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March 22, 2005

Misanthropy at the grimy end of winter
Posted by Teresa at 10:44 AM * 239 comments

I normally try to avoid cynicism, on the grounds that it’s bad mental hygiene. Think of this as my early spring cleaning.


Jeff Weise, a 17-year-old student at Red Lake High School in Minnesota, armed himself with two handguns plus a shotgun and went on a rampage, killing ten people and injuring fourteen others. You could say it was a copycat crime:
Reggie Graves, a student at Red Lake High School, said he was watching a movie about Shakespeare in class Monday when he heard the gunman blast his way past the metal detector at the school’s entrance, killing a guard. Then, in a nearby classroom, he heard the gunman say something to his friend Ryan: “He asked Ryan if he believed in God,” Graves said. “And then he shot him.”
Thing is, Jeff Weise wasn’t imitating the actual Columbine shooters. He was imitating a pious urban legend (what back home we used to call a faith-promoting rumor) that sprang up in the wake of the Columbine shootings: that shooter Dylan Klebold asked Cassie Bernall whether she believed in God, and shot her when she said she did.

This story, in many variant versions, spread as fast as the internet would carry it. Cassie Bernall—a cute blonde who had a classic conversion-narrative history of turning to religion after dabbling in bush-league wickedness—was hailed as a martyr, and her story has since been repeatedly invoked to push the usual religious agendas. It’s been especially useful for WASP Chinos who want to think of themselves as being cruelly persecuted for their faith, but who are inconveniently short on evidence that this has ever happened.

Trouble is, the Cassie Bernall incident didn’t happen anything like the stories describe it, and the shooters weren’t targeting Christians. As has gradually become clear, the media coverage of Columbine was notably bad, and the Cassie Bernall story was the single most egregious example of slovenly journalism in the whole mess.

My favorite take on the Cassie Bernall legend can be found at Gadgets for God:
“Yes, I Believe” Hat

Whether 17-year-old Cassie Bernall actually did say “Yes, I believe” (or words to that effect) before she was so cruelly murdered by Dylan Klebold in April 1999 is the subject of heated debate. Whatever the case, it hasn’t stopped the merchandisers from turning the tragedy at Columbine High School to their advantage.

Now you can sport “Yes I believe” bracelets, chokers, dogtags, keyrings, and this navy bill/khaki crown hat for $17.99 — available from How long before this overtakes WWJD products… if it hasn’t done so already?
I’m sure Jeff Weise’s behavior will be trotted out as further proof that Christians are coming in for persecution. If I’m right, that claim will be purest codswallop. What this tragic incident really teaches us is that kids who are exposed to non-reality-based right-wing Christian propaganda may subsequently commit horrid acts of violence.

There is one striking point of similarity between the Columbine and Red Lake shootings: in both cases, the students were reading Shakespeare when the firing broke out. It’ll be interesting to see whether school districts across the country propose a ban on Shakespeare, the way they tried to ban black clothing in the wake of Columbine.


Terri Schiavo. Everybody knows the story. It’s very sad. She had a stroke and heart attack that cut off oxygen to her brain for too many minutes, and since then has been in a vegetative state. Lack of oxygen will do that. Recovery is impossible. Her cerebral cortex is gone, and no amount of denial is going to bring it back. Her brainstem keeps her breathing and allows her undead body to make random and reflexive movements, but Terri Schiavo herself has left the building. Whatever’s occupying her hospital bed deserves a better death.

Bush and the Republican Congress’s attempt to hijack the judicial proceedings, in defiance of basic Constitutional principles, was pure grandstanding. Thsee same guys who’re enthusiastic about the death penalty, nonchalant about military and civilian deaths in Iraq, and perfectly ready to cut funding for everything from prenatal care to basic public health and safety infrastructure, invoked an extrajudicial, extraconstitutional “culture of life” to justify their media coverage-oriented meddling in the Schiavo case.

You want to see the depth of their spiritual convictions? Here goes:
GOP memo says issue offers political rewards

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders believe their attention to the Terri Schiavo issue could pay dividends with Christian conservatives whose support they covet in the 2006 midterm elections, according to a GOP memo intended to be seen only by senators.

The one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, called the debate over Schiavo legislation “a great political issue” that would appeal to the party’s base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is up for re-election next year.

“This is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue,” said the memo, reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. “This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.”
If you’re a pro-lifer, please realize that these people have no respect for you or your beliefs. To them, you’re just a button to be pushed.

Back in his Texas days, Bush happily signed legislation that made it easier for hospitals to pull the tubes on unresponsive patients, even ones whose known wishes ran contrary to it, whose families were opposed to it, and who might conceivably have had a better-than-zero chance of recovery.

What made the difference? That legislation back then was about money. This legislation now is about votes. None of it has anything to do with moral beliefs. Throwing the Schiavo case into the federal courts was a bleak and conscienceless piece of hypocrisy, undertaken at the expense of a family that has already seen far too much suffering.


Consider the manly political action figures sold by There’s considerable subtext present. Nowhere else will you see such a super-buff Rudy Giuliani or Tony Blair, or such a suggestively receptive Howard Dean. Herobuilders also offers several attractive George W. Bush models. They must be popular with the clientele. I must admit that for some reason I’m squicked by their figure of George tearing off his shirt. It’s so not my kink.

I nevertheless find all this slightly cheering. Normally, when I contemplate the relationship between (on the one hand) Republican voters, and (on the other hand) the thugs, pirates, hypocrites, Pharisees, and bunco-steerers in the Republican leadership, I fall into blank incomprehension and despair: how can they vote for those people?

But conceiving an unreciprocated and perhaps inappropriate sexual fixation on (mostly) right-wing political figures? That’s okay. I may not be able to imagine doing it myself, but I know it for the sort of thing human beings do.

It’s a start.

Comments on Misanthropy at the grimy end of winter:
#1 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 05:11 PM:

We can accuse President Bush of many things, but the legislation he signed as governor actually made a fair amount of sense. See
for an analysis.

(So that's his invocation of Taft-Hartley in 2002... the Texan legislation... Nope, still only need one hand to count the things he's ever done that I've approved of.)

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 05:18 PM:

Hi, Stephan. My point wasn't that that legislation was sensible; it was that signing it was inconsistent with his position on the Schiavo case.

#3 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 05:22 PM:

Oh, that. Sorry. I don't even notice the current adminstration being merely hypocritical any more; otherwise, my outrage center would have fried to a crisp the day we invaded Iraq.

#4 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 05:47 PM:

On Schiavo, do consider this doctor's analysis.

Also, if you read a bit down in the Lean Left posting that Mr. Zielinski cited, I believe it indicates that the charge of hypocrisy is mistaken:

The reason National Right to Life got involved in drafting the Texas law was simple enough: it was obvious that some solution to futile cases had to be found, so they participated in order to make the law as lenient as possible. The 10-day rule was one of the compromises they struck (though in fact facilities had routinely been caring for patients much longer than that while trying to come to arrangements with the families). This is a solution that is necessary - one that even rabid pro-lifers have agreed to, and one that is becoming common across the country. Hospitals simply must have a mechanism to cut off care for hopeless cases - not ďseverely illĒ or ďterminal", but literally hopeless cases, patients who cannot improve - when those cases are tying up scarce resources or costing the hospital large amounts of its own money. (Arguably, you ought to cut off care in all futile cases just as a matter of principle, but there is little harm in indulging unrealistic family members as long as they are not overriding the patientís own wishes and as long as they can pay for their indulgences themselves. When they make demands on other peopleís resources or interests, a line must be drawn.)

So if I understand correctly, Bush and pro-lifers agreed that when a patient has no chance of recovery, the hospital shouldn't be required to provide free care forever. But that obviously says nothing about the Schiavo case, where her parents (if I recall correctly) are willing to subsidize her care.

#5 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 06:09 PM:

So if I understand correctly, Bush and pro-lifers agreed that when a patient has no chance of recovery, the hospital shouldn't be required to provide free care forever. But that obviously says nothing about the Schiavo case, where her parents (if I recall correctly) are willing to subsidize her care.

What... what... what? You mean, appeals to the person's wishes, dignity, standards of acceptable life don't count and you HAVE to be kept alive... but if you ain't got the money it's ok to pull the plug?

No, this is not hypocritical. This is... this is worse.

#6 ::: shawn scarber ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 06:10 PM:

In regards to Terri Schiavo: I donít know why you think theyíre doing this to win political favor. They have a vested interest in securing life for people without the use of higher brain functions. Itís called self-preservation.

#7 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 06:21 PM:

Apropos of virtually nothing, happy birthday.

#8 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 06:23 PM:

The extra special fun part of Bush's having signed that law in Texas is that it has apparently recently led to a black baby in that state having HIS feeding tube pulled--against the express wishes of the mother.

Joy, oh glee.

#9 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 06:27 PM:

What gets me about the Terri Schiavo kerfluffle is that if she were poor or dark skinned, Bush (either President Kill Again or Gov Jeb) would be walking down to the hospital to pull the plug themselves. What truely flips me out though, is that there are just enough Republican zombies out there dumb enough to fall for this sloppy, transparent ploy.

#10 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 06:50 PM:

It gives hypocrites a bad name.

#11 ::: Sarah G. ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 07:28 PM:

The Terri Schiavo case depresses the hell out of me. It has special resonance for my family, as we just had a discussion about a feeding tube for my grandmother with Alzheimer's and internal bleeding that put her in the hospital. She's immobile, responsive but rarely coherent and is not often awake anymore. My grandfather made the decision to put the feeding tube in because he couldn't bear the idea of having his wife of 60 years starve to death. I have distinct empathy for the Schiavos and the Schindlers. These are not situations where anyone wins.

There's a shred of silver lining in that this case and my grandmother's case has prompted my family to have discussions about our wishes in case anything similar should happen to any of us. Morbid as it may feel, I'm really glad we did.

#12 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 07:32 PM:

And speaking of hypochristians and things that make you go misanthropic...

The Australian government has been widely condemned by human rights advocates for its longstanding habit of incarcerating immigrants in concentration camps in the desert. Now they're adding insult to injury by offering to expedite the release of Muslim immigrants who convert to Christianity.

See the Sydney Morning Herald's report (registration required, see Bugmenot as usual):

"Thirty of Australia's longest-term immigration detainees are having their cases reviewed and could be freed because they have converted to Christianity since arriving. The Federal Government has made the move quietly as it searches for a face-saving way to soften its policy on failed asylum seekers who have been in custody for more than three years, and cannot be repatriated to their countries of origin. It follows strong lobbying efforts by several Government backbenchers, churches and the powerful Family First party for the Government to relax its refugee policy for Christian converts."

Why, no, of course the West isn't engaged in anything remotely resembling a new Crusade against Islam. Whatever could have given you that idea?

#13 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 07:35 PM:

This seems to me like one of those ticking time-bomb hypotheticals, just in reverse, for euthanasia. That, and the hypothetical has passed into reality, an ethicist's dream.

If a woman is persistently vegetative, and expressed a prior wish to die if ever in this status, and will die slowly when her loving husband ends her nutrition to respond to her wish, and it's all legal, shouldn't we use physician-assisted suicide as an act of mercy to ease the amount of her suffering before dying?

I'm curious about whether assisted suicide has been considered for Terry; it's probably illegal in Florida.

I guess I sound a little like an armchair philosopher; I'm just trying to come to grips with the thing.

#14 ::: Fred Ramsey ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 08:04 PM:

The horror of the Schiavo case highlights the need for everyone to discuss their health care choices, choose a decision-maker, and prepare an advance directive. Please, please, if you have not already done so, do so as soon as possible. I would not like to personally know the next family 'Roach Farm' DeLay and his Merry Band decide to save.

This website has forms for most states:

#15 ::: S Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 08:07 PM:

I'm finding those "kung fu grip" hands on the Giuliani doll disturbing on any number of levels.

#16 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 09:32 PM:

Dan - No problem here with your armchair philosophizing. It's a decision that most likely all of us will have to go through at some time in our lives (and some of us will have others go through the decision on our behalf). Seems wise to me to rehearse it in the friendly light of day, when it's all hypothetical and therefore the stakes are low.

However, you're wrong in your facts with regard to the Schiavo case: What's being discussed here isn't physician-assisted suicide, it's withholding treatment. Introducing feeding and hydration tubes are intrusive medical procedures; when we contemplated it for my mother, we were told it involved an incision in the stomach. (Well, maybe not an actual incision, but breaking the skin and passing an object through it.)

The difference between withholding treatment and euthanasia is a bright, shining line, even if it appears subtle when we are first introduced to the idea. I think that even religions with strict prohibitions against suicide — such as Catholicism — permit withholding treatment from hopeless cases, and also permit people with terminal illnesses to refuse treatment.

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 09:34 PM:

Shall we look at core values?

President Bushís budget calls for a $60 billion reduction in funding for Medicaid over 10 years, a cut, which would worsen the burden that cash strapped states like Alabama are already experiencing. The budget also slashes spending for community development block grants; housing programs for the disabled; low-income heating assistance; and local police forces. The president proposes eliminating altogether the HOPE VI housing program; the rural housing and economic development program; and various education programs for at-risk children. In the case of HOPE VI, the president would retroactively cancel last yearís congressional allocation for the program. The budget would even tighten eligibility for food stamps at a time when the poverty rate is rising by making poor Americans ineligible for the stamps if they receive other forms of assistance unrelated to their nutritional needs.

I dunno how it plays in the big cities, but around here the low-income heating assistance and rural housing and economic development programs are real popular.

And did you like the thing with the food stamps? What was that about feeding tubes, George?

#18 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 09:36 PM:

Speaking of "an unreciprocated and perhaps inappropriate sexual fixation on (mostly) right-wing political figures", there's Susie Bright's little piece on her fixation with Dan Quayle:

(warning: humor and explicit if unlikely sex...)

#19 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 09:39 PM:

So if I understand correctly, Bush and pro-lifers agreed that when a patient has no chance of recovery, the hospital shouldn't be required to provide free care forever. But that obviously says nothing about the Schiavo case, where her parents (if I recall correctly) are willing to subsidize her care.

Bush was for pulling the plug on hopeless patients who cannot afford to pay. That position is not consistent with pro-life principles, because it makes money the deciding factor, instead of the patient's quality of life. In other words, for Bush, who boasts of being pro-life, it is hypocritical in the extreme. And regardless of Bush's posturing, it's bad medicine. I do understand that we can't afford unlimited medical care, but care should be rationed according to its cost-effectiveness, not by ability to pay.

Now, Bush is against pulling the plug on Terry Shiavo, who is a pathetic exemplar of hopelessness. This is inconsistent with his previous position, piling hypocrisy upon hypocrisy. Even though this intervention is intended to court pro-life voters, it is not pro-life to artificially prolong the misery of someone against her will.

If there is any consistency in Bush's positions, it is that the Futile Care Act was heartless, cruel, and mercenary, while his Schiavo intervention is heartless, cruel, and cynically opportunistic.

Schiavo's care is not being subsidized by her parents. It is paid for by money from a malpractice settlement. Of course, to the Bush administration, this is "lawsuit abuse" and they are against it. If Bush had his way, Terry Schiavo's plug would have been pulled years ago, because there would have been no settlement.

So yes, it's hypocrisy, in spades.

#20 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 10:14 PM:

You might find these discussions of the Texas legislation interesting:

The rationale for the Texas legislation is a bit more complicated than the blogosphere-at-large is making it out to be.

(Although that doesn't make the GOP's stance of Terri Schiavo any less hypocritical, for a myriad of other reasons.)

#21 ::: gracelandwest ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 10:37 PM:

I pretty much tuned out after the election, viewing my former country as a lost cause. With each passing day, I look to the south and see a country that seems to be fraying at the seems. This Terri Schiavo case and the amount of attention it's getting is just absurd.

Maybe I'm just cynical, but when I look at the U.S., I see nothing but a selfish culture (and as far as I'm concerned, that goes for the left just as much as the right). What will it take to create real change in the culture of the U.S.? I think there needs to be a revolution in self-education and community in the U.S. I just wonder if that will ever occur.

(And I'm not trying to start a flame war with these comments. They're just late night ramblings.)

#22 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 10:41 PM:

The rationale for the Texas legislation is a bit more complicated than the blogosphere-at-large is making it out to be.

I agree completely. However, Bush and the Texas legislature could have passed a simpler and fairer bill that did not include a means test. Of course, that would have been hard, but we don't elect politicians to do only what is easy.

#23 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 10:55 PM:

Thanks, Mitch.

