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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Questions About The NSA Flap

I think Carl at No Oil For Pacifists does an admirable job of laying out the outlines of the controversy.

So if you have read Carl's post (which included direct links to a strong debater from the opposite point of view), I have some questions for you.

By definition data-sifting operations have no probable cause. If enough suspicious activity is detected, such operations may then result in an application for first a FISA order, and perhaps ultimately a search warrant from a court based on probable cause. Following trails/possible connections happens in real-time, so warrant could only be sought after the attempt to look at communications sent to or emanating from a certain point based on a pattern or a possible correlation. But there again, so little data could be brought forward in most cases that the issue of probable cause does not apply in advance. With that being the case, what purpose does having a FISA judge review such a warrant serve?

If you don't want NSA doing this type of thing, what do you expect us to do to prevent further attacks? Do you think it is reasonable to have the police searching people entering the subway system while not pursuing possible terrorist-related communications about plans to set off explosions in thse subways? Which security program is the greater impairment of your freedom? Can you explain how sending an email or phoning someone is not the use of a public utility such as the subway?

I believe that the intent of the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendments (click the link to the US Constitution, please) was to prevent the government from using its police powers to unfairly target certain people or groups. In essence, data-sifting operations are a collective search, and therefore entail the absolute minimum impairment upon individual liberty of any type of search. Such searches are done of people entering a stadium or a courthouse.

Collective searches mean that we are all subject to the same imposition. After all, my emails and phone calls are as subject to such a search as yours. Therefore the general public will have the most concern and exert the most pressure against an unreasonable use of such programs - and logically the courts need worry the least about protecting individual rights with regard to such programs.

While I think we must conduct data/communication sifting programs given the current reality, I am concerned about how they might be used. I don't want them under the unsupervised control of the Executive, because the machinery and assets used to conduct these programs can just as easily be misapplied. (And it was already in place, having been put in place in previous administrations.) One line I would like drawn is that information produced through such programs may only be used to combat terrorism. I don't want such information used to conduct other types of criminal investigations; that is a temptation that would result in such programs becoming ever more widely used by various law enforcement agencies.

The logical way to do this is by informing Congress of the scope and nature of such programs and allowing Congress to directly discuss the programs with those who are working on and in them. Supposedly that was done, although we do not know to what extent. Supposedly Congress (or some members) did not object, although we do not really know the details of that either. Has Congress abdicated its responsibility here? I don't know.

There are legitimate concerns about the potential for misuse of such a program. But I don't understand how anyone who thinks about this can believe that a FISA court judge is going to be able (or has the constitutional right) to balance out the necessary from the unnecessary. If you believe they can, please explain how.

FISA can be read as a law that would prevent any such widespread intercept programs using domestic communications networks. I doubt the courts will support such an interpretation. Carl references
this FISA decision, which held:

After a careful review of the briefs filed by the government and amici, we
conclude that FISA, as amended by the Patriot Act,2 supports the government’s position, and that the restrictions imposed by the FISA court are not required by FISA or the Constitution.


In sum, we think that the FISA as passed by Congress in 1978 clearly did not preclude or limit the government’s use or proposed use of foreign intelligence information, which included evidence of certain kinds of criminal activity, in a criminal prosecution.

Ultimately, the question becomes whether FISA, as amended by the Patriot Act, is a reasonable response based on a balance of the legitimate need of the government for foreign intelligence information to protect against national security threats with the protected rights of citizens.

Read the decision. It's important. It discusses (but does not decide) the issue of whether a FISA surveillance order is a warrant, notes that greater latitude may be given for "scope" investigations and so forth. By definition a sifting of communications for red flags cannot be scrutinized for cause, nor can it be minimized. The courts, when they have looked at such matters, have never been willing to assume authority over this type of operation. If that was Congress' intent in FISA, I think the courts have answered with a polite "No thank you, I prefer not."

This means that those concerned about communications surveillance need to take the matter up with Congress. Congress may limit the application of such information to garden variety criminal investigations. It hasn't. You will not find a majority of the citizens of this country who will take the stand that we should not be attempting to find budding terrorist cells before they strike. What's left is to minimize the potential misapplication of such programs.

Not Sure

I'm not sure whether this qualifies or humor or as tragedy, but...

DU is beating its collective breast over the Alito confirmation. For example see this thread asking whether DU'rs believe that Bush is seeking to turn the US into
a Fascist state. The answer is yes. He and his entire family have been working for decades to make the US a fascist state, and Alito is his tool to be used for that purpose.

And then there are
blog entries like this:

With the authorizing vote in the Senate today to enact cloture in the debate over Samuel Alito, 230 years of democarcy on this continent came to a screeching halt. At approximately 4:45pm today I was violently tossed against the wall in my living room as the long-running wheels of freedom in America ground to a halt for the firt time in more than two centuries. With my shoulder bruised in the ensuing tumble, I stumbled outside and collapsed on my front lawn where I lay, weeping for my country. I wanted to run and never stop! Run until I was as far away from the storm I could hear
brewing on the horizon as was physically possible. Run until I collapsed from exhaustion! Run in terror! But a horrible aching sense of desperation had taken over my mind.......America, land of the free, is no more. I was overcome with a deep sense of imminent foreboding. My breathing and heartrate increased exponentially until I believed my poor heart would literally explode from my
chest and take off on its own, leaving the rest of the body to fend for itself. After a few minutes of laying there in sheer emotional agony, I dragged my weary corpse back inside my apartment where I await the sound of bootsteps in the hallway and the inevitable knock on my door.

The demise of the land of the free occurred with this nomination? One hardly knows what to say. You run across this sort of thing and think that it's a joke, but it isn't. No, DU is trying to figure out whether we are a fascist state, a feudal state or a slave state.

This is a joke, but Liberal Larry has been outclassed by his more fervid brethren.

DU also wants to know what the sheeple are thinking - how could they have told Gallup that they are proud to be an American in this time of woe? Those who admit to liking the place get quite a thwacking in the DU, but then some bright soul figures it out:
22. Hmmm Wiretap, Smiretap, How about a Wire Reroute?
What if...The NSA/BushCo is controlling the routing of Polltaker phone calls, intercepting them and ANSWERING the poll questionnaires for the people who are supposed to be answering the phone? Then the poll looks legit to the Polltaker, may be they even let a fea call go through, so some people will say 'Hey, yeah, I took that poll' giving it an air of legitimacy.I'm not saying this IS happening, but you know, you NEVER know.

FinCEN's Fox Resigns, Goes To Bank Of America

After the Riggs bank debacle, there were new rules put out regarding a waiting period for regulators accepting positions at banks. There is a potential conflict of interest.

So I was rather surprised to read about Fox of Financial Crime Enforcement Network resigning his position to work for Bank of America. Letter Announcement.

He'll be a "Senior Compliance Executive" for financial crimes at Bank of America, beginning February 21st.

Women Who Prevail

Coretta Scott King has died. This will be a big loss to her family. We concentrate on Martin Luther King's inspiration and achievements in the battle for civil rights, but he was also a father and a husband savagely taken from his family. And Coretta had to become head of the family. They are grown now, but her children will feel this loss as a bitter blow. She was the one who shepherded them through.

