Thursday, March 31, 2005

I Thought This Stuff Went Out of Fashion Five Years Ago:

Bill Kristol, a former aide to Dan Quayle and bigwig pundit among the "Shadowy Neoconservative Movement" that plagues neosocialists and other Lefties, found himself with a face full of pie while speaking at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. It's a lovely college according to my roommates, who both attended the little Quaker-founded school. According to the Indianapolis Star report, the students who were actually there to hear Mr. Kristol were very displeased with the abnormal student's protest action. It's also amusing to see how something like this could have happened at a school with a Peace Studies program.

Apparently the student may face expulsion. Good. This pie-in-the-face brouhaha needs to be consigned to the dustbin of "obnoxious political disruptions." It wasn't funny at SIU in 2000 when it happened to Governor George Ryan, or when it happened earlier to Bill Gates.

Don't people believe in actual debate anymore? Or are they too obsessed with getting in the paper that they refuse to make a cogent argument? Hopefully this incident will not be tolerated and not allowed in the future.
Terri Schiavo has died.

May God grant her a peaceful rest.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Captain's Quarters on Terri Schiavo

The amusingly-named Captain Ed puts my thoughts into words today about the legal fight for Terri's life. Congress acted and failed to sway the judges. Florida Governor Jeb Bush did what he could to get new hearings within the law, and wisely held back despite what some of the more fervent supporters of the Schindler family's positions would urge him to do. Once again, state and federal judges have refused to hear the case brought before them, a decision based on their prior conduct. The courts are required to apply law based on precedent, so it's doubtful that anything else will occur. Those of us who have supported Terri's parents, the Schindlers, have seen the courts refuse to hear their pleas. There's little that can be done now, and most likely the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the case as they've done before.

This is horrible, but this is the proper legal procedure. This issue has gone as far as it can go. The courts have decided to take a moral and ethical issue out of the legal arena, and we must abide by it. "It's time to cool the passions and start praying for mercy," Captain Ed writes.

For those of us who worry about this setting a precedent in Congress to write more and more intrusive laws in regards to our personal lives, note that the act they passed refers to one person specifically, and contains language meant to apply this law specifically to Terri Schiavo's case. You can find the act here at Findlaw. Read Sections 5 through 7. Right there, the law they passed can't be applied to anyone else. To some it might be easily-ignorable boilerplate. It's not, though. It says that it can't be applied to any other case as far as I can tell. Then again, I'm no lawyer.

I don't want the courts to let Terri Schiavo starve. I also don't want this to become a clarion call to those who think that the spoken right to die trumps the unspoken right to live. Nor do I want those who would prolong Terri's life to think that this should be done in every single case where someone is in a similar situation. This is a hard case. This is one issue where a person cannot speak for herself, and the benefit of the doubt needs to be given as to her wishes. I disagree with the courts; they should have erred on the side of life. They did not. That is their judgment.

May God have mercy on Terri Schiavo and end her suffering one way or another.

Monday, March 21, 2005

And on the Terri Schiavo case...

All Michael Schiavo has to do is give over care of his wife to someone who wants to care for her, in this case her parents. That's it. There would be no need to worry about removing her feeding tube, no need to have Terri's right to live among us dragged from one courtroom to another. He could have walked away from this situation years ago, but won't. Why? What is it that's making him want to be the only voice for Terri? Is it just that he's fighting with Terri's parents? Is this the result of two sides who would rather see the other in Hell before they'd try to reach a working compromise on Terri Schiavo's life?

To the Senators and Representatives who debated this issue, who worried about whether or not the Federal government has a right to intervene, then intervened for this case (and, I hope, for this case only), I thank you. For those Senators and Representatives who voted to give Terri Schiavo one more chance, I thank you.

Euthanasia and the right to end one's own life is a very delicate subject. How does this fit my own worldview that human life is sacred because of each person's potential to do good in this world? The right to end one's own life goes back to the Declaration of Independence as far as I am concerned. Yes, we have the right to life, but there is also the right to liberty. In a state of liberty, we are free to determine when our life should end if we so desire. (Myself, I intend on living as long as I can. I don't want to miss anything.) We also have the right to pursue happiness. Between liberty and the pursuit of happiness we must find a balance. Is the liberty of one person counteracted by the pursuit of happiness for others? Likewise, should one person's pursuit of happiness be allowed to infringe on the liberty of others?

