Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Anabaptist Conscientious Objection in Toronto.

From CNW Group, an update on the Canadian case about conscientious objection:

Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC) and Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC) (Quakers) express disappointment that the Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) has rejected a request to intervene in an appeal by US war resister Jeremy Hinzman.Hinzman and family applied for permanent resident status in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but their application was rejected. An upcoming appeal to the FCA will focus on whether punishment for desertion from the military - if it was motivated by a "deeply held" objection to war - could amount to "undue hardship" for the purpose of a humanitarian and compassionate application.The FCA refused CFSC-MCCC's intervention stating that they weren't directly affected by the issue, wouldn't provide a "fresh perspective", and that the Hinzmans' legal counsel could raise relevant concerns.Jane Orion Smith, General Secretary of CFSC, said, "The Court's decision is profoundly disappointing. Quakers and Mennonites, the core base of historic peace churches, have a unique and influential role in establishing rights for conscientious objectors over several centuries in Canada and internationally. During conscription, most of our members sought exemption as conscientious objectors. Conscientious objection is an issue of the present, not just history. Jeremy Hinzman and his family are an active part of the Toronto Quaker Meeting. Despite this setback, we will continue to educate and advocate for the realization of this much misunderstood right which is protected in domestic and international law."CFSC and MCCC argued that because Jeremy Hinzman's conscientious objection is rooted in his freedom of religion (and conscience), there should be a different test for assessing his punishment for holding those beliefs. It should not have to amount to "undue or disproportionate" hardship. Any hardship for his beliefs could potentially breach his religious rights, and the immigration officer deciding his case had to consider his case in light of these rights.Tim Wichert of Jackman & Associates, counsel for CFSC and MCCC, says: "The Federal Court has specifically said that the issue of conscientious objection still raises a host of outstanding questions, begging for resolution. Because of their extensive experience with this issue, we argued that Quakers and Mennonites had a unique perspective to offer."For further information: Tim Wichert (counsel), (905) 932-8914 or (416) 653-9900 ext 228; Jane Orion Smith (CFSC), (416) 920-5213 or (416) 356-5213

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Blaming Seniors for the High Cost of Health Care.

Eighty percent of seniors say they would like to die at home. Seventy-five percent die in medical facilities.

Despite endless studies that show seniors suffer when they are given futile care, our medical delivery system funnels them into aggressive, excessive treatments that do little or nothing to prolong life and harm their emotional and physical well-being in their last months.

But when seniors are informed of their care options and given a choice of how and where they die - in essence, when they are given the chance to honor their own consciences - the costs of elder care, emotional and physical, decline sharply.

Today's column by David Brooks assigns blame for the high costs of end of life care to the wrong party: seniors. The future of health care, he declares, is a senior movement that tackles "the cause of nonselfishness."

As Ezra Klein rightly notes, it's not seniors' selfishness that is consuming 2/3rds of the Medicare budget, but doctors':

I'm not being flip. I can make a pretty good case for payment reforms that would encourage doctors to provide fewer treatments. I can make a pretty good case that seniors in many states should go to the doctor far less often than they do. But people err when they imply that individuals have the power in the medical relationship. We go to the doctor and we listen to what the doctor says. A sick senior in Minnesota costs a lot less than a sick senior in Florida, but that's not because the Minnesotan is refusing treatments. It's because his doctor is providing fewer of them. If you want to talk about a group with real power to change medical spending in this country, talk about doctors.

Take Klein's Minnesotan and let's call him Charlie. Charlie's been through numerous chemotherapies and treatments over the past 5 years for cancer. But after a long, brave fight, his doctor knows that Charlie's got only about 5 months to live. Rather than discuss the exhausted options, the 5 month prognosis, a living will and plans for death, Charlie's preferred site of death, and other end of life issues, Charlie's doctor instead gives him the hope that a new, very expensive drug may extend his life. Charlie is kept in the hospital, Medicare pays for the experimental drug that is proven to extend life a few months in 5 to 10% of patients, Charlie's family visits daily with the hope that he will recover. Seven weeks after starting the new drug, Charlie lapses into a coma; two weeks later, he dies.

Doctors have traditionally shied away from discussing end of life care with patients for a host of reasons including: lack of training in how to broach the subject; the lengthy discussions that prepare a patient for death are often not reimbursed; and doctors frequently view the inability to cure a patient as a failure. As a result, dying patients are seldom accurately informed of their prognosis nor given the information and resources necessary to prepare. And patients fail to initiate these conversations because they look to their doctor for information and guidance. If the doctor can't broach the subject of death, how should the patient?

