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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.



This week throughout Iran there were monster demonstrations in eleven provinces and 37 cities, and many thousands — one source said more than 30,000 — people were arrested, some only briefly, others shipped off to the infamous prisons and torture chambers of the regime. The most dramatic events took place in Shiraz, where the demonstrators directed a chant toward Washington: "Bush, you told us to rise up, and so we have. Why don’t you act?"Which is precisely the right question. The president publicly promised the Iranian people that the United States would support them if they acted to win their own freedom, and the Iranians are now calling on Bush to make good on that promise.



No, this is not a blonde joke. If you want one of those, go to this week’s Humor File. Cleopatra was in fact a blonde. That’s because she was not Egyptian. She was a Macedonian Greek, with hair as blonde as Alexander’s. Alexander conquered Egypt in 332 BC, then went on to subdue all of the Middle East. When he died nine years later, his just-conquered empire was fought over and carved up by his generals. The one who ended up running Egypt was Ptolemy (367-283 BC). Declaring himself Pharaoh, he founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty, with twelve Ptolemies in succession, many of whom had wives named Cleopatra. The Cleopatra we know, lover of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, was the daughter of Ptolemy XII, and entitled Cleopatra VII (69-30 BC). There was not a drop of Egyptian blood in the Ptolemies. They remained 100% Greek, including the Queen of the Nile herself Cleopatra. Can you imagine Elizabeth Taylor as a blonde? It kind of shakes up your image of history. I am writing this overlooking the Nile in Cairo. The Pyramids of Giza are in the distance. If there is one thing omnipresent in Egypt it’s history - and most all of that history is old, in more ways than one. For 3,000 years, Egypt has been a sleeping giant. Now it may be about to reawaken.



The White House is becoming increasingly concerned about Pootie-Poot. He actually said point-blank to one of Bush’s key advisors: “Mr. Bush is in no position to criticize me on my actions towards the Russian press - look at how he fired Dan Rather.”



Now that I’m using Firefox and Thunderbird exclusively, I’ve become disappointed. Not surprisingly, I’ve read more about them, and a number of blemishes have been showing up in the Information Technology press. Some even question the integrity of Mozilla Organization. Furthermore, press reports indicate that Internet Explorer 7 will be released this year. It will have a tabbed interface, cut way down on resource use, and allow third party additions that will dig less deeply into the operating system itself. I’ve also heard this directly from two Microsoft contacts, both of whom are in positions to know.