Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

SKBubba Shuts Down the Shop

South Knox Bubba is no more. And I've got very mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand, he was the worst of the firebrands; he'd do anything, use any tool to win his point. He'd use distortion, innuendo, and outright deception if he thought it would give him the advantage. According to some other bloggers, he wasn't above changing posts or deleting them outright in order to protect himself from critics who would use his words against him. While I never ran into that, he did redirect any links I made to any post of his to Free Republic, making it difficult for a reader to follow the argument. He was intemperate, and took ideological arguments as personal attacks, resulting in conflicts with several members of the RTB, leading to the resignation of one.

On the other hand, he was passionate about his beliefs, and on his web page, supported them 150%. Once you got past his virulent hatred of all things conservative (an altogether different thing than being strongly progressive), he could be charming, amusing, and devastatingly accurate in his assesments, most notably those on local politics. He consistently supported the progressive point of view, to a fault at times, and although there were instances where he would admit that in real life, he was not the ardent liberal he portrayed on the page, it always seemed that Bubba was the man he wanted to be in the real world as well as the virtual.

I'll be interested to see if Randy now becomes more politically involved in the real world, or if he'll remain on the sidelines, supporting the protestors, but never actually joining them.

That would be too bad.

Because even though I disagree with him on many (most) issues, and even though I think his tactics at times bordered on abusive, it's sad to think of that passionate voice falling totally silent.

As for the RTB, it will survive, and continue to grow. Either Uncle, or me, or somebody else will resore the mailing list and the list of member past and present. A new message board will be built and the RTB will go on. Maybe we'll even hear from SKB from time to time on the boards. If I know him at all, he won't be able to be quiet for long.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The 5th Circle of Slime:???

And now, for the final stage of our journey through the slime pits of American politics. It's been delayed a few days by bombs, holidays and other assorted impediments, but it's finally time to finish the trip. Because after all, you can't find a solution until you define the problems, right?

So far, I've dealt with the Republicans, who by their actions have betrayed nearly every principle that claim to stand for. I've dissected modern liberals, who've abandoned all that was good about liberalism in favor of socialistic tripe disguised as compassion. I've exposed the grasping mendacity of the media, eager to promote their own worldview at the expense of the truth. And I've talked about the judges, the lawyers and the lawmakers, the ones who've decided that the Constitution no longer matters, that it is an impediment rather than the basis for our government. They're all pretty slimy, but I've saved the worst for last.

There's one group of people worse than those who've gone before if for no other reason than this: Without this last group, the final piece of the loathsome puzzle, none of the rest would matter; the bottom feeders would be unable to continue trashing the dream that was America.

Now, if thereís anybody who I haven't pissed off with my previous 4 rants, then don't feel left out, because this one will take care of that. The fifth and worst group is us.

All of us.

As Ross Perot said in his amusing little way, we are the owners of this country; whatever happens here is our responsibility, like it or not. See, it's like we live in this wonderful community, where everyone has a chance to make things better for themselves and for each other if they're all willing to work at it. Unfortunately, instead of working at it, we've all decided to be absentee landlords, and party on while the place goes to hell. Instead of guarding our treasures, we've squandered them on cheap trinkets and baubles. There's some Indian tribes out there that have to be loving this shit. We're trading freedom for a false sense of safety; we're trading liberty for conformity, opportunity for security, and justice for fairness.

And we're too busy watching the current episode of Fear Factor to see what gross thing Joe Rogan feeds this week's contestants to notice that our society is going down the tubes quicker than Oprah Winfrey changes dress sizes.

And if our own indifference wasn't corrosive enough, we've got the aforementioned slimeballs accelerating the process of decay. We may all be going to hell together, but these assholes are driving the bus and they've got the pedal to the metal, and that's a big 10-4 good buddy. We're like a group of drunks making a heroin addict the designated driver because he could pass the breathalyzer test.

It's a sad disgrace is what it is. Our forefathers fought and died so we could be free; so we would have the ability to determine our own destiny. Most of us can't even be bothered to vote once every 4 years. The Iraqi people, facing promises of violence, mayhem, and retaliation came out and voted in droves, burying US voter participation in the 2004 elections, and last time I checked, nobody was threatening Americans with death if they voted. By the way, as far as I'm concerned, if an Iraqi man can walk past people threatening to kill his wife and family if he votes, and go into the booth, vote, and proudly show his blue thumb to the world, then anybody who can be intimidated from voting in America simply by the presence of a police car doesn't deserve the vote in the first place.

And yes, I do mean all you fools in Florida claiming your vote was suppressed.

Folks, we're going down the tubes fast here, and unless we wake up and start to do something about it, we'll be licked before we even start to fight back.

If you aren't enraged by all of the things that have been going on in this country over the last 20 years or so, then either you haven't been paying attention, in which case you are part of the problem, or you have already adopted a slave mentality, and are perfectly comfortable allowing other people to make important decisions for you. (If it's the latter, give me a call, I have a position for you.) On the other hand, if you are enraged, what are you going to do about it? What are you willing to do to reverse the slide? Big Brother has already grabbed the power; what are you willing to do to take it back? How far will you go? Would you pledge ďyour life, your fortune, and your sacred honor?Ē

Thatís the standard for standing up to a tyrant.

How many of you who are pissed at me for writing this have the balls to take that particular pledge?

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The 3rd Circle of Slime:Governent

I was going to focus this post on the judiciary alone, but as I wrote, I began to realize that it was all of a piece. Whether it is a judge, a congress critter, or some nameless, faceless bureaucrat buried in some dusty cubicle in the depths of some Washington mausoleum writing regulations that automatically and without review become law, they are all working in concert to limit our freedoms.

So I lumped them all together, making what Marines call a "target rich environment." So stand by for the shotgun blast.

Yep, the next stop on our tour of the depths of American Hell stops in Washington DC, as well as every courtroom and every legislative chamber in every city, county and state in this nation. And what will we see here?

Parasitic scoundrels who feed off of us like bloated ticks, sucking us dry while swelling up to loathsome gray blobs of poisonous corrupt flesh. They see themselves as our betters, and as long as we keep giving them power (again, more on this to follow) they're right.

Think about it for a minute, has a single sane decision come out of the federal government in the last couple of decades? We're involved in a war against a shadowy opponent, a war which is redefining the way we wage war, and one that is creating tremendous pressure on our liberties, yet our Supreme Court is deciding weighty issues like "Can the words 'Under God' be part of the Pledge of Allegiance? and "Should marriage be limited to a man and a woman?"

Are they serious? Is that really what's important now? Hell, just a short while ago, our national government was consumed in an investigation into whether their was a drug problem in baseball!

This is a matter for the federal government?

And the rot extends down to states, cities, counties, and villages. Government at every level appears hell-bent on destroying every limitation the Constitution put into place. Every where we go, every time we turn around, someone somewhere is telling us we can't do something. No smoking in a bar. No riding a motorcycle without a helmet. No dancing nekkid. No riding in a car without your seat belt. no drinking unless you're over 21. No marriage unless you apply for a license and the city fathers approve of your choice. No walking down the street at 3am. (Try it in Gatlinburg. There's no law against it, but the local police will stop you and harass you, under the suspicion that you might have been having a good time.)

Not only are our freedoms being eroded, but the intolerable invasions into our privacy keep coming. How is it that the right to privacy extends to a woman killing her baby, but we have to surrender our papers to any police officer who asks, for any reason? How is it that the federal government has passed and expanded the Patriot Act, giving them the right to tap my phone, come into my house without my knowledge or consent, and read my mail, all without any recourse by me.

And once again, it isn't just the feds. How about roadblocks checking for papers? Sounds very East Germanic, doesn't it? I drove through one a few years back. Some county mounty had gotten the bright idea to set up a road block on the main road and he stopped every car, checking for license and registration. During the stop, he took a quick look around the vehicle, looking for anything worth a further search. Legal? It is now. Outrageous? You betcha!

It's come to the point now where if you want to go anywhere outside your home, you are subject to being stopped and questioned by the police for no reason whatsoever!.

