31 March, 2005

The Infinite Value of Terri's Brokenness

Terri is gone. I'm late to that story, but that doesn't matter. I've been consumed these past two weeks, watching the spectacle of her all-too public, all-too tainted state-sanctioned killing, while waiting and watching too as my brother receives chemo for leukemia - diagnosed less than a week before they pulled Terri's feeding tube. Like her, my brother is young. He had no warning. Wham. His life is broken in a thousand pieces - plans scuttled, hair falling out, muscles wasting, IV dripping. His prospects are good; they're not 100%. I keep thinking - while trying not to think- about the horrible 'what-ifs' that face him down the road. I trust that God will make great things out of our family's struggle if we let Him.

Amidst this, I'm tending as lovingly as I can to our big 13-year-old family dog. He doesn't have any idea what's happening to him. He's confused at not being able to romp after tennis balls or squirrels anymore. He's not in pain, but he seems almost wistful for the days when we could let him stay in the house overnight. (His bladder won't allow it anymore.) He has no wishes to discern. We must put him down; I know that. These cases are not near the same, but imminent death in the house - even if only a beloved pet - only adds to my sadness.

Reading Anna Quindlen's column in Newsweek, and the many commentaries on it, I'm struck by a contrast that gets sharper the longer I look at it. It's not precisely about life versus death. It's more about individual life versus the 'life' of society and the state. This is not a new debate. It echoes back to Rome and Greece - gladiators and Socrates and Eskimo geriatrics set out on ice floes. Sacrifice for the greater good; moving on to save scarce resources. Some readers will be old enough to remember the late '70's pop culture phenomenon, Logan's Run (a book, a movie, and then a television series). It can be summed up as follows: "Nobody over 30 deserves to live."

In Quindlen's world, there are practical judgments to be made: science and the law and all of the tools of our intellect will be able to render a clear thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a person's worth and future prospects relative to those of the society in which s/he lives. The other world is not without judgments, but it is filled with hope, and tries (never succeeding) to err on the side of life when there may be doubt. Honest conservative Christians will acknowledge - should acknowledge - that sometimes it is utterly clear that the person did not want to live this way, the family is in total agreement, their motives are pure and free of conflicts of interest, and the evidence is overwhelming that death is imminent. Terri's case was never that clear-cut.

Smears of Tom DeLay aside, those situations have never been in dispute. While I would wish that suffering people could preserve hope, who am I to judge? It is their choice. We must have that freedom for ourselves if we are to love God. Compelled love is an oxymoron. Terri never had that choice. Her parents never had that choice.

All of this has brought me back again and again to book that I originally found on-line but has since disappeared: "Handling life's disappointments: Moving from desperation to celebration" (unfortunately out-of-print). In it, author David O. Dykes writes:

God allows us to carry an unbearable load at times [to] produce brokenness in our lives... In man’s economy broken things are less valuable. In God’s economy just the opposite is true. To God, broken things are of infinitely greater value. If you have a broken clock, it’s useless... We live in a culture that discards broken objects. Conversely, God uses broken things... The body of Jesus had to be broken for us so that we could know the joy of salvation. While we tend to throw broken things away, God delights to use them. Cooperate with God during your difficulties and allow Him to produce brokenness in you.
As Laura Ingram put it, "Terri has given us a gift". Yes. A gift of brokenness. A gift of reflection. A gift of improbable, faithful love that has spurred us all - no matter where we each came down - to search our heart, and search again. To search for God.

That gift is priceless. Thank you, Terri. Rest in Peace.

Other memorials of note include: JivinJehosephat, Michelle Malkin, and LaShawn Barber, (who has had the patience to assemble links to many many others.)

UPDATE 3/31: Mark Steyn never disappoints. His pre-memorial to Terri in The Spectator [since removed; see Malkin's excerpt instead] cuts to the nub of the case, starting with another from 1998 that's even more chilling, (if that's possible.) Evangelical Outpost is also good, considering the larger battle between utilitarianism and religiously-informed ethics.

UPDATE 4/2: Michelle Malkin gets around to the Steyn piece today, calling it "hands down, the best piece written on the case. Ever." I agree. Way to tell 'em Michelle! She adds this great comment: "[Steyn]... nails the apathetic/deliberately ignorant among us who refused to acknowledge the screaming evil in Terri's public execution." Indeed. A radio program here this morning seemed desperate to turn the focus to the supposed callousness and selfishness of Terri's parents. They may be human and fallible, but hello? Volunteering to care for an invalid indefinitely may be delusional (that's for them to decide), but it is the exact opposite of selfish.

What Do Iran and the D.C. Public Schools Have in Common?

They're both havens for terrorists.

Kifah Waed Jayyousi, the former facilities director for D.C. public schools, was ordered held in Detroit yesterday after he was arrested for providing material support to terrorists and plotting acts of terrorism... Mr. Jayyousi was hired as facilities director for D.C. public schools in July 1999 by Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. He held the position, which oversees capital improvements and maintenance, for more than two years until he was fired in April 2001 by Superintendent Paul L. Vance for "shoddy management." Mr. Jayyousi, 43, was charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources for terrorism and conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure people or damage property in a foreign country... The affidavit says the federal investigation into Mr. Jayyousi began in late 1993.
So let's see if I've got this straight: This guy goes under investigation in 1993. Six years later the DC school system hires him. I won't even touch the affirmative action angle, or the fact that again the liberal academic establishment seems to play host to more than their share of these nuts. Well OK, I will touch that. Someone has to. Are we surprised that one of the most wacko-liberal dysfunctional school systems in the country is where this guy chose to hang out? And no, before my comments fill up with hate-mail, this is not per se about Muslims or racial profiling, or religious intolerance or any of that garbage. This is about terrorists. Yes, they come in many shapes and sizes. Let's move on.

Jayyousi presumably gets priveleged access to every school in the District for almost two years. Now granted, I know that an investigation is not an arrest, and an arrest is not a conviction, but did anybody check this guy out in any serious way in 1999? Criminal background check? FBI? Anything? Is it even possible to know that someone is under investigation for being a terrorist? (I recognize the dangers of the investigative part of the process being too open to public scrutiny, but c'mon. Six years?)

Was there really not even a hint accessible to DC hiring officials that he might not be the optimal choice to be entrusted with a top job overseeing the facilities within which D.C. residents allow their children to be cared for every day? "Kill, kidnap, maim or injure people or damage property in a foreign country"? Are we sure? Has anyone thought to check the walls, basements, HVAC systems, plumbing and electrical systems of the D.C. schools Mr. Jayyousi oversaw? Is it possible that he might have left a few nasty 'surprises' somewhere? I shudder to think about it. How many more Jayyousis are there embedded in important jobs like this?

More background here, and here.

30 March, 2005

The Journalist Manifesto

I'm too tired to write cogently about it tonight, but Jeff Jarvis has posted an elegant manifesto on the rediscovery (and redefinition) of journalism. I plan to give it more thought and blog on it in the morning. [Hat tip: LaShawn Barber.]

Pot and Kettle - Part II (aka Hypocrisy Watch)

The right is hardly immune from hypocrisy, but the left (particularly the aging, angry left) is taking it to new levels. I just ran across this ridiculous, superficial comparison between free speech efforts on college campuses and Mao's Cultural Revolution. Okey Dokey...

This unhinged wacko seems to equate efforts like FIRE's to defend First Amendment rights for students' minority opinions with forcibly relocating, shooting and starving millions. Yeah, that's a cogent argument. Particularly ironic in light of this report in yesterday's Washington Post.

College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says. By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans. The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.
Repression of minority views by monolithically liberal faculty and administrators gets twisted into pity for those same self-appointed mandarins of political correctness. Somehow current, peaceful student revolts against such thought control are singled out as unsavory, whereas forcible blockades of college operations by dope-smoking tie-dyed long-hairs in the '60's are excused if not lauded by omission from this 'critique'.

Note to self: carefully regulate visits to left-wing-wacko sites to maintain sanity.

Brought Down by a Microbe?

