Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terry Schiavo has died

From From CNN
Terri Schiavo, the 41-year-old brain-damaged woman who became the centerpiece of a national right-to-die battle, died Thursday morning, nearly two weeks after doctors removed the feeding tube that had sustained her for more than a decade.
May God bless her. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Traitor!

If Dave Brooks spent the rest of his time on Earth defending big government conservatism, I do not believe I would be as irate at him as I am for this travesty of a column. It seems Brooks is contemplating switching his baseball allegiance from the Mets to the Nationals.

As a relatively new DC resident who probably will spend of my life here, I am pretty excited about baseball coming back to the District. It is long overdue, and will be a welcome summer amusement. Moreover, the Nats play in the same division as the Mets, and therefore will play 9 or 10 games against them each year at RFK.

I actually will probably roots for the Nats - that is, when they're not playing the Mets. I usually don't root for the teams that play in the locations in which I live. Believe me, I took immense joy while at Emory in watching the Braves, Falcons, and Hawks lose. One of my fondest sports memories was watching the Knicks beat the Hawks in the 1999 playoffs at the Georgia Dome. There were more Knicks fans in attendance, and we pretty much had a fullout party after the game. Actually it was kind of sad. There is no way in hell an opposing teams' fans would be able to carry on like that in the Garden. But that's Atlanta sports for you.

Similarly, I detest the Redskins and take a great deal of amusement watching the Skins fans get all hopeful about the upcoming season, only to have their hopes dashed again and again and again. Though I must say that at least Redskins fans, unlike Atlanta sports fans in general, support their team through thick and thin, and for that they have earned my grudging respect.

But with the Nationals, I feel a little differently. I suppose it's because I already was living here when they arrived, and thus I feel like they are a little bit more my team.

But I can never truly be a Nationals fans. Being a Met fan is part of my identity. I have given enormous amounts of time and energy for this team. I have cried tears of sadness after crushing playoff defeats in 1999 and 2000, and have also been through the enormous joy of a world championship. I still get chills every time I walk into Shea Stadium, even if it is a dump. And, as always, I get to anticipate with great optimism a season that will no doubt end in failure.

This is the team that has given us Bobby Bonilla calling the press box from the dugout after being charged with an error. There was Vince Coleman, lobbing firecrackers at fans. Bobby V in disguise in the dugout after being tossed. Steve "Skill Sets" Phillips. Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Kenny Rogers walking in the winning run of the 1999 NLCS. Bernie Williams catching the final out in center in game five, and Yankee fans celebrating in our fucking stadium.

But then there's Mookie grounding one through Buckner. Orosco's glove. Mike Piazza blasting one into the night sky in the first home game after 9/11. Ventura's grand single. The Murph's happy recaps. Dwight Gooden's first two major league seasons. Strawberry's first eight. The Kid homering in his first game on opening day against the Cardinals. Dykstra and Backman getting their uniforms dirty every single game. And now Pedro and his midget.

For a very brief period I may have been slightly more devoted to the Rangers, but that ended the day after they won the Cup. Since then there has only been one team in all of sports that can cause as much pain, anguish and suffering within me as the New York Mets. It will be a cold day in hell before another team grabs my heart as they do.

So as another season approaches, it's time to break out the lyrics to this great song.

MEET THE METS,
MEET THE METS,
Step right up and greet the Mets!
Bring your kiddies,
bring your wife;
Guaranteed to have the time of your life
because the Mets are really sockin’ the ball; knocking those home runs over the wall!
East side,
West side,
everybody’d coming down
to meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town!


Oh, the butcher and the baker and the people on the streets,
where did they go? To MEET THE METS!
Oh, they’re hollerin’ and cheerin’ and they’re jumpin’ in their seats,
where did they go? To MEET THE METS!
All the fans are tru to the orange and blue,
so hurry up and come on down -
‘cause we’ve got ourselves a ball club,
The Mets of New York town!
Give ‘em a yell!
Give ‘em a hand!
And let ‘em know your rootin’ in the stand!


LETS GO METS!!!


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Never Again: Again and Again

This is the latest from the Coalition for Darfur.

Please note, by the way, that this site contains more than just these weekly updates. There is so much information about the tragic evnts unfolding in the region, and I encourage all of you, if you have not been doing so, to read this blog regularly.


In her 2001 article "Bystanders to Genocide," Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power recounts how President Clinton was shocked and outraged by an article written by Philip Gourevitch recounting the horrors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, prompting him to send the article to his national security advisor Sandy Berger with a note scrawled in the margin reading "Is
what he's saying true? How did this happen?"

After taking office, President Bush reportedly read Power's article on the Clinton administration's failure to intervene during the genocide. He too scrawled a message in the margin - "NOT ON MY WATCH."

Yet we are now faced with another African genocide, this time in Darfur, and the United States and the rest of the world are responding exactly as they did during Rwanda - with paralyzed inaction.

Though there are many key differences between what is taking place in Darfur and what occurred in Rwanda a decade ago, there are also many similarities.

In 1993, the world watched "Schindler's List" and wondered how such horrors could unfold and why they were not stopped. In 2004, it watched "Hotel Rwanda" and asked the same questions. In each case, those questions went unanswered.

Just as in Rwanda, the international military force on the ground in Darfur is far too small, poorly equipped and operating under an extremely limited mandate that does not allow them to protect civilians at risk.

Just as in Rwanda, the genocide is taking place against a backdrop of "civil war," leading the international community to focus more on establishing a cease-fire than protecting those being killed.

Just as in Rwanda, the death toll is nearly impossible to determine.

Just as in Rwanda, the United Nations is more or less paralyzed as individual nations seek to protect their own national interests rather than helpless men, women and children.

Just as in Rwanda, media coverage is almost nonexistent, Congress is all but silent, and the human rights community is having difficulty get the nation to pay attention to a genocide in progress.

Just as in Rwanda, a genocide is unfolding - but this time it is happening on our watch.

We ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we attempt to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur and raise money for the live saving work Save the Children is doing there.

Update: There is a video that more brutally captures the essence of this post. Go to this site to view it. It contains very graphic images, so do not view it if you are in any way squeamish.


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dire consequences

Below is an article from today's NYT that brings me back to a lively debate we had regarding the efficacy (among other things) abstinence programs in Africa. I wholeheartedly join Kristof in his praise of W's efforts, or at least the intent thereof, to alleviate the AIDs crisis in Africa, but also in his view that those efforts are severely misdirected and thus largely wasted as a result. I'm not looking to rekindle or debate from religious belief perspective at all, but rather, using this example, illustrate how the excessive influence of religion on what is an extremely vital, worthwhile and moreover, secular (preventing needless human death and suffering) cause has disastrous consequences.

March 30, 2005 OP-ED COLUMNIST

When Marriage Kills By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Livingstone, Zambia — Sex kills all the time, particularly here in Africa. But prudishness can be just as lethal.

President Bush is focusing his program against AIDS in Africa on sexual abstinence and marital fidelity, relegating condoms to a distant third. It's the kind of well-meaning policy that bubbles up out of a White House prayer meeting but that will mean a lot of unnecessary deaths on the ground in Africa.

The stark reality is that what kills young women here is often not promiscuity, but marriage. Indeed, just about the deadliest thing a woman in southern Africa can do is get married.Take Kero Sibanda, a woman I met in a village in Zimbabwe. Mrs. Sibanda is an educated woman and lovely English-speaker who married a man who could find a job only in another city. She suspected that he had a girlfriend there, but he would return to the village every couple of months to visit her.

"I asked him to use a condom," she said, "but he refused. There was nothing I could do."He died two years ago, apparently of AIDS. Now Mrs. Sibanda worries that she and her beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Amanda, have H.I.V. as well.

Encouraging more use of male and female condoms might reduce such tragedies, for there's a disdain for condoms in many countries that social marketing might change (there's an African saying: "Who wants a sweet with the wrapper still on?").

The fact is that condoms have played a crucial role in the campaigns against AIDS that have been relatively successful, from Thailand's "100 percent condom program" to the efforts in Uganda, Cambodia and Senegal. And condoms don't cause sex any more than umbrellas cause rain.

In theory, everybody agrees on how to prevent AIDS: the ABC method, which stands for abstinence, being faithful and condoms. But the Bush administration interprets this as ABc. New administration guidelines stipulate that U.S.-financed AIDS programs for young people must focus on abstinence or, for those who are already sexually active, "returning to abstinence."Here in Livingstone, Zambia, I visited Corridors of Hope, a U.S.-financed center for young people that has proved cheap and effective in reducing H.I.V. among prostitutes and long-distance truck drivers. One prostitute in the program is Mavis Sitwala, an orphan (probably because of AIDS) who is supporting her five siblings and one child. She says that truck drivers pay $1 for sex with a condom or $4 for sex without.

"At times, you need food or money to pay the rent," she said, "and so even if he won't use a condom, you agree."