Jane, a friend of The Anchoress, has also died about a month after being diagnosed with cancer. She left three children aged 21, 16 and 15, who are now arranging her funeral. She too had been left as the head of the family.

Prayers for both these families. A woman's loss is often a desperate tear in the fabric that holds a family together.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Lordy, Lordy

So I get home and want to find out what happened with the filibuster attempt, DU's last peaceful sacrament. (Here's the forum, and things are a little hot.) I didn't listen to NPR, because I didn't think the attempt would work, and I hate when the announcers start sobbing brokenheartedly into the microphone.

But does Chief No-Nag know how the vote came out? No. He is in a state of appalled indignation about this story (Republicans Are Racists) up at WaPo, which I kind of view as a consolation prize for DU. Self-esteem building, you know? What cracked me up about the article was that when I was a kid racism was far more common, and the Democratic party was doing a lot better. This suggests that there may be some faint problem with the analysis:
"If anyone in Washington is skeptical about these findings, they are in denial," he said. "We have 50 years of evidence that racial prejudice predicts voting. Republicans are supported by whites with prejudice against blacks. If people say, 'This takes me aback,' they are ignoring a huge volume of research."
I did enjoy watching Chief No-Nag, a dark-skinned immigrant, nearly stammering in indignation. Somehow I don't think this is how to win him back to the Democratic party! Eventually, he got eloquent.

Alito Filibuster & H5N1 - Closer Than You Think

The senators are getting bombarded by cries to support a filibuster, and one by one they are telling these people either that they might vote against cloture, they will abstain from voting at all or that they might. They're still flipping, according to DU.

I doubt they want to filibuster. But many of them are now afraid not to vote against cloture. This is an example of the power of the left wing of the Dems when aroused, and it's not feeble at all. Mark Pryor ( gang of 14 ) has supposedly said he will abstain (not vote to end the debate).

So while DU gets very, very excited, I'll meekly point out something I find more signficant. A 15 year old Iraqi girl is now confirmed as having died of H5N1. Her uncle has also now died, the news that he was ill just broke a few days ago. Before this the test results on the girl were said to have ruled out bird flu.These are the first two human cases in Iraq, and they come before any official cases of bird flu in fowl. Supposedly they are now testing 30 people in Iraq (Kurdish territory) for H5N1. Flu Clinic should have constant updates.

Bottom line? Real life is now overtaking politics.

Alito Filibuster Attempt

So much has been written about this one.

Here's my reaction. I have read PollingReport.com, and it appears that every poll is showing that more people want Alito confirmed than not. Even some Democrats do, as is shown in the CBS News/NY Times poll:
ALL adults 33%, Republicans 63%, Democrats 10%, Independents 31%
ALL adults 18%, Republicans 2%, Democrats 37%, Independents 13%
ALL Adults 49%, Republicans 35%, Democrats 53%, Independents 56%

The decided/undecided percentages above will correlate to a considerable degree with likely voters, so we can roughly read this as voting Republicans 9-1 in support, voting Independents approximately 3-1 in favor, and voting Democrats between 3-1 or 4-1 against. (Democrats get a high turnout from union drives and the like, and some of these voters aren't that politically aware. 53% of Democrats hadn't made up their minds.)

It's clear that the Democratic leadership didn't want to filibuster, but now the presidential hopefuls on the Dem side of the aisle are all falling into the filibuster camp. What's significant to me is that those who are potentially in the running for the Democratic nomination in 2008 seem to have decided that the group of Democrats passionately against Alito's nomination will control the nomination process in 2006 & 2008. Only 18 percent of all adults want him rejected. Only 37 percent of Democrats want him rejected. Some of that 37% probably don't want a filibuster, so you are looking at a non-majority group of Democrats forcing the entire party into a rather extreme position.

Senators are by design somewhat insulated from popular swings of opinion, so it is highly significant that several senators came out against the filibuster and then announced their support of it. That includes Clinton, Obama and Feinstein. Kerry clearly gained hugely with the filibuster fanatics by his support, and that seems to have pushed over a whole line of senatorial dominos.

We are not going to be getting someone like Mark Warner as the Democratic nominee in 2008. We are not going to be getting a centrist presidential candidate from the Democrats. I had thought that the most likely result in 2008 was a moderate Democratic president and a Republican-controlled House and Senate, but obviously that's not going to happen.

Interesting Points:
WaPo argues that it's the darned internet, but Kerry started this, and he's clearly jockeying for the nomination in 2008. So how does that translate to the malign influence of the internet and leftish bloggers? I think they are verging on psychosis by casting it this way:
Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.

These activists -- spearheaded by battle-ready bloggers and making their influence felt through relentless e-mail campaigns -- have denounced what they regard as a flaccid Democratic response to the Supreme Court fight, President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address and the Iraq war. In every case, they have portrayed party leaders as gutless sellouts
Is it me, or is WaPo coldly disapproving of the fact that the "fiery liberals" have ideas and passionately want the Democratic party to be about something? Here is where the conscious non-policy of the Democratic national leadership really hurts the party. There has been little for these folks to support, and in their way, they see the filibuster as a necessary demonstration that the Democratic party still has a purpose. Is it truly fair to blame them for that desire? While Pelosi, Reid and Dean have seemed to be content to criticize Bush and Republicans, the "fiery liberals" want some sort of positive stand and agenda. They are not content with the status quo.

The same people are now strongly united against Hillary Clinton's candidacy on the grounds that to them, she doesn't seem to stand for anything. She seems, as Ann Althouse puts it, lame. I can't disagree with them or with Ann.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Three Lawyers For Haleigh's Life

Lawyers are not, as a profession, held in high esteem by the public. But the three lawyers who took Strickland's case pro bono did so, apparently, out of the feeling that something was wrong with the process. It now appears that they had quite a point. They say they were disturbed by the fact that DSS sought to remove both the ventilator and the feeding tube after just 9 days. They say they were disturbed by the fact that the two doctors whose testimony was presented to the juvenile court judge did not agree about whether the feeding tube should be removed. And as it turned out, these three lawyers are probably responsible for Haleigh's life, even though they did not succeed in winning their case before the Massachusetts Supreme Court, because they delayed and caused enough controversy to buy her time.

Their names are John J. Egan, John M. Thompson and Edward J. McDonough, Jr. McDonough appeared on "The Abrams Report" in December:
EDWARD MCDONOUGH, ATTORNEY: Well, Dan, actually, the appeal that we brought before the Supreme Judicial Court does not ask for the right to have him make the decisions. First of all, Dan, the question of the motive is a natural one to be asking. But really, it‘s kind of a convenient way of avoiding the real issue in this case.

Our firm is not handling the criminal case. We took this case pro-bono, and we took it because of the interest of the child. It‘s our view, and we argued to the court, that the hearing, which was held, which decided that Haleigh would die of starvation, was a one-sided hearing. It was not a fair hearing. And basically, we advanced three reasons.

The first one is, unlike the Terri Schiavo case, this is an 11-year-old child who never really had the opportunity to express her wishes as to what she would want to have done.

Secondly, this is not a decision made by the family. This is a decision made by the government. And, Dan, they made it after only after nine days. They relied on two doctors. One of the doctors said that it was not appropriate to remove the feeding tube.

