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Heart and Soul

The meaning of life, continued. Plus more.

3.23.05

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MUSIC TO THE EYE
Re: Jay D. Homnick's Life Support:

As an argument on behalf of one damaged child of God, and of America's highest ideals, Jay D. Homnick's "Life Support" is nothing short of symphonic.
-- Francis M. Hannon, Jr.
Melrose, Massachusetts

Even an atheist can say "Amen" to Jay Homnick. I wonder though, quarter to ten on Wednesday, if Terri is safe here, as he says. We shall see. I walk past the 11th Circuit on my way to work every day. There is a picket of wheelchair bound folks no doubt seeing the slope greasing up before their wheels. What is this urge to death that infects so many of our countrymen? So many in the world? The consolation is that ultimately, life trumps death because the champions of death fail to replace themselves and Death, as a lobby, must leave the stage.
-- Ken Watson

THE LIFE OF THE LAW
Re: Doug Bandow's Life and Death in Florida Courts:

Two principal issues arise from Mr. Bandow's commentary on the case of Terri Schiavo:

1. Michael Schiavo could divorce her: he does not suggest on what grounds. Her condition has presumably prevented her from undertaking any course of action that would justify divorce. Her condition itself surely cannot give her husband cause. Although Mr. Schiavo is now in what seems to be an apparently stable, long-term and committed relationship with the mother of his children, he cannot divorce himself from his wife on the grounds of his own adultery. How can they possibly be divorced?

2. Mr. Bandow decries possible "federal-state conflicts" but later suggests the Florida courts may need to be 'fixed.' Although it seems to be case that the phrase "a Florida appeal" now has a meaning all its own, there is a measure of inconsistency in his argument.

However, it is in the issue of "Republican grandstanding" that there may exist the possibility of a resolution of this issue. Bear with me.

It looks great on TV and plays well with the base to have the Republican President and Congressmen pass emergency legislation which seems to have the sole purpose of giving one family a right of relief in a nearly exhausted judicial process, and which is worthless if the judge it's referred to finds against them. That's naked, unworthy politics, debasing the judicial process and reducing several human lives to the status of pawns. Hopefully, when the dust settles, a boatload of politicians and journalists find themselves waking up in the night wondering what effect their comments had on Michael Schiavo's kids.

However, as a committed pro-lifer, I wonder if it would not have been better to provide Michael Schiavo with a right of relief to an emergency divorce, if he so wished. If he were to refuse, then his refusal would draw legitimate criticism and his motives for refusing could be thoroughly examined. Such a law could enable him to resign the status of "guardian" and allow Terri Schiavo's family to assume the burden of her care more quickly. Unlike the legislation that's been passed, such a law could form the basis of laws at state level to cover other such appalling situations, which would then cut the legs from under activist judges with a point to prove.

It was perhaps not Terri's Law that was needed, but Michael's Law.

I used to be a divorce lawyer.
-- Martin Kelly
Glasgow, Scotland

A ministry of our church is to have a Sunday service in eight nursing homes and retirement homes in our surrounding area. We get to know and love the sweet folks that are there. There are estimates that 60% of all U.S. citizens will be in a nursing home facility sometime in their lives. If we had a liberal judge judging the "quality of life" of these people, none would live. They would be a drain on society, especially on the Social Security system and Medicaid system. The likelihood is that I will be in a facility like that. With the average lifespan excluding accidental death reaching above 100 years of age, you can expect to be there. Will this decision of Shiavo allow for anyone to be terminated? It will be your mom, your dad, your sister. YOU.
-- Jeff Elliott

As Bandow says, Schiavo's case is tragic and complicated. The trial judge in the case, George Greer, has made decisions that have had detractors call for his impeachment. The impressive thing about his handling of the case is that, unlike the federal judges now involved, he has to run for re-election every six years.
-- Karl Maher

