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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Thank God, Part III!

Chefjef responds to this post from the other day:

I agree wholeheartedly with paragraph two. Rather than a generic ideology, though, I meant more of a partisan political ideology. To use your example, what if Prof. Hawking HAD told his wife he did not want technological assistance and to "unplug" him? Would she be immediately hanged? No. There, of course, would be an inquiry. And, even if, instead of a civil inquiry, she went straight to a criminal trial, she would still have the opportunity to attempt to prove the Professor's intentions.

Lastly, you stated that you may countenance such actions where clear intent is established. Apparently, in this case, that intent was established. My point about ideology was that there seems to be a group of people who are incapable of recognizing that because of their particular ideology.

BTW, a feeding tube is considered technology by the law. Thus, every individual -- and in their stead a spouse -- has the right to refuse feeding tubes and to expire. Further, the law in this area evolved from what were, essentially, religious rights cases. The first types of plaintiffs in cases arguing the right to refuse various types of medical treatment were people of faith, and the constitutional rights protecting the "right of refusal" were, initially, based, on freedom of religion. But, of course, the bases of these rights has expanded considerably (which is a concern of mine -- and, perhaps, as a pseudo-libertarian, a concern of Monk's -- in that both conservative and liberal federal judges, alike, have expanded the pantheon of "rights," "restrictions," and "privileges" of the Constitution far beyond not only what the Founders intended and what is in the plain text, but well beyond what is necessary for the document to remain, proportionally, adaptable to present day social, legal and technical evolution. But that's another issue.)

At any rate, I fully admit that Monk's ideological position regarding the Schiavo circumstance is both reasonable, moral and defensible. The problem I have is the loose manner in which "facts" have been presented by certain folks.

I can't argue with you, Chefjef--you make reasonable arguments on all counts and I certainly share your concern about the ever-expanding emanations of the spirit of the penumbra of "rights," Constitutional or otherwise--these most often become a mandate for meddlesome government action, but do play well to the "masses" (and thus, to quote the ever-eloquent, ever-profound, ever-well-acted Senator Amedala, "that's how democracy dies--to the sound of thunderous applause"). This is at the core of my concern that cases like Schiavo's--even though the law seemed well-served in this particular case--that they not evolve into a "mandate" for court-sanctioned murder of inconvenient or disliked minorities (as they have in Western Europe).
-- Monk

I read an article today which sums up my position. I must admit, though, that I don't care for, nor do I often agree with, the author (E.J. Dionne, Wash. post), but this is the second time I've come across an article of his that contained a grain of insight. Here it is:

"We are entitled to our moral, ethical and philosophical commitments. We are not entitled to our own facts. So why is this basic rule of argument often ignored by politicians whose certainty about their righteousness persuades them that they can say absolutely anything to further their causes?

The autopsy in the Terri Schiavo case provides a rare moment of political accountability. We should not "move on," as Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist suggested we should. No, we cannot move on until those politicians who felt entitled to make up facts and toss around unwarranted conclusions about Schiavo's condition take responsibility for what they said -- and apologize.

Nothing in the autopsy report prevents those who opposed removing Schiavo's feeding tube from continuing to insist they were right. It's legitimate and honorable to argue on philosophical grounds that every medical decision in a tragic circumstance such as Schiavo's should be made on the side of keeping the sick person alive.

But those who supported an extraordinary use of federal power to force their own conclusion against the judgment of state courts knew that philosophical arguments would not be enough. Most Americans were uneasy about compelling Schiavo's husband Michael to keep his wife alive if -- as the state courts had concluded and as the autopsy confirmed on Wednesday -- she had suffered irreversible brain damage and was incapable of recovering.

So the big government conservatives had to invent a story. They had to insist that they knew, just knew, more about Terri Schiavo's condition than the doctors on the scene. They had to question Michael Schiavo's motives and imply that he wanted to, well, get rid of her.

'As I understand it,' Frist said on the Senate floor, "Terri's husband will not divorce Terri and will not allow her parents to take care of her. Terri's husband, who I have not met, does have a girlfriend he lives with and they have children of their own." No accusation here, just a brisk walk through innuendo city.

Dr. Frist, as he likes to be known, didn't just make his case as a pro-lifer. He invoked his expertise as a member of the medical profession. 'I close this evening speaking more as a physician than as a U.S. senator,' Frist said during the March 17 debate on the bill forcing a federal review of the case.

"Proffering references to medical textbooks and journals, Frist led his colleagues through to his conclusion. He argued that "a decision had been made to starve to death a woman based on a clinical exam that took place over a very short period of time by a neurologist who was called in to make the diagnosis rather than over a longer period of time." Dr. Frist, in other words, was offering a second opinion.

In a Thursday appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America," Frist insisted: "I raised the question, 'Is she in a persistent vegetative state or not?' I never made the diagnosis, never said that she was not."

Well, that depends on the meaning of "diagnosis." In the midst of his impressively detailed medical review, Frist declared flatly: "Terri's brother told me Terri laughs, smiles and tries to speak. That doesn't sound like a woman in a persistent vegetative state."

So Frist wanted to be seen as having the medical expertise to support his conclusion when doing so was convenient -- and now wants us to think he did nothing of the sort.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay didn't pretend to be a doctor, just expert enough to know what was wrong with the news reports.

"Mrs. Schiavo's condition, I believe, has been at times misrepresented by the media," DeLay said on March 20. "Terri Schiavo is not brain dead; she talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support."

You wonder: Will DeLay now say he's sorry to the media? Will he acknowledge that in the Schiavo case, he honestly didn't know what he was talking about?

Right-to-life politicians have done terrible damage to what is a serious cause. They claimed to know what they did not, and could not, know. They were willing to imply, without proof, terrible things about a husband who was getting in their way. Instead of making the hard and morally challenging case for keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, they spun an emotional narrative that they thought would play well on cable TV and talk radio.

No, we should not move on. We should remember that some politicians will say whatever is necessary to advance their immediate purposes. Apologies, anyone?"


I agree with you--I do not much care for Dionne myself. He represents the interests of stodgy, well-heeled Big Media Establishment as well as any Kommissar ever shilled for the Central Committee. He's a paid, pampered mouthpiece. That he seems to be what passes for a "moderate" among "liberals" in an era when the DNC Chairman is jumping up and down, red-faced, roaring for ChimpHitler's head on a pike is a testimony to how immoderate our times are. Yeah, I'll grant your "grain of insight"--even Das Kapital and Mein Kampf contain grains--they're just lost on very sandy beaches. Dionne's not quite that gritty, but there's enough non-insightful beach in his soft-core-socialist Establishment Bush-hatred to get in your bathing suit.

In this column, he impugns the motives of the opposition--all Frist and Co. wanted was to play for ratings with the bubbas in Birmingham. I disagree. Even if Frist was misguided, I think his motives were at least partially honest and that he shares some of the same concerns I have. Perhaps Frist believes, in the words of one of my favorite radicals, that "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." Or perhaps E.J. was just mirror-imaging.

Apologize? Bill Frist should apologize just as soon as Big Media apologizes for the Koran-flushing story, for Rathergate, for Bush's Guard record story, for Kerry's magic hat, for the host of Pulitzers given to outright liars, for making political hay out of the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, for staunchly supporting Soviet communism and disarmament as Ronald Reagan was trying to build us up and tear down the Wall, for supporting Jimmah Cawtuh's war on sound money, for playing the biggest part in losing the Vietnam War...shall I go on?

Sheyeah...apologize to this, E.J...


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