Month Archives: March 2010

Remembering Terri Schiavo

by Robert Morrison

March 31, 2010

Its been five years since Terri Schiavo was starved and dehydrated to death by court order in America. Some of us will never forget that terrible two-week period. This weeks panel at Family Research Council movingly re-told the storyso familiar to pro-lifers, so distorted and suppressed for millions of our fellow citizens.

Terri was a medically-dependent young woman who had suffered severe brain damage in the early 90s. She might have recovered the facility of speech. She might have been able to use computers to indicate her thoughts and wisheshad she received the proper rehabilitation in time. But she didnt. Civil Rights advocate Bob Destro, a law professor at Catholic University, said the real story of Terri Schiavo was Americas inability to come to gripseven todaywith disability. Our fears, prejudices, and lack of knowledge strongly influence the medical, legal, and, yes, political judgments we make.

Terris fearless attorney, David Gibbs, has written the story of that lonely fight to save an unoffending womans life. Fighting for Dear Life is his testament to that struggle. We still need to understand more about disability, Gibbs said, because these cases are not going away. Today, in Afghanistan and Iraq, many more young Americans are suffering traumatic brain injury due to IEDs. In previous wars, such wounded warriors might not have made it off the battlefield.

Gibbs laid out six principles we should have learned to uphold:

  1. Food and water, even if administered by intra-venous tube feedingare never extraordinary care.
  2. No court should allow someone to die without something in writing on that persons wishes.
  3. We need greater skill and safeguards in testing before a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state (PVS) is made.
  4. A spouse who enters into other relationships should be disqualified from making life-ending decisions for his/her legal spouse.
  5. Federal courts get to review all death sentences for convicted killers; no less should be granted to medically fragile persons.
  6. Immediate family members should have standing in court to challenge hospitals or their ethics committees when a futile care judgment has been rendered.

FRCs Cathy Ruse, our senior legal analyst, pointed out that Terris long and drawn out death was, in the words of Nat Hentoff, the longest public execution in U.S. history. Terri was not dying. She had no disease. Her life was simply inconvenient to her husband, who had, as they say, moved on. (He had also moved in. See point No. 4 above.) And, most appropriately in this Holy Week, Cathy pointed to those words of Jesus on the Cross: I thirst.

Terris brother, Bobby Schindler, spoke of the terrible toll on the Schindler family of their daughters cruel death. Bobby is Terris brother. He said their fathers death was surely hastened by the trauma of not being able to protect his daughter in her agonizing death. Agonizing it was, too. The family was not allowed even to give her cracked ice.

Nor Holy Communion.

David Gibbs brought hopeful messages of heroes of that dark period. He praised President George W. Bush for rushing back to Washington to sign legislation that permitted the Terri Schiavo case to be heard in federal court. Gov. J.E.B. Bush also labored on the side of the angels in this case. David Gibbs gave kudos to the Congress of 2005 that passed emergency legislation to try to save Terris civil rights.

There was one U.S. Senator at the time who agreed that Terris case might at least be heard in federal court. That senator, a former constitutional law professor, acted in accord with ninety and nine others in that body. But he later said he wished he had not concurred in the Unanimous Consent decree. He said it was the one thing he regretted in his Senate career. That senator is now the President of the United States.

Terris case is not forgotten. Each year on March 31st, there is a memorial Mass at Ave Maria University, in Florida. Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, was present as Terri was dying. He will celebrate the Mass.

Terri will also be remembered in my family. At that time, our daughter was dating a young man at Calvin College. She related to me his reaction to Terris plight:

I thought a husband was supposed to lay down his life for his wife. When that same young man, six months later, asked for our daughters hand in marriage, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Would you?

Listen to Bridget

by Robert Morrison

March 30, 2010

She called in to Sean Hannitys radio show yesterday. Sean gave her extra time. Good thing.

