Thursday, March 24


I am disgusted by those who, like Richard Cohen, mildly criticize the congressional and otherwise politically engaged Republicans who have intervened in the Terri Schiavo case, but yet more largely blame Democrats for not taking part in a battle that they not only did not choose, but could find no reason to partake in.

It's not hard to understand why. A vote against the bill would almost certainly be used by some future campaign as a vote in favor of putting Schiavo to death. In a quick TV spot, that sort of stuff can do real damage. At the same time, a fair number of Democrats who were appalled by the bill were reluctant to put their colleagues on the spot. It might have been okay for Ted Kennedy or John Kerry to oppose the bill -- they come from Massachusetts, after all -- but it could be a different story for some Democrat whose state is not quite so blue. Out of consideration for the imperiled, some tongues were clearly held. Still, it seemed that the party's highest principle was to have almost none at all.
Say what you will about DeLay, he is not afraid to state his beliefs and fight for them. Say what you will about the Democrats, they are. That's why DeLay's called "The Hammer." What would you call the Democrats? Never mind. When they're ready, they'll call you.

So DeLay, in Cohen's opinion, gets points for being aggressive even if he is corrupt and politically opportunistic. Democrats are reviled because they haven't the same "in" to the media. I've heard, and read, plenty of Democrats on the Schiavo issue. So now we're in the wrong when we ccan't get major media exposure, even though we can't control or determine that exposure? We're supposed to bow to the Repugs framing of the issues, even when it's patently obvious this is a Republican issue and we won't get a dime's worth of reciprocal coverage? Why should we kowtow to a Republican-led initiative that is not only in opposition to traditional Democratic principles but, according to recent polls, to Americdan sensibilties at large as well?

Wednesday, March 23


I won't be posting much, if at all, for the next few days.

My nephew is getting married. And we are all, in our immediate family, traveling from Dallas to Panama City, Florida (my home town) to celebrate the event.

This is one of those times when a parent is so proud and happy that our five grown children are taking three days off from work (and since they are young adults, it is a sacrifice and risk in some respects) to come together with their larger family to rejoice and enjoy their expanded family, I can't express my joy and satisfaction.

The fact is, my panhandle Florida family is quite different from our own. My kids are the results of a psuedo-sophisticate urban upbringing. My sister's (including her son, the groom) are what some would call "rednecks," but they have a sweetness and genuineness, apace with their own eruditon and education, that my own kids envy and honor. About once a year over the past 25, they have spent time with their cousins, and have grown to love and treasure them beyond what most would expect. My kids are crazy about their genteel Southern lady grandmother (my mother) and aunts (my sisters), while in some way they take their mother for granted.

So I just spent the past thirty minutes talking to my investment-banker oldest daughter (aged 25) about what she should pack for the trip and events. Earlier in the evening, my youngest son (22-year-old national AAU karate champion and now an oil-lease salesman) informed me that he would driving alone all the way to Panama City in time for the wedding because he couldn't bear not to be present at his much-loved cousin Justin's wedding. He's really glad, though, that he's not a "member of the wedding," and thus doesn't have to wear a Tux.

There are times in a family that bear witness to joy. My sisters and I have a relationship that I wouldn't trade for gold. I know that no matter what, they will support and rescue me if that's what I need. Thank God, I have a husband of 30 years (The Sage) from my teens, that is still the smartest, kindest, and most attractive man I have ever known. I don't know why he sticks with me, but I thank God that he does. I have screwed up with my five kids over and over, but now that they're grown they show every evidence that they're smarter and better than I ever could have hoped even if I did everything right. I am so blessed and so undeserving, I have a glimpse of grace that most people may not, because it makes me realize the nature of that grace -- an undeserved gift.

Anyway, I am so looking forward to the next few days. And I feel a gratitude for the opportunity keenly, because I know it is a gift I haven't earned.


This is an amazing read, 38-pages-long, but I've tried to summarize it for you here. It's the report of the Guardian Ad Litem assigned to the Terri Schiavo case in Florida and charged with reviewing the case and getting back to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:

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

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.

The report then goes on to document the extraordinary efforts by Michael to get Terri the latest therapies, though to no avail. "Despite aggressive therapies, physician and other clinical assessments consistently revealed no functional abilities, only reflexive, rather than cognitive movements, random eye opening, no communication system and little change cognitively or functionally." In 1993 Michael wins a medical malpractice award against the fertility doctor he and Terri had been consulting. " The court established a trust fund for Theresa’s financial award, with SouthTrust Bank as the Guardian and an independent trustee. This fund was meticulously managed and accounted for and Michael Schiavo had no control over its use. There is no evidence in the record of the trust administration documents of any mismanagement of Theresa’s estate, and the records on this matter are excellently maintained." After the malpractice award, the Schindlers begin to show diasaffection with Michael. They petition the court to remove Michael as guardian.

"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...By 1994, Michael’s attitude and perspective about Theresa’s condition changed. During the previous four years, he had insistently held to the premise that Theresa could recover and the evidence is incontrovertible that he gave his heart and soul to her treatment and care. This was in the face of consistent medical reports indicating that there was little or no likelihood for her improvement."

Terri gets a urinary tract infection and Michael, in agreement with Terri's doctor, asks for a "do not resuscitate" order. The nursing facility objects and Michael withdraws his request. Terri is transferred to another facility. Michael no longer believes Terri can get better, though he's fought this battle in his own heart for several years.