I see it like this. Should someone intend on ending their own life, they must determine who would be most affected by it after themselves; this ficticious person will be the one dying, after all. They must speak with the people who will be most affected by it. They must argue their position well. They must also be willing to listen to counter-arguments as to why they should still live. If they are swayed to live, good. If not, they at least know the suffering their death will cause. Their death should be quick, clean and with a minimum of mess for when their body is disposed of or interred. This ficticious person should at least have the good graces to minimize others' suffering. If you choose to end your own life, do so with the least amount of difficulty for those who will have to clean up your mess.

Now, to the stickier topic of euthanasia. If you don't want to live in a vegetative state or in a coma, GET IT IN WRITING. Get it notarized, combed over by a legion of attorneys, just like you would a will or power of attorney, whatever it takes to let people know of your desires. Let your doctors know that your wish is to die should you be in a bodily state where you can no longer physically speak for yourself. Update it, should ever change your mind. Now, should you be able to go to a doctor and force him or her to end your life when you're perfectly capable of doing it yourself? No. See my above paragraph. Your liberty and the doctor's pursuit of happiness are now in contention. Should a doctor be allowed to end your life if you cannot speak for yourself and there is no one to speak for you or make your wishes known?

No. Absolutely not. From the coldest, most practical terms of costs and benefits of allowing someone to die, it would make sense. I, however, have this view that people go into medicine to help others live. In accordance with this view of medical doctors, I want my doctor to be the kind of person who says "You are not dying on my watch. No way, no how. You are living, living well and functionally, and there will be no argument from you about it!" Yes, I'd like my doctors to be as tenacious as my MTIs when I was in Basic Training at Lackland AFB. Should they be unable to keep me alive and able to communicate, that's where it gets dicey. That's why I need to get my desire to live in writing. Anybody know a cheap and effective lawyer?

As for Terri Schiavo, I want the doctors to come down on the side of the doctors I would want. I want her to have doctors who want her to live. I want those doctors to find a place where she can do so. I want her doctors to say "just give her to her parents if they want to provide care for her. Walk away, Michael." In short, I want her to live as best as she can. I also hope for miracles in this case. I hope that Michael Schiavo will step aside and let those who care for Terri do just that.

I'm not even going into infant euthanasia. You know how I feel about abortion. Do you think I'd change my position on letting infants live as long as they could?
War Protests! Huh! What are they good for?

As we can see from the images at this site, it's good for little more than attention-whoring for the International Socialist Organization. Look through Lt. Smash's recent posts. The picture of the middle-aged woman giving an ink-stained middle finger to the camera makes me think two things: First, I'm glad she's not my mother, and second, would any child of this woman truly admit to being born to her? Short of their own desire for attention and face time in front of a tv camera, I quite doubt it. Hold on, let me channel the thoughts of this poor woman's child upon seeing this picture.

"Oh. OH. Oh crap. Ah, Mom! Why'd you do that? Can't you just bake cookies for your grandkids? We figured you might do that for our kids since you were two busy making a macrame bong-cozy for Dad back when we were kids. Jesus, Mom, you're embarrassing us more now than when we were in high school and you professed your love of Morrissey's music! He didn't even sing 'Brown-Eyed Girl' for Christ's sake!"

When the cameras roll, however, that'd change. But I've got a good guess as to how her kids would feel.

This is why I'm proud of my mom and dad. They have a sense of propriety and good taste. If they oppose something, they oppose it properly: at the voting booth.

Right, Mom? Right, Dad? You haven't gone all far-out-60s lovefest on me since I moved to the Chicago area, right?

Monday, March 14, 2005

UAW to USMC: Conform to our views or else

So, the United Auto Workers don't want to allow free parking on their sites to Marine Reservists who support President Bush, drive foreign cars, or have views that are the opposite of UAW dogma? That only Marines who voted for John Kerry and drive American cars can park at their halls? Nice going, guys. Way to support your countrymen. The Marines are handling this with class and looking for greener pastures with little fanfare. The UAW, however, is showing its desire to enforce conformity with their views. America isn't just about following unions. It's about holding your nose and making nice with people who disagree with you in order to reach a common goal. The UAW staffers can grouse about Marines who want to buy non-Big Three vehicles in private all they like, but this does make them look very petty. I'd also suggest that the UAW find ways to make American cars better and cheaper, and also understand that not all foreign-brand cars are built outside the US. What about the Toyotas that are built in Tennessee? Or the Mistubishis assembled in Bloomington, Illinois? Heck, how about the Mercedes-Benz vehicles built in Alabama? Those are jobs in the United States that are in the auto manufacturing field. Are you going to put folks out of work if they don't work for the Big Three, or are you going to support any American auto worker?