The lady identified herself as Bridget, and what a story she told. She is a medical speech pathologist, one who works with stroke victims and those who, for one reason or another, have speech impairment. She is also a military wife, familiar with TriCare, the militarys health care system (which, of course, is government-run).

Most interestingly, she described her two years working in the British National Health System. There, the doctors and nurses education is completely underwritten by the taxpayers. With free medical education, young people with a desire to serve others pursue their studies just as any other college students elect their majors. For them, free education and job security afterwards are not a bad deal.

Bridget said that she did not think you could graft the British NHS onto American free enterprise. Thats because the young people who go into medicine here are taking out loans, seeking to become respected professionals. In a way, our doctors are mostly small business entrepreneurs. And they are innovators.

Thats why we have the best medical care in the world. Thats why New York City alone has more MRIs than all of Canada, whose government-run system is modeled on Britains.

Its also why Premiers of Canadian Provinces (equivalent to our state governors) like Robert Bourassa (Quebec) and, more recently, Newfoundlands Danny Williams choose American hospitals when they can.

The decision by Premier Williams to seek treatment in the U.S. prompted a controversy in Canada. I was warned by my staff that this could be an issue, Williams said. The Premier said that the heart surgery he needed was highly specialized and not available in Newfoundland.

The heart procedure he chose to get in Florida was less invasive and involved just two small incisions near the breast area. The traditional method of dealing with heart murmurs like that experienced by Mr. Williamsthe one Canadian docs assure us is available north of the 49th parallel, if not in Newfoundland—requires surgeons to crack open the sternum.

Cr-aa-a-ck! Cant you just hear the sound now? Who wouldnt prefer those two small incisions?

And what about recovery time? Danny Williams is, after all, a public servant. Does he want to face a prolonged recuperation that could put him out of action as the provinces chief executive? What might that do to his political recovery?

Bridgets call to Sean Hannity was one of the most intelligent and informed discussions of health care I have ever heard. What she wanted us to understand is that the long-term consequences of ObamaCare may not appear immediately. The short-term will be bad enough.

The longer term result will be that the U.S. will lose its competitive edge. We wont even develop those advanced medical techniques that have made us the medical Mecca of the world. And we wont even attract the same entrepreneurs and innovators into our health care system.

Im deeply concerned. I agree with Bridget. And I am worried, not just for my own family. Im worried about all those dear Canadians. Where will their ailing Premiers go for world class treatment under ObamaCare? As Danny Williams said, hes a strong supporter of Canadas nationalized health care: But this is my heart. Its my health and my choice.

Conservatism, Extremism and the Bigoted Left

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 30, 2010

New York Times columnists Charles M. Blow (Whose Country Is It?, March 27) and Frank Rich (The Rage is Not About Health Care, March 28, 2010) are denouncing with smug delight and stentorian admonition the bullying, threats, and acts of violence (Blow) following the passage of the Obama health care bill.

Small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht is what Rich calls the apparent excesses of a tiny minority of anti-Democratic health care bill protestors. His own crypto-racist presuppositions are apparent in Blows evisceration of those he terms extremists:

Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bills most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. Its enough to make a good old boy go crazy.

Let me posit for Mr. Blow an alternative scenario: For the Left,

Even the optics must be disturbing. A (nationally recognized) woman (Sarah Palin) opposed the health care bill that passed the House. The bills most visible and vocal opponents included a practicing Catholic (John Boehner) and a Jew (Eric Cantor). And prominent black men (former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Godfathers Pizza chairman Herman Cain) didnt want the black man in the White House to sign the bill into law. Its enough to make a New York secular liberal go crazy.

Frank Rich., fueled by the same reactionary unction as Mr. Blow, writes something eerily similar in his piece:

The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play.

Again, allow me to rephrase:

The conjunction of a black Republican National Committee Chairman and a female conservative vice-presidential candidate topped off by a wise African-American conservative on the Supreme Court and a powerful evangelical committee chairman would sow fears of disenfranchisement among the tiny self-anointed secular elite in the media and the academy no matter what policies were in play.

