Sunday, March 27, 2005

Bogus Gold Doesn't Live Here Anymore

The move to Powerblogs is complete!!

Well, as complete as it can be, since the plan was to move the site over pretty much as-is and then start playing with the new features available.

Anyway, please adjust your bookmarks and blogrolls. I will not be updating this site going forward. All the new stuff will be at the new site - and the old stuff is over there too. A little bit of magic Chris from Powerblogs performed last night.

You're all invited over to have a look:

The New Improved Bogus Gold




Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Multi-Media Inquiry into "Funny"

I was surfing through my blogroll yesterday, when I came across this post by Ryan "Rambling" Rhodes: Most. Unfortunate. Logo. Ever.

I thought it was so funny, I called a certain woman I'm married to over to look at it. She didn't get it. For a really long time. Until I had practically explained it in detail.

Her attention was caught, however, by a bizarre picture on the other side of Ryan's page:



Afficianados of fine Internet cartoonery will immediately recognize this as the character Strong Bad. Wanting to share this hillarious fellow with said wife, I clicked over and played a Strong Bad cartoon for her. She didn't find it funny. In fact she walked away shortly after it began (I watched the whole thing of course).

This has me thinking. Might the fact that she didn't find Strong Bad funny be related to the fact that she didn't see the joke in the unfortunate logo?

So I invite anyone else to try. Take a look at the logo. See anything amiss? Then check out Strong Bad. Funny to you? Yes? No?

Report back on your findings. Remember, this is in the noble pursuit of scientific discovery. We might be on the verge of cracking the funny code!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Sending Back the Fishsticks

Captain Fishsticks sailed into port today after recovering from a bout of scurvy. We welcome his return with the enthusiasm of a cheap Amsterdam prostitute on the return of a heavily-crewed fish boat with a fresh load of herring. Or something.

Anyway, Craig “Captain Fishticks” Westover decided to delve into the obscure news story surrounding the case of Terri Schiavo upon his return.

I hugely respect Craig. And he makes many good points in his post. Yet he devotes part of it to specifically disagreeing with me over statements I made here. And I’m happy to answer his challenges. (Read the rest of his post before diving into this part. He has some context one ought to understand before proceding into these arguments.)

First, Craig challenges the Constitutionality of the law passed to specifically allow Terri Schiavo’s parents to appeal their case to federal court.

Bottom line, Congress had no authority to issue special legislation.

(I mentioned the part about reading the rest of his post right? So if you didn’t, don’t blame me for getting lost in what follows.)

Three federal courts. Zero rulings challenging the constitutionality of the law, Craig. And as Hugh Hewitt has pointed out:

The first such complaint is that the federal government has no role in such matters. This will be news to the United States Supreme Court, which in 1990 decided the case of Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health , 497 U.S. 261, (1990).

Not persuasive to one appealing to principle, I admit. Two wrongs don’t make a right of course. But we can at least agree that this removes the groundbreaking “unprecedented” element of the reaction.

But this isn’t the heart of Craig’s objection in any case. That comes in the next three points countering statements made here:

First -- yes, he is the only family member that wants Terri’s life ended (“killed” if you prefer; I don’t). He is also the only one with the legal authority and the sacramental authority granted by marriage to make the decision. If everyone in the family wanted her “killed” and he alone were holding out, would it change the morality or the legality of the situation? It would not.

A cop-out Craig. In almost any other situation Michael Schiavo’s condition of living with another woman with whom he has fathered two children would be admitted as evidence that he had abandoned his “sacramental authority.” (And for the record, according to my own faith, there is no sacramental authority that would ever entitle anyone to starve anyone else to death, ever. This is the same faith Michael Schiavo claims, incidentally. But I admit, our faith has no weight in the law of the land. I leave it to others to decide what weight it deserves in public opinion regarding this case.).

And Craig, preferring to use a term other than “killed” is a cop-out too. She wasn’t dying. She wasn’t even in pain. Despite this, some judge ordered people to stop allowing her food and water. Only in the most legalistic sense can this possibly be construed as anything other than killing her. Assert she doesn’t feel it. Assert she can’t comprehend it. Whatever. But she’s being killed as sure as depriving you of food and water would be killing you.

So we're left with legal authority. So let's strip it down further. Should one person be legally entitled to kill some other innocent person? It's not a dictatorship here. What do you think? I'm a "no freaking way," kind of guy. Is there a "Yes, provided the motives are pure" lobby? "Yes, as long as those killed have no ability to object?" Where do we draw the line here?

Second -- “Ask yourself this question: Should guardians be granted the authority to decide whether their wards live or die?” I am going to assume “within the constraints of law,” answer yes and re-ask “If not the guardians, then who?” Who is qualified to define the moral lines between withholding food and a do-not-resuscitate order? Or no order at all?

Not “no order at all” Craig. No guessing. If you don’t know for certain, err on the side of life. Wards are not the property of their protectors. They’re human lives with rights as inalienable from their “sovereign” as those you claim from your own government. If they don’t even have the right to life, that’s an admission they have no real rights at all. I reject that notion.

Third -- the difference between capital punishment and the Schiavo case is that no one, even by an act of breaking the law, consents to the state the power to take his life (which as discussed above is the authority consented to the state by allowing it to interfere in a spousal decision). The sacrament of marriage -- where two individuals leave their birth families to form their own union -- is a consensual agreement. One may disagree that Michael Schiavo is fulfilling his end of the bargain, but again, there is One more competent than I (or Congress) to judge that.

Woah, Craig. Now you’re scaring me. There is nothing in my marriage vow that says anything about giving my wife the right to snuff me out if I can’t voice an opinion on the matter. And let this post please surface in court some day if I’m indisposed and she tries to do so (To my wife: sorry about not doing the dishes last night.).

