Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bush 911 Probe Unpopular

A lot of people think that Florida Governor Jeb Bush is wrong to investigate the 911 call to report Terri Schiavo’s collapse 15 years ago. I am not one of them.

I know. We’ve heard enough about Terri Schiavo. Around-the-clock coverage of her last days and the fight between her estranged husband and her family over whether or not she should live wore us all out. It polarized the nation into two camps. It posed the ultimate question: Is life valuable, or is it not?

That question is just one of several that remain unanswered. The autopsy of Terri’s body revealed no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused before she collapsed, but it did not answer the question of why her heart stopped, cutting oxygen off from her brain. As a result, her condition was such that Michael Schiavo insisted that Terri had told him she would not want to live that way.

That’s another question without an answer: Did Terri really tell Michael that she would not want to live in the condition she was in? Her family and friends do not believe so.

Michael Schiavo, who richly deserved the scorn heaped upon him because of his attitude and stubbornness, has through his confused testimony and TV interview created another important question, the question of how long did he wait after Terri collapsed before calling 911? Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

When someone’s heart stops, response time is crucial. Michael Schiavo’s own testimony, under oath, reflects that he waited at least 40 minutes before calling for help. That, my friends, is significant. The brain can only last a short time without oxygen before damage begins. The difference between taking two or three minutes to get to Terri and realize he needed to call for help, and the 40-minute wait he testified to could well have been the difference between Terri’s severe brain damage and a normal life.

The following statement is representative of opponents of further examining what happened to Terri: "Enough is enough," said Democratic Sen. Ron Klein, according to the Associated Press. "I don't want to see it on TV any more, I don't want to hear politicians talk about it. Let her be at peace."

Terri is no doubt more at peace now than during the last two weeks of her life, as she slowly dehydrated and starved to death on the order of her estranged husband, in whose hands her care was legally placed. But this is far less about Terri being at peace than it is about ordinary Americans being at peace, away from the answers to difficult questions.

Gov. Bush wrote to the State Attorney: "Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay. In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."

Terri’s family is looking for answers. They want to know what happened in those first few minutes. Finding that answer may help them cope with their loss. Maybe the answer won’t be found, even if the Governor’s investigation goes forward.

But what harm can it do?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Updated: 12:42 p.m. ET June 29, 2005

Thai fishermen netted a catfish as big as a grizzly bear, setting a world record for the largest freshwater fish ever found, according to researchers who studied the 646-pound Mekong giant catfish as part of a project to protect large freshwater fish.

“It’s amazing to think that giants like this still swim in some of the world’s rivers,” project leader Zeb Hogan project leader said in a statement. “We’ve now confirmed now that this catfish is the current record holder, an astonishing find.”

“I’m thrilled that we’ve set a new record, but we need to put this discovery in context: these giant fish are uniformly poorly studied and some are critically endangered," added Hogan, a fellow with the World Wildlife Fund, which is partnering with the National Geographic Society. "Some, like the Mekong giant catfish, face extinction.”

'Largest fish species disappearing'
Hogan said his study of giant freshwater fish "is showing a clear and global pattern: the largest fish species are disappearing.

"The challenge is clear," he added, "we must find methods to protect these species and their habitats. By acting now, we can save animals like the Mekong giant catfish from extinction.”

Hogan's project includes two-dozen other species, including the giant freshwater stingray, the dog-eating catfish, the dinosaur-like arapaima, and the Chinese paddlefish – "all of which remain contenders for the title of the world’s largest fish," the researchers stated, pending the final results of their work.

"Long shots for the title include caviar-producing sturgeon, goliath Amazon catfish, giant lungfish, razor-toothed gars, massive cods, and Mongolian salmon," they added.

Didn't survive capture
The Mekong giant catfish was caught and eaten in a remote village in Thailand along the Mekong River, home to more species of giant fish than any other river in the world, the researchers said.

Local environmentalists and government officials had negotiated to release the fish so it could continue its spawning migration in the far north of Thailand, near the borders of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China, but the adult male later died.

The researchers said the Mekong giant catfish is declining as a species due to habitat destruction and upstream dams.

The Mekong River Basin is home to more species of massive fish than any river on Earth, they added, and Mekong fish are the primary source of protein for the 73 million people that live along the river.

Sunnis will take on Zarqawi when 'ready'

Iraq's Sunnis will take on top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi once they accept the Shiite-run government in that country, a senior U.S. official said.

The unidentified official told the Washington Times the Sunnis also would rid the country of foreign saboteurs after their wishes are met.

The official's comments were based on numerous meetings with what he called "influential fence sitters," the newspaper said.

The official said the fence sitters had told him they are only tolerating foreign terrorists because they are a "pressure tool" to force the Shiites and the United States to consider Sunni political demands for more representation in the Baghdad government.

"The Iraqis will kill every foreigner who comes into their neighborhood when they're ready," said the official. "They don't want foreigners in Iraq."

About Zarqawi, one Sunni was quoted as telling the official: "We'll catch him when we're ready."

The U.S. official said: "The Sunnis are broken up into many fragmented groups. Many don't want us to leave. Iraqi intelligence is telling us this every day."

Monday, June 27, 2005

by The Windjammer

There’s No Place Like Home,

Home, Sweet Home,

Little Sod Home in the West,

My Old Kentucky Home,

Just a Shanty in Old Shantytown,

And All That Jazz

So you thought you owned your own little piece of planet earth, complete with leaky faucets, rusty downspouts, crabgrass and mole holes.

If you haven’t heard the bad news already, I will break it to you. There is no way to do it gently.

The United States Supreme Court made a landgrab decision last week which could affect anyone anywhere in this country. They sneaked it by me while I was on vacation in low-country South Carolina. They sneaked it by the rest of us while we were out to lunch.

