Saturday, March 19, 2005

Some Pray, Others Prey

The Bookworm argues that Jeb Bush should stand up to the tyrannical abuse of judicial power by ghoulish Judge Greer. It is worth considering.

This much is certainly true. There is no need for the State to be providing a police presence to prevent individual people from giving Terri Schiavo any water on her lips.

The news is that Congress will coordinate their efforts tomorrow to pass the same bill in the House and Senate, so it can be rushed to the President for signature, allowing this case to be taken away from this judge and moved to Federal Court. Let's hope that this proves to be the thing that will save her for the long term. This horror has gone on long enough.

The hope that proceeds from this hope is that the nation might be galvanized to pass better laws to protect these people.

Oh, and - not to politicize; merely to observe - does anyone still remember when Democrats had compassion for the helpless?

Friday, March 18, 2005

More Schiavo Misery

I spent most of this morning in bed, in deep depression over the Schiavo case. My Hispanic cleaning lady asked permission to keep the television on while she worked because she and her church prayer group were fasting on behalf of Terri, and she was anxious to hear updates.

As for this weird Michael Schiavo guy, let me refer you to Peggy Noonan today and also to my friend Jonathan V. Last of the Weekly Standard quoting Wesley J. Smith's work on this case.

I will reproduce here my note that I wrote Jonathan, responding to his quote from Wesley Smith that Michael Schiavo's initial motivation was to grab the money from her trust fund.

Unquestionably, Wesley's analysis of how this madness BEGAN is 100 percent correct.

However, it can no longer adequately explain what is happening. After paying for the lawyers, there is only about 50 thousand left in the account, and it's a good bet that once she's dead the lawyers will submit new billing to try to grab that sum.Furthermore, a San Diego businessman publicly offered Michael 1 million dollars last week to walk away, and he turned it down. That much is in the public record. He also claimed on Todd Schnitt's talk show down here that he turned down 10 million from a Boca Raton businessman. Glenn Beck's listeners have pledged about 3 million if he would back down. He has not bitten.

So why is he doing this NOW?

The answer, I suggest, reveals the ugliest side of human nature. People have a tendency to dig their heels in and persist in prosecuting a BAD DECISION much more than they stand behind their good decisions.

Yes, Virginia, there is Evil in the world. Not to mention stupid, stubborn, ornery cantankerousness.

Playing Ball with Congress

The House Government Reform Committee's steroid hearings yesterday were interesting on several levels. Congress has so much power, of course, (or has arrogated to itself so much power) that anything it does is inherently important. Then, adding celebrities to the mix always makes for an interesting situation. Finally, the possible corruption of the national pastime (despite the decreasing popularity of the sport) is a cultural tide movement.

I'm still not convinced, by any stretch of the imagination, that legislative action by the federal government is needed or appropriate in this matter. If the use of steroids is indeed a problem, state laws should certainly be able to handle it. However, performing an investigation to shine light on the problem is certainly an appropriate activity of Congress.

The reason given by the committee members as to why this particular committee was investigating the matter, however, is rather chilling. In short, they have noted that this committee is empowered to investigate anything it chooses to look into. Equipped with subpoena power, this makes the GROC into a central investigative tribunal for the federal government. Anyone who falls afoul of the interests of the Congress—which means anyone who falls afoul of popular opinion, as baseball's steroid users have obviously done—might be hauled before Congress and forced to testify in a nationally televised fishing expedition, with or without a grant of immunity from prosecution on either the federal or state level.

This is a nation that once prided itself on its respect for personal freedom, yet throughout the past half-century, since the rise of television, our chief legislative body has increasingly engaged in Communist-style show trials.

On Dying with Dignity . . .

Readers of this blog know by now that Lawrence Henry is one of my favorite writers. He's got a great combination of life experience and ability to communicate it. When I think of him I'm reminded of the old Kevin Costner film "Revenge." In one scene, he and an old dealer in horseflesh are on their way through dangerous territory to make a sale. The worn-out old cowboy turns to Costner, sweating with some unknown malady, puts on his sunglasses and asks, "How do I look?" Costner replies, "Like a survivor." That's Lawrence Henry.

