Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo, RIP

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

-John 11:25-26

Godspeed, Terri.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

John Danforth on "God's Own Party"

More and more, you are starting to see Republicans speak out against the far right and their control of our party. We've seen it in the efforts of former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman and now we see it in an op-ed in today's New York Times by former Senator JOhn Danforth of Missouri.

Danforth comes out swinging when he boldly says this:

BY a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

He goes on to state that the current GOP is taking on the Religious Right's agenda at the expense of what were once crucial GOP values:

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

Indeed. The current GOP spends money, as John McCain would say, like drunken sailors. At times, they seem more concerned with two men getting married than they are with, say, I Queda.

It should be noted that Senator Danforth also goes by another name: Reverend Danforth, since he is an Episcopal priest. The good reverend has no problems with people of faith engaging in political action, but he does have problems when a party identifies too closely with a sectarian agenda. He writes:

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.

Danforth ends saying that the party needs to get back to its roots.

In the Bible, there is a story about Jacob and Essau, two brothers. Essau was a man's man and liked to hunt and fish. Jacob was more quiet and pretty much a mama's boy. Since Essau was born first, he had the birthright, meaning he stood to inherit his father's fortune. One day, Essau comes in from hunting famished. Jacob, who was a good cook, had made a wonderful stew. Essau is so hungry, that Jacob tricks him into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. You can tell which one had the brains in the family.

The GOP sold its birthright, in this case, its soul to get the bowl of stew or power. The Republicans might appear to be powerful, but it's power without conscience, without the very essence that make the GOP the Party of Lincoln. It's good to see Danforth, Whitman and Shays act as lonely prophets calling the party back to what it once was. However, we won't get anywhere until rank and file Republicans of conscience get off their duffs, get angry and take the party back from the theocons.

Please do so.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What if Terri Schiavo was black?

By Mark Kittel

On March 15, the following article appeared on the web site.

In Houston on Tuesday, March 15, a critically ill infant that was being kept on life support at Texas Children’s Hospital died when life support was removed. The baby’s mother had had an injunction in place that was keeping the child on life support. A judge lifted that injunction, allowing the doctors to remove a life support system that they felt was futile; the boy had been born with a genetic disorder that gave him a heart and lungs too small to support life independently. As the hospital’s official statement said, “… We are deeply saddened that no treatment can save this child. It would be unethical to continue with care that is futile and prolongs [the boy’s] suffering.”

Not long before protesters from many states began converging on Florida to demand that Governor Bush take drastic steps to save Terri Schiavo, including demands to send in armed soldiers to remove her from the hospice, this 5 month old infant died without much notice and certainly without anyone but his mother protesting the decision to remove life support. And unlike Terri Schiavo, who has no hope of recovering from her condition through treatment or surgery, this baby did actually have a chance at living – if a suitable donor or donors for organ transplant could have been found. Of course this would have required keeping the child on life support long enough to live until such surgery could take place, and the cost of that hospital stay plus the cost of the surgery would have been astronomical. But there was that slim chance.

Why was there no one to protest the judge’s decision in this infant’s case?

It could be something as simple as the fact that the mother and child are not wealthy white people. They are black, and the mother is of average economic standing. Although the article does not state so, it is not likely that the mother could have afforded long-term life support costs nor could have afforded the surgery – and even if she did have medical insurance coverage, there’s little chance that an insurance company would agree to pay the costs of the long-term support and surgery.

Certainly, if you were to present this case to any of the people that are vigorously trying to save Terri Schiavo, they would likely side with the mother and excoriate the hospital for making a decision in favor of death over life. Not one would say that the child was not worth saving, and thus should have been allowed to die. Nor would any explicitly state that a black child’s life was worth less than that of a white woman.

But this case got little exposure in the national press, and there were no AM radio talk-show hosts that led a fight for the child’s life. Unlike Bob and Mary Schindler, this boy’s mother is not wealthy and does not have the means to hire top-notch lawyers to fight her case for her. And without that kind of national press and attention, the case drew no notice or interest from the Texas governor, the president, or, really, anyone else.

So ask the question: if Terri Schiavo were not white and not wealthy, would there be anyone at all to demand that she be kept alive?

Say Terri was not a wealthy white woman, and instead was a Mexican immigrant whose family was relying on government assistance (read: taxpayer money) for medical care. In all honesty, how many people now fighting to save her life would be willing to put their taxes towards keeping Terri alive indefinitely?

