Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo's Death

Terri Schiavo died earlier this morning at the young age of 41, 13 days after her feeding tubes were removed and approximately 15 years after she emerged from a coma in a vegetative state. Her feeding tubes were removed because a judge said, upon hearing the evidence before him, that she wanted to die if she ever was found in this condition.

Terri Schiavo's life may have ended today, but her case has caused all of us to think about our own pending deaths. Many living wills and advanced directives will be written in haste, just to ensure that their own wishes are carried out with dignity. Some legislators will craft bills to err on the side of life when no living wills are given and others will advocate on behalf of bills to promote assisted suicide as a means for a more painless and quicker death.

No one can say for sure whether she wanted this wish or that offered by the parents fighting to keep her alive because she had not explicitly written them down. Had she a living will or an advanced directive, this would have been an easier call for the judge and those who later evaluated his ruling. Her death may have come 15 years too late or or an unknown number of years too soon.

Many Christians, Muslims and Jews of course believe she is now with her creator in an eternal bliss called heaven. Those of the far eastern faiths may believe her soul will be reborn with a new, and it is hoped, better more meaningful life. And still others who do not acknowledge any god or religious faith may believe that her existence in mind and body has ceased.

This blogger does not and certainly won't pretend to know about Terri Schiavo's afterlife. He takes comfort from the fact that she was released from any suffering.

Terri Schiavo Appeals Unsuccessful

The conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 9-2 against the Schindler's request for a new hearing on the evidence concerning Terri Schiavo's status. Judge William Pryor, who was appointed after the Senate adjourned from recess, did not vote because he had surgery. I'm sure conservatives and liberals alike will ask him about the Terri Schiavo case should there be a hearing on his continued stay on the court.

The two judges who dissented said that, while they do not believe the Schindlers would win their case on the merits, the full de novo consideration presumably authorized by Congress would require the re-insertion of feeding tubes. In a strongly-worded concurring opinion, however, Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. rebuked the administration and Congress by declaring the very law he and his colleagues were considering, unconstitutional because it intruded upon matters specifically left for the courts to decide. (Democratic Congressman Barney Frank said as much on numerous shows and now his view was vindicated).

The Supreme Court declined to hear the Schindler's appeal.

Terri Schiavo's death is now all but a certain. State senators once thought vulnerable to increasing peer pressure have instead reacted against the pressure layed out against them. One who said she might otherwise support efforts to keep Terri Schiavo alive does not believe there is a constitutional way to do so.
The parents do not have the votes in Tallahassee and they didn't have the votes in federal and state appeals and supreme courts.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, a dinstinguished doctor and former National Institute of Health Director, says Terri Schiavo was evaluated her status using outdated standards that did not establish the proper guidelines between "minimally conscious" and persistent vegetative states. Whether or not that is true or even relevant to the question at hand I leave to to the judges who have already heard of the new "evidence" brought before them.

Her equally distinguished debating partner from the other end, Center for Bioethics Director, Dr. Arthur Caplan said that Mr. Michael Schiavo need only rely upon any evidence that proves she would not want to live in that "minimally conscious" state of feeling as well. The court would then have to decide upon the evidence brought up by Micheal Schiavo in the past and any new evidence that would support this claim and opposing evidence brought by the parents themselves.

The Court nevertheless declined to hear such evidence, first in the trial and federal district courts and then in the Appeals Courts. Unless, of course, you believe that the judge who heard the evidence in the trial would callously throw away Terri Schiavo's life without considering any new evidence. Judge Greer heard the evidence and said enough. I think it's about time for those who think otherwise to do so as well. Fifteen years have gone by since she went into a coma and recovered in a persistent vegetative state and nearly a decade since this has been in the courts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Right wing fundie on Terri Schiavo

"For the last ten years, Michael Schiavo has been living as though he never made those promises to Terri. A fact that the news media rarely comments on is that while his wife has been a patient in a health-care facility, totally dependant upon others, Michael moved in with another woman and fathered children in an adulterous relationship.

One of the keys of marriage -- whether both parties are well or not -- is unselfishness. Giving to each other. The husband giving, and being willing to give, himself for his wife -- unselfishly -- in the fashion demonstrated by Jesus Christ and his love for his Bride, the Church (not Mary Magdalene, as Dan Brown would have you believe).

Selfishness says, "My wife is brain dead and I deserve a life."

Selfishness says, "It is time for my brain-injured wife to die, regardless of the wishes of her parents."

Selfishness says, "I have promises to fulfill to Terri. - David Sisler
Michael Schiavo did not, as far as I know, utter the first two quotes above. His behavior has acted them out, however. But the third is from his own lips.
He must let Terri die now, he says, because he has unfulfilled promises to her."
Never mind that he did not keep his promise of being faithful to his wife no matter what happened in their lives. Sleeping with another woman, Michael must now keep his promises to Terri and kill her. Excuse me, pull her feeding tube and let her die.

If Terri Schiavo had remained in good health, and if her husband had moved in with another woman, she would probably have divorced him. Because Michael's adultery appeared after control of Terri's life passed out of Terri's hands, the man who abandoned her for the comfort of another woman now has the final say over whether Terri Schiavo lives or dies.

Michael Schiavo has totally disqualified himself from being Terri's husband, but his selfishness will have the final word for her life."

Umm, the promise to fulfill to Terri is "selfishness?" I never thought of promises as acts of selfishness but rather acts of loyalty and respect but that's me and my understanding of what it means to be selfish must be far out of the mainstream. Seems to me that the parents' fight to keep their daughter beyond all hope against her wishes would be more selfish than Terri's decision to fulfill a promise for her.

And sleeping with another woman? Did not the parents themselves urge him to move on with his life? The doctors said she had no chance for recovery, and that, for all practical purposes she is as good as dead. Yes, she may be breathing and go between rare moments of conscious-like behavior and doing nothing but the experts say she is not conscious and courts ruled on that evidence.

A Formal Apology

I would like to apologize to my readers for some trouble I had earlier this week (and probably still have) concerning my postings. You may not have realized this but normally I write alot within the midnight to 3:30 am range and post a few links during the day and that for the last two days this had not happened.

Through no known fault of my own, I have been trying to post some stories and one lengthy piece about the political connection between abortion, gay marriage, Terri Schiavo, and other non-related issues (in my view) during the wee hours of this morning but for some reason the system was down and I lost the post, this after staying up to 4:30 in the morning to write the piece.

This can be particularly frustrating for both, the few readers who expect me to write about something of interest and for the writer him or herself who puts the effort into the writing in the first place. But I have a new strategy. Before I post the document (or attempt to), I will now copy and paste it onto a word document so that, when or if it fails to go through, I can merely copy and paste that document back onto another post.

Boy Scout Irony

I cannot help but see the irony here. The Boy Scouts of America removed an exemplary Boy Scout leader after he came out as a gay man while at Rutgers University while their leader of the Youth Protection Task Force was buying and selling child pornography. They obviously did not believe he was engaged in this sort of activity to be fair to them.

Let me also make clear that I am not ready to cheer for his arrest. I believe firmly that child pornography falls within the class of First Amendment protected speech provided that they do not include actual minors in the photographs so unless he was actually involved in knowingly selling photos of minors I believed these charges should have been dropped.

It should also be noted that I sided with the court opinion allowing the Boy Scouts the right to decide who can and who cannot work for them on free association grounds in my old civil rights class. I firmly reject their moral viewpoint on this matter, but like the Roman Catholic Church (which denies women the priesthood), the Boy Scouts of America has every right to decide who and who does not speak for their values.

Still, I cannot help but point out where the true moral problems lie, and how one who fantasizes about sex with minors was able to remain in the organization undetected, while someone who fantasizes about same-sex love with someone his own age was thrown out.

Latest Appeal on Terri Schiavo

Earlier this morning on the 13th day in which Terri Schiavo has gone without food and water the more conservative 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to review the latest petition from her parents asking for a new hearing of the evidence, evidence they believe is required by Congress' "Passion Sunday" compromise.

No one but maybe the judges themselves can say for sure how the court will rule and this blogger will not make a prediction. It had just last week ruled against a re-hearing so I am not sure if some justices who might have been more aligned with the parents' concerns felt they have some way of distiniguishing the latest petition from that made last week, if some have made a genuine change of opinion on the matter, or if they have decided to merely hear the petition out of respect fo the parents before issuing yet another denial.

In the meantime, Governor Jeb Bush and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson may hold a press conference, according to MSNBC News. The liberal civil rights leader had been pressing for some new legislative action that would bar the removal of such feeding tubes when there is no living will and make it applicable to the Terri Schiavo case that had already made its way through the courts for a long time now.
The author of such legislation says he is not sure he can get the votes and has already blamed Jesse Jackson for his late entry into the debate, which is itself interesting since he himself as a legislator has every opportunity to speak to his colleagues in Tallahassee.

