October 2007 Archives

Why I Love-Hate The New York Times


Like a lot of people in my line of work, I guess, I consider reading the Sunday New York Times something of an obligation, although , in my case at least, it’s an obligation that can wait until I’ve given the local sports pages the intense scrutiny they deserve. I approach the Times, I must confess, with very mixed emotions because although I know I’m always going to find something that informs and often inspires me, I also know that I am going to stumble across stuff that either depresses or infuriates me. In the latter category, yesterday’s paper carried an analysis
of Hillary Clinton’s support for a saber-rattling bill that actually asked the Bush administration to declare Iran’s 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps “a foreign terrorist organization.” This move by the Senate strikes me as something akin to giving a blank check to someone whose credentials for recklessly writing checks with other people’s money and lives are well-established. Presidential hopefuls-with-no-hope Joe Biden and Chris Dodd voted against the measure, and Barack Obama swore he would have if he had been able to work it into his busy schedule. Ol Hil’ doesn’t give a hoot what these losers think, however. She’s already put them in her rearview mirror:
Part of the reason for Mrs. Clinton’s vote, some of her backers say privately, is that she has already shifted from primary mode, when she needs to guard against critics from the left, to general election mode, when she must guard against critics from the right. That means she is trying to shore up her national security credentials versus Republican candidates like Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney, and is trying to reassure voters that she would be a tough-minded commander in chief.
By supporting the bill — sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Jon Kyl of Arizona — Mrs. Clinton is also solidifying crucial support from the pro-Israel lobby.

Oh, well, then, now I understand. Hillary is just doing what it takes to get herself elected. No matter that the Bush idiots are just itching to tee it up against Iran. After her vote, Ms Clinton issued a statement warning the president that any military action in this case would still require congressional approval. I’m sure that will give some serious pause to an outfit that has shown itself not only willing but almost eager to wee-wee on the Constitution and the separation of powers doctrine any chance it gets. Senator Biden’s warning in the wake of the Senate vote that “this administration has an unduly broad view of the scope of executive power, particularly in time of war” surely belongs in the Understatement Hall of Fame.
Having gotten myself all worked up at this point, I reached for the Times Magazine in search of something a bit less “consequential,” shall we say, only to encounter this cry for help from someone impaled on the horns a very serious ethical dilemma:
My fiancée took three pairs of shoes to the valet service in our building to be sent out to be resoled. The service lost the shoes, took responsibility and reimbursed us for the original cost, $2,020. My fiancée immediately bought three new pairs of shoes to wear to job interviews. Later, the shoes were miraculously found, and the valet service asked us to refund their $2,020. Must we? — A. Mehta, New York
To his credit, the NYT’s resident ethicist did actually question the values of an unemployed person who wore $700 plus shoes. I suppose the apparently serious query itself was in keeping with this issue of the Magazine’s focus on the rich--both famous and not so—of New York, but it made me want nothing so much as to pull that big ol’ ax handle from under my truck seat and go whack the hell out of a Bentley. Thankfully, I was saved from myself by the realization that I really didn’t know for sure what a Bentley looked like. In the end, I just settled for filing this incident away until I need to explain to some New York reporter why people in the South think Rudy Giuliani is too provincial to be president.

I had all but given up on finding anything really educational or inspirational in yesterday’s Times when I ran across a story about a woman whose habit of drinking several gallons of water a day had led physicians to suspect that she suffered from some form of diabetes. In the course of reading about how her diagnosis was determined, I learned that

The word diabetes comes from the Greek word for “siphon” — because diabetics pass so much urine they are like siphons draining water. Diabetes mellitus is so named for the honeylike taste of a diabetic’s urine, sweetened by sugar the body cannot absorb — knowledge garnered through an antique diagnostic technique.

Presuming that the reference to an “antique diagnostic technique” is meant to indicate that,for all our recent breakthroughs in medical science, there is still only one way to determine how something tastes, my hat’s definitely off to the truly dedicated researcher responsible for this discovery and for making me realize that the bad taste in my mouth from reading the rest of the paper could actually be a whole lot worse.

Will Our Children Ever See It Rain Again?


