Thursday, March 24, 2005

News for March 24th: You’re Out of Touch, I’m Out of Time Edition

Wow, is the Republican Party out of touch with America. I never would’ve thought I’d say that after the November election, when I thought I might be the one who was out of touch, but they really seem to be living in a fantasy world. They’re looking more and more like a bunch of spoiled brats who expect the entire world to bend to their every whim. I think they’ve gotten far too used to getting what they want over the past four years, and their arrogance has overcome their common sense. That’s how you get such missteps as the Terri Schiavo bill, and now this.

Oh noes, is Dear Leader going to punish those who dare oppose his will?

Bush Warns Democrats About Opposing Accounts

By Michael A. Fletcher and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A03

ALBUQUERQUE, March 22 -- President Bush concluded a three-state swing to sell his plan to restructure Social Security, warning Democratic opponents Tuesday that they will suffer political consequences if they continue to oppose his proposal without providing one of their own.

Flanked by Republican Sens. Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and John McCain (Ariz.), Bush invited Democrats "to come to the table" to help devise a solution to shore up Social Security's finances. "I believe there will be bad political consequences for people who are unwilling to sit down and talk about the issue," he said.

McCain has been especially supportive of his onetime rival, appearing with Bush at three events over the past two days in trying to prod Democrats into negotiations to include private accounts in a plan to revamp Social Security. The popular senator said that the nation's aging population makes it impossible for Social Security to pay promised benefits far into the future unless fundamental changes are made in the program.

McCain said he supports Bush's plan to allow workers to divert nearly a third of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts. Although those accounts will not address Social Security's long-term funding problems, he said, they do provide "an important link to the future" by allowing workers to supplement Social Security checks with money earned in the stock and bond markets.

The accounts would buffer future retirees against cuts in Social Security payments that would be certain to accompany them. McCain said some critics have played down the severity of Social Security's financial crisis, but he maintained that now is the time to act. "The longer we wait, the more draconian the changes will have to be," he said.

McCain also challenged opponents of Bush's plan, including the advocacy group AARP, to enter negotiations on Social Security. He said they are recklessly minimizing the fiscal problems looming for the nation's retirement system.

"Some of our friends, who are opposing this idea, say, 'Oh, you don't have to worry until 2042.' We wait until 2042, when we stop paying people Social Security?" he asked.

More at the Washington Post.

Okay, on to the Schiavo case. This thing just gets stranger and stranger. What are the Republicans thinking on this? I really don’t get it; I suppose it’s that important that “the base” (read: superfundies and ultra-right-wing fruitcakes) get what they want. The good news (well, to me at least), is that they’re taking their lumps for opposing an issue that a supermajority of Americans feel differently on.

Political Fallout Over Schiavo Law
(CBS/AP) Congressional leaders have insisted their only motivation in getting involved in the Terri Schiavo case was saving a life. But Americans aren’t buying that argument, a CBS News poll finds.

An overwhelming 82 percent of the public believes the Congress and President should stay out of the matter.

Just 13 percent of those polled think Congress intervened in the case out of concern for Schiavo, while 74 percent think it was all about politics. Of those polled, 66 percent said the tube should not be inserted compared to 27 percent who want it restored. The issue has generated strong feelings, with 78 percent of those polled -- wheter for either side of the issue -- saying they have strong feelings.

Public approval of Congress has suffered as a result; at 34 percent, it is the lowest it has been since 1997, dropping from 41 percent last month. Now at 43 percent, President Bush’s approval rating is also lower than it was a month ago.

Over the weekend, Republicans in Congress pushed through unprecedented emergency legislation aimed at prolonging the brain-damaged woman's life by allowing the case to be reviewed by federal courts.

Since then, a federal judge and a federal appeals panel have turned down a request by Schiavo's parents to order doctors to reconnect the feeding tube that's kept their daughter alive for the past 15 years.

Wednesday afternoon, the case was rejected by the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It could still be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Late Wednesday, leaders of the U.S. House filed papers with the Supreme Court supporting the parents' wishes to have the feeding tube restored -- even though the parents have not yet appealed to the high court. The House leaders, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., argues that federal courts so far have misinterpreted the special Schindler legislation, and that the federal courts are required to keep Schiavo alive until a new review of her case.