"Just checking" is reason enough.

And don't think you're safe inside your home either. If some developer doesn't covet your property, some government agency will be wanting to know just what you do in there. Some laws that have been proposed and/or passed include:
  • No smoking at home
  • No drinking at home
  • No loaded weapons in the home
  • No corporeal punishment of any type
  • Mandatory safety equipment
  • Forcing your home to follow OSHA regulations if you have a home business

And so it goes.

I have two questions for all of you:

When was the last time you heard of a decision in Washington, or your state capitol for that matter, that increased your freedom?

How long are you going to stand for this?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Next Up On the Hit Parade

Liberal Democrats. Yes they're a notch below Republicans on the slime wagon, not because they are more corrupt. They aren't, not really. A corrupt politician is a corrupt politician, whether there's a "D" or an "R" after their name.

No, liberal Democrats rate lower simply because they continue to peddle a doctrine that has failed every single time it's been tried. While some would tend to give them high marks for consistency, I refuse to reward a man for consistently rejecting reality, ignoring the facts, or for cynically manipulating others into doing so for their own personal gain, and that, folks, describes every single liberal Democrat, bar none.

Now that I've raised some more blood pressures, let's examine this absolute statement a little bit closer. First, note that I said liberal Democrat, and not just Democrat. There's a reason for that; not all Democrats have gone insane. Some are still attached to the real world the rest of us live in. While their priorities are different than conservatives, leading them to different policy directions, they are still grounded in reality. Sadly, since the inmates have taken over the Democratic Party (cf Howard "Yeeeeaaarrrgghhhhh!" Dean, a man I had some hopes for early in his tenure as DNC chair) most moderate Democrats are no longer welcome in their own party. Just ask Joe Lieberman.

So if I'm not talking about the moderates, who am I talking about?
  • The guy who thinks we need to set a date to leave Iraq, thus insuring defeat, as well as the bloody deaths of tens of thousands of Shia Iraqis.
  • The guy who thinks playing loud music to terrorists caught on the field of battle is equivalent to gassing millions of people based on their religion.
  • The guy who will lie, cheat, steal, or distort history because his side needs to win "by any means necessary."
  • The guy who looks at the phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" and sees, "Citizens are not allowed to keep or bear arms."
  • The guy who thinks that 1500 casualties over a 2 year period is equivalent to hundreds of casualties a day.
  • The guy who thinks private property is a privilege, not a right.
  • The guy who thinks 9/11 was our fault.
  • The guy who thinks 9/11 was a good thing.
  • The guy who thinks the world owes him a living just because his dumb ass was lucky enough to be born in the wealthiest society in history. (More on this particular moron in a couple of days.)
  • The guy who....but you get the point.

There was a time not too long ago when liberalism was a good thing. Remember JFK? Remember "Ask not what your country can do for you...?" Heard any liberals singing that tune in the last decade or so? Hell, any that tried would be drummed out of the party in a heartbeat. That's all modern liberals are about anymore, what your country can do for you. According to them, it is the government's responsibility to provide housing, job security, healthcare, education, a comfortable standard of living, food, clothing, and every other basic need to every citizen. After all, everybody has a right to these things; just ask a liberal and he'll tell you. Except for those dirty rotten rich people, who get to pay for everything.

Serves them right for going out and making more than everybody else.

Forget about the corrosive nature of welfare on the human spirit for a moment; let's just deal with the basic assumption implicit in progressive taxation. When you say that those who make more should pay not just proportionally more but a higher percentage of their earnings because "they can afford it," what you are really saying is that somehow what they've worked for is not really theirs, and that other people who are totally uninvolved in earning that money have a higher claim on it than the people who made it.

So how is it that the same folks who are all in favor of progressive taxation scream bloody murder when the exact same philosophy is applied to their house? i.e. the Kelo decision. Taking is taking whether it's income or real estate. The answer is simple; modern liberals are all in favor of taking the fruits of somebody else's labors, but when it comes to theirs, you'd better back off bubba! Not everyone makes a 6 figure income, but damn near everybody owns a house, or dreams of buying one. It brings that "taking" a little too close to home for some liberals.

And that's the core hypocrisy that makes liberal Democrats so slimy; not only do they espouse a fatally flawed doctrine of entitlement, but when the consequences of that doctrine turn around and bite them in the ass, they cry foul.

Now then, lest my liberal readers feel the need to commit seppuku, allow me to point out that we've only just begun our Dantean journey. This particular tour still has three more levels of slime before we hit bottom. So cheer up boys and girls, you're not even close to the worst. We've levels of depravity undreamed of yet to explore.

But there's always tomorrow!

Posted by Rich
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Monday, June 27, 2005

Let’s Start at the Top, and Work Our Way Down

Not because Republicans are any worse than the Democrats; quite the opposite in fact.

But they're plenty bad enough.

Remember when Republicans were actually conservative? Neither do I. It's just that now, with Bush in office, they no longer even pretend to be conservative.

I get a huge laugh out of listening to liberals complain about how Republicans are evil because they are too conservative because anyone with half a brain (an unfair requirement for many liberals, I know) knows that the Republican Party has not pursued a true conservative agenda for quite some time.

Look, key conservative principles aren't that complicated or hard to recognize. Classical conservatism is based on three general principles:
  1. A Strong National Defense
  2. Fiscal Responsibility
  3. A Limited Role for Federal Government

You simply cannot argue that the Bush administration has pursued any of these goals, either effectively in the case of the first, or at all in the case of the second two.

Yeah, we're fighting the war on terror, a war I support by the way, but at the same time our borders are a joke. I respect the job our troops are doing in Iraq, and despite all attempts to hide the facts, I know they are achieving their mission, which by the way, is not to pacify the insurgents but to help the Iraqi government attain the ability to pacify the insurgents themselves. (Stick that in your quagmire pipe Mr. Kennedy.) I'm also certain that our intelligence community and our Special Forces are hard at work and that the fact that there hasn't been another successful attack on US soil (despite the paranoid delusions of some who like to claim that every railroad accident may be a terrorist plot) can be attributed to their hard work. But the fact remains that our borders are basically undefended, and to make matters worse, when average citizens try to do their part to help secure them, the President calls them vigilantes and disparages their efforts. How can you be strong on defense when armed criminals can cross our borders virtually at will?

You can't.

Illegal immigration is not just an economic issue anymore, it's a security issue, and one that today's Republicans refuse to address seriously.

As for fiscal responsibility and limited government, well, the exploding debt, increasing deficits, and exploding public spending coupled with the proposed marriage amendment, Real ID programs, and the expanding Patriot Act bury those notions in the dust. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'd be willing to bet that, adjusting for inflation, we haven't increased spending at this clip since Roosevelt ran the White House.

So what do Republicans stand for today?

Well, based on their actions, Republicans stand against accepting homosexuality in the mainstream, against allowing people to make up their own minds about who they'll have sex with and who they won't, or what substances they want to put into their bodies, and what they won't, and against people being able to conduct their lives without an invasive government looking over their shoulders, for their own good. Other than that, it's hard to pin the Republicans down. For a group that gets regularly accused of holding a party line and never dissenting, Republicans seem to break ranks with much more regularity than they're Democratic counterparts. Just look at the recent struggle over the Senate confirmation votes.

In truth, it doesn't matter what they stand for. These guys in Washington who call themselves conservative come election time sure as hell don't act like it once the votes are counted. If they were true conservatives, illegal immmigration would be slowed to a trickle. Instead of staging water and aid so the illegals don't die on their way in, instead of civilians manning the border trying to stem a flood tide of illegals, we'd have a truly secure border, one that terrorists would not be able to cross with impunity. If they were true conservatives, the Marriage Amendment wouldn't even have come up. If they were true conservatives, the Patriot Act would have taken extreme pains to reduce the infringement of our rights, instead of feeding those rights into a paper shredder. If they were true conservatives, private property rights would not have just been extinguished by the Supreme Court. If they were true conservatives, ...but you get the point. Instead of acting in accordance with true conservative principles, Republicans have been following an agenda driven in large part by religion. While I agree with portions of that agenda (ie the ban on Federal funding for expanding the lines of embryonic stem cell research) using religious beliefs as a foundation for that agenda leads it into directions that our federal government should not go.

