Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Poll Numbers on Shaivo and Social Security

Hi Everyone,

We've been ranting a bit about the Shaivo case, the Bush push to end social security or at least to end both its social aspect and its security aspect, and the plan to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate. Here are some interesting poll numbers on the issues from (see link to the right). These are just highlights. You can see all the numbers at

First, the Shaivo thing since it seems to be the hot topic this week (these results are from an ABC news poll):
56% of respondents support the Florida court ruling the remove life support
78% of respondents would NOT want to be kept alive themselves if they were in Terri Shaivo's condition - count me in with the majority on that one.
60% of respondents oppose sending the case to Federal Courts
70% oppose Congressional interference
67% believe such interference is motivated by political opportunism

Fox "News" polls got similar results (but they didn't even ask about Congress etc - why ask when you know you won't like the answer)

Now for Social Security:
59% of respondents disapprove of the way Bush is handling the social security issue (Newsweek poll)
48% of respondents believe the Bush administration is just using scare tactics. 43% believe there is a crisis (Time poll)
52% of respondents oppose investing social security in stocks and bonds (Time poll)
When the pollster mentions the amount of borrowing involved in privatization, 67% oppose it (Time poll)

The Filibuster:
57% of all respondents oppose ending the filibuster. 33% of Republicans oppose ending the filibuster! (Newsweek poll)

Bush's DISapproval rating is back up to 48% (Newsweek).

These numbers suggest that the Republicans are really picking their fights unwisely. Let's hope they push it to the limit so that we can get some democracy in 2006!

What do you think?


US West said...

I think that we should also poll to find out how many Americans are aware that the recently passed Congressional budget just made room for even bigger tax cuts than those asked for by the adminsitration. At the same time, the budget includes deep cuts to medicaid and numerous other social programs used by the poor. See: and take

In addition: for people interested in how this whole budget thing works, the Washington Post site has a Budget 101 seciton:

This is very cool because it has nice charts and graphs. And it has this striking stat at the end: By the end of this year, the CBO estimates that the national debt will be equal to 38% of the nation's economy.

Furthermore, here is the Post's info on the agency by agency breakdown on the FY2006 budget.

So let's do some serious polling on this issue. Forget Schiavo who is being supported by medicaid dollars.

Dr. Strangelove said...

If RxR is correct that Republicans are choosing their battles unwisely this term, might it be that they have been suckered in by their own propaganda and they actually believe they have won a mandate from the electorate--or perhaps from God?

US West said...

If Dr. Strangelove is right, then they haven't yet learned that, "What God giveth with the right hand, he can taketh with the left."

I am not sure that is acutally in the Bible. I'm Catholic, remember.

Raised By Republicans said...

Howard Johnson is right! (Blazing Saddles reference)

I think Dr. Strangelove hit the nail on the head with his interpretation that the Republican leaders believe their own propaganda about having a "mandate." This was exactly the problem they had with the Contract with America (which largely fell flat) and which lead to a huge set back over the government shut down confrontation with Bill Clinton.

This faction of the Republican party has a demonstrated pattern of campaigning far better than they govern.

I think they believe that the country is with them. No one is more convinced of this than Bush himself. We are seeing the blow back effects of their Potemkin campaign.

There is a old joke about Republicans. "Republicans spend their years in opposition screaming that government can't function effectively and every so often they get into power and prove it."

Bell Curve said...

I think no matter what religion (or lack of) one has, one has got to believe that whatever happens after we die is probably better than what Terri Schaivo is going through now. The only possible logical explanation for why people want to fight to keep her alive is that they think she'll pull through, despite the medical evidence.

By the way, I have found that a lot of deeply religious people are very afraid of dying, and it makes me wonder why. It's like Maude Flanders: "Oh Neddy, it was terrifying. I thought I was headed for the eternal bliss of paradise."

Raised By Republicans said...

My suspicion is that most (but certainly not all) avowedly religious people are not religious because of any kind of spiritual self exploration or contemplation of the nature of the universe etc. They are religious precisely because they find the unknown and unpredictable to be deeply disturbing. So rather than confront their fear they grab hold of the first set of beliefs that comes along that makes everything known. That way they don't have to think about things for themselves anymore.

They confuse spirituality with dogma and use dogma as a crutch...but they continue to be frightened.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Bell Curve is wrong about the "only possible logical explanation" for why Terri Schiavo's parents want to keep her alive. They believe she is still in there, somewhere--trapped, unable to communicate, impaired in her mental faculties, and bereft of memory--but still alive and desperately yearning for company. A baseless fantasy of heartbroken parents who cannot face the truth? Yes. But since science cannot prove anything with 100% certainty, many people will continue to believe that there remains reasonable room for Terri Schiavo's parents to doubt her doctors' conclusions about her mental state--that reasonable people can doubt or hope.

