Sunday, March 27, 2005

Get It In Writing

As of this writing, I am a scant two days away from turning 34 years old. If we refuse to deal with exact fractions - I was never any good with those damn things, anyway - that puts me at a little over 1/3 of a century old. As I've refused to get emotional over my age, it remains little more that an abstract curiosity, but I'm chuckling at my teenage self who would have called me "old."

As of this writing, Terri Schiavo is at a little more than a week without her feeding tube. It's highly likely that she will die within the next few days, which will bring the frenzied legal hoopla and protesting to a close. I've refused to get emotional over that, either, (well, sort of), and it remains somewhat dreamlike in its sheer surreality, but I'm dreading the wall of sheer nonsense that's doubtlessly going to follow her passing.

What do these two things have in common? A harsh reminder that we are, as Rush was kind enough to point out, "only immortal for a limited time."

I was 26 in 1997. That's when I was less than one year married, and living in Athens, Ohio. Our plans of where we wanted to be by that point had not worked out, so I was working at Papa John's Pizza, which is about as hand-to-mouth as you get. And while we were focused on the future - trying to get CJ a job in her field, rather than typing checks for some company - our immediate concerns were just staying afloat.

Terri Schiavo was 26 in 1990. That's when she suffered a heart attack that put her into the condition she's in now. She may have had plans and concerns, but they were all taken from her in a single moment. And she's been staring at the ceiling ever since: no more good or bad career moves, no more anything - just someone turning her every so often to avoid bedsores.

I don't think I've put too much thought into what seriously bad things might happen to me. I've always believed, for one reason or another, that I can walk away from any accident, and bounce back from any disease or condition. Worrying about winding up brain dead - or in a "persistent vegetative state," as they call Mrs. Schiavo - is a foreign concept to me, kind of like worrying about waking up as a cockroach, or being kidnapped by hot dogs from outer space.

But it could happen. It could happen to me, it could happen to you. It could happen to anyone you know, whether they're in your family or outside of it, just like it happened to Terri Schiavo.

Terri probably thought she had the rest of her life to worry about these sorts of things, if she worried about them at all. But that's life for you: never certain, never predictable, and
very happy to take your plans and trample them underfoot like bull-runners at Pamplona.

In many ways, the Schiavo affair is a textbook case of what all could go wrong. If only she'd had the foresight to make out a living will, and take out other assurances, this whole affair of her "living" or dying probably wouldn't even be a byline in the local paper. Her parents might not have been happy about it, and may have brought legal action to try and stop it, but what could they really have done?

So if there's one thing that this mess has taught me - other than the perils of having Randall Terry as your "family spokesman" - it's that it's not enough to just tell
people you want this or that done. Not nearly enough.

They may forget, or might have other ideas.

They might not be sure what you'd want done under a slightly different circumstance.

One family member might disbelieve the one you told, or there could be a falling out once you're not up and around any more.

And, though we hate to say it, greed and apathy might force people to do things you wouldn't want done.

So don't take chances: get it in writing.

Talk it over with the ones you love, make plans for the worst case scenarios, and make sure all the i's are crossed and all the t's dotted... or something like that.

There's a fairly good article about it over at the Washington Post. I'd suggest reading it, and then discussing the matter with your family and/or your spouse.

It will cost time and money, and may have some headaches associated with it. But anything has to be better than the circus of stupidity and self-righteous bickering we've been "treated" to over the last couple weeks.

You, your family and your loved ones deserve peace of mind. You also deserve to be remembered for your life, rather than a nasty court case over your death.

Get it in writing. Do it today.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Schiavo Case Reveals Skewed Priorities

Denied the chance to drag the woman in front of Congress, via a subpoena, the House is meeting in emergency session to draft legislation designed to get Terri Schiavo's feeding tube back in, and put her case before a Federal court. The Senate is expected to meet and draft a similar bill, and President Bush is cutting short his trip to his Texas Ranch to return to DC and sign whatever comes out of the compromise. And, in theory, this will buy Mrs. Schiavo a few more weeks (months? years?) of a life she's not even aware of, anymore.

