Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Big Government Stomps!

Big government and slippery slopes

Recently the argument drifted toward smoking bans in restaurants and the dangers of second hand smoke. Proponents of big government are pushing for broader legislation banning various activities in private enterprises, namely, smoking in restaurants and bowling alleys. When first discussed, and as presented Monday night, the ban was to exclude bars and bowling alleys, but no such exclusion exists in this Wayne County iteration.

The strongest argument made by these big government types is that waitstaff workers are exposed to dangerous carcinogens from second-hand smoke and their only protection is to ban smoking in their workplace. However, coal mines, steel mills and chemical plants likewise all expose workers to potentially noxious fumes. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration actually has fairly rigorous statutes regarding which airborne chemicals pose health hazards to workers, with various facemask and air-exchangers available for those workers. If a hazardous chemical from cigarette smoke can be identified, then I am sure our free market system will also provide a mask that will protect workers from it.


“Who is in a better position to determine what restaurant patrons actually want?" asks Tim O’Brien, executive director of the Michigan Libertarian Party. "We used to have a couple of powerful institutions in this country called 'private property' and 'the free market.' When you respect those concepts you have a society based on voluntary relationships rather than political muscle. Then you don't have to try and guess what people want -- in order to impose it on them. People vote with their money. If you leave the market free to meet the wishes of consumers, it will do just that. Some restaurants will cater to smokers. Some to nonsmokers. Some to those who don't care one way or the other. Instead of imposing a single standard which must necessarily exclude wishes of some, all preferences can thus be accommodated. And not only will the market show what people want, it will even tell you in exactly what proportion because its natural selection process will replace businesses that do not satisfy the wishes of their customers with ones that do.” For that matter, if restaurant owners want to allow mace and pepper spray, I say go for it, as long as the workers are provided face masks.


Current topics as wide ranging as the Terri Schiavo case and Ten Commandments display bring up interesting corollaries to the big government bullying that we see prevalent today. The tyranny of the majority not only tramples on restaurant owners, but also on the brain-dead. We have blurred the concepts of public and private and now the tyrannical majority, when they fail to win a court interpretation of current law, they scamper down the slippery slope and make new laws that further their various causes, only to be found (thankfully) unconstitutional. In the Federalist Papers, Publius warns that good leaders must ignore bad fads and the citizenry must not be taken in by “the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the avaricious, the deperate, by the artifices of men possessing more confidence than they deserve…” (Federalist 71:2). Publius agrees that the people commonly intend to do good with their laws, even when they err; but deceptive legislators may be different. The judicial and executive branches are designed to protect the minority from the wiles and errors of the majority, however, that does not negate the importance of citizens being ever vigilant for bad laws and self-promoting leaders.


While Terri Schiavo may seem far afield from local smoking bans, the case points out the propensity for “avaricious” legislators to inflict their will upon any issue whatsoever. Even assuming the best of intentions of Mr Delay and Dr Frist, the idea of the federal legislature successfully intervening on a local judicial case is unprecedented. What have the Florida courts been doing the past 15 years in regards to Schiavo? They have been deliberating the issues as they pertain to the best interests of Terri Schiavo, and have tried to ascertain what she would have chosen in this sorry circumstance. The courts have interviewed her physicians, family, friends and co-workers, and have judged that 1) she is in a persistent vegetative state and 2) she had stated on multiple occasions that she wished not to continue living in such a state. After years of careful thought and deliberation, the Florida courts have decided to order the withdrawal the extraordinary means of survival for Terri Schiavo—not because it is popular, nor because the majority want it. The judicial order came because, to the best of their ability, the Florida judges have determined that it is in Terri Schiavo’s best interest.


Enter the bungling Republicans, whose ideas of big government intervention show no limit. Senator Frist, a licensed physician, said that by looking at an undated video of Terri Schiavo, he determined that she was not in a persistent vegetative state. Whoa! Wait a minute! In a recent Boston Globe opinion, Leonard Glantz, a Boston University Public Health professor noted, “Frist's long-distance diagnosis clearly deviates from anything resembling good medical practice. It is nothing short of remarkable that this surgeon, who has never been in the same room with Schiavo, feels free to disregard the diagnosis of the neurologists who have had extensive contact with her and who have been subject to the scrutiny of the Florida courts.” Dr Frist seems to be a man “possessing more confidence than he deserves” just as Publius has warned us two and a half centuries ago. I have always given broad latitude to Frist over the years; perhaps because we are brethren within the same profession. But what does such wild conjecture on his part tell us of his skills at decision-making?


