Friday, April 29, 2005

Whose Agenda? 

One of my favorite Florida blogs, Bark Bark Woof Woof, lets us know that Gerald Allen, Alabama's version of Dennis Baxley, is proposing to thwart the gay agenda with a law decreeing that ". . . public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters."
It's not gay people who have an agenda -- hell, we're not even organized enough to agree on fashion trends. The only people that have a gay agenda are people like this poor bastard and the nutsery on the far-right who have it in for an entire class of people who come from every strata and segment of humanity and whose very existence represents some kind of threat to them.
The question is, in regard to Rep. Allen's bill, does reading Tennessee Williams turn students gay, or do only gay students read his novels?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Liberal Bias 

To my mind, God is not likely to be upset if a football game is played, or a Rotary meeting conducted, without a prayer to get it started. Others feel different, and all the more so the more official the setting. One wag has suggested this may lead to some changes in the Bible:
Matthew 6:5-6

Evil old liberal version (“lib”): And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men… But you, when you pray, go into your room and … pray to your Father who is in the secret place.

New neocon-man version (“con”): And when you pray, pray loudly and ostentatiously in the churches, on the streets, in the stadiums, on television, in schools, in the House, in the Senate, in the courts (especially in the courts), at every kind of sporting event (except wimpy, un-American sports like badminton or chess). Pray publicly, loudly, and often, and force all who are present to pray your prayers to your God along with you, so that all may know that you are righteous like the Pharisees and hypocrites.
(via Norwegianity)

But Rush Said It Was So 

The Tallahassee Democrat's Bill Cotterell seems sympathetic to Rep. Dennis Baxley's attempt to reign in the liberals on state university campuses, but the conundrum is that neither of them can provide any real proof of a problem.
Legislative nervousness in this area is partly caused by not wanting to look like a bunch of yahoos, direct descendants of the Dixie governors and legislators who closed their schools 50 years ago. But back then, social change was accomplished by courageous examples - Rosa Parks, James Meredith, Little Rock's Central High Nine - not just by saying "Well, everybody knows there's prejudice."

Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell politely asked Baxley to put up or shut up at the breakfast last week. Baxley had said a Tallahassee police officer, studying for his master's degree at FSU, was told by a professor that "I don't give Republicans A's," so Wetherell demanded names of the student and teacher, and details of the incident.

Baxley said he'll get back to him on that. He'd better, if he wants to see change on campus.
Baxley has cited a number of nameless examples such as the one quoted above, and while they might play well on the Rush Limbaugh show, even Florida's right-wing legislators are asking for a little bit of specific proof.

And if Baxley really believes these stories, he's even more of an idiot than I imagined.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Lost and Found 

Blunted on Reality is back, with a new design.

Now, where is the Conquistador?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What Next? 

It's bad enough that Gov. Bush signed the bill that permits people to use deadly force as a first response to a perceived threat, with no obligation to take any steps to avoid a confrontation. All the worse that he had NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer at his side.

The idiot who sponsored the bill, Rep. Dennis Baxley (and, no, this isn't the only reason he's an idiot) justified the new law by saying it really wouldn't have that much impact.
But Baxley said the measure wouldn't result in free-for-all gun battles, in part because of laws already on the books — or rules by property owners — that prevent people from carrying guns in many instances, such as in a stadium. In another example, opponents had raised the prospect of fist fights in bars erupting into shootouts.

"You can't bring a weapon in a bar," countered Baxley on Tuesday. "If you bring a firearm in a bar, you're already committing a felony."
Of course Hammer is probably back in her office drafting legislation that would guarantee an individual's right to carry his Magnum into any public place.

Couldn't happen, you say? Just wait.

Petty Politics 

Should we be surprised?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Severe, But To What End? 

Do you know 140 people? If so, statistically, one of them should be in jail.