The slowly evolving story of bird flu outbreak in North Korea raises the possibility for some interesting if familiar scenarios for Western access, erosion of confidence in Kim Jong-il, and complications (or opportunities) this may introduce into already silly 'talks' on nuclear weapons. Then there's the pity angle: MSM fixation (again) on poor suffering North Koreans, with few hard questions about the policies and 'leadership' that drove that country to a state of despotic desperation. The Washington Times notes:

Pyongyang's rare confirmation of the outbreak is considered [in Seoul] as its acknowledgement that it can hardly combat the epidemic without international aid... Many experts say extensive culling of poultry, the main source of protein for many North Koreans, would aggravate the impoverished state's food shortages. The country has relied on external food aid to feed its 23 million people for more than a decade..." The spread of bird flu and massive culling would deliver a fatal blow to North Korea, which has made efforts to breed more chickens to ease food shortages," said Kwon of the Korea Rural Economic Institute in Seoul. [emphasis added]
Hmm... "fatal blow". I like it. Not that I relish more North Koreans suffering. I don't. They have suffered mightily already. But if this can help move a perpetual high-stakes stalemate towards removal of Kim Jong-il, that's a positive thing. None of this appears to have stopped sporting events between targets, err, I mean members of the Axis of Evil. It must be Bush's fault.

Extremism Alert - Pot Calls Kettle Black

Hugh Hewitt (tipped off by Right Wing Nuthouse, whose satire I like already), pours well-deserved derision on Paul Krugman for this take on extremism in yesterday's NYT :

America isn't yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren't sufficiently hard-line, fear assassination. But unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.
Trust us Paul, we're on it. Thanks for the tip. That's why we're singling you out. Extremism comes in many flavors. But while we've got you here, maybe you can explain this quote for our reading audience:
There is a nationwide trend toward "conscience" or "refusal" legislation. Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to deny virtually any procedure to any patient.
This is one of those points that seem to be really important and scary to Krugman's usual loony audience, but strikes the rest of us as, well... a good idea. Isn't conscience legislation exactly the opposite of what goes on in totalitarian regimes? In those places (e.g., Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and today's North Korea, among too many other repressive hell-holes), doctors are compelled to conform to 'one best way' - the state's big plan for exterminating unwanted citizens. Claiming personal conscience is the best way to be jailed or killed themselves. Is Mr. Krugman really concerned that we're a nation moving towards the expression of individual conscience rather than tightening dictates from the state? Wasn't that the entire point of the glorious American experiment?

Never mind. I must be getting lazy - wasting bits on Krugman and and Dowd. Too easy. Too fun.

UPDATE: Krugman's mini-rant about conscience legislation and pharmacies appears to be part of a broader liberal 'push' on this issue. Remember, we're not talking about banning birth control or even the more morally ambiguous 'morning-after' pill but merely the right of individual pharmacists not to be forced by the state to dispense them. Would liberals feel the same way if the product were cigarettes or guns? [Hat tip: Museum of Left Wing Lunacy]

29 March, 2005

Apology to Andrew Sullivan

In re-reading my post from earlier today, ("What Theocracy?"), I realize that I unfairly waded into questioning Maureen Dowd's and Andrew Sullivan's personal religious beliefs, while implying that their views on theocracy were the same. They are not. I am sorry. I stand by the rest. This brilliant piece by Sullivan on the Ashley Simpson episode ("Amazing Grace") should put to rest any thought that he is coming at this from the same perspective as Dowd.

When Extremism Becomes a Vice

I just found The Anchoress and this thoughtful, jaunty rant:

The 2004 elections and the "morality" meme that followed them served to tempt some Christians - a distinct minority - to the sin of Pride... It goeth before a fall.
Summary: However worthy their motivations, the extreme fringe of the Schiavo spectacle is providing easy ammo for the Dems in the next election. Worth reading in full. Hat tip: Professor Bainbridge.

UPDATE: Lest there be any doubt that the bedside antics surrounding Terri Schiavo are now beyond the pale - and hurting Republicans' larger credibility on moral issues - Jesse Jackson has shown up to hog the camera. It's over. We all lost. Turn the cameras off. Let us pray for wisdom while we let her go in peace.

What Theocracy?

Maureen Dowd and Andrew Sullivan each recently labeled the U.S. a "theocracy". They are hardly alone in that smear. It's an easy taunt - inviting comparisons with the Taliban and Iranian mullahs - a cute sound byte without meaning or substance. What do they think has changed in 200+ years since the founders, (most of whom voiced religious beliefs of one stripe or another), created a Constitution aimed specifically at ensuring that a theocracy could not take hold on these shores?

Webster's defines theocracy as: "government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided." That doesn't help much. Hitler thought he was acting on divine guidance, but so did Winston Churchill, George Washington, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln, not to mention JFK and pretty much every leader of any note in the history of this country and beyond. (For extra credit, guess which President referred to the deity more often in his inaugural address: George Bush, or liberal icon JFK?) The Kims in North Korea instituted themselves as national deities - assuming the right to pass along their 'guidance' to a famished people. Yet somehow they don't get labeled as a theocracy by the MSM.

And what are we to make of the heart-rending Terri Schiavo case, where the vast majority of Americans believe she should have a secular religion (law) imposed upon her despite a recent Newsweek poll showing that:

78 percent of Americans believe Jesus rose from the dead; 75 percent say that he was sent to Earth to absolve mankind of its sins. Eighty-one percent say they are Christians; they are part of what is now the world's largest faith, with 2 billion believers, or roughly 33 percent of the earth's population.
No, Americans, despite their own beliefs are still highly resistant to the kind of church-state alliance that the founders were trying to avoid. We are hardly moving towards theocracy when so many are able to make civic judgments this way. Instead, such commentary seems to take offense at something much more basic that the founders expressly sought to protect: the expression of religion itself. Dowd and Sullivan and others seem offended that they are exposed to the voicing of religious belief and that religious conviction might influence (as it always has) the mores that underpin our society. I have two words Maureen Dowd in particular: Grow up.

Having a leader who believes in God does not make for a theocracy. Having leaders who pray for guidance, (and publicly acknowledge doing so) does not make for a theocracy. Having a body of laws that are morally inspired by religious tradition is not a theocracy. (All but the Communist regimes do so in one way or another.) Even living as an atheist or agnostic in a nation full of believers who prefer to cast their vote for other believers does not automatically imply theocratic oppression.

No, theocracy becomes worthy of note (and concern) only when it imposes expressions (or non-expressions) of conscience on an unwilling population, and punishes them for doing otherwise. That definition comes a lot closer to describing monolithic secularism, Communism, and the whim of unelected judges than it does to the thousands of religions, denominations, sects, cults and voluntary associations that thrive in this free land.

Even so, the right of individuals to abstain from religion stands firm, as evidenced by the much lower numbers for regular church attendance (compared the number expressing belief), not to mention Ms. Dowd's right to say what she wants on this topic. What is at stake and at the root of much liberal and libertarian angst is the gradual, steady reversal of anti-religion as state-imposed creed. Dowd and Sullivan have it exactly backwards: galloping, monolithic secularism-as-religion and constraints on religious expression are what's under siege. As they should be. As they were at the founding of this country. As those founders intended.

Local Warming - Not!

I'm continually astounded by how much climate change reporting proceeds in lock-step:

1) Feed off easily understood local weather anecdotes and conventional wisdom ("It's hot!", "That storm was big!", "I don't remember the weather being like this before..."),

2) Misuse incomplete and conflicting data to show a trend ("look at this graph we've carefully skewed to make our point!", "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"),

3) Presume a human cause, even when the connection is tenuous, ("we're bad!", "corporate greed is bad!", "Bush must be at fault!"), and

4) Demand a radical solution, ("world government now!"),

Thus, as a New Englader, this piece caught my eye for breaking most of those rules. The use of graphics is rather clever.

