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Monday, February 28, 2005

Chrenkoff on Syria

Chrenkoff notes that Syria is returning land to Jordan and gives some demographic background to the regime:
One important thing to bear in mind when discussing Syria is that, like in many other places around the region, the power is wielded by a distinct minority over a majority, which doesn't share its rulers ethnicity and/or religion. If you thought that the situation in Saddamite Iraq was particularly unusual, with the Sunnis (who comprised 20% of the population) lording over the Shia and the Kurds (to be more precise, a certain tribal subset of Sunnis lording over everyone else), spare a thought for Syria, where the current regime is based around the Alawite sect (an offshoot of Shiism), comprising just over 10% of the population, while Sunni Syrians make up some three quarters of the population.
So go read Chrenkoff.

Wackily There

Given that my temperature is once again back up above 102, the title of this post describes me as well as the content. Check this out. It begins well:
I would like to take this opportunity to bring to light one of the greatest atrocities that has befallen a fellow member of the animal kingdom; an outrage that makes me ashamed to be associated with humankind. In fact, because of this wrongdoing, I do hereby revoke my membership to the human race. From now on, I am a ferret.
It continues on in the same vein:
I ventured over to Discovery.com following a misleading link to frolicking vixens. I‘ve never been to their website, but I often enjoy watching their programming on cable where cute, cuddly little furry woodland creatures are viciously attacked and eaten by badgers. What they don’t show you, of course, is the animal trainer off-camera dressed in a rabbit costume working the badgers into a frenzy by singing off key, smacking them around and reading anti-badger literature to them, until finally he is given a cue to release the badgers onto the unsuspecting friendly animals of the forest.
By the end one is just wondering helplessly how long this can go on? And that is my condition, because I'm pretty sure that this is the third consecutive flu-ridden week, and I am now definitely sicker than ever. Sunday I was considering going to the hospital on the off-chance that they have instituted a mercy-killing clinic, but Chief No-Nag had read the Sunday paper, which reported 11 deaths from flu at a 63 bed local hospital, and nixed it. You just can't count on anyone these days.

So I am going to have to try that bizarre medical advice of staying in bed, drinking lots of fluids, a.k.a. not going to work, and that is what I have been doing since Sunday, a period of time subjectively equal to that required for the creation of the universe. And in fact, I report proudly, the only periods of time I have spent upright are those in which I am consuming buckets of water and coughing. So for all of you who are leaving rational comments, thank you, and some day when I am rational I will reply. For now I am just reading admiringly and thinking "wow, rational people!" while keeping a worried eye out for enraged badgers. They are getting closer.

Also, I should report that I found the link to the blog containing the above piece of inspired wackiness at The Conservative Cat.

Memri on Dawa and Ja'fari

MEMRI has a new bulletin covering the probable new Iraqi prime minister, al Ja'fari (a.k.a. Jaafari), the Dawa Party, and Iraq's likely direction. It's quite thorough. Their conclusion:
Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari emerges from his statements as a religious moderate and a pragmatic politician. Given that he will preside over a transitional government until the next elections due for December of this year, there is no reason for alarm that he would seek to transform Iraq into an Islamist nation while the country is engaged in the drafting of a new constitution. There could be some changes on the margin, but the fundamental principles upon which the Iraqi social and political mosaic resides will probably remain unchanged.
I don't consider MEMRI a mouthpiece for the Bush administration so I read the whole thing with great interest. Al Ja'fari opposed the invasion, but also opposes premature withdrawal of the troops. He sounds like a politician capable of bridging gaps:
Free for the first time from the politically oppressive environments in Iraq and Iran, al-Ushaiqir/al-Ja'fari was able to refocus attention on the "Iraqi Shi'a identity," to interact with other Iraqi parties in exile and to offer innovative ideas about a democratic future for Iraq. In fact, the Islamic Da'wa Party was able to establish what was termed as "flexible alliances" with other leaders in exile. Al-Ja'fari was instrumental in his party's decision to take part in the 1991 meetings in Beirut of the national action committee, the precursor of the Iraqi National Congress. [5] His activities, inclined toward political pragmatism, were opposed by another wing of the Da'wa Party led by Abu Bilal al-Adib, who supported the Iranian agenda and continues to reside in Iran and to be financially supported by the Iranian government.
That might explain why Sistani endorsed al-Ja'fari.

Terri's not alone

The things we do, oh the things we do. Terri is by no means the only person who is being starved to death based on a doubtful wish. The Florida Cracker has summed this one up neatly:
Rather than eye Mr. Cracker with suspicion, I did a living will saying I want my food and water any way I can get them. It's not too much to ask that you be fed and watered twice a day.
The things you have to do these days to protect yourself from hearsay.
As far as societal opinion goes, I would say that people will pity you so much they'll kill you- but I don't think that's the case. I think there are new rules being formed as to who is and who is not a person. More accurately, I think these are just the old rules that are making a comeback.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans would recognize them: Expose the elderly and infirm on mountainsides, put the unwanted baby on the dungheap. The pre/post-Christian lifestyle choices.
A commenter responds:
I don't know how many Living Wills I've seen and even prepared myself for clients. A bunch. One of the effects of this case on me has been that I shudder now that in the vast majority of those cases the people signing their living wills chose "Cease providing nourishment" or " Cease providing hydration" or BOTH (among other options on the form). The standard form in Georgia doesn't give you all that many choices, and most people who sign them are just thinking "I don't want to be kept alive if I'm a vegetable and have no chance of recovering". No one envisions themselves as Terry Schiavo. They don't consider the possible agony of a long, slow death by starvation while you're conscious but can't communicate. That really bothers me.
It bothers me too. But it gets worse. Some people have been starved to death while they were alert and begging for food and water. The comments at this post on Polipundit included this one (comment # 72):
I’m an RN who’s worked in the facility where Terry is. I’ve been working in Long Term Care for 20 years and have unfortunately seem quite a few Terry Schiavo’s. The latest patient I’ve had the pleasure to work with was a 76 year old woman with progressive swallowing problems.
It got to the point after extensive testing, that she was unable to take food by mouth without the risk of choking. She was aware of her surroundings but occasionally confused so her out of state family had power of attorney to make her medical/legal decisions. They denied doctors the right to place a feeding tube, saying she was “old, sick and tired.” We had instructions from the legal team to not give her food or water for fear of her choking. So we had a sweet little 76 y/o senior citizen that we were literally starving to death!! It was pathetic and pitiful. This poor soul would beg for food and water only to be told no. It was heartbreaking. Long story short, we nurses took the chance of her choking and gave her food and water when we could. The family knew something was up and came to move her from our facility to one near them. Found out she died 2 weeks later of dehydration. Her family threatened to sue all of us for not following their instructions. Hasn’t happened yet, we’ll see. It’s so sad to see someone pass away that way. It’s the rules of threes. Three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food. The patient really ends up suffering greatly.
Right to die doesn't mean right to kill. This is the reason that if you support the right to die you should be very active in defending the limitations of the courts and others to make that decision for someone else.

Liberal Misery

Tom Carter has an excellent post up about liberals (I think this is a misnomer, I think this should be "leftists") who hate George Bush to the point of possibly being driven to defend irrational positions. As with many others of Tom's thoughtful posts, the comments this one inspired were excellent, and even more excellent for being given from many different points of view. The measure of a good issues blog is the quality of the commentary it inspires, IMO, and the commentary on Tom's is exceptional.

In my mind I make a clear distinction between people who hold differing perspectives on issues and those who are all about being devoted to a cause. The perspectives types might be very liberal or very conservative by conviction, but will deal with each issue on its merits. The causists types seem to tend to develop a fanatic view that rejects anyone who doesn't "stand" with their cause. The Buzzmachine has been discussing the same issues as in this post about being a liberal not in the current mainstream and the abuse and rejection this has inspired. He calls the causists (on the left and right) "fringers", which is about as good a way to say it as any. He followed up with this post and this post. I urge you to read the BuzzMachine and then read Tom's post.