I'll put the whole price thing into perspective: in 1994 I purchased a 1995 Dodge Neon, where the only option I could afford was air conditioning. The price then was a little under $14,000. Flash forward 10 years, when I purchased a 2005 Hyundai Tucson for a little under $18,000. The new model of Neon that was similarly equipped with options that are standard on the Tucson (you know, A/C, cd player, antilock brakes, nice interior) cost about $16,000. So for the extra 2 grand I got a vehicle with better cargo space, better visibility, and a great series of warranties and roadside assistance. If a foreign-owned company can build me a better vehicle for not much more money, why shouldn't I buy it? Has the UAW tried to get the Big Three to sell cheaper cars? Have they tried making cars that don't nickel-and-dime you to death after the first two years? I understand the desire for collective bargaining. I also respect the fact that unions help act as a bulwark for some folks against management abuses. I understood that after about three months while working at a unionized grocery store. If anything, my time spent in the UFCW showed me a lot about how unions can help workers. This action by the UAW, however, combined with a life of more negative experiences with unions than positive experiences makes me wonder who these guys really support. If they're doing it just because they supported the wrong guy in the last presidential election, that's really petty.

Finally, the thought occurs to me that this bad press could make people shy away from American cars even more. After all, the UAW is perceived in this article as being unsupportive of the US Marine Corps. A company that doesn't support my troops doesn't get my money when they make overt actions like this one. I will certainly do what I can to minimize any money that goes to UAW support activities. So, buy American! Except for UAW-built products. Those guys would rather not support all our troops.

Friday, March 04, 2005

FEC to Limit Bloggers' Political Speech?

So, when a Federal judge overturns an FEC exemption to the McCain-Feingold Act that allows bloggers to write their support of one campaign over another, or to link to their favored campaign, could it now be considered a "campaign donation" to whoever you choose to support?

Let me get this straight: McCain-Feingold was designed to do what again? Limit that amount of soft money that goes to a campaign? If it limits money not directly given to a campaign, that's one thing. But where is it written in those various documents that speech praising a candidate has a monetary value that must be disclosed? If I don't get paid to sing the praises of one candidate or another, how do I know that it has enough value to require FEC regulation?

I had a "wait and see" approach to McCain-Feingold. I've waited, now I'm seeing what the effects have been. Between the 527 ads and a federal judge trying to place an arbitrary value on free speech, I've seen enough. Repeal the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. My speech is free, I'd like to not have to pay for the privilege of writing nice things about my favorite candidates.

However, there's always the press exemption, and the folks at The Lone Star Times and KSEV Radio are looking into providing press credentials should McCain-Feingold be used against bloggers.

I wonder if KSEV needs an Illinois/Chicago correspondent?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Stem Cells, Meet Springfield

Once again, the advocates for embryonic stem-cell research have trotted out a horde of adorable children to push for the destruction of human embryos in the search for cures to numerous diseases.

And this time, the State Journal-Register has balanced out the article with opposing voices. They've also laid out the costs for the "Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute" to the cool tune of one billion dollars.

One billion dollars? Even with a six-percent tax on cosmetic surgery, the rest of the money has to come from somewhere. It doesn't matter if it's spread out over ten years, that's still a big chunk of my tax money that will fund it once the six-percent surcharge is exhausted by demand.

Adult stem cells may not be easier to harvest, but they don't have the repercussions of involuntarily ending a very defenseless and vulnerable human life to save another. I do believe that life begins at conception, and that it is a sacred gift given to us from God. It should not be taken away from us before we have a chance to decide our own fates.