Figure 1 is a 50-year temperature history for the region (using data from the New England Climate Change report). It shows a rather consistent warming that resulted in a rise in the average annual temperature of a bit more than 2.5ºF. While some might argue that this is a sure sign of human-induced global warming, they would be surprised to learn that the 50 year period depicted in Figure 1 is from 1904-1953 -- long before the era of rapid atmospheric composition changes. The complete record for the region, stretching from 1899-2004, is shown in Figure 2. The overall temperature rise is 1.9ºF, but all of it occurred during the first half of the record. In fact, there has been no statistically significant temperature increase in New England during the past 75 years... [emphasis added]

Feeling Her Pain

The cynic in me isn't terribly surprised that this hunger strike for Terri Schiavo hasn't gotten more MSM coverage. When Dick Gregory and IRA terrorists do such things, they become overnight media causes celebre. When a blogger does it to find out firsthand what it what it feels like to starve, she must be an anorexic right-wing extremist. Those who blithely wear "Question Authority" T-shirts, take note:

If I wonder what it's like to be starved and dehydrated to death, and if the experts are telling me that it's just such a marvelous experience, why on earth would I take their word for it? I'm all for authority, but these "experts" have none. They have never thirsted, they have hardly ever hungered, and they aren't going to tell me what it's like if they don't even have a clue. Since they seem so intent upon introducing this into our lives, I think it's a good thing to question authority and just try it out for myself, within reason.

The Arrogance of Intellect

This short reflective piece by Ralph Kinney Bennett is worth reading with regards to God's purpose with Terri Schiavo - something we cannot presume to know but that just as surely, is mysteriously at work in this media circus.

Somehow this soul, its journey begun -- whether to perfect harmony with God, or an eternity without Him -- must remain in that God-designed physical envelope that has become known to all as Terri Schiavo. Accident, or disease, or mayhem -- the risks of existing in this physical world -- may destroy that envelope, but God has made it plain that such destruction is not the prerogative of an individual human being. The wisdom of this, the purpose of it, is often contravened or forgotten. But I believe that the whole force of Scripture points to one thing -- that God, in His sovereign wisdom, wishes it so. In this wish he confounds the wise, puzzles even the faithful, and yet brings to complete understanding -- however grudging or grateful -- all those souls who have long ago completed the fleshly part of their journey. As a believer in individual liberty, I am mighty uneasy about government's hand in this thing. But I do not see the cynical politics that others deride, so much as I see, at bottom, some instinctive western, Judeo-Christian impulse of common decency and defense of life.

Bloggers Feel a Chill

The Supreme Court took a 'pass' yesterday on a First Amendment case, effectively raising roadblocks for poli-bloggers. By letting stand the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's October, 2004 ruling in Norton vs. Glenn (pdf), bloggers may find it harder to call to task public figures who say outrageous things - something that blogs do rather well. A handful of MSM outlets are running with the story, including the LA Times:

The case turned on whether the 1st Amendment's protection of the freedom of the press includes a "neutral reporting privilege." Most judges around the nation have said the press does not enjoy this privilege. Lawyers for more than two dozen of the nation's largest press organizations, including Tribune Co., which publishes the Los Angeles Times, had urged the court to take up the Pennsylvania case and to rule that truthful news reports on public figures deserved to be shielded. They said politicians have been hurling false and damaging charges at their rivals throughout American history. The press cannot do its duty to inform the public if it is not free to report what public figures say, they argued. But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the press has never "enjoyed a blanket immunity" from being sued over stories that print falsehoods that damage a person's reputation. The law "has placed a burden (albeit a minimal one) on the media to refrain from publishing reports that they know to be false," the Pennsylvania court said.
MSM reporters will be affected too, but they're better able to handle any increase in tactical libel cases by public officials trying to shield themselves from their own stupidity. Despite all of the mud that's been slung at Karl Rove, the party out of power seems likely to benefit more from a strategy of stoking the libelous rumor mill while suing those who report such statements directly (i.e., blogs). In such a climate, how far are we away from political speech restrictions that look like this?

The only other blog I can find covering this at the moment is Captains Quarters - a surprise and a disappointment given the number of excellent lawyer-bloggers out there and the magnitude of the First Amendment rights just lost. Where are Hugh Hewitt, Powerline and Professor Bainbridge when we need 'em? In light of comments like this from Democratic standard-bearer-of-the-moment John Kerry, conservatives have cause to worry:

...the mainstream media, over the course of the last year, did a pretty good job of discerning. But there's a subculture and a sub-media that talks and keeps things going for entertainment purposes rather than for the flow of information. And that has a profound impact and undermines what we call the mainstream media of the country. And so the decision-making ability of the American electorate has been profoundly impacted as a consequence of that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

UPDATE I: Michelle Malkin has this take on another front in the budding war against bloggers:

Even if we wanted to give fewer legal protections to bloggers than to "real journalists,"... it's not clear that such a policy could be implemented given the blurring between blogs and Big Media.
UPDATE II: Others are noticing this now, though I'm still hoping the blogger-lawyers weigh in. From Right Wing Nuthouse:
Does this mean I can’t call John Kerry a lying, sniveling, traitorous weasel anymore? Probably... Am I missing something here? Is it really this complicated? How can you interpret the First Amendment so narrowly? Politicians have been calling each other names for 217 years in this country.
UPDATE III: Right Wing News is now on the case as well:
So let me get this straight: members of the media are supposed to listen to what politicians say, apparently use some sort of super-power that allows us to determine whether a statement is libelous without the benefit of a court case, and then just black out any news that isn't true. That sounds fun and easy right? Moreover, whatever happened to the public's "right-to-know"? I find it ironic that every deeply personal detail of a politician's life is fair game for the press, but if that same politician stands on a stage full of reporters screaming that his political enemies are "liars," "queers" and "child molesters," that there are judges who think it should be ILLEGAL to let the public even know what was said.
UPDATE IV: Ace of Spades makes a good point, admitting that this is not a one-sided issue:
Yes, it is important for the public to know about even the false claims made by politicians -- and sometimes, of course, sunlight exposes those lies for what they are -- but on the other hand, just because someone libels you, should the press amplify that libel ten-thousand-fold by repetition and wide dissemination and take no responsibility for the additional injury to person's character?

Personally, I think there's more and more sunlight. Let the mud be slung. Let the sun dry it out.

28 March, 2005

From Someone Who Should Know

Powerline notes this piece by Harvard undergraduate Joe Ford on the Terri Schiavo case, and rightly so. We can all pontificate about this in theory. Here's someone qualified to know.

Besides being disabled, Schiavo and I have something important in common, that is, someone attempted to terminate my life by removing my endotracheal tube during resuscitation in my first hour of life. This was a quality-of-life decision: I was simply taking too long to breathe on my own, and the person who pulled the tube believed I would be severely disabled if I lived, since lack of oxygen causes cerebral palsy. (I was saved by my family doctor inserting another tube as quickly as possible.) The point of this is not that I ended up at Harvard and Schiavo did not, as some people would undoubtedly conclude. The point is that society already believes to some degree that it is acceptable to murder disabled people. As Schiavo starves to death, we are entering a world last encountered in Nazi Europe. Prior to the genocide of Jews, Gypsies, and Poles, the Nazis engaged in the mass murder of disabled children and adults, many of whom were taken from their families under the guise of receiving treatment for their disabling conditions. The Nazis believed that killing was the highest form of treatment for disability.
UPDATE: The 2003 'exit protocol' for Schiavo that Joe Ford cites was obtained from Cheryl Ford, a Tampa RN who once cared for Terri - an interesting coincidence (?) of last names. The protocol is graphic and unpleasant - but that's the point.

Letting Terri Go, Part II

As I wrote last week, my concerns for Terri Schiavo have less to do with her than everyone else: those wanting her to die, as well as the rest of us complicit in a system that favors killing her under less-than-transparent circumstances and the fig leaf of a too-fallible legal process. Thus while I disagree with Neal Boortz's conclusion that Terri should be allowed to die without further consideration of the facts of her case, I concur with his larger thought (seconded by Andrew Sullivan.) That is, if we believe in God's promise that we will enjoy everlasting life (as I do), panicked efforts to keep Terri's body on this earth at all costs are signs of our own lack of faith in that ultimate grace. At the extreme, they sit at the edge of a slippery slope that leads towards Dorian Gray style, death-defying narcissistic pursuits such as botox, liposuction and cryogenics.