And the third reason is that no one argued in favor of keeping the child alive. Justice Spina, at one point Tuesday, leaned over and he asked the attorney for the state, who at the hearing argued in favor of life? And it was clear that the answer was no. And, Dan, as any good trial lawyer will tell you, if you have no opposition, it‘s not a difficult case to win.
I think the facts that are now emerging considerably strengthen their point. See this article by Dean Barnett of SoxBlog for a good outline of events and the overall issues. The basic legal argument here is that sealing records, holding hearings with no public notice and not providing any independent spokesperson who had the right to seek consultation with additional doctors for Haleigh prevented a true legal review of her situation from happening.

As more information emerges, it does appear more and more likely that the conflict of interest that DSS had in the case did affect the proceedings. According to this article in The Republican, at least one statement filed with the MA Supreme Court by DSS was inaccurate:
A police report filed July 15, 2004, states police arrested Strickland that day for shoplifting at the Springfield Road Wal-Mart. Holli Strickland was in the store with Haleigh and her son, 1-year-old Cody Strickland.

The police report states that a store security worker watched Holli Strickland as she placed a bag of dog food, a container of cat litter and a baby gate into a shopping cart that Haleigh was pushing.

"They moved to a different part of the store, then Haleigh retrieved the car keys from Holli's purse while Holli watched," the report written by Westfield Police Officer Juanita M. Diaz states. "Holli said something to Haleigh, and Haleigh then left the store with the cart of unpaid for merchandise."
"While in the security office, Haleigh stated to security that she had done this before with baby formula. ... Wal-Mart security stated that numerous employees notified security of Holli Strickland bragging about shoplifting with her daughter," the report states.
Strickland got probation for the incident on May 4, 2005. And what did the MA Supreme Court hear of this?
The Supreme Judicial Court decision states DSS opened a child abuse-neglect investigation on the day of Strickland's shoplifting arrest. But the DSS ultimately blamed the shoplifting on Haleigh.

"Mother inadequately supervised (Haleigh) in store despite prior history of (Haleigh) stealing in a store," the Supreme Judicial Court decision stated in referring to DSS reports.
One would think that such an incident would have caused DSS to take a second look at the multiple reports of possible abuse and reassess the mother's truthfulness. Previously DSS has claimed that Holli Strickland was an incredibly good liar who convinced DSS that Haleigh was a self-injurer. Surely such a discrepancy between the police report, legal conviction and DSS records has at least potential significance? There are other legal factors here. To put if bluntly, if Haleigh survived there was potential legal liability for DSS. If she ever passes into the custody of an independent person, that person would be able to file a tort claim against DSS for misconduct and damages. Such actions are incredibly hard to win, and rightly so (the best child-protection agencies in the world can't ensure a good outcome in all cases), but factors such as the above seem to indicate that this would be one of the rare, rare cases in which such a claim might have a decent chance at success.

If it doesn't have any validity, this sort of legal process has such a suspicious appearance that DSS and those who worked on Haleigh's case may have been exposed to unnecessary legal jeopardy. Haleigh is now in a rehabilation hospital after Spence, the head of DSS, visited her and observed that she was able to pick up two toys on command and followed him with her eyes. The DNR order has been lifted and she is being fed. Strictly speaking, however, DSS still has the legal right to remove her feeding tube and dehydrate her to death. Legally, they have custody and legally they have the right to do it.

Springishly Furthermore

In the spirit of spring and my Edmund Burke-quoting brother's engagement to a very fine woman ( he fell in love with her when she pointed out errors in his thinking, not of course, that he admits there are any, but he was impressed with the logic, persistence and principle involved in her point of view), may I suggest celebrating with P. G. Wodehouse's "The Man Upstairs"?

For some springish reason, quite of number of P. G. Wodehouse's early works are available here. "Uneasy Money" is here.

Spring Hath Sprung In South Georgia

Yes, spring is already here.

My Christmas cactus is blooming aggressively; the turtles are fornicating in slow motion on the bank of the pond, the Canadian geese are staring at the turtles with appalled disapproval, the dogs are staring in confusion at the geese staring at the turtles, the bluebirds and swallows are building nests at flight speed and the blueberry bushes are budding.

If it's any consolation to you who live in northern climes, the temperatures will rise into the 90's in May and continue that way through at least September, and the mosquitos are also proliferating. Our motto here is "January Showers Bring February Insect Bites".

And furthermore, nyah, nyah, nyah.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

You're Country If

You know what this is. If you don't, you can find out at Dust My Broom:

ABC Jumps The Shark On Pope Alito's Religion

What is the purpose of ABC's article headlined Alito Would Create Catholic Majority On Supreme Court, and subtitled But Does It Even Matter?:
For some people, it's such a sensitive topic they would prefer no one discussed it at all. But if Samuel Alito is confirmed to the Supreme Court, it will be the first time in American history that five sitting justices will be Catholic: Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.

Approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be Catholic, so a minority religion would be the majority on the court.

It tends not to be something people make an issue out of, at least publicly, but some liberals do have concerns about such a Catholic court.

"There is some fear that they might perhaps, on some issues like abortion, carry out a kind of Catholic jurisprudence rather than reflecting a broader point of view," said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
First, the "some people" who don't want to discuss this at all includes Senator Pat Leahy, who released this letter in 2003 rebuking questioning nominees on their religious affiliation.

Can you imagine
ABC writing an article mentioning that four of the eight Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee are Jewish, and noting gravely that Jews only consititute 2.2 percent of the American population. They would, of course, quote some David Dukite muttering about concerns that a tiny religious minority was controlling the appointments to the federal judiciary. By the way, the other four Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee are Catholic, and one of the Jeeeeeeeeeeews gets a very high rating from the National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. KKKlearly A KKKonspiracy by the Jews and the Catholics to keep Catholics off the Supreme Court.

Or maybe not, after all. ABC forgets to mention that all four Catholic Democratic senators voted against Alito's confirmation, which just might, you know, be the first clue as to why the general population is not frantic about Alito being a Catholic, because indeed, Catholics in this country have a rather strong liberal streak as well. In fact, the only people really concerned about this seem to be the Klan and ABC. You would think that this would give ABC pause, wouldn't you? But no, it just gets better!

The article backs up by looking at the traditional prejudice against Catholics (and Irish, and then Italians - MoM) in the US, but goes on to include this remarkable, remarkable quote:
Today's silence on the issue is notable even to some Catholics.

"You would think that even at least outside Catholic circles, there would still be more consternation that this might be of some significance that now the pope (!!!!-MOM) will be the fifth vote on the court," said Dennis Coyle, a professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. "It is a sign of how far we've come, I guess, that it is so unremarkable."
The pope will be the fifth vote on the court? I missed the news item detailing Alito's elevation to that high religious office, and I suspect highly selective quoting is at play here. Congratulations, Pope Sammy! It turns out that, according to an independent analysis (FactCheck), Pope Alito is a near absolutist on the issues of religious freedom and freedom of speech. For example, Pope Alito stands firm on the idea that Muslims on the Newark police force have the right to wear beards and believes that broadly written anti-harassment speech policies violate the First Amendment. Also, dang it, the Pennsylvania legislature can't pass a law forbidding college newspapers to carry alcohol ads.

