Friday, April 29, 2005

What Time Zone is Best for State?

Time zones make life much easier and less confusing in a world where communication is instant and travel is quick. But setting the location of time zone boundaries has often been very contentious.

The Indiana General Assembly finally passed legislation putting all of the state on daylight saving time. Why state lawmakers didn’t make the change years ago will remain one of the major mysteries of the universe, along with why people act weird during a full moon and why that Scott guy has not been voted off American Idol yet.

But now that Indiana is set to start observing DST the focus shifts to the next contentious matter: Which time zone will the U.S. Department of Transportation put Indiana in? Since the 1960s the DOT has been in charge of setting and moving time zone boundaries.

Prior to the twentieth century, there were no uniform time zones. Time was determined locally, which started to lead to much confusion as people became more mobile with the expansion of the railroad. Then, in 1918, the U.S. and Canada set up a uniform time system and created standard time zones. The 48 contiguous states are scattered across four time zones.

Originally, the boundary between the Eastern and Central time zones went through Ohio, placing Indiana solidly on Central Time. But in 1972 after the time boundary was moved to the Illinois-Indiana border, Indiana stopped observing daylight saving time.

The decision was meant as a sort of compromise. Since most of the state was switching to Eastern Time, it was thought that if we also continued to observe daylight saving time in the summer, Indiana would effectively be on fast-fast time. (Fast time and slow time are archaic terms for daylight time and standard time, respectively.)

So now that we get to observe DST again, what time zone should Indiana be in?

Logically, the current time zone boundary works well enough. It probably should not be moved at all. That means the six-county region near Chicago and the five-county region near Evansville would remain on Central Time and the rest of the state would remain on Eastern Time. The only difference would be that all the state will now observe daylight saving time instead of just the Central Time counties.

However, many residents along the western edge of the state, such as in Terra Haute, would rather be on Central Time. The DOT, therefore, may redraw the line so that it cuts a slice through extreme western Indiana.

It would not be advisable to move all the state to Central Time. Doing so would mean we get no more daylight in the evenings during summer than we do presently, but it would get dark a lot earlier in the winter. In mid-winter, it would be dark through most of the rush hour.

Either way, though, observing daylight saving time means that Indiana gets to move its clocks in synch with the rest of the nation. That is good for many businesses, including the communications industry, the Post Office and other interstate delivery services, and the transportation industry.

It will also be far less confusing to visitors from surrounding states who never know what time it is in Indiana.

Finally, Indiana TV stations won’t have to tape delay network programming, meaning that live shows will be live here.

Although we pick up the slight inconvenience of having to re-set our clocks twice a year, the advantages far outweigh that slight drawback. And whatever time zone Indiana winds up in, it will be far superior to the Indiana non-standard time zone we’ve been stuck in for 30 years.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Don't Be Fooled by Bogus Info

Anyone with access to the Internet, which is almost everyone these days, knows that it can be used to find good information about almost anything imaginable. And you can usually find it very quickly if you know a few advanced searching tricks.

But along with legitimate news and information there is also a plethora of “junkformation,” which is my word for Internet litter. The biggest problem is that some people, especially neophyte users, might actually confuse the legitimate for the not-so-legitimate.

In this age of electronic publishing where anyone with a Web address can publish almost anything he wants, we must be really careful to sort out the flotsam and jetsam floating around in cyberspace from the bona fide facts.

Some of the spurious information is put there purposely as a joke. Some of it comes from the fringe groups of society who have adopted a sort of twisted logic that they have formed into cult-like status, and they want everyone to join them. They make the most bogus of assertions seem credible by using scientific lingo or using out-of-context quotes from authorities.

A few years ago, I wrote about a Web site that warned everyone against the deadly chemical dihydrogen monoxide. The site claimed that this substance was found everywhere, even in breast milk. They said it could cause everything from skin irritation to death.

All of the claims made about this chemical are true, and many college students who visited the site took up the cause to force the government to regulate it. Unfortunately, none of those students were majoring in chemistry, for the deadly dihydrogen monoxide is just the chemical name for plain old water.

Yes water can kill you if you drown in it. And it can irritate your skin in its frozen state. It can even give you frostbite. But the Web site didn’t mention water anywhere. It was an attempt by the Webmaster to show just how gullible some people can be about information they find on the Internet.

Someone recently sent me a Web site for my perusal, to see what I thought about it. The site is called WhatDoesItMean.com. I don’t know who runs it or why, but it is chock full of legitimate-looking, though completely bogus, news and information on a wide variety of topics.

