Isn’t It Ironic, Don’t You Think?

Ken AshfordAssisited Suicide/Schiavo, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

One of the most ironic statements about the Terri Schiavo case can be found in one of Judge Greer’s opinions:

Perhaps one of the few  agreements between these experts is that stem cell research is currently at the experimental stage and is years away from being accepted either medically or politically. It would not appear from the testimony that this is a viable treatment option at this time.

Too bad.  If only the "pro-life" people who want Terri to live would allow stem cell research so that she COULD live, they might have a better argument.

Meanwhile, Tom at Corrante is far more blunt:

If these folks really cared about life, they wouldn’t have all so blithely signed on to this disaster in Iraq that has probably already killed more than 100,000 people, including more than 1,500 American soldiers.

Two Heads Aren’t Better Than One

Ken AshfordRandom MusingsLeave a Comment

From Germany:

Man with two penises loses wife

A German who persuaded doctors to give him a second penis has lost his wife after he showed her the result.

Biker Michael Gruber, 40, lost his original penis in a motorbike accident and doctors built him a second one using a mixture of skin, bone and other tissues from his own body.

The penis worked so well that he was even able to father a child with his wife Bianca, 25, and their son Etienne was born last year.

But Gruber was still not happy and asked doctors to repeat the operation and build him a better organ, to which they agreed.

However, before removing the first penis doctors said they needed to make sure the new tissue transplant was a success, and had to leave the first penis in place.

Dr Markus Kuentscher, a plastic surgeon at Berlin’s Accident Hospital, said: "We left the old one attached until the new one is properly supplied with blood."

But when Gruber showed his wife his double penis, she went home, packed her bags and left.

From his hospital bed he said: "I’ve got two penises but no wife, but I am hoping when I get rid of one of the penises I will get her back."

Write your own punchline.

More Thoughts on Terri

Ken AshfordAssisited Suicide/Schiavo, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Okay.  I wanted to write a lengthy response to Professor Volokh’s bombshell in which he advocates torture (you’re never going to get on the Supreme Court that way, Eugene!), but I guess I better focus more on Terri Schiavo since — I’m told — my analysis of the case was rather amateurish and undetailed.

To which I plead guilty.

Guilty with an explanation.  The Schiavo case has over a decade of factual evidence, much of which is disputed by the parties directly involved.  On top of that, there is a lot of DISinformation being put out by proponents of both sides.  And if that is not bad enough, there are ethical issues which spill over into the realm of religion, philosophy, etc. . . . and that always gets people’s dander up.

My interest in Schiavo is not simply whether she should live horribly or die with dignity.  It is about the process by which we decide, rather than the decision itself.

So here I go.

One of the reasons that civilized countries have legal systems is to establish repose.  In other words, we have to get on with our lives (or perhaps, in cases like Terri’s, our deaths) and a legal system is civilized society’s way of resolving disputes so that the wheels may turn.

As a lawyer — and every lawyer will tell you the same thing — I see clients who are so convinced that they are right and the other side is wrong, even though the other side is equally so convinced that they are right and you are wrong.  And obviously, both cannot be right.  Be we have to make a decision, and that’s what courts are for.  That’s how it works.  Otherwise, we end up like the characters in ST’s "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield", destined to spend eternity in a neverending struggle.

Now, to be sure, the legal system is flawed.  O.J. gets away (probably) with murder, and so on.  I won’t deny it.  But it is the only system we have, and nobody has yet to come up with a better one.

Both sides in the Schiavo debate have had full and complete access to the courts.  In fact, more than enough access.  They have opportunity after opportunity to have their evidence heard.  And reheard and reheard.  The battle of the experts has been played over and over and over and over again.  And the various judges and courts have made their decisions.  The process has been played out:

There have been at least 11 applications to the Florida Court of Appeal in this case resulting in four published decisions; four applications to the Florida Supreme Court with one published decision (Bush v. Schiavo); three lawsuits in federal district court; three applications to the U.S. Supreme Court and nearly untold motions in the trial court. (Source)

And while many may feel that the courts have decided wrongly, it is folly to say that the courts were unaware of the evidence presented by both sides. 