As of this writing, I don't know how the Terri case is going to end. I would like to add my observations though. Everyone has put in their two cents on both sides of this "debate." What debate? Are we talking about some animal here? This is a woman who is being killed by an abusive husband, a husband who has so much love for his disabled wife that he shacked up and produced children with another woman. This is a person who should be tried for attempted murder, not debated over or have laws passed to stop him. I agree that the Terri law is needed now to try to put an end to others who feel killing disabled people is alright but in this case, this man has broken existing law already. Why hasn't Jeb Bush brought in the full enforcement of the law? If this was a minor child, you can bet the police would have removed that child to safety and ensured a full review by competent medical personnel. Teri is helpless as a child and under the same need of protection. To all those so-called conservatives who are for starving this woman to death. I would advise you to rethink your position. No matter what lame argument you may want to use, you are endorsing the exact same tactics a certain group of Germans used almost 70 years ago. Yes, this case is a watershed. It strips bare exactly where people in this country stand. Not very pretty is it my friends?
-- Pete Chagnon

I'm very concerned about the influence of Florida and its courts on our republic. First, because of the nonsense of Al Gore, they essentially created a constitutional crisis and set the stage for a large, embittered segment of America to suggest that presidential elections have been stolen and that our democratic process is unworkable. Second, they've now taken on the role of God Almighty.

Terri Schiavo's plight genuinely saddens and horrifies me. It exposes how confused we as a society have become. We now cannot agree on when life begins or ends without political, social and religious invective being hurled. And, it seems, we've done our level best to strip the dignity and privacy from both occasions.

Can we hope to do anything else with meaning and result without agreeing upon these most fundamental junctures in someone's life, and then treating both with due respect? I don't think so.
-- C. Kenna Amos Jr.
Princeton, West Virginia

In his article, much of which I can agree with, Doug Bandow says, "...virtually no one disputes Terri's right to choose whether to live or die."

I may be no one, but I dispute it. In this particular instance, we are talking not about her right to discontinue an extraordinary means of prolonging life in the face of impending death, but her "right" to be murdered by means of forcible starvation in the face of severe mental disability. A permanent vegetative state is not a terminal disease. It does not threaten one with death. It is simply a condition of her life, the life she happens to be living, and which some think she should not. It's not as though she could have left behind a will stating that, under certain conditions, it was all right to starve her because she said so, thus lifting the moral burden from the rest of us. Even though Florida law permits it, killing someone by means of starvation is now, and always has been, murder.
-- William Luse

That we have a major political party that is now, as George Neumayr wrote, the "party of abortions and euthanasia" is especially frightening when we consider that the devil always demands human sacrifice.
-- Kenneth A. Cory
China, Michigan

COLLECTIVE GUILT
Re: Janis Johnson's letter (under "The Power of Life and Death") in Reader Mail's The Ungrateful Dead:

From Matthew, Chapter 27, verses 22-25:

Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus called Messiah?" They all said, "Let him be crucified!" But he said, "Why? What evil has he done?" They only shouted the louder, "Let him be crucified!" When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves." And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children."

This is the famous passage that Jews mistakenly fear most, and Christians often greatly misunderstand. The curse is not on Jews. The curse is on U.S. ... all of us. We all live with the brutal deaths of countless millions of innocents. Some are directly guilty, some are indirectly culpable, and some who had the power to stop the injustice merely stood aside.

Teresa Marie Schindler will soon join the ranks of the martyrs, killed at the hands of malice, ignorance, and indifference. She will occupy a place of peace and love in heaven. I suppose we all must re-evaluate where our thought processes and our faiths are, right now. Her suffering cleanses her, and braces us.

No, she is not Jesus of Nazareth. And the events of the Passion are not just about He who died for us, either. The price of our society's solipsism has been 40 million unborn children (the entire population of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, with some space for some Pennsylvanians). Terri Schindler represents the frothy crest of the second wave. Does euthanasia (what this is, in reality) wipe out the equivalent population of Illinois? Does it erase the next generation or two of California?

Grab the light where you can find it and hold on for dear life. It is a rare thing. We live in a dark time.
-- John W. Schneider III
Bristow, Virginia

MARKET FOR OUTSOURCING
Re: James G. Marino's letter (under "Widgets for Sale") in Reader Mail's The Art of Being Shown Up:

Not wishing to fisk a fellow Spectator reader I do feel compelled to point out a differing viewpoint from a 30-year experience in IT (and counting).

