Friday, April 01, 2005

Cal Thomas: St. Theresa Schiavo

Cal Thomas (archive)
March 31, 2005

Theresa "Terri" Schiavo, who was confined to a hospital bed, unable to speak and condemned to death by federal courts that refused to intervene to save her life, has been transported to a new life where she will be able to communicate in a powerful new way. She will quickly become a saint to the pro-life movement as well as a metaphor for what is wrong with our federal and many state courts. Possibly her death might add momentum to President Bush's quest to get judges confirmed who believe in the fundamental right to life for all categories of human existence, instead of judicial freelancers who speak of a "living Constitution" even while they arrogantly preside over a prejudicial reading of that document and sentence new categories of life to death.

While opinion polls showed overwhelming majorities in favor of "pulling the plug" on Terri Schiavo, it appears that despite extensive coverage of her condition, many Americans did not fully comprehend significant details of this case or fully appreciate where it will lead.

This will not be the end of such cases, but the beginning, or more accurately, a continuation on the line of death that began in the womb in 1973 with Roe v. Wade and will now quickly advance toward the "retirement" villages. The angel of death that moved through ancient Egypt at the first Passover was called "the destroyer." Our courts are his modern incarnation.

No life is safe because every life now depends on the whims, desires, comfort level and pleasure of others. From an "endowed" right to life, we have quickly moved to a court-imputed right to die. Increasingly we do not speak of life at all, but death. America truly is, as the suffering Pope John Paul II has described it, a "culture of death."

In the immediate aftermath of her death, there was a dispute between the Schindler and Schiavo families about access to Terri in her final moments. When the focus is on death and not life, it is difficult to detect common decency's pulse.

In commenting on Terri's death, President Bush, who signed legislation that attempted to keep her alive, said, "The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak." Duty? Who speaks of such things today? Didn't Michael Schiavo have a duty to protect his wife instead of abandoning her and fathering two children by a woman to whom he was not married? How sick is that? Had Terri been given an MRI or PET scan that proved she was effectively "brain dead," the controversy might have ended.

This case will serve as a rallying cry for pro-lifers and other social conservatives. Expect "Remember Terri Schiavo" bumper stickers to appear soon. Expect conservative Republicans to make her death part of the campaign to win approval of federal judges. Watch liberal Democrats squirm, though some of them voted, along with conservatives, for the bill granting power to the federal courts to consider Terri's case. That judges refused to save her, or even grant a hearing to consider new facts, is another blot on the federal judiciary. It is a stain that won't be removed until those responsible are replaced.

There is another possibility. What if the polls are right and the public sees the removal of Terri's feeding tube as an act of mercy and not murder? What then? In that case, we will know that the problem is not at the top - with judges and politicians - but in ourselves. We will see that our leadership merely reflects the secret desires of most hearts to worship the god of materialism, personal peace and pleasure. In that case, we will be getting our just deserts as courts - at the urging of relatives wishing to preserve their inheritance or be relieved of "burdens"- dispatch the angel of death to more of us who are not ready to die.

Meanwhile, "St. Theresa" speaks. How many will hear? As singer Don McLean put it in another context: "They would not listen, they're not listening still; perhaps they never will."

©2005 Tribune Media Services
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John Kass: Beware of Letting the Unacceptable Become the Norm

Published April 1, 2005
The Chicago Tribune

Terri Schiavo died of forced starvation and dehydration in a nation that keeps telling itself it protects the helpless.It took almost two weeks to kill her, finally, by denying her food and water.

And make no mistake. She didn't "pass on." She wasn't "taken." She may have "found peace," but these are passive terms. What happened to her was active. She was killed.

She was actively denied food and water for 13 days, her cells dying, until she was pronounced dead at 9:05 a.m. Thursday.

I suppose that no matter which side of this you're on, you'll have questions. Those of you who think she should have died will wonder: When will people like me ever shut up about this?

And those of us on the other side will wonder which disability will next be judged as not affording an adequate quality of life? Whose lives are worthy?

But there is another question that won't let go of me: How did we get to this place, where we've come to accept what was done to Terri Schiavo?

What was once horrible has now become acceptable, familiar the way a landscape becomes familiar. No matter how gruesome or spectacular, over time you become used to it. Eventually, you can walk through it without feeling any need to comment.

And that's what's being urged now, a general consensus forming by those who don't want to hear complaints, that it's time to be silent about Schiavo, that we shouldn't give offense, that we should accept her death as inevitable, perhaps rationalize her death as a blessing.

Just as the announcement came over the radio that Schiavo had died, I was reading a compelling column by John Leo in the current edition of U.S. News and World Report about bioethics and how its practitioners have encouraged us to accept the monstrous.

He quoted Rev. Richard Neuhaus, editor of the religious journal First Things. Here is the Neuhaus quote, and I hope to memorize it:"Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptional."

I'm not a flat-worlder. I don't believe dinosaur bones were left behind by demons to confuse us. Galileo Galilei should never have been forced to recant. But just think of what we've been confronted with and asked to accept in a handful of years:Designer babies. And choosing the sex of the child. The use of human embryos in medical research to benefit and perhaps one day perpetuate the lives of larger, more powerful human beings. And cloning, which will bring questions about mining another being's organs, and who lives, and who dies.

Some of it is here, and some of it is almost here. It is rushing at us. Setting the science aside, our collective attitude toward it all--what we're willing to accept--suggests a profound change in the way we think of our humanity. And what worries me is that I don't think we're ready for it, or that we want to prepare ourselves for what's coming as these attitudes change.

It's easier to have the argument framed for us, as the argument about Schiavo was framed, that it was her right to die, that the federal government should not intrude on such a private family matter, and that families help their terminally ill and suffering loved ones die every day.

Put it that way, and I might agree.

But she was not in pain. She was not suffering from cancer. She was not terminally ill with some other disease. She was not on an artificial respirator. She had severe brain damage, but there were questions as to whether she possessed some brain function.

She had parents and siblings who wanted to care for her and provide the basics, like food and water. She was helpless, like a baby.

And now many accept euthanasia, through the killing of this human being on the grounds that hers wasn't a life worth living, if it was a life, as those who support her husband's right to have her killed believe. In this, we've become the Spartans. They threw their disabled and infirm children on the rocks to die.

I don't wish to anger you, if you're one of those who disagree and think that the brain-damaged woman was a vegetable, although comparing her to a vegetable was a way of dehumanizing her and making her easier to kill. I'm not looking forward to offending you, or to being called arrogant, or intolerant, or ignorant of my own faith.

Still, it is probably best that we've been angry on all sides of this, angry and loud. This is about life and death and the quality of life and who decides what constitutes a life worth living. It would be terrible if we were polite and restrained. The silence would be horrible.

It is the center of what Neuhaus said that has concerned me for years. We've been primed by reasonable argument to accept what was once absolutely unacceptable, like the killing of Terri Schiavo.
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Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune

Pat Buchanan: The Execution of Terri Schiavo

April 1, 2005

Terri Schiavo is dead. She did not die a natural death, unless you believe a court order to cut off food and water to a disabled woman until she dies of starvation and thirst is natural.