However, unsatisfied with smarmily tarring all conservatives with the base brush of bigotry, Rich returns to the 1964 Civil Rights Act as further evidence of the Rights calumny (apparently ignorant of the fact that more House Republicans voted for it than Democrats). Blow goes one better, asserting that Tea Partiers, per a Quinnipiac University Poll, shows them to be disproportionately white, evangelical Christians and less educated … than the average Joe and Jane Six-Pack.

Ah, the Evangelical Slur rears its head: conservative Christians just dont have the smarts the rest of society possesses. This assertion is to intellectual credibility what the Big Mac is to nutrition. The tired asseveration that evangelicals are pear-headed ignoramuses fails the test of serious scrutiny. According to a comprehensive poll done in 2004 by GreenbergQuinlanRosner Research for the PBS program Religion and Ethics, About 22 percent of white evangelicals hold 4-year college degrees, compared with 27 percent of the general population. (One) quarter (27 percent) of white evangelicals have some sort of post-secondary education, compared to 26 percent of the general population.

Sadly, Blow and Rich were silent when images of a decapitated George W. Bush, of guns being placed to his head, and tee-shirts bearing the message, Kill Bush were rampant among the Left. Throughout most of the 2000s, the blogosphere was flooded by horrible messages of hate and vileness and violence directed at the 43rd President. Most of us on the Right attributed these sickening things to a minority of political opinion, yet remained troubled that MoveOn.org, Michael Moore, Arianna Huffington and other pop culture acceptables accepted and encouraged Bush hatred as though it were merely boisterous patriotism. Jonah Goldberg correctly calls this liberal fascism. Now that a handful of people go too far, suddenly conservatives (both Tea Partiers and Republicans) are (I derive this list from exactly two op-eds over a three day period in the New York Times):

  • Frothing
  • Copper-faced
  • Apoplectic
  • Goons
  • Vigilantes
  • Unglued
  • Homicidal (at least rhetorically)
  • Apocalyptic (not to be confused with apoplectic see above)
  • Petulant
  • Hysterical
  • Bullies
  • Desperate
  • Extremists
  • Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Nefarious
  • Mad (Tea Partiers)
  • Anemic (Republicans)
  • Bigoted (Tea Partiers)
  • Violent (Tea Partiers)
  • Anachronistic

And most are, I suppose, bad dressers, to boot.

Both Blow and Rich conclude triumphantly that white conservatives are a dying breed and that the demographics of America doom the (overwhelmingly white) Tea Party movement to failure. Here, to borrow a phrase from the late Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, Blow and Rich experience an isolated spasm of lucidity.

Americas racial and ethnic composition is indeed changing. Conservatives need to take seriously the reality that sometime in the mid- to late-century, American whites will become merely the largest plurality in a multi-ethnic nation. We have to do a far better job of winsomely and thoughtfully engaging people of color and persuading them that the conservative vision of personal responsibility, limited government, lower taxes and true social justice (for the born and the unborn) is the best course for our and I emphasize, our  nation.

But Blow and Rich should consider the wisdom of Americas greatest President, Abraham Lincoln (a Republican, no less!): The hen is the wisest of all the animals because she never cackles until her eggs are hatched.

The battle over the ideas and convictions that should shape our country should never include in its ranks those pathetic souls on either extreme whose malevolence, whether racial, ethnic or ideological, inspires their political conduct. But Charles Blow and Frank Rich should beware of cackling too soon.

Whose country is it? All of ours. Of We, the people, who lived not under a whimsical state manipulated by a Leftist bourgeoisie elite, but a constituted political order grounded in a written text and the unwritten but palpable virtue of an informed citizenry. Conservatives are fighting to keep it. And weve just begun to fight.