Singapore is a top tech nation because it is a both a high per capita IT consumer as well as producer. The country's total population is 3.4 million. Assuming even one-fourth of the population is R&D engineers (highly unlikely) that is fewer by half the number of commercial R&D engineers employed in this country. The US figures do not include the industry-government-university R&D efforts in those numbers.

As to Mr. Marino’s other observations. First, any job today that can be telecommuted is at risk of being outsourced, R&D or not. It is a fact of a global economy. Second, the Cisco example cited, does not point out that in the telecom industry most R&D is done by start ups that are then bought out by the likes of the Ciscos and Nortels of the telco industry. Their R&D is dropping because they are buying their solutions outright.

One point that is not evident to most is that telecommunications and now computing are actually very mature industries. The first phone was over a century ago, the first electronic computer 70 years ago, the first transistor 60 years ago, and the first microprocessor 30 years ago. Those are mature timespans for any industry let alone the high paced Silicon Valley industries.

The point about mature industries is that automation breeding more automation leads to being able to do more per man-year of effort with less. With the development of CAE (Computer Aided Engineering), CASE (Computer Assisted Electronics), CAD/CAM among others, the number of people needed in the traditional electronic and computer fields that Mr. Marino cites is fewer. This trend is no different than in the automotive, steel, or plastics industries before it. In 1970 when Intel developed the 8008 microprocessor it took a team of several hundred to develop. Today Intel could do the same with a team of about 20. The tools, processes and manufacturing interlinks have improved that much.

The astute reader must be thinking, Mr. Marino and Mr. McGinnis cannot both be right. If electrical and computer engineering employment is dropping but the R&D dollars are still rising where is the money going? The simple answer is somewhere else just not into those traditional industries.

But where? Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. Also, "For example, the survey found respondents who are engaged in biotechnology research, development, and applications reported in 2001 they had more than 1.1 million employees, total annual net sales of about $567 billion, operating income of $100.5 billion, capital expenditures of $29.5 billion, and R&D expenditures of $41.6 billion. The value added for respondents' businesses was at least $272.8 billion, or 2.7 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, in 2001.â€

The point is the R&D emphasis has shifted to molecular engineering of two types. That requires an entirely different discipline as one is now in the field of quantum mechanics at those infinitely small levels. Not necessarily a background the average EE has in their back pocket.

As a political-economic argument at the micro level, I am not personally in favor of H-1B hires myself. I see the good and bad of this decision making everyday. But the economics to the employer are too tantalizing for them to ignore. There is also one point that actually gets missed in these arguments. We can argue all day long if the glass is half full or half empty when actually the core point is who owns the glass? In that vein the issue is who owns the patent? Most industrial-based R&D in this country the patent goes to the corporate employer not the developer. Looking at patent filings you see this trend. If you note, from 1985 to the end of the table, patent filings take a meteoritic rise. So even though there is more outsourcing of one form or another, the patent recipients are typically US holdings.

As to defense posturing, several leading military proponents are actually making a buzz that the U.S. may not be able to integrate with other military operatives. Our military strategic-tactical command and control is outpacing the balance of the NATO states, that to bring, say, France along for a theatre level Iranian invasion would reduce the pace of battle and risk more American lives.

Mr. Marino, considering incidents like this one, for the second time in five years I actually have great hope for the U.S. We are sucking brain power from all over the world to our shores at an advanced clip. Not because Americans can’t do it; they can. It’s just the need is so great and the problem/solutions are coming so fast that we cannot retool EE and CS majors fast enough as bioengineers. Since I also teach, I have actually seen a small rise in CS and TelCom students back into the schools. The H-1B’s may go back home but the product and concepts stay on these shores and that is a key strategic advantage.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

INSIDE SCOOP
Re: Tom Bethell's The Decline of the Liberal Faith:

Mr. Bethell doesn't know what he is talking about. Liberal faith is as alive as ever. Jesus was a liberal. There are over 150 million liberals in this country. His article saying differently is ludicrous and silly.
-- MPM

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