No, Terri Schiavo was executed by the state of Florida. Her crime? She was so mentally disabled as to be unworthy of life in the judgment of Judge George Greer. The execution was carried out at Woodside Hospice. An autopsy will reveal that Terri's vital organs shut down for lack of food and water. She did not die of the brain damage she suffered 15 years ago. She was put to death. We have crossed a watershed in America.

Michael Schiavo's argument that Greer found compelling was that this is what Terri wanted and she had told him so, though Michael never mentioned this until eight years after she was disabled.

Did Terri, at 26, really tell the man to whom she swore lifelong fidelity to find a way to kill her if she became handicapped? Is that what she had in mind when they pledged to stand by each other "in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part"?

Was Terri that different from her mom, dad, brother and sister, who fought with all they had to keep her alive so they could take care of her for all the years she had left? Why, one wonders, did this severely handicapped woman fight for two weeks against the dying of the light?

America is a great country because she is good country, and if ever she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great, Alexis de Toqueville is quoted as saying. Are we that America today? Are we the same kind of people? Would the country we grew up in have done this to a disabled woman?

Hubert Humphrey, a passionate liberal, once said, "The moral test of government is how (it) treats those who are in the dawn of life ... those who are in the twilight of life ... and those who are in the shadows of life."

In America, three in 10 in the dawn of life never see the light of day. They are destroyed in the womb because their very existence embarrasses or would encumber their parents. In the twilight of life, we have begun to provide our elderly ill with the means of assisted suicide. In Europe, euthanasia has become involuntary in some nursing homes. In the shadows of life -- the sick, the needy, the handicapped -- there is now in this land we once called "God's country" a chance the state will put you to death.

The motivations of the good folks praying for Terri outside the hospice one can understand. The motives of her parents one can understand. Even the motives of Michael Schiavo one can understand. He wants to be rid of Terri to start a new life with his new family.

What is inexplicable is why he did not get a divorce and let her go. What is inexplicable is the behavior of the media talking heads, who seemed so desperately anxious that the judge's ruling not be reversed and that Terri die. Why were they so pro-death?

One must not interfere in a family decision, they say. But these are the same folks who always demand interference if a father takes a belt to discipline his 14-year-old delinquent son.

This is what Terri would have wanted, they say. We have no right to interfere. But what Terri would have wanted is unclear and in dispute. And if there is disagreement, why not come down on the side of life? Why come down on the side of death, which is final and forever? Why were so many progressives on the side of death for Terri Schiavo?

Conservatives are hypocrites, they charge. The Right opposes judicial activism and preaches states' rights. But in Terri's case, the Right clamored for judicial activism and rejected states' rights.

But this is absurd. The judicial activist in Terri's case is Greer, who sentenced a brain-damaged woman to death by starvation and dehydration. If this is not judicial activism, in violation of a citizen's right to life, due process of law, and not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, what is?

And what is there left to say about that angel of death, the American Civil Liberties Union? As Nat Hentoff writes, the ACLU, "which would be passionately criticizing state court decisions and demanding due process if Terri were a convict on death row, has shamefully served as co-counsel for her husband, Michael Schiavo, in his insistent desire to have her die."

But whose rights were in mortal peril here? Why was the ACLU not at the door of that hospice, denouncing Greer the way it would be at the door of a penitentiary denouncing Jeb Bush, if the ACLU even suspected an innocent man was being put to death?

We have turned a sad page in the history of America's decline.

© 2005 Creators Syndicate

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Bridget Johnson: Red Dusk

Red Dusk
It's time Hollywood gave up its love affair with communism.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
The Wall Street Journal

HOLLYWOOD--Considering how steeped in elitism last month's Academy Awards were--with "lesser" winners forced to stay back in their aisles or dutifully line up on stage, thus robbing them of a once-in-a-lifetime trip down the aisle--Hollywood sure has embraced communism with open arms.

In a town where antiwar activism is hot, a militant icon is even hotter: "The Motorcycle Diaries," a saintly portrayal of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in his early days, executive produced by Robert Redford and the toast of the Sundance Film Festival, won the Oscar for best song. "Al Otro Lado del Rio" was sung onstage by Antonio Banderas, accompanied by Carlos Santana--clad in the ubiquitous Che T-shirt that has become the brand of wannabe suburban revolutionaries.

Now that "Motorcycle" has ridden into the awards sunset--ironically, considering the nature of communism, also picking up two Independent Spirit Awards--the sequel to Che canonization is on the horizon. Filming is scheduled to start later this year on "Che," a Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic") vehicle starring Benicio del Toro as the famed Marxist. The plot line as listed on the Internet Movie Database: "An epic about Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, who fought for the people."

Wait, there's more. IMDb lists another movie titled "Che" currently filming, written and directed by Josh Evans, son of Ali McGraw. If one can assume that Sonia Braga's "Celia" character is Guevara's mother, are we in store for another innocent, youthful portrayal of the guerrilla in "The Tricycle Diaries"?

Annoying as the Che adulation is, a recent comment by a 14-year-old on an online movie message board was truly disturbing: "I just saw The Motorcycle Diaries, which further made me question: Why is communism bad? . . . Young people are told how bad communism is, but we are not told why. . . . The Motorcycle Diaries showed me how Ernesto Guevara wanted to help people. . . . But this did not explain why he was such a 'bad' person and apparently deserved to be murdered by the U.S."

Is this a legacy of dangerous ignorance that the makers of "Che" wish to continue? Might this teen be taught that the product of Guevara and Castro's "revolution" is a nation whose inhabitants still risk their lives to escape--and an estimated one-third die trying? A nation where neighbor spies on neighbor, where dissent lands one in the clink--or worse--and persecution is punishment for everything from religion to homosexuality?

What feature films have showed the true nature of communism? There was "The Killing Fields," showing families torn apart, cities emptied, forced labor, bones littering the Cambodian landscape. Adding to the authenticity was its star, Oscar-winner and real-life survivor Haing S. Ngor, who would have been summarily executed had his intellectual background been discovered by the Khmer Rouge. As a cinematic achievement, it ranks as one of the best films of all time. As a historical testament, it shows that communism had nothing to do with betterment of the masses but stripped away everything that comprised the individual. Though this film should be required high-school viewing, not much else springs to mind that could counter the effects of pro-Marxist cinema.

I'll bet the big studio execs have never thought--or cared--to do a big-screen adaptation of "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression," by Stephane Courtois, et al. The book's 1997 publishing in France touched off a firestorm of controversy--mostly from offended French commies--and it stands as an astonishing comprehensive account of what this political ideology has wreaked on mankind in less than a century. The film version of this 800-plus-page account would be excruciatingly long and painful--too long for a 32-ounce soda and too nauseating for popcorn. So since Hollywood is all about franchises now anyway, the book could be adapted into several movies, each covering a corner of the globe and that region's own unique suffering under communism.