So, even though I am pretty well-read on Schiavo, I don’t claim (as the Terri-torturers seem to do) to be omniscient about every aspect.  And unlike them, I think I do have the high ground of objectivivity, if only because I recognize that I am NOT omniscient; i.e., I am NOT in her head.  Nor do I pretend to be.  I am also more objective because I do not cloak myself solely in "evidence" that points to the outcome which I would desire in the first place.

So while reasonable people unconnected with Schiavo can, based on what they have read, still debate about consciousness and vegetative states and rehabilitation possibilities and allegations of abuse and yada yada yada, there is one thing that is most certainly undisputed: the courts have been through these arguments before time and time again

And unless there is a specific allegation that the various judges and commissions and other factfinders are all "on the take", I have to believe that they weighed the evidence — all of it — impartially and reasonably. 

And the ruling is to let Terry’s life end with dignity.

So that day has come.  The arguments have all been made and heard, and the Johnny-Come-Latelys to the Schiavo case — many (on both sides) who have their own political agenda — should just pack their bags and go home.  Terri’s wishes won out, you lost.  It’s time to restore some dignity to her, and that can only happen when the circus leaves town. 

That includes the clowns in Congress (you know, the Republicans who used to think the federal government should keep away from states’ rights), who shouldn’t be sticking their nose in this issue in the first place (unless they intend to do it in EVERY case, which is not within their mandate).

UPDATE: My girl Majikthise has a good roundup of Terri myths here.  It’s a good balance to the well-financed special interest groups who put out misinformation in furtherance of their own (anti-choice) agenda.  Follow her links, too. 

Abstract Appeal also has a pretty neutral site, with plenty of links to source documents from the courts.

MORE UPDATE:  I think Atrios has the correct final word:

Living Wills
Just go write them, now. That is all.

Gun Safety

Ken AshfordGun ControlLeave a Comment

This is a remarkable video.

A police officer is in a school, giving a talk to kids on the subject of gun safety.  And he accidentally shoots himself in the foot.  Trying to pass it off as nothing, he then asks his assistant to show a rifle to the kids.  The kids, scared to death of being accidentally shot, ask the assistant to put the rifle down.

Both funny and disturbing.  Give the video a chance to load…

Fish Tales

Ken AshfordWeb Recommendations1 Comment

Animal supersititions, alpabetically arranged.  Here’s a sample:


Throw back the first fish you catch then you’ll be lucky the whole day fishing.

It’s bad luck to get married when the fish aren’t biting, according to the custom of some fisherfolk.

A fish should always be eaten from the head toward the tail.

Dream of fish: someone you know is pregnant.

If you count the number of fish you caught, you will catch no more that day.

It’s bad luck to say the word "pig" while fishing at sea.

Terri Schiavo News Wrap-up

Ken AshfordAssisited Suicide/Schiavo, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

Today is the day that Terri Schiavo is to have her feeding tube removed and to have a dignified death.

But, you know how busybody some people are.  Even though they don’t know her, or claim to know her, or claim to know what Terri would have wanted, the conservative we-know-better-than-you-because-God-tells-us-we’re-right assholes are doing all they can to make sure Terri’s suffering continues.  You know, because life is precious even if you are unaware of that you are alive and will never be aware of it.

Having exhausted the legal battles, the Terri-torturers would now abuse the judicial system by handing out subpoenae.  Not there is any legitimate legal reason to do this.  It’s merely using the judicial process for the sole purpose of causing delay.  By the way, if I tried something like that, I would be sanctioned.