It doesn’t matter now that the moneygrubbers need the land for roads, back roads, scenic roads or railroads. Any small pirate band of politicians who have been duly elected and sworn to do the public good can eyeball your homestead as a revenue-producing piece of real estate which would offer a better return if it were used as a business which would automatically be forced to pay higher taxes than the mere pittance you shell out annually.

The benefactors will very likely be the private developers who can now force sale of almost any residence, hovel or mansion, or any farm, small business, large business or go-cart track if they can shell out enough green stuff to convince the hacks that the new enterprise will generate the "much-needed" additional revenue.

The power to grab your land will not be limited to cities as in the case just decided. Any county, state or federal entity can offer you a "fair price" for your domicile and you will have very little choice but to accept it. Being in the early stages of my ninth decade here on earth, I can attest that what is fair to the buyer ain’t necessarily what one would call fair to the seller who thought all the time that he could just say, "No." Haggling may very well become a dead science when it comes to dumping your home, albeit unwillingly.

I just read the incomplete results of a straw poll which indicates at this point that about 92% of the American citizens do not agree with the finding. I agree with the overwhelming majority.

I have read and re-read the fifth amendment. The only reference there to plain ordinary everyday people who have never done anything worse than go a little too fast in a school zone which I have been able to find in that amendment says "... nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."

I am still trying to understand Constitutional rights and how the court arrived at its decision.

Maybe you had better start wondering, too.

I would have written more, but the tears have made my keyboard so soggy that my fingers keep slipping off the keys.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Baseball is Back in Bluefield

I always welcome the return of the Appalachian League baseball season. September to mid-June is a lllllooooonnnnnggggg time.

The League has been around since 1946, except for 1956 when it disbanded for one year. Bluefield has had a professional baseball team since 1924, and its 47-year relationship with the Baltimore Orioles is the longest relationship with a major league team of any minor league team in the country. Prior to Baltimore, we’ve had farm teams for the Boston Braves, the Washington Senators, the Boston Red Sox, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Baltimore took over in 1958.

Along the way, guys like Boog Powell, Cal Ripken, Jr. and his brother Billy, Don Baylor, Bobby Gritch, Mark Belanger and Eddie Murray played here. The current Baltimore 40-man roster contains former Bluefield Orioles Daniel Cabrera, Sidney Ponson, Rick Bauer, Josh Parrish, Luis Matos, and Larry Bigbie. A few others play for other MLB teams.

This year the season started June 21 with the Os on the road. They returned to town for Friday’s home opener with a 1-2 record.

Appy League ball is a true phenomenon. It’s a rookie league, and while some of its teams have their lowest level farm club in the Florida Grapefruit League, the Orioles gave up that team two years ago, and now Bluefield is the entry level team in the Os’ farm system. That means most of the guys that play here have never played professional ball before. Many of them are 18 and 19 years old, and they’ve never hit with a wooden bat.

At this level, the emphasis is on teaching these kids to play baseball. Sometimes, the Baltimore brass forgets that they also need to learn how to win.

You never really can predict what will happen in an Appy League game. Sometimes they play like pros and sometimes like Little Leaguers. I’ve seen teams come from 10 runs down in the late innings to win, and conversely drop a 10-run lead to lose. Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention that the umpires are learning their craft, too. With all of those factors, some games are very “interesting.”

The Baby Birds did themselves proud in Friday’s game against the Danville Braves. Down 3-1 late in the game, a kid who was here last year named Denver Kitch hit a three-run homer that gave the Os a one-run lead that they were able to hold onto. So they won the first home game and evened their record at 2-2.

Saturday’s game, the second in a three-game series, was less satisfactory. Twenty-three runs were scored in the game. The problem was that Bluefield only scored eight of them. The starting pitcher gave up five runs quickly and was taken out in the first inning with just one out on the scoreboard. It was pretty much all down hill from there, although the Os mounted a couple of threats along the way. Kitch hit pretty well again, and outfielder Drew Moffitt hit two homers. That, and a couple of good defensive plays were the highlights.

But I remain optimistic. In 1997, we had a terrible start, something like 2-10, but wound up winning the League Championship for the second straight season. We had a hungry young manager named Bobby Dickerson who didn’t like to lose. The Os won one comeback game after another that year. It was a storybook season.

You never know what will happen in the Appy League.

The Old Way and the New Way

by The Windjammer

Having just returned from a much-needed vacation from the perpetual temptations, trials, tribulations and troubles of permanent retirement, I decided to engage in one of my favorite pastimes. I went back and read what Wesley Pruden had written while my back was turned.

Wes is the managing editor of The Washington Times. I know him well enough that I can call him "Wes," although he has never met me and very likely has never heard of me. Such are the burdens of notoriety.

Wes made reference to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in a recent column. He didn’t go into much detail except to correctly say that it didn’t free anyone. I would like to expand on the theme and another for a couple of paragraphs so the uninitiated among us will understand more fully what Wes was saying.

The original version, written in Lincoln’s hand on September 22, 1862, is somewhat longer and uses more flowery speech than the adopted version. The "Official Version" was submitted on January 1, 1863.

It states that those slaves held in the "states in rebellion" shall be free. It clearly exempts those states and parts of states not considered to be in rebellion from the effect of the proclamation. Let me cite the paragraph for you, just in case you have been overwhelmed with hearsay..

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princes, Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

The other point I wish to make is that those who want immediate democracy in Iraq haven’t a clue as to how long it takes to establish a democratic form of government.

Our own efforts in this country didn’t start on July 3, 1776. The talk was in the making long before that date. I’m not absolutely sure just when it started, but the tea tax, the tobacco tax, the stamp act, the molasses tax (raw rum) and others probably drew a few comments from the disgruntled. The Declaration was signed on July 4, 1776, but it was drafted long before it was presented the day before it was signed.

