Another Terri Schiavo?

Biltrix and Catholibertarian brought the case of Gary Harvey to my attention in this post. Mr. Harvey was injured in 2006, and the state (Pennsylvania in this case) has taken guardianship of him and has been striving to terminate his life.

Years ago, I read the (and posted about, with lots of comments and references) entire court transcripts of the original Schiavo case and reviewed several videos that were not part of the news media.  I came to the conclusion that she was profoundly impaired but not a vegetable (i.e., “in a persistent vegetative state”) under the legal definition. The court’s action was wrong, in my opinion, and was compromised by the judge’s financial relationship to one of the parties.

Terri Schiavo had injuries at the time of the 1990 incident consistent with foul play, and not with a simple “misadventure of low potassium count” and other theories advanced for her case, as I wrote here.

An amusing aside: She was described by one of the appointed examiners as having suffered a potassium loss from drinking too much iced tea.  I drink more iced tea than anyone on the planet, so far as I know — it regularly amounts to 48 8-oz. glasses per day. I am not yet “a vegetable,” but it has only been about fifteen years so far of this habit.  (Prior to this, I drank similar amounts of carbonated colas and such.)

The news suppression of certain video clips and statements in the Schiavo affair was rather like what they would do later with George Zimmerman to give the case the desired “slant.”

The Gary Harvey’s case I have little information on; I see that the court records were sealed by the judge as the case gained visibility.  It doesn’t look good, but seems inconclusive to me so far.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Magicians and the Disappearing Victim

“The church bell chimed ’till it rang twenty-nine times, for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  I’ve always liked this Gordon Lightfoot song, and it made me feel a little guilty to create The Wreck of Al Gore’s Copenhagen.

Sunday, President Obama somberly read a list of victims of Adam Lanza, while mixing politics into what should have been a eulogy.  He read only 26 names, as Adam Lanza’s mother Nancy, the first person he killed, was worth omitting from history for her crime of having guns at home. The bells rang only 26 times in most places, though a few rang 27 — and some pushed for 28, to include the killer himself.  But for most of the “official” memorials, including the balloons with the numbers 2-6 on them, Nancy Lanza is merely the victim not worth remembering.

We don’t know what happened — whether she kept the guns under lock and key, and Adam swiped the key — or any other scenario.  He was, reportedly, a genius.  But people seem so certain about what happened, using bits of hearsay or flat imagination to make scapegoating Nancy Lanza perfectly socially acceptable, and rendering instant diagnoses on Adam Lanza.

It’s odd how much has changed, and how much has been built from hearsay — and how fiercely protective the media (and White House) is about this story. They went to the trouble of announcing that any person putting up incorrect information about the Newtown school massacre would be prosecuted: Continue reading


Sunday Verse 7: Christmas Rambles

While the world has turned its thoughts to Christmas, other matters intrude: In the US, many are preoccupied by the much-hyped “fiscal cliff” and the planned increase in taxes as well as the aftermath of the the horrific shooting at the elementary school — the one in which no one had a weapon to defend themselves with. The US government’s plans to exact more taxes, and to reduce Constitutional freedoms, are much discussed.

I have obligations to Citizen Tom, voluntarily undertaken, remaining from the “Food for Thought Award” — and they include this seventh in a series on Sunday verses that have inspired my thought.  In this instance, Luke 2 comes to mind, as it is both an account of the birth of of Jesus, and it begins with an announcement of government taxation:

2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2 goes on to describe the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and early life, continuing in Luke 3 with an account of Jesus being both the Son of God and the (great^76) grandson of God with each step in the 77-part intermediate lineage identified.  Matthew goes into more background, but only a partial ancestry list.

But neither Luke nor the other synoptic gospels say exactly when the birth of Jesus occurred.  The date seems not to have been celebrated in the first couple of centuries, though the common supposition, “everybody knows the date came from a later pagan ritual,” appears to be wrong.  The Western world’s churches have celebrated this occasion on December 25 for more than a thousand years, even though the actual date this falls on would have been adjusted with calendar tinkerings.  (Compare this to Easter, which gets a lunar-based calculation that is rather mathematically involved and independent of the calendar conventions of any given time.)

