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Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Schiavo Case: Why, why, why am I never cynical enough about the Republicans? 

God knows I try. But it's never enough!

CANYON LAKE, Texas — A family tragedy unfolding in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal -- without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the raging debate outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.

The patient then was a 65-year-old drilling contractor, badly injured in a freak accident at his home. Among the family standing vigil at Brooke Army Medical Center was a grieving junior congressman -- U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

More than 16 years ago, far from the political passions that have defined the Schiavo controversy, the DeLay family endured its own wrenching end-of-life crisis. The man in a coma, kept alive by intravenous lines and a ventilator, was DeLay's father, Charles Ray DeLay.

Then, freshly re-elected to a third term in the House, DeLay waited all but helpless for the verdict of doctors.

Today, as House Majority Leader, DeLay has teamed with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to champion political intervention the Schaivo case. He pushed emergency legislation through congress to shift the legal case from Florida state courts to the federal judiciary.

And he is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.

In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.
(The Not-the-New-York-naturally-but-the-Los-Angeles Times via Kos)



That was different, because, well, um.

Apparently, a lot of Republicans are asking Delay ('Why did you put us through this?'

Why indeed? Maybe a little WPS (Winger Projection Syndrome) going on here?

This picture needs a caption! 

Talibornagain: We'll take Ohio 

And, naturally, they want Kenneth Blackwell elected Governor:

In a manifesto that is being circulated among church leaders and on the Internet, the group, which is called the Ohio Restoration Project, is planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.

"Endorse conservative causes," eh? And these guys are tax exempt why, exactly?

The initial goal is to elect Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a conservative Republican, governor in 2006. The group hopes to build grass-roots organizations in Ohio's 88 counties and take control of local Republican organizations.

"The establishment of the Ohio Republican Party is out of touch with its base," said Russell Johnson, the pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church and the principal organizer of the project. "It acts as if it lives in Boston, Mass."
(via Times)

Sweet Jeebus.

"We're very confused that you have a Republican Party platform, and yet people running for higher office pay no attention to it," said Phil Burress, the leader of the Issue 1 [anti-gay marriage] campaign, who is also helping organize the Restoration Project. "Why don't they just become Democrats?" he asked.

By all means. In my Father's house are many mansions.

The Schiavo case: Closure 

Andrew Cohen, the CBS legal analyst who has been a beacon of sanity in the Schiavo case, writes in the LA Times:

I don't blame the Schindlers and their lawyers for coming up with any and every argument they could think of. Grief expresses itself in many ways. By refusing to accept the Florida court decisions, Congress and the White House enabled this grief, falsely encouraged it and then used it, and the Schindlers, for political purposes. The federal courts, on the other hand, by refusing to change the Constitution for one family, acknowledged this grief and tried to deal with it as humanely as possible while still providing the finality that our legal system provides and that our society needs.

Memo to the wingers: "Get over it." We were right. Also moral.

Of course, it's unlikely that the wingers will devote themselves to getting over it. What they will do is devote themselves to payback.

And since the wingers can never admit to themselves how they've been used by their putative allies, all of whom are now backtracking from this fiasco as fast as they can, the payback will target the judicial system. And us. Let's just hope the wingers don't target judges with snipers the way they've targetted doctors.

UPDATE Or maybe not. Jebbie still has a few appeals going. It would be funny if he wins one, just as all the Republicans are saying "Terri who?"

The Schindlers are still holding out hope for an unlikely intervention by Gov. Jeb Bush, who has said he has done everything in his power to take custody of Schiavo.

The governor still had several legal appeals pending on a state request to let the social services agency take emergency custody of Schiavo, but he had no plans for new action, Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said.

UPDATE What Andrew Sullivan (!!) said:

Screw the science. Screw the court system. Screw the law. I disagree with Jonah that this is a minor spat with no long-term consequences. We are looking directly at the real face of contemporary Republicanism. Sane, moderate, thoughtful people are watching this circus and will not soon forget it.
(Daily Dish)

UPDATEA Hal Turner goes even more nuts.

If It Feels This Good To Be Used... 

Sir, what about the ongoing problem of an exit strategy for Iraq?

I would have to say Terri Schiavo.

Okay. What about the investigation of the Plame leak?

Terri Schiavo, again, of course.

And the question of how Mr. Guckert/Gannon got his press creds?

Have I mentioned Terri Schiavo?

Your approval ratings are dropping into the basement. What plans do you have to get them up?

I’m going to Terri Schiavo.

What about the lies regarding WMD’s in Iraq?

Terri, Terri, Terri.

What about the fake news stories that government agencies and corporations are circulating?

Those will be Schiavoed.

Securing shipping containers?

Schiavo, Terri.

And Halliburton, et al’s, continued gouging of taxpayers? And the mounting deficit? Cuts to important social programs in the proposed budget?

Um, let’s focus on Terri Schiavo?

And the question of how best to deal with North Korea and Iran?

More Schiavo.

Okay, fine. What about when the hapless poster child dies, and her public humiliation ends?

Mr. Rove is working on that. For now, let’s all just Terri Schiavo.

The Healing Angel Spreads Its Wings 

American Progress Report has a number of Easter eggs in this week's basket, including this on the willing collusion of medical personnel in the application of torture and abuse by the Army:
"The first rule of medical ethics is as clear as day: Do no harm.caduceusstlouis-e85 It's no wonder, then, that alarms went off when the recent Church report on detainee abuse noted a "growing trend in the global war on terror" for military psychiatrists and psychologists to take part in interrogations. According to Time magazine report, the practice has been ongoing for quite some time. Army investigators have already found that military-intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib "had psychiatrists review their 'interrogation plans' for Iraqi detainees," and the Army surgeon general is currently investigating "whether some doctors helped direct what amounts to psychological torture." Not all mental health professionals find this acceptable. An Army psychiatrist told Time, "We should not be using our abilities to make things difficult for a person," but admitted there has been some "blurring of the boundaries." Wonder what he's referring to?"
Back in November on my own site, I noted the evidence turned up by the Red Cross on "flagrant violations of medical ethics" by doctors and medical personnel down in Guantanamo (scroll down). Part of the story contained this:
"Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said."
Biscuit. So cute. This would be the same "Biscuit" whose helpful memos turned up heavily redacted in the recent response to the ACLU's FOIA request for information on torture and interrogations. The same "Biscuit" Neil Lewis was referring to on PBS when he said:
"They would meet with the medical staff. They would meet with other people who knew about the detainees and make recommendations on how they could successfully be coerced into talking.
So... and the other part of the medical staff, the medical files were open. And this... this is an interesting issue because medical files between you, let's say, and your doctor, you assume are confidential. I'm not sure we expect them to be confidential at Guantanamo, although some of the ethicists say it should be, but I mean, this is Guantanamo; it's not Kaiser Permanente or some HMO."
I mean, let's not put too fine a point on it, shall we, guys and gals? We'd never go so far as to compare the slow degradation of our medical establishment with that of the Third Reich's, would we?

Not me.

: In retrospect, I'm feeling a touch bad about seeming to come down so hard on docs the last couple days. And just for clarification, I don't think, nor do I mean to insinuate, that all docs are reckless ethical monsters. If they were, they wouldn't be held in the godlike regard they are by so many millions. What I do believe, and have seen evidence of in the course of the real-life work I do, is that when serious ethical violations do crop up, the protective screen put up by their colleagues is so thick that it almost requires being a serial killer to have one's license revoked. As alert reader Rebecca noted, those guilty of the above incidents should have licenses pulled. But this is unlikely to happen, not just because the government is loathe to investigate, but also because the AMA, APA, and other like bodies won't be looking too closely either.

The Moonie Paper weighs in on Schiavo 

Nothing like a little eliminationist rhetoric, is there? Heed the words of The Messiah:

There's no hope now for Terri Schiavo, not unless one of the worms turn.

Just who all the worms are is not yet clear. Michael Schiavo, the errant husband, has never been this close to sending Terri into eternity. His behavior in this drama has been worm-like.

Or maybe the judges are the worms. The justices of the Florida and federal courts, who ordinarily revel in their ability to make up laws when they can't find one in the law books to suit their purposes of the moment, have decreed that there's no legal way to save Terri from the death by starvation and dehydration that convicted serial killers, murderers of children and others on death row would be spared.
(via Wasington Times)


What do you do with worms? Stamp them. Funny how the pro-lifers are so willing to "err on the side of" killing those who disagree with them (back)

Of course, we all knew "the tyranny of unelected judges" line was coming. Never mind that Judge Greer is elected (65%), a Baptist, and a Republican; the delusional wingers have never been ones to let the facts stand in the way of propagating a good meme.

Sunshine State Schutszstaffel 

Support the secretly gathering information about their family members.

Via DarkSyd:
"Rebecca Boettcher's son, a former Marine, was serving in Iraq when Baghdad fell. Her niece remains deployed there with the Missouri National Guard.

The 57-year-old Indialantic grandmother said she considers herself patriotic -- and was upset to learn the Brevard County Sheriff's Office targeted her as a "person of interest" in connection with an anti-President Bush rally Jan. 20 at Melbourne City Hall. Officials secretly gathered information about her."

More: The Sunshine Police State

With the politicalization of conventional 'criminal' actions through the blending of the criminal and political police in the newly former 'security police' a week later, the ideological power-house of the Third Reich and executive organ or the "Fuhrer will' has essentially taken shape. ~ Ian Kershaw, Hitler/Hubris; pages 540-541


Friday, March 25, 2005

Ominous Warnings From The Moon 

Internationally renowned crazy person and self declared true-daddy of mankind, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, has apparently worked his messianic true-self into something of a true-lather over disclosure of his potential plans to auction off the Wash Times. Via John Gorenfeld:
Apparently alarmed that Rev. Moon's threat to sell the Washington Times appeared on this blog [], Jenkins, Esq., is now prefacing Moon speeches with this disclaimer:

THIS MESSAGE IS CONFIDENTIAL AND INTENDED ONLY FOR THE USE OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO WHICH IT IS ADDRESSED ANY DISCLOSURE TO OR USE BY ANYONE ELSE IS PROHIBITED. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution,forwarding, or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited.


Kinda coincidental too since only earlier today the True P-Niss threatened to lower the boom at the Washington Chestnut unless everyone got right with the program. Heh, well, small world as they say.

Meanwhile, appears to be some kind of cosmic regal affair slated for 2012:
There remains the final 8-year course from now until the year 2012 and the kingship of the physical and spiritual world.

Perhaps the True P-Niss will finally be intiated into the Great Hall of Love Organs! Anyway, you can find out more about this stuff mentioned above by going right here: Preacher clamps down on leaks after Moon threatens sale of Times.


Sowing the wind, reaping the whirlwind 

Jebbie, appalled by the forces he and the rest of the Republicans have unleased in the base ("You mean they actually believe this stuff?") appeals for calm:

Gov. Jeb Bush was alarmed enough to call for calm.

"There have been some reports that people are making threatening declarations if this process doesn't go their way," he said. "I urge all who want to help Terri Schiavo to honor her by remaining calm and acting peacefully, even though we are all very distressed by what's happening."

"Even though we may disagree with the courts," he added, "there is no justification for violent acts."
(via Daily News)

Gee, sounds like Jebbie's telling the Christian [cough] loons to "Get over it," doens't it?

Same deal with Little Green Footballs:

In an email, I’ve now been called a Nazi and told that I have a “kill the innocent campaign.”


Right. Now LGF wants to act all "responsible" (but not accountable! Oh no, no, no. They must be entertainers, just like Rush.) A little late in the day, wouldn't you say?

MBF "errs on the side of life" by offering $300,000 to kill Michael Schiavo and Judge Greer 


Meanwhile, FBI agents have arrested a North Carolina man on suspicion of soliciting offers over the internet to kill Michael Schiavo and Greer. Richard Alan Meywes of Fairview is accused of offering $250,000 for the killing of Schiavo and another $50,000 for the "the elimination of the judge who ruled against Terry."

Meywes was arrested without incident at his home around 5 p.m. Friday on charges of solicitation of murder and transmission of a threatening communication via interstate commerce, authorities said.

If convicted, Meywes could face up to 15 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. He is expected to make an initial court appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Asheville, North Carolina.

Greer has been under 24-hour protection by two U.S. marshals due to increased threats against his life by those unhappy with his handling of the Schiavo case.

Looking more and more like '30s Germany, isn't it? But maybe, just maybe, with a much stronger foundation of Constitutional governance than Germany had, we can pull back from the abysss... And Reid's judo-like move of using the enemy's strength to destroy him is looking better all the time. The rock that's covered the Republican base is really being lifted for the first time, and people don't like the critters they see.

It will be interesting to see the coverage this story gets on the weekend. A real good test for "that liberal media," eh?

"Paulie Wal-Mart"! 

