July 31, 2005

Shattered Lives

from - smijer

It is my expressed hope that followers of the fundamentalist leaders will come to witness the harm that comes from the kind of thinking espoused by those leaders. I've pointed to examples before. Now, via Tennessee Guerilla Women, I bring your attention to the testimony of one of the founders of the "ex-gay" organization that is currently holding teen Zach Stark against his will. The article by Wayne Besen and the full text of the letter by John Evans are here. From the letter:

We as born again Christians believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. We Basically agree on the fundamentals of salvation. I've been a born again Christian for over 50 years and I've noticed Christians reading the same scriptural passages, yet arriving at different personal interpretations regarding moral issues. Some of these issues that have divided Christians within recent years have been slavery, women's rights, the Charismatic movement and other issues, including divorce.

Within my lifetime, I've known members of my own family being asked to leave churches they had attended for years over issues of divorce and re-marriage, yet later welcomed back when a different interpretation of scripture was explained.

[...]

I just returned from the 25th annual Conference of Evangelicals Concerned, a group of gay Christians who know that it is possible to be both gay and Christian. In the past 30 years since leaving the "ex-gay" ministry I have seen nothing but shattered lives, depression and even suicide among those connected with the "ex-gay" movement.

As for Zach, who is being held in Memphis for re-education (or re-orientation as the case may be) by Evan's former organization... The article makes analogy to "Message in a Bottle" in Zach's last blog postings before being sent away. When he returns to see the comments in his blog and the concern around the blogosphere, I guess he'll be singing, "woke up this morning; couldn't believe what I saw; a hundred million bottles washed up on the shore;"

By their fruit ye shall know them, right? When you find your ideals are causing people harm, don't you think it's time you took a step back and did some re-evaluating?

Posted by smijer at 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

July 30, 2005

Frist, Stem Cells, and Value Voters

from - smijer

Hearing the news yesterday that Bill Frist has decided to support expansion of funding for stem cell research was as shocking to me as hearing Bush support gay marriage or present a balanced budget would have been. I haven't quite figured out what Bill is up to with this, but I have a couple of guesses. If I may be permitted to speculate...

Scenario 1: Frist has reflected on the issue, and decided to support stem cell research as a matter of conscience. Personally, I don't give him that much credit. If he had a conscience, he wouldn't have practiced the worst form of medical quackery on the Senate floor. And, he probably wouldn't have killed all those cats.

Scenario 2: Frist has his finger in the wind, and recognizes something that the Bush and others higher up in the party do not. James Dobson said, "he has gravely miscalculated. To push for the expansion of this suspect and unethical science will be rightly seen by America's values voters as the worst kind of betrayal -- choosing politics over principle." But, would Frist make such a calculation if he wasn't sure to win votes for it? Perhaps Dobson is overstating the opposition to stem cell research from "values voters" (I hate this term. I vote my values, not James Dobson's. That should make me at least as much a "values voter" as any Church Lady who votes straight Republican ticket). Perhaps Frist knows that the "values voters" (and Republicans generally) aren't on board with SpongeDob's stem cell agenda, and perhaps he's calling that bluff.

From personal observations, the Religious Right is uniformly opposed to embryonic stem cell research, but not zealously so. Only a relative few crackpots go to the extreme of setting up adoption agencies for frozen embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics. It may be more difficult than Dobson and Bush realize to mobilize voters around rescuing the thousands of embryos that are discarded regularly by these clinics. It may be that Frist is calculating this move to distance himself from the religious right on a low-fallout issue in order to reassure the rest of the Republican base, which may be getting the jitters about the direction the fundies are taking their party. It may even be that Frist is the first rat off of a sinking ship... he may perceive a schism between the fundies on one side and the fiscal and neo- cons on the other. He may be putting his money on the fiscal and neo's hoping to get their support in what would utlimately be a very messy 2008 primary.

Scenario 3: Frist has a pie-in-the-sky scheme cooked up. The money quote for this scenario is:

'Embryonic stem-cell research should be encouraged and supported, but . . . it should advance in a manner that affords all human life dignity and respect, the same dignity and respect we bring to the table as we work with children and adults to advance the frontiers of medicine and health.

So, does Frist have a crackpot unorthodox scientist whispering into his ear about the possibility of extracting embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo?

So... what's your guess?

Posted by smijer at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2005

An honorable goal?

from - Buck

Universal democracy?

Hell, we may wind up knowing how a sheep feels when two wolves decide what to have for supper.

Be careful what you asked for because you just might get it.

Posted by Buck at 08:47 AM | Comments (7)

Outdoor Doggy

from - smijer

chinadog.jpg


The Ark.

Posted by smijer at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)

I Love Aggregators

from - smijer

If I knew who was responsible for these two news feed aggregators, I would hug their neck.

What's New with UU?

This one is just what the doctor ordered. When I started trying to collect UU blogs for a UU section of the blogroll, I found there was no way to include all of the good ones, and all of the ones who update regularly, while still having time to check them all for interesting new posts. Problem solved. I check the aggregator twice a day, get a preview of all the recent posts, and read the posts that look particularly interesting. I find great posts like this one.

Rocky Top Brigade

As the RTB blogroll has become unmanageably large, this new page by Johnny Dobbins is indispensable.

Then there's my old standby, Google News. Speaking of GN, there are a couple of pieces of good news up this morning. Granted, it's not really new news by the time I found them this morning, but good nonetheless: the IRA renounces violence, and Muslim clerics denounce terrorism. (Does this meant that their causes are doomed?)

'Course, all three of these news aggregators are in my blogroll... so click away, any time.

Posted by smijer at 07:07 AM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2005

While We're Bustin' on Boortz

from - smijer

It's been a while since I even clicked over to read the Nuze... I know - I'm a slacker. It used to be kind of fun to check in to see what kind of new hysteria Boortz was peddling each day. Unfortunately, his repertoire doesn't go very deep. Soon, it was like watching Mama's Family.

But, since Buck brought it up, I read through today's column. I couldn't help but notice him giving high praise to British law enforcement for their work after the London bombings, sandwiched between his anti-Islamic raving:

In finding this car so quickly after the 7/7 bombings, the London cops seem to have stopped a second wave of attacks. This is the take-no-prisoners style of anti-terrorism policing the entire world could learn from. There's no appeasement going on in Britain these days, that's for sure.

Wow - such enthusiasm. So, is this a flip-flop? Or has Boortz just had a change of heart since he violently condemned the approach of using law enforcement to combat the terrorist threat?

And ... possibly most important of all ... we have a Democratic candidate who wants to treat Islamic terrorism as a law enforcement problem. Now war on terror ... just stepped-up law enforcement. That was the approach Bill Clinton used after the first attack on the World Trade Towers in 1993. We all know where that got us.

Just goes to show, for some folks, you do need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...

Posted by smijer at 11:44 AM | Comments (10)

Chattanooga anti-Boortz?

from - Buck

Hey Smijer, what did you guys do to Boortz up there?

And one other thing that has been bother me a bit lately. If a suicide bomber leaves bombs in the trunk of his car exactly who was supposed to plant them on a train later? Why not just leave them at the apartment?

Also, ABC News is reporting that the plot for the July 7 bombings may have been larger, after 16 unexploded devices were found in one of the attacker's trunks.

And don't miss the supposed actual sign posted in a London train station on the Boortz page today. I doubt its authenticity because after all, how do you determine whether or not you "look a bit foreign"? I guess in London being on time has taken on a whole new meaning.

Posted by Buck at 09:08 AM | Comments (2)

The clouds silver lining

from - Buck

Well, the next time we see Dick Cheney with a big smile on his face at least we will know why.

Posted by Buck at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2005

I Love This

from - smijer

Sorry do a complete ripoff from a Kos diary, but this is fantastic. From the judge sentencing Ahmed Rassan:

The message I would hope to convey in today's sentencing is twofold:

First, that we have the resolve in this country to deal with the subject of terrorism and people who engage in it should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in confinement.

Secondly, though, I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.

Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel. {emphasis switzer's}

The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism.

Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We will be in recess.

District Judge John C. Coughenour is the kind of justice who makes me continue to be proud to be an American during this dark time in our history.

Posted by smijer at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

Rules? What rules?

from - Buck

Frist may be amoral but he is loyal to his President.

By delaying action on the legislation, possibly into September, Frist put off potentially embarrassing defeats for President Bush.

Maybe he'll get to sit at the head of the table at the next Crawford barbecue.

In support of his amendment, McCain read from a July 22 letter signed by 14 retired military officers, including Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, and Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, the Navy's judge advocate general from 1997 to 2000.

"The abuse of prisoners hurts America's cause in the war on terror, endangers U.S. service members who might be captured by the enemy and is anathema to the values Americans have held dear for generations," the letter stated.

Duh!

Posted by Buck at 08:48 AM | Comments (4)

Risk 2000

from - smijer

As a teenager, and even as an adult, I have enjoyed the board game, Risk, where little plastic armies are deployed in an 18th century style bid to rule the world. Ah, for the simple days when Empire was a simple matter of a Ghengis, Elizabeth, Philip, or Napolean, bringing out their armies and armadas and colonizing the world.

Since World War II, however, things have been quite a bit more murky. Sure, we still have the occasional ourtright annexation or occupation. But, since 1950, when China did it with Tibet, we can't call it that any more. Now it's "liberation". More important than this to the prospect of Empire, is the strategic deployment of military bases in pursuit of regional hegemony. Under the new rules, keeping military bases open on foreign soil (while not allowing foreign military bases on one's own soil, and trying to prevent them in one's "sphere of influence") is the name of the game.

At the start of the Afghan war, the Kremlin acquiesced to the establishment of temporary American bases in Central Asia, experts say, largely because Russian leaders fully understood the threat Islamic militants posed in the region. But Moscow has grown wary of a U.S. military presence in Central Asia, a region it wants firmly under its wing.

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are former Soviet republics.

"In 2001, there was a sense that Russia was incapable of providing security for Central Asia," said Ivan Safranchuk, an analyst with the Center for Defense Information in Moscow. "But Russian leaders always had this nightmare scenario: What if the U.S. did not leave? What if they deceive us and stay in Central Asia for much longer than planned?"

Russia now appears poised to ratchet up its own military presence in Central Asia. Russian military leaders say they may double their forces at the Russian air base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan, where 500 troops are stationed. The Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported earlier this month that Karimov's government had signaled its readiness to allow Russia to establish airfields at up to 10 locations in southern Uzbekistan.

After the government crackdown on demonstrators in Andijan, Russia and China leapt to Karimov's side, backing his explanation that Uzbek soldiers fired only at armed demonstrators. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization's call for the U.S. to set a deadline for its use of the bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan drew sharp criticism from Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accused Russia and China of "trying to bully" Central Asian governments.

"Russia and China are clearly trying to oust the U.S. so they can establish their own military protectorate over the area," said Stephen Blank, a professor at the U.S. Army War College.

Time for Parker Brothers to release a new edition of the game, don't you think?

Posted by smijer at 08:11 AM | Comments (3)

July 26, 2005

When in the course of human events…

from - Buck

Don’t know if ya’ll have seen it yet but the draft of the Constitution of Iraq makes for some fascinating reading.

Justin Raimondo gives a great synopsis. It does look like the freedom we are supposedly fighting for is not exactly the freedom we are going to give.

Do you really think that at the end of the day all of this will have been worth 700 billion dollars?

Do you reckon 700 billion dollars will actually cover the costs?

I find myself growing tired of the discussion.

I think I might start paying much more attention to stories like this one.