While the Romans instituted (at least by 275AD or so) the use of December 25th for the holiday of “Sol Invictus” (“the Invincible Sun [god]“), Augustine of Hippo wrote around that time about December 25th as a tradition among the Donatists that dates from even earlier.  And at that time, before Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the early 300s and made it safe (or safer) to practice, Christians seemed disinclined to adopt anything pagan in their practices.

I would say, based upon my reading, that the Romans may have tried to usurp the Christian holiday, rather than the other way around.  Though, obviously, many later practices were incorporated — but this seems to have begun much later, centuries in some cases.

But why December 25th at all?  It appears that in the Western tradition, Jesus was conceived on March 25th, and December 25th is nine months later.  Eastern churches use April 6 for the conception date, so their birth of Jesus is celebrated on January 6th.  The days in between are now called “the Twelve Days of Christmas.”  Did you know where that came from?

[Edit] As Mary Catelli points out in the comments below, Jesus is assumed to have died on the same day of the year as the crucifixion — something common to both Eastern and Western church traditions.

While the rest of the subject matter is not entirely on point, 1 Corinthians 5 has a good advocation for us regarding Christmas — with even a flavor of New Year’s resolutions tucked in:

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

In any event, a Merry Christmas to you all full of sincerity and truth, and Happy Hanukkah any other holiday or special occasion that brings you happiness.  Since I am something of a technical geek, I hope that this Christmas image and a bit of my own humble poetry may serve as a virtual card.

A Merry Christmas with high technology!
A Merry Christmas with high technology!


Merry Christmas to all who observe
Even any or no faith will serve
For enjoying Yuletide
Is just what you decide
May you get everything you deserve

And of other faiths and celebrations
May they please those in rapt contemplations
Of the times of the past
May your bright future last
And be ready with fast demonstrations

There were challenges during the year
But so far, we have made it to here
May I say in this letter
Let next year be better!
May it bring peace and joy without fear




===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


Deterring the Insane

There are many odd things about the sad atrocity in the Sandy Hook school. This includes odd political things, like the implicit assumption by Obama and many others that making one more aspect of what the shooter did illegal would stop him. The shooter was a 20-year-old young man described as a “loner” and “something of a genius” and “not very social” — phrases that were used to describe me, decades ago, and are now being used to identify “Aspies” and autistic children as potential mass murderers. Video games, too, are being blamed — though this isn’t supported by studies as nearly as I can tell.  However, video games did figure into this, and I will get to that in a moment.

This mass murder took place in an area where it was against the law.  All do, in fact.  But this mass murder, like all in the last half century except the shooting of Gabriella Giffords, took place in a spot where defending oneself was also against the law.  This is evidently no accident; the shooter was apparently quite accomplished at first person shooter games, and would have learned some appreciation for strategy and tactics, including defensive capabilities.  In fact, when he heard that the police were about to arrive, and that he would be opposed, he immediately killed himself.

I do not suggest that video games caused the killing — simply that it is one obvious source from which the shooter could have learned something about the tactics involved.  Television, movies, and books also provide such information, usually in similarly distorted form.  But distorted or not, it is enough to have an effect.

Is that effect common?  Yes. All those horrifically effective mass murders, taking place in gun free zones, are not accidental.  There are four selection biases involved here. First, the shooters tend to choose a place where their targets won’t shoot back.  Second, the shooter’s effectiveness is badly compromised by people who shoot back. Third, the media tends to focus on those who actually succeed in killing large numbers, making the perpetrators famous and encouraging more perpetrators to do the same thing. Fourth, the media tends to play up white mass killers, while being rather more gentle and sympathetic toward minorities and especially jihadist murderers.