Social Gospel reports that
. . . the nation's prisons and jails now hold 2.1 million people: 1 in every 138 people in this country. The government also reported that the prison population is growing by over 900 persons every week. The AP reports that the United States already imprisons more people per capita than any country on earth. And, of course, the United States is the only developed country other than Japan with capital punishment. (And it executes six times as many people per capita as Japan.)
. . . . . . .
A system that destroys so many lives and that directly takes so many others reflects retribution (or, less euphemistically, vengeance). The problem with our criminal justice system is not that capital punishment is unjustifiably expensive (which it is) or that three-strikes and determinate sentencing laws are inefficient deterrence mechanisms (which they are). The problem is that our entire penalogical paradigm is simply and profoundly immoral.
No one is suggesting that violent criminals not be called to answer for their crimes, but can we, as a society, afford the human and economic costs of our criminal justice system. Unfortunately that system is for the most part about politics, revenues and petty harassments. In other words, a system designed for failure.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Opinions from the Shallow End 

In today's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer writes a column attacking the judiciary (after chastising DeLay, Cornyn and Schlafly for over-the-top rhetoric)in which he states,
The prestige the courts inherited from Brown [v. Board of Education] fueled their arrogant appropriation of legislative power in areas radically different and suffering no disenfranchisement -- abortion, gay rights, religion in the public square. For decades they have been creating law, citing emanations from penumbras of the Constitution visible only to their holinesses.
Nice that he's cooling things down.

With the same shallow thinking, Krauthammer addresses the Terri Schiavo case:
DeLay is wrong about the Schiavo case. I think the law was a bad law, but the trial judge applied it properly. I think the judge assessed the medical evidence incorrectly, but that is a matter of interpretation, not of judicial impropriety or denial of due process. (emphasis added)
Exactly on what medical opinion is Krauthammer relying? Perhaps Sen. Frist, who viewed a few videos before making his diagnosis.

(via The Volokh Conspiracy)

Monday, April 18, 2005


Strategy Page is hardly a left-wing blog, so it's doubtful that it would post the following if it wasn't pretty well verified:
Cuba has become an unexpected ally in the war on terror. Although Cuba is publicly hostile to the United States, and a long time supporter of leftist terrorist organizations, it’s role in the current war on terror is rather more complex. The Cubans have been working with American security agencies to stem drug trafficking and people smuggling.
Ok, but what about the bio-warfare labs?

Judicial Activism 

Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo tells us about a 19-year-old who reported for jury duty in Broward County and said he had never been arrested. Turns out this wasn't the truth, and so the judge, Eileen O'Connor, immediately sentenced him to four months in jail.

According to the teenager, he was confused by the question and thought he was being asked about being convicted (which, if that had been the question, he answered honestly). He apologized to the judge, but off to jail he went.

Mayo points out that over 100,000 people called for jury duty in Broward County last year didn't even show up. Maximum punishment? A $100 fine.

Want to guess teenager's race?

Want to speculate the punishment Judge O'Connor would hand down if a white banker had lied in a similar fashion?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Now What's the Problem Here? 

The RAND Corporation has completed a study titled Success of First-Term Soldiers: The Effects of Recruiting Practices and Recruit Characteristicsthat focuses on problems in military recruiting and retention.

Among the findings:
All other things equal, combat arms soldiers have higher attrition and lower reenlistment rates than do soldiers in other occupations. The reasons are unclear. These different attrition and reenlistment rates may reflect cultural differences in how problems are handled in combat units. Or they may reflect the nature of the duty. Combat soldiers may be frustrated by frequent arduous field exercises that entail considerable time away from comforts and families. Combat jobs have no civilian counterparts, so first-term soldiers may see little payoff to successfully completing their terms. At the end of their terms, combat soldiers might be anxious to leave the Army and acquire civilian job skills.
Or it could be that some people don't want to get shot at again.

(via Intel Dump)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It Can't Happen Here? 

Michael Froomkin asks if this part of the Bill of Rights -- ". . . right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" -- means much anymore.

