Joplin Globe Endorses Big Government

The editorial in today’s Joplin Globe surprisingly—given the paper’s frequent public displays of affection for right-wing ideology—took the position that when it comes to the environment, more, not less, government regulation is needed.

Specifically criticizing past nonfeasance under outgoing director of Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Mark Templeton,  and claiming the director  “failed to ever engage in the job,” the Globe followed with this:

Admittedly, the DNR has become a weak player because it’s hamstrung by the lack of laws with any real teeth.

And the paper ended with this:

Whoever becomes the state’s new DNR director must push legislators to strengthen state laws protecting our rivers and streams.

We need a loud voice in that office.

Now, I wonder why the state of Missouri would need to strengthen state laws in order to protect our rivers and streams?  Surely, under the laissez-faire logic of conservatives—fully embraced now by the Republican Party—no one, including none of the corporate agriculture interests in Missouri, would pollute our environment, right?  

We don’t need silly laws that violate private property rights and give government the power to keep our rivers and lakes clean, to keep the air we breathe breathable, to keep our food safe.  That’s how government gets so big, passing silly laws like that. 

And those laws tend to get in the way of business, of “jobs,” and scare off potential employers to safer places like, say, Iowa, where good people like Jack DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg and Quality Egg, do their best to take care of the environment and our food supply, don’t they?

Well, let’s just check:

FDA inspectors at farms owned by two big Iowa egg producers documented what can only be called disgusting conditions that they say are responsible for up to 1,500 cases of Salmonella poisoning.

At Wright Egg and Quality Egg, part of the same complex, FDA inspectors found live mice inside the egg-laying houses, live and dead flies “too numerous to count,” as well as live and dead maggots “too numerous to count,” according to their report.

Well, maybe that was just a recent development.  Perhaps Mr. DeCoster was out of the country the last month or two and his overwhelming concern for food safety and public health and the environment was ignored by those left in charge. 

Well, let’s just check:

DeCoster is no stranger to controversy in his food and farm operations:

—In 1994, the state of Iowa assessed at least four separate penalties against DeCoster Farms for environmental violations, many of them involving hog waste.

—In 1997, DeCoster Egg Farms agreed to pay $2 million in fines to settle citations brought in 1996 for health and safety violations at DeCoster’s farm in Turner, Maine. The nation’s labor secretary at the time, Robert Reich, said conditions were “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop.” Reich’s successor, Alexis Herman, called the state of the farms “simply atrocious,” citing unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, exposure to harmful bacteria and other unsanitary conditions.

—In 2000, Iowa designated DeCoster a “habitual violator” of environmental regulations for problems that included hog manure runoff into waterways. The label made him subject to increased penalties and prohibited him from building new farms.

—In 2002, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a more than $1.5 million settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit against DeCoster Farms on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by some supervisory workers at DeCoster’s Wright County plants.

—In 2007, 51 workers were arrested during an immigration raid at six DeCoster egg farms. His farms had been the subject of at least three previous raids.

—In June 2010, Maine Contract Farming, the successor company to DeCoster Egg Farms, agreed in state court to pay $25,000 in penalties and to make a one-time payment of $100,000 to the Maine Department of Agriculture over animal cruelty allegations that were spurred by a hidden-camera investigation by an animal welfare organization.

Whoops! Maybe the Globe is right.  Maybe we do need government to get bigger and help protect our environment and our food supply.

A good place to start would be the Food Safety Modernization Act, which, according to the New York Times, as been “languishing, stuck in some legislative limbo” in the U. S. Senate.

And that bill has the good fortune of being opposed by laissez-faire Tea Party types, who say, in the words of one such group, that the bill is a theat to our liberties:

Passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act would represent a massive expansion of government regulation of the food industry, even though there is no authorization in the Constitution for this. Our right to produce, distribute, and consume the foods of our choice is part of our rights to life and liberty. But in this era of expansive government regulation and takeovers, our representatives in Congress are poised to take even this very basic right from us by creating an extensive and all-controlling, regulatory, food bureaucracy.

My guess is that Jack DeCoster, whose egg producing operations in Iowa is responsible for poisoning 1500 Americans so far, would agree with that.

After all, he doesn’t need government to make his operations responsible corporate citizens.  Just look at his record.

Amniotic Republicans Win Again

An interestingly reported story in today’s edition of the Joplin Globe highlighted a point about the Missouri legislature’s latest modifications to our state’s already hyper-restrictive abortion laws that needs to be made over and over again:

“The life of each human being begins at conception,” according to Senate Bill 793, which adds new regulations to the state’s 24-hour informed consent law for abortions. “Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

Those words will be displayed “prominently” on brochures that abortion providers will be required to hand out to every woman seeking the procedure — even if they don’t happen to believe the Christian theology the words represent.