FRC Comments on NIH Shifting Stem Cell Guidelines

by David Prentice

March 26, 2010

In February, the NIH proposed to redefine the meaning of “embryonic stem cells” in their Guidelines. The primary purpose is to make more embryos, including younger embryos, available for research. The move continues the Administration’s and NIH’s aim to spend more taxpayer dollars on embryonic stem cells while ignoring the patients and successful adult stem cells.

FRC has submitted our comments on the proposed redefinition. It seems obvious that NIH is not interested in substantive consideration of their political move, limiting comments to 6,000 characters (including spaces.) They ignored 30,000 of the 49,000 comments received on the original draft of the guidelines. (FRC’s submission on original draft guidelines) Hopefully this round they’ll actually read and consider.

FRC comments on proposed NIH redefinition of embryonic stem cells

(includes hyperlinks to references)

The Obvious (About Men Who Have Sex With Men)Please Do Not Ignore

by Peter Sprigg

March 26, 2010

Men who choose to engage in sexual relations with other men place their health in serious jeopardyand thereby endanger the public health as well.

Unfortunately, like the nakedness of the Emperor in the childrens story of the The Emperors New Clothes, this is a truth that is so obviousyet so politically incorrectthat it is rarely spoken aloud.

When those of us who disapprove of and seek to discourage homosexual conduct speak this truth, we are routinely vilified as hateful. So let me step aside altogether, and let the secular, scientific, non-political experts speak for themselves. Below is a recent press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I reproduce it here, verbatim, in full, and uneditedexcept that I have highlighted in bold what are, in my opinion, the key findings.

I offer only one editorial comment. The CDC spokesman is cited as saying, There is no single or simple solution for reducing HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men. This is plainly false. There is, for example, a single and simple solution for smoking-related illnesses, and we have all heard itIf you dont smoke, dont start. If you do smoke, quit.

Its long past time for public health authorities to say the same about men having sex with men.

Press Release

http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/Newsroom/msmpressrelease.html

All Findings Embargoed Until: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 4:30pm EST

Contact: NCHHSTPMediaTeam@cdc.gov

(404) 639-8895

CDC Analysis Provides New Look at Disproportionate Impact of HIV and Syphilis Among U.S. Gay and Bisexual Men

A data analysis released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the disproportionate impact of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men in the United States.

The data, presented at CDC’s 2010 National STD Prevention Conference, finds that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women.

The range was 522-989 cases of new HIV diagnoses per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men and 13 per 100,000 women.

The rate of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM is more than 46 times that of other men and more than 71 times that of women, the analysis says. The range was 91-173 cases per 100,000 MSM vs. 2 per 100,000 other men and 1 per 100,000 women.

While CDC data have shown for several years that gay and bisexual men make up the majority of new HIV and new syphilis infections, CDC has estimated the rates of these diseases for the first time based on new estimates of the size of the U.S. population of MSM. Because disease rates account for differences in the size of populations being compared, rates provide a reliable method for assessing health disparities between populations.

While the heavy toll of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men has been long recognized, this analysis shows just how stark the health disparities are between this and other populations,” said Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. “It is clear that we will not be able to stop the U.S. HIV epidemic until every affected community, along with health officials nationwide, prioritize the needs of gay and bisexual men with HIV prevention efforts.”

For the purposes of determining rates of disease for MSM, CDC researchers first estimated the size of the gay and bisexual male population in the United States defined as the proportion of men who reported engaging in same-sex behavior within the past five years. Based on an analysis of nationally representative surveys, CDC estimated that MSM comprise 2.0 percent (range: 1.4-2.7 percent) of the overall U.S. population aged 13 and older, or 4 percent of the U.S. male population (range: 2.8-5.3 percent). Disease rates per 100,000 population were then calculated using 2007 surveillance data on HIV and primary/secondary syphilis diagnoses and U.S. Census data for the total U.S. population.

The new analysis is the first step in more fully assessing the impact of HIV among MSM and other populations significantly affected by the disease. CDC is developing more detailed estimates of infection rates among MSM by race and age, as well as among injection drug users. CDC is also in the early stages of planning for estimates among heterosexuals. Ultimately, these data can be used to better inform national and local approaches to HIV and STD prevention to ensure that efforts are reaching the populations in greatest need.