Also, if you are a Republican and feel the need to gloat, remember that this type of syndrome could easily be in your party's future. A country with a strong streak of cultural fanaticism is not a healthy country. How do you know when you are being sucked into fanaticism? When you find yourself ignoring the facts in favor of the accepted view, evading reasonable dialogue in favor of invective, and believing that passion is the stamp of credibility.

So here is why the BuzzMachine is being added to my blog links (I read everyone on there every week, at a minimum):
This is no way to win elections and no way to enact change and no way to influence policy. If this wing continues to be the loudest voice of the party and, in fact, takes over the party, then you can bet that the Democrats will forever be in opposition -- a role these folks love like cultists who feed on attack -- or, worse, even sink into extinction. I'm not a third-party guy; never have been, never want to be. But being attacked for daring to disagree on one issue or with one self-proclaimed leader is no way to win friends and influence elections. I hope the Clinton wing retakes the party from the spitting fringe.

I'm no right-winger. But I'm not their kind of left-winger. I'm proud to sit in the center with most of America, in a country that isn't at war, red v. blue, but is getting sick of the fringers who are.
By most standards the BuzzMachine is pretty much to the left:
What does my right-wing look like?
: I voted for John Kerry, though reluctantly.
: I voted for Bill Clinton, eagerly.
: I am dying to vote for Hillary Clinton.
: I vote Democratic in local races in my corner of New Jersey, when they have the guts to run.
: I am pro-choice.
: I opposed the Bush tax cuts.
: I am against school vouchers.
: I am for gay marriage and quit the Presbyterian Church over its bigotry against gays.
: I am for universal health care.
: I fight for free speech in America and elsewhere.
: I wrote a cover story for The Nation.
But he's not an 'ist, or an 'ite, just a man doggedly trying to forge a better future in the US and the world. One of his terrible crimes is that he supported the Iraqi war. He is also a professional journalist; it's quite interesting to read his take on matters.

So Now The Danger

The Lebanonese government has announced its resignation, as explained in this BBC article reporting the protestors' joy:
Lebanon's Prime Minister Omar Karami has announced he and his government are resigning, two weeks after the murder of former PM Rafik Hariri.
"I am keen the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country," Mr Karami said.
"I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honour to head. May God preserve Lebanon."
I think his last statement is pretty much to the point. Syria has no intention of going easily or quietly. This WND article discusses again the power struggle within Syria and its possible future plans:
It was the threat of a Lebanon crisis, sparked by the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, that prompted Assad's sister, Bushara Chawkat to approach her brother with a plan of ascension for her husband. She requested him to grant more authority to her husband, Assaf Chawkat, so that they would be able to avoid an end to their family dynasty begun with the rise to power of their father, Hafez al-Assad, in 1969.
Chawkat immediately took steps to assure Iran regarding the future of Hezbollah should Syria be forced to move out of Lebanon. General Chawkat is a firm believer in the use of force and in using the Hezbollah as a tool to settle certain Syrian political or military scores. He also gave the Iranians verbal assurances Damascus would not restrain Hezbollah should the U.S. or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear assets.

This calculated variant to use Hezbollah in a direct anti-U.S. campaign fully correlates with tactical theories developed by Chawkat. He plans, according to G2 Bulletin sources, to permit Hezbollah to confront the U.S. and Israel as an Iranian sub-contracted military tool – giving Syria plausible deniability for such attacks. Against the backdrop of growing tension in Beirut, Chawkat is leading the so-called “Lebanon lobby,” a group of active or retired Syrian intelligence generals and Baath Party extremists who are contemplating using Hezbollah to stir up a new Lebanese civil war.
Israel believes that Syria is responsible for the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv:
Islamic Jihad militants in Damascus said they staged the Tel Aviv attack, but Syria denies any involvement.

Syria said it was facing unprecedented international pressure following the attack, and feared that it was among the US' next military targets.
Of course now Sharon is faced with a difficult choice. It is difficult or impossible for him to procede with "stand-down" measures toward Palestine if Israel is being attacked in this way and Sharon is saying that he may have to step up military activities. He wants Abbas to deal with Islamic Jihad in Palestine. Abbas has called the attack sabotage. Syria, of course, says Israel did it, and also that it fears it is being set up for attack by the USA. Possibly to bolster its image, it has handed over a group of 30 Iraqi Baathists to the Iraqi government, including Saddam Hussein's half-brother.

Tuesday a meeting will be held in London. Kofi Anan will be among those attending, as will Jack Straw, and Condoleeza Rice. The goal of the meeting is to develop a strategy for Palestine to move forward with the peace process, and one assumes considerable foreign aid depends upon the perception of Abbas' seriousness:
On the other hand, Mr Abbas now has an opportunity to show that he will not tolerate such attacks. He has already described the Tel Aviv bomb as "sabotage."

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are pointing the finger at Syria which has allowed Islamic Jihad to operate in its territory. The mutual accusations against a third party could enable Israel and the Palestinians to steer their way through the aftermath of the bomb. The way might then become clearer.
Israel now says it may not tear down the settlements it evacuates in the Gaza strip, but warns that if the settlers come under fire as they evacuate it will respond with a strong military presence. Rather reasonable, I'd say.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Not Even Subtle

This column by Ertugrul Ozkok on what's happening with the Turkish cabinet says it all without actually saying it. He covers the fact that the new Minister of Culture and Tourism is going to be a conservative (the other resigned), the Minister of Education Erdogan is resubmitting has already been rejected before, and Gul seems to be making a lot of decisions (Gul certainly gives press conferences as if he is in command. It reminds of Haig after Reagan was shot):
Ozkok says, ''as far as I understood, the real force behind the insistence on Besir Atalay was Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, and not Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself. The reason may be that earlier Gul had suggested the name of Atalay.''

''On that point, a rare development happens in Turkish political scene. When talks at Cankaya Palace reached to an undesired stage, Premier Erdogan calls Gul on the phone and wants him to take part in the meeting.''

''On the other hand, I would like to comment also on Attila Koc, the newly appointed Tourism & Culture Minister,'' says Ozkok.
And he proceeds to. It's a short article. The press review is good too. It covers Erdogan's sale of his interests in a company. Supposedly he has now divested himself totally. Obviously he's under political pressure, because this is not a new issue. More resignations.

Brings Back Memories

Read this post at Michele Agnew's. Not only is it funny and endearing, but it brought back to me so vividly that period in my life, when my sense of myself was so fragile. And yes, everything, absolutely everything, could be about me if I weren't careful. Because of that, boundaries and privacy were so important.

You know, I had wonderful parents, a nice home, plenty of country to roam in, some friends I cared for, books galore, great grandparents, siblings I adored (and still do), my health. I had it all, really. What hit me today after reading Michele's vignette was that I really wasn't happy then. Yes, I had many happy and satisfying times and I have wonderful memories of that period, but I wasn't basically happy like I am today.

And that's incredible. Just incredible. Because almost every day I'm in considerable physical pain, and lord knows, at best, I spend three hours a day coping with my neurological problems and one on keeping my joints from locking. My mind and body are a wall of crumbling bricks, and I'm fighting to mortar in new bricks every day to shore up the wall. But I"m happy, really happy, contented, excited, and I get a wild kick out of it when I learn how to do something new. I love just getting up in the morning and drinking my coffee in the porch, watching the sun rise. I love coming home and chasing the dogs around. I love teasing Chief No-Nag. I love going to work. I love solving puzzles, and I suppose my life has given me a lot of them to solve. I even get a charge out of doing the dishes and scrubbing the bathroom.

The only difference I can see between then and now is that now I am in control of things. I'm certainly not really in control of things physically, so I must be in control of things emotionally, and that must make all the difference. Somehow in all of this I found my freedom, which is what I didn't have as a teenager.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Change and Circumstance

Well, so now the dunes are shifting in Egypt. This article in Arab News seems quite thorough. Mubarak gave a speech advocating actually offering people a choice in presidential elections:
The editor in chief of the weekly Al-Shaab and member of the banned, but tolerated, Muslim Brotherhood, Magdi Hussein, said the move was a victory for and a concession to increasing opposition calls within Egypt to have multiparty presidential elections.