Terri Schiavo’s parents are empathic, loving people who deserve our compassion. Their daughter has been rendered brain-dead and their personal lives have unnecessarily been put on public display for over a decade. Perhaps coming to terms with their daughter’s dire predicament, as well as her wishes would serve them in a positive way. I find it hard to imagine a thoughtful and compassionate physician (or any physician, or any person for that matter) making flagrantly irresponsible statements such as those by Frist, and as part of the public record of the US Senate no less! Alas, Dr Frist has done a great disservice to the portrayal of a medical professional as legislator. I cannot know the intentions of gentlemen such as Delay and Frist, but if their purpose-- whether implicit or explicit-- is to further their political careers at the expense of the Schiavo family, then I would think that we have discovered a new form of evil. And quite frankly, I see no other motive for their legal maneuvers.

The Ten Commandments display is yet another example of the majority enlarging government and attempting to inflict its will on the minority. The Alabama case has been settled, and Judge Roy Moore has been removed from office for refusing to remove a religious display, but the “parasites and sycophants” continue to display the Decalogue in order to promote their own legislative careers. Michigan State Senator Jack Hoogendyk (R-Kalamazoo) has made the display his personal project, and is promoting the presence of a Ten Commandments display in public buildings. Why? What could be the purpose of such efforts, except for the demagogic appeal to his constituents? The current strategy is to marginally change the display—call it “historical”—thereby quieting the critics. (Never mind that the Ten Commandments have nothing to do with US or Michigan history.) Why does the state government need historical displays about religion? Why should my public buildings be cluttered with irrelevant pseudo-historical chachkas? Again, the big government legislators take another opportunity to enlarge government for suspect reasons. In Hoogendyk’s case, he cannot even make the feeble claim of promoting public health that smoking ban proponents claim; nor can he claim to follow Dr Frist’s (albeit faulty) logic about the best interests of a private citizen. No, Senator Hoogendyk’s demagoguery is pure and unadulterated and devoid of any claim to propriety or sanity.


Perhaps it is time for Republicans to seriously re-think the foundations on which conservative government is founded. To paraphrase Dr. Glantz, these people are not conservative; they are radicals who eagerly ignore the rights and wishes of others. These three cases exhibit the willingness to pander to the emotions and muddled thinking of the political base, when common sense and a cursory review of the US Constitution would indicate that such legislative shenanigans have no other purpose. The current Republican majority clogs our legislative chambers with moronic arguments—and for what? To pass unconstitutional laws that gain them political favor by attempting to limit the rights of private citizens such as bar owners, the brain-dead, or the religiously indifferent? We have already skidded down the slippery slope; can the avalanche be far behind?

4 comments:

Delilah said...

Filled with fear that one day I might somehow be plagued with a fate similar as that of Terri Schiavo, I composed a living will at 11 pm last night. It actually infuriated me that I should have to take on this task. After all the pronouncements by the right wing about the sanctity of marriage, how ironic that I would have to reinforce the fact that my spouse -- you know, the person I MARRIED -- would be my next of kin?


So why was I filled with fear? Well, I fear that one day, should the worst of circumstances prevail, my darling husband would have to spend years of his life arguing in court with my mother. I'd like to believe that my devoutly Christian mother would actually appeal to the higher spiritual view that my soul would be better off with God (if I am so lucky), rather than confined to a body which will never recover (despite Bill Frist's wacko diagnosis) and a brain filled with spinal fluid. A telephone conversation with Mother last night, which might as well have been a conversation with Tom Delay thanks to the level of irrationality, sent me flying into my study to compose my living will! I wanted to make it clear that not only does my husband speak for me, but that I just don't see the point of being kept alive artifically with no quality of life. You see, life is just a bit more than a pulse to me...


(As an aside -- Parents love their children. BUT it is simply pathological to be unable to let a human being go, when clearly that is his/her desire, in order to ensure that one's own religious views and ideological zeal are upheld.)


So that brings me to the whole issue of life. I am more than a little disgusted by the HYPOCRISY of the Republican party as regards life. Yesterday, George Bush smilingly said "we should err on the side of life" as regards the Terri Schiavo case and that insane bill he signed into law. Too bad, no one erred on the side of life as regards all those executions he presided over during his years as my governor in Texas. And too bad about the fact that he signed that Texas Medical Futility Act which forcibly removes artificial support to patients who cannot recover, but who cannot pay for healthcare. Indeed, a little boy died only weeks ago due to this very bill -- which George Bush signed -- but yet, he was speaking about "erring on the side of life." It makes me SICK to think that a little boy died, and his mother is grieving in a way that Terri Schiavo's mother has not yet had to grieve, because his mother could not afford the health care. Yet Terri Schiavo, who did not want to be kept alive as stated by HER legal guardian, was granted whole new legislation to keep her on the planet.