Here' a bit from his latest:

Terri Schiavo's case becomes a soap opera over her mostly inert body while the state legal establishment of Florida decides whether or not to "pull the plug" -- in this case, to remove her feeding tube. Even someone minimally aware, it seems to me, should not be subject to involuntary starvation and dehydration.

And one of this year's Oscar-winning movies depicts a supposedly "heroic" struggle wherein a crippled young female boxer persuades her wise, homely old trainer to...kill her. No, I haven't gone to see it, and won't. I've been too close.

Back in 1975, when my native kidneys failed, I got horribly sick all at once, not unusual with kidney failure. I had percarditis, couldn't walk well, had lost mental focus, had recently gone through a series of grand mal seizures related to an infection, can't remember what all, and it's probably just as well.

I found myself seriously considering whether or not to end it all -- to the extent that I was contemplating methods. Grace intervened, however, and I realized that people who think that way really aren't sane, and I asked to see a therapist. It hardly mattered who I talked to, but it did work.

Three things I remember from when my friends came to visit me in the hospital. One thing they all said later: "I thought you were going to die." To which I used to say, "If I ever get out of here, I'm going to get a motorcycle."

And the other was waking up at various times in my hospital bed, seeing my mother, always faithfully there, no matter what.

It is too damned easy to be cavalier and heroic about "dying with dignity" when somebody else is doing the dying.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Forming A More Perfect Union

Well, I did a brief Richard Kramer rant here yesterday, but the longer column I wrote has run in today's Sacramento Union.

Although I linked directly to the article, I suggest that you take the opportunity also to look over the home page. It has quickly become a truly excellent publication under the editorship of Kenneth Grubbs, Jr., a fine writer in his own right whose work is familiar to readers of The American Spectator and other conservative magazines. Ken selflessly left Washington D.C. two months ago to take the position, forsaking the climate of our nation's capital at its most delightful.

Race and Religion

Very interesting story on race, religion, and voting patterns at The Hill. Here's the skinny. Hispanics vote faith before ethnicity. African-Americans vote ethnicity before faith.

The logjam absolutely must break at some point here. Bush did better with African-Americans in 2004 than in 2000, but he did better with just about everybody. The simple question is this: When will African-Americans become so dismayed by social leftism and uber-secularity in the Democratic party as to make a decisive break?

It wouldn't take much. If the GOP were able to reliably take in a mere 20% of the African-American vote, the Democrats would be relegated to second party status for a long, long time. My proposal is that President Bush hold a major meeting with influential African-American leaders and offer the following deal. Affirmative action is off the table for twenty years. In return, he would expect greater backing from the black community, particularly on social issues. Call me crazy, but I think it would be Nixon goes to China and that it would work.

Absolute Slam-Dunk Proof of Media Bias

The following exchange between New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller and President Bush (covered at Weekly Standard) tells you everything you need to know about media bias:

She began: "Paul Wolfowitz, who was the-a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in our history-

Bush interrupted: "That's an interesting start."

Bumiller: "Is your choice to be the president of the World Bank. What kind of signal does that send to the rest of the world?"

This is a reporter from the most prestigious media organization in the United States asking the president a question fraught with editorial bias. Bumiller should be ashamed. The NYT should be ashamed. This one small example should be taught in journalism schools (I know, an oxymoron) as a "how not to" lesson in asking questions at a press conference.

Hitchens A'right In Iraq

The world's sanest liberal, Christopher Hitchens, claims to have part-Jewish heritage, which would offer an interesting theory into why he is consistently right part of the time. Just kidding, of course, but the fact is that he has been the most solid reporter - and opiner - on the Iraq situation since well before the... er, end of major hostilities.

He has wisely distinguished between the War On Terrorism and issues that should elicit compassion as a primary response. Here is his must-read analysis of the New York Times giving the Iraq centrifuge story all the spin that's unfit to imprint.

Yes, irrespective of his periodic lapses into cardiac exsanguination, Hitchens is a fellow not to be ignored. My eternal gratitude is his for revealing in a 1996 American Enterprise interview the secret of Bill Clinton's "I did not inhale" statement. Hitchens, who was in Clinton's clique at Oxford, explained that Bill had trouble inhaling the smoke of marijuana cigarettes, so he preferred to ingest that narcotic through the medium of the brownie. Indeed, Chris noted, Bill's appetite for those brownies was voracious. (Perhaps he recalled pliable Brownies of his youth.)