Terri Schiavo's First Amendment Rights - Grudgingly

Many think of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as being all about free speech, forgetting that it begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Someone must have read the fine print Saturday night and reflected upon the armed police blockade of Ms. Schiavo's death chamber that her husband Michael had been insistent upon enforcing. A Catholic priest was finally allowed to administer Last Rites and partial Holy Communion to Terri yesterday - Easter Sunday. How magnanimous of Michael - and our government.

The Talented Mr. Sullivan*

Evangelical Outpost has a nice little thought piece this morning on Andrew Sullivan and his role in the conservative movement. (Given recent turns, I recognize that calling Sullivan a conservative may cause some to choke on their breakfast cereal - as I almost did - but before you do, read the EO piece.)

It has taken me years to recognize his genius but I finally have to admit that Andrew Sullivan is one of the most astute political thinkers of our day. Before last week I would have scoffed at the notion. But I had failed to recognize that like many profound theorists, Sullivan doesn’t always use words in their generally accepted usage, choosing instead to imbue them with his own nuance. Take, for example, his use of the term 'conservatism'... Sullivanism attempts to provide an intellectual foundation for the diverse groups known as South Park Republicans, Republican Party Reptiles, and Maxim-cons. Before Andrew Sullivan came along, there didn’t appear, as Jonah Goldberg claimed, to be “any such thing as a unifying set of beliefs among them.” But Sullivan is providing formal structure to this form of cafeteria libertarianism. He is providing a framework for people who aren’t really conservative but would still prefer to be associated with William F. Buckley, Jr. rather than with Michael Badnarik.

For years, Sullivan embodied my entire understanding of the blogosphere, while capturing perfectly my views on the war to liberate Iraq, and what had gone desperately wrong with 60's liberalism. Like many, I turned him off when he bailed on the President in the clutch last fall - even as I understand his personal reasons for doing so.

Sullivan may or may not be a good flag-bearer for a coalition that calls itself conservative; someone who actively supported Kerry last November is automatically suspect. (How much easier might it be, having done it once, to throw his weight behind a cynically right-tacking, power-hungry Hillary Clinton in '08?) But I know of many self-described liberals whose introduction to conservative ideas came exclusively from Sullivan's blog. He has made it acceptable for many to think beyond the MSM, (still a huge and scary leap for those caught in its thrall.) If conservatives are seeking new converts, we could do a lot worse.

*Matt Damon's character in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" offers imperfect but tongue-in-cheek-amusing parallels with Sullivan's intellectual journeys, past, present and potentially future.

27 March, 2005

Making the Connection: NoKo and the Nazis

With collective outrage (and its opposite) focused on the horrors of one woman's slow state-ordered killing in Florida, it's understandable that this piece in yesterday's Washington Post, about slow state-ordered killing of another kind, didn't get more notice:

A day after Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 8, 1941, German death squads in the Polish village of Chelmno gassed Jews in specially equipped vans for the first time. Far from generating banner headlines, the story did not appear in the New York Times until nearly seven months later, on Page 6. Like the Allied powers, the Times consistently ignored or buried such reports until it was too late for 6 million European Jews. In 2005, the civilized world seems to be deploying the same dismissive, deadly strategy again. I recently returned from debriefing North Korean defectors in Seoul who told me of their involvement in the Pyongyang regime's gassing of political prisoners, dating back to the 1970s and continuing into the 21st century... It took an hour into our debriefing for Dr. Lee to get around to the fact that he helped develop deadly agents at a secret underground poison and toxin research institute. In that connection, he matter-of-factly described how, in 1979, he was in charge of gassing two political prisoners. The victims' suffering was documented by scientists, who took notes outside glass-encased gas chambers that were also wired for sound. One prisoner died after 2 1/2 hours, the other after 3 1/2 hours of agony. Then a young scientist, Dr. Lee was rewarded with a medal and promotions for his role in these successful experiments. Twenty-five years later, he expressed no remorse, but his recall of details and dates make him a credible, if frightening, witness.
This is hardly the first or worst of such testimony. Why is it hard to understand that history can and does repeat itself? Hitler never had nukes.

Steyn & Sowell on Schiavo

These two intellectual giants deserve to be read in full.

Mark Steyn in today's Sun Times:

...for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong. This is not a criminal, not a murderer, not a person whose life should be in the gift of the state. So I find it repulsive, and indeed decadent, to have her continued existence framed in terms of ''plaintiffs'' and ''petitions'' and ''en banc review'' and ''de novo'' and all the other legalese. Mrs. Schiavo has been in her present condition for 15 years. Whoever she once was, this is who she is now -- and, after a decade and a half, there is no compelling reason to kill her. Any legal system with a decent respect for the status quo -- something too many American judges are increasingly disdainful of -- would recognize that her present life, in all its limitations, is now a well-established fact, and it is the most grotesque judicial overreaching for any court at this late stage to decide enough is enough. It would be one thing had a doctor decided to reach for the morphine and ''put her out of her misery'' after a week in her diminished state; after 15 years, for the courts to treat her like a Death Row killer who's exhausted her appeals is simply vile.

Thomas Sowell in two parts - here, and here last Friday:
People who say that the government has no business interfering in a private decision like removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube somehow have no problem with a squad of policemen preventing her parents (or anyone else) from giving their daughter food or water... Terri Schiavo is being killed because she is inconvenient to her husband and because she is inconvenient to those who do not want the idea of the sanctity of life to be strengthened and become an impediment to abortion. Nor do they want the supremacy of judges to be challenged, when judges are the liberals' last refuge... Liberals have repeatedly used the talking point of how many judges have heard the case of Terri Schiavo. But that is as misleading as most of the rest of what they and the mainstream media have been saying... no matter how many appellate judges rule one way or the other, that... does not mean that all these judges agreed with the merits of the original court's decision. It means that they found no basis for saying that the original court's decision was illegal. What the law just passed by Congress did was authorize a federal court to go back to square one and examine the actual merits of the Terri Schiavo case, not simply review whether the previous judge behaved illegally... That is precisely what the federal courts have refused to do. There is no way that federal District Judge James Whittemore could have examined this complex case, with its contending legal arguments and conflicting experts, from scratch in a couple of days, even if he had worked around the clock without eating or sleeping.

Mounting Strangeness at Google

Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs notes that Google has been running recruitment ads for Hamas. Yes that Hamas. No, I'm not joking. Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin notes that Google - which changed its logo for UN World Water Day - did nothing today for Easter: not even a cute little secular bunny with colored eggs, as I recall them doing in previous years. (The Wayback Machine doesn't display Google's logo for past dates - I checked.) Nope, just an ordinary day. Wouldn't want to recognize the most important holiday in one of the most important traditions shaping Western Civilization, a philosophical cornerstone influencing the founding documents of this country and oh yeah, one other thing: the promise of eternal life and salvation for all mankind. No, World Water Day is definitely more important. After all, we wouldn't want to be counted as part of the metastasizing national theocracy that Maureen Dowd is all worked up about, now would we? And they say secularism isn't a religion. Well, I'm happy to wave a red flag in front of that bull:

Isaiah 5:20
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

UPDATE I: I fully recognize the irony of publishing this stuff on a Google platform - one of several problems looming for bloggers.

UPDATE II: Adding to the frustration of Michelle and Charles in getting listed on Google News, Captain's Quarters reports that it has disappeared from Google altogether - though the explanation is mundane - a bad advertiser.

UPDATE III: An archive of Google 'holiday' logos can be found here.

1st Peter 1:8

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy...

26 March, 2005

Police Resonate With the Gestalt

Sometimes a song comes on the radio - maybe purposeful on the part of the DJ; maybe not - but it captures the mood of current events just perfectly. Sting had other things in mind when he wrote "Driven to Tears" in 1979 (going on to record it in 1980), but some things are sadly timeless. When I heard it this evening driving to a restaurant, the relevance to Terri Schiavo was startling:

How can you say that you're not responsible?
What does it have to do with me?
What is my reaction, what should it be?
Confronted by this latest atrocity

Driven to tears, driven to tears, driven to tears

Hide my face in my hands, shame wells in my throat
My comfortable existance is reduced to a shallow meaningless party
Seems that when some innocent die
All we can offer them is a page in a some magazine
Too many cameras and not enough food
'Cos this is what we've seen

Driven to tears, driven to tears, driven to tears

Protest is futile, nothing seems to get through
What's to become of our world, who knows what to do?