Oh, and the hypocrisy just gets better and better. Bill “I examined a videotape and am thus qualified to make a medical diagnosis” Frist, the guy who swears up and down he would never pull the plug on Terri? Well, he’s pulled the plug. A lot of times. This is almost as rich as President “Culture of Life” Bush signing the bill that killed the boy in Texas against the mother’s will.

Heart surgeon Frist has pulled the plug regularly


WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has championed the "rescue" of Terri Schiavo, is a renowned heart surgeon who has pulled the plug on a "regular basis," his office acknowledged yesterday.
But Frist (R-Tenn.) ended life support only when the patient was ruled brain-dead, and he is convinced Schiavo is not brain-dead.

"He certainly has a lot of clinical experience" in the withdrawal of life support, said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call.

Frist, the driving force behind the Senate bill to move Schiavo's case to federal court and a likely 2008 presidential candidate, is under fire for declaring she is not brain-dead after reviewing a video of Schiavo.

"On a regular basis, he's dealt with a diagnosis of brain death," Call said defending Frist, a heart and general surgeon.

Medical ethicists like Dr. Kenneth Prager, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, say it's "inappropriate" for Frist to make an armchair diagnosis. "A diagnosis should be made bedside by a neurologist. He's not a neurologist, and he wasn't bedside," Prager said.

In a 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Frist recalled moral debate into "Why is somebody dead when there's no brain activity, but everything else is warm and beating?" from the early days of organ transplants. "Finally, we came to a consensus, an ethical framework, that people can generally agree to and have faith in."

More at the New York Daily News

Surely this cannot be serious. Florida is looking to pass a bill aimed at curbing “leftist” professors? Jesus Christ, the mind boggles. HOW can anyone take this seriously?

“Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

Isn’t the whole point of a classroom that a teacher sets their own syllabus? I mean, what the fuck is the point of having a professor or teacher if you’re going to dictate down to the letter what they teach? WHAT THE HELL? What about Freedom of Speech? How does Florida’s Congress think they can dictate this?

Sometimes I want to cry.

Alligator Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

“This is a horrible step,” he said. “Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might have to pay court costs — even if they win — from their own pockets. This is not an innocent piece of legislation.”

The staff analysis also warned the bill may shift responsibility for determining whether a student’s freedom has been infringed from the faculty to the courts.

More at the Independent Florida Alligator.

Anyway, well, not to dance on the grave of Social Security “reform”, but…well…

*puts on the tap shoes*

Bush's First Defeat
The president has lost on Social Security. How will he handle it?
By Jacob Weisberg
Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2005, at 4:19 AM PT

George W. Bush's plan to remake the Social Security system is kaput. This is not a value judgment. It's a statement of political fact. In the months since the president first presented the idea as his top domestic priority, Democrats in Congress have unexpectedly unified in opposition to any reform based on private accounts. Several Republican senators whose votes would be needed for passage are resisting private accounts as well. And public opinion, which has never favored any form of privatization, is trending even more strongly against Bush's scheme. At this point, there's just no way that the president can finagle enough votes to win.

This means that Bush is about to suffer—and is actually in the midst of suffering—his first major political defeat. After passing all his most important first-term domestic priorities (a tax cut, an education-reform bill, domestic security legislation, another tax cut), Bush faces a second term that is beginning with a gigantic rebuke: A Congress solidly controlled by his own party is repudiating his top goal. It's precisely what happened to Bill Clinton, when Congress rejected his health-care reform proposal in 1993. As the Clinton example shows, such a setback doesn't doom an administration. But how Bush handles the defeat is likely to be a decisive factor in determining whether he accomplishes any of the other big-ticket items on his agenda.

The first question to ask is whether Bush can face up to defeat. Not whether he can acknowledge defeat publicly: Few presidents are capable of graciously admitting their screw-ups, and this one is more reluctant to do so than most. The issue is whether Bush can acknowledge to himself that's he's belly-flopped on Social Security. If he can't, the endgame is likely to be fairly ugly for the GOP. Bush will expend more political capital twisting the arms of senators in a fruitless cause.

More at Slate

This is just too rich not to share. Hey Tom, project much?

Tom Delay vs. "The Syndicate"
Submitted by Oliver Willis on Wed, 03/23/2005 - 2:56pm.
Listen to the MP3 to hear Tom Delay talk about the "syndicate" of "do-gooders" that's out to destroy him. No word yet if he twirled his mustache when he said it.

