B After The Fact

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Welcome New Liberals!

According to my new fighting buddy, T F Stern Rush Limbaugh did not read my exchange of letters with John Podhoretz yesterday , and proceeded to read John's column approvingly to his radio audience.

Apparently, David Brooks didn't read it either (can you imagine).

Brooks did Podhoretz one better. Podhoretz defined the opposition as those who did not believe in the miracle of life (no, John, but we've discussed that already).

Brooks says:

"You end up exactly where many liberals ended up this week, trying to shift arguments away from morality and on to process."

One of the commentators to this post, RBS is worried that this whole Schiavo thing is a prelude to the "nuclear option" fight over the filibuster and the judiciary. I think that any Republican who thought that something as important as Terri Schiavo could be controlled to act in the service of a stupid rule about "filibusters" didn't have their finger up to the wind. (Maybe their thumb was up their someplace else.)

But maybe RBS is right.

What sort of judges are we Democrats worried about? Are we worried about Judge Pryor, a judge so far to the right that the Democrats filibustered him, and President Bush had to make him a special "recess" appointment to the 11th Circuit?

The same Judge Pryor, who, when the Schiavo case came in front of the 11th Circuit this week, was NOT among the dissenting judges. Who AGREED THAT THE STATE COURTS IN FLORIDA had litigated the case thoroughly and no Federal issues were involved.

And by the way, had Judge Pryor chosen to dissent he would have had company. 3 judges dissented. At least one of them (I think 2, but I know 1) was a CLINTON appointee.

Now suddenly, Judge Pryor, who apparently was worried about the rule of law, about the process, is a liberal. Thanks David Brooks. Thanks Judge Pryor. Welcome, aboard!

Glenn Reynolds a/k/a Instapundit wrote in his blog yesterday that

"I'm quite astonished to hear people who call themselves conservatives arguing, in effect, that Congress and the federal courts have a free-ranging charter to correct any injustice, anywhere, regardless of the Constitution. And yet my email runneth over with just those kinds of comments. And arguing that "it's okay because liberals do it too" doesn't undercut my point that conservatives are acting like liberals here. It makes it."

He goes on to say:

"But I do think that process, and the Constitution, matter. Trampling the Constitution in an earnest desire to do good in high-profile cases has been a hallmark of a certain sort of liberalism, and it's the sort of thing that I thought conservatives eschewed. If I were in charge of making the decision, I might well put the tube back and turn Terri Schiavo over to her family. But I'm not, and the Florida courts are, and they seem to have done a conscientious job. Maybe they came to the right decision, and maybe they didn't. But respecting their role in the system, and not rushing to overturn all the rules because we don't like the outcome, seems to me to be part of being a member of civilized society rather than a mob. As I say, I thought conservatives knew this."

Nope, sorry Glenn, according to David Brooks, anyone who thinks the way you do is a LIBERAL. Welcome aboard Glenn, and while my readership is still growing, according to The Truth Laid Bear you already have the number 3 blogsite in the country. Lots of newly-liberal readers.

Welcome also to Justice Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia. Welcome especially to Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the memorandum opinion refusing to hear the Terri Schiavo case on cert.

I didn't think that all of the these people were liberals. And I am thrilled that the Republican Party is attempting to call these people "liberals," and to drum them out of their party. They're all welcome to my party.

Hope I have enough chips and dip.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Dear God -- Please Do Not Take Your Servant Terri Schiavo Home This Weekend

I do not know if the United States could withstand the symbolism.

Letter to John Podhoretz

My friend:

We have written back and forth a few times through the years, but I am amazed by your misstatements of who wants what in the Terri Schiavo case.

There may be one person somewhere who does not believe that Terri Schiavo does not have a soul, or that her life is not a miracle, but I haven't met him or heard of him yet.

And I bet you haven't either.

It is very incendiary at times like these to make up generalizations about "most secular people who are uncomfortable with the idea of a divine spark" just for pedagogical purposes.

Beyond the "how much can the state interfere" issue, or the "parents versus husband issue" the issue is this:

If we have a soul that is to go to the afterlife, does God want us to stubbornly cling to that soul out of fear that what happens next is just a great void (and if I was setting up make-believe people I would include you and the billions who think like you)

Or is there a certain point where our faith in God is such that we can let a person go, knowing that we will meet her, in her healthy pure form, in the world to come (like me and the billions who think like me).

Why do those who claim to believe in heaven so reluctant to let Terri Schiavo go there?

Your friend

B After The Fact

John Podhoretz responded by writing:

"That is the nature of mystery -- we are not to hurry death to go to heaven. Otherwise religion would be about committing suicide. Life is the gift."

And I responded to him in turn:

"Religion should not be about suicide.

"But religion, and especially the one we share, is about how to live and how to let go.

"Otherwise, we would all be sacrificing our lives at the altar of the dead and the dying.

"I cannot imagine that is what God wants for us.

"And I cannot know this, obviously, but I cannot believe that is what Terri Schiavo wants for her family."

"My best to you and your family."

Bruce --

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Would A Living Will Make A Difference?