Into my bedroom, for example. As an adult, who or how many I sleep with is no business of the government. Who or how many I decide to "marry" again is no business of the government. Give me one good reason why I should have to get a license from the government in order to get married?

To drive a car, sure, but to get married? I have to have permission from some government bureacrat? I DON'T THINK SO!

And now Republicans want to take it further and decide who can and who cannot be licensed based on factors that are none of their damn business. That's not conservative, folks; that's tyranny in the making.

Now, I'm conservative, and proud of it. I believe in a strong national defense, and that if you're going to be in a fight, it's better to fight in your enemy's yard than in your own. I believe in a fiscally responsible government. That doesn't mean no deficits; part of fiscal responsibility is knowing when you need to incur debt, and when to pay it down. But it does mean that explosive growth in spending with no end in sight is a bad thing, and this Congress and President don't seem to agree with that. I also believe that the Federal Government should have a very limited role in the day to day lives of its citizens. Fortunately, we even have a Constitution that strictly lays out the limits of the Fed's powers. Unfortunately, we have a judiciary that has decided that the Constitution is more of an obstacle than an asset, and work to circumvent it's every provision at nearly every turn. Hell, the 2nd amendment "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." is routinely interpreted to mean that the people may not own a gun!

What the bloody hell is the matter with these fools?

So, while I am a conservative, I am not a Republican. Not anymore. I have no idea who I'll vote for next year, or in 2008. I may well vote Republican just because the Democrat candidate is likely to be so much worse. If the Libertarians can stop running candidates who dye themselves blue, I might seriously consider voting for them. Hell, if the Dems get smart and nominate a reasonable candidate (Lieberman maybe, or Obama) I might even vote for them.

One thing's for certain though; I will be voting, if not for somebody, then against somebody.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, June 26, 2005


Observant readers will have already noticed that I changed the Cox and Forkum cartoon Iíve carried since the beginning of the year.
That change is only one of many that are coming over the next few days.
  • Iíll be posting a lot more.
  • I will be writing on politics and philosophy much more.
  • All posts will be open for comments for two weeks, at which time they will close for spam prevention.
  • I will be pissing a lot of folks off.

The gloves are coming off folks, and itís about damn time.

I put myself on the sidelines after the election. I wasnít sure if the time Iíd spent had made any difference in anyoneís mind. I questioned whether writing on politics and political theory was even something people wanted to read. After all, ďBush lied; people diedĒ is much catchier, and a whole lot easier to teach the proles to chant as they march in the street. The truth is difficult; itís complex. If you can distill something down to a 30 second soundbite, odds are it doesnít even bear a faint resemblance to reality.

But it makes for good TV, so weíll run with it.

So I tried to step back from the fight. I figured I could leave the field to other writers and only write about fun stuff, stuff that wouldnít make people mad at me. Unfortunately, Iíve discovered what many writers before me have discovered; I donít get to pick and choose what I write. I write what comes or I donít write at all. Iíd see things in the news, or read about them, and Iíd want to say something, react someway, put in my two cents worth, but I wouldnít. Iíd try to write something light and friendly and essentially meaningless.

And it would suck.

It was only after I wrote a piece about whatever moved me that I could write the fluffy one and have it come out halfway decent. I know now that if I want to write, and write well, I have to let it all come out. I have to write what is important to me, regardless of how other people feel about it. Itís going to anger a lot of people, more than any of you suspect right now, but thatís the way it goes.
A long while back, I found myself writing to get traffic. I would watch my hit counter, and check which posts got the most traffic, and I would write more like them. Running the site became a chore, not a hobby, as I was becoming obsessed with building traffic. Once I noticed what I was doing, I took down my sitemeter and have never looked back. Unfortunately, now I know I was doing something similar, writing to not offend. I wanted to be liked by everybody, even those folks who disagreed with me. Censoring myself was the wrong way to achieve that goal, and to tell you the truth, Iím not sure anymore that the goal itself wasnít a mistake.

Anyway, recent events, many of which Iím going to discuss in detail, have caused me to reassess both the goals I set for this blog, and the methods I hose to meet them. The short version is I trashed all of them to start over again.

In a way, Iím going back to my roots. Iíll be writing about what interests me, giving you my unvarnished and immoderate opinions and analysis. Stupidity, lies, greed, and hypocrisy will be called exactly that, as well as incompetence, evasion, empty rhetoric, and all the other tools some folks use to cloud the issue when they know their argument is weak.

Several months ago, I made a statement that America was in big trouble, and that, barring some major changes, we were heading down a path that would lead to the end of America as a world power within a decade or two. It appears I may have been optimistic. The recent activity on both sides of the political aisle, coupled with the actions of the Supreme Court, has accelerated trends Iíd already noted significantly. Weíre getting to a very dangerous place where the majority of people have no respect for the people who make and enforce our laws. To continue on in the same manner as we have for the past few decades will, without any doubt or possibility of error, lead us into a position of weakness, one that our enemies will not hesitate to exploit.

And thatís why Iíve changed the picture. The threat is no longer external; we know the terrorists cannot beat us. They can hurt us; they can make us angry; but they canít beat us. The enemy that can beat us is among us, and no, Iím not talking about liberals. Yes they are a big part of the problem, but the Republicans have quite a bit to answer for themselves. The divide is no longer one of left and right, but authoritarianism and libertarianism, and friends and neighbors, the authoritarians have damn near won the war before we woke up enough to fight the first battle.

Now, Iím not egotistical enough to think that the things I write here will make a difference (Then again, maybe I am; why else would I write them?), but I can make sure that at least there will be a fight. I truly believe that we are now in a fight for the continued existence of freedom in America, and that we are in grave danger of losing everything that made us great, and so I can do no less.
So, expect sacred cows from both the left and the right to be slaughtered and carved into steaks. Iíve always had very little patience for hypocrisy anyway; now I have even less. Anyone who wants to lay the blame exclusively on one side or the other, head over to Freeperland or the DUcks; I have absolutely no patience for your ignorance.

OK, enough of the pretentious chest thumping. Letís get on with it.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, May 30, 2005

Pimp My City: More Voodoo Regulation from the Knoxville Titty Council

Well, the ordinances passed last week, and despite the upcoming legal battle the burqas have prevailed and the boobies have been caged.

Except for the ones serving on the Knoxville City Council, who, given their preoccupation with the female bosom, shall now and forevermore be known on these pages as the Titty Council. After all, by virtue of the requirement that all exotic dancers be licensed to strip, the council has taken on the onerous yet admittedly entertaining task of judging exactly which titties will be allowed to be displayed. By the way, I'd like to volunteer my time and expertise for the position of Titty Inspector. Just pay me in singles, please.

The dancers must pay a fee to the City of Knoxville in order to ply their trade. Now, what's the street name for somebody who profits off of a woman's sexuality?

Hint: It rhymes with "chimp" and is not usually an activity associated with civic virtue, but then again, the times, they are a changin, right?

Yep, our city council sure knows what's best for us. Now that they've pretty much run all those dangerous strip clubs out of town, they're continuing the battle against the demon alcohol.

A city ordinance that they passed a couple of months ago is going into effect now, one that requires everyone that buys an alcoholic beverage to show their papers, er, I mean, their ID.

Of course, the Titty Council has our best interests at heart, as they always do; they're just trying to stop underage drinking.

I just wonder how carding a 70 year old grandmother is going to stop some kid, who by law is already prevented from buying alcohol, from buying alcohol. My only guess is that the Titty Council has taken a page from Homeland Security; unfortunately, it's the page that leads to 12 year old girls getting patted down at airports on suspicion that they might be terrorists.