How about a film on the Soviet Union, beginning with Lenin and the 1917 revolution, droning on to Stalin's purges with hundreds of thousands executed by firing squad, and millions forced from their homes or carted off to labor camps? We'd see Soviet bloc countries strangled under communist rule, Berlin divided with concrete and snipers, Nicolae Ceausescu destroying historic Bucharest. We'd see Soviet terror exported with the scorched-earth policy in Afghanistan.

Red China would make a stellar film that lacks a happy ending--for now. Viewers would see Mao Tse-tung turn the colorful Chinese culture into a gray, bleak "worker's paradise" steeped in hunger and executions. We'd see the Great Leap Forward to devastating famine, murder and destruction in Tibet, women forced to abort their children, and the blood of student demonstrators spilled on Tiananmen Square. Complete the Asian film series with the "re-education" by terror in North Vietnam, the Maoist insurgency in Nepal that has killed thousands, and the hellish nightmare that is North Korea.

Some brilliant young director would have to tackle Africa's woes under communism, such as the starvation in Ethiopia under Mengistu Haile Mariam. And we can't forget the Latin American films, highlighting Peru's Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorists. And, of course, add a stark motion picture on the fall of Cuba--to be directed by anyone but Oliver Stone--that, though bloody and tragic, can end on a slightly lighter note (and an ovation) with Fidel Castro's fall down the stairs last October.

It seems in all of these dark films there would be no room for heroes, but there are more than could fill the Kodak Theatre and its exclusive stage: the boat people who have courted death to flee from Cuba and Vietnam, Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement, Vaclav Havel and his cohorts in the Velvet Revolution, the Hungarian resistance fighters who valiantly tried to keep the Soviets at bay in 1956, those who tried to find any way across the Berlin Wall, a lone man who blocked a column of advancing tanks in Tiananmen Square during 1989's democracy protests.

Villains would include--you guessed it--Che Guevara, whose legacy includes both ordering and conducting executions and founding forced labor camps. "Guevara . . . quickly gain[ed] a reputation for ruthlessness; a child in his guerrilla unit who had stolen a little food was immediately shot without trial," writes Pascal Fontaine in "The Black Book." Guevara also wrote in his diary about executing peasant Eutimio Guerra, a suspected informant, with a single .32-caliber shot to the head. Guevara, in his will, praised the "extremely useful hatred that turns men into effective, violent, merciless, and cold killing machines." He tried to spread the havoc caused by the Cuban revolution in other countries from Africa to South America, rallying for "two, three, many Vietnams!"

Guevara oversaw executions at La Cabana prison; some of those executed were his former comrades who wouldn't relinquish their democratic beliefs. "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary," he said. He didn't assuage his barbarity by being a brilliant statesman, either, helping drive the economy to ruin as head of Cuba's central bank and minister of industries. "Though claiming to despise money," writes Fontaine, "he lived in one of the rich, private areas of Havana." Guevara told a British reporter after the Cuban Missile Crisis that the nukes would have been fired if they were under Cuban control--which would have wasted all of those future American suburban revolutionary wannabes.

Since "The Motorcycle Diaries" got an "R" rating for language, many teens missed out on the rosy, heroic portrayal of young Che saving a leper colony. But don't expect the MPAA judgment to get lighter for any of these proposed movies about the real toll of communism. The death count will surpass that of all "Rambo" flicks--nearly 100 million dead through the 20th century. Yes, it would stretch the boundaries of Hollywood's tidy "R" rating. But being impaled by a Bolshevik isn't pretty
Ms. Johnson is a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. Her blog is

Terri Schiavo: May She Rest in Peace, in the Company of Christ and All His Saints

A blackness has settled over the land as Terri Schiavo has passed on. The forces of evil do not rest. Who among the weak and helpless shall be next? St. John wrote "The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it." Therein lies our Hope and our Salvation...good will vanquish evil. Until then, war must be waged.

Thanks be to God for sending His only Son to die on the Cross so that we might be saved from despair and destruction. All praise to our Lord who was slain but has risen from the dead so that we may that the battle may be won.

Our prayers are with Terri and all of those who cared and fought for her...especially her parents.

From the blog of Touchstone Magazine,

March 31, 2005
Robert George on Terri Schiavo

Some readers may have wondered, as we have, what Robert George, a senior editor of Touchstone and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, is thinking about what we as a nation have done to Terri Schiavo. National Review Online published this interview with George, Always to Care, Never to Kill, on Tuesday.
Posted by Kenneth Tanner at 08:19 AM Permalink TrackBack (0)

Terri Schiavo & the Innocent Who Suffer

Kallistos Ware, an Eastern Orthodox bishop from England, took his Chicago audience on a tour of the Book of Job Tuesday evening that brought us face-to-face with the mystery of suffering. In Job we see someone who sufferes innocently and through that experience is granted an intercessory role—Job now may pray on behalf of his comforters, who in the end had nothing to say.

Only the experience of the divine presence resolves Job’s dilemma. But there is comfort in the fact that Job does not speak into a void, that God in fact responds to him, even if he does not explain his ways—he still enters into dialogue with Job, who prefers to repent and no longer speak. In just this way God, according to Hebrews 1:1, speaks to us now, not through the words of prophets, but by the very life of his Son, who like Job, suffered in innocence. Hebrews portrays Christ as the supreme intercessor, foreshadowed by Job, and also as the one who actually faced our temptations and lived among us, God-in-the-flesh who does not explain evil and suffering so much as accompany us through it.

In this light, there is little to be said in explaining the death of Terri Schiavo, whose name was mentioned on Tuesday night in the Q & A afterwards on suffering. All present, I believe, felt a solidarity with her and her family, and the prayers offered for the suffering included her most assuredly.

Terri Schiavo died today as a result of many forces beyond her control and the control of her parents, ultimately. The threads of some of these forces likely go back into recesses of time beyond our grasp. Given some of the statements of those who favored her death, it would seem also that some of the forces were truly aligned with the powers against which we struggle that are not flesh and blood.

We cannot view her death as a victory for evil, which in some way it certainly is, but as an opportunity in that it shows more clearly the grip that the culture of death holds on our society. We must continue to speak for life whatever the cost. If one needs motivation to do so, I cannot think of one better than the fate of Terri Schiavo. In the end, though, it is the faith of Job that sustains us, the faith that “my Redeemer lives.” Terri has left the hands of her abusers for the company of the One who touched the leper, placed his hands on the eyes of the blind, set his fingers upon the ears of the deaf, and called forth Lazarus from the day of corruption. If He did that among us before His Passion, then what He is capable of after His Resurrection must be beyond what we can even imagine.
Terri Schiavo, may she rest in peace, in the company of Christ and all his saints.

