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9/2/02-Mon. (Labor Day)-Yesterday watched a neat, entertaining Kevin Spacey movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." Wish life really worked out like that!

Have received an e-mail from my brother, Allen, now again in Ecuador, saying he's just gotten married to his internet friend from there, Nina. Well, we'll hope for the best. There's always a slight chance she's sincere and not just after a green card.

Since doing much walking now aggravates my heel spur (or related) condition, I went to the local YMCA today, became a member, and did some swimming. Later this week I expect to join a water aerobics class. (Tomorrow, will call for a medical appointment about the foot pain.)

Fran has finished the house painting job and the place looks great, the best it has in years. We still have some wood and caulk deterioration problems at the front entrance, and our back deck needs to be replaced. The carpet too is looking quite shabby, but dealing with that is not high priority till we're about ready to sell.

Fran's sister, Trudy, has a dog show near Fort Worth in about three weeks and is hoping we can all get together then. She'll be bringing their dog, Chief, and both of her young kids. It will be my first acquaintance with them.

Since part of the cure involves giving up regular coffee, almost not worth it (ha, ha), I am sorry to note the measures taken lately have made a positive difference with my prostate difficulties. I suppose I'll have to continue the healthier regimen. The restroom breaks seem to be reduced by about a third. This may be "as good as it gets," but who's complaining!?

9/3/02-Tues.-Am at my usual stop following a doctor's appointment. Trudy's is for me like the lollipop or bubblegum children used to get after a shot. The nurse, when I called about the foot problem, fit me in this afternoon. It turns out to be due to plantar fasciitis, likely, the physician said, to be a nuisance for awhile and even to get worse. He prescribed some medicine and referred me to a podiatrist. So, looks like I'll have further visits to Trudy's!

Earlier today I received the results of my blood test, from a week or two ago. It showed my thyroid activity to be slightly low, indicating the response to the medication has been as intended, but that it probably has a ways to go. I was told they still may need to do surgery, but the results of a conservative approach have so far been positive.

I have for quite awhile refrained from commenting here on my views concerning the George W. Bush administration's foreign policy, though I find it to be often bumbling, bullying, and indefensible in the context of international law. I could go on with quite a rant here along these lines.

Suffice to say that the reservations of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the very eloquent former South African President, Nelson Mandela, our European allies, those in the Middle East who would be most affected by our actions in that region, spokespersons for the United Nations, China, Russia, and all others outside our borders to express an opinion, should give pause even to those most full of themselves and intent on self aggrandizement at the expense of true statesmanship.

The approach chosen by this country to deal with extremely complex issues ought to be one more delicate than that of a brain surgeon. This is no time for cowboy politics or bull in the china shop attitudes. Yet, as indicated below, not only is there nothing I can do about what is to come. Chances are, even the major players are locked into a deterministic set of events as inevitably foregone as were the horrors of the Twentieth Century, and, ultimately, as predictably disastrous.

On a brighter note, the latest videotape I'm enjoying is "Final Fantasy," a computer generated film which has spectacular special effects, if a rather implausible plot.

For more intellectual stimulation I can heartily recommend the latest issue of "Scientific American," specifically its articles on time.

Years ago, in "Steps," I speculated, from some meditation experiences, that time is not fluid, moving from the future to the past, but rather static, like a crystal, in which so-called "future," "present," and "past" events all beautifully co-exist. Apparently modern physicists have a similar concept, suggesting "block time," a relatively solid phenomenon in which time just is, but to which we subjectively apply the illusory ideas of time's flow, to help account for our need to take it just one little present moment bite (at a time), then calling events "ahead" the future and those "behind" the past, while, in reality, they all occur simultaneously.

My brother, Ralph, took this several steps further, believing that a multitude of alternate realities and "lifetimes" all co-exist as well. The synchronicity Jung discussed might make more sense in a fixed time universe, as might so-called "psychic powers." They may result from intersections of "event horizons" or between different points in a "space-time continuum." But here we are getting into science fiction.

Speaking of sci-fi, if the moment to moment awareness we call the present is simply an expedient illusion, might we not have within us already a knowledge of the entire "line" of our part of the time block, except that, for practical purposes, we must parcel it out, in ordinary consciousness, bit by bit, through our immediate perceptions of a tiny portion of the whole?

It is interesting to consider that there may, among simultaneous realms, be universes in which the second law of thermodynamics describes an opposite tendency to that in our world, such that there a sequence of events will show an increase in relative organization. Maybe in that reality we'd start with old, broken-down bodies and minds and end with brand new ones.

Or is our perception of a directional tendency of entropy itself an illusion, no less mind-boggling a possibility than that "the present" does not exist except in our awareness?