Sadly, I don't think anyone now storming the hospice doors and being arrested for trying to bring food and water to Terri would be so quick to take such measures if that were the case. I heard Rush Limbaugh tell a caller that he didn't see the harm in simply feeding Terri and keeping her alive. I'm sure he'd have been very quick to identify the harm had he been responsible for even one dollar of her care.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Shark+Jump=Religious Right?

So, has the Religious Right finally jumped the shark after le affair Schiavo? Jeff Jarvis thinks so. He wrote an interesting entry in his blog today that states that the Religious Right might have gone a bit too far in their latest escapade. He writes:

The religious right is separating itself from the rest of America. The theocrats may have finally gone too far too often.

They have been aided and abetted --- but ultimately undermined -- by a media that bought their PR and presented the loud voices of a few as the voice of the nation marching to the right and up to the altar. But the overdose of overdoing it that we're seeing on TV these last few weeks may just be the catalyst that causes a backlash, that reminds us that we are a secular nation of churchgoers and that we value separation of church and state over either church or state: That is our mainstream.

In the case of Terri Schiavo, we have heard angry, even frightening rhetoric from the religious right: people in Florida and in Congress accusing judges of murdering Schiavo; the Schindlers and their advocates, many of them ministers, turning on even their allies (even on Jeb Bush if he doesn't do enough to satisfy them, if he doesn't do the impossible); online advocates saying that the laws and the courts should be damned; and conservatives throwing over their political philosphy opposing federalism and government interference in service of their religous philosophy.

I tend to agree that the Schiavo affair has ripped the face off the mask that is the Religious Right. People might have thought of them as a nusiciance before, but the rhetoric we've been hearing from some of the protestors is just downright scary and most of America agrees, according to polls.

Jarvis then adds something that cold be both on the mark and missed by a country mile:

This will have impact on politics: I will not be surprised to see the mainstream of the Republican party disassociate itself from the fringe -- especially if the polls continue to scream that they should and especially if the Democrats stop acting politically fringy and self-righteous themselves and start inviting that mainstream in.

Sometimes I wonder though, aren't the theocrats the "mainstream" of the GOP these days? As an old-style Republican (I sometimes think I'm the lovechild of Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller), I feel kinda like the odd duck in the party these days. I guess it leads me to wonder if Jarvis is right. In the past I believed that if the party realized how nutty the theocrats were, they would drop them like a hot potato and move towards the center. But the GOP has come to dominance because it catered to these yahoos or at least the leadership would like to believe that. I want to believe that the GOP will see how dangerous these people are to our democracy, but I'm not certain they will.

It's not like the Democrats are any better. Now that the Michael Moore/MoveOn group has taken over, the party really out in Left field.

It seems to me that for politics to work again in this country, two things have to happen. First the GOP has to give up their quest for dominance. Yes, they now have more power than ever before, but at the cost of its soul. From the sham piece of legislation called "Terri's Law" to the sleazy dealings of Tom Delay, the party has become corrupt and lost its way. Ronald Reagan would not recognize this party.

Second, the Dems have to give up their quest for purity. What you seem among Democrats now is this "who can be more liberal" contest. So you have people strivng for indeological purity and look down on anyone who is a dealmaker. Until the Dems become more pragmatic again, they will never win.

One party has to give up it's power and the other its purity. One would hope both would listen, but power and purity are like drugs that neither side wants to give up. In the middle are the majority of Americans who are centrist and wonder when Washington will stop playing games and get back to the people's business.

This a long way of saying, I hope Jarvis is right and that the GOP will tell the Religious Right where to go. It's just that the pessimist in me, doesn't think this will happen anytime soon.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Call to All "Green" Republicans

For those who don't know, there is an organization for Republicans who are concerned about the environment. It's called Republicans for Environmental Protection. REP had redesigned their website and they've also included a new National Registry of Green Republicans. If you are someone who considers themself a Republican or and Republican-leaning Independent, please consider registering. REP will send the names to the Republican National Committee to remind them there are still conservation-minded Republicans in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt. Take a few minutes today.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Vox Populi on Schiavo

If Congressman Chris Shays is right, the GOP will have some hell to pay come 2006. A CBS News Poll shows overwhelming opposition to last weekend's congressional action. Eighty-two percent of respondents thought Congress and the President should not be involved. Let me repeat that again: 82 percent are telling Washington to get its nose out of this issue.

It gets better:

Most Americans side with Terri Schaivo's husband in saying that the feeding tube should not be re-inserted now.