Not only is there nothing strictly legal allowing her such a privilege. There is no tradition that marital vows imply such a thing. There is simply the imperative of the moment that prefers to assume a euthanasia imperative. Which is a freaking radical change, Craig. And not something anyone ought to take as lightly as you seem to in this case.

More Trouble for Kooltopia

Yesterday, I offered some helpful advice to the people of Kooltopia to assist their emerging democratic revolution.

Unfortunately, their problems seem deeper than I realized. Today, Instapundit pointed out some photos of the newly dubbed "Tulip revolution" (which I was surprised to discover has very little to do with either the Dutch or Calvinists).

Here's a sampling:












*Sigh*

Let me try to explain this as delicately as I can, with a few examples of the marketing job being performed by the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon:









Anything coming through here? Steve? Mark? Bob? Lola? Are you getting this?

Please don't make me spell it out here. I wouldn't want to put a damper on your enthusiasm for democracy. But get your marketing people on this ASAP.

That's two you owe me.

Now That He's In, The Tent's Too Big

From Professor Bainbridge:

With reference to Congress' intervention in the Terry Schiavo case, Andrew Sullivan opines that:

... religious zealotry cannot be incorporated into conservatism. It is the nemesis of conservatism. And it has to be purged in order for conservatism to be revived.

Andrew has spent a lot of effort trying to redefine conservatism to include gay marriage, but not people who go to church. Actually, to be fair, he includes people who go to church, but only under the provision that they support gay marriage too.

Andrew Sullivan is an excellent example of modern faux-tolerance. Pick a group with a grievance to champion, and then express extreme intolerance toward anyone who stands in the way of your grievance.

We're getting a lot of advice lately from people who seem to partially loathe the Republican Party how to reform it. I think I'd treat those statements with more credibility if they didn't advise us to broaden the tent by first purging everyone they disagree with. You find those kind of parties in places like China, and Cuba. And they are indeed very "big tent" kinds of entities. Heck, they don't even have opposition parties, because clearly everyone agrees with them. Political paradise!

Professor Bainbridge adds:

Hmm. I'm not sure a journalist who's British, gay, and a dissident Catholic, and who supported John Kerry in the last election would be our first choice (or 100th) as a go-to-guy on defining the proper bounds and content of American conservatism.

In any event, isn't the sub-text here pretty obvious? I suspect that what Sullivan really thinks is that there should be no room in conservatism for anybody who doesn't practice Sullivan's unique brand of cafeteria Christianity.

Tolerance for me, but not for thee. If you can't win a debate, ban the opposition. Those intolerant Christians cannot be tolerated any longer!

Any other bumper sticker ideas for Andrew's new campaign to save conservatism?

Jealous of the Easter Ham?

The Ohligarch has a much needed "take your mind off serious matters for a bit" post today:

As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Stayed Outside
Near the building where I work, it is not unusual to see a flock of wild turkeys roaming around the neighborhood. Pittsburgh became a haven for the feathered monsters a few years ago after a controlled hunt in turkey-overrun rural areas of Pennsylvania drove the birds to seek refuge in heavily populated urban areas. (Source: Conversation with one of the hunters about two years ago. He took full credit, and looks forward to a turkey shoot within city limits.) Anyone who visits Allegheny Cemetery in the Lawrenceville section of the city can attest to this.

These urban turkeys have been nice, pleasant, unobtrusive creatures who never bother anybody -- until now. Trib columnist Eric Heyl tackles the matter of a turkey home invasion in an Allegheny County suburb:
Now, no one should feel safe in Carnegie. Not after the large wild turkey crashed boldly through the double-paned casement window in Suzan Barefoot's kitchen, filling the sink with broken glass and stray feathers. When she came upon the creature staring at her confrontationally in front of the stove, Barefoot realized the awful truth. She was the victim of a home invasion.
Nice title too. Anyone other than me catch the reference?

Outrage in the Center

My goodness, so much over-the-top rhetoric coming from the political center lately. And what are they huffy about? What have you got? I'm hearing everything from how we're quickly plummeting into a theocracy, to how conservatism is in danger of becoming just like liberalism. Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan are being frequently cited as paragons of virtue in quarters where those names have never been held in much esteem before.

The only general agreement seems to be that the conservative movement is assuredly doomed.

Let's examine some of the statements:

From Young Curmudgeon:

There is an emerging consensus among intellectuals of the center-right that the conservative movement is falling apart under the stewardship of the Bush administration and the Republicans in Congress. I'd heard talk like this for awhile and generally found it to be premature, but in this week of Schiavo and steroids the idea is now pretty much inarguable.

The same blogger links to an Andrew Sullivan article in The Times:

Beneath the surface, however, American conservatism is in increasing trouble. The Republican coalition, always fragile, now depends as much on the haplessness of the Democrats as on its own internal logic. On foreign and domestic policy alike the American right is splintering. With no obvious successor to George W Bush that splintering will deepen.
Joe Gandelman linked to this post by John Cole yesterday as his "must read" post of the day:

I have said it before- this is jihad for these folks. They don't give two hoots in hell about Terri Schiavo- this is about abortion, religion, and most of all, about power and control. Their concept of morality is king, you see- your behavior in the bedroom, your choice in sexual partner, your desires about end of life decisions, abortion, even the medication you use to ease the pain when you are dying of terminal diseases- their religious text should have authority over you, and if all these 'small-government strict constructionists states right's advocates' have to attain that through government proxy, so be it.
That kind of calm, dispassionate consideration toward the positions of a faction they disagree with is fairly typical of much of the commentary. Apparently there is no pro-life action allowed in the Republican Party anymore without the center freaking out over it. Because the pro-life crowd doesn't muster the rationality and careful diplomacy evident in the quote above. We're too extreme.