Yeah, I thought about this because of something I saw on CNN: the Vatican considers removing her feeding tube to be euthanasia:

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- It is rare for Vatican officials to publicly discuss ongoing legal matters.
But in the case of Terri Schiavo -- a brain-damaged America woman who has been kept alive for 15 years -- they have taken the unusual step of harshly criticizing the removal of her feeding tube.
They say the procedure amounts to nothing less than a ruthless way to kill a person.
"It is euthanasia," says Javier Lozano, of the Pontiff's Council for Health.

It goes on to say that they don't consider her a hopeless case, because she only requires food and water.

I guess I was then thinking about the less ruthless of two ways to kill a person; is euthanasia by, say, lethal injection worse than euthanasia by withdrawal of feeding tube?

It starts feeling ugly, though, like "kill one to save twenty" kinds of debates. I guess I'd prefer never to have to know. I feel sorry for you for being in a similar situation with your mother.

My father has already left explicit instructions, though. He says that if he can't function well enough to stay out of the nursing home that we are to take him on his first skydiving experience. If he survives, repeat.

On that Oedipal note, back to machine language datapaths.

#24 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 11:06 PM:

What will it take to create real change in the culture of the U.S.? I think there needs to be a revolution in self-education and community in the U.S. I just wonder if that will ever occur.

Things seem bad now, but the Depression was worse. I hope we don't we don't end up in times like that again, even if it is what it takes to revitalize American society.

My grandparents reacted to the Depression in different ways. Both sides went through some hardship, but not any serious privation that I know of. One side came out with a heightened sense of entitlement, that they had earned the right to live comfortably. The other side came out with a heightened sense of responsibility, that they needed to look out for others. I was fortunate to be close to all my grandparents while growing up. I loved them all. But it was clear that the liberal activist side of my family was the happiest. My mom's mother, bless her, is still going strong at 95. I'm glad I have her as a role model.

#25 ::: Jeff Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2005, 11:55 PM:

Most Americans, young, old, red, blue, whatever, are in favor of removing the tubes and letting this poor woman pass away. A minority are looking for some kind of political capital. The press is playing along. This should be a non-story.

Interesting paragraphs from Daily Kos:

"It's important to remember that the latest ABC News poll on the issue clocked conservative support for removing the feeding tube at 54-40. That's a solid majority, among conservatives. Heck, even among evangelicals, there is narrow support for removing the feeding tubes, 44-40.

"What we have here is a Republican Party held captive by a narrow, fringe, extremist part of its base. Your average Republican is looking in horror at the current congressional spectacle. The GOP majority has neatly segued itself into the party of Big Intrusive Government."

#26 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 12:16 AM:

Ryan Sager:

In coming years, political historians might look back and try to pinpoint the day or week or month that the Republican Party shed the last vestiges of its small-government philosophy. If and when they do, the week just past should make the short list. For it was in this last week that the Republican-controlled Congress made it clear that it sees no area of American life -- none too trivial and none too intimate -- that the federal government should not permeate with its power.

He says two events are the signals: The Schiavo case, and the baseball-steroid hearings.

It's ironic that George Bush is making me a conservative, and the more conservative I get, the more I hate Bush and the current leadership of the country — who call themselves conservatives.

gracelandwest - Good thing you're not trying to start a flamewar here, because if you were I would tell you to take your superior, patronizing attitude, fold it up until it's all corners, and shove it into an orifice from which things usually only come out of. You're proud to be no longer an American? Fine. I wouldn't want you to risk soiling your precious virtue by hanging around with the rest of us, so why don't you just leave us alone? And I'm sure you must be thankful that your new country, whereever it is, is one that has never had corrupt people in power, and never oppressed anyone — which is to say that it's either (1) imaginary or (2) was founded, like, last Thursday and has barely had time to draw up a flag and stamps and other national stuff, let alone having time to go out and do evil.

#27 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 01:21 AM:

While I do not really consider this case euthanasia, I would really have nothing against killing this poor shell quickly and painlessly. It is more or less the only case in which I think direct intervention is warranted. This woman is no longer alive. My cat is no genius, but can enjoy life and feel pain. Terry Schiavo can do neither. She's no longer there. She died years ago.

This is a very different case from dementia. A demented patient is still there. But there comes a time when this is simply no longer true. I saw my grandmother cross that line. She lived on for six months, staring into nothing with scared eyes which were probably her last expression back when the stroke hit, fed by intravenous tube because she no longer swallowed, slowly curling up in a lopsided fetal position. My mother who lived by her side for all the six months said that once she stayed in the room when the nurses came to wash her and she saw the bed sores. Her spine was visible through them. We do not think she was feeling anything at that point, or at least we hope so. We begged the doctors to stop the IV tube. They came on all indignant to us, telling us that that way she'd die of thirst and that that was a terrible, terrible death. At the end of the sixth months, her veins couldn't take the IV tube any longer, and as a consequence, she did die of thirst. They had to break her bones to lay her flat in her coffin, she had been curled up so long her tendons had atrophied.

Me, there was a point when I would have gladly have removed the tube, pumped her full of morphine, and let her go. I don't think she was in pain, and what dignity she had had the dementia had already taken away years before. But all of us who loved her looked at that body and couldn't help grieve. Even if we knew she wasn't in there any longer. It was like a six months-wake. We were lucky because she was old, the stroke had done a lot of damage, and she only lasted six months.

I wouldn't have dreamed shortening her life when she was wondering around whispering to herself, talking to the ladies in the mirror, or even mumbling anxiously, incomprehensibly in her bed after the stroke. She was like a little lost baby then, and we cared for her, though she was no longer the woman we had known. But in those last six months she was no baby: she was just a breathing corpse.

#28 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 02:17 AM:

My country is coming apart at the seems. It's not all selfishness. There are many people who mean well, and act for what they think is right and good, even when it goes against their own self interest. They are doing their duty as they see it. But what seems right to them seems deeply wrong and a menace to us, and vice-versa. They live in the same country as us, just on a different planet. It's not good, and it probably will get worse. As we struggle to deal with the outrageous stupidity and the terrible irony of it all, we tell beautiful and painful stories. Nothing hurts as much as the knowledge of good and evil. What happens when we find out the singularity we're headed to is emotional?

#29 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 02:47 AM:


I'm an American expat too - still a citizen, but living abroad. I know how you feel. I get that way late at night sometimes, too.

A few mitigating circumstances to tell yourself, when you see the country you have loved approaching what looks like meltown, while you're powerless to do anything about it:

  1. You still love the place, or you wouldn't be so indignant about what's going on. Remember that. I don't know if you've given up your citizenship, but I chose not to, because it would be a lie: I am still American. I still buy into the dream that made our nation.
  2. The story we get overseas is not the full story. Even if we read the online versions of our old local papers, we don't get a feel for the fabric of the nation, which is still overwhelmingly decent and honorable.
  3. As Mitch Wagner pointed out, wherever you're living will have its own problems. You might not see them, because as a newcomer you'll see the good things first. But they're there, and if you live there long enough, you'll see them.

As for the Terry Schiavo thing, it's crystallised my desires in a non-medical way. My wishes for after any permanent complete disablement include things like:

  • No photos of me in my sickbed to end up all over the Internet
  • Everyone who doesn't know me, keep your mouth off my relatives and loved ones
  • No matter how bizzare and unique my circumstances, if you make an Abi's Law to cover them, I will spontaneously recover and throttle you
  • If you pray for me (and feel free to), follow Matthew 6:5-6 and pray in secret. No street-corner demonstrations of piety, please.
#30 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 02:53 AM:

Having said all that, I love what the established church (a concept I don't like) in my current country just said:

"We are conscious that as a church we are much indebted in our life both to a significant presence of persons of homosexual orientation, and also those whose theology and stance would be critical of attitudes to sexuality other than abstinence outside marriage.

"We rejoice in both."

Thank you, Scottish Episcopal Bishops.

#31 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 06:32 AM:

The best post on the Schiavo issue is in this dkos diary, who in turn links to one of the most comprehensive and objective resources and Jeb Bush-appointed Guardian Ad Litem report. Short story: the money is gone, and even if it were still there, the husband wouldn't be able to inherit a penny. Both parties are moved only by affection for the victim, but one of them are being manipulated for political reasons and won't let it go even after _any_appointed_judicial_organ_ upheld the decision (made from the judge, not from the husband) to take the tube off.

The family will take it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and I bet those old Justices will feel for Schiavo: they risk to end up like that in a few years (or months), and I don't think they want to hang around much in that condition. The Schindlers will set a "wonderful" amount of precedents, and the fundie schills supporting them will end up doing their cause a very bad service.

#32 ::: Francis ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 07:15 AM:

I think you (and Slate) have missed the real danger of the Terry Schiavo case. Not only is it the US Government poking its nose in where it doesn't belong, only three senators were present due to it being a midnight session.

Things get worse when you take into account that Quorum Counts must be requested, or Quorum is assumed to exist. Yes, there are reasons not to call for a quorum count when numbers slip too low- but this trick simply makes a mockery of the rules.

Three senators, all republican and a voice vote. Of course it was unanimous. Great precident to set there.

#33 ::: Sue ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 07:32 AM:

A few comments -- first, thanks for the link to that crocheted hyperspace thing.

Next, Cassie Bernall ... now, I have no idea why that kid in Minnesota went on a rampage, but go on and completely dismiss Cassie's story is a spin on the truth. What the Columbine gunman actually asked her (if anything) is moot; the information on her spirituality comes from her personal journals. Her father tours churches and uses her own writings and drawings in his messsage.

2. Schiavo -- I wish they had pulled the tube 15 years ago. I ask why it didn't happen then as it now makes this decision difficult on a moral level. But, apart from the specifics of her case, one could argue that this issue now impacts on issues regarding the handicapped. Would someone suggest you could refuse to feed a severly handicapped person just because they were too brain-damaged to feed themselves? I am not trying to make a moral judgment here, I am just tossing out ideas that might be of concern.

#34 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 07:51 AM:

I, too, have had to fight doctors to invoke a living will. My mother approved a feeding tube as an emergency service when my father had the first stroke, thinking it would be a temporary, until-he's-well-enough-to-come-home sort of thing. Two weeks and cascades of strokes later, it was clear he wouldn't be coming home.

I also had to fight them for his morphine.

Dad was intermittently conscious and speaking right up until the end. He knew, and I knew, the day when our last visit came, and we said our goodbyes.

It wasn't the sort of dignified death my husband's family tends to have, but it was worlds better than the lingering semi-life he would have had with the feeding tube. If I could have made his death quicker, instead of weeks on a morphine drip, I think he would have agreed to it. He was looking forward to moving on into eternity.

#35 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 08:17 AM:

On your item 3, perhaps as many readers as possible should contact this outfit to ask when the Jeff Gannon figure will be available. Just think what range of "action outfits" can be made available for it--and what it's action options could be. We already know what his weapon of choice is....

On the Schiavo case, it's been used by this administration to establish some truly scary precedents. The unanimous voice vote by three Senators is one part. More important is that the Federal government can get involved in what should be a personal decision. It does bear directly on the abortion issue, and points up one of my objections to efforts to ban abortion--that once the precedent of governmental control is set, what can be banned can also be made compulsory. It ties directly to the mindset that engaged in compulsory sterilization of the mentally handicapped, lobotomization of deranged or troublesome people (name that Kennedy!), and winds up with means testing to decide whether to pull the plug on patients who are not beyond hope of recovery. All done for their own good, of course.

What would these same zealots say if asked why they didn't force a ventilator and heart-lung machine to be used to maintain a beating heart in the great modern Republican saint, Ronald Reagan? He had more brain activity than does Terry. Hell--they'd better hook Cheney up right now. With his cardiac history he could go at any time, and we already know that his circle will always choose life. Unless it's life that has no money, or doesn't march to their specific drum.

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 08:34 AM:

If you want a Jeff Gannon doll, if you give 'em $450 and a couple of photos they'll make one for you, no problem.

#37 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 09:26 AM:

I think, being in another country, I don't have enough exposure to the whole Columbine thing to understand what's actually been going on with this whole "do you believe on god" stuff. Are people really using that to try and claim persecution?


On point 2, I can see where you're coming from. But from all I can gather, this woman isn't handicapped. She's not even there any more. The body is still maintaining, but on purely autonomic functions.

Having said that, there has to be a quicker way than starving to death. Even if she won't feel it, it won't be nice for any of her family to watch.

#38 ::: Sue ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 09:37 AM:

Paul, I do not believe anyone is claiming religious persecution in the Columbine case. I believe the story is just pointing out the price one might need to pay for their beliefs (which on a one-to-one basis is much different than persecution as a practice of culture -- and can be true across the spectrum of beliefs.)

Alas, with Schiavo, I wish they had let her die when she first suffered the brain-damage.

#39 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 10:16 AM:

The 'paying the price' thing assumes, though, that the girl was shot because of her belief in god. Is there actually any evidence for this? I thought the shooters were basically just killing everyone they could find.

#40 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 10:35 AM:

Paul said:

I think, being in another country, I don't have enough exposure to the whole Columbine thing to understand what's actually been going on with this whole "do you believe on god" stuff. Are people really using that to try and claim persecution?

There's a certain part of the fundie population that still thinks it's the first century and Ceasar is feading Christians to the lions for the amusment of the pagan masses. They apparently haven't notticed the monuments of the ten commandments or churches on every street, godly billboards and Supreme Court Justices talking openly about our laws being Christian in origin. Stories like the "Yes, I Believe" myth is a way for these folks to reinforce their persocution complex. After all, they only make up 70% of the population, so we godless other 30% must be trying to persecute them or we would have happily converted by now and would all be singing hymns and sitting patiently, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the rapture.

#41 ::: Fred Dawes ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 10:38 AM:

totally insane, the facts are still coming in but people really don't appear mad about this and our political people have said little or nothing.
but after all what can you say?

#42 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 10:41 AM:

I used to worry that Terri Schiavo was suffering. If I were lying there, even fully conscious and aware of my surroundings but unable to respond in any way, I think I'd rather be dead.

But then I saw a picture of her brain. Her cerebral cortex has liquified. Now I know she isn't suffering, because there's nothing there to suffer with.

My only concern, as a Wiccan Priest, is that her spirit may still be bound to that body. If it is, then it's been in torment for fifteen years, and the parents have been committing the worst of all crimes against her -- as tools of the hypochristians, as someone above has called them.

I've said it before: The Republican Party has become a stinking midden where true conservatives smother in the effluvia of right-wing ideologues.

The Columbine shooters targeted "jocks," by whom they'd been (at least in their view) mistreated. There was one guy early on who they warned to take off before the rampage began. Other than that they shot at random. If Cassie Bernall is a Christian martyr, so is Matthew Shepard (in fact I can make a better case for him).

#43 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 11:56 AM:

If Cassie Bernall is a Christian martyr, so is Matthew Shepard (in fact I can make a better case for him).

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

What he said.

#44 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 12:01 PM:

Among other things, yeah.

#45 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 12:02 PM:

There's little evidence that the Columbine shooters targeted jocks, either. The library at lunchtime wouldn't have been my first choice to find them.


If the question ever arises for me, and there's no reasonable hope of resuming normal mental function, my choice is comfort care only.

#46 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 12:11 PM:

This story connects, sort of, the God and Poltics subthread, the classroom subthread, and the outbreaks-of-violence subthread:

Cloak and Classroom

Many social scientists say a new government program will turn fieldwork abroad into spying. Can secrecy coexist with academic openness?

Chronicle of Higher Education
Section: Research & Publishing
Volume 51, Issue 29, Page A14

In 1995, as the American Anthropological Association debated a revision to its code of ethics, Felix Moos made an argument that was unpopular among his peers. Anthropologists, he said, should be permitted -- indeed, should feel a duty -- to conduct classified research that might help the U.S. government understand global conflicts....

"We have on the Intelligence Committee what I call 'Oh my God' hearings," Mr. Roberts says. "As in: 'Oh, my God, how did this happen?'"

#47 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Read some about Jeff Weise in the paper this morning. Kid had been through a lot. Dad a suicide, mom brain-damaged and in a nursing home, cousin killed in the same crash that injured mom.


Just what is it that losers and creeps and traumatized youth find so attractive about Hitler?

#48 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 12:53 PM:

There's little evidence that the Columbine shooters targeted jocks, either. The library at lunchtime wouldn't have been my first choice to find them.

So is the "all jocks please stand up" an urban myth as well? THAT I did not know.