After reading Tom DeLay's comments that if there was no writing (no living will), he didn't care what the husband said. After reading a summary of the Pope's 1995 encyclical on the Culture of Life. After reading William Bennett in The National Review declare that Governor Bush should just have the police go in the middle of the night and seize the body (which I guess can still happen)

Terri Schiavo had a writing. It was called her marriage license. And these people completely ignored it.

It is not possible that a living will would have greater force than a marriage license.

According to Tom DeLay, the marriage license was somehow invalid because the husband had a girlfriend. I heard that before. It was the same logic used when all these sanctity of marriage types got uppity when Hillary wouldn't leave Bill.

I don't have the words to answer Tom DeLay's perverted thinking --- we know now that we lack vocabulary to talk to one another on any of these issues. Maybe we should speak to each other in nursery rhymes for a while.

Anyway, as we fight these people going forward, we have to know that if Terri Schiavo had a living will that said that she preferred a death with dignity, the Tom DeLays of the world would have ignored it. How? Let me help Tom out.

Tom would have said that

"If Terri Schiavo had known about her current circumstances, if she knew how many people wanted her to live, if she knew what her parents wanted, and what her brother and her sister wanted, she would have definitely chosen to live as well. Therefore, we are doing what Terri wants. We are ignoring the writing that she made all those years ago."

Someone else's marriage license is sacred, and you don't get to pass judgment on which marriage license is better than which other marriage license.

But these people feel they have the right to pass judgment.

Therefore, the marriage license is not sacred.

And if the marriage license is not sacred, nothing is sacred.

Do you really think that these people are going to let any piece of paper stand in their way? If they show no respect for the Supreme Court of the United States, do you really think they would treat a living will like kryptonite?


Kaleidoscope -- Terri Schiavo

1. Andrew Sullivan made a point that I was dancing around:

"The case also highlights - in another wonderful irony - how religious right morality even trumps civil marriage. It is simply amazing to hear the advocates of the inviolability of the heterosexual civil marital bond deny Terri Schiavo's legal husband the right to decide his wife's fate, when she cannot decide it for herself. Again, the demands of the religious right pre-empt constitutionalism, federalism, and even the integrity of the family. When conservatism means breaking up the civil bond between a man and his wife, you know it has ceased to be conservative. But we have known that for a long time now. Conservatism is a philosophy without a party in America any more. It has been hijacked by zealots and statists."

2. Krauthammer admitted today that the rights of the husband are paramount to the rights of the parent. Thanks, Charles, since your medical degree seems to give you more credibility than my law degree. But he went on to say that the law ought to be changed. I disagree with him, and all the other people who suddenly suggested that Terri wouldn't mind being divorced (despite no living will on the subject) but would mind have the tube removed.

3. I resent the attempts of people to say what the "liberals" are doing in this matter, or what the "left-wing Hollywood media" is doing. Hollywood has sided with the worst fundamentalism. If we weren't all of us so drunk with Hollywood story telling, we wouldn't be crying our eyes out over the sad story of this poor "girl" in the hospital bed, with her single tear streaming down her face as we go to commercial, with her loyal parents and her cheating husband. We might be less focussed on how this plays out on PG-rated television, and more concerned about what real people might do in these real situations. We might be less concerned about the needs of the one, which is all television can ever show us, and more concerned about what this means for all of us. The answer is too messy for 23 minutes of sitcom time, or even 120 pages of a screenplay.

4. We liberals have definite opinions about this. As you can see, I have about 1,000,000 of them, but don't sit around blaming the liberals for any of this. We lost the election because there aren't so many of us any more. This is a fight between different planks of a ruling party who have to come to grips with what it means to actually be a ruling party, and not a party in opposition.

All the liberal straw men are gone.

In that sense, Andrew Sullivan is wrong. Conservatism, as Rush Limbaugh defines it, which is anything that is not Hillary Clinton, is gone. It has been replaced, perhaps by the Religious Fundamentalism, but more likely by the Republican Party.

Now that the Republican Party has made all these promises to all these constituencies, they have to figure out how to accomodate them all. That is what it means to be a real ruling party, which is what the Republicans are. The Republicans have now won 7 of the last 10 Presidential Elections. They are not who they think they are -- they are not children looting the government candy store until the Democrats come back to their rightful place in Washington. Republicans are the ruling party, and they are the only adults in the room. It is their job to keep the place in order, and execute their vision, whatever that is, and it is their fault if they can't.

No easy way to be free.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo and People Like "Us"

I wrote The Civil War Must Be Refought In Every Generation in 1996. You can read it if you want to. As you can imagine, writing in 1996, I spoke about Gingrichism and the Contract with America quite a bit. One of the things I say:

"The result of the Civil War was that there is no Contract with America. There is a contract of, by and for America. It is called the Constitution. It is made among people with American citizenship, which is a privilege that comes with being born on the land, or comes by meeting certain minimal citizenship requirements. I hold these truths to be self-evident. These other people do not."

"The people who wish to defend the Constitution better wake up and go to war to defend it. The people against the Constitution have been wide awake for a very long time."

Confidential to The Unrepentant Individual -- when I steal the term "No Easy Way To Be Free," I am talking about this --- about what it means to live under this rule of law that we set up, and the time you have to spend nurturing it, and tending to it. It is very hard. Some days it leads to hard results.