“A few days ago, Mubarak rejected demands to open the presidential balloting to other candidates and now he calls for amendments to the constitution, which means we have won our first battle,” Magdi said. “The next step should be limiting presidents to a maximum of two consecutive terms in office.”

Opposition parties supported Magdi’s view, saying the amendments proposed by Mubarak did not include limiting the powers of the president and did not let any citizen run for elections. “Only members of political parties will be authorized to run and the final list of candidates will be decided by a higher committee of judiciary and public figures,” said Aboul Ella Madi, head of Hizb Al-Wasat Al-Gedid (the New Center party).
The article also notes that a few political activists have been trying to get a million signatures on a petition to parliament to allow for multi-candidate elections, so I gather Mubarak is bowing to mounting pressures. Opposition figures are skeptical and say that more needs to be done than Mubarak's suggestion - they want guarantees of voting rights and laws preventing the suppression of political opposition parties, for just a start.

I can't help but consider it a an even more significant sign of the times that a woman was granted her request for a DNA test on the public figure she says fathered her child in Egypt. The Saudi Arabian ministry has announced that it will appoint 36 women to significant posts:
In a significant first, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry will appoint 36 Saudi women to a variety of jobs in the political, economic, women’s rights and computer departments, press reports said yesterday.

“The appointments will occur within three weeks,” said Prince Khaled ibn Saud, director of the department for financial and administrative affairs. He said a large number of women had already applied for the jobs.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal revealed last week plans to hire women as part of the country’s political reforms. The minister added that some women would be appointed to key posts.

Socially Acceptable Science

Socially acceptable science is no science at all. It is an instrument of ideology. Events like the bashing of Larry Summers and the unbelievable pressure exerted to defend the Mann hockey stick graph show that our society could certainly be heading in this direction.

From Robert Hayes at Let's Try Freedom I got a fascinating link. Sweden, which in most ways is a very enlightened society, is inhabited by a noxious breed of social-equality hyper-feminists (no standing up while urinating, please). That I had known. What I had not known is that to some degree they have established social control sufficient to have implemented the official theological doctrine (bow your heads in respect, please) that:
There is no biological difference between men and women. Observable differences are caused by being "socialized into different gender roles."

Unfortunately science disagrees, and so it is necessary to ban the expression of this heresy:
In one respect Sweden's government is unique in the world. It has a definite opinion about a scientific controversy: whether women's and man's brains are different, or not. The first time i realised that the government had involved itself in neurobiology, was when gender equality minister [! - ed] Jens Orback in a speech about sexual deviations and living with horses [!!! - ed], affirmed:

- The government considers female and male as social constructions, that means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economical conditions, power structures and political ideology.

Apart from taking a position on this scientific question, the government has deiced to side with the most extreme researchers: gene theoreticians who for ideological reasons state that biology can not have any saying in explaining why male and female behaviour differs.
No, no difference at all between women and men, except .... It is difficult to play certain sports when you have big breasts. Women's hearing has slightly different spectrums. The pattern of activity in women's brains differs. Women's response to medications differs. Women's response to physical stress differs. Ask any boot camp instructor. There's a profound difference between men and women.

Plonk a young, crying infant in the middle of an auditorium with men and women arranged on the stage alternately. Now let a hungry alligator wander in from one of the far doors and lock all the exits. Granted, both men and women will move fast - but you'll see there is a clear geographical distribution between the sexes. The women will be clustered around the infant, the men will be clustered around the women or the alligator, depending on how big it is. Gender is not a social construct. It just isn't.

PS: I am not recommending this experiment. It would be unethical. The alligator has no chance.

Spring Is Here

It is chilly and clammy, and I wouldn't have noticed except for the animals.

Last week I saw a pair of the Canadian geese mating in the back pond. This is a noisy and somewhat startling spectacle, and if you were a PETA type you would probably call 911 and plunge into the water to attempt to rescue the goose from death by drowning. Two days ago the gander assumed a position by the far bank of the pond, and the goose is nowhere to be seen. That means she is nesting on one of the front islands in the pond. He will continue lollygagging around as ostentatiously far from her as he can get (there's no goose on that island! Absolutely none! Just a lone gander here!) until the goslings hatch. At twilight she gets off the nest and he escorts her over to feed for about 15 minutes. We usually leave corn for them right by the bank of the pond.

As Chief No-Nag observed, it is a high price to pay for a few minutes of fun once a year. After the goslings hatch the gander hardly rests for the first couple of weeks - he's on pretty much permanent guard. Duties continue right through flight training in August, which is also an extremely noisy endeavor.

What really cracked me up this morning is that I saw the gander watching something on the bank. I went a little closer to take a look, and two turtles had climbed out of the pond for a quickie (by turtle standards). They've only been at it for a couple of hours now. Turtle romance is a slow, slow process. Even the initial stages go something like:
W e e l l
H e l l ooooooo oo ooo ooo oo
T h ee rrr ee
B a b yyyyyyy
She responds to this pickup line by preserving a thoughtful and immobile silence for about ten minutes. Wouldn't want to appear too forward, I guess. There are most definitely plenty of other male turtles in this pond.
H eeeee yyy
B iii gggg
B ooo yyy
(The males are really considerably smaller than the females)
She pushes her head a fraction further out of her shell and turns it slightly to acknowledge his presence. They contemplate matters in mutual admiring immobility.
And so it goes. After only an hour or so they decide to get down to business, and it only takes another half an hour or so to assume the position. Then they seem to take a reflective, anticipatory pause before doing anything, not that you can really tell when they start doing anything. But they must, because after about 25 - 45 minutes the male normally climbs off.
Somewhere in all this I'm sure there is an ecstatic affirmation of all that's good about life, spring, love and turtle-bonding, but exactly when this is I have not determined. Maybe when both their heads are fully extended straight up from their shells. Turtles actually have pretty long necks.

Anyway, the gander was watching for well over an hour, and he finally deserted his "no goose nesting" position and swam over to take a closer look about half an hour ago. Maybe he's having wistful thoughts about last week's ecstatic life-affirming goose moments, but maybe he's just jealous of their staying power. Goose lurve is quite quick, which is a good thing because the female's head usually ends up submerged.

But ten minutes ago I saw the gander swim away. He is now lurking sulkily at the other side of the pond, way, way off his normal station. Startled and worried, I went out to look - and realized another turtle couple had emerged from the pond next to the first! Apparently the poor gander is a prude and didn't want to find himself in the middle of a slow motion turtle orgy. There goes the neighborhood.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Mary Murphy Amicable Resolution

The Miami Herald is reporting that Mary Murphy, one of the three at CBS News asked to resign in the wake of Rathergate, has done so:
"CBS News and I have reached an amicable resolution, and I have resigned my position," Murphy said in a statement.

She said she wished "my good colleagues well" and looked forward to moving on in her career.

Now That's Brilliant

There's a great article on the eminent domain case Kelo v. New London now before the Supreme Court in the Seattle Times. It covers the basics - like the estimate that between 1998 and 2002, eminent domain was used more than 10,000 times to take private property for private use. The cases leading up to this one are covered as well. But the best part, the high point, the awful, wonderful, terrible idea is here:
The same goes for the situation in Connecticut where, if New London gets its way, Pfizer will be the proud recipient of a new "office park." And though the city bears greatest legal responsibility, the drug company should be ashamed of itself. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have fought valiant battles to protect their own intellectual-property rights, despite "public interest" arguments that the drugs they discovered should be stripped of their patents or given away for a song.

Indeed, the Pfizer Journal, in an article on land reform, writes that "property rights are fundamental to human health and dignity. And protection of property — including the property of the mind — is fundamental to the industries that make jobs available to drive a healthy economy." We're sure the citizens of New London would agree.
Hahahahaaha! Caught! I think we should all write our Congressman and express the desire to exert eminent domain over a few drugs Pfizer has. After all, property is property, right? And we're all fine, upstanding citizens who are very public-spirited, especially when that public spirit requires us to pick the pockets of a corporation and indirectly distribute the load of those burdensome contents into our own. Hey, we have broad shoulders. We'll help you out, Pfizer.