One article claims that the U.S. and Russia have been working together to fire thousands of nuclear missiles at a huge incoming asteroid. The article said that the nukes have destroyed the intruder and that its debris is now raining down on the earth. It points to a meteorite impact in Canada recently as one of the pieces of this debris.

I wonder how CNN failed to pick up on those thousands of nuclear missile launches. Maybe it was too busy covering the Michael Jackson trial.

An even more bizarre claim is that the earth’s gravitational field has been altered by the recent earthquakes in the Indian Ocean so that the earth is starting to attract more asteroids. It quotes a legitimate news story about how the quakes have affected Earth’s gravity.

Although large quakes can affect the earth’s rotation minutely, and even change the gravitational field on a local level a tiny bit, the gravity of the earth as a whole cannot be altered by these local events. Gravity depends on one thing – mass. The earth’s mass cannot be changed by an earthquake; therefore, its gravity can’t be changed either.

Yes, the Internet is a vast storehouse of knowledge that’s free for the taking. Just be careful to verify the information before you use it. If you can’t verify it, take it with a grain of salt.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Indy Mayor Puts Stadium Over Politics

With a deadline looming just a week away, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson last Friday acquiesced to Gov. Mitch Daniels’ demand that the State of Indiana be in charge of building a new stadium for the Indianapolis Colts. It was the biggest obstacle still remaining to starting the project.

It was a major concession by the mayor, since the city has had control of all other similar construction projects, including the RCA Dome, Conseco Fieldhouse, and Victory Field. But he realized that it was the only way the stadium project had a chance to succeed.

So to Peterson’s credit, he placed the good of Central Indiana over politics, meaning that there is now a decent chance the Colts will get a new home and Indianapolis will get a bigger, better convention center.

The entire project will cost about $900 million. Originally, the plan called for much of that money to come from expanded gambling in the state, but unfortunately, Statehouse lawmakers balked at that idea. Some said if Indianapolis wanted a new stadium, then the city and the Colts should pay for it.

The Colts did agree to chip in $100 million. But Peterson pointed out that the majority of fans, 75 percent of them, who pay to see the Colts play come from outside Marion County.

Earlier this month the mayor and lawmakers worked out a funding plan that would increase restaurant taxes by one percent in Indianapolis and the surrounding counties. The county governments would get to keep half that revenue with the other half going to construction costs for the stadium

In addition, hotel and motel taxes would increase. This increase would most affect visitors to the city and would not be out of line with what other major cities charge.

Unfortunately for Indianapolis, small-market cities tend to have less bargaining power with their sports franchises than the biggest metropolitan areas do. They often get stuck paying the price for their stadiums in full. Indianapolis’ deal with the Colts seems to be reasonable under those circumstances.

Although Peterson called his concession a “bitter pill,” in the end, it doesn’t really matter who oversees the construction of the stadium, as long as it gets built. The board in charge of construction gets to award lucrative contracts, and so politically, it’s a plus for whatever entity controls it. But the end results still mean a new stadium, no matter who controls the construction of it.

And that is what Peterson said after agreeing to relinquish control to the state. He is a democrat and the governor is a republican. It was a political concession he knew he had to make if he wanted to see his stadium plans come to fruition.

And, in the end, he said, “I need to set aside my feelings and do what's right for our city and do what's best to get this project done.”

Of course, it’s not a done deal yet. It still has to pass both chambers of the General Assembly and the taxing plan has to be approved by the City-County Council and all of the surrounding county governments. But the major obstacle is now gone, so it is far more likely that the stadium will now be built.

If it is finally approved, construction on the new retractable-roof stadium could begin by mid-summer. It could be ready in time for the 2008 Colts season.

Benefits to Central Indiana are great. Indianapolis' position as a big convention city would be strengthened by expanding the Convention Center. The expansion would occupy the site where the RCA Dome is now located. A new stadium could also liven up the area south of the Dome with new commercial and residential developments. “That tends to happen in the area around these kinds of developments,” said Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell.

Indianapolis is already considered by many to be the gem of the Midwest. It has a lot going for it. It is a clean, vibrant city with a donut of counties surrounding it that are all growing economically as well as in population. And what’s good for the city tends to be good for the suburbs.

It doesn’t matter which government entity oversees the project, as long as it gets done. And Peterson’s compromise last Friday was a bold move that got the project back on track.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Seeing Signs Where None Exist

Ok, this is me, climbing up on my soapbox….

People, people – please get a life!

Several news stories have recently attracted my attention and again caused me to question the sanity of many of my fellow humans. Let’s start with the story of yet another Mary sighting.