Research shows that a range of complex factors contribute to the high rates of HIV and syphilis among gay and bisexual men. These factors include high prevalence of HIV and other STDs among MSM, which increases the risk of disease exposure, and limited access to prevention services. Other factors are complacency about HIV risk, particularly among young gay and bisexual men; difficulty of consistently maintaining safe behaviors with every sexual encounter over the course of a lifetime; and lack of awareness of syphilis symptoms and how it can be transmitted (e.g., oral sex). Additionally, factors such as homophobia and stigma can prevent MSM from seeking prevention, testing, and treatment services.

Also, the risk of HIV transmission through receptive anal sex is much greater than the risk of transmission via other sexual activities, and some gay and bisexual men are relying on prevention strategies that may be less effective than consistent condom use.

There is no single or simple solution for reducing HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men,” said Fenton. “We need intensified prevention efforts that are as diverse as the gay community itself. Solutions for young gay and bisexual men are especially critical, so that HIV does not inadvertently become a rite of passage for each new generation of gay men.”

Preventing HIV and STDs among gay and bisexual men is a top CDC priority. CDC provides funding to health departments and community-based organizations throughout the nation to implement proven behavior-change programs for MSM and will soon expand a successful HIV testing initiative to reach more gay and bisexual men. Additionally, CDC is implementing an updated National Syphilis Elimination Plan in cities where MSM have been hardest hit by the disease, and will release an updated HIV prevention strategic plan within the next year to support the President’s upcoming National HIV/AIDS Strategy. CDC officials note that the new analysis released today underscores the importance of the HIV and STD prevention efforts targeting gay and bisexual men recently announced as part of the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget proposal.

For more information on HIV or syphilis, please visit www.cdc.gov/hiv or www.cdc.gov/std.

###

Obama Health Care Ignores Private Sector Realities

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 26, 2010

According to Reuters, White House Secretary Robert Gibbs is unconcerned with the reports today by two leading American manufacturers that the newly enacted Democratic health system legislation will hit them hard financially.

John Deere and Caterpillar report a combined anticipated earnings loss of $250 million given the new tax provisions of President Obama’s just-imposed regime of federal health care management. This will affect their ability to hire, promote and provide benefits. It will affect the cost of the goods they sell and their ability to compete in domestic and international markets. It will hurt their ability to work with subcontractors and pay for retirement benefits.

In fact, Business Week notes the business consultancy of Towers Watson estimates a loss of $14 billion in corporate profits due to the Obama health regime-change (“Obama Taxs $14 Billion Charge Starts at Caterpillar,” March 25, 2010).

But, hey - to Robert Gibbs, all of this is worth one modest shrugging of his shoulders. Here’s what he said on Air Force One when asked about the hit Deere and Cat will have to take due to his boss’s new medical system overhaul:

So basically, they get a subsidy and what amounts to two deductions. They get the subsidy that’s not counted as income, then they get to write off the spending. This bill, our bill, simply closes the loophole.

Similarly, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke responded, “The rules…and a lot of the regulations on how this will affect large businesses haven’t even been published yet. So for them to come out, I think, is premature and irresponsible.”

I see: The Obama people are just closing tax “loopholes,” but it’s irresponsible for companies to estimate what the de facto taxes will cost them. How silly - a company ponders the affects of a tax hike and it’s irresponsible for letting its investors know its cost estimates. Guess I missed that lucid economic principle somewhere along the way.

Ask the families of people who are about to lose their jobs because President Obama and his congressional allies couldn’t care less about the private sector. Many of the President’s senior aides and appointees (including Mr. Gibbs) have never held jobs in the open market. They have never actually created a job, met a payroll, worried about opening a new store or burned the midnight oil experimenting with a new product.