Support Our Ex-Troops, Too

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Another kind of hero:Peacerwb

Un-Volunteering: Troops Improvise to Find Way Out


Published: March 18, 2005

The night before his Army unit was to meet to fly to Iraq, Pvt. Brandon Hughey, 19, simply left. He drove all night from Texas to Indiana, and on from there, with help from a Vietnam veteran he had met on the Internet, to disappear in Canada.

In Georgia, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, 40, whose family ties to military service stretch back to the American Revolution, filed for conscientious-objector status and learned that he will face a court-martial in May for failing to report to his unit when it left for a second stint in Iraq.

One by one, a trickle of soldiers and marines – some just back from duty in Iraq, others facing a trip there soon – are seeking ways out.

Read more.  It seems there are good ways and bad ways to do this.  Simply skipping town (deserting) is not good.  But this seems the way to go.

By the way, read a right wing spin of this story at Captain’s Quarters.  Captain Ed claims that the New York Times is acting "hysterical" and that this story is "splash[ed] . . . all over the paper" (it’s not).  Captain Ed notes that the Times admits that it is talking about relatively few soldiers.  So, Ed, how can you accuse the Times of inflating a story when you acknowlwedge that it is being honest about it?

Life Imitates “Footloose”

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

CheerleadingWhere’s Kevin Bacon and Patrick Swayze when you need them?

Lawmaker Seeks to End Sexy Cheerleading
By APRIL CASTRO, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas – The Friday night lights in Texas could soon be without bumpin’ and grindin’ cheerleaders. Legislation filed by Rep. Al Edwards would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions.

"It’s just too sexually oriented, you know, the way they’re shaking their behinds and going on, breaking it down," said Edwards, a 26-year veteran of the Texas House. "And then we say to them, ‘don’t get involved in sex unless it’s marriage or love, it’s dangerous out there’ and yet the teachers and directors are helping them go through those kind of gyrations."

Read the whole thing.

Scenes From A Cultural Revolution

Ken AshfordEducationLeave a Comment

Wsjguard Billmon compares the right-wing attempts to "improve" academia with other cleansings of the past:

The Left has taken over academe. We want it back.

Mike Rosen, Rocky Mountain News columnist
CU is Worth Fighting For
March 4, 2005

In this great Cultural Revolution, the phenomenon of our schools being dominated by bourgeois intellectuals must be completely changed.

Central Committee of the
Communist Party of China

Resolutions of the Eleventh Plenum
August 1966


I have undertaken the task of organizing conservative students myself and urging them to protest a situation that has become intolerable.

David Horowitz
The Campus Blacklist
April 18, 2003

Students on University campuses were organized into groups of “Red Guards” and were given the chance to challenge those in authority. Students quickly turned their attacks on their closest adversaries, their teachers and university administrators.

Therese Hoffman
The Chinese Cultural Revolution:
Autobiographical Accounts of a National Trauma



From sponsoring pro-terrorist symposia, to funding and defending pro-terrorist campus organizations, to teaching students that America is an imperialistic oppressor and the terrorists are no threat, America’s universities are playing a sinister and dangerous role in the War on the Terror.

David Horowitz and Ben Johnson
Campus Support for Terrorism
February 7, 2005

They have stood facts on their head and juggled black and white, encircled and suppressed revolutionaries, stifled opinions differing from their own, imposed a white terror, and felt very pleased with themselves. They have puffed up the arrogance of the bourgeoisie and deflated the morale of the proletariat. How poisonous!

Mao Tse Tung
Bombard the Headquarters
August 5,1966

Read the whole thing.

O’Reilly Makes Shit Up

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/Idiocy, Sex/Morality/Family Values1 Comment

Bill O’Reilly on the March 15 edition of Westwood One’s The Radio Factor:

O’REILLY: You know, the Founding Fathers didn’t write anything into the Constitution about gay marriage. Because back then, if you were gay, they hung you.