The next step (there may have been one or two others somewhere between) toward a democratic government was the War for Independence. That one wasn’t over in a fortnight or two. It wasn’t even over in a year or two. The tally of those who gave there lives that the rest of us might bellyache all we want probably falls short of the total fallen.

There are those among us who want to push the date backward and declare the Battle of Point Pleasant the first land battle of the war.

The new republic didn’t actually become a nation until 13 years after the signing of the Declaration when the last of the required nine states ratified the Constitution in 1789.

I have one serious question. Well, maybe two.

Why do the critics want Iraq to shortcut the process? Do they have some ulterior motive?

Could they be driven by a fantasy called "Bush Bashing?"

Or could it just be that they enjoy destroying our country bit by bit?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Misplaced Indignation

"There's a certain line that you should not cross, and last night, Karl Rove crossed that line. He didn't just put his toe over the line; he jumped way over," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York.

An interesting comment for a Democrat to make about a staffer in a Republican administration, given the deafening silence with which Mr. Schumer and his fellow Democrats responded to the truly outrageous absurdities of his Senate colleague, Richard Durbin.

Mr. Schumer’s indignation arose from this statement by Mr. Rove, speaking to the annual dinner of the New York State Conservative Party: “Conservatives saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers,” Mr. Rove said.

What is particularly interesting about this is that Karl Rove is exactly right. While Democrats and Republicans joined together in support of America’s response, liberals and liberal organizations frequently did exactly what Mr. Rove said. Liberals, not Democrats, were the objects of Mr. Rove’s comment. Democrats more and more try to distance themselves from the “liberal” tag. Why, then, are they so upset with Karl Rove’s criticism of a group they want not to be associated with?

For example, liberals think detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere ought to be brought into the American judicial system, instead of treating them as what they are, enemy combatants captured in a war. Other liberals think that instead of fighting back, we should try to understand the killers of 9/11, and go through self-examination to discover what America did to deserve the 9/11 attacks.

"Conservatives saw the United States as a great nation involved in a noble cause of self-defense," Mr. Rove said. "Liberals are concerned about what our enemies think of us, whether every government approves of our actions." There is a cadre of people on the Left in America who are always ready to assume this country is guilty of any and all things people accuse us of. The foolish and dangerously inaccurate comments of Richard Durbin perfectly illustrate this phenomenon. Blaming America is an automatic reaction among these people. Their reaction is similar to the reaction of America’s enemies to accusations against us. When American Leftists respond in the same fashion as America’s enemies, what are we to think of them?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Pelosi Joins Durbin in the "Stupid-Is-As-Stupid-Does" Club

More nonsense from Democrat leaders in Congress.

"I assume that the war in Afghanistan is over, or is the contention that you have that it continues?" Representative Nancy Pelosi said. Later, the Minority Leader added: "This isn't about the duration of the war. The war in Afghanistan is over."

"Would you prefer that they gave up the fight, stopped hunting for Osama bin Laden and allowed the terrorists to run free?" seven Republicans, all members of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote in a letter to the California Democrat.

One of two things seems correct:

1) These liberals just don’t get it. They don’t understand what is going on around them. They have instead of realistic expectations, a fantasy view of how wars are waged and won.

2) They do understand what is going on, but are so desperate to make political hay that they will say anything – however inappropriate, however untrue, or however harmful to the nation, the troops and the war effort – to try to score points.

I hope it’s the former. I fear it’s the latter.

Either way, the Democrats are (still) out of touch with most Americans.

According to The Washington Times, a “Rasmussen Reports survey conducted this week found that 36 percent of Americans say the detainees are being treated better than they deserve, and another 34 percent say they are being treated about right. Just one in five say the detainees are being treated unfairly, with 10 percent saying they do not know.”

The Rasmussen poll asked: "Most of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are members of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Generally speaking, is the United States treating these prisoners unfairly, treating them better than they deserve, or treating them about right?"

The Times reported that the telephone poll of 1,000 Americans, conducted early this week, also found that only 14 percent agree with Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who charged that prisoner treatment at Guantanamo is similar to the tactics used by the Nazi or Soviet regimes.

So, according to Rasmussen, 70 percent of those surveyed believe detainees are being treated appropriately or better, while only 20 percent think detainees are being treated “unfairly.” Not surprisingly only 14 percent agree with Sen. Richard Durbin’s absurd characterization of the treatment at the Guantanamo Bay facility.

From the conservative perspective it is a boon for the liberals/Democrats to behave in this petulant and juvenile fashion, because it just illustrates how out of touch they are with mainstream America.

From the American perspective, however, it would be far better for the country if they would just shut up and stop doing so much damage to their country’s image and demoralizing our fighting men and women who are risking their lives daily to protect their right to say and do stupid things.

Dick Durbin is Partly Right

Jonah Goldberg has written a thoughtful piece about Sen. Richard Durbin and the use of Nazi references. It's a good column, even for those of you who don't agree with my positions. I urge you to read the entire piece. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt:

Now, I don't mean this as a defense of Durbin, who is without a doubt one of the most unimpressive - or should I say most impressive? - hacks in American politics. But he's largely right.

No, not because the comparison is in any way valid on the merits. The Nazis, Soviets and Cambodian Communists murdered millions of entirely innocent men, women and children. The Nazis performed medical experiments on children and gassed whole families. Under Pol Pot, merely showing grief for a murdered husband, wife, parent or child was punishable by summary execution. And the Soviet gulag earns the top "honor" of having killed the most people, some 15 million to 20 million, most of them having had no clear idea why their own country found it necessary to terrorize and kill them.

Meanwhile, the 500 or so men in Guantanamo may be terrorized, but they know why they are there. They declared a terrorist war against the United States and the West. They openly embrace the slaughter of women and children. They defy all the rules of war set down by man and even their own God. That may not justify some of the alleged abuses committed by Americans, but it justifies a great many things America's critics call abuses but aren't.