If we perceive and live just one instant before another, but do so along a sequence of events that have already occurred completely, for instance, as with the moment to moment segments of the entire entity of events we may arbitrarily call "The Life and Death of Phillip Wagner," might we not just as well, like the protagonist in Slaughterhouse Five, live them instead in a more random, not completely linear, sequence? Or, as in Autobiography of a Yogi, might we not, with practice in other ways of perceiving, see not merely our own small part of the whole but multiple other aspects of it as well?

Perhaps we might even discover a not entirely separate realm in which the so-called "living" of our present consciousness share on occasion a kind of "present" with those whom otherwise we might regard as "dead" (relegated exclusively to the separate and irretrievable past which, as we have seen, according to physics, does not really exist, any more than a separate present does).

But no. I cannot accept these as other than fanciful, imaginative notions. For all practical purposes, and certainly in all scientific versions of what is reasonable, the simplest explanation is best and closest to reality. There is no evidence in the macro-universe for any flow of time, but also none for other co-existent universes, realms, regions, lives, or whatever. Nor is there any reason, beyond wish-fulfillment, to believe in a continued existence relevant to us of something that has already died.

Much as we might prefer it otherwise, in all probability, phenomena interpreted as extrasensory or out of the range of the normal either are simply delusions or are misinterpretations of things that are quite consistent with the natural order. There is no magic except, perhaps, in our dreams.

9/6/02-Fri.-With respect to the physical existence, it has been a disappointing week. What was gained in one area has been lost due to medications I need to take, to counter swelling and pain associated with both the thyroid condition and plantar fasciitis. The thyroid enlargement, besides looking and feeling strange, seems to cause extra congestion and discomfort in the pharynx. This, in turn, may be aggravated by my swimming and/or aerobics in chlorine-treated water three times at the "Y" in the last few days.

I've been resorting to water exercise, rather than my usual two to four miles a day of walking, because of the foot condition. So, all in all, I feel I'm losing a delicate balance between the various conditions and their required treatments. Meanwhile, the doctors, no doubt encouraged by our money-conscious HMO, seem content that I still continue with rather conservative regimens, that don't solve the problems or alleviate their symptoms.

I know from others' experiences that surgery could deal with the enlargement and multiple hard nodules in the thyroid, a microwave procedure would probably help the prostate, and cortisone shot therapy often resolves the foot problem. Perhaps if I lived in another country or were wealthy I might get such relief. Instead, week after week the difficulties persist, restricting activities, while the physicians will only provide half-measures.

Alright, end of venting for this evening! I realize that while not feeling well and worried about the swelling in my neck, and so on, I am getting frustrated and impatient. Will "cool it" again and "chill out." (Meanwhile, in the next week or so I'll no doubt follow-up again with the latest round of doctors.)

The brightest thing in prospect in our little part of the world is Tropical Storm Fay, which could be heading into the Texas coast from the Gulf of Mexico soon and may bring us some badly needed additional rain (and cooling) this weekend.

Fran and I enjoyed another scrumptious meal at Bombay Grill today, after my dropping off an application at one of our fair city's financial institutions.

The first day of water aerobics at the YMCA was pleasant, even though it was early in the morning and I'd had another bout of insomnia the preceding night, ironic since I'd just the evening before been trying to give one of my fellow online journalists a suggestion to help with sleeplessness (Benedryl before bed).

At the "Y," it was nice to be seeing a few other folks out and about in the world. There can be a bit of cabin fever associated with retirement if one is not too intensely into introversion.

The instructor and I got acquainted and seemed to easily develop a rapport, aided by the fact the schedule had changed and most folks did not realize she was teaching that day, so I wound up being the only other person there besides her cute young son and the lifeguard.

The exercise teacher has had medical tragedies in the last half year that make my own difficulties seem quite minor, yet is fighting back with aerobics, diet, medication, and regular lab work. She is only in her twenties, but has to be on a blood thinner for blood clots in her legs, after her hospital apparently botched her treatment for something else while she was pregnant, resulting in her nearly dying and in the loss of the baby she was carrying. (Her daughter was born but died after just five days from complications related to her mother's illness and poor care.)

Nurses at the hospital kept upping her medicine again and again because blood tests showed insufficient amounts in her bloodstream, yet forgot to check the catheter! The IV needle had come out of the vein many hours earlier, the fluids just going into her tissues, resulting, among other things, in massive swelling in all four extremities. This only begins to cover the maladies, which now also include liver disease. She is considering suing but pretty unsophisticated about it.

All things considered, she seems a remarkably healthy and emotionally stable young lady at this time, but still requires monitoring and treatment for elevated liver enzymes.

9/10/02-Tues.-Yes, as we cannot avoid knowing if we turn on any radio or television program, this is the eve of the 9/11 anniversary.