Our foreign policy would have already killed me if I were a drinking man.

Posted by Buck at 03:45 PM | Comments (3)

Appreciation

from - smijer

Just saw the Discovery go up... fast... very nice. I wish they would drop by and fix the Hubble while they were up there. And I hope they come back down safely.

Posted by smijer at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

American Slave Narratives

from - smijer

This fascinating. I read Andy J. Anderson's narrative in its entirety. Listening to the language is enough to keep my interest, apart from the stories themselves... listen:

"I's not realize wat I's am in fo' 'til aftah I's stahted, but 'cose I's couldn't tu'n back. Fo' to tu'n back m'ybe mean a whuppin' an' to go on means dangah f'om de Patter Rollers. Dere I's was, but I's kep' on gwine. De Patter Roller's duties am to watch fo' de nigger dat am widout de pass. No nigger am s'posed to be off his Marster's place 'less he have de statement f'om him. If de Patters catch me, deys would give me a whuppin' an' took me back to de Marster. Well, him am already mad over w'at I's says an' I's 'spected a whuppin' dere, so dis nigger am in a perdicklement.

P.S. Have a quick look at the top of the top page... See that thing called "openest thread"? It's for posting links about things that are interesting enough to share, or just for spouting off. Don't be shy about using it...

Time for work.

Posted by smijer at 08:23 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

I said I will and I have

from - Buck

It has been said that a day off is normally followed by an off day. Well I have found that a week off is followed by an off week. My first week back from vacation was a disaster at work. Trying to figure out who wants what and when they want it has been a challenge. It is hard to focus on global disasters when the local disasters are mounting up all around. I hope that by the end of this week I will be back in the groove.

Today is my 24th wedding anniversary. 24 years ago today I said “I do” at Henderson Falls Park in the stifling heat and humidity that only a late July day can bring. When I think back on it I am always amused at how young and ill prepared my wife and I both were back in those days. We had no idea what we were getting into but I guess it is true that ignorance is bliss.

Now here I am watching my grown daughters start to toy with the idea of leaving the nest and start the creation of their own worlds. All you can do is encourage them to wait until they have finished their education and try to help them understand that married life is no crystal stair. But even at that I would not have it any other way. My wife is my rock and my shelter from the storm. I do not now nor have I ever deserved her. She is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. I work hard to keep her from regretting her decision. I have never regretted mine.

Posted by Buck at 08:41 AM | Comments (3)

Sickness in Government

from - smijer

Wouldn't it just be great if the only time GWB used his veto power in his entire two terms was to protect the 'right' to torture? I feel sick. Hunter said it best:

I think it's time to invent some new swearing, because there isn't anything currently in the language that fully encompasses the White House's unapologetic attempts to ensure the Bush administration's own crafted and approved "interrogation" policies be allowed to continue unhindered. Yes, according to the Bush administration, any attempts by Republican senators to legislate against, say, the sodomizing of detained children are unduly infringing on the president's fight against terrorists.

Later...

Posted by smijer at 07:56 AM | Comments (1)

July 24, 2005

Faith-based, Reality-based... I call BS; OR Lead With Conscience and Reason, Let Tradition Follow

from - smijer

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. - Proverbs 14:12
(Bear with the political intro... this really is a Sunday Churchy post...)

As poorly as Bush's sanctimonious "faith based initiatives" sat with me,

As much as I get the joke about "faith based" foreign policy,

As much as I loathe the Administration's practice of subordinating science to politics,

...the whole "reality-based" meme current in liberal circles never set right with me, either.

I think I may have sorted out why that is. First, a few more words on "faith-based". It's a misnomer, especially the way it is used by the White House, describing funding for religious charities. The qualifying feature of the recipients of these funds is not their faith, but rather the object of their faith: namely religious traditions, mainly those that center on God. There are oodles of organizations and individuals who are guided in their humanitarian work by faith... sometimes it is religious faith, other times faith in the positive side of human nature, or just optimistic faith that work can bring about a better world. They don't qualify. Those who do share only the distinction of having faith in a tradition.

Let us be clear on another point: members of certain religious traditions express faith in "God', or "Christ", or some other supreme being. That's well and good as an expression. But, the truth behind it is that their faith in these beings is perfectly equivalent to their faith in the religious traditions that center on them. Certain individuals profess a "personal relationship" with God, or having "met" or "found" Christ. And those are fine expressions within their tradition. But, the stark truth is that everything they know of God or Christ, or whatever, comes either directly from their religious tradition, or from their experiences in the world interpreted in light of that tradition. Certainly they have those experiences - be it a miraculous seeming reprieve from some horrible fate, or be it a profound sense of peace, joy, comfort, or calling, that they consider direct experiences with God. But absent a religious tradition for interpreting (or even producing) those experiences, they have only the same ineffable experiences all humans have. So, the experiences themselves are only "God" insofar as there is a religion handy for interpeting them as such. I say all of this, because I don't want anyone reading to think that this doesn't apply to them, because their faith is in God rather than in a religious tradition. I hope you, the reader, will acknowledge that your Holy Books and your churches are instruments of tradition. I hope you, the reader, will acknowledge that you believe the Bible to be God's Word, if you do,... because of religious tradition. I hope you will acknowledge these things at least, whether or not you take to heart my suggestion that tradition isn't the best or only source of beliefs and values, and my advice to subordinate tradition to reason and conscience in guiding your views on public policy.

Reality-based. Besides an being unabashed conceit, the term misses the important point of focus. Do liberal politicians and pundits indeed have a friendlier relationship with reality than the Bush administration and its champions? Perhaps, perhaps not. Certainly when we feel supported by the facts, as best they can be understood, we are very keen on them. But the rest of the time, our relationship with the truth is only as good as our commitment to objectivity, to reason and observation, and to rigorous thinking. To keep this thing brief enough for a sound-bite let's just say that we strive to be the "reason-based" community, OK?

Then, there's this whole other issue - values. On the one hand, we have "traditional" values. On the other, we have "progressive", "humanistic", or "secular" values. It's my personal view that tradition serves much better as a guide to values than it does as a guide to reality. And yet I assert that tradition cannot rightly be the end-all of values. As Emerson stated so forcefully in his great essay, Self Reliance, "He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world." Values must be informed by all of the devices of conscience: tradition, yes as far as it can apply, but more important still are empathy, compassion, hope, and the courage to defy or re-invent tradition when these other qualities conspire to reveal a great fault in it.

The faith-based community, in my experience, puts a lot of stock in the passage of scripture at the top of this post from Proverbs. In effect, what they are saying is that God's thoughts trump "man's" thoughts. Maybe so. But in the final analysis what they are really saying is that tradition, the prime source of human beliefs about God - trumps the rest of human thinking about reality and values. They are trying to convince one another and themselves that a firm enough faith in traditions about God and their Holy Books will allow them to know the mind of God, and to be able to act upon the basis of God's wisdom rather than their own. Unfortunately, since tradition is a human practice, their efforts are undermined. Like it or not, human wisdom is all we posess - we cannot bootstrap ourselves to a share of God's wisdom, even by reading the book tradition holds to be God's Word. So there is a way that seems right to a [person], and maybe the end thereof really are the ways of death (nobody in recorded history has made it out alive, you know)... but that may just be our lot in life. Even the "Godliest" person is following human traditions. Humans just can't avoid the ways of humans... no matter how "saved", "indwelled with the Spirit", or anything else they may become, they are still working from human traditions.

The reason I take such pains to point this out is that there is a huge barrier in religious fundamentalism to the most important task of following reason and conscience even when they seem to be at odds with "God's Word".

And, if we are ever to find a productive dialogue between people of different faith traditions and those whose faith is not placed in religious traditions, one that will advance goodness and leave sanctimoniousness behind, we must all be willing to constantly re-examine our values and the relevance of their sources. We must give religiuos tradition its due and, even those of us who do not rely on it, must acknowledge the good among those who do, but we must all be careful not to overestimate its importance - because to do so is to cause harm.

A couple of weeks ago, Alice posted a link to this story, about a child who is about to be taken away from his family for no other reason than the "tradition-based" legislation of the state of Florida. I discussed this with a conservative religious friend, hoping to persuade him that laws based more on tradition than conscience were wrong-headed. Unfortunately, he was unpersuaded. Perhaps this post will be a more effective effort at persuasion on this point, or perhaps not.

I have known a number of people who lived in families that sucked the very life out of them - families where there was abuse and neglect, and anything but familial love - who stayed for years, or indefinitely, while irreparable harm was being done to themselves and sometimes their children, mainly because they could not square the idea of divorce with their traditional values. There are parents, here in the U.S., and abroad, who have learned only poorly the power of unconditional love, acceptance and toleration towards their children and their children's growing minds, because their traditions taught them that strictness in discipline was the most important parenting tool (in fact, I have at times been guilty of this myself, and the harm from it was no small thing). There are other kinds of harm that come from deifying a faith tradition. There is a kind of cultivated ignorance that "Creation Scientists" have created becaue they feel their traditions threatened by scientific investigations in to the origins of modern life forms. Perhaps this harm is not so great as that which tears children from families or drives gay teens to suicide, but it should certainly be avoided if possible.

We must realize that we are all, religious or not, just people doing our best to understand and solve the problems that confront us. We use the tools at our disposal - conscience, compassion, reason, and tradition. Not one of us speaks for God or has any objective evidence of what God would wish - we only have human tradition. If we keep that in the forefront of our minds, and are careful to lead with consicence and reason, and let tradition follow us - especially when we see harm coming from too much reliance on tradition - then we will be able to build a better place for all of us. This is my call to everyone to come together, whether liberal or conservative, whether "tradition-based" or "reason-based", to introspect on the quality of our values, and to be sure that we are employing all of the tools that we can use to make sure those values are placed well, and that our work truly brings good instead of harm.

I'll just climb down from the pulpit now... take your turn up there if you like, in the comments thread.

Posted by smijer at 07:19 PM | Comments (2)

Conservatives With Brains

from - smijer

I'm not a conservative, and I don't much care for conservatism. But I have to respect people like Fareed Zakaria, no matter what their ideology. He has brains, and he's not afraid to use them. If conservative outlets, like National Review, had folks like him on staff instead of partisan shills like Jonah Goldberg, then I'd be reading a lot more conservative commentary.

Fareed recently appeared on the Daily Show. It's worth watching, if you have quicktime, courtesy of onegoodmove .

Also, it's worth reading his latest column at Newseek. I'd just as soon you start on page 2, but if you must, you can roll back to the first page. Just try to remember that "resiliency" isn't exactly identical with the Bush Doctrine of "keep shopping".

Fareed seems a lot closer than his conservative brethren to understanding the causes of, and understanding the role Muslims must play in defeating, Islamic terrorism. The neo-cons are falsely proclaime that "they hate us because we are free", and trying to convince us that they engage in terrorism "because they are just murderers", and that they are murderers because of their religion. The conservatives with brains, like Zakaria, recognize that the problem is much more that the worst elements have very cleverly and adeptly expanded their power and influence, by selling themselves as the solution to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, American or Western policy toward the mid-East and its "desecration" of Holy Lands with infidel troops. The conservatives with brains understand that changing hearts and minds means building bridges with the Islamic mainstream, and allowing the Islamic mainstream to do, of their own volition and to further their own needs, the work of marginalizing the radicals who will employ terrorist tactics.