I think the most reasonable perspective on this comes from Michael Totten:

I factored in the wholly predictable Republican arrogance and obnoxiousness into my decision well in advance. So I’m not at all shocked that the party is behaving badly and that moderates are taking a walk. I know how they feel because I went through the same thing with the Democrats. If you’re on the center-left or the center-right both of our two parties will eventually steamroll right over the top of you.

If the Republicans want my vote again they are going to have to earn it. They only got part of my vote last time because I needed a port during the storm that blew the old left coalition to pieces. The Democrats could easily play the same role next time if they get their act together while the Republicans lose it.
Well of course. Come election time, voters in the center, just like everyone else, are going to have to choose on balance which candidates and parties best represent their interests. If anyone finds only candidates that perfectly match their every political opinion, then they're either very gullible, or prone to living in fantasy.

There is an element of utter narcicism in this collective shriek from the center, who seem to assume that social conservatives are always happy with every move the Republican party makes. You know, all that progress we've made rolling back Roe v. Wade just proves our every political whim immediately becomes law of the land. And the fact that every public school child starts his day with mandatory teacher-lead prayer establishes the supremacy of social conservatives beyond a doubt.

Incidentally, since these folks didn't similarly freak out over Bush's attrocious Prescription Drug Benefit bill, or his ill-considered furthering of federal intrusion into public education, I have a hard time believing the pressing issue here is concern for federalism. That may be one concern. But the passion over this seems to be driven by a virulent distaste for the pro-life element of the party, and especially the religious portions of that element. That's fine. Entitled to your opinion and all that. But so am I, and I disagree. And I'm capable of doing so without declaring that your dissenting opinon dooms everything.

Before these folks try to scare us with pronouncements of the Republican Party's doom for listening to the pro-life movement instead of public opinion polls, they might want to take a look at this post by Mitch Berg. Rumors of the imminent conservative crack-up seem to come around quite regularly. And we typically survive them just fine.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Assistance for Kryspatchistan

Breaking news from Jay Reding:

Revolution In Kyrgyzstan

Anti-government forces in the embattled former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan have seized control of the capital city of Bishkek this morning as President Askar Ayakev is rumored to have fled to a Russian military base. The protestors also released opposition leader and former Vice President Felix Kulov from jail.

You know, I'm pretty good at geography. But for the life of me, except for the mention of the Russian military base, every location and name in that paragraph sounds like they were made up by a bad Tom-Clancy-wannabe novelist.

Not to diminish the importance of the struggle in Kehhokistan, or where-ever, but can we work on a more America-friendly version of talking about this place? We call Greece "Greece," even though they call their country "Hellas." Germany is "Germany" instead of "Deutchland." England is "The United Kingdom" instead of "Great Britain".... or wait... I mean "England" is to "The United Kingdom" as "Great Britain" is to... no that's not right either. Let's set England aside.

The important point is that we live in a nation with short attention spans and a disdain for places that sound funny. This does not work in favor of emerging democratic movements in places like Kewakistan, or where-ever, who might appreciate the support of the American public in their struggle against Ahab Aysok, or whoever, in Biscotti, or wherever.

Here are some helpful suggestions for renaming the place toward this end:

From now on Kyrgyzstan will be known as Kooltopia in American English.

Bishkek will hereafter be called Bitchin' City.

All the men in the country can choose between "Steve," "Bob," and "Mark," for names. The women will all be called "Lola."

The rest of you can send some money or something. I solved the big problem for you. De nada.

Terri Schiavo - Understanding the Other Side

Much criticism from some quarters over this Peggy Noonan article.

I honestly think some of the outrage is artificially ginned up by people smart enough to grasp the point more accurately than they have. Nevertheless, I will agree it hardly made much of an effort to understand the perspective of the other side. And as the Terri Schiavo case seems to be coming to an end - a very bad end in my opinion - it's important we don't see those who disagree as members of an enemy camp, but rather as fellow citizens with whom we disagreed: people whom we ought to work to persuade to what we consider a better moral view of this kind of situation in the future.

The best attempt at such understanding I've seen so far comes from "anniebird" in the comments section of this post by The Anchoress:

... I think we need to remember that our brothers and sisters who believe Terri should die may view this as an act of compassion. They imagine a soul trapped within a body that refuses to allow it to express itself. They think that surely, after 15 years, every treatment avenue has been pursued, that she has regained all she can of her function, and that what is left is not a life she would want. They remember "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and ask themselves if they would want such a life. Their certain answer is No.

They are not troubled by the lack of inconclusive evidence that these were not Terri's wishes because they don't believe her husband has any ulterior motive. They think Michael is doing a difficult and honorable thing and that any suggestion that he is inappropriately invested in her death is not supported by evidence - there has been no definite proof of abuse. They are concerned about parents who love Terri so much that they might be keeping her alive for themselves, rather than for Terri's good.

They are troubled by the thought of starving someone to death, but soothed by the firm conviction of doctors who assure that this is painless. The traces of doubt are swept away by confirmation that Terri is brain dead - her "liquified cortex" prevents her from feeling pain - insurance that even if starvation is painful, this woman will not feel it.

Forgive the length of this post, friends. I wrote it because I want to point out to you that while I agree that we are witnessing the birth of a most evil culture of death, we must resist the urge to vilify our fellow citizens. To do this is to shut down conversation, and if we can't talk to each other, we can't be part of the Holy Spirit's work among us. Let us help with the softening of souls and the turning of hearts...a great battle awaits.

A healthier perspective on the matter than Peggy Noonan's, I believe.

Letter From an Old Marine to Terri Schiavo

Hat Tip to Noodles at PRM for this. From the American Thinker (I'll only exerpt a bit, please read the whole thing):

Dear Terri,

You don’t know me and you never will. Unfortunately, I know a lot more about you than you could have ever imagined. I am not alone; there are millions of your fellow Americans who can say the same thing. The information I have been given about you is intimate, conflicting and disturbing. I try not to think about you, but the stories about you appear everywhere I look.