Other people's children have to sacrifice to this from time to time. It's the same argument that is made, an argument I am very sympathetic to, when they say the war has to be in Iraq so the buildings don't get blown up here. This is an argument, made, quite frankly, by many of the same people who are so upset today.

No easy way to be free.

I never thought we would tear the whole country apart over one life like this. I was wrong. Whether they put the tube back in, or not, the damage to the country has been done. Another bomb has exploded, and we set it off ourselves.

I thought that 1,500 died in Iraq to defend our way of life, but I was looking at it the wrong way. How could it be that we send all these people to Iraq to die for our way of life, but we blow everything up for this life in Florida. Is this life in Florida worth more than any of those in Iraq? Is it worth blowing up the Constitution over?

I was wrong. Because that is not, I see now, why we are in Iraq.

I thought that we send people off to die in Iraq, I thought it was to protect our way of life, to protect freedom.

When the House of Representatives, when the old Confederates, sends people off to die in Iraq, they think it is to protect "us".

And I know, as certain as the sun rises, that when these people say "us" they are not including "me." When they say "American people," they don't mean me.

But here's the news. When I say "American people" I mean all of us. Including "me." You guys do not get to drum me out of your country.

I signed up for the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights part. Because any other trump card is chaos and madness. I've written again and again on the subject, and I won't reiterate it all here.

I said all along that those who said that there was too much government did not mean there was too little freedom. They meant that it was immoral to be engaged in anything but a theocracy.

Now they've won a round, but the fight goes on. I won't be made into the "other" in my own country.

But, as I said in my post yesterday, there are not enough Jews, not enough self-styled liberals to win this fight. So people have to look after their long-term interests and decide what they want to do.

And if it goes the other way, if people like "me" are too sleepy, or too lazy or are too willing to compromise, and the survivors --- acting either under faith or under fear --- all admit that the only point of the government is to serve people like "us", who believe in "our God", then whose God will be served?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

States Rights Is Not A Philosophy

States rights is not a philosophy, its a tool. When your guy controls the White House, you don't need states rights. That's why there has been massive Federal involvement in areas like education and family arrangements and so-called faith-based initiatives, which have typically been the domain of the states. Whether the power brokers in individual states, mostly conservatives, will complain in a second term, when they see the cumulative effect of having their perogatives (and their control of the purse strings) diminished, remains to be seen.

There are no governmental checks and balances on the Bushies.

The right-wing says that there are checks and balances coming from Ted Kennedy and the left-wing media. There is only one Ted Kennedy, and he gets older and fatter every year. There is no left-wing media that matters. Professional journalists who regularly make six-figures may not be Republicans, but they are not liberals, and they couldn't see the left wing if they were floating in space. There are no checks and balances on these guys.

There are not, and will never be, enough liberals to stop these things, just as there were never enough liberals to force Nixon to resign. There is not, and never was, and never will be, enough liberal media or enough so-called Jews to stop McCarthyism or the Red Scare, or Gingrichism. These are house-cleanings that must be done by self-styled conservatives who believe that justice, freedom, restraints on power, and most importantly, the rule of law, matters most, even when it leads to some limitation on their own power. These guys have woken up before, maybe they can again. 216 years of the Constitution and counting is just a statistic. It means nothing if we don't work at it.

(I have been writing versions of this for years. That was an edited version of the post for October 15, 2004.)

(With the goings-on in D.C. and Florida this week, it is particularly relevant.)

Monday, March 21, 2005

When The Decision To Remove The Tube Belongs To Somebody Else

My brain-damaged brother lived with us for a lot of years. I still see him a lot, and I worry a lot, as he gets older, about his decline. I am especially worried about what is going to happen to him once he goes blind, which, although not imminent, is a good bet.

My parents are still alive, but I hope we all live natural lives so that my parents don't have to be in the horrible position that the Schindlers are in now.

My brother is obviously not, and never has been, in a position to articulate his views on the subject, or to write out a living will, as the requirements of such a writing may change from time to time. It is impossible to know what he wants or what he is thinking --- beyond his reciting lists of foods and colors and television shows from the 60s. Anybody who thinks they understand what my brother thinks is just arrogant.

He has a nice quality of life this year. Three years ago, while he was losing the sight out of one eye, it was pretty brutal. All lives are like that, but as we get older and sicker, the bad days outnumber the good. The point at which we believe it is not worth it, of course, varies from person to person.

My brother lives in a facility that is "privately run" but heavily regulated by the State of New York. No family member will ever be able to make a decision regarding extraordinary measures for my brother without the involvement of either a New York State judge or a Senator from Tennessee. Senators are the kinds of people who will forum-shop for a Judge to keep someone else's daughter alive, but who, when the time comes, always find a way to get their mothers to Texas.

When my brother's time comes however, be it next month or, hopefully, a long, long time from now, I hope that everyone will have the freedom to judge the matter based on what is best for my brother, best for our family, best for the group home, best for the State, and best for the cosmos. I hope we have the freedom to give each of these factors their proper weight.