I love it when the joke comes first, and reality follows after. It's like, like, life imitating art, or something. So, farmer makes the joke in comments, and Bingo! On the very same day comes the story!

Another small chapter in the endless book of corporate thievery under The Money Power:

[Thomas Coughlin,] high-profile Wal-Mart Stores Inc. board member resigned Friday after an internal probe turned up evidence of financial improprieties of up to half-a-million dollars. Three Wal-Mart employees, including a company officer, also lost their jobs.
(via AP)

"But—but—they got the bad guys!" I hear you say.

"No, the smart bad guys heaved the stupid bad guy over the side so they could preserve their ill-gotten gains," say I.

Let's do the math: $500,000, you say... How trivial compared to hundreds of millions for Halliburton and trillions in our payroll taxes moved into the pockets of the uber-rich!

Then gain... The minimum wage is $5.15 an hour (before taxes). So this guy cheerfully appropriate oh, around 97,000 hours of work at WalMart. That's 2425 40 hour weeks, or 46 years of work. At WalMart.

Gee, it's almost like these guys think the people who work for them are slaves, or something. Whip 'em whenever they don't hop to it, and then take everything that they earn.

And that kind of "entitlement" is the real problem in America today, isn't it.

"Paulie Wal-Mart!"

UPDATE Interestingly, Thomas Coughlin is big on RFID. Not that these guys would do literally anything for a buck, like subcutaneous injection... Please refer all that crazy stuff to The Department of No! They Would Never Do That!

And whaddaya know! The same source tells us that Coughlin is on the board of ChoicePoint, the same company that helped Jebbie steal Florida 2000 for W by purging legitimate voters from the rolls.

Thieves like us, huh? Guy steals from his company, guy steals an election. Same deal. The fish really does rot from the head, doesn't it?

The Caribou Asked Me To Post This 

There's a poll at MSNBC about ANWR. If you're so inclined, here's the link:

Probably doesn't do any good, but it couldn't hurt, either.

Pointless Friday Noodling 


I have absolutely no reason to be posting this picture except that it's so damned weird it's hypnotic. If anyone out there reads Japanese, I'd love to know what the governator is selling.

Dear Leader 

"If I had ever had a chance to meet [H]im face to face, I would have been moved to tears," she said. "We really believed that wherever [H]e went, flowers bloomed.
(via Times)

Poor deluded souls ....

from the Dept. of Vile Rumors 

I have no way of verifying this VILE RUMOR:


(Washington, DC, March 25, 2005) Lawyers for George H.W. and Barbara Bush took the case of their son, George W. Bush, to federal court today in an attempt to force doctors to remove the feeding tube that ties him to his guardian, Karl Rove. The tube was inserted many years ago when doctors realized that Mr. Bush could not function in an acceptable manner in society, or make decisions, even bad ones, without it.

The younger Bush, who has been force-fed reactionary tripe since birth, was declared to be in a persistent sociopathic state by a panel of doctors and the only thing they could do to make him seem capable of functioning in society was to run a feeding tube from Mr. Rove’s brain directly to the skull of Mr. Bush, through a special pump attached to his back. This tube has enabled him to function with at least a human appearance in front of pre-selected audiences with a minimum of symptoms.

The parents however, recently stated that their son had told them many years ago that he never wanted to be kept functional if he lost his ability to empathize, and they claim that the feeding tube is inhumane. However, they concede that without the tube, their son would probably recede into a complete sociopathic catatonia, with occasional fits of rage, unable to lead a normal life.

Others contend that the parents are only seeking to have the tube removed so that the family can be spared further embarrassment as the condition of their son deteriorates.

Like Bush, the House Republicans tiptoe away from the Schiavo case 

Seems they aren't going to politicize Good Friday like they did Palm Sunday. Thank God (literally, right?)

Officials announced that a House hearing set for Good Friday at Schiavo's Pinellas Park hospice was postponed. Schiavo and husband Michael had been subpoenaed to appear.
(via Orlando Sun Sentinel)

Guess they read the polls, just like Bush did. Of course, if the House Republicans had any balls actual principles other than holding onto power by any means necessary, they'd hold the hearings regardless.

Or maybe they're scared of all the loonies with guns they've riled up.

Why is it then when the "pro"-"lifers" don't get what they want, the first thing they do is pick up a gun? 

Terri Schiavo's soul has long since fled her body. 

That's what tends to happen when your cortex gets filled with cerebro-spinal fluid, and all your neurons go.

So, can we please stop the hysterical coverage that she's dying when, in every meaningful sense, she's been dead a long time?

For Christ's sake.


Look, I'm totally certain that the Schiavo case has nothing to do with positioning Jebbie for 2008 

but that does seem to have been the effect, hasn't it?

He has assumed a very high profile in this polarizing case just as Republicans are contemplating the void that will be left when President Bush begins his walk off the stage in two years or so. At a time when many of the most frequently mentioned possibilities to lead the party are moderates like John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the governor now certainly has a place, if he wants it, as a prime contender in what is shaping up as a fight to represent a conservative wing that has proved increasingly dominant.

"He has strongly identified himself with the Christian conservative movement," said Matthew Corrigan, a political science professor at the University of North Florida. "If the Republican Party is looking for someone with good ties with the Christian conservative movement, he is the one who is going to have them."
(via NY Times)

Of course, The Bush Power would never use the corpse of a brain-dead woman as a political football, not even to position themselves for 2008, any more than they would start a war to help them out in a mid-term election... Oh, wait...

Pulling the Feeding Tube From Social Security 

Now they're making a big to-do over "progressive indexation", the most exciting new way of screwing the public since "personal accounts". I'm sick of this:
"Progressive indexation involves reducing the growth in benefits for people with middle and higher incomes, but letting the benefits keep rising for low-income retirees in future generations."
Sounds fair at first, no? But as is usually the case in infomercial con jobs, there's more! In this latest scheme, people in the lowest 30% of income earners would get slighly higher benefits than they would as SS stands today, but would be tied to rises in prices instead of wages, making a decline in one's standard of living likely.
"People in the middle third of incomes would see the combined benefits from Social Security and their private accounts slip to about 80 percent of the amounts promised today.
For people who earn more than $90,000 a year in today's dollars, the estimated benefits would be reduced by about one-third."
Do you hear a death-knell? Poor Social Security, it sure was good to know ya:
"Critics say the plan would gradually hurt public support for Social Security because it would cut into benefits for middle-income workers without reducing their taxes.
Jason Furman, an economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said high-income workers who contribute more in payroll taxes would eventually receive no more in Social Security benefits than workers at the bottom.
"This raises the question of whether broad political support for Social Security can be sustained if workers pay very different amounts of payroll taxes but most workers receive the same level of benefits," Mr. Furman wrote in a research note on Monday."
And it wouldn't eliminate the anticipated shortfall anymore than converting to "personal accounts" will, a fact readily admitted by Bush and the Republicans, so we'll still have that to deal with.

Can things become any plainer than this? For those who've kept their eyes and ears open, like William Greider of The Nation, the whole Social Security fluff-up has been nothing more than the assault to dismantle the program that has been planned and promised for years. SS was never meant to be anything but an insurance policy, guaranteeing a minimum level of income to keep people out of poverty, and conceived as a way for each generation to support the next. In that way, it has been one of the few ideas to come out of the founding of the republic that actually recognized the impact of the present on the far future, and took seriously the debt each preceding generation owes to the one that came before it. Any argument about its fate that digresses from this fact threatens to dissolve into the putrid river of disingenuous excuses the administration keeps spewing forth to drown the truth.

True P-Niss Friday - The Sum Dum Loon Challenge 

Greetings feeble minded mortal children of Republicanism. The True P-Niss demands your upright attention!

Stand erect and face the True P-Niss you simpering pussies! Listen:

It looks like Rev. Moon and us agree on something. He is pissed that there isn't enough media coverage of Republicans' endorsement of him as the Messiah at various government buildings. And he's raging against his followers, threatening to sell his stuff. ~ via John Gorenfeld

(Fun stuff indeed. I hope that tugboat cracker Hal Lindsey isn't in the market for a cheap sheet. That's all I need. Heh. Just forget I said that please.)

Well, anyway, it has come to the attention of the True P-Niss, messianic father of humanity and savoir son of The Great Big Toe (sole creator of the vast cosmos and other stuff), that many conservative Republicans continue to resist the beckon of my righteous message. I say to you who resist the True P-Niss Calling to beware of such disregard for your oversight of The True P-Niss and the ways of the P-Nissification Church. Do not fondle this warning lightly! For the True P-Niss holds your sweaty quivering nuts in his firm grip and will crush them like garden snails if you do not heed his bidding.

I say to you this: I offer you a challenge which you will meet or I shall be forced to throttle your voices in your throats and make you silent and cast you into the viper jaws of effeminate liberalism where you will be forced to labor for eternity as hog tied bitches and mincing toothless eunichs slobbering like whelps in the pimply lap of SATAN!

"How come our media is silent. If you just keep silent I will challenge you. You have to write correct articles or maybe we should sell those newspapers!!!"

I command you to write for me CORRECT ARTICLES which will deliver my message of truth to the peoples of world and shepherd them to glorious unity with the True P-Niss and the Higher Law and the humanitarian love mission of the P-Nissification Org.

Hear me, I have sheltered you, I have given to you my organ, my newspapers, my media panoply, to cloak you in the bitter cold of conservatism's winter, and to allow you to warm at my hearth asking only that you call attention to my sacred mission and the greater glories of The Great Big Toe who has sent me to you, to lead the people, on the path to True salvation and global happiness. The CAUSE of Toeism. Yet, obstinately, some of you still challenge me with your wavering silence! No more! No more I say to you NO MORE! I challenge you now! Do NOT diddle with my organ in such a manner or the I will strike your tongues mute, throw-up a demon seed into the plams of your hands, cut off your crooked keyborad typing fingers, and shove each one straight up your blasphemous collective ass one bloody twitching stub at a time!

I will saw down my 'Chestnut' as one gnashing beaver might down a sapling to construct a new dam. I will dissolve your dreams with my poisonous sting! And I will suck the precious bodily fluids from your wretched cavity the way a scorpion sucks the liquidated innards from a cockroach! And I will leave you behind a dry and lifeless shell.

Hear me fetchlings! You are nothing without the Higher Love of his holiness the True P-Niss. Do you understand what I am saying to you? You'd better, if you know what's good for you. Ok then. Report to the Great Hall of Cockrings and Coronations. Your GOP Congressman will meet you there and you will be escorted smiling to your next assignment.

Thank you for your attention; for the True P-Niss loves you as his cherished children and only asks for your blessings.

Yours in Toe,
- The Rev. Sum Dum Loon (The True P-Niss)

Pictured at left: The Great Big Toe, creator of the cosmos and other stuff.

Elsewhere in the News:
Amazing revelations about one man's quest to turn stoners into anti-drug zombies using Abu Ghraib-like methods -- and how he's been rewarded by the Bush family as a hero.Melvin Sembler, U.S. Ambassador to Italy


Goodnight, moon 

Now that Bush has wussed out, why hasn't the Republican candidate in 2008 sent in the cops, the Guard, or Wackenhut so he can pump more nutrients into Terri Schiavo's living corpse? (Hey, sounds kinda like the Bush policy on oil, but I digress.)

If the Bush Brothers had the courage of their convictions, that's exactly what they'd do.

So, how long before the fundy billionaires behind the VRWC—Scaife, Coors, and the usual suspects—go absolutely bananas, dump the Bushes, and go for someone even wackier? FTF...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree 

Does anyone know how to touch hearts and minds like Georgie? Up in Minnesota he has been conspicuous by the absence of his sentiments:
"Native Americans across the country -- including tribal leaders, academics and rank-and-file tribe members -- voiced anger and frustration Thursday that President Bush has responded to the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with silence...
"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement here. "When people's children are murdered and others are in the hospital hanging on to life, he should be the first one to offer his condolences. . . . If this was a white community, I don't think he'd have any problem doing that."
Well, I guess it all depends on whose children it is hanging on to life in the hospital. For instance, some people's children may be worth more, political-capital speaking, than others:
""The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling," said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.
"He has not been real visible in Indian country," said former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.). "He's got a lot of irons in the fire, but this is important."
Campbell must be such a comfort to his people, don't you think? Can you say "apple"?

Science for Republicans! 

I know, two in one day, but it's a good day for science!

Octopuses, known for using camouflage to avoid predators, have been observed apparently trying to sneak away by walking on two arms while pretending to be a bunch of algae. Two kinds of octopus were seen to use different ways of walking along the sea floor, researchers were reporting in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
(via AP)

"Walking on two arms while pretending to be a bunch of algae..."

Remind you of anything?

How about Bush tiptoeing and crawfishing his bad flippety-floppety self away from the Schiavo case, now that Karl 'n' Karen read him the numbers and he's figured out the issue's a loser?