Re-insert tube
Do not re-insert

Both Catholics and Protestants think the tube should not be re-inserted now. Liberals and moderates both believe the tube should not be re-inserted; conservatives are more closely divided. Most Democrats and Republicans agree the tube should remain out at this point. A strong majority of Americans in every age group says the tube should not be re-inserted now.

President Bush signed the legislation concerning Terri Schiavo on Sunday night, but a majority of those who voted for him last November do not think the feeding tube should be re-inserted. John Kerry's voters agree.

Interesting, huh? Most of his own party (including yours truly) are against the President and the GOP leadership in Congress. Can we say out of touch? Or how about kissing the butt of the "Christo-fascists" and damn the Constitution?

Someone I know thinks this issue will be forgotten come November 2006. I don't think so. Unlike, say Iraq or the deficit, which are abstract issues, this is a real-life personal issue. This hits a nerve with people because most of us know we might be in Terri's position or in her husband's. I have two aging parents and know that might be me having to withdraw some kind of life support and I don't want Washington telling me what to do, thank you very much.

This act, has shown the Religious Right for who they are: power-hungry people who don't give a damn about the rule of law. I'm banking the American people will remember Terri come 2006.

One Republican of Conscience

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. There are going to be repercussions from this vote."

Congressman Chris Shays (R-Connecticut) on the vote last weekend to move the Terri Schiavo issue from the state courts to the federal courts.

If you want to hear more from this true conservative, take a listen to his interview with National Public Radio. Shays has been showing some backbone as of late and its good to see some Republicans that still have not cowed to the "Christo-fascists."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Only the Beginning

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the Los Angeles Times reports that Congress is considering further legislation that would apply to other people in similar situations who did not leave behind instructions on how they want to be treated. The Times reports that Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, Democrat, is thinking about introducing a bill that would allow federal judges to hear cases similar to Terry Schiavo. Harkin notes:

"The more I looked at the Schiavo case, the more I thought, wait a minute. There are a lot of people in similar situations -- maybe not in her specific situation -- but because of a disability cannot express themselves or cannot in any way make their desires known," Harkin said last weekend.

Does anyone else think that there is something in the water in Washington? What in the world does the federal government have to do with such private decisions?

Here you have big government liberals and big government conservatives who are working to limit the rights of the people in such an intimate matter. Such thinking is beyond the pale.

When the "Revolution" Ends

A few years back, I read a book by the late Jacob Javits, called Order of Battle: A Republican's Call to Reason. In it, the liberal Republican Senator from New York discusses why he was a Republican. He talked about growing up in New York City and dealing with the corrupt Tammany Hall government which was run by Democrats as the reason he joined the GOP.

Mr. Javits is probably rolling in his grave as he sees the latest graft coming not from the Dems, but from his own party. New York Timescolumnist David Brooks writes one heckuva an essay today talking about how corrupt the party has become. Here's a devastating snippet:

Soon the creative revolutionaries were blending the high-toned forms of the think tank with the low-toned scams of the buckraker. Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, helped run the U.S. Family Network, which supported the American family by accepting large donations and leasing skyboxes at the MCI Center, according to Roll Call. Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former spokesman, organized a think tank called the American International Center, located in a house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which was occupied, according to Andrew Ferguson's devastating compendium in The Weekly Standard, by a former "lifeguard of the year" and a former yoga instructor.

Ten years after the Gingrich Revolution, we see that the Republicans did change some things: they learned how to become corrput faster than the Dems ever did.

Somewhere, I think Senator Javits is crying.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Tipping Point

I might be wrong on this, but I'm beginning to wonder if the congressional overreach by the Republican leadership in the Terri Schiavo affair will be remembered as the time that people moved away from the Republican party. The Centerfield Blogcites and ABC News Poll that states 63 percent support removing Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube. Sixty percent disapprove of "Terri's Law," and 70 percent thought it was "inappropriate" for Congress to get in the middle of this controversy in the way it did. The big one is that 67 percent believe that Congress wants Ms. Schiavo alive more for political gain than anything else.

So, clearly the public is against this and can see through the Congressional smokescreen. End of life issues are personal and never easy. As a ministerial student, I had to spend some time as a chaplin. I met families who hoped their loved one would get better even though there was no hope. I can in some way understand the pain of the parents. They desparately want life to be normal again and can't accept that it won't. It never will.

