Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terri Schiavo X

It's been a long, incommunicado weekend, but I've kept an eye on Terri's condition as much as I could. Some random observations and comments:

Michael Shiavo's attorney, George Felos, made the most apalling speech over the weekend, describing Terri as "beautiful" at a time when her brother described her as looking like a concentration camp inmate. As Bobby Schindler (Terri's brother) is quoted by WorldNetDaily, "I think Mr. Felos has some infatuation with death." (story link here)

Question: If Terri's type of death is supposed to be painless, even peaceful, why are they giving her morphine?

This is an interesting commentary by someone from the Left. Mark Polit, in Common Dreams, gets the central issue right. "There is no issue of self-determination, since their (sic) is no clear directive to act upon, and Terri is not able to express a preference. Even if Terri had made an off hand comment about what she would prefer, people who acquire a disability typically decide that living "that way" is far superior to dying. It is not up to a judge, a spouse, or a politician to determine when someone else should be rubbed out." He continues, "This has not been one of those "difficult cases" of end of life care, since Terri was not chronicly ill. She was not in pain (until they starved her). She was not kept alive artificially (unless you consider food and water artificial). She was not on a "machine" (a tube is merely a fork or spoon for people who can't swallow). Terri was a person with a disability. She was apparently conscious. And she was certainly alive. Since when has it become a progressive position to deny a person the right to their very existence?" Excellent question!

But then Polit goes on an anti-Right rant. "It is the right wing that promotes a culture of death, waging a war of aggression, torturing and murdering prisoners of war, supporting the death penalty, and seeking to roll back funding for health care for seniors and the poor." I don't get how he can be so right about Terri and so wrong about what the right wing stands for. Go figure.

Finally, Joseph Farah's commentary on Judge Greer's pastor is excellent reading. Pastor William Rice, of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Florida, asked Judge Greer to leave the church, telling the judge, "You must know that in all likelihood it is this case which will define your career and this case that you will remember in the waning days of life. I hope you can find a way to side with the angels and become an answer to the prayers of thousands."

This statement is a pointed reminder, not only to Judge Greer, but to each one of us to be sure we are on the side of what is right in all we do. We will usually never know until much later what the defining decisions in our lives will be, so we need to make sure that each decision we make is well thought out, prayed over, and one we will not regret in the future. May God help us all.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Terri Schiavo IX

Holy cow! I just saw this story about the $250 campaign contribution Michael Schiavo's attorney (actually his law firm) made to the re-election campaign of Judge Greer, "as did court-appointed attorneys representing the husband's interest, Pacarek & Herman and Richard Pearse."

The story states, "The Empire Journal notes that in Florida, a judge is not required to recuse himself if he receives a contribution from an attorney in a case over which he presides. Nevertheless, a contribution can establish the appearance of impropriety, and the state's code of judicial conduct requires a judge to remove himself in such a case. "

The story also mentions that the campaign contribution came on a day when it was the only contrubution, so it was not part of a fund-raising program. Which makes me question whether it's ethical for a judge's re-election campaign to target law firms. I would think that would open up a judge to having to recuse himself endlessly, because lawyers who contributed to his campaign would keep coming before him.

This seems so wrong!

And so does this. For yet another time, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore refused to reinsert the feeding tube while he considers a lawsuit filed by Terri's parents about the removal of the feeding tube.

Why is life such a difficult concept for these judges? Why, when it's a helpless, disabled woman, can't they seem to give her a stay of execution, when other judges give stays of execution to convicted murderers mere hours before they're scheduled to die (link here)?

I don't get it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Terri Schiavo VIII

Hope for Terri is dwindling. It's been 7 days that she's been without food and water, and I heard on the radio that her family says she's wasting away.

The US Supreme Court has refused to hear her parents' appeal or to order the feeding tube reinserted (link to story here).

According to a WorldNetDaily story, "With legal and legislative options apparently exhausted, former Judicial Watch chairman Larry Klayman and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes are in Florida's capital trying to persuade Gov. Jeb Bush to use his executive powers to save Terri Schaivo's life."