Because, as Tom points put (back) if Bush had any balls was capable of standing on any principle other than pandering to the base without actually delivering, he would have sent in the National Guard by now....

I hate to think what that move would do to Army recruitment efforts, but heck, why not "err on the side of life"? After all, the kulturkampf is at stake!

Unsung heroes prevented Jebbie from abusing Schiavo's living corpse 

Way way down at the end of WaPo's coverage:

Law enforcement officers and an attorney for Morton Plant Hospital, where Schiavo's tube was to be reinserted, told Felos and his legal team that the governor's office had notified them that agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were preparing to take custody of Schiavo and drive her to the hospital. Those phone calls prompted Felos to ask Greer to issue the order that was handed down late Wednesday afternoon blocking the state from taking custody and authorizing "each and every" sheriff's deputy in the state to stop any attempt to remove Schiavo from the hospice.
(via WaPo)

So, the unsung heroes, "law enforcement officers and an attorney" dropped a dime on Jebbies plans. Excellent.

Throughout the Bush Ascendancy's attempts to convert the rule of law into the personal will of the executive, and convert who have sworn oaths to uphold the law and serve their country into political operatives, whistleblowers and people of integrity have tried to stop them.

Unsung heroes: The Army JAGs who opposed Gitmo. Joseph Darby, who blew the whistle on Abu Ghraib.

And now these guys. They won't get a medal from Bush, any more than Joseph Darby did, but they have the knowledge that they did the right thing. And if they helped Terri Schiavo finally die with some shreds of dignity, that's enough.

The Morning After 

Lately I know it's been hard to concentrate on the issues that are really hurting us, what with all this necrophilia in the air, but the court battles are winding down, Terri's no closer to getting up and walking, and the whole thing has been like waking up after a bad drunk: you thought you were going to be able to forget the whole mess, but when you come back to your senses your problems are still there, and you feel even worse than when it all started.

Who's buying the next round?

Alpo Accounts: The exit strategy for Republicans and the nuclear option 

I've said it before, I'll say it again:

There is exactly one acceptable exit strategy for Republicans from Bush's plan to phase out social security: Complete capitulation, followed by prolonged grovelling.

And a little whimpering, and some tearful gestures of fealty to FDR's social compact would not go amiss.

Why then, would Dems want to be "responsible" and "bi-partisan" and deal with Social Security solvency? Because you just know anything halfway acceptable to the Dems is going to go into conference committee and come out as a Social Security phase-out.

The nuclear option is looking pretty good right now. In fact, letting the Republicans do whatever they want is looking like the nuclear option to me—far better to shut the place down. (Could this be another ingenious strategy by Harry Reid?)

The operational definition of "responsible" for Dems is doing everything possible to cripple Bush in 2006 and defeat his Republican spawn in 2008, before they complete their program of wreckage.

UPDATE And speaking of the nuclear option:

Elliot Mincberg of People for The American Way said Thursday he hoped fallout from the Schiavo case would hamper GOP efforts to change Senate rules and speed confirmation of controversial Bush court appointees.

Speaking of Republicans who are undecided on the rules change, he said, "When they look at the Schiavo case and look at where leadership led them and look at the fact that 70 percent of the people are against them, we'd hope they'd think two, three or four times before plunging over the cliff."

Elliot, Elliot, Elliot.

The Republicans plunge over a cliff—what's not to like?

Science for Republicans 

Of course, it's amazing that all this could happen in the 6,000 years it took to create the Earth, but let that pass:

First light seen from alien planets
In the new data, however, Spitzer directly observed the warm glows of infrared radiation from the two "hot Jupiters," as they are called. Hot Jupiters are extrasolar gas giants that zip closely around their parent stars, enough to heat their atmospheres to more than 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit.
(via Technology News)

What's even more amazing is that we have gas giants right here on earth—and some of them are even on the radio!

And God, how I wish they were extra-solar ...

What If They Gave a War and Nobody Came? 

Dogen Hannah over at a Knight Ridder paper in Contra Costa has an interesting one about the Army failing to make its recruiting goals for two months in a row:

The recruiting problems won't immediately hurt the Army's fighting capabilities, but they're another sign of how hard it's become to recruit new soldiers, military analysts said.

"The failure to meet recruiting goals can't really come as a big shocker to anybody," said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a conservative think tank. "The war is unpopular, and the Army is bearing the brunt of the fighting.

"People who viewed the Army as a career move are probably finding that option less attractive as the war drags on," Thompson said. The Army's recruiting difficulties also suggest that "maybe the all-volunteer force only works well when we're not at war," he said.

Harvey [US Army] dismissed the possibility that the Army's manpower woes would revive interest in a draft. "The `D' word is the farthest thing from my thoughts. ... The all-volunteer force has proven its value."
The Army secretary said he's pushed the Army to come up with innovative ways of finding volunteers.

"We're going to be ... very proactive to pointing out to recruits and their parents the value of serving the country," Harvey said.

Charles Pena, the director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian policy organization in Washington, said he's skeptical such appeals will make a big difference. They might persuade people already inclined to enlist, he said, but otherwise fall on deaf ears.

"We're a very divided country on whether this is a war that matters," Pena said. "Iraq is not clearly a war of U.S. national survival. As long as it's not perceived that way, you're going to have a hard time with the patriotic appeal."

Okay, let’s see if I got this straight: There is no need for a draft because appealing to “patriotism” will make people want to enlist and go to fight a pointless war and we don’t need that many soldiers anyway, because the volunteer army is a great success, people are joining in droves, but just not right now because there’s a chance they’ll have to fight in a pointless war and maybe get killed or mutilated.

Do I have this straight?

via Army to use patriotic appeal to meet goal

Our Favorite Moralist With the Major Gambling Problem Weighs In 

Showing he has absolutely no sense of separation of powers, Bill Bennett says Governor Bush should just send in the troops:
In theoretical terms, this is a conflict between the separate powers of Florida government, as the judicial and executive branches have different opinions about what the Florida constitution requires. But in practical terms, Terri's life hangs in the balance: If the Florida supreme court prevails, she dies. If Governor Bush prevails, she lives. It is a mistake to believe that the courts have the ultimate say as to what a constitution means. Every governor is bound by oath to uphold and protect his state constitution. In the case of Florida, the constitution Mr. Bush pledged to defend declares that, "All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty..." If the governor believes that he and the Florida legislature possess the constitutional authority and duty to save Terri's life, then he is bound by his oath of office to do so.

James Madison remarked in the 51st Federalist that "auxiliary precautions" — constitutional mechanisms such as separation of powers and checks and balances — are necessary for limiting the power of government, a means for the end of protecting rights. But, Madison also reminded us, "a dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government." The Florida constitution echoes Madison when it states in Section 1 that, "All political power is inherent in the people."

The "auxiliary precautions" of Florida government — in this case the Florida supreme court — have failed Terri Schiavo. It is time, therefore, for Governor Bush to execute the law and protect her rights, and, in turn, he should take responsibility for his actions. Using the state police powers, Governor Bush can order the feeding tube reinserted. His defense will be that he and a majority of the Florida legislature believe the Florida Constitution requires nothing less. Some will argue that Governor Bush will be violating the law. We think he will not be violating the law, but if he is judged to have done so, it will be in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr., who answered to a higher law than a judge's opinion. In so doing, King showed respect for the man-made law by willingly going to jail (on a Good Friday); Governor Bush may have to face impeachment because of his decision.

In taking these extraordinary steps to save an innocent life, Governor Bush should be judged not by the opinion of the Florida supreme court, a co-equal branch of the Florida government, but by the opinions of his political superiors, the people of Florida. If they disagree with their governor, they are indeed free to act through their elected representatives and impeach him. Or they can vindicate him if they think he is right. But he should not be cowed into inaction — he should not allow an innocent woman to be starved to death — because of an opinion of a court he believes to be wrong and unconstitutional.

Governor Jeb Bush may find it difficult to protect Terri's rights without risking impeachment. But in the great American experiment in republican government, much is demanded of those who are charged with protecting the rights of the people. Governor Bush pledged to uphold the Florida constitution as he understands it, not as it is understood by some Florida judges. He is the rightful representative of the people of Florida and he is the chief executive, in whom the power is vested to execute the law and protect the rights of citizens. He should use that power to protect Terri's natural right to live, and he should do so now.
(via, yuck, NRO)
Hear that, everyone? Bennett has just made a case for every executive from now on to just do what he damn-well pleases.

Now let's ponder this one for a minute. What if Governor Bush thought that the state of Florida should shut down all $500-a pull slot machines? What would our virtuous Mr. Bennett say about that? I'm sure he would insist that the governor was overstepping his authority.

Given the revelations of the past couple of years about Mr. Bennett, I'd venture a guess that no one today would believe he was making the argument because of his strong belief in limiting the power of government but because he likes to play slots -- a lot. Heck, he likes to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars per night playing slots apparently.

But, really folks, who's going to believe what Bill "High Roller" Bennett says from now on?

Better yet, after the events of the last four years, why does anybody believe anything any Republican says these days?

Once More, for Emphasis 

Who wrote this in a "policy planning study" in 1948?

"We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. . . . In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. . . . To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. . . . We should cease to talk about vague and . . . unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."

It's all at Policy Planning Study 23

It was Kennan, of course, the "architect of cold war policy." One of his more (in)famous pieces, quoted by Brad DeLong and Noam Chomsky and others as evidence of the imperial plan, pre- PNAC. It was prepared for Harry Truman.

What strikes me, though, is that the only thing that has been added since is the Rove touch: Deal in "immediate national objectives" and "straight power concepts" to preserve American corporate wealth and hegemony (as if it can be maintained forever on a shrinking planet), AND talk about vague objectives like "democracy" and "human rights" while throwing red meat to the talibornagains (gay marriage, Terri Schiavo, etc.) to keep everyone looking the other way.

Oh, and hey--what's the latest word on when the extraction, mining and chemical companies get to go to Mars? Is it in the budget? I mean, we've pretty much panned out Earth.

Doctor, Your Slips Are Showing 

The problems for Terri Schiavo began with a misdiagnosis and failure to warn that led to a malpractice suit, an award of about $700,000 for her future care, and about $300,000 for loss of consortium to her husband. This is about $50,000 more than the anti-malpractice politicos would have given him, on account of how frivolous and inflated all those lawsuits are, you know.

So you can imagine how cheered I was to read this story in the NY Daily News on a woman who only wanted a nose job:

"An apparently healthy 42-year-old woman died last week following a nose job and face-lift by (Michael Sachs) a Manhattan plastic surgeon with the state's worst malpractice record."
After going into cardiac arrest in the doctor's office, she was taken to the hospital and pronounced brain-dead. She had learned of the good doctor via a news write-up, which

"...did not mention that Sachs has for years been one of the most sued doctors in New York, as first revealed by the Daily News five years ago.
Current records show Sachs' malpractice standing hasn't improved. His official physician profile shows he has made 33 malpractice payments during the past decade, more than any other doctor in the state, according to a News analysis ofthe National Practitioner Data Bank public file.
Additionally, there are two malpractice suits pending against Sachs alleging breathing difficulties stemming from botched nose jobs.
Kelly said the article Cregan saw also didn't note that state health officials, citing negligence, last year banned Sachs from ever performing complex nasal procedures without the supervision of another doctor."
Now here's my question: if Bush and the AMA are so determined to eliminate frivolous lawsuits, why do they allow oily shits like this to continue to hold a license? Because as long as they refuse to police their own ranks and place the protection of patients above their own circle-the-wagons mentality, these kinds of tragedies will go on, and the grounds on which they build their arguments against malpractice will keep washing away.

Thanks to the folks at The Airing of Grievances for the heads-up.

Undead Republicans seek the liberties of the living 

Republicans vs. the Constitution: The lightbulb goes on over Modo's head 

You'd think with a column called "Liberties" she'd have picked up on this before, but we'll take what we can get!

Re: The Schiavo case:

My God, we really are in a theocracy.

Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated about not having any power, that they are willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?
(via NY Times)

Um, is that a rhetorical question? (But see below)

As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run.

Yes, Maureen, fundamentalists everywhere are the enemy. FTF.

Maybe President Bush should spend less time preaching about spreading democracy around the world and more time worrying about our deteriorating democracy.

Yep. (Actually, I'd rather Bush left our democracy alone. Not only have the Republicans done enough damage by stealing election 2000, whenever Bush actually does anything, it turns into either a giveaway to the corporations and the uber-rich, a clusterfuck, or both.)

And she finishes with a nice shot at Delay:

Mr. DeLay made his personal stake clear at a conference last Friday organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. He said that God had brought Terri Schiavo's struggle to the forefront "to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America." He defined that as "attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others."

So it's not about her crisis at all. It's about his crisis.

Shows you how much I know—I would have thought "theocracy" has too many syllables to catch on as a meme. But it seems to be spreading. More like this, please!