And it shouldn't tax the intellects of even the Dick Durbins of the world that, say, plucking a child from the arms of his executed mother and sentencing him to a slow death at a work camp is different from plucking a terrorist from the mountains of Tora Bora and sentencing him to a holding facility where he gets three square meals, a Koran and, during interrogation sessions, a heavy blast of hip-hop and lousy air conditioning.

So how is Dick Durbin partly right? It is true, as Durbin claimed, that if he were to read the allegations about depriving prisoners of food or forcing them to defecate on themselves, many Americans would be reminded of the Nazis. But that's because vast swaths of the public and their opinion leaders prefer to live in historical and moral ignorance. (As for thinking of Pol Pot's killing fields or the Gulag, it's unlikely, as neither gets a fraction of the attention they deserve.) In the circles frequented by the likes of Durbin - where Howard Dean is a statesman and Michael Moore deserves the Nobel Prize - evil must automatically be associated with "Nazi."

Thanks to Kenna Amos at Straight Face Test for leading me to this piece.

The entire Goldberg piece is available at

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Recent News You May Have Missed

Item 1: NAMBLA, aka the North American Man-Boy Love Association, applauds Michael Jackson’s acquittal.

“We have never had any knowledge of Jackson’s personal life,” the group says in a statement on its Web site, but “the little bully in many of us delighted to point a finger at someone else.”

“What makes Michael Jackson different is that he is comfortable with himself and sees no need to hide his feelings. The hallmark of Jackson’s work is the power of love as a constructive force, even as misery still ravages our world,” adds the group, which seeks to end “the extreme oppression” of men and boys in mutually consensual love relationships.

Item 2: Now that Michael Jackson has been acquitted, publicists for author/researcher Pamela D. Schultz would like to draw attention to her book, “Not Monsters: Analyzing the Stories of Child Molesters.”

Ms. Schultz, who teaches communications at Alfred University in New York, says the King of Pop seems similar to other men she’s studied who were “adolescents in adult bodies” and created environments where “the fine line that separates adoration from abuse” could be stepped over.

The best way to combat the problem of child molestation is to understand the motivation of the molesters, says Ms. Schultz. “When we label child molesters ‘monsters,’ we implicitly give them permission to act out on their impulses,” she says, because without hope for redemption, they have no incentive to control their desires.

Item 3 : Dean Arthur Schwartzmiller, 63, of San Jose, Calif. has been arrested for molesting two 12-year-old boys. A search of his bedroom unearthed seven notebooks containing handwritten names of 36,000 boys and codes that appear to indicate how he abused them. Names were filed under “Blond Boys,” “Cute Boys,” and “Boys who say no,” according to police and wire reports.

A California academic who specializes in forensic psychiatry describes Mr. Schwartzmiller’s categorized, cross-indexed records of 36,000 boys as “just monstrous in its proportions.”

Durbin’s Apology: Too Little Too Late

Yesterday, Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois democrat, offered an apology for his recent outrageous remarks on the Senate floor in which he equated the treatment of terrorist captives at Guantanamo Bay by American troops with the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Hitler’s death camps and Russian gulags.

In the brief clip shown on TV news, Durbin seemed sincere in his apology, and to give credit where it is due, we must acknowledge that he finally did the right thing in offering the apology. We must at the same time, however, recognize that the level of contriteness of the apology does not even approach the level of disgust and harm caused by the repulsive and fallacious accusations he fired at American troops.

The apology is a good first step, albeit a small one. Sen. Durbin, like Sen. Trent Lott, whose sin was far less serious than Sen. Durbin’s, was asked by his own party to resign his position as Majority Leader because of his indiscretion. Richard Durbin committed a far greater sin, and his party ought to be demanding at the very least that he resign his Minority Whip position.

As I said earlier, I believe what Sen. Durbin did has fanned the flames of the rabid fanatic Muslims and their mindless hatred of America, and has made it more dangerous for Americans around the world, and especially for American troops. His subversive comments violated his duty of loyalty to his country and bolstered the enemy in a time of war, and that amounts to sedition and treason.

It has become fashionable of late for people who disagree with the Bush administration to use comparisons that appeal to the emotions of Americans in a cheap attempt to broaden the opposition to the Iraq war and other administration policies for reasons no more important that to score political points. Such crude and thoughtless behavior is demeaning to not only to those who indulge in it, but to their targets and to our nation. When those comparisons have the effect of lending credence to the false perceptions held by the enemy, thus strengthening the enemy’s determination, as Sen. Durbin’s comments have, that outrageous and dangerous conduct cannot be undone by a mere apology.

Richard Durbin must resign from the Senate or be thrown out of the Senate, and prosecuted for his crimes. It is time for this type of behavior to earn the appropriate response for the perpetrators.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Terri Schiavo’s Autopsy: What Does It Mean?

Thanks to Bulldog, a new but frequent commenter on Observations, for kick-starting me to look at the topic of Terri Schiavo’s autopsy.

A flurry of activity sprang up upon the release of the autopsy of Terri Schiavo. People on both sides of the issue find ammunition for their case in it. However, for me, the autopsy does not have much impact. It deals with medical issues. The most important issues, in my mind, were issues of Terri’s “husband,” Michael.

I never had a high opinion of Michael Schiavo. I suspected his motives following Terri’s medical crisis, and especially after Michael moved on with his life and started a family with another woman, yet remained Terri’s legal guardian. Something about just didn’t jive.

I could never understand his adamant desire to end her life. There is no independent confirmation of his assertion that Terri would not want to live in the condition she was in. All we have is his word. I don’t think his word alone was enough. Her friends and family didn’t believe she would choose to die. No one will ever know whether she did or not.