Cousin ("Cudd’n” to us) Luther Cobb was a perpetually irascible and disgruntled sort, known to complain in wet weather that the rabbits were “miring up in the woods” and in dry weather that his children would “never see rain again.” Well, wherever you are, Cudd’n Luther—and I definitely have my suspicions that it’s a pretty dry place—there have been no reports of rabbits sporting muddy feet, much less miring up, anywhere in these parts for a mighty long time. As for the children, they have just about stopped asking their parents what this “rain” stuff they keep talking about actually is.

It's gotten so bad here in Athens that not only is all outdoor watering banned but they’re not even watering the sacred turf of Sanford Stadium, much to the dismay of some of the boys over on the Dawgvent who think UGA should be able to do whatever it damn well pleases because it brings so much $$$ into Clarke County. I reckon they haven’t pondered the prospect offootball games being canceled because someone has his priorities all screwed up and thinks that it’s more important to have enough water to keep the hospitals and schools open than to dedicate it to flushing away all the recycled Bud Lite that hits the local sewer system on game day.

Even this crowd doesn’t seem as removed from reality as the folks over at Stone Mountain who cooked up this plan to make snow—you heard me right—for thirty days to the tune of about a gazillion gallons of DeKalb County water per day so that visitors to the park could experience some frosty frolicking even with temperatures still in the 80s. A huge public outcry has temporarily aborted this artificial blizzard, and it’s a good thing, too, for the ol’ Bloviator was fully prepared to fill his tank to the brim with some of the aforementioned Bud Lite and (after the fashion of the old joke about Pat Nixon and Henry Kissinger collaborating to produce some crude graffiti about Pat’s husband) make a statement about the snow, directly on the snow. In case you still don’t get it and the folks at Stone Mountain decide to pursue this fool idea and your kids want to go see it, just remember the old Eskimo maxim: “Don’t eat the yellow snow.”

There is a serious lesson here, of course, about the absolute necessities of life that most folks simply assume will always be available in inexhaustible quantities. In a way, I think growing up as a sure enough country boy has at least made this water crisis a little less traumatic for me. When I was a kid our water came from a hand-dug well that I’m sure was no more than 30 feet deep. I know this because every so often the water would run out and we’d have to get somebody to come and dig the well out for us. (I’m not one to dispute folk wisdom, but, for the record, I don’t recall this fellow ever complaining about his rear end being cold.) Saturday night baths—and barring special occasions, that’s exactly when my daddy and I took 'em—consisted of a couple of inches of water in an old galvanized wash tub. Needless to say, the governor’s call for shorter showers doesn’t impress me very much because I’m sure I set some world bathing records on those crisp winter nights on the back porch. Beyond that, we always saved both our bathwater and the water from my Mama’s old wringer washer. My daddy thought washing a car was a waste of time as well as water; so on those rare occasions when I actually had a date, I was sometimes reduced simply to wiping as much of the mud and dust off the old love-mobile as I could. Finally, since we didn’t get around to indoor plumbing until I was a teenager, the idea of allowing “yellow” to “mellow” doesn’t make me all that squeamish.

Back in those days, of course, a long dry spell would lead to jokes that we weren’t paying the preacher enough—which was true, wet or dry—and on Sundays we’d belt out the unofficial dry weather anthem of all good Southern Baptists:

There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

Given the severity of current conditions, I’m inclined to amend the foregoing lyrics to reflect the sentiments of the old G.I. who ended his prayer for God’s help with “. . . and God, please come yourself. Don’t send Jesus. This is no job for a boy.” Back in the old days, of course, getting the rain we needed was not a matter of “if” but “when,” so long as we simply did what the Bible taught:

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.

That song was great comfort to my family and our hardscrabble farm neighbors, but when I look at the environmental crisis we’re facing now, not just locally but globally as well, I have to question whether “God’s way” actually included more subdivisions with bigger houses than we could ever afford or even inhabit, more coal-fired power plants to electrify them, and more big, inefficient, environmentally unfriendly vehicles to get us to and from all the places that we suddenly needed to go. I realize that helping people get out of the messes they make for themselves is a major component of God’s job description, but my sense of His m.o. is that if we expect Him to get involved, He’ll expect us to do a little more than just whine and complain like old Cudd’n Luther always did.

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