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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Unbelievable

LGF links to NY Sun's expose of Columbia University's "deal" with the NY Times, etc. A source said that the NY Times agreed not to speak to the students. Here is the NY Sun article:
Columbia University, after a months-long investigation, has determined that only a small fraction of complaints from Jewish students against anti-Israel professors constituted intimidation.
and:
The committee gently criticized Mr. Massad in its report for purportedly threatening to expel a female Jewish student, Deena Shanker, from his classroom in 2002 when she asked him whether the Israeli military warned Palestinian Arab civilians of the West Bank before launching military strikes there. "That provoked him to start screaming, 'If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against the Palestinians then you could leave the class,'" Ms. Shanker told the Sun last fall.

Mr. Massad has denied threatening the student, whose account of the incident has been backed by at least one another student, and said he treats his students fairly and with respect.

The committee said Mr. Massad had no real intention of expelling Ms. Shanker from the class, but he lost his temper and "exceeded commonly accepted bounds by conveying that her question merited harsh public criticism."
It goes on - this article is a must read, and this is by no means the only incident reported.


We're Here To Help You

Okay, so this poor woman in labor does not make it to the hospital on time. She pulls over at a gas station and gives birth. The owner comes out and actually sees this. She takes off to drive on to the hospital, and the owner calls the cops thinking the woman needs help. But somehow the report gets garbled, and the word goes out that the van she is driving is stolen; that supposedly gets straightened out too.

The baby is still attached by the umbilical cord, and the mother pulls over a few times to check that the infant is breathing; she has the baby in her arms as she is driving. Somehow someone calls in a report that someone is trying to throw a baby from a van. (I doubt this part of the story; I think they are lying.) The cops are following her, and finally they cut her off, draw guns, and order her to leave the van with her hands open. She opens the door and lets them see the situation.

The worst of it? They don't even drive her to the hospital:
Coleman said she noticed several cruisers following her before one cut her off. With guns drawn, officers ordered her out of the van with her hands up.

"I opened the door and said, 'I just had a baby' and just let them see everything," she said.

Officers sent Coleman on and let the hospital know she was coming.
You got that? The woman is driving, while holding a baby she's afraid isn't breathing right attached to her via umbilical cord (placenta not come yet), and the #@%((! don't even tell her to scoot over and drive her the rest of the way. They send her on! What incredible dedication to duty and public welfare!

The baby is still in intensive care (because if you're a woman, that's what you were wondering all this time - that's what kept me reading.). Somehow the events this article relates seem to embody some thoughts I have been having lately.


Farewell, Terri

Terri Schiavo died this morning after 9, I was just told. I just want to say that I believe this was a conscious person who died. I'm sorry for all who loved her, and I'm sorry for what she endured.





Iraq The Model

Mohammed at Iraq The Model casts his judgement on the UN:
In a novel I read some years ago named "A sinister hour by" Gabriel Marquis, the events were taking place in a small town where everyone knows everything, ie nothing can remain secret. And everyone would talk about the finest details of someone else's personal life but those discussions were not allowed to happen publicly....
Today, our international village is behaving in the same way, trying to avoid admitting the facts that we all know damn well....
The UN has always been a corrupt organization and the oil for food program was a disastrous organized robbery; it wasn't the first scandal and not going to be the last as long the UN keeps existing in its current form.


Sudan And Darfur

Update: Tom Carter has posted on why he thinks Annan must go, and it is due to Annan's record of not taking such atrocities seriously. Please go and read his post, in which he quotes a Boston Globe editorial:
The United Nations, founded to prevent a recurrence of the Nazi horrors, should not be impartial between the victims and the perpetrators of genocide. As depicted in the heart-wrenching film ''Hotel Rwanda," the mandate of Annan's peacekeeping department to rescue only ''foreign nationals" was a betrayal of the imperiled Rwandans, of the UN's larger purpose, and of basic human solidarity.
That's the way I feel - like the world is betraying humanity by not acting now to protect those in Darfur. This is horrible.
End Update.


This morning I was looking for news of when the 10,000 member UN peace-keeping force was due to arrive in Darfur, and I found to my great disappointment that this force is destined for the south, where a peace accord has already been signed. Still no real actiion on Darfur. A resolution has now been enacted for sanctions and an arms blockade (BBC article):
The UN Security Council has voted to apply sanctions on those who commit atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region.

The US-drafted resolution, which passed 12-0 with abstentions from Russia, China and Algeria, is also aimed at strengthening an arms embargo on Sudan.
and:
The US resolution passed on Tuesday entails that Sudanese authorities must inform the Security Council if they intend to send military equipment to Darfur.

In a separate development, British MPs have criticised previous death toll estimates for the war-torn region.

They decried the international response to the genocide as "scandalously ineffective", and warned that the death toll might reach 400,000 - five times more than previously estimated by the World Health Organization.
Here is another BBC article on the peace-keeping force to be sent to the south:
The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a peacekeeping force of more than 10,000 troops for southern Sudan.

The soldiers will monitor January's peace deal ending a 21-year civil war between Khartoum and southern rebels in which some two million people died.
and:
The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Sudan says the irony is that the 10,000 peacekeepers for the south will be sent to an area where a peace deal has largely held in the past few years and both warring parties seem committed to peace.
From the comments:
The situation in the Darfur region will have a negative effect on the south-north peace accord. The only thing that the UN and international community can do is to put more pressure on the northern government to stop the killings in Darfur. As a Sudanese I want the northern government to tell us what part of Sudan is this community called the jajiweed located and where do they get Sudanese army uniform and weapons? Stop misleading the world, we need the conflict to come to an end.
and:
We have a son there as a doctor and the situation is very bad. They need water, food, and have hundreds of children dying. The police station across from the camp send police into the camp everyday and they scare the people. Planes fly low over the camp adding to the terror. The government needs to be overridden by the UN troops to stop this tragedy. Money and response came very fast for the tsunami. The time to argue over Darfur is over and it is time to act fast. Where criminals will be tried is secondary - help the people NOW!
This inaction is genuinely tragic.


Rolling Them Up?

According to this brief article I found in the Turkish Press, mass arrests of gunmen and confiscations of explosions are taking place in Iraq:
A statement by the ministry confirmed that Iraqi and coalition forces cooperated to execute 713 combat missions, in which 476 gunmen were arrested and 1,804 pieces of arms, in addition to tons of explosives were seized in Baghdad and nearby towns.

Other Army missions in the Iraqi towns of Salman Bak and Jar Al-Sakhar resulted in capturing hundreds of gunmen.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

BuzzMachine On Journalism

Jeff Jarvis over at the BuzzMachine wrote a post on journalism that bloggers should read. It's remarkable for the lack of nonsense:
Journalism is not a thing. It is an act: The act of informing is journalism. It's a verb, not a noun.

And no one owns journalism. It is not an official act, a certified act, an expert act, a proprietary act. Anyone can do journalism. Everyone does. Some do it better than others, of course. But everyone does it.

Realizing that -- embracing that -- will be the key to saving journalism: its quality and its business.


No Comment

Federal Appeals Court agrees to hear Schiavo petition:
A federal appeals court early Wednesday agreed to consider a petition by Terri Schiavo's parents for a new hearing on whether to reconnect their severely brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled without comment on Schiavo's 12th day without nourishment. Last week, the same court twice ruled against Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who are trying to keep her alive.

In seeking a new hearing late Tuesday, attorneys for Schiavo's parents argued that the District Court "committed plain error when it reviewed only the state court case and outcome history."
I think what they are saying here is that the court did not offer the de novo review they were supposed to. You might find this Court TV transcript interesting:
Wesley Smith: But what if the prior permission is, as in this case, the husband says. What is being advocated here, is a right to kill for organs based on loss of personhood.