Driven to tears, driven to tears, driven to tears
Driven to tears, driven to tears, driven to tears

More Honest Wrestling With a Sad Situation

My views on Terri Schiavo should be apparent to regular readers. I'm not sure what more there is to say. I'll be the first to confess to being swept up in the passion of arguing for what appears clear-cut to me. Nonetheless, I've kept an eye out (and have deep respect for) those who can calmly lay out their reasoning ground it in some serious soul-searching and in doing so share some of the personal experiences that lead them there. Such is the case with this excellent if longish essay over at Hootsbuddy. The piece is worth reading in its entirety:

We need to back away from the discussion long enough to see what is happening to us [as] a population. There is no way in a representative government that any of us is allowed to claim that what our government does is not an extension of what each of us is doing as an individual. It’s like being part of a family... Like it or not, we are all in this together... The case of Terri Schiavo is presenting a lot of Americans with a dilemma that is old stuff for some of us: how do I reconcile my values as an individual with those of a citizen when those two values are in conflict? In the final analysis, we have to conclude that legality and morality will never be congruent. We are not, nor do we want to be, a theocracy. We must come to terms with the shortcomings of man-made laws and systems. Those of us who oppose capital punishment have lived with those shortcomings for a long time, and will continue to do so. My opposition to capital punishment is not based on what it does to the person executed, but on what it does to me as a citizen-participant in the execution.

And the Reason They Can't Starve Is...?

Apologies if the sad connection with recent events isn't patently obvious:

Five stranded elk shot; they faced slow starvation... the five living bulls were shot to avoid a slow death from starvation... the condition of the animals was too poor to salvage the meat... the loss of the bulls would probably have no significant biological impact on the elk herd in the area. [Hat tip: NRO's Corner]

25 March, 2005

And a 10.0 From the Russian Judge

The Associated Press reports that:

In a recent New England Journal of Medicine study, hospice nurses rated the deaths of terminally ill people who voluntarily stopped eating and drinking. On a scale of zero to nine, with the highest number being "a very good death," their average rating was eight.
How nice. I'm sure Terri's parents are comforted by this. The key word here is voluntarily. As our culture of death 'matures' I'm betting that someone's family sues a care provider for a "below-average" death. For all I know, somebody already has. Also, why were the same kinds of medical experts widely reviled in the MSM when they testified to the harmlessness of so-called 'waterboarding' for the extraction of information from terrorist suspects?

Consistency Was Never Their Strong Suit

To listen to some left wing mouthpieces today, Congressional Republicans (and particularly Tom DeLay) are insincere, calculating opportunists while at the same time politically incompetent and doomed to fail due to their actions in the Schiavo case. Last Sunday, at Left Coaster Republicans were clever Machiavellians:

"Hypocrisy, Thou Art The Republican Party" - There has been a lot of media attention aimed at Terri Schiavo, and none at the opportunistic and hypocritical actions of the GOP trying to reestablish their domination of the nations Christians, now weakened by the neglect of the post-election period.
Today Republicans are (rather prematurely) being derided as complete screw-ups:
Start Playing "Taps" Karl [Rove] - Gallup Says Rising Oil Prices, And Schiavo Are Hurting Bush Greatly... the misplayed Schiavo debacle has cost Bush support from his base
Note to Democrats: Looking under rocks for pending failures to cheer about is not a viable political strategy. That much should be clear after last November.

Did it ever occur to these folks that some Republicans - including perhaps (gasp!) the President - were sincere about Terri Schiavo? Is it possible - just possible - that some of their reluctance - just some - in allowing a disabled woman to be slowly tortured and killed based on questionable testimony while her parents watch helplessly is based on heartfelt belief in enduring moral norms and not political calculation? Why is it that when a Democrat does something like this it is called 'principled' and when it fails politically they are held in even higher esteem by their compatriots for going against their political interests? This kind of crap is called projection: you must have base motives because I know deep down that I do. It's all Bush's fault. Or Karl Rove's.

Culture of Life; Culture of Choice

Dan Drezner muses:

...if [the Terri Schiavo] case has prompted a marked increase in the number of people specifying when they do not want heroic measures used to extend their biological life, then by their actions the Bush administration and both houses of Congress will have retarded rather than extended the culture of life. Just a thought.[Hat tip: Marginal Revolution]
Drezner is right that some - perhaps more - people will choose courses for themselves at odds with the larger hopes of their elected representatives for a life-centric culture. What Drezner misses however, is that longer term, a viable 'culture of life' can only flourish at the grassroots, planted in democracy and the hearts of individuals: an utterly libertarian concept. We are free to choose. That is our blessing, our curse - and our test. Imposition of 'norms' by unaccountable judges may change things for a time, but it does not define a culture. Gentle, persistent persuasion is our only legitimate tool for creating that culture of life - one heart at a time.

Letting Terri Go

The Schiavo case stopped being solely about her long ago. I have no doubt that whatever happens, she will be at peace. As I've said before, it's the rest of us I worry about. I like the honest Christ-centric thinking that Michael King does here, even as I disagree with his starting premise:

Should she be given a chance at life? If so, what kind of life are we talking about? Is there a chance at rehabilitation? Is Michael Schiavo an evil S.O.B., or is he simply a heart-broken man? Conversely, is she truly in a vegetative state? A virtual zombie with eyes open, and nothing inside? Are her parents and family in denial about her pain and suffering? Are the evangelicals coming to her aid getting so worked up that they are looking past the true nature of this situation? [emphasis added]
I cannot speak for all Christians, but I should hope that we could start instead from some other questions: What right do we have to kill her? What right do we have to judge her potential quality of life or her chance at rehabilitation when there remains significant dispute over her wishes and her current state? What right do we have to keep her parents from putting water on her lips when they are willing to care for her at their own expense?

Don't we want to err on the side of resolving those questions more fully before sealing this fatal action? The measures being taken are just passive enough to lull us into lumping them with removing much more heroic mechanisms of life support. Her condition is just ambiguous enough to lull us into judging her a 'vegetable'. Both are on a slippery slope of ambiguity that will lead inexorably to a debate ten years from now about a different case where removing less heroic measures from a less disabled person has started to seem 'OK'. This is not progressive. This is retrogressive - anaesthetizing and habituating us to a slow, steady downgrade in our collective ideals.

I think it is possible to forgive Michael Schiavo and others who see Terri's battle as fruitless, even as we hold to account our system's overall treatment of Terri, calling it what it is: as a sad and dangerous precedent. As Christians, we can accept that her battle for life may be ending, even as we recognize that her impact on our moral sense has already grown beyond measure.

Vermont = Mississippi Quip

If James Taranto ever wants to host a radio talk show, I'm all ears. Commenting on Jim Jeffords' political perfidy, he penned this 'keeper' yesterday: "Between [Jeffords] and Howard Dean, Vermont has become a laughingstock, the Mississippi of the 21st century."

Torture Double Standard

For the first time in awhile, I ventured over to the dark side to see what the loony-left was saying about Terri Schiavo. It didn't take long. I won't be back soon. With no hint of hypocrisy-awareness, DailyKos this morning is all concerned that the President is "not bothered by torture" - a few hours after railing against the integrity of Republican's heroic efforts to save Terri Schiavo from a multi-week death by starvation and dehyration. That's pretty weak in light of this.

24 March, 2005

The Big Three Go At It

No, not American automakers but uber-bloggers Hugh Hewitt, John Hinderaker and Glenn Reynolds on the Terri Schiavo case on CNBC's Kudlow and Company with Larry Kudlow. Fascinating transcript here, courtesy of Radioblogger. It sounded like three-on-one, but without too much apparent rancor. Morality versus rule of law - again. Money quotes:

LK: ...sometimes, when morality triumphs, it's untidy for the law. It's untidy for the politics. But at the end of the day, I still believe it's still a good thing for morality to triumph.