Monday, April 11, 2005

If Only It Were True 

Leonard Pitts is cautiously hopeful " . . . people are beginning to have their doubts about the new American theocracy."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Conservatives on Parade 

Nasty people.



"Not my Fault"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Professional Ignoramus 

John Leo has written a supremely ignorant column on the Terri Schiavo case. After a token swipe at conservatives that ignores radical rightwing religious icons such as Terry Randall, he gets to the main purpose of his column -- attacking liberals, the media and the courts.

There are so many erroneous statements, one could pick almost any sentence at random and find something wrong. How about:
The media covered the intervention by Congress as narrowly political and unwarranted. They largely fudged the debates over whether Terri Schiavo was indeed in a persistent vegetative state and whether tube-feeding meant that Schiavo was on life-support.
In fact, the Congressional intervention was more than narrowly political and unwarranted, it was also based on a conscious disregard for the facts and the rule of law. The debates on Terri Schaivo's condition were one side relying on medical science, the other on guesses and lies. Finally, according to Florida law and common sense, a feeding tube is a form of life support and just because a bunch of rightwing mullahs think otherwise doesn't make it less so.

Warning: Dangerous Times Ahead 

Nancy Goldstein discusses how the Terri Schiavo case has strengthened the radical right-wing religious faction:
You'd better get to know these folks, because Schiavo was a coming-out party for an emboldened radical right wing, not an isolated incident. The GOP gave theo-cons every indication that they would be allowed to set the agenda. The news media gave them carte blanche, never once explicitly connecting prime players like Randall Terry to their violent pasts. And the Democrats went limp. Now theo-cons are going to be taking their show on the road whenever and wherever they want: over the judiciary, gay marriage, and abortion -- whatever God wills.
(via Orcinus)

A Dilemma 

Although I have a degree from the University of Florida, I wouldn't be accepted if I was just graduating from high school today. Even though the university is approaching a student body of 50,000, there just isn't enough room for everyone who wants to get in.

The school's desire to become an elite institution is further restricting access for many good students. Recently the Independent Florida Alligator examined this "problem."
UF’s aspiration to become a top public research university may contradict the purpose of its founding, and UF officials are grappling to reconcile selectivity with inclusiveness as UF climbs the ranks.

To reach the level of a Top 10 public research university, UF hopes to double tuition, and the university already is highly selective, rejecting half of those who apply.

If the university’s leaders get their way, UF won’t be for everyone.

But as a land-grant university, that’s for whom it was intended.
Some are concerned that the university is becoming a haven for the well-to-do, and that proposed policies, such as doubling tuition, would make the situation worse.
[A 2002 survey] showed that the median income of UF students’ parents was between $85,000 and $90,000. Twenty-one percent of parents reported incomes of more than $150,000, said Karen Fooks, Student Financial Affairs director.

Only 14 percent reported incomes of less than $30,000, she said.

As UF becomes more elitist, it should make a point of including poverty in its definition of diversity, said Terry Mills, the associate dean for minority affairs for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Diversity is usually equated with race or ethnicity, but UF shouldn't forget about those who are simply poor, Mills said.
Being a Gator (as well as the father of one), I am happy to see the university's academic standing improve. Still, a University of Florida degree should not be limited to an increasingly small selection of students.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Museum of the Afro-Mexican 

We often think of Africans in the New World in relation to the plantation societies in United State, the Caribbean and Brazil, but blacks were ubiquitous throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Today, Florida Times-Union columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee writes an interesting column about her visit to Museo de las Culturas Afromestizas Vicente Guerrero.

Located in the town of Cuajinicuilapa Guererro, "nearly 200 miles south of the tourist playground of Acapulco," the museum was built with government funds.
After entering the salmon-colored, cinderblock structure on a gravely, exhaust-enveloped street, museum guide Sandra Velia Colon Noyola walks you through an illustrated tour of how black folks got from Africa to Mexico.