Bill Allen: I don't agree. I think an anencephalic infant is a non-person. In distinction from an infant with a brain who may not have all the fully developed characteristics of personhood, but does have the potential for personhood. I think this situation is just like other organ donation cases, where the family is allowed to decide to make the donation even if the person who has died never addressed the issue. If the person did not want to be a donor, however, then they organs should not be taken.

Wesley Smith: Very dangerous. There was a case at Loma Linda University some years ago. A doctor asked for anencephalic infants to be donated for possible organ procurement. Soon, doctors were wanting to send babies born with serious disabilities. The doctor stopped the program, shaken. It was written up in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
A radiologist on CodeBlue continues to rail against what he feels is basically bogus statements based on Terri's CT scans. He is coming under heavy fire and in the comments to that post writes:
Yet,what I am providing here is information that you can only get from someone who has ten years of training at the world's top medical institutions, and fifteen years of experience in a busy medical center. My expertise is not common, is not easily come by, and is generally not offered to the public free of charge.

Do you see any ads on this page? No. Do I write this blog for money? No. Why do I do this? Why have I spent hundreds of hours in the middle of the night and between cases at work to write this blog?

One reason is because of the total horror I experience every time I read medical "news" in the MSM. They always get it wrong. They never ask the right questions. YOU ARE ALWAYS IN THE DARK.
Why is that? Because those reporting the news (and managing your health care)have little regard for your intelligence. It is believed that the average American is so dumb that he or she cannot possibly manage this information -- so WE have to do it for you. And WE are leading YOU and the AMERICAN HEALTH CARE SYSTEM to the slaughterhouse on the way.

I am trying to WAKE YOU UP before you get there.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hay Foot, Straw Foot

Did you ever hear the story about a DI trying to teach a country recruit to march in formation? He finally figured out that the man didn't know his right foot from his left, so he tied a piece of hay to one boot and a piece of straw to another and drilled him alone calling out "hay foot, straw foot" until he got the hang of it. Now if you aren't country you don't know the difference between hay and straw, so just don't worry about it, okay? It's not important.

I am telling you this story because I believe that it illustrates what's happening with several urgent ethical issues of our time. They are being discussed in a framework that's divorced from facts that we can make sense of, so people are dropping out of discussions they should be in, while fighting rhetorical battles that mean nothing. SC&A wrote:
The reality is that at times, the friction between justice and liberty is important, if for no other reason to keep us aware of the precious nature of this very system we often take for granted.

We are meant to argue, debate and discuss the balance of this living organism we call democracy.
and:
As we have let the media and politicians define what we are seeing, it is important that the truth be brought to the fore.
Everything important is about reality and the implications of reality, not ideological or political alignments. Nat Hentoff writes in Village Voice:
Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI or a PET scan, nor a thorough neurological examination. Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, a specialist in heart-lung transplant surgery, has, as The New York Times reported on March 23, "certified [in his practice] that patients were brain dead so that their organs could be transplanted." He is not just "playing doctor" on this case.
and:
While lawyers and judges have engaged in a minuet of death, the American Civil Liberties Union, which would be passionately criticizing state court decisions and demanding due process if Terri were a convict on death row, has shamefully served as co-counsel for her husband, Michael Schiavo, in his insistent desire to have her die.
and:
I will be returning to the legacy of Terri Schiavo in the weeks ahead because there will certainly be long-term reverberations from this case and its fracturing of the rule of law in the Florida courts and then the federal courts as well as the disgracefully ignorant coverage of the case by the great majority of the media, including such pillars of the trade as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and the Los Angeles Times as they copied each other's misinformation, like Terri Schiavo being "in a persistent vegetative state."
Rich Lowry writes in National Review:
George Felos, the lawyer for Terri’s husband, Michael, explains his position in the case thusly: “I firmly believe in the right of individuals to make their own medical-treatment choices.” But Terri is not making her medical choices. Choices are being made for her, perhaps (if you believe Michael Schiavo) on the basis of things she said a decade ago, perhaps (if you don’t) in the absence of any stated preference.

After visiting her bedside recently, Felos declared, “In all the years I’ve seen Mrs. Schiavo, I’ve never seen such a look of peace and beauty upon her.” Maybe Felos has forgotten: If she is indeed in a persistent vegetative state, as he maintains, she can’t feel anything, let alone a sense of peace that would make her radiant with beauty.

One expert told the New York Times that “no one is denying this woman food and water.” Really? Then why is she dying? Is it merely a coincidence that she might experience kidney failure from dehydration at any time?
You see? Both are protesting the unreal and fantastical nature of this debate as it is being carried out. One I guess is on the right and one on the left, but that is not why they are insisting that facts are important. It's because they are!


Iraqi Speaking

This week Iraq The Model is a great vantage point from which to watch history unfold. Omar posted on events in Lebanon. I won't steal his thunder, but I have to cite his conclusion:
The pan-Arab nationalists have tried to unite the countries of the region for half a century but they failed because they were favoring the glory of a particular race over the interests of the citizens but now, dropping these old, worn-out slogans will pave the way for a new and healthy type of unity; a unity chosen by the people to serve the people.

Believe me; I have never thought that I could feel so close to the people of Lebanon like I do today. Maybe this is one of the rare advantages of tyrannies; when they begin to fall apart, you begin to realize how much good you've been missing and how much good can be achieved.
But even more exciting is his coverage of the new Parliament as it tries to appoint its leaders. You really do want to read this post. Like a soap opera, the drama has not yet concluded, so keeping checking back. In particular, not that it was one of the women delegates who stood up and demanded "transparency". This has all the excitement lacking from the national conventions of the Republicans and Democrats. There may be an open vote after all on Sunday.



This week Iraq The Model is a great vantage point from which to watch history unfold. Omar posted on events in Lebanon. I won't steal his thunder, but I have to cite his conclusion:
The pan-Arab nationalists have tried to unite the countries of the region for half a century but they failed because they were favoring the glory of a particular race over the interests of the citizens but now, dropping these old, worn-out slogans will pave the way for a new and healthy type of unity; a unity chosen by the people to serve the people.

Believe me; I have never thought that I could feel so close to the people of Lebanon like I do today. Maybe this is one of the rare advantages of tyrannies; when they begin to fall apart, you begin to realize how much good you've been missing and how much good can be achieved.
But even more exciting is his coverage of the new Parliament as it tries to appoint its leaders. You really do want to read this post. Like a soap opera, the drama has not yet concluded, so keeping checking back. In particular, not that it was one of the women delegates who stood up and demanded "transparency". This has all the excitement lacking from the national conventions of the Republicans and Democrats. There may be an open vote after all on Sunday.


Robert Wendland

Go read the site set up for Robert Wendland. There are links to all the primary court documents. Read and understand. Most disturbing is this statement:
Florence Wendland's legal victory assures her son's legacy of life and, hopefully, saves other potential future victims.


Pat Sajak

Pat Sajak has a blog, hat tip Hispanic Pundit. Yes, that Pat Sajak, the Wheel of Fortune guy. Pat Sajak has stopped arguing with some leftists too:
Aside from being rhetorically hysterical—and demeaning to the memory of those who suffered so terribly as a result of Hitler and the Nazis—it served to remind me of how difficult it is to have serious discussions about politics or social issues with committed members of the Left. They tend to do things like accusing members of the Right of sowing the seeds of hatred while, at the same time, comparing them to mass murderers. And they do this while completely missing the irony.