Blake Not A Quitter

Let me go on record here with plaudits to the Blake jury, who reached the correct verdict. Correct, that is, in the legal sense that the prosecution had not met its burden of adducing sufficient proof for conviction. Too often juries use the "Yeah, but who else did it?" approach to their task.

Blake demonstrated throughout the process a nettlesome side that alienated three attorneys. But I would not hold him entirely blameworthy in this area, either; celebrity attorneys often mistakenly think themselves the celebrities and act accordingly imperious.

A less assuming barrister, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, piloted the case to acquittal. This touching tribute by Blake to his lawyer's perseverance shows that the actor is a far gentler man than his tough-guy persona projects.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Hearty Mazel Tov To the Baker Family

Sleepless nights. Endless worry. The years that fly by as if they never were more than dreams. And the bills! Clothes, food, toys, home repairs, future pets, education, ad infinitum; it never ends. Eventually a car, and soon enough thereafter, boys, mankind's contribution to hypertension. All, of course, far outweighed by the music of a child's laughter, never to be forgotten. And if you don't know the meaning of Mazel Tov, go have a corned beef sandwich.

The Kramer Reality Tour

So this fellow Richard Kramer was handed a judgeship by our society and he has repaid it by declaring void a treasured notion nurtured by millennia, the idea that marriage is something rare and extraordinary, that it was built into Creation as that state which merges perfectly the human qualities of male and female.

He notes in passing that this idea had become a tradition but need not be indulged on that basis, the very argument that my late mother advanced to discourage me from picking my nose.

Who bred this class of the morally blinkered? They not only throw out the baby, they love covering themselves in the bathwater.

This Kramer calls himself, comically, a Catholic, yet he, like most of the Men In Black, believes in being cheeky at every turn.

He claims too the appellation of Republican, yet he abdicates the sacred role of lore enforcement.

He has dealt a blow to our matrimony; he has dealt a blow to our patrimony.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Scripps Howard Spikes Stem Cell Story

Those who harbor any doubts that the American media have adopted a single attitude in favor of embryonic stem cell research (see my American Spectator column on the subject here), which is enforced ruthlessly, the latest Scripps-Howard column by science writer Michael Fumento should help dispel them. You probably haven't read the column, because the syndicator refused to run it.

Fumento has made the column available on his excellent and informative website.

The column was spiked, as the journalists' lingo has it, because it pointed out some surprising and rather dismaying facts about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, "the world's largest juvenile diabetes philanthropy," as Fumento notes. Fumento points out that the foundation distributed "over $85 million in grants last year. Yet it supports no efforts that could lead to a cure any time soon for this blinding and crippling disease that afflicts as many as 1.7 million Americans. Instead it's become a lobby for controversial embryonic stem cell research and refuses to help fund the only study that could soon bring a cure."

"The top item on JDRF's 'issue information' page," Fumento notes, "is 'Embryonic Stem Cell Research,' with subcategories like Progress with Embryonic Stem Cell Research. It also bashes what many see as an alternative that's both medically superior and carries no moral baggage – adult stem cells. Its 'Limitations of Adult Stem Cell Research' link is packed with such disinformation as 'Adult stem cells cannot be induced to develop into any cell type.' In fact, since 2002 at least four different labs have published results indicating they can."

Most indefensible of all, Fumento reports, is that JDRF has twice rejected Harvard researcher Dr. Denise Faustman, who Fumento notes "was the first to cure diabetes in mice and now seeks funds for a clinical trial to replicate her fantastic results in humans. Thrice she has applied to JDRF; thrice they have rejected her. Never mind her impeccable credentials and that she even reviewed grants for JDRF.

"Her transgression," Fumento argues, "seems to be that her treatment involves restoring dead insulin-producing cells in the pancreas with ASCs already present in the body. Despite what the JDRF would have you think, there have already been tremendous breakthroughs in ASC therapy, with over 80 treatments and almost 300 human clinical trials underway – versus zero treatments or trials for ESCs. Still, nothing would belie the false claims of ESC lobbyists more than curing diabetes with ASCs."