Yet taking on the failings of an ill-prepared medical industry is much less popular than blaming seniors for their selfishness. We look at medical professionals as authorities, paternalistic experts whose practices shouldn't be challenged. And we have come to view hospice or palliative care - options that work to keep a dying patient as comfortable as possible in a non-hospital facility or their home - as giving up on life.

If asked, Charlie may well have said that he wanted every possible treatment, no matter how long the odds were for his survival. But he may also have said that after five years of struggle against an incurable disease, he was ready to go home, to make his informed last decisions, to prepare for death, to die with his family surrounding him. Either way, it would have been Charlie's choice. Instead, his doctor "sheltered" him from such decision-making. And in the course of doing so, deprived him of a peaceful home death.

Klein's right. Until doctors - who have the ability to direct the nature of our last months and to inform us of what is coming and what our options are - address end of life care with patients, seniors will continue to die in ways and in places that they would never have chosen. At a cost that none of us should bear.

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Impeach Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

Bill Berry at Madison's Cap Times calls for the impeachment of Justice John Roberts:

If you’ve been around long enough, you can remember the highway billboards of the 1960s demanding “Impeach Earl Warren.”

Appointed chief justice of the United States by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953, Warren went on to anger conservatives for high court rulings, especially in the areas of police arrest procedures, separation of church and state, and civil rights.

The John Birch Society paid for those billboard messages, and while Warren was never impeached, he served as a convenient whipping boy for those who claimed to want a constructionist, not an activist, Supreme Court. My, how times have changed. Current Chief Justice John “Screw the Little Guy” Roberts and his four black-robed sycophants have proven every bit as activist as the Warren court.

The Roberts court’s frightening 5-4 ruling that corporations and unions may spend freely from their treasuries to influence elections is a monumental decision, as in monumentally wrong. Those scrambling to defend it note that the decision might lead to full disclosure of who or, in this case, what is spending money to buy political office. Sure, as if we didn’t know the names of the robber barons that Robert La Follette and Wisconsin’s early 20th century progressives fought.

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Faith and Groundhog Day.

Punxsutawny Phil gave us 6 more weeks of winter this morning but there's a bright spot on the radio.

Don't miss Angela Zito, religion professor extraordinaire from NYU's Center for Religion and Media, talking about Groundhog Day, the movie and the event, on The Take Away this morning.

"We are all here until we manage to get it right."

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CREW Urges Obama to Skip the Prayer Breakfast.

From Lezgetreal, a story on the recent call by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) for Obama to skip The Family's annual National Prayer Breakfast.

Sure, it's important to end the charade that the prayer breakfast is some innocuously faithful event now that the lid has been blown off the real workings of The Family. But what I wouldn't give to hear senators and representatives vocalize disdain for the infiltration of our government by a creepy pseudo-Christian group that has been influencing national and international politics for decades with quiet money, secret trips, crazy theology, and disdain for American's founding objectives. But alas, if it's sex scandals and a breakfast meeting that gets us all upset, so be it. The more exposure The Family gets, the better.

And lordy, if you haven't yet read the book, buy it now!

In a letter (pdf) addressed to President Obama,Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, CREW(Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) asks that the administration not support the National Prayer Breakfast, run by the religious group known as “The Family”. President Obama has been invited and is expected to attend and address the gathering, as he did last year. In fact, up until 1970, it was called the “Presidential Prayer Breakfast”.

In an interview with AlterNet in December 2009, Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power, points out that invitations to the event are sent on congressional headed paper, despite the event clearly a Christian, non-ecumenical event and is clearly in violation of the First Ammendment.

CREW cites a laundry list of ethics scandals involving those affiliated with the group, especially those housed at the notorious C-Street location in Washington DC. Names include: Senator John Ensign, Senator Tom Coburn, Governor Mark Sanford, and Representative Todd Tiahrt. They go on to show how The Family fail to operate with any clear mission or transparency, and seem to recruit heavily from amongst legislators.

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Civil Marriage: Preparing for the Overturn of Prop 8.

From Howard Friedman at Religion Clause, news that opponents of Prop 8 have introduced legislation (a spoonful of sugar) to help the overturn of Prop 8 (the medicine) go down.

As the federal court trial challenging the constitutionality of California's gay marriage ban continues (New York Times1/27), proponents of same-sex marriage yesterday introduced a bill in the California legislature to make the prospect more appealing to opponents. The Civil Marriage Religious Freedom Act (SB 906) emphasizes the distinction between religious and civil marriage by changing language in state statutes relating to marriage to refer to "civil marriage." The bill goes on to add to the section which permits clergy to perform marriage ceremonies:

No person authorized by this subdivision shall be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. Any refusal to solemnize a marriage under this subdivision shall not affect the tax exempt status of any entity.
According to LAist yesterday, both Equality California (press release) and the California Council of Churches back the measure.

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