The moral superiority they bring to the table allows them to alter the playing field and the rules in their favor. They can say and do things the other side can’t because, after all, they have the greater good on their side. If a Conservative—one of the bad guys—complains about the content of music, films or television shows aimed at children, he is being a prude who wants to tell other people what to read or listen to or watch; he is a censor determined to legislate morality. If, however, a Liberal complains about speech and, in fact, supports laws against certain kinds of speech, it is right and good because we must be protected from this “hate speech” or “politically incorrect” speech. (Of course, they—being the good guys—will decide exactly what that is.)
A lot of people on both the right and left suffer from this syndrome though. The voices being drowned out are the respectful ones, while extremists rant to a cheering crowd.


Calling You Out

I thought this post by Jim at Opinion Times was eloquent and appropriate:
Though we don't fully understand it yet, we know as a culture that we prefer the death of uneasy things to keep things easy. Yet the bulk of our history is the acceptance of uneasiness as the price for freedom.

Throughout history, despotism has always arisen out of the pursuit of peace and ease. And despotism is the power of the sword; it grasps within its hands the power of life and death. Free societies err on the side of life. I question at this moment whether we are truly free.
He compares Terri Schiavo to Christopher Reeves and asks why Reeves was lauded and Terri has been derided. I think it is that in Christopher Reeves people saw the possibility of a momentous victory and for Terri there was probably only the possibility of happiness for her and uneasiness for us. People saw Christopher Reeves as fighting a battle with his own money and his own prestige and wanted him to win that battle to slay fear for us. To accept Terri as human would mean confronting our own fears. That path was one the media was not willing to walk.

The affidavits of the nurses and all the doctors who saw life and response in her meant nothing. The statements of two prominent forensic pathologists meant nothing. The testimony of Terri's friend that contradicted Michael's was found irrelevant and untrustworthy. The strict meaning of the laws of the state of Florida was ignored, and no other courts decided to intervene. Terri was costly and had nothing to offer us, and so Terri was declared dead.

Freedom, as Sigmund Carl and Alfred pointed out once, is not something one country can give to another. You can free a country from oppression, but that country will still have to claim its own freedom. Do we have the courage to claim our own freedom, when, as Jim points out in his post, freedom is never safe or comfortable? That is the question we must answer, because when we won our freedom we did it as a collective endeavor, and when we have defended it we have done it as a collective endeavor, and if we don't defend the rights of the vulnerable, somehow there will always be more and more vulnerable ones, until one day, we are all vulnerable.

Those who point out that such matters should be privately decided by family have a good point, but unfortunately family is not always loving and not always wise, and there will always be arguments. If the state offers a door out of such situations it seems to me that the state must also have a duty to ensure that the unwilling aren't shoved through the door, because everything we know about human history and human nature tells us that some will be.

This, to me, is so obvious that I can't believe there is a debate about it. Other obvious outcomes of this decision in Florida are that court has ruled that spoon feeding is a medical procedure, and gotten away with it. The definition of PVS in the Florida constitution has been rewritten by a judge. The definition of guardianship has been rewritten by a judge and a district court. The Supreme Court of Florida has ruled that a judge has the right to make such decisions. How can one not pity the old and the failing who find themselves in nursing homes in Florida and beg for food and water and are given none; the action of the family in this case has been made legal, and what has been made illegal are the actions of the nurses who surreptiously gave the woman food and water:
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.
Nor is this a left/right issue, or a religious/rationalist issue. Jesse Jackson is joining the fray on Terri's side. The disability rights activists have been on Terri's side for a long, long time. See this column at The Harvard Crimson. It is written by a man with cerebal palsy who says he tries to wear his Harvard shirt when flying, because otherwise his speech difficulties cause people to assume that he's stupid:
The case of Terri Schiavo has been framed by the media as the battle between the “right to die” and pro-life groups, with the latter often referred to as “right-wing Christians.” Little attention has been paid to the more than twenty major disability rights organizations firmly supporting Schiavo’s right to nutrition and hydration. Terri Schindler-Schiavo, a severely disabled woman, is being starved and dehydrated to death in the name of supposed “dignity.” Polls show that most Americans believe that her death is a private matter and that her removal from a feeding tube—a low-tech, simple and inexpensive device used to feed many sick and disabled people—is a reasonable solution to the conflict between her husband and her parents over her right to life.

The reason for this public support of removal from ordinary sustenance, I believe, is not that most people understand or care about Terri Schiavo. Like many others with disabilities, I believe that the American public, to one degree or another, holds that disabled people are better off dead. To put it in a simpler way, many Americans are bigots. A close examination of the facts of the Schiavo case reveals not a case of difficult decisions but a basic test of this country’s decency.
See Mark Polit's article on Common Dreams (Mark Polit is a disability rights activist):
The battle over Terri Schiavo has been framed as a battle between the radical right which seeks to uphold the sanctity of life, and the left which focuses on an individual's fundamental right to self-determination.

In this case, however, the right has framed it correctly. There is no issue of self-determination, since their is no clear directive to act upon, and Terri is not able to express a preference. Even if Terri had made an off hand comment about what she would prefer, people who acquire a disability typically decide that living "that way" is far superior to dying. It is not up to a judge, a spouse, or a politician to determine when someone else should be rubbed out.

This has not been one of those "difficult cases" of end of life care, since Terri was not chronicly ill. She was not in pain (until they starved her). She was not kept alive artificially (unless you consider food and water artificial). She was not on a "machine" (a tube is merely a fork or spoon for people who can't swallow). Terri was a person with a disability. She was apparently conscious. And she was certainly alive. Since when has it become a progressive position to deny a person the right to their very existence?
Good question. If you believe that the procedures in this case protected Terri adequately, then I still think you have a moral obligation to inquire about the case of the the older woman who was deprived of food and water by an uncaring family. There is a blog called LiberalsforTerri. If you are on the left, please go there. This is about right and wrong and essential civil rights, not religion or politics.

I'm warning you, this fight has just begun. No one who has been agitating for Terri on the left or right of the spectrum is willing to give up the battle, because they can't. Polls mean nothing because most Americans don't know the facts of this case or what is going on in Florida. They are going to find out though, because those who are appalled aren't going to shut up about this one. We can't because the question "How many more" is reverberating in our minds.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Big Shake

NOAA Tsunami warning for Indian ocean after another big quake (8.2?):
WARNING... THIS EARTHQUAKE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE A WIDELY DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI IN THE OCEAN OR SEAS NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE.
AUTHORITIES IN THOSE REGIONS SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS POSSIBILITY
AND TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION. THIS ACTION SHOULD INCLUDE EVACUATION
OF COASTS WITHIN A THOUSAND KILOMETERS OF THE EPICENTER AND CLOSE
MONITORING TO DETERMINE THE NEED FOR EVACUATION FURTHER AWAY.

THIS CENTER DOES NOT HAVE SEA LEVEL GAUGES OUTSIDE THE PACIFIC
SO WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DETECT OR MEASURE A TSUNAMI IF ONE WAS
GENERATED. AUTHORITIES CAN ASSUME THE DANGER HAS PASSED IF NO
TSUNAMI WAVES ARE OBSERVED IN THE REGION NEAR THE EPICENTER
WITHIN THREE HOURS OF THE EARTHQUAKE.
There have been recent warnings of risk for another big quake:
A team of seismologists led by John McCloskey at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, say more shaking could be in store.

McCloskey and colleagues found that the so-called Sumatra-Andaman earthquake increased the stress on adjacent sections of the Sunda trench and the nearby Sumatra fault, which runs the length of Sumatra.

The team cannot predict when another earthquake will occur. But they say the increased stress, combined with historical evidence, raises the likelihood of another big quake in the region. History, they say, shows that one earthquake tends to follow another in the same region.
I sure hope they are working on the early warning system for the Indian Ocean area.


Sunni Resistance Fading?