JDRF refused to talk with Fumento while he was working on his article, well aware of his previous writings in support of research into adult stem cells. Then, despite the damning evidence Fumento had adduced and the obvious importance of the issue (millions of dollars of charity being diverted to a different use), Scripps Howard refused to run the column, giving no explanation to newspaper editors who receive the syndicate's materials. Fumento states emphatically that when the JDRF found out that he was doing an article about them, through his request for an interview, they called his editor at Scripps Howard and convinced her that the column had to be killed.

Those who wish to contact Fumento's Scripps Howard editor and her superiors about the matter can find the contact info here. In deciding on the right response, please remember that emails are easy to ignore but telephone calls make a very big impression.

The Sis (...then the dissertation...)

Mrs. Baker has brought a little illumination into our world in the form of a beautiful little girl, and she has done it with her customary grace.

Welcome, Grace Frances Baker. Congratulations to the happy parents. In the midst of such blessing - and tumult - are doctorates born.

Going Boing At Boeing

Poor Harry Stonecipher. He lost his job as CEO of Boeing and his marriage in the same week, both presumably for the same reason: he was said to be having an affair with a female employee of the company. Whether a person should lose the first two for indulging in the third is a conundrum which I leave to my betters.

The theory which I wish to propound is homely enough: I have come to believe from observing at close hand the vagaries of the human condition that many associations tarred as "affairs" are in reality teasing flirtations that fall well short of consummation. As celebrated in the song "Something To Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt, many office rumors are the cause rather than the result of real liaisons. Often the not-so-guilty parties have been playing along with the speculation as a form of macho strutting or coquettish role-playing and later find it hard to deny accusations of substantive misconduct.

Indeed if anyone here has suffered in real ways as the result of an affair that was imputed and reputed by folks but disputed by the facts, I would be grateful indeed if you could comment. If this is too public a forum, let me know and perhaps we can communicate by e-mail.

In any case, the best policy is to follow the Talmud's advice (and Billy Graham's famed practice) and avoid being behind a locked door with someone whom others might take to be your paramour. Otherwise, you might pass up the temptation and still be the target of pernicious gossip.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Crichton and Civilization

I think the reason Michael Crichton is such a popular author is that he catches trends just as they are about to crest, when they are ready to become noticeable and indeed essential to the mass public. As a result, he is one of those writers who is important without being great—like John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, J. K. Rowling, and Ann Coulter—as a cultural barometer if for no other reason.

In Crichton's latest bestselling novel, State of Fear, he takes on contemporary Western intellectuals' notions regarding the natural environment, especially global warming. What is less evident, however, is an even more important subject in the book: the meaning and value of Western civilization. This issue is, if anything, even more controversial than the debate over global warming, and is in fact the subject underlying those arguments, both in State of Fear and in the world today.

My article premiering on the Claremont Institute's website today considers Crichton's treatment of the subject in depth. Because of space considerations for the piece, I was not able to include even half of the evidence I found in the book supporting this proposition, the notion that its truly interesting and important subject is the value of Western civilization.

Hence, for those who have not yet read the novel but intend to do so, I suggest reading it with this thought in mind. I believe that it will greatly repay such exegesis. In addition, I think that Crichton's point of view may soon be visibly on the rise not only among the general public but also among the next generation of Western intellectuals.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

SOS: Save Our Soul (Save Our Schiavo)

No prophet I.

Much less a prophet of doom. I am very optimistic about life, about the world, about our nation. Pessimistic scenarios like "Global Warming" strike me as comical at best and a sign of mass human insecurity at worst.

But I feel that I must repeat here what I wrote a few months back. I believe that the specific and individual case of Terri Schindler Schiavo is a test for our nation on which a great deal of our future prosperity and success is riding. When Sarah Scantlin spoke for the first time in twenty years in early February, it was a clear message to the society not to allow this monster Schiavo to kill his wife with the legal sanction of our court system.

We all feel very helpless, I'm not sure what we can do. This thing has been going on for so many years to give us a chance to win this somehow. Somehow, someway, this nation must rise to the occasion.