One recent case demonstrates a bit of all of these biases:  A young man who came to the US after a very difficult time as a child in Bosnia joined a mosque, became a jihadist, and went to a mall to kill civilians. He made a tactical mistake, as this was in Utah and guns were not banned.  After shooting several people, one returned fire (an off-duty policeman out for a Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife).  That was the end of the killing spree; he was pinned down until finally being killed in a shootout with cops when they ultimately arrived.

The media treated him gently enough. The Salt Lake City Tribune ran several full pages of biographical details, but it was difficult indeed to spot the fact that he was a Muslim. His attendance of a radical mosque is not even mentioned in the Wikipedia article, which notes only that his parents were Muslims. And he was not much in the national news, as he killed relatively few and was the “wrong kind” of killer.

The “Batman killer” in Aurora, Colorado was “smarter” — he chose the one nearby theater where handguns were banned. The Virginia Tech shooter picked a gun-free zone too, rendering his law-abiding victims defenseless.

Just a few days ago, another would-be mass murderer made a similar mistake to the Utah jihadist: He went to a Texas restaurant looking to kill a raft of people starting with his ex-girlfriend, and finding her not there, opened fire on employees (who ran to a nearby theater).  He began shooting in the theater, but hit only one person before a gal with a concealed carry permit acting as security for the theater returned fire, taking him down.  He got up, ran to the restroom, and was ultimately disarmed by her.  No one was killed.  (He’d hit one man in the chest, who survived.) Note, too, that this incident has barely surfaced in the news, and is not featured in leftist news sources at all.

Banning “assault weapons” is silly; this once-useful term now means simply guns that look scary to legislators. Automatic weapons are already banned, and were used in none of these crimes. No assault weapon was used in Sandy Hook. Banning such weapons would affect only those without criminal intent, as illegal guns made in South America and China are very easy for criminals to obtain, and that’s where most of Mexico’s gang weapons come from.

Speaking of Mexico, foolish, ignorant or deceitful politicians including Secretary Clinton and President Obama continue to maintain the fiction that “90% of Mexico’s guns come from the United States.”  Even when the Obama administration was pumping weapons into the hands of Mexican gangs, apparently intending to use just such incidents to stir up anti-gun sentiment, the 90% number wasn’t true; it appears that the number is less than half and may be as little as 12%.

The gun-free zones that attract mass murderers should be banned themselves; they are responsible for hundreds of deaths.  Allowing teachers, and others, to carry weapons if they desire to do so has a track record of stopping mass murders from even being attempted.  The same sort of practice, extended to the citizens to places such as Chicago, would help: Chicago would no longer be the number one “alpha world” city for murder rates.  But it seems that Chicago’s leadership (including Obama) does not care about those deaths, which will this year be dozens of times the Sandy Hook toll and amount to about a Sandy Hook every summer weekend:

For his part, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has responded to the killings with his unique brand of tough love, saying that he doesn’t really care if gang members kill each other, just as long as they do it away from children and other innocents. “Take your stuff away to the alley,” he told a press conference in early July. “Don’t touch the children of the city of Chicago. Don’t get near them.” In Emanuel’s words is the tacit understanding that it’s not kids committing these crimes—at least not very small ones. It’s young men committing these crimes, and the vast majority of those young men are black (though blacks make up only 33 percent of Chicago’s population, they’re 78 percent of the murder victims).

Former gun instructor Larry Correia has an excellent post (hat tip to the Lady Rowyn) discussing each of the typical gun control arguments and appropriate responses.  Highly worth reading.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Just Iraq

I mentioned in the “Sunday Verse 6″ post about the idea of a “just war.”  In my opinion, our entry into Iraq in 2003 was appropriate — a “just war” as the saying goes — and it may be the only war in all of history that was initiated based upon conditions that both sides had agreed to in advance. The invasion and ouster accomplished much good, not just in Iraq but with other very beneficial effects: Continue reading


Sunday Verse 6: Two Worlds

Another post in the Food for Thought series, triggered by this nomination from Citizen Tom.