The point is that the philosophy behind the new law’s definitional language, which providers much put in the hands of Missouri women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights, is really Christian theology codified into law.

But what may be the most important, and saddest, point the story suggests is that this example of fundamentalist religion dominating Missouri politics was possible only because Democrats allowed, once again, the forces of reaction, the forces that demand our society turn back the clock and live in the 1950s, to have their way. 

And without putting up much of a fight.

Oh, sure.  A threatened filibuster by Democrats in the Missouri Senate kept the last-hour legislation from being worse. But why not filibuster all the way to the end, until this offensive legislation died on the vine, a vine in a veritable garden of wishes tended by religious zealots, whose theology on abortion doesn’t even have the benefit of being supported by the history of theological thinking?

And why didn’t Governor Nixon—who the last time I checked said he supported reproductive rights—veto the damn thing? 

Well, the truth is that Democrats, especially in purple states like Missouri, but in other states as well, are on the defensive.  They’re afraid to stand up for the things that presumably make them Democrats, for the things that make us a more civilized society, a better place to live. 

And if they don’t grow some metaphorical testicles of courage soon, they will certainly send the messages to voters that their ideas aren’t worth fighting for, and thus give voters no reason to vote for them.

Our elected Missouri Democrats let people like Jim Lembke, a Republican senator who was one of the sponsors of the assault on reason that is the new abortion law, get most of what they want. 

But surely, you say, Senator Lembke is a man of compassion, a man who is merely looking after those who can’t look after themselves. Isn’t that right?

No. No. No. Like most conservative Republicans in the state, his concern for the “life of a separate, unique, living human being” begins and ends in the world of the amniotic sac.

Read here about what Lembke, bursting with love for the little ones among us, would do for folks unfortunate enough to live in Missouri without health insurance or citizenship.  Lembke said he would favor repealing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which,

…requires hospitals and ambulance services to provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay.

As Sean Nicholson at FiredUp! wrote:

…it’s one of those horrible mandates that keeps poor people from dying or remaining very ill because greedy (but still Marxist) health care companies might be more concerned about their profits and executive bonus packages.

Lembke is the kind of amniotic Republican that Missouri Democrats have essentially surrendered to, at least when it comes to allowing them to make their Iron Age theology part of Missouri law.

Is it any wonder why many Missouri Democratic voters lack enthusiasm for candidates on our side?

For Sale: Albert Pujols Bobbleheads. Cheap. Owner Motivated To Sell.

I had to take a long walk this morning, after seeing a brief glimpse of Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa at Glenn Beck’s memorial to monochrome malcontents.  

Perhaps one can excuse Pujols, who ostensibly was being “honored” for his charitable work, for attending the rally.  Maybe with his busy baseball schedule, he doesn’t know Glenn Beck or what he stands for—but wait.  What’s that?  Pujols met Beck and Bill O’Reilly this past June and autographed a bat for Beck?  Huh?

Okay, so maybe there is no excuse for Pujols’ endorsement of Beck and Beckanoia.  Maybe there is no excuse for him to give even a hint of legitimacy to a man who called the President of the United States a racist, and who said Obama “has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

And there certainly is no excuse for Tony La Russa’s role in what will at least cost the St. Louis Cardinal’s a couple of bucks due to my decision to never purchase another ticket or another Cardinal-related product, as long as La Russa is around.  And I haven’t made up my mind about Pujols.

La Russa said on Thursday that he was assured the rally wasn’t going to be political in nature.

“I don’t know who’s going to be there, who’s going to accept it. But the gist of the day is not political. I think it’s a really good concept, actually.”

Let’s see.  La Russa doesn’t know Glenn Beck was going to be there?  That Sarah Palin was going to be there?  And he doesn’t know what those two do for a lucrative living? He doesn’t read a damn newspaper or watch a news program?  He had no idea that everything Glenn Beck has done since joining the Republican “News” Channel is political?

That’s complete bullshit.

La Russa has previously shown sympathy for the Tea Party movement and Arizona’s SB 1070 (which, to Pujols’ credit, he has said he opposes), and for him to act like he doesn’t know what it means for him and the biggest star in baseball to attend the Beck rally—under any circumstances—is as disingenuous as it can be. 

Even the name given to the rally, “Re$toring Honor,” reeks with political implications. Whose honor needs restored?  And why?  Oh, I know: America’s honor needs restored because Barack Obama and the Democrats have stolen it! Why, that’s not political at all!