A wonderful model can be found right here at home. Radical Christians went on a terrorist campaign against abortion clinics not so very long ago. Perhaps their timing was wrong, or perhaps, they underestimated the Christian mainstream, but the American Christians (conservative, moderate, and liberal alike - with a few exceptions) rushed to denounce their terrorism and call for their prosecution. We haven't seen the last doctor murdered, or the last clinic bombed, but so long as the Christian community willingly polices its own, the doctors, nurses, and patients will sleep much better in their beds.

All of us having so recently seen an effective solution, it's quite amazing to me that so many people are so easily persuaded that the most important course of action is to violate the sovereignty of a foreign nation, fight a bloody war, and then continue fighting a seemingly endless resistance to the occupation.

Posted by smijer at 12:11 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005

Zulu Chattanooga

from - smijer

dace1.jpgI'll be darned. I found out only this evening, and only barely in time to catch a rough half hour of the performance... but the world famous South African Ladysmith Black Mambazo singers, singing a capella in Zulu and dancing, played a free concert for Nightfall at Miller Plaza in Chattaboogie tonight. I don't know how well known they are in these parts, but there was a huge turnout to see them (to be fair, every fair weather Nightfall draws huge crowds).

They are absolutely, positively, amazing.

Their next two dates are tomorrow in Boone, NC, and Sunday in Greensboro, NC. This means you, North Carolina neighbors (I'm not pinging Screwy H, but I may spam a comment thread with a plug for the assorted yokels of Tarheel country). After that, they are leaving the U.S. for Holland.

Although the camera is now found, I didn't remember to bring it. If anyone has got photos tonight, I'd love you forever if you would share them with me. For now, a borrowed one.

Posted by smijer at 10:12 PM | Comments (2)

Unitarian Liberals Against Kelo

from - smijer

This is about right. Property "rights" are very artificial (contrary to the Randians), and they aren't quite absolute, but they are very important if individuals are going to have standing as citizens, and not just slaves of the corporation-state. The U.S. system of property rights as outlined in the fifth amendment (read without dissolving the distinction between "private" and "public" use) is pretty good. People should be doing whatever they can, through their legislators, and through judicial challenges, to restore those 5th amendment protections... with out castrating the peoples' ability to purchase land fairly when it is truly needed for public use.

Posted by smijer at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

No Animals Today

from - smijer

The good news is that critter Friday will be back next week. The camera once was lost, but now is found. That means I can't rush out and buy an expensive new camera, but that's ok... I couldn't have done that anyway.

The other good news is that you can still get your metazoan fix Goliath passed away this week. We suspect it may have been an act of rodenticide on the part of her housemate, Little John. RIP, little friend.

Oh, and I borrowed a little rhesus monkey to cute up the page in the absense of the regular Animal Blogging feature:

Rhesus Monkey.jpg

Have a nice Friday. I'll try to pop back in before the day is out with some other thoughts, if I can.

Posted by smijer at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2005

Race to save the children

from - Buck

The sight of a child sitting atop a speeding camel is frightening, to say the least.

Don'tcha just love to read the op-ed pages of a Pakistani newspaper.

How did the world ever operate without the Internet?

Posted by Buck at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Links; Eye Boogers; Thursday

from - smijer

Nice to be able to blog from home again... and to read my e-mail, and catch up on all I missed the last few days around the blogosphere. Still no new router, but I did manage to convince the old bedroom PC to pick up an IP from the cable modem: a trick I should have figured out as soon as it became clear that the router was the problem. (Reset the modem after you switch out the connection - duh).

Lots o' goodies from linkville, a couple of which even bear a comment or two from me:

Buddy Don on fitin terr.

taint bullets that kin wipe out them germs.

tiz the antibidies of better, truer idees.

P'ruse the hol thang.
...
Via Bérubé, a truly horrid and ridiculous story. Folks, get a grip.
...
Aurors in Training. (By the way, all I can say about this is, Professor Snape has a lot of explaining to do)... I can't say Half Blood Prince is the best of the series, but I can say with all honesty that it is second only to The Sorcerer's Stone.
...
The "Republican Wing" of the Republican Party is out for blood, including "my" state rep, the infamous Chris Clem of Lookout Mountain (note the first comment on BH's post). It seems that denouncing the Kelo decision, but recognizing how it is now the law of the land and recognizing that the onus is now on legislators to restore the safeguards it removed is too unstatesmanlike for someone aspiring to represent us in the Senate. More in keeping with the dignity of that body would apparently be to howl for blood and scream for revenge.
...
Ten sins of retail sprawl, and tips on beating it. Too late for Tiftonia, I fear.

Happy Thursday.

Posted by smijer at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2005

Funny

from - smijer

Bible-Man.

Posted by smijer at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Let the hearings begin

from - Buck

Wouldn't you hate to be John G. Roberts Jr right now?

For the next few weeks his life will be looked at under the glaring light and microscopic scrutiny that only 15 second sound bites can give. Every word of every sentence twisted and turned in a thousand ways depending on which side is doing the analysis.

Of course I had never heard of the man and have no idea where he stands on any issue. Concerning abortion he did once say

"The court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution

so I figure he will catch some hell for that. But I will wait and see how this pans out.

I was most impressed by the fact that when the time came to exit the podium tonight he did have enough sense to stop the President in his tracks as he allowed his wife to exit ahead of both of them. George was going to walk off and leave her standing there like a potted plant.

At least John G. Roberts Jr understands that in front of every good man there is an even better woman.

Posted by Buck at 09:31 PM | Comments (3)

They've Killed Bubba

from - smijer

The premiere Tennessee blogger, no exceptions for higher traffic at Insta, no exceptions period, has bowed out of the game.

What a loss to the community, but no hard feelings. If his heart isn't in it any more, or he needs to do it for his family, or whatever - Bubba can go with a clean conscience, knowing he'll be welcome back any time he wants.

Ditto all the others who express regret and best wishes, which should be just about everybody in the country by now.

Posted by smijer at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)

Gettin' a new Pilot

from - Buck

05_06_24SupremeShock.gif

Well, it seems like we will get the long awaited announcement tonight. This is one televised performance by the POTUS that even I will probably watch.

I can't wait to see the headlines tomorrow.

Posted by Buck at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Closet Anglophilia

from - smijer

Sorry - internet troubles at home still. We have internet service back, but it won't be easy for me to get on-line at home until we have a new router, and possibly a new network card. So, I'll be posting kind of light for a day or two, until things get sorted out.

I don't mean this to be a snobby report in any way, shape, or form... but I love the British. I love Harry Potter [insert fawning review of Half Blood Prince Here], I love David Gilmour and the rest of Pink Floyd, and am recently enamored of the p*u*l*s*e concert I've viewed on a borrowed DVD. The young red-headed bass player is dynamite. That's not to Mention the whole Monty Python crew, Dr. Who, or Charles Dickens.

I think the Brits have learned a secret (nothing about yellowcake purchases, mind you) that just stays beyond the reach of Americans. Being a Yank and all, I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it has something to do with surface appearances being fine and all, but needing a little more calm reflection to get to the important stuff... and then keeping a sense of humor and humility, which - by the way - seem to come from the same root word.

Posted by smijer at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

Change of heart?

from - Buck

“Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.” -Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

No folks. Tom Delay has not seen the light. He was talking about Kosovo. Take a trip down memory lane and see how the singers have changed but the song remains the same.

Posted by Buck at 02:31 PM | Comments (3)

Blogmeet Weekend Blogging

from - smijer

First and foremost, welcome back Buck! You were missed! Good to hear that you enjoyed your vacation.

Second, my apologies for not posting earlier. Our internet has been off-line at home all weekend, and I've had to wait for down-time at work to catch up. We had a very nice blogmeet Saturday at Greyfriars.

The first person I met there was Michael Kelley, perhaps the most senior Chattanooga blogger present, having been represented since 2000, and before the term "blog" became current. He mentioned another mentionable Chattanooga blog, Oblogation, by Evie Dumonde, who couldn't make it to the meet because of an illness in the family. Hat's off to Michael.

Shortly after, the inimitable Alice arrived, with her sunny, smiling face. Right behind her came Adam of UTC College Democrats.

We heard from JosiahQ of Irresponsible Journalism, who wants to revive previous efforts at a (singular) "Chattablog".

I was pleased to meet in real life Sandy Lusk, co-author with Alice of Hamdems blog, and famed Kos diarist, and her son, Scooter.

I was also glad to make the acquaintance of Mesh, city editor of the Chattanooga Pulse, and contributor to the Pulse Blog.

Finally (finally!) I had a chance to meet Joe Lance of Chattanooga-Hamilton Civic Forums. I had an uncanny feeling that I knew him before, and he said the same of me... but I cannot put my finger on where that might have been. Apparently, we haven't had many opportunities for our paths to cross.

Last, but not least, the smijer family was twice represented, as Mrs. Smijer of Baskets of Blessings joined us, too.

A good time was had by all, except anyone who didn't. We enjoyed sampling from the menu at Greyfriar's, talking about blogging software and website development (Josiah mentioned a web-site development competition of some kind that will be held in Chattanooga this year), told embarrassing stories about ourselves (and in one case, our husbands), and got to know one another.

There's talk of trying to do another one of these in the fall... maybe at Josiah's place, where beer and barbecue can be had.

I'll call the blogmeet a success (even if no one else does), and I'm grateful that we had some good turnout and some smart folks to spend the time with.

Posted by smijer at 11:28 AM | Comments (1)

July 17, 2005

It’s a small, small world….

from - Buck


And there is nothing like a week in Disney World to prove that point.

Most people think I am crazy but I love the place. There is something about the madness and the mixture that fascinates me. Over 73,000 people visit the park every day and there are times when you would think there must be 73,000 different languages being spoken there.

The heat can be unbearable. The long lines and extended waits test the limits of the patience of everyone.

But when the rain comes it is without fail that the Sunni will make room under the shelter for the Shi’ite. A Republican will open the door for a Democrat. The Lion lies down with the Lamb.

The one-shared value that is obvious at Disney World is the overwhelming love that parents have for their children. That love shines just as brightly in the eyes of the Asian as it does the European. That love is so strong that it bleeds out into the crowd and creates oneness there.

The park becomes a place where people from all over the world decide to share in the joy and the suffering of each other.

If only the people in the real world could be as accepting and tolerant as they are in Disney World. If only the people in the real world would decide that fireworks are preferable to rocket-propelled grenades and F-16’s.

It is good to take a week away from the Internet and the television set. For 358 days a year people are bombarded with an “us versus them” mentality. It is nice to take a week in a place where there is only “us”. At least you know that such a place can exist.

But I guess that is why it is called Fantasy Land.

Posted by Buck at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2005

Friday... uh... aughh...

from - smijer

Well, it appears I've misplaced my camera, or perhaps had it lifted out of the car. So, I can't post a lovely animal picture.

Instead, with much revulsion, I present a very distasteful story.

I suppose Rick Santorum will link this to King County's rampant liberalism... until he figures out that Enumclaw was one of those eastern exurbs that Bush won.

For your Friday critter fix, without all the stomach-churning, visit the Friday Ark.

Posted by smijer at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)

Irony

from - smijer

Via Buddy Don,

When Rick Santorum states that it isn't surprising that the immoral and liberal Boston is the seat of the Priests' abuse scandal, he neglects to mention that moral, conservative diocese of Covington, KY topped them all for percentage of abusive priests. He also neglects to mention that immoral, liberal, hedonistic San Francisco barely makes the list at all.

