The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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Homeland Insecurity
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Is It Too Late?
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August 29
Partial Transcript, Abrams Report, April 5, 2005

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friday, april 1, 2005

Not Dead Yet?
coulterad.jpgDon't miss all the April 1 blogging over on American Street. Good stuff. Laughed my butt off. Just a sample:


4:04 pm | link

My Living Will
This morning I read about an individual with health problems who keeps her living will in her refrigerator. She figures the paramedics will check the fridge to see what medications she's on, and they will find it there.
But I thought, why not post it online? I'll have lots of witnesses that way. So, in the likely event that someday I'll be too incapacitated to speak for myself, please:
1. Don't take my picture wearing some ugly-ass hospital gown and make it public. I will haunt you.
2. If Randall Terry comes within three miles of my hospital bed, shoot him.
3. If Randall Terry survives the shooting, please dress him in an ugly-ass hospital gown and send the photo to Faux Nooz.
4. The following objects are not to be permitted anywhere near my home or hospice: Giant styrofoam spoons; bowling pins, especially if juggled; video or film cameras; clowns and/or politicians. If such persist in hanging around, perhaps a display of Randall Terry's head on a pike will discourage them. Worth a try.
5. If the time comes that my higher brain functions such as cognition, memory, and self-awareness are truly gone, please do not waste resources on me. Take me off the tubes and pull out the needles and dump me out of the bed, and use those resources to save someone who still has a life.
6. However, if by some miracle the only person on the planet who might need those resources is Randall Terry or some other Fetus Person, keep me hooked up as long as possible. It's what they would want, I'm sure.
7. Also, before carrying out request #5, get a second opinion.
8. To my family, know that whatever decision you make is OK with me, so don't beat yourself up over it.
9. In the unlikely event I leave an estate, use some of the money to throw a really outrageous party and make a large donation to any respectable organization working to provide single payer health care for all Americans.
10. Otherwise, if you check under the sofa cushions and the kitchen cabinet drawer under the microwave, you might find enough loose change to buy a six-pack. Enjoy.


7:39 am | link

thursday, march 31, 2005

Public Service Announcement
If you haven't had a good belly laugh today, go thou to Whiskey Bar and read this. Then read this. Then this. Then read the rest of the stuff Billmon has written this week. 


7:28 pm | link

Moon in the Water
Only a day after the New York Post cried "Enough!" Terri Schiavo complied, ending a brief life and the intense media circus that has surrounded her impending death. Well, check that; maybe it isn't ending. The banner on the Fox News web site (" Terri Schiavo's death—reaction and the continuing debate on FNC") hints that while the prayer circles may disperse from Woodside Hospice, the story isn't going to go away. [Village Voice]
The monkey is reaching
For the moon in the water.
Until death overtakes him
He'll never give up.
If he'd let go the branch and
Disappear in the deep pool,
The whole world would shine
With dazzling pureness.


11:43 am | link

Into the Bunker?
bunker mentality n. An attitude of extreme defensiveness and self-justification based on an often exaggerated sense of being under persistent attack from others.
Michael Fletcher writes in the Washington Post that the White House is requiring President Bush's cabinet secretaries to spend several hours a week at the White House compound.
Under a directive instituted by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. at the start of Bush's second term, Cabinet secretaries spend as many as four hours a week working out of an office suite set up for them at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. There, they meet with presidential policy and communications aides in an effort to better coordinate the administration's initiatives and messages.
The secretaries are chirping about how wonderful this practice is and how it is helping them build a "cohesive team." Others aren't so sure:
Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, sees its purpose differently. "This administration has been very conscious in the second term of the need to control what happens in Cabinet agencies and to make sure Cabinet officers don't get too far out there," he said. "I find it absolutely shocking that they would have regular office hours at the White House. It confirms how little the domestic Cabinet secretaries have to do with making policy."

Some scholars said the new office-hours requirement continues a trend in which Cabinet secretaries have become less architects of policy than purveyors of initiatives hatched by the political and policy officials in the White House.