Posted by James M. Kushiner at 07:56 AM Permalink TrackBack (0)

Marc A. Thiessen: The Blessed Sounds of Silence

March 31, 2005, 11:19 a.m.
The Blessed Sounds of Silence
Pope John Paul II, teacher.
By Marc A. Thiessen

For the first time in his 26-year pontificate, Pope John Paul II failed to come to his window Easter Monday, unable to deliver even a silent blessing to the crowd in St. Peter's Square. The day before, he did appear with an Easter Sunday address in hand — but when he opened his mouth, he was unable to speak. A tearful crowd watched as he tried repeatedly, in obvious pain, to deliver his prepared blessing, before slumping back into his chair — banging his fist in clear frustration.

But the pilgrims gathered at St. Peter's — and millions more watching across the world — received greater spiritual nourishment from his silent Easter witness than they ever could have from the text of his remarks. They know that, far from burdening on the Church, this time when John Paul is physically weakest may well be the greatest of his papacy. Here is why: The principal task of the pope is not the effective management of the Church bureaucracy — it is to serve as an effective witness for Christ in the world. John Paul does this more eloquently today, through his silent suffering, than he ever did with words. It does not really matter if he can use his voice intelligibly — or at all. By carrying on, despite his afflictions, he stands as a living rebuke to our utilitarian culture — and a living witness to the value of every life, especially the elderly and infirm.

In carrying on, John Paul also offers us a precious gift: his suffering. It is hard to see him suffer. But this pope does not ask for relief from his sufferings. To the contrary, a bishop once told me that the pope used to refuse medication precisely because it interfered with his suffering. He has a mystical relationship with his suffering, offering it up for us, and for the whole world — a world that increasingly embraces the culture of death, euthanasia, and the abortion of disabled fetuses, because it mistakenly believes there is no greater moral good than relief from suffering. In bearing his pain, John Paul says to us, in union with the Apostle Paul, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." We need his example in this world filled with suffering. We need the lesson he is teaching us: that suffering is not useless; that it can have meaning, and salvific power.

As John Paul wrote in his 1984 encyclical On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, once this meaning and power are discovered, suffering actually becomes "a source of joy" because "faith in sharing the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering serving, like Christ, the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service."

It was one thing to hear such words delivered eleven years ago by a vigorous John Paul — the avid outdoorsman who loved to ski and climb mountains. It is quite another to see these words lived by a suffering John Paul, who has been forced by age and infirmity to give up such beloved pursuits — and who now struggles simply to say a Mass or deliver a homily. Today, as he struggles on, John Paul infuses a quarter-century of teaching with new credibility — and new meaning.

In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote, "You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not just writing books about it....I will tell you; I am a great coward." Most of us are. So our world needs this struggling pope, who inspires millions of frail and elderly people. We need his example, which affirms the continuing value of every human person who feels isolated by illness and abandoned by a society. And we need to be reminded that we all have responsibilities to the weakest among us — to help them live in dignity, and to value the gift of their presence, whatever their condition, at every stage of their lives.In that encyclical over a decade ago, the Holy Father said this about the suffering of others: "When the body is gravely ill, totally incapacitated, and the person is almost incapable of living and acting, all the more do interior maturity and spiritual greatness become evident, constituting a touching lesson to those who are healthy and normal."

Today, as his own body grows increasingly incapacitated, and as he becomes less capable of living and acting, it is John Paul's spiritual greatness that is becoming all the more evident — and he is teaching the world anew. How blessed we are to have such a teacher in our midst; to receive the precious gift of his suffering; and to be living witnesses to what may one day be considered the greatest days of the greatest papacy in history. John Paul was once asked why he does not retire, and is said to have given this reply: "Because Christ did not come down from the Cross." The Lord will take him from us when He is ready. 'Til then, give us this silent pope.

— Marc A. Thiessen is a writer in Washington.

Ann Coulter: The Emperor's New Robes

By Ann Coulter
March 31, 2005

On the bright side, after two weeks of TV coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, I think we have almost all liberals in America on record saying we can pull the plug on them. Of course, if my only means of entertainment were Air America radio, Barbra Streisand albums and reruns of "The West Wing," I too would be asking: "What kind of quality of life is this?"

There are a few glaring exceptions. On the anti-killing side, to one extent or another, are: former Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis, former Gore lawyer David Boies, former O.J. lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, McGovern and Carter strategist Pat Caddell, liberal blogger Mickey Kaus, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Rainbow Coalition leader Jesse Jackson, as well as several of my friends who are pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage but not Pro-Adulterous Husbands Who, After Taking Up With Another Woman, Suddenly Recall Their Wives' Clearly Stated Wish to Die.

Opinions about the Schiavo case seem to break down less on morals than on basic knowledge of the facts of the case.

There are a lot of telling facts, but two big ones are:

- The only family member lobbying for Terri's death is her husband, who is affianced to a woman he's been living with for several years and with whom he already has two children. (Today's brain twister: Would you rather be O.J.'s girlfriend or Michael Schiavo's fiancee?)

- Terri's husband has refused to allow her to be given either an MRI or a PET scan, which are also known as: "The tests that could determine whether Terri is even in a permanent vegetative state." (I believe his exact words were, "PET scan? MRI? What do I look like, a guy who just won a $1 million malpractice settlement?")

On the basis of these facts, Pinellas County Judge George Greer found that it was Terri's wish to be starved to death. She requires no life support; all she needs is food and water. If being (a) on a liquid diet, and (b) unresponsive to one's estranged husband are now considered grounds for a woman's execution, wait until this news hits Beverly Hills!

Greer made his finding based on the testimony of Terri's husband that Terri said she wouldn't want to live like this – a rather important fact the husband only remembered many years after Terri was first injured, but one year after he won a million-dollar malpractice award and began living with another woman. (Maybe when Terri said, "I wouldn't want to live like that" she was referring to being married to Michael Schiavo.)

Supporting the idea that positions on the Schiavo case are correlated with IQ, on the pro-killing side is Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., who denounced the legislation granting federal courts jurisdiction over Terri's case, saying the Republican Party "has become a party of theocracy." Yes, you remembered correctly: The House passed the bill overwhelmingly in a 203-58 vote, and the Senate passed it in a voice vote also with overwhelming support. (Surely, if anyone would defend the practice of being on a liquid diet, you'd think Ted Kennedy would.)

Also on the pro-killing side are conservatives still pissed off about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 who are desperately hoping to be elected "most consistent constitutionalist" by their local Federalist Society chapters.

You can't grow peanuts on your own land or install a toilet capable of disposing two tissues in one flush because of federal government intervention. But Congress demands a review of the process that goes into a governmental determination to kill an innocent American woman – and that goes too far!

It's not a radical extension of current constitutional doctrines – even the legitimate ones! – for the federal government to assert a constitutional right to life that cannot be denied without due process of law under the Fifth and 14th Amendments. Congress didn't ask for much, just the same due process John Wayne Gacy got.

But people even stupider than lawyers have picked up on the vague rumblings from "most consistent constitutionalist" aspirants and begun to claim that Congress' action is an affront to "limited government."