JH: To me, this is not all that hard a case. This is not a person who's on a ventilator or a respirator, consuming a lot of public funds, artificially keeping her alive. She's quite healthy as long as she eats and drinks. And she's got a family that is willing to care for her at their expense. And I just cannot understand why that's not the right result here.

HH: ...Congress directed the federal courts to take action, and the federal courts refused. That's nullification. I've been teaching con law for ten years. I've been practicing and studying the law for 25. I cannot see a single instance where Congress' expressed will has been nullified in this fashion, in the history of the Republic. I think it's a very dangerous precedent...

GR: If you don't like the Florida statute, that's one thing. But that's not a federal issue. That's not a Congressional issue. And I just think that Congress should have stayed out of it. I agree with Charles Fried who called it yesterday just an absurd departure from the principles of federalism.

HH: It's been 7 days since Terri Schiavo had a sip of water. The United States Congress came back under it's emergency authority to pass a statute. The president signed it. It called for a de novo hearing. That hearing has not been held. It would have been moral to hold the hearing. The failure is on the part of the federal courts. Mrs. Schiavo will die as a result, and that is tragic. And there's no way to explain it except by saying the courts could not be bothered.

(A Little) Intellectual Honesty on the Left

Forget whatever you thought you knew about political alliances:

Eleanor Smith of Decatur, Georgia, sat on Tuesday in a motorized wheelchair in front of the hospice, baking in the sun, with a sign on her lap reading, "This agnostic liberal says 'Feed Terri."' Smith, 65, had polio as a child and described herself as a lesbian and a liberal who had demonstrated before in support of the disabled... "What drew me here is the horror of the idea of starving someone to death who's vulnerable and who has not asked that to happen," Smith said. She said she thought that people who left written instructions to withhold medical treatment should have those wishes honored but that withholding water and nutrition from Terri Schiavo, who left no such written instructions, was tantamount to murder. "At this point I would rather have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member," Smith said. [Hat tip: Tomfoolery of the Highest Order]
No doubt she's been listening to fellow Georgian, Zell Miller. Both are old enough to remember when honest Democrats stood up for such values.

UPDATE: Ralph Nader joins the fight for Terri's life. When lambs lie down with lions...

Prevention of Cruelty to... People

I have a 13-year old dog. When I talk to him he makes friendly, happy noises and wags his tail. He looks at me directly when I scratch behind his ears. Being a large dog however, his hips are failing. He doesn't appear to be in pain, but we can't be sure. We have discussed putting him to sleep at some point, but not yet. Recently, he has become far less mobile to the point that we sometimes need to bring his food and water closer. In my wildest nightmares, I would never think of depriving him of those things. Yet that is what our system is doing to Terri Schiavo. Our law has come into irreconcilable conflict with our humanity - just as it did 2000 years ago.

UPDATE: Others are also on to the dog angle.

Do Not Avert Your Eyes

I understand the inclination to do so, but the nitty-gritty horribleness of Terri's pain and abuse are precisely what we must confront. Yes there are other stories, but this one is a test of our national character. It may also be Waterloo for 'compassionate conservatism'. It bears repeating: nobody knows what Terri 'would have wanted'. The sole testimony on that issue comes from a deeply suspect source. Why this case has not taken hold in the MSM as one of spousal abuse is lost on me.

The Boston Globe, after three days of clinically distancing itself from Ms. Schiavo's personhood finally relents today with the headline "Final Appeal in Schiavo Case". Now that she's about to die, they deign to give her a name while acknowledging - if unintentionally - similarities with headlines concerning death penalty appeals. On the other coast of the liberal media axis, the LA Times - redeeming itself slightly after the Barbara Demick flap - stands alone today in noting these horrendous details of Terri's condition and the poignant efforts to oppose her suffering:

"She has to start getting hydration; if she doesn't, she's not going to be with us much longer," Bob Schindler said. The Schindlers' lawyer, David C. Gibbs III, said they were watching her "skin crack, her nose bleed." He said Schiavo was having "pangs of hunger and thirst."... Authorities arrested 10 people — including three children — who allegedly tried to enter the facility in a symbolic attempt to bring her cups of water." It's the least I can do. I have experience with starving and dehydration, as I was in a prison camp in 1945," said Eva Edl, 69, of Aiken, S.C. Edl said she was separated from her parents at the end of World War II and interned in Yugoslavia. "I'm alive today because someone brought me food and water and I was later able to escape." [Hat tip: Michelle Malkin]
Meanwhile, Ann Coulter offers this tour de force today. Liberals will dismiss it because of who Ann is (i.e., a consistently articulate, hard-edged, truth-telling thorn in their side.) Libertarian-minded conservatives may dismiss it because of her appeal for the use of federal power in the most raw and direct manner imaginable. Nonetheless, her arguments are hard to ignore:
Democrats have called out armed federal agents in order to: (1) prevent black children from attending a public school in Little Rock, Ark. (National Guard); (2) investigate an alleged violation of federal gun laws in Waco, Texas (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms); and (3) deport a small boy to Cuba (Immigration and Naturalization Service)... In two of the three cases mentioned above, the Democrats' use of force was in direct contravention of court rulings... None of these exercises of military force has gone down in history as a noble moment, but that's because of the underlying purpose of the force, not the fact that force was used... It would be chaotic if public officials made a habit of disregarding court rulings simply because they disagreed with them. But a practice born of practicality has led the courts to greater and greater flights of arrogance. Sublimely confident that no one will ever call their bluff, courts are now regularly discovering secret legal provisions... Just once, we need an elected official to stand up to a clearly incorrect ruling by a court. Any incorrect ruling will do, but my vote is for a state court that has ordered a disabled woman to be starved to death at the request of her adulterous husband. Florida state court Judge George Greer - last heard from when he denied an order of protection to a woman weeks before her husband stabbed her to death - determined that Terri would have wanted to be starved to death based on the testimony of her husband, who was then living with another woman... The husband also happened to be the only person present when the oxygen was cut off to Terri's brain in the first place. [Hat tip: LaShawn Barber]
And not that it really matters, and I'm very late on this, but has anyone noted the irony of Terri's maiden name, (Schindler) and its association with the near saint who saved starving dehydrated Jewish refugees during WWII? Apparently someone has, as has someone else, though not all of the comparisons have been very kind. May she meet that Mr. Schindler in peace and fullness where such saints commune.

UPDATE I: Ouch. I did not notice this take on death culture and demographics the first time through LaShawn Barber's excellent post. Worth reading. Frightening, but plausible.

UPDATE II: Shouldn't this have been front-and-center fifteen years ago? Or five? Or one?

Engine Out on the Right Wing

As I noted earlier this week, the Terri Schiavo case has alienated libertarians from their socially-conservative cousins, causing those of us who hold both values dear to struggle with cognitive dissonance and a stark choice. As Professor Bainbridge puts it: culture-of-life vs. rule-of-law. Jesus Christ vs. Ayn Rand. The Bible vs. Atlas Shrugged. (Side note: Bainbridge continues thinking through another aspect of these contradictions here.)

Both books have rocked my world. But despite Ms. Rand's brilliance in showing the evils of state-enforced collectivism long before those evils were widely understood, I've always been uneasy with her unapologetic trashing of religion - in essence a form of voluntary, grassroots collectivism. Even before my return to the church a few years ago, that plank seemed to put her incomprehensibly in league with Karl ("religion is the opiate of the masses") Marx. Each world sounds great in theory. Both are pretty cold. Terry Schiavo would be long dead in either one.

I'm continually drawn back to Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by both books. Somehow, he managed to weave these contradictions together with grace: free market principles and compassion (aka, the 'don't kick it' principle - as described by Peggy Noonan): "if you come across a paper bag in the gutter and it seems something's in it and you don't know if it's alive, you don't kick it, do you?" Unfortunately today, many might. Some do.

