Sam WHITBY #223

Letters to the Editor

from Sam WHITBY in CMO #223

@. . . .   Thank you for your two very interesting emails and for continuing to send the CMO. About a month ago I made a conscious decision to work as many hours as possible while the hospital census was high, and that left little time for anything other than work. When I was not working, I cared for Tyler and the rest of the family. This week Tyler began going to a day care center in the morning, so I will have a little more time for correspondence.
  It has been a very hot summer, with the temperature at times as high as 40 degrees C. As is usual for this time of year, the sky has frequently been overcast, and the humidity has been high. In spite of the haze and humidity, the rainfall has been low. Many streams and wells have begun to dry up. A couple of weeks ago I took David and Tyler to a place called Nottoway Falls, where the Nottoway River crosses the local fall line. The river is usually a foot or more deep and roughly fifty feet wide, and the Falls are what the name implies. When we arrived I did not recognize the spot and actually thought I had made a wrong turn somewhere. We walked to the site and Tyler could step across the river, which was perhaps 30cm across and 2cm deep. I had the feeling of being stuck in a bad dream. The unreality of the situation came partly from the fact that there have been numerous very small rain showers throughout the summer, which have kept grass green and given the illusion of well-being but without replenishing the water table. In the back of my mind somewhere, from having read about the situation, I knew there was a serious drought, but the reality did not hit us until we saw the almost dry Nottoway River. It is pleasing to be able to add that Hurricane Dennis has brought us much rain in the last week or so, and the local rivers and streams seem back to normal. The wells may still need time to re-fill, but there are more tropical storms on the way, bringing hope with their usual worry.

  We also have been concerned about the earthquake in Turkey. The suffering must be horrible. I am glad that the international community has sent help to the victims. You raise an interesting point about the poor construction standards and about the large army. Relatives of mine have served in the military there, and my hunch is that the large army, rather than to defend NATO against some imagined Russian onslaught, is to maintain the status quo and keep the current leaders in power. The locals seem to have little interest in Islam, with the mosques being virtually empty unless the people were ordered to be there for propoganda purposes, and the government- at least from the democratic point of view, as yours truly understands it- has little legitimacy. Turkey's membership in NATO is a classic case of a marriage of convenience rather than of love. We have little in common with them except humanity, and that is enough to motivate assistance in a time like this.You will realize that this is the jaundiced viewpoint of someone with little expertise, formed by the reports of American soldiers who were not free to worship in their Christian way while stationed in that ostensibly Muslim nation. This paragraph would be considered inflammatory in many circles, typical of Sam the loose cannon, and you may want to deflect criticism by not sharing it with our larger community. I am unashamed of opinions and change them easily as my education improves, but I would not want you to be criticized by our association.

  The Indonesian situation has been much in our news lately. It is different from the Yugoslavian situation in that western interests are less directly involved. One could at least argue that the situation with the Serbs could have gotten so far out of hand that it could have provoked another general European war and that it was better to stop it early rather than late. It is apparent that NATO does not intervene everywhere or intervene when it does strictly from humanitarian motives.

  Some important interests are petroleum and a desire to avoid WW3. This is not a defense of NATO actions, just my attempt to understand. I appreciate your pointing out the facets of the East Timor situation. Most Americans, including me, seem to have little understanding of it, and we can use some expert instruction.

  I don't think that you have to worry about whether Virginia will stay in the Union or not. There has been a recent party called the Southern Party, which has advocated legal secession from the Union, arguing that secession would have been legal in the 1860's but was prevented in spite of its legality by the superior - oh, that word hurts - military force of the Union. Nobody seems to take the Party seriously. Even people like myself with some minor or major grievances against the US do not advocate the dismantlement of the United States. My hunch is that the idea re-surfaced when some historically aware people saw the US government applauding the breakup of the former USSR. I found myself asking where the sentiment for self-determination was in 1860. Some other people evidently felt the same way.

  I wonder if Japanese news reported the controversey concerning the Robert E. Lee mural. Richmond has made an old canal the centerpiece of an effort to revive the downtown of the city, and a city councilman, a so-called Muslim lawyer who has lost his license to practice law because he was paid and did nothing for his clients, made disturbing threats when a portrait of Lee was placed on the canal walk. At first the City Council - a form of government imposed by the US, a lingering relic of Union occupation- seemed to agree with him. This is the great humanitarian Council that listens to Muslims rant and rave about the white devils. At last some black members had the courage to state that this is a free multi-racial country that cannot expect them to always vote along racial lines. Many, I say many, black people rose to say that they did not support the kind of extreme statements made by that unfortunate councilman. It seems that the state is much better off than some of us have feared. There is more good will, more understanding, than some politicians will admit exists.

  It is now time for me to get ready to pick up Tyler. He came down with a bad cold yesterday, and he wheezed this morning. We are starting to treat him for asthma, in the hope of preventing a serious attack. We live only a few minutes away from his "school", so I felt secure in sending him there this morning.
  Next time, more about Mars and less about the political craziness in Virginia and on Planet Earth.

(10 Sept 1999 email)

@. . . .   Thank you for the fine images of Jupiter (made by T AKUTSU). Your colleague has done some very impressive work. The images confirm that the bright southern part of the EZ is becoming tainted with blue. If you would not mind, I would like to forward the images to John Barnett of the RAS and ALPO, just for his interest in the subject. Tomorrow I will not be on duty at the hospital and am unlikely to have to work compulsory over-time, so I may drag myself out of bed early, in time to catch Jupiter above our observatory.
  Your young supporter Tyler has come through his latest illness without having to go to the hospital or use steroids. We treated him early, and the treatment seems to have worked.
  Apolitically yours (this time),

(12 Sept 1999 email)

@. . . .   I thought I would drop you a line to say that we survived Hurricane Floyd. Other than losing our TV to a power surge, we sustained no real damage. The cottage where we stay at Nags Head, NC, survived Hurricane Dennis. We have not learned yet about the aftermath of Floyd.
  Glad to be dry, I am sincerely yours,

(16 Sept 1999 email)

Samuel WHITBY ( VA, USA ) :