Just what is it that losers and creeps and traumatized youth find so attractive about Hitler?

My speculation has been that it's a way of getting attention. Worshipping Hitler is outrageous enough that no sane person could ignore it as a serious sign of trouble. Unfortunately, for some reason our society appears to have decided that "he's doing that to get attention" means "ignore him" not "he's crying for help."

#49 ::: Jack ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 01:26 PM:

Teresa --

One additional thing. In addition to considering this doctor's opinion -- which apparently no other commenter has yet done -- you might want to direct some cynicism towards the "GOP memo" itself. Thus far, no one has explained where it came from; it is not written on Senate letterhead; and the memo's text was mostly copied from a blog posting at the Traditional Values Coalition. That doesn't prove the memo is a fake, but one should definitely take it with a grain of salt. Read here and here for more info.

#50 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 01:47 PM:

Those HeroBuilders things are Cree-Pee, as is their link to a designer/vendor of "Urban Tactical Clothing". And the comic they link from their main page just sounds disturbing.

But you have to give them credit for craft -- they apparently do good work, and carefully, too.

#51 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 01:59 PM:

Just what is it that losers and creeps and traumatized youth find so attractive about Hitler?

Hitler was kind of a loser and a creep, and traumatized according to some people. And yet he acquired Supreme Power. That's a pretty attractive narrative, to some types.

#52 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Respectful of Otters has had several excellent posts about the Schiavo case, including this one about her brain testing since 1998 (excerpted):

"Pekin Prattles also reproduces a lengthy journal article by Dr. Cranford (it's mislabeled "Dr. Cranford's complete Terri Schiavo report," but it's obviously a summary article, not a medical report). It's well worth reading. He discusses the series of CAT scans taken between 1990 and 2002 (not just the 1996 one which has been widely reproduced on the net), the EEG evidence over the same time period, and Schiavo's clinical records from her attending physicians - correcting the widespread misapprehension that Schiavo's neurological condition has not been re-evaluated since the 1998 trial."

#53 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 02:24 PM:

I listened to a minnesota caller on Air America this am after taking my youngest son to school. The woman said that the killer had been raised in the Twin Cities and was relocated at age 11 to Red Lake after his mother was placed in a nursing home for severe injuries sustained in a car accident. As noted above, his father committed suicide 4 years ago. The kid, who was described as a nice,quiet kid in the Twin Cities, was put into a family he had not grown up. but the worst was he apparently was subjected to constant bullying at the school where the administration did nothing about it.

Now, that is starting to make sense to me.

#54 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 02:35 PM:


I'd say that Hitler is attractive to those people because his message is "It's not your fault". Don't have a job? Must be them damn Jewblackmexicanpolishasianitaliancommunistpaganists who are taking them all. It's simple, understandable, easily repeatable, and requires no further effort or investigation on the listener's part. The fact that the evidence isn't credible doesn't make any difference.

It's also a message of comfort e.g. the world isn't random or unpredictable or unfair or scary, the problem is with those [imagine strike-through here, not quite sure why it's not working] body thetans Jewblackmexicanpolishasianitaliancommunistpaganists demons democrats[/strike-through] others. Who needs a philosophy where s**t just happens when you can have one where s**t happens because of a very specific someone?

Although I may be pimping here, check out Disney's propaganda shorts in "On the Front Lines", specifically "Reason and Emotion". Even though it's propaganda (and pretty cringingly sexist), it's a good key into the mindset.

#55 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 03:31 PM:

Jack - take a look at this post by that same doctor, and tell me why we should take his medical opinion seriously.

Seriously, even in the comments section of the post you link to he already backs down from some of his more, um, authoritative pronouncements about the Schiavo CT.

#56 ::: Paul P. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 03:40 PM:

That doesn't prove the memo is a fake, but one should definitely take it with a grain of salt.

If I'd written that memo, I'd say anything to try to disavow it now, too. Do tell, Jack. Who's responsible for it--Vince Foster?

#57 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 03:47 PM:

Side note: in Re:
I had a look at it, and dismissed it on the grounds that (A) it goes haring off into conspiracy-theory land with the whole "IF THIS IS NOT TERRI'S CT THEN WHERE IS HER CT?" thing, and (B) the correct forum for a doctor to raise questions about the interpretation of a specific test is a courtroom, not a blog. Less gently, I can find a person with an MD willing to say anything up to and including "Stephan Zielinski's brain has been eaten by mice"; MDs can be confused or flat out wrong just like anyone else. Ergo, I'm not going to attempt to refute medical claims on a blog-- first off, because I'm not a doctor, and second, because the case has come up in court after court after court and the result is always the same: there's nobody home in there.

Still less gently: sometimes, that lone voice crying in the wilderness is out there alone because he's an idiot. I can't say for sure in this case-- I've never met the man-- but I will say that if I get hit by a bus, I really hope someone else is on duty at the ER that day.

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 04:45 PM:

Jack, that "doctor" you cite is not one of Terri Schiavo's physicians. He has not examined the patient, nor done any of the other things he by rights should have done before giving a medical opinion. In terms of professional behavior, he's way over the line. In fact, the way he's shooting his mouth off there makes me wonder whether he's a doctor at all. I'd like to see some believable credentials. Until then, he's just some guy who writes as Codeblueblog.

Every legal and medical detail of Terri Schiavo's case has been scrutinized, repeatedly and in detail, continuously, for years. No one involved would dare make an unconsidered decision. Nevertheless, the legitimate court system decided that, on the basis of the evidence and the law, the appropriate action was to go along with the removal of the feeding tube.

Are you objection to adjudication by evidence, adjudication by law, or both? I'm curious.

There is no case to be made for ignoring Terri Schiavo's wishes and her physical condition. The only way to make one is by lying. This current congressional media stunt is the only way to circumvent the legitimate court system. And even after said stunt had been pulled, and the case thrown into the federal courts, pray notice that they quickly arrived at the same conclusions as the state courts.

This case is yet another patch of astroturf. Y'all are being suckered.

Here's the hard truth: Terri Schiavo's cerebral cortex is gone. It has ceased to be, it has expired, it has been replaced by cerebrospinal fluid. It is neither stunned, nor resting, nor pining for the fjords. Its total non-functionality is not due to its being tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk, and it wouldn't twitch if you put four million volts through it, because it simply isn't there.

Nobody comes back from that.

As for that GOP memo, I sincerely doubt that the Washington Post printed the story without checking it out first.

#59 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 04:59 PM:

I always wondered what a real zombie would look like. After looking at some of the pictures of Terri Shiavo, I now feel like I've seen one. There's no human excuse for letting what remains of a person continue to exist in this awful state.

#61 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 05:41 PM:

Hammesfahr Disciplinary Action

One of the Schindlers' 'experts' was recently disciplined by the Florida Dept. of Health for employing unproven treatments on his patients. Nice work.

By the way Gov Jeb Bush in his press conf today after the 11th Cir turned the appeal down 10-2, hinted he may send in the Fl Law Enf. Dept. to grab Schiavo and have the tube reinserted. He's found a Christian neurologist who claims that she's not in a persistent vegitative state.

And the FL Senate turned down the latest iteration of Terri's law 21-18. 9 Repubs voted with the sane ones.

#62 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 05:43 PM:

I tried, I really tried to do the href sort of thing, and couldn't get it to work. This is the address for the disciplinary action against Hammesfahr.

#63 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 05:49 PM:

What has this given us?

The precedent that three Senators, voting at midnight, can have a bill on the President's desk and signed into law by the next morning.

#64 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 06:00 PM:

I can see one case that might be made for the parents:

Terry Schiavo the "person" no longer exists; but the body is a living organism. It gives the parents some (partly delusional) consolation to care for and visit the body. If they're willing to assume the cost and responsibility of maintaining it, this does no harm to "Terry Schiavo," who is already gone.

Aside from the larger issue that perversion of the United States legal system is immoral, I see these moral questions:

a) Would allowing the parents to assume custody of the body do harm to the husband, who is a living human being with legal rights and connection to the person who has passed on?

b) Would allowing the parents to maintain Terri's body be disrespectful to the will of Terry Schiavo, who, from all evidence, would not have approved of this after she was no longer there to occupy her body.?

c) [a more finicky issue which I, as someone who tries to avoid killing any living thing, have some sympathy with]: The organism may be sensitive to pain and discomfort on some level. Starving it to death may induce a traumatic experience that it feels on some level. If someone is willing to assume financial and physical responsibility for maintaining the organism, perhaps this isn't such a terrible thing. Why kill a large, breathing creature if you don't have to -- and its continued existence causes you no hardship?

Unfortunately, those issues are bound together with a bunch of other ones:

a) Intelligent people are appalled by the sense of delusion around the case exhibited by those who buy into the idea that "Terri is still there and might someday be saved." The operative instinct here is that it's more ethical and compassionate to make ignorant people face hard facts about life and spirit than to allow them to indulge in fantasies.

b) Political monsters are capitalizing on the case to inflict damage on the United States legal system -- which ultimately harms all of us. These monsters are using the case as a prop in their ongoing platform of cultivating ignorance and superstition as the best way they know to maintain their political power.

As far as the arguments in favor of the parents assuming custody, the courts have already decided against them in a reasonable way -- after considering rational medical evidence.

If something in the hearts of a large number of people says the decision of the courts is wrong, I think this needs to be addressed in a way that tempers justice (for the Terry Schiavo who is now gone) and mercy (mostly mercy for the parents) without abandoning rationality -- and mercy for the husband.

Bush, Delay, and the congress members who "passed" that stupid bill aren't helping.

#65 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 07:19 PM:

Well, offering the faintest glimmer of hope, here's a quote from a Republican who dared to vote against the Schiavo bill. Take particular note of the second paragraph.

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

From today's NY Times. (reg reqd)

It'll be interesting to see whether or not he gets targeted by the god squad after shooting his mouth off.

#66 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 07:27 PM:

The other thing about Hammesfahr is that he says he was "nominated for the Nobel Prize for his work in Medicine and Physiology in 1999."

What's interesting is that the Nobel Foundation doesn't announce nominees, either before or after the prize is awarded.

So what's the basis of his claim? "Hammesfahr said he was nominated for the prize by Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, who wrote a letter to Stockholm recommending the doctor for the honor several years ago." (St. Petersburg Times) Mike Bilirakis isn't on the Nobel nominating comittee, so his opinion with the Nobel Foundation carries the same weight as mine. Anyone want to be a Nobel Prize nominee? I'll fire off a letter to Stockholm right away.

#67 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 07:57 PM:

Xopher - remember in Crime & Punishment, Raskolnikov's fascination with Napoleon? How he built his "superior person" ethics [sic] around the persona of the little Emperor?

Given what Buonaparte did to Russia, this was exactly the 19th century equivalent of having a Hitler fixation.

Right on the money in re "ignore", but needs to be expanded just a little - first we ignore them, then we punish them. If they're dead, we punish people like them, or who might be like them, if they get the chance. This guarantees an endless supply of tragedies for public mourning, and an endless supply of targets for ritualized state-sponsored vengeance. Actually taking preventative measures would be counterproductive, in addition to being hard work, for the Establishment. (Thus Bushco talking in the runup to the elections about how they were going to respond to crime by making tougher sentences, as if that would restore the dead.)
Italian poster gilgamesh has, btw, tied the Schiavo backers to our old friends of the Hegemony, the Scaife Foundations, in a comprehensive post I have bookmarked because not had the time to dig through. But it is sure to be interesting.

This is *not* new in conservativism, of course. Terry Schaivo is quite simply the godsend replacement for Karen Ann Quinlan, for whom as a young theocon I prayed nightly until she finally died of pneumonia as her body gave out. Back then, it was her parents who were the demons, for wanting her disconnected from the respirator...

#68 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 08:37 PM:

It's Terri, not Terry, by the way. I'm embarrassed by the fact that I knew this, but still used the wrong spelling a bunch of times, several posts up.

#69 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 09:10 PM:

The New England Journal of Medicine has weighed in on the side of the doctors (as one might expect).

They're at the top of the main page, the two articles designated as "early release." They're both pdf format; one's by a doctor and one by a lawyer/MPH. They're also both open-access, which is unusual for the NEJM editors. They reserve that status for items they think are very important.

#70 ::: Mary Root ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2005, 11:28 PM:

What bothers me about the parents and why I wouldn't want to see them be given custody is that they never seem to have acknowledged the reality of their daughter's medical condition. That they are still saying she has consciousness shows that they are not capable of caring for her.

Claiming Terri will regain use of her mind is akin to ancouraging belief that someone whose arm has been amputated at the elbow could regain use of their hand.

These people want a miracle. Not an everyday miracle. Not a saint-level miracle. (There must me a word for that, but I don't know it.) No, they want a full-blown Jesus miracle. There have been billions of people on the earth since the death of Christ and, to my knowledge, not one of them has gotten a miracle on the level the Schinders are asking for. But they have no humility about it, no sense of the awesomeness of power that it would take for their daughter to be returned to them.

All they are showing is petty anger, at their son-in-law, the courts, the doctors... Wrapping themselves in religious righteousness, not having reached the point where they realize that their anger should be aimed at God, and that only in forgiving Him will they be able to find peace.

If the Schindlers were willing to say "We know our daughter's case is hopeless, but we want a chance for a miracle," I might be sympathic to their cause. But this denial of the medical truth, the reality of their daughter's condition is to me the saddest part of the story.

And watching this saga unfold, I am not surprised that the daughter of these parents died of a fatal eating disorder.

#71 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 12:45 AM:

Sorry to hijack the thread back to the "political action figures" sub-thread . . . but James D. Macdonald noted upthread

If you want a Jeff Gannon doll, if you give 'em $450 and a couple of photos they'll make one for you, no problem.

Now that's a serious action-figure kink.
Because for that kind of money, you can rent Gannon in the flesh.

(Sorry, but I've been waiting since the afternoon to mention that. Carry on.)

#72 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 01:05 AM:

Re: Jeff Weise.

The question I had about his alleged Nazi admiration is not "How can someone admire Hitler?", as "How can someone Hitler would condemn as subhuman admire Hitler?"

Scary as it is, I could see the appeal in admiring a dictator, or in the lazy morality of blaming some group for the ills of the world. But as soon as it hits the point where one of the people being blamed IS YOU, I can't see the appeal.

Or did nobody ever mention to him that while Jews were the most persecuted, anyone not "Aryan" white (Or Japanese) was on the list?

#73 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 01:06 AM:

I wonder if the Terri Schiavo tragedy has anything interesting to say about property rights. After all, if a person owns a set of silver spoons or a car, surely a person owns their body. Just as, in the absence of a will, statements like "when I die, I want Mary to have the silver" should be considered, so should statements like "when I die, I don't want my body to go on hooked up to life support" be considered.

It's an idea that occurred to me here due to the presence in these halls of Jo Walton, since I just a few weeks back read _Tooth and Claw_...

On the other hand, repeatedly stated but non-willed requests for the disposition of property seem to mean nothing legally; witness the continuation of Roger Zelazny's Amber books. So I suppose it's a very good sign that a person's ownership of her body is in a different class.

And it fits with the typical Republican ethos these days that they're trampling over themselves in their eagerness to trample Terri Schiavo's property rights.

#74 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 01:46 AM:

To Lenora Rose; re: Jeff Weise and Nazism:

As I understand it, from the articles I've seen today, Jeff Weise was against racial mixing. He was apparently very critical of inter-racial marriages and the loss of Native languages. I presume that he felt that a National Socialist government would force like to marry like, therefore stopping further dilution of Native bloodlines with 'other' peoples' contributions.

Whether he went beyond that to the 'purify the planet of all non-Aryans' part isn't an issue any longer.

#75 ::: jcberk ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 04:39 AM:

Madeleine, ownership of one's body and the parts thereof is actually a very weird legal question. See, for example, Moore v. Regents of the University of California, where Moore was convinced to have a splenectomy, after which doctors at the Medical Center of UCLA performed research on it and other samples taken at his visits. They patented a cell line derived from his cells and licensed it commercially. Moore was upset when he found out they were profiting by hundreds of thousands of dollars from "his" cells, and sued. The courts ended up wanting to throw the property question back to the legislature, and one judge objected particularly to the idea of "a right to sell one's own body tissue for profit." (This is from my boyfriend's property casebook, by Dukeminier and Krier, if anyone cares.)

There have also been a couple cases about property rights in sperm like this current one.

So what "owning your own body" means and what rights you then have (right to sell a kidney for medical research? right to sell a kidney for transplant? right to have an abortion? right to clone yourself?) are still poorly-defined legally.