In a related vein, it's encouraging to see prominent conservatives re-thinking what I've always felt was a massive contradiction, (that liberals have been able to exploit, despite massive contradictions of their own) between opposition to abortion and support for the death penalty. Life is life. In cases where there is doubt (about guilt, about viability, about quality of life, about cognitive function) or doubt about whether there's doubt, how do we err?

Despite his earlier claim not to have an opinion on the Shiavo case, Glenn Reynolds weaves many of the political threads together in this Slate piece posted late last night:

A while back, I wrote about the problem of "fair-weather federalism," but judging by the past week things look to be getting much worse. So will the Republican coalition fracture under these pressures? Quite possibly. National security is the glue that has held Bush's coalition together... One may argue that libertarians and small government conservatives aren't a big part of Bush's coalition, but his victory wasn't so huge that the Republicans can surrender very many votes and still expect to win. So this is a real threat. (Some people are even writing articles with titles like Saving the Marriage: Conservatism and Libertarianism.)
As Rodney King might say, "Can't we all just get along"? Whatever else his faults, he knows a thing or two about being kicked in the head in the street.

23 March, 2005

Cruel Irony at the UN - Again

Earlier this month I wrote about the irony of International Women's Day (a UN-sponsored event) vis a vis gang rapes of young girls in Congo by UN personnel. Yesterday was World Water Day, also sponsored by the UN. As Michelle Malkin points out, the cruel irony vis a vis Terri Schiavo dehydrated to death is, well... cruel. The ironies aren't intentional, but they highlight the UN's shocking disconnectedness.

UPDATE: I should have predicted this angle. The DPRK thinks that UN World Water Day is just peachy. [Hat tip: Bloggodocio]

Some Critical Misconceptions

In speaking with a friend just now I realized that, as immersed in the Terri Schiavo story as I have become via the blogosphere, the MSM hasn't done much to communicate the context of the case. Here are a few relevant facts that have informed my views and that seem to be well accepted. Several of them can be found here. Others are pieced together from a variety of sources.

- Michael Schiavo has been living with another woman for a long time - long enough that, were he not still legally married to Terri, he would be common-law married to this other woman. They have had two children together. That at least complicates any assumption of Michael's good-faith role as Terri's husband and thus his standing to act in her best interests.

- Caregivers have observed Terri taking nourishment effectively by mouth without a feeding tube (e.g., water, ice chips, orange juice, pudding, etc.)

- Michael Schiavo has prevented caregivers from providing such nourishment, as well as from bringing cameras or recording devices into her room. Who has not spoon fed a baby? Or for that matter, an ill or elderly person? Terri's parents are legally prohibited from doing this.

- Other caregivers have reported what experts regard as telltale signs of neglect: basic therapies that have been withheld over many years (e.g., dental care, measures to prevent bedsores, etc.) This obviously affects Terri's current condition and the judgments being rendered from it.

- More than half of the $1M settlement earmarked explicitly for Terri's medical care has been spent on attorneys' fees instead.

- Michael Schiavo's widely reported offer to give the settlement money to charity was strictly time delimited (ten days) and made contingent upon Terri's parents withdrawing their claims to maintain her life and health. It expired long ago. If she dies, the money will not go to charity.

- A priest (Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski) was prevented from offering communion to Terri. Terri is Catholic. This is a big deal. The MSM got all worked up about Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo not being given adequate time, facilities, or resources to pray. How is this different?

UPDATE I: One item I left off the list yesterday that's important to understand is that the only testimony to Terri Schiavo's wishes has come from Michael - seven years after she first fell into her current condition, and several years after Michael took up with another woman. I tire of commentary that speaks of Terri's 'wishes' to not live like this. What makes this case so difficult is precisely the fact that we do not know her wishes, and that the only 'evidence' presented about them has come from a deeply suspect source with conflicting motivations.

Darkness Over the Land

There is simply no reconciling these two statements:

From Terri Schiavo's father: "While she still made eye contact with me when I spoke to her, she was becoming increasingly lethargic. Terri no longer attempted to verbalize back to me when I spoke to her."

From a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling late last night: "[Terri's parents] failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims."

Meanwhile, Andrew McCarthy continues his cutting analysis over at NRO:

Consider, say, a month ago, before Terri's plight took center stage, if you had asked someone in the abstract: "How would you feel about starving and dehydrating a defenseless, brain-damaged woman?" The answer is easy to imagine: "Outrageous, atrocious -- something that wouldn't be done to an animal and couldn't be done to the worst convicted murderer." But then it actually happens ... slowly... A woman's snail-like, gradual torture goes from savagery to just one of those sad facts of life. As is the case with other depravities once believed unthinkable, it coarsens us. We slowly, and however reluctantly, accept it... Of course, the physical needs of the body are not limited to food and water. There is also air. But no judge, even in Florida, would ever have had the nerve in Terri's case to permit "the medical procedure that opponents refer to as asphyxiation." Too crude. Too quick. Too obviously murder of a vulnerable innocent. Brazen, instant savagery might wake us from our slumber. For the culture of death, better that we sleep.
And to nobody's surprise for the third day in a row, the Boston Globe features a headline about a medical device rather than the starvation of a helpless woman named Terri Schiavo: "Parents Lose Appeal on Feeding Tube". Even less surprisingly, silence continues from the National Organization for Women. Oh, but I forgot - this is about a medical device, not a woman.

The NEJM on Terri Schiavo

Two early-release articles came out this evening from the New England Journal of Medicine on Terri Schiavo and medical ethics. The pdfs are here and here. It's late, and I haven't had time to review them in detail, but they seem to break little new ground. I detect a slight liberal bias, as the authors pine for something we don't have: clear intent expressed by Terri herself. This little intellectual gyration to claim the mantle of 'life' seemed more than a little bit strained:

“Erring on the side of life” in this context often results in violating a person’s body and human dignity in a way few would want for themselves. In such situations, erring on the side of liberty — specifically, the patient’s right to decide on treatment — is more consistent with American values and our constitutional traditions.
I can agree with the appeal to individual liberty, but the argument rests on a fallacious presumption. How do they know what "few would want"? I guess doctors aren't any better at this than lawyers.

22 March, 2005

A Higher Law; A Second Chance

I'm listening right now to the audio file of the dialogue between Terri Schiavo and her father, and as LaShawn Barber has expressed, it's hard to step back and write academically. An innocent woman is being killed. Right now. And we're all implicated. All I can feel is deep sadness. I have two young daughters; I can scarcely imagine what Terri's parents must be going through. Her father's unselfless love is obvious in the audio recording. Her awareness of his presence is equally obvious.

I am equally disturbed by the arrest of Lana Jacobs this afternoon - a woman who was attempting to bring Terri water. The eerie parallels continue: (see John 19:28-30). I am neither a physician nor an attorney, but as Professor Bainbridge put it:

In sum, the culture of life and the rule of law appear to be in unavoidable conflict. Both are central values of a free and just society. All of which makes it extremely difficult to decide where one stands on this issue.
This means that we have to choose: rule of law, or culture of life? Didn't we face this test once before and fail? Dispensing with liberal and conservative labels, I'm also uneasy with seductive and easy contrasts, such as Hugh Hewitt's, between Terri's case and those of violent criminals who 'deserve' the death penalty. It is also one that we've faced before. But a culture of life is just that. We have not been given the right to abrogate it in some cases and not others. That is up to God. Terri will be fine - in the next life if not in this one. It's the rest of us I'm worried about. Please pray for Terri. Please pray for humanity.

UN Depravity Update - Congo

It would seem like a good thing that the MSM is finally giving some coverage to the UN's beyond-deplorable behavior in Congo:

"Sometimes it happens in U.N. cars, other times at the camp. But at least they paid us. I was worthless anyhow. My honor was lost," [said 'Yvette'.] Her story is not uncommon. The United Nations is investigating 150 instances in which 50 peacekeeping troops or civilians in the Congo mission are suspected of having sexually abused or exploited women and girls, some as young as 12.
That is what the UN and the Washington Post are willing to admit: only fifty troops, borderline prostitution (as opposed to rape), nobody under an age at which some females marry in parts of Africa. In other words, dismissable - a difference in cultural norms. Not something we are qualified to judge. What crap.