Readers of this blog by know know that I affirmatively stand by Judge Greer's decision because judges have already weighed the evidence for and against keeping her alive; because the parents apparently cried "wolf" earlier when they suggested they had new evidence, evidence that was dismissed as at best "anecdotal," because the parents had admitted in a court that they would keep her alive even if she had in fact wanted to die, thereby giving up any claim to speak on her behalf; and because Congress passed a contemptible bill of attainder for the parents of Terri Schiavo even though they had nowhere near the judges' command of the facts.

This blog writer hopes that the judges will reject the Schindler's petition and let their daughter die in peace. The parents' wishes are irrelevant. Terri Schiavo's are, and after extensive hearings it was already determined that she wanted to die.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Right to Die Quote

"Arguments about Terri's case centered on something described as a "culture of life." It is an empty suit of a phrase, absent an individual to give it shape. There is no culture of life. There is the culture of your life, and the culture of mine. There is what each of us considers bearable, and what we will not bear. There are those of us who believe that under certain conditions the cruelest thing you can do to people you love is to force them to live. There are those of us who define living not by whether the heart beats and the lungs lift but whether the spirit is there, whether the music box plays." - Anne Quindlen, contributing editor for Newsweek

Pretty much sums up my opinion on the matter.

Nuclear Blooper

"They were an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction. We didn't address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons." - Dr. Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor under President Richard Milhouse Nixon and Secretary of State under President Gerald Ford.

This shouldn't be too surprising. Iran is certainly not the first country we armed that has turned against us and it probably won't be the last. What bothers me is the sheer magnitude of our strategic failure, however. Our government didn't just give the Iranians conventional weapons. No, it was in fact searching for a way to supply the Iranians with enriched uranium and plutonium.

Alliances are not permanent. The shah fell and his successors, our swarn enemies who call us the "great Satan" now have nuclear energy material we supplied to them.

President Bush is right to worry. I'm sorry his predecessors failed to understand what this would mean should these weapons fall into the wrong hands. We lost Vietnam, so why didn't we think we could lose the Shah in Iran?

Time for the Truth and Schiavo

On yesterday's "Scarborough Country" Terri Schiavo's sister repeated the unsubstantiated accusations that Michael Schiavo may be seeking a quick death for his wife in order to cover up for some foul play done shortly before Terri Schiavo collapsed of a potassium deficiency, entered into a coma, and was classified as a pvs patient.

The Washington Post's web site includes an online interview with Dr. Jay Wolfson, a professor of Public Health and Medicine at the University of Florida and professor of Health Law at Stetson University College of Law. Dr. Wolfson served as Terri Schiavo's special court-appointed guardian in 2003 and, after repeated visits to the hospice he concluded that Terri Schiaov was indeed a pvs patient whom the law treated appropriatedly.

Note too, his report, which he provides for all to review on the Washington Post web site interview.

Really its an interesting read if you have the time. A fairly brief factual summary of the legal proceedings is provided and from the report you could not help but see that Terri Schiavo was more than adequately represented from the litigants on both sides.

Much has been made of the Michael Schiavo's questionable representation for Terri Schiavo yet hear we also see Terri Schiavo's own parents admit that had she wanted to die they would not have carried out her wish.

"Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive. Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional, difficult testimony that appeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. Throughout this painful and difficult trial, the family acknowledged that Theresa was in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state."

Here is an even briefer summary of what happened as taken from his report:

1. February 25, 1990: Terri Schiavo collapses in apartment hallway, and suffers cardiac arrest. Efforts to resuscitate her failed and she went into coma.

2. May 12, 1990: Terri Schiavo by now having emerged from her coma (though still not conscious) is transferred from Humana Northside Hospital to College Park reahabilitation

3. Transferred yet again to Bayfront Hospital for more aggressive rehabilitation treatment.

4. September, 1990: transferred home for care. Overwhelmed and sent back to College Park three weeks later.

5. June 18, 1990: Michael Schiavo appointed her legal guardian since she was adjudicated to be incompetent.

At this point Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers (Terri Schiavo's parents) were on the same side, fighting for her life. Swallow tests indicate a failure on her part to eat or drink. Note this excerpt from the report:

"The clinical records within the massive case file indicate that Theresa was not responsive to neurological and swallowing tests. She received regular and intense physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Theresa's husband, Michael Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, were virtual partners in their care of and dedication to Theresa. There is no question but that complete trust, mutual caring, explicit love and a common goal of caring for and rehabilitating Theresa, were the shared intentions of Michael Shiavo and the Schindlers."

6. "Late Autumn", 1990: Michael Schiavo sends his wife to California for an experimental thalamic stimulator after repeated rehabilitation attempts and testing failed to help.

7. January, 1991: No sign of success. Michael and Terri return to Florida. Transferred to Mediplex Rehabilitation Center in Brandon for further therapy (speech, occupational, physical, and recreational).

8. July 19, 1991: Transferred to Sable Palms skilled care facility for more treatment, rehabilitation, and periodic neurological exams.

9. Malpractice lawsuilt filed by Michael Schiavo on behalf of his wife against the fertility obstretrician.

10. 1993: $750,000 awarded to Theresa Schiavo for economic damages and $300,000 for non-economic damages for Michael Schiavo. Care of Thersa's $750,000 was entrusted with a bank and Michael Schiavo had no control over the money, even though he was the sole inheritor should Terri Schiavo die.

11. Schindlers petition to have Michael Schiavo removed shortly after Terri and Michael Schiavo are awarded the money. Say he is not caring for Teresa Schiavo but their accusations are dismissed during proceedings.

(Comment: If we are going to accuse Michael Schiavo of having a change of heart after the award money is given, perhaps we should question the parents' change of heart as well. Up to this time the parents expressed confidence in his willingness to care for Terri Schiavo. Money is awarded and suddenly both groups are at each other's throats).

John H. Pecarek was appointed her guardian during these proceedings. On March 1, 1994 he issued a report refuting their contention that Michael Schiavo abused her and that in fact, constantly fighting for her care.

Note again the passage:

"Proceedings concluded that there was no basis for the removal of Michael as Guardian Further, it was determined that he had been very aggressive and attentive in his care of Theresa. His demanding concern for her well being and meticulous care by the nursing home earned him the characterization by the administrator as "a nursing home administrator's nightmare". It is notable that through more than thirteen years after Theresa's collapse, she has never had a bedsore."

12. 1994: Michael Schiavo finally acquiesces to medical findings he was consistently receiving but ignoring. (Parents think this change of heart was at least in part, due to the malpractice awards).

13. "Early 1994": Terri Schiavo obtains a urinary tract infection. Michael Schiavo at first elects to not have that treated and says "do not rescuscitate" her. Nursing facility objects and issues an intervention so Michael Schiavo withdraws his orders.
After this incident, Terri Schiavo is transferred (presumably on orders of Michael Schiavo) to another nursing facility.

14. 1996: the accusations are dismissed with prejuduce (this suggests there was absolutely nothing to substantiate or even suggest there was anything to lead one to support the parents' accusations). Further court proceedings lead to the forced disclosure of Terri Schiavo's medical treatments to the parents.

15. 1997: Michael Schiavo initiates action to have Terri Schiavo removed from life support (this is of course, four years after winning the malpractice money).

16. May, 1998: The first petition to discontinue her life support is made. Richard Pearse is appointed to act as her legal guardian during this trial.

17. December 20, 1998: Pearse submits his own report to the court. His report confirms her status in a persistent vegetative state but recommends the continuation of life support because he believes Michael Schiavo's claims that Terri wants this are unreliable. Bases this on the motive for discontinuing life support: inheriting Terri Schiavo's $750,000 malpractice award.

18. Shortly after: Michael Schiavo submits a petition alleging bias. Notes that Pearse failed to (1) look at the parents' own financial gains should they win custody over Terri Schiavo while focusing solely on Michael Schiavo's gain should Terri Schiavo die, and (2) to disclose in his report Michael Schiavo's own offer to divest himself of his interest in the $750,000 guardianship estate.

19. February 1999: Pearse asks either for a continuation of his authority or his dismissal. Dismissal is ordered in June, 1999.

20. February 11, 2000: After further hearings and arguments, Judge Greer rules in Michael Schiavo's favor and orders the feeding tubes removed. The Schindlers challenge this order in numerous hearings through 2000. Evidence includes

a. (for those advocating the removal of life support) hearsay evidence from Michael Schiavo and his brother suggesting that she, at or around the time of funerals for relatives who were on life support before they died, said she would not want to live in that kind of condition.

b. (for those advocating for continued life support) Michael Schiavo's new romantic interests, allegations that he failed to care or provide for Terri Schiavo,and allegations that he was wasting the Terri Schiavo estate money.

c. Motion to have Michael Schiavo removed as her guardian are denied. April 24,2001 set as date for tube removal.