NOTE I'm coming round to the view that Reid did the right thing by giving the Republicans exactly what they wanted on the Schiavo case. Now we're seeing, up close and personal, what these people are like, and the lengths they will go to, to keep and maintain power. Reid allowed this object lesson to take place, and it seems to be working out for the best.

Tools You Can Use, Mr. Natural 

This site (Cost of Iraq War) is worth a visit, if your blood pressure medication has been adjusted. It shows comparisons of how much is spent on King George’s splendid little war in iWaq to what could be spent on lots of issues. For example, health insurance for kids: around 95 million kids could be insured for what iWaq is costing us. Or global hunger: we could have funded global hunger programs for 6 years for what iWaq is costing. Or, we could have ensured that every child in the world was given basic immunizations for 52 years for what iWaq is costing us.

There are also cool links to charts and graphs you can use in your communities, showing the local costs of the war, and ALSO the budget priorities of the GOP and how their proposed spending will impact your local community. I mean, if you’re laying the groundwork for coalition-building, or for GOTV and candidates in ’06, which I sure hope you are, these are great tools to use in letters, posters, flyers, etc.

See Local Cost Of Iraq War and The President's Budget: Impact on the States

There’s your culture of life, Bubba.

Doing the visuals 

Via an advertisement at the essential Juan Cole, I came across the fascinating BAGnewsNotes ("Getting between the point and the view").

Check out their analysis the iconography of the Schiavo case. In fact, read the whole site. It's terrific.

Not With A Bang, But A Whimper 

So the Supremes have decided:
"The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a request from the parents of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo for an emergency order allowing her feeding tube to be reinserted...
The Supreme Court's action marked the fourth time since January that it has refused to intervene in the emotional right-to-die case, in which Christian activists have supported the parents against Terri Schiavo's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo."
This, in spite of the amicus brief filed by that old kitten-lover Bill Frist and his attendant ghouls, Santorum and Martinez (R-what else?).

This has all been just sad. Being a parent myself, I can't hate Terri Schiavo's parents for their determination. But at some point it seems that their own selfish desire to hang on to a memory of their child overtook the reality with which they were confronted, and what is left of Terri has been sacrificed to maintaining that fantasy. Even a dog would have been allowed a better death.

When you think of all the need medical care being denied in this country to those too impoverished to afford it, this scenario has been more than pitiful. It's been an outrage.

Inside Bush's brain 

Our own Dali Llama, alert reader MJS, throws the following over the transom:

The Bad Magician imagines the President's brain as having a hatch. The Bad Magician climbs inside the President's head. The Bad Magician paints shadows in the folds of the President's cerebellum. The Bad Magician crouches down, leaps up and swings from the President's brain stem. A piece breaks off, turns into a salamander, and runs into the speech center, causing a ruckus. The Bad Magician lights a torch to see in the darkness, and singes away the President's smirk. The Bad Magician invents a door and puts it in the back of the President's fears. He opens the door and monsters crawl inside. The Bad Magician dances around the fire that burns inside the President's head. The Bad Magician looks at his watch and sees that it is late: he makes use of fish hooks and thick rope to rappel his way out of the President's rocky northern slope.

The dream ends. The President sees the shadows and screams.

That MJS! What an imagination!

The Bull-In-A-China-Shop School of Lawmaking Strikes Again 

Battered women's advocates and domestic violence workers in Ohio are finally being heard, as the state's new ban on gay marriage begins to work its magic. What magic is that? Why, the fallout effect on gay and non-gay couples alike, such as the elimination of the protection of the state's domestic violence law for non-married couples:
" Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman changed a felony domestic violence charge against Frederick Burk to a misdemeanor assault charge.
Prosecutors immediately appealed.
Judges and others across the country have been waiting for a ruling on how the gay marriage ban, among the nation's broadest, would affect Ohio's 25-year-old domestic violence law, which previously wasn't limited to married people.
Burk, 42, is accused of slapping and pushing his live-in girlfriend during a January argument over a pack of cigarettes.
His public defender, David Magee, had asked the judge to throw out the charge because of the new wording in Ohio's constitution that prohibits any state or local law that would "create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals."
Before the amendment, courts applied the domestic violence law by defining a family as including an unmarried couple living together as would a husband and wife, the judge said. The gay marriage amendment no longer allows that. "
It's been a long road for the victims of domestic violence, fighting decades of indifference, judgementalism, and legal inequities. The fact is that domestic violence is a women's issue, no matter how it's framed to try to make it sound gender-neutral, and the fact that women have been the primary targets of battering and abuse has made it easy to sideline, despite the heroic struggles of the DV movement over the last 35 years.

Burk, as is usual in cases like this, has a history:
" Because Burk had a prior domestic violence conviction, the latest charge was a felony that could have resulted in an 18-month jail term; a misdemeanor assault carries a maximum sentence of six months.
"This case is a good example of why we need a domestic violence law. A misdemeanor assault doesn't carry with it a significant enough penalty for repeat domestic violence abusers," said Matt Meyer, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.
Some opponents of the amendment have said they hope the conflict over the domestic violence law would result in the gay marriage ban being repealed.
Seventeen states have constitutional language defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Ohio's is regarded as the broadest marriage amendment of those passed by 11 states Nov. 2 because it bans civil unions and legal status to all unmarried couples and gay marriages. "
There's your Christian mercy. Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out.

To the duck pit! 

Can't remember where exactly I was when I took this picture, didn't write it down, but it was somewhere in southeastern Ohio.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

To serve Democrats 

I always think it's kind of touching and funny when a media whore like George Will or David "I'm writing as bad as I can" Brooks professes concern for the Democratic Party.

But when Bush does? Wow, that's just surreal. Get a load of this:

Flanked by Republican Sens. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and John McCain (Ariz.), Bush invited Democrats "to come to the table" to help devise a solution to shore up Social Security's finances. "I believe there will be bad political consequences for people who are unwilling to sit down and talk about the issue," he said.
(via WaPo)

Max Cleland "came to the table" on tax cuts, compromised with the Republicans, and what happened?

The Republicans ate him alive.

And now they want us to try it again? I don't think so.

Say, if the political consequences for opposing Bush's Social Security phase-out are so great, then why does Bush restrict Partei rallies only to the true believers? Why not let any citizen in? If the true believers are in the majority, well find out, right? Oh, wait...

Say, couldn't Bush "err on the side of life" by supporting universal health insurance? 

Say, couldn't Bush "err on the side of life" by protecting the Blue State ports from loose nukes? 

Say, couldn't Bush "err on the side of life" by getting guns off the streets in our cities? 

Say, couldn't Bush have "erred on the side of life" by not letting the EPA poison us with mercury? 

Say, couldn't Bush have "erred on the side of life" reading all those death penalty memos just a little more carefully? 

Oh, come on: Terri Schiavo is not Jesus Christ 

This whole Schiavo thing is enough to give [cough] Christians a bad name:

'And during this week, as we look to Good Friday, He [Jesus] was condemned by unjust courts the same way Terri Schiavo is being condemned to die by court order,'' O'Donnell said. ``We pray that this modern-day crucifixion will not happen.''
(via San Jose Mercury News)

Well, no. Here's the condition Schiavo is in, according to Wikipedia:

Most of Schiavo's cerebral cortex has been completely destroyed, replaced by cerebrospinal fluid; Dr. Ron Cranford, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota assessed Schiavo's brain function in 2001 as part of a court-ordered assessment. He was quoted in Florida Today as saying "[Schiavo] has no electrical activity in her cerebral cortex on an EEG (electroencephalogram), and a CT (computerized tomography) scan showed massive atrophy in that region." [10] ( [11]

It's immoral to turn a living corpse, which is what Schiavo is, into a political football, which is what the [cough] Christians have done.

It's even worse theology to compare Schiavo to Christ. I'm no longer a believing Christian—stumbled on the problem of evil, don't you know, a problem that every day under the Bush heel makes more acute—but one thing I do know: Christ knew what he has doing when he sacrificed himself for us. He was entirely aware of what was going to happen to him, and he went ahead and did it anyhow, on our behalf. There is no indication whatever that this is what Schiavo did or had in mind to do. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. We will all die, some of us badly. That makes us human, not Christ-like. Suffering, pace Gibson's The Passion, is not in itself Christ-like. The suffering has to be sacrificial, consciously chosen with eyes open.

Or are the [cough] Christians suggesting that Christ didn't know what he was doing? Are they suggesting that when he hung on the cross, Christ's cortex had been replaced by cerebrospinal fluid?

What a sick farce. I have to give 'em credit, though—the cups of water are a terrific propaganda ploy. So why don't they shut the fuck up and get busy saving Social Security, as part of honoring their fathers and mothers, and letting them live out their lives, and then die with the kind of dignity they are so anxious to deny Schiavo? Of course, that wouldn't get them on TV....

NOTE The truly alert readers will have noticed that when mentioning Christ in the third person, I did not capitalize the "h" in "He." That is because Corrente house style is to capitalize third person references to Bush, seeing as how He's so Godly, and I didn't want to confuse the two usages. Please consider not classing Christ with Bush as a mark of profound respect to Christ.

I guess horse's heads don't have the impact they used to 

I mean, you know the Social Security actuaries must have been under tremendous pressure to cook the books to support Bush's plan to phase out Social Security, and all they can come up with is one lousy year?

The "crisis" is now going to happen in 2041 not 2042.

I'll get right on that...

NOTE Of course, the AP article is also riddled with, um, "errors."

Well, I Never--A Coalition Afoot 

Another worthy cause is underway. If you are a member of one of these groups, let your voice be heard in support. If you’re not a card-carrying member of the ACLU, it makes a great gift for one you love…

Because over at Associated Press they report that

Conservative and liberal groups normally at each other's throats over the direction of government are finding common cause in wanting to gut major provisions of the government's premier anti-terrorism law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and the Free Congress Foundation are among several groups that formed a coalition — Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances — to lobby Congress to repeal three key provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

Having people from all sides of the political spectrum working together will keep politicians from calling Patriot Act opponents un-American or willing to help terrorists, which happened during the original debate over the law, the groups said.

The lunacy of Bushco is becoming apparent to all, and perhaps the revolution is afoot. See also Lambert's post, below. Maybe the rats are beginning to jump, leaving only the lunatic band of theocrats at the helm as the ship glides toward the rocks...

Republicans vs. the Consitution: Republicans now the party of theocracy 

Even the Republicans are starting to get it!

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," [Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut] said.
(via Sun Sentinel)

Um, Chris? If I may call you Chris. What makes you think it's your party? In fact, the Republican Party has long since been bought and paid for by theocrats like Coors, Scaife, and the dominionists. Dance with whoever brung ya, Chris!

Or cross the aisle.

Republicans vs. the Consitution: The nuk-u-lar option 

E.J. Dionne makes two good points:

According to the Census Bureau's July 2004 population estimates, the 44 Democratic senators represent 148,026,027 people; the 55 Republican senators 144,765,157. Vermont's Jim Jeffords, an independent who usually votes with the Democrats, represents 310,697. (In these calculations, I evenly divided the population of states with split Senate delegations.) What does majority rule really mean in this context?

1. Bottom line: the majority of the people have no effective representation at all. It's just like the "Slave Power" before the Civil War, isn't it?

If the Republicans pushing against the filibuster love majority rule so much, they should propose getting rid of the Senate altogether. But doing so would mean acknowledging what's really going on here: regime change disguised as a narrow rules fight. We could choose to institute a British-style parliamentary system in which majorities get almost everything they want. But advocates of such a radical departure should be honest enough to propose amending the Constitution first.
(via WaPo)

2. Honest? The Republicans? [Pause for hysterical laughter] But seriously, I remember Barney Frank making the same argument during the Clinton impeachment hearings; essentially, the whole ginned up scandal was the equivalent of a "no confidence" vote in the Parliamentary system.

So, as usual, it seems like the Republicans are even more radical than we thought. In the name of majoritarianism, they propose to rule without a majority, while relying on the tiny margins that the Rove political machine is able to provide them.

And, apparently, they think they can pull this coup off and keep it stable—that's the implications of the Partei rallies where only those who are "with us" are considered true citizens, and thus allowed to attend.

Blather On, Garth 

It's a drizzly morning, and my last day to spend doing public service away from the computer. Till I return, there's just time for a quick overview of some newsbits. Hope to be more of a presence tomorrow.

But the inevitable hammer finally came down on Title IX, as the US Commission on Civil Rights knew it would when they issued their now-buried report last year. This law was single-handedly responsible for the explosion in women's sports over the past 30 years. Bush to women: enough of that shit.

The appeals court turned down the appeal made by Terri Schiavo's parents' because there was "no federal issue". It will be interesting to see whether the Supremes step on their own prior opinions on this and take the case. After Bush v Gore, what's to stop them?