Encouraging Ms. Sitwala to "return to abstinence" isn't likely to get far, but encouraging more use of condoms might save her life, the lives of her clients and the lives of her clients' wives. Indeed, the Bush administration recognizes that, allowing condoms to be handed out to prostitutes in programs like Corridors of Hope - but not to society as a whole.

There's a bit of wiggle room in the administration guidelines. But the U.S. Center for Health and Gender Equity reports that in several countries, the U.S. is already backing away from effective programs that involve condoms.

The irony is that President Bush's plan to tackle AIDS in Africa - spending far more than any previous administration - could be one of his best and most important legacies. It tackles one of the most important humanitarian challenges in the world today: at present infection rates in Zimbabwe, 85 percent of today's 15-year-olds will die of AIDS.

So I wish Mr. Bush would reach out beyond the ideologues to a real expert, like Loveness Sibanda. I met Mrs. Sibanda (no relation to the other Mrs. Sibanda) and her child in her village in Zimbabwe. She is 26, and her husband works in the city of Bulawayo, where she has heard that he has a girlfriend. Every few months he comes back to the village and insists on sleeping with her, without a condom. She now dreads these visits.

Perhaps the White House thinks it has the moral high ground when it preaches, completely irrelevantly, to women like Mrs. Sibanda about the need to be faithful. But it strikes me as hypocritical to pontificate about virtue while pursuing an ideological squeamishness about condoms that risks condemning Mrs. Sibanda and millions like her to die of AIDS.

E-mail: nicholas@nytimes.com


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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Of opinion polls and populism

There is nothing more annoying than hearing the words, "An ABC poll indicates . . ." As soon as I hear about some new fangled poll my eyes roll back into my head as I am evidently supposed to take this latest survey as Gospel truth of where Americans stand on some particular issue. Really, when it comes to opinion polls of any sort, my general inclination is to ask, "Who really gives a fuck?"

Opinion polls are perhaps useful to dull idiots who cannot form an opinion without knowing where their neighbors supposedly stand. They are also of use to cowardly politicians who have not a strand of principle in their body and whose fingers are constantly moist from licking.

The problems with opinion polls are manifold. Oftentimes they are loaded or ask misleading questions. Further, they are a sampling of the opinions of people who generally have no idea about the issue under discussion. Most people have deeply held beliefs, but do they really know all that much about, say, the Schiavo case or the International Criminal Court? Probably not, so who really cares about their underformed opinion of the subject?

Most importantly, we do not live in a plebiscitary democracy. Well, at least not yet. Luckily for us the Framers did not implement Rousseau's social contract, and as such we live in a constitutional, representative republic which does not cater to the mere whims of popular opinion. Certainly the people have a voice through both voting and other forms of communication with their elected representatives, but there are various mechanisms the Framers set in place to restrict democratic exuberance.

That leads me to another problem, and this, shockingly to most readers of this site, is one that I have with a part of the right. As many of you know I am no fan of the current judiciary. It is an intolerable mess of quasi-despots who have no problems enforcing their political opinions through judicial fiat. That said, some conservatives are under the impression that the way to circumvent this judicial tyranny is through another form of tyranny, though of the democratic kind.

This is unfortunate. Conservatives are suspicious of human nature, and as such inclined not to blindly follow the crowd. Yet a strand of the conservative movement seeks to place leave all important decisions to plebiscites and other mass movements. Michael Federici, among others, has eloquently discussed the rise of right-wing populism and its deleterious consequences.

The solution to judicial tyranny is not democratic populism. The masses can be just as wrong as the men and women in black. For example, many bemoan the constant overturning of referenda results by the Courts. Well, a plebiscitary decision is not inherently constitutional. A decision arrived at by the body public merits no less scrutiny than one decided by the legislature. As such, an unconstitutional action is just that, unconstitutional, as therefore void. Now, I do not know the specifics of each referenda overturned by the judiciary, and I am quite sure that there have been constitutional actions taken that were unduly overturned. And this is what we must deal with.

John Marshall himself did not say that the Courts were the final arbiter. Much like Coke, he has been misquoted in this regard. What he did say is that any legislative act that contravenes the Constitution is of no force, and the Court has the duty to declare such a law void because it is unconstitutional and of no force. But he did not declare that the Courts and only the Courts could make such determinations.

So who has the final authority? This is the conundrum that I must confess I cannot satisfactorily answer. In a technical sense the people are the final arbiters because they are the sovereign power of this Nation. But what does that really mean? In no place in the Constitution do the people act as a collective, thus the only popular recourse is amendment, and even this is not an action of the people acting in the collective sense, but instead through their respective state legislative bodies.

It is frustrating to come to such an inconclusive close. What I do assert most forcefully is that the answer to resolving one sort of tyranny is not another sort. One thing we can do is of course get better judges on the bench. Now if only the Senate would Confirm Them already, we'd be on the right track.


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unbiased?

This is one of the better articles I have seen covering the Schiavo matter, and also highlighting the death of a baby in Texas last week that should be highly relevant to the discussion. Anyway, given the scope of our recent discussions and the author of the article, I thought it might be worth a read.

The Times of London, March 26, 2005

Schiavo and Republicanism - A Battle for the Soul of Conservatism

BY: Andrew Sullivan

It was impossible to look at the images of Terri Schiavo starving slowly to death in a Florida hospice without grief. And it has become impossible in America these days to look at such a tragic set of circumstances without succumbing to hysteria. Washington last week was, quite simply, in a state of fever. Those of us who have long worried that unleashing religious fundamentalism into the bloodstream of American politics would lead to disaster can only feel that our fears have now come true. Here are the relevant facts. Fifteen years ago, one Terri Schiavo suffered a heart stoppage caused by bulimia. Her brain was temporarily starved of oxygen and scans showed that her cerebral cortex had stopped functioning. A CAT scan shows that her brain has since shrunk massively. Her electroencephalogram reading was and is completely flat - she has no brain waves. She is not brain-dead. But she has no ability to think, feel, or communicate. She can breathe on her own; and random eye movements can give the impression of some kind of awareness. She is kept alive by a feeding tube. In the first years that she was in this horrifying state, her husband, Michael, did all he could to find treatment, went from hospital to hospital trying new therapies. According to the Miami Herald, which has covered the case more thoroughly than any other outlet, "each rehabilitation facility treated her with aggressive physical, recreational, speech and language therapy, moving her arms and legs, trying to rouse her with scents. But according to court filings, Terri was not responsive to neurological or swallowing tests." Terri was even sent to California to have experimental platinum electrodes inplanted to get her brain going again. Michael slept next to her for five weeks. At the time, he and Terri's parents were united in doing all they could for what was left of his wife.But eventually, the husband acquiesced to near-universal medical opinion and came to terms with the fact that his wife would never revive. He said that when she was cogniscent, she had once told him she didn't want to be kept alive artificially for an indefinite period of time. You can see why. From the Miami Herald again: "She suffered from bile stones and kidney stones, according to court papers, and had to have her gallbladder removed. She has 'drop foot,' where her foot twists downward, and the ensuing pressure resulted in the amputation of her left little toe. She frequently developed urinary tract infections, diarrhea and vaginitis. Several cysts were removed from her neck. Several times, her feeding tube got infected." The sight of a human being in such a state of complete disintegration became too much for Michael Schiavo to bear. So he decided that it would be more compassionate to let her die with dignity.Her parents, for understandable reasons, differed and fought Michael in the Florida courts. The litigation has gone on for many painful years. The parents, who had at first encouraged Michael to date other women, then used his second relationship (he subsequently dated another woman and had two children with her) as a weapon against him in the courts. But court after court acknowledged the overwhelming medical data and the fact that Terri's legal guardian was her husband. Court case after court case moved Terri inexorably toward death. But then the political religious right heard of what was going on, took up the case, and cast it as an example of what the Pope has called the "culture of death." They used Nazi analogies. They demonized Michael Schiavo. They described those who defended the rights of the husband as, in Peggy Noonan's words last week, "half in love with death." They saw an opportunity to highlight their principled defense of human life. Their clout was such that they got the Florida legislature to pass a bill to protect Terri, a law that was subsequently over-ruled by the Florida courts. Last weekend, they got the federal Congress back in emergency Sunday session and got a law designed to delay the process of death pending new federal court challenges. President Bush rushed back to D.C. to sign the bill in the middle of the night. You want proof that the religious right runs the Republican party? What more do you need? Federal courts then examined the long course of the case and came to the conclusion that Florida's courts had acted carefully, within the law and that there was no legal case to intervene. The parents then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which again refused to hear the case. As the esteemed conservative, William F. Buckley, noted, "There was never a more industrious inquiry, than in the Schiavo case, into the matter of rights formal and inchoate."I don't know what I'd do in such a case. The nearest I have come to it was watching one of my best friends die of AIDS and have his family and friends refuse to resuscitate him after his heart stopped beating. It was what he wanted. I stood by, helpless in the face of the inexplicable. But I also recognized that this kind of wrenching decision can only be made either by the person herself or by family or spouse or legally-appointed guardian. The idea that the government should have the final say, and that the government could be swayed by powerful political lobbies trying to make headway in the culture wars, strikes me as grossly inappropriate. If limited government means anything, it means leaving decisions like this as close to the person as possible. And if the American principle of federalism means anything, it means that the local state's courts are the only relevant instruments to deal with such a tragedy. But that, alas, is not what American Republicanism now is. It has two powerful impulses - a religious drive that puts theological certitude before any prudential or legal reasoning and a growing contempt for an independent judiciary. That's how it came to pass that the Congress of the United States involved itself in a matter way beyond its purview. That's how governor Jeb Bush of Florida last week tried to take state custody of Schiavo and void her husband's rights. And that's how a leading conservative activist, Bill Bennett, could write last Thursday in the conservative magazine National Review, that governor Jeb Bush should simply over-rule the courts, break the law and send armed guards to insert the feeding tube by force. "It is a mistake to believe that the courts have the ultimate say as to what a constitution means," Bennett argued. This attack on the very basis of American constitutional liberty in the name of religion is what is usually called theocracy.Will there be political repercussions from this? Polling shows large majorities disagree with the idea that the federal government should get involved. Bush himself, who said last week that "it is wise to always err on the side of life," didn't seem so concerned when he signed countless death warrants as governor of Texas, with the most cursory of legal reviews. He also signed a Texas law that gave surviving next of kin complete discretion to remove life-support from a terminally ill patient in the absence of a living will. Last week, an eight-year-old boy died after his tube was removed in Texas because his parents could no longer afford treatment, but the religious right seemed uninterested. As commander in chief, Bush has presided over the criminal homicides of 26 inmates in U.S. military care, after removing by executive memo the usual bans on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. Culture of life? But these ironies are balanced by something else. The Republican party is engaged in a fascinating debate about what it is about, what it believes, what it is. The survival of what is left of Terri Schiavo is for some people a genuine matter of moral principle. That position should be respected. But it should also be subject to the rule of law. For others, the Schiavo case is a first battle to win over the religious right primary voters who will determine the next Republican nominee. The Republican leadership is gambling that the intensity of their religious base will outweigh the more general public's disdain for this exercise in government over-reach. The broader public, they calculate, will forget. The zealots will always remember. And if Schiavo dies, they will have a martyr as well. And they will figuratively prop her up as a symbol in the campaigns to come. March 26, 2005, Sunday Times of London.copyright © 2000, 2005 Andrew Sullivan