What goes around comes around!

Metal Storm In Turkey

The mood in Turkey is dark, unstable and confused. When the prospect of the UK sneaking a few charter flights into north Cyprus (thereby bypassing the Greek half's flight control) is seen as an important recognition, we can safely take this as an indicator of desperation. The country reminds me of what I have read of Japan in the late 1920's and 1930. They want war, they need war, they cannot imagine any way to obtain respect except through arms, and it is hard to see how Erdogan's government can survive without moving towards the Islamic/jingoist factions.

There is a progressive faction, but it seems stymied and seems to know it. There is a mildly desperate tone to the writings of the moderates. One of the cabinet ministers resigned recently. His resignation is thought to have come as a protest of a recent decision to pardon the radicalist students who have been expelled from school. Since some of those were expelled for wearing headscarves, this is seen as an appeasement of the Islamists.

Turkey would probably have gone to war already if they could have developed the slightest pretext coupled with a chance of success. The intensity of the popular desire to reestablish their position among nations is such that I think the generals are probably now scared; their position will soon be similar to that of the German General Staff in the late 1930's. It's possible the generals could actually soon become one of the more conservative forces, but I doubt they will prevail if so.

Perhaps something will occur that will defuse this flame before we must confront it, but I don't see what. Perhaps one of the ex-Soviet Muslim republics will get in a fight and Turkey can sally forth to defend their relatives and regain their lost honor. It would have to come soon. With every story of raids in Germany and expulsions of Muslim immigrants (many of whom are Turkish) from Germany and other EU countries the popular pressure to strike back grows. Add this to the reality that they have learned Saddam's lesson - that Europe is afraid of war, cannot fight one, and will do anything to cater to those who brandish arms, and you see their cultural and diplomatic logic.It is very possible that some factions feel that Turkey can only gain clout in Europe by displaying her willingness and ability to fight a genuine war.

In any case, the best way to understand the mood of the country is perhaps this AFP article discussing the groundbreaking sales of a novel describing an American attack on Turkey and the violent war that ensues. Of course America claims that Turkey attacked first:
US warplanes relentlessly pound Istanbul and Ankara, killing hundreds, while the rest of the country is in flames: Washington has just launched operation "Metal Storm" against its former ally, Turkey.

The futuristic novel of the same name by two young Turkish writers has sold more than 100,000 copies since it came out in December -- a huge run in a country where most books get printings of a few thousand at best.

"Metal Storm" also seems to be riding a wave of strong anti-US sentiment in this country sparked by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which resulted in unprecedented tensions between the two NATO allies.
Here you have the dichotomy - Turkey resents Europe's rejection, but needs trade and economic concessions from Europe. But Turkey does not fear Europe, it fears the military power of the US. Europe, the paper tiger, can only be defended by the US, the UK and Australia.

March 18th

Greer has ordered that at 1:00 PM on March 18th food and water be withdrawn from Terri Schiavo. He will consider no other motions and will not grant another stay; this order was phrased as setting a "date and time certain" so that "last rites and other similar matters may be addressed in an orderly manner".

He states he will consider no further motions and orders that at 1:00 PM on March 18th food and water will be withdrawn from Terri. PDF document is online here. Update found at BlogsforTerri.

Update regarding the ad that BlogsforTerri was planning to run in the St Petersburg Times this Sunday. The paper refused to run the advertisement unless it was edited. BlogsforTerri refused, and argued that they could produce court documents to support every contention, to no avail. They have decided not to run the censored ad. You can find the original advertisment here, with the contents that the St. Petersburg Times required be removed in order to run the ad marked in italics and with *. This is what the St. Petersburg Time would not print:

I don't have the names of 12 medical experts and nurses who confirmed the facts, but I have personally seen the names of at least six. The no rehab is documented, and Michael did direct that antibiotic be withheld for a urinary tract infection. I believe the staff overrode that request. There was a pro-forma investigation opened, but the conclusion was that the statute of limitations had been exceeded so I read it was dropped. Obviously the paper is afraid of being sued by Schiavo, and I suppose they could have found the phrase "for the purpose of starving her to death" inaccurate. It is. She will die from thirst AND hunger. Hardly preferable.

Yes, It Does Make A Difference

Yes, those who are stubbornly insisting upon reality in Terri's case do make a difference. Certain things can only be done in the dark. Certain things don't survive the light of day.

At Hyscience, a columnist who has changed his mind about Terri's case and itemizes his reasons for doubt:
Detail 3: The Schindlers think their daughter could benefit from physical therapy and might someday swallow on her own, but her husband, as her legal guardian, reportedly will not allow it. Which leads to an equally uncomfortable question: If Schiavo merely required spoon feeding instead of tube feeding, would anyone seriously be arguing to withhold food and water? Does not every human, no matter how incapacitated, deserve sustenance?
There is no "reportedly" about the fact that Michael Schiavo went to court to block the Schindler's efforts to see if therapy could teach Terri to swallow again. His reason? It was too dangerous - she might choke. The court ruled for Michael.

Understand that questioning the legality of the proceedings and justice of what is occurring in Terri's case doesn't mean that you don't support the right of an individual to make his or her own decisions as to what medical treatment should be acceptable. You have to claim the right to free speech in our society. You have to make the effort to document your wishes or name your representative in the case of your incapacity. Doing so protects you and your family.

But to attempt to make this decision for other people on the basis of your fears or your wishes denigrates the rights of the individual. If we permit our society to assume that every disabled person who can't speak for themself would choose to die of thirst and hunger, we are not living in the real world. There are so many financial and human interests that exert pressures in favor of not spending money to support the lives of the helpless that the official presumption should be otherwise, and especially so if there are family members who say that this was not the intent of the individual.

You can find the latest news at BlogsforTerri. Read the perspective of Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. Again, do as your conscience and beliefs require. If you consent to this, consent willingly and knowingly. If you dissent to the laws being applied in such a way, then dissent loudly and openly. We live in a democracy with the right of free speech. There are corresponding moral responsibilities.

Syrians Arming Civilians?

This WorldNetDaily article says that Syrians are planning to withdraw troops but taking other measures to deal with the pressure for withdrawal from Lebanon. It's all "unnamed source" stuff:
Despite Syria's announcement today it will withdraw troops from mountain and coastal areas in Lebanon, Damascus has been arming local supporters and preparing troops for possible confrontations, sources in Lebanon told WorldNetDaily.
But security and opposition forces on the ground in Lebanon told WorldNetDaily Syrian forces have been distributing weapons, including AK-47 rifles, to pro-Syrian groups. They said information has been received that Syrian troops have been preparing to suppress the civil uprising and will respond heavily to any violent action on the part of the opposition.

Opposition leaders last week called for an "uprising for independence," demanding Damascus withdraw its troops and urging the current pro-Syrian government to step down.
The withdrawals are supposed to occur under an earlier agreement, the Taif Accord. Syria says it's prepared to "work with" the UN to implement a Security Council resolution.

Across The Bay

Chrenkoff linked to Across The Bay, a blog covering the ME and offering especially good coverage on the situation in Lebanon, Syria and even the European stances and attitudes. This is a wonderful place for background reading and news on breaking developments.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

An Exceedingly Strange Man

George Felos is the attorney representing Michael Schiavo. He believes strongly in the right to refuse medical treatment, as I do, but he takes things a lot further than I do. I believe that human beings have inherent rights of self-determination and that the courts should not force a person who has knowingly rejected a treatment to undergo the treatment. Felos believes in something else.