Michael is encouraged by the Schindler family to "get on with his life." His guardianship is challenged, but the court-appointed Guardian At Litem concludes that Michael has been unusually attentive to his wife's care. The Schindlers' challenge is dismissed.

"In 1997, six years after Theresa’s tragic collapse, Michael elected to initiate an action to withdraw artificial life support from Theresa. More than a year later, in May of 1998, the first petition to discontinue life support was entered. The court appointed Richard Pearse, Esq., to serve as Guardian Ad Litem to review the request for withdrawal, a standard procedure."

Pearse concludes that Michael has a conflict of interest (the money), but Michael shows the court that he had offered to disinherit himself so that his motives would be unchallenged. Pearse is discharged but no new Guardian Ad Litem is named. The Schinders get "frenetic" in their attempts to remove Michael as guardian.

"On 11 February 2000, consequent to hearings and the presentation of competent evidence, Judge Greer ordered the removal of Theresa’s artificial life support."

Hearings continue. Michael's brother and sister-in-law offer hearsay testimony that Terri told them (in context of funerals) that she would not want to be maintained in a vegestative state.

The Schindlers criticize Michael for his romantic interests in other women. (Remember, they earlier encouraged such.) The Schindler family members offer graphic testimony as to the lengths they would go to keep Terri alive, including multiple amputations, etc. They insist that even if they knew Terri felt differently, they would violate her wishes and keep her alive at any cost. Throughout, they acknowledge that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state.

"The court denied the Schindler’s motions to remove the guardian, allowing that the evidence was not sufficient and in some instances, not relevant. It set a date for the artificial life support to be discontinued, as of 24 April 2001."

The court refuses to remove Michael as guardian, and in April 2001 Terri's feeding tube is clamped. The Schindlers subsequently get an injunction against the clamp, but in October the District Court of Appeals rules against them ("[they] have presented no credible evidence suggesting new treatment can restore Mrs. Schiavo”, and the removal of the feeding tube is ordered.

More hearings. Five physicians are appointed to review Terri's case. Three come down squarely on the side of Terri not having the potential to improve. Two, the Schindler appointees, give only anecdotal evidence that the reverse could be true. The court sides with the three. The decision is appealed. "The June 2003 appeal to the 2 nd DCA was Schiavo IV. The 2nd DCA panel of judges engaged in what approximated a de novo review of all of the facts, testimony and video tapes presented at trial. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling and its conclusions, and in addition, ordered the trial court to set a hearing date for removal of the artificial life support."

The Schindlers continue unsuccessful attempts to try to have Michael removed as Guardian.

Mid 2003: the national press gets onto the story: " National media coverage, active involvement by groups advocating right to life, and the attention of the Governor’s office and the Florida Legislature, catapulted Theresa’s case into a different dimension."

Jeb Bush predicates his championship of Terri's continued survival on whether or not she can take oral nutrition and hydration. In October 2003 Terri's feeding tube is directed to be disconnected. Bush and the Florida legislature pass "Terri's Law," which requires a new Guardian Ad Litem. The feeding tube is reinserted per Bush's orders. The GAL conducted a vigorous review of the case, meeting continually with all parties (including the Governor), many medical experts, evaluating 30,000 pages of documents, etc.

The GAL states, "Early in Theresa’s care, neurological examinations were performed to assess her cognitive capacity. Competent medical practitioners determined that Theresa was in what has been consistently defined as a persistent vegetative state – a finding that throughout the litigation was not disputed by either side. Quite recently, the Schindlers have disputed that Theresa is in a persistent vegetative state, and in the alternative, they have argued that even if she is, she deserves to live and be maintained via artificial nutrition and hydration.
"Terri is a living, breathing human being. When awake, she sometimes groans, makes noises that emulate laughter or crying, and may appear to track movement. But the scientific medical literature and the reports this GAL obtained from highly respected neuro-science researchers indicate that these activities are common and characteristic of persons in a persistent vegetative state.
"This having been said, Theresa has a distinct presence about her. Being with Theresa, holding her hand, looking into her eyes and watching how she is lovingly treated by Michael, her parents and family and the clinical staff at hospice is an emotional experience. It would be easy to detach from her if she were comatose, asleep with her eyes closed and made no noises. This is the confusing thing for the lay person about persistent vegetative states."

The GAL concludes: "The GAL concludes from the medical records and consultations with medical experts that the scope and weight of the medical information within the file concerning Theresa Schiavo consists of competent, well documented information that she is in a persistent vegetative state with no likelihood of improvement, and that the neurological and speech pathology evidence in the file support the contention that she cannot take oral nutrition or hydration and cannot consciously interact with her environment."

But a GAL footnote says much: "But that is not enough. This evidence is compromised by the circumstances and the enmity between the parties. Until recently, while both Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers agreed that Theresa was in a persistent vegetative state, they could not agree as to the matter of discontinuation of life support. Recently, the Shindlers have adopted what appears to be a position that Theresa is not in a persistent vegetative state, and/or that they do not support the fact that such a medical state exists at all. Yet throughout the nearly ten years of litigation, it is the issue of her ability to swallow, ingest food and hydration, and the findings regarding any residual cognitive ability that have marked the medical substance of this dispute.

"Of the Schindlers, there has evolved the unfortunate and inaccurate perception that they will “keep Theresa alive at any and all costs” even if that were to result in her limbs being amputated and additional, complex surgical and medical interventions being performed, and even if Theresa had expressly indicated her intention not to be so maintained. During the course of the GAL’s investigation, the Schindlers allow that this is not accurate, and that they never intended to imply a gruesome maintenance of Theresa at all costs.

