The Pope's dignity
BagNews Notes has been observing and uses images taken over the weekend that probably best illustrate both the pope's ordeal and his struggle to maintain his dignity.
Musings on the convergence of baseball and politics...because, "What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?" Surely, Madison would have said the same of baseball.
WASHINGTON - President Bush on Thursday urged the country to honor Terri Schiavo's memory by working to "build a culture of life" while House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said "the men responsible for this" will be called to account.
The Florida woman, who suffered severe brain damage after a heart attack 15 years ago, died Thursday. The feeding tube that had been keeping her alive was removed with a judge's approval on March 18.
DeLay appeared to condemn judges who at both the state and federal level declined to order that Schiavo be kept alive artificially.
"This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change," the Texas Republican said. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another."
Rwandan Hutu Rebels Denounce Genocide, Halt War
ROME (Reuters) - Rwanda's main Hutu rebel group announced Thursday they were ending their war against Rwanda and for the first time denounced the 1994 genocide of Tutsis that has been blamed on many of their members.
International gay leaders are planning a 10-day WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem in August, saying they want to make a statement about tolerance and diversity in the Holy City, home to three great religious traditions.
Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.
"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference in Jerusalem attended by Israel's two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders. "It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."
Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."
GLENSHAW, Pa., March 30 (AP) - A state legislator was charged on Wednesday with lying about a white powder that he claimed was inside a letter from a critical constituent.
The lawmaker, Representative Jeffrey E. Habay, said that he got the letter at home in May and that it contained a suspicious white substance, raising fears of possible anthrax contamination.
The United States Postal Inspection Service said the substance was harmless.
Mr. Habay, a 38-year-old Republican, was charged with falsely incriminating another, fictitious reports, solicitation to commit perjury and "facsimile weapons of mass destruction," court documents show.
Mr. Habay said the envelope came from George Radich, one of five constituents who had asked a court to audit Mr. Habay's political action committee. Mr. Radich insisted that the powder was not there when he mailed the letter and that he never tried to hide his identity.
In an unrelated case, Mr. Habay is awaiting trial on charges of using his staff to campaign on state time, theft of service and conflict of interest.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - An animal rights activist was arrested on a domestic terrorism charge after seven years on the run in connection with the release of thousands of minks from commercial farms.
Peter Daniel Young, 27, could face life in prison if convicted of all charges, including conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce and animal enterprise terrorism, according to court papers.
Young fled soon after he was indicted in 1998 and was arrested March 21 at a coffee shop in San Jose, authorities said.
He and Justin Clayton Samuel, 26, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Wisconsin in the release of minks from farms in Wisconsin, South Dakota and Iowa, FBI agent Mike Johnson said Tuesday. They were accused of freeing thousands of the animals.
Federal authorities suspect Young is affiliated with the activist group Animal Liberation Front. A telephone message left at the group's office in Canoga Park was not immediately returned.
According to a police report, Officer Ian Cooley witnessed Young attempting to steal music CDs from the cafe. Young was arrested and found to be hiding a handcuff key taped to his belt, according to the report. A fingerprint search turned up the outstanding warrant.
Now comes a report from Congressional Quarterly that makes clear just how badly the federal agencies supposedly in charge of confronting terrorism have skewed their priorities:The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not list right-wing domestic terrorists and terrorist groups on a document that appears to be an internal list of threats to the nation's security.
According to the list -- part of a draft planning document obtained by CQ Homeland Security -- between now and 2011 DHS expects to contend primarily with adversaries such as al Qaeda and other foreign entities affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement, as well as domestic radical Islamist groups.
It also lists left-wing domestic groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), as terrorist threats, but it does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements, which have staged numerous terrorist attacks that have killed scores of Americans. Recent attacks on cars, businesses and property in Virginia, Oregon and California have been attributed to ELF.
DHS did not respond to repeated requests for comment or confirmation of the document's authenticity.
The report makes clear that this is, by nearly any standard, a gross misappropriation of priorities, especially when it comes to the level of actual threat represented:Domestic terror experts were surprised the department did not include right-wing groups on their list of adversaries.