George Felos apparently thinks he connected with the soul of Estelle Browning (his first big feeding tube case) and determined her wishes. He wrote a book in which he says so, according to a number of sources, including the book's publisher. So it can't be a fabrication:
Such a deep, dark, silent blue. I stared as far into her eyes as I could, hoping to sense some glimmer of understanding, some hint of awareness. The deeper I dove, the darker became the blue, until the blue became the black of some bottomless lake. "Mrs. Browning, do you want to die ... do you want to die?" I nearly shouted as I continued to peer into her pools of strikingly beautiful but incognizant blue. It felt so eerie. Her eyes were wide open and crystal clear, but instead of the warmth of lucidity, they burned with the ice of expressionlessness.
This struck me as being odd, so I searched for more (I had found the title of the book at a website blurb for George Felos as a speaker). I came up with this quote in a journal opposing the withdrawal of the feeding tube:
Chapter Eight, “Soul-Speak”

“As I continued to stay beside Mrs. Browning at her nursing home bed, I felt my mind relax and my weight sink into the ground. I began to feel light-headed as I became more reposed. Although feeling like I could drift into sleep, I also experienced a sense of heightened awareness. As Mrs. Browning lay motionless before my gaze, I suddenly heard a loud, deep moan and scream and wondered if the nursing home personnel heard it and would respond to the unfortunate resident. In the next moment, as this cry of pain and torment continued, I realized it was Mrs. Browning. I felt the mid-section of my body open and noticed a strange quality to the light in the room. I sensed her soul in agony. As she screamed I heard her say, in confusion, ‘Why am I still here … why am I here?’ My soul touched hers and in some way I communicated that she was still locked in her body. I promised I would do everything in my power to gain the release her soul cried for. With that the screaming immediately stopped. I felt like I was back in my head again, the room resumed its normal appearance, and Mrs. Browning, as she had throughout this experience, lay silent.” (73)
This same quote is all over in Catholic publications and other websites. Continuing the hunt, I ran into this at Catholic Citizens:
George Felos' book, "Litigation as Spiritual Practice" (Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2002) contains the following quotes.

About the Jews, George Felos wrote, "The Jewish people, long ago in their collective consciousness, agreed to play the role of the lamb whose slaughter was necessary to shock humanity into a new moral consciousness. Their sacrifice saved humanity at the brink of extinction and propelled us into a new age." (pg 240)

Felos further wrote, "If our minds can conceive of an uplifting Holocaust, can it be so diffucult to look another way at the slights and injuries and abuses we perceive were inflicted upon us?" (pg 240)
My mind can't conceive of an uplifting Holocaust. It just can't. I doubt I could force myself to embrace that concept at gunpoint. Nor can I imagine how anyone could say that the Jewish people agreed to "play the role of the lamb whose slaughter was necessary to shock humanity into a new moral consciousness". I am losing my self-control!!! How can anyone write this? How is this any different from how Hitler and his pack of racial supremicists saw the matter?

Oh wait - Hitler thought the Jews had to die for the good of Aryan race - this man thinks they had to die for the good of the ENTIRE human race. I guess that could be a meaningful distinction, but it isn't to me.

I'm having difficulty comprehending those who see the withdrawal of Terri's tube as a defense of the inherent dignity of a human being. Felos does seem to genuinely believe he is fighting on behalf of those who are unable to choose for themselves. He is very much into the right-to-die cause. This is from his bio at the speaker's bureau:
Felos is the creator of Meditation for Lawyers, the first-of-its-kind instructional course accredited for continuing legal education. His article by the same name has been published and posted in various journals.

Felos graduated from Boston University School of Law, has practiced in Pinellas County since 1978, was a founding member of the National Legal Advisors Committee on Choice in Dying, and served as Board Chair of The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, the largest non-profit Hospice in the world.
I would like to close this by saying that hospices do great work and I believe they do support the dignity of the individual.

The Ice Dam Is Breaking Up

An article in Arab News(AFP) reports that a group of Syrian dissidents? (progressives?, liberals?) is calling for their government to leave Lebanon:
In a gesture of defiance, more than 200 Syrian writers, artists and rights activists issued an open letter to President Bashar Assad yesterday calling on his regime to withdraw from Lebanon.
The activists said it was “time for Syria to adopt a new policy which takes account of latest events, notably the aftermath of the killing of Rafik Hariri, and establishes a new healthy relationship with Lebanon based on equality”.

Meanwhile, more than100 journalists staged a rally yesterday to denounce Hariri’s murder which the Lebanese opposition has blamed on the government in Beirut and its Syrian backers, a charge strongly denied by Damascus. The rally “reflects the sadness of the man in the street in Syria after the misfortune which has struck our two brotherly countries,” said Saber Falhout, head of the Syrian General Union of Journalists.
One would have to say that there is a pent-up desire to reform their own government finding its outlet here. I found it interesting that this article appeared in Arab News at all. Another current article discusses a reform movement in the United Arab Emirates:
Reformists are calling for an elected Parliament in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an unprecedented public demand for a greater say in the government.

Although there is no political dissent or extremist violence in the UAE, it is now the only state without elected bodies in the Gulf region after Saudi Arabia held municipal elections earlier this month.

“It has become embarrassing for the UAE to lag behind others politically in the region. It is high time for us to have a fully elected house — enough of an appointed council without legislative powers,” Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a professor at UAE University told Gulf News daily in remarks published yesterday.
The struggle over seating a cabinet in Palestine may be coming to an end:
Wielding unexpected political clout, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas stepped in yesterday to quell a legislative rebellion that has held up the appointment of a new Cabinet and threatened to bring down his prime minister.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei has been trying all week to install a new Cabinet. Lawmakers objected to his first list because it was stacked with political cronies of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
The turmoil underscored the increasingly freewheeling nature of Palestinian politics following last year’s death of Yasser Arafat, with politicians more willing to break party discipline.
Another controversy has erupted over Abbar's offer to buy the Israeli settler's homes in Gaza after they leave them:
“When Abbar dared to lead a foreign policy of his own ... this became totally unacceptable,” said an editorial Monday in Al-Ittihad newspaper, the official daily of the government of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.

“He wanted to embarrass the State of the Emirates by private contacts (with) the Israelis, which is irresponsible and unacceptable,” it said.

“It’s the first time in the history of our country, with its spotless record, that an individual dares, by such contact with Israel, to overrun the publicly announced policy of our country,” it added, hinting that Abbar should be punished.
I wonder if a pro-government paper isn't trying to suppress a possible bid for leadership status by Abbar. He probably stands to make money off of the deal, but there's more to it, I think. The Israelis might demolish the homes otherwise.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Dingo Barks

In this post discussing the taking of property for private development, Dingo writes:
But, is this what America is really about. It is one of our most cherished values - the right to own our own land without unreasonable interference. And the Americans who bear the brunt of this growing trend is usually hard working lower middle class and lower class citizens. First, the government paved over their houses with freeways. That, at least, was truly public use. Now, we are trying to take their homes so someone else can make money. This, even with the economic benefits it brings the rest of the community is somehow just plain wrong and has gone too far. Where will this end? And is anyone safe? A man's home is his castle and should be treated as such.
The post is extremely informative and factual. Don't miss it.

QandO 1, LA Times 0?

Jon Henke over at QandO writes that he believes he has detected a pretty severe mistatement of fact made in a column by Robert Scheer that appeared in the LA Times. He wrote to the LA Times with his evidence. He received a letter back, and publishes an excerpt. I found this so bizarre I stared at the screen reading and rereading for a long time. Go see for yourselves.

Patterico's work is not done yet.


Terri's website is down - all I get is a Forbidden Access error. The last news I can find is that someone named Gordon Watts has filed a brief. The doc should be available here. The best source for news is probably BlogsforTerri right now.

Bloomberg has news! Greer extended the stay until Friday at 5:00 PM. Of course there aren't going to be any judges around after that, so that might not be the best time for the stay to expire.

Well - I have to wonder

On DU there is a very short thread which has me quite puzzled:
Does this sound rational?

I have studied Abnormal Psy, Social Psy, Sociology, Soc. in marriage and family, Multicultural counseling, Addiction counseling and have a general idea about what this * gov. is all about and about where they want to go.

The professor I had for Multicultural counseling was a white, gay, young man who explained to us that our government was set up to keep only one part of our society in power. That part is the WHITE, RICH, MEN.