"Of Michael Schiavo, there is the incorrect perception that he has refused to relinquish his guardianship because of financial interests, and more recently, because of allegations that he actually abused Theresa and seeks to hide this. There is no evidence in the record to substantiate any of these perceptions or allegations.

"Until and unless there is objective, fresh, mutually agreed upon closure regarding measurable and well accepted scientific bases for deducing Theresa’s clinical state, Theresa will not be done justice. There must be at least a degree of trust with respect to a process that the factions competing for Theresa’s best interest can agree. To benefit Theresa, and in the overall interests of justice, good science, and public policy, there needs to be a fresh, clean-hands start.

"The Schindlers and the Schiavos are normal, decent people who have found themselves within the construct of an exceptional circumstance which none of them, indeed, few reasonable and normal people could have imagined. As a consequence of this circumstance, extensive urban mythology has created toxic clouds, causing the parties and others to behave in ways that may not, in the order of things, serve the best interests of the ward."


BABYLON—where I go dreaming
When I weary of to-day,
Weary of a world grown gray. (Ralph Hodgson)

Katrina vanden Heuvel on cultural barbarism.

In this case, we are witnessing violence against one of the world's greatest cultural treasures.   Babylon's destruction, according to The Guardian, "must rank as one of the most reckless acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory."  When Camp Babylon was established by US-led international forces in April 2003,  leading archeologists and international experts on ancient civilizations warned of potential peril and damage. It was "tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain,"  according to a damning report issued in January by the British Museum.

The report, drafted by Dr. John Curtis--one of the world's leading archeologists--documents that the military base, built and overseen by Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton,  jeopardized what is often referred to as the "mother of all archeological sites." Helicopter landing places and parking lots for heavy vehicles caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity. US military vehicles crushed  2,600 year old brick pavement, archeological fragments were scattered across the site, trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists. As several eminent archeologists have pointed out, while the looting of the Iraqi Museum in the first days of the war was horrifying, the destruction of ancient sites has even more dire consequences for those trying to piece together the history of civilization.


One more thing about the Terri Schiavo case. I heard someone on CNN remark that the Schindlers (Terri's parents) had expressed the fact that a living will wouldn't have made any difference to them -- they would have fought to keep her alive even if they knew it was against her wishes.

Now I don't know about you, but that screams to me that it's all about them and what they want -- and not about Terri herself.

As Xpatriated Texan says in this beautiful post, the Schindlers could be spending these, the last days of their daughter's human existence, with her in peace, storing up memories of a quiet, loving time to comfort them in their sorrow. They could be sending a message of Christian hope to all the world and giving evidence to their faith. Instead they have chosen to wage a bitter crusade on a very "fleshly" (as we say in the church) basis.

The night before my dad died (he was unconscious for several days before he died, having refused heroic measures to prolong his life) my mom, my sisters and I, with other family members, crowded around Daddy's hospital bed to watch the MTV Awards on TV (my nephew's rock band was receiving the "Best Music Video" award; he and his wife skipped the after-ceremony festivities and flew to Daddy's bedside afterwards). Daddy wasn't aware, but we all kept telling him what was happening, and how the kids would be coming to see him right afterwards. We told stories about and to Daddy and laughed and stroked his forehead, held his hand, took turns cuddling with him. That night is as vivid in my memory today as it was nine years ago, and such a comfort. It very much helped form my children's attitudes towards death as not something to be feared but as natural as going into a peaceful sleep from which there is no waking in this life, but only in the next.

I have not judged the Schindlers any more than I have Michael Schiavo. But I do think they are missing out on what should be a precious time of family coming together. And I think the fact that they would disregard Terri's wishes is telling.

UPDATE: Telling, indeed. Barbara at Mahablog directs us to this comment at American Street:

"Mr. Schiavo used the settlement to go back to school and become a nurse and respiratory therapist to take care of his wife. It was his medical training that convinced him that there was no point in sustaining her life artificially.

Her “loving” family tried to take care of Mrs. Schiavo for three weeks in 1990 and gave up because of the amount of care she needed."

You don't hear THAT blasted across the airwaves when wingnuts are questioning the long interval between Terri's collapse and her husband's asking to remove her feeding tube. This poor man has been vilified enough.

UPDATE: This KOS diary has a lot of background information on Michael and the Schindlers that you won't hear on CNN or Fox News.


Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (yes, the one that's Little Scotty's mom) says House Bill 3 won't generate enough revenue to make up for its school property tax cuts. In fact, she says it falls billions short of doing so.

An angry Speaker Tom Craddick accused Mrs. Strayhorn of either "playing politics" or being "inept."

Her tart response: "My heart goes out to them. They just passed the largest tax bill in history, and it does not balance."

Mrs. Strayhorn's report cited flaws in the bill's revamped business franchise tax, the chief measure designed to raise money in place of a one-third cut in property taxes. She said it leaves too many loopholes and options and does not ensure each business would pay a minimum amount of taxes.

How amusing to watch Texas Republicans cannibalizing themselves. Couldn't happen to a sweeter bunch of people.


My, my. Froomkin says that the pResident's S.S. road show isn't going well.

Ever since his State of the Union address, Bush has been riding Air Force One to and fro, holding campaign-style "conversations" on Social Security during which he typically says nothing new and provides no details of his proposal.