As I noted earlier this month, that is hardly the whole story. Even as the UN tells it, the mess in Congo has involved tens of thousands of violent rapes, including gang rapes of children as young as three. Can we chalk that up to cultural misunderstandings? I'm betting that someone on the loony left will try. In any case, why are we trusting the UN as a source on this? They are party to it. Hello! The article gets a little more realistic later-on, but only slightly:
The United Nations is also investigating reports of rape or sexual assault in Congo, including one case in which a French logistics employee was found with hundreds of videotapes that showed him torturing and sexually abusing naked girls. Last week, U.N. officials announced they had fired one employee and suspended six others from among 17 civilian staff members being investigated in the Congo abuses.
The impression is of a past problem already contained. I'm not so confident.

The National Organization for Women at least mentions Congo, including the tens of thousands of rapes, but it's buried deep down in a four-month-old press release. No connection with the UN. That would be bad. After all, it's probably Bush's fault.

A 'Painless Procedure' & A Modest Proposal

Michael Schiavo on Nightline:

Terry will not be starved to death. Her nutrition and hydration will be taken away. This happens across this country every day. Death through removing somebody's nutrition is very painless. That has been brought to the courts many of times. Doctors have come in and testified. It is a very painless procedure.
I have a modest proposal for Michael and Judge Whittemore as regards their "procedure": try it. It's Tuesday. Try going without food or water for the next 3 days - coincidentally ending on Good Friday. (OK, maybe not so coincidentally.) See how it feels. Lots of people do it all the time. It won't kill you. It's less time than Terri has already endured. Determine for yourself whether this is painless. Determine for yourself whether this constitutes 'cruel and unusual' punishment.

We Cannot Wash Our Hands

One can hardly avoid the sad irony of Terri Schiavo's suffering and government-sanctioned persecution during Holy Week. Hugh Hewitt puts it succinctly: "In the Spirit of Pontius Pilate: Congress and the President be Damned, Terri gets no food or water":

Convicted felons don't get executed until all the appeals are heard. Their executions are stayed even when they haven't got a prayer of a chance of success. Not so in this setting.
Or as Laura Ingram put it the other night: "Terri has given us a gift." Indeed - a gift of moral clarity. Though earthly law is now clear, I thank God that our hope does not depend upon it. Pray for Terri - and the world.

UPDATE I: Michelle Malkin continues her excellent flood-the-zone coverage on Terri.

Politics Upside-Down

One remarkable thing about the Terri Schiavo case is how it has turned traditional notions of conservative and liberal completely upside-down, while fracturing the wary alliance between libertarian and social conservatives. On the one hand we have uber-liberal Congressman Barney Frank ('my' congressman and home district zip-code neighbor), saying:

The caption tonight ought to be, 'We're not doctors -- we just play them on C-SPAN.' This is a terrible, terrible personal situation. I cannot think of one less suitable for intervention by 536 elected officials -- the president of the United States, the Senate, and the House.
I eagerly await such principled logic, (i.e., states rights, defer to law, defer to individual rights, avoid state intervention, etc.) on other issues where the partisan interests cut the other way - a long list indeed. And yet on the other hand, we have 'conservative' Republican Congressmen and Senators (most notably the physicians), arguing passionately for intervention by the Federal Government. I'll admit to some dizziness in watching such gyrations by both parties. As Thomas Sowell has warned, it is dangerous to assume that constrained and unconstrained visions of human nature map perfectly to political parties. In this case, they are wildly at odds with them.

Meanwhile, local talk radio gadfly, gay-basher and Pat Buchanan disciple, Jay Severin seemed to take pleasure yesterday in toeing an intellectually pure libertarian-conservative line with a string of passionate callers. In doing so, he punched home the same points that Barney Frank had been making a day earlier: respect-for-legal-process, strict Constitutional interpretation, non-intervention, etc. Stranger bedfellows could hardly be found. But from a strict legal perspective, he had a point. Saving Terri is not about law. Saving Terri is about belief in a higher power and enduring set of humanistic moral norms - far far bigger than any earthly law. Our founders knew that. They stated it unambiguously in our most sacred national documents.

I can understand the fears of those who see this as religion grabbing hold of government. It is - but not without deep precedent, and not with mind-control as its objective. I would urge Jay, Barney, and others who harbor such fears to read the back of their paper currency: "In God We Trust". Then go read the Declaration of Independence: "...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights..." These national foundations are not compelled, but neither are they deniable. Expect more strange bedfellows as this all plays out. It remains a debate about one precious life, even as it becomes a debate about the most fundamental principles and roots from which our liberty blossoms.

UPDATE I: In light of how the process appears to be playing out this morning, the politics of this may not be as upside-down as I imagined. One judge has effectively stymied a majority of Congress plus the President. Where have we seen this before?

UPDATE II: To finish a thought from the Declaration of Independence (above): "...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness..." In that order. What seems at issue in the Schiavo case is that Michael Schiavo's pursuit of happiness is at odds with Terri's right to life. The Declaration would have a very different flavor if it read in reverse. Imagine putting pursuit of happiness before liberty - or either one before life. And yet, that is what we are doing.

Why Terri is Unique

This Boston Globe headline caught my eye yesterday: "Feeding Tube Case Heads to U.S. Court." Feeding tube case? Can it get any more clinical? How about the Terri Schiavo case? She has a name. She is one of God's children. In de-personalizing her, we make it easier to kill her without a second thought - not unlike what the anti-war left likes to decry in reminding us of less-than-proud moments in U.S. history when soldiers de-personalized the enemy, (e.g., 'Japs', 'Krauts', 'Gooks')

UPDATE I: Tuesday's Boston Globe front page headline is just as bad: "No Quick Ruling on Feeding Tube". Her name is Terri. Shiavo. She is a person. She is not defined by her medical devices. She is being killed. Slowly and painfully. Right now. How does the following sound?: "Dateline 33AD - No reprieve in crucifixion case." Pretty cold. What's different here?

In that same vein, the 'let her starve' crowd seems to be taking refuge in the simplistic notion that Terri's case should be lumped in with that of terminal, elderly, pain-ridden people whose wishes are clearly known and unanimously agreed to by the person's family members. None of those things are true in Terri's case. She is no more 'terminal' than you or me. She is certainly not elderly. She is not in pain. Her wishes are not clear (we have the late-arriving testimony of one party - her husband - who is encumbered by clear conflicts of interest.) And her family is hardly unanimous in wishing her immediate demise. James Wilson puts it nicely in an editorial in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

Many people, myself included, have allowed life-support systems to be withdrawn from parents who have no hope of recovery. My mother was going to die from cancer, and after all efforts had been made to help her, my sister and I allowed the doctors to withdraw the devices that kept her alive. She was dead within hours.

My case, and that of countless other people who have made that decision, differs from that of Terri Schiavo in two important ways. First, the early death of my mother was certain, but no one can say that Ms. Schiavo will die soon or possibly at any time before she might die of old age. Second, all the relevant family members agreed on the decision about my mother, but family members are deeply divided about Terri.

These differences are of decisive importance. When death will occur soon and inevitably, the patient does not starve to death when life support ends. Since there was no chance of our mother living more than a few more days, what my sister and I did could not be called murder. When death will not occur soon, or perhaps for many years, and when there is a chance, even a very small one, that recovery is possible, people who authorize the withdrawal of life support are playing God.

And in Terri's case, they are playing God when they do not have to. Her parents have begged to become her guardians. Her husband has refused. We do not know for certain why the husband has refused. I doubt that he wishes to receive for himself the money that still exists from her insurance settlement and, apparently, he has offered to donate that money to charity. Perhaps, being a Catholic, he would like her death to make him free to marry the woman with whom he is now living. Or perhaps (and I think this is the most likely case) he does not want his wife to live what strikes him as an intolerable life.

The intolerable life argument has support from many doctors and bioethicists. They claim that a person can be "socially dead" even when their brains can engage in some functions. By "socially dead" they mean that the patient is no longer a person in some sense. At this point their argument gets a bit fuzzy because they must somehow define what is a "person" and a "non-person." That is no easy matter.