It must have helped, because Jeb Bush filed for custody of Terri (link here). Frankly, though, I have my doubts about whether this will help. So far, every legal action has ended up back in the court of the illustrious Judge Greer. Any chance he's going to decide something different just because the governor asked nicely?

While we wait, here are some other related stories:

The "whole story" about Terri, according to WorldNetDaily.

The text of Gov. Jeb Bush's speech last night, saying they were doing all they could.

A Florida neurologist, who observed Terri three weeks ago, says Terri is not a vegetable (link here).

Dr. David Stevens, head of the Christian Medical Association, which represents 17,000 physicians, states that death by dehydration cruel and agonizing (link here).

Judge Greer had a similar (but not identical) case a few years ago and decided against the wife (link here).

A Michigan legislator drafts legislation to prevent adulterous spouses from making life-ending decisions (link here).

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo VII

I thought about writing about something else, but there's nothing more important right now.

As I left for lunch, the latest news I had on Terri was that the 11th Circuit Court three-judge panel (randomly selected: 2 Clinton appointees and 1 Bush appointee) decided 2-1 to refuse ordering Terri's feeding tube to be reinserted. Then the full 11th Circuit Court also refused. They said Terri's parents ''failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims.''

Hello???!!! If Terri were a mass murderer, they'd keep her alive and let even the most stupid, pointless case be presented. If she were an endangered insect or rodent or onion, they'd have to protect her life while even the most stupid, pointless case is presented. But because Terri is a harmless, helpless young woman, her parents have to "demonstrate a substantial case" in instantaneous legal filings? What's wrong with these judges?

Her parents are appealing to the US Supreme Court, but at six days into her starvation, Terri doesn't have much, if any, time to spare.

But then I saw the latest, and I have a little more hope. Florida's Department of Children and Families is considering removing Terri by force from the hospice where she has lived. Quoting WorldNetDaily, "Department secretary Lucy Hadi told the Palm Beach Post her staff is relying on a state law giving authority to intervene on behalf of a vulnerable adult 'suffering from abuse or neglect that presents a risk of death or serious physical injury.'"

"We're not compelled to look at prior judicial proceedings," Hadi told the Post. "What we're compelled to look at is the presenting circumstance and any allegation of abuse and neglect that we've received. So we have to deal with those and fulfill our statutory responsibility, notwithstanding anything else that may have gone on before."

Let's pray they get her out in time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Terri Schiavo VI

I listened to Hugh Hewitt's radio show on the way home from work, and most of it was about Terri. The things Hugh said revealed why he calls himself, "the voice of reason in the West."

Hugh Hewitt is a professor of constitutional law at Chapman University in addition to being a talk radio host. It's from this perspective that he calmed down a lot of his callers and took others to task when they brought up some of the same issues I raised in my previous posts, particularly the question of the nurse's testimony about the way Michael Schiavo didn't allow proper medical care for Terri. Hugh's point was that this testimony, by not being permitted in court, was not open to cross-examination or rebuttal. We have no way of knowing if it's true. We only have our own gut feel about who to believe.

The important point (actually two) is that 1) Terri gets the feeding tube replaced so she doesn't die before the new trial takes place, and 2) a new trial must occur.

This is the crux of the emergency legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush--that there is a new trial that starts over with the fact-finding. Apparently, the way current law is set up, the original trial does the fact-finding, and all other courts must defer to those facts. If the original judge does a poor job of getting both sides of the case and getting to the truth, then the bad factual findings remain with the case forever. This is apparently what happened when Judge Greer first heard the case.

What Congress did is to say that there must be a new trial that starts over gathering testimony and medical evaluations, so the crucial questions can be answered. My list of the kind of questions I'd expect to be addressed in the new trial are:

Is Terri in a persistent vegetative state or not? Can her condition be improved with rehabilitation? Is Michael the appropriate guardian for Terri, considering his starting a new family? Did he provide the kind of care for her that a guardian is expected to provide? Did Terri actually say she didn't want to live as she is now? And is there a way to determine whether she has changed her mind and now wants to stay alive?