Up until now, not just local reporters but even the national ones as well have typically bent over backward to treat what Bush says at these events like news.

But today's stories capture not so much what Bush says but what is most remarkable about these events: the stagecraft that goes into them and the exclusion of the general public in favor of screened supporters.

The world must be coming to an end! Reporters are actually covering the events, not the spin.


Reagan's Solicitor General, Harvard law professor Charles Fried, says "Federalism has a right to life, too."

IN their intervention in the Terri Schiavo matter, Republicans in Congress and President Bush have, in a few brief legislative clauses, embraced the kind of free-floating judicial activism, disregard for orderly procedure and contempt for the integrity of state processes that they quite rightly have denounced and sought to discipline for decades.
Finally, the law passed by Congress on Monday was an obvious attempt - under the pretense of allowing the determination of federal constitutional rights - to delay the outcome decreed by Florida state law with the hope of making that outcome impossible. That is precisely the worrisome tactic employed with increasingly imaginative stays and orders of re-litigation in a number of federal courts, most noticeably the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers nine Western states. And it is also precisely the sort of tactic that Congress sought to discipline in the Effective Death Penalty Act.

It is no good for politicians to try to justify this absurd departure from principles of federalism and respect for sound and orderly judicial administration by saying that, in this case, the life at stake is unquestionably innocent. For in many of the death penalty cases, the claim has also been that the prisoner had at least unfairly, and perhaps even incorrectly, been condemned to death.

What we have is many of the the same political leaders who denounced the Supreme Court's decision forbidding states from executing those who committed their crimes as juveniles now feel free to parachute in on a case that had been within a state court's purview for 15 years.

Prof. Fried obviously doesn't understand Bush Country. OF COURSE they embrace for themselves what they denounce in others! That's the singular and most consistent characteristic of this administration and their cohorts: they feel they're anointed by God and therefore have the RIGHT and DUTY to use governmental institutions in any way that brings about the end they desire. Whether or not that makes us a "nation of men, and not laws" is irrelevant to them since they're the men in charge and they KNOW what's best for everyone else.

UPDATE: Seems more GOP'ers are concerned about this "violation of federalism."

Tuesday, March 22

Go read. You'll be disgusted. It's all about Bush's love for the death penalty.


Possibly the best analyses of the Terri Schiavo case that I have read.


For Bush, science is a dirty word.

You know, when I was a kid (and we were in church every time the doors were open), I never felt that my religious faith was threatened by scientific discoveries. In fact, I distinctly remember some celebrated scientist saying that every advance confirmed and strengthened his faith. I felt, and still feel, the same way. Over and over in my life, scientific and historical/anthropological discoveries have lent weight to the truth of the Bible. I was taught as a youngster that a faith that cannot stand in the face of science is faulty, and I have never seen science as a threat, only as enlightenment.

But I'm talking about the actual words of the Bible here, not some wacko's interpretation of it. These modern "faith-based" movements that scorn science smack to me of fear. And fear, according to the Bible, is the OPPOSITE of faith.

It's been so obvious to me for years (I've been a Texas resident for 20 years now) that George W. Bush has no real faith, and it escapes me how it is not obvious to others "of faith." All I can conclude is that his words are comforting to a mass of people who fear, fear greatly, the world as it is and the personal world they abide in. He confirms their fears and promises some treackly protection from it.

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14).

UPDATE: They lie so frequently, I don't have a chance to take a breath.


Whoa! Did David Brooks read my post yesterday? This is the most passionate column he's written since joining the NYTimes (at least, that I've read), and he could hardly have picked a sweeter topic than the sleazy doings of Repug insiders like Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed, formerly the director of the Christian Coalition and the soon-to-be candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia.


It's starting. You know, the attempt to blame "liberal activist judges" for the death of Terri Schiavo. Doesn't matter that she really died 15 years ago. This is just too good an opportunity to pass up for Repugs to distract voters from Tom DeLay's pending legal problems and George Bush's failures to destroy Social Security.

Lorrie Keho is spokeswoman for the Right to Life Campaign in the US which has been organising support for Terri Schiavo's parents in the case.

She says she is very disappointed with the latest court ruling.

"It's outrageous, but you know what, we're getting used to this thing in the United States," she said.

"This is just a raw abuse of judicial power, this is an outrage.

"Judge Whittemore has engaged in a gross abuse of his judicial power, the US Congress acted and he made a clear legal error."

Yeah, we're getting used to this thing in the United States. A Republican government that SAYS it wants to get off the backs of "the people" but DOES anything it can to interfere in private choice. Where's the Libertarian and Conservative outrage?

Monday, March 21


I have to say, About Politics consistently covers interesting and important issues not otherwise obvious to me.

Give it a look, and you'll keep looking.


Anyone else notice how, since last night, Terri Schiavo is being referred to as "Terri Schindler-Schiavo" as if her marriage is suddenly less legitimate? How Rovian! I've heard this all over wingnut radio and Fox News in the last 24 hours. Must have been part of the latest Repug talking points, in an effort to make the claims of her parents equal to, or superior to, those of her lawfully wedded husband.

And didn't you love Tom DeLay's rationale for interfering in the "sacred" institution of marriage? When a reporter queried House Majority Leader Tom DeLay Saturday about that point, he replied, “The sanctity of life overshadows the sanctity of marriage. I don’t know what transpired between Terri and her husband. All I know is Terri is alive…. Unless she has specifically written instructions in her hand, with her signature, I don’t care what her husband says.”