Phony bastards.

Not to mention how sickening it was to see one of the game’s greatest active players, a man of color, stand before a crowd of pale-faced populists on the very day and close to the very spot that Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

And for anyone to compare, as Beck has done, what those pale-faced people think they are going through—because of the election of a black “racist,” Barack Obama—to the injustices that Dr. King was speaking of when he made his 1963 speech is beyond chutzpah, beyond presumptuousness, beyond even decency.

It’s sick.

Dr. King began his speech with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, which he said,

…came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.

Does that sound like anything happening to the thousands of disgruntled whites who gathered, metaphorically prostrate, in front of their demagogue, Glenn Beck?

Or maybe this does:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

Of course, none of the problems Dr. King elegantly outlined can be, even in the wildest hallucinations of Glenn Beck or his sycophantic followers, compared to the kind of problems that allegedly plague the attendees today at the “Re$toring Honor” rally.

And it’s too bad for the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s too bad for Major League Baseball, that Albert Pujols allowed himself to be used as a prop to legitimate such a travesty.

Anyone want to buy a couple of Albert Pujols bobbleheads?

Eleven Drunk Democrats

A KY3/Missouri State University Poll released yesterday, conducted from just after the primary through August 22nd, brings good news for Robin Carnahan and bad news for Scott Eckersley.

The poll of 785 likely Missouri voters shows a too-close-to-call race between Carnahan (48.4%) and Roy Blunt (48.8%), and not surprisingly, it shows Billy Long with a large lead over Scott Eckersley, 50.8% to 23.4%.

But I found an odd result in the numbers. Here is the table for the Senate Race survey question:

Now, if you look at those results, you find that of those likely voters identified as “Strong Democrats,” a whopping 8.6% of them said they preferred Roy Blunt over Robin Carnahan.  Huh?  Aint no way.

If you look at those identified as “Strong Republicans,” a measly, but likely quite accurate, .8% said they would vote for Carnahan. That’s POINT 8, less than 1%.  And that’s more like it.

But how does one explain the obvious discrepancy?*  Since the category “Strong Democrat” represented 16.2% of the entire sample, that’s 127 folks. And since 8.6% of those 127 strong Democratic folks said they would be voting for Roy Blunt, that’ s either 11 liars or 11 drunk Democrats who participated in the poll.

There’s no way I’m believing that 11 people courageous enough to admit they are strong Democrats in the state of Missouri would also admit they prefer Roy Blunt over anyone, much less Robin Carnahan. They’re either lying about being strong Democrats or, as I said, they answered the telephone during a beer binge.

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*The opposite result can be found in the 7th District House race.  There, “Strong Democrat” registered exactly ZERO votes for Billy Long—no amount of intoxication could, apparently, make a Democrat say he or she would vote for Billy Long.

Additonally, 8.3% of “Strong Republicans” said they would vote for Scott Eckersley, which makes perfect sense.  In fact, given who Eckersley is—a not-so-former Republican—and given what Billy Long is, it’s a wonder that more strong Republicans aren’t voting for Eckersley.  But there’s still time for Billy to change all that.  Better keep him quiet, boys!

Remarks And Asides

Terry Jones, pastor of the ironically-named Dove World Outreach Center, has decided that a Godly message to Muslims everywhere is in order. So, he has thoughtfully organized an “International Burn a Quran Day,” slated for September 11.

But…what if the Quran is not combustible?

In any case, my sources in the hereafter have informed me that Pastor Jones himself is scheduled to be barbecued sometime soon, possibly sooner than he might imagine.

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In case you missed it, Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee—the Michael Steele of his day—and former campaign manager for Bush’s 2004 campaign, has finally decided to tell the world he is a sodomite gay.

It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” Mehlman said.

Okay, fine.  Now, when will Michael Steele admit to the world that he is really white?

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By the way, Bill Maher outed Mehlman four years ago on Larry King’s show, to which King responded:

King: I never heard that. I’m walking around in a fog. I never…Ken Mehlman? I never heard that. But the question is…

Mayer: Maybe you don’t go to the same bathhouse I do, Larry.

Now, the thought of a naked Larry King in a bathhouse is enough to make most any man a heterosexual, I would think.

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I heard Karl Rove say—while being gingerly massaged skillfully interviewed by the refurbished Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday—that Democratic economic policies have clearly been a “spending orgy.”  

Certainly, we can agree that Rove—part of an administration that screwed seven or eight million Americans so long and hard that they lost their jobs—would know an orgy when he sees one.