In my mind, what is happening this weekend shows that we are looking at the issue from the wrong end of the telescope. When we assess what people want for themselves, we assume that everyone conducts their personal lives as if they were out of Hobbes, as if they were laissez-faire capitalists. We are assuming that everyone wants to live, no matter what the cost, in money or time, no matter who and what they destroy around them.

I don't think that people are like that.

And at the core of the issue -- I don't believe that God wants us to be that selfish.

Texas and the George W. Bush Kill The Terminally Ill Act

Daily Kos
continues to run articles on the people in Texas who are trying to save their relatives, but are instead having them killed by hospitals operating under the George W. Bush Kill-The-Terminally-Ill Act. They are also printing lots of stuff from people who are tying all the threads together. You can look at it if you want to.

Of course, Texas can change the law if they want. They don't want, because they don't want expensive medical procedures to be a drain on hospital resources. In Texas, they choose money over life. I can make that argument for them, too. I can see why a state, or a family, or an individual herself, would not want to let every penny she worked hard for her entire life go down the drain over a quixotic quest for one more day of brain-damaged life.

I think they're torturing this poor woman in Florida, and she is a woman, not somebody's little girl. It is not surprising that the parents can't let go. It is their job to keep their child alive, even if they have to destroy the rest of the world to do it. That is just one reason that it is important that at some point, like when the child is 41, that the decision not be completely the parents to make.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Terry Schiavo -- and Republican hi-jinks --REVISED

I took this from daily kos and Atrios and The Houston Chronicle .

According to them, it is Texas law, as signed into effect by then-Governor George W. Bush in 1999, that a hospital may pull the plug on a terminally ill patient, whether or not the family wants it, whether or not the patient wants it.



This is the first time I have ever taken a post down after showing it for a few hours. I originally ended the post by making snide comments about W---, but they were gratuitous, and it goes way beyond W- anyway.

This Congressional activity of removing the case from Florida, after all these years, and bringing it up to the Feds --- in keeping from the people who brought you the Bush -v- Gore Supreme Court decision --- underpins such a complete a lack of respect for both the rule of law and for the daily suffering of Terri Schiavo.

This sad spectacle, hopefully, will not be forgotten by anyone, but will, of course, be forgotten by the end of next week.

I don't understand what's going on in Washington at all. I was angry for the last 24 hours. Now I'm just sick and sad.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

More on Terri Schiavo

A Red Mind In A Blue State says

“People should have the right to die with dignity--but only the person should have the right, and it should be enunciated clearly, soberly, and unequivocally.”

”Not based on the word of a man who wants to get on with his own life.”

This is the crux of the disagreement, and it points out some of the things we have been saying back and forth for several weeks now.

Why do the wishes of parents take primacy over the wishes of a spouse?

When we think of Terri as as the Schindlers’ daughter, we think of her life as an empty vessel, with all sorts of possibilities. It would be a shame to remove the tube from someone who never had a chance to choose.

When we think of her as a 40-plus year old spouse, we have to recognize that she made certain choices.

Even if she did not unequivocally state that she was willing to die in these circumstances -- because, after all, who could predict these circumstances – because, after all, who could make a choice clear enough to satisfy these people anyway -- the fact that she is someone’s spouse implies certain predispositions and certain choices.

It is reasonable to think that a person in love with another person, a woman in love with a man, would not want that man to spend the rest of his life deprived of company, spending the rest of his life caring for her, not as an equal, but as a hospital patient, while she could do nothing for him, while her level of sensation, while her level of acknowledgement, her ability to give back, was very limited.

It is reasonable to think that if the issue was put to her that way, she may consent to removing the tube. It is even more reasonable to think that if the issue was put to her right now, after so many years of having to live this way, with prospects dim (even if not at absolute zero), she may consent to removing the tube.

But in order to make these assumptions, you have to admit that she is someone’s wife, and that being someone’s wife could matter more than being someone else’s daughter.

It is also reasonable that the law can make this assumption as well.

I missed the part where Michael Schiavo became the poster child for spousal abuse and gold-digging. Given the track record of the people making the accusations, I have to wonder where the mud comes from.

But even if some of it is true, Terri Schiavo did make a choice –-- she chose him --- and that has to matter for quite a lot.

Because if your choice of spouse doesn’t matter for anything, then you wind up with --- well you wind up with exactly what you have now.

I don’t see why it is such a bad thing for him to get on with his life. I don’t see why she wouldn’t want him to.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Barry Bonds -- Hero of the Next Generation?

I wrote a whole lot about baseball's drug problems when the BALCO -- Grand Jury testimony leaked.

Now, 20 years too late, Congress is going to try to put the hammer on baseball.

I have not read Jose Canseco's book. I wish there was enough time to read everything I was mildly interested in.

However, the way I understand it, is that the point Canseco is making is not that baseball has a steroid scandal, but that it is too bad that something as useful to all mankind as steroids has to be marginalized the way it has been.

When Barry Bonds talks about "what is cheating," he is saying something along the same lines. Too bad he is such an arrogant fill-in-the-blank. But I still think that no matter how much Bonds gets booed, and worse, as he approaches 714 and then 755 homeruns, that history is on Bonds' side.