I believe that the government we have in power now would like to do away with all entitlements. The reason I think this is because it would work perfectly to keep them rich,and in power. ( If they can do away with social security this would be a start.) By doing away with these programs they would have more money and it would drive the poor to their only resource ( the church ). The Christian religion believes that MEN are superior to women and this would work for them. It would help them maintain power and wealth. I am aware that there are minorities who are wealthy and who hold power but by far the biggest segment of society that hold both power and wealth and have the backing of religion, in this country, are the RICH, WHITE, MEN.
The few answers to this thread were, "Well, duh", "DUH", "Hi" and "Yeah, that sums it up pretty well."

I think what really bothers me is all the educational courses the poster cites. It sounds as if the "multicultural" (why rich white men are evil) and addiction counselling were courses as opposed to actual counselling. I hope this is not the type of, um, reasoning that is actually used if someone shows up for counselling. I know nothing about this type of thing, but both the, ahhh, logic and the fact that it seems somehow to have become instutionalized (possibly in an accredited institution) worries me.

My father used to express his doubts of someone's competence by saying "He couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel." It seems to me the poster who took these courses has emerged in precisely that condition. This could explain much.

AP Spin-Span-Spun Award

I have a nomination for the "Most Contradictory Headline" category of the Spin-Span-Spun awards this month. AP's headline:
Chalabi Becomes Political Winner in Iraq
AP's article discusses the negotiating over the prime minister's office in Iraq:
But ultimately the United Iraqi Alliance, led by cleric Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, dropped the vote and insisted that Chalabi withdraw in favor of interim Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

"The withdrawal of Chalabi came as a result of pressure by Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, after al-Jaafari threatened to withdraw from the slate in case he didn't win (the ballot)," said Ali Faisal, political coordinator for the Shiite Political Council, an umbrella group for 38 Shiite political parties.
"Unity is more important than winning," Chalabi said, repeating with a smile: "Unity is more important than winning."
Admirable sentiments indeed.

Dirty, Dirty Business

I can't imagine why this article caught my eye:
Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, collected samples from office buildings in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and Tucson, Ariz., last fall to determine how much human parainfluenza 1 virus was present. The virus is responsible for common respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

The survey collected samples from common areas: telephone mouthpieces, computer mice, desktops, doorknobs and handles, conference rooms, light switches and office cubicles.

New York -- where half of all office surfaces contained the virus -- was the most virus-laden city, followed by Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago and Tucson.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

One More Day

Terri has a stay until tomorrow at 5 PM. There will be a hearing at 2:45 to decide on whether there will be another stay. The Schindler family is asking that new neurological testing be conducted to confirm her state:
While the family of Terri Schiavo is grateful for the stay issued today by Judge George Greer of Pinellas County Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit, they continue to be hopeful that the court will allow the numerous, outstanding legal issues in Terri’s case to be resolved before any action to end their daughter’s life is taken.

Recent advances in neurological testing may be better suited to determining Terri Schiavo’s true cognizant state and the Schindlers would like them to be made available so that no doubt about their daughter’s condition remains.

The family believes that Michael Schiavo will welcome this new opportunity to resolve unanswered questions about Terri’s neurological state before any further action to remove her food and fluids is carried out.
The Amicus brief filed earlier (October, 2003) in the case explains some of the legal issues:
The termination of Ms. Schiavo’s life violates her substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment in two ways. First, Florida courts did not consider whether clear and convincing evidence existed that Ms. Schiavo, had she reviewed the new medical information adduced at the last hearing, would still have wanted to terminate life support. Instead, the trial court reviewed the evidence and determined, purely to its own satisfaction, that Ms. Schiavo’s condition was sufficiently grave that her death was warranted. That is the very “best interests” standard the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected in such cases. The trial court’s failure to consider what Ms. Schiavo’s own decision would be in light of the new medical information – much of which gave her a strong chance of recovery – violates her substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Second, the trial court imposed a new, extralegal standard for determining whether Ms. Schiavo was in a “persistent vegetative state” – a necessary precondition for authorizing her guardian to terminate her life support. Contrary to established medical practice, the trial court required that persons with severe disabilities demonstrate not just voluntary action “of any kind,” as PVS has been defined, but rather “consistent” and “reproducible” actions or responses to establish their own cognition. This arbitrary and capricious standard brings a new and ominous level of subjectivity into the process of determining “persistent vegetative state.” The trial court’s new standard would lead to inconsistent and overly broad determinations of what is or is not a “permanent vegetative state” and potentially subject thousands of people with severe cognitive disabilities to third-party enforcement of their “right” to die.
Barbara Weller, an attorney, describes what she saw during the Schindlers Christmas, 2004. Weller belongs to the Gibbs law firm, I believe:
Terri’s parents, sister, and niece went immediately to greet Terri when we entered the room and stood in turn directly beside her head, stroking her face, kissing her and talking quietly with her. When she heard their voices, and particularly her mother's voice, Terri instantly turned her head towards them and smiled. Terri established eye contact with her family, particularly with her mother, who spent the most time with her during our visit. It was obvious that she recognized the voices in the room with the exception of one. Although her mother was talking to her at the time, she obviously had heard a new voice and exhibited a curious demeanor. Attorney Gibbs was having a conversation near the door with Terri’s sister. His voice is very deep and resonant and Terri obviously picked it up. Her eyes widened as if to say, “What’s that new sound I hear?” She scanned the room with her eyes, even turning her head in his direction, until she found Attorney Gibbs and the location of the new voice and her eyes rested momentarily in his direction. She then returned to interacting with her mother.
There is plenty more. Terri is not unaware as you or I would judge the state. A recent study showed that persistent vegetative syndrome is greatly overdiagnosed, but Terri really doesn't fit into even that syndrome. The "Key Messages" cited in the BMJ report are:
Many patients who are misdiagnosed as being in the vegetative state are blind or have severe visual handicap; thus lack of eye blink to threat or absence of visual tracking are not reliable signs for diagnosing the vegetative state

Any motor activity, no matter how slight, that can be used for communication by the profoundly disabled patient should be identified at an early stage and repeated at regular intervals

Identification of awareness in the presence of profound and complex neurological disabilities requires the skills of a multidisciplinary team expe- rienced in long term management of disability due to brain damage
Read the attorney's whole statement, and you'll see why I don't think she has been correctly diagnosed. There is purposeful motor activity and eye-tracking in Terri's case. You can look at the videos on the website to see for yourself. Terri has not been given the type of rehabilitative care that the patients in the BMJ study received.

The family says that their earlier offer to take over Terri's care remains on the table (website under headlines for Jan 28th, 2005):
Following a court hearing today before Judge George Greer in the Pinellas County FL Probate, Robert and Mary Schindler, parents of Terri Schiavo, made public a settlement offer that was proposed by their attorneys to attorneys for Michael Schiavo on October 26, 2004.

Although Mr. Schiavo's attorneys have verbally rejected their proposal, the Schindlers will continue to keep their offer on the table and remain hopeful that they will one day be allowed to bring their daughter home.
The family is Catholic and the Catholic Media Coalition has asked for prayers on her behalf. It would be best for all concerned, I think, if that earlier settlement offer were to be accepted by Michael with the legal protections offered to him. The Schindler family is attempting to create an atmosphere that will allow this to happen. Do as your conscience and your beliefs suggest.

Not For Felines

There are lots of good reasons to read Tom Carter's Notes. Right now he has a very interesting post on Kosovo up, an excellent background post on Saudis and women, and an interesting piece on our prejudices and how they blind us to what someone's policies are. And then there's this post covering what has to rank as one of the top-ten demented decisions I have ever read of a school administration making. Don't read it while eating.


After Syria, Egypt?

Speculation has been rife that Mubarak's party in Egypt is planning to put in his son as his successor. Instapundit has an interesting post up about the growing opposition in Egypt and other trends in the region. Lots of good links, including this one at Captain's Quarters regarding Javier Solana's reaction to the Iraq venture, the elections there, and the worried reactions from governments in the region. Mr. Solana does not think history is being set on a more hopeful course, but perhaps the demonstrators in Lebanon might.

Mad Poets on the Stewart Case

I felt a lot easier in my mind after reading what some legal minds had to say about the Lynne Stewart case. I certainly don't want the government prosecuting lawyers who represent unpopular clients on whatever charges they can come up with, but people whose general reasoning I trust seem to be relatively comfortable with the case, and they certainly know more than I do.