But Congress took on this issue not out of any concern for Ms. Schiavo or her parents. They did it to save their hides. The Moderate Voice notes that Robert Novak reports the GOP could lose as many as 25 seats in the House next year; effectively losing control of the House. Here's the money quote:

Analysts at the Republican National Committee have sent this warning to the House of Representatives: The party is in danger of losing 25 seats in the 2006 election and, therefore, of losing control of the House for the first time since the 1994 election.

Although some Republicans on Capitol Hill believe the RNC is just trying to frighten them, concern about keeping the present 232-202 edge pervades GOP ranks. The second midterm election of an eight-year presidency often produces heavy congressional losses for the party in power.

This is why Congress stuck it's nose in a private matter. The GOP wants to keep its base in check and screw that little piece of paper called the Constitution.

Things may change in 20 months. But I do wonder if voters will ever forgive or forget the GOP for this egregious act. We shall see, come November, 2006.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Terri's Law" Passes

So now the Republican leadership is getting all ready to pass "Terri's Law," which is a bill that would move jurisdiction of the case involving Terri Schiavo from state courts to the federal courts.

There is so much wrong here that I don't know where to begin.

First, it seems odd that the party that has championed federalism has decided that states shouldn't have powers when the decisions aren't in their favor. This is basically "judge-shopping" hoping to find a judge that will decide to that Ms. Schiavo needs that feeding tube. It's bad enough to lose the principle of federalism, but to game the system is just wrong.

Second, this is an abuse of power. Conservatives are normally wary of government, not because they hate it, but because they know that it's power has to be coercive. Because of that, conservatives in the past had a healthy respect for the power of government. It seems now that conservatives see government in the same way that those on the far left do, as something that can meet their objectives and damn the consequences. The Republican leadership is basically stepping into a state issue and grabbing power away from there and giving it to itself. This is robbery; there is no other word for it.

What's particularly galling is how Terri's parents have cast those who oppose them as selfish. She says,

"Please gentleman, don't use this bill as your own personal agenda," Mary Schindler said. "I'm pleading with the moms and the dads, call their congressmen. Help them pass this bill. It's very, very important."

Okay, who in the world is the one with the personal agenda? It's not the Left, for once, but members of my own party, who have twisted the law to suit their own agendas. Those who think Terri ought to die in peace are not the ones with personal agendas-her mom ought to look at the forest in her own eye before she starts looking at the splinters in other eyes.

Welcome to a Republican party and a conservatism with no principles. It's anything goes. It's the law of the jungle. If you don't like something, set a dangerous precedent to do it and damn the consequences.

Like the Israelites in the Bible, American conservatism has become corrupt. One can only hope for some time in exile as a chance to make this movement and this party what it once was.

From the "It's So Funny I forgot to Laugh" Department:As my state of Minnesota debates putting an anti-gay marriage amendment on the ballot, an organization called Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage is placing billboards around the state that look like this:

Image hosted by

It's pretty obvious that the "devils" are those who support same sex marriage or at least don't think this amendment is a good idea.

I could say alot about this, and I will, but I will let a friend of mine say it for me. He's a Green Party person and pretty liberal, so I don't agree with all of what he is saying below. However, the gist is right on target:

The newest billboard by the Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage has an angel and a devil on the shoulder of a man with the text "Where's your State Senator geting advice on the Marriage Amendment?". Jesus is the foundation of Christianity and says nothing about homosexuality. It's interesting that the MCDM doen't hold its endorced cadidates to the same test on other issues. Where's your President geting advice on the current Wars? Obviously not from the words of Jesus who tells us to "Put your sword back in its place" and "turn the other cheek" during his Sermon on the Mount. Where's your Congress geting advice on the the budget? Obviously not listening to Jesus who says "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor'' (Mt 19.21)" Both the state and federal "party in power" preaches giving tax cuts to the rich and cutting benefits to the poor.

I want to know if this group understands the implications of such a billboard. It basically makes those of us who oppose these hateful amdendments, look like we are evil-agents of the devil himself. Maybe I'm making too much of this, but what is someone sees this ad and decides that they need to beat the crap out of some gay person? It very well could happen.

It's very distrubing to see people who call themselves followers of Christ act so....well, un-Christlike.

"Big-Brother Conservatism:If there is any evidence that principled conservatism is dead, just look at the mess that is the Mary Schiavo case. Congress decided to get involved in the matter of removing Schavio's feeding tube. They crafted a bill that relates soley to one woman in Florida.

If this doesn't send chills down your back, it should. The Republican leadership in Congress has basically said that they can step in to whatever medical decisions made if they don't like it. That is not conservative, let alone American.