...

You see, Terri, this is my experience with protecting life. If there’s hope, if there’s a chance, if there’s a way then we should step into the fray and make it happen. The technocrats will always be there to criticize the efforts. They will sight laws and precedent and opinions. They always do. In Vietnam, they would have been the ones who said that the weather was too bad for the evacuation helicopter to fly into the landing zone where a young soldier or Marine was dying. Despite their pessimism, a brave air crew took off, rescued them and saved lives that were surely lost if they had listened to the pundits.

That’s what sticks in my craw, Terri. Globally, we seem willing to commit American lives to protect and save lives elsewhere, but right here under our noses, we lack the courage to step from behind the technical interpretation of law and personally ensure that everything has been done to protect yours. Just days ago, they ruled that your feeding tubes were to be removed.

...

Soon, Terri, you will be delivered from all this. You will find peace in a place where the purpose of your life is not restricted by the laws of man nor debated by those who have chosen to ignore the primacy of life. You will be whole and beautiful again. When you reach that place, pray for us and forgive us.

Rest in peace, Child of God.

Noodles is right. No one ought to be able to read this and remain unaffected.

Which One is the Stupid Party?

From my compadre Gary over at TBFKADVK:

Move to Revoke Frist's Medical License

THIS sounds like another brilliant political move by the Left.

Besides, those dozens of surgeries Dr. Frist does gratis in Africa each year are probably not needed any longer.

The article at Swingstate Project characterizes the move as playing "hardball." If that's what they call shooting yourself in the foot these days, so be it. I doubt Republican strategists are shaking in their boots over the chance to push Frist's medical work into the forefront of national attention. Not that it will likely get that far.

I wonder if they'll push to remove this guy's blogging liscence for his scary statements about HIV also?

A Religious Case for Killing Terri Schiavo?

This morning The Anchoress links to an article by Neal Boortz offering a religious argument in support of killing Terri Schiavo (though as the Anchoress notes, he refuses to call it “killing,” preferring the inaccurate euphemism “being allowed to die.”).

I’m afraid this post is going to get rather heavy into God-talk. Boortz frames his argument purely in religious terms, so it requires a religious answer. If that’s an uncomfortable topic for you, you’ll probably want to skip it.

Boortz’s main point seems to be that it’s not fair to keep her from her heavenly reward by trapping her in this mortal realm. He challenges religious supporters of preserving Terri’s life this way:

…Do you believe in God’s promise of everlasting life? Do you believe that the reward for a life well spent on this earth is a life with God in heaven after you die?

…perhaps you believe, as I do, that the human soul is so connected to and integrated with its earthly body that any transition will not be made until that body ceases functioning -- until death occurs.. That being the case, why do you so ardently desire that the soul of Terri Schiavo spend five, ten, perhaps 30 years or more trapped in a useless and non-functioning body, unable to move on to whatever reward awaits her? Isn’t 15 years enough?

I know Mr. Boortz is sincere here. But his argument contains fundamental errors.

The first is that this test could apply to anyone at any state in life. Heaven, by common religious consensus, is incomparably better than anything we could experience on earth. So why aren't we all bumping one another off with wild abandon to share the love? Perhaps there's something deeper Boortz is missing here.

It might be that he focuses entirely upon Terri Schiavo in isolation from those around her. A central belief of Christianity (I assume Mr. Boortz is speaking from a Christian perspective, but I may be wrong. In any case he’s directing his comments to a largely Christian audience, so this still applies) has to do with the duty we have toward other people – especially those less fortunate than us. From the Gospel of Matthew:


'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'


Christians are given a mandate by Christ not to abandon the least in society. This is generally taken to mean the lowliest, most vulnerable, and most needy among us deserve at very least the same respect we give our peers. If anything they deserve even more. We’re told to see Christ embodied in such people and treat them accordingly.

Allowing someone to die – particularly someone who would not be dying were it not for the conscious decision to starve them to death – is not considered a merciful act in Christian theology. It’s considered a grave sin.

Yet Boortz isn’t so ignorant he doesn’t know this. He simply thinks that’s not the situation here. He characterizes Terri’s situation like this:

Most of us are aware of the stories related by people who have near-death experiences. The usual scenario is a surgical procedure or some other medical emergency. These people describe a sensation of leaving their body at the very time the heart stops beating and the brain ceases functioning. They tell of floating above their body while watching doctors below working hard to resuscitate, to bring them back to life. As the heart once again starts beating and as the brain resumes its functions, they tell of a sensation of falling back into their own bodies to resume life.

We don’t hear from the patients upon whom resuscitation efforts are not successful. We don’t hear from them because they’ve left us. They’re gone to experience whatever lies beyond. They died.

Is it possible that the soul of Terri Schiavo has been floating – held in some prolonged and excruciating limbo – waiting for doctors to stop interfering with the process of her death? I believe that this is so, and that is why I have supported her husband’s desires to have her feeding tube removed.

Where to even begin here? I suppose the first place is that most of us take our faith a little more seriously than this. “Maybe” tales of near-death experience, even if titillating to a certain audience, don’t trump the clear words of the Gospel. And Boortz goes even beyond such tales into something completely novel and speculative, applying near-death experiences to the mentally handicapped.

The second problem is that Boortz yet again implies that Terri Schiavo’s brain has ceased to function. It has not. It functions at less than full health, but it isn’t “dead.”

Boortz’s position amounts to simply picking an arbitrary line at which he can consider someone dead. There are many mentally disabled people in the world. They’re either dead or alive in some real objective sense, and our personal opinion on the matter doesn’t change this. I think it’s absurd to start calling obviously living people “dead,” and there is certainly no Christian justification for such a thing. Worse than absurd, it’s an attack on their dignity and the value of their lives.