This is exactly the issue that’s going on in America. That attacks against the conservative movement, against me, and against many others. The point is, it’s, the other side has figured out how to win and defeat the conservative movement. And that is to go after people, personally charge them with frivolous charges, and link that up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then, and then get the national media on their side. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only and that’s to destroy the conservative movement.

From Oliver

Finally, an interesting op-ed piece. I pretty much agree with everything that’s said here: if we’re sending these young men and women off to our death, we need to face what we’re doing.

Hiding Our War Dead
Italy Publicly Honors Its War Dead, America Hides Its Dead
Is That Respecting Our Soldiers?
by Gail Vida Hamburg

The state funeral in Rome last month for Nicola Calipari - the Italian intelligence officer who rescued a kidnapped journalist from Iraqi captors, only to be gunned down by jittery American soldiers at a checkpoint in Baghdad - was a national event that united all Italians, merging their raw sorrow with the singular grief of his widow and children. It was the second time Italy pulled out all the stops for its Iraq War dead. In November of 2003, it staged an elaborate state funeral for nineteen of its citizens, killed in a suicide truck bombing in Nasiriyah.

In both instances, Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his ministers, President Carlo Ciampi, and an honor guard in full-dress uniform stood with grieving families on the tarmac of Rome’s Ciampino military airport to receive their dead. There were national days of mourning and public visitation hours to the reposed, and at night, the Coliseum’s lights were dimmed in a mark of respect.

All Italy watched (on television) as officers from Italy’s civil services carried the flag-draped coffins past honor guards representing every branch of the military. The Carabinieri (paramilitary corps), in their regal uniforms and blue-and-red plume hats, stood guard while lone buglers played the Last Post and other laments. Stricken Italians lined the routes of the funeral cortege to pay their respects, before the bodies were entombed in Rome’s war memorial.

The participation in these last rites symbolized a shared sacrifice between those who prosecute wars, those who must fight them, and those who grieve and honor them-not just the dead and their families, but the entire nation. The pageantry on display was no more excessive than the heroism of the fallen, for surely there can be no greater excess than surrendering one’s life for the country.

America, on the other hand, with 1,516 U.S. fatalities in Iraq as of March 16, 2005, pays little public attention to its war dead. Indeed, aside from the printed obituaries in metro sections of dailies, there is little acknowledgment by the government or substantial reporting in the media of the soldiers who perish in Iraq and the families they leave behind. We do not see or hear them. They die alone on the hot sands of Iraq and their survivors grieve privately on American soil.

This administration, which asks for courage and resolve from the military, can find in itself neither courage nor resolve to embrace them in death. According to Pentagon rules, “There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops.” Last year, defense contractor Maytag Aircraft fired civilian workers, Tami Silicio and David Landry, for taking photographs of soldiers’ coffins at an airbase in Kuwait. The photographs surfaced at after a Freedom of Information Act request by First amendment advocate, Russ Kick.

Even acknowledging soldiers’ deaths through meaningful tributes upsets many in the war faction. When Nightline anchor, Ted Koppel, broadcast a tribute to the soldiers who had died in Iraq by reading their names off camera while the photographs of the dead men and women were projected on the screen, supporters of the war cried foul.

The President has also made it his policy not to attend military funerals. If he believes our military is fighting for noble ideals, if he admires, as he says, their valor and sacrifice, why must he absent himself from their funerals or prevent our witness of their final return? Why must our war dead come home like thieves in the night?

More at Bellaciao

On a personal note, I'm considering giving up this blog. Not long ago, on a discussion board, someone asked what the government would have to do to cross the line that would make you consider revolting. I have to say that they're dangerously close to that line for me, only instead of thinking of revolting, I just want to withdraw from society altogether. I sometimes feel like there is no hope to reverse the course we're on; the controls are already breaking down, and with those gone, how can we repair them? This Schiavo thing has been the worst, and it's shown me the worst of the American people: those who want Papas George and Jeb Bush to send soldiers or police in and arrest anyone who dare oppose them, those who are longing for a protectionist fascist state, those who think that those who oppose their "culture of life" should be killed. I feel like I'm living in some African country where I have absolutely no say in what the government does or how it conducts itself. I said to a friend just the other day that the Republicans are now making up government as they go along, because they're sure not following the intentions of the founders or the Constitution. My wife and I are actively making plans to leave the country. How did we get to this? I'm really beginning to wonder if it's worth saving.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:50 AM