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February 28, 2005

Schiavo judge's order amounts to a death warrant

The following is a February 26 press release from Not Dead Yet, an organization of disabled persons opposing the euthanasia and assisted suicide movement:

Disability Advocates Shocked By Judge Greer's Order of Execution for Terri Schiavo

For more information: Diane Coleman or Stephen Drake (708) 209-1500 exts. 11 & 29
708-420-0539 (cell)

Feb. 26, 2005 -- In a shocking move, Judge George Greer ordered court-appointed guardian Michael Schiavo to begin starving and dehydrating Terri Schiavo on March 18, 2005 at 1:00 p.m. "This is not simply a court order removing a judicial stay and allowing the guardian to proceed as he sees fit," said Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, which was joined by sixteen other national disability rights groups in three amicus briefs filed in support of Terri Schiavo's right to food and water.

"Judge Greer's exact language is, 'Ordered and Adjudged that absent a stay from the appellate courts, the guardian, Michael Schiavo, shall cause the removal of nutrition and hydration from the ward, Theresa Marie Schiavo, at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, March 18, 2005,'" said Coleman, quoting from the three-page order. "This is an order of execution."

But the new issues before the guardianship court are as significant as new DNA evidence in a criminal case. In fact, the new evidence affects not only Terri Schiavo, but thousands of others. How can it be ignored?

First, there is the scientific journal article in Neurology, calling into question previous methods for diagnosing persistent vegetative state (PVS), the simple bedside examinations done by all the "experts" in the Schiavo case, now proven to result in inaccurate diagnoses of PVS in 30 to 43% of cases. The previous testimony of medical experts on either side of the controversy is insufficient to justify the Court's rulings that Terri Schiavo is unconscious. How can updated and scientifically valid testing procedures be rejected? Every person diagnosed in PVS should benefit from the new testing protocols, especially before a guardian is permitted to withhold food and water from someone who left no advance directive indicating preferences for who their guardian should be or what treatments they would want. These tests may even help identify ways that Ms. Schiavo can communicate.

Not Dead Yet has called for a moratorium on the starvation and dehydration of all people diagnosed in PVS, unless they have an advance directive, until such new diagnostic procedures are followed.

Secondly, the belated intervention of the Florida Department of Children and Families is significant. That no-doubt-under-funded agency is responsible for the protection of people in guardianship, and should be given the opportunity to investigate allegations of both pre-injury abuse and guardianship neglect. The post-injury neglect is undeniable. Michael Schiavo pledged in testimony, but was not ordered by any court, to use $700,000 of a malpractice award for Ms. Schiavo's care and rehabilitation. By Judge Greer's orders, over $500,000 of those funds have been spent on lawyers fees to win Schiavo the right to starve and dehydrate his wife, and Ms. Schiavo has been deprived not only of rehabilitation, but basic attention and stimulation for many years, except from her parents and siblings.

"This has broader implications," said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet. "You read a lot about the problems faced by over-burdened caregivers these days. Senior and disability advocates are fighting a political battle for more in-home support services to address that, but in the meantime, meaningful protections against guardian abuse and neglect are needed. All branches of government are responsible for that. If one branch fails, as Judge Greer has, then another branch must step in."

EU implosion, update #2

More evidence that the EU will inevitably collapse under the weight of bureaucracy and regulation:
Horse passports rule introduced

Every horse, donkey and pony in England and Wales is now required to have its own passport.

The regulations come in response to a European directive aimed at preventing horses treated with certain drugs from being sold as horsemeat.

The documents will identify each individual horse and show a record of which medicines the animal has taken.

The passports cost around £20 each but owners face fines of up to £1,000 if they fail to comply with the new rules.

Animals without a passport cannot be sold or exported, moved from one place to another or slaughtered for human consumption.

EU implosion, update #1

I doubt that I gave him the idea [brief pause as you laugh hysterically at the thought], but Mark Steyn is also advancing the notion that the European Union is doomed to implosion, and that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Among other things, he shows how this political entity's founding document is more of a suicide pact:
Many Americans wander round with the constitution in their pocket so they can whip it out and chastise over-reaching congressmen and senators at a moment's notice. Try going round with the European Constitution in your pocket and you'll be walking with a limp after two hours: It's 511 pages, which is 500 longer than the U.S. version. It's full of stuff about European space policy, Slovakian nuclear plants, water resources, free expression for children, the right to housing assistance, preventive action on the environment, etc.

Most of the so-called constitution isn't in the least bit constitutional. That's to say, it's not content, as the U.S. Constitution is, to define the distribution and limitation of powers. Instead, it reads like a U.S. defense spending bill that's got porked up with a ton of miscellaneous expenditures for the ''mohair subsidy'' and other notorious Congressional boondoggles. President Ronald Reagan liked to say, ''We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around.'' If you want to know what it looks like the other way round, read Monsieur Giscard's constitution.

Despite the absurd complexity of the proposed constitution, it appears that it will be ratified, thus sealing the EU's doom. How long will it take? What action, if any, should the US take to delay the inevitable? Steyn, as usual, has an opinion on this:
[T]he fact is it's going to be ratified, and Washington is hardly in a position to prevent it. Plus there's something to be said for the theory that, as the EU constitution is a disaster waiting to happen, you might as well cut down the waiting and let it happen. CIA analysts predict the collapse of the EU within 15 years. I'd say, as predictions of doom go, that's a little on the cautious side.