Of course, the most limited of all possible governments is a king. We don't have that sort of "limited government." What we have is divided government: three branches of government at the federal level and 50 states with their own versions of checks and balances.
Or at least that was the government designed for us by men smarter than we are. We haven't had that sort of government for decades.

Alexander Hamilton's famous last words in "The Federalist" described the judiciary as the "least dangerous branch," because it had neither force nor will. Now the judiciary is the most dangerous branch. It doesn't need force because it has smoke and mirrors and a lot of people defending the moronic scribblings of any judge as the perfect efflorescence of "the rule of law."
This week, an indisputably innocent woman will be killed by the government for one reason: Judge Greer of Pinellas County, Fla., ordered it.

Polls claim that a majority of Americans objected to action by the U.S. Congress in the Schiavo case as "government intrusion" into a "private family matter" – as if Judge Greer is not also the government. So twisted is our view of the judiciary that a judicial decree is treated like a naturally occurring phenomenon, like a rainbow or an act of God.

Our infallible, divine ruler is a county judge in Florida named George Greer, who has more authority in America than the U.S. Congress, the president and the governor. No wonder the Southern Baptist Church threw Greer out: Only one god per church!

It's a good system if you like monarchy and legally sanctioned murder. But spare me the paeans to "strict constructionism" and "limited government."

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Michelle Malkin: The ACLU vs. America

30 March 2005

On April Fool's Day, the American Civil Liberties Union will show us what a joke its commitment to American civil liberties really is.

April 1st, in case you haven't heard, is the launch of the Minuteman Project, an all-volunteer effort by law-abiding American citizens to call attention to the nation's wide open southern border. Hundreds of Americans from New York to Michigan to California will travel down to the U.S.-Mexico border for a month to monitor illegal aliens and alert immigration enforcement officials if they witness law-breaking.

Call it the mother of all neighborhood watch programs.

In doing so, the Minutemen will be exercising their constitutionally-protected freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Those would be fundamental civil liberties found in something called the, uh, First Amendment, of which the ACLU is supposed to be the foremost expert and champion. Or so the group and its celebrity supporters say. In sanctimonious new fund-raising ad campaigns, the organization features the likes of liberal actress Holly Hunter, who asks:

"Do you want to be heard without fear? I am not an American who believes that questioning or criticizing my government is unpatriotic."

Uh-huh. "Dissent is patriotic," the Left likes to preach. Except, apparently, if the questioning and criticizing deals with the government's abject failure to enforce immigration laws. Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist has been harassed by open-borders activists at his home. The group is reportedly being targeted by savage illegal alien gangsters from Mara Salvatrucha (a.k.a. MS-13). Mexican government officials are lobbying American law enforcement officials to suppress the Minutemen's rights to speak and assemble.

But instead of coming to the defense of the Minutemen who are challenging our government, the ACLU has warned the 1,000 volunteers that it will send monitors to document the Americans' activities. Moreover, the ACLU has already threatened lawsuits against the American dissenters for exercising their rights.

This bullying of pro-immigration enforcement activists comes as no surprise to those of us who have followed the ACLU's aggressive open-borders agenda — from its support for driver's licenses for illegal aliens, to its opposition to detaining illegal alien terror suspects after 9/11 and profiling foreign visitors from terror-friendly countries, to its efforts to stop local and state law enforcement officers from helping federal homeland security efforts.

ACLU spokesman Ray Ybarra argues that the mere presence of the Minutemen at the border constitutes "unlawful imprisonment" of illegal (excuse me "undocumented") aliens (excuse me, "migrants"). Ybarra told the Washington Times that the ACLU will have lawyers on standby ready to file civil cases against the volunteers. He warned that the Minutemen could "come to our state as 'vigilantes' and end up leaving as 'defendants.'"

The Minutemen have made it clear on their web site and in repeated statements that they "will not violate anyone's civil rights, and will not abuse anyone from any country…We will alert border patrol to the location of illegals, and wait for [the Border Patrol] to come and pick them up. We will follow illegal aliens from a distance and continue spotting them until authorities answer our cell phone and/or back-pack radio calls. All spotting, calls for assistance, and the response from the appropriate authorities will be chronicled and provided to any media representative."

Contrary to the ACLU and mainstream media representations of the group as racists and immigrant-bashers, the Minutemen are a diverse volunteer group that includes Americans of Mexican, Armenian, Russian, Lebanese, Indian, and Cuban descent; and black and Native American minorities. Also among the volunteers are 19 legal immigrants from Mexico, Peru, Russia, New Zealand, England, Australia, and the Philippines.

By recklessly linking the Minutemen to white separatists and casting them as outlaws, the civil liberties crowd engages in the very guilt-by-association smear tactics it has so loudly condemned. And in putting the protection of illegal aliens' rights over law-abiding Americans' civil liberties, the ACLU demonstrates which side of the border its true allegiances lie.

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JWR contributor Michelle Malkin is the author of, most recently, "In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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Nat Hentoff: Judicial Barbarism May End in Horrific Death

Nat Hentoff
28 March 2005

Florida Circuit Court Judge George Greer has again ordered the removal of 41-year-old Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. As of this writing, attempts by the Republican Congressional leadership and some Democrats are being made to save her, through the courts, but the odds are long. If she dies of dehydration and starvation, this grave injustice can affect the rights of many disabled Americans who do not have clearly written directives as to their treatment when they can no longer speak their wishes.

The fundamental issue in Terri's case is disability rights — not the right to die. Throughout all the extensive media coverage of the case, there has been only slight mention — usually none at all — that nearly every major disability rights organization has filed legal briefs to prevent what they and I regard as judicial murder. The protests are not only from pro-lifers and the Christian Right.

Schiavo — who collapsed in 1990 from what may have been a potassium imbalance that temporarily stopped her heart and cut oxygen to her brain — has never been comatose, brain dead or in a persistent vegetative state (despite what some physicians have stated — and others have denied). She is responsive not only to her parents, brother and sister, but also when a new lawyer comes into the room — she turns, as she hears an unfamiliar voice. I have statements from people who have seen her and whose credibility I have reason to trust, as to her unmistakable responsiveness beyond mere reflexes.

She has not been attached to any machines — only to a small feeding tube by which she is fed three times a day.

The primary judge in her case, George Greer, has steadfastly found "clear and convincing evidence" to support the contention of her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, that before she collapsed in 1990, she said she would not want to continue to live in the state she's been in for 15 years. The only source for this claim is Michael Schiavo and two of his relatives. However, one of Terri's best friends, Diane Christine Meyer, has testified in court that Terri told her forcefully she would, indeed, want to live if she could no longer express her wishes. Judge Greer discounted the testimony.