"They are still a threat, and they will continue to be a threat," said Mike German, a 16-year undercover agent for the FBI who spent most of his career infiltrating radical right-wing groups. "If for some reason the government no longer considers them a threat, I think they will regret that," said German, who left the FBI last year. "Hopefully it's an oversight."
James O. Ellis III, a senior terror researcher for the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), said in a telephone interview Friday that whereas left-wing groups, which have been more active recently, have focused mainly on the destruction of property, right-wing groups have a much deadlier and more violent record and should be on the list. "The nature of the history of terrorism is that you will see acts in the name of [right-wing] causes in the future."
Here's a reality check for the Department of Homeland Security: After the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, through Jan. 1, 2000, there were over 40 serious cases of domestic terrorism -- some of it realized, some of it thwarted -- committed by right-wing extremists.
These were not petty or mere property crimes. They included the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics and abortion clinics by Eric Rudolph; a plan to attack a gathering of military families in the Midwest; and a plot to blow up a California propane facility. In every instance, the planned or perpetrated act involved serious violence in which potentially many people could be killed or injured.
Since that time, the rate has declined dramatically, but the cases keep occurring with some regularity, and the lethal nature of the threat has if anything become worse. Since 2000, we're talking about an actual anthrax attack; plans to set off cyanide and sarin bombs; more planned bombings of abortion clinics; and threats against federal judges. All emanating from either lone wolves or organized extremists from the far right.
These are not torchings of SUVs and vacant condos or trashing of research laboratories, which are bad enough, and certainly a problem worth confronting on a level deserving the actual threat they pose. But the level of violence, and the lethality of the threat posed, is of another order altogether when it comes to right-wing extremists.
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.
Standing alone, each of these initiatives has its advocates, within the Republican Party and beyond. But the distinct elements do not stand alone. Rather they are parts of a larger package, an agenda of positions common to conservative Christians and the dominant wing of the Republican Party.
Christian activists, eager to take credit for recent electoral successes, would not be likely to concede that Republican adoption of their political agenda is merely the natural convergence of conservative religious and political values. Correctly, they would see a causal relationship between the activism of the churches and the responsiveness of Republican politicians. In turn, pragmatic Republicans would agree that motivating Christian conservatives has contributed to their successes.
High-profile Republican efforts to prolong the life of Ms. Schiavo, including departures from Republican principles like approving Congressional involvement in private decisions and empowering a federal court to overrule a state court, can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs.
In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.
It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.
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.
But marriage, as we all know, is a sacred bond, and while some GOP politicos may regard this as a marriage of convenience, the religious right tends to focus on the " 'til death to us part" bit. Without the grassroots muscle of the Christian conservatives, George W. Bush doesn't get elected, not even once, and the Republicans probably don't control the House and Senate. And the more important GOTV becomes (and in a closely divided, media-saturated elecorate, it's very important) the more indispensable is the party's alliance with the "End Times Conservatives."
So Danforth and the "mainstream" Republicans can whine all they want about intolerance and sectarian agendas and the need to get back to good old-fashioned conservative economic values. The reality is that the modern GOP and its business paymasters need the religious right the way Terri Schiavo needed her feeding tube.
You've probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.
The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas.
At the very top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine.
It is not quite the "right wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don't want to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know their roles and execute them because they're paid well and believe, I think, in what they're saying. True, there's lots of money involved, but the money makes a difference because it goes toward reinforcing a structure that is already stable.
To understand how the Democratic Party works, invert the pyramid. Imagine a pyramid balancing precariously on its point, which is the presidential candidate.
Dr. Elliot J. Pellman, the medical adviser for Major League Baseball whose recent testimony to Congress praised baseball's steroids policy and challenged its critics, has exaggerated his educational and professional credentials.
Dr. Pellman, who is also team doctor for the Jets and the Islanders and a former president of the National Football League Physicians Society, has said repeatedly in biographical statements that he has a medical degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
But Dr. Pellman attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he received a medical degree from the New York State Education Department after a one-year residency at SUNY Stony Brook, state records show. He does not hold an M.D. from Stony Brook, according to Dan Rosett, a university hospital spokesman.