Speaking of which, James Ridgeway over at The Village Voice muses that the Schiavo case has given the theocrats new life, and the most likely to benefit is Tom DeLay. Well, sure. Don't the flies always appear after the carcass rots?

And back in the real world, the LATimes has this headline: "Bush Urges an End to Attacks on Plan", meaning his bollux of Social Security. Which would make more sense if indeed he had ever offered a plan in the first place.

And finally, in the "Nothing to see here, move along" Dept.,Editor and Publisher reports that the Pentagon is back on message, refusing to reopen a case involving the detention and abuse of 3 freelance journalists by US troops, who then released them without charge. Go figure.

Photo-Blogging: the good, the bad, and the pretty ugly 

If you don't like this photo you're unAmerican: No, not the one above. This one here: NTodd

I dunno know why exactly, but so far, that is my favorite NTodd photo. I just really like it. It's a good photo. At least I think so. And I wouldn't have happened upon it unless I'd happened upon this place: Winding Roads Visual Arts; The Gallery of Vermont Photographer NTodd Pritsky and his friends Eli Cates and Aaron Kimball.

So take a look; see for yourself.

BTW: the photo displayed above is a photo I took of The Mighty Corrente Regional Branch Office in the great state of XXXXX where I spend most of my shiftless summer afternoons. Reading, blogging, bashing the brains out of angry greenhead-flys, with a rolled up copy of the National Review, which I also use to ...uh, well, nevermind...

No, not really. Actually I took that picture in Maine. Mount Desert Island to be exact. Where I lived for a short shiftless while many years ago. So, if you - whoever you are - recognize the "branch office" location above you can rest easy. I'm long gone, have been for years (you betcha), and you don't have to worry about me sneaking around in your yard any more. No siree by gawd.

In fact. I have my very own cozy branch office now. With my very own flys. Big ugly shit-eating flys. And a big stack of NY Posts and Weekly Standards which I use to, uh, well...nevermind again. That's a picture I don't think we need to develop any further.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Department of Changing the Subject Back: Pentagon dox: OBL escapes from Tora Bora 

And all Bush can say is, "He's hiding"...

The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." It is the first definitive statement from the Pentagon (news - web sites) that bin Laden was at Tora Bora and evaded U.S. pursuers.
(AP via Buzzflash)

I guess privatizing capturing OBL by handing the job over to Afghan warlords didn't work out all that well. Who'd a thunk it? And you go to war with the warlords you have...

Look! Over there! Terri Schiavo!

Goodnight, moon 

Not that I'm a blogger triumphalist, but this reality-based post on Schiavo from corndog at Kos exemplfies what the blogosphere can and should be.

Another victory for privatization! Tax collection... 

Yeah, that's right:

Six employees of a company that processed federal tax returns were indicted Tuesday on charges they hid and later destroyed about 80,000 returns and $1 billion in payments to make it appear employees had met a deadline.

The employees faced charges of conspiracy and theft for the activities at Mellon Financial in the spring of 2001, during the peak tax-return processing period.
(via AP)

Of course, in the grand Bush tradition of taking a bad idea and making it much, much worse, Bush has already further privatized tax collection. The beneficiaries? Why, none other than major Republican Party donor Delay crony Diversified Collection services, already indicted for money laundering and illegal campaign contributions:

When Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) teamed up in September to get the House to pass an amendment blocking the use of private companies to collect back taxes from delinquent taxpayers, it seemed the Bush administration plan might be doomed for at least a year.

But in the final hours of drafting a 3,300-page spending bill last month, House and Senate negotiators eliminated Capito's and Van Hollen's handiwork, clearing the way for the Internal Revenue Service to hire commercial debt collectors.

One company that lobbied for the change is California-based Diversified Collection Services Inc., one of eight companies indicted in September by a Texas grand jury, along with three Republican fundraisers for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), on charges of alleged money laundering and illegal corporate campaign contributions.

The company has contributed about $435,000 to Republican Party organizations since 1999, Federal Election Commission records show.
(via WaPo)

Gee, there are several life lessons here, aren't there?

1. For Capito (R) and Hollen (D), bi-partisanship meant nothing, because the Republicans just undid all the compromising in commmittee. And how much you want to bet Rove now percieves Hollen as weak, and targets him for elimination in the next election?

The obvious corrolary here is that bipartisanship on Social Security is worse than useless—it's dangerous, because as soon as the Dems give the Republicans any cover at all, they'll have different bills passed in the House and Senate, and then "reconcile" them in Committee, in secret, and where Dems have no voice or control, and any compromise will get thrown out there too, and we'll end up with a backdoor Social Security phase out.

2. When you see Delay frothing and stamping on the tube, think of this bill. What does Delay mean by "the culture of life"? Harassing phone calls from the IRS, apparently.... Some life!

Canadians Divided Over Missile Shield Pact 

Well, that would be the CNN headline anyway:
Canadians are giving Prime Minister Paul Martin an overwhelming thumbs up for his refusal to join the U.S. missile defence project, a new poll suggests.

The numbers offer some vindication for Mr. Martin as he heads into a meeting Wednesday with U.S. President George W. Bush armed with Canadian public sentiment on his side.

The Prime Minister angered the White House and drew scorn from critics at home, but two-thirds of poll respondents — 57 per cent compared to 26 per cent — supported him, according to the survey by Decima Inc. ...

The Decima poll indicates Mr. Martin would have flown into a public opinion hurricane had he decided to take part in Mr. Bush's missile program.

Virtually every constituency in the country approved of Canada's stand — from teenagers to senior citizens, men and women, urban and rural dwellers, and a majority of respondents in every single province.
(via The Globe and Mail)

To be fair, the Globe and Mail, which editorially criticized Martin over the decision, had its own, CNN-worthy head: "Martin move on missiles politically correct".

It's called political accountability, guys. If you don't want it, I can think of a neighbor who could desperately use some.

Where, oh where are the new ideas from the Dems? 

Alert reader Steve Duncan throws the following over the transom:

President Bush complained today that Democrats were not offering ideas to ease the nation's oil dependency. Bush has been touring the nation for months pushing his "Oil from Mars" initiative to little success or enthusiasm. The public and his political opposition don't yet agree America's resources should be employed drilling for oil on the Red Planet and bringing it back to Earth. "We have a disaster that's going to happen in the future, and that's America running out of oil. We must get oil from Mars and soon. Democrats in Congress want to obstruct this effort and have offered no ideas in response to my initiative. America will move forward and get that oil with or without input from the liberal elites!" said Bush in a Rose Garden appearance.

Many Democrats in Congress are beginning to feel they must at least devise an alternate drilling policy on Mars in order to appear involved in fixing what all agree will be a problem 20 to 30 years down the road. "I think rocket ships are real neat and just might do the trick." said Joe Leiberman. He continued, "As Democrats we must put forward our own oil from Mars initiative or we risk ceding the issue to the Republicans."

One issue yet to be resolved in all of this is where Bush plans to get the 42 trillion dollars it will take to explore, extract and ferry the oil to Earth. "I'm not going to get in a debate with myself on the details, that's for Congress to do. You see, I'm an ideas man, I like ideas, I'm a leader and leaders lead. We'll get that oil with or without the help of the Democrats," said Bush.

Will Democrats join in the nation's search for more oil on Mars?

Those Darn Liberal Activist Judges 

Okay, everybody repeat after me: “We saw THIS one coming.” Headline at AP and Yahoo, to be viewed by millions:

Judge in Schiavo case a Clinton appointee

Of course, giving the lie to the headline, the story goes on to note that

Whittemore, appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1999, is not known to display any political leanings.

Naturally, the judge rules with the other judges, thus allowing Bushco to scream, “See, those activist liberal judges hate our culture of life!”

And then they can try to kill the filibuster rule and pack the courts.

And then nobody will be surprised by the nominees to join the Supremes.

What the hell makes this the headline of this story?

I’m tellin ya, this is just to scapegoat the judicial system, the final prize in the eyes of the talibornagain.

Boy in the Bubble: If not a pop, at least a slow leak 

People are starting to notice the fakery. The Amazin' Froomkin sums up a lot of local coverage this way:

Today's stories capture not so much what Bush says but what is most remarkable about these events: the stagecraft that goes into them and the exclusion of the general public in favor of screened supporters.
(via WaPo)

And Froomkin makes the following very interesting point:

The biggest danger to Bush may be if his bubble prevents him from realizing that he's lost [the battle to phase out Social Security] and taking appropriate action.

Of course, Bush has built the bubble all by himself. The Partei rallies are the way they are because he wants them that way, and He's surrounded himself with yes-persons and enablers because he only wants to hear good news (or should I say, Good News).

So, long may Bush remain in ignorance. Protesters, put down those signs! When your enemies drowning, throw him an anvil!

Can't Stands No More! 

While the GOP spews out more and more hypocritical horseshit (sorry, horses, no offense intended) there are those critics, pointing out that the Chimperor and his flock of bleating hypocritical sycophants is morally nekkid:

Bush said he stepped into the Schiavo case because the United States should have "a presumption in favor of life," but there were 152 executions in Texas during his administration, including some in which the convict's guilt was in doubt, critics said.

In Texas, Critics Question Bush's 'Life' Culture

And in the Bangor Daily News, Katherine Heidinger rakes over some other, um, glaring disparities between words and reality:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said this: "The president believes that our society should be based on a culture of life. And in a society that is based on life, that means we should protect and defend and welcome life at all stages, and that includes people with disabilities."

Oh, if it were just so.

The second story focused on a report by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for changes to the U.N. so it can tackle conflicts and terrorism, fight poverty and put human rights at the forefront of its work.

The report said the Security Council's decisions on whether to use force should be guided by a set of clear principles, and it urged all states to accept that in cases of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, there is a "responsibility to protect" that requires collective action.

Additionally, the report calls on developing countries to cut extreme poverty in half, ensure primary education for all children, improve health care, and halt and reverse the AIDS pandemic.

Oh, if it were so.

On the editorial page were the memorable words written by a Harrington letter writer, Brian Stewart, who told of a project in Washington and Hancock counties that remembers soldiers from the United States who have lost their lives in Iraq. To mark the second anniversary of the Iraqi war, Stewart said, cedar shingles memorializing the country's war dead have been put on telephone poles along a 100-mile stretch of Down East highways.

Not to mention the 100,000 plus Iraqi dead.

He wrote: "As we pass the miles of placards mourning our dead, let us see as well the tens of thousands of Iraqis, the hundreds of thousands of children at risk, the many thousands maimed - and let us with all godspeed and humble heart search for ways beyond war."

Oh, if it were so.

'Culture of life' hard to reconcile with world events

Let us recall Chief Joseph again:

"I have heard talk and talk, but nothing is done. Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country, now overrun by white men. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. Good words will not get my people a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises.”

As the good chief also said, “It doesn’t take many words to speak the truth.”

And the truth is, by their fruits shall we judge them. The fruit lately is stinking of death and greed. May the stench rise into the nostrils of everyone who voted for these hypocritical thieving pseudo-righteous fearmongers and awaken them to action in 2006, if not sooner and more directly via impeachment. Lord knows there's enough pots boiling--Plame, Guckert, etc etc...

I'm no feminist, but... 

.. what's with the big discussion about no women in the blogosphere?

Leah, Xan, and now Riggsveda have their own corner offices in The Mighty Corrente Building. Maybe Amy 'n' Kevin should send some readers our way?

Republicans vs. the Constitution: the Talibornagain, theocracy rising, and the Schiavo case 

The essential Juan Cole note:

The cynical use by the US Republican Party of the Terri Schiavo case repeats, whether deliberately or accidentally [it's not accidental. See the UPDATE below], the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and theocrats in places like Egypt and Pakistan.

The Muslim fundamentalists use a provision of Islamic law called "bringing to account" (hisba). As Al-Ahram weekly notes, "Hisba signifies a case filed by an individual on behalf of society when the plaintiff feels that great harm has been done to religion." Hisba is a medieval idea that had all be lapsed when the fundamentalists brought it back in the 1970s and 1980s.

In this practice, any individual can use the courts to intervene in the private lives of others. Among the more famous cases of such interference is that of Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid in Egypt. A respected modern scholar of Koranic studies, Abu Zaid argued that, contrary to medieval interpretations of Islamic law, women and men should receive equal inheritance shares. (Medieval Islamic law granted women only half the inheritance shares of their brothers). Abu Zaid was accused of sacrilege. Then the allegation of sacrilege was used as a basis on which the fundamentalists sought to have the courts forcibly divorce him from his wife.

Wouldn't be interesting if this tactic was used to remove Michael Schiavo from his guardianship?

One of the most objectionable features of this fundamentalist tactic is that persons without standing can interfere in private affairs. Perfect strangers can file a case about your marriage, because they represent themselves as defending a public interest (the upholding of religion and morality).