As for Chris Shays, he's already under watch for publicly denouncing the DeLay ethics rule changes earlier this year. Here's one of the early posts about the issue by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. Marshall later named all the members who said they opposed the rule change the Shays Handful. Keep in mind that Shays is from Connecticut, so appearing unhandcuffed to his party's leadership may be a good thing electorally.

#76 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 10:52 AM:

While watching all the ghastly posturing, grandstanding, and delusions related to the Schiavo case, I've been wondering how this fits in with evangelists' views of Heaven. For them, shouldn't God be standing around twiddling His fingers, waiting for her to show up in Paradise, while mortals bicker?

#77 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 10:55 AM:

Teresa, you said: Jack, that "doctor" you cite is not one of Terri Schiavo's physicians. He has not examined the patient, nor done any of the other things he by rights should have done before giving a medical opinion. In terms of professional behavior, he's way over the line. In fact, the way he's shooting his mouth off there makes me wonder whether he's a doctor at all.

Neither are you or any of the commenters one of Terri's physicians. That does not seem to stop anyone from giving an opinion about the CT scan images or anything else. Are you intending to imply that bloggers and commenters can freely comment on Terri's medical condition, except if they're a doctor themselves? I'm not sure I grasp that standard.

#78 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 11:26 AM:

More generally, what seems to be missing from the discussion above is any acknowledgment that the pro-Schiavo people (citizens, not politicians) are perfectly sincere and genuine in their worry about creating a slippery slope towards the euthanization of anyone deemed too disabled. In other words, their concern is not just about Schiavo, but also about where that precedent will lead in the future. Nothing about that belief warrants ridicule or denigration.

True, the pro-life side in this case is also rarely able to see that some people sincerely believe that the judicial process has spoken, and that Schiavo no longer really exists in any meaningful fashion. They also are unable to acknowledge that this is a difficult moral issue.

#79 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 11:37 AM:

Neither are you or any of the commenters one of Terri's physicians. That does not seem to stop anyone from giving an opinion about the CT scan images or anything else. Are you intending to imply that bloggers and commenters can freely comment on Terri's medical condition, except if they're a doctor themselves?

Are you intending to imply that they can't?

I'm not sure I grasp that standard.

That "doctor" or whatever he is, is presenting raving speculation as if it were professional judgement. Where are his standards?

#80 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Finally, I'm not sure what you mean by saying that the Schiavo case is "astroturf" merely by pointing out that some foundations have funded her parent's lawyers. That's not the same as astroturf -- i.e., trying to manufacture the appearance of an "grass roots" movement on Schiavo's behalf. Indeed, the Schiavo case has been a cause du jour for Catholics and other pro-lifers for a few years now.

#81 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 11:50 AM:

More generally, what seems to be missing from the discussion above is any acknowledgment that the pro-Schiavo people (citizens, not politicians) are perfectly sincere and genuine in their worry about creating a slippery slope towards the euthanization of anyone deemed too disabled.

Pro-Schiavo? Don't you mean pro-Schindler?

I'll give you that the Schindlers are perfectly sincere and genuine. But they're not primarily motivated by "worry about creating a slippery slope." Let's be real. The Schindlers are nuts. As such, they are part of Bush's core demographic. The politicians who are taking advantage of this are not worried about slippery slopes either. Or do you think it's really necessary to gut the Constitution, separation of powers, and states rights, in order to ensure that people's bodies will stay on life support forever? If you do, you're being played.

#82 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 12:02 PM:

I didn't say that the Schindlers were motivated by a "slippery slope." I was referring to the many citizens who have been following the Schiavo case for the past several years. If you read any of their many writings, you'll see the slippery slope issue raised innumerable times. It's not a matter of debate that this is a sincere and genuine moral concern of theirs. You are free to think that they are wrong about the slippery slope, but even in order to disagree, you would have to admit that their concern does exist in the first instance.

#83 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 12:07 PM:

Jack V. ]the pro-Schiavo people (citizens, not politicians) are perfectly sincere and genuine in their worry about creating a slippery slope

Ahem. "pro-Schiavo"? The other side is also "pro-Schiavo"; they want to preserve her right to control her own destiny. This might be the start on a "slippery slope" if it were some kind of precedent-setting decision; it's not, it's a routine application of long-existing law.

For anybody still interested in this, I recommend reading the original trial court ruling (PDF) which has some information I hadn't seen in any of the news stories I read.

#84 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 12:43 PM:

jackV: A doctor who not only ignores the detail that this was one of several CT scans, not the only one, but bases his entire case on the assumption that this is the only one, without doing further resarch? Nope, not worth listening to.

Yes, some individual people on the pro-Schindler side are sincerely motivated. Some are, but are basing their attitudes on interpretations of the findings as incorrect as your doctor's. But the ones with the current political clout seem not to be the ones praying, nor the ones worried about euthanasia-slippery-slope. It's George W. Bush and Karl Rove we're worried about, not a sincere Catholic.

#85 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 12:59 PM:

Slippery slope? The US has the death penalty. That is about killing perfectly healthy and aware people who do not want to go. There's no slippery slope here - all the slippage has already happened. You mean it's ok to kill people only if it bothers them?

#86 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Here's how I think about the players. Not, mind you, how I feel, as explaining that would require recounting medical tragedies in my family.

(1) I give the U.S. Supreme Court credit, today, for not giving a political plum to the President they appointed, but actually following Law.

(2) I cannot separate my disgust for the congresscritters who followed the GOP Talking Points from any rational thoughts.

(3) There is no Terri Schiavo, and has not been for a long time. This is like a battle for a cryonically frozen corpse. It is the flip-side of Tom Disch's "Wings of Song."

(4) Mr. Schiavo suffers the defamations that he's doing this for the money (he only has $30,000 or so left from the medical malpractice judgment), and of the local Catholic dogmatic who asserts that this is a bad husband because he's being unfaithful to his wife with another woman.

(5) I basically agree with Mary Root that the Schindler's are horribly irrational, verging on insane, from a greedy faith that demands Jesus-Class miracles -- is there a Richter scale for these?

(6) However, the family is deeply victimized by their traumatic memories, and unable to approach rationality, and require loving professional treatment. See:
Emotional Memories Function In Self-Reinforcing Loop
DURHAM, N.C. (March 8, 2005) -- Researchers exploring the brain structures involved in recalling an emotional memory a year later have found evidence for a self-reinforcing "memory loop" -- in which the brain's emotional center triggers the memory center, which in turn further enhances activity in the emotional center.

The researchers said their findings suggest why people subject to traumatic events may be trapped in a cycle of emotion and recall that aggravates post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They said their findings also suggest why therapies in which people relive such memories and reshape perspective to make it less traumatic can help people cope with such memories.

The paper by Florin Dolcos, Kevin LaBar and Roberto Cabeza, was published online February 9, 2005, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

#87 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 01:49 PM:

Jack, people who present themselves as physicians and then say crazy things are not worth listening to. LESS so than people who give crazy opinions without claiming to be physicians, yes. This is because the "physicians" ought to know better, and also because the crazy opinions make us think they're probably lying about being physicians. The issue is credibility.

This case has actually made me yell at the radio. Mrs. Schindler was on there, tearfully saying "Please don't let my daughter die of starvation!" I yelled "Your daughter died of a heart attack fifteen years ago, you selfish, deluded bitch!"

Of course, I would not have done that had she actually been present. I didn't actually feel too good about it even though I was alone in my apartment. But these lunatics have been torturing their daughter's breathing corpse for a decade and a half. If they ever deserved our sympathy, that time is past. Now they just have to be stopped.

I also think that they know perfectly well how young women get eating disorders. They don't want to acknowledge that her death (15 years ago) was their fault. Hence the demonization of Michael Schiavo - can you believe the Schindleristas are attacking him for being unfaithful to Terri? My gods, what a lot of wrthlss crwlng scmbgs.

#88 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 02:01 PM:

It's not a matter of debate that this is a sincere and genuine moral concern of theirs. You are free to think that they are wrong about the slippery slope, but even in order to disagree, you would have to admit that their concern does exist in the first instance.

Where exactly is the morality here? "People should be kept hooked up to life support forever, on the absolutely faintest remotest chance that they might miracuously get better"?

If someone wants that to happen to them, if they don't ever want anybody to pull the plug, then that's their right. They can leave instructions to that effect. Terri did not want that, so I don't see how her case makes a good example.

#89 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Speaking personally, I'm just glad I don't have to make any of those painful decisions or endure the years of grief that all of these people have (apart from Terry herself). I'm sufficiently conscious of, and grateful for, this fact that I can't bring myself to judge anyone directly involved, even the side with whom I disagree. It's no more my place to call them crazy or evil, to accuse them of any part in the matter apart from the obvious, than it is the place of a doctor who has never met a patient too diagnose her condition.

I do, on the other hand, feel physically ill when I think about the other strangers to this family who have used this matter for their own benefit.

#90 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 02:25 PM:

Jack V.

More generally, what seems to be missing from the discussion above is any acknowledgment that the pro-Schiavo people (citizens, not politicians) are perfectly sincere and genuine in their worry about creating a slippery slope towards the euthanization of anyone deemed too disabled. ...

Well, first off, I object to your characerization of the people who want to keep Terri Schiavo alive as "pro-Schiavo" and "pro-life." The people seeking to withdraw life support believe they are pro-Schiavo, acting in her interests, by seeing to it that her wishes are carried out.

Secondly, I'm quite frankly skeptical that there is much sincerity in the pro-feeding crowd, outside of Terri Schiavo's immediate family. Certainly there isn't much sincerity in the Florida Governor's Mansion, and in Washington D.C.

But on to the most important point you raise: Euthenasia is indeed a terrible thing, and that is why we draw a line between withholding treatment and inducing death, and why we struggle to comply with the patient's wishes, even in the absence of a living will or other clear-cut evidence of what those wishes are.

#91 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 02:32 PM:

I read an interesting remark on somebody's blog yesterday: "If you find yourself on the same side as Randall Terry, you're probably on the wrong side."

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 02:34 PM:

I do look forward to the newly-found pro-life sentiment in the Congress leading to a rapid end of the death penalty in America.

At the very least, the State of Florida, which has so firmly declared itself to be pro-life, should quickly abolish their own death penalty. I'm looking forward to seeing Jeb Bush making his position clear in the near future.

As far as withholding essential care, I'm also looking forward to a complete overhaul of the Veterans' Administration hospital system.

#93 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 03:23 PM:

And I'm looking forward to chocolate air.

#94 ::: Ted Kocot ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 03:44 PM:

Uh, somebody ought to mention here that the slippery slope is generally considered a logical fallacy.

But hey, they're so much fun and so easy to do, letís imagine the hellish slippery slope we might find ourselves on if keep developing technologies to keep people alive and require their use. In my story the heroine (er, victim) is named Sibyl of CumaeÖ

Or maybe Iím just being a Cassandra?

#95 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 04:11 PM:

I would like to introduce to you my pal Azygos, who is a Nurse Practioner in hospice and elder care. The man's cared for more dying folks. His is the voice of experience. I don't always agree with him -- he's a lot more conservative than I am on a lot of issues -- but I defer to his experience here.

End of Life Issues III

This life at any cost position comes from a Catholic view of life. Iím not Catholic and donít particularly have anything against Catholics but I think they should be free to practice their religion without forcing it on me. If Sean Hannity wants to torture his family members with feeding tubes and ventilators when they are nearing death thatís his choice. If I want my family to withhold treatments I donít want some plastic Pope in a Pope mobile cog-wheeling his wizened hand and telling them they canít. Thatís not to say I think what is happening to Terri Schiavo is right, itís not. The problem with this whole thing is not that she is being starved but that the tube was allowed to be put in in the first place. These types of problems are not uncommon to encounter in my job. Sometimes families take little steps in the hopes that their loved one will get better. Let me be very clear on this issue. A FEEDING TUBE IS NOT A LITTLE STEP. A feeding tube is extraordinary care and putting it in is a far cry from pulling it out.

#96 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 04:52 PM:

You know, I have my issues with the Catholic Church, and some of them actually have to do with a fuzzy idea of the distinction between the secular and the spiritual, but I cannot help pointing out that it is not the Pope (himself a disabled old man as worthy of respect for his physical condition as anybody else) that has done its best to impose his moral values as if they were absolute revealed truth in this as in other matters of the US internal affairs. And what position the Vatican has taken in this matter came very late, and consisted in a vaguely-worded restating of a well-known position of the Church against euthanasia. Terri Schiavo was a Catholic, and so are her parents, but IIRC so is her husband, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the whole circus of prolifers is not predominantly made up of Catholics.

I am not a Catholic myself, but I was raised as one, and the more I am exposed to some other Christian denominations, the better my opinion of the Catholic Church becomes. But even if it were not so, the display of anti-Catholic feeling I sense, evidenced in this as in other instances, in US society, is frankly apalling.

#97 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 05:43 PM:

Just curious: What's with the comparison to the death penalty? I'm not too keen on the death penalty myself, but there's quite a difference between the Schiavo situation and executing a brutal murderer as punishment for his crimes. (The question of guilt, to be obvious.)

Ted -- the slippery slope is not a "logical fallacy" in any relevant sense. It has been true throughout history that a social change at a given time often leads people to become accustomed to that change, and thus to tolerate further change in that direction in the future. That's an empirical argument, not something out of symbolic logic.

#98 ::: Ted Kocot ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 06:13 PM:

OK Jack, I'll give you the general trend, but the idea that letting a woman whose fore brain is missing in action die will lead to gassing alzheimerís patients holds as much sway as the argument that showing your driver's license to the little old lady at your local polling place is going to lead to Gestapo agents wandering around asking for our paperzzz.

Besides, is this really a trend setting case? If the top third of your head goes missing and your loved ones tell the doctors to let you go, does the federal government usually get involved? As far as I can tell, this a case with some interesting emotional buttons that are being pushed hard by people who normally could care less about your or my continued survival.

#99 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 06:14 PM:

Jack V.: if there is doubt, we should err on the side of Life, saith our [expletive deleted] President. This is even more true in the case of someone who may have been wrongfully convicted. In that case the state is going to actively murder an innocent person. Yet these folks don't believe that, in fact Mr. Bush allowed someone to be executed who was convicted on the testimony of a single eyewitness, who IIRC saw him from across a parking lot.

There are people I respect who have what they call a "consistent pro-Life ethic." They oppose both abortion and the death penalty. As, btw, does the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. I disagree, but they aren't being hypocritical.

Bush & Co. are. Bush even signed the bill allowing people in Texas to be disconnected from life support even if they want to live. See, you don't have a right to life if you can't pay your hospital bills, not in his view. Hypocritical scumbag.

But about the death penalty: if it's wrong to kill another human being, it's wrong and that's that. That is, in fact, what I believe. I'm a relativist, so it can be LESS wrong to kill them than not to, but only if they pose an immediate threat: it's still wrong to kill someone in self-defense, but less wrong than letting him kill you; it's wrong to shoot the gun-wielding teen through the forehead, but less wrong than letting him go on killing his classmates.

I don't think a 4-week fetus is a human being. Sorry, I just don't. I think Terri Schiavo is something that used to be a human being, and is now a hideous travesty of humanity. If Florida law would allow shooting her up with a lethal dose of morphine, I think that would not only not be wrong, it would be kind and just and merciful.

I deeply, deeply hope she - it, really - will die before her crazy parents find some conniving political entity to let them go back to torturing her to salve their guilty consciences.

#100 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 06:14 PM:

As to Terri Schiavo's Catholicism. The testimony of Father Gerard Murphy brought out the fact that Ms. Schiavo had not received communion in 2 years. That is not a practicing Catholic.

Testimony of Fr. Murphy at p. 17.

#101 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 07:16 PM:

Anna -- what anti-Catholicism do you think you have seen in this case? If it's denunciation of people who claim that their religion requires that what's left of Terri Schiavo continues to be propped up by whatever extraordinary means are available, why is that unacceptable? Certainly the claim that the courts are denying her religious liberty is bull, and is getting the stomping it deserves; but everything I've read has been lacing into the people, not the faiths the profess -- possibly excepting the point at which an officer of the Church presented the Church's position, at which point the Church has made itself a fair target.

#102 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 07:32 PM:

moe: presumably that's 2 years *before* the injury. Otherwise, it's a bit understandable...

#103 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Liz, I think your pal Azygos is a bigot. He is blaming the Cathoic Church for something that is being driven by the Bush brothers and a few other fanatics in the U.S. Congress, none of whom are (to my knowledge) Catholics.