All of this will be pointless, however, unless a court orders her feeding tube reinserted until the new trial has been decided. As of this writing, she is still being deprived of nourishment.

Terri Schiavo V

I turned on Fox News Channel last night while I ate dinner, and there was Bill O'Reilly giving his "Talking Points Memo" about the legal situation surrounding Terri Schiavo.

I had been becoming less and less willing to sit through his show lately, because he's becoming so pompous, so sure that only he has all the answers. Well last night was it for me. No more O'Reilly. At the very least, he appears to have hired all of Dan Rather's fact-checkers to use on "The O'Reilly Factor." His Talking Points Memo was full of crucial omissions that skewed the facts.

Here's one of his points: "The key piece of evidence is provided by Florida doctors who examined Terri Schiavo and explained her condition to the court, quote:
'Theresa's brain has deteriorated because of the lack of oxygen it suffered a the time of her heart attack...at this point, much of her cerebral cortex is simply gone and has been replaced by cerebral spinal fluid. Medicine cannot cure this condition. Unless an act of God, a true miracle, were to recreate her brain, Theresa will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state, totally dependent on others...'"

Which doctor are you quoting, Bill? One of the ones hired by Michael Schiavo's attorney, a man who is deeply involved in the right-to-die cause? The doctors hired by Michael Schiavo are the only doctors whose assessment of Terri were accepted as testimony. The assessments by other doctors, who say that she can recover more function and is capable of swallowing (because she's already swallowing her own saliva--no drooling for Terri) was not permitted in court by Judge Greer. And it was ignored by Bill O'Reilly. In fact, O'Reilly ignored the fact that this statement he quoted is in dispute.

In even more bad fact-checking, Bill O'Reilly said, "That happened, despite a new ABC News poll that says a majority of Americans agree that Terri Schiavo's 15 years of technological life should be ended."

Well, that ABC News poll has already been shown to be extremely biased. It made a statement before asking the question:

"Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years," the poll informed respondents. "Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive. Florida courts have sided with the husband and her feeding tube was removed on Friday. What's your opinion on this case – do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo's feeding tube?"

Terri Schiavo has not been on life support and was not on life support before they pulled her feeding tube. When normal people hear "life support," they think of ventilators and heart/lung machines and other mechanisms designed to keep body functions working. They don't think of food and water as life support.

In addition, Terri does show some consciousness (she lights up when her parents come in the room), and there are doctors who have examined her and say that her condition can be improved.

So for ABC News to make misstatements like that--and to leave out the fact that Michael abandoned Terri for another woman with whom he has established another family--and then to claim that their results accurately reflect the views of the people is appalling.

Meanwhile, one of the nurses who used to care for Terri (and whose testimony was part of a federal lawsuit filed against Michael Schiavo in 2003 that didn't get anywhere) has told her story on Fox News Channel. According to a WorldNetDaily article, Carla Sauer Iyer stated that Michael Schiavo "had forbidden medical professionals to provide his wife with any therapy or rehabilitation and had attempted to hasten her death while she was a patient at the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice she has lived in since 2000."

With all of these questions still unresolved, with all of this doubt about Michael Schiavo's dedication to his position as Terri's guardian, it seems best to wait. Put the feeding tube back in. Check out the stories going around. Re-examine Terri, using the newest technology. Once a diagnosis is in (and not just the 15-year-old diagnosis), and once a proper guardian is assigned, then the family and the courts can determine the best course.

It is always best to err on the side of life. If Terri lives for two more weeks, what's the harm if the ultimate decision is to let her die based on an accurate assessment? But if they kill her now without knowing the truth, there's no way to correct a wrong decision.

Keep Terri alive until we know the truth!