nb: It has also been confirmed that the 1999 law referenced above gives ultimate say to the spouse ahead of the parents as next of kin.


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Friday, March 25, 2005

The Lethal Mainstream Media

As the minutes of this Good Friday tick by, it appears that Terri Schiavo is close to being successfully killed. The forces aligned against her -- most notably, Michael Schiavo and his malpractice-judgment-clamoring attorneys -- have won the day, and it will only be a short time before the court-imposed, weeklong feeding ban deprives Terri of life.

But there is one group of people, over and above Michael Schiavo and those overtly aligned with him, who have not gotten the credit they are due for helping to accelerate Terri's end. That group is the liberal mainstream media (MSM), and it is time that they received their due.

Lest you had any doubt, since Terri's story has gained national prominence, the MSM has favored her death. The Washington Times' Jennifer Harper did an excellent job the other day chronicling the substance of just some of the most tangible anti-Terri efforts. She specifically cited a study conducted by the Media Research Center (MRC), an Alexandria, Virginia-based conservative watchdog organization that is dedicated to reviewing and documenting allegations of media bias.

The MRC's findings were quite intriguing. It noted that, of the 31 news reports produced by ABC, CBS, and NBC about the Schiavo case between March 17 and March 21, 2005, approximately 60% of them "concentrated on Michael Schiavo's argument that his wife be allowed to die," while approximately 40% of them "featured the plea of parents Robert and Mary Schindler to continue care for their daughter." The MRC also found that 59% of the stories on the subject harshly criticized Congress and the White House for promoting federal legislation aimed at allowing the Schindlers the opportunity to seek relief for Terri in a federal court.

Now, those of you that know me know that I do not think the issue of media bias is up for debate, but they are biased. But in fairness, I will concede that a 60%-40% split in terms of the type of news coverage is not grotesquely slanted; at worst, it means that three out of every five stories provided the pro-killing angle, which is really only slightly more than half. Not having seen or heard most of these particular stories, I will also make no assumption as to their tone (although I would be willing to bet, dollars to doughnuts, that the stories promoting Terri's parents' side of the debate did a less than exhaustive job, and were probably a bit snide).

What does clinch the bias for me are those recent polling data that have been bandied about as if they were the Word of God. An ABC News poll of approximately 500 adults conducted on Sunday, March 20, purported to show that about 60% of Americans disagreed with Congress's belated attempts to allow the Schindlers to seek federal relief, and that 70% of Americans disagreed with Congress's interference in such personal family matters. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of approximately 600 adults taken two days later showed similar results, finding that 56% supported the Florida courts' decision to starve Terri.

While the Big Three and CNN went out of their way to trumpet the polls' results as a victory for the right-to-die crowd, they did not trumpet the polling questions themselves. The ABC News poll, for instance, essentially asked those polled what their impressions were of a situation where someone was found to be on "life support," "has no consciousness," and was subject to an "irreversible" condition. For those who have been paying attention to this struggle, those are the details that lie at the very heart of the debate about Terri's present and future quality of life. (For those of you who still persist in claiming that there is no debate within the medical community over Terri's condition and prognosis, I encourage you to check out the report written by world-renowned neurologist William Hammesfahr, who has personally examined Terri, and the sworn affidavit of Carla Iyer, a registered nurse who cared for her for more than a year.) Yet these biased polls slanted the questions in order to achieve a desired result. In doing so, they simultaneously favored Michael Schiavo and undercut Congress, and they misrepresented public opinion in the process.

I can cite MRC research all day long, and I can point you in the direction of articles and polling data, but what I cannot convey is tone. Indeed, the radio and television news stories covering this subject that I have heard have contained nothing but admiring praise for those who seek to kill Terri, and nothing but dripping contempt for all those who might save her. They paint as extreme those who would not kill where questions remain unanswered, and hold up a man, who has long since abandoned his wife and now wants her dead, as a pillar of virtue. Perhaps most annoying, they criticize a Congress that has committed the cardinal sin of providing the parents of a starving child the opportunity to seek further relief. (If I hear Peter Jennings refer one more time to our "interventionist" Congress, I may have to drag his sorry butt back to Canada myself.)

One has to wonder at what point they decided to stop reporting objectively and opted to aid the "favor life when it's convenient" crowd. If I had to speculate, I would say their position is reflective of the MSM's larger liberal political goals. After all, how much of a difference is there really between starving Terri and aborting a child? Not all that much, since neither are capable of protecting themselves. And there are votes in telling people they can do whatever they want without consequence. Hence, their position.

Unfortunately, Terri's struggle to live may soon be over. What has been made clear in this debate, however, is that the subject of MSM bias is not just another academic discussion. It is, at least in Terri's case, very much the difference between life and death.


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Here is something that will hopefully piss off the right wing...

Eureka- the essential distinction between dems and reps has come to me. First, values are defined as beneficent values here- ethically and morally good values- and yes, they do exist (Dems are not necessarily relativists). Second, the formula-

Democrats have values, believe in those values, and stand up for those values. They also rarely, but understand it to be necessary on occasion, use those values for political purposes- i.e., to gain political currency to effectuate those values at large. Republicans talk about values and pretend to believe in values but actually only use the rhetoric of the values to accomplish the ends of their own agenda (i.e., what their lobbyists and their financial bases tell them to do). Dems, unfortunately, are having trouble communicating to the general public how much they actually represent their values. I do concede that Reps are more successful at this point in time. Now that we have the overall structure, lets delve into some specifics.

1.) Schiavo. Mr. DeLay- can you make it less obvious that you are trying to woo the public into not indicting you (by a federal grand jury or in the court of public opinion)? Please just go gracefully to prison. Being a Catholic, and a Democrat- yes they can be synonymous- I understand that life IS "precious." That is why I stand up for and represent civil rights and civil liberties. To use a Rep argument- the government has no place in my business- the government has no right in my civil rights because the government wouldn't exist without my consent in the first place. Terry Sciavo's life is precious- and her afterlife is too. Lets face it. This poor woman is no longer with us, regardless of her leaving her vessel behind. Her soul has passed to the afterlife. She is no longer cognitively available here. So this raises the question- why are we keeping her vessel sustained at its present state? Reps respond by hinting at the values underlying her life, but the real message is- "Hey, I'm in trouble with my constituency. Please reelect me!!!" Please stop abusing this very important issue for political purposes. If you are going to talk the talk of values, please also walk the walk of values.