Why don't we blame the Jews? After all, according to some authorities, we're to blame for pretty much everything.

#104 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 08:58 PM:

I'd say this week's anti-catholicism was triggered by a lawyer explaining to a judge how the lady might have to spend time in purgatory if they stopped her life support. Did I get that right? A lawyer explaining purgatory in a US Court? Then the Pope tagged in and started rolling around with them in the same sty. Pretty soon the only thing you can see is mud and crucifixes.

I was once a little catholic boy whose dad explained that people were afraid to vote for JFK, because he might run the country under orders from the Pope. But I figured Kennedy was an American and would support the First Amendment, so I wasn't afraid. Do the Schindlers believe in the First Amendment? Does the Pope? Maybe it doesn't matter if the ones now sworn to preserve and defend the Constitution don't.

#105 ::: Azygos ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 09:25 PM:


Youíre wrong about calling me a bigot. I work with a Physician who is closely associated with the Vatican and is very active in the Catholic Church. I often attend Mass with him. We have had long talks about this issue and the Catholic position on issues of life and death. This doctor always signs off care of patients to me when they enter hospice because his religious beliefs do not allow for comfort care only. The position he takes is that life must go on at any cost. You do every invasive procedure necessary to keep the person alive as long as possible whether the patient wants it or not. There may be other religious people and denominations who take this same view. I was not saying the entire argument was being pushed by just Catholics but it certainly is a Catholic value.

#106 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 09:49 PM:

Dan, I too want to know if you have that right. "A lawyer explaining purgatory in a US Court?" And the Court listening?

I am uneasily and sickeningly aware that the last man hanged in Australia - Ronald Ryan - might not have been guilty as charged. That was in 1964(?), and the death penalty was formally abolished in all States and Federally a decade later, all governments quietly commuting all death sentences in the interim.

The thing is, in 1964 huge crowds demonstrated against the death penalty. It had become very rare in Australia during the previous few decades. Ryan's hanging was made a political issue by the Victorian (state) government of the day, and it was hurled from office at the next election.

I understand that although the death penalty is opposed by many in the US, there is not that groundswell of popular revulsion. For I can tell you that despite the occasional outpouring from someone aggrieved beyond rationality, it's a dead issue here. It's gone forever, and it'll never come back so long as there is elected government here.

I wonder what the difference is?

#107 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 10:03 PM:

Why don't we blame the Jews? After all, according to some authorities, we're to blame for pretty much everything.

Myself, I blame the Jews for Dark Matter. I figure that's what they wanted the blood of Christian children for. Now what've we got? A universe where we can't account for all the damn gravity!

Of course, that was trillions of years before Judaism, or even humans, were even a glimmer in the eye of the universe. Which just proves how clever they are!

#108 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2005, 11:00 PM:

Fermilab says there is probably no dark energy:

"We realized that you simply need to add this new key ingredient, the ripples of spacetime generated during the epoch of inflation, to Einstein's General Relativity to explain why the universe is accelerating today," Riotto says. "It seems that the solution to the puzzle of acceleration involves the universe beyond our cosmic horizon. No mysterious dark energy is required."

Those sneaky Jews! Always one step ahead!

#109 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 02:12 AM:

OK. Assuming just for a moment that it could at all be possible to regenerate someone's missing cerebral cortex--

I know, I know, bear with me here

--what kind of medical technology would that require?

Cloning, perhaps?

Stem-cell research and manipulation?

Whoo-hoo! Glad to know Prez Bush is in favor of all that stuff now!

#110 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 02:44 AM:

Mitch Wagner writes: "Liz, I think your pal Azygos is a bigot. He is blaming the Cathoic Church for something that is being driven by the Bush brothers and a few other fanatics in the U.S. Congress, none of whom are (to my knowledge) Catholics."

The Schindlers have a "religious advisor", a Brother Rasputin or some such, some kind of member of a Catholic religious order. He's often speaking to the media, appearing on cable talk shows, etc.

He kinda creeps me out. I have to wonder what kind of fantasy talk he's been feeding to the parents.

#111 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 02:49 AM:

Regarding the atrophied cortex...

People have gotten by with lower than normal amounts of cortex.

But the atrophy of Schiavo's cortex, combined with the flatline EEG, certainly suggests that what she still has left isn't doing anything.

#112 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 03:49 AM:

Xopher: Myself, I blame the Jews for Dark Matter.

This just goes to show how wrong I've been all this time, blaming gays for everything.

Nichole of the Cool Name: --what kind of medical technology would that require?

A dead white chicken, still bleeding, 6 tablets One-A-Day Vitamins, 2 cups SpinalFluidCornstarch(r)(tm), and someone with a whole lot more gall than me to take the money and still explain to the bereaved how it was their "lack of faith" that kept God from cuisinarting all that into a new human brain, complete with the deceased's memory wrinkles.

#113 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 07:31 AM:
This life at any cost position comes from a Catholic view of life. Iím not Catholic and donít particularly have anything against Catholics but I think they should be free to practice their religion without forcing it on me.

Yeah, anti-Catholic bigot.

Prolonging physical life at any cost, regardless of the patient's wishes, is not now and never has been "a Catholic view of life."

See also:

#114 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 07:43 AM:

Here's a piece by a Jesuit bioethicist explaining more about the Catholic Church's position on withdrawal of medical treatment.

The Church has never required aggressive treatment until the end, or disapproved of withdrawing all but comfort care in terminal cases. Azygos's friend has some idiosyncratic beliefs about this issue - he's not reflecting official Catholic doctrine.

#115 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 08:13 AM:

What Rivka and James Macdonald said.

This doctor always signs off care of patients to me when they enter hospice because his religious beliefs do not allow for comfort care only.

Is just not true.

Not only is comfort care allowed, it is required. The Catholic Church supports Terminal Sedation. (This doctrine goes back to Kant; I haven't read the original, only discussion on his duty ethic and how it relates to end-of-life care.)

And I would have been shocked had the Supreme Court chose to intercede. The opinions in this matter should be seen as clear in the cases Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill.

There is no slippery slope here. Legally and ethically cessation of treatment is quite distinct from euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.

#116 ::: epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 09:43 AM:

Dave Luckett said the death penalty is a dead issue here [in Australia]. Yet, it was not all that many years ago that it also seemed to have quietly gone away in the USA. I can remember the fuss when it was brought back. I wonder if it could be brought back here as well? The "straiteners and punishers" seem to be in the ascendant; they are making heavy use of a financial whip, and it's always useful to have that kind of ultimate sanction to, ever so understatedly, have in your armoury against your opponents.

The dragging back to of gains made and understandings developed in industrial relations, "women's rights", social balance, sexual behaviour, gender, environmental & sustainability issues, etc., has been one of the most distressing trends of recent years. I've been pointing out that the attitudes & re-arrangements that people are calling "back to the 1950s" are actually closer to the 1850s.

Unfortunately, the reviews of the last millenium or two that we saw back in 1999/2000 showed that there were times when a whole lot of good done over a few decades, or a century or two or more could be happily wiped out, leaving all the suffering & struggle to go through all over again. With my energy failing, I can certainly understand how some might be very deeply depressed at the prospect.

#117 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 10:15 AM:

I was listening to NPR this morning - there was much reporting about the ailing Pope's "serenely abandoning himself to God's will."

#118 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 11:36 AM:

This just goes to show how wrong I've been all this time, blaming gays for everything.

No, no, you're not wrong. Remember that there are gay Jews. (And if you meet a nice gay Jewish boy, give him my email address, wilya?)

Besides, gays really are to blame for some things. Modern computer science (Alan Turing), for one thing. The music to West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein) for another. I'm sure you can think of other horrible examples.

#119 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 12:16 PM:

Can a Jewish doctor and Wiccan priest find love in Hoboken? Tune in next time and find out!


#120 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 12:26 PM:

Besides, gays really are to blame for some things. Modern computer science (Alan Turing), for one thing.

I always thought it interesting that the Turing Test for intelligence is based on the ability to "pass" as human.

#121 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 12:56 PM:

Jill - I sure hope so! From your monitor to the gods' eyes!

Alex - I've often said that I can pass for human in dim light.

#122 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 01:24 PM:

Xopher: "Besides, gays really are to blame for some things. Modern computer science (Alan Turing), for one thing. The music to West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein) for another. I'm sure you can think of other horrible examples."

Also, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," which was a really good show for the first 1-1/2 seasons or so but Just Won't Stop, like an aging queen still prancing around in the mesh tank top and chaps that he looked great in 40 years ago.....

I've been listening obsessively to the soundtrack of "De-Lovely." The music of Cole Porter had, until then, been recorded and performed so many times that it had descended into aural wallpaper, stuff you hear but never listen to. I'm amazed at how powerful — and subservice — the music really is.

#123 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 01:32 PM:

I'm amazed at how powerful ó and subservice ó the music really is.

That was supposed to read "subversive," right?

#124 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 02:29 PM:

No, no, you're not wrong. Remember that there are gay Jews. (And if you meet a nice gay Jewish boy, give him my email address, wilya?)

but of course!

Besides, gays really are to blame for some things.

Sadly, I, personally, am to blame for none of them. Or anything comparable.

#125 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 02:35 PM:

Xopher - give the Ganesha more candy. ;-)

#126 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 04:26 PM:

Jill - you're probably right. After a whole lot of barriers fell down and revealed things I didn't want to know, I stopped doing the daily Ganesha puja that had been my habit. Not that I was ungrateful, just -- I needed some barriers to stay up for a while while I got my equilibrium back.

Now I pretty much have it. Time to start singing praises to Ganesha again.

#127 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 04:27 PM:

Oh, and I've been meaning to say this. Everyone keeps saying how Terri Schiavo was a Catholic. Then this text might be relevant:

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, pace.

#128 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 05:32 PM:

And whatever happened to "Not my will, Lord, but Yours"?

#129 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 05:40 PM:

Terri Schiavo was raised Catholic. But at the time of her accident, according to the testimony of Father Gerard Murphy at the trial of this matter (if you accept the assumptions formulated in the questions--which were not objected to by the attorneys for the parents, so I do), she had not had communion for 2 years prior. So not exactly a Catholic in good standing.

#130 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 06:12 PM:

I try to avoid questions about who's a "good" or "bad" Catholic.

It's not like they take roll call in Church, either. If she didn't take Communion for two years, it could be because she was conscious of a serious sin on her soul that would prevent her from doing so. Lack of faith isn't the only reason.

Furthermore, you don't just give up being Catholic. Baptism puts a permanent mark on your soul. No matter what you do, or don't do, believe, or don't believe, Baptism remains.

#131 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 07:06 PM:

I gave up being Catholic for Lent one year. Never did pick it up again.

#132 ::: Ted Kocot ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 07:10 PM:

Xopher: Myself, I blame the Jews for Dark Matter

Given the number of high-end physicists who fled Germany as a result of Hitler's rise to power, it's probably safe to assume their involvement.

#133 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 07:37 PM:

James D. Macdonald: Furthermore, you don't just give up being Catholic. Baptism puts a permanent mark on your soul. No matter what you do, or don't do, believe, or don't believe, Baptism remains.

Speak for your own soul, mister. Circumcision leaves a permanent mark; my baptism washed off just fine. No matter what you or anyone may care to believe.

I realize your remarks were in the context of people presuming to judge whether someone else was lapsed. I don't judge whether she died a Catholic on the basis of her history, and I equally stand against such a judgement made by others. If it is a doctrine of someone's faith that she was or was not Catholic, then that is only relevant to her faith if she believed that doctrine.

#134 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 07:57 PM:

I'm sorry, Dan, but you're wrong. Whatever you believe, or don't believe.

#135 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 08:24 PM:

As a once-baptized but long-lapsed Catholic, I can see how Baptism might leave a metaphorical mark forever. Certainly it has on me, at least as far as my having a more serious interest in what the Roman Catholic Church does/says than in what any other denomination does. Following its edicts is an entirely different matter.

#136 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 08:30 PM:

No, no, you're not wrong. Remember that there are gay Jews. (And if you meet a nice gay Jewish boy, give him my email address, wilya?)

My family is about 50% gay and completely Jewish, but unfortunately they're all either lesbians or partnered. Sorry, Xopher.

#137 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 08:42 PM:

James, I'm confused. When you say that "baptism leaves a mark on your soul, no matter what you believe," is your intent to explain Catholic doctrine, or to posit a fact of life that right-thinking people ought to accept?

#138 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 09:52 PM:

In listening to the various sides and people involved in the Schiavo case, I've come to this conclusion: her family has never really cme to grips with her loss, and as long as they have that breathing shell to cling to, they never will. I think postponing this for so long can only have made it worse, but that they've reached the point in their "Terri is still here with us" obsession that grips them that any interruption cannot be tolerated. I can respect the intensity of their love, even as I fear its unhealthy effects on them and those around them.

I can also respect those sincere and determined people who will find all human life sacred and worth preserving. I find many of them to be guided more by sensibility than sense, but we do need to be constantly mindful of the value of life, and to be careful of the results of our actions and their consequences--not just personally but in public policy as well. I cannot include Randall Terry or the Bush brothers among these people.

Also, if her family are sincere and convinced Christians, what reason do they have to fear Terri Schiavo's death? Do they doubt the judgment of a merciful and loving God? Do they, in spite of their claims of belief, fear that death really is the end of all things? I can understand a Christian with qualms about committing actions that might result in someone's death [although not enough people who claim to be Christians these days exhibit such qualms, IMO]. I am highly confused by supposed Christians who persist in acting as if the death of the body was the worst possible outcome for themselves or those they love.

#139 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 11:04 PM:

The whole thing about Terry Schiavo doesn't seem (to me) to be about anything so much as using the combination of a family tragedy and a coping failure to advance an agenda that there are no facts.

This is tied about in an attack on the rule of law and the power of courts only in as much as courts, like the determination of facts, are a way of deciding questions collectively. (No one has any facts in their head -- some of those things might represent facts, but the thing that makes a fact is its independence from any particular person's mind, on the one hand, and the brain stores everything as belief. Which is why no question of faith -- the experienced faith, not the material claims associated with a faith -- can be addressed factually.)

If facts are accepted -- as they generally have been since steam engines went into wide use -- they're a constraint on authority (we counted and measured and that policy doesn't work), a constraint on dogma and doctrine (the earth is old, life evolved, man is a variety of chimp, nothing human has access to absolutes because the universe we've got has error bars), and a constraint on the perception of possibility (liquefied cortex doesn't grow back).

I find that active attack on the idea of facts disturbing not in a they-must-be-crazy way, but in a "well, that has rather been the long term historical default" way.

Facts mean taking twenty years of working professional life and admitting you got it wrong, facts mean not getting what you most want, and facts mean giving up the idea that you don't need -- really, seriously, die-without-them NEED -- other people, including the people you don't like and don't agree with.

Facts also mean an ever-expanding amount of access to choice -- material comfort and security, capability, and the possibility of real peace, a peace not made out of the resignation of peasants and shift workers to their fate -- but a very great many people will pick the stories and the things that ought to be true over what can be weighed and measured and calculated.

It's a mistake to think that there's a common set of abstractions, a common measure of what is good and desireable, between the groups which accepts the utility of facts and the groups which do not.

#140 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2005, 11:26 PM:

I believe the point is that according to Catholic doctrine, sacraments (including baptism and confirmation) are irrevocable. Whatever that guy meant by saying that Terri Schiavo hadn't taken communion in the two years before she died, it wasn't that she'd ceased to be a Catholic.

#141 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 01:00 AM:

At the risk of sounding like an idiot because I am missing something very basic, what happened to patient's privacy? Why do I know so much about this poor woman's medical history? I'm guessing she didn't sign any release forms after her initial brain injury so how is this legal or ethical?

Thank you to Linkmeister and Rich McAllister for posteding links to the NEJM and the court transcript pdfs. I avoid the news because I am "an oversensitive chick" as a friend of mine calls me and I get overwhelmed and depressed easily by bad news. Because of my hiding from the news I had never heard of this case until last week when it burst like a bomb of hatred and rage all over the messageboard I moderate.

Reading those files really helped me make some sense of what is going on and where the posters are getting expressions like "she's not ill, she's disabled" and "err on the side of life."

Someone suggested today that they raid the hospice, kidnap Terri Schiavo and bear her off to another country for treatment so she can be rehabbed and get her life back far from her murdering husband. Sigh. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

#142 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 11:02 AM:

Here's the testimony of Fr. Murphy at pp 16 and 17 of the transcript:

Q_ How would you define, Father Murphy, a practicing Catholic?