In the end, I fear that the Brave New World is coming. When corporations see that steroids can help their production line workers make more products over longer periods of time, and when white collar workers see that the guy on steroids can work longer hours and sell more, and get the corner office, and when parents of students see the young athlete on steroids get the track scholarship, and the young nerd on steroids able to study all night, everyone will demand, demand that steroids go into the drinking water.

Barry Bonds will be seen as an early pioneer against the doubters.

Will drug abusers, like Ken Caminiti die young? Ken Caminiti was a junkie. The steroids did not kill him, the cocaine did. Are you gonna let people like that impede your progress? Aren't you still drinking?

What, you don't want to run the risk of ruining your body with steroids in order to be more productive? Will steroids destroy you more than the grinding poverty you will face because you cannot compete effectively in a society where everyone is taking steroids but you?

But, hey, you're an adult. You want to throw your life away, go ahead. But don't prevent your children from competing fairly in school. You should, at least, let them take all the steroids they need.

Of course, by then, we won't be calling them steroids. They'll be the special blend from the organic vitamin shoppe. What can possibly be wrong with something from the organic vitamin shoppe. You will still be able to say that you're not taking steroids like that evil Barry Bonds did.

So Congress can express outrage, and maybe they will be able to destroy the business of baseball. In the end, whatever the science of steroids turns out to be, whatever turns out to be most helpful in keeping our competitive edge, is what will come to pass in our day-to-day lives. I don't expect Barry Bonds to be spun into Jonas Salk, but I think that as the years go on, our view of him may become a bit more balanced.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Why do we insist on calling longevity a health care crisis?

Time After Surgery , a blog site written by um ... me ... reports GOOD NEWS on the future of heart valve replacement surgery.

When we talk about the rising cost of health care, and the so called crisis in health care, it is important to remember that a big reason we have this so-called crisis is people like me. I had a health problem, it was fixed, and now I can look forward to a long life, with lots of good things, and more health problems, which will cost more money.

Ten years ago, I would have been dead, and I wouldn't have added costs to the system. As you might imagine, I prefer to add costs to the system.

Such Dick Jane and Sally stuff, and yet, I never hear it said anywhere.

Monday, March 14, 2005

If You Understand The Issue -- Shut Up

In his Sunday column George Will complains, as has Rick Santorum, and other people in favor of returning Back to the Future, that people over 55, the AARP in particular, have no reason to fear Social Security reform since President Bush has promised -- a politician has made a promise -- that Social Security reform will not effect their retirements. Why, oh, why, oh why, moans Georgie, don't these people get the message, and stop complaining about an issue that is not about them? It must be a left-wing media plot to confuse them about their freedom.

This just makes me crazy in a number of ways --

1. Just because George Bush has made a promise in a speech does not mean that it translates into law. If you haven't been following the shell game going on, there is no proposed legislation to amend Social Security on the table. There is just a lot of speech making to soften up the crowd. There is no way of telling what the proposed legislation, or the legislation that passes Congress and becomes law, will say about retirement benefits for people of any age.

2. George Will is over 55. If the phantom proposed legislation is approved, his Social Security will not be effected. Why is he allowed to write columns against Social Security when people over 55 who are opposed to Social Security are supposed to keep their mouths shut? George Bush is over 55 (I had to look it up. He is 58). George Bush is allowed to make speeches opposing Social Security. Why is my mother supposed to keep her mouth shut?

Here is a proposal --- If George Will and George Bush and everyone on their side of the table who is over 55 shuts up about Social Security, then AARP and my mother and everyone on my side of the table who is over 55 shuts up about Social Security.

Happily for me, I can not control my side of the table (Mom, in particular, is extremely independent), because if I'm the Georges, I take that offer in a New York Minute.

Because the Georges know that their argument about Social Security is not an argument for Social Security reform --- it is an argument for ending Social Security altogether.

George Will, at least, has been honest about it. In fact, he has been honest about it for the last 55 years.

In attempting to impose a "gag-order" on people over 55, the conservatives are trying to remove from the bargaining table the people with the best memory of both (a) why Social Security is important [the way things were before] and (b) how the argument for killing Social Security has been the same since 1935.

The Georges and the Ricks argue that they are proposing new solutions for a new century. Baloney. They are proposing an 18th century solution --- everyone fends for themselves. Most everyone winds up in the poorhouse. For those of you under 55, that is not a metaphor. That is a real place.

Couple that with what I expect to be the results of the Republican health care proposals, and they will have an 18th century solution --- lower life expectancies will place fewer demands on the Social Security system.

People over 55 know that better than people under 55. That is why the younger the crowd arguing about Social Security, the better the chances are for the Bushies and their fellow travelers.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The Apprentice

The Apprentice is running out of steam a little, I fear. The show has always been interesting for what it doesn't take the time to say out loud about business tactics, and in previous seasons I have written about it a little.

This third season, however, book smarts (college grads) vs street smarts (high school grads) it has seemed a little repetitive.

The street smarts are much better at thinking outside-the-box, but they lost the last three tasks because their leaders have been thinking outside-the-box about themselves rather than about their clients. In the Gameboy task, the leader's insistence on painting a wall advertisement "for the community," was rejected by the same community as telling them nothing about the game. In the televised auction task, a contestant's insistence about talking about himself instead of about the musicians made it impossible for him to listen to what anyone was telling him.