But the most frightening thing about the entire affair is that public figures like congressmen inserted themselves into the case in order to uphold religious strictures. The lawyer arguing against the husband let the cat out of the bag, as reported by the NYT: ' The lawyer, David Gibbs, also said Ms. Schiavo's religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic were being infringed because Pope John Paul II has deemed it unacceptable for Catholics to refuse food and water. "We are now in a position where a court has ordered her to disobey her church and even jeopardize her eternal soul," Mr. Gibbs said. '

In other words, the United States Congress acted in part on behalf of the Roman Catholic church. Both of these public bodies interfered in the private affairs of the Schiavos, just as the fundamentalist Egyptian, Nabih El-Wahsh, tried to interfere in the marriage of Nawal El Saadawi.
(via Informed Consent)

As always, FTF. Because, as we've said (back) the fundamentalists at home and the fundamentalists abroad are just two sides of the same coin, and one is just as much a threat to the Constitution and our way of life—and yes, morals, and values—as the other.

UPDATE Why, one wonders, is the question never asked: Who's funding these people? For example, who's funding the fundamentalist trial lawyer, Schindler?

Why, surprise! It turns out it's the usual suspects: Scaife, Coors, the whole gang. The same guys that fund the VRWC, the same guys that sponsored the coup against Clinton. The same guys who fund the dominionists.

It's not surprising that they're out to trash the Constitution. That is, in fact, their ultimate goal, and has been all along. You can't have the Constitution and theocracy at the same time, and theocracy is what these guys want.

The Fruit Bowl Roundup 

Once again I'll be engaged in non-computer related business today, so here's a little compendium of news to get you to the next post. Adieu, ma petites choux!

No court hearings for Moussaoui.
He can still walk and talk. But once our Cerebrus-headed detention system gets done interrogating him, he may meet the Schiavo test, and Bush will fly right back from his jerk-off session to sign a special bill for him.

Meanwhile, our life-loving culture is still holding its nose at the idea of controlling deadly weaponry. You see, it's not the beings here and now in front of us who can engage us in conversation and look into our eyes and force us to see them, whom we want to protect. It's the formless, the lifeless, those who can't see us or hear us, it's those whom we don't have to see as anything but mirrors of ourselves, it's those on whom we lavish our care and concern, because they don't ask anything of us.

And what cavalcade of clowns would be complete without a visit to the President's Council on Bioethics? Where this week we find that one of Bush's advisors, Diana Schaub, tells him that she knows stem cell research is evil because Star Trek told her so, and compares embryonic stem cell research to slavery:
"Like slaves, Schaub says, embryos have few natural advocates. It is easy for people to treat embryos as inferior beings available for economic or scientific gain."
Well, yes. How damnable of me to think embryos are "inferior beings" that may not be the exact equivalent of my 86-year old mother-in-law! Is it any wonder the whole Legislative branch is tripping over itself to make brownie points off a dying woman's body, with fools like this setting the government's morality parameters?

And yes. Peggy Noonan is still an idiot.

Dept. of You Can't Make This Shit Up (Schiavo Relief Committee) 

Why do I need to write copy when I can't even dream of topping this? (Thanks to Tinfoil Hat Boy for the link that led to these revelations.) In the spirit of the current God-infested climate, I give you:

A North Carolina man is selling a brick that appears to feature the face of Jesus, 4170738according to Local 6 News report. Ditto Dalcher said he was sitting in his home and noticed the face above his fireplace. "It was actually about two years ago, I'm just sitting in here and I saw it," Dalcher said. "Actually I use this room -- just saw it up there on the fireplace and it just sort of fooled me when I first saw it. It was pretty shocking." Dalcher noticed how much money people were making off of the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich and Jesus in a skillet and decided to share what he found, according to the report. The bids on eBay were at $500 early Monday. The auction ends on Friday.

Families in Texas are traveling to pray around a tree at a home that appears to show the image of the Virgin Mary and the finger of God pointing to the sky, 4194316 according to a Local 6 News report. The image was found on a tree that has been at the Kilburnfamily's Harris County, Tx., since they moved in nine years ago, Local 6 News reported. "We were going out to church, my husband backs up and I say, 'honey, there's a woman on the tree,'" Pat Kilburn said. Kilburn said the image of the Virgin Mary appeared on the tree. Kilburn said the same image that appears to be the face of Virgin Mary also appears to be God's finger pointing to Heaven. Kilburn and many of her neighbors are convinced the tree is God's way of showing people he is always near, Local 6 News reported.

4298817 An Indiana pet store owner says a turtle that was the only animal to survive a fire at the shop has developed an image of Satan's face on its shell. Bryan Dora's pet store in Frankfort burned down last October. The red-ear slider turtle named Lucky is the only survivor of about 150 animals. Dora said after the fire, an image appeared on Lucky's shell that appears to be the face of a devil. He said the turtle is not possessed but is very tame. He believes that in every fire the devil leaves his mark somewhere, and that Lucky was touched. Dora said many other people also say they have seen the image on the turtle, and get scared away.

And, in keeping with the rites of spring, thousands of Humboldt squid are snuffing it on Newport Beach. None stayed alive long enough to comment. Authorities are searching for evidence of religious iconograpy to explain this suicidal pilgrimage.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

I know that some have questioned the location, the size, even the existence of The Mighty Corrente Building. But The Mighty Corrente Building is real.

And we have photographic proof.

Here, for example, is a photograph of one of the Mushroom Cellars, sunk far under the earth in the living granite bedrock under Rittenhouse Square....

A Mushroom Cellar of The Mighty Corrente Building

Billionaires for Bush auction Social Security on eBay! 

This picture needs a caption! 


OK, I know this is way, way too easy... Readers?

UPDATE Alert reader Cupajoe suggests:

E pluribus barnum

A letter from alert reader THB's Dad 

Here it is:

I know that neither of you agree with me on the Bush administration - tho neither of you seemed to hear my comments of comparing Bush with Kerry and a tort lawyer.

However, I thought you would be interested in my reaction to what I feel is an almost fascist act by Christian Wrong-abetted republicans, apparently allowed to proceed by Bush. This is, in my opinion, unconscionable meddling by a political party/group in our courts, our private lives and the way this country works.

I have to correct an address error on my voters' card; when I do that, I am changing my registration to Independent - I have been a registered Republican for over 40 years. I have also always been more afraid of the self-righteous right (currently the Christian Wrong) than the incompetent left. This is a self-righteous, "I'll impose by beliefs on all of you because I am holy Christian and God is on my right hand", nonsense but, worse, it isn't what this country was made of and from - and it is damaging to the fabric of our political system and, I believe, to our social system as well.

The backlash will probably be equally as bad, but the Democrats are so inept at this point, the backlash may be muted. The country will survive, it always has, but the process is and will be more painful than at other times. This is a sad day, in my mind.

Republicans vs. the Constitution: Unintended (?) consequences of the Schiavo case 

You know, I have this vague memory of another case, in Florida, where a decision by a state court got federalized, but, not to worry, no precedent was set...

What could it be...

Why, Bush v. Gore, of course!

One consequence of the extra-Constitutional intervention in the Schiavo case is that the Republicans have trashed the Constution by holding a "trial by legislature" and writing a law that targets an individual. (If some future Congress wants to try the Santorums for child abuse and abusing a corpse by having their kids—readers, I'm not making this up—pass a dead fetus around the kitchen table, the Republican have now opened the door.)

But that's for the long-term.

For the short term, by their actions, the Republicans have set the precedent that Congress can now intervene in any case in the State courts, on an entirely arbitrary basis, whenever they don't like the outcome.

So, if there is a Florida-style debacle in 2006 or 2008, and the election is appealed in the state courts, the Republicans can now Federalize it whenever they like.

So much for Bush v. Gore not being a precedent, eh? The Republicans have just, retrospectively, "legitimated" [cough] that case. Just one of many examples to come of why "trial by legislature" is a really, really bad idea.

So, we lose the Constitution in the short term; and we lose any "close" elections in the short term. Not that the Republicans would ever, you know, throw an election into the courts they control just to win a seat or anything....

OK, enough happy talk! 

You've all heard the gruesome medical details on the Schiavo case:

Much of Schiavo's cerebral cortex has been completely destroyed, replaced by spinal fluid.
(via Wikipedia)

But there are some medical details you may not have heard:

Most of the Republican Party's cerebral cortex has been completely destroyed, replaced by fecal matter.

And the even more horrific:

Most of the Democratic Party's testicles have been completely destroyed, replaced by ...

Ugh, I can't even say it, it wouldn't contribute to the new civility in American political discourse. Readers?

Slow Train Coming 

I still recall vividly an afternoon about 10 years ago, sitting at the table with my mother, each of us reading a section of the paper. My mother, a fervent, very conservative Christian, was reading about a right-to-die case involving a woman on life support.

I can't recall the case. What I do recall was my mother suddenly putting down the paper and pointing to the story, telling me, "Tresy, if you children ever ever put me in a situation like this, I swear, I will haunt you from my grave."

Used to my mother's penchant for drama, I made a noncommittal grunt and tried to go back to reading the paper. Mom was not done.

"Tresy, look at me. I am not kidding. Look me in the eye and promise me that you will never, ever let them do to me what they are doing to that poor woman. Who are we to play God like this? I am ready to meet my Lord any time He wants me. And when He calls for me, I will go, happily, because I know He will be waiting for me. There is nothing in this fallen world worth what is happening to this woman. She is being sacrificed to the idea that Man, rather than God, determines when we die. And that is a sin: the sin of Pride. Promise me you won't let them do this to me."

That was about the last time we ever agreed on anything.

The other day, appropos of our family's move to Canada, Mom told my spouse, "I just don't understand why Tresy hates George Bush so much."

Perhaps now she's getting an idea.

Frivolity Is Needed 

I'm away from my ether fix for an unknown time today, don't know when I'll get back, and I'm not going down that long lousy road on the Schiavo bus. Instead, we will keep our heads up. We will not look into the abyss. We will meditate on higher things, transcendent things, things that elevate our discourse and avoid exploitation of the poor, the abused, and the unfortunate.

Like..John Delorean, inventor of the car everyone laughed at, and philosohical godfather to Robert Zemekis.

Like...Demi Moore. Pregnant again? Or not? Only (eeew) Ashton Kutcher knows for sure. She says, "The rumors are just that, rumors", but wait a minute! Isn't Rumor the name of one of her daughters? A subtle coded message?

Like...Ashley Judd becoming a sports reporter.

Like...caffeine may cause diabetes. Except for the times when other studies say it prevents it.

Like...women's fashion still sucks.

Like...they've got Rice in China! Go figure.

Oh, I could go on, but you get the idea. What absurd, harmless, utterly inane items can you find today? Why, they're just laying around out there like pearls, waiting to make your day.

Go get 'em, tigers and tigresses.

Good morning, midnight 

The vote for the Schiavo bill of attainder 202 for, with 42 Dems voting, shamefully, in favor.

A quorum was 218 (back). The CNN headline says "Motion to suspend the rules and pass." WTF?

How fitting the Republicans shitcan the Constitution, under a motion to suspend the rules, in the darkest hour of the night.

How shameful that any Dem would help them do it.

NOTE This article, by CBS legal correspondent Andrew Cohen, is essential reading on "trial by legislation". Read it now to see what's really at stake.


Just go read it.

I'm too disgusted about it to comment further.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

My Day With the Dead 

This has been, ironically enough for Palm Sunday and the first day of Spring, a day in which we obsessed with the subject of death. It's not something Americans like to deal with very much, so we tend to do it very badly when it can't be avoided.

Finding the efforts to be grim in the extreme I spent the day with a better class of dead folk. John Key for one. Andrew Jackson Murphey and Capt. Thomas Belew and his wife Elizabeth and a number of their children. The Johnsons and the Bennetts and several whose names are not known, their lives marked only with rough rectangular reddish rocks of unknown origin.

You see, I have a cemetery in my back yard. Okay, not technically in the yard, but the first headstone is less than 30 feet from my property line. Before the acre on which we live was carved out of the woods, this old multi-family plot was pretty well hopelessly lost atop this little rise.

We bought the land not knowing this little burying ground was back there. When we discovered it we were, as you might expect, deeply affected--but not for the reason you might expect. You see, the graveyard holds the remains of some of the earliest white settlers in this region, people who migrated west out of the Carolinas in the 1840s or so. Their farms and smithies and other enterprises were flourishing nicely when the War of the Rebellion broke upon the land.

At least four of the residents of the Bennett-Belew Cemetery, the most peaceful neighbors you can imagine, took part in that conflict on one side or another.

Did I mention we run a Civil War magazine? Yup. Go figure. What are the odds?

Anyway, the cemetery is horribly overgrown, completely untended for decades at least. Stones tipped, stones broken, stones eroded to illegibility, almost stones entirely missing at the moment because they lie under fallen trees. The layout of the rows in the sections of the various families suggest at least a couple of Belews and possibly some Tosh relatives have suffered this indignity.

