6.03.2011

Hi, My Name is Sarah Palin, and I'm an Idiot

And some of you people wanted her to run the country.



UPDATE (10:21pm EST):
According to the blog Legal Insurrection, Sarah may have either gotten lucky, or may actually have known more than we gave her credit for. My money is on the former.

UPDATE 2 (6.6.11):
Sarah doubles down.



RIP Jack Kevorkian

A recent Gallup poll showed Americans to be almost evenly divided on the issue of doctor-assisted suicide, with 48 percent saying it is wrong, and 45 percent saying it is morally acceptable.

This finding, as part of a larger poll on American moral issues, had already started to reignite the debate just days before Jack Kevorkian, the man who ignited the debate in the 1990s, died of kidney related problems.

There are only a few spots in the world where doctor-assisted suicide is permitted: Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and the states of Oregon, Washington and Montana.

Why is doctor-assisted suicide such a lightning rod?

Chege Mbitiru writes in the Daily Nation:
Laws governing suicide and prevailing thinking about it, especially in countries whose legal systems have roots in Greek, Roman and Judeo-Christian legal and intellectual traditions, have two threads in common.

They stigmatise the suicidal as unworthy and totally disregard personal autonomy. To Aristotle, committing suicide was immoral and robbed the state of one’s civic and economic contributions, therefore, an offence.

Modern laws, especially since the Industrial Revolution, have roots here. Society has a claim to an individual until death.

Plato argued people are property of the gods. Stick around until the gods decide otherwise. Christianity fits in this category, sacredness of all life, including vegetative one plus sinfulness of committing or attempting to commit suicide.
Here in the US, the issue is closely tied to Christian values and the pro-life movement. Although opinions vary somewhat from faith to faith, the general agreement among faiths which appose doctor-assisted suicide is that it violates the sanctity of life and interferes with the will of God.

Human beings are the only species who are aware of their own mortality. This causes us much anguish. It affects nearly every aspect of our lives. We work so that we can buy and do things that either promise longevity or distract us from thinking about our mortality. We seek youth and vitality and are at our most gullible when we are promised a means of cheating death.

All of this is very surprising when we look at life and death as bookends -- a set that can never be sold individually. We obsess over birth. We attend classes to prepare us. We have multiple meetings with doctors to ensure that the process is satisfactory. We shower the infant with gifts before it arrives.  We celebrate its entrance with cigars, yard signs, and glossy photo announcements. There are superstores devoted to the beginning of life. There are entire sections of bookstores devoted to preparing for birth, and guides about those first months of life. There are drugs that we can take to ensure that birth occurs with ease, with as little pain as is possible.  We expect to be treated with dignity and respect as we usher in a new life.

Yet, that other lonely bookend, dying, is comparably neglected. There are no classes, no parties, no superstores, no sections in bookstores, no detailed guidebooks. Granted, some of these would be silly, but the point is quite clear: we do not prepare for death. We neglect to learn about what it will be like, or to discuss it with our doctors in advance, as we certainly would a birth. We neglect to ensure that the process of dying is satisfactory. If we didn't already find death horrifying, we would find all of this to be almost comical. We are so in denial that it's kind of hilarious.

Death does not have to be horrible. Sure, not many wish for their life to end, or for their loved ones to cease to live. But we all die. All of us. Why not talk openly about it? Why not learn about what we can expect during the process of dying? Why not have the option to exit this life before we have lost control of our own bodies, before we are locked into an indeterminable period of suffering, before we can no longer retain our dignity or our ability to decide what is best for us.

I guess it's somewhat understandable in our society that many saw Dr. Kevorkian as some kind of a monster -- a grim reaper figure who delighted in taking the life of others.  On the surface it seems totally in line with our horror novels, and our television crime dramas.  While we fear our own deaths, and the deaths of our loved ones, we have a tabloid fascination with the deaths of those outside of our own circle. We have voracious appetites for the details surrounding the deaths of celebrities, pretty teenagers, and toddlers (paging Nancy Grace).  So, it's no mystery why the media ran with the moniker "Dr. Death" when Kevorkian's story gained traction.  What this obscures, however, is the fact that Dr. Kevorkian was first and foremost a physician. He was a humanitarian who advocated for end-of-life awareness, counseling, and choice.  We fail to recall that he rejected 97% of the assisted suicide requests that he received, and assisted only those who were terminal or in extreme suffering.  There are many who would call Jack Kevorkian a hero.