In the first two seasons, they have left certain interesting things out to focus on other interesting things that had not come up before. This year, they have been repeating themselves when they could make new points that are just as exciting.

For example, every week after the Donald fires someone, George and Caroline stroke the Donald, telling him what a good choice he made.

This week however, it was clear that George and Caroline thought that Chris should have been negotiating the artist deals and should be fired for not doing so. Chris defended himself ferociously, pointing out that the task was about television, and the most important task was sticking to the television end. He made a lot of sense. Chris defended himself so well that George could not respond. George had to resort to pulling rank to avoid conceding that he had lost the point.

In the end the Donald agreed with Chris, and fired John, the person who negotiated the deals.

However, since George and Caroline could not kiss up to the Donald enough post-firing, they decided not to show George and Caroline either disagreeing with the Donald, or more likely, not saying anything much at all. Sulky Caroline, and more intersting still, sulky 70 year old plus George, stewing in his juices. Did not see it.

It would have made for excellent television. However, it would have showed that the Donald's decisions, the decisions of even the most "outstanding" boss, do not always leave the subjects happy.

Subversive talk in these times. Would have hurt the Donald's feelings. Couldn't have that. What would the FCC say if someone questioned the boss's authority?

Can't wait for Martha to take over.

Friday, March 11, 2005


I flirted with and skirted the bankruptcy system for years, and I have advised other people how to do the same, where possible. One of the reasons I could give advice was that I worked for credit card companies while I was in college. For a while, I was quite happy engaging in the sorts of bill collector tactics (like calling the neighbors and leaving a message) that they had to make illegal.

Thanks to the new law, over the medium term: maybe before the 2008 election, but certainly by 2012, the credit card companies, the electronics industry, the computer industy, and the entertainment industry, just to name easy examples, will discover that people will stop going into debt to buy this year's model when last year's model still works well enough. It will be too much risk to be that cool.

There will be fewer bankruptcies, far less debt, and far far less profits for the credit card companies. All good.

I am not as worried or as outraged about the mechanics of bankruptcy reform as most people.

The real outrage is in this hidden class component.

People from families who remember what it means to be poor always worry about the "stigma of bankruptcy."

But easy bankruptcy has always been a part of the United States. In early days, you came to America to avoid debtor's prison, then you literally left your debts behind by leaving town. There were thousands of other towns out west. At least that's the urban experience. I don't know if the farm experience was the same, but when you read about the lives of 19th century Americans, these farm families sure seemed to move around --- a lot.

It has always been easy for wealthy people to rearrange their debts so they don't have to declare bankruptcy. No one is better at this (at least publicly) than Donald Trump. (Maybe Thomas Jefferson). It is expected that Thomas or the Donald be allowed to do this. The new bankruptcy laws change nothing as it pertains to wealthy people seeking bankruptcy protection. What would Kenny Boy Lay do?

As more and more people escape poverty, and rise to the middle class, they come in contact with these people, they see their lifestyles, they get educated by the same business professors, and they wonder why they cannot treat their own business affairs in the same way. They don't understand why they should carry the moral stigma of bankruptcy when the Donald doesn't have to.

This revised bankruptcy law is a slap-down, a reminder to the middle class that the rich are different, and don't you dare go thinking otherwise. Just be grateful that we allow you some access to the bankruptcy courts, and we don't just beat you in the manner in which you deserve.

Paul Krugman refers to this as a desire for a "Peon Society," but as he describes this, he misstates the issue. It is not the economics of never being out of debt that these people are interested in, but the psychology of always considering yourself unworthy.

Unworthy of bankruptcy protection, unworthy of safe working conditions, unworthy of modern health care, unworthy of decent retirement, unworthy to ask others to pay their fair share, unworthy of freedom from fear.

Just Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God. And maybe you aren't even worthy of approaching Him.

What's The Matter With Kansas? It isn't the bait-and-switch that we liberals talk about (Kansas elects conservatives to protect them from gay marriage and abortion, but that proves impossible to do, so they wind up taking away your social security instead). It's the battle where the ways of thinking where we are made to feel less than are fighting the ways of thinking where we are made to feel the same as, are made to feel that God wants us to be happy, joyous and free, to be all we can.

To put it another way, too much freedom gives you vertigo, makes you want to lie down, and let other people, people "better" than you, take care of it.

To put it in Peter Townsend's way --- "No Easy Way To Be Free."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Right To Die and The Right To Kill --- Some Other Thoughts

This would go in the comments section of A Red Mind In A Blue State's recent psot called "I Believe -- Life," but I wouldn't want to clog up the Haloscan like that.

There is no end to the chattering one can have on subjects like the death penalty, abortion, euthenasia, stem-cell research, etc. But here's another dose.

Terri Schialvo is interesting, although I haven’t followed it very much in the last year or so. The assumption is that the parents speak for the adult child, and know what she wants better than the spouse does. This new impulse plays itself out in many emerging aspects of the law. Grandparent visitation rights are a more benign example of the same issue.

Apparently, the spouse in the Scialvo case is a bit of a creep, but that doesn’t mean that he is not accurately expressing his wife’s intent. This only shows that bad facts make bad law.

