Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A persistent vegetative state ...

Not unlike lots of other folks, I think it is tragic watching the Terri Schiavo case unfold 24/7 on every channel across the spectrum. And, if you are a news junkie like I am, you are seeing a lot of this case.
Personally, I am getting a bit sick of it. In typical fashion, the media are going completely overboard in covering this tragedy which is essentially a local - and family - issue. While Schiavo is incapacitated, it is easy to say that the media are also in a persistent vegetative state.
The coverage brings up a whole bunch of different emotions on a variety of levels. There is the issue of when life ends or who has control over someone in this state. There are those of us who are truly concerned about preserving "life" and there is the manipulation of the issue by some of the most craven politicians in our country: ["Dialysis was denied for DeLay dad "]. There is the issue over who should have guardianship in these situations - a husband who has two kids from another relationship - or the parents who want to preserve the "life" of their daugher. Having watched some of the relentless coverage, I am aghast at what I have seen.
Once again, FoxNews has gone completely over the top.
Rita Cosby on "The Big Show" Saturday virtually claimed that Michael Schiavo was somehow responsible for his wife's heart attack when everyone knows that the attack was brought on by a lack of potassium - a sign of bulimia. Maybe FoxNews is thinking that Michael somehow made Terri starve herself to lose weight. The Schindlers - Terri Schiavo's parents - did nothing to dissuade this kind of talk even though it probably isn't true. If I were Michael Schiavo, I would hire a libel attorney after seeing some of the coverage. But it isn't just these issues. I won't even go into Sean Hannity's night after night after night of claims that she can talk and that somehow her husband is killing her. And where are the conservatives - like Howie Carr, for example - who are always yelling at anti-war protesters to "get a job." They have been silent on this issue too, yet one could say that all these people holding candles need to get a life, no pun intended.
Like David Ross of CBS News said last week in his commentary, the Schiavo case hasn't really preserved life - it has preserved death. Everywhere, families and loved ones are having serious conversations about the end of life and how we would like to go out. Ross noted that most of the people he talked to stated the same thing: I wouldn't want to be alive if I were in her condition. This doesn't mean that a person's request will actually be respected in the end - without a living will or some other sort of documentation - but it does allow for these serious conversations to occur.
But what about "life" or the quality of said life? It is one thing to say that a fetus in a mother's womb has the potential to live a long life as a child if brought into the world; it is quite another thing to say that a person in Schiavo's condition is going to have any sort of life, lying there, unable to feed herself, unable to speak, unable to do much of anything that most of us would consider having a life. Personally, I wouldn't want to live that way ... but I wouldn't want to die that way either.
On a larger - and more important scale - look at what the world is missing while we are distracted with Schiavo case, the Wacko Jacko nonsense, Prince Charles' silly wedding, the pope's condition [which, granted, is important to hundreds of millions of Catholics], night after night: Important stories like this ["Baghdad Coup D'Etat For Big Oil"] or the second anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which was barely covered by most of the press, the bulging trade deficit and globalization wrecking the American family, foreign nations buying up all of our debt, the utter sin of the bankruptcy bill ["Christian lawyers say bill, Bible don't mesh"], etc. etc. It is an absolute disgrace. And, it is also one of the reasons I work in the media - so I can do relevant stories for people and not get caught up in all of this unimportant nonsense.
Ralph Nader has his thoughts about the case: ["The Many Layers of the Terry Schiavo Controversy"] which I found pretty interesting, and of course, there is Jesse Jackson's view, again, all over the place, including of all places, on FoxNews where Hannity was acting like a complete rump-swab ... actually treating Jackson like a human being instead of an adulterer and a swindler ... which has previously been the case with Hannity. Yeah, it was pretty shocking to see tonight.
We all know that life is precious ... and this is no way to end one, no matter what you feel about the issue or the outcome. 

Other stuff:
* Former Dem VP candidate John Edwards is on a tear of late: ["'08 White House Race Draws Iowa's Interest"]. Is he the one? As I have said before, I honestly believe that had he been out on the stump more, Kerry might have pulled it off. It seemed as though Edwards disappeared for a month there late in the campaign. Where did Shrum hide him?