...Until the shape of the new Europe begins to emerge, there's no point picking fights with the terminally ill. The old Europe is dying, and Mr. Bush did the diplomatic equivalent of the Oscar night lifetime-achievement tribute at which the current stars salute a once glamorous old-timer whose fading aura is no threat to them. The 21st century is being built elsewhere.

February 24, 2005

Supremes hear important eminent domain case

The infamous New London eminent domain case was finally heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. At issue is the question being asked in communities across the country: can a municipality (New London, Connecticut in this case) seize the properties of some private individuals and turn the properties over to another private individual simply because the latter will develop the land in a way that will generate more tax revenue? New London says, Of course we can.

The Constitution's Fifth Amendment declares: "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." Just compensation isn't really the issue here. Rather, what matters most is the evolution of the meaning of "public use". Originally the term referred to things related to infrastructure and the provision of necessary public services (in modern times this would mean things like roads, firehouses, schools, utilities, etc.).

Today, "public use" is interpreted to mean "the public interest", or "the greater good". In other words, any end deemed to promote "the greater good" of the community -- be it a new shopping center or hotel, a factory in a city with high unemployment, or simply more revenue for a cash-strapped city -- justifies the property seizure. Whatever the emotional appeal of these justifications, there simply is no rational way to read this interpretation into the Fifth Amendment.

James Madison, writing in 1792, had this to say about the government's responsibility:
Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.
Madison isn't denying the possibility of seizures (with just compensation) for legitimate public use -- in fact, he acknowledges this reality later in the same essay. But, in saying that a just government impartially secures property rights, he is speaking against the kind of favoritism being practiced by the city of New London.

The Supremes will do our republic a tremendous favor if they issue a ruling that moves us closer to the original meaning of "public use". If, on the other hand, they rule in favor of New London, cities across the land will rightly take this as a green light to do whatever they please, and we can finally be rid of that bothersome notion that anybody really owns anything.

UPDATE: Knight of the Mind has a similar take, and also decries Republican inaction on the issue.

Yet another reason the EU is doomed to implode sooner or later

History shows that nation-states are most likely to succeed when organized around a common culture and a common language. The entity known as the European Union possesses neither of these, of course. The EU is trying to deal with the former by attempting to create a common European culture ex nihilo. As for the latter, National Geographic News reports that they're not even going to try to tackle this one yet:
The European Union has been operating in 20 official languages since ten new member states joined the legislative body last year. With annual translation costs set to rise to 1.3 billion dollars (U.S.), some people question whether EU institutions are becoming overburdened by multilingualism.

Brussels, Belgium, the European Union's headquarters city, is fast getting a reputation as the new Babel. Parliamentary sessions are conducted 20 languages simultaneously. With further countries soon to join the EU, some analysts fear the effectiveness of its institutions could be getting lost in translation.

Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Slovak, and Slovene are the most recent tongues to become official EU languages. With the countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania also on the EU membership waiting list, the body is due to accommodate several more languages by 2010.

Even before expansion in 2004, the EU ran the world's largest translation operation—twice as big as that of the United Nations, which has six official languages.

EU institutions currently require around 2,000 written-text translators. They also need 80 interpreters per language per day, half of which operate at the European Parliament. The total annual cost of EU multilingualism will soon rise from 875 million dollars U.S. (670 million euros) to 1.3 billion dollars U.S. (1 billion euros), according to the European Commission, the union's executive body.

The European Parliament requires some 60 interpreters to help elected politicians from the 25 member states understand each other. These interpreters work in soundproofed booths, translating the words of European members of Parliament (MEPs). Even so, unfamiliar words or phrases can leave interpreters lost for words, says Struan Stevenson, a British MEP.

Referring to a debate last month, Stevenson said, "The system ground to a sudden halt when a British MEP described the EU Constitution as 'gobbledygook.' Apparently there is no such word in Polish and some of the other East European languages. The interpreters were flummoxed—and that's another word they'd find hard to tackle."

Comic misunderstandings can arise that become part of Brussels lore. For instance, during an agricultural working group session, "frozen semen" was translated into French as "frozen seamen."

Another MEP recalls how the expression "out of sight, out of mind" became "invisible lunatic" after a computer-aided translation.

Read on. The EU government appears to be an attempt at a full implementation of the ideologies of the Left; the people of America would be wise to learn the lessons offered by the EU's disastrous misadventures.

Baseball-bat teen abortionist learned his lessons well

The teenagers in this Associated Press story are the perfect embodiment of the culture of death brought to you by our friends at Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, et al.
The lawyer representing a Macomb County teenager accused of causing his girlfriend to miscarry by hitting her in the stomach is seeking dismissal of the charges.

Attorney Miranda Massie said in two motions filed Wednesday that because the act was consensual, it cannot constitute assault. A hearing to consider the motions was scheduled for March 29.

Authorities say a roughly 6-month-old male fetus was delivered Oct. 4 at the 16-year-old girl's home after she allowed the boy to hit her repeatedly in the abdomen with a 22-inch baseball bat over the course of two weeks.

The buried fetus was discovered in November in the boy's yard. The medical examiner concluded that the fetus was not viable.

Way to celebrate your fundamental rights, kids!

February 23, 2005

Rules, religion, and black-market candy

In my post on George Washington's farewell speech I suggested that in the absence of a strong belief in God, an official (or any person for that matter) no longer has an internal moral governor that serves to restrain improper behavior. For such a person, restraint comes mainly as a result of an increasing number of rules/laws specifying penalties for specific infractions. The trouble is, many people will misbehave anyway, because (among other things): (1) they remain unconvinced that a specific behavior is improper; (2) they have found (or believe they have found) loopholes in the rules that allow them to escape the penalties; (3) they believe that the potential rewards of their misbehavior outweigh the potential penalties. The common thread is this: all the rules in the world are useless against someone who does not accept the premises that gave rise to the rules.

A story in the Austin American-Statesman's February 19th edition (registration required) is in my opinion a good illustration of this principle.

When Austin High School administrators removed candy from campus vending machines last year, the move was hailed as a step toward fighting obesity. What happened next shows how hard it can be for schools to control what students eat on campus.

The candy removal plan, according to students at Austin High, was thwarted by classmates who created an underground candy market, turning the hallways of the high school into Willy-Wonka-meets-Casablanca.

Soon after candy was removed from vending machines, enterprising students armed with gym bags full of M&M's, Skittles, Snickers and Twix became roving vendors, serving classmates in need of an in-school sugar fix. Regular-size candy bars like the ones sold in vending machines routinely sold in the halls for $1.50.

"There was no sugar in the vending machines, so (student vendors) could make a lot of money," said Hayden Starkey, an Austin High junior who said he was not one of the candy sellers. "I heard kids were making $200 a week just selling candy."

School administrators decided that it would be good to manage students' vending machine choices in the interest of promoting better nutrition. Regardless of the wisdom of this idea, what is certain is that they made no attempt to first persuade the students that proper nutrition was A Good Thing; instead, from the students' perspective, an announcement was made, and the candy disappeared.

The students' craving for candy didn't disappear with the implementation of the rule. Instead, they started to scheme on ways to get around the rule. They discovered that there was no rule specifically barring freelance sales, so many of them went into business for themselves. This completely neutralized the intent of the rule, so school administrators, instead of enacting even more rules to close the loopholes, simply threw in the towel.

In case I've meandered too much in this post, let me get back to my point: I think that we are much better off as a society when our leaders (at every level) have a healthy belief in God, when they subject their behavior to the moral code their religion impresses on them. When we simply rely on laws that are ever-growing in number and complexity to govern our leaders' behavior, we end up with people continually seeking new and unusual ways to misuse their position.

February 22, 2005

The other George W speaks out on virtue in government

Some thoughts in honor of the birthday of America's first president (under our current Constitution):

As George Washington was completing his second and final term, he drafted a farewell address that was published in various newspapers. In it he encouraged the young nation to continue in its faithfulness to the Constitution, and he also warned against the rise of political parties. He thought that political parties, however admirable their cause, would be more concerned with gaining and maintaining power than with seeking the good of the country. History has confirmed his fears in many ways.

Of course, political parties were not the only potential source for corruption in government. Throughout history, the opportunity for political power has attracted individuals who seek power for their own good rather than for the good of those being governed. Washington understood that in order to minimize the incidence of corruption, America must be committed to electing people of virtue (good character) to public office. He argued that the only sure foundations of such virtue were religion (understood at the time to mean Christianity in its various forms) and morality, and that the government should be active in promoting them. The following is what he said about it in his farewell address:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness-- these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric? Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
Washington -- as well as many of the other founders of this country -- believed that only religion and its related moral principles were forces powerful enough to overcome man's natural inclination to abuse power. For any official who did not believe in God, only the threat of punishment would be sufficient to restrain him. It is interesting to note that as American culture has come to value belief in God less and less, it has become necessary in modern times to pass an increasing number of laws specifying punishments for the corrupt behavior of government officials.

Clint Eastwood says euthanasia plot twist was 'big mistake'

I'm kidding; actually, he's gone on the attack against his critics. The title of this post is an example of the bait-and-switch Eastwood did on moviegoers in Million Dollar Baby. People were lured in with the promise of a boxing movie; what they got was a sympathetic portrayal of the killing of an individual who had some disabilities that were not life threatening.

IMDB reports on how Eastwood is taking the controversy:
Clint Eastwood has acknowledged that a plot twist in Million Dollar Baby that raises the issue of euthanasia "does hit you with sort of a left hook," and that when he attempted to raise money to produce the film "nobody seemed enthralled with that." In an interview appearing in the current issue of Time magazine, Eastwood suggested that he was able to keep the plot twist secret because the movie was made "under the radar. Nobody knew we were making it, and nobody gave a damn that we were making it." Eastwood said that he was surprised that it took so long for the matter to become the subject of controversy. Asked about the fact that the attack on the film comes from his "constituency," Eastwood, generally regarded as a Republican conservative, responded, "Extremism is so easy. You've got your position, and that's it. It doesn't take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right, you meet the same idiots coming around from the left."
Eastwood was expecting the controversy, and when the inevitable came, he casually brushed off the objections as 'extremism'. Despite the media stereotype of Eastwood as a "Republican conservative", he is really more of a Republican libertarian. He has never been an ally of traditional-values conservatives, whence comes the majority of the criticism.

Eastwood -- and Michael Schiavo, for that matter -- see nothing wrong with the premeditated killing of someone who is not in a life-threatening circumstance, but it is those who object to this who are the extremists.

February 21, 2005

Zero hour approaches for Terri Schiavo

Today, the courts rejected the pleas of Terri’s parents to stop her husband, Michael, from withholding food and water from her. He has promised to begin starving her tomorrow at 1 pm.

Most of you are aware that Terri is not a "vegetable" or "brain-dead" as Michael and his lawyers claim, but responds to others and is aware of her surroundings. She laughs, smiles and, according to her nurses, has a small vocabulary.

Terri is not on life support and is healthy. She needs help eating and is fed through a tube (helping someone eat and drink who is impaired has never been considered artificial life support).

While Michael asserts he is carrying out Terri's wishes, he waited until after he received a large sum of money from a lawsuit against her doctors before making this claim . During the lawsuit, he alleged negligence and motivated a financial award with the potential cost of Terri’s rehabilitation.

However, Terri has been denied rehabilitation that experts testify could allow her to eat and talk. The courts in Florida have consistently blocked appeals to give Terri proper tests and therapy that would improve her life.

Terri may not have the capabilities she once had, but she is no less valuable and no less a person.

Here is what you can do to help Terri:
  1. Pray for Terri and her family.
  2. Blog - communicate the truth about what is going on and rally support for Terri and the Schindlers.
  3. Visit BlogsforTerri ( http://www.blogsforterri.com) for information and to join the team of blogs for Terri.
  4. Deluge Gov. Jeb Bush with emails and phone calls. He has the power to intervene. Here is his contact information:

    Governor Jeb Bush
    850 / 488-4441
    850 / 487-0801 (fax)

  5. Support HB701(click here).
  6. Important - Bypass the Mainstream Media - pledge support a paid advertisement in the St. Petersburg Tribune to inform its 450,000 paid subscribers about what is really happening to Terri. [http://www.blogsforterri.com/pledge.php]

Your participation in help is desperately needed.

Abortion could destroy the Democratic party

Following the 2004 presidential election, Democrat leaders finally appear to be getting the message that the party's uncompromising support for abortion on demand is doing real damage to them at the polls. Some high-profile pols (notably the likely 2008 candidate Hillary Clinton) are publicly calling for the party to do what it can to soften its image on the issue.

Unfortunately for the Dems, abortion advocates are the bedrock of their activist base, and they are none too pleased with the trial balloons seen floating around Washington. The New York Times has an article on the reactions of various abortion-rights organizations to this new initiative:
Emily's List and other groups have also sounded alarms about the direction the party leadership is taking over all. During the search for a national Democratic chairman, Ms. White posted a rallying cry on the group's Web site: "We fought like mad to beat back the Republicans. Little did we know that we would have just as much to fear from some within the Democratic Party who seem to be using choice as a scapegoat for our top-of-the-ticket losses."
Perhaps most striking is this warning from Planned Parenthood:
But abortion rights advocates warn of a bigger revolt within the party if its members start compromising on new abortion restrictions like parental notification laws or the fetal-pain bill. Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood, said some of her allies were saying that "to the degree that the Democrats move away from choice, that could be the real birth of a third-party movement."

Create your own religious relic: An interesting twist in the Shroud controversy

Through what they call a "crude experiment", N.D. Wilson and Dr. Scott Minnich have presented compelling evidence that something like the image found on the Shroud of Turin would have been easy to create using materials readily available in medieval times -- namely linen, glass, paint and sunlight.

This still leaves open other aspects of the controversy, but it seems to me that this is a major score in favor of the camp that believes the Shroud is a pious fraud.

(Credit: Right Mind)

February 19, 2005

If only Terri Schiavo was an endangered species

Scott Ott makes the ugly-but-true point that in the eyes of the law, Terri Schiavo has less value than a silver rice rat.

[Pro-life activist Randall] Terry contacted the USFWS after learning that it is illegal to kill dozens of creatures in Florida, including the leatherback seaturtle, the marsh rabbit, the saltmarsh vole, the shortnose sturgeon, the Choctawhatchee beach mouse and the oval pigtoe (a mollusk).

"If we can get Terri classified as a different endangered species each month, we can give her several more years of life," Mr. Terry said. "I know it sounds dehumanizing, but under our laws a silver rice rat has more of a right to life than this woman."

It would be supremely sad if this was the only way to get the Left to rally to Terri's cause.

By the way, the MSM has chosen which side it is on by (for the most part) considering this to be a nonstory. Imagine the New York Times pursuing this story with the kind of fervor it had for the women-at-Augusta-National story.

There is plenty of news out there, but you have to know where to look. ProLifeBlogs.com, an aggregator for right-to-life blogs, is an excellent source of information on the Schiavo infamy.

February 17, 2005

Medved defends his criticism of 'Million Dollar Baby'

Movie critic Michael Medved was justifiably harsh in his criticism of Clint Eastwood's new movie, "Million Dollar Baby", mainly because of its unexpected sympathetic portrayal of euthanasia (no apologies for the spoiler here -- if you didn't know about this plot twist yet, you've been living under a rock). For his trouble, a lot of big names in the LeftMedia have turned their guns on him. Now he has replied to his critics in a Wall Street Journal essay. Here's how it starts:

As the Oscar campaign comes down to its climactic concluding days, I've been amazed to see much of the ferocious battle for Best Picture improbably and irrationally focused on . . . me.

In recent weeks, some of the nation's most influential cultural observers have chosen to concentrate their Academy Awards commentary on my harsh reaction on radio and TV about the deceptive packaging of Clint Eastwood's boxing-and-euthanasia epic, "Million Dollar Baby." Roger Ebert raised the issue in several columns, attacking my decision to mention the movie's crucial assisted-suicide theme as "unforgivable." Maureen Dowd portrayed me as a witless censor (and even coined a new word, "Medvedized") while suggesting that consistency demanded my objection to classic suicide scenes in Shakespeare. Frank Rich berated me as a leader of "the usual gang of ayatollahs" in a column titled "How Dirty Harry Turned Commie," comparing my criticism of Eastwood's film to the lunacy of the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating 10-year-old Shirley Temple in 1938. In more than a dozen other commentaries, from the Los Angeles Times to the Houston Chronicle, outraged observers expressed not only disagreement but denunciation of my unpopular position as a skeptic regarding one of the most absurdly over-praised movies in recent Hollywood history.

In other words, the critics don't engage in a reasoned debate on the issue that had Medved all worked up. Rather, in typical fashion they simply attack the person who raised the issue.

February 16, 2005

Harry Reid is not a very good liar

CNSNews, regarding Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's response to President Bush's resubmission of 20 judicial nominees yesterday:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had some "interesting, if inaccurate" things to say about President Bush's judicial nominees on Tuesday, a Republican Senate staffer said.

In an exchange with reporters, Reid was asked whether Democrats have decided to oppose the men and women President Bush re-nominated for federal judgeships on Monday.

"Re-nomination is not the key," Reid responded. "I think the question is those judges that have already been turned down in the Senate. And unless there's something that is new that I'm not aware of with each of these men and women, we will vote the same way we did in the past."

But Reid is wrong, said Don Stewart, the communications director for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

"None of President Bush's judicial nominees has 'been turned down in the Senate,'" Stewart noted. "The nominees Reid referred to were denied a vote altogether -- despite the fact that they all had (and have) bipartisan majority support."

Sen. Cornyn and other Republicans have said that all Bush's nominees would be confirmed -- if Democrats would just allow an up-or-down vote by the full Senate.

"It's a little difficult to 'turn down' a nominee if he or she never gets an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor," Stewart said in a press release.

February 15, 2005

W is ready to rumble on judicial nominations

Back in December the president announced that he was planning to resubmit the names of 20 judges who through questionable parliamentary maneuvers by Senate Democrats were denied up-or-down votes in the last Congress. Bush's decision was good news, but proponents of W's nominees were understandably sobered by the memory of linguini-spined Senate Republicans letting the minority party run roughshod over them.

Further encouraging news came in January when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist publicly announced the majority party's willingness to invoke a certain rules change to prevent further shenanigans by the minority party.

Now, it looks like everyone is primed for battle, because the president yesterday formally resubmitted the list of 20.

Sen. Frist -- NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER! Pretty please?

Reuters maligns liberal jurors

A Feb. 14 Reuters article indicates an interesting difference in potential jury-selection strategies for the upcoming child molestation trial of Michael Jackson:

Legal experts say prosecutors will look for jurors who are older, conservative, less taken with celebrity, willing to accept authority and appalled by child molestation.

Jackson's attorneys may look for more liberal jurors who have advanced degrees and are critical thinkers who question authority.

There are a lot of ways to compare these lists, but as Best of the Web notes (third item), Reuters seems to give the impression that the liberal jurors are less likely to be appalled by child molestation.

Subway has good sandwiches, but their ads turn my stomach

Time for a little pet-peeve rant on a subject brought to my attention once again by a lunchtime commercial.

Since about the time Subway sandwich shops started promoting healthy eating (via their mascot, Jared), their ads have used outrageously misleading comparisons to persuade us that their stuff is healthier than the stuff sold by other fast food chains.

Their strategy, repeated ad nauseam, is to pit one of Subway's healthiest products against their competition's least healthy product.

"Wait a minute! Are you telling me that Subway's 6-inch Turkey Breast sandwich has less fat than McDonald's Big Mac?? Clearly, Subway has a more healthy menu than McDonald's does!"

You know that's the thought they want to leave in your mind. That's why they didn't compare their tuna deli sandwich (31 fat grams) with the Big Mac (30 fat grams).

Yeah, yeah.... I know: MISLEADING ADVERTISING! STOP THE PRESSES! Aren't there more important things in life than fretting over the way that a business hooks gullible customers?

Well, sure there are. Still, the fact that they're being so obvious about it really kills any appetite I might have for their products, healthy or not.

Okay, I'm done. You can go back to whatever it is you're supposed to be doing.

February 13, 2005

Dean lives up to his billing, right out of the gates

It was only a few days ago that I was wondering what effect Howard Dean would have on the Dems once he got elected to the DNC chairmanship. It appears that he has wasted no time preaching a message that will serve only to pull the Dem base even further to the left. The Washington Post tagged along as he paid court to many of the special interest groups (or "caucuses") that form his base -- GLBTs, blacks, seniors, feminists, Indians, Asian Pacific Islanders, Hispanics. Read the whole article to see how Dean is ready to be the answer to the prayers of each of these groups. Left unsaid is the fact that the Democratic Party is a coalition of innumerable special interests whose goals often conflict with one another. Dean, by promising to be all things to all interest groups, is setting himself up for disaster, because each of these groups will hold him accountable for his promises to them, even if it means reneging on promises made to other groups.

In his remarks to these groups, Dean proved that he was still in his element:
"You are among the most persecuted people in the history of mankind," Dean tells his first audience, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.


"We Democrats don't pay enough attention to our core groups," Dean says [to the African American Caucus], and half the room nods in agreement. He takes a comment from a woman who says blacks didn't receive enough resources from the DNC last year. "Show me the money," she tells Dean.

"I'm gonna show you the money," he assures her. "And I'm gonna show you the responsibility, too." Applause.

He surveys the crowd of 150 crammed into the room. "You think the RNC could get this many people of color into a single room?" he marvels. "Maybe if they got the hotel staff in there."

I can't remember -- was McAuliffe this bad? More importantly for today, do the Dems really want this to be the image their leader is projecting?

(Credit: The Corner)

February 12, 2005

Miracle baby aborted three times, yet born alive

The Sunday Times (UK), Feb. 13:
A BABY survived at least three attempts to abort it from the womb and was born alive at 24 weeks old.

The boy was delivered in hospital after his 24- year-old mother changed her mind about wanting the child after feeling it move on the way home from an abortion clinic.

Although the clinic had told her an ultrasound scan had confirmed the child was dead, she went into labour that afternoon and the boy was born alive.

Now two years old and healthy, he is the first long-term abortion survivor to have been born so prematurely. His remarkable entrance into the world is documented in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The mother had not realised she was going to have a baby until 22 weeks into the pregnancy and felt that she could not cope with a second child. She was given a series of abortion drugs over four days at a private clinic.

After birth the child was rushed to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit where he was on a ventilator for 7 weeks. He fought off several life-threatening infections and suffered from severe lung disease for his first six months. He was allowed home after seven months of treatment.

I'm happy that the mother had a change of heart, and that it didn't come too late for the child. Part of me wants to yell at her for trying to kill the baby in the first place, but instead I wish her and her kids a happy, healthy life.

Meaningless symbolism over substance in the war against drug abuse

In our family's weeklong bout with the flu, we used up most of the medications we had, so today, even though I'm still not completely recovered, I drove over to Wal-Mart so I could restock.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that different family members have their favorite brands when it comes to relieving cold/flu symptoms. My wife prefers a combination: Tylenol for aches and fever, Robitussin DM for cough and chest congestion, and Benadryl-D for head congestion and runny nose. Not being a really patient guy on matters like this, I prefer a one-shot deal that covers all of these areas: Vicks 44M.

At Wal-Mart I grabbed another bottle of 44M and two boxes of Benadryl-D (my wife has persistent allergies, so she goes through a box of Benadryl pretty quickly even in the absence of the flu). At the register, however, I was told that I was limited to two items containing pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in Sudafed).

This restriction, of course, is a reaction to the fact that pseudoephedrine is used in the production of methamphetamines, the abuse of which is a growing problem. (Aside: According to the article linked in this paragraph, the pseudoephedrine must come in tablet form in order for it to be extracted for meth production -- a fact which Wal-Mart does not take into account when including liquid Vicks 44M in the restrictions).

So why am I complaining? Why not accept a little inconvenience if it will foil attempts to buy pseudoephedrine in sufficient quantities to allow meth production?

Well, for starters, policies like Wal-Mart's do virtually nothing to prevent such purchases by drug abusers. Anybody clever enough to set up a meth lab is also clever enough to know that Wal-Mart can't prevent someone from taking a few friends along, using multiple checkout lines to make the necessary purchases. If I had desired, I could have put my bags in the car, gone back in, and bought two more packages without running afoul of Wal-Mart's safeguards.

I don't mean to pick on Wal-Mart; many store chains have similar restrictions. My point is that such restrictions are a Maginot Line in the war against drug abuse. Stores can brag that they're Doing Something About It, when all they're really doing is being a pain to people who have no intention of abusing these products.

Answering a critic

The first comment in this post rolls out a typical laundry list of attacks on President Bush. It looks like the writer is just trolling, but I decided that I would pretend it was intended as sincere criticism. For convenience's sake, here is the comment, followed by my reply:
I see nothing conservative about the current President. In fact he represents the worst of the Republican and Democratic Parties.

He has increased size and continues to do so in Federal Government. He has no clue with regards to fiscal policy. How can someone call this idiot a conservative? Bill Clinton was far more conservative in his policies when compared to W.

He manipulated the radical religous right to get re-elected, similar to how Public Enemy Number #1 Osama Bin Ladin utilized the Taliban to support his political agendas.

The closest party his policies could be associated with is that of the Nazi Party.
I will grant you this -- many of Bush's actions and policies have been very offensive to me, such as his support for a Medicare prescription drug benefit and his support for McCain-Feingold. His expansion of the federal government is a legitimate issue; constitutionalists and conservatives of good conscience should not give him a free pass on these things just because they like the other things he's doing.

However, these issues pale in significance when compared with the most significant issue of our generation -- the war on terror. The president has proven himself to be the right man at the right time -- he understands clearly what is at stake, he understands clearly what is to be done, and he has shown again and again his determination to stay the course despite unrelenting reactionary attacks from the likes of you.

As for Bill Clinton, anything that came out of his administration that appeared conservative was done for one of two reasons: (1) He was maneuvered into doing so by the GOP congress (and didn't want to pay the political price of opposing it)-- example: welfare reform; (2) He was unusually gifted at neutralizing the opposition by stealing their issues and remolding them to suit his own agenda. Bush, alas, has also used this strategy quite a few times (e.g. education 'reform').

However, you are naive if you think he (or Darth Rove) manipulated Christian conservatives into supporting him. While there is disagreement over how his faith should be acted out in the public square (e.g. whether the fedgov should be in the compassion business at all), there is no doubt that his faith is real, and that his faith is more in line with that of the Christian right than it is with the Christian (or otherwise religious) left.

Re: your final sentence, that's such a tired old throwaway line, not to mention an example of life imitating humor posts. Rather than try to rebut it, instead I'll ask you: Would you care to support your claim that Bush's policies are consistent with those of Germany's National Socialists?

Again, yours was most likely just a trolling post, but if you care to engage in a civil discussion of the issues, then let's have at it.

February 11, 2005

OT: Family down with the flu

Here's how I'm feeling right now:

I've been away from the blog for most of the week because of this, and that has allowed some poor, misguided souls to leave unchallenged comments here and here. Hope to be up and running again soon.

UPDATE (2/12): I finally have some replies posted here, here and here.

February 8, 2005

Who is fit to lead the Party of Hate?

Howard Dean, who told a Manhattan audience last month "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for", appears now to be a shoo-in for the DNC chairmanship. To their credit, the Democratic elite fought his ascension, preferring a more nuanced hatred of all things Republican, but none of their alternate candidates were able to gain any traction. From the GOP's perspective, Dean's coup is a gift. It's theoretically possible that Dean would lead the party in a more moderate direction, but nobody on either side is expecting that. Instead, it appears that either he will pull the Dems even more to the Left, or the party will splinter into warring factions.

Courts v. The People

James Taranto traces the evolution of the "right to privacy" in the 40 years since its spontaneous generation from the legal primordial soup. Here are the key milestones:
  • 1965 - In Griswold v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supremes were startled to discover that the Constitution was teeming with "penumbras and emanations" that had somehow escaped notice for almost two centuries. Among these was the heretofore-unknown-yet-fundamental constitutional right to marital privacy. On the basis of this, Connecticut was told it could no longer ban the sale of contraceptives to married couples. At this point, the official presumption was that only married couples would need them.
  • 1972 - In Eisenstadt v. Baird, the sexual revolution finally stormed the halls of the highest court, and the Supremes clarified their Griswold decision: "Did we say marital privacy? What we meant to say was reproductive privacy." -- thus discovering the heretofore-unknown-yet-fundamental right of unmarried couples to obtain and use contraceptives.
  • 1973 - In Roe v. Wade, the Supremes were startled to discover that "reproductive privacy" included the heretofore-unknown-yet-fundamental right of women to kill their unborn children.
  • 1986 - In Bowers v. Hardwick, the court missed a beat, somehow failing to overturn Texas' homosexual sodomy law.
  • 1992 - In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court not only upheld Roe, but in Taranto's words they also asserted "a new, breathtakingly expansive formulation of the right to privacy," one which made the succeeding milestone all but inevitable.
  • 2003 - In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supremes looked back on their Casey decision, observed that the "right to privacy" had come to mean whatever they wanted it to mean, and took the step they had declined to take in the 1986 Bowers decision.
This beast is still evolving. Scalia famously warned in his Lawrence dissent that Pandora's Box had been opened -- it was impossible to argue convincingly that the legal reasoning accepted by the court in this decision could not be applied to homosexual marriage, polygamy, and a host of other things. Indeed, Lawrence is already being cited in cases across the fruited plain where plaintiffs are seeking to mainstream just about everything our culture considers to be deviant.

And herein, says Taranto, is the real issue. The courts, in forcing these cultural changes on an unwilling public, are acting as politicians, but without the accountability that politicians face. Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. To the extent that our courts are willing to step outside the constitutional limits of their power, they are ruling unjustly.

UPDATE: David Limbaugh has a review of Mark Levin's new book, Men in Black, which examines in detail how the courts have exceeded their constitutional mandate. For example:
Levin reveals how the Court, through its obscenely expansive interpretations of the Commerce Clause, gave the federal government the extra-constitutional power to regulate wholly internal matters of the states and their citizens. And by creating constitutional rights out of whole cloth, such as the federal right to privacy, the Court has virtually robbed the states of their sovereignty and severely reduced the power of the people to govern themselves through their duly elected representatives.

