Monthly Archives: March 2005

I’m freaking out about Terri

I’m freaking out about Terri Schiavo, a bulimic woman I never met. Does her husband want her dead because he will inherit money? Are her parents just unwilling to let go? Is legalized euthanasia a slippery slope? Is starvation the way to do things? The case is being decided on grounds of stuff like legal standing, and spousal rights, but the issues are huge.

Before I begin to discuss them let me just tell you: I do have a living will and a medical power of attorney. It’s in the rollup desk in my third bedroom. No tubes for me, please. DNR unless I can be totally back to my usual quality of life. That involves eating, thinking, and writing. Walking is nice, but not necessary. Talking’s probably essential.

Now, have I told enough people?

On to the issues.

This case is full of paradoxes, just like real life. The same government that is trying to ban gay marriage is also saying marriage is sacrosanct, and the husband has the right to pull the plug. But the government is also saying NO ONE should pull the plug. That’s the same government that’s talking about spiralling health care costs. Right to life and right to die are totally confused in this case.

But the biggest paradox here is that of freedom. What constitutes freedom? Freedom to stay alive? To choose to die? Where’s the freedom when the federal government comes into a family situation and takes control? When one branch of the government fights another branch (although this could be viewed as checks and balances).

Supposedly, the conservatives are in power. Then why is the role of the government expanding practically by the day? Yesterday I went to the Goldwater Institute luncheon and heard Paul Gigot, the editor of the Wall Street Journal, talk about Washington’s agenda. His is the pro-business, free market view.

Do you know what he said? That the Republicans in the Senate should not try to change the rules against filibuster, even though they are frustrated about their judicial nominees, lest it come back to haunt them the next time they are in the minority.

That although health care is traditionally a Democratic issue, the Republicans should take it on and find a solution, because if they don’t, we will drift inevitably to a Canadian single-payer system.

And that Social Security will not be changed this year because, although Bush’s efforts are admirable, democracies are not in the habit of solving problems until they become crises.

Gigot said that although the conservatives control both branches of Congress and the White House, government spending keeps growing. Why? Because of the lure of incumbency — elected officials trying to bring the pork home.

Terri Schiavo, poor woman, is a microcosm of the confusion we feel as a nation both politically and ideologically. The complexities of modern life have all but buried the old distinctions between liberal and conservative. And we haven’t even begun to discuss stem cells.Street Journal, talk about Washington’s agenda. His is the pro-business, free market view.

Do you know what he said? That the Republicans in the Senate should not try to change the rules against filibuster, even though they are frustrated about their judicial nominees, lest it come back to haunt them the next time they are in the minority.

That although health care is traditionally a Democratic issue, the Republicans should take it on and find a solution, because if they don’t, we will drift inevitably to a Canadian single-payer system.

And that Social Security will not be changed this year because, although Bush’s efforts are admirable, democracies are not in the habit of solving problems until they become crises.

Gigot said that although the conservatives control both branches of Congress and the White House, government spending keeps growing. Why? Because of the lure of incumbency — elected officials trying to bring the pork home.

Terri Schiavo, poor woman, is a microcosm of the confusion we feel as a nation both politically and ideologically. The complexities of modern life have all but buried the old distinctions between liberal and conservative. And we haven’t even begun to discuss stem cells.

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I hardly ever watch a

I hardly ever watch a movie twice, but since it’s been forty years since the release of Jules Pontecorvo’s masterpiece “The Battle of Algiers” and I have just returned from Africa, I decided that I would Tivo it off the Sundance channel.

What a shock! Nothing has changed since I watched it during the Viet Nam war. I forget who said that “those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.”

“The Battle of Algiers” tells the story of the Muslim rebellion against the French colonial administration in Algeria in 1956 and 1957. The French had already lost Dien Bien Phu, and were determined not to lose in Algeria.

But the leaders of the revolutionary FLN use terrorism and insurgency to unite their people against the French. Theirs is an urban guerrilla war, using women and children who protect men by hiding them in wells and mosques. It’s a war between the European quarter of the capital city and the Casbah, where the natives live. It’s like the Green Zone and the rest of Baghdad.

When the insurgency becomes organized enough, its leaders call a week long general strike to force the issue in front of the United Nations. The strike works, the UN begins a debate, and no resolution can get a majority, so the organization decides not to intervene on behalf of the insurgents.

After that, the French begin an all out campaign of torture to squash the rebellion. Self-righteously deflecting the questions of the international press, they remind reporters that they were part of the resistance against the Germans, and that some of them are survivors of Dachau and Buchenwald. For them it’s not about ideology or politics, “our only job is to win.” And the torture tactics used by the French military don’t come close to the ones used by the insurgents, who believe their end justifies any means. The military has to play by a set of rules governed by worldwide public opinion.But the French eventually have to use torture to obtain intelligence about the leadership of the FLN, which they then systematically set out to capture much as the American military set out to capture Saddham Hussein’s “deck of cards.”

Although the French won the Battle of Algiers, they lost the war of ideas, and Algeria was one of the first African countries to win independence from colonialism in 1962. Soon after, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, and all the others achieved freedom, and the United States lost the war in Viet Nam. Colonialism appeared to be over.

But then what happened? Forty years of corrupt African governments, including such notables as Idi Amin, culminating in the UN’s failure to act in the Rwandan genocide. And now, a worldwide outbreak of terrorism characterized by Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and all the strange names that “claim responsibility.”

No wonder the Pentagon screened “The Battle of Algiers” for military people in 2003. Although its director was an Italian communist who clearly sided with the insurgency, the film illuminates the issues involved in both urban warfare and religious ideology, and the issues didn’t look very different forty years ago than they do today.

I hate to get on the bandwagon of UN bashers, but I am increasingly wondering why we pay our dues to the UN, when it faces dilemma after dilemma in which it fails to act. I am reminded of my visit to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial in Kigali, where after seeing almost intolerably cruel video of people being hacked to death with machetes, while both the UN and the US stood by watching, and after reading about how it was the Belgians who originally introduced the differentiation between Hutus and Tutsis, I read a plaque saying the Memorial was funded by the Belgian Government and the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation.

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Africa is all about the children

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Africa is all about the children. These are in a community center being built by the Bahai Church

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This is how close we were

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This is how close we were to the gorillas. Mom and her baby are behind me.

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Momma gorilla and her baby

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Child dancers from an orphanage

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Child dancers from an orphanage in Rwanda run by a teen who lost his parents in the genocide.

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Mass graves. 250,000 people died

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Mass graves. 250,000 people died in Kigali alone.

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