* "Hot" Air America, as Nader called it during the 2004 campaign, gets raked over the coals this week on HBO: ["HBO to Air Docu on Air America: 'Left of the Dial'"]. I don't have HBO so I will be missing this but I bet it is amusing.
* This is so scary and makes me worry more and more about what is going on with this government: ["Administration kept mum about unapproved modified corn sold"].
* Danny Schecter is one of our country's most important commentators right now. He has a good piece on the coverage - or lack of coverage - of the anti-war movement: ["Miscovering Anti-War Protests (Again)"].
* I totally missed this but I bet it was a funny sight, for lack of a better word: ["SNL Tries Penile Implant"].
* This headline says it all: ["'One huge US jail'"]. Between the pipeline crap and this, what the hell is going on over there?
* Political things in Massachusetts are getting a little testy these days and once again, it looks like the Democrats are going to eat themselves alive. Typically, incumbents in the state Legislature are trying to protect themselves while reformers want to make the process better. At the same time, the party hacks want to make it harder for outsiders to get on the ballot: ["State Democrats seek to streamline primary process"]. Possible gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick is making the early rounds, in what will be a David vs. Goliath fight for the nomination: ["Impressions of Deval Patrick from Cambridge, 3/26"] and ["Dem rival gives gov run for his money"]. Then, there is this, by a former three-time non-victorious candidate from the left, George Bachrach: ["Reform the Democrats with more democracy"]. [I didn't really want to call Bachrach a three-time "loser" because while I think he can sometimes be a bit whiny, his heart always seems in the right place. And, as we all know in campaigns, more people are non-victorious than victorious, so Bachrach is in good company.]
* One of the reasons some liberals have no clue is because they don't read all forms of commentary. I may not agree with a guy like Robert Novak much, but he always has some pretty good ditties like this one; ["RNC warns Congress of Republican electoral disaster in 2006"] and this one: ["With Condoleezza Rice’s support, America will leave Iraq this year"].
* The book is still not closed on the 2004 election and this article proves it: ["Voting glitches haunt statistician"]. I will never for the life of me understand how so many smart people can get caught up in so many dumb theories. Exit polls are wrong all the time! They are completely unscientific. Folks lie on them. Maybe the pollsters didn't do their work properly. It is completely illogical to presume that a sampling of one one-millionth of a precent could determine the outcome of an election. The only thing exit polls are good for is for gathering data on the people who fill them out and to get some sense of what those sampled voters were feeling at the time. Exit polls are not good predictors. And lastly, these types of theories make wild and grand allegations about voting technologies that no one actually knows to be true. As was seen during the Nader recounts here in New Hampshire and the Miami Herald recounts in northern Florida, many historically strong Democratic towns and counties in both states in 2004 voted for Bush. The recounts prove it. In Ohio, the majority of voting machines are not computerized but paper ballot or punch card ballots. There may be rigged machines in some places across this nation but not so far in the ones that have been recounted and no one has still shown me that the nation's voting machines can be rigged in some giant conspiracy to swing the election. We know that there are other problems as noted in an entry posted here two years ago: ["Vote fraud, conspiracies, and real solutions to the elections problem"] Of course, no one wants to talk about double-voting or illegal aliens voting; it is much easier to keep perpetuating the theory that there is a wizard somewhere swinging the votes to the evil, Christian Republicans. Give me a break.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

In the Northeast, we are right now in the middle of a pretty huge blizzard which is thankfully hitting us on a weekend instead of the middle of the week. This inclement weather is allowing folks like me to bundle up in the house and wait for enough snow to fall so that I can go out and snow blow without it being a wasted effort. The storm also allowed for the opportunity to sit in front of the TV watching C-Span - and the first hearing of the Democratic National Committee’s Commission on Presidential Nominations.