2.) The Second Term. The issue is not dead. In fact, it is very alive. Dems may have slept to recover from the shell shock of it all- we are down, but we are certainly not out. In fact, I really should address this as the mandate that Reps believe has befallen them at their doorsteps. News Flash- there is no mandate. You are not tapping into the Manifest Destiny of the new millennium. What you ARE doing is setting your party up for disarray. Sociological studies have shown that when repressed groups band together for one common purpose (e.g., civil rights actvitist groups), they tend to overcome their majoritarian counterparts (see, e.g., The 14th Amendment; The Civil Rights Act of 1964; The Americans with Disabilities Act). However, once that group achieves the goal it has sought tirelessly, that spirit tends to be directed at its own members. For example, Dems had control of Congress for nearly 40 years. During that time, factions began to develop among Dems, ultimately leading towards Dems becoming the minor party in the Congress. The same phenomenon may occur with labor groups or other organizations with a common goal. Your time is coming soon. You can already see the signs. It makes me happy. Enjoy your brief stay, because your morally devoid policies, your politically charged laws, and your interest-group oriented belief structure will sometime again fall. Enjoy your time where you hoard the world's resources, in your anti-Robin Hood belief structure. Remember, it is on your soul. Oh, and by the way- we will learn from your mistakes and make it another 40 years.

3.) Another distinction between Reps and Dems. Dems sign on to the social contract theory espoused by Locke and Rousseau- inherent value comes from the individual, not from the government- and the source of authority to act comes from the individual. It really is a matter of agency law. When the government acts, it only has the AUTHORITY to act when the majority has granted that authority (standing in the shoes of the individual). Of course, in any particular moment, the ethereal "government" (who can only act through its agents) cannot ask for permission, nor can the real majority give its consent. But let us be clear that the government (both state and federal) has no place acting outside the scope of its authority. Therefore- your choice of marriage, your control of your body, your control of your life- all originate with the individual. The government has no say, unless a clear majority can speak. Of course, there are clearly times when the government must speak and the majority has given its consent- crimes (e.g., murder, robbery, etc.); violations of public policy (e.g., excluding minorities from jobs); and any other balancing of interests. But even then, the existence of a majority ought to be, to steal the phrase, clear and convincing. (I.e., a somewhat questionable win in the State of Florida where your brother holds all the cards is not clear nor is it convincing). Reps seem to not understand the social contract theory. Reps seem to use government authority where it is convenient to achieve their own agenda (e.g., to use the Congress to enhance the coverage of the Schiavo ordeal for political appeal; to elevate the Eleventh Amendment to a position of authority so far beyond its initially intended scope that it deprives private individuals of their Congressionally authorized rights), rather than determining whether the authority exists in the first place. It happens in the Congress. It happens in the courts. And it clearly happens in the Executive Branch. Nor are states immune from attack here.

I digress. The bottom line is this. The real fight is one of good against evil. Dems v. Reps. Even Superman had an arch-nemesis and a substance that made him weak. Fortunately for humanity, he always prevailed. Hubris, my friends, will be your kryptonite. So mandate on...


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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Humanitarian Workers at Risk

The latest from the Coalition for Darfur.

Last week, the United Nations was forced to withdraw its staff from parts of western Sudan after the Janjaweed militia declared that it would begin targeting foreigners and U.N. humanitarian convoys.

Yesterday, a 26 year-old USAID worker was shot in the face when the
clearly-marked humanitarian convoy she was traveling in was ambushed in broad daylight.

It is still unknown just who carried out this ambush, but Sudan expert
Eric Reeves reported yesterday that he had "received from multiple, highly authoritative sources intelligence indicating that Khartoum has ambitious plans for accelerating the obstruction of humanitarian access by means of orchestrated violence and insecurity, including the use of targeted violence against humanitarian aid workers."

If such a plan is truly in the works, it will have dire consequences for the people of Darfur. Last year, Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that as many as 100,000 people could die in Darfur every month if those providing humanitarian assistance were forced to withdraw due to insecurity.

Save the Children has already lost 4 of its aid workers in the last year, yet they continue to provide medical care, food, water, shelter, and protection to more than 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

The members of the Coalition for Darfur are working together to raise money for Save the Children and if each coalition partner can raise a mere $10 dollars a week, together we can generate $2,000 a month to support Save the Children's life saving work.

We hope that you might consider making a small donation.


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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More digital ink spilled...

I've been hesitant to weigh in on the Schiavo business, because I think I may be on the wrong side. All the people I am supposed to respect are on the other side, but here is my best effort to make sense of what is going on.

First, the Catholic position cannot be that the resolution of this situation depends on what the unfortunate woman would have wanted. I have seen no one make any argument -- let alone a convincing one -- that Catholic principles dictate who is the best representative of the woman's wishes in this situation: husband or parents. (After all, we don't believe in divorce.)

If it has any merit, the Catholic position must be that it doesn't matter what the woman would have wanted. The position would be that no one may permissibly choose to ignore this kind of medical care. The position would be: (1) in these circumstances refusing water and nutrition would amount to suicide; (2) suicide is a bad thing that should be prevented; (3) therefore continue water and nutrients.

If that is the position, is it really the Catholic one? Bishop Sgrecia says "yes," but I have my doubts. I do not at all see that the care that was being given the woman is of the ordinary sort that cannot be refused. Catholic positions on suicide are far more refined than Bishop Sgrecia admits (at least, than the article relates he admits). There are reams of print on the various desires that are permissible and impermissible for a Catholic. A Catholic can desire an end to pain; he can't desire death as such; he might desire a painkiller that increases the chances of death; he may not choose to step in front of a bus to end his pain; ad infinitum.

Again, I am hesitant on this point. But much as is the case with (1) the death penalty and (2) the President's position on stem cells, I cannot help but worry that the Catholic opposition is not founded on a rock-solid foundation in this case. Combine this with a worry that the Church spokesmen who have weighed in have had inadequate education (the last adequate Catholic training having taken place in the 1930s in the Toulouse province of the Dominican order), I am very, very worried. Worried to the point of not having time to worry about the poor woman.


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Monday, March 21, 2005

MNR

Last Friday I was reading the DC Examiner and came across the story of William Karanja, a man sentenced to 66 years in prison after being convicted of raping two teenagers and attempting to infect them with HIV. His ever-so compassionate attorney had this to say:
"Mr. Karanja is a hardworking 34-year-old who has been convicted of some very serious errors . . ."
Serious errors? Raping two teenagers and attempting to infect them with HIV is a serious error? Excuse me, but NO. Accidentally drafting David Wells during a live fantasy baseball draft because you aren't really paying attention is a serious error. Raping a couple of teenagers is more a horribily monstorus act that indicates you are a worthless piece of scum who, if fortune smiles, will have his balls yanked off while not looking and then stuffed down his throat.

I realize that Madame Attorney has to stick up for her client, but can we knock off the repugnant use of careful language. I'm sure the parents of the teenagers also regret the unforunate errors that will now haunt their children for the rest of their lives. I'm very confident that a few years from now when they wake up drenched in sweat after having yet another horrible dream about this incident they, too, will regret these very serious errors.

It astounds the mind that someone can be so callous in their word choice, but then again this is a culture that hails a woman's right to choose rather than a woman's right to vacuum her as yet unborn child's brains out to make up for the fact that she couldn't be bothered to take responsibility for her actions. And such is a culture that sits idly by in mild disinterest as a woman is allowed to starve to death.

Of course I was getting to that. You'd think I would forget? But what can I add that has not been said by people more talented than yours truly on this horrific case?

I guess I'm supposed to get all wrapped up in moral outrage in the so-called hypocrisy of the Republican Congress' attempts to stop this madness. To tell the truth I'm fifty-fifty on this matter legislatively. But while we debate arcane legal matters a woman is slowly dying due to starvation because a bunch of judges (one, actually, if you study the details of the case) has decided that the husband's sudden realization after several years that Terry had said something in passing at a funeral years back constitutes definitive legal proof that this woman truly did not want to remain alive. Yeah. Right.

Sometimes it's tough to rally the moral outrage at a time like this. Frankly, I am simply beaten and dejected by it all. What about erring on the side of life? What about the medical profession's responsibility to extend life? Have we so completely lost sight of our moral bearings that we don't recognize that this is not a matter of cutting off a life support system, but instead we are willfully murdering a woman (and this is murder, pure and simple) because one man cannot bear burden no one is asking him to carry. Go off with your finace and your two children, and let Terry live.

To be fair, I do not wish to denigrate Mr. Schiavo. I cannot claim to know the workings of his mind, nor can I state with complete certainty that he is acting with malicious motives in mind. But it is difficult to fathom that this man is truly keeping Terry's well-being at the forefront of his mind. No one can prove that she would want to die, and as such it the ultimate in inhumanity to starve this poor woman to death because she has become some sort of burden, or because we deem her unfit for life.