I believe heartily in good old fashioned patriotism but also that, as with stock market bubbles, sometimes we may go too far. How should we arrive at decisions if not by carefully considering the issues and options from all sides and weighing the pros and cons of each? Just because almost everyone else has, perhaps lemming-like, jumped off the cliff immediately ahead should not be our criterion for a similar leap. Too often, it seems to me, people mistake passion or impulse for patriotism. When folks in high office do this or respond in harmony with the many who "decide" in this fashion, too frequently the results are unfortunate.

And special caution seems in order when one's country is by far the most powerful nation in the world and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. If the U.S. is the globe's policeman, well, alright. So be it. But who will police us? To believe that, in all the world, only we need no checks and balances, no chaperones of our morality, no proofing of our policies, no self-doubt in the face of the momentous choices we make for ourselves and others, is dangerous and arrogant hubris.

Fran and I had a great weekend of rain and largely overcast skies, thanks to spin-off weather from Tropical Storm Fay, receiving about 3½ inches of precipitation.

The combined foot and, especially, neck symptoms have been a real drag for the last several days, though. I have made new calls to a couple of my doctors' offices. One had forgotten to make a podiatrist referral he had promised over a week ago. The other, my endocrinologist, is on vacation.

Happily, the "Y" exercising is going well. At least I am not getting (any more) out of shape.

Fran's sister, Trudy, and her young kids are now definitely coming in a couple weeks to Texas, from Wisconsin, and may stay as much as seven to ten days! It will be my first chance to get to know my youngest nephew and niece. And Trudy has not visited since on her way back with her husband from Malawi, and their stint in the Peace Corps there, about fifteen or sixteen years ago.

To help keep my mind off the incredibly growing thyroid, I spent much of the weekend working on the write-up for my mom's 80th birthday celebration, finishing most of the first draft. It is turning out to be quite long, like a small book.

To avoid obsessing about the hard nodules pressing on my trachea, I've also been doing more reading than meditating. For good, escapist, techno-thriller satisfaction, I can suggest any of the Dale Brown books. This past few days I was enjoying his Night of the Hawk.

Speaking of birds of prey, when I was up during the night and had a window open, I heard an eerie bird call, repeated several times, and imagined it likely was made by an owl in the area. (We have plenty of their food, small birds and rodents, about. One or some of the latter have been accumulating mounds in our back yard, composed of thousands of partially eaten chinaberry seeds.)

In a dream, just before that, I was on a ranch where there were many common as well as exotic animals. I came upon a hose-like tube on the ground and noticed one end went into a hole. When I pulled and turned it, the end came loose. It had been attached to a small valve which now was releasing natural gas. I tried to put the tube back and stop the hissing escape, but was unsuccessful. So I went get help in fixing it, but became distracted by, first some snakes, then a giraffe, next a crocodile, and finally a kangaroo. I woke up too soon and now cannot warn the others they may suffer an imminent explosion!

9/11/02-Wed.-Fran and I last night both heard the eerie bird call I'd noticed the night before (and on several previous occasions, from high in our trees). Because of her training as a musician and having a multitude of references on natural history, she was able to quickly look up that sound in one of her books and identify it as made by a screech owl. Cool!

9/12/02-Thurs.-President George W. Bush, in his speeches yesterday and today, has shrewdly positioned our nation for possible unilateral action against Sadam Hussein's Iraq if the United Nations does not assure compliance with that state's U.N. agreements (made at the end of the 1991 Gulf War and subsequently). He was also strategic politically, in the timing of this emphasis, capitalizing on the emotion surrounding the 9/11 anniversary and distracting voters from issues such as the economy, corporate fraud, huge losses in folks' 401k plans, and the weak stock market generally, concerns that might otherwise have led to changes not to Bush's liking in the November elections. It seems to me a much better case needs to be made for war before action is taken, and more should be carefully weighed about its costs (not merely the reasons for it), including:

  • how our intervention in Iraq is likely to affect popular opinion toward us among otherwise moderate Moslems, Arabs, and Palestinians around the world;
  • what will happen to innocent Iraqi people in such a war;
  • how the conflict would affect peacekeeping efforts between Israel and the Palestinians;
  • how the Iraqi minorities would likely fare in and after such a conflict;
  • how a political and military vacuum in the region will affect the current balance and relative stability there;
  • how our country, and international law generally, might be hurt if a more or less unilateral U.S. action is taken;
  • how the policies behind such a conflict might encourage other preemptive strikes, as against any nations (North Korea, Iran, additional states arguably similar to Iraq in their potential threats to us or our interests?) we might, in our uniquely wise vision, deem to be members of an "axis of evil;"
  • how we would pay for such a new war (besides the "war on terrorism") and its aftermath when we are already projected to have large federal deficits for at least the next several years;
  • how we would plan to deal with potential efforts by Iraq, in such a conflict, to use its existing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (in "self-defense") against Israel or the U.S.;
  • whether a nuclear retaliation would be considered appropriate in such an event, in the process, likely killing far more innocent civilians than were lost on 9/11/01;
  • and whether we are prepared, then, not only to begin a policy of preemptive strikes (encouraging, by our "moral authority" precedent, other nations to do so as well) but also one of nuclear response (also encouraging other countries in first use of nuclear weapons whenever they, as individual nations, feel it is justified).