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For those of you attending Glenn Beck’s “I Have A Meme” rally this Saturday, just a word of caution: No firearms, ammunition, or explosives are allowed.  And there will absolutely be no alcoholic beverages.  But my impeachable sources tell me that Sarah Palin will be going commando. Have fun everyone!

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And speaking of Glenn Beck’s egofest this Saturday–the one in which he claims God will manifest his power in ways folks have likely never before seen in public (so much for parting the Red Sea)–none other than Erick Erickson is questioning the motives of the guy who is destined to sit on the left hand of God:

“The conservative movement is still split on Glenn and whether he’s doing it for himself or doing it for the movement,” said Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative blog Red State.

Now, when an intellectual slob like Erickson is questioning your motives, can a Noah-like flood be far behind?  I’d buy a big boat before Saturday, if I were you, Erick.

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Sarah Palin’s counterfactual son-in-law, Levi Johnston—a self described “f***in’ redneck“—is undertaking a campaign for either mayor or councilman of Wasilla—apparently his choice—and has been seen gun-shopping.  Even Sarah Palin doesn’t deserve this guy. 

Okay.  Maybe she does.

Levi has recently renounced his apology for “lying” about Palin.  “The only thing I wish I wouldn’t have done is put out that apology ’cause it kind of makes me sound like a liar,” he said.  

That kid is learnin’.

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Roy Blunt’s partner-in-legislative-malfeasance, Tom DeLay, failed to talk a Texas judge into moving his trial on money laundering to a, well, more hospitable venue.  The bug-killing star-dancer will be tried in Austin, virtually the only place left in Texas where a conservative ideologue has a snowball’s chance of getting what he deserves.

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The Obama Justice Department has appealed a court ruling striking down a Bush administration policy that fined broadcasters for saying naughty words on live telly.

So, even though the evil Obama is bent on destroying America, he doesn’t want people like Bono saying “f**k” in front of the children while he is doing so.

Can’t Get A Tee Time? Blame It On The Muslims

I couldn’t let this pass without saying something.

Wednesday’s Joplin Globe “featured” a column by Byron York, who blamed President Obama himself for people’s (mostly Republican people’s) “confusion” over Obama’s religious identity.  

This is the kind of stuff that local conservatives are fed day after day on local talk radio and, sadly, frequently in our local paper.

Managing to mention—all in one column—Obama’s connection to Jeremiah Wright, his Muslim grandfather, his Muslim-raised father-who-turned atheist, his Muslim step-father, his Muslim half sister, his “two years in a Muslim school in Indonesia,” his fondness for the “Arabic call to prayer“—York helpfully added, “the beginning of which is recited by heart“—our efficient conservative columnist summed up the situation with,

Given all that, it is entirely accurate and fair to describe Obama as having Muslim roots.

But he wasn’t done.  He mentioned Obama’s “speech to the Muslim world,” which was “laced with references to the Quran and his Muslim roots,” quoting USA Today.  He then, of course, tossed in a reference to Obama’s “White House Ramadan iftar dinner.”

Now, that’s quite a day’s work for a columnist. But the glittering jewel of hokum was yet to come:

Pew asked respondents how they learned about Obama’s religion. Most who believe Obama is a Muslim say they learned it through the media. But 11 percent say they learned it through Obama’s “own words and behavior.” Perhaps they read the White House press pool reports, which often describe Obama heading out Sunday morning to play basketball or golf.

Forget for a moment that “most” people said they “learned” that Obama was a Muslim “through the media.”  I wonder what media?  MSNBC? Forget that salient fact and just focus on the whopping 11% who said Obama taught them through his “own words and behavior” that he was a Muslim.

Yes, forget everything else and focus on that last sentence:

Perhaps they read the White House press pool reports, which often describe Obama heading out Sunday morning to play basketball or golf.

Famously, Ronald Reagan didn’t spend too many of his valuable Sundays attending church. Neither did W. Bush. And neither do many faith-professing Americans.

But Obama’s penchant for playing basketball and golf, instead of listening to a droning preacher—the non-droning ones like Reverend Wright are off-limits these days—somehow betrays his Muslim faith, according to York. 

Maybe he’s right.  I know I get pissed on Sundays when I try to get a tee time and the guy at the golf course says, “All the damn Muslims have us backed up until 1:30.”

Oh, well. I can always spend my Sundays reading insightful White House press pool reports.  A guy can a learn a lot from those things.