Mr. Boortz is an intelligent man. But he seems symptomatic of a cultural poison that has spread further and deeper than I had realized. Without using the term, he has come to accept the monstrous belief that certain lives aren’t worth living, and therefore have no rights that must be respected. It’s chilling. And it’s about as far from Christian belief as one can get.

UPDATE:

Glenn Reynolds seems to think Boortz's argument is sound, though odd coming from Boortz himself. Wow. That's two well-respected "right-wing" pundits floundering embarrassingly over this issue.

Guys, it's better to simply disagree than to argue from a religious basis neither of you seem terribly well founded in. Glenn would eat me alive if I tried to beat him on legal technicalities here. Why he doesn't realise he's putting himself in the same position by jumping into theology over this baffles me.

Though, to be fair, Glenn might not be endorsing Boortz's opinion.

On Schiavo Polls

No offense Joe, but I really don't care. I've been a long-time critic of politicians who stick their finger to the wind and poll before they determine what they believe. I see no reason to change that now.

Issue oriented polls are fickle, and don't correllate to election results nearly as well as challengers would like. Poll-watch to your heart's content. I'm not offended. But please spare the rest of us from some kind of freak-out when election results don't square with your favorite pre-election poll.

For the record, the right to existence of Joe Gandelman's blog, The Moderate Voice, will never be subject to the opinion of a poll on this blog. We find such a right inalienable, and his value incredibly high regardless of the opinion of others. Yet at times we differ with his opinion. 'Tis the way of things. In no way should this fact invalidate the previous statements.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More Support for Terri Schiavo

I'm a righty. I proudly admit it.

Slate is lefty. Not sure about the "admitting it" part, but everyone else knows it.

Yet this article published in Slate is one I whole-heartedly endorse: Not Dead at All
Why Congress was right to stick up for Terri Schiavo.

Powerblogs here I come!

Things are in motion folks. As mentioned earlier, this blog will shortly be moving from Blogger to Powerblogs.

I'm psyched. I have the new domain purchased. I have the Powerblogs account. I'm looking around at the kind of features I've wanted for a long time that I suddenly have available. Should be fun.

For the record I have no real bad feelings about Blogger. They're the best free service out there. I wouldn't have started blogging if not for Blogger. But I'm ready to pay for something a step up.

Anyway, I'm not exactly sure how the cutover is going to happen. My plan is to keep blogging here until I get the thumbs up from the fellow helping to transfer my blog to the new site that it's ready. At that somewhat unpredictable time, I'll post a message here directing people to the new URL. And that should be the last post ever at this address.

Not sure about the etiquette for such a move. Am I supposed to throw a party? Should others send me gifts? I suppose I could go for the old reliable and involve alcohol in some fashion. But we'll leave that for Keegan's. Where I'll be tomorrow evening. And thirsty. Hint Hint.

Would You Want to Live Like That?

“I would never want to live like that.” It’s a phrase we’ve heard repeatedly from people commenting on the Terri Schiavo case. And it’s a phrase that disturbs me.

First the disclaimers. No, I don’t think expressing such a sentiment makes you a bad person, nor do I think it aligns you by default with either side in the Schiavo case. I take it as an honest expression of horror at the thought that you might one day find yourself in such a condition. The reaction seems visceral, but honest.

Yet here’s my problem. I don’t see how someone can simultaneously hold such a belief and not devalue the lives of those who live in that condition. This is not the same as “demonizing” or “de-humanizing” such people. But it does suggest that they drop down the scale from whatever value you think your life has now, to whatever value you fear it would have in a condition like Terri Schiavo’s. And intentional or not, such a belief must affect your assessment of the value of those who actually are in that condition.

Without sinister intent, this can produce terrible results, as I think it has in the case of Terri Schiavo. If Terri was a walking, talking person as fully functional as she used to be, we would not be having this debate. No court would sanction, and the public would not allow, her husband to have her starved to death - even if she explicitly asked him for such a thing. Yet it has become clear that because she now lives in a state a vast majority of people have determined they themselves would not want to live in, the value proposition of her life has changed in the eyes of the public. Not in the eyes of every single person, but certainly in the eyes of enough to allow it to happen.

Let’s talk for a moment about the right to die. I have stated repeatedly that I would respect the expressed wishes of someone who wanted to die in a condition like Terri is in. I would respect it in the sense that I would not interfere. But I would still find it wrong.

I believe human life has a value the human mind can scarcely comprehend. I think it is far healthier to accept that concept than wait to be persuaded in every possible circumstance.

Two of the great moral teachers on this topic in my life have been Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II.

The former was a champion of the value of lives that were also considered of little value. Lives about which I’m sure many people would also say “I would never want to live like that.” Not only did she care about them, she lived among them. And to the end of her days there was no human life in any condition that she did not find valuable.

Pope John Paul II has been one of the great pro-life advocates of our time. Not only has he written eloquent encyclicals on the topic, like Evangelium Vitae, he has constantly and consistently spoke out on the topic throughout his pontificate. And now, at the end of his life, he offers himself as an example of finding life’s value and dignity in the midst of terrible illness and personal suffering.

Yet there are those who also find the pope’s life not worth living anymore. There have been calls - some subtle, some outspoken – that he should also be “allowed to die,” despite the massive evidence that he has no such wish. And, yes, there have even been statements suggesting the pope has a duty to die because of his current condition. I can’t help but find this directly related to those same statements we’re hearing by so many regarding Terri Schiavo, “I wouldn’t want to live like that.”

We all fear death. Many of us fear suffering even more. And it is apparent that to some there is an even greater fear of the loss of dignity. I think this is a misplaced view of dignity. Real dignity does not depend on the opinion of others. It's inherent in every human life. The greatest danger you could offer to your dignity is to lose sight of that fact.