One that's particularly good is up at Mad Poets Anonymous. He linked to another post at Mellow-Drama which is exceptionally useful for gaining perspective. The poster is not discomfited by the prosecution but a commenter disagrees and make the case on the other side. It is interesting that those who support Stewart seem to concede that she broke the law:
hmmm... y'all are mising the broader picture. the NLG has never disagreed w/the fact that Lynne Stewart broke the letter of the law. But- as law students and lawyers we have to question whether those "laws" (or in this case executive rules w/no checks and balances) are constitutional and valid. I'm guessing everyone who posts to this site is pretty much square against civil disobediance as a way to create social change b/c well y'all are in favor of corporate control. But I ask you- if you are in favor of the Iraq War- how can you hypocritically say that the war was justified even tho it was against international law (illegal!) and is using violence as a means to an end??? I'm actually against the war AND would never have done what Stewart did- BUT I see her case for its broader implications- what it means for executive power and our system of checks-and balances and the adversarial process.
It's also notable that Mellow Drama was aware that there was a possibility of abuse and seems to have tried to check into the problem. I would be perturbed if many of these types of prosecutions went forward or were threatened. The situation can't be totally black or white.

Monday, February 21, 2005

On Syria and Lebanon

The leading edge of the self-determination wave is spreading in the Middle East. No Oil For Pacifists has a very informative post up on the fallout from Rafik Hariri's assassination. Go read it - this is the beginning of something big. All the ME leaders were making pilgrimages to Lebanon last week. There are links to a number of sources, including Chrenkoff.

Why Must She Die?

Kender has posted that Terri's legal execution has been delayed, but I can't find confirmation of it. The only updates to her advocates' website show that the feeding tube (which provides both nutrition and water) will be withdrawn tomorrow at 1:00.

On October 24, 2004, the new lead council for the Schindlers made the following offer to Michael via his lawyers:
1) The Schindlers wanted to take Terri home and care for her at their own expense. The Schindlers would not ask for any money then or in the future from any legal settlements or from any property rights Terri might have as Michael's wife.

2) If Michael wished to divorce Terri the Schindlers would sign any paperwork to permit that to happen, and to guarantee Michael that he would receive any property after Terri's death that he would have received if he remained her husband. Whether or not Michael divorced Terri he would retain any visiting rights he desired.

3) The Schindlers would waive any rights to legal action they might have now or in the future against Michael.

4) Michael's own attorneys would be allowed to draw up the legal documents establishing the above agreement. The only thing the Schindlers would not pay for would be Michael's legal bills.

The letter contained this paragraph:
Now that Michael is a father himself, the Schindlers are pleading with him to consider their love for their daughter and sister and to permit them to take over Terri's care, with their blessings on Michael as he continues to live his own life with his new family.
So why. Why? Terri is not in a coma or a vegetative state, although she has extremely serious brain damage. You can confirm this at the website, which contains documents and videos. She is not dying naturally, and most parents would not want this for their child. Why can't Terri be allowed to live?

Ohhhhh, Perspective

Madigan writes at Dean's World:
If we trusted the news we read in the papers or see on TV, we'd believe that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is the only Muslim advocacy group in America.

If we trusted those sources, we'd be wrong. The Islamic Supreme Council of America (ISCA) is a Muslim advocacy group that is "dedicated to differentiating the majority of peace-loving, moderate Muslims in the world from the handful of extremists who mar the beautiful image of Islam."

In 2002, the ISCA opposed House Resolutions HR 2357 and HR 2931 which would permit churches and other houses of worship to engage in political campaigns.
There's lots more, including quotes and tons of links. The point here is excellent. Assessed as group, Muslims in America have a low crime rate and spend incredibly small amounts of their time running around abusing other people and plotting evil. So to everyone who has about convinced him or herself that the religion of Islam is evil, come down off the soapbox and start looking around. The facts don't bear the hypothesis out.

That Which Matters

It's hard for any human being to transcend the bulk of the messages flying around the environment that we live in. Right now a seething mass of invective, petty meanness, insecurity and superficiality seems to dominate our public life. That's the buffeting spray of the turbulent surface waters of our times, but underneath the turmoil the deep slow currents of traditional wisdom and public decency still run.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred call us back into those deeper waters in this post, followed by another post in which SC&A let us read two emails received in response to the first post. All three are stories of personal encounters. SC&A conclude the first with this passage:
Over time, we learned an important lesson. Simply recognizing our faults or shortcomings, does not mean we have matured or learned enough, or put what we have learned, into the right perspective.

It is only by incoporating into our lives, not just the ideas, but tangible actions, that prove we are indeed better. Our actions are the real indicators of what we have learned.
What SC&A are describing is integrity, and it's a word we don't value enough. I bet you had an encounter with someone very similar to one of the three individuals in these stories. People matter, and they have the most influence when they meet as individuals and not as part of a group. I think all three of the writers describing these encounters are lucky because they possess a big enough spirit not to hide from the individuals they met and the lessons they learned.

Reading these three stories is not emotionally easy, but I think it is time very, very well-spent. It's not possible for me to explain the way I see the mysterious network of relationships and causation in which we live our lives, but I don't have to - SC&A is providing the examples.

Legal Proliferation

Aldon Hynes points to a website with an article about a bill in Congress to ban urban rumors. It's a false story, but well-written, and I didn't dismiss it automatically. That says something about my expectations of Congress.

Aldon also cites this great quote by Laurence J. Peter:
Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
Maybe that's why democratic systems seem to work despite all their obvious inefficiencies. The level of complexity government has to deal with is really too much for government to deal with, so sifting complex problems through a citizenry that has the ability and incentive to inform itself is likely to be a better problem-solving approach than a solution imposed by a small group of elites.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A glorious fisking

Inspired by journalistic inanity, the Prof at Rantingprofs administers the MSM fisk of the century:
Yet another article where a New York Times reporter portrays American soldiers as just what she expected them to be. She has her stereotypes from what she learned about Vietnam, she saw a couple of documentaries, she's good to go.
The fisk starts out with a few wistful chords, builds to a crescendo, explodes in a clash of cymbals, and then the bugles sound and a military man arrives in the comments. I think this works because of the deep, sincere indignation and the hopelessness with which they both write.

Iowahawk succeeds in his parodies because he's so adept at picking up this type of newsie formalism. It's as if you see the clay of the particulars slapped into one of the five generic news story molds, as in this particular Iowahawkian example of "decaying industrial town". The Rantingprof is addressing the same behavior in a different way - the story doesn't have to be accurate or make sense, but the tune must be catchy. It's hard to write a catchy tune, so the tunes are usually plagarized.

Happy Monday.


There's a very interesting discussion at the Wideawakes on morals and law. Ogre posted in part:
Morality is a determination of what is right and what is wrong. Laws primarily exist to punish those who do wrong – whatever “wrong” is determined to be. Therefore, ALL laws are simply a government enforcement of a generally commonly accepted moral.

For example, I’ll show an easy one: murder. It is against the law to murder someone. Why? Because it’s wrong. Says who? WHY is it wrong? It is wrong simply because “civilization” has determined it should be wrong. Someone, somewhere, decided that they didn’t like people being murdered, so they made a rule to enforce their individual interpretation of right versus wrong. Whether it is a commonly accepted idea or not has no bearing on whether it is moral or not – quite often commonly accepted ideas can and have been proven wrong.
I don't think this can be refuted. There's more in the orginal post, and the comments are interesting.

Funny Critter Cartoon

It's up at INDC Journal. By "Ariail" (has a new cartoon up today - click on the link and scroll down ) in The State, a SC newspaper. Ariail has to be one of the best cartoonists I've seen in a long while:

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Latest Mercan

You know, I could withstand the news that Alanis Morissette just became an American citizen without too much pain. That is, if the Canadians could just stop celebrating!! Sure, they don't all hate us, but couldn't they keep a compassionate silence about this one? Maybe it's cabin fever, which can cause a Canadian to do some pretty strange things.