Based on statistics publicly reported by many of the country's 195 dioceses, the Boston-based lay activist group BishopAccountability.org has calculated that the highest percentage of abusive priests from 1950 to 2003 was in the diocese of Covington, Ky. Boston was among the 10 worst dioceses, but several other cities commonly regarded as liberal culturally and politically had relatively low rates of abuse. Just 1.6 percent of San Francisco's priests have been accused of abuse, for example, compared to more than 4 percent nationwide.

So, if Rick Santorum gets a divorce in Pennsylvania, is she still his sister?

Posted by smijer at 07:22 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2005

Glenn Reynolds, Against Torture?

from - smijer

Instamistress now...

I've been against torture since Alan Dershowitz was pushing it back in the fall of 2001. (Okay, actually I was against torture even before Dershowitz was pushing it).

InstaSade then...

EUGENE VOLOKH: "I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way."

The notion that civilization equals squeamishness is not supported by history.

Does the good professor mind me asking which viewpoint actually reflects his values and viewpoints?

Posted by smijer at 10:42 PM | Comments (0)

Rep. Joanne Favors, on Tenncare

from - smijer

Great piece by Sandy Lusk over at the Hamdems blog, reviewing the comments and common-sense critiques of what went wrong with Tenncare. In the course of ten minutes, I had a lot of questions answered that have been puzzling me for quite a long time.

Posted by smijer at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

A Farewell Post for the Terri Schiavo Issue

from - smijer

I intend for this to be my last post about the sad affair of Terri Schiavo, and our national obsession with it. Thankfully, the media seems to have dropped the matter, with the exception of a few outlets controlled by the religious right. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to put the whole thing to rest, and put it behind us.

I still feel a little bit angry at the American public - including myself - for insinuating ourselves voyeuristically into the private lives and disputes of the Schindler and Schiavo families. I feel especially angry toward those who uncritically accepted and perpetuated the constant, ugly attacks and insinuations against Michael Schiavo. As if he wasn't faced with enough burdens already, between his wife's collapse, her years of constant care for her, a weighty decision to talk to the court about her final wishes and the ensuing bloody, litigious dispute with her parents and brothers, and finally the death of his wife's body. Why would the rest of us pile on someone who already had so many burdens? Where is our compassion? To those of you who may be tempted to answer: "where was Michael's compassion?", I say only that you don't know his heart, and that I hope you will read on and realize that he deserves a big ol' chunk of benefit of the doubt - not the cruel slander of which he has receieved so much to date.

While I'm angry at the American public for holding our debate about feeding tubes in Terri Schiavo's hospice room, and I'm angry at many of us for having such a contemptible attitude toward her husband, I reserve most of my anger for those who manipulated the media to encourage these attitudes, and for the media itsself. In recent years, the media has abdicated its role as an outlet for trustworthy news, choosing simplistic "he-said, she-said" stories that favor whichever group is best able to generate the most public interest (or outrage) about their message instead of producing objective presentations of what happened, even when it requires consumers and reporters to sort through difficult facts in order to properly understand.

To understand where we all went wrong, we have to first admit that we were wrong in the first place. That means taking some serious time and print to talk about some facts and perspectives on the controversies that were aired in this case. Since that's a big job, I'm putting it in the extended entry....

1.) Is there any reason to suspect that violence on Michael Schiavo's part caused Terri's collapse, or that he abused her before her collapse?

The answer is an emphatic "no". There were plenty of allegations and insinuations to the effect that he did, but never did any of these surface until after the the disagreement between Michael and the parents had arisen. The campaign against Michael lingered longer than the other controversies. After the autopsy, when the "Save Terri" faction ran out of anything else to feed to the media, the Governor of Florida, citing the fact that the autopsy didn't provide evidence to conclusively prove the belief that Terri was a victim of complications from an eating disorder (as was previously thought), along with a very minor discrepancy between Michael Schiavo's remembered timeline of events and the recorded time of his 911 call, to keep the heat on Michael by having his "possible role" in her death re-investigated. Most anyone who is still interested has read media accounts of the Attorney General's inquiry, to the effect that "there is not enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation". But, the AG's report included quite a bit more than that, most of which never made it into the news (news organizations instead favoring a "balancing" quote from Bobby Schindler, offerring his sly suspicions about why there would be no criminal investigation). Much of what was in the AG's report was already known to people who had delved more deeply than what was presented by the mainstream media and conservative advocacy groups. But for the average newswatcher, there seems to be little awareness of these facts.

I challenge everyone who still maintains a position on this issue to read the Guardian Ad Litem's report (.pdf) in full, but in addition, I ask anyone who gives credence to allegations of violence on Michael Schiavo's part to read the Attorney General's report to Governor Bush. Although the autopsy results and the evidence from x-rays and other diagnostic tools applied shortly after Terri's collapse show no evidence the collapse was brought on by a criminal act, there are many hold-outs who insist that Michael did cause the collapse violently, by some means that would would not leave physical evidence of trauma. The AG's report reminds us just how unbelievable this idea is:

While Dr. Thogmartin's report indicated that non-traumatic asphyxia was not impossible, I do not believe that this can be constructed to mean that it represents a plausible explanation or one that is equally or more likely than the possible non-criminal explanations for Mrs. Schiavo's collapse. Asphyxiation occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and can be accomplished by cutting off the air to the lungs or the flow of oxygenated (arterial) blood to the brain. While not impossible, it would be exceedingly difficult to accomplish this without leaving evidence of a struggle in a surviving victim. (*See Footnote 1 below)

Cutting off the air supply through suffocation would have to continue for approximately four to five minutes before brain damage ensues. The victim will remain conscious for a significant portion of this time. Common sense suggests and experience has confirmed that victims struggle violently when unable to breath, flailing out at their attacker and whatever is preventing them from breathing and necessitating in turn that the assailant increase the amount of force against a moving, struggling victim. These factors make it virtually inevitable that observable injury will result. It is also possible to cause rapid unconsciousness with simultaneous bilateral compression of the carotid arteries. Based upon our experience, however, it would be virtually impossible for someone without considerable practice in using the technique to incapacitate a struggling victim, who is later resuscitated and survives, without causing visible injury.

Dr. Thogmartin's report also could not eliminate the possibility of subtle trauma in the form of "commotio cordis", a phenomenon that is most commonly seen in young athletes who are struck in the chest directly over the heart with an object such as a baseball. If the chest is sufficiently flexible and the impact occurs precisely during the 20 millisecond interval of the heart's cycle in which the ventricular muscles are repolarizing, ventricular fibrillation (rapid, unsynchronized contractions) can occur. Resuscitation efforts are rarely successful unless the person is defibrillated within two to three minutes. The timing of the impact as well as the hardness of the object, age of the subject and speed of impact are significant variables; it is unknown how often this type of blow to an unprotected chest can cause fibrillation without leaving any identifiable injury in a surviving adult victim. It seems very unlikely, however, that in the course of a domestic argument where one party is intentionally trying to harm the other, they will direct a single blow to the cardiac silhouette that is of sufficient force to cause ventricular fibrillation but not the intended injury.

Dr. Thogmartin also could not exclude the possibility of toxins or drugs being involved. Terri's described condition and the fact that paramedics were able to resuscitate her despite the twelve minute interval between her collapse and their arrival are not inconsistent with the possibility of an opiate overdose. The police officer who responded to the emergency did find a small number of medications in the residence, but did not feel that the drugs he found were relevant to Terri's collapse and did not record what they were. While there is some indication in the discovery materials from the malpractice suit that a prescription bottle of percocet may have been in the residence, Dr. Thogmartin indicated that the drug screen done at the ER would likely have detected the acetaminophen that is combined with oxycodone in that medication. There is of course no affirmative evidence that Terri ingested toxic amounts of any substance or medication and absolutely no basis to conclude they were forcibly or surreptitiously fed to her.
[...]
Footnote 1:

Decomposition of the body can sometimes hide some of the more subtle signs of assault, including petechial hemorrhages. Also, the bruising process effectively ends when the heart ceases to pump blood. This would not be an issue where the victim is resuscitated and survives.

In short, the theory that Michael smothered her, or otherwise attacked her without leaving physical evidence is very dubious.

Although the autopsy fails to prove it conclusively, the Attorney General's report makes clear that an eating disorder was the most likely cause of Terri's collapse:

The hypothesis that Terri's low potassium level was a factitious result of medication and fluid administered during her resuscitation is not new but first surfaced in the 1992 malpractice trial. The basis of the 1992 malpractice suit against Terri's gynecologist was that she had eating and nutritional disorders which he failed to detect and which allegedly led to her cardiac arrest causing profound and irreversible brain damage. Terri had sought this doctor's help in 1989 because of difficulty in getting pregnant and up until the time of her death was under treatment for amenorrhea (abnormally infrequent menstrual periods), a well documented result of eating disorders in young women. Terri had lost as much as 100 pounds since adolescence and had lost 20 pounds since her marriage. The suit alleged that her doctor failed to take a nutritional history and to diagnose and treat the eating disorders and nutritional deficiencies that were not only the cause of her menstrual problems but had ultimately led to her collapse.

Three physicians testifying on Terri's behalf concluded - based upon the medical records as well as interviews and statements of family members and co-workers - that Terri had an eating disorder or nutritional deficiency which had contributed to her cardiac arrest. The testimony suggested, without contradiction, this was the consensus opinion of all the doctors who had been involved in Terri's treatment.

The plaintiff did not attempt to specify the eating disorder but suggested that there was evidence to support bulimia and psychogenic polydipsia and that a combination of diet, excessive intake of fluids and compensatory purging behavior had caused both her amenorrhea and her extremely low level of potassium and that the latter condition led to her cardiac arrest. The defendant doctor had admitted that Terri's eating disorder was probably a factor in the amenorrhea for which he was treating her. He acknowledged that, while there are a number of other possible causes, eating and nutritional disorders are known to cause this condition. Additionally, the defense called a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of eating disorders; he testified that based upon reviewing the statements of family members, the medical records, the depositions of eleven physicians and the statements of four of her co-workers that Terri suffered from bulimia. This expert did not concede that the eating disorder was responsible for her cardiac arrest. He noted, as does Dr. Thogmartin, that the resuscitation efforts and administration of medication and fluids could explain her low serum potassium after the incident and that this reading did not necessarily reflect electrolyte levels at the time of her collapse. He suggested, however, that Terri's condition was sufficiently severe and at an early enough stage in the disease process that she would carefully conceal her behavior, would not have acknowledged the problem and was not yet amenable to treatment.

Dr. Thogmartin understandably concluded that currently available evidence was insufficient to either definitively rule out the existence of an eating or nutritional disorder or to conclude with reasonable certainty that it was the cause of her collapse. However, all experts in the 1992 proceedings - relying on all available contemporary records and witness recollections - opined that Terri suffered from an eating disorder and the jury unanimously agreed.

As I mentioned before, allegations of abuse against Michael began to surface after the disagreement between him and the parents began. The AG's report not only pounds this home, but reminds us that some people, including Terri's mother previous to their disagreement, have testified to quite the opposite view of Michael:

Family members and others who disagreed with Mr. Schiavo's decision to seek court approval to have his wife's feeding tube removed have made repeated attacks on his credibility and accused him of mistreatment of his wife. At least some of these accusations have been shown to be baseless by the autopsy conclusions. We should note, however, that we have also received unsolicited comments praising his honesty, sincerity and devotion to his wife's care. Also, when asked about her son-in-law during the 1992 malpractice trial, Mary Schindler testified, "He's there every day. She (Terri) does not want for anything. He is loving, caring. I don't know of any young boy that would be as attentive. He is ... he's just unbelievable, and I know without him there is no way I would have survived this."