21. Florida 2nd District Court of Appeals affirms Greer's ruling in January, 2001 and Florida Supreme Court denies Schindlers' appeal on April 23, 2001.

22. April 24, 2001: tube is removed.

23. April 26, 2001: Parents file for a preliminary injunction as her "natural guardians." Preliminary injunction is granted by a trial court.

24. October, 2001: 2nd District Court of Appeals lifts injunction after declaring that (1) Greer acted independently and appropriately as Schiavo's proxy and (2) that the Schindlers offered no "credible evidence" suggesting that Terri Schiavo could be rehabilitated.

25. Shindlers file new motions offering new "evidence." In particular they rely upon an obstetrician, Dr. Webber. He alone suggests he could rehabilitate her. Note how it is described in this report:

"The quality of evidence in this affidavit was marginal, but the court allowed it to create a colorable entitlement to additional medical review. The case was remanded to the trial court with the charge that each side would select two expert physicians (a neurologist or a neurosurgeon, according to the court) and agree between them regarding a fifth, and if they could not agree on the fifth, the court would select it."

26. May, 2002: the four experts (2 for Michael, 2 for Schindlers) were appointed. Court had to appoint a fifth since the two sides could not agree on one. Dr. Webber did not participate in the procedure or the exams. (My comment: he must not have been credible and used only as a stalling tactic).

27. October, 2002: "Extensive hearing" takes place with the testimony from the five experts. Michael Schiavo's experts offered what was labeled "strong, academically based, and scientifically-supported" evidence but that testimony offered by the Schindlers was merely labeled "anecdotal." The court-appointed expert offered evidence at the level offered by Michael Schiavo's experts.
Trial court rules for Michael Schiavo since there was no evidence suggesting any recovery on Terri Schiavo's part.

28. June, 2003: de novo review from 2nd Florida District Court. Trial court's rulings was affirmed and orders a date for the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tubes yet again.

29. October 15, 2003: that hearing takes place and it is ordered in spite of Governor Jeb Bush's own October 6, amicus brief siding with the parents.

30. October 21, 2003: Florida Legislature passes Terri Schiavo's law and orders feeding tube re-inserted. That same day, feeding tubes were in fact, re-inserted.

31. Nothing is described further in the report but subsequent court hearings led to a State Supreme Court ruling declaring the law unconstitutional in so far as it only affected Terri Schiavo and a federal Supreme Court order declining to hear the case.
Congress stepped in with its own law pushing this into the federal courts on Passion Sunday but subsequent court rulings sided with Michael Schiavo as well.

What does all of this suggest?

1. That Terri Schiavo was more than adequately represented by the opposing counsels who, by advocating on behalf of their clients' competing interests, helped the court review her own competing liberty interests (the right to life and the right to die). That three guardians acted on her behalf, two in suggesting that she be let to die, one in suggesting that she live.

2. That both, Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers had financial interests at stake. In keeping her alive, the parents would have a chance to fight for some of the malpractice money. By letting her die, Michael Schiavo could keep it to himself.
That nothing substantiates accusations that could be levied by either party. Parents' religious interests and in their value of her life may very well be the primary motivating factor for their advocacy. No one has arrested the husband yet.

3. Not one court ruled for the parents. The evidence offered by the parents was primarily used as a stalling tactic.

Big Government Moralism

"As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around." - former Senator John C. Danforth of Missouri (R)

Yep, the small government rhetoric and Gingrich's "Contract with America" is gone and the big conservative neoconservative agenda has replaced it. Now that the Republicans are in power they have no incentive to cut the spending that goes to their own districts and every incentive to reward their religious extremist base with big government moralism at the expense of those who do not share in those values.

One need only recall the Education Secretary's warning that shows deemed morally offensive to religious conservatives will be considered "inappropriate" and censored, the Arlington Group's efforts to push through a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the pressure for abstinence-only education funding, the public funding of religious welfare organizations, and the "Passion Sunday" compromise for Terri Schiavo's parents.

At the state level we see more of the same, as well as efforts to ban stem-cell research and curtail access to abortions, a failed effort to ban low-rise jeans in one state, efforts to discredit evolution and promote in the alternative "intelligent design" and creationism, efforts to curtail legalized gambling,and a failed book ban drive (in Alabama) among other things.

Now I consider myself an independent thinker and do not see how all of these are related to one another. Abortion and gambling restrictions differ in kind and value. One presumably helps protect rights but some of the others merely curtail them. Abortion pits the liberty interest procreative rights of one person against the presumed liberty interest right to life of another who has no choice, but the Terri Schiavo case pits two competing claims over her own choice for life or death.

But I am not the religious right. For many of their number, these issues are intricately related to our "obligation" to obey their god. They would oppose abortion not because it presumably denies one a right to life but rather because they believe we have an obligation to live. They oppose adultery because it is specifically prohibited in the form of a commandment, contraception because it violates the creation story instructions for bearing children, and homosexuality because it is specifically condemned in the Bible.

The contradictions can boggle the mind of an outsider who knows nothing about the religious right and its insidious designs on our country. The bonds of matrimony they so faithfully support and use to oppose homosexuality, adultery and other sexual "sins" were easily disregarded in the Terri Schiavo case when it was used to support a husband's contention that Terri Schiavo wanted to die. Those who favorably report on those wives who "are submissive to their husbands" suddenly speak about her rights which they believe conflict with that of her husband's. The preference for state's rights advocacy when Colorado passed a constitutional amendment denying gays any civil rights protections across the board easily cast aside when a court rules for gay marriage in Massachussetts.

The free speech rights for those Christian students who wish to evangelize in public schools are firmly supported and the right of gays to do the same is resisted. Christian education classes are supported in some schools without their objection but when a North Carolina university requires for incomeing freshmen, a book about Islam, they resisted.

I would like to thank those like Charles Fried and Bob Barr who on occasion have found reason to break ranks when they believed some of their number were dishonoring the legal process, some like Florida Jeb Bush who to date has ignored Bill Bennett's call to become the conservative, lawbreaking answer to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome.

Some believe there is no connection between abortion restrictions, gambling, gay marriage, religion in the public square and the right to die and while in many ways these issues can be clearly distinguished from one another, there is connection which cannot be ignored - the culture wawr. Those who advocate for one of these restrictions generally advocates and supports the others and those who oppose one of those restrictions opposes the others as well.

I am an exception, one that generally opposes them but sides with them on occasion. I know there are some exceptions among the politically active. Some like myself generally oppose them but side with them every now and then and others who generally support them but who nevertheless find cause to oppose them every now and then.

Yesterday I provided a link to Newsweek columnist Anne Quindlen's op-ed on Terri Schiavo. She said, and I quote once again:

"There is no culture of life. There is the culture of your life, and the culture of mine. There is what each of us considers bearable, and what we will not bear."

One group seeks to preserve that right to self-determination and self awareness. Call it the "live and let live" philosophy of governing, one in which everyone has a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and any restrictions on these would be justified by the need to protect another person's civil rights and not some religious text.

The other would force us to live no matter how meaningless we think it is, worship a god which we do not acknowledge as our own, and forgo our own intimate needs to honor their own moral code.

Pardon me, but I firmly reject the latter group's moral vision, which stongly resembles that of the "party" in George Orwell's "1984." Slavery is not freedom and I will resist those who make that claim.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Moving quote

"Be with your children. Hold them close and cherish every moment you have with them," O'Donnell said, speaking for the couple. "Tomorrow, as we celebrate Easter, they pray that you gather in the churches of your own denomination and, if you would, offer a prayer for their daughter." - Paul O'Donell, a Roman Catholic Franciscan monk who supported Terri Schiavo's parents.

More Like Outlandish Comments for the Week

I spoke too soon. In reading the transcripts for Thursday's "Hardball" I found Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry's (NC) comments more outlandish. You be the judge:

"MATTHEWS: Is this—Congressman, isn‘t this favoritism for the Congress to intervene in a legal proceeding and say, we want a certain result here? We don‘t like the way the courts are operating in this case. We want a different result in this case. Isn‘t that what you‘re saying?

MCHENRY: No. What we‘re saying is, the federal courts should take a look at protecting life. And as you all...


MATTHEWS: They have, haven‘t they? Haven‘t they done that?

MCHENRY: Well, no, the state courts don‘t often act in the best regard for protecting life. The federal government is constituted for are that purpose. It‘s written into the Constitution, protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

So judges let people die for no reason?

and then there's "Vanity Fair" columnist Christopher Hitchen's comments about Terri Schiavo's life-status which are only half-right:

"HITCHENS: And so, all of this is a very bad test and I think a very vulgar and opportunistic test of what ought to be a serious proposition. Namely, should we have a consistent bias for life and a consistent life ethic?"

Not quite: She's awake but her consciousness is dead.