As to Michael Schiavo's credibility, he has long been living with another woman, with whom he's had two children. He has forbidden therapy or rehabilitation for Terri since 1991, or any further tests since 1993. Terri has never even had an MRI or PET scan, let alone a complete neurological examination. As Republican majority leader, Dr. Bill Frist, who has had experience with disabled patients, said of Judge George Greer on the Senate floor:
"A Florida judge has ruled that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state. This same judge has denied a request for new testing and examinations of Terri by independent and qualified medical professionals. As a doctor, this troubles me. All the more so when the attorney for Terri's parents submitted 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals that Terri should be re-evaluated." And a number of them believe that, with new tests and therapy, she may indeed improve.

Researchers supporting Terri allege Michael Schiavo has denied his wife, a Catholic, sacraments (an important rite in that religion), saying he doesn't want her to choke on the Communion wafer (his lawyer denies this). Yet he pressed for the removal of her feeding tube. On March 15, appearing on ABC-TV's "Nightline" in a disgracefully one-sided account of the case that should shame Ted Koppel (who wasn't on the show but was in charge), Michael Schiavo said that without the feeding tube, Terri "will drift off to a nice little sleep and eventually pass on and be with G-d."

In dread fact, Terri faces a horrific death from dehydration. In covering previous cases when feeding tubes have been removed, I've found out how terribly painful this way of dying is for someone like Terri who is not in a persistent vegetative state and can feel: By the eighth day, without water, her liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, esophagus, tongue and eyeballs will swell and begin to crack.

All of her body's organs — by her ninth or 10th day — will have split and cracked. Not long after this agonizing ordeal, she will die.

Complicit in this egregious denial to Terri of due process and equal protection of the law has been the American Civil Liberties Union. It correctly called unconstitutional the Florida legislation pushed through by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 to reinsert the feeding tube because it applied to only one person.

But ever since, the ACLU has supported Michael Schiavo's insistence on putting Terri to death. But it has not shown any awareness of her husband's blatant conflicts of interest — with such results as his withdrawal of therapy and rehabilitation from her.

However, the ACLU would insist that a prison death row inmate receive vastly more civil liberties than Terri Schiavo has from the Florida courts.

As a Feb. 28 letter to the Washington Times from John Sobieski asks: "Who's next? Alzheimer's victims? The elderly in nursing homes? Will we be allowed to do to people what is illegal to do to dogs?"

The courts — and the ignorant coverage by most of the media of this crucial case — have until now appallingly failed Terri Schiavo and the community of the disabled ...

And who knows how may more innocent victims in the years ahead?

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance". Comment by clicking here.

Nat Hentoff Archives

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Ann Coulter: Starved for Justice

By Ann Coulter
March 24, 2005

Democrats have called out armed federal agents in order to: 1) prevent black children from attending a public school in Little Rock, Ark. (National Guard), 2) investigate an alleged violation of federal gun laws in Waco, Texas (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), and 3) deport a small boy to Cuba (Immigration and Naturalization Service).

So how about a Republican governor sending in the National Guard to stop an innocent American woman from being starved to death in Florida? Republicans like the military. Democrats get excited about the use of military force only when it's against Americans.

In two of the three cases mentioned above, the Democrats' use of force was in direct contravention of court rulings. Admittedly, this was a very long time ago – back in U.S. history when the judiciary was only one of the three branches of our government. Democratic Gov. Orval Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard expressly for purposes of defying rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts.

The decadent buffoon Bill Clinton sent armed agents from the INS to seize a small boy from an American family – despite rulings by the majestic and infallible Florida courts granting custody of the boy to that very family.

None of these exercises of military force has gone down in history as a noble moment, but that's because of the underlying purpose of the force, not the fact that force was used.

To the contrary, what has gone down in history as a glorious moment for the republic was when President Dwight Eisenhower (Republican) called out military force of his own. In response to Gov. Faubus' abuse of the National Guard, Eisenhower simultaneously revoked Faubus' control of the National Guard and ordered the 101st Airborne Division to escort black students to school. (Minutes later, Democrats pronounced the Arkansas public schools a "hopeless quagmire" and demanded to know what Ike's exit strategy was.)

As important as it was to enforce the constitutional right to desegregated schools, isn't it also important to enforce Terri Schiavo's right to due process before she is killed by starvation?
Liberals' newfound respect for "federalism" is completely disingenuous. People who support a national policy on abortion are prohibited from ever using the word "federalism."

I note that whenever liberals talk about "federalism" or "states' rights," they are never talking about a state referendum or a law passed by the duly elected members of a state legislature – or anything voted on by the actual citizens of a state. What liberals mean by "federalism" is: a state court ruling. Just as "choice" refers to only one choice, "the rule of law" refers only to "the law as determined by a court."

As a practical matter, courts will generally have the last word in interpreting the law because courts decide cases. But that's a pragmatic point. There is nothing in the law, the Constitution or the concept of "federalism" that mandates giving courts the last word. Other public officials, including governors and presidents, are sworn to uphold the law, too.

It would be chaotic if public officials made a habit of disregarding court rulings simply because they disagreed with them. But a practice borne of practicality has led the courts to greater and greater flights of arrogance. Sublimely confident that no one will ever call their bluff, courts are now regularly discovering secret legal provisions requiring abortion and gay marriage and prohibiting public prayer and Ten Commandments displays.

Just once, we need an elected official to stand up to a clearly incorrect ruling by a court. Any incorrect ruling will do, but my vote is for a state court that has ordered a disabled woman to be starved to death at the request of her adulterous husband.

Florida state court Judge George Greer – last heard from when he denied an order of protection to a woman weeks before her husband stabbed her to death – determined that Terri would have wanted to be starved to death based on the testimony of her husband, who was then living with another woman. (The judge also took judicial notice of the positions of O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson and Robert Blake.) The husband also happened to be the only person present when the oxygen was cut off to Terri's brain in the first place. He now has two children with another woman.

Greer has refused to order the most basic medical tests for brain damage before condemning a woman to death. Despite all those years of important, searching litigation we keep hearing about, Terri has yet to receive either an MRI or a PET scan – although she may be allowed to join a support group for women whose husbands are trying to kill them.

Greer has cut off the legal rights of Terri's real family and made her husband (now with a different family) her sole guardian, citing as precedent the landmark "Fox v. Henhouse" ruling of 1893. Throughout the process that would result in her death sentence, Terri was never permitted her own legal counsel. Evidently, they were all tied up defending the right to life of child-molesting murderers.

Given the country's fetishism about court rulings, this may be a rash assumption, but I presume if Greer had ordered that Terri Schiavo be shot at her husband's request – a more humane death, by the way – the whole country would not sit idly by, claiming to be bound by the court's ruling because of the "rule of law" and "federalism." President Bush would order the FBI to protect her and Gov. Bush would send in the state police.

What was supposed to be the "least dangerous" branch has become the most dangerous – literally to the point of ordering an innocent American woman to die, and willfully disregarding congressional subpoenas. They can't be stopped – solely because the entire country has agreed to treat the pronouncements of former ambulance-chasers as the word of God. The only power courts have is that everyone jumps when they say "jump." (Also, people seem a little intimidated by the black robes. From now on we should make all judges wear lime-green leisure suits.)
President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said of a Supreme Court ruling he opposed: "Well, John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The court's ruling was ignored. And yet, somehow, the republic survived.