There's a huge map of the slave trade routes that brought 200,000 Africans to Mexico during colonial times to mine silver, cut sugar cane, weave cloth and herd cattle. Another exhibit explains the intermixing among Africans, Indians and Spaniards and how their offspring were referred to and regarded in society. Others depict African ceremonial masks and musical instruments used in Mexico today, as well as photo exhibits of early communities of black Mexicans.

Then there's this depiction of Yanga, a slave from the Upper Nile who escaped and set up one of the earliest communities of runaway slaves in the hemisphere. Today, the community he founded near Veracruz bears his name.

It excited me -- as it always has during the past two years of my research on the mark that people of African descent have made on this hemisphere -- to find what was, in essence, a tribute to black Mexicans in this isolated town.
Weathersbee notes that the museum is visited for the most part by tourists; the locals take it for granted or worse. She draws comparisons with the indifference many American blacks display toward sites and institutions commemorating their past.

It's OK to Sue Academic Doctors 

I thought Republicans were against frivolous lawsuits . . . apparently not.
Consider the statements of Dennis Baxley, a Florida legislator who has sponsored a bill that - like similar bills introduced in almost a dozen states - would give students who think that their conservative views aren't respected the right to sue their professors. Mr. Baxley says that he is taking on "leftists" struggling against "mainstream society," professors who act as "dictators" and turn the classroom into a "totalitarian niche." His prime example of academic totalitarianism? When professors say that evolution is a fact.
BTW, Florida State University recently made a presentation to Rep. Baxley as one of its "noted alumni" in the Legislature. I'm just happy he's not a Gator.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Missing in the Wilds of Florida? 

Where has Blog de Leon gone? We need him back.

Not So Long Ago 

Anita Kumar was the last reporter to visit Terri Schiavo, and that was over five years before she died. She writes in the St. Petersburg Times about that visit, and reflects on how things changed.

(via Abstract Appeal)

A Sad End 

The Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History, located in Dania Beach, has been closed for good, its collections being distributed to local cultural and educational institutions.

The museum was named for Gypsy Graves, an independent-minded woman who could easily have been the main character of an adventure novel. She grew the idea of an archaeological museum in Broward County from a small storefront to a 50,000 square foot facility.

Unfortunately, the organization's obligations grew faster than its support, and it was plagued with internal dissentions, many of which ended up in court.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Voice of Reason 

The USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review has an interview with Matt Conigliaro, author of the Abstract Appeal lawblog.

Some of his comments on the Terri Schiavo case:
This case cut almost no new legal ground in Florida law. To a lot of people this was new and that this could happen was news to them, but, in terms of the law, if you look at the decisions in this case, there's almost nothing new that's come out of it. The basic framework of what happened here was already the law. A lot of folks out there don’t want to hear that, they don't want to know the judge followed the law … they just want to blame the judge and say he’s corrupt, power hungry and other derogatory terms they want to throw at him.
I think there are a lot of well-meaning reporters out there and well-meaning hosts who just don’t have the time to learn what's involved in a case like this or the law that surrounds a case like this. Maybe the people who prepare them are just doing a poor job but, in the end, the country has heard very loudly from a number of people who just didn't know the facts of the case, who just didn’t know the law when they talked about it. They talked about things being true, being factual, that were just incorrect.
The danger that I have seen come from this -- I have learned how much the public at large does not know about the legal system, even some of the most basic principles are fairly foreign to a lot of the public, and one of them is the notion of finality, that cases come to an end, that when a trial is held, an appeal is concluded, there are very few ways to try to undo that judgment and start over. The other thing is not so much a principle as an observation -- it's almost impossible to judge a trial that you weren't there to see, whether it’s a jury or a judge making the final decision, they make those findings based on body language, tone of voice, all sorts of strange things that you’ll get when you’re there that you’ll never see later.
Obviously Matt was prescient when he began his blog and his first post included this this comment, "Florida is a wonderful place to live -- I say it's the best -- and it never lacks for interesting legal news. Should that situation ever change, then there would be no need for Abstract Appeal. Until then, I'll have something to discuss."

Thanks, Matt.