Dr. Kevorkian did not like being called a hero.  At the 1994 American Humanist Association annual conference, he stated:
“I am not a hero...by my definition anyway.  To me, anyone who does what should be done is not a hero. Heroes to me are very, very rare. And I still feel that I’m only doing what I, as a physician, should do… That doesn’t mean I’m more compassionate than anyone else, but there is one thing I am that many are not, and that’s honest.”
Jack Kevorkian was an activist who risked everything he had to stand up for a patient's right to die with dignity.  He helped to transform a notion into a movement, and into a debate about individual rights.

Sir Terry Pratchett, the award-winning, best-selling British author, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007.  Knowing full well that he will at some point reach a point where he will no longer be in control of his own thoughts and actions, Pratchett made an emotional plea for the right to end his own life. It is a wonderful piece of writing, and because it is from the point of view of a patient, it further illuminates the compassion and empathy that has so often been overlooked in profiles of Dr. Kevorkian. And because Pratchett's essay is such a wonderful piece of writing, I have included several snippets:
We are being stupid. We have been so successful in the past century at the art of living longer and staying alive that we have forgotten how to die. Too often we learn the hard way. As soon as the baby boomers pass pensionable age, their lesson will be harsher still...I live in hope - hope that before the disease in my brain finally wipes it clean, I can jump before I am pushed and drag my evil Nemesis to its doom, like Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty locked in combat as they go over the waterfall.

In any case, such thinking bestows a wonderful feeling of power; the enemy might win but it won't triumph.

* * * * *
I hate the term 'assisted suicide'. I have witnessed the aftermath of two suicides, and as a journalist I attended far too many coroners' inquests, where I was amazed and appalled at the many ways that desperate people find to end their lives.

Suicide is fear, shame, despair and grief. It is madness.

Those brave souls lately seeking death abroad [Ed: in places where doctor-assisted suicide is legal] seem to me, on the other hand, to be gifted with a furious sanity. They have seen their future, and they don't want to be part of it.

* * * * *
I am enjoying my life to the full, and hope to continue for quite some time. But I also intend, before the endgame looms, to die sitting in a chair in my own garden with a glass of brandy in my hand and Thomas Tallis on the iPod - the latter because Thomas's music could lift even an atheist a little bit closer to Heaven - and perhaps a second brandy if there is time. Oh, and since this is England I had better add: 'If wet, in the library.'

Who could say that is bad? Where is the evil here?
* * * * *

The bravest person I've ever met was a young boy going through massive amounts of treatment for a very rare, complex and unpleasant disease. I last saw him at a Discworld convention, where he chose to take part in a game as an assassin. He died not long afterwards, and I wish I had his fortitude and sense of style.

I would like to think my refusal to go into care towards the end of my life might free up the resources for people such as him.

* * * * *

I have met Alzheimer's sufferers who are hoping that another illness takes them away first. Little old ladies confide in me, saying: 'I've been saving up my pills for the end, dear.'

What they are doing, in fact, is buying themselves a feeling of control. I have met retired nurses who have made their own provisions for the future with rather more knowledgeable deliberation.

From personal experience, I believe the recent poll [Ed: which revealed that more than three-quarters of people in Britain approve of assisted suicide for the terminally ill] reflects the views of the people in this country. They don't dread death; it's what happens beforehand that worries them.

Life is easy and cheap to make. But the things we add to it, such as pride, self-respect and human dignity, are worthy of preservation, too, and these can be lost in a fetish for life at any cost.

I believe that if the burden gets too great, those who wish to should be allowed to be shown the door.

In my case, in the fullness of time, I hope it will be the one to the garden under an English sky. Or, if wet, the library.

Hopefully, with no small thanks to outspoken advocates like Jack Kevorkian, and the patients who have been brave enough to stand up for their right to die with dignity, Terry Pratchett will get his wish.

Terry Pratchett, in the garden, with his brandy.


6.02.2011

Rick Perry: The Economic Crisis is God's Way of Bringing Us Back to Biblical Principles

Texas Governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry has not been shy about his alignment with the Religious Right. And not just the 'mainstream' Religious Right hate groups like the Family Research Council. We're talking extreme Christocrats.

We also shouldn't forget last month when Perry issued a "Pray For Rain" proclamation

If his unapologetic mix of church and state weren't enough to scare you, then how about this? He has the words 'Liberty' and 'Freedom' emblazoned on his cowboy boots. Scared yet? Take a look at the following clip of Perry on James Robinson's Life Today television show, in which he states that the current economic crisis is God's way of making America return to biblical principles and free us from our slavery to the government.