In Chicago last week, hundreds of otherwise normal people forced police to cordon off an area underneath an underpass on the Kennedy Expressway because there is a salt stain on the concrete wall. And these misguided folk want to get a close look at the stain because it looks like the Virgin Mary, or so they say.

It’s always been somewhat of a mystery to me how people know what the Virgin Mary looked like. There were no cameras in her day and I don’t believe she had a portrait commissioned.

Of course, it’s the same with Jesus. Nobody these days has a clue what the man really looked like. Mel Gibson apparently believes he looked a lot like James Caviezel.

Anyway, getting back to the wall stain, the Illinois Dept. of Transportation said it was treating it the same way they would treat any other roadside “memorial.” They don’t plan to remove it.

It’s a pity. Sandblasting it off the wall might send these people back to work where they can be productive instead of standing around, or kneeling, on the side of a highway, praying to some faux virgin replica.

It’s funny how otherwise sane individuals find it so easy to have faith is salt stains, misshapen potato chips, and reflections on the windows of office buildings but they have no faith in the science that has made it possible for them to exist in the modern world. In fact, they will go to almost any length to keep their children from learning about the proven concepts of science in school, even resorting to disclaimers on textbooks.

Witness the behavior of several IMAX theater owners across the south as disclosed in another recent news story. There is a new IMAX film out about undersea volcanoes that will be making its rounds this summer. But some of the theaters will not be showing it.

Although the movie is about underwater volcanoes, it happens to mention the theory of evolution when it talks about the peculiar forms of microscope life that exist around these undersea vents. And because it makes mention of the “E-word,” several theaters are knuckling under to pressure from the ubiquitous religious fanatics that infest the South. So they have decided not to show the heathen film.

A theater spokesperson said it might offend those who have strong religious beliefs. Well then, maybe they shouldn’t go see the film if they’re offended by it. I’m offended because some theaters are not showing the film. The action should offend all open-minded, intelligent human beings who choose to see the world the way it really is and not as is depicted in some ancient fairy tale about creation.

It’s fine to have faith in God. But I truly believe that if God exists, He must surely be looking down on His creation and shaking His head in utter amazement at how na├»ve some of His followers really are.

But then what can you expect from all those far-right-wing fans of our current president? I hope they remember what happened to the last guy who followed the advice of a bush. He wound up wandering aimlessly in the desert for 40 years.

Ok, I feel better now that I’ve gotten that out of my system. So this is me getting down off my soapbox, at least until I read about somebody, somewhere, doing something else really stupid. Sadly, it probably won’t take long.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ban Smoking in Public Even if Public Objects

The Indianapolis City-County Council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in bars and restaurants. Public hearings have been going on for several weeks. If the ordinance finally passes as proposed, it would be one of the strictest prohibitions of its kind in the nation.

Not only would smoking be completely banned in all bars, restaurants, and public buildings, even some outdoor venues would be affected. Smoking would also be banned in public parks, for example.

It’s an idea whose time has come. Although public input is certainly important, the council should finally vote for the health and safety of the public, even if the public objects. Here’s why:

Unlike other laws that are supposed to protect public safety, such as the seat belt law, banning smoking would protect members of the public from the dangerous habits of others. If smoking harmed only the smoker, then such an ordinance would be ill-advised.

It is especially necessary in order to protect the health of innocent children who have not made the decision to start smoking, yet who have to endure the toxic gasses from nearby cigarettes in public places, such as parks and restaurants.

It would also help to protect children from the bad habits of their smoking parents, who seem oblivious to the fact that cigarette smoke is harmful and bothersome to their offspring when they are forced to sit in the smoking section of a restaurant so their parents can light up after dinner.

Thus far, there have been more opponents speaking out at the public hearings than supporters of the proposed ban. This is understandable, since the opponents are the ones who feel they have the most to lose if the ordinance passes. Many of the opponents are bar and restaurant owners who fear a loss of business.

Some hospitality entrepreneurs believe that banning smoking in restaurants and bars, especially those near county lines, would drive away customers. They say smokers will opt to go to neighboring counties where smoking bans are not in effect.

One solution to this problem would be for those neighboring counties, such as Johnson County, to pass anti-smoking ordinances of their own. It’s probably too much to ask for the state legislature to pass a law against smoking in public; they can’t even get together on a daylight saving time bill that costs the state nothing and would attract business to the state. So smoking bans will have to remain a hodgepodge of local ordinances for now.

Even without the help of the surrounding counties, however, it has been demonstrated in other cities and counties across the nation where smoking has already been banned that business is not generally harmed. Some establishments report an initial downturn in business, but it soon picks up again as patrons come in from outside the area to avoid smoke-filled public rooms.