Apologists on the Right Blogosphere point out that Bush is running the White House on a "business model," which should concern anyone who knows what happened to all of George W. Bush's businesses. But, of course, it's a bad excuse, anyway. Anyone who has worked in even a middle-management level of even a medium-size business knows that meetings are not about getting work done; they are about setting agendas and coordinating strategies.
In fact, in my experience, a staff can be over-meetinged to the point that the meetings interfere with the business. I've seen it many times, and it's usually an indicator of a really incompetent department head. Some of the best bosses I've had rarely called meetings. If circumstances require several meetings a week, that's usually an indicator of crisis mode.
And since cabinet secretaries are something like division heads of a really big company,  frequent meetings make even less sense. Division heads of Procter & Gamble don't work that closely together. The head of the Toothpaste Division and the head of the Disposable Diaper Division are not working out of the same office suite. I suspect they see each other only a few times a year.
The only reason for the secretaries of Agriculture and Education to be working together that closely is if they're up to something other than Agriculture and Education. Instead of a business model, the White House seems to be working with a bunker model. Instead of working in support of the nation's policies, they're working in support of Administration politics. 
Team Bush is still working the Bamboozlepalooza Tour. Yesterday, Bush said,
"This issue is beginning to permeate. People, whether they're sitting on a tractor or anywhere else in society, are beginning to hear the message: We have a problem," Bush told the mostly Republican audience. ... Bush said Wednesday that the public is realizing the extent of the problem and will soon start asking, "What are you going to do about it? How come you are not solving it?"
But it appears that Republicans in Congress are slowly working up the courage to publicly admit that the public ain't buyin'.
Two key GOP lawmakers who joined President Bush on Wednesday as he pitched restructuring Social Security said that Bush has failed to sell the American people on his plan to change the 70-year-old federal retirement system.

"Today, the public has not found his personal account approach compelling," Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) said in an interview late Tuesday, less than 24 hours before appearing with Bush at Kirkwood Community College here.

Leach went on to say that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, a fellow Iowa Republican, "is convinced the momentum is not there, and I am convinced the partisan goodwill is not there." Leach is one of several GOP members who have refused to endorse private investment accounts, the centerpiece of the president's Social Security plan.

Grassley, chairman of the Senate panel responsible for Social Security, said in a separate interview Tuesday afternoon: "I don't think [Bush] has made much progress on solving the solvency issue or what to do about personal accounts. It concerns me because as time goes on, I was hoping the president would be able to make my job easier. We are not hearing from the grass roots that, by golly, you guys in Congress have to work on this." Grassley supports private Social Security accounts.

I don't remember seeing this much resistance to any Bush initiative in the first term. 

This is speculation, of course, but seems to me Bush's eroding approval numbers and the continued resistance to Social Security reform has either sent Dubya into postal mode, or else he's oblivious to it. Either one is bad. Either one might be reason to head for the bunker.


Breaking news: WMD Commission Releases Scathing Report; Panel Finds U.S. Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons Was 'Dead Wrong.' I haven't read it yet, but could be significant.

Best quote I've seen so far today: "Well, nobody ever said running a right-wing populist movement on behalf of a wealthy oligarchy would be easy." (Billmon)
Freaky link: "Circus of Death."


7:37 am | link

wednesday, march 30, 2005

My Point Exactly
John Danforth was my senator, a long time ago, when I still lived in Missouri. I don't believe I ever voted for him, but he turned out to be OK. Missouri has sent much worse people to the Senate, although maybe a few better ones.
On the whole, John Danforth has always struck me as a man who makes up his own mind about things and who doesn't always march in lockstep with other Republicans. So, even though I disagreed with him often, and even though he played a large role in the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, I believe him to be an essentially honest man, and a man of principle.
So with that faint praise, I point to an op ed in today's New York Times, in which Mr. Danforth says, "By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians." And Danforth makes it clear he thinks this is a bad move.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.

Have I mentioned that Mr. Danforth is also an ordained Episcopal minister?
Anyway, this is essentially the same argument I made in my American Street post this morning, although Mr. Danforth says it more concisely.
I have a quibble about this paragraph:

In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

My quibble is that Danforth implies the Missouri legislature has only recently begun to enact an extremist religious agenda. Nah, they've been up to that for years. The voters elect perfectly reasonable people to the legislature, and they go to Jefferson City and turn into whackjobs. I think there's something in the water.     
Now, forgive me for being judgmental, but is there a bigger asshole in America today than Hugh Hewitt? Rush Limbaugh himself may be worse, but as Rush is the prototype of assholeness, the standard against which all other assholes must be judged, I'm not sure he counts.
Hewitt, who does not mention the fact that John Danforth is an ordained Episcopal minister, writes that Christian conservatives are perfectly willing to work with the Republican Party on secular issues as well, but ...
[Religious conservatives] also have an agenda that seeks to reduce the number of abortions, to empower parents in the lives of their children, to preserve marriage as it has always been, and to assure that schools are not the preserves of left-wing ideology.   It is simple arrogance to assert that these goals are not consistent with the historic traditions of the party of Lincoln, which began as a party of moral certainty that slavery was wrong.  In demanding that morality not play a part in the party's council's, Danforth is the one arguing for an abandonment of the GOP's history.
The paragraph above is populated by several straw men. Mr. Danforth certainly is not arguing "morality" not play a part in public policy. But "extremist right-wing Christian agenda" and "morality" are not synonyms pseudonyms. And Hewitt is hardly one to talk about arrogance.
What Hewitt and others miss is that there is an enormous difference between allowing your religious beliefs to inform your judgments -- that slavery is wrong, for example -- and enacting purely sectarian religious doctrine into legislation, like banning stem cell research. The only reason to ban stem cell research is that it violates the religious dogmas of some Christians. If you don't happen to believe that human DNA is, literally, sacred, then the stem cell ban makes absolutely no sense. Slavery, on the other hand, is wrong on a humanist basis as well as a religious basis. And, the fact is, in the antebellum South a lot of slave owners defended the peculiar institution by citing their religious beliefs. 
Update: I've been reminded here that stem cell research isn't banned, which is true, and it was sloppy of me to say so. It's so severely restricted in the United States it can barely be done at all. But it's not banned.
Another argument is that, because some people think stem cell research is immoral, they shouldn't be forced to pay for it with their tax dollars, so the government must not fund it. This is a juvenile argument. I've met a few pacifists who, in an act of civil disobedience, refuse to pay the portion of their federal taxes that go to the military. I respect peaceful civil disobedience, and I think this is a far more adult measure in this circumstance. I hope the pacifists reflect on the fact that they live in a nation that might not be here had it not fought for survival a few times, however. 
But you can take this further. Creationists should be objecting to tax dollars going to medical research that is in any way based on evolution theory, which could be most of it. You could probably make a case that they wouldn't want to fund the Center for Disease Control, which spends a lot of time tracking evolution of viruses. They should also resist making federal territory available for oil drilling, since by their logic petroleum shouldn't exist.
People who object to using animals in all medical research (which I believe strongly should be limited to tests that are not inhumane) shouldn't have to pay to fund that, either. Maybe vegetarians should object to paying for  meat inspectors.
Look, in this country, you can probably find a few people who object to just about anything the government does. If a minority of people want to object to a particular thing the majority want to pay for, they should go the civil disobedience route. And, they can always try to persuade others to agree with them and eventually make a majority. That's how this republican government thing is supposed to work.


11:34 am | link

This Just In 10:34 am | link

tuesday, march 29, 2005

Jonathan Weisman reports in today's Washington Post that conservatives are splitting on Bush's scheme to "reform" Social Security.
Under Bush's approach, personal accounts "are complicated," wrote Alex J. Pollock, a finance expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, in a paper he will present at AEI today. "To many people, they are downright confusing and even frightening, and they require diverting a portion of payroll taxes away from the U.S. Treasury."
Conservative Harvard University economist Robert J. Barro broke with the White House in the April 4 issue of Business Week, writing, "Overall the accounts are a bad idea." Tyler Cowen, a free-market economist at George Mason University, has linked his Web log, Marginal Revolution, to Barro's dissent, declaring, "Robert Barro agrees with me on Social Security."
The conservatives interviewed have diverse reasons for their misgivings. Some of them are long-time supporters of the idea of private Social Security accounts, but they say they don't like Bush's plan. This is interesting, because he doesn't actually have a plan, just goals. And that may be part of the problem.
Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic studies at AIG, said the splintering of ideas among conservatives is only natural. For all of its talk, the White House has yet to formally propose a comprehensive overhaul of Social Security, and in its absence, intellectuals have jumped into the fray.

But with so many ideas in play, the White House has to step in soon with a plan around which conservatives can coalesce, Hassett said.

"If the White House doesn't have a plan soon," Hassett said, "it's very unlikely the White House will win."

The article doesn't say this, but I can't help but think that some of these guys are just appalled at the Bush's gross mismanagement of the nation's money. And, though they still may want Social Security privatization someday, they may believe the Bush Administration cannot be trusted to execute a privatization plan without screwing it up.  