You know what else makes me sick about the Republicans who supported this atrocious legislation, which was intended to subvert the Constitution and separation of powers? The fact that the very people chirping about saving Terri Schiavo's life are the same people who would move heaven and earth to end malpractice medical awards as well as medicaid -- bot of which were used for the care of Ms. Schiavo. The hypocrisy is so thick, the stench is nauseating. But then what else should we expect from those who advocate "state rights" only when a racist can fly a Confederate flag but not when votes have to be counted (re: Bush v. Gore) and when civil or privacy rights have to be upheld?.


Oh and yes, over 15 years later, 19 hearings later, the appointment of an independent Guardian ad Litum later, and the repeated denials of certiorari by the US Supreme Court, and the clamor still resounds to deny this woman the right to rest in peace. Instead, judges are branded as 'activists' for simply interpreting the law, and the Congress pushes though legislation that one could argue functions like a Bill of Attainder. Okay, so this is a debatable point but why do I characterize it as such? Because it essentially denies the husband of rights while conferring new rights on the parents. Yes, that's right -- suddenly the sanctity of marriage (for Michael Schiavo to be his wife's guardian) is not quite so pure for the extremists in Congress.


I am not a lawyer and I am not a doctor, but it seems to me that if a pest control guy from Sugarland Texas feels he has the right to override the Constitution, then I'll be damned if I don't express my thoughts about that. And Bill Frist may have a medical doctorate (mine is not in the medical field)... but if he can make medical judgements based on videotape, hell if I can't call him a quack. So let it be known that this is the last straw for me. I have officially lost respect for the Republican party. The Democrats who went along with this assinine legislation are equally worthy of contempt in my book as well. Oh and ever since the election ( you know, the Nov. 2 date when "moral values" suddenly became the equivalent of discriminating against certain groups of people), I have had my problems with the church. Well, today I wrote my church a letter to explain that I will no longer be attending services and I will be praying at home instead.


Religion in this country has become a JOKE. I no longer wish to be part of a religion for which the so-called "culture of life" only applies to the unborn and the almost dead. I no longer want to be a part of a religion for which a pastor tells a judge (Judge Greer) that he is no longer welcome in church due to his ruling in the Schiavo case. Since when does the church turn away perceived sinners? Wouldn't the church be empty if that rule was applied equally?


When the church starts fighting for people on death row, and people dying of starvation, and people dying in an unnecssary war in Iraq, and poor people who can't afford to pay for health care, etc. etc, etc., I'll be happy to return. Until then, the church is a meeting place for modern day Pharisees.


The Talibanization of American culture is complete. We are as insane as the Saudis -- wedded to religious extremism and oil interests, but without the kafirs. The constitution is being shredded thanks to each successive move by this administration and its cabal of extremists in Congress.

NYC_JD said...

Hold on, the ride’s going to be bumpy. Nobody said the sausage maker that we call democracy was a pretty site to watch. I feel the pain of Dr. Grodge about the legal circus we are enduring regarding Schiavo as well as the Ten Commandments, but I will re-iterate my sentiment to “trust the system”—it has ample provision for the admittedly hair-brained demagoguery put forth by the Republican leadership. You are correct, Ms. Schiavo is not going to survive this episode; and the correct decision had been made by the Florida courts. We just have to let this play out.

As a citizen of this great nation, you must realize that, however painful, politics enters every debate, even those that entail the private medical decisions of de facto celebrities such as Terri Schiavo. If you choose, you can read the Constitution and claim that the US Congressional intervention was unwise, but then that is not your decision to make mainly because you have not been elected to Congress. The stalwarts in Congress can pass a law outlawing oxygen if they wish; the ultimate interpretation of legality is up to the learned members of the courts (who are smart lawyers like me.) The soapbox has been given to the Republican leadership like DeLay and Frist, and the voters will decide if they have made good use of it. The point has never been to “save Terri” (just don’t tell her parents) with an act of Congress. The point has only been to pass the law so that the campaigns in 2006 and 2008 will be more decisively about the “culture of life” jargon which most of DeLay’s and Frist’s constituents gobble up.

The risk is that the public will tire of such silly incursions on personal liberties, and vote them out of office, but that seems less likely every day. Inexplicably, the unwashed masses seem to eat this stuff up with a knife and fork. Say what you want about the Republicans, but they certainly know what stirs up their political base. And thank God they do!! I for one do not want to go back to the bad ol’ days of tax increases, balanced budgets, talk of universal health care and pining about making life more bearable for trailer folk.

Relax, Dr. Grodge, Ms. Shiavo will mercifully pass this week or next. The chance of a Moses monument in your state capital is zero. The system will work. Trust that the current leadership knows what they’re doing. They will take care of their political base, although we may have to avert our eyes during these times of Constitutional lunacy. Personally, I don’t care how they do it, just so they get re-elected.
NYC_JD

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