I have to say how nice it is to see Congress being this excited about doing anything. I mean, I expect this kind of rapid action from the Republican House, given their tendency to fast-track pro-business measures before the Democrats can cry foul. But if you watch them go at it, you sort of get the idea they're just going through the motions. ("What, me work?")

But President Bush? Interrupt his vacation?

Keep in mind that this was the same man who didn't care to interrupt his Christmas vacation, much less make a statement, in the wake of last December's horrific Tsunami. I guess the life of one American woman in a persistent vegetative state is more important than the lives of hundreds of thousands of Asian people, and the greatest natural and humanitarian disaster of our lifetime?

(Oh, but we donated a lot of money, later. So that made it okay for Bush not to make any "presumptive" statements in the face of immense tragedy. That wouldn't have been... prudent?)

Also keep in mind that this is the same Senate that can't be bothered to properly investigate our faulty, pre-war Intelligence. I guess the life of one American woman in a persistent vegetative state is more important than the lives of American soldiers, who went to save us from WMDs that just weren't there?

(Oh, but they have Democracy now, just like Hezbollah in Lebanon. So that makes it okay to not care too much. That wouldn't be... patriotic?)

But this is not - repeat, not - a Federal matter. Barring the Supreme Court looking into the matter, which they've elected not to do, it is a matter for the Florida courts to decide. And, for better or for worse, they already have, and ruled in favor of her husband's wishes.

Conservatives like to drone on and on about how the Federal government routinely oversteps its bounds. This is a perfect example, only this time it's the Conservatives, themselves, who are behind the overstepping.

But that's okay, because "This is about defending life," as Press Secretary Scott McClellan put it. Even though all this action - and who knows how many millions of taxpayers' dollars - are bring brought to bear to save the "life" of woman who is, for all intents and purposes, simply not there, anymore. Anywhere from 100% to most of her cerebral cortex has atrophied and been replaced with spinal fluid, and she's been in a persistent vegetative state for the last 15 years.

And that's as perfect a snapshot of the Federal pro-life movement as any. They'll move heaven and earth to stop one brain-dead woman from having her feeding tube removed - and tomorrow, the abortion clinics? - but they won't do that much to improve the quality of life here at home. I mean, we can take care of that ourselves, can't we?

Or can we? One of the major criticisms of capitalism - or its most extreme application, via Libertarianism, at least - is that people don't always make with the charity just because they're being taxed less. It would be nice if Bush I's "thousand points of light" were really out there, doing big favors for tiny people. But I just don't see them, anymore (except for the ones who get arrested for kiddy-diddling).

So if the Federal government's going to go to all this trouble for one woman, who isn't really there anymore, why don't we see this kind of concerted action and Federal oversight applied to people who are here, and need help?

As it is, the Federal Government already has a metric ton of problems on its plate. For example, how's that AIDS cure coming along? Why are we sending millions in foreign aid when people are starving, homeless and stuck below the poverty line right here at home? How's that job creation going, and how are our borders? Hell, how's the dollar, or our trade deficit, or our national debt...?

I could go on, but you've got the idea. But does our Government? Because if pro-life people in the Congress - and our "pro-life" President - really want to grandstand on something, I can think of a number of loose nails for them to bring the Federal hammer down on top of.

And maybe we should start suggesting some. ›

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Game we Call Gaslighting Davey

If you just can't get enough of the "war criminal" exam amusement, here's horowitzwatch to spell it all out

Too funny for words. Even Davey's bowing out of talking about it any further.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Anti-Syrian Protesters Flood Lebanese Capital

By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of anti-Syrian protesters flooded central Beirut Monday in what witnesses said was Lebanon's biggest demonstration since former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri's killing exactly a month ago.

Flag-waving crowds from across Lebanon packed the capital's Martyrs' Square, near Hariri's grave, and swamped nearby areas to demand an international inquiry into his death, the sacking of Syrian-backed security chiefs and a total Syrian pullout.

In contrast to previous anti-Syrian protests since a bomb blast killed Hariri on Feb. 14, many Sunni Muslims joined Druze and Christians in taking to the streets. Hariri was a Sunni.


Organizers said a million people had joined the protest. No independent estimate was available, but witnesses said the rally looked even bigger than last week's pro-Syrian demonstration organized by Hizbollah and attended by hundreds of thousands.