To those who have expressed a desire to die if ever in a condition like Terri Schiavo, I might not be able to persuade you. But I can at least offer this opinion. I want you to want to live. I want you to see your life posessing a value and dignity that doesn't go away because of unfortunate circumstance. I think we'd have a better society if people recognized that kind of value first in their own lives.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On the Minnesota School Killing

Yes, I live in Minnesota. Yes, there was a spree killing here. Yes, it was tragic. No, I haven't mentioned it.

I'm not good writing about such matters. I don't see them as symptomatic of any great social ills. I see them as symptomatic of eternal flaws in the human character. We're capable of evil. Some of us will choose it.

It's an important topic, and I'm glad others are taking the time to cover it. It's simply not an area I'm especially good at, so I'll leave it to them.

Terri Schiavo - A Perfect Storm

Like many others, I have been surprised by the passion displayed in unexpected quarters by the Terri Schiavo case. In the case of those who passionately share my belief that she has a right to live, this has been heartening. In the case of those who passionately want her to be killed it has been infuriating. In the case of those who passionately want everyone to shut up and stop talking about Terri it has been frustrating. In the case of those passionately stating falsehood as fact and characterizing those with superior information as ignorant it has been darkly amusing.

But it has got me thinking about where some of the passion is arising, and why every statement made by almost anyone involved with the case provokes another explosion in some quarter. Here are a few themes I’ve noticed coming together making this case such a “perfect storm.”

The first theme is probably the most obvious. There is a smouldering resentment among pro-life believers in this country that began when Roe vs. Wade removed the issue of abortion from the control of the legislature, and moved it into the courts. Since then, our courts have become the primary nemesis of pro-lifers, tossing out legislation in favor of life seemingly at whim. As such they have also become the primary hope for those opposed to the pro-life movement, who realize the tide has already turned against them in the legislature, and so cling with desperation to the continued behavior of the judiciary. This drives the kind of passion normally seen in elections into court cases, because there is simply no other recourse regarding this issue.

This leads directly into the second element of the storm which is an out-of-control judiciary. Somehow we have come to a point in this country when a shockingly large number of judges have decided to usurp legislative function. In the Schiavo case this has been a repeated theme. The other symptom of our out-of-control judiciary is its inflated self-importance. The resistance of judges in this case to simply stop killing Terri while there is still a chance - however remote - that her advocates might prevail simply cannot be squared with a judiciary respectful of its proper role.

A third element of the storm is the rapid de-valuing of life in society at large. People succumbing to this mindset deeply resent the pro-life movement. I can honestly say that as recently as five years ago I would never have believed that I would see a court order the execution of a mentally disabled woman. I knew there were advocates of such things, but this was so far outside the mainstream – I thought – that the danger was far in the future. I knew there were plenty of “right to die” advocates, but outside of men like Peter Singer I truly didn’t see such a movement quickly making the jump into forced euthanization. Yet in a shocking number of cases it has. And those who made that jump deeply resent anyone calling such a thing wrong - considering it logically bound with everything from living wills to their personal right to dignity.

A fourth element of the storm is rising anti-Christian bigotry among many of the more secular elements of society. We routinely see Christians – specifically Evangelical Christians and orthodox Catholics – written about in terms that would qualify as “hate-speech” if applied to protected minorities. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of such statements, you might not even notice. But it’s pervasive and common. This is why it wasn’t surprising to me in the least that one of the first arguments used to discredit the defenders of Terri Schiavo’s life was to label them with terms like “religious right-wing,” or “extreme religious right.” Those labels have power in anti-Christian circles, who need know little more about someone than the label to presume sinister intent.

Another element of the storm is the cynical-chic culture, which was captured quite well by James Lileks yesterday:

Then there are the people for whom this is an opportunity for horrid mockery, the people who care about nothing (but will find someday that nothing cares so much about them it has taken over their hearts completely.)

Perhaps a final element (at least the final one I’ll note) accounts for the “pox on both your houses” folks. Aside from occasionally take shots of opportunity at a particularly inviting target on either side, these people principally seem impassioned by the notion that this story isn’t over yet so they can go on to more important things. I suspect part of this motivation is a personal distaste for any political issue so divisive that compromise and resolution seem impossible, therefore leaving one with the horrid prospect of having to choose between “extremes”; “extreme” in this case being defined as something extremely politically divisive.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo - Yes, It's Personal

I have a confession. Part of my passion for the Terri Schiavo case is personal. I have a tendency to get angry about people who talk about the mentally disabled like they're lower forms of life, if in fact they're life at all.

This case boils down to whether or not it will be legal in America for the mentally handicapped to be forcibly put to death. Spin that in whatever flowery terms you'd like. Call my language biased. Retreat into legal arguments and pretend your real issue is about your respect for family rights. I don't care how you play it. I'll just observe the actions some of you enthusiastically endorse, others actively defend, and still others passively allow. Fine with me. A human life is a human life and the treatment you find tolerable toward such life will tell me more about you than all the rhetoric you can muster.

I have lived my entire life with mentally handicapped members of my own extended family. I married a woman who has a mentally handicapped sibling in her immediate family. I married her with the understanding that this sibling would be our responsibility one day. Those of you who have no such experience may not realize how ghoulish your pronouncements of Terri's "unworthy life" come across to some of us.

All these arguments people are making about how they would want to die if ever in such a situation... they strike me as a telling statement about how much value such people place in the lives of some members of my family.

I respect many people who make such statements. People can occasionally speak carelessly and hurt others without reflection upon what they're saying (guilty myself there at times) . I certainly hope that's what is going on here.

The simple fact is that none of you speaking from your current state knows how you would think or feel in the other. Yet your unwillingness to try to find value there - preferring death itself to finding value - is pretty hard to square with the likelihood you truly value the lives of some of my family members.