One rather famous verse in the synoptic Gospels (such as in Matthew 21) includes this line: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The same chapter contains many other recognizable phrases, and it has long intrigued me how many different Biblical expressions have made it to English conversational or literary use.  For example, in this chapter are found the expression “Many are called, but few are chosen” and “Show me the money!”  (often translated as “show me the tribute money” or “show the the tribute coin”). Continue reading


Rigging the Vote Testimony

I think that voter fraud is a substantial problem in the United States.  At the same time, I think that we must be careful what we say about it, as we weaken our case by propagating information that turns out to be dubious or false.  This video came to my attention again recently, though I’d seen it years ago and done some reading about the events described.  In the video, a programmer named Clinton Curtis claims that he was hired by a politician (Tom Feeney) to rig touch-screen voting machines in Palm Beach County to fraudulently pick a predetermined winner in the 2000 election: Continue reading

Euphemisms for jihadists

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the UK typically uses a euphemism for jihadist Muslims in the news, referring to them more blandly as “Asian men.”  This was true in the sex trade article I’d linked, for example.

DeckardCanine was surprised: “That’s a euphemism? To me it’s just a way to offend even more people.”

I replied: First, it is part of a generally pan-Western media tendency to downplay jihadist violence.  Almost all terrorism is by the jihadist subset of Muslims, which news sources in the US and elsewhere tend to de-emphasize.

Indeed, they work to facilitate jihadists and provide them more opportunities for their activities ranging from propaganda to murder.  The US (and the Left) make a big deal about funding Christian schools — but are actually funding jihadist madrassas in the US.

Famous incidents include calling the Fort Hood jihadist shooting “workplace violence” and not mentioning his faith in that connection, as well as federal grants to schools contingent upon their enforcing Arabic language and culture and religion training as mandatory for all students, a notion which is spreading now beyond grants.

Perhaps the media’s “don’t talk about it” portrayal of jihadism is merely cowardice. Offending Asians does not get you killed, as a general thing.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


Rotherham’s Children

It has struck me as peculiar, this current little conflict going on in the United Kingdom. Two situations in the community of Rotherham stand in seeming contrast:

Is Altruism Batty?

This creature is perhaps an unlikely representative of altruism:

The nightmarish vampire bat might not seem like a team player, given that it’s a parasite and all, but in fact it demonstrates some pretty advanced social intelligence. It’s in the best interest of a small animal like the bat to maintain a healthy and large community, and vampire bats, as it turns out, are capable of reciprocal altruism–basically, doing favors. Research by Gerald Wilkinson showed that bats share food (fine, they regurgitate blood. Happy?) with bats who are hungry, regardless of whether the hungry bats are close relatives. In fact, writes Boysen, “the bats seemed to keep track of who had shared with them in the past, and they were much more likely to reciprocate with those who had been generous to them on a previous occasion.”

The gallery in this PopSci website is called “10 animals that are smarter than you think” and is interesting, despite leaving out octopuses (which is correct, I suppose, as I think that they are very smart).

The vampire bat is described as demonstrating “advanced social intelligence” and “reciprocal altruism.”  But is it truly altruism, or is it more likely a wise investment for self-preservation?  The researcher quoted in the caption notes “the bats seemed to keep track of who had shared with them in the past, and they were much more likely to reciprocate with those who had been generous to them on a previous occasion.”  They would give blood to other bats, independent of whether those bats were related, with an eye toward getting the favor back in the future. And ones who had been generous would be rewarded with a meal instead of relatives, which means the vampire bat version of “blood is thicker than water” needs a number of adjustments.

So, then, would “altruism” — what these creatures do is described as “reciprocal altruism” which might be a bit closer to “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” from a larger and genetically closer fellow mammal. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it seems to me to be a mis-use of the word “altruism” if the bat discriminates who it helps based on an expectation of, or reward for, returned favors.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle