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We only recognize giants when they are gone, heroic ages when they are past. The day will come when America’s children will learn that the 1980s was such an age, bestrode by three giants who together rid the world of one of the great evils of history, the Soviet Union. They were Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher. Now, only one is left. We mourned the passing of Ronald Reagan last year, Pope John Paul’s this, so before we mourn Lady Thatcher’s, who turns 80 this October, let us acknowledge the incalculable debt those who live in freedom today owe to this triumvirate of truly extraordinary human beings. It is easy to believe the hand of Providence set them on history’s stage one after the other in the short space of two years, exactly at the time America and the West was on the verge of surrender to the seeming inevitability of Soviet power. Easy to believe with hindsight. But at the time,a Polish priest, an English woman commoner, and an American movie actor were about to confront the most evil power in the world. How off the wall do you want history to get? Truth is not simply stranger than fiction, it is more dramatic and awe-inspiring.



This map of Bolivia may about to become obsolete: bolivia.jpg For some time now, a lot of Bolivians have been conducting a “Gas War,” blocking roads, demonstrating in cities like El Alto and Cochabamba to prevent the export of Bolivian natural gas by foreign companies. The fellow coordinating the protests is Evo Morales, a Marxist prot�g� of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, the leader of the MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) Party, and also the leader of coca leaf growers (the stuff that’s made into cocaine). The protests brought down the presidency of Gonzalo Sanchez do Lozada in October 2003 and continue to escalate: 820 in the last 17 months. The current government of Sanchez’s successor Carlos Mesa in teetering. There’s just one problem for Morales and Chavez. The Bolivians who are protesting are not the Bolivians who live where the gas is. Bolivia is about to split in two.



Is your hard disk about to crash? A friend of a friend called. He was clearly in distress. He downloaded what he said was a highly regarded hard disk analyzer and it said his disk was about to crash. Should he back everything up, buy a new hard disk and reinstall everything? I asked him which OS he ran - XP Pro. Same as me. So I downloaded the program and asked it to analyze my C disk. The program is called Hard Disk Inspector. I had never heard of it. After installation I asked it to analyze and monitor my disks. Then I looked at its report. The first screen was reassuring. Then I looked at what Hard Disk Inspector so cleverly called S.M.A.R.T. details. Gulp. Not so encouraging.



“I hate to say this to Iraqis, but I pray for chaos and civil war,” Nina from Toronto emailed the BBC. "It's the only way to stop Bush's policies and show that peace can never come through force. If Iraq gets peace, Bush gets credibility. It cannot be allowed to happen." These are miserable days for Nina and others of her ilk. Two British newspapers report that the resistance in Iraq is crumbling. Sharif Ali bin al Hussein, a Sunni Muslim who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement, told the Financial Times that “many insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process if they receive guarantees for their safety.” Mr. Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections “dealt the insurgents a demoralizing blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process,” the Financial Times reported March 26th. The left-wing Guardian reported March 27th that "the Iraqi resistance has peaked and is turning on itself, according to recent intelligence reports received by Middle Eastern intelligence agencies."



A couple of years ago, before I learned better, I was on a BBC radio broadcast in which they had a reporter on the scene in Tehran reporting on big riots in Tehran following a soccer game. The BBC woman in London asked me what I thought about it all, and I said it was a sign of discontent with the regime. She commented, "But we have soccer hooligans in England, too, don't we?" To which I responded, "Yes, but they aren't burning effigies of Tony Blair. The Iranians are burning pictures of Khamenei and Rafsanjani."The Iranians continued to do so last week, which of course the media continued to pretend it was just another soccer riot.