Not to be outdone, his sparring partner on the same show, Bill Donahue of the Catholic League said the following:

"DONAHUE: Well, my point is simply this. You‘re getting close.

Here‘s where I‘m at.

I‘m simply saying this. Nobody can speak for somebody else. The woman is alive. She‘s not dead. I‘m not going to accept anybody as a proxy unless we have evidence. If in fact she had a proxy, a power of attorney, she gave it to her husband, even though it‘s an estranged situation, and she said, I don‘t want feeding tubes, then that‘s OK with me.

But that‘s not what the Florida legislature assumed. They‘re erring on the side of death. But you know what‘s behind this issue? It‘s not euthanasia. It‘s abortion. It is—the fault lines on this is that the whole feminist community and all of the abortion rights enthusiasts, every one of them are either against Terri or they‘re keeping their mouth shut, because they know, if you scratch a little bit on the question of when does live end, you‘ve got to get to the question of when does it begin."

So they are smiling and shouting with glee as Terri Schiavo dies? And is there no distinction between a chosen death and a forced one?

The Miller-Moran Interview on "HardBall"

on March 24 Chris Matthews interviewed Republican Congressman Jeff Miller of Florida and Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia about the Terri Schiavo law passed last Sunday. Congresman Jim Moran is known for some pretty outlandish comments but this time Miller gets the butt of jokes with the outlandish comment for the week.

"MORAN: How do I know what the circumstances of the situation are? Ten court cases reviewed this, 19 judges, many of them Republican conservatives. We have no reason to believe that they were prejudiced, that they did not act objectively.

But we act subjectively. I know that. I know that we didn‘t know the facts.


MORAN: We hadn‘t heard from both sides. We hadn‘t been able to weigh the evidence like the courts did. And we violated states‘ rights. I think that there‘s a real question of the separation of church and state. But that‘s been going to in a lot of issues. But I think it is immoral for us to be doing this kind of thing.

The other issue is, our law says that, when you get married, the spouse is responsible. And here we‘re choosing to let the parents be responsible.

MATTHEWS: Let me get Congressman Miller‘s response to that.

You know, Congressman Moran said that the House is not really familiar with the case to begin with. I heard a lot of members on Congress on Sunday night who hadn‘t even gone to the trouble to find out how to pronounce Terri Schiavo‘s name. They hadn‘t put the time in to this case required to simply know her name was Schiavo. They didn‘t even bother to learn.
MILLER: I don‘t think the pronunciation of her name was all that important, Chris.


MATTHEWS: No, it is.


MATTHEWS: Let me tell you why it is important, Congressman. Here‘s why it is important. If you don‘t do that much homework...


MILLER: I think what is important is that you are giving Jim Moran the opportunity to talk about immorality.


MILLER: And this is a gentleman that stands on the floor of the United States House and doesn‘t even say the words “under God” in the pledge of the United States.

So this is something that we do in fact have constitutional authority to have control over."

Wow. Chris Matthews nitpicks with the least troublesome aspect of Congress' "Palm Sunday Compromise" and Congress Miller attacks a colleague's morality because he believed Moran doesn't say "under God?"

Well, such nitpicking on the name pronunciation of Mrs. Schiavo's name pronunciation wasn't needed for Congressman Miller has no trouble confusing facts with fiction with respect to his colleague's religious declarations.

"MORAN: He is confusing me with McDermott. Us white-haired Irish guys, they all look the same.


MORAN: That‘s not me. It‘s Jim McDermott that you‘re talking about.


MATTHEWS: Congressman, let me ask you, what did you just say about Congressman Moran? I want you to repeat it.

MILLER: No, he‘s right. I did.

MATTHEWS: What did you just accuse him of?

MILLER: And I apologize.


MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about homework, because that‘s what I‘m talking about."


I know this doesn't mean he confused facts and fiction when he voted on the compromise but it's still pretty funny and insanely stupid when the credibility of its members' votes is being challenged by their fact-finding limitation.

Roy Moore's Genesis Logic Fallacy

Here's some more from the same interview Chris Matthews had with Roy Moore, this time concerning the teaching of creationism in schools:

"MATTHEWS: How do you teach Genesis as true biology, true science?

MOORE: I don‘t think you teach Genesis as the science. You teach the creationism.

MATTHEWS: Well, creationism. Well, isn‘t that—is that a scientific belief?


MOORE: That is a scientific belief in many opinions, yes.

MATTHEWS: Not opinions, but is it scientific belief? In other words, if you send someone to medical school, would you want them to study creationism as part of their biology testing and education?

MOORE: I would. I sure would.

MATTHEWS: You would want them to study creationism?

MOORE: Sure. Sure.

MATTHEWS: What value would that have in their training?


MOORE: Because there‘s no—there‘s no scientific evidence of evolution.

Evolution is a theory and has been recognized so by many. You have always heard of the missing link, haven‘t you?


MOORE: It is still missing. In other words, they can‘t explain how male and female came and every species from one atom or one amoeba."

Okay, fine, but do we "prove" the scientific validity of creationsim by pointing to any gaps in evolution? Plugging the God rationale into every gap of logic is not very scientific.

Here's more, and note he just contradicted himself by suggesting that you can teach creationism as a science minutes after first denying it.

"MOORE: My scientific belief is that we were created. And it is clearly evident in the system of the universe.

MATTHEWS: In the days of creation.

MOORE: That‘s my personal belief, yes.

MATTHEWS: No, but, see, you can‘t have that—you can‘t have that institutionalized belief in terms of a society. You can‘t hold to the fact that we were created in seven days if there was no such thing as seven days until there was a sun and there was an Earth. That‘s what a day is.

MOORE: There are different beliefs.

MATTHEWS: The relationships—no, no.


MATTHEWS: The definition of a day is the relation between the Earth and the sun.

MOORE: Yes, sure.

MATTHEWS: Before God—God couldn‘t have operated under a calendar of days before he created the sun.

MOORE: Sure. I don‘t...

MATTHEWS: How can he do that? It doesn‘t make any logical sense.

MOORE: Well, my personal belief is literal, that there were seven days. But...

MATTHEWS: You‘re holding to a reverence for belief. I understand completely.


MATTHEWS: Religion is about belief.


MATTHEWS: But is it something you can teach in terms of science in school?

MOORE: I think creationism is something you can teach in terms of science in school. Yes, I do.

MATTHEWS: Well, how can you teach that it is scientifically possible to have days before there‘s a sun?

MOORE: Well, when you‘re talking about creationism, how can you teach that there wasn‘t? How can you teach the negative?

MATTHEWS: No, I‘m just saying...


MATTHEWS: I‘m just talking about logic. I‘m just...


MATTHEWS: This is obviously very sensitive to many people."

I could just imagine Chris Matthews, like rolling his eyes up in disbelief as Moorer is speaking about this argument.

The Separation of Church and State Requires the Separation of God and State

Hardball host Chris Matthews interviewed Roy Moore earlier last week on the role of faith in government. This blogger could not help but notice Chris Matthews' attempt to trap the former Alabama judge who fought unsuccessfully to keep a Ten Commandment monument in the courthouse in his own contradictions. Judge Moore attempted to distinguish between the separation of church and state from that of God and state, a distinction without a difference. Note this long excerpt from the March 23 transcripts and pay particular attention to those parts I bold-faced to draw attention to this contradiction:


I think America is waking up to the fact that religion and God are not synonymous, that God is what this nation was founded upon, what our morality comes from. So I think it‘s...

MATTHEWS: But wasn‘t the God who gave us the Ten Commandments the God of Abraham?

MOORE: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, yes.

MATTHEWS: Right. But he was a God of a particular religious tradition.


MATTHEWS: That began with Abraham.

MOORE: Yes, the Judeo-Christian faith, yes.

MATTHEWS: But that‘s the covenant that we all—that Christian, Jewish tradition honor as the beginning of man‘s communication with our God.


MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s not a general recognition. Buddhists don‘t believe in that God.


MATTHEWS: Well, what‘s the difference? Aren‘t you identifying...

MOORE: Because...

MATTHEWS: Are you selecting a God of your choice?

MOORE: No, no. We‘re selecting the God upon which the First Amendment was founded, the God that gave us...

MATTHEWS: But that‘s the Judeo-Christian God.

MOORE: The God that gave us religious freedom.


MOORE: In fact, in 1931, in U.S. vs. Macintosh, the United States Supreme Court recognized explicitly that, that our religious freedom comes from the acknowledgment and obedience to the will of God.

MATTHEWS: But you said before that you didn‘t like people pegging the justification for God in our public life on history, that you wanted to judge—base it on your belief, right?

MOORE: No. I base it on the organic law of our country, the Declaration of Independence, that God gives us our rights and government is there to secure those rights. And if it doesn‘t, the Declaration said it should be abolished, which is what they did with the government of Great Britain.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Do you believe in a universally recognized God?