A Off, that's a tough one.
Q Let me rephrase it. Does the church have any particular definition of what a

practicing Catholic is?

A Certainly. We have what we call Easter duty, which means sometime from Lent to Trinity Sunday, in that three or four month window, a Catholic is required to receive holy communion. If necessary, confession. Catholics are mortally bound to assist at mass. Attend mass every Sunday. Every holy day of obligation. Certainly those are all criteria for a practicing Catholic.

Q If Theresa Schiavo had not taken communion over a two year period before her medical incident and not participated in confession, would she be considered by the church to be a practicing Catholic?

A Not according to the criteria. No. Practicing, no.

In one sense, it puts the lie to the parents' contention that Theresa was a devout Catholic and would not have wanted her feeding tube removed.

She may not have wanted the feeding tube removed, but not because she was a devout Catholic. And as the Court held, the evidence was clear and convincing that she did not want to be kept alive by extraordinary measures. So the parents' lost that fight as well. I am sorry for them, but I am angry that they are putting all of us through this terrible spectacle. And that the cable news networks are descending to rank yellow journalism not seen since the Spanish American War.

This is evil.

#143 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 12:11 PM:

I'm disturbed by the day-to-day evidence turned up around the Terri Schiavo case of what I've been afraid of for the last four years. The bottom line with the Bushes and their followers is that they *really are* flirting with the idea of becoming South American-style thugs -- willing to start a civil war, if they're impeded by law and due process in the current United States of America.

The Schiavo case naturally highlights the ongoing cultural struggle in the U.S. between rational thought (the heritage of scientific and social progress) and superstition (the ignorance and fear of neglected and undereducated segments in our population).

But underneath that, I'm increasingly afraid that the Bushes, Cheney, Delay, et al., really will force all of us to test the viability of their "Animal Farm" conspiracy. (I'm still hoping that things won't come down to one of Graydon's pessimistic scenarios -- believing in the basic decency of most people, the reluctance of police and armies to follow criminal orders, and the ability of reason and common sense to prevail against liars and their victims.)

We'd better keep talking to the victims, though, and not fall asleep.

#144 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 01:03 PM:

" . . . the ongoing cultural struggle . . .

This is a bit simplistic.

From what I've read, the "other side" sees this as a cultural struggle between decent life-valuing folk and immoral, materialistic opportunists.

What the REAL struggle is is between people who believe in due process, the rule of law, seperation of powers, and checks and balances and people who see government as a tool for advancing their agenda.

I think law and pluralism are winning. The polls clearly show that the public is disgusted at the government intrusion into the Schiavo's affairs, an the right is terribly divided. I am really enjoying the squirming of various bloggers and journalists.

#145 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 01:44 PM:

The value struggle between people who've learned to analyze and understand cause-effect relationships, and people who refuse to accept the implications of conclusions that contradict "comfortable beliefs" is real, too.

The "life-valuing folk" are misled by liars who use the trappings of authority to cover ill-formed pronouncements. The liars have louder megaphones in the media. The "life-valuing folk" don't always take the time to find opinions from someone who knows what they're talking about. (Those opinions are out there, but "life-valuing folk" don't always find them.)

In the meantime, some "life-valuing folk" are not able to identify who the immoral, materialistic opportunists really are. This is the basic fuel used by your people who see government as a tool for advancing their agenda -- to cover lies and rally support for antisocial actions. I believe one component of the successes that Bush, Delay, et al., achieve at the polls is based on stirring up distrust and resentment in "regular folk" for "smart folk."

Recognizing that there are people smarter than you and learning to separate what they say from what conmen and well-meaning laymen say is part of growing up and participating in a rational society. Respect for the laws of a rational society is another part of it.

I share your concern about the attempts by current placeholders in the Executive and Legislative branches of the Federal government to undermine law and due process -- by painting law and due process as unjust. But I'm also concerned about their other attempts -- to undermine respect for science and rationality by preying upon susceptibility to superstition.

#146 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 04:14 PM:
I believe the point is that according to Catholic doctrine, sacraments (including baptism and confirmation) are irrevocable. Whatever that guy meant by saying that Terri Schiavo hadn't taken communion in the two years before she died, it wasn't that she'd ceased to be a Catholic.
Thank you, Teresa. That certainly makes sense to me. What gave me pause was, the rebuttal "Your wrong" seemed aimed, not at a statement about Catholic doctrine, but at Dan Hoey's opinion about his own soul. "You're wrong about what Catholics believe" is par for the course; "You're wrong because you disagree with Catholic belief" is, however, not something I'm used to reading here.

As to the relevance of whether Terri Schiavo had taken communion in her last 2 years, I'm with Graydon--I assumed the point was what that implied about her priorities.

#147 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 04:49 PM:

I believe the point is that according to Catholic doctrine, sacraments (including baptism and confirmation) are irrevocable. Whatever that guy meant by saying that Terri Schiavo hadn't taken communion in the two years before she died, it wasn't that she'd ceased to be a Catholic.

That, however, begs the question as to what the proper determiner of someone's religion is: church doctrine or the person's belief. It's somewhat akin to Syria's refusal to allow a change in nationality even after the person has moved elsewhere and got a new passport; in both cases one is positing an extrinsic, invisible marker that somehow overrides not only the person's individual choice but their actions and their recent history (as well as any normative viewing of their life).

[And no, no further comparison between the Catholic Church and the country of Syria are meant or implied.]

To be clear: I believe that James Macdonald is correct as a matter of Catholic doctrine. What hasn't yet been addressed is whether that's actually applicable (or even meaningful) here.

#148 ::: Java Black ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 05:19 PM:

1. Interesting. But I think there's something deeper. Without a doubt, the religious right will jump at any opportunity to make Christians sound like a persecuted minority, but this is a symptom, not an agenda. They don't actually need evidence to feel like victims. The real horror is that we tend to focus on this issue as a "copycat" of Columbine. There are many similarities, but it is not because it is a copycat. The killers in each case were unsuccessful in their social lives, bullied, living in small close-knit communities, and exposed at some point to some kind of Nazi thought. There may be some kind of a pattern. But by viewing the situation as a copycat rather than as the symptom of certain situational catalysts, we may be just awaiting another killing. The right likes this, because it can continue to blame these things ENTIRELY on individuals and thus, support its entire legitimation system that keeps us from ever fixing problems at the roots.
2. Well said.
3. I don't get it.

#149 ::: Alaya Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2005, 10:05 PM:

A snippet from the latest article I've read on the subject:

"Earlier, Pinellas Circuit Judge George Greer rejected the family's latest motion. The family claimed Schiavo tried to say ''I want to live'' hours before her tube was removed, saying ''AHHHHH'' and ''WAAAAAAA'' when asked to repeat the phrase."

I've heard of denial before, but this is ridiculous. Have these parents completely disconnected from reality? Have they just decided that all the doctors and the CT scans and EEGs are *lying* and their daughter's cortex really hasn't liquified? Someone commented earlier that the parents were essentially asking for a Jesus-sized miracle. I actually think that implies too much rationality in their case. They don't think they need a Jesus-sized miracle, because as far as they're concerned, her brain is just a little damaged, and she can still hear and understand them (and *speak*, for god's sake!) and everything would be fine and dandy if these ignorant doctor and legal types would just leave her alone. I'm sure it's that much harder to let go when you have someone in front of you who looks just like the person you loved moving and vocalizing randomly, but still after fifteen years you'd think that reality would have set in...

This situation is sad enough without the political manipulation. And now a whole movement is aiding and abetting the Schindler's irrational denial of Schiavo's condition.

(Btw, this is my first post on your blog, Teresa, though I've been reading it for a while now, so hello ;)

#150 ::: Lois Aleta Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2005, 02:55 AM:

This (Saturday) afternoon on CNN, Michael Schiavo's lawyer was talking to reporters. When asked about whether Terri would be allowed to receive Communion, he said that, under the state court agreement by which her feeding tube was removed, the hospice's chaplain had administered Holy Communion to her before the tube was removed. It was apparently administered through the tube. (This seemed really odd to me, not receiving by mouth, but I suppose under the circumstances the Church would make allowances. I wondered if she received the wine rather than the host to make it easier to go through the tube, or mixed as Orthodox churches do, although such mixing is Frowned Upon by Rome.) Also, that when she is nearer the point of death, which she's not yet (or wasn't as of 3 p.m. Saturday) the chaplain will again give her Communion and the Last Rites. The lawyer seemed to be saying that her parents' "spiritual adviser" would be welcome at the latter event if he behaves himself. (OK, OK. He didn't actually say "if he behaves himself," and maybe I'm reading that into the lawyer did say, but that's what it seemed like to me.)

And she will be cremated -- no longer against Church doctrine, if anyone's wondering -- and buried in the (presumably Catholic) cemetery in Pennsylvania where Michael's family has a plot and relatives nearby, near where they both grew up. And that while her parents and siblings are not in the room when Michael is, and vice-versa, due to the families not getting along, this is because Michael is there nearly all the time, but he leaves the room now and then so her family can be with her.

Also, the lawyer seemed to hold out hope that at the end both families will be together peaceably. Though he said something about that there might be more than one memorial. I wasn't sure if he meant more than one headstone or more than one Mass or maybe both.

As for Terri, I think of her soul as already through Purgatory and in Heaven, and trying to tell her parents, "Mom, Dad, give up already!"

#151 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2005, 08:47 AM:

I don't think this is what "Amor caecus est" is supposed to mean. Yes, the Schindlers' delusion and obliviousness is obvious to anyone acquainted with the facts of the case. On the other hand, it's hard not to feel a certain amount of sympathy towards them. It's one thing for doctors to tell you that random motions and noises are normal and expected for someone in this condition. It's quite another when one of those random motions and noises inevitably coincides with something you do. Human beings are really good at pattern recognition and if we want to find something badly enough, we'll find it whether it's there or not.

I don't think I will ever forget the way my mom appeared to look at me. Her eyes would open just the least bit and seem to stare straight at me with a look which seemed so sentient and made it look like if she just opened her eyes a little she'd be awake. Of course, she couldn't really move her head and her head happened to be at the exact right angle such that her eyes were pointing at me when I stood by her side. If you sit in the room long enough, you see her do all sorts of things which clearly do not correlate with anything.

I don't think I will ever forget the way my mom's friends treated her as some sort of carnival game where they would try to elicit something which they interpreted as a reaction from her and cheer as if they'd just won a plush doll when it coincidentally happened. This includes my mom's church group who arrived en masse and appeared to think that if they inundated her with enough really loud, really bad singing, her innate sense of taste would force her to wake just so she could tell them to stop. But they were all so happy when they saw an eyelid or lip move that I couldn't tell them that she did that whether you were there trying to get her attention or not.

In a rare show of family unity, it was pretty clear to the family exactly what my mom wanted. She was such an active and engaged woman that none of us could imagine her wanting to spend the rest of her life in a catatonic state. Chemotherapy had proven to be utterly ineffective so the brain tumor was romping its way merrily through my mom's brain. So there was very little doubt of her ultimate condition. We had all accepted that beating the cancer back into remission this time was, as an understatement, unlikely. (I remain intensely grateful for the additional 18 months of life the doctors gave my mom though. We thought she had the cancer licked. Ha!)

Her friends were another issue entirely. I guess one could argue that it is an expression of love to want to hold on to someone as long as possible, even if that person no longer exists in any meaningful sense except as a life-sized prop which reminds you of who she was. Honestly though, this strikes me as being rather selfish because I don't know how else to see it besides as a way of saying that this person exists merely for your benefit. Still, to them, it is an expression of love and to do otherwise would be to show a lack of love towards her. In retrospect, I guess we were fortunate in that they had no legal standing to object to what we all felt were my mom's wishes.

Still, you see the way she appears to look at you and for a moment, it seems all too plausible that she will get out of bed and go on with her life as if none of this had ever happened. For some of us, reality intrudes, but I can completely understand why it would not for others. It is not an excuse for the wanton abuse of the rule of law or to turn their private ordeal into a nationwide debate. I suppose it only proves the old adage about the road to Hell. There is no question at this point that they appear either completely delusional about their daughter's condition or utterly manipulative of the media. But there is also no question that they are doing this out of love. (Like I said, this is not a justification as much as it an explanation.)

What I find disturbing is that they appear to be unable to distinguish between the active taking of a life and the respecting the wish to withhold life-sustaining medical treatment. Mrs. Schindler has been quoted to the effect of begging us not to let the doctors "kill" her daughter. Of course, no one is killing her daughter. The doctors are merely respecting her wishes denying medical treatment. As we become more capable, we need to develop the wisdom to realize that the ability to do something does not mean that we should always exercise that ability.

Of course, even if the Schindlers are so blinded by grief that they behave insensibly, I have no non-cynical explanation for the behavior of legislative and executive branches. For example, why would Florida state agents deliberately violate a judge's order by attempting to seize Terry Schiavo?

This started off being about care and compassion for the dying, but has turned into a rather disturbing disregard for the rule of law. NPR had a story last night about a legislator who talked about cutting the budget of the 9th Circuit Court (or in the extreme, dismantling it) if it did not make decisions that the Congress was happy with. It's worth noting that those who advocated for the insertion of a feeding tube are also those who rail against judges who "legislate from the bench." I guess the irony is lost on them for a judge to order its insertion would require a judge to do just that. If they wanted judges to rule based on the law, not create new law, there was only one decision they could reach and they all, unsurprisingly, reached it.

What does it mean that those who are opposed to the rule of law currently rule? Quis custodies custodiet?

#152 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2005, 10:37 AM:

The reaction that surprised me the most in a brain-flatlined friend was yawning -- yawns apparently are deep enough in the brainstem that they look quite normal in people with no cortical function at all. This is really creepy.

#153 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2005, 08:47 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: ...What gave me pause was, the rebuttal "[You're] wrong" seemed aimed, not at a statement about Catholic doctrine, but at Dan Hoey's opinion about his own soul. "You're wrong about what Catholics believe" is par for the course; "You're wrong because you disagree with Catholic belief" is, however, not something I'm used to reading here....

I take the denial of what I know about my own soul--coming as it does without reasoned argument, and from someone I have never met--to be a statement of faith. Not necessarily "You're wrong because you disagree with Catholic doctrine" but "You're wrong because what you say denies my deeply-held religious belief". The distinction is important because, doctrine to the contrary, most Catholics do not believe in every doctrinal point taught by the church. Whatever its nature, James D. McDonald is welcome to his faith, and I will not argue with him further on its points, for all my faith in its incorrectness.

I think it might be more polite for him to be more explicit about the source of a belief based on his faith, but that may be too much to ask. Many people cannot distinguish between what they know from observation and what they know from faith, and there are cases on the border between these that are hard to categorize. In addition, I am not exactly an expert in politeness, so my analysis of this nicety is suspect.

In sum, I don't hold any animus against JDM, and I rather regret the somewhat intemperate nature of my outburst. I felt his statements, as applied to my soul, to be degrading and false, but I'm sure he doesn't mean them to be. And whether or not he does, that's life in a multisectarian society.

#154 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2005, 11:37 PM:

John Chu: I don't think this is what "Amor caecus est" is supposed to mean. Yes, the Schindlers' delusion and obliviousness is obvious to anyone acquainted with the facts of the case. On the other hand, it's hard not to feel a certain amount of sympathy towards them. It's one thing for doctors to tell you that random motions and noises are normal and expected for someone in this condition. It's quite another when one of those random motions and noises inevitably coincides with something you do. Human beings are really good at pattern recognition and if we want to find something badly enough, we'll find it whether it's there or not.

Tom Whitmore: The reaction that surprised me the most in a brain-flatlined friend was yawning -- yawns apparently are deep enough in the brainstem that they look quite normal in people with no cortical function at all. This is really creepy.

Yes. Those things are very familiar from my experience with my mother.

Two more things that stay with me: My Mom was very particular about her appearance. She would never let anyone see her unless she was fully dressed, groomed and made up. And that included me, after I moved to a place of my own. So seeing her lying there in bed with an old-lady's sparse undergrowth of facial hair was as deeply wrong to me as anything else that was wrong with her.

All her life, she was nearly blind without her glasses. She bought new glasses every year or two or three, and always went with frames that were very fashionable. (This led to some very unfortunate choices in the 70s, such as her octagonal frames, which she actually stuck with a relatively long time.)