Yes, I have seen what happens to children saddled with rare genetic disorders. I've seen family members deal with diseases such as diabetes,Crohn's Disease, and MS. However, I would rather that research to cure these diseases be directed towards adult stem cells. No life has to be taken to harvest them. Adult stem cells have been looked at as the possible cure for spinal-cord injuries, and have been looked at as a way to help jump-start failing organs. So far, there have been far fewer successes among the viable stem-cell lines provided by embryonic research.

Adult stem-cell research is far more ethical and so far, far more successful in leading to cures of modern diseases. Even so, it's still too much for taxpayers to bear. If this goes to a 2006 referendum, I'm voting no based on ethical, religious and fiscal reasons.

(And I'll also get the research done about the comparative successes between adult and embryonic stem-cells and link them here. Don't let it be said that I'll go into an argument without being able to find something to back up my claims. Well, except for my dislike of most non-animated tv or movies. That's purely a near-arbitrary choice.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Great minds think alike?

Jim Geraghty at National Review Online's TKS blog asks the same questions I did about seeing the pro-democracy anti-Syria protestors. If I had to make an ad campaign slogan for it, I have to say it was "Democracy: An Attractive Proposition!"

And I'd also like to add this: rowr rowr!

And furthermore: don't believe me? The proof is here and here.

Further Update (With additional hotness): The guys at Stop the Bleating! have collected even more reasons to say yes to democracy in Lebanon!

And once again, Jonah Goldberg at The Corner sums it up better than I could in the title of his post.
Meanwhile, back in Springpatch...

One of Springfield's very own anti-gun crusaders is found with guns and drugs. Guns and drugs? In the 2500 block of South 15th street? Perish the thought! Plus, this crusader is found to be connected with gangs? No, her motives were pure! Totally so!

I know I'm behind the curve on this, but as a Springfield native I was waiting for further details. Sadly, today's State Journal-Register doesn't have anything new. I'll need to check outher sources, I guess.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Perfectly Cromulent Evening With Jonah Goldberg

National Review writer and National Review Online Editor-at-Large Jonah Goldberg gave a great speech tonight at Northwestern University to a packed hall. His main topic was what he said it would be: internet journalism, media bias, and blogging. Tonight, he informed, entertained, and left the audience with a better understanding of how the media works with and against internet hack writers like myself.

The sponsor for the College Republicans gave the standard "views expressed by the speaker are not necessarily those of the management" statement, the current president rattled off Jonah's curriculum vitae, and Jonah came out swinging with his favorite weapon, humor. (He'd probably say something else cool like "broken mezcal bottles" but humor is his best weapon.) The first question was "How many bloggers are in the audience tonight?" I raised my hand and suddenly felt very, very alone in that audience. However, my unique position in the room is unimportant. Mr. Goldberg started in with his contributions to internet journalism, National Review's "G-File" and the subsequent creation a few years later of "The Corner."

This led to a general overview of the news media, internet punditry, and where the seeds of blogging were sown. I was expecting a few paeans to the early pamphleteers like Thomas Paine, but thankfully he kept the phenomenon to its more modern roots. The rise of multiple cable news channels and pundit shows like Crossfire helped to get a new audience interested in voicing their opinions, or at least being really loud and able to grab the attention of others. The spread of opinion shows helped to bolster the idea of getting as many voices out into the mainstream as possible, breaking the control of the Big 3 networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC for you non-Americans out there). Breaking the Big 3's control by the growth of cable news (CNN, Fox, MSNBC and CNBC) was what opened up the floodgate of opinion journalists on television, but it paved the way for writers to start using the internet as another workaround to getting past the major networks' story biases.

Internet journalists have helped to further erode the control of the networks as audiences have moved away from the evening news to a 24-hour news cycle, and in many cases an even faster news cycle. Jonah brought up the median age of the evening news watcher as 60. These viewers get a total of 19 minutes of news out of an ostensibly 30-minute show. What do the newscasters bring to journalism if they're only on for 19 minutes? "Really important hair," says the NRO Editor-at-Large. The main point was that the newscasters feel that their turf as disseminators of information is threatened by those of us who blog on non-personal issues.

As for liberal media bias? "It just simply is," Goldberg says. The complaint against an excessive liberal bias isn't so much a configuration complaint as it is a populist one. It's in their basic outlook on the entire world, ingrained into their language, and seems to culminate that more government intervention is a good and progressive force in society. Combine that with an anti-corporate bias (despite corporations giving scads of money to liberal groups like the Sierra Club) and we can see that there's quite a bit of Marxist theory still running around the newsrooms. This led to a comparison of how the left and right (such as they are) have used their various methods to try and score points in a big game of media "gotcha."