Because it is the nature of science to be honest about its own potential for ignorance and error, science does not speak in absolutes. Thus when Bush says we must, "err on the side of life," or when well-meaning, sympathetic people say there is, "always a chance," Terri Schiavo can come around, it can sound prudent and reasonable. But it is not. The underlying fallacy is a profound misunderstanding of chance and risk. To within the limits of scientific precision, it is no more likely that Terri Schiavo is still conscious than Julius Caesar is.

We have been grappling for centuries with the problem of how to make ethical decisions where there are no absolutes, only extremely strong probabilities, and the result is an evolving body of jurisprudence. Our system of law understands that there is a difference between a reasonable doubt and an unreasonable one, that even the most sacred rights must sometimes yield to harsh realities, and that life is extremely valuable but not, in the end, priceless. Albeit flawed, our judicial system is still the best instrument we have for making these painful decisions.

As I argued earlier on this blog concerning Bush v. Gore, two essential features of society's decisionmaking process are pre-determined rules and finality. By intervening in this case, Congress and the President have used fallacious appeals to our love of hope to maim the existing decisionmaking process, all for the sake of winning a few votes. As LTG wrote in an earlier post, they should be ashamed. In this case, there is a "chance" for a miracle, but not a reasonable chance. In this case, to "err on the side of life" is just to err. Through the courts, we have, as a society, already done the best we can.

Dr. Strangelove said...

After posting my comment, I checked the news one last time and saw that the 11th circuit panel has just refused to order the feeding tube reinserted. In a 2-1 decision, they wrote, "No matter how much we wish Mrs. Schiavo had never suffered such a horrible accident, we are a nation of laws and if we are to continue to be so, the preexisting and well-established federal law...must be applied to her case."

This says better what I was trying to get at with my comment about "pre-determined rules and finality."

Bell Curve said...

You're right, Dr. S. I was vainly trying to apply logic to a scenario in which all logic goes out the window, and very understandably so.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think we're all pretty much in agreement about our indignance over this whole mess but I just have two things to ad.

First, NPR is reporting from Columbus, OH that Ohio Hospice has seen their daily requests for information on living wills jump from 2 a day to 50 a day. The "Invisible Hand" speaks!

Second, the diagonosis about Terri Shiavo's "vegitative state" is not based on subjective interpretations of how she looks on video. Rather, cat scans of her brain show that her cerebral cortex (that's the grey wrinkly bit) has deteriorated to the point of being liquid.

There is science here. It's just not providing the answers religious fanatics want to hear.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr. S - predetermined rules and finality are great... to a point. Law has always struggled with predictability and finality on the one hand with mercy and substantial justice on the other. The danger of predetermined rules is that a just cause falls through the cracks; the danger of always willing to give things another look is that justice never finishes. Anglo-American jurisprudence has balanced these with twin pillars of law and equity, the former relying on predetermined rules and the latter on broader principles. The two systems of law compete, you might say, for the court's attention according to complicated mechanisms. In Continental legal systems, the (short) civil and code is presumed to have settled these issues because it is theoretically deduced from broader principles of ancient provenance. The judges of the 11th Circuit have reminded the world that we have parallel court systems, and that its analysis would be no different than that of a Florida court. The expectation that they would balance law and equity differently was folly to begin with: both courts apply the same family law (that of the state of Florida) and the same constitutional law (the US and Florida constitutions). By failing to create a new substantive federal right, the law only hoped to have a federal judge conclude that a Florida judge "did it wrong." Worked in Bush v. Gore - hence the tragedy of that case.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Another goal of the law--perhaps the primary goal--was to buy time. The state court proceedings took 7 years; the law's requirement of "de novo" proceedings at the federal level could have generated a delay at least as long. "Forum shopping" indeed.

Bell Curve said...

My suspicion is that most (but certainly not all) avowedly religious people are not religious because of any kind of spiritual self exploration or contemplation of the nature of the universe etc. They are religious precisely because they find the unknown and unpredictable to be deeply disturbing. So rather than confront their fear they grab hold of the first set of beliefs that comes along that makes everything known. That way they don't have to think about things for themselves anymore.

That is so funny because I think the same thing about atheists. I think a lot of them (again, not all) just refuse to think about the unknown, so they say "it happened randomly, there's no meaning" and close the book on it.

Wait, isn't this a political blog?

Raised By Republicans said...

Hi Bell Curve,

Yeah, its a political blog, a baseball blog and other random topics.

But religious identity, and the political conflicts that derive from it, are of increasing importance in this country.

As for atheists refusing to think about the unknown, I'm an atheist (I think) and I think about the unknown all the time. I've concluded that I don't know a heck of lot about it. But large numbers of self-identified Christians think about the unkown and conclude that Gay people are going to Hell and that liquified cerebral cortexes could grow back if only Congress would pass a law about it. That kind of "religion" is as devoid of spirituality as any kind of atheism. And that was really my point.