Another of the obvious talking points repeated ad nauseum from station to station: "Her husband wants to KILL her." Not let her die peacefully or with dignity, remind you, but kill (murder) her. It is so Rovian to frame this debate not as a poignant family choice issue but as an attempt to save a victim from a murdering husband. Who could oppose that? Except that we do. Americans are not buying that Michael Schiavo is a failed murderer -- 15 years after her collapse, where has there ever been shown any evidence or even implication that Michael was involved in a heart failure brought on by bulimia? -- and are, indeed, in large numbers opposed to governmental interference in what is, essentially, a private family decision.

It's after 3:00 ET now, and I'm listening to CNN's coverage of the hearing. CNN's legal analyst is declaring that the bill is dangerous, illegal, sets dangerous precedents, and is expected to be overturned. Every legal expert I've heard over the past few days has had a similar opinion.

I heard earlier that "Schiavo, in Italian, means slave." The context was that the speaker was implying that Terri is a slave of her husband's desires to end her life. Contrarily, I would say that she is currently a slave of political expediency and opportunism.


I found myself in tears this morning driving in to work, listening to right-wing radio excoriate Michael Schiavo and his "tramp" partner (direct quote, Darrell Ankarlo), the woman he has lived with for the past ten years and with whom he has two children.

I suppose it has never occurred to these hateful, judgmental people that Schiavo's partner might be a woman of great love and understanding, standing by her man for a decade without the benefit of marriage so that he may continue to fight for the rights of the love of his youth, his wife Terri.

These kinds of tragedies tear families apart, but the decisions should reside within the families -- outsiders have no right, nor invitation in most cases, to interfere or to judge. One of my dearest friends was scorned by her mother several years ago for not agreeing to keep her sister on life support for over a year. The sister had been a nurse and had repeatedly, and forcefully, expressed her opposition to having her life preserved by artificial means. The mother, in her grief and distress, overrode those wishes and was furious not to receive the support of her other daughter. After a year the mother came to her senses, bowed to the inevitable, and her daughter was at last allowed to die with dignity. The emotional anguish my friend suffered during that year of estrangement from her mother cannot be described, but it was made all the more painful by the scorn of friends and neighbors who implied that she was just eager to get rid of her sister so she wouldn't have to partake in her care, among other cruel judgments.

I have witnessed twice in my immediate family such a choice being faced, first in the case of my father and then in the case of my older sister, also a nurse. My mother bore the burden of the choice. In each case, she would have been more than happy to have cared for either of her loved ones for the rest of her (or their) lives, no matter the sacrifice. She wouldn't have just visited them in hospice, she would have wanted them home under her own care, and she would have killed herself in the doing. But her love was great enough not to even consider her desires or the judgements of other people -- it would never have occurred to her to think of anything but fulfilling their own wishes. No, they didn't leave living wills. But she knew, just as anyone who had been intimate with them knew, what they would want.

To characterize Michael Schiavo as a monster is characteristic of the wingnuts who think they must demonize one side of an argument in order to win it. Darrell Ankarlo this morning actually said, "You KNOW he did it!" implying that Schiavo actually was responsible for his wife's condition. This case has been reviewed, and re-reviewed, by 19 judges in the state of Florida, and there has never been a single one of them who showed an ounce of suspicion of his motives.

This is a private affair, a personal tragedy that is being exploited in the most calculating, cynical manner by Republican politicians, right-to-life fanatics and conservative media. It's like the Dean Scream, with the MSM showing the same short tape of Terri in hospice over and over for year after year, leading uninformed people to believe she actually has some cognition that might be improved when every doctor who has examined her has said she has virtually no cerebral cortex, no brain function.

I know that if something similar were to happen to me I would want my beloved Sage to go on with his life, even marry and enjoy a family. It wouldn't mean he no longer cared for me. And if he fought for my right to die, while living with another, it wouldn't mean either he or the lady was trying to "rid" themselves of me. I'd view it as his last great gift of love.


CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen on the wider implications of the Schiavo legislation:

QUESTION: What does that concept do the regular give and take between the court systems, the idea of comity and cooperation between judges?

ANSWER: It destroys it. But that's the whole point of this Congressional action. Not liking a particular result in a case that has been litigated fully and completely by a court with competent jurisdiction, Congress now has said that the game must be re-done with new rules that heavily favor one side over the other. The implications of this move are astonishing. Just think about it. Anytime Congress doesn't like the result in a particular case, it could swoop in and call a "do-over," which is essentially what this legislation represents. And this from a Congress that has for a decade or so tried to keep all sorts of citizens-- including disabled employees-- out of federal court. If this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. It would throw out of whack the entire concept of separation of powers. The constitutional law expert Tribe calls it "trial by legislation" and he is right.

QUESTION: You are getting agitated again. Doesn't the legislation specifically say that it does not "constitute a precedent with respect to future legislation, including the provision of private relief bills"?

ANSWER: Yes, it says that. But so what. It said that the last time Congress did this and it didn't stop Congress from doing this now. Look, there is no other way to put it: this is the most blatant and egregious power-grab by one branch over another in my lifetime. Congress is intruding so far into the power of the judiciary, on behalf of a single family, that it is breathtaking. It truly will be fascinating to see how federal court judges react to this-- whether they simply bow down to this end-run or whether they back up their state-court colleagues. And it will be interesting in particular to see what the Supreme Court does with this case. Even the conservatives on the High Court-- and the Chief Justice in particular-- must be concerned about the precedent this sort of legislation would set.