We are going towards a system where someone is never an adult, never a spouse, but always somebody’s child. Occasionally, the “right to die” issue emerges out of the other cloud, but I am not sure if, in the Scialvo case, at least, that is the main issue. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

My old friend General Grant was finishing his memoirs while he was dying of throat cancer. In order to keep himself alive, and relatively pain-free, he was relying on a legal (1885) but sometimes hard to obtain substance --- cocaine. When he finished his first draft of the book, the General, who had left New York City, and was living away from the glare of the press, outside of Saratoga, stopped taking cocaine, and died a few days afterwards. Mark Twain and at least one of the General’s sons felt that they should keep telling him that there was more to write and edit, even if they had to create busy work. The General, who had famous struggles with the bottle, did not feel up to being a cocaine addict as well. If he had stayed in New York, in the press’s glare, would he have been free to make that decision?

Maybe. It is my contention, although facts are hard to come by, that Jacqueline Kennedy, living in New York City in the 1990s, made a similar choice. Would Grant or Kennedy be able to make that choice in the world of 2005? Perhaps/ perhaps not.

There was a case in New York State a few years ago where a noted writer on the topic of “death with dignity,” who had published articles stating that if such-and-such a weird accident happened to him, and rendered him unable to live outside of a vegetative state, he would surely prefer if no extraordinary measures were taken to keep him alive. As luck would have it, the exact weird accident happened to him, and he wound up in a vegetative state. The New York State courts claimed that even though he had expressed a clear preference (and had executed the legal documents that the State Legislature said were needed), they would not allow the hospital to fulfill the man’s wishes. Perhaps the state felt that he was too lucky, I don’t know.
One core belief, which covers my views on things like euthanasia, and similar matters, which I have to express without any logical precedent is:

Just because you’re going to hell doesn’t mean you ought to go to prison.

Another “core belief,” which does have a logical explanation, if I was smart enough to parse it out in less than 1,000,000 pages is:

Vengeance is a legitimate core value in human beings, and the society has an obligation to satisfy a reasonable desire for vengeance. A person’s decision to forego vengeance to become a law-abiding member of society is coupled with society’s implicit promise that it will handle the vengeance issue in a responsible manner.

Societies break apart over this issue (the more effete may call it lack of proportionality in the administration of justice --- which covers a wide variety of issues, but probably none more so that killing the wrong people and letting others who should die live), even before they break apart because everyone is going hungry (unless hunger is also an administration issue).

[You can carry this issue down the line some. You could say that a government’s environment policies, its health and safety policies, its policies on poverty and its reaction to excess misfortune {i.e. catastrophic health care and bankruptcy laws} cause far more “government-sponsored” deaths than its decision to kill murderers, or allow its policemen to shoot first, or even to fight a war. But that is for another day.]

One current issue where these two core beliefs clash is the administration of justice on the issue of abortion. If the full power of government should come down on abortion, then all the doctors and all the women who were ever caught out having an abortion, would have to serve a full-term for murder. Clearly, no anti-abortion type I have heard ever says that would be a proportionate administration of justice. So I don’t believe that anyone who says “abortion is murder” really means it. Maybe “abortion is felony” or “abortion is a Class B misdemeanor.” Or maybe “Abortion will send you to hell, but we should never throw you in prison.”

(Incidentally, if you can get someone to admit to that, you could probably get their minds around the idea of some sort of stem cell research. As matters stand, we will probably approve stem cell research about the same time that billions of research dollars, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and our standing as the world’s leading science (and therefore military) power have permanently left the United States for some other country, maybe India or Germany.)

According to me, if I thought abortion was murder, all these women and their doctors would have to be put to death. All of the husbands and friends who accompanied these women to their doctors, or drove them to their doctors, would have to serve hard time as accessories to murder. I finesse the issue like this: Wherever human life begins in the mind of God, I say that as far as the government is concerned, no government-issued birth certificate, no government-issued birth. No government-issued life, no government-mandated protection.

Just because you go to hell doesn’t mean you have to go to prison.

Let Rick Santorum propose a bill for pregnancy certificates. See where that goes. I know --- it would pass in 35 states. Let’s see if it is enforced in any county where people make more than the median income. Let’s see how people treat the disproportionate administration of vengeance.

One school of anti-abortion thinkers finesse this issue by bombing abortion clinics, or marking abortion doctors for death on their websites, while claiming that the women who receive abortions are acting under diminished capacity during their “laying-in”. Whether that means these women are capable of making any complicated decision, or going about their jobs, or raising their other children, I can’t say.

Certainly, it is hard for anyone to avoid a hypocrisy trap.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


I Think Hell Has Frozen Over or I have had myself another stroke. It is also possible that since I am taking this story from secondary sources, i.e. the American Press, that I may not have my facts right.

According to both liberal and conservative media and internet sources, the Supreme Court has voted to abolish the death penalty for persons under 18.

Two years ago, the Supreme Court voted to abolish the death penalty for mentally retarded people. You may recall that during the 1992 campaign, Bubba C- decided to establish his good ol' boy bona fides (in the same way that John Kerry did when he went hunting for little animals, and in the same way that W- will whenever he gets around to asking his mommy's permission) by executing a retarded boy on death row. Accounts of that story say that the boy asked for ice cream for his last meal, but put it aside for later (i.e. after his execution).

