I also knew that tonight would have been just as painful, and the next day would have been just as regrettable. So now I'm trying to come to terms.

We didn't take any of the options of cremating him, saving a lock of hair, or any of that stuff. I'd kinda like a physical piece of him, but I have a million photos of him, and I know I won't forget him. Still, my life is much different just today than it was yesterday. Because of something I initiated. I hope it was a gift to him; that's what I wanted it to be.

So it's been a day of mourning. I cancelled both my classes. I intended to teach the 2nd, but I knew I just didn't have anything to give to the class. Energy and enthusiasm are my greatest classroom assets, and they're in short supply about now. So I hope to be a better worker tomorrow, when the pain is a bit duller.

For now, it's wonderful to have Denali's beautiful spirit. When Atticus died, Slim's company was a great help. And now Denali is a consoling presence. Life goes on, but it's always so hard, and I start to wonder why I put myself through this. But the period of anguish is worth it for the many many gifts Slim has given us over the years, from 1993 to 2006. Or so I hope to believe tomorrow.

Slim, thank you for all you've done, and all you are. I will miss you forever and think of you often. Rest well, my friend.