Notwithstanding the above comments, I give Pres. Bush credit for agreeing to at least attempt cooperation with the U.N. in dealing with the Iraqi leader. I am more encouraged now than previously that we may see a good analysis of the relevant considerations before U.S. action. But will Bush hear and attend to the airing and implications of such issues?

Next to finances, I'd bet differences in sleep schedules contribute more acrimony than anything else to relationships. With Fran, Pepper, and me having diverse times when we feel like getting up and going to sleep, it is a wonder we do not have more friction than we do. This morning, Fran woke me up an hour early so she could start her day in the dark at 6 AM, knowing that the alarm was set for the later time, and despite our having gone to bed around 1 AM. It did not go down well. I'm all the more susceptible to such aggravation as I hardly ever now get a good night's sleep.

Though the medical problems persist, I have arranged a couple more doctor appointments, scheduled for before the end of the month.

I've received a recommendation from my nephew, Jim, for an intriguing book, A New Kind of Science. Jim writes: "The author finds that cellular automata offer a new perspective on complexity. It turns out complexity in such computer programs can result from extremely simple rules. [The author] has come up with a completely new intellectual structure, a substitute for math, a 'new science.' Very cool. Applies to many other sciences and philosophies. Although underlying rules are very simple, the complex actions are computationally irreducible, giving the illusion of free will!"

9/15/02-Sun.-The neighbors are restless again, blaring rhythmic but non-musical noise far and wide with their huge speakers, tossing empty beer bottles into our and others' yards and trashing some of our plants during one of their parties last night, parking their cars in other peoples' driveways, when they knew they'd be away, playing baseball in the road in front of our place, parking huge, big-wheel vehicles up and down this end of the block, and so on. They skirt close to but not yet quite beyond the threshold between severe nuisance and breaking the law.

We hear so much about what a great city Austin is. Well, as one who's been visiting or around the River City since the mid-1950s, I can say it is certainly not the jewel it used to be. Growth may be a good thing, but with a lot of it here has come plenty of unpleasant change as well. I have lived in several residences about this fair burg. Almost all eventually have been run down by a certain kind of new occupant, that overwhelm a neighborhood and run it into the ground.

We moved in here because it was a great area on the outskirts of town and too expensive for a certain kind of folks. It remained nice, though, only a relatively short time, before a temporary drop in real estate values led to many of the original owners leaving and converting it to rental properties, often with multiple individuals then taking over places that single families of lower income still could not have even afforded to rent. Ironically, many of our neighbors now probably have more income than we, but just do not care. Their lifestyles seem so different that they are among those whom Fran and I refer to as another species.

Now we'll probably be lucky to sell our house at a profit (to some greater fool) and move on once again, likely to a place still more expensive and even farther out. If nothing else, this situation may provide the stick (failing the appearance of a carrot) to encourage us to go ahead and make the transition to new digs!

As far as I am concerned, all options for improvement are to be seriously considered, including finding a better place we can afford here, near Austin but in another community, or up in more northerly states, in an affordable but well established, conservatively kept up development (if we could find a residence there so attractively priced that it would be worthwhile to move, to give up contacts here, and to lose Fran's part-time income).

Our screech owl remains, aloft in the tall live oak trees of our back yard. Despite my reflections above, it is like a bright omen.

Yesterday and today we are completing another issue of the family newsletter. Next weekend would normally have been when we would have put it together, but by then Fran's sister and her kids (and their big, champion Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, Chief!) will be visiting.

I've finished all but the final touches on the write-up saga of my mom's eighty years of life. I need to add a little conclusion for the long, scrapbook version and then create a new, much shorter one, to use the night of our family's entertaining roast of the lady. Fran will be adding pictures I've chosen, to break up the text and lend interest to the book format. She'll also be preparing a program for the open house. The prose is ready, but scanned pictures must be added, along with a border, and then the finished product printed.

This would have been my brother, Ralph's, 50th birthday. Perhaps this is part of the day's sense of darkness. It's already twelve years since his death.

The day is overcast and so literally more dark than usual, but this is a good thing. We have gotten at least a tiny bit of precipitation, and temperatures are remaining a little cooler than usual.