For more about Dennis Coyle's opinions about Supreme Court nominations, see this National Review article about Miers. I suspect he is not twitching in fear about the Pope's votes on the Supreme Court.

ABC disgraced itself with this article. It is demagoguery cloaked as commentary and designed to stir up concerns that have been, by popular consensus, ruled out of the public square. From Senator Leahy's 2003 letter:
As we all know, a line was crossed recently when the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee asked a judicial nominee his religious affiliation – over the bipartisan objections of other Senators present – at an official confirmation hearing. This injection of religion into the judicial confirmation process – unprecedented, at least in modern times -- was then used to set the stage for religious attacks against Members of the Senate in paid ads produced by an outside advocacy group.

Senators differ on the merits of the nomination of William Pryor to be a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but we hope there can be universal agreement that the introduction of religion into such debates is not only wrong but also harmful to the Senate, to the independence of the federal judiciary, and to the people we represent.
PS: As for why I support Pope Alito's nomination so strongly, please see this FirstAmendmentCenter.org analysis of the Pope's judicial thinking.

Worshipful Transcendental Eminent Authorities Of The Domain

Servitor: City Manager, City Manager, the peasants are revolting!

City Manager: I'll say, they're perfectly disgusting!

Servitor: With all due respect, Your Worshipful Transcendental Eminent Authority of the Domain, this is serious! They are collecting signatures on a petition asking that the redevelopment plan be put to a vote. The five ringleaders are asking as citizens for "the right to vote on changes for our city so it is for the betterment of our entire community not a few select developers and land owners."

City Manager: This shall not stand! Call out the police chief! Call out the firemen! Call out [cue Darth Vader theme] the lawyers! We will file suit against these traitorous vipers this very day!
No, it's true. The city of St Pete Beach, Florida is filing suit against five citizens who are circulating a petition asking that the "redevelopment plan" be put to a vote. Can a mere irrelevant footnote to US History such as the First Amendment stand in the way of Worshipful Transcendental Eminent Authorities of the Domain?

You be the judge:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Shrinkwrapped wrote about free speech and liberals just the other day:
Most people do not like to be criticized. It hurts our feelings when it is accurate and it infuriates us when it is unfair. Most authority figures do not like to be challenged. ... This is human nature, not likely to change any time soon.

When we bring these tendencies into the political arena, where people often feel passionately about their positions, the tendency to hear disagreement as criticism and the tendency to react to criticism, real and imagined, with anger and resentment, is exponentially increased. Throughout history the first move of most tyrants, as soon as they consolidated their power, was to institute censorship of the press. While such a direct assault on our free speech rights is unlikely here, the greater danger exists of an incremental erosion of free speech rights under the guise of liberal good intentions.
I'd say this is a pretty direct attack against the First Amendment. I'd say it's happening everywhere in the States. It's not just liberals doing it; petty officialdom prefers a docile lot of serfs so that they can largely direct their resources to negotiating with the big money boys. See also No Oil For Pacifists, and his latest roundup on the Alito nomination. I think Carl's quotes show why a psychoanalyst would be brooding about free speech. A "the right group should win" legal system equates to feudalism.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Haleigh Is In The Franciscan Hospital For Children

Updated: See below.
The headline says "Comatose Girl Moved To Rehab Facility". In body of the article it says:
DSS received a second opinion on her medical condition this week from two pediatric neurologists and a medical ethicist, agency spokeswoman Denise Monteiro said.

"Based on the second opinion, it was decided that we should get her into rehab to get her assessed and working on some specific issues," Monteiro said.
Agency officials say Haleigh now is able to move her eyes in the direction where a sound is being made.

"There's so much absolute hope now," Monteiro said. "She's full of miracles and she's a fighter."
According to her biological mother (update - see below), she can move at least one hand. She's not paralyzed and she's not comatose and she's not vegetative. Note that it's a Catholic facility; the kid just got a chance for life. So now they talk about miracles....

I was remiss in not posting this before. In a January 21st article, the Boston Globe noted that a family had already volunteered to take Haleigh:
Also yesterday, Peter Cornetta, a 53-year-old North Grafton man, said he and his wife have contacted the DSS in the past month seeking to adopt Haleigh. He said that he has worked as a foster parent for the DSS and that six years ago they adopted a daughter.

''This is all about getting her some dignity and compassion," he said.
There are families who adopt severely disabled children, and love them.

And an update on her condition:
On Tuesday, the state's top child-protection official visited Haleigh for the first time at the Springfield pediatric intensive care unit, where she had been since September, and said he noticed her picking up toys on command and tracking his movement with her eyes.
So the DNR order was lifted on Wednesday and they arranged for her to go to the rehab hospital, since she is obviously neither comatose or vegetative. See also this previous article in which the biological mother noted that she had noticed that Haleigh was responding to her the week before the decision was issued (for example, by releasing something on command), but DSS officials had told her it was involuntary reflex and not a sign of improvement. You have to wonder what the birth mother is thinking now.

You zlso have to wonder what the Massachusetts Supreme Court is thinking right now; they relied on whatever medical evidence DSS submitted to them in handing down their January 19th decision. Several members of the court wrote a separate concurrence asking the legislature to revisit its confidentiality laws for such circumstances. They thought such proceedings should be open to public review. Indeed, indeed.

There aren't villains in this story except for the people who beat, burned and starved Haleigh. This is a story about ugly reality and an entire legal process that did not protect the child's interests. I am sure that somewhere, hidden in this story, there are some very good nurses, good doctors, some dedicated social workers with lumps in their throats, and psychiatrists confronted with burdens to their personal and professional consciences. All of these people are in pain and it should not be presumed that they did not perform with their best judgment while using the limits of the resources at their disposal.

The improvement seems to have occurred after the tracheotomy and withdrawal of sedation. To make a medical decision about the level of consciousness in these cases based on a patient's behavior while sedated should not be standard practice, and doing so within two weeks is scientifically unfounded. We're all apt to be somewhat out of it while sedated; this is doubly so for patients who have suffered brain injuries.

A couple of years ago one 200 mg ibuprofen tablet would pretty much put me flat on my back in dazed sleep for 6-8 hours. Then it would result in numbness and clumsiness for nearly another 10 or 12 hours after I woke up, not to mention several days of outright amnesia. I can take one now and work and the following day I'll know what I was working on the previous day! Most sedatives are CNS suppressants, they may block pain but they also block other signals in your brain. When a neural network is recovering, the effective signal strength is low and such medications have a vastly disproportionate effect. BTW, I got that from my doctor, and I have to say that I have seen and felt the truth of his words.

I stand on my assertion that many bioethicists and "Death With Dignity" advocates are either historical ignoramuses or amoral fools. Either way, they will take us straight into the maw of the beast. We ourselves form the body of that beast when we follow our worst natures. The maw of that beast swallowed over 100,00 million people in the last century. They died in the camps in Germany, in Poland, fell in ditches in South America under the guns of private militias and public armies, expired in Siberia, in Mongolia, on the killing fields in Cambodia. They die now in Darfur. Must they die now in our hospitals?