What of Governor Bush's "new information" about the seeming time discrepancy? Well, if one isn't viewing this question through the lens of a great deal of prejudice already, then the Attorney General's report isn't needed to figure out that an hour discrepancy in remembered events during a traumatic episode like this one is hardly evidence of intentional deception or wrong-doing. The mere fact that Bush pressed his AG for such an inquiry on this basis proves well enough that Bush is not using any kind of objective or critical thinking to choose his course. Nevertheless, the AG does address those issues and makes the common-sense points that anyone should have thought of before asking for an investigation:

Absent proof that a crime has occurred, neither Michael Schiavo's credibility nor the consistency of his statements would become a critical and material concern. Nonetheless, the discrepancy between his recollection of the time of the incident and the time that paramedics and police recorded receiving the call hardly constitutes new information. Schiavo testified in the 1992 malpractice deposition and trial that he heard a noise around five a.m. and found his wife collapsed near the bathroom door. In a 2003 interview on Larry King Live he indicated this occurred at 4:30 a.m., a time he repeated in a recent interview with medical examiner Jon Thogmartin. Schiavo has consistently said he called for emergency help immediately after finding his wife and that fire rescue arrived within a few minutes of the call. To our knowledge he was never asked about or confronted with the difference between his estimation of the time and the records indicating the fire rescue was called at 5:40 and began resuscitation efforts at 5:52.

Understandably, Michael Schiavo is not the only witness who has been inconsistent or had difficulty recalling the timing of events surrounding Terri's collapse and resuscitation. Shortly after finding Terri, Michael Schiavo called his in-laws and told them what happened. It is unclear whether he or the Schindlers called Bobby Schindler who lived in the same complex as Michael and Terri and who immediately went to their apartment and arrived before the paramedics. Although Terri's parents had been awakened in the middle of the night with extremely disturbing news and waited at their house for a subsequent phone call on their daughter's condition, they have no clear idea what time they were called by Michael. They had previously provided our office a timeline indicating that they were called as early as 3-4 a.m. but recently told Thogmartin they could not recall the time. Similarly, Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, told Dr. Thogmartin he could not remember the time that he was called or initially arrived at the Schiavo residence except in relation to the arrival of the paramedics.

It is not contradicted that Michael Schiavo appeared frantic and extremely distraught throughout the incident. Under these extraordinary circumstances, where both Mr. Schiavo and his accusers have similar difficulty in reconstructing exact times, it cannot be credibly argued that this discrepancy is incriminating evidence. Nor, in light of his consistent and uncontradicted claims that he immediately called 911, can his error in estimating the time be considered an admission that he waited over an hour to get help for his wife. It does not appear that Schiavo's error was considered to be of probative value in either the civil suit or in the subsequent guardianship proceedings. Schiavo was not confronted by opposing lawyers (or by Dr. Thogmartin) with the potential inconsistency nor was he given the exact times recorded by paramedics as a point of reference. The most obvious explanation is also the most logical: under the extremely stressful circumstances his attention to and memory of the exact time were faulty - in the same way that the recollections of Mr. and Mrs. Schindler and Bobby are flawed.

Curiously, a delay such as this would further undermine the speculation that Michael Schiavo caused Terri's collapse by assaulting her. Neither the medical examiner nor our assistants were able to identify any plausible manner by which Schiavo - having physically overcome Terri without injuring her or being injured himself - could keep her incapacitated but sufficiently alive that she could still be resuscitated almost an hour later. Additionally, we could discern no rational motivation for attacking one's spouse allowing her to linger near death for forty minutes or more and then calling for help in sufficient time to save her life so she could potentially name her assailant.

Again, unless you are hopelessly biased in your opinion about Michael Schiavo based on your understanding of the subsequent disagreement between him and Terri's parents, there is no way you can read the facts of this case without admitting that he deserves the lion's share of the benefit of the doubt where allegations abuse or assault are concerned. He deserves much more than just the standard presumption of innocence.

2.) Did Michael Schiavo deny Terri care or therapy?

Nope - that's just another vicious slander perpetrated by people with no conscience - no care about right and wrong; and propagated by others who unfortunately trusted them. Again, from the GAL report (pdf):

On 18 June 1990, Michael was formally appointed by the court to serve as Theresa’s legal guardian, because she was adjudicated to be incompetent by law. Michael’s appointment was undisputed by the parties.

The clinical records within the massive case file indicate that Theresa was not responsive to neurological and swallowing tests. She received regular and intense physical, occupational and speech therapies. Theresa’s husband, Michael Schiavo and her mother, Mary Schindler, were virtual partners in their care of and dedication to Theresa. There is no question but that complete trust, mutual caring, explicit love and a common goal of caring for and rehabilitating Theresa, were the shared intentions of Michael Shiavo and the Schindlers. In late Autumn of 1990, following months of therapy and testing, formal diagnoses of persistent vegetative state with no evidence of improvement, Michael took Theresa to California, where she received an experimental thalamic stimulator implant in her brain. Michael remained in California caring for Theresa during a period of several months and returned to Florida with her in January of 1991. Theresa was transferred to the Mediplex Rehabilitation Center in Brandon, where she received 24 hour skilled care, physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapies. Despite aggressive therapies, physician and other clinical assessments consistently revealed no functional abilities, only reflexive, rather than cognitive movements, randomeye opening, no communication system and little change cognitively or functionally. On 19 July 1991 Theresa was transferred to the Sable Palms skilled care facility. Periodic neurological exams, regular and aggressive physical, occupational and speech therapy continued through 1994.
[...]
{after the malpractice settlement} The Schindlers petitioned the court to remove Michael as Guardian. They made allegations that he was not caring for Theresa, and that his behavior was disruptive to Theresa’s treatment and condition.
Proceedings concluded that there was no basis for the removal of Michael as Guardian Further, it was determined that he had been very aggressive and attentive in his care of Theresa. His demanding concern for her well being and meticulous care by the nursing home earned him the characterization by the administrator as “a nursing home administrator’s nightmare”. It is notable that through more than thirteen years after Theresa’s collapse, she has never had a bedsore.

The GAL properly recognizes Terri's parents' role as partners with Michael in seeking the most aggressive therapy for her. But, bear in mind also that Michael was the legal guardian. That means that none of the therapy or examinations that took place during these four years were done without his say-so.

This point also sheds light on some other questions and media failures. As if the complete lack of evidence that Terri's collapse was due to criminal activity were not enough to exonerate Michael from charges that his abuse or assault caused her collapse, it is unthinkable that Michael would have worked so hard in hopes of her recovery if he thought she might recover and testify against him.

Also, this goes toward answering another bit of innuendo, phrased as a specious question: "why did it take Michael so long to 'remember' about Terri's wishes?" That will be addressed separately, but this goes a long way toward pointing to the fact that he knew her wishes all along, but because he was desperately hopeful for her, he wasn't satisfied until 1997 that there was no hope for recovery and that the only course remaining was to ask the court to honor those wishes.

Finally, the fact that those in the public who sympathized with Michael's accusers weren't aware of his extensive efforts toward her rehabilitation represents an unconscionable failure on the part of the press. Instead of researching and presenting these facts about Michael's care, they opted to announce (in the headlines) each and every "statement" of Terri's brother, mother, father, and others of Michael's detractors (including Tom DeLay). Then, (near the end of the story), whatever responses provided by advocates for Michael would be included. Had the media done their jobs, or the American people excersized better critical thinking skills about the reports they heard from the media, then it would have been obvious to everyone that it was very unlikely that Michael had caused Terri's collapse, or had anything but her best interests at heart when he asked the court to honor her wishes not to have her life prolonged.

3.) Were Michael Schiavo's actions motivated by greed?

If they were, then he is more stupid than anyone might have imagined. After spending on Terri's care virtually all of the money in the trust fund that was established to care for her by the malpractice verdict, Michael continued to press for the feeding tube to be removed.

In March of 2005, he was offered $1,000,000 to abandon his efforts, divorce Terri, and turn over her care to her parents. According to his lawyer, but otherwise unsubstantiated, he also turned down another $10,000,000 offer. So, his choices were to be relieved of the burden of caring for Terri, be able to remarry, have her feeding tube removed, and be left with nothing more than he had before, or to be relieved of the burden of caring for Terri, be able to remarry, turn over care to her parents, and make a profit of $1-10 million. The only possible explanation for his unwillingness to make a profit on the deal was that he was utterly convinced of Terri's wishes and cared more for seeing them fulfilled than for making money.

4.) Was Terri blind, or could she respond to visual stimuli, including a moving balloon, or the entrance of a familiar person into her room?

The autopsy reports that she was blind. Some people remain convinced that Terri was not blind, at least not when the famous videos were made. They still insist that the selectively edited video that appeared to show Terri tracking a balloon, and the testimony that she frequently smiled when a family member appeared in the room discount this finding, was evidence that she was conscious and had her sight. I'm not a doctor, but I have yet to hear of a reputable doctor - any doctor, actually - endorsing this view. It does not stand to reason that, in the two weeks that Terri's body dehydrated, these neurons not only died, but decayed further than her previously healthy brain stem. It stands to reason, therefore, that the cortical damage that rendered her blind occurred concurrently with the atrophy of the other brain centers that she lost. It stands to reason, also, that many medically trained personnel are familiar with the autopsy results on people who have died by dehydration, and would have been immediately aware of it if her autopsy results had been consistent with her having had vision prior to the feeding tube being removed, and at least some of them would have spoken up to the media. So, I feel as justified as possible without being medically trained, in agreeing that she was blind during the "balloon following" video.

The media and advocates for Michael did an acceptable job in making the public aware that the video they were exposed to on pro-tube websites and in the news media were highly and selectively edited. I believe that it was a failure of critical thinking on the part of the Public to be convinced by this type of evidence that Terri was consciously aware of her environment. I believe that it is a more serious failure of critical thinking on the part of those who still cling to that viewpoint and insist that she could not have been blind when the video was recorded to view it as evidence that she was not blind at the time. Medical experts have provided the public on more than one occasion with a reasonable medical explanation: that Terri's eye movements were a random result of unconscious brain-stem activity, and that such random movements (or vocalizations in other cases) will eventually give the appearance of deliberate activity if the patient is continually presented with possible stimuli - when the stimuli and the movement accidentally coincide. Even if Terri had not been blind at the time, the edited video would be very poor evidence that she was aware. A court, presented with the full, four hour video and expert physician testimony, determined that her responses were random, and that those that appeared deliberate were unrepeatable. The strong evidence we have that she was blind only confirms the view that those videos were meaningless as evidence of conscious awareness on her part.

5.) Was Terri in a PVS?

The experts nearly unanimously testified that CT scans and clinical evidence showed Terri Schiavo to be in a Persistant Vegetative State, meaning she was incapable of conscious awareness, and that she had no hope of recovery or rehabilitation. A very few doctors, most of whom never actually examined her, and including one self-promoting physician who did examine her, but had already been disciplined by the Florida Board of Medicine for falsely advertising his experimental therapy for stroke victims (Disciplinary order (.pdf)), dissented from that view. (Dr. Hammesfahr, through his advertising practices, did convince a Florida congressmen to write a letter of "nomination" to the Nobel selection committee. He was, in no sense of the word, nominated by the board, or his peers in medical practice for that prize. Unfortunately, the media , and especially Sean Hannity, was willing to report the false claim that he was a Nobel nominee.).