At first I was surprised that a Clinton nominee, District Judge James D. Whittemore, would be conducting the hearing this afternoon. I was sure a staunch Bush supporter would be the Chosen. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: the Repugs don't WANT to succeed. This is all a ploy to blame "liberal activist judges" for doing what they know is right, er, I mean correct.

QUESTION: So you are saying that it is not a slam dunk that this effort by Congress ultimately will succeed even in getting another round of substantive hearings on the merits of Terri Schiavo's rights?

ANSWER: That is exactly what I am saying. And I will go a little further. I'm also saying that there are probably some smart folks on Capitol Hill who are supporting this legislation knowing that ultimately the courts will strike it down. That way, being the politicians that they are, they will be able to blame the heartless judiciary for the result and still will be able to say to their constituents that they tried their best. It is the politics of cynicism at its very best (or very worst).


As Easter approaches, it's not inappropriate to speculate upon what would happen if Jesus were to return today.

As Tecumseh, the great Shawnee warrior, shouted at William Henry Harrison in the early 1800s, "You killed the son of your God, then you worshipped him when he was dead, and now you kill those who choose not to follow him."

If Christ came back today to resume preaching the Sermon on the Mount, Karl Rove would slime him in the media, then kill him outright, then turn his words into right wing hatespeak, then kill those who refuse to follow in his name. 

If Christ came back to organize against Bush's war, Rove's pet bloviators would shriek about Mary Magdalene.  Isn't that her seated next to Christ in DaVinci's "Last Supper"?  Wasn't she unmarried, pregnant with Christ's bastard child,  catching his blood dripping from the cross?

Rush Limbaugh would demand to know what right did the self-proclaimed "Son of God" had to a relationship out of wedlock?  Who was he to feed those loaves and fishes to the undeserving poor, prolonging the existence of inferior racial stock?  Who was he to attack those moneychangers who are the Elect of God and the sponsors of Rush's air time?

Then O'Reilly would slime the Easter thing.  A self-anointed "peace prophet" rising from the tomb?  Poppycock, he'd say.  Just another pinko hippie terrorist conspiracy theory.
Hitler claimed Christ was an Aryan supremacist.  Now Rove, DeLay & company use him to justify dictatorial, greed-approving, gay-hating, war loving, torture-is-fine bigotry. 

Easter says otherwise.  It should remind us that if Jesus returned to preach the Gandhian love-thy-neighbor subversion with which he challenged the Romans, Karl Rove would do what Pilate did. 

But Rove would be better at the spin. 


Oh boy. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution nails another religious-right Republican hypocrite. Seems Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition turned political strategist, is running for Lt. Gov. of Georgia. His righteous image, however, is tarnished by his business dealings in recent years. The AJC article, in short, tells the story of how Reed was hired by his long-time good buddy Jack Abramoff (known as "Casino Jack" among his fellow lobbyists) to wage a religious crusade against an Indian casino in El Paso, Texas, so that rival tribes could open up their own profitable casino after it was closed.

Reed's claim that "at no time were we retained by nor did we represent any casino or casino company" is equally beside the point. The $4 million was laundered before it got to Reed, much of it through a fraudulent front in Delaware, but it was gambling money nonetheless. Given Abramoff's role in directing the campaign, Reed had to have known that. He may look like a choir boy, but he is one of the shrewdest operators in Washington.

Again, there is no indication that Reed faces legal trouble in this case, which is more than can be said for a few other politicians, such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

But there's still something troubling about Reed pretending to be doing the work of the Lord, while in reality doing the bidding of gambling interests.

And unlike Reed, the pastors and congregations that he drew into his web had no idea that what they perceived to be a moral crusade against gambling was instead being directed and financed by gamblers, on behalf of gamblers, and to the financial enrichment of a man they trusted and saw as a hero.

The story's been related before, both here and here, but those are "liberal rags" and unlikely to receive a wide readership among Georgia voters. The AJC is different. Its voice carries weight, especially in Georgia's urban areas. Maybe at last the pol-disguised-as-preacher will be exposed for the hypocrisy of his ethics, of which this is just the latest tale (see here for the story of how Reed signed on as a senior adviser to Bush's first presidential campaign while still working as a lobbyist for Microsoft to influence Bush to support Microsoft's position in the Justice Department's antitrust case if he won the November presidential election).

One of the most despicable classes of human beings is reserved for those who pervert the honest religious faith of others for profit. Ralph Reed belongs to that class.


Go right now and read this. Read the whole thing.


Xpatriated Texan, which I've just added to the blogroll, makes a couple of very thoughtful points about the Schiavo case that I haven't heard considered:

The problem with the Republican Party “defending life” to this extreme is that they simply are not thinking about what it means beyond this case. If Terry Schiavo has a right to her life, even if she doesn’t want it, then every other person on earth has the same right to the life they do want. For the federal government to step in now only makes sense if they are ready to step into every single life and guarantee that no one every goes hungry or without medical care. This expense of this proposition is staggering.

The problem is also that it fails to address two propositions that might actually make the case about a humanitarian effort. The first one is that there is no way a doctor can legally hasten Mrs. Schiavo’s death. Rather than granting her the same humane death that the State of Florida uses to execute heinous criminals, she must starve to death. Why should a man who kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and kills a seven-year-old girl be granted greater mercy than a woman whose only fault was a dietary imbalance and no immediate access to health care?