Through all the months my mother was in a persistent vegetative state, we kept her eyeglasses on the nightstand next to her bed. Not in it, on it, where she could easily reach them, should she regain the will and desire to do so.

The frames were small ovals, made of silver-colored wire.

The location of her glasses heightened the illusion that she was just resting, and that she might, at any moment, get up out of bed, put on her glasses, and demand that someone fetch her a tweezers so she could do something about the facial hair.

#155 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2005, 11:48 PM:

I was raised Catholic and well remember those communion wafers. You weren't allowed to chew because it was THE body of Jesus Christ so the 5 minutes after you got up from the communion rail and went back to your seat, was spent trying to use your tongue to get the wafer off the roof of your mouth and down into your esophageal tube w/o chewing. The wafers were made of unleavened bread so they were just like what Jesus served to the disciples.

Terri Schiavo lacks the ability to swallow according to the evidence available to the fact finders. Had the Guardian ad Litem's recommendation been followed, additional swallowing tests would have been conducted to cement this fact. They were not b/c the first Terri's law was overturned and the GAL lost his position as a result.

If those folks who are lobbying to put the Communion host in Terri's mouth, were able to do so, Terri would likely choke.

I also find it ghoulish that an issue about communion is being made when the young woman in question had not received communion for two years prior to her heart attack. Actions, here, speak louder than words.

#156 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 12:59 AM:

Couldn't you wash the dry communion wafers (aka hosts - nothing to do with parasites or innkeepers AFAIK) down with the communion wine (aka "this is my blood")?
My family wasn't teetotal, but neither was it much on alcohol - sherry or beer for the adults at special family celebrations, which basically was Christmas and, at long intervals, weedings (erm, weddings) and christenings - so that after my Confirmation (like First Communion) it was the first, and almost only, wine or alcohol of any kind I tasted, at about 12 or 13, for quite a few years.

PS: speaking of hosts (and brain-slugs as Neil Gaiman was recently) The Puppet Masters was on yesterday here on one of our free-to-air commercial networks! Synchronicity, man. Probably not some slightly oblique reference to Easter & recent church-related events.

#157 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 02:24 AM:

Epacris, I suspect that Moe99 and I were both Catholic-raised during the period when you walked up the aisle, knelt and had the wafer placed on your tongue. It wasn't handed to you as can be done now. You were not offered a sip of wine back then. I seem to remember reading/seeing that wine is now offered in at least some Catholic churches.

#158 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 05:43 AM:

I seem to remember reading/seeing that wine is now offered in at least some Catholic churches.

As well as some Anglican and Episcopalian churches, IME.

#159 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 06:29 AM:

I seem to remember reading/seeing that wine is now offered in at least some Catholic churches.

As well as some Anglican and Episcopalian churches, IME.

You will always be given wine in Anglican/Episcopal churches; rarely, if ever, in Catholic.

#160 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 06:54 AM:

Mark D.: You will always be given wine in Anglican/Episcopal churches; rarely, if ever, in Catholic.

How recent is your information? I got the impression in the 1990s that wine was de rigueur. Chewing, too. Though perhaps my memory is leaking again.

Let us also dismiss the suggestion of someone choking a comatose patient with a communion host. There are procedures for administering communion to people who cannot swallow; after all, there is no theologically minimum size for a host. Procedures might be not be followed every single time, but this case is being carefully watched.

#161 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 09:26 AM:

Well according to the news sources, a drop of wine was placed on her tongue and no bread was given b/c her tongue was dry.

I was raised in the Catholic Church between the 50s and the 70s so both pre and post Vatican 2. Wine for the laity was not introduced until later and even then it was not always done on Sundays. I just remember the instruction given if, by any horror you threw up immediately after church. You were to go get the good father who would clean up the mess and dispose of it according to the rules. It was not allowed to go down the drain, because it was still considered the body of Christ. Wonder if that is still sop today.

#162 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 10:55 AM:

My understanding is that wine for the laity is PERMITTED under Vatican II, but not usually done even today. (I needed to know this for a story about a vampire taking communion and having a strange little feeling of doubleness when she sipped the wine.)

#163 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 11:42 AM:

Xopher: And I'm looking forward to chocolate air.

Jon Singer told me he was walking around in a town in Pennsylvania, and was idly wondering just where he was. Then he noticed that the streetlamps were shaped like chocolate kisses and realized he was in Hershey. He walked past a belching smokestack and felt something on his skin; looked and saw tiny dabs of what looked like chocolate. I'm hoping he didn't taste one, but memory seems to be shielding me from that information.

So there you have it, for some values of 'it.' My reaction was to wonder when we'd hear the first case of Chocolate Lung in the courtroom.

#164 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 11:59 AM:

Kip - I meant, of course, perfectly breathable air flavored with chocolate. Air that merely SMELLS of chocolate I have experienced right here in Hoboken, before the Maxwell House plant closed. It beat the smell of burnt coffee, that's for sure.

#165 ::: MaryRoot ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 12:48 PM:

On the Schindler's refusal to face facts - in the 2000 round of court filings, they admitted and accepted that their daughter was PVS. They've changed their minds. AFAIK, no one has asked them why.

Terri Schiavo lived near to her fundi-Catholic parents and didn't go to Mass for two years? Just knowing the dynamics of my family and those of my Catholic friends, that would have been a fairly big deal. Not even Christmas and Easter? Something was going on there.

When this all started, there was a link on one of the blogs to the University of Miami's Ethics Project Schiavo page. I read it during lunch one day. It amazes me that no one in the media appears to have done the same. I haven't watched much news on this, but I have yet to see a single broadcast that didn't include something refuted by an hour's skimming of the official record.

It began with the Swift Boat folks, this idea that because official records may have some errors, they can all be thrown out the window. And that people coming along with a new version of the story don't have to offer any evidence when they contradict military reports or the findings of a court appointed guardian. The conspiracy mongers have taken over. "Don't trust anything you read" is one thing to say to people who actually read a lot, but quite dangerous when people who never read much to begin with take it literally.

PS - The greatest communion wine scene in the history of film: Greta Garbo in FLESH AND THE DEVIL. Made this lapsed-Catholic girl gasp. Highly recommended.

#166 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Probability of precipitation 80%, cloud cover bittersweet in the morning, chance of kisses.

#167 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 02:07 PM:

You're not allowed to chew the body of Christ?

I find myself strangely disappointed by that.

#168 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 02:54 PM:

I feel that if you're going to do deiphagia, you might as well acknowledge it...we rip ours to shreds and put butter on him.

#169 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 04:23 PM:

Xopher (Christopher Hatton):

I feel that if you're going to do deiphagia, ...
Surely that should be theophagia. Or deivorousness?
you might as well acknowledge it...we rip ours to shreds and put butter on him.
As long as you don't do hot buttered laps. Honest, I just heard of Goats this morning, and now I'm their biggest fan!

#170 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Ah. You're right. Theophagia. I knew something was wrong with that, but I couldn't figure out what.

As a character in The Invention of Love said of the (then-new) word 'homosexual', "It's half Greek and half Latin!" To which another replied "Sounds about right..."

#171 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 06:13 PM:

Chiming in on the informal Catholic Sacrament of the Eucharist poll:

I was brought up attending St. Angela of Merici in Metairie, Louisiana during most of the '80s and the first little chunk of the '90s. Wine was never offered during my Mass attendence, although in Sunday School (same church) they taught us how we were supposed to receive it should that change or we find ourselves obliged to attend Mass elsewhere. I don't recall the teacher telling us not to chew. More emphasis was put on which hand goes under which.

Dan: Thanks for your response. Have I mentioned how much I love this place?

#172 ::: regina ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2005, 11:56 PM:

I went to Catholic Church when hats were de rigeur and chapel veils, or horrors, a piece of kleenex was used in a pinch w/ a bobby pin when you forgot your hat when you were on vacation. I remember one Sunday going up and kneeling down to receive the host, bending my neck back as the priest came down the line w/ the chalice carrying the hosts (it's not chalice--that's what holds the wine but I can't think of the other one)w/ the altar boy holding the paten underneath to catch any stray crumbs that might drift down (as if). My hat fell off and of course that was a mortal sin to be w/o a hat so I turned to grab it as the host came w/in placement range of my mouth and memory blessedly escapes me after that. It was a most embarrassing time for a shy 9 year old.

#173 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 01:32 AM:

regina: It's the ciborium. While I never had an experience even remotely as terrifying as your hat and host debacle, I remember well the extraordinary knife edge of terror and piety. What if you bit the host? Would it bleed? Certainly I remember the priest meticulously picking up a crumb he had accidentally dropped to the ground -- picking it up, cradling it gently and eating it, then wiping the floor assiduously with one of those crisply starched white cloths.

#174 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 01:37 AM:

Theophagia or something similar, taken more literally than usual, was one of the controversial aspects of Stranger in a Strange Land, was it not?

One objection to "television" was that the word was a barbarous conjuction of Latin & Greek. Now if a list of such words was assembled, perhaps one could weave a story from them ... or is that just what conspiracy theorists do?

There are some drawings from mediaeval (& later) times showing various miracles & manifestations where The Host bled. Wasn't it sometimes related to anti-Semitism -- Jews were said to try to steal them to use in some unholy rite? Certainly this was also claimed of Satanists

#175 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 07:04 AM:


Exactly. Robert A. Heinlein believed that he had done so with the utmost respect, which in this thread equates to feeling safe to make a very extended joke because, after all, Christianity is a Religion, not a cult, right? Martians communicated regularly with their colleagues in an afterlife, which gave the theology a certain literalism, which made Theophagia eminently rational. Heinlein was quite bitter that the Cult led by Charles Manson gave Communes bad PR, and, far worse, the nearly illiterate Manson treated "Stranger in a Strange Land" as a Received Text, just as "Helter Skelter" became liturgical music. Heinlein did not agree with Manson's take on open marriages and the Hollywood equivalent of throwing people out of airlocks. There are people who seriously state that Manson was set up by U.S. Government Behavior Modification Therapy at Vacaville precisely to discredit The Counter-Culture. Heinlein was an innocent bystander in the blowback, or was hit by Friendly Fire. Unless you're really paranoid, and think that Heinlein was the disinformation target all along. Maybe by someone who hated the Navy's space program, or Heinlein's former Left Libertarian activism before he became Right Libertarian. Or something.

#176 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 08:46 AM:

I seem to remember reading/seeing that wine is now offered in at least some Catholic churches.

Every Catholic church I have been to, has offered wine at communion. Of course I was born in 1970, so that may account for the difference, but the only time I don't remember being it offered was during mass at (Catholic) school.

I've been to Catholic mass in many cities in WV, in different churches in Baltimore MD, in Milwaukee WI, in northern VA, in rural PA/MD, and other places I can't remember in the states around WV, and they all served wine.

Although I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, I took my Grandmother to mass two weeks ago when I was visiting her, and they were still serving wine.

Also, we were never told not to chew--in fact the church I went to as a child actually made unleavened bread for special occasions (such as First Communion), and you had to chew that--it would never dissolve in your mouth like the wafers did.

So there's another data point.

#177 ::: regina ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 09:53 AM:

Nothing like google:

#178 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 10:14 AM:

JVP said:

Heinlein did not agree with Manson's take on open marriages . . .

Does that mean he did not approve of open marriages in general (which I find hard to believe from his writings), or that he had a different take from Manson's?

#179 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 11:00 AM:

Laura Roberts:

Different take. Heinlein approved of various alternative marriage axioms. But he would not, I think, have taken advantage of anyone inebriated or drugged [he strongly condemned marijuana use by those serving in the U.S. Navy], taken money from a sex partner, or used a "family" as proxy to commit murder. But open marriage, consenting adults? Even though he and I never actually spoke of this together, face to face or in our letters, I'm rather sure he approved. He was also a nudist. Part of why he liked California. And swimming pools. And don't get me started on waterbeds...

#180 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 11:05 AM:

Theophagia or something similar, taken more literally than usual, was one of the controversial aspects of Stranger in a Strange Land, was it not?

Well, Heinlein did point out that since Christ was human (and simultaneously divine), if one believed that the Host literally became Christ's body, one was eating human flesh and therefore a cannibal. This dovetailed neatly with the Martian cannibalistic ancestor-worship practice Michael's water-brothers engage in toward the end.

But it's not "more literally" theophagia than the practice in my coven, at least according to my take on it. The God is manifest in the grain. If you corner me thealogically (and no, I didn't misspell that), I'm a Radical Pantheist; that is, I believe that the Divine Nature of the Universe is manifest in its physical substance as such.

That means that the God isn't just IN the bread we bake for Lúnasa; he IS the bread. (He's a lot of other things too, of course.) When we eat it, we take more of the divine nature into ourselves.

Actually, of course, the bread is no more divine than we are, and all the food we eat is the God, the Goddess, or both; we just NOTICE it more in Lúnasa circle! Noticing our connection to the rest of the universe is a big part of what Wicca is about.

#181 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 11:18 AM:

Xopher: Well, Heinlein did point out that since Christ was human (and simultaneously divine), if one believed that the Host literally became Christ's body, one was eating human flesh and therefore a cannibal.

I made this very observation in fifth grade, and I very nearly wasn't confirmed because of it. It took my grandfather's intervention with the Monsignor (and possibly a nice gift to the parish) to move things along.

I guess I was a grade-school heretic.

#182 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 11:56 AM:

Larry Brennan, Xopher, et al.:

Anyone have the Salinger / bananafish quotation handy, about God drinking God, as grade-school heresy?

#183 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 11:57 AM:

Xopher, do you have a breadgod, or just a plain loaf?

I'd love to introduce you to my coven brother Steven, but he doesn't have email at this point, and he's here in Mpls, and you're on the East Coast.

#184 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 12:49 PM:

Magenta, we make a breadgod. Usually. The horns tend to get overcooked, and if the bread rises does he, if you understand me.

#185 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Every parish I've ever been to has had wine. (And I grew up at Notre Dame university, so there were LOTS of churches in my home town) You're not obligated to drink it - you can do just bread if you prefer - but it's there as an option. Chewing is also ok. I remember the instruction in grade school before our first communion - they were starting to allow us to receive communion on our hand, instead of our tongue. Left palm up, laid on top of the right hand; then pick up the host with the right hand, put it in your mouth, chew respectfully and thoughtfully (I kid you not!), swallow, cross yourself, go back to your pew, kneel, pray. No giggling. Later we also had the chewy unleavened bread stuff, too. Anyway, I don't take communion any more but I still go to church from time to time and it's offered the same way - wine, funky bread or crunchy necco wafer bread. People chew.

I lost a loved one to cancer a couple of years ago. Her primary caretaker/decision maker during the terminal stage of her illness was her brother, a Catholic priest. When it was clear that she wasn't going to survive, the hospice (with his and her ok) stopped her nutrition and gave her morphine and xanax to get her through the end of it. Fortunately for terminal cancer patients, lying in bed and taking a lot of morphine tends to give you pneumonia, which is still a bad way to die but better than the pain of cancer. They give you xanax to take the edge of the anxiety caused by not being able to breathe properly but otherwise don't treat the pneumonia.

This was in no way a deviation from Catholic doctrine. The idea of hospice care is to give as much morphine as is needed to take away ALL the pain, and not to do anything to prolong life.

One thing that surprised me about the Schiavo case - stories have mentioned that she "took communion" last week, but when my friend was in the hospital, her Priest/brother would only give her communion if she was lucid. Once she was on morphine all the time she couldn't receive communion any more because she couldn't consciously participate in the sacrament.

Maybe it's different for last rites? I wasn't present for that.

#186 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 01:26 PM:

As others have pointed out, whoever did this is going to hell. I laughed too, but I'm a Wiccan, so I'll just be reborn as a slug. A couple million times.

#187 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 07:10 PM:

Oh god, that's appalling and hilarious.

#188 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 07:24 PM:

Arghhh . . . NPR's "Talk of the Nation" ran a segment on "The Culture of Life" today.

One of the guests . . . sheesh. If you believe her, then Micheal Schiavo is a cesspool of scheming evilness who is not only responsible for Terri Not Getting Better (the feeding tube is there just because the nursing home people are lazy), but killed her cats, too.

#189 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 08:47 PM:

Stefan Jones, I heard that segment. That would be "Wendy Wright, senior policy advisor for Concerned Women for America."

The name of that organization implies that anyone who doesn't share its views is by definition Unconcerned for America.

#190 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 09:17 PM:

Linkmeister - There's something about the way that right-wing groups name things that makes me want to poke them in the eye. Kind of like the Clear Skies initiative, which promises to clear the skies of birds, butterflies, oxygen and natural light...

