March 2005 Archives

Many commentators have weighed in on the efforts to override Terri Schiavo’s medical decision to not be kept alive in a vegetative state, but no one was more blindly passionate than Peggy Noonan in her column, "In Love with Death: The Bizarre Passion of the Pull-the-Tube People."

When Noonan states, “I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people” and asks, “What is driving their engagement?” she completely misses the mark. Not every situation is reducible to her brand of religious emotionalism. Many people who support Schiavo’s dignified decision are horrified by imagining themselves in a similar situation – dead in all but name, our express wishes disregarded by holier-than-thou politicians and pundits who insist that their beliefs must take precedence.

Noonan asks, “Who is to say [her life] is pointless?” but ignores the obvious answer: her husband. She wonders why people are “unconcerned at the suffering caused her by the denial of food and water?” but ignores the fact that everyone involved would likely have preferred the use of a high-dose sedative many years ago. (Of course, it is Noonan’s right-wing allies that have disallowed that choice, forcing people in this appalling situation to treat their family members less humanely than their pets.)

No one wants Terri Schiavo dead because they are “half in love with death,” as Noonan states. No one is, as she puts it, “enthusiastic for euthanasia.” No one is crusading to yank out feeding tubes from every brain-dead patient irrespective of their wishes, although Bush did so in 1999 when he signed a law letting doctors remove life support even against the family’s wishes:

“If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision required under Subsection (b) is provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient…” (Section 166.046, subsection E)

Lest anyone think this a merely hypothetical issue, a six-month-old Texas child named Sun Hudson died on March 15 because his breathing tube was removed against his mother's wishes. Even after her legal appeals were exhausted, none of the 40 NICU facilities contacted was interested in caring for the infant in the ten days Bush's law had allotted.

That is truly a callous disregard for human life, particularly the lives of the poor and the uninsured. When every life has value equivalent only to the size of their 401(k), and the profit motive reigns supreme, then Noonan’s “culture of death” becomes a reality. Reminiscent of their caring about a fetus only until it is born, politicians’ public shows of “concern” for Schiavo at this late date is nothing more than crass opportunism. Are Republicans about to enact universal health care coverage to pick up the tab for catastrophic situations where there is still hope, or will they remain hypocrites?

Conservative writer Andrew Sullivan has perhaps the best commentaries on this political overreach, both in the Sunday Times and in his blog. He talks about the “crew of zealots and charlatans” who are “the real face of contemporary Republicanism,” and details their inconsistencies in the Schiavo case. His summation is:

“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.”

Noonan’s “culture of death” epithet may be appropriately used to define neo-Nazis and fringe church members who go on shooting sprees; it is clearly not relevant to the 82% of the people in this country who think Bush and the Congress should stay out of the Schiavo case. Instead, the endlessly meddlesome we-know-best gang (including Bill “I can diagnose via VCR” Frist) tries to control everything that is beyond their understanding or outside of their dogma. As David Broder observes in “Breach of Principle:”

“No one in the truncated congressional debate suggested that the Florida judges had been biased or negligent or anything but conscientious... […] The majority simply did not like the result of the case and decided to intervene.”

If I may speak for the two-thirds of this country that is not agitating to have Schiavo’s feeding tube re-inserted against her wishes, we are not “half in love with death.” We merely insist that our government respect citizens’ rights, and demand that our elected officials respect the law.

Noonan concludes her screed with talk of a “slippery slope to the gas chamber” and a “low road” that “leads toward Auschwitz.” Her rhetoric ignores the fact that those things can only happen when politicians are allowed to overrule private medical decisions. Noonan’s cry for greater governmental power in this area represents the most repugnant type of paternalist politics, and will bring no peace to either Terri Schiavo or her husband.

Thanks for reading.


Quote of the Day:

“That's why over the years both progressive and conservative judges have understood the importance of judicial restraint -- the principle that says the highest exercise of judicial duty is to subordinate the judges' private views to what the law permits or determines. But now […] special-interest groups seek to politicize the court system, to exercise a chilling effect on judges, to intimidate them into making decisions, not on the basis of the law or the merits of the case, but on the basis of a litmus test or a response to political pressure."

Ronald Reagan (radio address, 14 October 1987)

CampusProgress.org recently ran a contest to “Name Ann Coulter’s Next Book.” The entries (especially the winner, “Roosevelt: Wheelchair-riding, America-hating terrorist”) did a fine job of skewering Coulter's confrontational publicity-seeking style of writing.

A group called "Billionaires for Bush" was auctioning off Social Security on eBay earlier today (archive) until eBay shut them down. Check out their book How to Rule the World for Fun and Profit to see them lampoon the Bush plutocracy at length.

Did you know that Long John Silver’s and Red Lobster restaurants are abominations? In the style of the repugnant www.godhatesfags.com website, www.godhatesshrimp.com parodies biblical literalism.

His work isn’t for everyone, but David Rees (author of the acerbic Get Your War On books) has some brutal commentary on the Terri Schiavo situation. Jon Stewart has a somewhat gentler take on it (video clip), focusing on politicians’ grandstanding and shameless hypocrisy.

For the politics junkies out there, there’s a list of “The Top 10 Reasons Why Paul Wolfowitz Would Make a Good World Bank President.”

Enjoy!