And I suppose that's the greatest moral tragedy of all. All men are created equal, but God have mercy on the poor creature who does not have the same mental capacities as the rest of humanity. Certain individuals have taken it upon themselves to decree what is a lifetsyle worthy of living. A woman in a persistent vegetative state? Eh, she can't function, so off with her. An unborn child in the womb of a single mother? Why, he or she might not get all the toys it wants. Better to kill it in the womb before he or she leads a life of utter misery and depredation and lack of a DVD player.

The wretched hypocrisy of liberals who castigate conservatives as wishing to "force our morality" on others is not lost in this situation. They see nothing wrong with imposing their view of what is life worthy of living upon the world. Poor Terry Schiavo. If only she were an endangered species of animal living in California then maybe she would have some chance at survival.

As it is, the party of death will work to make sure the feeding tubes stay out. What kind of life is it, after all, when you can't enjoy the latest Maureen Dowd column? Now we can get back to the serious work of determining the precise physical and mental characteristics that will allow a human being not to be killed.


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Saturday, March 19, 2005

This Weekend, Ponder Life

Trivia question: which of the following three people has the greatest chance of survival:
(a) an unborn child in the womb who is diagnosed with a cleft palate?
(b) a hospitalized woman with brain damage?
(c) a Mexican serial killer who is on death row in Texas?
If you answered (c), you are, unfortunately, correct.
There has been a subdued but roiling debate in this country for decades over the meaning and value of life. Some have been screaming about our nation’s rapid descent on that slippery slope, and have pointed out the periodic abuses that rear their ugly heads and happen to be caught in the public spotlight. Critics – usually, allegedly freedom-loving ACLU types – rapidly and repeatedly dismiss such claims as Chicken Little tactics, and state that we as a society would never allow people to be killed – absent a good reason. I mean, sure we should permit abortion on demand – because there is definitely no harm in that – but there is no way this callousness toward life could ever find its way into the realm of the already born.
As it turns out, these secular prophets were right. We have reached a crossroads of sorts, where the lines between right and wrong have been so muddied that good people are angrily perplexed that so many others favor killing under the guise of compassion. Only in our insane, liberally slanted world, where up is down and down is up, could anyone claim with a straight face, for instance, that it is compassionate to kill an unborn child in the womb because he has a cleft palate and would have to go through life embarrassed by a deformity. (Being diagnosed with a cleft palate, by the way, is no longer beyond treatment, even in the poorest parts of the world. Please check out Smile Train, a charity that provides free surgery to third-world children born with this affliction.)
I am not writing today about that poor child who will never be. If I did that every time there was an abortion, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Rather, I am writing about a subject where there should be no split: the out-and-out murder of a brain-damaged adult, Terri Schiavo. The authors and readers of this weblog are for the most part up to speed on what is happening in Florida, but a quick recap for those new to the scene never hurts:
Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage brought about by a chemical imbalance in 1990. Doctors are split on the severity of her medical condition, but all are in agreement that her life is nothing like it was before the injury, and likely never will be like it was again. In the years since Terri’s injury, her husband, Michael Schiavo, has been cohabitating with another woman as if they were husband and wife. Michael was also greedily ticking off the days until Terri’s death, since he can neither remarry nor obtain sole possession of the assets of their marital estate (including a $1 million medical malpractice judgment) until that time. At some point, however, Michael stopped being content waiting around for Terri to die, and, using his status as her spouse and de facto guardian, tried to have her feeding tube removed. Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, sought an injunction to prevent the tube from being disconnected. Since the Schindlers’ initial court filings, the media attention has ballooned, and there has been a flurry of activity at the judicial and legislative level in both the State of Florida and the nation’s capitol.
There are four things that I find grotesque about this whole episode. (I’ll try to be quick. Bear with me.)
Terri Schiavo is Not Being Euthanized – She is Being Starved to Death. The debate over euthanasia is an intense one, and it is a debate with many layers. Is it ever appropriate to end someone’s life simply because they are ill? Is it only acceptable if the person consents to their own death? Who should be making such decisions?
Lest you be tempted to fall for the mainstream media myth that the Schiavo case is a microcosm for the euthanasia debate, I want to remind you what is already happening to this woman: she is being starved to death, and by a hospital, no less. Terri does not require machinery to keep her blood pumping or her lungs breathing. All Terri requires is food. In many ways, she is really no different from a quadriplegic or someone with Alzheimer’s disease in that she lacks the mental capacity and the physical capacity to feed herself.
I want you to imagine yourself being starved to death. It is neither quick nor painless, and it is beyond doubt inhumane. The fact that her murder is taking place in a hospital makes this episode all the more sickening.
The Long-Term Implications of Letting Terri Die. This case should trouble any and all who think that life can still have tremendous value in less-than-perfect situations. If Terri can be killed, the question then becomes, who can’t be killed? What about your quadriplegic uncle or your grandmother with Alzheimer’s? What about the Down Syndrome boy down the hall or your friend who is autistic? What about the neighbor’s child with the low IQ? What about that guy from your office with really bad adult acne?
After you have grown comfortable with letting so-called inferior people die (which is what you are saying by supporting the death of Terri), the next ominous question you should ask yourself is, who gets to make the decisions about who lives and who dies?
The Motives of Michael Schiavo. I have never met Michael Schiavo, but I don’t need to in order to know that he is evil. Let’s look at this in its plainest terms. His wife – you know, the person he vowed to love for better or for worse, through sickness and in health, ‘til death do they part? – became brain-damaged, and Michael started looking for a better deal. He then realized his wife, who had the audacity to be injured yet still survive, prevented him from marrying his new Saturday night thing – and also tied up lots of real estate and money that he could be using for his new family. Thus began his quest to end her.
He claims he is doing what he is doing out of compassion, but that is a joke. Her parents have gone out of their way to save her, and have offered to care for her and alleviate his burden. A total stranger even offered to give him $1 million if he would only stop his quest to kill Terri. None of that is enough. He wants her dead. He wants her money, he wants to remarry, and he is not going to let a little something like the sanctity of life get in the way.
If there is justice in this world, there is a Hell, and he will wind up there. (Hitler will be waiting for him at the gates with a pair of champagne flutes and a proud smile.)
Government’s Primary Purpose is to Protect Life. I have seen quite a few people shake their heads in mock-disappointment at the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling allowing the feeding tube to be disconnected. These same people, however, are annoyed by Congress’ and the White House’s efforts to prevent what is essentially an execution from taking place. Our very own Mouldfan is among them. In response to Paul’s earlier post in this subject, Mouldy said the following:
I ask, in all honesty, what more can the court system do? The fact that the
outcome is not what many have hoped is not an indication that the system has
somehow failed to function properly.
Later on, he said this with respect to these efforts and the federalist perspective:
This is, regardless of one's personal views, a matter of state, not federal law.
Congress and the Courts have painstakingly tried to avoid making this a federal
issue. To grant federal de novo review, seems to me to interfere with the state
court's sovereign right to decide cases within its jurisdiction pursuant to its
own laws. Explain how broadening the scope of federal court jurisdiction to
include all claims by "incapacitated persons" is supportable by "federalist"
principles?
Part of me deeply resents this position. First, I love it when liberals decry the dismantling of federalism, given that such has been their goal for decades. It irks me the same way their wailing about fiscal irresponsibility in today’s Washington, when in reality they have never met a spending bill they did not like, irks me. This issue is obviously far more somber than appropriations, and it bothers me that they give up so easily. If people had given up so easily in the past, African-Americans might still be attending segregated schools – or be in chains.
Second, and more importantly, the primary purpose of government is to protect life, in all its myriad forms. When you get down to brass tacks, everything government – or at least good government – does is oriented toward protecting the lives of its citizens. We do not pay police officers and firefighters just to wear uniforms; we pay them to stop dangerous criminals and lethal fires, respectively. We do not have government-run hospitals just so we can use taxpayer dollars to buy stethoscopes; we have them to treat and save the sick and dying. We do not have a strong military just so we can march around the world blowing things up; we have that military to protect ourselves and our way of life.
Federalism is not violated when the United States government fights for life, even if it means passing a federal law that is in opposition to Florida’s pro-murder position. Indeed, it is a success of our federalist system that the popular groundswell has been strong enough to spur Congress and President Bush to do something about it.