We already had a president who made war decisions based on biblical prophecy. And that didn't work out too well.  



6.01.2011

Atheist Converts After Mock Prayer 'Answered' By $1 Million Lottery Win

From The Christian Post:
A self-confessed atheist has become a believer after mocking God by sarcastically praying for his mother to win the lottery. However, his joke prayer was amazingly answered as the next day his mother won $1 million on the New York Lottery Sweet Million game.
According to the report, 28-year-old Sal Bentivegna, who did not believe in God, told his mother to pray to her god to ask "for a million dollars." His mother, Gloria, a Catholic, would not do any such thing.  Since his mother refused to, Sal mockingly 'prayed' the following: “God, I don’t know if you’re real or not, but if you are there, please let my mother win a million dollars.”

Guess what happened. You're right. Sal's mother won a million dollars the next day when she purchased a "Lotto Tree" at a church charity auction. One of the tickets on the tree was a million dollar winner.
He testified, “I can’t shrug off that Jesus had a hand in it.”

“No pun intended, but it was a Godsend,” he said.

Gloria Bentivegna, reflecting on what had happened, is thankful to God for her winnings, but even more thankful for her son’s conversion. She said: “'God performed two miracles, a true miracle.”

By winning New York’s Sweet Million game, Gloria Bentivegna will now receive $50,000 every year for the next 20 years.
The odds of winning the New York Lottery Sweet Million game is 1 in 3.8 million.  Two tickets would take it to 1 in 1.9 million.  I'm not sure how many tickets are on a "lottery tree," but regardless, those are considerable odds.

I am curious to know the odds that a Sweet Million player uttered a plea for divine intervention in the game, mockingly or not.  I would assume that a great many do. I am also curious to know the percentage of praying Sweet Million players who were 'denied' the money.  I would bet a million dollars that all of them, winner excluded, did not have their prayers answered in the form of $1 million.

A few things I do know: 1) Sal Bentivegna was not very good at being an atheist.  2) Pascal deserves a share of the winnings.

The Good News | 6.1.11

I spend a lot of time here pointing out the bad and the ugly that I feel compelled to initiate a periodic trumpeting of the good. Despite ongoing attempts to impede progress, nice things are happening everywhere.  Behold, the good news:
  • President Obama has proclaimed June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month (WhiteHouse.Gov)
  • American Muslim clerics sign up for evolution (NewScientist)
  • For the first time in history, the majority of Americans favor legal gay marriage (Gallup)
  • The Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church approved a groundbreaking same-sex marriage resolution (Washington Post)
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center won a major victory on behalf of cheated farmworkers (SPLC)
  • New stem cell implant holds hope for diabetics (KPBS
  • The ACLU is suing batshit Florida Governor Rick Scott over the drug testing of state employees regardless of suspicion (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  • The ACLU and PPFA have filed a lawsuit challenging South Dakota's completely insane abortion law (RH Reality Check)
  • The Health and Human Services Department has told the state of Indiana that its Medicaid plan, which bans funding to Planned Parenthood, is illegal and must be changed. (Feministing)


          5.31.2011

          Sarah Palin: 'I Love That Smell of the Emissions'

          The International Energy Agency just released a report showing that greenhouse gas increased by a record amount last year. We had the highest carbon output in history. 

          Faith Birol, the chief economist of the IEA stated, "Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce."

          Birol stated that we could avoid catastrophe if governments heed the warning.

          Enter Sarah Palin, possible GOP candidate for President of the United States, who is currently traveling around the country on a mysterious bus tour.  Her first stop was at a motorcycle rally in Washington, DC, where she stated to reporters, "I love that smell of the emissions!"



          The Batshit Files: Post-Memorial Day Weekend News Roundup | 5.31.11

          • A Vatican newspaper article says condom use may increase AIDS risk. I'm pretty sure someone also once died from being hit in the head with a life preserver while drowning. (Catholic News Service)
          • A man who planned to kill Planned Parenthood doctor and clinic workers was arrested for accidentally shooting his gun in his hotel room. (Hatewatch)
          • Bachmann: 'God called me to run for president.' The Lord smites in mysterious ways. (TPM)
          •  Roger Ailes' bomb-proof office protects him from 'those gays.' (TPM)
          • Christian community threatens violence against atheist student. (DailyKos)
          • Where's The Birth Certificate? debuted at number 6 on the New York Times bestseller list (CNN)