In a few minutes I'll be giving Frances a long, relaxing massage, maybe a sensual one as well. Life goes on.

On their walk, without me because of the foot pain, Pepper was thrilled to chase a chicken this morning, then rabbits and squirrels. Yesterday, she flushed out another opossum. On the same hike, Fran had seen some deer, but Pepper missed them entirely.

In our front yard this week we found a praying mantis camouflaged to look like lichen, all splotchy with dark and light grays. Shortly after we'd moved in, we were amazed to find one the exact colors of our house siding and trim, with spots in these hues just as if big drops of paint had splattered over it. Of course, it blended in perfectly with the decor and so must have thereby avoided being eaten. Nature can be fascinating!

9/16/02-Mon.-Saw the endocrinologist this morning and then had a new thyroid ultrasound. The doctor could still feel the large nodules, corresponding to a little difficulty I have swallowing and to a sense of pressure on the trachea and esophagus, but said the shape of my neck remains essentially normal. After his exam, inside and out, he indicated that clinically there is no basis for surgery or a radioactive iodine treatment at this time. He noted some of my symptoms may be exacerbated by mild allergy or asthma problems. Nonetheless, as a precaution, he ordered the repeat ultrasound. If it does not show significantly increased thyroid gland size, I should continue on the conservative thyroid medication regimen, which, in any case, he said, I'll need to take the rest of my life. The next thyroid ultrasound should be around March, unless the current one shows unexpected developments.

As a "J" type person (J-P scale, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), I have trouble with things being left in limbo. Well, I'll just have to deal with it!

Feeling better after a long nap this afternoon. The visit with the sawbones this morning was a relief, on balance, for all the related symptoms were checked out and I felt everything is being done that should be.

Did my exercises this evening, while watching the business news, and then worked on more preparations for Mom's shindig next month. Cut up a few branches in the back for Fran. Also put in orders for the sale of some investments, as in today's "Investor's Journal" entry.

9/18/02-Wed.-The endocrinologist's nurse called and said the thyroid ultrasound Monday showed no significant change, which means that, for at least the next half-year, new treatment is not appropriate.

The Hara Chakra was pleasantly active here again last night.

Frances and Pepper stirred up yet another opossum on their walk Tuesday, while I was having my water aerobics session at the "Y."

Am very much enjoying the "Beckett on Film" series currently being shown on PBS, absolutely superb drama.

9/19/02-Thurs.-Fran leaves today for a camping trip and visit with her sister, Trudy, who is down with her kids and dog, Chief, from WI, for a dog show in the Fort Worth area. Once that's over, they'll come on to Austin, caravan style, and stay with us for several days. My mom has also invited the whole group of us to stop by and hangout at her place while we look into a few things we might enjoy in the Waco area, like a park at the lake and the Waco zoo. We're not sure yet of Trudy's preferences and so will finalize plans once she's here.

Pepper and I are staying home while the folks are up around Fort Worth. I'm still quite busy with preparations for Mom's 80th celebration.

Well, it's time I left for the "Y" and my morning exercise.

Later.We have had plenty of rain today. Our rain gauge shows about an inch has fallen, through about 1 PM. And temperatures are cooler, the lows predicted for tonight down in the low- to mid-sixties again, at last. Indeed, it looks like we are about to have a truly great fall weekend.

Heard some disturbing reports of child deaths while at the "Y" today. My instructor for water aerobics said that last year her best friend, whose child was the same age as her (now) three year old boy, lost her son, then just two. He was beaten to death, apparently in a domestic violence incident. Then, as I was noting that the door into the pool at the "Y" is very hard to open, another member explained that last year, when it had been easy to go through, a three year old boy had gotten into the pool area when neither he nor it were supervised and had drowned. Presently they keep the door too tight for a small child to be able to open it.

Fran and I are still interested in a move from this less than ideal neighborhood, though not at the cost of our budget. We went by and checked out a house for sale in a nice area not too far from our property. It is more than half again as large as our place and with an all brick exterior, factors definitely in its favor. However, the price was $280,000, about $160,000 more than we can reasonably afford. Given that even a house as small as ours in a nice part of town is going for about $55,000-80,000 more than our place is worth in today's market, we are confronted with needing to stay here, and put up with things for several more years, or to move completely away from central Texas for a better home.

Depending on what we find if we check things out in another state, we may be ready soon to move elsewhere in the country. We're thinking of traveling to the Finger Lakes and Syracuse areas of New York State in the spring, to see what's available and for how much. Based on prices shown on the internet, that general region is more affordable than here and has lower overall taxes. It is also attractive to us because of the cooler climate. Even with the intensely cold and snowy winters, it would seem a better locale for us than Austin, with its intense and sunny summers.