And I believe that once we know the truth, there will be no question that she must be kept alive.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo IV

Congress finally passed a bill allowing Terri's case to be reviewed by a federal court, and President Bush signed it. Now her case is in federal court, being reviewed by a Clinton appointee.

I couldn't watch much of the news about the case over the weekend, because there was so much misinformation and mis-categorizing of Terri's condition, that I wanted to strangle the TV. The word "coma" was used (she's not in a coma), the word "husband" was used in reverent tones, and one man I didn't recognize (and didn't keep the TV on long enough to find out) said that the facts had been reviewed by 19 judges (Judge Greer is the only judge who has done any fact finding, and all the other judges who handled the case either deferred to his "facts" or did not look at the facts at all, but declared they didn't have jurisdiction).

The person I was most distressed by was Mort Kondracke, because as he said, he went through a somewhat similar experience with his wife, Milly. Just last weekend (March 13 I think) CBS showed a movie based on the book Mort wrote about Milly, and I made sure to watch it because I'd heard about Mort's faithful care of Milly as she suffered from Parkinson's Disease (the disease Michael J. Fox has).

But Mort said this weekend on Fox News Channel's The Beltway Boys that he supports Michael Schiavo's rights as a husband to make the decisions for his wife, in light of her expressed wish long ago that she wouldn't want to live that way.

Mort was absolutely not in the position Michael Schiavo is in. Mort stayed faithful to his wife and never abandoned Milly to go shack up with some other honey and produce two children with this other woman and then declare that he still loved Milly and had her best interest in mind.

In addition, I think Mort is missing a crucial detail about Milly's case. She had made written instructions not to use extraordinary measures, and she also told Mort that when the time came that she had to go into a nursing home, to let her die (this was shown at the end of the CBS movie). What was said in the epilogue was that when Milly went into the nursing home, she changed her mind about being allowed to die and fought on for three more years.

When Milly was well and when she was deteriorating, the idea of being incapacitated seemed like a life not worth living. But when she became incapacitated, she changed her mind. She realized that every precious moment of life, however difficult, is still worth living.

Terri Schiavo may or may not have said that she wouldn't want to live this way. But even if she did, she said it from the academic perspective of a whole, sound young woman. "Gee, that would be awful to have to live like that."

But now, when she still has people who love her and who she still loves, to not allow for her to have changed her mind is criminal. She lights up when her family comes into the room. She deserves to live out every precious moment of her life, because for her life is still worth living.

Mort, you're wrong. Terri deserves the same chance to change her mind that Milly had.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Terri Schiavo III

I just can't.

I can't post on what's happening to Terri, because I'm too upset. But I can't not post.

The bottom line on this whole broader issue is, as Hugh Hewitt put it Friday on his radio show, that we as a culture do not starve people to death. That's not what America is about.

We don't allow people to withhold food and water from the children in their care. We don't allow people to withhold food and water from the animals in their care. We don't allow prison guards to withhold food and water from inmates. We don't even allow the soldiers in Guantanamo Bay to withhold food and water from the terrorists.

But they're withholding food and water from a helpless woman, based on the hearsay of her estranged husband about whether she'd want to be kept alive if she were in a persistent vegetative state. But there's a real question about whether Terri is even in a persistent vegetative state, which could make her alleged wishes not even apply.

And if they can starve Terri to death, with these questions about her wishes and her condition, they can do that to any one of us at some time in the future if our condition becomes inconvenient or distasteful to the people around us.

Related news article links:

Terri's attorney claims that Terri said she wants to live.

The House & Senate reached a compromise on a bill that would give federal courts the ability to review Terri's case and cases like hers (much the way death penalty cases are allowed federal review)

Democrats are blocking a vote on the bill that would give federal review to Terri's case.