Autopsy reports confirm that she had almost no remaining cerebral cortex - the cognitive centers of the brain, and autopsy evidence is consistent in every way with the clinical determination of PVS. There is very little else to say about it. Those who are willing to ignore the evidence and cling to the vanishingly small possibility that Terri was in a "minimally conscious" condition have a right to their view, but the evidence, objectively considered, renders that view unthinkably unlikely.

6.) Was Terri's death by dehydration painful or uncomfortable? Were other options preferable for her?

This is a very difficult question. I am not medically trained, and I cannot answer from my own expertise. I can only rely on others. Yet some others, often even less qualified than I, have firmly held opinions on this - including the view that Terri's death by dehydration was painful, and that (some) other option was preferable, given what evidence we have of her wishes.

Unfortunately, there is very little published from the medical community and accessible to non-professionals about whether and how pain or discomfort is experienced in a PVS. A few expert testimonies are presented in this National Geographic piece:

But because PVS patients are unaware, neurologists believe the patients feel no hunger—ketosis or no ketosis. Neurologists also say that PVS patients feel no other forms of pain or suffering, including thirst.

"To suffer or feel pain, there needs to be sufficient cerebral activity to perceive a stimulus as unpleasant," Sigsbee said. "In PVS that neural integration does not exist."

According to Bernat, hospice nurses and doctors say that terminally ill, dying patients who do not eat or drink do not suffer. "They are given mouth care—moistening of dry mouth—and sometimes medications if they are restless. But they usually die very peacefully," he said.

Despite the general consensus that people in a persistent vegetative state feel no bodily pain, Schiavo's caregivers at Woodside Hospice recently began administering the painkiller morphine to her. "Since some relatives claim she is not in PVS, this practice reassures them she will not suffer," Bernat said.

Furthermore, although many non-experts have hotly disputed this, some medical reports suggest that a death by dehydration is not a horror even to those who are aware at the time the feeding tube is removed:

Even for patients who are conscious to begin with, death by dehydration appears peaceful, according to a study published in 2003 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A survey of 107 hospice nurses who cared for terminally ill patients who chose to die by refusing food and water found that "most deaths . . . were peaceful, with little suffering."

The study asked nurses to rate the patients' deaths on a zero-to-nine scale, with nine being the best possible death; the median rating was eight.

Christine Exposito, a registered nurse at HospiceCare of Southeast Florida, said in about half of the cases in which one of her terminal patients loses the ability to survive without a feeding tube, the patient's family will allow the patient to die of dehydration.

Perhaps so, perhaps not. Either way, there is little reason to believe those whose only brain activity is in the reflexive brain stem - such as Terri Schiavo - actually experience any discomfort from this type of death.

There are those who remind us that our society considers it a criminal cruelty to allow even an animal (for whom we are expected to care) die this way. Certainly, this is true in some cases. In others (i.e. certain methods of poisoning rats), one can legally purchase the means to do it without concealing one's intentions. But a bigger issue is whether the alternative we use for domestic animals: euthanasia - is suitable for humans. I tend to side with the conservatives on this point: euthanasia lends itsself far too easily to abuse. But, almost universally, those who decry the dehydration death of Schiavo are those who also support legislation that outlaws a painless lethal injection (or a messy suffocation from adiminstering food and water by mouth, for that matter). Certainly, euthanasia is illegal. For patients who have expressed a wish not to have their lives artificially extended, whether by means of a surgically implanted feeding tube or by other means, the only remaining options are to ignore their wishes, or to allow them to die by dehydration among removing artificial feeding.

If the medical experts agree that a PVS patient cannot experience pain and discomfort, and the best determination possible of the patient's wishes are that she would prefer not to have her life continued artificially, especially when additional palliative care is given to ensure that discomfort is minimized, as was done in Terri Schiavo's case, I feel that the better of those two options is to allow death by dehydration, with plenty of morphine for just-in-case.

I certainly understand how others, out of a sense of caution and compassion, would disagree with me and others who feel as I do, including Michael Schiavo. I do not understand how they justify a bitter and hateful attitude toward Michael or those who agree with him (or with me, for that matter) about the preferability of removing artificial feeding, when his viewpoint is grounded in compassion, care for her wishes, and when it is made in the face of a very difficult, and even heart-wrenching, necessity to decide whether or not the possible discomfort of a death by dehydration outweighs her expressed wishes and the indignity of a life indefinitely extended by artificial means and absent awareness, responsiveness, or even the ability for the most rudimentary self-determination.

And, I wonder again how many of those people were even aware that Terri's care would include the administration of morphine as a secondary guard against the possibility of discomfort until her death, because of the irresponsibility of the news media, and those who manipulated it.

7.) Was the court right in its finding of clear and convincing evidence of Terri's wishes?

At long last, a truly controversial question. I think it may be impossible to know. I'm only passingly familiar with the testimony and evidence the court used to make its ruling, and I'm less than 100% certain that they found correctly. On the other hand, I know that several appellate courts upheld the view that the legal standard of clear and convincing proof had indeed been met. Whether they found rightly or wrongly, the law required that the court make a decision and abide by it. Someone has to make a decision when there is a dispute about the wishes of the person inolved, and the courts are the only suitable venue for exploring the evidence in a fair and objective way and deciding responsibly how the law applies to a case. More on this in the next point.

I also believe that, under those circumstances, it is just as wrong to mistakenly extend her life in such circumstances, when we can't be completely certain that is what she would want as it is to mistakenly stop extending it.

Absent the hope that she will ever be able to do even the least action of her own accord, or ever be consciuos of her own life, I think the importance of "life" (or the appearance of it maintained by the body) is dwarfed by the importance of her wishes. I know that many disagree with me about that, and may even (purposefully or not) turn my words around to make it seem as though her handicap makes her less of a person to me. Although I think that, ethically, personhood is tied up in experience and self-determination, not just vital signs, what I really am saying here is that without the experience of it, or the ability to control it in even the most rudimentary ways, Terri's "life" had very little or no meaning to her.

On the other hand, I believe that, if it is possible to ascertain what her wishes were with any reasonable degree of certainty - meaning the Florida legal standard of clear and convincing proof of them, then that should carry a lot of weight. After all, that is the only choice that remains in any sense her own choice to make. I agree with most everyone else that, if there's not clear and convincing evidence about what she would have wanted, that we should "err on the side of life"... but just barely. I've made my intentions clear to my family, because even if I had the slightest sliver of awareness left, I would hate to be trapped in an insensate and impotent body for countless years simply because I failed to express the wish. I would also hate for my family to be burdened with maintaining my body so long after I've departed it. I expect that would be the case for many others for whom we "erred on the side of life", to their ultimate disservice.

8.) Did the courts' ruling create new law or precedent?

No. Arguments that the Schiavo case was an instance of judicial activism usually include one or both of these two assertions: a) the Schiavo case defined artificial feeding as "life support" (for the first time), b) the Schiavo case created a precedent that overrided a previous requirement that a written living will was the only valid expression of a patient's wishes. With the help of Abstract Appeal, a Florida lawyers webiste about Florida law (especially the Schiavo information page), I've put together sufficient proof that neither of these assertions is true:

On point a)...
Florida law already explicitly defined artificial feeding as life support.
§ 765.102(3), Florida Statutes:

"Life-prolonging procedure" means any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function. The term does not include the administration of medication or performance of medical procedure, when such medication or procedure is deemed necessary to provide comfort care or to alleviate pain.


On point b)...
Judicial precedent in Florida already allowed a patient's wishes to be honored, even if they weren't expressed in a living will, since 1990.
In re GUARDIANSHIP OF Estelle M. BROWNING. (9/13/1990):

We are persuaded that when the patient has taken the time and the trouble to specifically express his or her wishes for future health care in the event of later incapacity, the surrogate need not obtain prior judicial approval to carry out those wishes. This applies whether the patient has expressed his or her desires in a "living will," through oral declarations, or by the written designation of a proxy to make all health care decisions in these circumstances.

That the court of appeals, on reviewing the Schiavo case, specifically cited Browning shows that their intent was not to set new precedent on the matter, but to follow existing precedent.

Browning, itself, may have set new precedent in Florida, but it also honored precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case where the state of Missouri prevailed upon the USSC to affirm their decision to prevent the removal of a feeding tube. The case was Cruzan v. MO DOH. The conservative side of the court ruled in favor of MO, and this quote is from the Nixon-appointed, conservative Chief Justice Rhenquist, writing for the Court:

In sum, we conclude that a State may apply a clear and convincing evidence standard in proceedings where a guardian seeks to discontinue nutrition and hydration of a person diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that in this case the testimony adduced at trial did not amount to clear and convincing proof of the patient's desire to have hydration and nutrition withdrawn. In so doing, it reversed a decision of the Missouri trial court which had found that the evidence "suggested" Nancy Cruzan would not have desired to continue such measures, but which had not adopted the standard of "clear and convincing evidence" enunciated by the Supreme Court.

Some comments in summary:

I do concur (quietly, respectfully, and humbly with regard to my incomplete knowledge and expertise) with Florida law, U.S. case law precedent, and with the findings of the courts who believed they were honoring Terri's wishes concerning artificial feeding and hydration. As I mentioned under point 7.), above, I base this in part on my personal values: I value freedom of self-determination more highly than I value "life" that is completely devoid of experience or even a semblance of self-determination.

I understand that others believe that a heart-beat and respiration is more important than self-determination, at least when the evidence about the individual's choice is not expressed in a written and notarized document. My problem is not with those who hold this view. My problem is with those who are radicalized and intolerant of me, others like me, the courts, and Michael Schiavo because of their differences. My problem is with those who have failed to exercise critical thinking with respect to press and advocates' accounts of the situation, and - after being misled, have supported and propagated falsehoods and innuendo against Michael based on their false beliefs. My problem is with the press for failing to exercise critical examination of the statements it recieved from the Schindler camp, and for presenting an unbalanced and misleading case to the American public as a result. My problem is with the Schindler's surrogates and advocates (especially Randall Terry, Jeb Bush, Tom DeLay, and Bill Frist) who played fast and loose with the truth and who chose the tactics of personal destruction, deception, and hate-mongering instead of seeking to expose the truth and let the matter be decided on its own merits, honestly presented.

Ok... I believe I have covered all the bases. I shouldn't have had to. The media should have done the proper fact-checking. We, the people should have used reason and moderation in expressing opinions on most of these matters - especially the slander of Michael Schiavo, recognizing that we were not a part of the family (i.e. that most aspects of this private family's dispute were none of our business), that we were not qualified doctors, that we had no first-hand experience with Terri's condition, that we were not legal experts, and that we hadn't we been privy to the all of the evidence, including the best available. We should have recognized that we had little room for second-guessing the courts who were experts, did have access to all of the evidence, including the best available, and had a well-defined procedure for settling such disputes, including the option for appeals to higher courts if the lower courts were thought to be in error. Every qualified court, from the Baptist, Republican Judge Greer and on up the chain of appeals reached the same conclusion. It may not be the correct one, but it stands a better chance than any conclusion the rest of us might reach when we are informed only by talk show hosts, a spineless media, and ideologues who care more about an agenda than they do about people.