Others argue that enforcing a limitation on a legal activity is intrusive. Admittedly, the government often intrudes into private matters where it has no business. Witness the Terri Schiavo fiasco last month. But smoking bans are not simply attempts at protecting us from ourselves. They are meant to protect those who choose not to smoke from the harmful effects of nearby smokers.

In that sense, smoking bans are more like battery laws that protect the innocent from a physical assault by an aggressor. Tobacco smoke may be slower to act than a punch, but it may still be just as dangerous, especially to children.

The proposed ordinance, being so strict, has plenty of room for compromise. Allowing smoking in designated areas of establishments where only adults are allowed is one possible compromise. At the very least, even if the proposed ordinance is defeated as is, every locality should adopt a prohibition on allowing children under the age of 18 to be seated within the smoking section of restaurants.

If no one under the age of 21 is allowed to enter a bar, then no one under the age of 18 should be permitted to enter a smoking area.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's Time for a Change

Can we spring forward yet?

As I write this, the Daylight Saving Time Bill has been sent to a joint conference committee to be reworked. The final version coming out of committee then has to be passed by both the Indiana House and the Senate before it can be sent to the governor, who supports adopting DST.

I’m hoping that by the time you read this, the legislation will be passed, but I don’t hold out too much hope. The General Assembly has until the end of the month to pass it.

This year, though, the time bill has had the best shot of passing in many years. In fact, maybe they should rename it the Phoenix Bill, because it has risen from the ashes twice this session already. (And, as an ironic twist, Phoenix is the capital of Arizona, which is the other state that refuses to observe daylight saving time.)

The first time the bill died was when the Democrats in the House walked out March 30 in protest of unrelated legislation. It was brought back to life after representatives figured out a place to put it in another bill that was gutted.

Then on April 8, the House voted the time bill down by a slim 50 to 49 margin. But because there were not 51 votes against it, it still had the slimmest of chances of being resurrected yet again. Later that night, that’s exactly what happened when the governor called some no-voting House members and asked them to change their minds.

Unfortunately, by the time the bill had passed out of the House, it was carrying some excess baggage that the Indiana Senate, not to mention the federal government, was opposed to. It carried an amendment sponsored by Dale Grubb (a Democrat from Covington), that would allow his county, and other counties on the border of the Central Time Zone, to opt out of the daylight saving time requirement.

The Feds say counties can’t do that, (even though some counties near Louisville have been doing it unofficially for years). And Robert Garton, Senate Pres. Pro Tempore, said the Senate wouldn’t pass a bill with an illegal provision.

So there we have it. The bill is being sent to conference committee to iron out its wrinkles and allow both chambers of the General Assembly one last shot at passing an overly contentious bill that really ought to be a no-brainer for passage.

Given that a majority of Hoosiers favor going to DST, that the governor made it a campaign issue, that business interests and broadcasters are backing it, and that it doesn’t cost the state a dime, it seems ludicrous that there would even be a single hold out. But I put the odds at about 50-50 right now.

Obviously, if the General Assembly has already acted on the bill, my prediction of its chances is a moot point. But when you’re predicting something as contentious as a time bill in Indiana, 50-50 odds seemed as safe a bet as any.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

An Open Letter to God

We are now in an interim period in which the world has no pope; there is no one on Earth who is infallible right now. As TV host John Stewart observed, the world is now in the hands of mere humans, and you know how they tend to screw things up.

Next week, the College of Cardinals (I believe it is unaccredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges) will meet to elect a new pope. Maybe they will pick one that doesn’t have such a dichotomous nature.

Although Pope John Paul II was very well-liked and pious, he was also far too conservative for many. He brought much of the world together, while at the same time disenfranchising many U.S. Catholics for not effectively dealing with all those pedophile priests.

But Pope John Paul II was known as a prayerful pope. And during his last days he was the recipient of millions of prayers, perhaps for his recovery, one would assume. Prayer is, by and large, only 50 percent successful and this was one of the times the coin turned up tails for his followers.

There has been some research showing a weak correlation between prayer and healing of the sick. But like with all preliminary scientific studies, the results were inconclusive because there were too many uncontrolled variables.

The assumption by believers is that God is responsible for healing the sick after they are prayed for. But that creates several gaps in logic, such as why would he wait for someone to pray for another’s recovery before he healed them? It leads me to wonder if praying to, say, Mel Gibson would bring similar results.

Unlike the right-wingers who have it all figured out and insist on shoving it down the throats of us poor heathens by any means necessary, I don’t understand God and I don’t know what he wants of me, if anything.