Talibanic Believers Win Federal District Court Battle Over Stem Cell Research

I am sometimes criticized for making too much of conservatives’ religious views, especially the views associated with Christian fundamentalism in its various forms, many of which views I used to hold.  And I realize I piss off perturb a lot of folks who would otherwise be sympathetic to my political opinions.

But today’s Joplin Globe (page 5C) carried a story that demonstrates why it is important to make people armed with Iron Age theology uncomfortable, and why it is important to understand if someone, especially a candidate for political office, holds views like, say, the earth is only 6000 years old:

The government will quickly appeal a court ruling that undercut federally funded embryonic stem cell research, the Obama administration declared Tuesday, but dozens of experiments aimed at fighting spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease and other ailments probably will stop in the meantime.

That court ruling, made on Monday by Federal District Court Judge Royce Lamberth—a Reagan nominee who originally dismissed the suit but was reversed by the Court of Appeals—resulted from nothing less than a religious assault on science and progress by Christian zealots, intent on not just keeping America safe for disseminating the Gospel, but on forcing public policy to conform to their extremist religious worldview.

According to the New York Times, the primary assault came from the Alliance Defense Fund, “which sued to stop the Obama administration rules” for providing research grants to scientists working with embryonic stem cells.  Those rules had been carefully and thoughtfully changed* to allow for an expansion of stem cell lines from Bush’s 21 to Obama’s 75-and-counting. 

The Alliance Defense Fund is a relatively radical group of Christian lawyers—excuse me, according to its own description, it is “a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage  and the family.”

In other words, it is sort of a Christian Taliban, without the turbans, guns, and roadside bombs.  

Okay, maybe that’s a little strong, but when you think about the real Taliban’s imposition of a strict form of Sharia, the sacred law of Islam, it’s not that farfetched to compare it to an organization that capitalizes the “T” in truth, as in the following (the red, unlike the words of Jesus in the New Testament, is in the original):

“The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.”

Now, that may sound harmless enough.  Christians simply want to maintain shelf space in the marketplace of ideas—hopefully some distance from the kosher cream cheese—and want to maintain the right to “hear and speak” whatever (T)ruth they subscribe to.  Who would argue against that?

But let’s go back to their own description I quoted above:

…a servant organization that provides the resources that will keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel through the legal defense of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage  and the family.”

The “Gospel” presumably puts the capital “T” in Truth.  There’s no arguing with someone who possesses the truth with a capital “T,” as anyone knows who has attempted to reason with a Jehovah’s Witness worker for more than, say, five minutes.  So, that seems to be a fair comparison with the Taliban’s allegiance to Sharia, whose devotees certainly not only consider their Islamic law sacred, but Truth as well.

Then there is the idea of providing “the legal defense of …the sanctity of life, marriage and the family.”  Just what does that mean?  The “legal defense of turns out to be “the imposition of in practice.

When conservative Christians are “defending” marriage, they are really imposing their own version of Sharia on American society.  The defense of marriage turns out to be the denial of equal protection under the law to biblically-condemned sodomites homosexuals.

And, as in the court ruling referenced above, the defense of the sanctity of life turns out to be an imposition (hopefully only temporary) of an extremist pro-life view that maintains the donated, days-old frozen embryos used—”destroyed”—in culling stem cells are equivalent to full-grown, sentient, God-made human beings.

Now, I admit that’s not quite the same as comprehensively imposing Sharia, but it’s in the same ballpark, again, hopefully far from the Hebrew National hot dog kiosk.  Groups like the Alliance Defense Fund are essentially part of a larger faith-based political movement designed to achieve certain political and legal goals—sort of like a demilitarized version of the Taliban, which is defined as, “a Wahhabi Islamist political movement.”

Before I rest my case, I want to be fair to more sensible Christian believers, like Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project, and a rare evangelical who believes in God, Jesus, and evolution.  He also happens to be the head of the National Institutes of Health, and is quoted in the story appearing in the Globe:

But 22 projects that were due to get yearly checks in September, $54 million worth, “will be stopped in their tracks,” said NIH Director Francis Collins — meaning a waste of the millions those scientists already have spent unless they can find private dollars to keep the stem cells alive. Dozens more proposals won’t get a hearing pending the court case’s conclusion.

“This decision has just poured sand into the engine of discovery,” Collins said.

Exactly.  And what led to that decision is a Taliban-like allegiance to false certainty—to Truth—an allegiance expressed not with IED’s and AK47 Kalashnikovs, weapons favored by extremist Muslim warriors on battlefields in Afghanistan, but with lawsuits and propaganda, the weapons thankfully preferred by extremist Christian soldiers in courtrooms in America.