9/21/02-Sat.-The newly announced Bush administration defense policy, calling for unilateral first strikes not only against terrorists but also against perceived threats that need not even be imminent from nations we, on our own, determine to be "rogue states," and the resolution Bush this week sent to Congress for its stamp of approval (even before a new U.N. resolution on Iraq) of a planned war against Saddam Hussein (by any means necessary, including "the use of force" to achieve regime change in his country, and to neutralize an alleged, but unproven, potential for use against us of weapons of mass destruction) are of a piece.

It is only consistent that Bush also says we'll assure (indefinitely presumably) that we remain the world's only superpower, and will do what is necessary to keep other nations from achieving parity with us militarily. Yet his spokespersons call this policy one of "benevolent" dominance, apparently in contrast to the many other empires through history who were "evil" in their aggressive means to maintain hegemony (though they too no doubt saw themselves as benevolent).

The remarkable thing here is not that George W. is sweepingly transforming the U.S. role in world affairs, no doubt to the ultimate detriment of international law, global relations, geopolitical stability, and individual freedom. It is that Congress has completely capitulated to him, has rolled over and is playing dead, simply because he remains popular after 9/11. Accordingly, the representatives and senators are allowing Bush to set the priorities and the agenda. Domestic issues, Bush's "weakest link," are swept under the carpet as easily as are domestic human rights, fiscal responsibility, and any real call for his administration to honestly take responsibility for the asleep-on-the-watch negligence that permitted the September 11, 2001, terrorism to have occurred, though our intelligence agencies knew of such threats and had even asked for action against some of the terrorists.

We should never underestimate Bush, his Napoleonic tendencies, or the willingness of the masses in uncertain times to go along with a leader perceived as strong.

We would do well to note the wisdom of Lord Acton concerning power.

9/22/02-Sun.-Fran got back about 7:00 yesterday evening, along with her sister, Trudy, and our nephew and niece, Jay and Violet. They were all pretty tired. To keep it simple, we went for a quick supper to a nearby Burger King, then did some essential shopping at H.E.B. It took an hour or so to get the kids bathed and to bed and settled down enough to sleep. Violet cried angrily for a little while, pausing between her wailing sessions to see if anyone were coming to tend to her desires, but then began to snooze.

Trudy and I had some ice cream, and we and Fran chatted till about eleven, when it was time to get ready for bed.

We've decided to accept an invitation from my mom to all stay at her place while doing a few things in the Waco area.

I got home alright but discovered as I was opening the garage door yesterday there was some kind of leak under my car. It turned out to apparently be some part of my brake system, with one of the reservoirs completely empty. I'll take it in once things aren't so busy around here.

Listening today, while Fran, Trudy, Jay, and Violet were at a park, to my VCR recording of the Friday night PBS programs, I realized that Bush is going to get his way. With virtually no serious debate of the matter, Congress seems poised to give him a blank check for the use of force against Iraq, not because it currently demonstrates any credible aggression, or even established threat, against us or our close allies, but, basically, just because Congress accepts the notion, with no real discussion of the matter, that we are not only justified but required by circumstances and our role as the "benevolent" policeman of the globe to make war on any country the president says might become a threat to us and to force regime change in said nation, again at our sole discretion, or at least the president's.

We will not even consider that George W. might have some psychological or election-related issues clouding his judgment or that Congress might have some political motives for abandoning its constitutional role in the state's awesome responsibility where going to war is concerned.

Nor will the huge implications of this kind of policy shift be brought under significant scrutiny. History is replete with formerly great societies that thus willingly gave up their freedoms and wisely counseled governance, despite many earlier hard-fought battles to achieve them.

Not since the Tonkin Gulf Resolution gave LBJ similarly sweeping and ill-conceived support for a vast expansion of our involvement in a civil war in Vietnam has our ship of state taken such a wrong-headed turn.

It took tens of thousands of American lives, millions of demonstrations, untold violence in Southeast Asia, huge debts, tremendous division, unrest, and civil disobedience in our own country, and the perspectives of defeat and over a decade of distance from the calamitous events of the Vietnam era before we came to grips with how major a series of errors we made in our approach to Vietnam, supported by that absurd Tonkin Gulf reaction (a travesty of governing and one even based on a misconception, one which LBJ, for political motives undoubtedly no less pure than George W.'s, never got around to correcting).

Now, we seem to have forgotten those hard-won lessons. Once again, driven by the hope that a powerful military answer will solve very complicated issues, we are reacting with more hysteria than reason.

But, if anything, the consequences of our folly this time are likely to be greater than in Southeast Asia.