We came to Tennessee six years ago this month, and every year one damn thing or another has kept us from working on the cemetery. Wait too long and you get into tornado season, then heat, humidity, poison ivy and oak, snakes and most especially ticks. (I have no idea why it is so but this area is just loaded with the damn things and they creep me out beyond toleration. Not unlike my feelings about Tom DeLay, our own dear Sen. Bill the Cat-Killer Frist and their ilk, now that I think about it.)

Anyway, we've been raking, lopping vines, chopping and chipping away at those fallen trees, and generally busting our butts to make this a nice place for dead people to live in. Going off to do some research tomorrow if the Gordon Browning Library in McKenzie is open, so posting may continue to be sparse. Just wanted to bring up to date my weak and feeble excuses for absence of late.

Oh, and anybody with knowledge of the care and feeding of old cemeteries is cordially invited to share same in comments. Customs with regard to burial of non-immediate-family members (slaves, hired servants, farm hands, casually adopted children, etc.) and methods of marking such burials particularly welcome.

See? We got through a whole post with a headline like this and hardly mentioned either that poor not-quite-dead woman in Florida or Jerry Garcia's old band. The dead are really quite agreeable to be around as long as you don't hound them with a lot of media crap.

Republicans vs. the Constitution: Finally, the "bill of attainder" meme goes mainstream 

Even if, at 11PM, it's a little too close to the 1AM when the legislation—or, should I say, the putative legislation—gets passed in the House.

And even if it's only on CNN. Jeffey Toobin:

Well, I think it's really unusual and, you know, there's actually even a provision in the Constitution called a bill of attainder. And what that means is under the Constitution, the Congress is not allowed to pass a law directed at a specific person. That was dealt with in the American Revolution because the British Parliament had, you know, passed laws saying John Adams, for example, is a criminal. Under our Constitution, we can't make laws about specific people. So, that would be an issue in the challenge to this law, if it became effect.
(via CNN)

I guess I'll take the Constitution over the "culture of [cough] life" any day. Especially when the life seems to involve a lot of lying, endless grandstanding by Republicans, heavy duty Pharisee-ism, plenty of whipping and scourging, lots of executions, and, oh yeah, a crusade in Iraq against the ungodly.

"Culture of life"?






Please, can we have separation of church and state now? Like we used to, when the country was governed Constitutionally by Presidents who were actually elected?

Is nothing sacred to the Republicans? Not Palm Sunday! 

Everybody's read this memo by now, but it bears repeating:

The Washington Post published a memo it said had been circulated to GOP senators. ''This is an important moral issue,'' the memo said, ``and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important.''

That memo appeared to target Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's top Democrat, saying, ``This is a great political issue because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.''
(via Miami Herald)

Doesn't the Bible have something to say about this?

What could it be? Just let me think...

Oh, yeah! "Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy."

Leave it to the Republicans to turn the living corpse of a brain dead woman into a political football on Palm Sunday. And then claim it's all about morals.

Could anything be more vile and disgusting?

UPDATE Of course, on Palm Sunday, Jesus did enter Jerusalem riding an ass. So the Delay connection is now quite clear.

Republicans vs. the Constitution: House Dems show a little spine on Schiavo 

Good for them.

A little awkwardly, Bobby Schindler and Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., shook hands.

As reporters and photographers gathered, he handed Moran a CD and urged him to consider footage of his sister.

"I am happy to take a look at that," Moran replied. "But my greater concern is not with the immediate facts of this case as much as it is the precedent, of overruling the state courts, of politicizing a tragic family situation."

The encounter took place after House GOP leaders were rebuffed by Democrats in their initial effort to rush the legislation through in the early afternoon. The House was returning later to consider the measure under less restrictive rules, aiming for a vote early Monday on the bill that was passed by the Senate late Sunday afternoon.
(via AP)

Good for Moran. That took courage. And of course the Republicans are just changing the rules when they lose. Don't they always?

A vote early Monday? Funny how this all blew up on a weekend, and when Harry Reid was out of town. Of course, I can see how the Republicans would want to use Palm Sunday for political purposes, God love 'em, but the timing does seem a little odd, doesn't it? Almost as if they wanted the Sunday talk shows to, um, Change the Subject.

NOTE For the reality based community, the facts on Schiavo from wikipedia (a tip of the ol' Corrente Hat to alert reader Nancy).

Michael Schiavo's no plaster saint (like the rest of us). But, as Moran points out, that's not the issue at all.

The Constitution is more important than one human life—as every soldier knows when they take the oath. The Constitution is why they give their lives. Too bad more Dems aren't rallying to defend the Constitution like Moran is.

UPDATE That morning vote? Here are the details from The Miami Herald:

The tactical decision, which came amid charges of cynical political maneuvering, sharply abbreviated an extraordinary Palm Sunday session.

Not that the Republicans would ever, ever politicize Palm Sunday. Not even to fluff the base.

Republicans are expected to convene at 9 p.m. for debate and then vote on the measure around 1 a.m. Monday.

Under arcane House rules, approval could have come today only by unanimous voice vote of those present, and several Democrats had vowed to block that.

There is, at least, some honor among Democrats.

Now, Republicans must assemble a quorum of at least 218 members -- and then win a two-thirds majority of those present.

''It will be a challenge,'' said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. ``Phone calls started to go out as early as two days ago to alert members that on Sunday and Monday, they might be called to a vote.

And, oh yeah, about the "compromise." CNN:

Members of Congress said Saturday they had agreed on a compromise bill that was limited to the Schiavo case rather than a broader bill that Republicans wanted.

That's what makes it "trial by legislature" and a bill of attainder, you idiots!

Spring Is In The Packet 

squid_etching_smallMy daughter, the former zoo docent, has been telling me how the sexual habits of squid and kangaroos are similar, in that in both species the male delivers sperm packets into the waiting room of the female, who later decides, based on her own timeline, when to break the packet and release the sperm to become pregnant.

2Three things occurred to me as we were having this conversation: first, that juxtaposing squid and kangaroos is an odd proposition at best; second, that this is not a bad paradigm for humans to aim for, given the problems it could solve; and third, it puts me in the mind of grocery shopping---picking up one of those packets of the new StarKist tuna-in-a-pouch and taking it home, putting it on the shelf till I'm hungry, and then opening it when I feel like it and not before.

The lesson we can take from all this is that good sex is like a hemetically sealed bag of fish: there for you when you need it, but waiting patiently during those times that you don't. And, so long as we don't break the packet prematurely, as fresh and delightful as the first day of spring.

Which it is. Happy Vernal Equinox!

The Buck Stops, um, in Ankara. 

WASHINGTON - The level of insurgency in postwar Iraq (news - web sites) wouldn't be so high if the U.S.-led coalition had been able to invade from the north, through Turkey, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday.

Rumsfeld told "Fox News Sunday" that if the United States had able to get its 4th Infantry Division into northern Iraq through Turkey, more of Saddam's Baathist regime would have been captured or killed, diminishing the insurgency.
(via AP)
Oh yeah, it's the Turks' fault that Iraq is a disaster.

You've got to be kidding me, right?

Do these folks take responsibility for anything -- ever?

Republicans vs. the Constitution: Stupid Dems 

Does this remind you of anything? Andrew Cohen of CBS (via the ever essential Atrios)

that there are probably some smart folks on Capitol Hill who are supporting this legislation knowing that ultimately the courts will strike it down. That way, being the politicians that they are, they will be able to blame the heartless judiciary for the result and still will be able to say to their constituents that they tried their best. It is the politics of cynicism at its very best (or very worst).

Wise fools.

This reminds me, at least, of the smart folks in Germany who let Hitler into the government on the assumption that they could control him, and that in six months the Nazis would be defunct. That worked out great, didn't it?

Amazing, amazing, amazing that we're depending on the Rehnquist Court to save us from the end of our 200 year experiment with Constiutional government. Guess those of us who called the Clinton impeachment saga through the theft of election 2000 a slow-moving, media-fuelled rightwing coup were right on the money, eh?

Republicans vs. the Constiution: The Schiavo "compromise" means the end of Constitutional governmment 

Here's the [cough] "compromise" the Republicans are trying to pass (and that the Dems shamefully are lying down for):

The draft legislation passed around Saturday evening, the "compromise" that legislators say they will enact and then present to the President, starts off with the words "for the relief of the parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo." The bill would give the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida jurisdiction "to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right... under the Constitution or laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life." But it would specifically not "confer additional jurisdiction" on courts to hear disputes about assisted suicide or "create substantive rights not otherwise secured" already in federal or state law.

The proposed law also gives Terri Schiavo's parents procedural help. It gives them standing to start a case on behalf of their daughter in the Middle District of Florida and it requires the federal trial judge to determine "de novo any claim of a violation of any right" Terri Schiavo may have. It also requires the federal courts to push the case to the front of the litigation line and requires the federal courts to issue "such declaratory and injunctive relief as may be necessary to protect the rights of" Schiavo." The law gives Schiavo's parents, or "any other person who was a party to State court proceedings relating" to the case, to file a lawsuit within 30 day.
(via CBS)

That's a bill of attainder—a law that has to do with persons, instead of general legal principles. (See FindLaw)

Here's what the Consitution says:

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed. (Article I, section 9)

What does this mean? FindLaw:

The phrase ''bill of attainder,'' as used in this clause and in clause 1 of Sec. 10, applies to bills of pains and penalties as well as to the traditional bills of attainder. 1702

The prohibition embodied in this clause is not to be strictly and narrowly construed in the context of traditional forms but is to be interpreted in accordance with the designs of the framers so as to preclude trial by legislature, a violation of the separation of powers concept. 1703

The clause thus prohibits all legislative acts, ''no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial. . . .''1704

(The persons being punished in this case being Terry Schiavo herself, kept as a living corpse against her own express wishes, as well as her husband.)

James Madison tells us why bills of attainder and trial by legislature are bad ideas, in the Federalist papers #44:

Bills of attainder, ex-post-facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. The two former are expressly prohibited by the declarations prefixed to some of the State constitutions, and all of them are prohibited by the spirit and scope of these fundamental charters. Our own experience has taught us, nevertheless, that additional fences against these dangers ought not to be omitted. Very properly, therefore, have the convention added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and lessinformed part of the community. They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding. They very rightly infer, therefore, that some thorough reform is wanting, which will banish speculations on public measures, inspire a general prudence and industry, and give a regular course to the business of society.

Make no mistake. The "compromise" the Republicans, and, to their shame, the Beltway Dems are pushing in this case means "trial by legislature."

That means that the law, and the Constitition, mean whatever the party in power in Congress says that they mean.

And that means the end of Constitutional—i.e., legitimate—government in the United States.

So I imagine Bush will sign the bill with relish. Funny how we're relying on the Rehnquist court to save our Constitution, isn't it? God must be an ironist.

Surprise! Fuhrerprinzip hasn't worked out for corporations 

Here's an important article in WaPo by Carrie Johson. She's been covering all the business fraud trials: Enron, HealthSouth, Adelphia, WorldCom, and so on, and she's come to some interesting conclusions. First, the thieves and crooks at the top of the greasy pole had plenty of helpers:

The sheer number of subordinates who face criminal charges for these accounting frauds belies the myth that some of the biggest schemes of the past decade were carried out by a small group of devious executives. Rather, as the employees themselves recount under oath, dozens of people colluded to hide misdeeds from auditors and investors. At Enron Corp., nearly 30 face criminal charges. At HealthSouth Corp., prosecutors have indicted 18 individuals who allegedly misstated their companies' finances using computer software systems, prepared phony documents and made improper entries on corporate accounting ledgers. Without their help, the frauds probably could not have taken place.

Testimony at the various trials has shed light on a particularly vexing problem for corporate governance experts, prosecutors and investor advocates who want to break the back of corporate fraud: Why would highly motivated workers take part in schemes that jeopardized their careers, their marriages, their standing in the community, and call into question their most basic ethics?

[T]heir biographies offer some clues. Many grew up in or near the towns where the company and its founders reigned supreme. Working at the area's most prominent business conferred instant status in towns such as Coudersport, Pa., the former headquarters of the cable TV giant Adelphia Communications Corp. (whose 79-year-old founder was convicted last year of fraud); Birmingham, home to Scrushy's HealthSouth Corp., and the Jackson, Miss., offices of Ebbers's WorldCom.

Red states all... Now, money paragraph #1:

The words and actions of a surprising number of these subordinates suggest that in many of the companies where fraud began to flourish, workers vowed loyalty not to ethical business practices or even to the company, but to the charismatic leaders who came to personify their businesses.