What this case should remind everyone (myself included) is that we must communicate and have in writing what our wishes are to be should we become incompactiated. If you don't have an advanced directive, please do so as soon as possible.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Those "activist judges:" Whenever one of these anti-family "marriage amendment bans comes to fore, some theocon somewhere talks about how "activist judges" are trying to force gay marriage upon a God-fearing populace. When they say "activist" it's usually a code word for "liberal," or "Democrat." Well, according to my good friend, Jim, most of those activist judges who have made these decisions in favor of gay rights and gay marriage/civil unions happen to be....Republicans.

The Advocate reports that the judge in the California case, Richard Kramer, is a Catholic Republican, appointed in 1996 by then-Republican governor, Pete Wilson. People who are familar with Judge Kramer says he is not swayed by public opinion meaning he calls them as he sees them and not by what society is telling them.

But I will let my friend Jim speak:

"We hear a lot about liberal activist judges who want
to destroy our society's values. However, reality is
more complex. The latest judge to find in favor of
same sex marriage is once again a Republican appointed
by a Republican governor. Recall that several of the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court justices who
voted in favor of legalizing same sex marriage were
Republicans appointed by Republican governors Bill
Weld and Paul Celucchi. The 2003 Supreme Court
decision that struck down sodomy laws was written by
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican appointed by
Ronald Reagan.

The judge in California is a Republican appointed by
former Republican Governor Pete Wilson. The judge also
happens to be Catholic.

All these "liberal activist judges" are actually

Just something to think about when one of the right wingers whine about those bad judges.

The Real Crisis in Washington: You have to wonder what got under David Brooks' skin for him to write such an eloquent and damning column in yeterday's New York Times. Brooks rightly condemns both parties for not doing what is needed in safeguarding Social Security from the coming Baby Boomer retirement age wave. There are blunders aplenty. First the Republicans. He notes that Republicans misjudged the popularity-even among conservatives- of Social Security and blames them for putting private accounts ahead of the solvency problem:

"More experienced negotiators might have put the solvency issue before the personal-accounts issue. That would have created a consensus on the need for change before we got to the divisive issue of how to fix the system.
But Republican leaders have never really developed the skills required for cross-party horse-trading. Today's Republicans emerged in response to the ideological politics of the 1960's and were forged in the anti-political populism of the 1994 revolution. These anti-political creatures of conviction find sticking to orthodoxy easier than the art of compromise."

I tend to think the seeds for defeat came when Majority Leader Tom Delay rammed through a new redistricting plan in Texas that brought more Republicans to Washington from the Lone Star State at the expense of moderate to conservative Democrats, the very persons who the President needed to get his plan off the ground. However, since those Texas Democrats are gone and since many other "blue dog" Democrats are hesitant to work with the Republicans after seeing how they were defeated, that prospect is unlikely and plays into the hands of more liberal Democrats.

Speaking of Dems, Brooks has this to say:
"Sensing the inadequacy of the first Bush approach, many Republicans have floated brave concessions. Several leading Republicans proposed a big payroll tax increase for the upper class and upper-middle class. Senator Robert Bennett suggested progressively indexing benefits to protect the poor and working class from cost-saving steps.
These offers are more progressive than any Republicans have made before or are likely to make again. But the Democrats played the Yasir Arafat role at Camp David. They made no counteroffers. They offered no plan. They just said no.
Instead, many made demagogic speeches about Republican benefit cuts, as if it is possible to fix the system without benefit cuts. Many ginned up the familiar scare tactics designed to frighten the elderly. "

I remember when John Kerry was running for President, he claimed we could grow our way out of any insolvency problem. Unless he had some kind of crystal ball, he has no way of knowing what the economy will look like in the next few decades. We don't know if there will be a recession or another terrorist attack. The Dems have shown they want to make no changes at all even though there will be a large increase in those using Social Security in the next 5-10 years.

Brooks has one more group he condems. If you want to know who, you might want to look in the mirror:
"Oh, yes, there's one more group to be criticized: the American voters. For the past 30 years, Americans have wanted high entitlement spending and low taxes. From the looks of things today, they - or more precisely their children - are going to live with the consequences. "

He's right on that one. We all want low taxes and we also expect that somehow we will get all we want and need from entitlement programs. I guess there are a lot of us that missed math class or basic economics in school. As much as the politicians are to blame, we have to blame ourselves for not being willing to make and demand the hard choices we need to ensure this system survives.

Like I said before, Social Security will go the way of the Clinton Health Plan: a political victory, but a social loss. The problem will still remain.

How sad.

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