I could not understand his refusal to turn Terri over to the care of her family, who pleaded for him to do so, and to the medical professionals who believed they could help her. What harm would there have been if he had walked away from his responsibility as her guardian, since he had already abandoned his responsibility as her husband?

So the autopsy doesn’t have any effect on the way I think about the set of circumstances surrounding the killing of Terri Schiavo. It doesn’t, and can’t, answer the questions I have about Michael Schiavo’s motives, and the tremendous fight he was willing to wage to see that her life was ended.

What the autopsy does is raise even more questions in the mind of lots of people who, like me, see no compelling reason for Michael Schiavo’s insistence on ending her life.

I realize that this piece is lengthy for Observations, but I hope you will read and think about every word.

Here is an excerpt from Phil Brennan of from Monday, June 20, 2005.

According to the report, Terri's condition was due to the loss of blood to her brain for a period of time sufficient to damage large parts of it but leaves wide open the crucial question of what brought about that circulatory failure in the first place.

Using technical medical terminology, which is lost on most, the 39-page tome announced that the certified manner of death is "undetermined," and the cause of Terri's untimely departure from this earthly life was "Complications of Anoxic Encephalopathy," or, in layman's terms, a brain injury from lack of oxygen.

The report continues to explain that because no one really knows what caused the episode fifteen years ago that resulted in Terri's injury, her manner of death remains uncertain.

The report dismisses bulimia, alleged by her husband and widely reported by the media as the cause, and rules out a heart attack, also named as a cause. It makes no attempt to identify the real cause of the incident, or answer the key question: if neither bulimia nor heart attack were the cause, what did stop Terri Schiavo's brain from receiving its life-giving supply of oxygen?

Instead of clearing up the many questions concerning the life and death of Terri Shiavo, the report on the autopsy of her remains only raises even more questions. Rather than confirming the many dubious claims of her husband, his lawyers and their allies in the media about her real condition and its cause, it strongly suggests that the claims were unsupported by the facts.

Moreover, instead of being conducted free of any possible bias, the medical examiner largely relied on the so-called medical records supplied by one of Michael Schiavo's lawyers.

According to the authoritative The Empire Journal, the major source of inside information about Schiavo case, the medical examiner, Pinellas-Pasco medical examiner (ME) Jon Thogmartin said he based some of his autopsy findings on medical reports and records provided by Gary Fox.

Fox was one of two medical malpractice attorneys for Michael Schiavo.

In fact, Thogmartin specifically stated that he could not have completed the autopsy without those records and said that the case would have to remain open because many records of the case, now unexplainably missing, might someday become available.

Wrote Thogmartin: "It is the policy of this office that no case is ever closed and that all determinations are to be reconsidered upon receipt of credible new information, In addition to fading memories, the 15-year survival of Mrs. Schiavo after her collapse resulted in the creation of a voluminous number of documents many of which were lost or discarded over the years. Receipt of additional information that clarifies outstanding issues may of shall cause an amendment of her cause and manner of death."

He adds: "What was the cause and manner of death? Mrs. Schiavo suffered a severe anoxic brain injury. The cause of which cannot be determined with reasonable medical certainty. The manner of death will therefore be certified as undetermined."

In that statement Thogmartin appears to agree with Michael Schiavo's assertion that his wife "had died fifteen years earlier."

Yet if that Terri actually died during her 1991 "accident" and that she was being "artificially kept alive" in spite of the fact that her body was "shutting down," why did Dr. Thogmartin state that Terri was "a relatively health woman who could have easily survived another 10 or 15 years."

Clearly, Mr. Brennan thinks there are sufficient irregularities in the autopsy process. I take no position on the implications of his comments.

For those who do not believe NewsMax, perhaps the views of a qualified physician will have more validity. Dr. William Hammesfahr, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in 1999, has read the Schiavo autopsy. In 2000, Dr. Hammesfahr’s work resulted in approval for the first patent in history granted for the treatment of neurological diseases including coma, stroke, brain injury, cerebral palsy, hypoxic injuries and other neurovascular disorders with medications that restore blood flow to the brain. His work was used successfully treat disabilities including ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette's and autism as well as behaviorally and emotionally disturbed children, seizures and severe migraines. He has sufficient credentials to comment on the autopsy’s findings. Following is his statement:

We have seen a lot on the autopsy of Terri Schindler Schiavo in recent days, that I feel needs to be addressed. To ignore these comments will allow future 'Terri Schiavo's' to die needlessly after the wishes of clinicians and family are ignored.

Considering that there were so many physicians and therapists who were willing to step forward to treat Terri Schiavo, from university based practitioners to those in private practice, it clearly shows that the mainstream medical community across the board, those involved in treating patients, knew that they could help Terri.

The record must be set straight. As we noted in the press, there was no heart attack, or evident reason for this to have happened (and certainly not of Terri's making).

Unlike the constant drumbeat from the husband, his attorneys, and his doctors, the brain tissue was not dissolved, with a head of just spinal fluid. In fact, large areas were "relatively preserved."

The purpose of the therapies offered by so many, from major universities, brain injury centers, and from private practice physicians, is to improve and restore quality of life, and function, which the mainstream medical community clearly tried to get to her.

I have had a chance to look at Dr. Nelson's analysis of the brain tissue, and essentially, as a clinician, these are my thoughts.

The autopsy results confirmed my opinion and Dr. Maxfield's opinions that the frontal areas of the brain, the areas that deal with awareness and cognition were relatively intact. To use Dr. Nelson's words, "relatively preserved." In fact, the relay areas from the frontal and front temporal regions of the brain, to the spinal cord and the brain stem, by way of the basal ganglia, were preserved, thus the evident responses which she was able to express to her family and to the clinicians seeing her or viewing her videotape. The Spect scan confirmed these areas were functional and not scar tissue, and that was apparently also confirmed on Dr. Nelson's review of the slides. Dr. Maxfield's estimates of retained brain weight were apparently accurate, although there may have been some loss of brain weight due to the last two weeks of dehydration.