There is one God recognized by all religions and it is the same God?

MOORE: No, not necessarily. I believe the God that this nation was founded upon is a particular God, the God that gave the Ten Commandments.

MATTHEWS: So it‘s Judeo-Christian God?

MOORE: The Judeo-Christian God, the God that the Jews and the Christians worship."

Now the First Amendment clearly forbids the establishment of any religion and it should be equally obvious (it is for this blogger anyway) that the most profound differences among them and means to submit to a particular creed is for one to declare allegiance to that religion's god and the "prophets" who claim to speak for him or her. To insist on allegiance to a a God or his or her prophets' teachings is to insist on allegiance to the religion itself.

Religious right activists like Judge Moore here, would suggest that a government that submits to the Judeo-Christian belief system would not lead to impermissible religious establishment because it is primarily shared by those of two religious traditions - the Christian and Jewish faiths.

Technically they are correct when they suggest they are not asking us to submit to or have our country owe its obedience to the Christian religion but in reality that is a consequence-based as opposed to a prinicple-based distinction.

Two groups happen to share a few of the same religious tenets as it does here, but forced obedience towards that mutually-agreed upon God would deny the free exercise rights of those who, because they have different religious beliefs, choose to reject or not recognize him.

Free exercise jurisprudence and the plain language of the First Amendment clearly point to the deeply personal nature of religious free exercise.

If the government cannot deny anyone the right to free religious exercise it certainly cannot compel it, for the freedom to adhere to what religious creeds as one so desires is at once violated when the government forces him or her to adhere to a nonconforming religious principle. Moore's "reasoning" that somehow our religious freedom comes from our "acknowledement and obedience to the will of God" is patently absurd. Force that obedience and "acknowledgement" and there is no religious freedom.

The same logic applies in application with the prohibition of any government-established religion. Jews and Christians happen to share many religious beliefs but that by no means authorize the establishment of the Judeo-Christian tradition. By creating a special preference for their shared beliefs, the government in effect establishes a new, perhaps more limited or nondenominational creed and denies other religious creeds that do not share that heritage establishment status.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

"The LIES behind the TRUTH, and the TRUTH behind those LIES that are behind that TRUTH."

The political battle over a finger's fate and Terri Schiavo's endorsements.

They are good, R-E-A-L Good. I mean it.

Weekend Show Preview

Well it's Saturday so it's time for me to give you all a preview of tomorrow's news programs. Not surprisingly the topic of conversation revolves around the legal battle over Terri Schiavo's fate, what it means to us, and how we are to react to it.

Each show obviously has its own twist. "Fox News Sunday" will point to the constitutional arguments concererning the tense struggle between the judicial and legislative bodies at the state and federal levels while "Meet The Press" incorporates it into NBC's weeklong series on the role of faith in public life with a panel of devout religious figures. "This Week" looks at the long-term political implications, and "The Chris Matthews Show" on the conflicting individual rights involved. "Late Edition" may include a segment on the topic given two of Wolf Blitzer's guests but it by no means appears to be the primary story of news coverage.

1. "Fox News Sunday" on Fox News: Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky speaks with Chris Wallace on the power struggle between Congress and the Judicial branch in light of Terri Schiavo case. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) on the president's immigration plan. Roundtable discussion with William Bristol, Juan Williams, Mara Liasson and Fred Barnes.

2. "Meet The Press" on NBC: Prominent religious leaders speak with Tim Russert on the role of faith in America and controversial topics like the Terri Schiavo case and religious diplomacy in the Middle East. Guests include Islamic scholar and author Reza Aslan, Georgetown Professor Reverend Richard Drinan, Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Reverend Jim Wallis, Senator Joseph Lieberman and Newsweek's Jon Meacham.

3. "This Week" on ABC: Republican Congressman Dave Weldon of Florida and Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massacussetts look at the politics surrounding the Terri Schiavo controversy. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington and Reverend Rick Warren on Easter.

4. Face The Nation on CBS: The Terri Schiavo Case. Guests include Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal, Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine, and CBS Legal News Analyst Andrew Cohen.

5. "The Chris Matthews Show" on CNBC: Discussion on who has the right to decide when life and death take their course (as in Terri Schiavo's case), the likely Republican candidates for the next presidential elections, and Albert Einstein. Guests include Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Sam Donaldson of ABC News, Kathleen Parker of The Orlando Sentinel, and Tucker Carlson of PBS and MSNBC News.

6. "60 Minutes Sunday" on CBS: Ed Bradley speaks to dissenters calling for women's rights in the theologically conservative Saudi Arabian kingdom. Bob Simon has a follow-up on the stone box purportedly carrying the bones of Jesus' (of Nazareth) brother. Leslie Stahl reports on the ultimate race.

7. "Late Edition" on CNN: Wolf Blitzer interviews General John Abizaid of the U.S. Central Command in the Persian Gulf, and Iranian ambassador to the UN Javad Zarif. Reverend Jerry Falwell, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, and Reverend Al Sharpton also make appearances.

Detainee Hearing Procedures

In an effort to comply with some lower federal court rulings and weaken challens in the appeals court some officials at the Pentagon are seeking to broaden the rights of Guantanamo Bay prisoners who go before military hearings.

The proposed changes do not, according to this news article, address the very important right to a speedy trial so who is or will stand to benefit from this change may be limited in number and there is always the chance that some who would otherwise oppose this change if not for court orders would urge the Defense Department to forgo any trial or hearings so as to avoid entitling the detainees these rights.

The administration should nevertheless include these guarantees, however minimal they are, to bring our treatment of these prisoners in accordance with the confidence we place in our own judicial system. The draft manual now under consideration would include among other things, procedures to allow the detainees to contest even classified evidence used against them. Our own legal system affords defendants that right.

We place our confidence on a system which allows juries to critique the evidence offered by the government and defendantn and ultimately reach a determination on whether or not the person in question is guilty of the charged crime and consequently forfeited his or her rights to autonomy.

Another provision would bar the use of self-incriminating statements obtained by torturing the defendant. One undergoing torture would say anything to have it stopped, thereby undermining its effectiveness as a fact-finding tool.

Obviously these measures, even if passed, can be seriously undermined by those who oppose them in the first place. Officials with this unfortunate viewpoint might think it wise not to challenge the policy if they feel that government officials could still hold the prisoners indefinitely without providing them a chance to contest the evidence through these hearings in the first place.

The Political Heretic welcomes the debate on the draft memo and sincerely hope it leads to a major shift in how we treat "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere but is not ready to either endorse or reject the proposals yet. He calls on those who are reading this to urge their elected representatives in Washington to push for the memo's release (things that might endanger our safety could of course be inked out) to the public.

Ward Churchill Update

The University of Colorado professor Ward Church sparked calls for his resignation after he referred to the World Trade Center victims as "little Eichmanns" but will not be fired for his controversial comments. Accusations concerning plagiarism and accusations that he misrepresented his ethnic background may still do him in.

In choosing not to remove him over his controversial comments the University reaffirmed its commitment to free speech. No matter how offensive, heretical, unorthodox or unpopular, we have a right to speak out for our point of view.

The ongoing investigation into Mr. Churchill's background and his writings are entirely appropriate on the other hand. Students cannot be expected to credit their sources appropriately if their professor plagiarizes.

Two Mothers

Excerpt 1

But his mother noticed a rigidity in his face, in his body, that convinced her he was in pain.

One day, she says, she saw in her son's eyes a plea for help.

"I hesitate to say this, because people won't understand, but if there was any life in that body at all, it was as if he was saying: 'I've had enough. I've had enough.' I knew then that I couldn't stop until I brought him peace."

Exerpt 2
O'Bara used to say with conviction that Edwarda would wake up. Now, she says only that perhaps she might.

But even if her daughter remains in this state until she dies, O'Bara has no doubt that it's a life worth living.

"It's all how you look at life," says O'Bara, a former teacher at a Catholic school. "She's enjoying doing what she's doing."

She says her daughter can understand the love that surrounds her and that Edwarda has been blessed with a special power to heal. A book and video about the O'Bara family have drawn visitors to Edwarda's bedside from around the world; several have said she helped them recover from grave illness.

"Maybe someone would come in and say Edwarda doesn't have a good quality of life," O'Bara says. "Well, can you tell me anyone doing as much good as she's doing? To me, that's quality of life."

The two passages posted above come from this moving The LA Times has a feature story on two mothers who, faced with the news that their children wbere in a persistent vegetative state, reached different conclusions as to what to do. No one can blame them for what they did. No one would ever want to do what they did.

Sharon's Timing

The Jerusalem Post reported on our administration's break with Ariel Sharon on settlement expansion, particularly the one near East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's timing could not have been more perfect for short-term thinking. He moves forward with the settlements knowing full well we fear undermining him and the Gaza Strip pullout.