So — you couldn’t get married ’cause they put you in the rack. You know, if you were runnin’ around wearing a chartreuse hat, you were in lots of trouble. So, we didn’t even have to worry about these people gettin’ married because if they come out of their closet in the log cabin — somebody’ll shoot them in the head. So, there really wasn’t an issue back in the Founding Fathers.

Here’s my challenge to any wingers, or to O’Reilly himself.  Prove it.  Show me a story where people were summarily shot or hung in the late 18th century for being openly gay.  We have a rich history.  There are books and stories.  Certainly, there should be dozens of stories about this happening . . . IF it happened.  So how about some proof?

And by the way, they wore fucking powdered wigs back then.  The men!  The straight men!  Does O’Reilly really think someone would be "in trouble" for wearing a chartreuse hat?  Once again, Bill, prove it or shut the fuck up.

The Healing Of One Man’s Soul

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

89113019 Take some time to read Jimmy Massey’s story:

Jimmy Massey is a young man of Irish-American heritage, tall, fit, and straight. His eyes are clear and his voice is strong. A proud son of the mountains of western North Carolina, his twelve years as a Marine are still apparent in his physical appearance.

When he tells you his story, you begin to understand that he is wounded in a way that your eyes could never readily detect.

89166998 You may have heard his story in other reports. He’s been telling audiences about his experiences for a while now. I’d decided, out of curiosity, to attend the engagement showcasing Jimmy as the featured speaker, which was sponsored by the Syracuse Peace Council. As I sat in the audience of about forty concerned citizens on a frigid late winter’s night at South Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, I asked myself what I could say that was different from the others who have told you about Jimmy.

How do I show you a man who has found his conscience while, at the same time, is a walking casualty of the Iraq war?

Read the whole thing.

The Party of “No”

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

The Republicans keep voting against the American people.

Republicans Vote No on Providing Rail Service to Millions of Americans. Senate Republicans voted no on the Byrd amendment to provide funding for Amtrak. The amendment called for an increase in funding for Amtrak by $1 billion. The amendment failed 46-52. [RC 51, S. Amdt. 158 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/16/05]

Republicans Vote No on Protecting the Arctic Refuge. Senate Republicans voted against the Cantwell amendment to protect the Arctic Wildlife Refuge from drilling. The amendment failed 49-51. [RC 52, S. Amdt. 168 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/16/05]

Republicans Voted Against Paying for all Tax Cuts and Spending. Senate Republicans voted against the Feingold amendment that would have reinstated the “Pay-as-you-go” rules. These rules would require any new tax cuts or spending to be fully offset and paid for. The amendment failed 50-50. [RC 53, S. Amdt. 186 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/16/05]

Republicans Voted Against An Amendment to Provide for the Health Care Needs of Our Veterans. Senate Republicans voted against the Akaka/Murray amendment that would have increased the Veterans Affairs budget by $2.85 billion. The amendment would also rejects the President’s proposal to cut funding to State veterans’ homes, eliminate the means-test for veterans to enroll for VA care, provide for much-needed mental health services, rejects the President’s proposal to drive veterans away from the VA with annual user fees and increased prescription drug costs. The amendment failed 47-53. [RC 55, S. Amdt. 149 to S. Con. Res. 18, 3/16/05]

sez Oliver Willis correctly.

Fundies Stole My Jesus!

Ken AshfordBlogging, Godstuff, Web RecommendationsLeave a Comment

That’s the cry of an angry single mom at, uh, the Angry Single Mom blog.  Here’s a sample:

Arthur Ruger wrote a thought-provoking article about the dichotomy between the Jesus of the New Testament and the Jesus of the fundamentalists. He correctly compares the High Priests of Evangelical Hyperbole to the Pharisees and the Sadducees, those responsible for Jesus’ death. The Pharisees brought charges against Christ to the Temple high priests. The Sadducees then handed the Messiah to the Romans to be crucified. The evangelicals and fundamentalists continue to pound away at the nails, crucifying Christ on the Cross of their selective interpretation of Old Testament Law.