It used to be called Rhodesia, named after its colonial founder, Cecil Rhodes. Before that it was Southern Rhodesia, distinguished from Northern Rhodesia, now called Zambia after the Zambezi River. It was one of the most beautiful and productive countries in the world when I was first there in the early seventies. Now it is hell on earth. It is, of course, Zimbabwe.As most all African countries, it is a national fiction, a colonial construct with no historical or cultural viability as a country. It has been run since “independence” in 1980 by one of the world’s most racist dictators on earth, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who changed Rhodesia’s name to Zimbabwe after the ruins of a stone fortress built 800 years ago by the Karanga people.All elections are completely rigged by Mugabe’s party, the ZANU-PF. The parliamentary elections held today will be no exception. It was patently rigged elections that caused the recent overthrow of the corrupt governments in Georgia, Ukraine, and last week in Kyrgyzstan. These were hailed as “velvet” revolutions, peaceful and bloodless. You can have no such hope for Zimbabwe. Africa doesn’t do bloodless.



Terri Schiavo has committed no crime, yet she has been sentenced to death by Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who steadfastly jettisoned due process in her case. The fundamental issue in Terri's case is disability rights -- not the right to die. Throughout all the extensive media coverage of the case, there has been only slight mention, but usually none at all, that nearly every major disability-rights organization has filed legal briefs to prevent what they regard as judicial murder. The protests are not only from pro-lifers and the Christian Right. Mrs. Schiavo -- who collapsed in 1990 from what may have been a potassium imbalance that temporarily stopped her heart and cut oxygen to her brain -- has never been comatose, brain dead or in a persistent vegetative state, despite what some physicians have stated and others have denied. Michael Schiavo has forbidden therapy or rehabilitation for Terri since 1991, or any further tests since 1993. Terri has never even had an MRI or PET scan, let alone a complete neurological examination.



I just returned from ten days on the Nile in Egypt. It was a special experience to see it once again, this time through the eyes of my 12 year-old son Jackson. A wonderful side-benefit to such an experience is that you get to ignore newspaper headlines and all the general craziness of the world, if only for a few days. I didn’t read a single paper or magazine while I was gone. So when I arrived back home to wade through those that had piled up in my absence, one lunatic event after another kept popping out at me. After plenty of goofy international headlines, my laughing fits continued with stories here in the US. 59 former State Department diplomats have written a letter demanding the Senate not confirm John Bolton as Ambassador to the UN. Among the signers were Princeton Lyman, Monteagle Stearns, and Spurgeon Keeny. These weirdo first names are not made up inner city jive monikers like Paluja Ratoomba. Only Ivy League ultra-blue-blood aristocrat pansies get names like that. I’m sure Bolton is worried sick that a bunch of over-the-hill Little Lord Fauntleroys are scared he is going to explain reality to the representatives of Third World dictatorships. But then the lunacy stopped being funny. The Bush Brothers’ refusal to prevent Terri Schiavo’s killing will do lasting political damage to them both.



After a break I’m resuming the discussion of PDAs this week. Last time I discussed the various models of Palm Pilots. This week I’ll take a look at Pocket PCs. Pocket PCs have been around for a few years, and unlike Palm, are made by several different manufacturers, such as Asus, Dell, Toshiba, HP and Compaq. All have certain features in common, including a stereo headphone jack, IrDA infrared ports, stylus, built-in speaker and microphone, and Windows MediaPlayer (which can handle MP3 files and Windows Media format movies, ASF and WMV), as well as Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, and Pocket Internet Explorer, a calculator, MSN Messenger and Pictures for viewing photos. Many come with Terminal Services and MS Reader. In recent months some manufacturers have added WiFi, Bluetooth. and even a digital camera.



The perplexing, appalling, heartbreaking Terri Shiavo case brings very modestly to mind Socrates's injunction that the proper study of philosophy is man. Perhaps the great Socrates could make the study of man a useful endeavor, but if the Schiavo case is any example, most of the rest of us don't seem up to the task. But there is nothing new in recognizing man's heroic inadequacies. Consider the first stanza of the Christian Enlightenment poet Alexander Pope's The Proper Study of Mankind :

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of Mankind is Man. Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest, In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast; In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer, Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err, Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little, or too much: Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd; Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of Truth, in endless error hurl'd: The glory, jest and riddle of the world!
I would say that pretty neatly sums up the human handling of the Schiavo matter. It seems that every contrivance of man has fallen short on behalf of the helpless Terri Schiavo.