I thank all of you who made it this far – this post was way longer than I intended. I encourage you all to go and enjoy the rest of your weekends. And please, if you find some free time between now and Sunday night . . . ponder life.
Update (Sunday, March 20, 2005, 9:17 p.m. EST): For all of you out there who think that Terri Schiavo is nothing more than a yam (or some other vegetable of your choice) with facial features, check out this snippet from yesterday's New York Times:
A series of courts have accepted the testimony of doctors who say Ms. Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state," meaning she does not comprehend language or expressions or interact with others.
Yet Barbara Weller, a lawyer for the Schindlers [Terri's parents], told reporters outside the hospice that Ms. Schiavo had responded emphatically Friday morning when Ms. Weller asked her to say, "I want to live." According to Ms. Weller, Ms. Schiavo's eyes "just popped right open" and she made loud noises, startling a police officer stationed outside her room, and then wept.
Sure sounds like she has decided not to live, doesn't it? For those of you who will be near a radio in the next couple of hours, rumor has it that Matt Drudge will be playing audio of Terri's reaction to the removal of her feeding tube on Friday on his weekly radio show.
Also, one final note: as I type this, I am watching C-SPAN and listening to Democrats on the floor of the House of Representatives argue – actually argue – in favor of killing her. I really can't believe what I'm hearing. It borders on disgusting. Unless someone within the Democrat Party wisens up, and right quick, the Dems will cease to be a viable national force in short order. (I have no problem with the Dems losing political influence; I just wish there was a less lethal way to bring that about.)


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Friday, March 18, 2005

Barbara Boxer: Intellectual Powerhouse

Power Line points out these words of wisdom spoken by Senator Boxer.
Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don't you think so? It's the only check and balance on these people. They're in for life. They don't stand for election like we do, which is scary.
And to think this woman stands in the upper house of the federal legislature, the supposed quasi-aristocracy.

First of all, I stand in awe the sheer eloquence of this statement. After all, this "super important" position surely does require a "super" vote, as this "super" dumb Senator correctly points out. After all, it's right there in the Constitution.

Wait a second. Holy crap, there's no such requirement in the Constitution? You mean judicial confirmation votes don't require anything more than a bare majority? But surely the esteemed Senator from California knows what she's talking about.

And what the hell does their pay package and retirement benefits have do with anything? What planet is this woman from?

"They don't stand for election like we do, which is scary".
No, the only scary thing is that a majority of the voters in her home state went to the polls and cast their ballot for this dimbulb. The only possible explanation for continuing to allow her to speak is that she makes Hillary look sane by comparison.

But I have to give Boxer her due. At least she has the courage to openly state the Democratic party's plan to completely obliterate the plain meaning of the US Constitution. Congratulations to her for being the only person in her party willing to speak the truth.


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Death, Law, and Politics ... Never a Good Combination

Half of me knows I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help commenting on the latest political attempts by both the Florida Legislature and the United States Congress to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case.


As you probably already are aware, I’ve commented on this before (scroll down to Right to Die?) and at that time concluded that while Mr. Schiavo may in fact be wrong, callous, and greedy in his rationale, nevertheless Florida law, and for that matter likely many other state laws would, and properly do afford him, not her parents, the legal right to make decisions with respect to his wife’s medical treatment.


This issue has been litigated numerous times in both the state and federal courts. Every state case that has heard the issues and reviewed the evidence has concluded that Mr. Schiavo is legally entitled under Florida law to make the decisions with respect to his wife’s medical care. In addition, every federal court that has been asked to review the case has denied review and/or relief based on lack of jurisdiction over the claims presented or deference to the sovereignty of the Florida courts. In other words, the court system has functioned exactly as it is supposed to, in accordance with both statutory and constitutional authority as well as applicable precedent. The problem is that the law allows a result that many people, rightly so, find to be repugnant. Therefore, politics and politicians have interfered with the hopes of rigging the system to achieve its desired results.


I’m going to go a bit easier on the Florida Legislature, in large part because it is their state laws that are the issue, and they of course have total authority to amend and/or alter them as they see fit. Though they have already tried to intervene once and were rightly rebuked, and rightly so, by the Florida Supreme Court for violating seperation of powers principles. Thus, my real beef right now is with Congress. The day before yesterday, quickly and quietly, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1332, the Protection of Incapacitated Persons Act of 2005, which provides "incapacitated persons" with the right to have their cases heard de novo before federal courts. In fact, the law specifically provides that "no bar or limitation based on abstention, res judicata, collateral estoppel, procedural default, or any other doctrine of issue or claim preclusion shall apply." In other words, the fact that these issues have already been litigated and rejected by the Florida State courts will have no bearing on future review by a federal court. Put yet another way, "incapacitated persons" would enjoy a right of review that no other civil or criminal litigant currently enjoys in our legal system, namely, two bites at the apple, one in state court and one de novo in federal court.


While there are numerous problem with this approach, it seems to me that two are the most striking. First, there is the "federalism" concerns, as this bill represents a total disregard for the dual court system that generally the GOP is a strong supporter of upholding. It now appears that even the Grand Old Party is not immune from a bit of forum shopping when it suits their desired policy goals. Recall that it was just last year that the House adopted H.R. 3313 which, if enacted, would have stripped federal courts of jurisdiction with respect to full faith and credit issues involving marriage laws. Of course lest us forget the wonderful habeas corpus statute enacted several years ago that severely curtails, but in fairness does not totally prevent, the ability of the federal courts to review state criminal proceedings for procedural or heaven forbid constitutional violations. Why is it that the federal courts are not good arbiters of marriage or criminal laws, but are perfectly acceptable when it comes to de novo review of cases involving "incapacitated persons?"


My final point and critizim is a bit more philosophical than political, but nonetheless needs to be raised. A couple weeks ago, when the Supreme Court decided the Roper case, much (though not all) of the fervor among right-of-center commentators was "well while the court reached a conclusion that I agree with because I’m opposed to death penalty, but as much as I wish it were different, the Constitution clearly permits the execution of minors and to hold otherwise is judicial activism run amok." Or, phrased another way, the court engaged in conclusion based reasoning that is antithetical to the "interpretation of law" they decided what the outcome was going to be and worked backwards to find a justification. It seems to me that something similar is going on here. People think that they know what the "correct" result is with respect to Mrs. Schiavo, so they are trying everything in their power to work back from that result to find a legal basis to see it prevail. While I understand, respect, and applaud the people who are standing up to oppose the removal of the feeding tube on moral and religious grounds, the fact remains that although they may be right that doesn’t seem to justify the tortured reasoning and blatant disregard for the laws and our legal system that permits the removal to occur. Maybe the law will change, maybe it should, but for now as my previous post indicates, it’s pretty clear that the decision rests with Mr. Schiavo, like it or not and I don’t see any upside to hijacking the federal court system for no other reason that a powerful group of people disagree with the choice that he has made. Call me callous, uncaring, immoral, or what have you, but if we are a nation of laws, we will respect the fact that Mr. Schiavo has a legal right to be an ass and make decisions many may not like, such is life and, for that matter, death in a free society.

UPDATE 1:40 pm: As if things weren't bad enough, Congress, specifically the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) has decided to subpenoa both Terri and her husband to testify before Congress on March 24. According to a press release by HELP Chairman Enzi, "Federal criminal law protects witnesses called before official Congressional committee proceedings from anyone who may obstruct or impede a witness’ attendance or testimony. More specifically, the law protects a witness from anyone who -- by threats, force, or by any threatening letter or communication --influences, obstructs, or impedes an inquiry or investigation by Congress. " Thus, the real reason for the subpeona is not to get any testimony from Mrs. Schiavo, but rather to prevent the tube from being removed by threating federal witness tampering charges and contempt of Congress. While I haven't researched the legality of this most recent development, I think I tentatively agree with Orin Kerr over at Volokh.



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Thursday, March 17, 2005

An Interesting Case Before SCOTUS Next Week

For those of you that have not been following this case, Medellin v. Dretke, 371 F.3d 27 (5th Cir. 2004), which will be heard next week by the Supreme Court it raises several profound issues from federalism, international law, and the scope of presidential powers. Nevertheless, it may not result in a decision on the merits at all, at least not at this time.

As you may know the United States is a signatory of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Pursuant to Article 36 of the Convention, each signatory nation bound itself to recognize the rights of consular officials of other nations to protect their nationals who are detained in its criminal justice system, by promising to inform each such national of his rights under the Convention, including the right to have his consulate informed of his detention and to contact consular officers. The consulate then could assist these people as they face the processes of investigation, indictment or charge, trial, and execution of sentence. In addition, the United States also "drafted" and convinced countries to become members of the Optional Protocol of the Convention, which grants the International Court of Justice (ICJ or World Court) compulsory jurisdiction to resolve disputed interpretations of the Convention.

This case involves a foreign national, Medellin, who along with 51 others have found themselves in the center of a international legal quagmire. The typical situation appears to be as follows, as foreign nationals wind up in U. S. prisons, many of them on the death rows of many States, their home countries, usually long after their trials and convictions and sentencing, and thus long after defendants had to have raised their rights under the Convention or be procedurally barred, have sought to compel U.S. courts to observe the Convention and to review convictions and sentences in the absence of the defendants having been informed of their rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has, to date, exhibited very little concern for U. S. treaty obligations. For example, when a Paraguayan national and his Government sought collateral relief, without hearing oral argument and in a matter of hours the Court peremptorily denied relief, exalting procedural bar rules and springing the Eleventh Amendment on foreign States. See Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371 (1998). Subsequent efforts have thus far been met by similar denials of cert. Finally, it appears that the foreign nations wised up and went to the ICJ for rulings that the state and federal courts were misinterpreting their obligations under the Convention.