That is, exactly, fuhrerprinzip. (As translated into American-ese by a myriad of business consultants, "leadership" seminar weasels, and the Harvard Business Review.) And money paragraph #2

The details of these late 1990s frauds vary from company to company, but the general theme is remarkably similar. Someone at the top level, worried about lagging revenues or sagging profits, would ask accounting wizards to find creative ways to meet targeted goals. The process of "hitting the numbers," "making the numbers" or "helping the numbers" (the preferred euphemisms for accounting malfeasance, according to testimony thus far) usually would start as a temporary, if troubling, one-shot deal. Tinkering with the books for just one quarter, however, often morphed into a years-long project as gaps between actual revenue and reported sales snowballed beyond the control of top executives and subordinates in the accounting and finance units.

Um, does this "general theme" remind you of anything? Like Republican budgetary practices? Moving the major expenses, like Iraq, off the books? Rosy revenue projections? Shortening projections so major costs don't appear?

And does the requirement for "loyalty" remind you of anything? Like everybody who was wrong on Iraq getting promoted, and everyone who was right getting shitcanned? Like DiIulio and Wean retracting critical statements days after they made them (and after finding a horse's head in their bed?) Like Bush only appearing at Partei rallies with people who've signed a loyalty oath?

Fuhrerprinzip doesn't work for corporations, does it? (Correction: It works for a short time, and it works for the chieftains who loot the system and stash their millions where justice can't reach them. But it doesn't work for anyone else. Especially it doens't work for the people who help them commit the frauds, or the workers who get left holding the bag, with no job and no pension.)

And since we already know Fuhrerprinzip doesn't work for corporations, why has half the country decided to try it again on the national level? Truly, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting a different result.

Alpo Accounts: Why Bush's con isn't working with the 20-somethings either 

I realize The Department of Changing the Subject has done a masterly job in moving the topic of the day from Bush's debacle on Social Security to the Schiavo cause celebre— but the Republican plan to phase out Social Security is a win for us—that is, a win for the kind of country we want, and the kind of life we want to lead—and so we shouldn't let it drop.

The long excerpt that follows is the only cogent discussion I've seen about Bush's plan to phase out Social Security from the 20-something perspective. It shows, quite clearly, why Bush hasn't been able to divide and conquer in that demographic, either.

Naturally, work like this is not to be found in Pravda on the Potomac or Izvestia on the Hudson, but in the Metro, the freebie I read every day on the train. J. Edward Conway writes:

I do have one request of Chicken Little: You may speak to me about Social Security all that you want, but please do not speak for me.

In a recent radio address, the president claimed his privatization plan to be “a better deal for younger workers,” and in an early February release from the White House, the president speaks of a young worker’s desire for “ownership and control.” In this same release, titled, “Strengthening Social Security in the 21st Century,” in two separate bulletpoints he claims that a personal account is good because it allows younger workers to “watch it grow over time.”

Watch it grow over time? Here is a short history of my observations of the stock market:

•1983, age 1: Stock market boom due to home computer sales and biotechnology firms. My parents buy their first house.
• 1987, age 5: Black Monday. Stock market crashes and recession begins. Dad is laid off.
• 1999, age 17: Height of dot-com era. Dad is paid mostly in stock options.
• 2001, age 19: Bubble bursts.

Dad’s stock trades in the high 70s one day, trades at around $10 a few months later. Stock options worthless, salary is cut in half, Dad quits and spends next 2 years jumping from sinking dot-com ship to sinking dot-com ship. Mom decides to get full-time job. I take out student loan to help pay for college.

• 2004, age 22: Feds investigate Mom’s company. Stock plummets.
• 2005, age 22: Bush thinks young workers want a personal account vested in Wall Street so that they can “watch it grow over time.”

What it all comes down to is risk. If I really want to be risky, I can play with Wall Street straight-up and take my chances. If I want minimal risk (which is the way the President promotes privatization), I can work with my 401(k). If I want no risk, I can stay with Social Security as it stands today — guaranteed payoffs upon retirement. An entirely separate editorial could be about why privatization doesn’t actually even solve the projected Social Security deficits in the first place. But, even if privatization was a possible solution, the young workers will never buy into it. Our 401(k) fills our need to play the market with minimal risk — Social Security today fills our void for no risk and I like no risk — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood that in 1935 (during the Depression!) when he made Social Security guaranteed. It baffles me why the same promise cannot be made today.
(via Metro)

Case closed. No wonder the Repubublicans don't want to talk about phasing out Social Security anymore.

The Right to Pain, Redux 

Well, Terri Schiavo's body is all the rage amongst fashionable Republican vitalists today (see definition below). In February I posted some thoughts on the issue of euthanasia at The American Street, and because it seems even more relevant now, I'm reproducing it here, to supplement the important pieces my blog-siblings have posted below. There is no question that the whole thing has taken on the flavor of a real old-fashioned freak show, so let's join with the bipartisan spirit of political opportunism amuck in the land, and pile on!

freak_show_fat_womanPhysician-assisted suicide has been on the Right's mind since Oregon passed its Death and Dignity Act. Although John Ashcroft was unsuccessful in bringing the state to heel during his reign, the Bush administration is using "activist judges" (that conservative bugaboo) to try again. We will hear the result soon, amidst the usual overheated rhetoric of slippery slopes and miracle recoveries. In the February 2005 edition of Harper's, the Episcopal minister and teacher Garret Keizer has written an article wrestling with problem, and he knows the slippery slope argument is a red herring:
"...we are free to try it (PAS) out. We are free to take a step in that direction and then to rescind or expand the step. We are in fact free to do almost anything we wish--except to avoid the issue or deny the freedom...We can sniff out our otions and pick and choose among them, a birthright generally less appreciated by a dogmatists than by a dog."
But Keizer's is not the voice one hears in the daily media. In a February 5 NYTimes article on the recovering pope (now in archives), Ian Fisher asked:
"Can a suffering, 84-year-old man continue to lead an institution representing a billion people? Pope John Paul II and the people around him say yes, and have, in fact, built an explicit case that his very sickness transmits a series of powerful messages - ones that would seem, for now, to close off the possibility of his retirement.
Those messages range from one of inspiration for the millions around the world now living longer, to a physical expression of his often contentious views on the sanctity of human life, from the womb to the frailties of old age. Abortion, capital punishment and euthanasia are all abominations to him - repudiated by his own public struggle with death.
"What he is saying is that life is worth living until its natural end," one Vatican official said this week during the latest scare over his health. "It is an important witness, and I am sure he is conscious of it - that there is no kind of life which humanly speaking can be terminated because it seems not to be worth living..."
"Christianity exists precisely to give significance to suffering," said Vittorio Messori, an Italian writer who spent time with John Paul during their collaboration on the pope's 1994 book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope."
This is the note repeatedly hit by the anti-choice movement: that life per se is intrinsically sacred, no matter what form it takes, and if that life is burdened with agony, it's God's will and must be borne---in fact, must be borne because suffering gives meaning to life and tempers the soul as fire tempers the blade. (Quibbling aside: never mind the long history of convenient dissonance on the value of life: theology being twisted even today into an unrecognizable satire of Christ's teachings in order to inflict upon the world state-mandated executions, the impoverishment of childern, poisoned environmental policies, war upon illegal war, ad nauseum. If these religionists ever actually stood by their trumpeted values, would we not have a society bearing more resemblance to that of the Jains?)

And not only does suffering make Christians closer to God by breaking down the sufferer's stubborn egoism, it also serves to act as a kind of billboard advertising God's love for all. The sufferer, in accepting and living through his or her misery, refusing to opt for the "easy out" of suicide or pain-killing addiction, exemplifies Christ's willingness to endure pain in order to demonstrate God's love. Peggy Noonan, overcome with breathless hyperbole at the sight of the Pope's recent agonies, takes comfort in Michael Novak's channeling of the College of Cardinals:
"John Paul stands for life, for all of life. He wants to honor what the world does not honor.
But why, I said, does God allow this man he must so love to be dragged through the world in pain? He could have taken him years ago. Maybe, said Mr. Novak, God wants to show us how much he loves us, and he is doing it right now by letting the pope show us how much he loves us. Christ couldn't take it anymore during his passion, and yet he kept going."
Of course, the distinction that is lost here is that there is a difference between choosing to endure one's pain, for whatever reason, and being prevented from choosing to end it because someone who doesn't even know who you are thinks you should bear your burden. No one who has ever been in extremis would argue that such challenges can mold one's character for the better. The acts of struggling to find an escape from a seemingly insurmountable morass, or finding a reason to go on in the depths of blackest misery or physical pain, can be life-changing experiences. But those circumstances also break many people who simply haven't the strength or help to cope, or who are confronted by tasks beyond their abilities. And making the choice to control one's death can be one of the greatest life-affirming decisions anyone can make in this world of high tech machinery and sterile, anonymous hospital wards. Those who make broad-brush statements about the value of those difficulties are too often using the miseries of others to vindicate their own views of the world as a place where pleasure, ease, and even happiness are of the devil.

Keizer has a somewhat different take. It's not life that the anti-choice people hold dear; it's pain:
"The right talks about protecting life and tradition, but on some level--the level, let's say, where someone like Dr. Thompson (a physician who helped a terminal patient die) is held up for derision--it is mostly interested in protecting pain. For two reasons... the belief that pain holds the meaning of life...and the belief that pain is fundamental to justice...if justice is conceived as nothing more than a system of punishments and rewards. The essence of punishment is pain. Whoever owns pain owns power.
The suicide, the mystic, the woman who seeks an abortion, the cancer patient who smokes a joint...--all are roundly condemned for their escape from "responsibility", but truly feared for their escape from jurisdiction."
And he points out the innate contradictions often held by the Right regarding the sacredness of life:
"What I find especially interesting is the way in which the cold-blooded calculation that launches an invasion in which thousands of children suffer and die is imaginatively transferred to decisions seldom undertaken without struggle and seldom concluded without remorse."
Meaning that too often those who think nothing of supporting a war of terrible casualties assume that others, faced with slightly different choices of life and death, would take the same easy, thoughtless route. The Right projects its own callous disregard for life onto people struggling to choose the right course, and pronounces them immoral.

The definition of life has been tossed back and forth by the Right and Left for decades in a war to gain the high moral ground, but I think Keizer has identified the key elements for making that definition. He begins by reducing the Right's own defintion as
"...vitalism, which holds that if it's alive, it's a life. No scurrilously rationalist defintion of a human being as an 'upright featherless biped'...was ever so reductive...Man may be a little lower than the angels, but his capacity for pain is reckoned as only a little higher than that of raw meat."
But for him, it becomes more complex:
"The defining quality of human life, as I understand it, is relationship. If there is any idea under the sun that is certifiably 'Judeo-Christian', that is it. To be authentically pro-life means something more than protecting a life or my life. It means cherishing the lives of those who come after me, or who, in the event of a degenerative illness, will need to take care of me: my wife, my kid, my friends, persons whose lives are likely to be shortened by the stresses of prolonging mine."
As extremists on the right codify their way toward the theft of our most intimate and private decisions, we need to begin to have this dialogue.

Grandstanding and Demagoguery Part 1,567 

An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.

"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."
(via WaPo)
There it is folks.

This isn't about life.

This isn't about principles.

They're dragging this family through this in order to win a Senate seat in Florida.

I'm speechless.

What Ed says 

Do DeLay, his supporters in Congress, and those Men of God so conspicuously on display down in Florida really propose to picket every intensive care unit, nursing home, and hospice in America to ensure that no family facing Schiavo's situation is allowed to let their loved one die? Is Congress really going to legislatively ban natural death so long as some theoretical means is available to continue it? Oh no, says James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and DeLay's prime enabler in this weekend's grandstand play: the "emergency" legislation is "narrowly targeted" and not designed to set a precedent.

In other words, this is pure political exploitation of a private family conflict that's become a media sensation, even though it involves a very common, if, for the people involved, agonizing event.

As such, the GOP's Schiavo intervention is of a piece with other cynical efforts by Bush and his supporters to signal support for a "culture of life" without much regard for logic and consistency. It's a whole lot like the Bush position on human embryo research, as a matter of fact. Many thousands of human embryos are created each year in fertility clinics; it's only when it is proposed that these certain-to-be-discarded embryos be used for life-saving research that the Hammer comes down and Congress is asked to take a stand for life. Wouldn't want to inconvenience or embarass possible Republican voters utlilizing those fertility clinics, right?

But this time, I suspect the transparent cynicism of the we're-absolutists-on-life-if-it's-in-the-news posture of the GOP may backfire. It is very hard to pose as a pro-family, pro-states-rights, anti-Washington political party when you call Congress into an "emergency session" to interfere with the laws of Florida and the prerogatives of one poor husband trying to respect his wife's wishes. If, as we are told, George W. Bush is about to lend his authority and signature to this disgraceful exhibit of overweening government power, the persistant media idea that he's just a genial well-meaning man who happens to preside over a party of loony extremists and corrupt hacks needs to die a natural death.
(via Talking Points Memo)

"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" - former first lady Barbara Bush - "Good Morning America" March 18, 2003


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