There's simply no reason to card anyone who is abviously over 21. Well, no legitimate reason anyway. Lest anyone be taken in by the lies of the Titty Council, this has nothing to do with keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors, and everything to do with increasing city revenues and making it harder to serve or sell alcohol. Bars, convenience stores and liquor stores are all easy targets now for fines, as it is virtually impossible to card everybody all of the time. After multiple fines, the Beer Board, which is simply the Titty Council in disguise (Hmmmm, titty inspections and beer; I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. I may have to move to Knoxville so I can run for the Council; before too long, they may be the only ones in the city that are allowed to have fun.) can revoke the permit of the establishment in question, thus removing temptation from the path of us poor lost sinners, oops, I mean, fine, upstanding citizens.

And the fine folks that run our fair city wonder why they have trouble attracting people.

Hi! Come to Knoxville! We've run every sports team that isn't irrevocably tied to the city out of town; we've passed taxes that insure that no major musical act will ever play our city again; we have no museums of any note and we've voted down every idea that might have brought some culture or entertainment to our downtown area. (Except for a new movie theater, an idea we found to be quite daring.) We're closing the titty bars, and we require that you show your papers every time you buy a drink; we're working on banning smoking in public but we don't mind if you chew, as long as you don't spit.

And our most exciting attraction is the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame!

People should be flocking to our gates!

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

East Tennessee Taliban

Some folks just don't get it.

We travel thousands of miles around the world to try and stop religious fundamentalists from trampling all over the rights of law abiding citizens and then right here in our backyard, the zealots are hard at work pursuing the same exact agenda. They want to regulate what a woman can do and tell her what she must wear.

As yíall may or may not know, Iíve been known to patronize an ďadult establishmentĒ from time to time. Enjoying good music and the beauty of a few lovely ladies wearing big smiles and little else is certainly a pleasantly harmless way to pass a couple of hours, but now, Knoxville City Council is about to vote for the second time on a series of ordinances that will, in effect, run any adult oriented business out of the city.

Wait, scratch that. Not any adult oriented business, just those that make the Council members get that squirmy feeling in their, err, members. Pick-up bars are still OK, and so is having dancers paid to dance. That is, of course, as long as they wear enough clothing to avoid the aforementioned squirmy feeling. Burkas work wonderfully in that regard.

Look, I'm basically a libertarian; I believe that if you're going to make a law, two things have to be true. First the law has to address a situation where one group is damaging another group through their activities. Second, the damage done by limiting freedom must be smaller than the damage being corrected. These new laws regarding the licensing of adult establishments do not meet either standard because there is no definitive evidence that there is any damage associated with the presence of nekkid women.

Unless you find women to be fundamentally unclean, like the Taliban, in which case you have an entirely different set of issues.

But that doesn't stop the hypocrites from trying. According to the City Council, adult businesses bring crime into the area, nasty crimes like drug dealing, prostitution, and general lollygagging about.

And you know we canít stand for lollygagging about, now can we?

Unfortunately for the Council members, the crime statistics don't bear out their claims. Knoxville prostitution, as well as the drug trade, is centered around the eastern side of the city, where, oddly, there are no adult establishments to draw them. Police callouts and arrests also fail to support the Council. In fact, there are more arrests for PD, DUI, and D&D coming out of Cotton Eyed Joes than out of Th' Katch, which is just across Lovell Rd.

Perhaps the Council would be better off regulating line dancing instead of worrying about exotic dancing.

Finally it would be a very simple matter to demonstrate that any establishment that serves alcohol is far more injurious to the city than an adult bookstore.

Now, to be fair, City Council does have a study that shows that there is an increased amount of crime around strip clubs, however that study was done in California, and we all know just how many similarities there are between L.A. and West Knoxville.

Like, they both have McDonaldís on the main strip. Maybe we should be regulating Big Macs.

My best guess is that the Council must believe that every time a strip club is shut down in West Knoxville, a drug dealer on Magnolia goes straight, or a prostitute in LA decides to give up the street and go into government service, where her talents will certainly come in handy during those back room bargaining sessions.

Itís legislative acupuncture; quite the provocative concept, no? And to think we came up with it here in little old Knox Vegas.

Yes, I am mocking the City Council, and justly so; after all, they're making a mockery of our city. It just seems to me that in today's world, they should have a lot more serious things to deal with; say our cityís sad educational performance?

Now, since they can show no damage from a woman letting her boobies fly free, other than a potential case of whiplash from a motorboat gone awry, let's take a look at the damage done should the Council get its way. Roughly 150 dancers will be thrown out of work, and itís a fair guess to say that, barring a business decision to relocate to Magnolia Ave, 99% will not be able to find a job where they can make a similar amount of money. (The average dancer, working 3-4 nights per week, will take home somewhere around $45-50K per year.) Many of these women are also single mothers, further limiting their opportunities to make a similar living. What happens to them? Where will they go once their livelihood is gone?

I can hear the ladies in the back saying "Serves them right! Now they'll have to get married or earn a real living like the rest of us!"

Envy and jealousy are not good foundations for public policy, ladies. These women went out and did a job you wouldn't dare to do; therefore they earned every penny they made, regardless of how you feel about the way they made it.

And of course, this is the real nut of the issue. The puritanical streak that runs through America cannot abide the idea of somebody making money from sex.

"It degrades women." "It degrades men." "It cheapens something sacred and holy!"

Why is sex degrading? Why is nudity offensive? For centuries women have been trading sex for security; why does placing a dollar sign on it make it so much worse?

And where are the feminists on this one? Adult women are making a rational decision concerning what job they want to do and what they want to wear to do it, and the city government is gainsaying that decision. And thatís what is truly degrading. Itís not that theyíre forcing these women to put on a bikini, but that the city of Knoxville is placing their own judgment ahead of that of these dancers, robbing them of their autonomy.

And before you ask, no, I wouldn't want my daughter to be a stripper. Then again, I wouldn't want her to be a city council member either but I'm not about to try and run them out of business.

Then againÖ

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Qurans and Commodes

We've had a couple of days to listen to the reactions to the Newsweek story, and it has been very amusing. Most of the American Left has come out in defense of Newsweek which is as expected, but the various defenses they put up are pretty funny. So far, in no particular order I've heard it's no big deal because:
  1. It wasn't Newsweek's fault because
    • The source recanted
    • The DOD didn't deny the story
    • There have been rumors about things like this for ages
    • After Abu Ghraib, there's nothing the military won't do.

    These excuses are all garbage. As far as I know, when you go with an anonymous source, as a good journalist, you're supposed to get a corroborating source. Newsweek didn't. Bias or incompetence, you be the judge. As soon as the story broke, the DOD did deny it, and has denied the allegations in the past. The rumors spring from a few sources, mostly released detainess, who cannot by any standard be called impartial. In fact, the Newsweek report was such a bombshell because it claimed that for the first time, the US government was admitting that this occurred, a fact we'll return to in a moment. Finally, it appears that those who advance the Abu Ghraib justification conveniently forget that those responsible for the abuse that took place are being punished for it. What they did was wrong, and they are paying the price. This is not an indication that outrageous acts are tolerated in the military; quite the opposite, in fact.

    What's funny is that all of these defenses boil down to "It wasn't Newsweek's fault; they're not mean, just incompetent." The differences between the tabloids and the "real" press are vanishing rapidly. Anytime your main line of defense is "We're not saying it's true, but it might be" you've leveled the playing field betweem MSM and the tabloids.

    Probably not your best line of defense.
  2. It was Muslims who rioted, not Newsweek

    According to some folks, Newsweek shouldn't be held accountable for the actions of some irrational Muslim extremists. While it is nice to hear the MSM admit that Islamic extremists are religious fanatics and can't be expected to act rationally, it certainly has been a long time in coming, and seems a bit self serving to suddenly realize it now.
  3. Rumors of desecration of the Quran were already on the streets, therefore the rioting cannot be blamed on the Newsweek story.

    In order to accept this, you have to assume that the riots occurred spontaneously and independently of the Newsweek story, and that the timing was a coincidence.
    Leaving that aside for the moment, there's a key distinction that these folks elide when making this argument; an unconfirmed rumor is one thing, an announcement in the US mainstream press, attributed to a US government official, claiming to be from an official report, admitting that the rumors are true is another thing all together. Newsweek's Periscope piece was not just repeating the rumors, it said that the US government, in an offical document, was admitting that these acts took place.