The second is the possibility that human stem cells might hold a cure for Mrs. Schiavo. My understanding is that her cerebral cortex is damaged. One of the possible uses for stem cells is to rebuild such damage. How can we say that Mrs. Schiavo has a right to live, but not a right to a treatment that would help her become fully functional? Again, a man who kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and kills a seven-year-old girl will be offered rehabilitative care if he is injured in prison – why should an innocent woman be any different?

The only reasonable answer to these questions is that they don’t really care about Mrs. Schiavo as a person – they only care about her as a cause. Anyone who really didn’t want to see her suffer would seek either her full rehabilitation or her merciful death. There is no reasonable way to defend the idea that she can die – but only through the most painful method available.

Sunday, March 20


When I opened my first and only business, a retail clothing boutique, when I was 24, I was determined to be enlightened about it. I would pay my employees a fair wage (more than the minimum) plus generous health benefits, be fair and honest with my customers (a no-hassle return policy), give back a portion of the profits to the community, etc. I would be a righteous liberal business owner! Well, the store didn't do very well, but I think that was a function of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong product rather than it was a case of "you can't do right and still make money."

Anyway, Forbes says I don't have what it takes to become a billionaire. (Take the quiz.)

More billionaires, more poverty:

Fifty years ago in the United States, the highest marginal income tax rate was 91 percent; today it is 34 percent. As recently as 1979, taxes on capital gains from the sale of stock, real estate and businesses were 35 percent; today they are 15 percent. Corporate taxes as a percentage of the US economy have shrunk from 4.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1965 to just 1.5 percent in 2002. While corporate taxes have declined throughout the world, they have plummeted in the United States, leaving only Iceland among industrialized countries with a lower corporate tax burden.

Several of the wealthiest billionaires capitalized on public assets and made their fortunes by buying formerly public assets. This was the case with Mexican Carlos Slim Helu, the world's fourth richest man, who used inherited wealth to buy a substantial share of Mexico's privatized national telephone company. US billionaires Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Larry Ellison of Oracle would not be in Forbes' top 20 billionaires had the US government not invested tens of billions of public dollars developing computers and the Internet. Some billionaires' fortunes rest upon paying their employees poverty wages. Such is the case for the Walton family (numbers 10 through 14 on the Forbes list.) Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the world. Many of its US workers are so poorly paid that they must rely on food stamps and other forms of public assistance to get by. Such forms of government aid represent an indirect government subsidy to corporations whose business model does not include paying employees enough to live on. Worldwide, billions are gained by outsourcing service, production and manufacturing functions to workers who labor in sweatshop conditions in countries like China. The role of government policy in determining who has wealth and who does not continues to expand. During the recent debate on the bankruptcy bill, federal lawmakers refused to close the "asset protection trust" loophole increasingly used by millionaires and billionaires to shelter mansions and other assets from creditors in bankruptcy. Those same lawmakers weakened protections that protect the family homes of ordinary people from creditors during bankruptcy. Forbes is wrong; none of the billionaires did it alone. The chasm between rich and poor is not a divide between who has intelligence and drive and who does not. Rather it results from a society whose rules allow some to amass wealth greater than could be enjoyed in a thousand lifetimes, while they deny others enough money to scrape through just one lifetime.


Greg Palast has new information about U.S. plans for Iraqi oil, pre-invasion.


Nick Kristof sounds off, rightly, on CEO pay:

Companies have shaved costs by laying off workers and reducing health care coverage - and then using those savings to slather more pay on top executives. It's true that companies are now cutting back on stock options for C.E.O.'s, but it's hard to be impressed by that restraint when bonuses are soaring.

Since 1993, the average pay for C.E.O.'s of the S.&P. 500 companies has tripled to $10 million at last count, while the number of Americans without health insurance has risen by six million.

Dick Meyer reflects upon the past few years and asks, Has the CEO predator class been tamed? No, he concludes.

There is no sign top corporate compensation is coming back to earth. In 1982, the ratio of average CEO pay to average worker pay was 42 to 1; in 2003, the ratio was 301 to 1. And the the bell weather editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal" now argues that CEO pay will have to go up further to entice talent willing to risk going to jail.
But what smells most foul to me is that the recent uber-scandals weren't the work of renegade con men. They were executed by legions of highly trained MBAs and accountants within the companies, and facilitated by auditors, lawyers, directors and investment bankers outside the companies - all giant organizations that have been merged, acquired, synergized, downsized, depersonalized and bureaucratized.

The worrisome point is that this crime wave was conducted by highly trained and educated professionals, mostly wealthy, mostly the children of history's wealthiest generation. Cheating and greed have been institutionalized.

There's a predator class - still. But maybe I'm just looking for the bad news.

When John Edwards speaks of "two Americas," he's not just spouting rhetoric. The Republican agenda is clearly on the side of the already-wealthy-becoming-much-much-wealthier; the mystery is, why are so many Americans who are struggling economically supporting that effort? At what point did it become politically unpopular in this country to advocate a fair wage and equal opportunity? By what means have the Repugs convinced a majority of Americans that their best hope for the future is to champion the cause of more wealth for the wealthy?