I'm sure the president will remember this next time. Now I see one reason why Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice denied the Israelis' claim. It gave us the needed chance to publicly break with the Israelis on this issue without undermining the Gaza troop withdrawal.

Secretary of State Rice and the Middle East Vision

Today's Washington Post includes some promised shifts in American foreign policy that are a little disconcerting. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will press two of our geopoltiical allies in the region towards democracy by pushing for competitive elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Dr. Rice will also press the Saudi regime on women's rights. In another matter Secretary of State appeared to deny what Israeli officials suggest is a shift in our position towards West Bank settlement construction.

Readers should know by now this blogger's skeptical attitude towards democracy-building projects, particularly within countries whose own authoritarian regimes aligned their national interests with ours. However noble the cause, these projects undermine our efforts to defeat the terrorists who need only one country to regroup and begin their next plans by alienating those who would otherwise join in fighting them. In turn they may seek a deal with the terrorists themselves or refuse to help us, thereby forcing us to commit our already over-extended military forces.

President Mubarak, for instance, has proven to be an important partner for continued Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations at a time when our president refuses to commit his prestige to the still unsettled course in the peace process. He also committed a sizable troop force in the first Persian Gulf War when his interests would have been protected by our involvement alone.

The Saudi-American relationship is a bit more complicted and the temptation to remove the royal emirates hindered only by our own dependence upon Saudi oil. This may change as we increase our presence in the Central Asian countries and, it is hoped, move toward renewable resources should we find an efficent and less costly means to provide for it, but for now at least our interest depends upon a reliable trading partner. A friendly, viable alternative in Saudi Arabia appears out of reach for now and given the Wahhabi presnce in Saudi schools, that is probably good. The leaders who would lead the movement would have learned to hate our way of life and us.

For now we should reward our allies, as we are apparently doing with the Pakistanis with this missile purchase, and encourage those whose policies are still ambiguous or complicated of the benefits they will reap in joining us. A Mubarak or sheik might think it wiser to oppose us and co-opt the more radical anti-democratic elements into their own agenda if he or believes we will undermine his regime anyway.

In the other matter this blogger does not yet know what to make of it. The Israelis, according to the press report, publicly mistated our policy on expanded Israeli settlements in Palestine in suggesting that our administration would tolerate further settlements within the present construction boundaries. The press report says Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice denied that assertion and said that we only promised them that some of their existing settlements will probably remain.

The Israelis no doubt would have undermined our role as a trusted third party had she not denied that assertion outright so Dr. Rice obviously did the right thing in dismissing their claim. Of particular interest however is why the Israelis would make this blunder.

Whether it be true or not, they have now violated an important trust with an administration that so highly values it and risked the Palestinian president's trust in our ability to deal with him. I cannot imagine why their administration would risk embarrassment and reproach without us giving them any reason to suggest they could in fact do what they have asserted and that is unfortunate. Our credibility with the Palestinian moderates has now been undermined. It's not serious enough for a rupture in our relationship and it is certainly can be repaired but we should never have given them any reason to justify their settlement building by pointing to our believed support.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Schiavo Links

1. Article 1: The War Over Words

Language shapes the debate on all sides, said Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Those who want to reinsert Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, Dr. Jamieson said, use language "that increases your perception of her as a sentient human being, whose capacity to tell you that she wants to stay alive is limited only by the fact that she lacks the capacity to speak."

The language of the other side, she said, tends toward the clinical, and suggests "that the person who was there is no longer there." What could provide guidance through the "competing narratives," Dr. Jamieson said, is "what science is able to know."
- a passage from John Schwartz' news article

The news article no doubt casts Terri Schiavo's now week-long death process in a new light by noting that, however much Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and the parents say that Terri Schiavo is starving to death without a doubt, that may not be true and that the general consensus is that it is not at all true. The Times though gives the false impression that she definitely won't feel pain. In failing to offer dissenting voices from distiniguished members of the community, it makes the same error made by Randall Terry. Reporters should be held to a higher standard than Randall Terry.

2. Funding the Religious Right

"What this issue has done is it has galvanized people the way nothing could have done in an off-election year," said Rev. Lou Sheldon, the founder of the group, acknowledging that the case of Ms. Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, had moved many to open up their checkbooks. "That is what I see as the blessing that dear Terri's life is offering to the conservative Christian movement in America." - David D. Kirkpatrick

This blogger himself finds their involvement with this case particularly distasteful but the fight over Terri Schiavo's life is more complicated than a battle between good and evil. Terri Schiavo's parents, like Michael Schiavo himself, have battled over who best can fulfill her disputed request. They both claim to speak for her. Lou Sheldon's campaign for his Christian Amerika started way before and will continue way after, Terri Schiavo dies.

The Political Heretic was so busy reading the motions, court opinions and legal news stories that he failed to spot one touching article on Terri Schiavo's parents in The New York Times. He certainly hopes that the paper gave them what is due to them. While this blogger sincerely doubts their authority to speak on Terri Schiavo's behalf he nevertheless recognizes that as her parents they probably felt they were speaking for her. Readers should never confuse Randall Terri's motives (or those of any other member of the religious right) with that of the parents.

Here are the latest articles on the legal developments.

Odds and Ends on Terri Schiavo

"I want Terri Schiavo to die because I believe she’s earned it." = Libertarian talk-show host commentator Neal Boortz offers his own personal religious experience.

And here's a realistic reminder of why Terri Schiavo's parents have no religious free exercise case. The parents had to prove that Terri Schiavo was not only a Church-going Catholic but one who fervently opposes any deprivation of food and nutrients, even if they are given to a particiular person unnaturally.

Coup d'etat

News in Central Asia. A coup d'etat with a promise of return from the ousted leader.

I may comment later this weekend but as of now I'm not sure who is replacing the ousted leader or what this means for our military presence there.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Rule of Law for Me but Not for Thee?

I wonder if the conservative activists who were so outraged by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome's decision to marry gay couples even though Proposition 22 strictly forbid it will speak out against William Bennett here.

It just makes me wonder if the religious right expects us to submit to the rule of law if it reinforces their moral vision at our expense but then will do any and everything to subvert it when it reinforces our rules and their expense.

More Schiavo from Volokh Conspiracy

Eugene Volokh posted some very critical comments from University of Michigan professor Rich Hills regarding the parent's claims. The full post can be seen here (warning: you may have to scroll down for it)but a noteworthy passage is posted below:

Rich Hills' Comments:
"A. Equal Protection: Does anyone believe that Florida legislators are somehow biased against comatose people? Against parents of such people? Are we seriously comparing Schiavo to segregated school kids under Jim Crow — the suggestion of Alan Meese? Does Ms. Schiavo's parents really belong to a class of some discrete (meaning easily targeted) and insular (meaning incapable of making cross-group alliances) minority? Isn't it obvious that, in a different case, the positions of the parents and spouse of the comatose person could be reversed — that Florida has made a principled decision without bias towards any social group and, therefore, not remotely akin to Jim Crow?

B. Procedural Due Process: Is there some claim that state judges have a conflict of interest amounting to a denial of procedural due process when they serve both as guardians and as judges? This strikes me as truly odd. Maybe — MAYBE — a state judge might have a personal incentive to keep Ms. Schiavo alive to continue to get court fees as guardian. But, so far as I can tell, Ms. Schiavo's parents got a decision-maker biased in THEIR favor, if that decision-maker was biased at all.

C. Substantive Due Process/[Privileges and Immunities] clause: is there some national consensus out there, firmly entrenched in tradition, that state judges should not make these sorts of judgment calls? If you believe that, then you should applaud Roper v Simmons and agree that the US Supreme Court protected a national consensus against executing juvenile offenders.

D. The Thirteenth Amendment: the Schiavo case does not even come close to the core of the 13th Amendment, which, as Justice Miller notes in The Slaughterhouse Cases, is about protecting the freedmen and people in a similar position — say, Chinese coolie labor, Mexican peon labor, etc. — from enslavement. At the outer limits, I'd construe the 13th Amendment and the Necessary-and-Proper clause to allow Congress to forbid racial segregation designed to reduce Blacks to economic dependence (Alfred H. Jones). I'd even support enforcing the 13th Amendment to prevent private violence of any sort against any group that the violent actors wish to reduce to some form of servitude — say, a prohibition on certain types of domestic violence against women.

Now: remind me how, on any minimally plausible theory of the 13th Amendment, a state's good-faith delegation of power to state judges to resolve disputes about a comatose person's intentions constitutes involuntary servitude? Is the judge asking the comatose person to perform unpaid labor for him? Will the judge somehow get more dough if he terminates life support?"

My Thoughts

I cannot help but agree with this analysis. There is no proof for discrimination let alone a need to suggest that should it have existed, there be no rational basis to treat people of this situation different from those who are not comatose with respect to these matters. Had the parents and husband in another case held the opposite position of that seen here, the judge would again have to weigh the evidence in favor of the one who was best in the position to understand what that "Terri Schiavo"-like person would have wanted.