    The difference is key. The Muslim extremists erupted not because there was another rumor, but because Newsweek was reporting that the rumors were confirmed. Oddly, everyone other then Newsweek and there as yet unnamed source have been able to find no corroboration of US forces desecrating the Quran, although they have documented desecration of the Quran by Gitmo detainees themselves, who have flushed pages as a protest.
    Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that military investigators had reviewed 25,000 pages of documents and found that more than one detainee stopped up a toilet with pages from the Quran as a protest Ė but discovered no evidence that U.S. interrogators had done such a thing.

    Now, if you squint really hard, you can pass off the timing as a coincidence, but you would have to pluck your eyes out entirely to ignore the timing, dismiss the nature of the story, and ignore statements like:
    It is not the anti-American sentiment, it is a protest over news of the desecration of the holy Quran.
    Afghanistan President Hamid Kharzai explaining the riots that killed 16 people

    Whenever your pet theory involves the deliberate exclusion of salient facts, you're certain to be wrong.
  4. It was all a plot by Karl Rove to discredit all media (one of my personal favorites, by the way.)
    There's nothing like a good conspiracy to really warm the liberal American heart. That damn Machiavellian Karl Rove must be an absolute genius! Like Lucy Van Pelt, he keeps teeing up the football, and like Charlie Brown, the MSM along with the rest of the American Left keeps falling flat on their collective rear ends.

    And this is their best defense? "We got outsmarted by Karl Rove. Again!"

    I don't know about you, but I'd be embarrassed to admit to being that stupid.

So there you have it. Wouldn't it make more sense for the left to do exactly what Newsweek is doing? They made a mistake; they've admitted it, albeit grudgingly, and now they're trying to move on.

What a concept, eh?

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, May 15, 2005

This is Why We Won’t Shut Up and Go Away

You know, there's been a long line of Old Media types who preach about the superiority of journalism to blogging.

"We fact check. We have editors. We report the news, not personal opinions. You know who we are and you can trust us. Bloggers could be anybody, some fruitcake living in their parent's basement, writing anything they want with no responsibility whatsoever. They're dangerous, a menace to true journalists."

Well, they got the last part right anyway; we are a threat to old journalism, but for exactly opposite reasons.

We DO fact check, not just pretend to. Jayson Blair wouldn't last 5 minutes as a blogger.
We edit each other. Mistakes are corrected within hours and with a prominence undreamed of by old media. When was the last time you saw a correction box on the front page of the New York Times?
We link to the facts, allowing our readers to go to the source and make up their own minds.
You really know us, not some managed media version of us. Anyone who reads this blog knows exactly what my views are, how I came by them, and how I justify them. And if they don't, they are free to leave a comment and ask and I will answer. Can you say the same for Brokaw or Jennings?

Newsweek ran a story a few days ago claiming that US interrogators at Gitmo desecrated copies of the Quran in an attempt to get information from the detainees there. Naturally, the Islamic world reacted strongly to this news, and there were riots, demands for retaliation, calls for Jihad, and at least 12 deaths.

Call me crazy, but last time I checked, there were no deaths directly attributable to a blog post.

Like other old school media debacles recently, this is another story that simple common sense calls into question. For example, just how does inflaming the passions of a captive by desecrating an object he holds as sacred lead him to co-operating with you? Wouldn't that actually make them less likely to co-operate?

Funny that the editors of Newsweek failed to catch this contradiction. Maybe they were too busy checking for spelling errors.

Now, Newsweek is issuing a retraction, sort of. Apparently their "credible source" now says he didn't read about it in an investigative report. In fact, he can't remember where he read that interrogators flushed copies of the Quran. Earlier, he was sure it came from a military report, now he can't quite remember. Maybe he read it one one of those damned blogs.

Anyway, Newsweek has apoligized for the error, which I'm sure comes as great confort for the families of the 12 dead people and everyone else who's lives are just a bit more dangerous that they were 5 days ago. Interestingly though, while Newsweek apologized for the error, they didn't quite retract it.

We're not saying it absolutely happened but we can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either.

Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker

Isn't that neat? They retract the story because their source no longer backs it up, but don't retract the essential facts.

"Hey, it still might have happened. We just don't know!"

This is journalism?

Does this remind anybody else of the CBS non-retraction retraction of the forged memos back during the campaign? Where's the high standards we keep getting lectured about? Where's the fact checking and the editors, the unbiased and accountable journalists? Speaking of accountability, Newsweek has already said that they will not discipline any staff members for the "error."

Now, exactly how is old school journalism better than bloggers again?

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Questions on Life and Death

As Terri Schiavo experiences the "euphoria" of starvation and dehydration (What a cheap high! Who knew? No need to shoot up heroin or smoke crack, just skip a few meals and ride that Magic Carpet!) those of us who are still allowed to live in this world ought to take a moment or two and discuss just exactly who decides who lives or dies, and what criteria, if any, should be used to make that decision.

First up on our dance card is the question, who gets to make the call? In the Schiavo case, the court made it pretty clear that, in the absence of contradicting evidence, like, say, a written, witnessed, and notarized document in triplicate saying "Please don't let my husband kill me," the spouse has the power of life and death over their partner.

Gives a whole new meaning to "Till death do us part!"

But what if there is no spouse? Who makes the call then? Well, if there's a Living Will that designates a Health Care Agent or Trustee, then all is well; we have somebody who will be responsible for making the tough calls. But what if like Terri, there is no Living Will, no Trustee? Who makes the call then?

Well in the absence of any close family or designated representative, our state courts are always happy to step in and take a keen interest in the well being of the terminally ill. Remember, these are the same state courts where the judge assigned to look out for Terri's best interests remarked how "irritating" it was that she wasn't dead yet. Kinda harsh, don't you think? But then again, this is a role a state agency can probably handle, since terminal patients are very rarely mobile, so the state can't lose them like they do foster children.

It would be embarrassing to lose a patient who was in a persistent vegetative state, don't you think?

OK, so we have those helpful folks from the government happy to help lookout for those who are unable to speak for themselves. Under what circumstance can the courts decide that the terminally ill should be allowed to starve to death?

Well, that's the tough question, isn't it? I mean, once you allocate to yourself the power of life and death, you really ought to exercise that power carefully and consistently right? There's shouldn't be anything capricious about the ability to end another human being's existence. It's a good thing our courts and judges are so dependable; they never make mistakes, or errors of judgment. And theyíre so even handed. A prisoner in prison facing life with no possibility of parole quite accurately determines his life is no longer worth living and goes on a hunger strike. A judge then orders that he be force fed, so he cannot die.

I guess we donít want him to die in prison until he dies in prison. (As a side note, isnít it funny how the some of the same folks who want to kill babies before theyíre born and kill the terminally ill before their time donít want to kill criminals who damn well deserve to die?)

Anyway, I think we can all agree that when a person has flat lined that their functional life is over, right? No brain activity means no person; seems simple enough. And the brain is the seat of identity; the precedent has already been set over on the other end of life, birth. A baby isn't a baby until the head is delivered; that's the law, so it follows that once the brain is broken, the person is gone. Anything left is simply biochemical reflexes. Shut 'em down and let's go get in a quick 18 holes before dinner.

But what about cases where the patient hasn't flat lined? Say, the autonomic system is still functioning; the lungs breathe, the heart beats, the colon produces fecal matter, and the endocrine system continues to regulate bodily functions. The central nervous system may be closed for business, but the body is still ready to go. Do we condemn the unfortunate patient to a long life of torture, or do we, mercifully, kindly, and with great compassion, starve them to death?

I know it's a tough call, but when you decide to play God, that goes with the territory.

Fortunately, this call too has already been made, as we've seen recently. The body may be strong, but if the mind is gone, save a couple of kilowatts by pulling the plug. It's the compassionate, environmentally friendly thing to do.