So yes, there is a personal angle here. I'm creeped out by so many people making arguments that apply to other disabled people just as much as they do to Terri Schaivo- arguments that weigh such lives as having less value than a dog. And I react with anger toward those offended that our government considers such matters more important than the price of tea in China; apologies to the huffy protestations and overall self-importance of the tea-lobby.

I think Terri's life is more important than such interests. I think all such lives are more important than such interests. And I used to live in a country where that notion was self-evident.

Time to sum up: Forced euthanization is immoral. It's not only not merciful, it's a cultural poison. People who advocate the killing of non-consenting innocent people ought to be societal pariahs, because they cause damage far beyond those they directly kill. They cause people to look at some of my own family members as something less than fully human, and that crosses a line for me that I will. Not. Budge.

Do The American People Vastly Support Michael Schiavo?

When I heard about this poll this morning, I simply assumed it was another reflection of something I had encountered personally - people uninformed about the facts of the case. And indeed, it seems to be exactly that. But perhaps even more so for some disturbingly sloppy, biased, and/or lazy media problems.

From Captain Ed this evening:

However, a look at the questionnaire shows that ABC News completely misrepresented Terri's medical condition, which undoubtedly impacted the responses given. Question 2, which asks the central question, claims that Terri is on life support:
2. Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. 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? Do you support/oppose it strongly or somewhat?

Terri has never been on life support. The only medical treatment Terri received for the past five years has been food and water through a feeding tube, which is nothing at all like artificial life support. Artificial life support consists of ventilation for people unable to breathe on their own. The question sets up a strawman argument that so completely contradicts reality that the entire poll must be considered invalid.

And is this sort of thing effective?

Well it is according to the response of another blogger who is intelligent, media-savy, and fiercely independent. From The Moderate Voice this morning:

The question now becomes: "Do we have a Teflon Congress and President?" as a new poll shows Americans overwhelmingly give thumbs down on Congress and the President's stance on getting the federal government involved in the controversy over whether Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed or not.
I doubt ABC would let me reword their question, but just out of curiosity I wonder what the results would have been had the question been worded this way:

"2. Schiavo suffered brain damage and as a result is currently disabled. Her husband's selected doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible, yet other medical experts disagree. The judge in charge of the case will not allow those doctors with opposing views to testify.

Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive, yet her husband can produce no evidence regarding Terri's views on such a matter. Additionally, the husband has refused medical tests such as an MRI, which are standard in such situations to more accurately assess her condition. Many experts believe Terri would respond to therapy, but her husband has also refused to allow this.

Terri's parents have offered to take over the care of her, financially and personally. They want to allow further tests to determine her condition, and allow others to attempt therapy to improve her condition.

What’s your opinion on this case - do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo’s feeding tube? Do you support/oppose it strongly or somewhat?"

How about it ABC? Care to run the poll with that as question number two and compare the results to the previous one?

Terri Schiavo - Public Perceptions of the Judiciary

A good point by Hugh Hewitt on the radio just now. He pointed out that through the Schiavo case a lot of people are learning a lot about judicial indifference to fact, urgency, and justice, and that the judicial system itself may well pay a price as a result. And they will have brought it upon themselves.

Very true. A standing argument I used to have (but finally abandoned in disgust) was with people who liked to advocate legalism in defiance of the principle of justice. It's a potentially fatal flaw in our legal system. When the courts no longer represent justice, but merely the arbitrary will of men, they lose the respect essential to properly fulfill their traditional role in our society.

Obviously courts must respect the laws and procedures as written. But in places where judgement is allowed - and for a judge in his own courtroom there are many such places - it's the responsibility of those within the legal system to see justice done to the best of their ability.

(end of rational discourse - a heated rant to follow)

And I don't give a crap what they taught you in law-school. Many societies in history lost sight of this, and revolt and even revolution resulted. And revolts and revolutions typically suck for all sides involved, so knock it off and straighten the hell up.

If you can't come up with an argument for the legal system killing Terri Schiavo that goes beyond legalistic detail, 90% positive you're part of the problem. That's a hell of a lot greater certainty than it is that Michael Schiavo is acting in Terri's best interest in the case in question.

Countering Some Common Arguments Against Saving Terri Schiavo's Life

In discussing the Terri Schiavo case, I have mostly focused on trying to get the facts out, since MSM reporting has been atrociously incomplete, in some cases biased, and in general plain lazy.

But there is also the rhetorical angle to consider. I’ve noticed a few common arguments made – some directly, some implied – by those opposing the preservation of Terri Schiavo’s life. I thought I’d collect a few of them for examination.

First is the argument that the federal government has no role here; that this should be a private matter among the family. Big problem here. In this case the family is divided. Actually, they’re not terribly divided. There is one and only one family member who wants Terri killed – Michael Schiavo. Ask yourself this question: should guardians be granted the authority to decide whether their wards live or die? Also, since the right to life is a civil right recognized by our Constitution, upon which basis state sentences of capital punishment are routinely appealed to federal courts, why the exception here? Why are Terri’s federally protected civil rights less important than convicted murderers?

A variation of the first argument states that the will of the people of Florida is being trodden on due to federal intervention. This is simply false. The Florida legislature, not Judge Greer, is the best reflection of the will of the majority of Floridians. And the legislature passed a law to protect Terri which was signed by Governor Jeb Bush. A court decided it was unconstitutional. I will assert that the will of the people is far better represented by legislators who have to regularly return to the people to face re-election, than by a few judges. Our government is not designed as the rule of judges. It's the rule of the people. The judicial is our least representative branch of government, and therefore not useful as a barometer of the "will of the people."