To those who feel that the statutory and case law that the Florida courts followed is wrong-headed, I encourage you to debate this issue in any forum you choose. I don't ask for you to be silent. I don't insist that you must be wrong. I only ask for a few small considerations from you when you carry this debate forward. I ask that you respect the privacy of and understand the difficulties facing individual families and private individuals. I ask that you critically examine what you learn from the press or other accounts. I ask, when the press fails to act responsibly, that you hold them accountable. I ask that you employ not only your personal values about life and self-determination, but also that you employ respect, and seek the truth, as best you can understand it. I also hope that you will have humility, and recognize the limitations of your own understanding of medicine, difficult ethical questions, and/or law. If you do these things, you will not only gain respect for your side of the debate among your adversaries. You will gain a more sympathetic hearing from those who are as yet undecided. And, you stand a much better chance of learning something important, and of teaching something important to people on the other side of the issue.

Posted by smijer at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

Blogmeet

from - smijer

OK... I've made my calls, and - since there's just no way to do this democratically and have everyone aware of the plans by this weekend, I'm going to make an executive decision (if there are howls of protest, I will rescind it, and try to figure out a more democratic approach):

The First Periodic Chattanooga Area Blogmeet and Blogstravaganza will be held at 3:00 P.M. - til ??, Saturday, July 16, 2005, at Greyfriars on Broad St.

Coffee, tea, and pastries are available for purchase. Greyfriar's WiFi network is available if anyone cares to blog from the meet.

We hope for as many people as possible to come (though we are expecting less than 20, and may have to find other accomodations if the crowd swells too much). Those who can't make it this time, we hope to see you at future meets!

Bloggers, it's appreciated if you pass the word to your readers, and to other bloggers who may be interested.

Party On!

**Crossposted as update to original blogmeet post**

Posted by smijer at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

It Only Looks Like I'm Not Doing Anything

from - smijer

I had an attack of conscience when I considered leaving for work and leaving a single, pithy post on the ole blog to stand by itself for a full day. So, I figured I would explain why I'm not posting much. For one, I spent too much time yesterday working on the sudoku puzzle from USA Today. Apparently this type puzzle is addictive even if you aren't good at it.

For another, I'm actually working on two, rather long posts that I began Monday, and haven't had time to finish.

For another, what else is there to say about Karl Rove, that someone else hasn't already said?

I've already gone over my Emily Post Maximum Allowed Links (EPMAL) to John Cole, who is a conservative who has kept his head while those around him are losing theirs in increasingly messy explosions. I'll take a risk and link again: Focus On the Family (currently at 132,568 exploded heads) objects to ads for Tylenol PM in Gay Magazine. No Zima jokes from me. I bet this was a difficult choice for FoF: on the one hand, gays can't have gay sex while they are asleep, but, on the other, more gay backaches mean less gay sex. I'm glad to see the courage with which FoF stepped out and decided to act on the backache angle to decrease the amount of gay sex, and therefore God's Judgment, on America.

And, don't forget the blogmeet. Go tell it on the mountain.

Posted by smijer at 07:53 AM | Comments (1)

Temperature in Hell Drops Noticeably...

from - smijer

... as Bush leans slightly toward the Presidential option, over the petty one.

Speculate on why this is so?

Posted by smijer at 07:25 AM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2005

Links With Your Eye Boogers - Tuesday

from - smijer

Scary stuff, that a simple chemical change can have such a profound affect on behavior. For that matter, it's bad news for the metaphysical viewpoint that the human will is truly "free".

Good news from Darfur?

Some perspective on Judy Miller in jail, and Time turning over Matt Cooper's notes to the grand jury... I'll be glad to see Rove get whatever comeuppance may be coming, but I'm sorry that Time Magazine saw fit to undercut the idea of press confidentiality to get there.

Oh my gosh -- look at the time. I guess I'll be heading off to get in the shower and get to work now!

Posted by smijer at 08:16 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2005

Up To What Am I?

from - smijer

I spent this past weekend at work, and I'm about to get ready for work again today. I just finished Dean Koontz' Hideaway, and got a start on H.R. Haldeman's Diaries from his stint as Nixon's Chief of Staff. It's very interesting stuff. I'd recommend it to anyone. Now I'm getting ready for work again. I'll try to update the Blogmeet planning post later this evening. In the meantime, whatever you're up to... well, get after it.

P.S. I'm toying with the idea of adding a podcast to this site... Not sure yet.

Posted by smijer at 07:39 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005

A Chattanoogan We Should All Be Proud Of

from - smijer

Tennessee Liberal has the scoop...

Even if he did make the absurd-sounding statement that we've had "not enough [Andrew] Jackson's"... That wasn't how he meant it.

Posted by smijer at 03:39 PM | Comments (1)

Friday Digest & Miniature Doggie

from - smijer

Not much time this morning... so quick roundup:
Blogmeet: If you're a blogger in traveling distance of Chattanooga, and you can set aside time in the afternoon of Saturday, July 16, please think about marking your calendar for the first official Chattanooga area blogmeet. I'll be making phone calls to area venues Monday to set aside space for us. So far, the only venues nominated are Northshore Grill/Stone Cup. If you have other suggestions, please let us know.

Letter to the London Terrorists: (Rated R): Read this, if you haven't already. Full text, if you have time.

Miniature Doggie Blogging:

A co-worker brought this baby to work one Saturday in March:

minichihuahua.JPG

(More in the Ark)

Gossip: All signs point to a Rehnquist retirement today.

The Witchhunt is Over: Or, it would be, if people had any decency and respect.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

Mercy Now

from - smijer

On the way back to work, WUTC played the title song of Mary Gauthier's, Mercy Now.

Wow... Rolling Stone let's you listen to a sample. Appropriate for a rainy day like today, when the world seems to be falling apart.

Posted by smijer at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

The Choice is Ours

from - Buck

Because I do it with one small ship, I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor.

~A pirate, from St. Augustine's "City of God"

I am leaving tomorrow to spend a week in Orlando. If I can find an internet connection while I am there I will check in with you guys to see what is happening in the world.

I leave with a heavy heart because of what has happened in London. Our war on terrorisim has not done a damn thing but spread terrorism. Over the coming days the world will lament the dead civilians in London while shrugging its shoulders and chalking up the dead civilians in the Middle East to collateral damage.

The bombings in London are considered barbaric while our bombings in the Middle East are considered heroic. The world is in a mess and we have played a part in making that mess.

The people in London have found out just how effective their government is when it comes to "keeping them safe". We found that out on September 11th.

Saturday, July 9th marks the 50 anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. It deals primarily with nuclear weapons but the truths in that manifesto go far beyond that.

We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?

My hope is that somehow, someday and someway our great nation will be blessed with leadership that understands and can help other leaders understand that a military solution is no solution at all.

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.

Peace to all of you


Posted by Buck at 01:02 PM | Comments (11)

London Attacked

from - smijer

My heart goes out to those in England who are waking up to news of a series of terrorist attacks, and to the victims and their families.

Posted by smijer at 08:05 AM | Comments (1)

Moderate? Maybe. Acceptable? No.

from - smijer

What Chris said. It's certainly true that ideology matters in a Supreme Court nominee, at least in the current political climate, what matters above all is respect for the rule of law. Alberto Gonzales may well be more ideologically moderate than others vying for a seat among the Big Nine. He has consistently shown that he has no respect for the rule of law. Harry Reid and Markos Zuniga be damned. Gonzales has no place on the nation's highest court. The principle of the rule of law is far more important than any specific issue that may face the court in the next couple of decades.

Posted by smijer at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

As easy as fallin' off a bicycle

from - Buck

The late night comedians will have a ball with this one.

Posted by Buck at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

It's OK. You Can Preach a Little

from - smijer

A lot of blogging Unitarian Universalists get excited when UU's start talking about theology. Theology is fine, and all, but what would get me excited is to hear UUs talking about more practical things - life, family, work, friends, and the moral and practical issues that go with them.

I don't know about other UU congregations, but I've gone to my church for over a year now, and haven't heard the first thing about what I should do. We hear about the desirability of "community", and even hear a couple of platitudes about how compassion and care are the glue that holds the community together. But, I've never heard our minister talk about how the family fits into the idea of community, or give advice on how to build a stronger one (your pick: family or community - the one reinforces the other, right?) I've never heard sermons directed toward young people on pursuing a career that will not only provide for physical needs, but also give something to the community, and help individuals in their personal growth. I've never heard any words of wisdom to the adult going through a "midlife crisis", about resolving that crisis without it becoming a threat to family, life, or career.

I'm not suggesting that Unitarian ministers should be pushing a particular "version" of morality, or hading out ready-made answers to every moral question. Part of the beauty of the UU church is that the individual conscience gets the final word on every teaching. I don't think we should give that up. But, a shared moral vision is part of what gives us social cohesion, and helps us build a more worth-while community. And, I don't see where that is given the appropriate acknowledgement from our pulpits.

Not being a minister myself, I'm sure I should realize that this is all more easily said than done, especially balancing where it concerns balancing the individual search for truth and meaning. But honestly, there's a need for it. Church can't be just about well-meant platitudes and intellectual discussions. The element of shared values and shared vision should enter in somewhere.

Posted by smijer at 03:39 PM | Comments (1)

July 05, 2005

Blogmeet

from - smijer

Chattanooga is long overdue for a blogmeet, where area bloggers can meet & greet, share tips, and talk about what moves us to blog. Some of us Scenic City Bloggers are talking over a date on the weekend starting Friday, 7/15. If you are a Chattanooga area blogger interested in attending, please use the comment thread of this post to discuss a favored date and/or venue. I'm looking forward to seeing those of you I know already and meeting those I don't. Oh yeah, and people who may be from out of town, but blog or comment primarily through a Chattanooga area web-site, you're also invited. I hope that we can get together and make this a success!

P.S. I'm trying to help get interest up, but this is a community project. Folks like Alice, Josiah, Michael Kelly, and other Chattanooga area bloggers have at least as much say in all this as I do.

Update, 7/11: I've called Northshore Grille and Greyfriars. Northshore doesn't have separate seating, but could accomodate us if we schedule ahead of time (meaning we are going to need as much RSVP action as we can get if we go with this one), and come in between 2p.m. and 5p.m. on Saturday.

I'll have to call Greyfriars back before noon tomorrow and speak to the manager about using their loft area.

Do I hear a second to the motion to utilize Meetup.com? I'm not particularly eager to go that route, personally, but if there's a consensus around that idea, I'll work on it.

Update, 7/13:
OK... I've made my calls, and - since there's just no way to do this democratically and have everyone aware of the plans by this weekend, I'm going to make an executive decision (if there are howls of protest, I will rescind it, and try to figure out a more democratic approach):

The First Periodic Chattanooga Area Blogmeet and Blogstravaganza will be held at 3:00 P.M. - til ??, Saturday, July 16, 2005, at Greyfriars on Broad St.

Coffee, tea, and pastries are available for purchase. Greyfriar's WiFi network is available if anyone cares to blog from the meet.

We hope for as many people as possible to come (though we are expecting less than 20, and may have to find other accomodations if the crowd swells too much). Those who can't make it this time, we hope to see you at future meets!

Bloggers, it's appreciated if you pass the word to your readers, and to other bloggers who may be interested.

Party On!

Posted by smijer at 10:10 PM | Comments (27)

Like Father, Like Son

from - Buck

And so to every sailor, soldier, airman, and marine who is involved in this mission, let me say you're doing God's work
President George Bush December 1992
"And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces.

President George Bush (the son) June 2005

Well, at least they are consistent in their beliefs. It does make you wonder when they will start piping "Just As I Am" through speakers outside of the recruitment stations.

Posted by Buck at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

Why Blog?

from - smijer

People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order so they'll have good voice boxes in case there's ever anything really meaningful to say.