If Gov. Jeb Bush doesn't say something similar to the Florida courts that have ordered Terri Schiavo to die, he'll be the second Republican governor disgraced by the illiterate ramblings of a state judiciary. Gov. Mitt Romney will never recover from his acquiescence to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's miraculous discovery of a right to gay marriage. Neither will Gov. Bush if he doesn't stop the torture and murder of Terri Schiavo.

Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).

Dennis Prager: The Case for Judeo-Christian Values, Part IX

Choose Life: The Case for Judeo-Christian Values: Part IX
By Dennis Prager March 29, 2005

There are good people on both sides of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, but chances are that if you affirm Judeo-Christian values, you have opposed pulling the feeding tubes from the severely brain damaged woman's body.

Why? Because if there is anything that Judeo-Christian values stand for, it is choosing life and rejecting death. As the Torah puts it, "I have put before you today life and death, and you shall choose life."

Even believing Jews and Christians are not fully aware of how much the rejection of death-oriented Egypt underlies the values and practices of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible held sacred by Judaism and Christianity.

Egyptian civilization was steeped in death. Its bible was the Book of the Dead, and its greatest monuments, its very symbols, the pyramids, were gigantic tombs. One of the Torah's first tasks was to destroy the connection between civilization (and, of course, religion) and death. That is the reason, I am convinced, for the absence of overt mention of the afterlife in the Old Testament -- it was greatly concerned with getting humanity preoccupied with life. With a few noble exceptions, preoccupation with the afterlife has led to denigration of life. The Islamic terrorists and the cultures that support them are only the most recent examples.

One of the greatest insights of Sigmund Freud, who, his atheism notwithstanding, was perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, was that human beings have a Death Instinct, a death wish that is as strong as the Life Instinct. He wrote this decades before Nazism and the Communist genocides of the 20th century proved his point.

Yet, he was only saying in psychoanalytical terminology what Moses had said in Deuteronomy thousands of years earlier.

The Torah began this transformation with its constant emphasis on rejecting everything Egypt stood for. The ban on eating or even owning bread during the seven days of Passover, the holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt, the central Old Testament event after Creation, was primarily a symbolic rejection of Egypt. As noted in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Egyptians essentially invented bread as we know it. "The Egyptians apparently discovered that allowing wheat doughs to ferment, thus forming gases, produced a light, expanded loaf, and they also developed baking ovens." (Fermented) bread symbolized Egypt as apple pie or hot dogs might represent America. Moreover, fermentation is likened to sin and death in both Jewish and Christian understandings of the Bible.

The Torah also banned Jewish priests from coming into contact with corpses. I know of no other religious system that banned its holiest members from any contact with the dead. This, too, was to separate life -- the role of the priest was to consecrate life -- from death; and most of all, to separate Israelite values from those of Egypt, where priests were regularly involved in religious activities revolving around death.

The Torah's ban on sexual intercourse during menstruation is also a separation of that which represents life (intercourse) from that which represents death (menstruation). Biblically, menstruation had nothing to do with women being "unclean." In fact, nearly the entire body of Torah instruction (found especially in Leviticus, the least known of the Five Books) concerning what is incorrectly translated as "unclean" or "impure" is actually about that which is touched by death. Substitute "touched by death" for "impure" or "unclean," and you will have a far better understanding of the text.

The somewhat better known ban on eating meat together with milk, emanating from the law in the Torah -- stated three times -- that prohibits the boiling of a kid in its mother's milk, is another example of separating life and death. Meat (i.e., a dead mammal) represents death; and milk, the life-giving food of mammals, represents life. (Jewish tradition only later added chicken, a non-mammal, to the list of mammals not to be eaten with milk; and major Talmudic rabbis did eat chicken with milk.)

The biblical and Judeo-Christian transformation of human thinking from death-to life-orientation has been a staggering accomplishment -- even though it has obviously not been entirely successful even in the contemporary Western world. The cavalier attitude about human life expressed among the leading opponents of Judeo-Christian values -- such as PETA, which equates barbecuing chickens with cremating Jews; the Princeton ethicist who believes that parents can commit infanticide under various conditions; those in the non Judeo-Christian West who lack a moral problem with abortion for whatever reason; modern film and art that portray death as kitsch; and the secular culture's contempt for those who call themselves 'pro-life' or believe that Terri Schiavo had a right to live -- are all examples of the contemporary attempt to undo the life wish of Judeo-Christian values and affirm the natural death wish that resides in the human soul.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist and author of four books, including Think a Second Time (HarperCollins), containing 44 of his essays.

Mark Steyn: No Compelling Reason to Kill Terri Schiavo

March 27, 2005

A couple of decades back, north of the border, it was discovered that some overzealous types in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been surreptitiously burning down the barns of Quebec separatists. The prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, shrugged off the controversy and blithely remarked that, if people were so upset by the Mounties illegally burning down barns, perhaps he'd make the burning of barns by Mounties legal. As the columnist George Jonas commented:
''It seemed not to occur to him that it isn't wrong to burn down barns because it's illegal, but it's illegal to burn down barns because it's wrong. Like other statist politicians, Mr. Trudeau . . . either didn't see, or resented, that right and wrong are only reflected by the laws, not determined by them.''
That's how I feel about the Terri Schiavo case. I'm neither a Floridian nor a lawyer, and, for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong.

This is not a criminal, not a murderer, not a person whose life should be in the gift of the state. So I find it repulsive, and indeed decadent, to have her continued existence framed in terms of ''plaintiffs'' and ''petitions'' and ''en banc review'' and ''de novo'' and all the other legalese. Mrs. Schiavo has been in her present condition for 15 years. Whoever she once was, this is who she is now -- and, after a decade and a half, there is no compelling reason to kill her. Any legal system with a decent respect for the status quo -- something too many American judges are increasingly disdainful of -- would recognize that her present life, in all its limitations, is now a well-established fact, and it is the most grotesque judicial overreaching for any court at this late stage to decide enough is enough. It would be one thing had a doctor decided to reach for the morphine and ''put her out of her misery'' after a week in her diminished state; after 15 years, for the courts to treat her like a Death Row killer who's exhausted her appeals is simply vile.

There seems to be a genuine dispute about her condition -- between those on her husband's side, who say she has ''no consciousness,'' and those on her parents' side, who say she is capable of basic, childlike reactions. If the latter are correct, ending her life is an act of murder. If the former are correct, what difference does it make? If she feels nothing -- if there's no there there -- she has no misery to be put out of. That being so, why not err in favor of the non-irreversible option?

The here's-your-shroud-and-what's-your-hurry crowd say, ah, yes, but you uptight conservatives are always boring on about the sanctity of marriage, and this is what her husband wants, and he's legally the next of kin.