This is a commentary (not a news item) about the direction judicial activism is going, especially as it relates to Terri's case and Judge Greer.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Books on Tape

As I've said before, I listen to audio books on my commute, whenever Laura Ingraham and Hugh Hewitt aren't on the radio (including during most of the commercials). Because I'm cheap (and audio books are really expensive if you buy them at the bookstore), I depend on the public library for my supply of books to listen to. I've listened to a lot of non-fiction, most of which I never would have selected to sit down and read in book version, but oh, I'm so glad I listened to them! Here are some of my recommended books from the library's audio collection:

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors - by Doug Stanton
The Indianapolis was torpedoed in the Pacific about 2 weeks before the end of World War II.

Five Days in London: May 1940 - by John Lukacs
This is during the five days when Winston Churchill first became Prime Minister and met with his cabinet to decide whether to keep fighting Hitler alone, or try to make some sort of peace with Germany.

The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany - by Martin Goldsmith
A biography of Goldsmith's parents, two Jews who survived Nazi Germany by playing in the Jewish orchestra.

Theodore Rex - by Edmund Morris
Book 2 in a biology trilogy of Theodore Roosevelt. This one covers his presidency. It begins the day he takes office when McKinley dies and ends the day he leaves office. Unfortunately, my library doesn't have books 1 or 3.

Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence - by Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee, Richard E. Boyatzis
Actually, as I listened to this one, I wished I had it in book form, because it had so much practical information that I wanted to write down and mull over.

Band of Brothers : E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest - by Stephen E. Ambrose
Wonderful. This made me go out and buy the mini-series on DVD.

That's it for now. I haven't even hit the fiction, but I gotta get back to work.

St. Patrick's Day

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and I had my Gaelic Storm CD at work that I played on the speakers for the occasion (usually I listen to music or the radio over headphones, so I don't bother the folks around me). Gaelic Storm is the band that played in the movie, "Titanic," in the party scene belowdecks in steerage. Lots of energy. I love it!

Here's a link to their website, where you can buy their CDs. Looks like they got a new fiddle player since their first release (which had Samantha on the fiddle--she was also in the movie), and they've removed all trace of Samantha from the website. Plus they got a couple new guys in the band. I keep meaning to get another one or more of their newer CDs but haven't done it yet.

I left work early yesterday, because I got a migraine. I only get migraines about once every year or two, which is just long enough to forget what's going on. It starts with "the vision thing," where I can't see what's right in the center of my vision. Like a spot that's missing from people's faces or from the page I'm trying to read. After a while of not being able to see what I'm looking at, the spot grows and turns into an arc that slowly gets bigger and bigger, until it passes out of my peripheral vision and I can see everything again. Then the headache shows up (or not sometimes).

Yesterday it was a dull ache with woozy disorientation and a little queasiness. What I needed most was some sleep, so I went home at 2:30, after I got all my work to a good stopping point. At home, I had some ravioli to try to fight the queasiness, and then my daughter begged me to please, please, pleeeeeease take her to Denny's (there's no food in the house that you can call a meal) and then to the library. So I did.

At the library, I turned in my audio books and checked out 3 more, including one I'm really excited about. It's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, an autobiography by Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist. My friend the astrophysics major recommended it to me long enough ago that I wasn't sure if this was the right book, so I called her from the library and spoke in hushed tones to confirm that I had the right one. I did. And I've got to say that just the first few opening pages (where he comes close to burning down his parents' house at the age of 8) are worth the price of admission. I can't wait till my drive home, when I get to listen to more!

On my way home from the library last night, I stopped to pick up the mail after over a week of making the mailman shove the new mail in and mangle the old mail. I think he'll be glad to see my mailbox empty today. But in among all the mail was an envelope with some homework assignments from my Tour Director instructor!!!

I took an online class from her late last summer, made a resume, and sent it out to a couple local places (which is where the fall/winter work usually is), but they didn't want to hire me to work just on weekends. They need people who are available on some weekdays too. But about that time, my day job got swamped and I was working so much overtime, that I didn't bother to try pursuing local work just then.