Wishful Thinking 

If only Terri Schiavo had prepared a living will, all this could have been avoided.

Well, maybe not. Matt Conigliaro points out that under Florida law
". . . a living will can be challenged if someone comes forward and asserts that the incapacitated person revoked the living will by oral statements . . . . And if those involved cannot agree on the person's wishes, the result could well be a trial in court to resolve the dispute. Just like in Terri's case.
Her parents could (and based on what actually transpired, probably would)have asserted that contrary to any document she may have signed, she wanted to be kept alive under almost any circumstances.

Ignorant and Proud of It 

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, conspirator Todd Zywicki admits he hasn't followed the Terri Schiavo case very closely, but then lauds a "brillian[t] satire" of Michael Schiavo in Hell. He claims it "hits home."

This reminds me of the undergraduate who prefaces a discussion with, "I haven't read the book, but . . . "

Schiavo Aftermath: Florida's Newspapers Assess What Happened 

St. Petersburg Times:
Lawmakers in Washington and Tallahassee should remember the many families who took offense at the way politicians meddled in a moment of personal tragedy. The fact that so many people rushed to sign their own living wills as this case dragged through the courts, the Florida Legislature and Congress speaks to a palpable fear. People now worry that they may some day be denied the right to refuse life-prolonging medical care.
Tampa Tribune
We know of no one who would choose to live in a persistent vegetative state, which is why each of us needs a plan. That's the best way to keep the government from interfering in a truly personal family decision. No one, barring some evidence to the contrary, would have the government substitute its wisdom for that of a loving spouse or family member.
Some lawmakers and political activists are already talking about changing the guardianship laws. But they should not enact any measure so draconian that personal, nondisputed testimony concerning a patient's medical wishes does not count. Requiring a written directive for the withdrawal of a hydration and nutrition tube would not be fair to the person who has made his wishes well known.
Palm Beach Post
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, a divisive force on his best day, said Thursday that "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior...." Rep. DeLay may be dictator of the House, but he doesn't run the hereafter. Rather than a tinhorn's trumped-up damnation, we offer praise to the many judges — especially George Greer — who did not sacrifice the Constitution for political expediency, protected the idea that government doesn't make one's personal decisions, yet correctly acknowledged and respected Ms. Schiavo's parents. Our fear is that Rep. DeLay, Gov. Bush and like-minded zealots will seek retribution by trying to make the courts something less than the necessary check on abuse of power by the executive and legislative branches.
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Compared to such complexities, the law is a blunt instrument. But it exists to protect people's right to answer the ultimate question in their own way. When they're incapacitated and have left no advance directive, as in Terri's case, the law lays out a thorough, objective court process, the aim of which is to determine the patient's wishes, as much as possible.

This is the method that was followed for Terri. Courts consistently found "clear and convincing evidence" that she had long ago indicated a desire not to live in a brain-damaged, dependent condition.

We've met very few people who would choose otherwise for themselves. Yet even with an explicit living will, the decision to disconnect a feeding tube is an excruciating one. The human heart recoils at the prospect of this slow death, but it also understands the horror of being kept alive against one's will.
Naples Daily News
One frail young woman, among all of those on death beds throughout the land, brought powerful government agencies to a humbling halt. Politicians who did try to take action were perceived as opportunists.

Give credit to the Bush brothers; America's president and Florida's governor knew when to speak up and when to step back.

All of this moved toward a climax against the backdrop of Holy Week and a frail Pope John Paul II having a feeding tube inserted through his own nose.

The media and medicine had roles. A videotape, several years old, showing Schiavo semi-alert and following the movement of a party balloon shed a confusing light when juxtaposed with real time. The apparent lack of a single, definitive medical assessment — free of the perception of influence from either side of her family — exacerbated the tug of life and death. Some of the media attention did manage to enlighten; too much of the television coverage altered a family's struggle at a very sad time to the level of a tawdry Jerry Springer feud.
Tallahassee Democrat
Throughout the nation, the controversy blurred partisan lines. It made simplistic labels such as "liberal" and "conservative" virtually useless as a predictor. Liberals and conservatives didn't neatly stack up on one side or the other. Who could have imagined, for example, that the Rev. Jesse Jackson and conservative Christian activist Randall Terry would have found themselves on the same side of any debate? Nor was a person's religious faith - or absence of it - certain to augur his or her position.