Fundamentalists and evangelicals both use the New Testament to show how God forgives sinners, then use the Old Testament law to beat anyone over the head who doesn’t agree with their narrow and oftentimes erroneous interpretation. For example, homosexuality is considered an abomination in the Old Testament. However, the original Greek of the New Testament uses a word that means homosexual prostitution only. For fundies, homosexuality (usually a 16-syllable condemnation in their limited vocabulary) is an abomination, regardless of what the early Church had to say about it. The logical extension of this, in fundie world, is that gay marriage will destroy western civilization.

The catfight over displays of the Ten Commandments runs into this bizarre paradox, too. We all are to abide by the Ten Commandments, according to the religious right, but other parts of the Law as explicitly spelled out in Deuteronomy and Leviticus are ignored completely. The logical extension of this is that spending all of one’s righteous energy to ban gay marriage is somehow more holy than fixing the appalling rates of heterosexual divorce and spousal abuse.

I happen to agree with Carl Sagan’s observation in the book Contact that if God really wanted us to pay attention He would have carved the Ten Commandments in the moon so that all of humanity could see them.

The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament don’t resemble each other, either. A psychologist friend of mine diagnosed the Old Testament Almighty as "Severe Personality Disorder with Psychotic Features and Narcissism." In contrast, the Jesus-God, and later Holy Spirit-God of the New Testament is forgiving and understanding, and capable of dispensing grace to those most unworthy.

Apparently, He’s no longer voting Republican.

Christians on both sides of the aisle, both conservative as well as progressive, need to take a deep breath, have a gut check, and get moving. There’s a whole world out there to serve, and the message of the entire Bible is to live the Message. So get to work!

Here’s another sample:

According to the Dr. Jerry Falwell, evangelical Christians overwhelmingly supported the war in Iraq. Despite evidence to the contrary, the good reverend and his ilk continue to perpetuate this myth.

Why are conservative Christians so eager to settle matters with guns? Why are they so willing to risk the lives of other peoples’ children? Why can’t they remember the words of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. (John 14:27 ASV)

All I can say it . . . more more more like it, please.

You’re The One

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

"You know, abstinence works. It honestly, truly does. That having been said, it doesn’t help much when you’re having sex." – Jesse Taylor of Pandagon.

He’s right, you know.  It’s part of the problem with abstinence-only education, as highlighted in Jesse’s post and this article:

Half a dozen 13-year-old boys munch pizza and slurp soda as they watch a video on how to resist peer pressure.

Afterwards, a counselor asks them how they might be able to counteract social pressure to engage in sexual activity. But most of the boys aren’t listening. Even after one of them is ejected from the Maryland classroom, they push and shove, make rude noises and insult the counselor and each other. Eventually, the session wraps up without any real discussion.

Welcome to sexual abstinence-only education in 2005.

But Jesse gets to the heart — um, yeah, heart — of the problem:

But, if you ever sit down and read abstinence materials, most of them describe sex as a product of monogamous love – almost always within marriage, but as an act symbolizing love between two people. It provides the biggest out in the world for teenagers and young adults – because if you think that a 16-year-old will show bad judgement about sex, you haven’t seen a 16-year-old’s judgement about love.

Read any abstinence-only program. It valories love, attachment, devotion; almost always within the confines of marriage. But you’d be surprised how much you can convince yourself that you’re in love when you’re starting to bust the zipper on your pants. It creates a sort of contraceptive barrier of emotion, wherein you’re convinced that you will be protected from disease and pregnancy because it’s true love – casual sex between contraceptive users virtually gurantees a baby (and probably a crack-addicted one, at that), while true love somehow produces a natural spiritual spermicide. Yes, you’re told that abstinence is the only 100% effective method of having sex. But you’re given a perverse incentive to "wait" until you’re sure someone is "the one", even if that "one" is no more than whoever gets you hot enough to think you’re never going to want to have someone else long enough to have them.