There is no sane answer to life's ugly realities but human compassion. None. We may groan and even stagger under the burdens of compassion, but we do not die from it by the millions.

The Decapitalization Of New Orleans

I haven't posted about this before, because I can do nothing about it. It is a Louisiania/New Orleans affair, after all.

But details of the reconstruction plan released in January, in so far as I have been able to find them, seem pretty disastrous. The delay on deciding which neighborhoods will be rebuilt will leave many homeowners unable to find financing. I realize that some areas may not be reconstructable, and I realize land will have to be taken for building levees, for example.

But the uncertainty about the status of so many individual homeowners' property basically strips them of capital. This is a recipe for creating blight, not reconstruction. If a person can't even find out whether they will be allowed to keep their home for a year, why would they incur new debt to rebuild or repair it? Why would a bank lend money to do that, since if the home were later condemned when the work was partially complete, they might well not be able to recover their loan principal?

Surely the rebuilding plan should start with a flood protection plan and then notification of areas in which people would be permitted to stay. I can't say the the federal government should control these processes - this is local business. But at this point, all my sympathies are with the people who have been left in uncertainty. From what I know, this is a plan destined to destroy some of these neighborhoods. It's a condemnation process by default. People won't move back because of the uncertainty, and because they don't move back those who do will lose their homes.

Dauntless Dreams Of Destiny

Betsy Newmark didn't pull her punches when posting about Kerry's strategic initiative of pushing for a filibuster of the Alito nomination from Switzerland:

It seems that Kerry is traveling down the same path that Al Gore has been traveling. Maybe the realization that you have lost to George W. Bush just sends these guys into a tailspin where they end up clutched in theembrace of the Moveon.org and Kos crowd and they lose all touch with political reality. Thus, you don't notice that it's rather iffy to conduct a Senate talkathon from Davos, Switzerland. Apparently, Kerry's aides have now pointed this out to him and he's jetting back to Washington to personally rally his flagging troops who have already thrown in the towel and admitted that they didn't have the 41 votes to conduct a filibuster. Poor John Kerry, who voted for Alito (for the appellate court) before he voted against him, will now lead the charge for troops that have already surrendered.

Betsy rarely gets this acerbic.

Lucianne.com decided a picture is worth a thousand words:

Just Such A Ploy

The DU thread is here. This is the original post in its entirety:

Warning: Repukes have a new tactic that is working very well Rove has implemented a totally new tactic, and its working very well. All the media is falling for it, as are the Dems in congress, as are we here at DU.

They take something that is a non-issue, pretend to cover it up as if it were something bad, then let us "discover" the truth, which turns out to be... nothing really spectacular in the first place - and we look like morons and extremists.

I feel that the Abramoff photos are JUST SUCH A PLOY.

In the end, what will we find? Simple. Pictures of Bush with Abramoff. And.... then.... um..... nothing. They mean nothing. They already can explain them away. Making the photos a big deal is a BAD IDEA.

What we need is to tie Bush to Abramoff directly, thru contibutions, records, documents, etc. Not through simple photos which prove nothing except they were in the same room as each other. The photos are a RED HERRING.

The same thing happened to the Dems in the Alito hearings regarding the CAP documents. They already knew there was nothing in them bad, but then they pretended to be covering them up (Arlen Spectre totally hoodwinked Kennedy), only for Kennedy to end up looking stupid for making such a drama out of what ended up being nothing, which of course, the Repukes ALREADY KNEW.

PSSST - it's working, but now they're wising up - so we're moving on to SuperDuper DoubleSecret Rovian Total Immunity For Secret Crimes Plot #189 - "Illiterate Democrats Can't Read Documents In Library Of Congress, So Document Everything We Want To Conceal And File It There." Pass it on!

Howard On The Press Meltdown

Don't miss this post by Howard of Oraculations. He takes a look at the Hollywood/Journalistic trends:
The MSM is being irretrievably pulled down by their disconnected Left Wing editorial policies like a modern day Titanic headed toward the bottom, the slow slide to a final cemetary impossible to stop. The publishers won't fire anybody because they are just as left as their leftist reporters and they cannot fire their friends. Be aware that media ability to earn huge money, tied to the circulation of opinion means huge power; the power to persuade millions, the power to affect election results, or the ability to start and stop wars is an irresistable lure to the egomaniac in all of us. The money (publishers) will go down with their ships with their flags bravely flying and no stock holder rebellion can save the companies now.
"An irresistible lure to the egomaniac in all of us"!!!!!!

Warning Flares

I keep reading pontifications by pundits about the awful influence of "outdated religious morality" and the horrible effects of the "fundamentalist war on science". But I'm not buying it. What I see is that we have a larger problem with politically correct science, and it is coming from all sides of the political spectrum.

Take this DU thread started by a Texas teenager outraged by the fact that her gay friend was not allowed to give blood because he answered "Yes" to the question about having sex with other men. Quite a few people try to explain why certain groups are not allowed to donate, and that it is about screening about high-risk groups, not discrimination.

No one can penetrate her self-righteous ignorance. She has been taught in school that 50% of new AIDS cases occur among women, and she seems unable to figure out that women far outnumber men who have sex with other men, therefore making MSM a much higher risk group. She believes with all her heart that anal sex is not a more risky sexual behavior than straight sex. Eventually several people end up cussing at those who are trying to explain. Read it and weep for her friend, because if this is what she was taught, this is what he was taught - so he doesn't have enough information to protect his own health.

Politically correct science is just as dangerous as religiously-dominated science. The forces of unreason are gaining on us. Also see Carl's excellent post regarding environmental fundamentalism as promulgated by Nature. Note that Nature would not print a critical response.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Slacker Repents

I have been very remiss on my linking, but I'm catching up:

Shrinkwrapped: If you've never had a Shrinkwrapped encounter with reality, start here.

The Transcending Sovereignty: The perfect antidote to Joel Stein, and if Joel ever stumbles onto this blog he'll probably never venture out into the open again. I wish Bilgeman would blog too.

Mark In Mexico: With blogging like this, what's not to link?

Assistant Village Idiot: Indescribable, uncategorizable and nearly indispensable. Try starting with the analysis of the Intelligent People Voted For Kerry Meme.

YARGB: A group blog of people who think. They really, really do think. This blog would, of course, be illegal in China. Thanks, Google.

More to follow when I unearth the files.

Cruising Al's Superhighway

Update: 3 to 10, it might be appealed.

Judge Cashman gets another shot at it. The criticism of Judge Cashman's 60-day sentence for rapes of a child over four years, beginning when she was seven, has itself been severely criticized. But good things have emerged. Vermont has changed its rules so that an offender such as this one would be eligible for treatment while in prison, and now the prosecutors are going back to court urging the Judge to reconsider the original sentence. One would think he might if indeed the issue was getting treatment for the offender.

Rasky at
Dust My Broom has a hilarious post up about the worst threat to sanity and peace ever to emerge - Canadian Conservative bloggers.

Another good laugh:
Liberal Larry's hate mail

Something I really enjoyed: Carl of No Oil For Pacifists covers product releases and upgrades of world religions and the results in the marketplace. There's a serious point to the post, but the droll way in which it was presented is unique.