Dr. Maxfield and myself both emphasized that she was a woman trapped in her body, similar to a child with cerebral palsy, and that was borne out by the autopsy, showing greater injury in the motor and visual centers of the brain. Obviously, the pathologists comments that she could not see were not borne out by reality, and thus his assessment must represent sampling error. The videotapes clearly showed her seeing, and even Dr. Cranford, for the husband, commented to her that, when she could see the balloon, she could follow it with her eyes as per his request.

That she could not swallow was obviously not borne out by the reality that she was swallowing her saliva, about 1.5 liters per day of liquid, and the clinical swallowing tests done by Dr. Young and Dr. Carpenter. Thus, there appears to be some limitations to the clinical accuracy of an autopsy in evaluating function.

With respect to the issue of trauma, that certainly does not appear to be answered adequately. Some of the types of trauma that are suspected were not adequately evaluated in this assessment. Interestingly, both myself and at least one neurologist for the husband testified to the presence of neck injuries. The issue of a forensic evaluation for trauma, is highly specialized. Hence the wish of the family to have observers which was refused by the examiner.

Ultimately, based on the clinical evidence and the autopsy results, an aware woman was killed.

s/Dr. W. Hammesfahr

Dr. Hammesfahr’s statement tends to support my belief that Terri Schiavo was somewhat aware, and was not a brain-dead vegetable. She did not deserve to die. She deserved protection from her guardian and from the Florida legal system and from the legal system of the United States. Both her legal guardian and the legal system failed her. It is a pitiful commentary on the low value our society places on human life.

The Bill of Rights
(You Don’t Have)

We, the people of the United States, in an attempt to preserve the union, restore justice, maintain safety, promote positive behavior and secure the blessings of liberty, hereby try again to ordain and establish common sense guidelines for the mutual benefit of all.

We hold this truth to be self-evident: that many people are confused by the Bill of Rights and require an explanation of “rights” they don’t have.

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. The United States makes it possible for individuals to make as much money as they are able, therefore if you can legally acquire those items, great. But you aren’t guaranteed anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone, no just you! Odds are that sometime someone will say or do something you don’t like. Learn to live with it.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in you eye, that’s your own fault. Don’t expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people on Earth, will gladly help anyone in need, and have established means of doing so, like churches and other private agencies. But they grow weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than creating another generation of couch potatoes.

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. From the looks of public housing, public health care is a bad idea. The price of health care has risen sharply due in part to those of you who do not understand the Bill of Rights, and think that government or your employer should provide health care for you.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm others. If you kidnap, rape, maim or kill some, don’t be surprised if the rest of us try to fry you in the electric chair, despite the protestations of the people who think that killers have more rights than their victims.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, the rest of us will try to lock you away where you won’t have many rights at all.

ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to publicly lie about your country’s activities and use false information to publicly humiliate your country. If you take sides with the enemy, you can go to jail along with those foreigners who have taken up arms against the U. S.

ARTICLE IX: You don’t have the right to a job. All of us want you to have one so that you can support yourself and, if you have one, your family. But we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities laid before you to make yourself productive. If you need a little help for a while, see ARTICLE IV.

ARTICLE X: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness, which is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws and oppressive regulations created by those of you who are confused by the Bill of Rights.

The preceding is attributed to State Representative Mitchell Kaye from Cobb County, Georgia, written several years ago. It has since been modified from its original form over the years.

The Straight Face Test

It's good to see my friend Kenna Amos back posting again after a too lengthy hiatus.

He came back strong, with a flurry of posts last week.

Visit The Straight Face Test.

Dick Durbin Needs Sensitivity Training

If a guy tells a female co-worker he thinks she’s good looking, he can be accused of sexual harassment and forced to go to sensitivity training to learn how to properly interact with women.

This sounds like the very least that Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, should have to do.

Sen. Durbin’s ill-advised and factually incorrect rant about the treatment of enemy combatants held at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have much broader effects than a tasteless comment to a female co-worker.

Comparing GB to Hitler’s death camps, and the murder and torture of the Pol Pot regime is not just baseless, it is a vicious accusation that slanders the good names of our troops at GB, and equates them with the aforementioned murderous thugs. When the odious and biased Al Jazeera TV pick up irresponsible comments like these from prominent Americans and broadcasts them to the Muslim world, many of whose members have vowed to kill Americans, it cannot fail to further inflame the fanatic radical Muslims who use their “religion” as justification to murder Americans.

Sen. Durbin should attend classes where people who understand exactly how harmful what he is doing is can explain it to him until he understands it. If his recent response to criticism is any indication, it may take a while.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father’s Day 2005

Sometimes your kids really do surprise you. Today was one of those days. My daughter gave me a grilling book that is fantastic, and a nice card. My son gave me a Eagle’s Farewell Tour I DVD that is great (we saw part of it on TV a couple of weeks ago), and a card that brought tears to my eyes. That doesn’t happen often.

Mom gave me two CDs by trumpet players (I’ve been a musician and trumpet player since I was 11), Chris Botti and Tom Harrell. Can’t wait to hear them.

Daughter also gave me a Blue Collar Comedy Tour doll of Jeff Foxworthy. If you’ve never seen Jeff, or the other guys (Larry the Cable Guy is a scream), you need to catch them.

Anyhow, the Jeff doll offers the following:

For the record, my definition of a redneck is a glorious absence of sophistication.

If your working television sits on top of your non-working television, you might be a redneck.

If people ask to hunt in your front yard, you might be a redneck.

If you can burp and say your name at the same time, you might be a redneck.

If you’ve ever cut your grass and found a car, you might be a redneck.