Michael Schiavo is living in a common-law relationship with another woman, by whom he has fathered children. I make no judgment on that. Who of us can say how we would react in his circumstances? Maybe I'd pull my hat down over my face and slink off to the cathouse on the other side of town once a week. Maybe I'd embark on a discreet companionship with a lonely widow. But if I take on a new wife (in all but name) and make a new family, I would think it not unreasonable to forfeit any right of life or death over my previous wife.

Michael Schiavo took a vow to be faithful in sickness and in health, forsaking all others till death do them part. He's forsaken his wife and been unfaithful to her: She is, de facto, his ex-wife, yet, de jure, he appears to have the right to order her execution. This is preposterous. Suppose his current common-law partner were to fall victim to a disabling accident. Would he also be able to have her terminated? Can he exercise his spousal rights polygamously? The legal deference to Mr. Schiavo's position, to his rights overriding her parents', is at odds with reality.

As for the worthlessness of Terri Schiavo's existence, some years back I was discussing the death of a distinguished songwriter with one of his old colleagues. My then girlfriend, in her mid-20s, was getting twitchy to head for dinner and said airily, ''Oh, well, he had a good life. He was 87.'' ''That's easy for you to say,'' said his old pal. ''I'm 86.'' To say nobody would want to live in an iron lung or a wheelchair or a neck brace or with third-degree burns over 80 percent of your body is likewise easy for you to say.

We all have friends who are passionate about some activity -- They say, ''I live to ski,'' or dance, or play the cello. Then something happens and they can't. The ones I've known fall into two broad camps: There are those who give up and consider what's left of their lives a waste of time; and there are those who say they've learned to appreciate simple pleasures, like the morning sun through the spring blossom dappling their room each morning. Most of us roll our eyes and think, ''What a loser, mooning on about the blossom. He used to be a Hollywood vice president, for Pete's sake.''

But that's easy for us to say. We can't know which camp we'd fall into until it happens to us. And it behooves us to maintain a certain modesty about presuming to speak for others -- even those we know well. Example: ''Driving down there, I remember distinctly thinking that Chris would rather not live than be in this condition.'' That's Barbara Johnson recalling the 1995 accident of her son Christopher Reeve. Her instinct was to pull the plug; his was to live.

As to arguments about ''Congressional overreaching'' and ''states' rights,'' which is more likely? That Congress will use this precedent to pass bills keeping you -- yes, you, Joe Schmoe of 37 Elm Street -- alive till your 118th birthday. Or that the various third parties who intrude between patient and doctor in the American system -- next of kin, HMOs, insurers -- will see the Schiavo case as an important benchmark in what's already a drift toward a culture of convenience euthanasia. Here's a thought: Where do you go to get a living-will kit saying that in the event of a hideous accident I don't want to be put to death by a Florida judge or the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? And, if you had such a living will, would any U.S. court recognize it?

Peggy Noonan: In Love With Death

The Wall Street Journal
In Love With Death
The bizarre passion of the pull-the-tube people.
Thursday, March 24, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

God made the world or he didn't.

God made you or he didn't.

If he did, your little human life is, and has been, touched by the divine. If this is true, it would be true of all humans, not only some. And so--again, if it is true--each human life is precious, of infinite value, worthy of great respect.

Most--not all, but probably most--of those who support Terri Schiavo's right to live believe the above. This explains their passion and emotionalism. They believe they are fighting for an invaluable and irreplaceable human life. They are like the mother who is famously said to have lifted the back of a small car off the ground to save a child caught under a tire. You're desperate to save a life, you're shot through with adrenaline, your strength is for half a second superhuman, you do the impossible.

That is what they are trying to do.

They do not want an innocent human life ended for what appear to be primarily practical and worldly reasons--e.g., Mrs. Schiavo's quality of life is low, her life is pointless. They say: Who is to say it is pointless? And what does pointless even mean? Maybe life itself is the point.


I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people. What is driving their engagement? Is it because they are compassionate, and their hearts bleed at the thought that Mrs. Schiavo suffers? But throughout this case no one has testified that she is in persistent pain, as those with terminal cancer are.

If they care so much about her pain, why are they unconcerned at the suffering caused her by the denial of food and water? And why do those who argue for Mrs. Schiavo's death employ language and imagery that is so violent and aggressive? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans "brain dead." Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "a slithering snake."

Everyone who has written in defense of Mrs. Schiavo's right to live has received e-mail blasts full of attacks that appear to have been dictated by the unstable and typed by the unhinged. On Democratic Underground they crowed about having "kicked the sh-- out of the fascists." On Tuesday James Carville's face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren't a buffoon.

Why are they so committed to this woman's death?

They seem to have fallen half in love with death.

What does Terri Schiavo's life symbolize to them? What does the idea that she might continue to live suggest to them?

Why does this prospect so unnerve them? Again, if you think Terri Schiavo is a precious human gift of God, your passion is explicable. The passion of the pull-the-tube people is not.

I do not understand their certainty. I don't "know" that any degree of progress or healing is possible for Terri Schiavo; I only hope they are. We can't know, but we can "err on the side of life." How do the pro-death forces "know" there is no possibility of progress, healing, miracles? They seem to think they know. They seem to love the phrases they bandy about: "vegetative state," "brain dead," "liquefied cortex."


I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the stop-abortion-please people.

The PETA people, who say they are committed to ending cruelty to animals, seem disinterested in the fact of late-term abortion, which is a cruel procedure performed on a human.
I do not understand why the don't-drill-in-Alaska-and-destroy-its-prime-beauty people do not join forces with the don't-end-a-life-that-holds-within-it-beauty people.

I do not understand why those who want a freeze on all death penalty cases in order to review each of them in light of DNA testing--an act of justice and compassion toward those who have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law--are uninterested in giving every last chance and every last test to a woman whom no one has ever accused of anything.

There are passionate groups of women in America who decry spousal abuse, give beaten wives shelter, insist that a woman is not a husband's chattel. This is good work. Why are they not taking part in the fight for Terri Schiavo? Again, what explains their lack of passion on this? If Mrs. Schiavo dies, it will be because her husband, and only her husband, insists she wanted to, or would want to, or said she wanted to in a hypothetical conversation long ago. A thin reed on which to base the killing of a human being.


The pull-the-tube people say, "She must hate being brain-damaged." Well, yes, she must. (This line of argument presumes she is to some degree or in some way thinking or experiencing emotions.) Who wouldn't feel extreme sadness at being extremely disabled? I'd weep every day, wouldn't you? But consider your life. Are there not facets of it, or facts of it, that make you feel extremely sad, pained, frustrated, angry? But you're still glad you're alive, aren't you? Me too. No one enjoys a deathbed. Very few want to leave.

Terri Schiavo may well die. No good will come of it. Those who are half in love with death will only become more red-fanged and ravenous.

And those who are still learning--our children--oh, what terrible lessons they're learning. What terrible stories are shaping them. They're witnessing the Schiavo drama on television and hearing it on radio. They are seeing a society--their society, their people--on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.

Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.

Once you "know" that--that human life is not so special after all--then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.