Into the white-knuckle category - Hamas wins the election in Palestine, and
SC&A publicizes the party platform. He's going to get a pile of hate mail for this post.

The Anchoress on Joel Stein. Her post contains tons of links. She writes:

I feel kind of bad for Stein - he admits to Hewitt that he did not write clearly, and even ruefully says, “I don’t think anyone’s ever said ‘good column’ to me, and maybe for good reason.” A line which tells me the young man has enough chops to be self-deprecating. I don’t think he’s a terrible person. I think holds a position that is largely based on feelings and articulated those feelings and that position very badly.
If you haven't read Stein's column and Hewitt's interview I think you'll want to. This is an excerpt from the interview, after Hewitt asks if Stein honors the troops:

JS: All the troops that are here to defend our country, I'm very, very grateful for. I'm grateful for the police...
HH: Provided they don't leave the country?
JS: Yeah, provided they don't fight in wars that I think are endangering them for no reason.
HH: And the moment they do, you stop honoring them?
JS: The moment I do, I think it's a poor idea to show support for them and prolong that engagement.

Hugh Hewitt does a wonderful job of demonstrating the cultural gulf in this interview. Joel's definition of "honor" is totally different than mine. A military man or woman has no control over his or her deployment. The country as a whole controls the mission. In order for the military to serve as a defense arm for our country it must logically and legally submit itself to the control of the government. Therefore following any legal order(**) is a matter of honor to the individual soldier.

So Joel Stein's definition of honor must be something like "socially admirable", whereas to me honor is constituted solely in the person and manifested in characteristics such as personal integrity, honesty, courage, unselfishness, dedication to duty and fidelity to a higher purpose. When my generation says we "honor" someone, it is those qualities we are acknowledging. Those qualities do not change if the nation misemploys the individual - it is we the civilians who are dishonored by such a misuse, not the military personnel in our service.

**True, there are limitations. If we ordered soldiers to walk into an Iraqi village and burn everyone alive, that would be an illegal order and to follow it would be dishonorable. But that is recognized in military law and training.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Haleigh, For Your Soul's Ease

Every day I google Haleigh Poutre's name. Every day I cry.

I'm not wallowing in emotion. I'm angry. The spectacle of reporters dogging the footsteps of politicians demanding to know whether "permanently vegetative people have the right to die", the pronouncements of Massachusett's DSS that they have nothing to be ashamed of - the warping and twisting of the facts of the case - all these things make it clear that very few are in Haleigh's corner.

Cui bono, I ask myself? Not only was this child returned again and again to the custody of at least one parent who beat her with a baseball bat, DSS is now insisting that they had no way of knowing that she was not injuring herself. Mind you, DSS managed to get a gag order on the case from the juvenile court judge who first gave them the power to kill her on October 5th, and that gag order was reaffirmed by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. So DSS held the medical records, the files, the statements of the doctors - they held all those cards and now they hold the legal power to dehydrate this kid until she dies. This is not a matter of autonomy and it's not a matter of choice.

Only public outrage can stop this. It's clear that DSS had a huge conflict of interest in seeking this order. Look at this timeline by the Boston Globe:
State Department of Social Services receives 15 allegations of abuse or neglect, but only the last report is substantiated.

Sept. 11: Haleigh is taken to Noble Hospital in Westfield and is unresponsive and then is taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where she is diagnosed with a severe traumatic brain injury.

Sept. 26: Jason Strickland files a motion asking to be declared a ''de facto" parent.

Oct. 5: A judge issues an order allowing Haleigh's breathing and feeding tubes to be removed.
It turns out that there were even more complaints. Strickland filed after learning that the DSS had gone to juvenile court asking for permission to kill the kid. DSS didn't even wait two weeks. How is that time enough to know whether the child was in a "permanent vegetative state"? This stinks to high heaven, and the public had no hint of this until Haleigh breathed.

Read the FreeRepublic thread. It's notable for several reasons. One participant argues strongly for killing all disabled people in state care. He doesn't want to pay for them. One participant responds to DSS's comments that Haleigh can't feed herself:
It makes me want to vomit how flippant Death Doctors are with human life. I'm stunned by this comment:

"Some patients with severe brain stem injuries may partially recover from a persistent vegetative state, but they rarely recover fully enough to communicate, feed themselves and live ordinary lives, Dr. Steve Williams, chief of rehabilitation medicine at Boston Medical Center, told the Globe."

So, just because someone can't feed themselves or communicate they should be executed? WTF is wrong with these people? "Ordinary lives"? According to whose standards? Dr. Mengele's?
One person writes:
These folks at the MA Supreme Court need a serious ass-kicking.

Years ago a friend of ours was in a coma for 4 months. She was bad enough that she was given last rites and her siblings were given power to manage her affairs so they sold all her stuff.

A year ago she just came back from a tour in Iraq.
One nurse writes:
A funny thing about being on life support...certain meds are needed to keep a person calm while on a respirator...even the more stable folks may need an anxiolytic at times to keep the anxiety down. When they are on these meds, these meds can blunt and diminished conscious responsiveness and even respiratory drive.

So they take this girl off a ventilator and take away the sedatives and voila...the drugs wear off and she shows much more responsiveness. The fact that the doctors and SS don't want to remove the feeding tube indicates to me that the girl may have radically more improved than the pro-death newspaper would like to to indicate!

(and no I have not slept at a Holiday Inn express Hotel...but I've been an RN for 20 years and in the ICU for 6)
One person posts a cartoon:

No kidding. It's politics that are being used to prevent people from speaking out about these issues. All the excuses are gone here. The issue stares us unambiguously in the face. The child has no one to speak for her and never did. This is the raw exercise of state power, so the claim that government is interfering in private lives is obviously null and void. What we are left with is the desire to kill the kid because she is an expensive and heartwrenching problem.

John Paul II addressed the issue in 2004:
Scientists and researchers realize that one must, first of all, arrive at a correct diagnosis, which usually requires prolonged and careful observation in specialized centres, given also the high number of diagnostic errors reported in the literature. Moreover, not a few of these persons, with appropriate treatment and with specific rehabilitation programs, have been able to emerge from the vegetative state. On the contrary, many others unfortunately remain prisoners of their condition even for long stretches of time and without needing technological support. In particular, the term permanent vegetative state has been coined to indicate the condition of those patients whose "vegetative state" continues for over a year. Actually, there is not a different diagnosis that corresponds to such a definition, but only a conventional prognostic judgement, relative to the fact that, statistically speaking, the recovery of patients is ever more difficult as the condition of vegetative state is prolonged in time.

However, we must neither forget nor underestimate that there are well documented cases of at least partial recovery even after many years; we can thus state that medical science, up till now, is still unable to predict with certainty those among patients in this condition, who will recover and who will not.

3. Faced with patients in similar clinical conditions, there are some who cast doubt on the persistence of the "human quality" itself, almost as if the adjective "vegetative" (whose use is now solidly established), which symbolically describes a clinical state, could or should be instead applied to the sick as such, actually demeaning their value and personal dignity. In this sense, it must be noted that this term, even when confined to the clinical context, is certainly not the most felicitous when applied to human beings.