If your dad walks you to school because you’re in the same grade, you might be a redneck.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Richard Durbin Must Go

In a speech on the Senate earlier this week, Democrat Richard J. Durbin of Illinois made absurd and intolerable charges against the American military's actions at the Guantanamo Bay.

Sen. Durbin has compared the U.S. military's treatment of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo with the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot, three of history's most brutal dictators, whose regimes killed millions of people.

Hitler's death camps murdered 9 million persons, including 6 million Jews, 2.7 million persons were slaughtered in Stalin's gulags and Pol Pot executed 1.7 million Cambodians.

In sharp contrast to those real situations of mistreatment and criminal conduct by real murderers and torturers, consider that no prisoners have died at Guantanamo, and the cases of abuse involve what can only accurately be described as inconveniences and moderate discomfort to the captives, or irreverent handling of the Koran, the holy book of Muslims.

Reading an e-mail from an FBI agent, the agent complained to higher-ups that one al Qaeda suspect was chained to the floor, kept in an extremely cold air-conditioned cell and forced to hear loud rap music.

After reading the e-mail, Mr. Durbin said, "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime – Pol Pot or others – that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Forcing captives to endure rap at any volume is torture, to be sure, and forcing people to listen to rap at loud levels would tempt one to beg to be executed by a firing squad. But Sen. Durbin’s claim that making captives cold or chaining them to the floor is torture at the level of the Nazis, Soviets or Pol Pot is so plainly stupid, irresponsible, reckless exaggerated, hysterical and harmful as to warrant Durbin’s removal from office.

Even if a few isolated cases of abuse have occurred – and we would be indulging in fantasy to think that some abuse would not occur in any such situation by any nation on Earth – to equate those minor problems with the horrors caused by the Nazis, Soviets or Pol Pot is preposterous, deliberately deceitful, fraudulent and just plain insulting to the brave men and women who wear our uniform and defend our country with their lives.

The Washington Times quoted White House spokesman Trent Duffy: "It's reprehensible, as Defense Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld said, to suggest that the Guantanamo Bay facility is anything like a gulag or a mad regime or Pol Pot,"

"It is reprehensible, has no place in the current debate, and as we've seen over several years, the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are being treated humanely," Mr. Duffy said. "What this is is a disservice to any man and woman serving in the U.S. military who's putting their life on the line each day, because they're trying to paint all military with a broad brush because of the actions of perhaps a few bad apples, who are being punished severely."

Critics of the Bush administration and the Iraq war charge that our presence in Iraq increases the fervor among Muslim fanatics to retaliate against the U.S. and Americans, and that it has increased the number of these murderers who are willing to take up arms against the U.S. However, when people in positions of influence within the U.S., like for example the second most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate, make such fallacious charges, their behavior is at least as harmful, and perhaps more so. It is not unreasonable to believe that Mr. Durbin’s impulsive, imprudent and thoughtless comments will give aid and comfort to the enemy and further incite Muslim fanatics.

Sen. Durbin and his kind are indulging in seditious behavior, and should be removed from office, and tried for treason.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Failure of the Welfare State

I’ve been real busy and substantially distracted since shortly before our trip last month, and I’ve not been able to keep up with my normal routine, like writing/posting and reading other people’s sites. Today, I had a little time and spent it visiting old friends.

At Michael the Archangel’s site I came across a piece that shows how efforts to help people can grow out of all common sense proportions into an expensive, degrading and unsustainable welfare system.

There is a woman in Britain, Ms. Atkins, who has three daughters, ages 12, 14 and 16. All of them, even the 12 year-old, have children of their own. Ms. Atkins has been married and divorced twice, and now is single. Neither of her former husbands is the father of any of her daughters. None of the men who fathered a child with her is involved in the life of his child. She blames the school system for the predicament she and the daughters are in, complaining that the school system has done a poor job educating the daughters about sex.

Sounds too weird to be real, doesn’t it. There’s enough provocative material in the previous paragraph to write a couple of thousand words, but I’ll try to stick to the primary premise.

This group of females lives in a government-provided three-bedroom house that is estimated to cost about $60,000 a year. Ms. Atkins is not happy with that, however, because now that the three young girls each have a baby and no daddy to help out, the three-bedroom house is a little cramped. She’s asked the local government agency for a larger and presumably more costly house.

Most of us would agree that Ms. Atkins had enough control over her life to have prevented most of the factors that now cause her so much difficulty. She didn’t have to marry two men who were unsuitable as husbands. She didn’t have to divorce her husbands. She didn’t have to get pregnant. Three times. With men who weren’t her husband. She didn’t have to let her daughters indulge in behavior that would result in their pregnancy. Three times. At ages 12, 14 and 16.

But she did all of that. She was married and divorced twice, had three children with three men other than her two husbands, allowed her daughters to get pregnant at ages that are appalling, and blames the school system for not being a better mother than she was.

And despite all that Ms. Atkins did that she shouldn’t have done, and all the misery and chaos that constitutes her life, her government wants to try to help her. Such is the basic premise of modern day socialism as it relates to the Welfare State, and of what socialists see as the obligation us humans to take care of our fellow humans.

In a Welfare State government is to a greater or lesser degree responsible for its citizens' well being. In this mode of thought people should not suffer unnecessarily, and social protections should be developed and extended to those on the outside of the good life. We are all obligated to charitable acts, too often to save people from themselves.

The problem is that there seems to be no end to the help that some think people are entitled to. This concept is exemplified by Ms. Atkins’ state of affairs. Her government provides housing that amounts to $60,000 per year, and yet because of her failure to manage her life and the lives of her daughters, she thinks she needs and is entitled to more.