Well, now my instructor (who is based in Southern California) is offering in-person training in April, so I signed up for it. But there's a lot of homework that I have to do before the class starts. So, instead of going to bed last night to give my migraine its much-needed sleep (it's usually sleep deprivation and maybe stress that brings it on in the first place), I stayed up looking over the homework assignments and thinking about them but not writing anything down. Because, if I wrote something down, that would mean I was staying up doing homework (which is bad), when really I was just looking it over before I went to bed (which is good). But I didn't get to bed until 11:30 (which is really bad).

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New Pants

I ordered a pair of pants--actually 2 pair, one stone-colored and one black--from Chadwick's, and they came in last week.

I don't normally order pants from catalogs, because I'm a pear shape and the manufacturers tend to make pants for cylinder or apple shapes. What happens when I put on a regular pair of pants is that the back of the waist sticks out so far I could pack a lunch (or a backpack) and carry it around behind me inside the waistband of the pants. Not very attractive at all.

What made me order the pants? It was the description that filled me with cautious hope: "Adjustable button tabs at the waist." Here's the online catalog picture.

You can just see a tiny bit of the other button under the hip-free model's right elbow. So I rebuttoned the back elastic-filled tab to the forward buttons, and the pants fit great!

But that's not why I'm writing about these pants.

There was a tag attached to them that said, "Teflon." I now have two pair of Teflon pants. Who would have thought?

I've heard of Teflon frying pans (even owned some) and Teflon presidents. But not pants.

What does the Teflon do??? I can't tell. I dropped a tiny piece of chocolate on my stone-colored pair this morning, and it didn't slide right off the way fried eggs slide out of a Teflon frying pan. In fact, the chocolate spot is still there on my pants this afternoon.

So I'll have to run them through the washer without any pre-treating and see if the spot comes out. That Teflon ought to be good for something. If it doesn't work, then I'll have to treat them like any other pair of non-non-stick pants.

I'll keep you posted.


It has finally happened! Justice was served.

According to The Weekly Family Medicine Update, a publication of the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (hat tip: WorldNetDaily), "a Stark County judge formally sanctioned a trial attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit against a Canton-area physician."

It seems trial attorney Catherine Little filed a medical liability lawsuit, on behalf of her client, Benjamin Barbato, against Dr. Zev Maycon. "In the suit, Barbato claimed unnecessary severe physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering resulting from a perforated colon caused by a surgical procedure that Dr. Maycon did not even perform."

That seems to be the way things go, if what's bandied about the water cooler at work is to be believed. Doctors get sued if they so much as glance at the doctor who botched a procedure. And this all-inclusiveness in lawsuits is a big part of what's driving up the cost of medical malpractice insurance, which is what's driving up the cost of medical care.

So it's good to see an attorney get slapped with the $6000 court cost related to her shotgun approach to lawsuits. She's one attorney who may think again before filing this kind of lawsuit.

May this be the start of a beautiful trend.

Friday, March 11, 2005


I'm so bummed. I typed up this great post yesterday at lunchtime, and when I hit the "Publish Post" button, Blogger choked and I lost the post.

I'll have to see if I can re-create it later. Meanwhile, more news keeps happening that catches my attention.

Too much work these days, too little time to blog.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Catching Up

I normally blog during my lunch hour. That's about the only spare time I have on my hands. But this week work has been all-consuming, and the stuff going on at home has been all-consuming there. So no posts this week yet, though I did start one on Monday (still in draft mode).

I decided to use today's post for catching up quickly on the draft and some other things that have been on my mind, however fleetingly. No particular order of importance.

Monday's attempted post:

I've been following Hugh Hewitt following the LA Times's pro-North Korea propaganda piece, both on his radio show and on his blog (here, here, here, and here).

Hugh has completely given up on the LA Times, because their front-page article about North Korea has proven that the Times has placed itself solidly on the side of a megalomaniacal, sadistic dictator.

Hugh was able to send some questions to the writer of the article, Barbara Demick, and he posted her answers, many of which make her seem like she's a reasonable person. Which makes me wonder whether the article was completely of her own doing, or if the LA Times editorial board specifically ordered her to leave out the negative aspects of the story.