In papers sent to Harvard University for a seminar and to the House Committee on Government Reform, which held the hearings on steroids in baseball two weeks ago, Dr. Pellman identified himself as an associate clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
But he is an assistant clinical professor, a lower-ranking and honorary position that is held by thousands of doctors, a medical college official said. Dr. Pellman does not teach at Albert Einstein.
The New York Times reviewed Dr. Pellman's credentials after his nationally televised appearance before the House committee on March 17. He was added to the hearing at the request of Major League Baseball and staunchly defended baseball's steroids policies.
In interviews this week, Dr. Pellman, 51, said he had not tried to mislead anybody about his credentials. He characterized the errors as minor and said he would correct them. And he primarily blamed other people, including his secretary and the Jets, for the discrepancies.
"In a way, I thank you, because those discrepancies are not important enough to be there, and they have all been fixed," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
But Dr. Dan Brock, director of Harvard Medical School's Division of Medical Ethics, said, "If I told you I graduated from medical school in the United States, and I went to Guadalajara, then I think I would have deliberately misled you, so I would say that was unethical."
Two doors down from Bloom, Cusick is in his office, a confusion of dog-eared stacks, crumpled scraps of paper, and upturned books. A visitor with rectangular specs and a hooded sweatshirt embroidered with the name of his former company, Seedless, stops by; Cusick exalts him as a former "bong baron" who got shut down during Operation Pipe Dreams.
Cusick calls people like him "heroes," the "Rhett Butlers of our time." He sees the Department of Justice's assault on glassware manufacturers and bong impresarios as another bomb in an ongoing barrage, a stoner-versus-state clash that forces his publication to serve as a kind of drug-war soldier's manual. "We're more like Stars & Stripes magazine than Vanity Fair," Cusick says. "We're in a time of war, this is a war journal, and we should have our war face on. We should understand our readership, understand that their rights are being taken away, they're going to jail, their families are being destroyed. It's easy to forget all that stuff."
Another of Cusick's heroes is the inventor of the Whizzinator, a prosthetic penis on a belt that excretes synthetic urine for drug tests. There's a full-page ad for the equipment in High Times, a crotch shot with a marijuana leaf superimposed over the fake phallus. "Someone once said, 'That's vulgar.' No, no, no!" insists Cusick. "High-school students getting drug-tested – that's vulgar! The Whizzinator? Now that's sublime !"
"Archrival?" Johnson said with a laugh after yet another question about Boston. "It sounds like we're reading a comic book or something. It sounds like we're watching "Superman" or "Spider-Man 4."
A Boy Scout big shot has been caught with a stash of kiddie porn - graphic photos of young boys he swapped with other cyber-smut collectors, authorities revealed yesterday.
Douglas Smith, 61, who was national director of programs at Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Texas, is expected to plead guilty in federal court today.
His arrest was a blow to the 95-year-old organization, which had its offices raided three weeks ago by federal agents seeking Smith's computer.
Smith worked for the boy scouts, which has 3.4 million members nationwide, for 39 years and he had a high-ranking job at headquarters since 1996, officials said.
Just five months ago, he wrote a letter to a legal magazine blasting opponents of the boy scouts' ban on gay scout leaders.
"Some intolerant elements in our society want to force scouting to abandon its values and to become fundamentally different," he wrote.
The boy scouts' ban on gay leaders was upheld on free speech grounds by the Supreme Court in 2000.
The Democratic base, by contrast, consists of a coalition of minorities, Hollywood celebrities, latte-sipping liberals and an army of dedicated do-gooders - advocates for women's rights, for civil liberties, for the poor, and for the homeless, labor groups, environmental groups ... [sic] you get the idea. They are exactly the kinds of people who could be expected to support a "generalized program of global good works."
Polls show the public overwhelmingly opposed to intervention by Congress and President Bush in the case of Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman whose family has been bitterly split over the decision to remove her feeding tube. But the religious conservatives who pressed hard for politicians in Tallahassee and Washington to act to have the the tube reinserted could play a pivotal role in the races for governor and Senate.
At the same time, public opposition has been mounting against the president's plan to let younger workers divert a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into private investment accounts. The president's proposal is particularly unpopular among seniors, and so candidates in the senior-rich state are especially vulnerable to the charge that such a change could endanger benefits.