Anyway, I was so happy that we wouldn't be seeing that again, that I never bothered to read the Supreme Court's opinion. Therefore, I said nothing about it to anyone. Back in those naive days, I thought I had to actually read something, actually had to know something to shoot off my mouth. Now that we all live in WMD/ Fox News world, I know that none of the so called "facts" that are handed to me have any connection to the truth, so I just assume things, and find that everyone else is behaving in the same way.

Anyway, this is the part where hell may have frozen over, or I may have had another stroke. Justice Kennedy, speaking for a majority of the Court (5 supposedly intelligent Americans) apparently has now said that 16 and 17 year olds should not get the death penalty because a consensus has developed in EUROPE that says that the death penalty for teenagers is wrong. In dissenting, Justice Scalia apparently said that he has a problem with that.


The consensus in Europe. Who cares? The consensus in Europe is to put your wet finger in the air to catch the way the money blows, then let your mother die in the hot summer heat because you are too busy on vacation to call to see how she is doing. Kill a person who doesn't dress like you, take a nap, and wait for the August holiday to roll in. That is Europe.

In Europe they don't believe in killing people for what they have done because they have a 5,000 year history of getting their jollies by killing people for what they look like.

I am not saying that the U.S. doesn't have a lot to answer for ... slavery, genocide, etc. ... but I don't take lessons in MORALITY from the corrupt stinkhole that is Europe.

Surely there are better reasons to spare the lives of under 18s than the worldwide consensus.

I do think this, and this is where it has always been hard to have a political discussion with me. Because I consider myself to be a good liberal, and people who know me also consider me to be a good liberal.

However ---

The general rule is that people who murder should be murdered in turn.

There are exceptions. I don't think killing someone who is trying to murder your wife is a capital crime. I have changed my mind a number of times through the years over whether you should be able to murder someone who is robbing your store if you yourself are out of harm's way.

None of these murderers get to say that they have exhausted their appeals and can choose their time to die. They die when it is convenient for us. And if we feel like having more appeals, or if we feel like going off to watch Ren and Stimpy, murderers are going to have to wait and die when we tell them. Maybe we could just surprise them, like they surprised their victims.

I do not think that we should be executing retarded people. I haven't really thought about where the age line should be for executing young murderers, although 18 sounds reasonable to me. Blood thirsty proponents of the death penalty have plenty of older people they could execute if they really wanted to. Since many of these older murderers are white, and some of them are even women and Christians, I don't know how many true believers in the death penalty there actually are, even in Texas and Mississippi.

Younger murder suspects are less powerful, less connected. I haven't seen the statistics (Like all good Americans, I'm faith-based now), but I bet there are a lot of non-whites to choose from. You can hang them with less effort, with less hand-wringing, easier to kick back with a beer later. That's probably why George and Alberto did so much executin' back in their Good Ol' Boy Days.

I believe that people who are found guilty of capital offenses should have the right to government lawyers, that if DNA could show that someone didn't do it, then the state has the obligation to get that DNA-evidence, even if the defense lawyer is not sharp enough to think of it. In fact if these lawyers can't do their jobs properly, the judge should step in and make sure that a fair trial is held in whatever way possible.

I will go one step further. I believe that if prosecutors and judges willfully suppress evidence that cause us to execute an innocent man, or fail to ask a question that they know would exonerate someone, then those prosecutors and judges should join the dearly departed themselves.

However, once we have known everything we can know, and we have run all the tests, and we know to the best of our ability in the imperfect world of 2004, that someone has murdered someone else -- that murderer should be executed by the state.

Why? Because people who murder should be murdered in turn, and the family of the murderer should not be forced to stop what they are doing to arrange the drive-by. Government has to step in, do the deed, and stop the cycle.

The notion that the government has the right to step in, and say, well, we don't have the money to conduct a proper manhunt or a proper trial, or we lack the moral courage to kill the millionaire murderer, so we beat the confession out of the befuddled retarded kid next door, or we'll sentence the guy to 3,330 years in prison instead, just in case, in some future time, it turns out that we may have been wrong, or we don't care who confessed, we already convicted someone, and there is no reason to go through it again. That government is, to me, illegitimate.

We are obligated as a people who claim to be moral to hunt down the real adult killers, even when they are white male fathers with jobs, and attend to their hangings.

I read a lot of words on this internet, and I read the Bible, too, but I have seen no actions to tell me that, as a species, we have evolved past that point.

Friday, March 04, 2005

"The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization"

Congress convened for the first time on March 4, 1789. However, late arrivals and final arrangements and negotiations had to occur before George Washington could be inaugurated on April 30, 1789.

Thereafter, by statute and custom, the previous Congressional session ended, and a new one began on March 4, 1789, and the President was inaugurated on March 4.

The 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, moved the start of Congress to January 3, and the date of the inauguration to January 20.

Therefore, FDR's first inaugural speech was given on March 4, 1933. It was the last March 4 inauguration

He said:

" ...So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance ....


"(O)ur distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

"True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

"Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.

"Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

"Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.

"Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources..."