Shark towing

There was a story out of New Zealand about three fishermen who had a shark the size of a car swim into their net. It hauled their boat out to sea before it tore its way through the net and swam off.

In describing the men's next decision, Sergeant Edward Keelan of Ruatoria police displayed the British Commonwealth's mastery of understatement. "Very quickly they decided that it might be best to start heading into shore as the company there mightn't be the best." Too right!

New Job Numbers

Interesting commentary by David R. Francis on the latest job numbers out from the US Labor Department. The good news is that 262,000 new jobs were added in February. The not-so-good news is a statistic that correlates with the job numbers. As Francis says, "In the past four years, the number of immigrants into the US, legal and illegal, has closely matched the number of new jobs. That suggests newcomers have, in effect, snapped up all of the new jobs."

He goes on to explain that this correlation is happening in Europe as well as the US, so if misery loves company, we've got it.

Stephen Ambrose Tours

Since I commute 60 miles each way to work every weekday, I spend some of that time listening to books on tape. The public library has a pretty good collection, and I've gone through a lot of the non-fiction section, including a couple Stephen Ambrose books. I loved Band of Brothers enough to buy the DVD of the miniseries.

Now I see that there are Stephen Ambrose Tours related to Ambrose's books, mostly to World War II sites. They look fabulous.

I'm also intrigued by the Civil War tour, since it covers the Western front of that war, along the Mississippi River. I've read the Michael/Jeff Shaara books on the Civil War, and those have focused more on the Eastern front with Lee's campaigns. It would be good to learn more about what happened away from Lee's battles.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Start in Zimbabwe

It's a start, but it's an important one. Robert Mugabe has finally admitted that his land-grab policy in Zimbabwe is a failure. The question is, what will he do next?

Like most Americans, I never paid any attention to Zimbabwe, beyond speculating what its name used to be before it was one of the "Z" named countries.

As I've written before, I started taking my turn writing The Bread back in '96. Since it's an email devotional (that we recently added to the blogosphere), our responses came via email as well. I was thrilled to get replies from email addresses in South Africa and Australia. Once, though, I got an email from Trish, whose address ended with .zw, so I asked where she was from. Zimbabwe. From that moment on, Zimbabwe has been on my radar. I notice the news articles coming from there, and I think of Trish. I don't know anything about her, whether she's black or white, except that she's a Christian and she has access to email. When I started hearing about Mugabe's land grab, I feared for Trish's safety--not because I thought she was a farmer, but because of the violence directed at whites in general.

Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, is a madman, the typical "strongman" leader of a formerly prosperous country. Before the land grab, Zimbabwe's farms were the bread basket of sub-Saharan Africa. They produced enough grain to feed not only their own people but a large proportion of other African nations. Mugabe liked the wealth the farms brought to his nation. But he didn't like the fact that the majority of these farms were white-owned. He didn't think it was fair that whites owned the farms and blacks weren't reaping the benefit of them.

So Mugabe instituted a policy of "land reform" (farm confiscation), and he gave the farms to his cronies. But my description sounds too sanitary. Mugabe's thugs forcibly threw the farmers off their land, usually just before the crops were ready for harvest. There were reports that some of the new farmer owners burned the crops, slaughtered the livestock, and killed the white farmers who resisted. In a July 28, 2002 report, Anthony C. LoBaido quotes former white farmer, Cathy Buckle, describing the plight of another farm family (lucky ones who survived):

"At the end of a long and tiring day, I got home to the news that yet another friend had been forced off her farm. Given two hours notice to vacate her house, she lived through that day of hell which has now become commonplace in Zimbabwe. This morning she and her family are homeless and jobless, and their life lies in boxes and cartons on a friend's lawn," she said.

"The home they built, the lands they tended, the workers they employed are now just memories, and I could not find the words to tell yet another white farmer how dreadfully sorry I was for their loss and anguish. Within months, they will leave the country of their birth because they are farmers and know no other way to earn their living. They will have to go somewhere where they are allowed to grow food."