I stand by my assertion that many (perhaps that is a better choice of words than "most") people who declare that they are religious are really just dogmatic. The same could apply to any "belief system" I suppose.

Of course there are a small number of organized "atheists" who have websites and stuff. But I fear they are in danger of becoming a "belief system" that is just as dogmatic as any religion. It is far better to engage in a constant and curious search for answers to questions with the understanding that much is unknown but little is unknowable.

And of course, at the moment, there are no organized groups of atheists trying to curtail the civil liberties of their fellow citizens. There are however very large organziations of people who sincerely believe they are Christians doing just that and they have managed (for a variety of reasons) to acquire more than their fair share political power. This Shiavo thing is just one example.

These groups represent the plurality if not the majority of opinion among people who attend Christian churches regularly.

US West said...

Firstly, I think this was an excellent discussion that covered a lot of ground. Thanks to all.

Secondly, I have to agree with RBR on his points about religion, hypocrisy, and atheism. I also agree with BC that both can be taken to the extreme. RBR isn’t an atheist. He is an agnostic. He just doesn’t want to admit it.:-)

The difference between the atheist and the true believer is that the atheist is willing to admit not knowing many things,but for one. He knows for sure that there is no god.

The difference between the atheist and the agnostic is that the agnostic is willing to admit not knowing enough to prove things one way or the other. Are they the indecisive fence sitters or the fair minded judges?

This has ramifications for our politics. It goes without saying that there are solid values or morals behind our fundamental legal principles and our social contract. Some abroad have observed what they call the “cult” of the American Constitution, meaning that for some ( and I might fall into this category), the respect for the Constitution (as they see it) borders on the religious. But this can’t become too dogmatic because respecting the Constitution also means respecting its adaptability. And it means respecting the changing nature of common law (i.e. stare decisis).

This goes back to LTG’s post about the two legs of justice- the rules and equity. All rules are bendable and breakable. Determining how far to bend before something is broken is part of the dilemma. This is a very human struggle, one that was recognized when we were given the power to amend and interpret the Constitution and the body if law that has grown from it. It is the same power we were given to interpret the Bible and the body of dogma that has grown from that.

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest says an atheist, "knows for sure that there is no god." Though some atheists feel that way, as an atheist myself, I must respectfully disagree. Please see my earlier post re the incompatibility of science with absolute certainty.

The distinction between atheism and agnosticism is more subtle. Both camps find convincing evidence for a god to be lacking. Both camps believe that, contrary to the popular platitude, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence (I refer you to George W. Bush's "record" in the Air National Guard)--it just does not constitute conclusive proof. The difference is in where one goes from there.

One way or another, atheists conclude that--whether or not a god may in fact actually exist--they cannot reasonably believe in it, and they choose to live accordingly. Agnostics aren't sure what to think.

Incidentally, all this applies to a fairly generic concept of god. Some atheists (including me) feel comfortable ruling out a specific description of god (i.e. the Christian one) as incompatible with other evidence. In particular, since I think theodicy is a logical impossibility, if I were to accept the evidence for a god as convincing, my fallback position would have to be dystheism.

Raised By Republicans said...

I'm enjoying this too.

I'm reminded of a Monty Python skit where a man is annoyed by the loud church bells ringing in the church next door. "Bloody Christians! Why do they have to ring those bloody bells?" He screams - barely audible over the din..."You don't have Budhists banging bongos in the basement or Shintos shattering sheet glass in the shithouse!" Eventually the man is fed up and leaves. A pause and we hear a loud explosion followed by no more bells. The man returns home and says in a very satisfied tone, "There! It just goes to show that there's nothing an agnostic can't do if he doesn't know whether he believes in anything or not."

By the way, the US Supreme Court just voted to deny the Schindler's appeal to keep Terri Shiavo's body alive.

US West said...

a CBS poll is reporting that 2/3 of evangelical oppose Presidental and Congressional intervention in the Shiavo case. (

Thank you, Dr. S for highlighting the nuance I missed. Fair point.

Raised By Republicans said...

If I may wax partisan for a moment...

The kind of conversations we have on the blog are essentially why I'm a Democrat for the forseeable future. Here we are a bunch of people: Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian, atheist, pro-trade, trade-sceptical, liberal, moderate, what have you and we are having relatively civil conversations about politics and policy and none of us has suggested that any of the others should be "the enemy."

To me that is THE fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans right now. The Democratic Party is keeping true to its "Big Tent" philosophy and I think that is a VERY good thing!

Raised By Republicans said...

If I may our worst we get into heated debates about HOW EXACTLY to best serve the greater good. At our

At our best we engage in friendly exchange of opinions from which we all learn.

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