I also think it's interesting these guys are crawling out of the woodwork now, just as the Mighty Rightie Coalition is coming apart over Terri Schiavo.

Also, see Liberal Oasis to read about how the Mighty Righties are cracking over support for Tom DeLay.


Also in WaPo, Dana Milbank reports that "President Bush, his brother Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and congressional leaders have all but abandoned their efforts to keep Terri Schiavo alive." Will the Religious Right ever forgive them?

CBS News reports that Michael Schiavo's brother's wife was approached by a stranger who threatened to kill her. We're going to be very lucky if no one is murdered in the name of Terri Schiavo in the next few days.

Paul Krugman writes that we've been way too slow to recognize how dangerous the extreme Right has become.

Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents, hasn't killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards.

... The closest parallel I can think of to current American politics is Israel. There was a time, not that long ago, when moderate Israelis downplayed the rise of religious extremists. But no more: extremists have already killed one prime minister, and everyone realizes that Ariel Sharon is at risk.

Krugman says that it's time for moderates to stand up to the extreme Right. Well, some of us have been trying, haven't we?

But what what institutions are there to counter the Right? The Democrats at the moment are stepping aside to let the Republicans hang themselves, which is tactically smart. The so-called "news media" continues to cater to the whackjobs, so they're no help.

But where are the religious moderates who might speak up? Maybe we need to add another verse to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." There are many religious moderates in America, but I can't think of a single moderate religious leader who is reasonably well known and widely respected.

Awhile back I wrote about the way the two biggest Christian denominations in the U.S. -- the Catholics and the Southern Baptists -- have been deliberately purging themselves of moderate and liberal members. And the rate at which allegedly Christian ministers have ignored Matthew 7:1 (Judge not, lest ye be judged) and piled on the let's-smear-Michael-Schiavo scrimmage is downright alarming. Last night on some bobblehead show I caught a bit of Robert Schuller, whom I had considered fairly innocuous, explaining that Michael Schiavo's love for his wife is not genuine, but just selfish. 'Scuse me, Reverend Schuller, but how the hell do you know that?

These guys flatter themselves that they're on a crusade to fight evil, and thus they've been co-opted by evil. This is how evil works. The Bible thumpers should stop thumping Bibles and read them instead.


7:39 am | link

monday, march 28, 2005

You're Soaking In It
The first major-party presidential nominee to use television "spot" ads as part of his campaign was Dwight Eisehnower, in 1952.
At the time, many people found this outrageous. It was undignified, they said, to sell a president as if he were toothpaste. Eisenhower's opponent, Adlai Stevenson, said of the ads, "I think the American people will be shocked by such contempt for their intelligence. This is not Ivory Soap versus Palmolive."
The father of all American presidential campaign ads was a Madison Avenue advertising executive named Rosser Reeves, who was also the creator of the M&M “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” campaign. Reeves convinced Eisenhower that spot ads would be a more cost-effective way to reach voters than stumping around the country giving half-hour speeches.
Of course, Eisenhower won by a landslide, and in the rematch of 1956 Stevenson used television ads, too. But Stevenson still didn't like it. "The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal," he said in 1956, "is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process."
I thought of this when I read the beginning of Matt Taibbi's article in the New York Press 
"Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. I would say to John, 'Let me put it to you this way. The Lord Almighty, or Allah, whoever, if he came to every kitchen table in America and said, "Look, I have a Faustian bargain for you, you choose. I will guarantee to you that I will end all terror threats against the United States within the year, but in return for that there will be no help for education, no help for Social Security, no help for health care." What do you do?' My answer is that seventy-five per cent of the American people would buy that bargain."

—Joe Biden, in The New Yorker, on what he would say to John Kerry

"Look, the answer is, we have to do an unbranding. We have to brand more effectively. It's marketing."

—Kerry, in the same piece, on the Democrats' need to sell themselves as tough

In fifty years we've gone from thinking of political marketing as some newfangled gimmick to not being able to see politics in any other way but as marketing. It's all spin, positioning, talking points. In the 2008 televised debates, expect the candidates to yell at each other: "Less filling!" "Tastes great!"

Although I admit I'm having fun thinking of "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand" as a campaign slogan.

Last week I wrote about the product testing of Hillary for President ("She's grrrrreat!") and despaired that Dem insiders will be clueless enough to push her to the nomination. Along the same lines, Matt Taibbi looks at the way Dem insiders still think the way to America's heart is through war, in spite of the fact that support for our ongoing wars has eroded into minority approval numbers.