The condition of Zimbabwe is another piece of the Clinton legacy. As reported in WorldNetDaily, "Mugabe's African National Congress, backed by the United Nations, European Union, Russia, China and the U.S. State Department, took power in 1994." That would be under Secretary of State Warren Christopher's watch.

Bringing it back to today, David Blair's report gives this some perspective. "All but a handful of Zimbabwe's 4,000 white farmers lost their homes and livelihoods when armed gangs of Mugabe supporters began invading their property in 2000." Four thousand farmers feeding much of a continent. But that was before land reform. This is today: "About 400 white farmers remain in Zimbabwe, with about one third of this year's tobacco crop of 89,000 tonnes coming from only 250 white landowners."

Ninety percent of the country's white farmers are gone. The ones still farming (black and white) are unable to get loans for seed, because title for the land is held by the government and not the farmers, so production is down 70% since 1999.

It's good that Mugabe finally recognized the obvious failure of his policies. But if he doesn't start working to correct the problems, then the dire conditions in the markets, described by Cathy Buckle in the article quoted above (here's the link again), will only get worse.

I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Lebanon Rising

Busy weekend at my house. I installed and ran Turbo Tax, because I still have to do the FAFSA for my daughter for next year's college, and the signature page has to be postmarked by tomorrow, and you need your taxable income (or something from your 1040) in order to complete the FAFSA. Looks like that's tonight's order of business.

My daughter did her taxes for the first time. Taxable income: $1029. Taxes withheld: $8.93. Tax refund: $9. Not too shabby, getting a return on tax withholding.

With all the taxes and fighting with a new printer (it doesn't recognize that I actually did take the tape off the color ink cartridge), I didn't get to follow the news much. Monday morning before taking the car to the shop I turned on Fox News Channel (I never turn on the TV in the mornings and don't know why I did this time). They showed the protesters in Lebanon in front of the government buildings, waving red and white flags and being rousted by gun-carrying men in jungle-green camouflage army fatigues. Police? Syrian army masquerading as Lebanese army? I didn't have time to find out.

Off to the shop and work, with worst-case scenarios running in my mind. Tiananmen Square? It certainly had the potential.

Last night I tried the news again, and they had announced that the Syrian-backed Lebanese government had resigned. What a relief! And another vindication for President Bush's approach to the Middle East. Yes, people long for liberty, and when they are given hope, they grab for their freedom.

I still remember seeing the news back in the 1980s (or was it the '70s?) of what Beirut looked like. To the news cameras, Beirut was a dry, dusty, bombed-out disaster area.

In the mid-80s I had decided to read through the Bible, and I was stunned to find references to "the cedars of Lebanon." This country is always spoken of in the Bible as a lush, beautiful land--an example of the glory of God's creation. And even in modern times, before their civil war, Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East. How far it had fallen.

Certainly, the future of Lebanon hasn't yet been decided, but hope is growing. Today's WorldNetDaily commentary page has two columns on the events in Lebanon. Joseph Farah, himself a Christian of Lebanese descent, wrote on events there. He concludes with the following:

Honestly, I never really expected to see Lebanon so close to freedom and independence again. I hoped for it. I wished for it. I prayed for it. But now I can taste it – and so, apparently, can the Lebanese people.

Don't think for a moment this is all happening in a vacuum. There wouldn't be this hunger for freedom and people power in Lebanon today had the people there not just witnessed Iraq's first free election.

The people are taking Lebanon back. Freedom is on the march in the Middle East. It's time to turn up the heat on Syria and Lebanon.

Peter Brookes writes in the New York Post, with emphasis on the Syrian presence in Lebanon. His summary is very similar. "But Syria is swimming against the tide of history — revolutionary, democratic change is taking place in the Middle East. Thanks to President Bush's unwavering stance on freedom and democracy, a new, free Muslim world is just over the horizon."

Gotta love it. Stay tuned...