But is it really? Despite the press reports of how wonderful dehydration and starvation really are, most of us are a bit squeamish when it comes to something resembling torture. Come to think of it, maybe that's the technique they should have used in Abu Ghraib. Don't take embarrassing pictures, just let the prisoners starve for a week or two. They'll be so euphoric, I'm sure they'd be happy to tell the interrogator everything he wanted to know. And since we all now know just how pleasant it is to starve, nobody could complain that we were being cruel!

But really, Americans are just too squeamish when it comes to killing. It's odd when you think about it; after all, all we hear about is how violent we are. Yet we're unable to recognize that when a life is no longer worth living, the merciful thing to do is end it quickly and painlessly. And if starvation were so euphoric, why would the hospice need to administer morphine to Terri? So, what we need to do next is stop shilly shallying around with this whole starvation thing and just give the poor patient a lethal injection. If we're gonna kill'em, do it quickly and efficiently; we could use the bed space.

Now comes the really fun part boys and girls. We've decided that a partial loss of brain function is worth a death sentence; just how partial do we want to go? Now, I don't want to fall afoul of Godwin's Law here, but there was a group of folks in Europe who did some work along these lines and again, while we can all agree that their solution was a trifle extreme, at least they made an effort to address the problem. So using their solution as an upper boundary, how low shall we go?

For myself, I wouldn't be happy living with, say, half the intelligence I have right now. And since I'm smarter than the average bear, let's bump that up to less than 60% for the average joe. So in my opinion, a 40% reduction in brain function might be grounds for a court order for euthanasia.

Look, I know it's difficult to pin a hard number on something like this, but the only alternative is to rule individually on each case, and that's just not the way the law works. We set precedents and the next judge follows them. That's why a judge has stacks of books in his office and a legal research team; because a case decided in 1947 about a boy and his horse knocking down an old lady on her way to the bingo parlor has a distinct bearing on whether or not a woman today lives or dies.

It's all about precedents, and how they are set. Just think about it; if each judge decided a case like this independent of other judges, you'd have little Mikie Schiavo wannabees moving from state to state searching for a judge who accepts the least amount of brain damage before ordering euthanasia. Heck, I could name some judges who would consider the act of voting Republican alone as definitive evidence of the need for a mercy killing.

Now I know what you're all thinking:

"Rich, this all sounds great, and I'm glad we're having this discussion, but you know it'll never happen. Those poor helpless people will have families who'll get lawyers and governor's and Presidents to step in and defend their rights. After all, this is America; we defend the weak and the voiceless, right?"

Yeah, that's what the Schindlers thought too.

See, here's the bottom line when it comes to politics and politicians; unless they happen to be registered Democrats residing in Cook County, Illinois, the dead/brain dead don't vote. Very few politicians are going to stake their political careers on helping a non-voter. To further insure the lack of political interference, any pol who tries to derail the euthanasia express is going to be tarred with the ďAmerican TalibanĒ brush, rendering him ineffectual as he tries to salvage his political career. But the most important reason is simply this; the majority of Americans agree with this. They think it is perfectly fine for a judge to say that this personís life is not worth living, therefore they must die. So like I said when I started this piece, all thatís left now is to work out the details. Or as the old joke goes, ďWeíve already settled what you are; now weíre just negotiating a price.Ē

No my friends, in this case, the lid has already been lifted and the only thing left inside this Pandoraís box is a nasty dose of the clap.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, March 25, 2005

Terri Schiavo:  Why do I Care?

UPDATE 3/28 After I wrote the post below, I found this article written by a young man with cerebral palsy who was almost euthanized as an infant. My fears are not far fetched or for the future; they're real and they're happening right now.

When I talk about this whole mess, that's one of the more common responses I get.

"Rich, why do you care so much? Why are you so emotionally involved with somebody you've never met?"

Now I could lie and say this is all about the principles involved, that life should be favored over death whenever there's doubt, that the state should not be involved in determining who lives and dies, but all of that, while intellectually compelling, is not the whole story.

I have some personal experience.

In the early 1940's a baby girl was born. The labor was very difficult, and eventually, the doctor had to use forceps to assist in the delivery. She stayed with her mother in the hospital for a few days, as was the practice back then before accountants and lawyers took over the practice of medicine, then went home.

She appeared to be a normal baby, crankier than most, but it wasn't too long before her family realized that all was not well. She was their second child, and she wasn't progressing lke her older sister did before her. As her parents concerns grew, they took her back to the doctor for tests and exams to find out just what was wrong.

The diagnosis was severe spastic cerebral palsy, a virtual death sentence at the time. They were told that children with CP invariably were also mentally retarded, and had a very short life expectancy. They were told that she would take 24 hour a day care, would likely never be able to care for herself, walk, or even talk. They were told that their best course of action was to put her into an institution and forget they ever had her.

Now they were a wealthy family, and they went to the best doctors and specialists money could buy, but the advice was generally the same, albeit delivered less brutally.

"Put her away, and forget you ever had her."

And at the time, everything they said was true. Babies with CP were routinely institutionalized, and did have a short life span, and did show signs of mental retardation. Of course, we know today that many of those symptoms were caused by the institutionalization, and not the CP.

The family rejected the prevailing medical opinion, and brought their baby girl back home. There were very few physical therapists dealing with CP cases like the little girl's so her mother invented exercises for her, like constantly chewing gum to strengthen her jaws and teach her coordination. Her mother constantly urged her on towards independence, accepting nothing less than her daughter's very best efforts. Her baby may have been born handicapped, but nobody was ever going to call her a cripple.

It was a long hard road, filled with setbacks and crises, and hospitalizations as the family fought to keep their little girl alive. There are many today who with a similar prognosis would say to let the child die, let her suffering end. Her quality of life will always be too low; she'll never be happy.

The little girl grew up and quickly demonstrated that prognosis was wildly inaccurate. She learned to talk and to walk, and to be a contributing part of the household. She did chores, went to school, and pretty much did everything other girls her age did, although slower, and with tremendous difficulty. There were no signs of retardation, or any other mental defect of any kind.

Her mother died of cancer when the girl was in her 20's, but her daughter had already learned to be fiercely independent. She moved away from home across the state, to live her own life. She made adjustments and accommodations as needed to make it work, but she did make it work.

And the prediction of a short life span? Also wrong. She's still going strong, in her 60's and still living on her own, although she does need some assistance now as she's gotten older and complications from the CP have begun to creep up on her, but she is still as feisty and stubborn as always.

The girl I talking about is my aunt, and it's because my grandmother utterly rejected the advice of the medical establishment that she lived to baby-sit my brother. sister and I as we grew up. Doctors, particularly when they're being influenced by lawyers and accountants aren't always right.


Last year, my father died.

He died from kidney and liver failure brought on by advanced cirrhosis caused by hard living and hemochromatosis.

I sat with him in the hospital on his last day. He was doped up on Ativan and barely aware of who was there, but he woke up enough to know when I spoke to him, even though he could barely speak back. His skin was yellow with jaundice as he lay there in the hospital bed, his mouth wide open. The doctor was wanting to take a scan of his abdomen, so the nurses wanted him to drink some contrasting fluid. He wasn't really awake enough to drink, so my mom and I had to keep trying to wake him up and get him to sip at the cup, but he was so far out of it he would start choking.

I don't know how aware he was of what was going on around him; the Ativan had him pretty out of it, but you could get him to respond if you spoke loudly and slowly. I'll never know if he was really out of it, or fully aware, but unable to speak, and that question will haunt me for the rest of my life.

There was no dignity in his final hours; he was completely incontinent, so the nurses had to catheterize him. He still messed the bed, so they had to come in and clean him up hourly. My mom and I would help them roll him over so they could change the sheets, or help clean him up while they got a new gown or diaper.

As the day passed and we sat there with him, he kept trying to get out of bed, to go to the bathroom on his own. We would tell him that he had a catheter in, but he'd try to get up anyway. He wouldn't say anything, and I'll never know if he heard us, or knew what was going on, but I would have to take his feet and put them back into the bed as he tried to climb out.