Ann Coulter, the queen of distorted diatribes, has done it again. Her latest column, "Calling the Kettle Gay," summarizes mainstream misinformation about sexual orientation and its relation to political parties. Her bons mots in this column range from liberals “lashing out” at gays (as if Gannongate is about sexual orientation rather than propaganda) to conservatives' gay children being allegedly "leered over by liberals" (as if happiness at their openness and honesty is somehow improper).

In Ann Coulter's world, liberals are guilty of a totalitarian-like "ruthless intimidation" of lesbians and gays; in the real world, however, exactly the opposite happens. Not only is it logically impossible to intimidate those who are open about their sexual orientation, but the closet itself is a social construct perpetuated by conservatives. It serves their purposes – not liberals' – to keep gays invisible and silent, because it's easier to lie about those who can’t be seen and can't talk back.

The "leering" incident to which Coulter alludes started last August, when then-candidate Alan Keyes (referred to by Coulter only as "a prominent conservative") was being interviewed at the Republican convention by writer Michelangelo Signorile. After the usual boilerplate anti-marriage nonsense ("It is in principle impossible for homosexuals to procreate. Therefore, they cannot marry."), Keyes ventured off into his opinion that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism." Signorile called him on it, in reference to an earlier exchange about Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter:

SIGNORILE: So Mary Cheney is a selfish hedonist, is that it?
KEYES: Of course she is. That goes by definition. Of course she is.

The following day, Keyes offered this example:

"…if my own daughter were a homosexual or a lesbian, I would love my daughter, but I would tell my daughter that she was in sin. And I would love her and pray for her and try to open her heart to the truth of God's intention for her life. That's what I would do."

When his daughter Maya came out as a lesbian, she had this to say:

"It was kind of strange that he said it like a hypothetical," she says. "It was really kind of unpleasant. […] They say most parents would be thrilled to have a child who doesn't smoke, have sex, do drugs, hardly drinks…does well in school, gets good grades, gets into the Ivy League…goes regularly to church, spends free time mentoring kids."

None of that was enough for Alan Keyes, despite Maya’s work last year on his failed Senatorial campaign. His response to her honesty was to kick her out of the house, stop speaking to her, and cut off support for her college expenses. Thankfully, a San Francisco-based charity called the Point Foundation offered aid for Maya's education at Brown. The foundation's director said, "Many of the students we support have been disowned by their families because they've been honest about who they are. […] Maya's situation is especially poignant because of her father's position, but it's a situation that happens every day to hundreds of kids across the country" (ibid).

Who, in this episode, truly demonstrates “family values?” Is it a man who prattles endlessly about them, or is it those who actually help people in need? “Family values” is a great slogan, but the worth of an idea isn’t how it sounds at a political rally or looks on a bumper sticker - it's how it is practiced in real life. Alan Keyes’ version of “family values” fails that test.

Dan Savage (who Coulter incorrectly said “gratuitously outed” conservatives’ gay children) notes that:

"…for gays and lesbians there's something particularly satisfying about watching a prominent antigay conservative learn that his or her own child is homosexual. It smacks of cosmic retribution: Mr. Keyes now has to choose between his antigay 'pro-family' rhetoric and a member of his own family. Sadly for Maya Keyes, her father apparently has more affection for his ideology than for his daughter."

Coulter says that "gay children of conservatives are used as liberal props," and states that "liberals use these people and then discard them," but the example of Maya Keyes proves Coulter wrong on both counts. After all, it was Maya's conservative father who discarded her when she became a political liability.

When Coulter opined that, "conservatives don't want gays to die," she again mangled the truth beyond recognition. Apparently blind to the fact that conservative extremists are the ONLY people who want gays dead, Coulter ignored an example from earlier this week: Joe Scarborough of MSNBC invited Jael Phelps (whose grandfather is the anti-gay activist Fred Phelps, of www.godhatesfags.com infamy) onto his show on Tuesday. She had this to say:

"The prescribed punishment for homosexuality in the Bible is death. They're worthy of death, and those people who condone that action are just as guilty."

It is a tribute to Kansas voters that Phelps resoundingly lost her bid to unseat a gay city council member, and her grandfather failed to repeal Topeka's anti-discrimination ordinance.

Prohibiting lesbians and gays from marriage, adoption, military service, and religious leadership isn't enough for these extremists. They want to be able to legally deny public accommodations, restrict employment opportunities (thanks to "Faith-Based" programs that permit discrimination), and turn the United States into some sort of "Christian Nation" where gays can be murdered like Matthew Shepard without retribution because "the Bible says so."

Ann Coulter has an undeniable talent for inflammatory one-liners, but her analyses are as inaccurate as ever.

Thanks for reading.


P.S. to Ms. Coulter: A trope is a figure of speech. There is no such thing as a "behavioral trope."


Quote of the Day:

"This is the difference between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP is the party of abandonment. They've abandoned the poor, the working class, the farming community, the elderly, disabled veterans, at-risk youth, teen mothers, and countless others. And now, through this story, we learn that they abandon their own kids if it turns out they don't meet their expectations. And they do it with shocking regularity. It goes without saying that this abandonment stands in sharp contrast to the empty rhetoric of 'family values.'"

Markos Moulitsas, "Mara Keyes and GOP Abandonment"

I don't have much of a knack for humorous writing, but Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins) has plenty of wit to spare in his analysis of the Gannongate scandal.

The whitehouse.org website has a hysterical "Press Pool Application," along with more of the best political satire on the Internet.

Enjoy!

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