"It may be that we tried to load the wagon with too many watermelons," said Tom Slade, Florida's former Republican Party chairman. "There's not … a lot of good news on our side of the aisle at this minute."
The conflicting dynamics in Florida are crucial for national Republicans as they seek to enhance their power in Washington and state capitals across the country.
For several months, Brett and Cristina attended a Christian parenting class at the church, where they discussed things like how to help their kids handle science class in public school. (''If the teacher is up there teaching evolution as fact,'' Brett told me, ''there's nothing wrong with you asking very pointed questions, and it's a great opportunity to share your faith.'')
WASHINGTON, March 28 - The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.
"These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," says a description of the list on the Web site of the firm, Response Unlimited, which is asking $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 4,000 e-mail addresses of people who responded last month to an e-mail plea from Ms. Schiavo's father. "These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life, adamantly oppose euthanasia and are pro-life in every sense of the word!"
Privacy experts said the sale of the list was legal and even predictable, if ghoulish.
"I think it's amusing," said Robert Gellman, a privacy and information policy consultant. "I think it's absolutely classic America. Everything is for sale in America, every type of personal information."
If female pharmacists suddenly started refusing to dispense Viagra or Cialis to men, Congress would reconvene in the middle of the night and George Bush would make another midnight run from Crawford to sign the Tentpole Act of 2005 (also known as Bob Dole's Law).
"Certainly broadcasters and cable operators have significant First Amendment rights, but these rights are not without boundaries," he wrote. "They are limited by law. They also should be limited by good taste."
He emphasized that view when he dissented from a decision by the commission in an indecency case over an episode of the "Keen Eddie" show. In that case, decided last November, the agency did not to [sic] penalize Fox for an episode in which three men hired a prostitute to get semen from a horse for the artificial insemination of another horse.
"This order involves a television program that the majority admits 'contains references of a sexual nature that were broadcast at a time of day when children were likely to be in the audience,' " he wrote in that opinion. "Yet the majority concludes that the program, in which a prostitute is hired to sexually arouse a horse by removing her blouse and to 'extract' semen from the horse, is not indecent because the prostitute is 'never seen actually touching' the horse. Despite my colleagues' assurance that there appeared to be a safe distance between the prostitute and the horse, I remain uncomfortable. I respectfully dissent."
Social liberals warn against vitalism, the elevation of physical existence over other values. They say it is up to each individual or family to draw their own line to define when life passes to mere existence.
The central weakness of the liberal case is that it is morally thin. Once you say that it is up to individuals or families to draw their own lines separating life from existence, and reasonable people will differ, then you are taking a fundamental issue out of the realm of morality and into the realm of relativism and mere taste.
You are saying, as liberals do say, that society should be neutral and allow people to make their own choices. You are saying, as liberals do say, that we should be tolerant and nonjudgmental toward people who make different choices.
What begins as an appealing notion - that life and death are joined by a continuum - becomes vapid mush, because we are all invited to punt when it comes time to do the hard job of standing up for common principles, arguing right and wrong, and judging those who make bad decisions.
You end up exactly where many liberals ended up this week, trying to shift arguments away from morality and on to process.
If you surveyed the avalanche of TV and print commentary that descended upon us this week, you found social conservatives would start the discussion with a moral argument about the sanctity of life, and then social liberals would immediately start talking about jurisdictions, legalisms, politics and procedures. They were more comfortable talking about at what level the decision should be taken than what the decision should be.
Then, if social conservatives tried to push their moral claims, you'd find liberals accusing them of turning this country into a theocracy - which is an effort to cast all moral arguments beyond the realm of polite conversation.
Once moral argument is abandoned, there are no ethical checks, no universal standards, and everything is left to the convenience and sentiments of the individual survivors.
What I'm describing here is the clash of two serious but flawed arguments. The socially conservative argument has tremendous moral force, but doesn't accord with the reality we see when we walk through a hospice. The socially liberal argument is pragmatic, but lacks moral force.
No wonder many of us feel agonized this week, betwixt and between, as that poor woman slowly dehydrates.