No Oil For Pacifists has a roundup of recent indications that the Sunnis in Iraq may be thinking about coming in from the cold. One of his links is to an article by Amir Taheri in the Morroco Times on al Queda's slump:
The movement is also finding it increasingly difficult to attract new recruits, especially within the Muslim world. Even in Western Europe (where Muslim communities still represent fertile recruiting ground), the number of "volunteers" peaked in the fall of 2003 and has been falling since. . .

For the first time in two decades, the movement is also beginning to face fund-raising difficulties. The generous donations that indirectly came from various regional countries have stopped, while scores of bank accounts operated by the militants have been frozen.
As the foreign inflow dries up I would think the Sunnis would think things over and realize that there is no joy and no glory in getting your butts blown away by women and medics. Voting and working for a living has got to be looking more and more promising.


I Wonder

This article in New Scientist claims that various studies have shown that smoking too much marijuana too soon increases your chances of mental problems later. Some of the studies on which this is based seem awfully small to me, but I'm no scientist.

However, one is a large Swedish study published in 1987 which tracked over 50,000 young men who did service in the Swedish army. That study found that men who had smoked cannabis before being called up were six times more likely to end up in the hospital with schizophrenia. The article also points out that establishing a correlation does not establish causation, but the studies have fueled suggestions to change the drug laws in Europe:
This message is already starting to filter out into society. In the Netherlands, the findings have fuelled a growing clamour for reform of the laws regulating drug use. In the UK, the mental-health charity Sane has called for the reclassification of cannabis to be reversed. And the British government recently acknowledged the link in its strongest terms yet, when it said in a press release that cannabis was an "important causal factor" in mental illness.

But for some researchers, such pronouncements are premature. "I'm not convinced," says Les Iversen, professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford and a member of the UK Home Office's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. "I think the jury is still out on this one." “Despite a steep rise in cannabis use among teenagers over the past 30 years, there has been no rise in schizophrenia”

He points out that epidemiological studies are notoriously bad at proving cause and effect, in part because it is hard to identify all the confounding factors. Scientists are particularly wary of such research when the conclusions are based on small statistical differences - as in this case. In the New Zealand study, the number of people who had smoked dope on three occasions by the age of 15 was just 29, and only three went on to develop psychosis. "I can't help thinking that the conclusion is rather thin," says Iversen. "It makes you wonder. If they found another confounder, where would that leave them?" Van Os himself admits that his study does not eliminate all the confounding factors.
I just want to close by saying how amusing I find it to have a close and correct scrutiny of the data here and have the scientific community not applying the same level of scrutiny to the claims of global warming. Comparing the wary and skeptical arguments over these studies and this data and comparing the attacks from the scientific community against those who have voiced skepticism about the environmentalist claims is very enlightening. Talk about a double standard!

And then I have read various contentions that rates of severe mental illness are increasing and the timeframe for that increase correlated roughly to the timeframe for increased drug use:
Although comparisons of rates over time are fraught with diagnostic and other methodological pitfalls, the 12 to 19 per 1,000 rate contrasts sharply with prevalence surveys done in earlier years. For example, the 1958 Hollingshead and Redlich study of New Haven, Conn., one of the ECA study sites, reported a rate of 4.2 individuals who were being treated for schizophrenia and affective psychoses per 1,000 total population. Similarly, a census study of Baltimore, another ECA study site, found a rate of 7.1 individuals with psychosis or with psychotic traits, both treated and untreated, per 1,000 total population (Lemkau et al., 1942).
I think a survey should be done of environmentalists to check how many of them smoked a lot of marijuana when young. This could explain much!


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rebirth Of A Sort

What with the tornado warnings, the severe thunderstorm warnings, the hail warning, the flood warnings and so on, I thought I would spend the rest of Easter in the bathroom (no outside walls - it is the refuge room) with the Washington Post release of the Nixon tapes. Why? Because I've been feeling a bit cynical about government and I want to remind myself that everything's relative. But I thought I'd leave you with this post from Iraq The Model who is reporting on the aftermath of the Iraqi elections:
The Iraqi elections were truly a source of pride for Iraqis and a scene of bravery that deserves a lot of respect from the world and the time has come for the people to be rewarded for their bravery by their elected future leaders who need to address their responsibilities towards their people.

What's really special about the post-election phase is the obvious consciousness of most political parties about the situation. They have understood that dialogue is the only way we have and everyone is learning how to sit to the negotiations table and show lots of patience. And despite the tension that we can see now, the talks have remained confined to the circle of civilized dialogue.
and:
At the time the media and the interested observers are busy emphasizing on the violence in Iraq counting bodies (like war reporters do) they're missing a great revolutionary change being made in Iraq towards democracy.
The talks for democracy are much louder a sound than the noise of guns; words and logic are the victors beyond any doubt and the effects of the change in Iraq are spreading across the region.
It would be wonderful if the Iraqis, who have suffered so, could build a peaceful democracy. They deserve a spot in the sun.


Not Good At All

Curious Goldie posted about this and I think it's important. Hardly Eastery, but important.

The kid who shot up the high school in Minnesota had sent a video in to an internet site, and Goldie's kids found it. Needless to say, she is upset. Her post is here, and I think the site needs to be reported. This is incredibly stupid - it can only encourage repetitions of the same behavior.


My Testimony: Spirit Coldly Burning

If you don't want to read this, may I suggest that you read this post by the Anchoress? In it she discusses something very important to me, objective reality, and relates it to her experiences with her dying brother. Reality is something we don't see much of in the press. Without a commitment to reality, we can't have integrity and we have no right to joy. Besides, her brother's experiences do give the lie to the stereotype of the "pansy-assed gay man" just as she says, and I am tired of all these foolish names that serve only to obscure truth.

Ga Dean (Bird's Eye View, The Radical Centrist) wrote in a comment to an earlier post of mine that I was a broken being, and knew it, and that knowledge had given me more clarity. That was such an incredibly accurate summation of twenty years of my experience that I have been thinking about his statement ever since. That he could be so perceptive really doesn't surprise me, because this is a man who walks to church in order to feed the homeless. He has integrity and the strength to patiently abide with others.

I am broken and yet whole, because for some reason I don't understand the process of being broken ended up being a process of being broken open. The best way I can describe what I have endured is that it was like a vivisection, in which I was sliced up bit by bit, the bits passed through the bars of my prison cell and reassembled outside in freedom to somehow become a whole and living person. I would not have chosen this fate, yet now that I have been consigned to it I would not give up what I am or what I may become.

I seem to myself to be the self of twenty years ago, decanted into a rewired brain which is improved in essential function, although in many ways I am still learning to use it. My likes and dislikes seem to be pretty well intact. I still dislike the color yellow and almost all pastels ( a pale lavender is acceptable). I still love science as intensely as I did in high school and college. I still admire the same people and I still think logic and reason is terribly important. I still believe that justice is the fundamental prerequisite of a civilized society. I still love my family; but now I have the ability to love others as intensely and as freely, and that is an incredible gift. My IQ is definitely higher than it was, and I like my new ability to conceive of most situations as a complex of mathematical functions and vectors.

Before I thought verbally, now I think spatially, if that makes any sense. This one corner of my mind, which must somehow correlate to a piece of my physical brain, has been just about the only thing that I've consistently had with me. I believe I lost it only once. When I could not see I thought with it; when I could not understand emotion I thought with it; when I could not move around I lay still and thought with it; when I could not speak I was quiet and thought with it. I don't know how conscious I always was of myself as a human being in the way that you experience yourselves but eventually I evolved a way to map the needs of other human beings with it, a conception of duty and responsibility to others, a reliable conception of an outer world which was not apparent to my confused and unreliable senses, a world which I could only know by the careful application of logic and repeated tests.