The Political Heretic dismissed the feminist argument raised by Taranto using that same reasoning applied by this professor. Had Michael Schiavo been found to be in a vegetative state and Terri Schiavo been the one left to fight over his fate, the same consideration of the spouse's view would apply.

Moreover, Judge Greer's dual role as guardian and judge did not lead to a conflict of interest since he was appointed to represent Terri Schiavo in the unattached rational manner expected of a judge so in reality the two roles mutually reinforced each other.

The involuntary servitude claim is even more ludicrous. In so far as Terri Schiavo is not aware of her surroundings she can't be coerced into anything and in so far as she can't do anything she is a slave to her life itself but in so far as she can understand what is going on but no means of which to relay her wishes that "involuntary servitude" becomes unavoidable. If Terri Schiavo had expressed a wish to die then it must be argued that she was trapped in involuntary servitude for at minimum a decade but if she instead desires to live then the removal of these tubes would be prohibited for that reason.

I've already dealt with the religious exercise claim before so they do not need repeating here.

The Good Doctor

"Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior," he wrote, "yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her." - Dr. William P. Cheshire Jr.

Yep. You heard it there. Dr. Cheshire looked in the room and, without conducting any tests suggested she is not a vegetable. It would be nice if the good doctor can describe the "level" of awareness he could possibly speak of after a 90 minute visit as well as the metaphysical "sense of the presence" which suggests this. Failing that, Judge Greer will dismiss his claims with good reason.

The Political Heretic wishes to offer his readers a theory as to why he believes there is this "sense of presence", his god. One must wonder if he is making the same mistake as Terri Schiavo's parents in confusing his sincere hope for what is true with that which is true.

I can't say for sure yet but after Judge Greer makes his decision we may in fact learn more about what evidence was offered and whether or not it was considered in prior court hearings.

On to The Supreme Court and Back to The Trial Court

Terri Schiavo's parents are running out of options so it is beginning to look very good for those of us who believe that, in this particular case, it is better not to reinsert the feeding tubes. The full Court of Appeals has declined to reverse the 2-1 ruling made by a three-judge panel and the Florida Senate came up three votes short of passing any legislation to help Terri Schiavo.

The state's Department of Children and Families is now seeking custody over Terri Schiavo because one neurologist whom (as CNN is well emphasizing) did nothing more than look at the old tapes without conducting a thorough examination, said she is not in a vegetative state. Judge Greer is expected to hear the case and rule by noon today.

I seriously question this latest "revelation." The timing is particularly suspicious given this neurolgoist's failure to conduct any testing to substantiate his claims. This blogger seriously questions whether this is yet another delaying tactic used by the Schiavo parents in order to subvert the findings made by previous courts and keep their daughter alive. I am sure Judge Greer and the higher courts will not appreciate this latest maneuver to trick them into keeping her alive on the false premise that she is not in a persistent vegetative state.

In the meantime, the parents' attorney submitted a brief for appeal before the Supreme Court last night but commentators like Susan Estrich and Lawrence Tribe (both shown on Fox' legal show) as well as Alan Dershowitz on MSNBC believe the ruling will not be overturned.

All eyes are now on Justice Kennedy and Judge Greer. I hope this sorry saga ends real soon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Link to Whittemore's Opinion

Judge James D. Whittemore's opinion on Terri Schiavo's case can be found here (note, acrobat reader is required). I read the opinion and will comment on it later.

I know I'm a little behind but I'll provide the 32-page opinion from the Appeals Court panel later as well, with some comments on that opinion tomorrow.

Schiavo - The Next Steps in the Process

Terri Schiavo's parents have opted for a full Court of Appeals ruling which is not surprising from my way of thinking but certainly to some in the media who thought she would once again make an appeal before the Supreme Court that had twice rejected their other appeals.

They may very well make an appeal considering the new federal implications added when Congress passed its "Palm Sunday Compromise" (the name, with its appeal to religious beliefs, as revealing but almost as obscene as the law itself) but they would not have exhausted every federal avenue without first asking for the full Appeals Court to reconsider what the panel ruled on.

If the Appeals Court in full accepts the case, the parents still have a chance to preserve Terri Schiavo's vegetative life but if it decides against hearing the case or if it in full decides there are no merits behind her case the Supreme Court will probably once again decline to hear the case.

In the meantime, the Florida senate has not yet reached a compromise that would likely be upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

Maybe, just maybe Terri Schiavo will be allowed to die in peace. But considering the parents' successful attempts to stall this through the appeals process, that is still only a "maybe" and not yet a "definite."

Taranto's Opinion on Schiavo and My Response

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal offers his own take here.

Quote 1:
"Supporters of Michael Schiavo's effort to end his wife's life have asked how conservatives, who claim to believe in the sanctity of marriage, can fail to respect his husbandly authority. The most obvious answer is that a man's authority as a husband does not supersede his wife's rights as a human being--a principle we never thought we'd see liberals question."

Thought with Respect to Quote 1:
Notwithstanding Mr. Taranto's new-found respect for the feminist movement, this is not at all about "husbandly authority." The same would apply if it was the wife who had to make a decision regarding her husband trapped in a vegetative state for a long time. Furthermore, his claim was reviewed by a court which itself was required to hear expert testimony brought forward by both, Mr. Schiavo (the husband) and Terry Schiavo's parents. The judge then ruled in favor of what he believed to be Terri Schiavo's own wishes.

Quote 2:
"The point here is not to castigate Mr. Schiavo for behaving badly. It would require a heroic degree of self-sacrifice for a man to forgo love and sex in order to remain faithful to an incapacitated wife, and it would be unreasonable to hold an ordinary man to a heroic standard.

But it is equally unreasonable to let Mr. Schiavo have it both ways. If he wishes to assert his marital authority to do his wife in, the least society can expect in return is that he refrain from making a mockery of his marital obligations. The grimmest irony in this tragic case is that those who want Terri Schiavo dead are resting their argument on the fiction that her marriage is still alive. "

Thought with Respect to Quote 2:
Mr. Schiavo may very well not be trying to have it both ways. He may feel that his last battle for his wife requires him to fight for her right to die. He owes to one woman (his current girlfriend or fiancee) his future life, to the other (Terri Schiavo) the still-unfulfilled promise.

More Mike Schiavo Defending At The Corner

I do not in any way believe the defense offered by Richard Lowry and John Derbyshire strengthen his claim over Mrs. Schiavo. Like the parents, Mr. Schiavo may have the best of intentions and confuse what he would have done to himself with what she in fact would have done to herself. The Political Heretic believes that his credibility depends upon the decision made by the relatively unbiased, rational opinion written by Judge Greer.

Nevertheless it is heartening to see some on the Corner try to "rescusitate" this man's maligned character. Kudos to Richard Lowry and John Derbyshire.

Posted by Richard Lowry:
"I believe I have also heard conservatives say on TV that Terri has not received therapy (and KJL asks about that allegation below). Maybe she hasn't recently, but here are some more passages from the Guardian Ad Litem report:

Theresa spent two and a half months as an inpatient at Humana Northside Hospital, eventually emerging from her coma state, but not recovering consciousness. On 12 May 1990, following extensive testing, therapy and observation, she was discharged to the College Park skilled care and rehabilitation facility. Forty-nine days later, she wastransferred again to Bayfront Hospital for additional, aggressive rehabilitation efforts. In September of 1990, she was brought home, but following only three weeks, she wasreturned to the College Park facility because the “family was overwhelmed by Terry’scare needs.”…

The clinical records within the massive case file indicate that Theresa was not responsiveto neurological and swallowing tests. She received regular and intense physical,occupational and speech therapies…

In late Autumn of 1990, following months of therapy and testing, formal diagnoses ofpersistent vegetative state with no evidence of improvement, Michael took Theresa toCalifornia, where she received an experimental thalamic stimulator implant in her brain. Michael remained in California caring for Theresa during a period of several months and returned to Florida with her in January of 1991. Theresa was transferred to the Mediplex Rehabilitation Center in Brandon, where she received 24 hour skilled care, physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapies.

Despite aggressive therapies, physician and other clinical assessments consistently revealed no functional abilities, only reflexive, rather than cognitive movements, random eye opening, no communication system and little change cognitively or functionally. On 19 July 1991 Theresa was transferred to the Sable Palms skilled care facility. Periodic neurological exams, regular and aggressive physical, occupational and speech therapy continued through 1994."

And John Derbyshire:
"I think I have now read all the slanders against him, including the really lurid ones. All I can say about that is: If all the people who hate Michael Schiavo have, after all these years, not been able to persuade the authorities to charge him with anything, then the presumption of innocence seems to me a pretty good position to take."