Unfortunately, only the first segment of the discussion was aired. Around lunch, C-Span cut to repeats of budget hearings. But what I did see was extremely interesting, with a lot of history being shared about previous commissions and campaigns. There was a very fascinating historical presentation by a woman from the JFK School, Dr. Kamarck, or something, where she solidified the importance of having the first primaries and caucuses in small states. She also made a plug for Iowa and New Hampshire keeping their places. After a few questions, she was whacked by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan who has a recent history of trying to strip New Hampshire of its First in the Nation Primary. He even interrupted her when she was trying to answer one of his questions - which can happen sometimes at these things. It also made me think back to the initial introductions where I noticed that the state of Michigan seemed to have three folks on the panel representing their interests where other states only seemed to have one or two members. Why does Michigan get three? Why do the others only get two? New Hampshire seemed responsibly represented by former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Terry Schumaker, an executive director with the NEA here in the state. But other states didn’t seem to have a voice at all.
There were also some interesting comments made by [I believe] Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland professor, about how the first states weren’t diverse enough and how fringier candidates like the Rev. Al Sharpton should be taken seriously by the party and the voters. While he makes a valid point about the lack of darker skin tones in both states, he ignores the fact that both Iowa and New Hampshire are diverse in other ways - like in economics. Skin color isn’t the only measure of “diversity.” Personally, I hate it when politicos get obsessed with skin color as if it should be a measuring stick for access to power or, that somehow, folks who are not people of color can’t relate to the trials and tribulations of our nation’s minority populations.
The interests of the DNC are not necessarily the interests of the voters when setting their calendar. This is clear from the previous results of commissions and DNC chairmen who have set the primaries up to be front-loaded - with the false impression that getting an early winner would allow that winner to compete more aggressively and, eventually, win. The DNC is interested in winning back the White House - not necessarily setting up a calendar of primaries which empowers voters and people into making the best decisions for the party. Levin’s relevance is to remove New Hampshire from the picture; just as Shaheen’s is to preserve our role. The goal of the commission, however, shouldn’t be to strip Iowa and New Hampshire of our status. It should be to set a calendar that creates a primary and caucus schedule that allows as many states as possible to have the retail political experience.
But it isn’t just the calendar that matters. It is also the media and the candidates who decide how long a campaign should be waged and whether other states have a role in participating.
In 2004, I thought most of the candidates quit too early. By the end of February, most were gone. Two of the candidates - Sen. Bob Graham and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun - quit before a vote was even cast. Another candidate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who could have waged a more relevant campaign had he not “changed his mind” on abortion and ran as a pro-life Democrat, stayed true to his message to the very end, giving his voters a reason to go to the polls, even though he was never going to win the presidency [As an aside, Kucinich did score some pretty good numbers in late contests - 26 percent in Alaska, 17 percent in Minnesota, 12 percent in Colorado, 12 percent in North Carolina, 10 percent in Kansas - it just wasn’t enough to make much difference - or even win many delegates].
Other candidates could have stayed in longer or forged alliances to beat the clearly unelectable John Kerry. There was a point in mid- to late-February where the Howard Dean and John Edwards forces needed to have a serious sit down - not the one they did have which led to nothing. Dean had amassed a number of super delegates and Edwards was surging as the Kerry alternative. The two of them together could have led to a stronger ticket than the Kerry fronted ticket. Imagine, no Swift Boats, no Massachusetts liberal [especially if Dean was VP], very little flip-flopping. Edwards would’ve easily beaten President Bush in the debates and Dean would have easily beaten Dick Cheney. It would have been a stronger ticket, Ralph Nader still would have only been a minor footnote, and the Democrats would have been stronger going into the final election.
Then, there is the media, which has done a pretty poor job of covering the candidates in the past. Gone are the days of relatively thorough, and decent coverage of the candidates; in are the days where a candidate’s howling at a campaign event is repeated over and over again to the point of personal destruction. It's not like he was tagging an intern or anything. There is also the issue of the Washington, DC cocktail crowd who always seem to manage to wreck everything with their pomposity and arrogance.
Another point: While there has been a lot of testimony by Democrats to the committee, the one thing missing - so far - is any response from non-insiders who might have interesting ideas about how to fix the system. Almost everyone on the panel is either an elected official [or former elected official] or some sort of party hack - for lack of a better term. I guess the regular watchers of the process will have to leave our comments to columns and remarks made on radio talk shows.