In the midst of all of this, the Democratic Party is preparing its shiny new 2008 position on Iraq and terror. Described in Goldberg's New Yorker article, the political plan is centered around a new faction that calls itself the "National Security Democrats" (a term coined by that famous liberal, Richard Holbrooke) and is led by revolting hair-plug survivor Joe Biden. The position of the "National Security Democrats" is that the party should be "more open to the idea of military action, and even preemption" and that the Democrats should "try to distance themselves from the Party's Post-Vietnam ambivalence about the projection of American power." Additionally, the Democrats ought to reconsider their traditional stance as an opposition party and learn to embrace Republican heroes like Ronald Reagan.  ...

It would be easy to dismiss the Biden revival as a cheap stunt by a discredited party hack with all the national appeal of the streptococcus virus, except for one thing. Biden's "national security" camp includes all four of the expected main contenders for the Democratic nomination—Biden himself, Hillary Clinton, Indiana senator Evan Bayh, and John Edwards. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, another outside contender, is also a member of this camp. We are going to be hearing a lot about "National Security Democrats" in the next three years.

First, John Edwards ("The best a man can get!") needs to get away from these zombies, now. Go back to North Carolina, John. Walk the hills. Grow a vegetable garden. Get to know the cashiers at the Wal Mart and the waitresses at Betsy's Breakfast Nook. Reconnect with flesh-and-blood Americans again.

Taibbi goes on,

... we have come to expect that the cultural figures we call the Democrats will respond to electoral failure first by sniveling and finger-pointing, and then by puffing up their chests and telling their dates they know how to handle themselves in a bar fight. From the Republicans we expect just the opposite; beaten at the polls, they immediately start cozying up to snake-handlers and gun freaks and denouncing school lunches as socialism.

Gawd, ain't that the truth? But another way to look at this is to understand the GOP base as a coalition of niche markets. Republicans go to the Gun People and promise to save their guns. They go to the Fetus People and promise to save the fetus. They go to the Money people and promise they can keep their money and get a lot more on top of that.  But the Dems' pitch is, "Our soap is blue like their soap and comes in an orange box like their soap and cleans as good as their soap." Not real compelling, especially when customer surveys indicate that 51 percent of soap purchasers long for a green liquid soap in a blue bottle.

I'm not saying the Dems should start pandering to a lot of interest groups, because (as the GOP may be learning now) that strategy has its limits. I'm saying (first) that its time for the Dems to stop thinking of politics as just another kind of marketing. People are being marketed to every waking hour these days, and we've gotten numb to it. I think we need a whole new approach to political campaigning, especially at the presidential level. I don't know what that would be, but I strongly suspect John Kerry ("The champagne of bottled beer!") and Joe Biden ("Pork: The other white meat!") aren't the ones to come up with it, either. 

Second, I'm sick to death of the righties snickering that liberals have run out of ideas. First, it's not as if the righties have had any really new ideas since Goldwater; and second, anyone who spends time on the Left Blogosphere knows there are some brilliant, original thinkers on the Left with lots of innovative ideas about good governance. However, the beltway zombies don't know we're here and aren't listening to us. I'm not sure what to do about that, either.

But until we sort it out, remember: Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It's good to the last drop.