Before 9/11, Bush was widely seen as a fluke, a weak, probably one-term president who had not even garnered the popular vote in the 2000 election. If ours were a pure democracy, not that I recommend this, he would have been defeated then. Now it seems the electorate and legislature are so willing to follow his style of cowboy politics that he'll not only serve a couple terms but have a good chance at reshaping the course of world history, repainting it in far less stable hues for decades to come.

On a happier note, we all went to Zilker Park today and enjoyed a ride on the little train there, followed by fun along Barton Creek.

Trudy seems really tired, but overall the visit with she, Jay, Violet, and Chief is going very well.

9/23/02-Mon.-We got underway about 10 AM. Arrived in Waco a little after noon. Mom fixed a great lunch on the spur of the moment.

9/24/02-Tues.-We are reliably informed by geopolitical analysts that, whether or not under the auspices of a new U.N. resolution, an attack and invasion of Iraq by U.S. forces is now a fait accompli, in order to finish the job started in 1991, achieving regime change and eliminating the country's capacity for using weapons of mass destruction. (If it is such a good idea, I wonder why George W.'s father did not do it when he had a golden opportunity, with Hussein on the run and our forces having overwhelming military superiority. It might be wise to at least look back at the comments by the Republican administration in control then to see why we were so restrained, despite Iraq's door having already been battered in. Is this really about George W. proving he's better than the old man?)

Whether or not attacking other sovereign countries, that would seem to pose far less ultimate potential threat to us than Russia did or China does, is in our country's long-term interest, all things (probably not) considered, the aggressive talk and posturing leading up to the mid-term elections will probably have a benefit to the Republican Party of transferring the focus from issues on which Bush and their candidates are considered feeble and vulnerable to ones on which they are regarded as strong and well protected, resulting in a favorable outcome in November, from their point of view.

George Bush, we are told, "is an honorable man." So certainly his policies are guided only by a statesman-like concern for his country. And if by chance the long-forecast attack does not occur soon, perhaps because Iraq manages to stall the U.N. till after the best (winter) time for our military to wage such a war, the next best geopolitical opportunity for war rhetoric should happen to be in 2004, just before Bush's race for election to a second term, I'm certain Bush will have only the nation's interests in mind during preparations at that time of our electorate and military for the final showdown, so patiently and long delayed, with Saddam Hussein, guaranteeing that our so easily swayed and predictable voters will give him the sought-after next four years, it will be just coincidental that he receives this added advantage, for we know that George Bush as ever truly "is an honorable man."

Today we went to the Waco (Cameron Park) Zoo and had a good time, taking lots of pictures and thrilling at least Lucas, especially with some monkeys, who came very close, and a tiger. The highlight, though, was witnessing the phenomenally fast strike and gulp of a large rattlesnake, a couple feet from us in the reptile house, snatching a rat for brunch.

I went with Mom for her oral surgery and picked her up afterward. It seemed to go well.

We all had abundant further relaxed visiting this evening.

My foot was causing me problems so that I stayed back and had a long hot bath soak, but several (including the two dogs) also enjoyed the nearby Lake Waco and park.

9/25/02-Wed.-Other than that, without such a distraction, the paucity of George W.'s domestic governing would be as glaringly apparent as the executive branch's ineptitude in protecting us from major terrorism (in the weeks leading up to 9/11) and as the failure of its in-your-face unilateralism in foreign affairs, why must we suddenly, now prepare to commit large numbers of troops (from our relatively small armed forces), vast amounts of money (which we cannot afford, with new federal deficits), and great political capital internationally to an imminent attack on Iraq?

Where is the evidence of their almost immediately deploying weapons of mass destruction? What is the proof of their direct involvement in global terrorism? Why is it incumbent on us to invade this sovereign nation and replace its government in power with one of our choosing?

Is this now to be considered a new principle of international law? May India attack and invade Pakistan because, merely in its Prime Minister's opinion, Pakistan has supported terrorism and has developed weapons of mass destruction (a case for which, in fact, India could make far more accurately and convincingly than George W. can make it, at this point, against Iraq)?

If in attacking Iraq we kill thousands of civilians, are other nations entitled to change our country's regime? Would they not be just as warranted, if not more so, in such a conclusion as we? Are their deceased civilians from our first strike, direct attack worth less than ours from that of terrorists upon us?

Are the actions and attitudes of all nations possessing or seeking to possess weapons of mass destruction (Israel, North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan, China, Russia, Georgia, and perhaps Libya and South Africa, among others) so pure that they could never, on evidence as tenuous as that against Iraq, be accused by separate countries, themselves perhaps supportive of terrorism, as we were in Afghanistan and Central America, and possessing chemical, biological, and/or nuclear weapons of mass destruction (as we have, all three) of being a threat to other states? Some of the accusations we make against Iraq could well be applied to ourselves, only more so. After all, it is we and not Iraq that proposes now, or in the near future, to attack another sovereign state first.