Another argument is that “the religious right” is pushing this, because they’re trying to link it to abortion. This isn’t so much an argument as a bizarre scare tactic attempting to influence those afraid of the big bad religious-right and/or the pro-abortion crowd. Yet despite hearing this repeated many places, I have yet to see someone spell out this link. So let me do it for you. It is indeed correct that those who see the value of the lives of the unborn, also see the value of the lives of the severely disabled. Therefore it is no surprise to find pro-life advocates fired up about both issues. However I have personally been surprised by how consistently so much of the crowd who occasionally fancies themselves “pro-choice, but anti-abortion” is coming around to the “some lives are not worth living” point of view (there are of course notable exceptions, but I truly expected more). The slippery-slope of accepting abortion, leading to support of assisted suicide, leading to involuntary euthanasia of “unworthy lives” was predicted by many pro-life advocates decades ago. One side seems to be advancing farther and farther down a radical path, while the other remains consistent to its core convictions. Perhaps it’s not the “religious right” who are the radicalized ones in this case.

A more infuriating argument comes from a legal mindset that apparently believes Judge Greer’s “findings of fact” are the final word, and over-rule anything, including reality. This deference to one branch of our government – indeed to a single judge – has no role in the history of our form of government. Far more significant rulings have been proven laughably wrong on the facts by later discovery. It turns out Dred Scott really was a human being and not property. It turns out the tomato really is a fruit and not a vegetable. There’s really no way to refute this, because it’s a statement of faith in a system in defiance of objective reality. I would simply argue that the role of a citizen in our form of representative government allows one to disagree with any court, any time, provided one remains within the boundaries of the law. Judge Greer's findings of fact are, at best, incomplete.

Then there are the predictable “hypocrisy” accusations. Since they seem to have such prominence in certain sectors, I suppose they deserve some mention. And the mention is this: Life is more important than rhetorical consistency. If you disagree, you scare the hell out of me. If my life is ever on the line, I’m completely willing for every hypocrite, fornicator, fool, and fraud to come to my aid and save me. And speaking of hypocrisy, I find it rather hypocritical for anyone to accuse politician of scoring political points over this... and use that political basis as reason to oppose the actions attempting to save Terri Schiavo. Pot meet kettle. If you want politics out of this decision, practice that belief in your own rhetoric regarding this case, deciding right and wrong on the merits.

President Bush Signs Bill to Save Terri Schaivo

From Powerpundit this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush early on Monday signed emergency legislation aimed at prolonging the life of a brain-damaged Florida woman, Terri Schiavo.

"Today, I signed into law a bill that will allow federal courts to hear a claim by or on behalf of Terri Schiavo for violation of her rights relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life," Bush said in a written statement.

"In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo who live at the mercy of others," he said.

Yes!! Especially to that final paragraph.

To Michael Totten Regarding Terri Schiavo

I'm about to use a writer I admire a lot as a symbol of something I consider pretty bad. On the offhand chance he ever discovers this blog, I hope he doesn't take it personally.

You see the problem isn't with him, or his values, or his morals. It's with his facts. And for some stubborn reason when it comes to the Terri Schiavo case the main people in favor of killing her want facts supressed, and for the life of me I can't understand why this is allowed without serious inquiry by a fairly large number of people I have no reason to believe intend anything untoward.

But facts are stubborn things. And I'm a stubborn man. So let's apply some of this stubborness to the recent post on the topic of Terri Schiavio from Michael Totten. In fact, I'll write this directly to Michael.

Let me get directly to the points where I disagree with you Michael, because I find them symbolic of a large segment of the public who retreat into safe cliches rather than confront some very uncomfortable truths about this case.

You state:

[H]ere’s a quick summary for those who are out of the loop: She’s been in some sort of vegetative state for fifteen years, her husband has fought to take her off life-support, and her parents have fought to keep her on it.
No Michael. That's not a "summary." It's a falsehood. She might be "vegetative" by legal ruling, but not in the sense 90 percent of us would use the term to mean. And, more to the point, she is not on any "life support" unless being allowed food and water is now to be considered the same as an artificial respirator.

A challenge to you Michael. Deprive yourself of only those things Terri Schiavo is being denied by court order, and let us know how well you do in a couple of weeks.

What's more, I'm sorry Michael, but you're making a terrific case for representing the very worst of the "non-partisan" politcal affiliation. Much of your argument amounts to digust that the two parties are at odds over this. And in the process you completely lose the value of a real, living, breathing, human life in your calculation. The lens of your political analysis appears as cold and calculating as that of any party apparatchik. Reactionary perhaps, but just as cold. And I've read you long enough to realize this isn't even how you think in general, so why on earth go there now?

You criticize "pull the plug." Michael, there is no "plug" in this case. It's food and water. That's the same "plug" we all have.

The difference here is that she relies on others to provide it. She's in the power of others. Is their decision sufficient reason to deny her food an water? Think seriously about this Michael. Take the Republicans and Democrats out of it. Don't think about elections. There's a real person who is really dying by court order who needs only food and water to live. On what basis should that be denied?

It is my contention that you don't need to get very deep into the facts of this case to become outraged with the rulings and outcome. But it is also my contention that the vast majority of people in favor of Terri's death are, intentionally or not, depriving themselves of fact and reatreating into safe assumption. Here are some facts for those of you in that camp.

And if you get tired of that come back and say so. It's the tip of the iceberg. I can give you plenty more if you're unpersuaded. Just be prepared to let the rest of us know what is sufficient basis to you for not killing a disabled person. That's a side of this debate going strangely silent as the rhetoric shifts all around.

Moving Rumors

As I struggle with Blogger yet again this evening, it is probably an appropriate time to mention that there has been an executive decision here at Bogus Gold to finally leave the confines of Blogger. At least leave it shortly.

I purchased a domain tonight and am in negotiations with a particular service. Okay, it's Powerblogs.

I'm not sure how long this stuff takes, but very soon the address to get to this blog will be: www.bogusgold.com. The "blogspot" part will be gone with thanks for the good times, but no regrets for moving on.

I'll keep you updated. No need to do anything crazy with your bookmarks at this point.