My consecutive memory ends in the early 1980s and only begins again last year. For most of my adult life, I have had to fight the instinctive response to answer an inquiry about my age with "23", because as far as I was concerned, I was 23. It was the only honest answer. Yet I realized in the abstract corner of my mind that this was not correct, so I finally programmed myself to reply to such a question with the year of my birth. But now I know that I am 43, and contemplate with some surprise that this year I will turn 44. Time has started for me again at about the same time as it ends for Terri Schiavo, and nothing I know can make sense of this for me.

In part this is because I have read the testimony of the nurses who have cared for her and watched some of the videos, read the affidavits of the doctors (ones who actually work with those who have suffered injuries to the brain), and read the affidavits and statements of the therapists. In all honesty, that abstract corner of my brain judges that there is more of her left as a person than there was of me for many years. Yet I know that some portion of me was always there, always thinking, and even when it could not speak it thought and struggled to do right by others, which is the acid test of being a moral consciousness.

The best way I can describe to you this abstract way of modelling the world is that I conceived of humans as X's, the fundamental unknowables in the equation that is the world. Because a complex equation's meaning and scope is lessened or completely destroyed by eliminating a term in that equation, this X figured out that destroying another X was wrong, and doing something to limit another X was wrong unless that other X was impairing yet another X. This X knew by reason only that other X's should not be harmed by it. This X did not really understand emotion, and this X did not really understand its own pain, but this X did know that you should not destroy what you cannot create.

This X learned to smile when appropriate without really understanding what a smile meant. This X learned to understand humor as a comparison of two equations mutually contradictory but yet both true, leading to a burst of understanding. This X thinks spatially of another X's pain, and models it as a flinch from a physical impact or a mental assault, which it conceives of as a form of spatial violation. This X could never figure out why it was inappropriate to reach into a pot of boiling water to retrieve a dropped spoon. This X realized that the body in which it resided would feel pain, but this X did not find that pain a violation of personhood or flinch from it.

According to the affidavits of the nurses and of several of the doctors, Terri seeks comfort and avoids pain and anticpates pain and comfort. Terri, who this X does not believe is abstractly smart enough to learn to fake it, laughs at people's jokes, smiles at people she cares for and trusts, and tries to speak. This X read the evidence and sees the X that is Terri Schiavo as being a more complete X than this X was. I read the evidence and see Terri as being a more complete person than I was. I, who am greater than the corner of my mind that was this X, now know why this X picked up hot pans and stuck its hands into boiling water. This X knew that pain existed, and felt it as a signal without emotional impact, yet this X also knew that signal was one ignored for functionality. When walking there were signals of pain, yet they were dismissed as meaningless interruptions. This X could not see the logical difference between one signal and the other.

There was none, because this X had no concept of self. None at at all. This X had only the concept of selves outside this X. This X did not have the concept of duty towards itself. If anyone this X had trusted had told this X to go and lie down and never to drink or eat again because it was an offense to others, this X would probably have done just that. The only reason that I am alive is that another whom this X did have reason to trust interceded and told this X that it would have to seek medical treatment for the sake of others. Even so, this X declined an expensive form of treatment and chose a more primitive one which did work, on the rational grounds that in a world of limited resources this X should not consume so much.

Yet this X, so limited in some respects, helped others in many ways, and the confused consciousness that relied so greatly upon this X usually worked, supported itself, and was highly regarded by others. This X learned to do so much and to interact well by watching and observing. I still trust the segment of my consciousness that is this X, and I still rely upon it to think for me, even though translating those thoughts into words is often impossible, and when it is possible it sometimes takes days or weeks to achieve. And I too perceive that Terri is a person whereas this X was not a person. I too perceive Terri as having rights that this X did not have and does not have. I still have not figured out what rights I should have. I simply don't know.

One thing I do know. Those who think they can define the quality and quantity of another's consciousness on the basis of a 30 minute examination are fools, and even this X knows that those who believe they are wise and who operate with no understanding of the objectively unknowable X's are dangerous. This X did not commit such a folly. I am glad of it.


Across The Bay On Edelstein

Across The Bay is an incredibly good blog, and this is an excellent post even by its high standards. Tony is discussing Edelstein's series on Lebanon and its future. He calls Edelstein's last installment "the best thing that's been written about Lebanon's system since it became a hot topic after Hariri's assassination."

In any case, Edelstein's prediction that the center will hold in Lebanon seems more realistic to me than the predictions of civil war by others. There are a lot of reasons for it, but one of the most fundamental is that people want a representative electoral system there and the social and political dynamics of the region are changing rapidly. Furthermore, in order to get the control the people want they must unify against Syria's influence, and nothing generates an urge to compromise within a society as threat from without a society.

Tony writes about Edelstein's fifth installment in the series:
It's a great antidote to the kind of garbage penned by Helena Cobban and that clown As'ad AbuKhalil (and even some stuff by Juan Cole on Lebanon) which passes as "veteran" analysis or as "expertise." The reason why is that Edelstein starts with the right premise, whereas the others don't. Cobban and AbuKhalil are working with Third Worldist and Arabist models and are stuck in the '70s (viewed through that lens of course).
The times, they are a'changing. There seems to be at least a substantial hope that it will be for the better.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Darned Amusing

From the psychs at Sigmund, Carl and Albert, here's a funny video. It isn't great for a dial-up connection, but if you have broadband go for it. I think it's the uniform - hey, we all love a man in uniform, don't we?




Clearly Significant

The big guns are coming out of the woodwork now. One thing for sure, even if Terri dies I want this information presented before Congress. Crystal Clear has a post up about the latest legal effort asking for an order reinstating the tube. (Update, Greer denied it, of course.) Among the affidavits before the court is that of Dr. George Mclane, and here is Crystal's short summary:
The circumstances surrounding her initial anoxic episode and subsequent neurological status are consistent with a victim who has been strangled.

A "heart attack" precipitated by severe metabolic disease secondary to an eating disorder is inconsistent.

Such a severly compromised heart would never continue to pump effectively for 15 more years.

...It is critical that Terri Schiavo's case be considered as possible attempted homocide.
I"m sure the MSM would regard the man as just another quack, but here are his credentials:
Dr. George McClane is the Director of the Forensic Medical Unit (FMU) at the city of San Diego Department of Family Justice Center. The FMU documents injuries sustained by living victims as the result of domestic violence. Dr. McClane is also a board-certified Emergency Physician and a diplomate National Board of Medical Examiners. Furthermore, even more relevant to Terri and Michael Schiavo, Dr. McClane has published works reviewing attempted strangulation in hundreds of cases.
Oh, and about Dr. Cranford, the physician the MSM regards so highly? Read this amicus curiae brief of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Dr. Cranford's prejudices are gone into very thoroughly. In both Michigan and California, cases in which he testified that some one was completely unconscious were overruled by state Supreme Courts. Why? You'll have to read the whole thing to understand why.

Dr. Cranford is an extreme case of an extreme mentality. According to him (page 12):
"There is a legitimate difference of opinion concerning spoon-feeding," he said, and "it is not fair to say that artificial feeding would only characterize what we call gastrostomy and so forth."12 He explained that spoon-feeding is denied to certain patients since, to feed them "would be totally inconsistent" with what is wanted (i.e. the patient's death).
On page 20 the brief covers some details of his participation in the Michigan case:
During proceedings in September 1993, Dr. Cranford testified on Mary Martin's behalf. He said that he had determined that Michael's level of functioning was such that Michael could not be measured by any neuropsychological tests. During his testimony, Dr. Cranford admitted that he was not able to administer a battery of neuropsychological tests regarding cognition and that he had never worked in a long-term brain injury rehabilitation setting. Nonetheless, he claimed that his knowledge of the biomedical processes made him better qualified than others to assess Michael's level of cognition.30

According to recreation therapy records, Mr. Martin was able to smile, participate in simple card games, choose a color when asked and do a number of other simple tasks.31 Yet, Dr. Cranford denigrated those abilities.
Dr. Cranford has gone on record as believing that minimally conscious patients like Terri should be considered dead and used as organ donors. He's gone on record as saying that we should starve Alzheimer's patients to death. Yet what does the press do? It identifies any neurologist who files an affidavit saying that they do believe Terri is conscious as some sort of religious nut, and never, never looks at Dr. Cranford's considerable record. Dr. Cranford is the one who is outside of the medical mainstream. Truly, he is.