In opposition to such trends of thought, I feel the duty to reaffirm strongly that the intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being does not change, no matter what the concrete circumstances of his or her life may be. A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a "vegetable" or an "animal."

Even our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the clinical condition of a "vegetative state" retain their human dignity in all its fullness. The loving gaze of God the Father continues to fall upon them, acknowledging them as his sons and daughters, especially in need of help.

4. Medical doctors and health care personnel, society and the Church have toward these persons moral duties from which they cannot exempt themselves without lessening the demands both of professional ethics and human and Christian solidarity. The sick person in a 'vegetative state', awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery.

I should like particularly, to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.
Moreover, to admit that decisions regarding man's life can be based on the external acknowledgment of its quality, is the same as acknowledging that increasing and decreasing levels of quality of life, and therefore of human dignity, can be attributed, from an external perspective, to any subject, thus introducing into social relations a discriminatory and eugenic principle.

Moreover, it is not possible to rule out a priori that the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, as reported by authoritative studies, is the source of considerable suffering for the sick person, even if we can see only the reactions at the level of the autonomic nervous system or of gestures. Modern clinical neurophysiology and neuro-imaging techniques, in fact, seem to point to the lasting quality in these patients of elementary forms of communication and analysis of stimuli.

6. However, it is not enough to reaffirm the general principle according to which the value of a man's life cannot be made subordinate to any judgement of its quality expressed by other men; it is necessary to promote the taking of positive actions as a stand against pressures to withdraw hydration and nutrition as a way to put an end to the lives of these patients.

It is necessary, above all, to support those families who have had one of their loved ones struck down by this terrible clinical condition. They cannot be left alone with their heavy human, psychological and financial burden. Although the care for these patients is not, in general, particularly costly, society must allot sufficient resources for the care of this sort of frailty, by way of bringing about appropriate, concrete initiatives such as, for example, the creation of a network of awakening centres, with specialized treatment and rehabilitation programmes; financial support and home assistance for families, when patients are moved back home at the end of intensive rehabilitation programmes; the establishment of facilities which can accommodate those cases in which there is no family able to deal with the problem or to provide "breaks" for those families who are at risk of psychological and moral burn-out.

Proper care for these patients and their families should, moreover, include the presence and the witness of a medical doctor and an entire team, who are asked to help the family understand that they are there as allies who are in this struggle with them. The participation of volunteers represents a basic support to enable the family to break out of its isolation and to help it to realize that it is a precious and not a forsaken part of the social fabric.

Read it, and weep. DSS was in court asking to remove sustenance and ventilation from Haleigh in less than two weeks, on the ground that her condition was permanent. DSS received the order allowing them to kill her October 5th. The child was brought to the hospital on September 11th.

According to the Evangelium Vitae, 1995:
Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable. Even certain sectors of the medical profession, which by its calling is directed to the defence and care of human life, are increasingly willing to carry out these acts against the person. In this way the very nature of the medical profession is distorted and contradicted, and the dignity of those who practise it is degraded. In such a cultural and legislative situation, the serious demographic, social and family problems which weigh upon many of the world's peoples and which require responsible and effective attention from national and international bodies, are left open to false and deceptive solutions, opposed to the truth and the good of persons and nations.

The end result of this is tragic: not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself, darkened as it were by such widespread conditioning, is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life.
That's where we are. The Catholic Church has been on record as eschewing euthanasia since 1940, for obvious reasons. Just as obviously, the US has not learned the lesson of the Nazi gassing of the deaf, the blind, disabled, the Gypsies and Jews. Is that really the type of nation in which you wish to live?

The choice before us is stark. Kill Haleigh, and we kill our consciences. Kill Haleigh, and we kill thousands of wards of the state. Kill Haleigh, and we kill the innocent and the voiceless.

If you can face Haleigh's life, you can face your own death with some peace. If you cannot face Haleigh's life and embrace its burdens, you cannot pick up the burdens of your own life.

I know. Come with me to the dock at midnight. Come with me, and kill your fear.

I haven't written all that much about my physical condition, but it was at one point dire. For many years, I had lost the instinct to breathe. I was not on ventilation, but I breathed to the count. You understand, if I stopped counting, I did not take the next breath? The instinct to do so was just gone. Even I can hardly believe this, because I was unconscious - literally blotto - for part of this time. So who was counting? But it's true, and I have vague memories of the voice telling me to count, and also explaining that I had to change the count when I moved around. I have a very vivid memory of the voice telling me to think about my heartbeat, and to sync it with the count.

I also couldn't maintain my own body temperature. For months at a time, every day it would drop below (- corrected from 64 to) 94 degrees Fahrenheit - even in the summer, I was literally freezing to death. I remember the voice telling me to go and run hot water in the shower. I remember the voice explaining that it was my body temperature, and that the problem was that ~something~ was reversed, and that when my body should be compensating for this it was going the wrong way. It was something metabolic, and the voice told me to start breathing deeply and move around. My heart didn't beat right either. When I lay down it would start pounding like I had run myself to half to death, and when I got up it would slow way, way down. The voice explained all that, and told me how to breathe and sort of listen to my heart and chain my heartbeat to the count. Years of this. Years, years of breathing to the count.

Since emerging from that state, I have not yet been able to figure out how I lived at all. Logically, I must be dead. But evidence must trump logic, and I am quite alive.

I had even forgotten about breathing to the count until last summer, when I got some sort of virus. I probably had viral encephalitis. In any case, it recurred. One morning I was really feeling badly. I knew I felt terribly tired, but I didn't know why. My dog went nuts and finally started whaling his head into my abdomen, and that was when I remembered the voice telling me to count - so I started counting again. I still wake up breathing to the count quite often, so obviously I haven't quite perfected the fine art of breathing. I can now shiver on the left half of my body. The right half doesn't participate. This stuff about how people do not recover from brain injuries is crap. They often do, but it is a long tough recovery.

But the really, really tough times were when I started to get better. I think what happened was that my natural circuits kicked in sometimes and started to conflict with the count. Many, many nights I woke up in terrible pain, and I just couldn't get the whole thing settled down. It hurt. I started going out to the dock when I was really bad, because I didn't want to die in the house and have Chief No-Nag find me.

And - to hell with all this prissy stuff - because when you get really close to death you become incontinent. So I went out to the dock while I still could, and my dog went with me, and I faced my fate out there there with the pee running down my legs. The dog knew. He would come and keep touching my leg and brushing my hand and nudging me. It was very comforting, because at first I would hurt badly - struggling to breathe and with this tremendous pain in my chest, and then my vision would often gray out. When things got really bad it hurt much less.

A natural death is not so bad. It really isn't. I'm sure it looks bad from the outside, but on the inside things are slowing down and fading away. You lose the ability to think after you lose most sensation. You see, I always knew when I went out there that if God had a purpose for my life that morning would come. And I always had the confidence that if it would be better that I did not live then I would not come back in. And I always thought I had the right to leave the choice to God.