The doctors gave us conflicting information. The attending said he was improving; that we didn't need to worry. But Dad's internist told a completely different story. Even if Dad pulled through this crisis, it was a matter of months at most before he would be gone.

Dad didn't pull through. I went home about 9PM, and got a call from the hospital a few hours later. It was Mom, and she told me to get there soon. She said he was having a crisis and that the doctor's wanted to know if she wanted to put him on life support or not. Dad had a living will that specified that he didn't want heroic measures taken if he was terminal, but since there was some disagreement between the doctors about how terminal would be defined, they went to my mother for clarification.

Mom asked me what I thought she should do.

I sat and thought for at least a couple of hours or so; at least it felt that way although in truth it was only a few seconds.

"We know what he would have wanted," I said. "He wrote it down."

I heard the doubt and the tension leave her voice as she said I was right, we did know. I hung up the phone, took a quick shower, and left the house but by the time I got to the hospital, it was all over.

In a way, I had just helped kill my father.

Except he had a living will. He left clear instructions on what he wanted done in just this kind of situation. Without that piece of paper, would I have had the strength to make the same call, even if he had told us that was what he wanted? And if I did have the strength, would I have been able to handle the guilt involved with allowing my father to die?

I don't know.

I do know that the existence of that piece of paper lets me go back to sleep at night when I wake up staring at the ceiling, wondering of I gave the right answer to my mom on that early morning last year.


So why do I care so much about a woman I never met, and will never know? Because I do know her. Sheís my aunt, written off by the doctors and the lawyers struggling to survive despite their pessimism. Sheís my dad, trapped inside a body that has failed her, unable to speak for herself, and without that precious piece of paper telling us what she wanted to happen. We have the word of her husband, but because of his actions and statements, his word is suspect, and cannot be relied on.

So that leaves us with a terrible choice, and no clear guidance other than our consciences. And my conscience tells me that if a person has left clear instructions that they do not wish to live under certain conditions, then those instructions must be honored. If they havenít left those clear instructions, then it is our duty as a society, as a nation, as courts and hospitals and doctors and caregivers, to favor life over death.

Itís the only right answer.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, March 21, 2005

To Live or Die

In America, to execute a criminal by lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment, but to allow a brain damaged woman to starve to death is merciful.

Can somebody explain that so it makes any kind of sense?

Let's start simply, and then work our way to the more complex issues, shall we?

First, Terri Schiavo did not have a living will, or a health trust, or any form of legal documentation stating her wishes should she become incapacitated. Whatever caused her to collapse took her completely by surprise and totally unprepared. If nothing else, that should be a lesson to all of us to prepare a living will. I'll go public right here and now and state that, should I become incapacited, I name Cary Harwood Hailey as trustee for my healthcare. In the event she is unable to serve, I name Marian Hailey Phillips as first alternate, and George Edward Hailey Jr. as second alternate. If I am brain dead, or in a persistent vegetative state, I order all life supporting equipment to be removed, turned off, or disabled, and that I be allowed to die painlessly, with some small shred of dignity.

Terri's husband, Mike Schiavo has stated that Terri would not have wanted to be kept alive on life support, and that she told him so. Terri's parents say the opposite. With no documentation, we are left to balance the competing claims, an impossibly difficult task. That being the case, doesn't basic prudence and decency demand that we side with supporting a life rather than snuffing one out?

And let's be honest about this for a minute; removing Terri's feeding tube is not "allowing her to die." It's killing her. We are taking an action that we know with 100% certainty will result in her death. She dies through our action. That's killing, folks, plain and simple. If we are going to kill somebody, shouldn't we be certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that that's what they would have wanted? Can anybody in this case state with that degree of certainty that this is what Terri would want?

If not, we have to side with life.

So why is the other side pushing so hard to kill her?

For Judge George Greer and attorney George Felos, this isn't about Terri's wishes, or what's best for her; it's about creating euthanasia law. George Felos first came to prominance in the Browning case, where a Florida woman was being kept alive on life support despite having a living will. Before that case was settled, the woman died of natural causes, but shortly thereafter, the Florida Supeme Court ruled that witholding feeding from people with living wills was legal.

So Felos got what he wanted, right?

Nope, with the Schiavo case, he's moving another step forward. Now he's pressing for the right to withhold life giving care, even food and water, in the absence of a living will, based on the unsupported, unsubstantiated claim of a relative, even when that claim is disputed by other members of the immediate family.

Now if that thought doesn't scare the crap out of you, you haven't really thought about it. What if you believe that suicide is a mortal sin, and that requesting to be taken off life support is suicide? And suppose your closest family member does not believe as you do, and decides that your suffering should not be prolonged.

Should they have the power(note carefully I did not say the "right") to go against your wishes and have your life support turned off? Accoding to Felos, they should, and that's just wrong.

The next case, and this is a prediction, but I'll bet money on it, that Felos takes will be that of a person in a PVS without a close relative or advocate. Having won the power of life and death for a family member, he will next try to give that same power to a court appointed guardian who may not even be related to the patient. Is there anyone reading this who feels comfortable with the idea of a bureaucrat deciding whether you should live or die? Hell, I don't even trust them with my paycheck!

But you know, this picture gets even murkier when you get more details. Little things like the fact that Gearge Felos was a long time member of the board of directors at the very hospise the Terri's is housed in. That means that the doctors who have certified her medical condition for the courts work for, or used to work for, the man who is advocating her death. This also begs the question of why a Terri is being kept in a hospice, a facility designed to help terminal patients die with some peace and dignity? She's not terminal; she's severely disabled. The hospice clearly does not have the facilities to give her the treatment she needs. It's a place to die, not a place to recover.

Maybe I'm just overly suspicious; maybe she's still getting good care and treatment despite the limitations of the hospice envoronment.

Here are a few facts.

Terri has never has an MRI or PET scan, two standard diagnostic tools used to determine the amount and severity of brain damage. Why would such an obvious tool be withheld? Mike Schiavo has refused permission.

Terri's basic grooming and health needs are being neglected. Her body is being allowed to slowly decay away, almost as if somebody believes that the worse off she is, the easier it will be to convince a court to kill her.

Her husband has refused to allow any therapy, or any attempts to see if she can learn to eat without the feeding tubes. He has limited access to her parents, to outside doctors, basically to anyone who might possibly hinder his wish to end his wife's life.

Her husband has refused to spend funds awarded and earmarked for her treatment on treatment, instead paying Felos over $200,000 trying to withhold treatment.

Her husband has refused to divorce Terri, allowing her parents to assume the financial burdern for her care and treatment, as they have requested time and time again, even though he is now in a new relationship, with children.

And in all of this, he has the complete cooperation of Judge Greer who is on record as calling Terri's continued existence, "irritating."

God forbid I ever irritate a judge!

In short, the actions of Mike Schiavo, Judge Greer, and George Felos make it very clear that none of them care about what is best for Terri; only what is best for themsleves. George Felos wants to extend the right of the state to decide when people should die. Judge Greeer wants to make a name for himself by creating new law. And Mike Schiavo just wants Terri to die.

And caught in all of this is a woman who will now be allowed to die of hunger and thirst, painfully and slowly.

It's an abomination.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Reflections on an Artificial Holiday

Today is Valentine's Day, and you know what that means.

Absolutely nothing.

Yeah, I'm a little bitter. See, I just broke up with my girlfriend of 6 months and I'm a little bummed out about it. I'd feel even worse, but I guess when you get technical, she wasn't really my girlfriend; we were just "going out." And when I say "going out," I mean "going out" like my daughter used to "go out" with boys in 6th grade. We never actually went out anywhere; we just had an understanding that we were an "item."

OK, maybe "item" is too strong a word, but we were planning on going out sometime in the near future. We had plans to go out a time or twelve, but something always seemed to come up at the last minute to postpone our date. She had to work late; her car broke down; her son's pet iguana was sick and needed to be watched, you know, important things. I mean, you just can't ask a woman to leave her son at home with a sick lizard, right? Besides, I figured she was simply being coy, in keeping with the long standing Southern tradition that says the gentleman must pursue, while the lady must not allow herself to be caught too easily lest her virtue be questioned.