Crystal's post has many more links.


Unit Cohesion

I am awed by this. Courtesy Instapundit, BlackFive has the AAR (After Action Report?) on Raven 42's response to an ambush of a convoy in Iraq. There are no words to describe how impressive this is, so I'll quote Col. Kriessel:
There is little to add to the AAR. It is a testimony to the professionalism of the soldiers our army continues to field. Bear in mind as you read this, these are support troops, Military Police and Medics, who normally occupy rear areas and provide logistics and route security to tactical forces.
We must have the best trained armed forces the world has ever seen. Throughout the whole Iraqi conflict I have been astounded at what these people do in combat, what they don't do while under constant pressure of the worse kind and the amazing humanity of these soldiers as shown by their own projects to help the children and civilians in Iraq. If the press were still breathing it would be analyzing the achievements of these people and asking how all this happened, asking how a force such as this could be created, and most of all, asking how it can be maintained.

One thing for sure. If all of this settles down, as long as I am a voter I will never be in favor of cutting NCO's to cut our military expenses. If we do reduce forces in 10 years, we don't want to get rid of the heart of this force. It's all too easy to lose what you don't know you have.


AZF

AZF or A-Z-F as I have seen it written in news accounts seems to be a group of brigands intent upon holding up the French government. Last year it threatened to blow up bombs on French railways if the French government didn't pay them a large ransom (and bombs were found), and now it's back in action:
A group sent parts of bomb detonators to President Jacques Chirac and the Interior Ministry, threatening to carry out attacks unless it was paid off, authorities said Friday.
No one really knows what this group is about, but I suspect it is really all about not working for a living. From the article linked above:
In July, letters signed by AZF were sent to eight multinational food and cosmetics companies, threatening to poison their products if they didn't each pay $1.35 million each. No evidence of a poison plot was found.
I wonder if they paid. There is something so vile about this that I can't quite figure out how to describe it. We know all societies have their share of people who have no sympathy for the rights of others. We call them criminals. If this sort of thing is seen to become successful, there will be no end to it. After all, how much risk does one really take when making threats? Very little. It's not nearly as risky as robbing a convenience store, bank or museum.

When the French catch these people I hope they slam them in jail for life and publicize that very, very thoroughly. But they probably won't. Here's an article from March of 2004 for more background, and here's yet another reporting that the French had detained three people for questioning. According to this more detailed article, the group said its true aim was to "strike a decisive blow against the depraved spirit that prevails today in most human actions". Likely story. You can't improve society by planting bombs and threatening to detonate them unless some of society's filthy lucre is transferred into your pockets.

These people are criminals and terrorists of a sort. I wonder really if the leadership of many of the "terrorist" groups around the world aren't really just the same? They may say they are defending a cause, but they always want money for their actions. Their leadership might really be composed of a lot of Ward Churchills exploiting people and causes for their own benefit while not caring how much human grief results as long as they don't have to work for a living.


No Special Case

According to BlogsforTerri, Florida Law Enforcement police were on the way to Pinellas Park to take Terri Schiavo to be rehydrated, but Pinellas Park police told them they would resist her removal. This agrees with statements I have seen by bloggers who are there - they reported the police reinforcing and special vans being positioned.

I also would like to direct your attention to this Slate article by Harriet McBryde Johnson, who is a lawyer from South Carolina. She lays out ten points about the case that have not been generally reported in the MSM and defends Congress's action. She too believes that to prevent many such deaths Congress will have to pass a law allowing federal review for those who can't speak for themselves. This, btw, has nothing to do with the fate of individuals who have declined treatment for themselves or done so by way of advance directive. This only affects the rights of those who presumably don't wish to suffer this fate. Harriet McBryde Johnson also has a neuro-muscular disease and may end up on a feeding tube herself. That she herself has a disability is clearly evident in point number 5:
5. There is a genuine dispute as to what Ms. Schiavo believed and expressed about life with severe disability before she herself became incapacitated; certainly, she never stated her preferences in an advance directive like a living will. If we assume that Ms. Schiavo is aware and conscious, it is possible that, like most people who live with severe disability for as long as she has, she has abandoned her preconceived fears of the life she is now living. We have no idea whether she wishes to be bound by things she might have said when she was living a very different life. If we assume she is unaware and unconscious, we can't justify her death as her preference. She has no preference.
I urge all of you who fear that Congress is infringing on the rights of people to make these decisions for themselves to sit back and reflect that there is another side to this issue.

I read in a comment in another blog about an earlier post of mine that I was a "special case", which was a most disconcerting experience. No, I am not. I'm very grateful that as a side effect of my experiences in life that I now know that I am not a special case, but more typical than not. I will continue to try to open some doors for you that were opened for me.


Killing Mercy

From Cardinal Galen's sermon in Münster Cathedral on Sunday, August 3, 1941:
I am reliably informed that lists are also being drawn up in the asylums of the province of Westphalia as well of those patients who are to be taken away as so-called 'unproductive national comrades' and shortly to be killed. The first transport left the Marienthal institution near Münster during this past week.

German men and women, section 211 of the Reich Penal Code is still valid. It states: 'He who deliberately kills another person will be punished by death for murder if the killing is premeditated.'

Those patients who are destined to be killed are transported away from home to a distant asylum presumably in order to protect those who deliberately kill those poor people, members of our families, from this legal punishment. Some illness is then given as the cause of death. Since the corpse has been burnt straight away, the relatives and also the criminal police are unable to establish whether the illness really occurred and what the cause of death was.
Cardinal Galen cited the laws against murder in his sermon, and said he had brought formal charges to the State Court and the Police President, but had received no response. He said that he had to assume that the poor helpless patients would soon be killed. "Why," he asked?
No, we are dealing with human beings, our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like unproductive people.

But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?

Have you, have I the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognized by others as productive?

If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill 'unproductive' fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is allowed forcibly to remove one's unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously disabled, as cripples, as invalids. If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill 'unproductive' fellow humans--and even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill--then as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.
Go here for some more information at the History Place. Hitler personally directed this program of "mercy deaths":
The Nazi euthanasia program quickly expanded to include older disabled children and adults. Hitler's decree of October, 1939, typed on his personal stationery and back dated to Sept. 1, enlarged "the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such manner that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death."
In time, of course, this mercy included deaths by starvation and thirst for these types of people:
Patients had to be reported if they suffered from schizophrenia, epilepsy, senile disorders, therapy resistant paralysis and syphilitic diseases, retardation, encephalitis, Huntington's chorea and other neurological conditions, also those who had been continuously in institutions for at least 5 years, or were criminally insane, or did not posses German citizenship or were not of German or related blood, including Jews, Negroes, and Gypsies.
And in due time, at the Nuremberg Trials, these records were duly extracted from the careful Nazi bureaucracy and people were brought before the tribunal and convicted of crimes against humanity. The problem with Nazi Germany was not that the laws against murder were changed - no, the old laws were left in place. The problem was that new laws and directives were put in place, and that people did not see killing "worthless lives" as a crime. The definition of murder did not include such deaths, you see? And if our definition of life support includes food and water brought to someone's mouth, then a tremendous number of people have just been made "terminally ill". And if our definition of "clear and convincing evidence" that someone wishes to die means the decisions of others on their behalf, then we have opened the door to widespread slaughter.