I did feel the natural animal fear of death - of non-being - of stepping through the door into emptiness. I felt the terrible physical anxiety that comes when your body is short on oxygen. I was often very scared, whereas before when I was so badly impaired I never was scared at all. Truthfully, my condition had gotten a lot better from its low point before I was capable of suffering very much, but by those nights on the dock I was suffering and was afraid. But that fear faded along with the suffering when things got really bad. It's just as if a clock is running down, and you run down with it. Honestly, it's not that bad.

It's been a long time since I spent a night on the dock. I know that sometime I will face death again, and I hope I still have the guts to do it that way. So when I tell you that we cannot kill Haleigh, believe me - I am not speaking out of fear! It's those who want to kill Haleigh who are speaking out of fear.

They are afraid to face their deaths and their lives. They are the ones who are afraid to put their wishes down on a piece of paper. They are afraid of suffering, and of the choice.

But Haleigh is not suffering unless she's conscious, and if she's conscious she should not be killed because she's a frightful spectacle to you, or because she's expensive, or because you would want someone to kill you if you were in that situation.

If Haleigh is breathing, it's because she's supposed to or because she's trying to. For all I know she too is listening to the voice telling her to count. You don't have the moral right to stop that child's breathing any more than you have the right to put a bag over my head. And if Haleigh lives, she will at some time be able to express her wishes, and if she decides to go out on the dock the law fully supports that. So can the crap, cut the cowardice and face Haleigh's life, your own mortality and your own fears.

I don't know how I can be alive. I don't know why. I do know that I was right to go out on the dock and that I had the right to do it. Because when I went out on the dock I was facing the problem, not running from it! Those who want to kill Haleigh are running from the problem, not facing the problem of her life. And I can tell you this - when I come back off that dock, I am not afraid. I am not afraid either to face my life or my death, because I am facing both squarely. If I found myself in a hospital bed in Haleigh's situation, I would not accept extreme measures, but I would not choose to die from dehydration either. When you are that far down, you don't suffer much, and I know how hard it is to live like that. There's life left in you to spare if you make it through. There's something you have to offer the world if you do.

You will live in fear if you must kill Haleigh because you fear her life. You will die in fear if you must kill Haleigh out of fear of her "suffering". It's not her human dignity that's at stake - it's yours. That's the choice this nation is making. As for me, I am not afraid of Haleigh's life, or my own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Feelings Of Solidarity

Pedro The Quietist writes of a conversation with a friend and a sudden realization:
She said:
Well, I have a right to my own opinion.
Whoa. Wow.

Then I realized that we weren't debating the same thing at all. I was making a technical case -- that George Bush, however awful and evil you think he is, simply cannot be called a dictator without rendering the term "dictator" completely meaningless. But she was arguing something different. It wasn't a political argument or a technical argument. It was the right to feel antipathy for someone and not have the grounds of that antipathy challenged.

Is this why ideologues so often call it "censorship" when you try to debate them? Are you threatening their right to feel secure in their beliefs? For them, has politics left the realm of the intellectual and the actual, and instead become a pure issue of emotion and identity?(emphasis mine)
Yes. It has for many of us. The comments on the post are very interesting. You'll want to read them.

A politics that is about feelings is no politics at all. It's pure tribalism. Dr. Sanity and Shrinkwrapped have been addressing the same point (read the post about toilet training, it fits quite well with Pedro's). I don't know where this leaves us. SC&A has been pointing out with increasing desperation that a suicidal culture is blossoming, and that there's no need for those not in that cult to commit suicide out of fellow-feeling. Howard of Oraculations has resorted to big-boob-blogging interspersed with varied calls to at least open our eyes and contemplate reality; he appears to believe that critical thinking is contagious. See his post on Iran. Carl at No Oil For Pacifists has been reduced to slack-jawed amazement at human/dolphin marriages and the extraordinary spectacle of an entire party announcing that the Constitution is a suicide pact (never mind, as he documents in Carlian fashion, that the courts have recognized the rights of the Executive to direct surveillance of foreign threats).

The point I am making is that the cultural divide is real. The gulf between those on one side and between those on the other is real. There is probably no way to reconcile the worldview of those who look at Beslan and the continuous and savage attacks upon the civilian population in Iraq and form their conclusions as to what type of a threat the civilized world faces, and those who draw the conclusion that it is Bush's or Putin's fault.

Pedro may have identified the nature of that divide as well as anyone. If he is correct, then there is no real way to bridge the gap. It's not a political gap at all. It's not really a cultural gap. It's an epistemological gap. On one side, you have a bunch of people who have seen the flames of the brushfire over the hill and are running around trying to clear firewalls, water down the roof and testing the wind to figure out where they can build backfires. On the other hand, you have Howard Dean, John Kerry and Pedro's friend with their hands clapped over their eyes wailing that all this disruption is hurtful, and that everyone has to stop it right now, because it's nap time.

The only question is which side is the more numerous, because the US really is a democracy. (Don't tell DU.) One side or another is going to win out, and that side will grow in numerical strength. Looking at the polling numbers over the NSA flap, I would say that the Dean-and-Kerry dance is about over. Just look at this DU weekly article summarizing the worst conservative evils of the week:
Last week was not exactly a banner week for the media - Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell (2), CNN (4), Chris Matthews and Friends (5) and Bill O'Reilly (6) all make it onto this week's list. But members of the media aren't the only ones offending our sensibilities...
See? It's all about feelings. This is not a clarion call to arms for the left - it's more the weekly whine.

And this leads me to my final conclusion: OBL and his cohort made a fatal miscalculation. They believed Hollywood's depiction of the US, and that country would already have capitulated. So, in a final irony, it turns out that Hollyweird was our best weapon. If the fools had waited another generation they could have won this one, because the Marxists had conquered the universities. As it is, they woke the world's greatest nuclear power a generation too soon.

All discussions of war should end with at least one quote from Sun-Tzu's The Art Of War:
Which ruler has the Way, which general has the ability, which has gained Heaven and Ground,
which carried out Law and commands, which army is strong, which officers and soldiers are trained, which reward and punish clearly, by means of these, I know victory and defeat!
By all means, read the chapter on Using Spies.
Generally, raising an army of a hundred thousand and advancing it a thousand li, the expenses to the people and the nation's resources are one thousand gold pieces a day.

Those in commotion internally and externally, those exhausted on the roads, and those unable to do their daily work are seven hundred thousand families.

Two sides remain in standoff for several years in order to do battle for a decisive victory on a single day.

Yet one refusing to outlay a hundred pieces of gold and thereby does not know the enemy's situation is the height of inhumanity.
It is indeed, which is the point Tommy of Striving for Average was trying to make.

(Footnote: This post links mostly to male bloggers because this post is addressing group dynamics. We cannot escape our natures in such a situation. Men are by nature the ones defending the perimeter, so they decide where the perimeter lies and the rules of battle. The women lurk within the perimeter and proceed to dismember and disembowel (with shrieks of joy) any stray luckless members of the attacking force who manage to break through the lines and make it onto their territory. Aslan was being really, really tactful when he remarked that women participating in wars made them nasty. Really tactful. However, the truly superior nature of the training in our Armed Forces has made women who have had that training less nasty. If another attack occurs on US soil, the men are going to have trouble preventing the civilian women from setting out on a dismembering and disembowelling campaign against anyone who even looks like he might be the enemy. And then we'll all go back to baking cookies.)

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