8:03 am | link

sunday, march 27, 2005

Happy Easter
Thomas Jefferson must be spinning in his grave. Recently I've noticed righties talking about a "constitutional" right to life, which was news to me, but of course they were talking about the Declaration of Independence. From the Weekly Standard:
This matters because abortion, not assisted suicide, is the mother of all American social issues. We say American, and not Russian or Chinese or British, because it is the American founding document that guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and asserts as its only authority that of the Creator--the authority of Nature and of Nature's God. If you had to pick one reason that there is a pro-life movement in America and not Europe, it is the nature of our founding.
Talk about a fuzzy-headed, ideological muddle! The authors (Jeffrey Bell and Frank Cannon) are too dishonest to come out and say they're talking about the Declaration; instead, they call it a "founding document" (do they think we won't recognize it?). And then they misrepresent what it says. Let's take a look:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ... 
If it were up to me, Mr. Bell and Mr. Cannon would be sent to a very large chalkboard and compelled to write "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" several thousand times. The righties always seem to overlook that part. Yes, Jefferson attributes the Rights of Man to a creator, but the Rights of Man applied to all men, not just Americans, including Russian and British, although Jefferson like most 18th century men struggled with whether the Rights of Man applied to nonwhite people. There are some still struggling today. (Hat tip: Stirling Newberry)
Further, it might interest them to know that abortion was legal in Britain and its colonies at the time the Declaration was written. It didn't occur to the Founders to make it illegal. The movement to make abortion illegal began after the Civil War. So if the argument is that opposition to abortion is a bedrock American tradition -- bunk.
Further, the Declaration doesn't "guarantee" anything. Nothing in it was meant to be legally binding to a nation that didn't exist yet. In 1776 it may not have occurred even to Jefferson that there would be one American nation instead of several. But when the Founders got around to writing the Constitution, notice that it doesn't mention God at all.
This is why the Fetus People so love the Declaration; it's the one slender thread of documentation they can find to strengthen their case that America was "founded" on religious principles. But the Declaration didn't "found" anything; all the "founding" came several years later.
This article is titled "The Politics of the Schiavo Case," but it says very little about Schiavo, or politics. Mostly it seems an attempt to console the Fetus People that although they've lost the battle, they will still win the war.
On to more muddle-headedness: The Los Angeles Times reports that in 1988, Tom DeLay decided, with other members of his family, to end his father's life support and let him die. Naturally, many on the Left Blogosphere engaged in bloggerly snickering about this, as reported on Memeorandum. But Michelle Malkin objects:
The DeLay and Schiavo cases are worlds apart, for heaven's sake, and it is patently unfair to compare the two. DeLay's father's had suffered broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage; he needed a tracheotomy and ventilator to assist his breathing; his kidneys failed; multiple infections ravaged his body. Unlike Terri Schiavo, he was in a state of steady deterioration and at death's imminent doorstep within days of his accident.
And Terri Schiavo would have died fifteen years ago without medical intervention, but never mind ... Malkin and others on the Right make a distinction between assisted breathing, which they consider "life support," and assisted eating, which to them is not life support. Frankly this seems to me to be a bugaboo in their own minds, and my understanding is that law tends to consider feeding tubes to be life support just as much as respirators, as do I.
The significant difference to me is that, according to the Los Angeles Times, Mr. DeLay was comatose. If so, it's possible he was aware of everything going on around him, which is not the case of Terri Schiavo. I'm not saying the DeLay family made the wrong call. But I've known people who lingered for months after a massive brain hemorrhage, slipping in and out of comas, occasonally enjoying a few fleeting moments of lucidity. So, it seems to me, removing life support from someone who is comatose is a much harder call, not an easier one, than it is for someone in a persistent vegetative state.
You'll like this: Later in her article, Malkin says, "Couldn't the reporters have found a single medical expert to make the point for balance?" Notice she says "balance" instead of "understanding the medical facts." The amazing rightie brain at work. But after several days of getting "balance" from mouth-foaming politicos, grandstanding media bobbleheads, TV psychics, and has-been pop singers on the Terri Schiavo case, the notion of listening to "medical experts" seems almost original.
Update: Malkin makes another argument that I didn't address, which is that the DeLay family agreed unanimously to withhold life support; it wasn't Tom DeLay's decision alone. Malkin and this guy believe family unanimity make the DeLay case entirely different from the Schiavo case.
In other words, if Terri Schiavo dies while her parents want her to live, it's murder, but if the whole family agrees to let her go, it's not murder? If the whole family gets together and decides to smash in Grandma's head with a shovel, is it not murder?
The question of what is or is not murder is a legal one, and the law says the husband is next of kin and makes the call. The Schindlers were given due process -- more than due process -- and now the law and nature are taking their course. Tom DeLay stepped way out of bounds to interfere with established process. His prior experience with end-of-life decisions suggests he was not acting out of principle, but political expediency. Malkin can make all the excuses she wants, but plain facts are plain facts. [end update]
Speaking of medical experts: Here's a medical expert who explains why the videos that appear to show Schiavo smiling and responding to her mother don't prove anything.
Meanwhile, our President is showing resolve and moral courage in the face of roiling public disagreement by hiding out on his ranch. Michael Kinsley writes today that Bush "enjoys the stubborn conviction of the unreflective mind." But today he seems to have taken his stubborn convictions out of sight.
And those of you who still think Ralph Nader might make a great president should read this.
Also: Here's a dharma talk on life and death for Easter Sunday.


8:30 am | link

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Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.



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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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