February 7, 2005

Audacious Arnold takes on the incumbent-protection racket

California has long been considered politically unreformable, but that isn't stopping Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger from trying. John Fund reports that he is engineering a showdown with the overwhelmingly-Democrat state legislature over his goal of depoliticizing the congressional redistricting process.

The art of gerrymandering has been refined to the point that politicians can, in Fund's words, "select the voters they want, rather than citizens choosing their representatives." The Democrats and Republicans had a wink-wink agreement in the last round of redistricting that preserved every single incumbent in the state legislature, and ensured that no open seats changed parties.

The governor's plan calls for stripping the legislature of the redistricting task, and placing the responsibility on a commission of retired judges (none of whom have ever served in elected office). The commission's mandate would be to draw districts that are as compact as possible, and which don't unnecessarily split cities and counties. Read Fund's article for more details.

Fund concludes thus:
In tackling redistricting, Mr. Schwarzenegger faces a daunting political challenge. Five times in the past, voters have rejected redistricting reform, including similar commissions. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown boasted in the 1980s about his ability to put what he called a "con job" over on the voters by convincing them that redistricting reform would harm the environment and workers' rights. Early polls show voters favor the governor's plan by only 46% to 40%.

But redistricting reform has never had a proponent with the stature and tenacity of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has previously demonstrated his ability to take esoteric subjects such as workmen's compensation law and turn them into populist battering rams. Look for a lot of nervous incumbents to start attacking the concept over the next six weeks as Arnold's Army of signature collectors turn Costco and Wal-Mart stores into recruitment centers for an epic political battle in California this fall.

Grab some popcorn. This may end up being one for the ages.

Globalism may be good for business, but not for government

Mark Steyn does a masterful job of getting to the real issue of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal:
[...] what happened was utterly predictable. If I had $64 billion of my own money, I'd look after it carefully. But give someone $64 billion of other people's money to "process" and it would be surprising if some of it didn't get peeled off en route. Especially if that $64 billion gives you access to a unique supply of specially low-priced oil you can re-sell at market prices. Hire Third World bureaucrats to supervise the "processing" and you can kiss even more of it goodbye. Grant Saddam Hussein the right of approval over the bank that will run the scheme, and it's clear to all that nit-picky book-keeping will not be an overburdensome problem.
One of the foundational tenets of my constitutionalist philosophy is "subsidiarity" -- the idea that any legitimate function of government should be conducted at the lowest possible level of government that makes sense (and, of course, illegitimate functions of government wouldn't be conducted at all!). The closer a given level of government is to the governed, the more accountable that level of government will be to the governed, and the less likely that these functions will be tainted by corruption (if the governed happen to be paying attention, which I admit is not necessarily a given).

Steyn suggests that this principle helps to explain why financial scandals in the UN are pretty much inevitable:
This is the transnational system, working as it usually works, just a little more so. One of the reasons I'm in favour of small government is because big government tends to be remote government, and remote government is unaccountable, and, as a wannabe world government, the UN is the remotest and most unaccountable of all. If the sentimental utopian blather ever came true and we wound up with one "world government", from an accounting department point of view, the model will be Nigeria rather than New Hampshire.
The whole article is worth the read.

Apparently there is no shortage of suckers in this world

If anything, the number of e-mails related to the Nigerian 419 scam is increasing. I received three of them this weekend on my work e-mail account. You'd think the word would have gotten out by now about this scheme for separating fools from their money (which turns out to be the third largest industry in Nigeria), but evidently the scammers still consider it worth the effort.

February 3, 2005

The slope just got a little more slippery

From Expatica News:
AMSTERDAM — A Dutch pro-euthanasia group has launched an investigation into claims that doctors are trying to avoid performing requested euthanasia or are continually delaying carrying out the request.
You read it right. In Holland, doctors are getting into trouble for refusing to kill their patients.

Wacky Jacques Chirac's social security plan for the world's corrupt governments

French president Jacques Chirac is putting forth his vision for a global war on poverty, which he almost certainly sees as a counterproposal to U.S. president Bush's vision for a global war on tyranny.

Chirac believes that the UN's goal to cut global poverty in half by 2015 can be accomplished if everybody agrees to his proposal for a tax on international financial transactions. Money collected through such a tax (or, more precisely, whatever is left after the UN deducts various administrative costs) would be used for "development aid" to poorer countries.

As is usual with wealth distribution schemes, Chirac's proposal simply ignores the real problem underlying much of the world's severe poverty -- systemic government corruption and lack of fundamental rights (such as the right to private property) in these countries.

Bush's "war" against the tyrants of the earth will go farther toward ameliorating poverty than will any scheme that merely pours money into the treasuries of these tyrants.

February 2, 2005

That's no soldier, it's a doll! I mean an action figure! I mean...

Special-Ops Cody, described by Best of the Web (second item) as a "vertically challenged inanimate-American", has been rescued, according to Scott Ott:
Just hours after Islamic militants in Iraq threatened to behead a kidnapped U.S. soldier doll, the camouflaged action figure was rescued in a daring nighttime operation by a toy George W. Bush action figure.

The nine-inch-tall replica of the president left Andrews Air Force Base in a scale model of Air Force One within minutes after the Pentagon learned of the kidnapping from a picture on an Islamic website.