In a Polarizing Case, Jeb Bush Cements His Political Stature
WASHINGTON, March 24 - Gov. Jeb Bush's last-minute intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, even after the president had ended his own effort to keep her alive, may have so far failed in a legal sense, but it has cemented the religious and social conservative credentials of a man whose political pedigree is huge and whose political future remains a subject of intense speculation.
On one level, the Florida governor's emergence as the most prominent politician still fighting, despite a string of court and legislative defeats, to have a feeding tube reinserted in Ms. Schiavo was very much in keeping with someone who has repeatedly declared a deep religious faith.
Several associates noted that he had been devoutly religious longer than President Bush, and even critics said his efforts - prodding the Florida Legislature and the courts and defying much of the electorate - were rooted in a deep-seated opposition to abortion and euthanasia rather than in political positioning.
Yet inevitably, the events of recent days have fed the mystique of Mr. Bush as a reluctant inheritor of perhaps America's most famous dynasty since the Adams family two centuries ago.
He has assumed a very high profile in this polarizing case just as Republicans are contemplating the void that will be left when President Bush begins his walk off the stage in two years or so. At a time when many of the most frequently mentioned possibilities to lead the party are moderates like John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the governor now certainly has a place, if he wants it, as a prime contender in what is shaping up as a fight to represent a conservative wing that has proved increasingly dominant.
"He has strongly identified himself with the Christian conservative movement," said Matthew Corrigan, a political science professor at the University of North Florida. "If the Republican Party is looking for someone with good ties with the Christian conservative movement, he is the one who is going to have them."
"He's got no - as far as I know, and I really believe him - he's got no future political ambitions," said Cory Tilley, a longtime adviser. "And even if he did, he would be doing exactly what he is doing now. This is very clearly an issue that strikes at his core beliefs."
Some Democrats were skeptical, however.
"This is less about Terri Schiavo and more about shoring up the Republican base, and that's a shame," said Scott Maddox, who is departing as chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and is a potential candidate for governor. "Politics has to be in play here."
At times this week, it almost seemed as if the Bush brothers were working in tandem; the governor's decision to re-enter the case once the White House had dropped it in the face of repeated judicial rebuffs may have saved the president criticism from the right. (Paradoxically, the governor himself was pummeled Thursday by some conservative activists, who demanded that he have state authorities physically seize custody of Ms. Schiavo and reinsert the tube.)[emphasis, ya know, added]
"Jeb Bush is not doing this for political reasons, in my opinion," said Jim Kane, chief pollster for Florida Voter, a nonpartisan polling organization. "Jeb Bush is smart enough to know that he is not going to gain anything from this, and he's probably going to lose something."
And that’s when it hit me – as if, to quote Col. Kurtz, I’d been shot in the forehead with a diamond – that Kerry was almost certainly going to lose the election, that the American people really were going to ratify torture and murder as instruments of state policy, and that all the facts and all the rational arguments and all the moral outrage in the world weren’t going to persuade them otherwise.
What I finally had to confront was the fact that truth alone is impotent in the face of modern propaganda techniques – as developed, field tested, refined and deployed by Madison Avenue, the Pentagon, the think tanks, the marketing departments of major corporations, the communications departments of major research universities, etc. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, the peculiar vulnerability of historical truth (which means political truth) is that it isn’t inherently more plausible than outright lies, since the facts could always have been otherwise. And in a world where the airwaves are overloaded 24/7 with the mindless babbling of complete idiots, it isn’t very hard to make inconvenient facts disappear, or create new pseudofacts that reinforce whatever bias or cultural affinity you want to cultivate – particularly if the audience is already disposed to prefer your reassuring lies to discomforting truths told by strangers.
The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.
The medical and rehabilitation experts are split on whether Terri is in a persistent vegetative state or whether Terri can be improved with therapy. There is only one way to know for sure- permit the therapy. That is the only way to resolve all doubts.
But the point is, the temple of the law is so sacrosanct that an occasional chief executive cannot flaunt it once in a while, sort of drop his drawers on the courthouse steps and moon the judges, as a way to protest the complete disregard courts and judges have shown here, in this case, for facts outside the law.