By the principles of the president's new policy, Japan's first strike against us at Pearl Harbor would likely have been justified. As history has clearly proven, we were a threat to them. Had we not placed an embargo on their vital supplies of oil and scrap metal? Were they not entitled to defend their way of life from our potential to bring them low?

When such questions are answered honestly and objectively, where, except in the fact that we, as the world's only superpower, now have the means to do so and find it, at least in the short-term, in our political interest to do so, is the justification for our intended action?

If our nation proceeds on this course, I foresee eventually more undesirable repercussions than in the aftermath of similarly rash decisions pertaining to Vietnam and the rest of Southeast Asia. (And in five to ten years, at most, the cost to this country could begin to be clear.)

There too we bullied other countries into acquiescing to our bull-in-the-china-shop approach. There too our premises, though incorrect, were used to justify aggression against sovereign nations. And, at first, the policies received domestically popular support and overwhelming congressional approval, while, like now, being questioned by citizens and governments of foreign countries.

From whence do we derive such hubris or arrogance? The rest of the world has much to fear from a United States more powerful than all the other nations combined and led by politicians who act more like children than grownups. We should not be surprised if, in time, it responds accordingly.

This morning we said our goodbyes to Mom (so successful in her rapport with Trudy's kids that Violet was responding to her with beatific smiles and Jay by calling her "Grandma") and got on the road back to Austin.

An alarming development, last evening: for the first time since she was a puppy being housebroken, nearly thirteen years ago, Pepper peed in the house, in fact directly in front of us on the carpet. She'd been taken outside and had relieved herself less than an hour earlier. The urine was a darker yellow than usual.

9/26/02-Thurs.-It turns out the leak in my car is in the clutch system, which also uses brake fluid. The vehicle is to be taken in next Tuesday.

Trudy, Jay, and Violet will be staying through Sunday. Generally, we're having a good visit, but Jay is very much used to having his own way about some things and refuses to say "please" when telling me to do things for him. I then have to choose to accept his demands or insist on courteous requests, leading to little standoffs.

There is now so much in the news to which I could react, I realize, that to express it I might change the whole character of this journal. Instead, I expect to henceforth simply touch on political and related questions, but not allow them to become the dominant focus here.

I'm taking the mutt in this morning for a checkup, hoping for the best.

Later.-Pepper has canine bladder stones, per the vet. More diagnostics are needed before a treatment plan is worked out.

9/27/02-Fri.-Per the vet, we must decide between simply giving the dog medication for infection (leaving her bladder stones and their etiology untreated), doing further expensive tests to diagnose the problems precisely (and then treating those as appropriate), and doing the minimum preliminary to an operation, plus surgery, to remove the stones (and hoping that, without further testing and treatment they do not simply recur).

Slowly but surely, progress is being made on the final, shortened version of my book-like saga on my mom's life. It is a tight squeeze, fitting work on this in while we also have out-of-town guests. And small children have a way of dictating much of the agenda around them!

Besides, we are doing a number of fun things together. Today we went with Trudy, Jay, and Violet to the Austin Nature and Science Center and Zilker Botanical Gardens, seeing lots of neat animals of interest to Jay, including a three to four foot (non-poisonous) snake that he observed, from very close, in a water plant at the edge of one of the Zilker ponds.

Jay is a very sharp three-year-old, picking things up quickly. And, while he has the natural self-centeredness of a typical child his age, he also can be adorable in his modes of play and his amusing comments. He seems to easily outshine most youngsters close to his number of years of existence, as noted when a group of such were sharing with him a learning center area this morning. Yet he mixes well with others.

9/28/02-Sat.-This morning we went canoeing (Fran, Trudy, Jay, Violet, and Pepper) and kayaking (me) on Town Lake, paddling from down by Austin High up to the peninsula of debris and plants just below the dam that separates Lake Austin and Town Lake. It was fun, with interesting bird and other sightings, and cute reactions from Jay, Violet, and Pepper.

One incident was particularly amusing. As we paddled by close to shore, we were accosted by a pair of large, noisy, and aggressive white geese. They were so riled and determined to rid their territory of our watery intrusion that they swam over to my kayak and darted their beaks at me, even biting the end of the kayak as I hurriedly moved my craft out of there. Jay and Pepper, not far away in the canoe, were really excited by that episode!

This boating excursion pretty well wiped us out for the day. I also fell on some slick rocks, where we'd gotten out to do a little exploring, and bruised my right shin badly (the leg now dramatically bruised over a five-inch long area), giving me what Jay called an "owie."

Late this evening, Fran, Trudy, and I watched a couple very funny episodes of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," the entire videotape collection of which I've purchased for Fran as an early Christmas present.

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