#191 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 09:31 PM:

What angers me is how the very same people up in arms about Terri Schiavo's "right to live" are not equally angry about the lack of food, basic medical care, or security in developing countries around the world. And they are the same people who are sending thousands of our young folks overseas to die as soldiers in the mire of the Iraq war.

When is a life valuable? Only when it is American, white, Christian? Only when it is slipping away? Only when it makes a "point" about Christian ideology?

Despite the fact that I have great reservations about the morality of deliberately ending any life, regardless of the circumstances, I will NEVER align myself with these people politically. I do not respect the way they are shamelessly using this woman and her family opportunistically as a way of gaining greater control over the private lives of others -- especially women and non-Christians. And I do not agree that laws passed in haste are the way to deal with a complex ethical/moral dilemma with far reaching implications.

#192 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2005, 09:44 PM:

Larry B, as Brad DeLong often says, he'll stop comparing these people to Orwell's characters when they stop using Orwellian language.

#193 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2005, 12:19 AM:


If the wild bowler thinks he bowls,
Or if the batsman thinks he's bowled,
They know not, poor misguided souls,
They, too, shall perish unconsoled.
I am the batsman and the bat,
I am the bowler and the ball,
The umpire, the pavilion cat,
The roller, pitch, the stumps and all.

Andrew Lang.

#194 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2005, 10:00 AM:

Just heard the Schindlers have been granted another appeal. An appalling appeal. Myself, I hope the poor woman dies soon. Apparently without a feeding tube, she won't last much longer.

Xopher: you were concerned that her spirit is still attached to that body. After thinking about it, I'd say that is unfortunately likely. This is all speculation, but I've heard she can still breathe on her own, and spirit and breath have always been considered to be similar.

Of course, like any other medical opinion, we can't pronounce on the condition of her spirit without examining the patient.

#195 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2005, 10:36 AM:

Laura, I agree with you on both points. I've been thinking "Go, Terri, Go!" for days now (no, not doing magic, just rooting for her). I just hope she makes it before her [expletive deleted] parents head her off again.

That's gonna be one ANGRY ghost.

#196 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2005, 11:14 AM:

I find the whole family situation depressing, ghost or no ghost.

#197 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:52 AM:

Off on a slight tangent, I was just reading an article in the SF Chron about a seller of concrete yard statuary who was told that his reproductions of David and the Venus de Milo were obscene and couldn't be displayed where children might see them.

The article closed with a quite from the director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union:

"Just because something is nude doesn't mean it's obscene," he said. "If that were the case, most Renaissance art would have to be put into back rooms or hidden."

It seems to me that he inadvertently hit the nail on the head. The religious right apparently wants to dismantle the Renaissance Civilization, and the GOP is doing the heavy lifting for them.

A little more on-topic, I was watching the CBC's 11 o'clock newscast which had a feature on the media circus currently camped out outside Terri Schiavo's hospice and her husband's home. They pointed cameras at Randall Terry and explained who he was. They interviewed professional protesters who typically spend their time intimidating abortion providers. They even talked to neighbors who just wanted to be able to live normal lives again. One woman even expressed her concerns that the goings-on could endanger her reproductive rights.

[rant mode]Amazing how it takes a foreign news outlet to provide a balanced story. That Jesusland/United States of Canada map that was circulating around the internets a few months ago is starting to look like an attractive alternative. Or maybe more US cable systems should carry the CBC so we can see what a free country's media looks like.[/rant mode]

#198 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 10:31 AM:

...And it's finally over. Thank God.

R.I.P., Terry.

#199 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 10:36 AM:

According to the Times online, she's gone at last. Thank your deity(s) of choice and curse those who made it so hard for her. Maybe now the media circus will leave town....

#200 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 11:14 AM:

May her spirit find peace and healing.

#201 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 11:22 AM:

B.F. Skinner, Revisited
Chronicle of Higher Education
April 1, 2005

"... Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has already blamed episodes of violence such as the shootings in Littleton, Colo., on the teaching of evolution, which presumably "dehumanizes" human beings. On the other hand, Darwin, in the final paragraph of The Origin of Species, suggested instead that "there is grandeur in this view of life," one that recognizes the connectedness of our species to the rest of evolution...."

#202 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 12:24 PM:

A month or so ago, The Oregonian ran an article about a creationist debate-education seminar held in the city. They were training true believers to debate evolution.

I was surprised to read that Duane Gish (Evolution: The fossils say NO! is still around. He is still spreading his Young Earth sophistry, only now with Powerpoint slides. He boasted that most evolutionists scheduled to debate him bow out.

'nyway, one of the ideological stormtroopers in training said something along the lines of what DeLay is quoted in JVP's post: If kids are taught they're monkeys, they'll behave like monkeys and we shouldn't be surprised they shoot each other, yadda, yadda.


#203 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Notice that there have been no particular shootings in Littleton Colorado. Columbine High School is in unincorporated Jefferson County - as you know Bob - Littleton is the county seat of Arapaho County.

Littleton was the dateline on many early news stories and is the site of the bulk mail center serving that part of Jefferson County. This may be significant for some purposes because Littleton is an old line (for Colorado settlement) community and Columbine served a community where everybody had recently moved from someplace else.

#204 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 01:45 PM:

R.I.P. Terri.

IMO it would be better if people behaved more like animals. I've never heard of a monkey going on a shooting spree . . . or creating a media circus around the death of a family member, either.

#205 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 01:54 PM:

"...And it's finally over. Thank God."

Terry Schiavo's life was over years ago. The actual events at hand aren't over by a long shot. Here's the statement just released by United States House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay:

Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow.
Emphasis mine. Yes, that read like a threat because it was one. The Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives is threatening the judges, the lawyers, and the husband who took the other side of this controversy.

A good 20% of the country is now convinced that judges, lawyers, Democrats, Michael Schiavo, and other demonic forces are engaged in the deliberate practice of murdering perfectly nice women who smile and follow balloons around the room with their eyes and otherwise demonstrate evidence of well-being. Where is their anger going to go? The George W. Bushes and Tom DeLays of our world have raised hell, and there is going to be hell to pay. This isn't remotely "over."

#206 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:33 PM:
"Just because something is nude doesn't mean it's obscene," he said. "If that were the case, most Renaissance art would have to be put into back rooms or hidden."

But in Victorian times, they did, on occasion, hide the naughty bits. See this item, for instance.

#207 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Excuse me, Patrick, for expressing relief that that creature was finally allowed to meet its end. I feel certain that every part of Terry Schiavo that was a thinking creature died long, long ago...but my conception of the human soul is not firm enough for me to state with a certainty that it was not trapped in that horrifying shell. That is the "it" I referred to, and I am still grateful that has ended.

I never meant to imply that the controversy was over, I am certainly not so painfully naive.

#208 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:44 PM:

For Terri Schiavo, it is over. Whether it was over 15 years ago, or just ended today, it is over. She's free.

For us, it's just beginning. These evil bastards are still going to use this to try to destroy my beloved country -- some more.

Sometimes I regret the oath that prevents me from cursing people.

#209 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:44 PM:

[discussion of Heinlein and Manson]

I definitely recall the assertion (perhaps from Spider
Robinson) that RAH went to some lengths to determine
whether Manson had ever read _Stranger_, and concluded
that he hadn't. Though of course that wouldn't rule out
indirect mimetic influence of the book on the cult in other

Anybody know anything more definitive about this?

#210 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:45 PM:

abi, I can think of a much more recent example...

#211 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Sorry, Skwid, I didn't mean to beat on you. You're quite right.

#212 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 03:00 PM:


On balance, I think I prefer the leaf.

But Ashcroft has been used to cover up more obscenity than that...on a recent transatlantic flight, I was watching Sideways, edited for airplane viewing. "Ashcroft" was used to substitute for an anatomical term (pit of the donkey).

#213 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 03:41 PM:

'sokay, PNH. Sorry if I got huffy.

#214 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 05:28 PM:

So here's the question I've been struggling with for the past week or so:

How do you fight against the so-called Culture of Life crowd?

The thing about zealots is they're zealots Consider the root word: zeal. "Enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance."

Keyword: Tireless. They've devoted their lives to this, we have other interests.

We might like getting into a pissing contest with zealots for a short time, but we eventually get disgusted and move on. They never get tired; this is what they live for.

Last week, I was engaged in a strenuous debate over the Schiavo case in another, private forum elsewhere. I finally, and publicly, unsubscribed from the forum on Sunday, partly because I had become convinced that the two primary people I was arguing with were not arguing in good faith. They were liars, fools or some combination of the two.

They seemed to be enjoying the argument, flying to the keyboard eagerly, ready to demolish each one of my arguments. Me, I had come to hate the discussion. It was making me sick, preying on my enjoyment of my leisure time and time with my wife. It was hurting my job performance. I knew I'd hit a low point on Sunday night when I was trying to program a show into my TiVo and (and I'm not making this up) instead of picking out the letters for the name of the show, I picked out "T-E-R-R-I."

I dislike that I backed away from this discussion, because this is how religious extremism works. They drive all the reasonable people out of the discussion until the only ones left are kooks, on both sides. For me, in America in 2005, being driven out of a discussion was a simple matter of unsubscribing to a discussion group. Other people, in other places and times, have had to pay a greater price for leaving a discussion; they've had to emigrate thousands of miles away, carrying with them only the possessions their governments allow them to carry.

By the way, during the Iraq war I noticed one of the ideas the conservatives put forward was that liberal protestors were losers; conservatives didn't protest in the streets (they said) because conservatives have jobs and families and other things that occupy their times.

Well, who looks more like a nutjob and loser to you: this protestor or Michael Schiavo? Schiavo or the creators of this page?

One of the things that terrifies me most in the world is the thouught that I might one day be in a coma or persistent vegetative state. Now, I have a new twist on that nightmare: That I might find myself in such a state, and my medical care will be in the hands of the hateful lunatics who tormented Michael Schiavo, and that my wife — who will already be suffering because I'm in that state — will be tormented the way Michael Schaivo was made to suffer.

#215 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 05:55 PM:

Larry Brennan:

It seems to me that he inadvertently hit the nail on the head. The religious right apparently wants to dismantle the Renaissance Civilization, and the GOP is doing the heavy lifting for them.

It always seemed to me that is was the Enlightenment that they really want to dismantle. Separation of church and state, rationalism, and all that claptrap.

#216 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 06:42 PM:

The doctors have told me three times that I was going to die in a few days. As you can read (and some of you have seen), they were always wrong. But I always sign a DNR when I go into the hospital with something serious -- I know the odds of getting out alive after another trauma. In the second long hospitalization, when the doctors said I was going to die soon, one of the nurses remonstrated with me about the DNR. She said I was denying God the chance to save me. I explained to her that first, I didn't believe in gods, and second, if she really believes God can do anything and wants me to stay alive, she should be believing that he would keep me alive without resuscitation. She was actually making *her* God weaker by saying he couldn't save me.

#217 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 09:21 PM:

Eric - Well, yes, it's the Enlightenment they hate, but they'd get rid of all of the art and literature of the Renaissance too. They're still fighting Cromwell's battles.

#218 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2005, 09:31 PM:

All this talk about whether it's the Enlightement or the Renaissance that the Religious Right hates seems to me kind of like a Jew and a homosexual in 1937 Germany debating whether the Nazis are more influenced by Nietsche or pagan imagery.

I mean, fuck, I know that bringing up the Nazis is supposedly a sign of hysteria in an online discussion, but this whole Terry Schiavo matter has really gotten me freaked out. When I think about the issue too long, I feel afraid. I don't feel the enjoyable, healthy outrage that I feel when arguing about online copyrights or the Microsoft anti-trust trial — I feel physical fear, sweat and a dropping sensation in my stomach.

What do the hate? They hate us, people. that's what. They feel that their God should decide what medical care you should get at the end-of-life, not you and your family and your doctors.

I felt the same fear when I was standing in a deli in April 2003, having a sandwich made for my supper. The TV was on, and I was watching the first bombs falling in Baghdad.

I have also felt it on a couple of occasions when I lost control of my car.

It's the feeling of being taken somewhere outside my control, and maybe it'll all turn out to be just a big scare, and maybe I'll end up disfigured, crippled, in great pain, or dead. And there's nothing I can do to affect the outcome.

#219 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2005, 11:46 AM:

Mitch: on your concern that "[your] medical care will be in the hands of the hateful lunatics who tormented Michael Schiavo . . ."

It seems to me that all of this happened because Terri's parents were not willing to let go. Does it seem that way to you?

Are you concerned about the behavior of your family members, or strangers who get involved in your (hypothetical, hopefully) medical case somehow?

#220 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2005, 01:09 PM:

Larry: I guess so. All that resurrected pagan imagery, gorgeous and naturalistic.

Mitch: It may seem to you like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but to me it's a way to cope and stay sane.

#221 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2005, 03:42 PM:

Laura - I'm concerned about both, really.

Primarily the latter; I imagine myself in Terri Schiavo's condition. And I imagine my wife — who will already have a lot on her mind, what with her husband being a vegetable and all — being villified in the way that Michael Schiavo has been.

I'm not too concerned about my family. I have no children, and don't anticipate having any. My parents are dead. And my brothers are reasonable guys.

I'm also concerned that the law will be changed to deny patients the fundamental right to refuse treatment, and to grant power-of-attorney to someone else to make those decisions, if the patient himself becomes incapable of making them.

And I'm also concerned, in my darker moments, that the Terri Schiavo case is somehow the tipping point toward theocracy — that somehow, 30 years of abuses by the current wave of the Religious Right was just a lead-in, and this marks the start of the endgame.

#222 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2005, 06:39 PM:

And, in a nice touch, the parents have apparently just sold the list of donors to a direct marketing firm. I bet they're so glad they donated now.

(This link, from BoingBoing, seems to bypass the Times login stuff.)

#223 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2005, 08:26 PM:

I note that the Pope is being sensible and has said he won't go back to the hospital.

#224 ::: regina ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2005, 12:25 AM:

No, the pope is going to die in the same bed as all his predecessors did and then he will get the silver hammer dinged on his head 3 times, as is always done, to formally ascertain that he is dead. It is rumored to be the source of Maxwell's Silver Hammer sung by the Beatles on their White album.

#225 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2005, 01:48 PM:

Teresa, you said: "As for that GOP memo, I sincerely doubt that the Washington Post printed the story without checking it out first."

The Washington Post has now admitted that it had no basis for the first version of the story that you quoted above, i.e., the version in which the memo was "distributed to Republican senators by party leaders." In fact, the Post now admits that the "authorship is unknown."

#226 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2005, 09:33 AM:

Further news: The Washington Post has now pinned down the memo's author: A Senate aide to Republican Mel Martinez. Apparently the memo was never distributed to Republicans generally; Martinez happened to have a copy, and he accidentally gave it in a stack of papers to Tom Harkin. He has also basically fired the aide in question.

#227 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2005, 11:19 AM:

Yeah, it's always "authored by" some aide who gets sacrificed afterwards. What's the superlative of "yeah, right"?

#228 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2005, 11:33 AM:


#229 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Yeahrightissimus maximus? Yeahrightissimus dorsi?

#230 ::: rhc ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2005, 12:18 PM:

Hey, Jack, if you believe that the memo was not circulated to the Repubs, particularly since the wording was used verbatim by Delay and others in speeches in Congress on the subject, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you...

both and atrios have good smackdowns of that most recent lie.

#231 ::: rhc ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2005, 12:26 PM:

Here's one more good smackdown of the "blame it on anybody but" Mel Martinez story:

#232 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2005, 03:05 PM:

Yeahrightissimus maximus? Yeahrightissimus dorsi?

The second of these is the medical term for where the knife goes, creating in the affected staffer first rictus rectus and then rapidly progressive patsycline.

#233 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2005, 03:27 PM:

JMF - Yes.


#234 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2005, 03:45 PM:

Stop! Stop! I'm at work and chortling like a madman!

Mike Ford, you. will. get. your. comeuppance. Someday I will make you laugh so hard it qualifies as a half hour of Abdominals class!

#235 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2012, 04:20 AM:

Not even a good link.

#236 ::: tykewriter sees spamprobe ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2012, 04:22 AM:

That was meant to be me seeing a spamprobe thingy.

#237 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2014, 09:06 PM:


#238 ::: gagner en bourse ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2015, 11:42 AM:

Pour c’logis affligeant

#239 ::: P J Evans sees something spam-like ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2015, 12:00 PM:

in French, and looks hinky.

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