In showing contempt for individual and corporate taxpayers, Robert Gibbs and Gary Locke reveal the true heart of the current Administration: Elitist, dismissive, arrogant and fundamentally ignorant of the American system of entrepreneurship, enterprise and market-based competition.

The High Costs of the Democratic Health Plan

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 24, 2010

Congressman Paul Ryan, a respected Wisconsin Republican and self-described “numbers guy,” writes the following in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Premiums in the individual market would rise from 10% to 13% for families. Our debt and deficit crisis —— driven by $76 trillion in unfunded liabilities —— would accelerate from the creation of a brand new entitlement and an increase in the federal deficit by $662 billion, when the true costs are factored in. National health expenditures will increase by an additional $222 billion over the next decade, according the president’s own chief actuary, and $2.4 trillion in the decade after the new entitlement is up and running.

Ryan himself calls these “mind-numbing numbers,” but their vastness only emphasizes how serious they are. To bring it down to family level, what the Obama-Democratic plan means is that you and your loved ones will obtain poorer quality of care at higher cost. Medical innovations generated by private sector research will contract as companies have fewer financial resources with which to make them. Market-driven competition will decline as the number of insurance companies shrinks due to heavy new mandates and regulations. The ripple effect on the broader economy will mean that there will be fewer jobs in the private-sector as companies lay-off employees to pay for both higher taxes and cost of newly imposed health insurance rules.

The world works in a certain way. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The world turns from east to west. And the more centralized political power becomes and the greater the mandates and costs imposed on those governed, the less freedom and prosperity there will be.

These propositions are axiomatic because they are immutable. And it is difficult to believe that whatever their protestations, President Obama and his allies —- intelligent men and women, all —- did not understand them very well from before the start of their health care “reform” campaign.

Less quality, high cost health care. Fewer jobs. Lost freedom. That’s change I’d rather not believe in, but it’s here. And conservatives will keep fighting it as long as our liberty endures.

FRC Action Responds to the Health Care Vote

by JP Duffy

March 22, 2010

From FRC Action’s press release:

Washington, D.C.- Today the House of Representatives passed the Senate health care bill with a multitude of abortion funding provisions and passed the reconciliation bill to increase funding for one abortion funding program. Neither contained conscience protections previously approved by the House.

Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins responded with the following comments:

Passage of this partisan government takeover of health care with all of its Medicare cuts, tax increases, a continued marriage penalty, individual mandates, and abortion funding shows the extreme leftist orientation of this Congress.

The American people, regardless of their view of its legality, should not be forced to pay for someone’s abortion. Those who voted for this legislation cannot legitimately claim to be even neutral on the issue of abortion. This legislation accomplishes this abortion mandate in spades.

Read the whole release here.

Abortions Are Not Healthy, Amnesty International

by Jeanne Monahan

March 19, 2010

Amnesty International released a report today on Maternal Mortality in the United States. I was enthusiastic to see a subheading for a right to life until a little further into the report I read that abortion (the procedure that destroys innocent little lives) was included as part of a womans right to life.

From page 14 of the report:

The right to life is protected in a number of international human rights treaties including the ICCPR, which states that every human being has the inherent right to life and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their right to life…the need to employ a broad interpretation of the right to life, which includes public health measures, and has called on states to reduce preventable maternal mortality, including by ensuring access to family planning and abortion, as part of their obligation to protect the right to life under the ICCPR.33 Like all human rights, the right to life must also be guaranteed without discrimination.

Sadly, Amnesty International defies their own words by discriminating against those who are in the womb.

To put the right to life issue in context, approximately 12 million women die worldwide each year from complications in childbirth (i.e., maternal mortality). In comparison, approximately 42 million children are denied the inherent right to life through abortion every year worldwide.

Additionally, according to the WHO, Maternal Mortality is not listed among the top ten health causes of death anywhere in the world - in developing or developed countries.

While we can all agree that expectant mothers should have access to good health care, the issue of maternal mortality should not be a cover for abortion.

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