"Flash News" 2:35 AM

MSNBC News reports on Court of Appeals' decision. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has rejected the parents' request to reinsert the feeding tubes. Expect an appeal to either the full circuit or to the Supreme Court soon.

I apologize for the lack of any links here but I heard it from the tv in the background. Links will be provided later after newspaper reporters analyzed the ruling.

E-mail Posted on The Corner Defends Husband's Motives on Schiavo

John Derbyshire is playing a very important devil's advocate role in this case of Terri Schiavo. Mr. Derbyshire has not, (at least he claims) decided on whether Mrs. Schiavo should be kept alive but he does suggest that his views are more nuanced and that he does understand that life's complications cannot be pushed aside in order to abide by one group's particular abstract absolute theory.

Note the e-mail, Mr. Derbyshire posted on The Corner, which functions as the web blog for those conservative writers associated with the National Review. (towards the lower half of the screen). The conservative doctor is offended by some comments raised by some of those associated with the news magazine, as well as some commentators fighting on behalf of Terri Schiavo (particularly Randall Terry), who bsuggest that Terri Schiavo's husband's motives are less than pure (and that's the euphemism for suggesting that he is purposely killing her for his own gain). I cut and pasted the two most important paragraphs for all to read:

The Doctor:
"Let's assume for a moment that Mr. Schiavo loves his wife dearly and that sometime when she was well and competent they had a discussion in which she told him she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means, or at least not indefinitely, by artificial means. She say's to him "promise me you won't do that to me". He says "I promise". This is a conversation many loving couples have and one I have had with my wife. Unfortunately, Mrs. Schiavo apparently never produced a document stating this clearly. This is the norm not the exception, particularly in younger people. Now, you are left with a man, if my assumption is correct, who spends a great deal of time with that promise ringing in his head. The thing she asked him to do, that she made him promise to do, and he can't do it. That man would be tormented."

[skip a few paragraphs] and then,

"Finally, it seems to me that much has been written on your site about the primacy of marriage, how it must be protected, cherished, encouraged, valued, that we must fight to keep it from being disregarded, belittled, lumped into the evergrowing, soiled pile of disposable, unsacred relationships. The position that many of your colleagues have taken and I gather the editorial position of your publication can only hurt this. How can we convince our children that this will be the most important relationship they will ever have. They will ask why? What am I supposed to tell them? "It'll be great because you'll get to have sex and not feel guilty". That's a child's view -- and what the hell everyone is already doing that anyway. No: At least in part, I will say, it's because you will get to stand together with that person through thick and thin with God at your side. That you will tell that person things that you would never tell another soul. That you will know them better than you know yourself. That when the end comes, you will do right by her and she will do right by you. That you will ease each others passing through this insufferable imperfect world and meet perfectly in the next. It's an awfully big leap to tell Mr. Schiavo that he doesn't know his wife best. It's an impossible leap to to tell that to the rest of us."

Fine sentiments I say, even if I find his dismissal of nonmarital romantic relationships quite disagreeable. But he does have a point. You can't on the one hand say the marital bonds are sacrosanct and then go on and on about how the marital bonds between husband and wife are meaningless. If you want to suggest otherwise in any particular instance, show me the proof.

Freedom in Iraq and Here

You know there should be some hope about Iraq when citizens take it upon themselves to fight off the insurgents. Here, one self-empowered carpenter fired upon suspected terrorists heading towards his store.

Compare that with some of the most freedom-restricting measures advocated here. They may not be free yet but they are certainly headed in the right direction in attitude at least. Not so here.

Gun contol legislation passes with few objections. Some are forbidden the right to marry their loved ones because they happen to be of the same sex, the state decides when you may die (through capital punishment and through anti-suicide/anti-euthanasia laws, government bodies can force one to sell his or her property for developers, etc. etc. Hate crime laws are passed but then limited to "protect" those we like, religious groups push their beliefs down our throats, and those from both sides of the political aisle call for censorship of material they do not like. I could go on.

Are we better off than the Iraqis? No question about it. We can choose whatever career we want. We can work towards and build upon romantic attachment with few restrictions. Our free speech, property, and gun rights, are still protected even if limited. American women are treated, for the most part, as man's equal here, as are people of all religious faiths (in some matters anyway).

But the trend does not look good. OUr attitudes towards liberty have evolved over these years and, unfortunately, towards a more regulatory atmosphere. There's certainly more to do in Iraq. Political disagreements remain, but the country is moving in the right direction - towards liberty.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More on Schiavo

Well, the federal district court judge hearing the parent's appeal is not ready to dismiss as irrelevant the findings of the state courts that heard this case before and many within the legal community strongly doubt any reversal of fortune for the parents.

Good. The parents' contention that Mrs. Schiavo's right to religious free exercise has no merit whatsoever unless they can prove that she not only was a Roman Catholic (which is not in dispute) but also that she in her own words opposed the removal of such feeding tubes in a similar situation. Left alone, nothing would suggest a deprivation of those rights, though it may tell us a little more about the parents' own motives for keeping her alive.

Many Catholics, some who would consider themselves devout, have no problem disagreeing with some of the Church's own moral tenets.

As I have stated in a previous post, many conservative Catholics support the death penalty and many liberal Catholics believe in a woman's right to have an abortion. Some take offense to the Catholic Church's prohibition on gay relationships, some with its prohibition on female priests and I am sure a huge minority (if not a majority) ignore its teachings on contraception.

You don't have to be a brain scientist to realize this. One can easily distinguish between what one thinks should be the moral tenets of their faith and what in fact are the moral tenets of that faith. A devoted religious person can disagree with certain moral principles but still identify with that church over something they consider more important.

The parents' lawyer should be laughed out of court with this one.

The argument nevertheless reveals more about the parents' own interest in keeping Terri Schiavo alive than it does about their daughter's (if in fact she has that interest). Terri Schiavo's parents obviously believe that their daughter's life is sacred, even in her present state. Though they claim Terri Schiavo can be rehabilitated, the parents rely upon an argument in which such claims have little or no relevance.

I do not believe that the parents can suggest, without any doubt at least, that Mrs. Terri Schiavo's Catholic faith would lead her to abide by all of its moral principles. They may, of course, want to believe that (1) she would submit herself to all of its central tenets, (2) that she would value her life as it currently is with the same conviction they do and (3) that she would decline anything that would lead her to die.

One cannot say for sure whether or not the parents are, at this point, capable of distinguishing between their belief as to what is in her best interest and what she herself would believe to be in her own interest nor can one say without a doubt whether the parents are capable of distinguishing between the level of faith they may have in Terri Schiavo's recovery and that she would have if she could think for herself. They may use the former to "prove" the latter without even recognizing their logical fallacy.

Another argument raised concerns the fact that Terri Schiavo declined to inform her parents about her own will should she become incapacitated and, consequently, that she must not have revealed any intention to die. The Political Heretic does not see a connection between the stated argument and its supporting evidence. Men and women may reveal things to their significant others that they would never disclose to their parents every day. Would it not be reasonable for Mrs. Schiavo, fearing her parents' objection to her moral decision regarding this matter, to disclose this to her husband and to him alone? Did she fear their disapproval? I don't know but it cannot be easily dismissed when the parents suggest she must have not made this decision because they were not informed of that intention.

And this brings me back to the point raised in my first post on this subject. Judge Greer looked at the arguments and evidence both sides presented before him and he issued a ruling accordingly. Congress was not in the posiiton to second-guess the judge's ruling. Its leaders were not informed about the particularities in the case that went to trial and its leaders, unlike the judge who actually heard the case, answerable to the public at large and not the very person whose life they were considering.

More on Schiavo

The Washington Post and New York Times have too good editorials on Congress's obscene Terri Schiavo law. The latter points to the special treatment Mrs. Schiavo's parents are receiving while others in the same boat languish without any assistance for their claims and the former points to how this act distorts the rule of law in general. The conservative-leaning editorial boards for the Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel also have nothing good to say about what was done on Sunday.

For an alternative view, one which I vehemently reject, see the National Review's interview with Robert P. George online.

Credit the National Review's Corner for more interesting material as well.

This blogger has already commented on these two points extensively within the past few days.

Monday, March 21, 2005

"and be sure it still says exactly what I wanted it to say."

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters that he is "going to look at my living will that I haven't looked at for about 10 years and be sure it still says exactly what I wanted it to say." - from the Washington Post

Yep. I guess you can't trust your colleagues on this matter Congressman Blunt?


Lest anyone think I've joined the media circus in being so consumed with the Terri Schiavo case as to forget everything else going on in the world, here's a news article pointing to some hope in Iraq. With the insurgency winding down in that area for now the Iraqis will be able to focus on their political differences in a more deliberative way.

"who can judge the dignity and sacredness of the life of a human being?"

Here's the Vatican's question.

Well, some patients answered for them.

Why, the very people who are going to die of course.