-Kurt Vonnegut

Posted by smijer at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

Spreading smijer & Buck

from - smijer

A friend e-mailed me this morning to let me know that smijer & Buck had been mentioned in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, in one of two articles about blogging. We were damned with faint praise, being included among a small list of local bloggers at the tail end of an article entitled, Bloggers have local political impact by Herman Wang, Michael Davis (with whom I'm relatively certain I went to school), and staff writers. JosiahQ, the brains behind Chattablogs.com, got lots of very well deserved recognition, and even a quote or two in the articles.

Also helping to promote smijer & Buck is the new UU blog aggregator, hosted at webuus.com, under the name of What's new with UU.

Who knows, one day smijer & Buck may even start getting a few visitors who aren't primarily interested in big catfish. In the meantime... well, there's always this:

big catfish with ball

Posted by smijer at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2005

Independence Day in the UU States of America

from - smijer

Happy fourth of July, everybody. As you know, our country and its government are in the middle of a pretty rough storm, right now. Partisan ugliness is peaking. Our government is making war and wartime abuses a first resort. Things are looking grim. Nevertheless, we do still have a Constitution, and we do still have a representative Democracy, and many patriotic Americans do still care about the ideals to which our founding fathers aspired. So, I say let's celebrate those ideals, even if we cannot whole-heartedly celebrate our current government's dedication to them.

By coincidence, I was re-reading the UU Association's Seven Principles this morning. Together, they seem to me to echo the ideals to which many great Americans have aspired, including many of the founders of our nation. Individually, some of these principles are more reflective of what I consider the American ideal than others. But, I think America would be a better place if more of us carried these principles in our heart and let them be a guiding force in our day-to-day actions, as well as our politics:

1.) The inherent worth and dignity of every person;

That's not just "all men". It includes everyone. It's not to say that people don't have faults - even dangerous and wicked ones. But the acknowledgement that everyone has value (worth) and dignity allows us to behave in a civilized way, and grant basic human rights to even our most stalwart enemies. When we treat our enemies as human beings, we may be surprised to find that they truly are human - and when their fear, anger, and confusion are alleviated, they may cease being enemies.

2.) Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;

Justice and equity are the bedrocks of our Constitution. It seems that every where one looks in the constitution, one sees evidence that this ideal was held in high esteem by its crafters. From speedy and fair trials, to restrictions on search and seizure, to equal protection under the law, to the independent judiciary, the founders worked hard to stack the deck in favor of justice and equity. Compassion, on the other hand, comes not from our Constitutional system, but from our hearts. Compassion means understanding others, flaws and all. It allows us to see hope for rehabilitation for anyone who is willing to be rehabilitated. It tells us not to punish for the pleasure of seeing our enemies suffer, but only to fulfill the demands of justice. Without it, we are a nation of pharisees.

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;

Accepting other people means giving them credit for the ability to think and choose for themselves. Sometimes that is extremely difficult to do, especially when their thoughts and choices are at odds with ours. But without acceptance, there can be no dialogue, and without dialogue, we have no hope of changing thoughts and choices of others, or letting them help us change ours, if that's what is needed. The American heritage includes people like Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr., who were not satisfied with a nation where people were unacceptable for equal participation because of their race, religion or sex. They have helped change that nation for the better. We should, too.

4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;

Freedom of conscience was among the chief reasons that our ancestors fled Europe to the U.S. It's unfortunately true that in the colonies, they set about quickly working to limit the freedom of conscience of their neighbors, but because of people like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the separation of church and state helped ensure that they would have a difficult time utilizing the power of government to infringe on the freedom consicence that is every American's right.

If one is not free to decide one's own values for onesself, then those values can merely be an extension of the past: a substitution of someone else's values for our own moral responsibility.

Of course, UUs advocate for a responsible search for truth and meaning - we ask ourselves to take the responsibility of our values very seriously. We ask ourselves to both acknowledge our feelings and sharpen our reason. Although it isn't spelled out in any legal documents, from the very beginning many Americans have recognized the responsibility that comes with freedom of conscience, perhaps none more so than Ralph Waldo Emerson.

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;

Perhaps this item is redundant. The Democratic process follows naturally from a commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. But democracy is important enough that it's worth the extra emphasis, both in the UU church, and in society at large.

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

The UU church may be a little bit ahead of the American heritage in this one, but I think many Americans will agree that the goal is worth striving for. Certainly Dr. ML King thought so.

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Again, the UU church is a little bit ahead of the American heritage on this one. In fact, the interdependent web of all existence is more than just an abstraction - it represents the reality of the world we live in. We are all connected by our society, and by our environment. Our agricultural practices affect the environment, which, in turn, affects our health. We must come to terms with this soon, or we will find our very existence threatened. Let's be sure that our generations leave behind a contribution to the American heritage worthy of the best parts of it's past. While our government contributes to the negative side of our heritage (which I've purposely avoided), we should be contributing to the positive side. What better way than to begin to recognize our mutual dependence - with one another, and with the rest of the natural world?

Again, Happy 4th!

Posted by smijer at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2005

You Can't Handle the Truth

from - smijer

Roland, commenting at Hippy Dave's envisions the scene just before Rove is hauled away by the bailiff. He owes me a new keyboard.

Posted by smijer at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2005

Too good to be true

from - Buck

But wouldn't you just love to see Karl Rove in leg irons?

Posted by Buck at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

Chickenhawk

from - smijer

I think I understand John Cole's and others' objection to the chickenhawk meme. But I don't think they get the underlying meaning behind it, and I think that how our side is talking about it helps too much.


First thing is this - and we are all too often not clear about this - you don't have to fight the war to support it. That's not what the CH meme should be about. You can support the war in plenty of ways. You can support the war, completely legitimately, with almost no effort or sacrifice. That's how I support a lot of things. I like what NASA does. You could say I support it. I would be more likely to vote for a candidate who promises to fund NASA than one who doesn't. No effort required. I might mention it casually in a conversation with a friend or family member, or as a disclaimer before I criticize some aspect of what NASA does that I don't like. The only sacrifices I expect to make on behalf of NASA's mission are whatever tradeoffs on other issues I make if I choose the pro-NASA candidate, whatever faults of NASA I must live with that I don't have the clout to address, and despite which I choose to support them anyway, and whatever extra taxes I have to pay to help keep them on the budget. If NASA ever became a very controversial thing or demanded large sacrifices of many, I might have to choose to lower the pro-NASA stance on my priority list or to become much better acquainted with the value and the cost of their mission to myself and to others.

Had I been a more hawkish sort, I could conceivably have supported the war in Iraq in much the same way. As a voter who kept my opinions fairly close to my chest, I could have voted for Bush in 2004, and had friendly discussions where I privately shared my feelings about the Iraq war effort. But even that level of support would have made me feel an obligation to understand the costs and risks of the war much better than the costs and risks of NASA as it stands now. After all, if my vote counts, and someone is going to bear the cost - in lives, not pennies extra on my tax bill, if I get my way, I should certainly face that fact head on, and do my best to be as educated as possible about my position and its consequences.

If, as some apparently do, I was convinced that the Iraq war was a moral necessity, and required more active support, then my obligation would increase proportionately. If I felt it so important that I felt I would be doing a good service to help drum up political support for the war - or (as some have done) practically demand it, calling others weak appeasers or traitors for opposing it... well, then my obligation to making personal sacrifices on behalf of the war effort would be multiplied. If the war is so important and urgent that I feel I must strive to help bring it about, then I should not ask others to make all of the sacrifices. At the very least, I should be willing to see my tax bill go up substantially. And, if the results of the war I treated as such a moral imperative were that there were not enough others who were already willing to sacrifice and fight it, and if I were fit to do it, I should be willing to join. If I'm an entertainer, I should be willing to take my show on the road, and share the risk with the troops to help keep up their morale - not just on Turkee day either ;-).

All this doesn't really cut to the heart of why "we" can't give up the chickenhawk meme, though... because the real issue is a visceral, emotional one. I get angry when I see people sitting on the sidelines, unwilling to make the slightest sacrifice, calling vociferously, and with every effort at being convincing, using terms like "moral imperative", for the sacrifice of tens or hundreds of thousands of others - lives, limbs, and whatever else, volunteer military or innocent civilian either way, to accomplish the noble task of completing this morally imperative mission. That emotion carries much further when the war we are talking about is done at our own option, on our own timetable, and without every effort for a peacable alternative. The greatest sacrifice someone like GWB could have made (aside from serving in combat 30 years ago, or asking his daughters to do so now) would have been to give every opportunity to the weapons inspectors to verify or dispute the intelligence he was acting on, and to give the military as much planning and support as possible to be sure that enough troops were deployed for any reasonable eventuality, that they were properly equipped, and that the post-invasion peace could be properly secured. What would this sacrifice? It would sacrifice the certainty of war. It would leave open the possibility that the weapons inspectors would leave Iraq satisfied and that public support for invasion would wane when no credible evidence of WMD was found. It would leave open the possibility that Americans, having the best possible understanding of the situation, would not support the war. For someone who wanted war, this was an impossible sacrifice to make. Bush was too afraid of the possibility that Americans wouldn't support an invasion for him to make that sacrifice. Doing it the way he did, from the safety of the Oval Office, makes him a bona-fide chicken hawk. Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and many others helped so much in the propaganda campaign from the safety of their studios. They are chickenhawks. Preachers and pundits did more than their part (apologies to Rush) to make this war - allowing others to make the real sacrifices... not even having to worry about an extra few dollars in taxes. They are chickenhawks. On what basis should we take their "moral imperatives" seriously?

(cross-posted to John C.'s page)

Posted by smijer at 12:45 AM | Comments (1)

July 01, 2005

Ted Rall

from - smijer

Clueless punk.

I remember laughing at Rall 'toons before. I may have even reproduced one or two on this blog. That won't happen again.

Posted by smijer at 10:55 PM | Comments (1)

The Supreme Court - Uniter or Divider

from - smijer

Bush has proven to be a hard-liner and divider since he ran as a moderate uniter five years ago. Now that the mixed-record, Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her retirement, the President has a chance to act presidential. Or petty.

I hope he chooses the former. There are plenty of moderates and conservatives out there who respect the rule of law, and subscribe to relatively constructivist philosophies of interpretation, but who are not wild-eyed radicals working out of James Dobson's pocket (For Instance). So the question of the hour is, will it be one of them, or will the nominee be covered in Dobson's pocket lint?

I'll be interested to see how it plays out.

Posted by smijer at 04:52 PM | Comments (6)

Sugar Plums Dancing

from - smijer

yawn.JPG

Ms. Piddy is joined by others in the Friday Ark. Don't miss them.

Posted by smijer at 07:23 AM | Comments (0)

Damn the luck

from - Buck

Perhaps Lt. Gen. Conway should ask the Russians about the luck of the Afghans when it comes to shooting down helicopters.

Or maybe it falls under the catergory of "the more I practice the luckier I get".

Things in Afghanistan have heated up substantially and Iraq is what Iraq will be as long as we are still there with guns, tanks and jets.

I was watching Hardball on Wednesday night when Chris Matthews had a short interview with Barry McCaffrey They were discussing the embarrassing speech the President gave on Tuesday night and McCaffrey said, (and I have to paraphase) that he did not think the President said enough. He said that the President needed to stand before the people and say to them "we need your sons and your daughters. We are in trouble and now is the time to serve your country".

Yeah Barry. I guess since the country has pretty much drained all of the willing or obligated grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers and mothers then maybe it is time to offer up some of the children.

Why don't you recommend reinstating the draft Barry and we will really find out whether the consensus is that we need more troops.

Posted by Buck at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)