Eventually, the law caught up with Germany at Nuremberg at Hitler's Palace of Justice, but not before the tide of slaughter rose and swept millions away. Eventually, Hitler committed suicide himself and ordered that his own body be burned. We cannot escape the judgement of our own history.



Friday, March 25, 2005

What Fools

What fools these mortals be... See this post at Discarded Lies, covering an LA Times article discussing how wonderful you feel while dying from a complete deprivation of food and water. Euphoric. A mild bliss. The problem only comes in, you see, when you try to eat or drink a little! See? If anyone tried to give Terri water they'd just be cheating her out of this lovely high!
"The word `starve' is so emotionally loaded," Fine said. "People equate that with the hunger pains they feel or the thirst they feel after a long, hot day of hiking. To jump from that to a person who has an end-stage illness is a gigantic leap."

Contrary to the visceral fears of humans, death by starvation is the norm in nature -- and the body is prepared for it.

"The cessation of eating and drinking is the dominant way that mammals die," said Dr. Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. "It is a very gentle way that nature has provided for animals to leave this life."
Ah, gentle Mother Earth. Gaia. Gee, I wonder why we've been bothering ourselves trying to feed the hungry in the famine areas all these years? We should have just advised them on no account to drink and to relax and enjoy the trip. Who'd want to interrupt a wonderful thing like that?

Let's just say the people at LA Times should get themselves trepanned for the mind-expanding experience. Why doesn't one of them try going without food and water for four days and see how he or she feels? Definitely the editor who printed this should allow himself such a lovely experience. No - wait! I have a wonderful idea! What we'll do is put a fat pompous old bioethicist in a roomful of starving young journalists, and watch what happens! Film at eleven.

My God, we have become a society of drooling fantasizers who wouldn't recognize reality if it chewed off their feet in a companionable way. And by the way, being eaten alive when you are too weak to run is the merciful way Mother Earth has provided for most mammals to naturally end their lives.


Walking Octopus Thread

Democratic Underground discussing the news that two different species of octopus have been observed walking. This is very lighthearted and funny. I thought you could use the break. It's not really political either, except that they predict a match between "Walktopus" and Jeb in 2008. Of course, being DU, they know the Walktopus wins.



And Now Ralph

From Discarded Lies, courtesy Crystal Clear, Ralph Nader's call for somone to act on Terri's behalf to remedy this "profound injustice":
The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.
Exactly so. No one who really looks at this case can be comfortable.



Full Circle

You think the case of Terri Schiavo is about personal choice, but it is not. The least interested person who testified about Terri's wishes was her friend, and Judge Greer dismissed her evidence as not credible. But the friend did not stand to get any money; the friend could not have had the emotional entanglements of Terri's parents; the friend testified that they had had a highly relevant conversation while watching a movie about Karen Ann Quinlan in college. Judge Greer's reasoning for refuting the evidence as stated in his written opinion has been refuted, but of course that is of no significance to Judge Greer.

To make sense of what is happening to Terri Schiavo you must read this article, which has nothing to do with Terri Schiavo's case. I would recommend that you save it down and reread it several times. This was published in 2002. The abstract:
After passage of the Patient Self-Determination Act and the Cruzan decision by the Supreme Court, honoring individual patient choice has become the primary means by which we have sought to improve the quality of life of the dying patient. However, the decision-making capacity of the dying patient is usually compromised, and advance directives have not consistently improved the dying process. We respect patient autonomy in order to respect the patient as a person; patient autonomy should be respected to the degree that it is intact. When autonomy is significantly diminished, as it usually is in dying patients, respecting autonomy reconstructed from documents or proxies may not be the best way to respect the dying person. We rather need to seek social consensus about when patients are dying, the nature of a "good death," and when it is preferable to a longer life.
Note the phrase "when patients are dying". Note it well, for it is crucial to understanding what is being suggested here, which is basically that doctors and society should decide when a person is dying and when to make sure they are. No kidding. I will whet your whistle with a few enlightened excerpts:
Choice has become a part of the process of modern dying. Decisions to limit or withhold care occur in the clear majority of deaths today, particularly among elderly patients; 90% of patients who die in intensive-care units have life-sustaining treatments withdrawn, a dramatic increase in the past decade.
So what's the problem? The author goes on to explain that the average age at death continues to increase and that roughly 30% of patients die in nursing homes, where the risk of cognitive impairment is high. And what's the problem? Allowing advance care directives or the decisions of proxies to stand:
In the Cruzan decision, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Missouri to demand that there be "clear and convincing" evidence that Nancy Cruzan did not want life-sustaining care in her condition in order for that care to be discontinued. That is, Nancy Cruzan's parents could discontinue her care only if she had previously made such an explicit choice. I will argue that this produces problems by introducing the false gold standard for end-of-life care of "what the patient would choose if he or she were now autonomous."
The author continues:
I will conclude by briefly arguing that quality-of-life assessment and quality-of-care policies offer a better way to improve human dying than bolstering individual patient choice.
A "better way to improve human dying." Goebbels couldn't have said it better. In other words, you are not going to be allowed to make the choice for your loved one, because you are certainly not going to be allowed to make that quality-of-life assessment. This psychiatrist wants society to make the decision. Not you, not your advanced directive, and not your chosen surrogate. And why? Because you aren't smart enough and don't really have the right to make that choice anyway:
Integrity does not simply involve adherence to a life's plan. It involves relationships of honor and respect by others. Individuals do not invent for themselves what constitutes dignity. Family and community do this. Dying patients place a high priority on both relieving burden to loved ones and strengthening relationships with them. They achieve this by involving loved ones in decisions about end-of-life treatment.
So in the name of preserving dignity we will strip you of choice, including your decision as to when you are dying:
Explorations of the context within which advance directives function has shed some light on their failure to direct end-of-life care. In-depth interviews with patients, physicians, and the nurses responsible for the intervention revealed that physicians were not unilaterally disregarding advance directives. Rather, physicians and family came very late to seeing these critically ill patients as "absolutely, hopelessly ill," and therefore came to implement the advance directives very late. The criteria for when a patient is "dying" thus appear to be a critical element in end-of-life care. It is important to note that this must be a matter of consensus among all the parties involved, not just the individual choice of the patient.
Uh huh. We aren't talking about dementia patients here. We are talking about people who can make a choice but have some hope and choose to continue treatment. Earlier the author has argued for substituting a "best interests" judgment in place of an advance directive. Now if physicians aren't sure if you are critically ill, just whose judgement is going to be used to decide that you are dying? Bioethicists will decide. People like Peter Singer will decide. You and your family will not decide when it is your time to die.

This is what is being wrought in the name of choice, and this is the implicit standard under which the execution of Terri Schiavo has been implemented. The judgements of all the practicing physicians and nurses have been ignored, and the judgements of people like Dr. Cranford have been elevated. Go back and really look at the records, and you will see I'm right.

This is the future unless individuals decide to prohibit it by law. I can assure you that Dr. Cranford is making a very nice living, as is Singer, and the insurance companies will not be advocating for your interests. The only thing really standing in the way of "improving the dying process" are those pesky doctors and those advance directives, especially the lunatic ones that specify that the patient does want to be fed and watered. Within ten years your advance directives will not be legal. There you have it - do what you will with it.