Carried to its logical conclusion, Ms Atkins might have more children. She is now about 36, meaning she has another 10-to-15 childbearing years. How many more children might she have? Three? Four? All of her future children might either get pregnant themselves if they are girls and get no more guidance from their mother than their older siblings (or if they are boys they might get someone else’s daughter pregnant) and Ms. Atkins might then need a house with eight to ten bedrooms, and cost far more than what her current house costs. Socialists would think that accommodating Ms. Atkins “needs” was proper and necessary. You can read the entire sordid story here.

But what if there are thousands of irresponsible women like Ms. Atkins? How much would such excesses of personal indulgence and failures of basic human responsibility cost the British government? At what point have we gone too far in keeping people who don’t give a damn about anything except their own selfish desires from “suffering unnecessarily?”

The fallacy of the Welfare State, and of socialism as it is applied to taking care of those who won’t take care of themselves, is that it not only places a tremendous, unfair and unjustifiable burden on the productive members of society, but also fosters dependency upon government that is passed on from one generation to the next.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Changes Coming to TV Programming?

Yesterday on Fox News Watch the participants were talking about a coming change to television programs. Next year, our favorite shows may contain plugs for commercial products.

These plugs would be obvious displays of the particular product. We may see, for example, the star of our favorite program drinking Coke or Pepsi, or see in their medicine chest Tums or Viagra. We night hear them order a Budwiser or a Coors in a bar. Or we might notice that they drive a Ford or a Nissan.

News Watch participants commented that this new twist comes for a couple of reasons. One, that sponsors want more exposure than the present format allows, and two that with the increased use and sophistication of recording devices, viewers are able to either skip past the commercials when viewing the program, or just not record them at all. Sponsors feel they aren’t getting their money’s worth.

These plugs would make it possible for viewers to be bombarded with unlabeled “commercial messages,” one guy said, and took the position that this would equate with the subliminal messages that everyone feared would be employed in TV programs and movies some years ago.

But I see positive potential in this idea. I would gladly exchange the two- or three-minute commercial breaks every ten minutes for these plugs. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have the flow of the program broken so often? Instead of a 58-minute program with only 40 minutes of program material, we might end up with 50 minutes or more of program material. In the 1-minute intro, there would be a disclaimer for all the products that were sponsoring the program and that would appear in the program material, and that same disclaimer would run at the end of the show as well. In the middle of the program, we might have one two- or three-minute break for actual commercials so that we could run to the bathroom or get something to nibble on or drink. Maybe it would be a product we saw in the program.

We find all manner of objectionable content in TV shows and movies these days. Under the guise that bad language, sexual situations, violence and such are all natural in real life, producers pepper stories with this type of content, sometimes turning good stories into sordid junk that your kids shouldn’t see. But what is more “real life” than seeing what the characters drive, drink, and take, or where they eat, and what kind of gasoline they use?

I don’t for a minute believe that four-letter words, sex and violence will disappear from our viewing screens, but adding commercial products strategically placed throughout the story isn’t going to make the stories much worse, so long as we are plainly told that we should expect to see the products of specific sponsors who have paid to have their products displayed. And if we lose a few interruptions for actual commercials, is that such a bad thing?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Watergate's Journalistic Legacy

The following is a statement by Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post:

“But it must also be said that while Watergate and "All the President's Men" briefly turned journalists into heroes, they may have contributed to the long-term credibility problems of the profession. Too many journalists became sloppy with anonymous sources, some of whom didn't have first-hand knowledge of what they were talking about, and some reporters tried to pump every two-bit scandal into a "-gate." Having been lied to by the Nixon White House, journalists became more confrontational, more prosecutorial and more willing to assume that politicians must be lying. And the news business is still paying the price for some of those excesses.”

His statement contains a number of truths.

Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate reporting exposed criminal behavior connected to the President of the United States, and made heroes of them. Many believe that this was the finest hour of the media. What Woodward and Bernstein also did in exposing the Watergate burglary cover-up, however, was to create tremendous desire among their fellow journalists to get the next “Big Story.” Reporters and editors often weren’t thorough and took shortcuts that resulted in sloppy work at best, and dishonest and inaccurate news at worst.

Mr. Kurtz said, “Having been lied to by the Nixon White House, journalists became more confrontational, more prosecutorial and more willing to assume that politicians must be lying.” This statement is true and provides insight into the underlying bias of many reporters. The press/media are supposed to be skeptical of government. That is one of the safeguards that the citizenry has against official mischief. It is that watchdog role that earned the press/media the title “the Fourth Estate.” But while it is the proper role of the media to keep an eye on government and politicians, it is not the job of journalists to be “prosecutorial” “confrontational," or to assume politicians are lying.

To the contrary, reporters are supposed to develop leads and follow them. They are supposed to ask questions of relevant persons and report the answers they receive. If they don’t get the answers they think are the right answers, they have to find reliable and credible sources who have information to support what they think is the truth. They are not supposed to become adversaries of the people they interview. They are supposed to present credible information based upon reliable and knowledgeable sources.

Some reporters are interested in making headlines or creating news where none exists, for selfish or ideological purposes. They use single anonymous sources as authorities to create their “Big Story,” but as Mr. Kurtz said, sources sometimes didn't have first-hand knowledge of what they were talking about, and thus were not qualified to be sources. Even if the source has first-hand knowledge, if he or she wants to remain anonymous, other sources are needed to provide credibility.

This is why the use of, and reliance upon a single anonymous source has been so harshly condemned. A story backed up by only one anonymous source is merely an allegation, it is not a news story, and it has no place in news reports. This practice violates the most basic tenet of responsible journalism, which is to accurately and fairly report what actually happened.

Woodward and Bernstein were lucky. Their single anonymous source, if indeed Mark Felt was the only person known as “Deep Throat,” turned out to be mostly credible and reliable. Many single anonymous sources aren’t, and a reporter and his/her editor are playing with fire to rely on them. Unfortunately, all too many of them lack the discipline and integrity to make sure a story is correct before printing or airing it.