Although the truth be told, I'm all for questionable virtue.

So I was prepared for a little give and take, a little phone tag here and there, but that restraining order she filed last week really made me think that she wasn't serious about our relationship.

So I broke up with her.

So now it's Valentine's Day and I'm once again available. Any takers?

OK, to tell the truth, the story above is completely and totally untrue. I've never had a restraining order taken out on me that I know of, nor did I just break up with anyone since I haven't had a real relationship since the separation and divorce (and probably for a year or so before that). I just figured out that a made up holiday like Valentine's Day deserved a made up story.

The idea that we need a special day to celebrate love has always struck me as cynical and odd, but maybe that's just me; I've never enjoyed Valentine's Day. When I was in love, I didn't need a day to remind me how wonderful it was. And when I was single, I really didn't need a day to remind me how wonderful it was. And when I tell you that the latter has far outweighed the former, you may begin to understand why I'm not exactly enamored with the day.

Probably the worst was exchanging Valentine's cards in grade school. I was the weird kid in school (Some things never change, do they?) so I was used to being ignored on Feb 14th. Oh, I'd get a sackful of cards, but that was because the nuns had a policy that if you were going to give a Valentine to one kid, you had to give one to everyone. My sack would fill with the cards you could buy at K-Mart; 300 for $1.98. They didn't even have envelopes, just two lines on the back saying To: and From: The way to tell if somebody really liked you was to see if they filled out the To: line. If you got a card with the To: line filled out, that meant that the little girl liked you, or that she had a very organized mother.

I got cards where the To: line had been erased, scribbled over, whited out, or, in one rather memorable occasion, cut out completely.

With that kind of beginning, you'll understand if I don't wax rhapsodical about the wonders of February 14th. When you look at it realistically, it's a cold day in the middle of winter with absolutely nothing to recommend it, other than the fact that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition will be coming out shortly, and the Daytona 500 is less than a week away.

Let's take a stroll through history and see how this festival of love got it's start, shall we?

There are several possible contenders for the role of Saint Valentine, all of which have two things in common: their name, and the fact that they died badly. Catholic tradition knows of 3 Valentines in the Roman days, all of whom were beheaded.

Talk about losing your head for love...

To add insult to injury, the Catholic Church no longer lists Saint Valentine's Day as an official church holiday.

There was also the Roman custom of Lupercalia which was celebrated in mid February. In that ceremony, the young women of the village would be forced to put their names into a lottery, and the men would draw out the name of the girl who would be his sexual partner for the next year.

Think about that the next time you're opening a Valentine from an admirer.

And finally, people in the Middle Ages believed that birds picked their mates for the year in the middle of February, so they figured thay might as well do so as well.

Bird brains, beheadings, and sexual slavery; I can see why this holiday is celebrated so widely!

Come on, folks, do we really need a day to remind us to celebrate something as important as love? I hear all the time about how "Life is precious and we nust cherish and protect it" and that's a load of garbage. Life is cheap and ubiquitous; it's everywhere. Ma Nature set off on of the largest explosion known to man (including nuclear bombs) on Mount St. Helens. The slopes of St. Helens were buried in hundreds of feet of searing ash and mud, killing everything in it's path. The devastation and destruction of life was total.

There were flowers growing on those slopes in less than a year.

Life isn't precious by itself; love makes it that way.

If you want a day to celebrate love, next Tuesday or a week from Friday works just as well as today. Even better in fact, because it will come from the heart, and not the calendar. I look at Valentine's Day like my father looked at New Year's Eve: it's for amateurs.

That's what I think anyway, but I'm single, so what do I know.

The pun is intended by the way. The fact that the pun is in a dead language simply confirms my earlier observation that some things never change. Sigh. If you didn't notice the pun, don't feel bad. That just means you're not a geek.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, October 08, 2004

The Slippery Slope in Action

A while back, I explored the issues involving government intervention in parents' rights to determine proper medical care for their children. We started off debating the case of Jessica Crank, who died from a massive tumor. The tumor could have been removed, but her mother refused the surgery, based on religious grounds. There was a major flap over this, and most folks sided against the mother, and wanted her prosecuted.

Then came a case in Michigan, where a girls parent's opted for alternative medicine over traditional surgery because the doctors told them that there were serious risks and a very good chance their daughter wouldn't survive the surgery, or would have very severe complications. The hospital sued to force the parents to allow the surgery. Once again, I spoke against this invasion of parental rights, and warned that we were progressing in a very dangerous direction. I was told I was too "black and white" and that there were "shades of gray" that most reasonable people would recognize.

The issue just got a lot blacker.

In England, the courts have ruled that doctors can allow a baby to die, despite the objections of the child's parents.

Doctors have been permission not to resuscitate baby Charlotte Wyatt the next time her condition seriously deteriorates.

A high court judge has ruled in favour of doctors at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS trust who wanted the power to refuse life-saving treatment to 11-month-old Charlotte.

Her parents, who have decided not to appeal against the ruling, had wanted the doctors to resuscitate their daughter in the hope a miracle that would allow to her to grow and eventually be able to leave the hospital.

The judge, Mr Justice Hedley, said the case revolved around when Charlotte should be allowed to die rather than if she should. He said she should have a pain-free death in the arms of those who love her, and not be kept alive artificially.

Doctors will now resuscitate Charlotte long enough to ensure her parents, Debbie and Darren Wyatt, can be with her as she dies.

See how the bar has moved? Before, it was about not allowing parents to refuse treatment for their children, then about not allowing parents to choose which treatment is most appropriate for their child. Now, it's about not refusing treatment of any kind despite the parents wishes.

What is even worse is that England has government run socialized medicine; in essence, the government, not the parents is determining whether a child's quality of life is worth preserving.

That scares the hell out of me, and is probably the best argument to be made against socialized medecine. Unless you want a gov't functionary to determine whether your baby lives or dies.

Not so damn gray anymore, is it?

It gets worse. The doctors don't want to ventilate her because of the additional pain and suffering, yet they agree to ventilate her until her parents can get to the hospital to say goodbye. Why do I feel like Monty Python wrote this particular bit? We won't hurt her to keep her alive, but we will do it to let her die with her parents.

What the hell?

Finally, there's this from Mary Riddell, published prior to the decision:
Last month's Panorama programme, based on a tracking study, showed disturbing outcomes for babies born before 26 weeks. Of the 1,200 infants delivered alive in the UK and Ireland between March and December 1995, 314 survived to go home. Of those, 40 per cent had moderate to severe problems with cognitive development at six years of age.

That leaves out of account the 60 per cent of survivors who are effectively perfect, and the parents who would have made no other choice, however disabled their child. But it also crushes the myth of marvels. Modern medicine can keep babies alive at increasingly young ages, but it cannot guarantee their health. This imbalance has been glossed over for too long by a society primed to think that death is always the worst result.

I'm assuming she meant that of 1200 preemies, 314 made it out of the hospital, with 40% showing moderate to severe cognitive disabilities. Her point seems to be that since medicine cannot guarantee a favorable outcome, we should be more accepting of the idea that maybe they shouldn't really try so hard all the time. I'm sure the parents of the 60% would disagree, as would many of the 40%.

Nobody has more invested in the survival of their child than the parents; nobody cares more about the best interests of that child than the parents. For the state to step in and say, "No, your child must die" is simply wrong, regardless of the circumstances.

OK, now that this step on the slippery slope has been taken, what will be the next one? It's fairly easy to predict, actually. If quality of life is the arbiter of survival for infants, there's nothing to say that it can't do the same for cognitively disable adults. I'm guessing that the next fight will be similar to the Schiavo case, except with the sides reversed. The family will be fighting to keep the victim alive, but the doctors, or just as likely, the insurance company, will sue to remove a feeding tube, or stop a ventilator.

Anyone want to bet what the verdict would be?

Posted by Rich
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