I will close with this excerpt from the same article:
Pain, fatigue, and dysphoria are common and burdensome symptoms in dying patients. It seems that we know enough about dying well without asking individual patients to know that these are not good quality-of-life outcomes. Yet, we shy away from clearly defining a good death and defer to individual preference.
How on earth can you die without being fatigued and being dispirited? There is only one way, and that's currently known as "lethal injection". This, dummies, is a proposal for euthanasia, administered without the patient's, the doctor's, or the family's consent. This is also what Dr. Cranford believes in. It is not what I believe in. This is a proposal for mass murder by yet another "ethicist".


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ward Churchill

Blogger News Network has a story on the release of the University of Colorado's report on Ward Churchill. He has been referred for investigation various grounds, but not for his "little Eichmanns" speech screeds:
These allegations have sufficient merit to warrant referral to the University of Colorado at Boulder Standing Committee on Research Misconduct for further inquiry in accordance with prescribed procedures. The research misconduct procedures afford Professor Churchill an opportunity to review and to respond to the allegations before any determination is made. If the Committee determines that Professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct, the Committee is to make recommendations regarding dismissal or other disciplinary action.
The entire story plus a link to CU's whole report is at the link. One odd thing is that Churchill is also going to be investigated on whether he is really an Indian. Well, it's odd to me anyway.


Burdensome

For those who are interested, WND has an excellent summary of some of the disputed issues in Terri's case. The reporting in the media has been very inaccurate. Yesterday NPR seemed utterly shocked by Dr. Cheshire's affidavit that he believed she was conscious and was able to both consciously experience and anticipate pain. He also said that were he her attending physician he could not in good conscience withdraw her feeding tube, because she seems to be aware. This doesn't seem surprising, given the nurses' statements about her responses and the fact that she has been consistently prescribed medication for menstrual pain. According to Carla Iyers, she indicated that she had cramps by trying to say "pain" (pay) and moving her arm toward her belly.

If Dr. Cheshire and the many others who agree with him are correct, Terri is dying a brutal death, is suffering, and is aware of her suffering. If Carla Iyers is correct, Terri was capable of knowing that if she communicated her wishes nurses would give her something to help her with her pain. It is terribly hard for me to read all these affidavits and believe that Terri has not been wondering why this is happening to her. From Carla Iyer's affidavit:
7. Terri's medical condition was systematically distorted and misrepresented by Michael. When I worked with her, she was alert and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence, saying such things as "mommy" and "help me." "Help me" was, in fact, one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times. Terri would try to say the word "pain" when she was in discomfort, but it came out more like "pay." She didn't say the "n" sound very well. During her menses she would indicate her discomfort by saying "pay" and moving her arms toward her lower abdominal area.
Our court system has not heard her or those who have tried to speak for her, has it? But then, it did not hear the appeals of the slaves who ran to freedom either. The promises of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were not for them.

It is Easter Week, when so many among us contemplate the meaning of the death of another 2000 years ago. We are told this was a knowing death, that he chose his fate as a way to save us all. That, as he said, he was come not to destroy but to fulfill. I do not comprehend the doctrine that the Infinite required this sacrifice in payment for our sins. I believe that this act was an acceptance of responsibility for us all, an ultimate act of generosity committed in order to allow us to take responsibility for others, to forgive others, to care for others in true compassion, and to make common cause with others without being crushed under the weight of that burden. In some way unknowable by me, I believe this act was carried out in order to make immortal the conditions that prevailed in the desert, when five loaves and two fishes fed five thousand, and what was left over was more than what was originally offered.

Terri may once have said, as Michael claimed in court (WND article above), that "If I ever have to be a burden to anybody, I don't want to live like that." But that, of course, is a subjective judgement made by others - that she is a burden. Obviously her life is not a burden to Michael, who has moved on with his life. If the determining factor for Terri was the effect of her life or death on others, than surely she would have compassion for the burden now laid upon her family who must stand by and watch her die of thirst and hunger while a police officer is stationed in her room to prevent someone from giving her water or food.

When, in the name of "choice" and based upon such testimony, has a civilized society ever decided that the right thing to do is lock someone who is not dying away to die of thirst and hunger out of our sight? If Terri's wish was not to be a burden to others, surely that wish has not been fulfilled. The burden of this act and others like it will rest on me forever as it has on Germany. We cannot undo what has been done here.

And if you would read this and accuse me of imposing my own wishes and thoughts upon her, is that not what Michael is doing? (WND article linked above):
Asked to describe his reaction to the video, Michael Schiavo told WND: "I see a shell of somebody I used to know. Somebody I loved and adored very much. And now she's a shell. ... She's existing. That's not life."
Not life to you, Michael. Not as you define it. This Terri is a burden to you, but it is not one which you must carry. The Schindlers are begging to pick the burden of this Terri, because they, as have so many others who have cared for her since her accident, see a person rather than a shell. They see the Terri who is not the Terri who was. You may be repelled by the Terri that is and long for the Terri that was, who is now gone from you. That's understandable. But if you accept that person is gone forever, it still does not nullify the existence of the Terri that remains, tries to speak, objects to pain, laughs at jokes and smiles at her mother.

For this, after all, is a profoundly subjective judgement - that Terri is a burden, and that Terri: has said she did not want to live to be a burden upon others. If we define "burden" to be a person requiring care, then every child ever born was a burden, and every sick person is a burden, and every old person who needs assistance is a burden. Your healthy spouse is often a burden when he or she requires your time, comfort or assistance. The person driving too slowly in front of you on the road is a burden, and the person taking a collection at the grocery store is a burden. The fee the doctor collects for saving your life is a burden.

We don't, of course, live in a society without obligations, mutual responsibilities or mutual burdens. Nor do we define our relationships with others solely by the demands upon us, but also by what we gain from meeting those demands. There is a pleasure in feeding your child and having her fall asleep in contentment in your arms. There is a pleasure in making your spouse dinner after a long day, or running an errand and hearing your spouses thanks. There are pleasures to all our duties and in the carrying of our burdens. And when someone's burden becomes too heavy, there is a pleasure in relieving it.

We can't know what Terri would have chosen in a case such as this. Her parents and a friend have different ideas about it, and recount different conversations. I can't see that raising a spoon to Terri's lips and seeing whether she chooses to try to swallow or not would be a violation of her rights in this instance. That is, unless we have essentially decided that this Terri is inconsequential, and the Terri that was is who really matters, and we are sure that that Terri would feel as Michael now does and choose to commit this Terri to this death. Because otherwise, we are committing a crime and must labor under the burden of our guilt.

I don't disagree with Felos here (WND article linked above):
"Individuals have a right to control their own body and the right to choose what medical treatment they want and what medical treatment they don't want," Felos told WND. "If you've made the decision that medical treatment is no longer a benefit for you and you don't want it, then you do have the legal and constitutional right to refuse it. And I'm an advocate of allowing people to enforce that right."
But of course Terri is not able to make the choice, is she? Nor are her wishes clear, even if giving full faith and credit to her husband's testimony. A decision to starve yourself to death is a very serious one and should require some formal expression of intent with knowledge of the consequences. What haunts me most is that this woman who many believe to be aware has, for over 10 years, not been given the benefit of a serious attempt to enable her to communicate her wishes. You may say that this woman does not exist, but who has tried to find her? Not you, not once you decided your Terri was dead. And you have controlled her medical care.

Dr. Cheshire concludes his affidavit with the following paragraph:
How medicine and society choose to think about Terri Schiavo will influence what kind of people we will be as we evaluate and respond to the needs of the most vulnerable people among us. When serious doubts exist as to whether a cognitively impaired person is or not consciously aware, even if these doubts cannot be conclusively resolved, it is better to err on the side of protecting vulnerable life.
Burdensome, indeed.


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