First, Goldberg says, there's the conservatives. Bloggers from the right have stopped the careers of Howell Raines during his tenure at the New York Times, Eason Jordan's career as head of CNN, and forced Dan Rather into retiring early from his anchorman spot on The CBS Evening News. The lefties? They have the Jim Guckert/Jeff Gannon scandal. The point of this is that the right-leaners have removed some big names out of their cushy jobs while the left-leaners have spent the same amount of energy going after a guy from an obscure news service because of his desire to register and run homosexual-oriented websites. The left-leaning blogs have essentially undertaken an expedition to hunt elephant, and returned with a bullet-ridden chipmunk carcass.

With a segue that broke the land topic-speed-change record, Jonah brought up Howard Dean's internet campaign as an idea that hasn't had a decent execution yet. (By execution I mean that in a "Make it so, Number One" way, not a "Che Guevara vs. angry peasants" way.) The main reason? The Dean message, not to mention the Democrats' message is "If President Bush is for it, we are against it." Never mind that what Dubya has done to spread democracy into the Middle East is a classic liberal strategy! Even with the massive military force brought into the equation, spreading democracy is a liberal thing to do, and many of the Democrats are beginning to change their tunes.

With the meat of the speech ended, Jonah decided to take quite a few questions related to the Dean internet campaign and Howard Dean's accession to the DNC Chairmanship. Mr. Goldberg doesn't see how Dean will go over very well, since he's trying to be an urban Northeasterner while the national discussion is going on in the South and West.

On the question of whether or not media rules should apply to bloggers when it comes to national security, Jonah was quick and to the point: yes. I can agree with him on this. There are times when national security is at stake and information really is on a "need to know" basis. Then again, I think that's my Air Force training coming into play as well.

There was a question about whether or not Democrats are warming up to President Bush, and Jonah replied that it's not really happening despite a lot of their favorite things happening in terms of growth of government and spreading democracy throughout the world.

On the question of blogging in "less free countries" as the questioner put it, Jonah mentioned how huge the blogging phenomenon is in Iran. He would have expected the same thing in China based upon its huge population, but total governmental control of the internet prevents it from happening. Iranian blogging does draw a similar parallel to the samizdata of the old Soviet Union.

A big question was whether or not blogging will get co-opted by the major media networks and if it's already turning into kitsch along the lines of young writers who use old typewriters as an affectation. Yes, it's pretty much kitsch by now. It's important kitsch, though; blogs still provide instant feedback and a great array of fact-checking for newspapers. "Print media, whether it's on a screen or on paper still determines the news for the rest of the media," Goldberg said. A lot of the older bloggers like Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan have thought of leaving the blogosphere, so whether blogging is a good force for journalism or not is still up in the air. He thinks the phenomenon will slow down and die in time.

The most important question, though, ended the night. What happened to the writing on The Simpsons? Jonah says that the show's best days have been behind it for a long time. Rupert Murdoch of Fox sees something in the show, though, so he's still willing to keep the franchise alive. With that, the evening concluded. Jonah seems to welcome blogging as an addition to internet opinion journalism, but it's not going to replace any other traditional media outlets any time soon. He kept everything going quickly and smoothly, and the packed house at Harris Hall filed out with a better understanding of this newfangled information source.

Afterwards, a group of us headed out to Evanston's very own Firehouse Grill for a few beers and a good dinner. What did we talk about? I am sworn to secrecy, though I can say that it did not involve airborne-laser volcano lancing, the Rosicrucians, nor a discussion of Hilary Swank's Oscar outfit. Jonah Goldberg is a classy guy and a wonderful speaker. I hope that Northwestern's College Republicans invite him back again, as I will show up for whatever subjects he may have as his topic.

And now, an object lesson to Lucy Goldberg: If you follow in your father's footsteps, you'll have to deal with fuzzy-headed internet geeks like the guy standing to your father's right:

UPDATE: Welcome to all of you Corner readers out there! Please look around and comment, and feel free to send ideas for me to research and write. I may use them if I get the chance.