I think this is great, in a tit-for-tat kind of way. If Hezbollah gets a million on the street in the next week, I can only hope these folks get 2.5 a couple days later.

Keep in mind that Lebanon has a population of 3.5 million. So if there's a million people on the streets saying Syria out, that really is a massive protest.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Kicking the Hornet's Nest

Who hasn’t been thrilled to death to see large numbers of Lebanese come out against Syrian control of their country? The rest of the Lebanese, apparently: no sooner had President Bush lauded the sight of thousands of people voting with their feet than hundreds of thousands with a different view did the exact same thing.

Of course, there’s a good chance the massive counter-protest was phoned in from Damascus, and a lot of the people there were doing so under threat. But while there’s always a question as to whether Hezbollah is acting on Syria’s behalf, or following their own agenda, there’s no question that they have the numbers to back them up - big time.

Maybe next time Bush will learn to try some reverse psychology and condemn anything he wants to see continue. If he announced “Darn you, Assad, stay in Lebanon!” then the Syrians might wonder what he was planning, and start inching for the border just to be safe...

But putting all cynicism aside, it is a good thing to see massive protests against the Syrian occupation. Their army’s been there far too long, and they’re not up to any good. The sooner they get back across their border - and help stop insurgents from crossing into Iraq, provided they’d care to - the better.

Of course, the Left is giving President Bush no real, direct credit for the so-called “Cedar Revolution,” much to the chagrin of the armchair culture-warriors of the Use-America Right. It’s almost as if they wanted to be invited to a party - or be made a high-ranking minister in the new government, just like Ahmed Chalabi.

But while I’m sure that the toppling of Saddam Hussein has made Assad rethink his own position, and made him more cooperative - at least on the surface - the true flashpoint for the movement came as a result of Rafik Hariri’s death. So, in order to give the President direct credit, we would have to accuse him of being behind the bomb that killed Rafik in the first place.

While there’s probably no shortage of people on the loonier fringes of the Left who would be happy to point that finger, I highly doubt it. But in a way, the accusation is right on target: Hariri’s death can be directly attributed to our invasion of Iraq, much in the same way that every kidnapping and beheading, car bomb and other, “complimentary” act of Terror that’s happened in the region since then.

Put simply, by invading we stirred up a massive hornet’s nest that was just waiting for us to show our faces underneath it. We’ve reaped a wealth of stings and bites ever since, and the hornets are moving far afield in search of new targets.

Case in point: the group that has claimed responsibility for Hariri’s death, the Group for Advocacy and Holy War in the Levant - *whew!* - seems to have popped up out of nowhere. Would we be hearing from them at all minus our invasion? Somehow I doubt it, and I have to wonder how many more Jihadist groups are going to spring up out of “nowhere” to vex us...

Unfortunately, you can’t say things like this, because it’s super-bad treason to even think it. “We have to support our troops,” say the people at the thinktanks and websites who are mysteriously nowhere near the front lines.

After all, Saddam Hussein is no longer in power, plotting to attack us with his massive stockpiles of invisible WMDs, or making secret deals with terrorist organizations that wanted him dead, too. He will no longer be torturing or killing Iraqis who express views contrary to official opinion, either - that particular task has been delegated to the interim government, with the occasional bad apple in uniform taking the initiative to help out.

But in spite of all these positive developments, I say there’s still ample room for meaningful criticism. By invading, we turned a manageable situation - Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, under our thumb since 1991 - into a real mess, giving the bastards both cause and opportunity. And more chaos has shaken out of the nest to keep our in-Iraq troubles company.

Of course, there’s opportunity in chaos. But chaos has to be carefully shepherded - there is no “managing” it - if you want the end result to be anything you’d want to take credit for. And will the Bush II Administration be happy to say that they “took credit” for Hezbollah coming to power in post-occupation Lebanon?

In the end, I have to applaud the Cedar Revolution. But it would be a good idea for everyone sitting on the sidelines - or coordinating the chaos from the beltway - to remember that there’s more than one kind of tree in Lebanon. And some of them like to set themselves on fire.