Eat my links, Darcy.

Bifurcated Truth

Two related scientific interests I have had ever since I was in elementary school are prehistory and geology. We now live in a golden age of internet publication, so I have been able to follow these interests a great deal more actively over the last four years. A great deal of man's early history now seems to have been mediated by climate.

Because of these interests, I have been aware for a long time of a bifurcated system of scientific dogma. The dogma among "climate scientists" over the last 6 years has been that global climate has not changed much over the last ten thousand years. The dogma among every other scientific field is quite different. If I hadn't been following these other fields so actively, I might have believed what climate scientists were putting forth as truth. Because I had been following them, when stuff like the hockey stick graph emerged I hunted for the actual data and realized it did not support the graph. Ever since I have been watching the religious wars on this question with growing fascination.

If you did believe the climate scientists, I don't blame you. Dean Esmay has a superb post up quoting the Wall Street Journal's discussion of what is emerging about the field. In short, there has been a semi-organized repression of any dissenting voices. What is really odd is that the dissenting voices have the data on their side. This, in part, is Dean's commentary:
Some complain that science has been polluted by politics, but anything that receives government money is automatically political. The notion that we're not allowed to hold people who take government money accountable, that we aren't allowed to question their assumptions, simply because they are scientists would be pretty scary.

We tend to cloak researchers in an aura of mystique: that they are smarter than us, that their motives are noble and pure. But any time you have a class of people you treat like that (basically, as a priestly caste) you're asking for trouble.

All subjects in science are open to being challenged by dissenters, but the tendency for anyone whose career depends on the currently reigning theory will be to silence dissenters in any way they can. Yet, we probably can't get government out of funding science, nor could we stop corporations from funding research.
Ah, but this silencing of dissent doesn't reall occur, you say? Hmm, how about this incident the WSJ article cites, which is what shut down debate on the Mann graph for years:
Yet there were doubts about Mr. Mann's methods and analysis from the start. In 1998, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics published a paper in the journal Climate Research, arguing that there really had been a Medieval warm period. The result: Messrs. Soon and Baliunas were treated as heretics and six editors at Climate Research were made to resign.
So. If the editors were made to resign there, what do you think future panels of editors reviewing papers challenging the "conventional wisdom" in this area were going to do? That's right, they weren't willing to risk it. And that is why the M&M critique of Mann's work (which included irrefutable proof that Mann's underlying data didn't always, for some inexplicable reason, match the data as published by the primary researchers, and that the numerical method was flawed, etc) was not published in any journal, including Nature. This truth is now breaking through the apartheid system, but proponents of Kyoto are still using the flawed assumptions and are still using searches of the articles of the main journals such as Nature to support their contention that there is a scientific consensus when there is none.

So think about that. There is a scientific consensus that the Kyoto Protocol might accomplish the lowering of global temperatures by a tenth of a degree over a century, but that's all. There is a technological consensus that lowering GHG emissions by 60% below the base level chosen in the 90's would lower temperatures significantly, although not necessarily beyond the bounds of natural fluctuation, but that we would have to destroy our global society's economy to do it.

There is a widespread unwillingness in the environmentalist wing to allow the discussion of any measures that would help to lower GHG emissions more significantly (such as wave power, wind power and massive building of nuclear power plants), so all we have accomplished with Kyoto is to make ourselves feel good. To maintain that euphoria, we have to ignore scientific facts and ignore the real danger, so I'm not sharing in the joy. What we are doing with the Kyoto Protocol is diffusing people's anxiety to the extent that they can sustain their belief in this mass delusion. Handing out happy pills would be cheaper and more productive. Doing some research to really understand natural and anthropogenic variations in global climate would be a productive step, but would destroy the false euphoria our society has adopted. This has all the earmarks of a cult.

A British Call To Blog

At RealClearPolitics this morning I found a link to this column by Iain Duncan Smith in the UK's Guardian Unlimited. The column's header is "Beat the metropolitan elite with the tactics of US conservatives." Iain Duncan Smith was leader of the Conservative Party in the UK for several years. He writes:
Mr Knowledgeable (and it is usually a Mr) of Smallville, Wyoming can, via his PC, transmit thoughts across the world. Mainstream TV can no longer say what it wants without fear of correction. Online diaries, written by teachers, soldiers and numerous other people with real knowledge of subjects, are fact-checking ill-informed broadcasters. The bloggers have already toppled two of American TV's biggest names.
He also thinks that the internet has harmed the Democratic party, writing:
You would also expect this electronic revolution to be good for the Democrats, but the American left's relationship with the internet has been disastrous. The internet has sunk a knife into Bill Clinton's moderate Democratic party. Mainstream business people were Clinton's principal funders, simultaneously approving and driving his centrism. But the Democrats' new paymasters are the 600,000 computer users who, in 2004, supported Howard Dean's bid for his party's presidential nomination.
I am not sure whether that is true or not. I think the Democrats' current troubles stem from a long history, and that the internet is just exposing the nature of those troubles. The voters in the United States don't really change that much, but new problems constantly arise in the country. The problem in the Democratic party is that, for the most part, those who are interested in developing new solutions to the new problems have been permitted to die a quiet publicity-free death by the MSM and/or whacked over the head by the party leadership, which has concentrated on "energizing its base".

Pep rallies have their place, but you have to get back into the classroom sooner or later, and for a brief period in history the Democratic leadership seems to have forgotten all about that step. I'm hoping Howard Dean's sojourn as DNC Chair will refocus the party on policy instead of rhetoric. Lancelot Finn has observed that Dean seems to display an odd syndrome that gives him doubts as to whether he will succeed:
Howard Dean seems to display a sort of anti-conservative bigotry which gives him doubts:
Dean's attitude to Republicans is close to analogous to racism. There is the visceral resentment, the unshakable conviction of one's innate superiority, the habit of treating the Other as an enemy. Dean almost sounds like he is denying that Republicans are American. I can't see how this will work as a party-building strategy.
Iain Duncan Smith is also struck by the negative Democratic rhetoric:
The Democrats' problem has only worsened since. The dailykos.com site of a Democratic consultant gets 500,000 hits a day. That site's memorial to four American contractors murdered in Iraq was "screw them". Hatefulness also pours out of the popular websites of Michael Moore and MoveOn.org.
The question, to me, is how did this pattern of speech and thought emerge? In the long run I think the solid core of the Democratic party will be greatly strengthened by bloggers and internet forums, but it does seem as if some extremely strident voices have temporarily shouted down the vast centrist mass of the Democratic party. My guess is that most of this was spawned by Terry McAuliffe, who understood the power of the spin cycle but didn't realize that it can only be effective for a few short minutes. This caused him to stress myth over fact (the 2000 stolen election, e.g.), and abruptly biased the public voice of the party towards those who like causes and are not too worried about effects.

But this will fade. Right now the most vivid political split in America is not between the Republicans and the Democrats, but between the coastal/urban/leftist/strident wing of the Democratic party and the centrist/populist/ red-state wing of the Democratic party. How this conflict is resolved is what will determine the outcome of the 2008 race. Bush can and will fight for the solutions he believes possible and effective, but whether the Republican party emerges as the victor depends on whether the Democrats start permitting real debate about implementable solutions.

All the big issues of the day do play to traditional Democratic strengths. If they choose to abandon populism, then the Republicans inherit by default. But if the huge mass of Democratic-leaning people in this country choose to fight for their version of the Democratic party, then the debate shifts to the realities of vastly increasing Medicare/Medicaid costs over the next 25 years, the need to cut Social Security benefits within the next 15 years, and the need to restructure most of our social programs, all forced upon an unwilling electorate by inescapable demographic realities.

These are areas where the huge mass of the public would be generally more trusting of the Democrats' priorities and fairness. To claim their birthright, however, the Democratics (who have focused upon more benefit programs given to an ever-expanding base of people) must shift their focus to fairness and innovation to ensure the pain of the inevitable cuts is spread with minimum adverse effect across society. The question is whether they have the wisdom to undertake this revolution from within, and only the party leadership can answer this question.

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