The only answer that makes sense to me is the co-opting of the "moral values" issue by Repugs as the new bigotry distraction. Throughout history evil men have used bigotry, whether racial, religious, or nationalistic, to distract the economic underclasses from the real issues that would divide them against their masters. In the post-Civil War South, poor workers were incited to see themselves, like their company masters, as superior to their colored economic peers, which resulted in the depression of wages since common cause could not be made and unionism was defeated. In post-WWI Germany Jews were advanced as the "enemy" and the cause of the nation's economic difficulties. Common Germans identified with uber-rich industrialists more than those of their own economic class who were of a different religion.

Today in America we are startled to see $200 million compensation packages for CEO's who neither founded the company nor presided over great gains for shareholders or employees. But then the subject quickly changes to Terri Schiavo, or Elian Gonzales, or abortion, or gay marriage. Being on the "right side" of these issues aligns middle- and lower-earning people with strong doctrinal beliefs more with their zillionaire employers and politicians than with others of their own economic class, distracting them from issues key to their own survival and prosperity such as increased minimum wages, social safety nets, access to healthcare, a fairer sharing of the tax burden with those best able to afford it, and educational opportunity.

It's a cynical manipulation of our people, but it's worked repeatedly. It's most successful when no opposition voices cry out. Howard Dean was castigated when he stated he wanted to reach out to lower-income Southerners whose pickups sported a Confederate flag. But he was exactly right in his goal: Democrats have GOT to wake up America to the fact that NOBODY's better off for the past four years except those who were already quite well off before.


Bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan on the Terri Schiavo case:

...Michael Schiavo, despite all the hatred that is now directed against him, has the right to decide his wife’s fate. The decision about Terri’s life does not belong to the U.S. Congress, President Bush, Rep. Tom Delay of Texas, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature, clerics in Rome, self-proclaimed disability activists, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, conservative commentators, bioethicists or Terri’s parents. The decision is Michael’s and Michael’s alone...

Remember the recent debate about gay marriage and the sanctity of the bond between husband and wife? Nearly all of those now trying to push their views forward about what should be done with Terri Schiavo told us that marriage is a sacred trust between a man and a woman. Well, if that is what marriage means then it is very clear who should be making the medical decisions for Terri — her husband.

But, isn’t it true that tough questions have been raised about whether he has her best interests at heart? They have. But, these charges against Michael Schiavo have been heard in court again and again and again. And no court has found them persuasive...

This has got to be the most extensively litigated "right-to-die" case in U.S. history. No one looking at what has gone on in the courts in this case could possibly deny that all parties have had ample opportunity for objective and independent review by earnest and prudent judges of the facts and trial court orders.
So, it is clear that the time has come to let Terri die. Not because everyone who is brain damaged should be allowed to die. Not because her quality of life is too poor for anyone to think it meaningful to go on. Not even because she costs a lot of money to continue to care for. Simply because her husband who loves her and has stuck by her for more than 15 years says she would not want to live the way she is living.
The state courts of this country have the power to review termination of treatment cases and have done so with compassion, skill and wisdom for many years. Those who would change a system that has worked — and worked well for the millions of Americans who face the most difficult of medical decisions — should think very hard about whether Sen. Bill Frist, DeLay, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Bush, Sen. John Kerry or the governor of your state needs to be consulted before you and your doctor can decide that it is time to stop life-prolonging medical care.


How much more dishonest and reckless in its foreign policy can the Bush administration be?

The United States briefed allies on North Korea in late January and early February. Shortly afterward, administration officials, speaking to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, said North Korea had sold uranium hexafluoride to Libya. The officials said the briefing was arranged to share the information with China, South Korea and Japan ahead of a new round of hoped-for negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program.

But in recent days, two other U.S. officials said the briefings were hastily arranged after China and South Korea indicated they were considering bolting from six-party talks on North Korea. The talks have been seen as largely ineffectual, but the Bush administration, which refuses to meet bilaterally with Pyongyang, insists they are critical to curbing North Korea's nuclear program.
Since Pakistan became a key U.S. ally in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, the administration has not held President Pervez Musharraf accountable for actions taken by Khan while he was a member of Musharraf's cabinet and in charge of nuclear cooperation for the government.

"The administration is giving Pakistan a free ride when they don't deserve it and hurting U.S. interests at the same time," said Charles L. Pritchard, who was the Bush administration's special envoy for the North Korea talks until August 2003. "As our allies get the full picture, it doesn't help our credibility with them," he said.

So last month CIA head Porter Goss testifies before Congress but gives "no indication the intelligence community believed that North Korea had supplied nuclear materials to Libya, that it was capable of producing uranium hexafluoride or that it was a member of the nuclear black market." Instead, it is learned, North Korea actually sold nuclear material to PAKISTAN, which distributed it via the notorious Dr. A.Q. Khan to Libya. Gotta protect those good old guys who are helping us find (?!) Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda henchmen!

Of course, lying to your allies (and to the rest of the world, including your own people) does have consequences. The truth has a way of willing out. The Chinese and South Koreans have been doubting our reports about North Korea and trying to decrease the pressure on that country. So the U.S. comes out with new charges, infuriates Kim Jong Il into declaring an end to six-party talks, and now the U.S. is softening its rhetoric in an attempt to get the talks going again. And it's one more black mark against U.S. "diplomacy" (uh, for lack of a more appropriate word).

These guys just lie like they breathe. So much for "moral values."

The new details follow a string of controversies concerning the Bush administration's use of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in March 2003, the White House offered a public case against Iraq that concealed dissent on nearly every element of intelligence and included interpretations unsupported by the evidence.