Polls indicated that most Americans believed it was wrong for government to step in. Those numbers include people with "traditional" values who consider themselves religious and, in accordance with their conservative principles, concluded that government governs best when it governs least.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
There are, of course, lessons to be learned from the Schiavo case. The most basic is that the legal system worked the way it was supposed to. It does not need an overhaul.

This case was not decided by "activist" judges, as many conservative activists would have you believe. Judges followed established law in consistently determining that Schiavo's husband, Michael, was her duly constituted legal guardian, empowered to make decisions on her behalf, and that his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive artificially. Those were the facts, as proven in court.
Florida Today
Too many elected officials used her tragedy to earn points with the extremist edge of the "right-to-life" movement, creating a political circus that had nothing to do with the brain-damaged woman and everything with their own crass agendas.

Now that Schiavo is free of their manipulations, they can't simply be given a pass on their actions. They abused their powers by attempting to intrude on a private family medical matter with dangerous last-minute laws.

And they were eager to trample the Constitution they are sworn to uphold, by trying to circumvent the judiciary and with it the rule of law.
Lakeland Ledger
Congress and the Florida Legislature tried to intervene, prodded by two chief executives named Bush. Both efforts failed, and most of the politicians backed off after polls showed Americans overwhelmingly disapproved of their intrusion into a family matter. And the Bush brothers found themselves savaged by those they had aligned themselves with -- all because they ultimately bowed to reality and refused to send in either the Cavalry or the National Guard to reinsert a feeding tube.

Such are the risks when government officials intrude into private matters. The Schiavo case was a wrenching one for all concerned. Our preference would have been for her husband to relinquish his authority over her care to her parents, since her persistent vegetative state made it a matter of no concern to her.

But it wasn't our decision. Nor was it George W. or Jeb Bush's decision. Nor was it Tom DeLay's or Bill Frist's. It was a judicial decision, properly reached after years of court battles. Like it or not, that's the American way.
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Most people can comprehend the desperation of Bob and Mary Schindler, who fought so long in what they sincerely believed was an attempt to save their daughter's life. It's harder to condone the actions of leaders and activists who seized this issue as a chance to grandstand, or attempted to force their views on others.
Ocala Star-Banner
Those who backed at face value Schiavo’s claim that he was simply adhering to his wife’s wishes looked crass and ghoulish for endorsing Terri Schiavo’s “right to die.” The evidence that she wanted as much was dubious and unclear and ignored that she was not in a coma or on life support. And death by starvation, critics said, was far crueler than stopping other artificial means.

Meanwhile, those advocating the Schindlers’ cause came off as uncompromising zealots who appeared to stop at nothing, including securing the intervention of the White House, to extend one person’s life, which was of arguable quality. In their quest, Terri’s supporters had trampled on fundamental American principles such as keeping the government out of private matters and respecting an independent judiciary, the rule of law and states’ rights. What made their efforts particularly distasteful, at least locally, were admissions by two state senators who represent Marion County that people had wished them dead for voting against intervening on her behalf.
Pensacola News Journal
If Schiavo had a living will, none of this would have happened. And, unfortunately, what happened is that things got way out of hand. In large part it is a result of what happens when politicians get involved and try to impose the weight of state power onto the most personal and intimate of issues.

Reportedly there are tens of thousands of people in medical situations similar to what Schiavo faced. People are removed from life support regularly -- at the request of themselves, in decisions by their families, or by the order of doctors.

This should be a personal decision, based on individual beliefs, religious or otherwise; a family decision; or a medical decision.

It should not be a political decision.

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