The first efforts before the ICJ were frustrated by the States rushing to execute these people before the ICJ could do anything, even though the World Court requested stays of execution pending adjudication. Finally, in the Avena decision in March of 2004, the ICJ held that the U.S. had breached parts of the Convention in the cases of 52 Mexican nationals by failing to inform them of their rights, failing to notify Mexican consulates, and failing to give them any relief through use of procedural bar rules. The named party in this case, Medellin, sought federal habeas relief, which was denied by the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit's ruling appears to be entirely sensible and based on the rationale that while the Supreme Court might conceivably change in mind in light of Avena, the circuit was nevertheless bound by the Breard decision. The case was appealed and the Supreme Court granted review, raising the central question of whether a U.S. court was bound to apply the Avena decision, despite contrary state and federal statutory law.

Despite the fact that the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, Article VI, cl. 2, makes treaties, just like the Constitution itself and federal statutes, "the supreme law of the land" and binds judges in every State to observe this law, regardless of any thing contrary in state law, it appears that most state officers have failed to implement the requirements of the Convention, most likely as a result of ignorance as to its requirements. Although the United States Government has proclaimed itself committed to seeing that our obligations are met, the most that it has done up to now is to plead with the States to become compliant.

Of course this is where things get really interesting, the Bush Administration, as a result of the legal wrangling, has been placed in a bind; on the one hand is its obligation to faithfully follow its obligations under the Convention and the Optional Protocol; on the other is its general denial of its international responsibilities, its law-and-order credentials, and the fuss that would accompany its agreement that an ICJ decision could bind state courts. Initially the Administration filed a brief before the Court announcing that the President had issued a directive under which he purported to compel the state courts to afford these 52 Mexican nationals, and only these 52, some kind of consideration as a matter of comity. Naturally, Texas officials - Medillen was convicted in Texas and is on death row there - as well as other State officials cried foul and responded that the President was not about to tell them what they were going to do and besides he doesn't have the Constitutional authority to do so.

And if that wasn't enough, the Administration last week announced that it was withdrawing from the Optional Protocol. The ICJ was not going to get another chance to adjudicate what our obligations are under the treaty. The usual rule, however, is that a Nation’s ability to withdraw from a treaty is to be discerned in the treaty. But the Convention and the Protocol have no provision for withdrawal. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties has several provisions on withdrawals, one of which is that absent a specific provision in a treaty, a Nation may denounce or withdraw from a treaty only after giving not less than twelve months notice of its intention. Now, the U. S. is not a signatory of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, but it is generally recognized, as "customary international law," a troubling proposition to be sure, but one that even we appear to accept.

What is critical is what is the meaning of all this on the Medellin case before the Court. Texas is trumpeting that it doesn’t care what the President says. At the same time Medellin has filed a request with the Court that it stay action on the case until he has had a chance to present his case, with the new circumstances, to the Texas courts. It is likely that Administration would really like the Court to dismiss the cert. grant as moot or improvidently granted, and it is likely that the situation has changed so much that the Court should not argue it or decide anything. The Court should adopt Medellin’s motion to stay the case while he attempts to obtain relief in Texas courts. He will no doubt be rebuffed, and in my opinion rightly so, but that would appear to pave the way for the Court to take up the case, perhaps with added briefing on the efficacy of the presidential directive, which also appears to me to run afoul of the Constitution. In its latest filing with the Court, Texas requests the Court deny Medellin’s motion and go ahead to hear the case and decide the issue presented, while Texas argues strongly that the President does not have the authority he claims.

A legal quandary to be sure and something to definitely keep an eye on in the next few weeks.


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Happy St. Patrick's Day

A little temporary change in the background to celebrate this glorious day. Unfortunately for me, since I am neither:
a)Currently drinking,
b)Living in a city (ie. New York, Boston, Chicago, or Savannah) that has any meaningful celebration,
or c)Irish,
this day shall not be as entertaining as in years past (think rolling around on rooftops). But I send along my merriest wishes to all those who belong to any of the above-mentioned categories.

And a happy anniversary wish to one particular reader who decided to tie the knot on this day four years ago. Oh look at that, never getting drunk on St. Patrick's Day ever again.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Unknown Death Toll

Here is the latest from the Coalition For Darfur.

Many seemed surprised when UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian
Affairs Jan Egeland recently updated the estimated death toll in Darfur upwards from 70,000 to 180,000. Egeland estimates that 10,000 people have died, and continue to die, per month since the start of the genocide 18 months ago. He also admitted that the new death toll might be even higher (more than 200,000) and stressed that this new figure does not include those who have died violently at the hands of the Sudanese government or their proxy militia, the Janjaweed.

The original figure of 70,000 was an estimate, or rather an
underestimate, as it covered only the mortality in camps accessible to
the World Health Organization between April and early September 2004.
As such, it did not include mortality rates prior to April 2004, nor
did it include mortality rates among the more than 200,000 refugees in
Chad, nor the mortality rates in regions inaccessible to humanitarian
organizations.

It is in these inaccessible regions where most of the violence is
taking place. According to Sudan expert Eric
Reeves
, whose ongoing analysis of the situation in Darfur has been vital to understanding the widening scope of the crisis, an estimated 240,000 others have died as a direct result of government and/or Janjaweed violence.

If these numbers are correct, and we really have no cause to doubt them, it is safe to assume that some 400,000 Sudanese civilians have died in the last year and a half from direct violence, disease, or starvation.

That is more than 22,200 per month.

That is more than 740 per day.

That is more than 30 per hour.

That is one death every 2 minutes ... for 18 months.

Despite the seemingly hopeless nature of the crisis, we at the Coalition for Darfur believe that together we can raise awareness of the situation and, at the same time, raise money for the vital work that Save the Children is doing by providing food, water, shelter, and protection to over 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

Together, and with your support, we hope to make a small but meaningful contribution to alleviating the massive suffering that continues to plague the region.


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good news...bad news

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush will announce that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is his choice to be president of the World Bank, a senior administration told CNN Wednesday.

At least he's leaving DoD...of course such a divisive selection will test the success of W's uhhhh "fence mending" efforts


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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Gerry Adams: Head of vile organization AND spoiled brat

Gerry Adams is still tending to his bruised ego after the White House did the right thing this year and snubbed Adams for this year's White House St. Patrick's Day festivities. Of course Mr. Adams had a stinging rebuke for the President.
"Bill Clinton ran a better gig," he said in a speech in New York.
Oooh, I am sure President Bush is still burning with indignation after that clever quip. It's good to know that the head of an organization (or an organization that is tied to an organization) responsible for blowing up innocent people maintains the mental disposition of a five-year old.

I cannot also but help comment on this genius comment issued by Grant Lally, an Irish-American supporter of the President.
There's certainly less tolerance [after 9/11] for political violence that impacts on private citizens.
Gee, you think? I know that right before September 11 I was just warming up to the idea of murdering innocent civilians for political gain, but boy was I put to shame after that day.

The sad part of this whole affair are the useful idiots here in America, particularly in New York - I am looking at you, Peter King - who have whored themselves for this monstrous entity. Shame on them. Shame on them for lending financial and moral support to an organization that murders the innocent. It is a joke to think that we can deal peacefully and rationally with these barbarians, but I guess certain individuals are taken in by the cute brogue and just can't help themselves.

In the meantime, I send my praise and adoration to the sisters of Robert McCartney, who continue to demonstrate remarkable courage and fortitude. Among other things, they have announced that they will run in opposition to Sinn Fein candidates should there be no breakthrough in the case of their brother's murder. If there can be any good in the wake of this terrible event, it may be the ultimate demise of the IRA and their Sinn Fein counterparts.


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Monday, March 14, 2005

MNR

Sleep is overrated, don't you think?

Well then, so are the Yankees. Okay, so maybe they have some freakish forty-year old ten foot monster on the mound, but you just know that at the end of the season, after they've won like 110 games, they'll still falter when they have to rely on the recently come out of retirement Ron Guidry to win game seven against the Sox at the Stadium. It'll be the bottom of the ninth inning, the Sox up 8-6, the tying run on second, and the winning run at the plate in the person of Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately for the Yankees, with a 2-2 count on him, A-Rod will just remember at that precise moment that he has forgotten his fanny pack with his favorite lipstick in the clubhouse, and Keith Foulke will drill a 95-mile an hour fastball right past him.

Ahh yes, it's that time of year again as baseball springs into bloom. It would be nice if spring itself would spring into bloom. It's that exciting time of year when the cherry blossoms appear for like a tenth of a second. But for that tenth of a second there is no greater place to be on Earth than Washington, DC.