When she learned that she was carrying a baby with almost no brain and no chance of survival, a devastated young Navy wife from Everett pleaded with a federal court in Seattle to force her military medical program to pay for an abortion.
"I could not imagine going through five more months of pregnancy, knowing that the baby will never survive or have any kind of life whatsoever," the woman, then 19, told a federal judge in August 2002. "I understand that even if the baby is born alive, it will probably die after it takes a few breaths. I am really terrified of the prospect of giving birth, then watching the baby die."
She won her case and had the abortion. But more than two years later, the federal government continues to fight her, trying to get the woman and her sailor husband to pay back the $3,000 the procedure cost and trying to cast in stone a ban on government-funded abortions.
The case of Jane Doe. v. the United States will be argued before a federal appeals court next month. Like the Terri Schiavo case in Florida, involving a severely brain-damaged adult, this matter involves questions of what is human life, when can family decide to end it and how far can the government go to block that decision.
Federal lawyers have aggressively appealed the Navy wife's case, often using moral arguments against abortion. The case focuses on the Hyde Amendment regulations, which forbid use of public funds for abortions except if a mother's life is endangered, or in cases of incest or rape -- but not for lethal fetal ailments.
After a lengthy tug of war in which Jane Doe's case bounced between two courts of appeal, on the East and West coasts, arguments will be heard April 6 before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco. (Editor's Note: The original version of this story contained an incorrect court date.)
"It's a sleeper case that no one is talking about because it's so far from over, but when it hits, it's going to be a big one," predicted Maureen Britell, former executive director of the now-defunct Voters for Choice lobby in Washington, D.C.
Frist wrote a book in 1989 called Transplant where he advocated changing the definition of "brain dead" to include anencephalic babies. Anencephalic babies are in the same state as Terri Schiavo except that she suffered a physical trauma that put her into a vegetative state while the anencephalic babies are born that way.
This remarkable discovery buttresses the argument that Frist's advocacy for Schiavo is wholly political. How does he explain this remarkable inconsistency? Here is the relevant passage on Frist as quoted by the New Republic in 2003:
"And, although Frist writes frequently about the ethical issues surrounding transplants--for example, the question of when death begins--he approaches these issues in starkly scientific terms, with little patience for religious objections.
"Near the end of the book, for example, Frist suggests changing the legal definition of 'brain death' to include anencephalic babies, who are born with a fatal neurological disorder but show just the slightest hint of brain-stem activity. Such a change would make it possible to harvest their organs for transplant--something the Catholic Church and pro-life groups oppose. 'Three thousand anencephalic babies were born a year, enough to solve our demand many times over--but we never used them.'"
When Terri Schiavo is finally allowed to slip past her cruel fate and move on to a better place, she will not be the only one to have died this month. At another gravesite, this marker should be erected:
Barry Goldwater's Conservatism in America
"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America," the Texan congressman told a meeting of the Family Research Council.
Dismissing medical findings that Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state," he declared outrage that "Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks."
Yesterday, in an affidavit supporting a petition by the Florida Department of Children and Families in the case, Dr. Cheshire said it was more likely that Ms. Schiavo was in a "minimally conscious state."
"Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior," he wrote, "yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her."
Mr. Bush called Dr. Cheshire a "renowned neurologist," but he is not widely known in the neurology or bioethics fields. Asked about him, Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, replied, "Who?"
Dr. Cheshire, who graduated from Princeton and earned a medical degree at West Virginia University, did not return calls to the Mayo Clinic seeking comment. The clinic said in a statement that his work on the Schiavo case was not related to his work at the clinic and that the state had invited his opinion. "He observed the patient at her bedside and conducted an extensive review of her medical history but did not conduct an examination," the statement said.
Dr. Caplan said that was not good enough. "There is just no excuse for going in and making any pronouncement about the state that Terri Schiavo is in unless you're going to go in and do some form of technologically mediated scanning that would overturn what's on the record already," he said.