[photo of embryo found here]

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*From the news story appearing in the Globe:  

 Obama expanded…the number that could be used but with additional caveats: that the original embryo was left over from fertility treatment and the woman or couple who donated it did so voluntarily and was told of other options, such as donating the embryo to another infertile woman.

Roy Blunt’s Unforgivable Role In The Life and Death of Terri Schiavo

More than five years have passed since the death of Terri Schiavo, the reportedly quiet and shy Pennsylvania girl, who those five years ago was the center of worldwide attention, as her husband Michael—the first man Terri ever kissed—finally succeeded in allowing her to pass away with not much dignity to spare.

Terri Schiavo was 26 years old when she suffered extensive brain damage, after collapsing at her home in St. Petersburg, Florida, the victim of cardiac arrest.  That was in 1990. After a couple of months in a coma, doctors diagnosed her as being in a persistent vegetative state, a diagnosis that would be challenged again and again over the next 15 years.

After a long trial of experimental therapy, and with hope gone, in 1998 Michael finally asked the Pinellas County Florida Sixth Circuit Court for permission to remove the feeding tube that had kept Terri alive for eight years.  Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, understandably not wanting to let go of their daughter, fought Michael’s attempt to let his wife pass in peace.

Thus, a lengthy fight in the courts began, and it would not end until just before Terri’s death in 2005, closing with one of the most unseemly and disgusting political episodes in our nation’s history, certainly in the history of the Republican Party.

And near the center of that unseemly and disgusting political fiasco was our own Roy Blunt.

Blunt, who as Republican Majority Whip in 2005, was the right hand man of Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who while the Republicans controlled the House—and before he was forced to resign amid accusations of money laundering and violating campaign finance laws—was nicknamed “The Hammer” because of his fierce enforcement of ideological and party discipline and his tendency to punish his political enemies.

But before I get to Blunt’s role in the Terri Schiavo case, it’s important to understand the dynamics of what was happening back in 2005 regarding the case.

Tom DeLay, along with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, led the Republican charge to use the federal government to essentially ignore the years of state court litigation in Florida over whether the feeding tube keeping Terri Schiavo alive should be removed and whether Terri would have wanted it removed. 

DeLay favored congressional action that would essentially usurp state jurisdiction in such matters in order to satisfy his Christian, “pro-life” sensibilities.  “Terri Schiavo doesn’t want to die,” DeLay confidently said at a press conference on March 18, 2005—with Roy Blunt at his side.

But others quickly concluded at the time that the Schiavo case was more about politics than compassion, Christian or otherwise. A memo written by a lawyer working for Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez surfaced, which declared the Schiavo case would be “a great political issue” that would “excite” the party’s pro-life base.

And of course it did.

But The Hammer, not content to merely play politics or argue the niceties of moral philosophy, actually attacked the Florida judge who heard the original Schiavo case and who had consistently ruled that Michael Schiavo’s request to administer mercy to his wife should be granted.  

That judge, George W. Greer, was a Southern Baptist Republican.  Here’s what Tom DeLay—again with Roy Blunt at his side—said about Judge Greer during the March 18, 2005, press conference, on the very day and at the very hour that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was to be removed:

What this is about, is we have a state court with a judge that has been trying to kill Terri Schiavo for four and a half years…

Such was the venom pouring from the lips of The Exterminator, Mr. DeLay, in those days.  He also called removal of the feeding tube “an act of barbarism,” and accused three Democratic Senators, who failed to see things his way, of, well, I’ll just let him say it:

Those Senators responsible for blocking our bill yesterday afternoon—Senator Boxer, Senator Wyden, and Senator Levin—have put Mrs. Schiavo’s life at risk to prove a point, an unprecedented profile of cowardice.

Cowardice, he said. Unprecedented cowardice.

About a week later, The San Francisco Chronicle revealed that the DeLay family had faced a similar Schiavo-like situation back in 1988, when the family decided to allow the congressman’s father to die because, after a freak accident at home, he would “basically be a vegetable“:

“There was no point to even really talking about it,” Maxine DeLay, the congressman’s 81-year-old mother, recalled last week. “There was no way he (Charles) wanted to live like that. Tom knew, we all knew, his father wouldn’t have wanted to live that way.”*

Now, it turns out that Roy Blunt, who currently is laboring to become our U.S. Senator and thus a colleague of Senators Boxer, Wyden, and Levin, was in agreement with Delay’s “cowardice” assessment.  He said, moments after DeLay’s comment about the Senators:

I share the leader’s disappointment with less than a handful of individuals who stood in the way of that bill being sent to the president yesterday and this being resolved at that time.