Unfortunately for us DC residents, approximately 8.4 billion other people think along the same lines, and they infest us like cicadas on their every 17-year appearance. As one who has been a resident of the two most important cities in America, I absolutely must take this time to express my deep appreciation for tourists.

I love tourists. There is no greater joy than being on the Metro with half-a-million clueless morons who have all crowded the Gallery Place station to wait 15 minutes for a train so that they can take it all the way to Metro Center. And then when they get off the train they decide to stop right there in the middle of the ever-loving platform, mesmerized by the blinking lights and the moving staircases that the rest of the civilised world recognizes as escalators. Even more endearing is the way that their feet all become magically magnetized the second that they touch said escalators, and the concept of standing TO THE RIGHT is completely foreign to them so they all just stand there looking completely dazed and confused, blissfully unaware of the approximately 2,000 people standing behind them hoping to get the top so that they can get to fucking work on time, thank you very much.

Of course I shoudn't be so hard on the tourists. It's not as though the kind citizens of this fair metropolis are much better. Ever hop on I-95 at rush hour? Is the concept of the left lane being just a passing lane completely alien to the people who poulate Virginia, DC, Maryland and Delaware? Here's a clue. When the car in front of you is travelling at 65.2 miles-per-hours, and you are travelling at just about 65.2000000000000000000001 miles-per-hour, can you maybe wait a split second before you turn into the left lane because, you know, if you look in the rear-view mirror you can see a line of cars approxmately 17 miles long all riding bumper-to-bumper as we wait patiently for you to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE LEFT LANE.

And you know what else. You're late for a train, and the doors are closing - LET THE FUCKING DOORS CLOSE. You are not the most important person in the known universe, and your being 30 seconds later for your appointment will not stop the time-space continuum.

Ditto for all the space cadets who dash for the elevator doors as though their baby was on board, and there was a bomb all set to go off the second the doors closed. Hey, gues what slappy, there are other elevators in this bank, catch one of them. Thank you, have a nice day.

It just goes to prove what I always have said: people are oblivious. People go through their day as if there were no other human beings on the planet. That's right buddy, just stand there in the middle of the street looking up at the tall building, taking somewhere in the vicinity of 35 hours to get your camera positioned just the way you want, and the focus precisely right. Yeah, because there's no one here who needs to maybe get around you. You know what you can do with that camera, buddy? Just give it to me, and I'll turn that sonofabitch sideways, and stick it straight up your candy ass.

You like pancakes?

Anyway, I welcome the re-opening of tourist season. As you can see, I am a real people person. I absolutely can't wait for that moment when I am jogging on the Mall and I get trapped behind some couple from Idaho and their fifteen children who have managed to all escape firmly from their control and walk around like a bunch of drunken midgets. And seeing as how I have to make trips to New York on successive weekends, I welcome the idiot from Pennsylvania that I will have to tailgate up the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike.

Just give me my Korn cd and a shotgun, and let's have some fun.


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Friday, March 11, 2005

The Party of Hell

Pop quiz hotshot: Name the terrorist organization that, until 9/11, had killed more US Citizens than any other?

The answer is Hezbollah, the so-called party of God. Just in case anybody had forgotten about them, they woke everyone up earlier this week by staging a massive pro-Syrian demonstration in Lebanon that possibly derailed Syria's exit from that country. And this interview in today's National Review Online with Barbara Newman, coauthor with Tom Diaz of Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil paints an even scarier portrait of Hezbollah activities. Newman claims that Hezbollah maintains a very heavy presence in the United States today.
Hezbollah has been operating inside the United States. Since the 1980s, the FBI has deported hundreds of members and had dozens of cases. Mostly, in these years, the Hezbollah cells were busted for criminal activity such as insurance fraud, credit-card fraud, counterfeiting clothes such as Levi jeans, phony marriages which they arranged to get green cards, and cigarette smuggling. Though these are sort of under-the-radar crimes, they raised millions of dollars which were sent to Hezbollah coffers in Beirut and in some cases used to buy highly sophisticated "dual-use" equipment in Canada such as very sophisticated computers, cell phones hooked up electronically to be capable of remotely controlled explosions, and intelligence drones.

They have not hit us here but the FBI and CIA thinks if we push them to the wall, cut off their ability to raise funds, get tough with them in Lebanon, they easily could hit us here.

Remember, they are very tough and sophisticated. Their soldiers don't do solo operations. Think of them as a pistol aimed at our head, which can be shot at will.
More discouraging, US immigration policies have made it easier for Hezbollah agents to infiltrate our Nation.
Without a doubt, U.S. immigration policies and practices made it laughingly easy for Hezbollah members to enter the U.S. illegally. There is a place called Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela where for $300 you can get phony papers to enter the U.S. When immigration officials noticed the blatant forgeries, the Hezbollah members asked for political asylum and were told to report to court on a certain date. Most didn't. Many found ways to stay here simply by taking identities of friends leaving the country or paying women to marry them and never living with them.

Since 9/11, these politics have been toughened and our people are more vigilant in the pursuit of terrorists trying to enter the country.

But we have porous borders to our north and south and Hezbollah has taken to getting people in the country by hiding in the trunk of cars coming in from Mexico.
Finally, Newman states that Hezbollah just might be an even bigger threat to the United States than al-Queda.
A lot of intelligence officers I have spoken to regard Hezbollah as more a threat to Americans than al Qaeda. One FBI station chief I know very well said he's worried about Hezbollah, he's worried about the Hezbollah cells in the United States, and he's worried about Hezbollah members so secretly ensconced here that even operating cells don't know about them.
But of course, Michael Moore has assured us all that there is no terrorist threat in the United States, so we need not worry. Back to putting our heads in the sand.


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News Flash: Appeasement Still Does Not Work

One year ago today, radical Islamists coordinated ten powerful explosions on four commuter trains just outside of Madrid, Spain. The explosions killed 191 people and injured hundreds more. This act of terrorism was timed to have an impact on Spain’s parliamentary elections, which were only a few days away. The Basque separatists responsible for the bombing were hoping that the Spanish electorate would interpret the bombing as a response to their country’s support of the Bush administration’s efforts to topple Saddam Hussein and vote accordingly.

Unfortunately, the terrorists’ strategy worked. Spaniards turned out in droves to evict then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and his Popular Party, both loyal allies of the United States, and replace them with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his opposition Socialist Party. Zapatero made it clear from his first days in office that priority number one for his government would be the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the Iraqi Coalition. Within weeks, all of Spain’s 1,300 troops were on their way home.

We all know what happened next. Spain was rewarded for its non-warmongering policy. Regional Muslim extremists declared a détente with the western nation, and plans for further terrorism were abandoned. Terrorist organizations withdrew from the country and moved elsewhere. Spain was, at long last, able to exist in peace because it wisely chose to end its participation in an unprovoked war on Islam.

Well . . . I suppose that is the vision Spaniards hoped for when they went to the polls on March 14, 2004. I suppose their vision was not unlike the vision of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who encouraged Czechoslovakia to surrender its Sudetenland to Adolf Hitler in September 1938 in the hopes that there would be “peace in our time.” Chamberlain’s weakness cost the world another global war and literally millions of lives. Or perhaps it was similar to the vision held by those in Europe and elsewhere who did nothing in the face of Stalin’s Soviet expansionism, in the hopes that the Soviet Bear would be satisfied with some territorial gains and stop its advance. The result of this shortsightedness was 40 years’ worth of dictatorial domination over half a continent and a global military standoff that brought civilization within inches of annihilation on several occasions.

What did Spain gain from its appeasing ways? Since the elections, ETA, or Euskadi ta Askatasuna (the rough translation is “Basque Homeland and Liberty”), has been quite active in its recruiting efforts in Spain and beyond. This is particularly troubling, especially given Spain’s proximity to the Muslim nations that make up the North African coastline. In fairness, I am sure that Zapatero’s government has not stopped pursuing terrorists within its borders – indeed, Spain has made the most arrests of terror suspects of any European nation since September 11, 2001 – but his nation’s dramatic policy surrender with respect to Iraq no doubt served to revitalize the influx of pro-ETA and Al Qaeda radicals and restore morale among the terrorist masses.

More directly, the bombings – and the terror – have continued. Spaniards remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks, which have kept on coming even in the wake of Zapatero’s completed troop withdrawal. The most recent ETA bombing was last month in Madrid Park, which injured 43 people and stirred painful memories. While the scale of injury pales in comparison to what took place a year ago, the string of bombings since that time makes it clear that ETA and its overseas allies are still firmly entrenched.

History is replete with lessons of what happens when the civilized world gives in to the demands of thugs and tyrants. Spain has opted for the path of least resistance, and no doubt still hopes that their withdrawal from the larger war will be their salvation. It is perhaps too early to know the precise long-term effects of their appeasement, but it is certainly not too early to know that it will not lead to peace in our time.


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