Dr. Ronald Cranford, a neurologist and medical ethicist at the University of Minnesota Medical School who has examined Ms. Schiavo on behalf of the Florida courts and declared her to be irredeemably brain-damaged, said, "I have no idea who this Cheshire is," and added: "He has to be bogus, a pro-life fanatic. You'll not find any credible neurologist or neurosurgeon to get involved at this point and say she's not vegetative."
He said there was no doubt that Ms. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state. "Her CAT scan shows massive shrinkage of the brain," he said. "Her EEG is flat - flat. There's no electrical activity coming from her brain."
"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over." Thomas Jefferson, 1798
"At every opportunity, [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay has sanctimoniously proclaimed his concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo, saying he is only trying to ensure she has the chance 'we all deserve,' " the liberal Center for American Progress said in a statement Monday, echoing complaints of Democratic lawmakers and medical ethicists. "Just last week, DeLay marshaled a budget resolution through the House of Representatives that would cut funding for Medicaid by at least $15 billion, threatening the quality of care for people like Terri Schiavo."
DeLay spokesman Dan Allen fired back: "The fact that they're tying a life issue to the budget process shows just how disconnected Democrats are to reality."
"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."
"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them." [emphasis added]
Tipping points are a great concept, but virtually impossible to identify ahead of time -- let alone when they are occurring. It is only with the great luxury of hindsight that we can look back and know that the proverbial bell has rung. In my view, March 16, 2005 could end up in the running as a possible tipping point for America. Suddenly, the US has taken on a very different aura in an increasingly unbalanced world: The confluence of a record current account deficit, a disaster from General Motors, and yet another new high for oil prices all speak of an increasingly precarious role for the global hegemon. World financial markets have barely begun to sniff that out.
In the end, of course, there’s far more to this story than economics. As I noted recently, history is replete with examples of leadership tests that pit a nation’s military prowess against its economic base (see my 28 February dispatch, “The Pendulum of Global Leadership”). Yale historian Paul Kennedy has long argued that great powers typically fail when military reach outstrips a nation’s economic strength. In that vein, there’s little doubt that America is extending its reach in this post-9/11 world. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the opening salvos. The Bush Administration’s recent nomination of two leading neocons to key global positions -- John Bolton as America’s ambassador to the UN and Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank (also announced on March 16) -- are more recent examples of a White House that is upping the ante on its “transformational” projection of global power. In Paul Kennedy’s historical framework, America is extending its reach at precisely the moment when its economic power base is weakening -- a classic warning sign of the fall of a Great Power.
Volatility - the degree to which the value of an asset deviates above or below the general trend - is a concept with which investors are familiar. Some stocks can prove more risky - or more rewarding - than others because they rise or fall by a greater degree than the market as a whole, while others tend to track the overall market's performance closely. But the concept of volatility is less well understood when it comes to income. As we learn more about income volatility in the information age, some scholars say, Social Security - an insurance program designed for the industrial age - may be even more essential.
Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.
As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part.
The Schiavo episode highlights not only how far to the right the GOP-controlled Congress has lunged -- a 2003 Fox News poll found just 2 percent of Americans think the government should decide this type of right-to-die issue -- but also how paralyzed the mainstream press has become in pointing out the obvious: that the GOP leadership often operates well outside the mainstream of America. The press's timidity is important because publicizing the poll results might extend the debate from one that focuses exclusively on a complicated moral and ethical dilemma to one that also examines just how far a radical and powerful group of religious conservatives are willing to go to push their political beliefs on the public.
GOP GROUPS – Views on this issue are informed more by ideological and religious views than by political partisanship. Republicans overall look much like Democrats and independents in their opinions. But two core Republican groups – conservatives and evangelical Protestants – are more divided: Fifty-four percent of conservatives support removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube, compared with seven in 10 moderates and liberals.
And evangelical Protestants divide about evenly – 46 percent are in favor of removing the tube, 44 percent opposed. Among non-evangelical Protestants, 77 percent are in favor – a huge division between evangelical and mainline Protestants.
Conservatives and evangelicals also are more likely to support federal intervention in the case, although it doesn’t reach a majority in either group. Indeed, conservative Republicans oppose involving the federal courts, by 57-41 percent.
Conservatives and evangelicals hold these views even though most people in both groups – 73 and 68 percent, respectively – say that if they personally were in this condition, they would not want to be kept alive.