So, Blunt essentially concurred with the “cowardice” characterization and continued with this:

It’s really hard to imagine a death a lot more hideous than simply deciding that you’re no longer going to allow someone to have food and water, and as you watch them dehydrate, and starve to death. It’s clear from watching the tapes of Terri Schiavo that she interacts with people, she’s aware of her surroundings, she attempts to communicate.

Fortunately, there were real journalists at this 2005 press conference.  One of them had this exchange with Dr. Blunt over his video diagnosis of Schiavo’s brain state:

Questioner: Mr. Blunt, you expressed a, kind of a medical opinion about Ms. Schiavo’s condition based on what you’ve seen on TV, and many, many doctors have pronounced her to be in a vegetative state. How is it that you think you’ve got a better handle on what condition she’s in than they do?

Blunt: You know her mother who sees her, I think every day, has a different opinion than they do, too.  And she appears to recognize her mother, to make attempts to communicate. And beyond that, if you want to get into the medical position here, I think the medical view is that she’s not being kept alive by any artificial means. She’s only being given food and water.  The medical care here is at a minimum to sustain life. It’s not like she’s on some huge life support system.  She’s very much alive, and the only way that she won’t be alive is if the people responsible for her care stop feeding her and stop giving her liquids.  I think that’s the medical line that needs to be drawn here.  But when you look at the films of her, her change—the way she appears to change when her mother comes into the room, there is a recognition there. 

Now, perhaps it never occurred to Roy Blunt, or any of the Republicans involved in the Schiavo legislative travesty, that Judge Greer—who had presided over the case from the beginning—had considered all the evidence, including the video and extensive medical testimony provided by real experts, not just the observations of a Republican legislator from Springfield, Mo., watching from afar.

At the first Schiavo trial in March of 2000, 18 witnesses testified about her medical condition and whether she preferred heroic care at the end of her life.  Judge Greer found that Terri was indeed in a persistent vegetative state and that her husband Michael’s claim that she would not want to be kept alive artificially was credible.  An appeals court affirmed that decision.

In April of 2001, Terri’s feeding tube was removed for the first but not the last time.  Further court action by the Schindlers resulted in the reinsertion of the tube within two days.  In 2002, an evidentiary hearing was held, involving CAT scan results, EEG data, and the testimony of five doctors—two of which were chosen by Terri’s parents.

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, which relates to Roy Blunt’s video diagnosis:

The five doctors examined Terri’s medical records, brain scans, the videos, and Terri herself. Drs. Cranford, Greer, and Bambakidis testified that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state. Drs. Maxfield and Hammesfahr testified that she was in a minimally conscious state. As part of the court-ordered medical exam, six hours of video of Terri were taped and filed at the Pinellas County courthouse. The tape included Terri with her mother and neurologist William Hammesfahr. The entire tape was viewed by Judge Greer, who wrote, Terri “clearly does not consistently respond to her mother.”  From that six hours of video, the Schindlers and their supporters produced six clips totaling almost six minutes and released those clips to public websites.

It’s hard to believe that Roy Blunt sat down and watched the entire six hours of video of Terri Schiavo.  Perhaps if he had done so, he would not have sat beside Tom DeLay at that press conference in March of 2005 and made an utter fool of himself.

In any case, he was at that press conference, which can be viewed here.  He was also on the Today show debating the issue, which can be found here. And there are other places one can find even more information, for those still unconvinced of Roy Blunt’s shameful role as co-pilot, while the Republican Party flew itself into legislative lunacy.

There is much more to the Schiavo case, and it makes for sad reading.  But eventually, DeLay, Frist, and Blunt got a version of their federal legislation—termed by DeLay as the Palm Sunday Compromise—passed by questionable means.

But to no avail.  Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, refused to bite. 

After seven years of court battles, Michael Schiavo finally prevailed.  Judge Greer’s last order to remove the feeding tube—the day Blunt and DeLay held their press conference—was upheld.

Terri Schiavo died at Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, not quite two weeks later.

Needless to say, the comprehensive post-mortem examination revealed that Judge Greer had made the correct decision.  Terri Schiavo’s brain was extensively and irreversibly damaged.  Her vegetative state was very real.

Although there is much to be learned from what Republicans attempted to do during the fight over the fate of Terri Schiavo, for voters in Missouri, one fact stands out.

The man who wants to be our representative in the U. S. Senate, who seeks entrance to “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” is, by virtue of his role in the Schiavo case, unworthy to represent us.  His judgment is flawed.

