Monday, March 28, 2005

Terri Schiavo

The sad and tragic case of Terri Schiavo has captured the imagination of our nation. Much of the media portrays this as a religious debate, but there are also factual questions involved here -- namely is she really brain dead, and does she feel no pain as she slowly dies of thirst and starvation? Yesterday, a priest who is the spokesman for her parents said Schiavo smiled, raised her hands and made guttural sounds late Sunday while being visited by her father and a friend. Another report I read, from, said hospice workers have provided Terri morphine to be able to ease the tremendous pain that comes with dying from dehydration.

Are these people lying, or are they engaged in wishful thinking? If the answer to both is no, then why are we letting her die in this manner? It seems to me what we have here is de facto euthanasia, and with that decision made, it would be more humane to give her real euthanasia, so she could die more quickly and painlessly.

The other question that comes to mind is, why are her parents and siblings forced to stand by in protest while the decisions over her life are made by her husband of five years who is now virtually remarried to someone else with whom he has had two children? It seems at the beginning of life, pro-abortion rights advocates support the right of the mother to determine the future of the unborn child, but at the end of life they oppose the right of a Schiavo's parents to decide her future, instead letting that decision rest with her husband who is now sharing his life with another woman.

Whatever charges of hypocrisy may be leveled at the Bush administration, or other conservatives on this issue, I believe the above questions need to be addressed.

The cell phone

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, while driving on the Bay Bridge toward San Francisco, I noticed a burning smell. I looked at the temperature guage, and saw to my horror that the car was overheated, with the guage pointed at the extreme. With about a mile to go to Treasure Island, and smoke or steam coming out of the engine, I just made it to the turnoff. Fortunately I had a cell phone and Triple A (although I did not realize I had the basic service, meaning I had to pay $10/mile over five miles of towing). It was raining and the tow truck driver had some problems finding me, but finally he arrived and I had the car towed to a Berkeley repair shop. Now I wait today to find out what the damage is, in the meantime relying on foot or the bus for transportation.

This morning there was a news segment about how widespread the use of the cell phone has become. Some people might consider it a nuisance, but the car is one place where it is essential. Because I don't need to use a cell phone frequently, I have a Virgin Mobile phone, which allows me to just buy a card at various values ($20, $30, etc.), as opposed to having a monthly plan. The only precaution is that you have to keep the phone account at a certain level, otherwise you risk it running out of money. That almost happened to me yesterday, as I had only about $1.50 left in the account at the conclusion of several long phone calls. The charge is 25 cents per minute, 10 cents per minute after using the phone for 10 minutes in a day.

The other message from this experience is: do not stop on the Bay Bridge or other bridges and similar highway structures if you can avoid it; drive to the nearest turnoff instead. Better to risk the car's health than your own life.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Going on strike?

I attended a meeting of my union the other day, the Coalition of University Employees (CUE), which represents clerical workers in the University of California system (I am a library assistant, hence a clerical worker). It seems a strike is possible within a month. The leaders cited a report which said we employees should be paid significantly higher. We had a strike a few years ago, but that had a definite beginning and end, lasting just a few days. This strike, on the other hand, would be open-ended, meaning it could last several months. I don't want to cross the picket line, but on the other hand, I cannot afford to go indefinitely without a paycheck, and with questionable job security, especially after I have worked so many years for the university and am looking forward to retirement. I believe that is the situation of many other UC employees represented by CUE. Our pay is not great, but it is not like we are working at Walmart, which is the current job trend in our country. I wonder sometimes if the CUE leaders are just in that old 60s Berkeley mode, looking for a people's confrontation with the establishment.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Misrepresenting Howard Dean

In his careless misreading of a Cornell Daily Sun report on Howard Dean's speech at Cornell, columnist Robert Novak on CNN claimed Dean said that if left untended, over the years Social Security will lose about 80 percent of the benefits. The Republican National Committee thought so much of it that it posted Novak's comment on its website, with a link to the CNN video of Novak. However, what Dean said was that if left alone for 30 years SSI benefits would be reduced to 80 percent of what it is now. In other words Novak was off by 60 percent in his misrepresentation of Dean. Let us see how long it takes for the RNC or Novak to correct the error.

Update: The RNC website deleted the reference to Novak citing Dean within a day, but did not mention its error nor apologize. Novak was quoted by CNN's Judy Woodruff several days later as stating he had meant to cite Dean as saying SSI would be reduced to 80 percent of its current benefits, not by 80 percent. Media Matters for America, which commented in some detail on this whole issue, noted that (as of March 7) Rush Limbaugh was still citing Novak's original statement without correction..

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