Regardless of their preference on the Schiavo case, about two-thirds of conservatives and evangelicals alike call congressional intervention inappropriate. And majorities in both groups, as in others, are skeptical of the motivations of the political leaders seeking to extend Schiavo’s life.
The disappearances continued after Negroponte became ambassador. The Valladares report cites 17 disappearances and kidnappings in 1982, 20 in 1983 and 18 in 1984. There were 26 disappearances in 1985, but they were mainly the work of the contras, rather than Honduran security forces, the report says. The kidnapped included trade union activists, journalists and professors opposed to the military authorities.
The embassy played down the problems in the annual human rights reports on Honduras that it was required to submit to Congress, according to declassified cables collected by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group. In 1982, for example, the embassy recommended including a sentence asserting that there was "no evidence of systematic violation of judicial procedures" by the Honduran police.
"Allegations to the effect that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras appear to be totally without merit," the embassy cable added, reflecting a position Negroponte has maintained ever since.
In an interview, Binns noted that reporting about killings and disappearances "would have made it much more difficult to sustain our economic and security assistance" to Honduras.
A 1997 report by then-CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz on CIA activities in Honduras contains numerous references to Negroponte's concerns about the possible "political ramifications" of negative human rights reporting. It cites several instances when reports were "suppressed" or given very limited circulation because of fears that they "would reflect negatively on Honduras." Hitz quoted an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency as saying that "the Embassy country team" wanted to keep human rights reporting "benign" in order "to avoid Congress looking over its shoulders and to keep Congress satisfied with the ongoing implementation of U.S. policy." The analyst's name was redacted.
Raymond Burghardt, head of the embassy's political section under Negroponte, said he never felt any pressure from Negroponte to "pull our punches or delude anybody in Washington as to what the real situation was." But he did not contest references in the 1997 CIA report to attempts by Negroponte to "manage perceptions" of Honduras in Washington at a time when the political debate about Central America was highly partisan.
In case you are wondering, this isn't the same plane that was offered to John Kerry's legal team on election night. This plane is owned by another Red Sox partner named Philip H. Morse. Morse, the wealthy former owner of a catheter company, is listed as the sole officer and director of a company called Assembly Point which Dun and Bradstreet describes as a "religious organization" that is somehow involved with "churches, temples and shrines."
Now this seems like it would be a good topic on which the congress could hold fruitful "baseball" hearings. They could call Curt "Bush shill" Schilling in just for fun and harrass him about whether he knows anything about his pals in the Bush administration using one of the Red Sox owners' private planes to transport suspects to countries where they can be tortured with impunity. And if he refuses to appear maybe the committee could charter the plane to take him to one of those countries that have been so helpful to us to see if he changes his mind.
Laura Rozen calls our attention to a good news, bad news situation from the Washington Post. The bad news is that the Bush administration has been lying to its Asian allies, saying that North Korea sold nuclear materials to Libya. The good news is that North Korea didn't sell nuclear materials to Libya! The bad news is that Pakistan did. The good news is that Pakistan is a praiseworthy exemplar of democracy!
Until now, the U.S. has been able to dazzle currency traders with its deficits-don't-matter poker face. Yet it's clearly losing its ability to keep investors -- and central banks -- in check. Once central banks here in Asia turn on the dollar, the U.S. is in for some very turbulent times as bond yields surge.
The risk can be seen in China's evolving incentives to alter its dollar peg. The U.S. has been using its strength to push China to boost the yuan, thereby reducing its trade advantage. Yet it's the risk of instability and big losses on dollar holdings that may ultimately force China's hand. So it's U.S. weakness, not strength, that's turning heads in Beijing.
The White House announced late Saturday that President Bush, who was vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., would make an unscheduled return on Sunday to Washington, where he would remain until early Monday in anticipation of signing the measure.
A Sign-Off Question
Members of the House committee alternated between telling the player witnesses how wonderful they were and asking them pointed questions and making harsh comments about baseball's reluctant testing policy. But the representatives were at their best when, in the lounge adjoining the hearing room, they asked players for their autographs and in at least one instance posed for a picture with a player.