Scott Schiavo, Michael’s brother, said this to Jennifer Frey of The Washington Post just before Terri’s protracted death:

“It’s so sad that they’ve turned this wonderful person into a sideshow,” Scott says, his voice shaking. “Into a media circus. It’s such a shame. It really is. The one that’s hurt the most here is Terri. Her memory. They’re taking away whatever dignity she had left. They’re taking it away. And it really stinks.”

During the Republican Party’s relatively recent and disgraceful battle to use the power of the federal government to impose conservative pro-life doctrine on first a family, then a state judicial system, Roy Blunt was right there on the front line, fighting beside his conservative comrade, Tom DeLay.

And if only to give some measure of posthumous dignity back to Terri Schiavo, Missourians ought to end Roy Blunt’s legislative career this November.

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*Related to DeLay’s own family decision about his father is the following exchange, which occurred at the March 18, 2005, DeLay-Blunt press conference:

Questioner:  The husband in this case—Terri Schiavo’s husband—has said that she expressed a verbal desire that she not continue in this sort of state.  How does the, sort of, the issue of sanctity between spouses in marriage fit into what the Congress is doing now?

DeLay: In my opinion, the sanctity of life overshadows the sanctity of marriage.  I don’t know what transpired between Terri and her husband.  All I know is Terri is alive, and this judge in Florida wants to pull her feeding tube and let her starve for two weeks. That is barbaric, and unless she had specifically written instructions in her own hand and with her signature, I don’t care what her husband says.

DeLay’s father did not leave any written instructions before his accident.

Globe Confirms Blunt’s Bacon-Bringing Bona Fides

Now, get this: in its Sunday editorial about Billy Long and Scott Eckersley, the Globe, inadvertently I’m sure, made Robin Carnahan’s point about Roy Blunt’s insider’s ability to bring home the federal bacon to supposedly bacon-hating Republican voters in Southwest Missouri:

But part of the reason Southwest Missouri received federal funding is because Rep. Roy Blunt was an experienced politician. We pay federal taxes, so it’s only fair that we get some of those back.

Notwithstanding the Joplin Globe‘s relentless focus on government spending since President Obama’s election, the paper nevertheless praises Blunt’s “experience” in getting our “fair” share of federal dollars.

Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. But here is another, in the form of Carnahan’s latest ad on Blunt’s role as the point man on the Bush administration’s federal bailout of Wall Street banks:

One More Use For Duct Tape Or “How To Run The Billy Long Campaign”

The Joplin Globe‘s Sunday editorial claims that representatives of Billy Long and Scott Eckersley “pointed fingers at each other while talking to a Globe reporter ” over their disagreement on whether to or how to or how not to have real debates before voters select one of these two conservatives* to represent them in Washington, D.C.   

Just as a mild rebuke, instead of seeming to assign blame equally, how about some real reporting from the Joplin Globe on just who is to blame for the failure to reach an agreement on debates?  It seems like an important issue—if integrity means much anymore—because Eckersley claims that Long backed out of a debate proposal that he “had previously agreed to.” 

Even Long’s conservative enemies are claiming Long is afraid not only to debate, but essentially afraid to open his auctioneer-trained mouth and remove all doubt that he is not worthy of the voters’ support.  Someone—meaning an objective journalist—at least needs to ferret out all the facts and let voters know why Billy Long backed out of the promised debates. 

To its credit, though, it does appear that the Joplin Globe intends to find out if there are any “clear differences” between the two candidates, and we shall see in the upcoming weeks both if the Globe presses for more information and if the candidates, particularly Long, are willing to open up and give it.  

We do know that Eckersley has publicly and forcefully stated that he is willing to debate openly, and if Long is not willing to do so, the Globe and every area newspaper and media outlet should aggressively and frequently point that out.  Good journalism is our only way of ascertaining the truth—to the extent it can be ascertained—about the candidates, and employing a campaign strategy of duct-taping the mouth of the leading candidate should be exposed forcefully and frequently. 

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*Look, I know they aren’t the only candidates in the race and I know that one of these two candidates has a “D” by his name, but as the Globe points out, “Long and Eckersley have more in common than they may realize,” and Eckersley was endorsed by former Republican primary candidate, Michael Wardell.  So, there is little doubt that in terms of Eckersley’s and Long’s votes on future legislation, the results will be much the same.  Eckersley will just be able to explain better why he voted the way he did and Long will either babble or recite his party’s talking points.  

And I also know that some folks, like conservative Clay Bowler, who runs a quite informative anti-Long website, don’t see Billy Long as much of a conservative.  But in terms of results, is there any doubt that there won’t be a farthing’s worth of difference between them? 
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