Leaders of the devout have tried everything throughout history to win converts, such as creating the modern concept of Hell to scare people into attending, or bribery such as by building beautiful cathedrals to draw in the crowds, or intimidation such as during the Inquisition, or more recently, filling the airwaves with crybaby TV evangelists. But I have resisted their proselytizing and retained my spiritual independence.

Many others have done the same, but since we remain unaffiliated, we don’t have the loud voice of reason to counterbalance the well-organized and oft-televised soul saving of the evangelists.

I’ve been advised by some devout Christians, mostly family members, to find the answers I’m searching for by praying. That always seemed to me a little like trying to define a word by using the word in the definition.

And it isn’t like I haven’t prayed before. I’ve done it often. Maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly. Maybe there’s a certain format that few people have hit upon, which would explain why only 50 percent of prayers are answered. Maybe prayer has to be more public, such as in an open letter to God.

Dear God: I have some questions about you and religion that have been puzzling me and others for a long time. Please respond to this open-letter prayer as soon as possible by sending a reply to my current e-mail address. I’m sure you know it, being all-knowing.

Do you have a favorite religion? If so, tell me which one it is and that’s the one I’ll go with.

Is the bible really your unerring word? If it is, why are there so many contradictions and errors in it? I mean, if the creator of the universe and humankind can’t even make his word clear enough for everyone to easily understand, then how can we trust him not to have made a mess of the afterlife? As a writer myself, I think I could have done better.

And what about those Ten Commandments? Why 10? Why not 7 or 40 as everything else in the bible is divvied out? And why is it considered a sin by most conservative Christians for two unmarried, consenting adults to have sex if there is no commandment against it? Oh, and why are there so many different versions of the commandments, even in the bible?

Was Jesus Christ really your son? Is he the only way to get to Heaven, as most Christians claim? If so, what about the billion Muslims and the millions of Jews, not to mention all the Hindus and Buddhists in the world who don’t believe he was? Are the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants just so much flotsam and jetsam or are they your creation too?

Why have so many wars been fought in the name of the Prince of Peace?

And if you’re so perfect, why did you create a world that is so imperfect – twice?

Finally, God, if you're all-powerful and can do anything as most people claim, could you create a rock that is so heavy that even you couldn't lift it?

Amen.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Look Up and Say Cheese

Back in the 1960s I liked to watch one of the original reality shows on TV, Candid Camera with host Allen Funt. It caught people by surprise when they found out they had been a victim of a practical joke on camera.

There have been several incarnations of the show since its original series, including an adult-themed version on pay TV. And now, television is full of real-life shows that capture real people doing real things. There are police chase shows, family home video shows, and shows featuring “amazing” videos of people doing dangerous and stupid things.

Over the last 10 years or so, the Internet has made it possible for anyone to see a picture of almost anywhere at anytime. There are so-called Web cams by the thousands. Yes, I have a couple of them myself. They’re always on.

Almost every place of business uses small cameras placed in strategic locations as a means of security. It is virtually impossible to go into any store or bank without being on one of their “candid cameras.”

And now, it is possible to get onto the Internet and see a satellite image of almost anywhere in the United States. Last week, Google.com introduced a service that lets users zoom right down to house level from the sky high eyes that orbit the earth continuously.

Formerly, the service, known as Keyhole, was used by government agencies and certain businesses. Subscribers had to pay for the ability to zoom in from above. But Google.com acquired the service six months ago and is now offering it free to the public at maps.google.com.

Like other map services on the Internet, you are first taken to a road map of the area you want. But a link on the page allows you to switch instantly to a satellite view. You can zoom in by several levels, even to the point of being able to pick out individual homes in certain areas, primarily cities.

In rural areas and for small towns, you can only zoom down to city block level and it’s difficult to make out individual houses.

Google.com believes the service will be useful for those who want to check out an entire neighborhood before moving in, or to see how close a hotel really is to a beach. Some critics claims there is a potential to violate privacy, but the satellite images are at least six months old, and you can’t zoom in to see individual people anyway.

Besides, there are always critics of every new technology. I tend to ignore them.

Cameras are everywhere. There is a camera in every hallway at the school where I teach. The movement of the students is recorded on a hard disk drive and can be accessed by school police at any time. It’s a great way to keep students in line.

You can use your computer to tune into a live video feed of Times Square in New York, 24 hours a day. You can even see close ups of people shopping in one of the stores. One of my brothers even used it to see a live video image of a friend he was talking to on his cell phone while the friend was visiting New York.

With the new cell phone cameras and, now, video cameras, there is no place you can go in public without the possibility of being photographed. Most people take it in stride. They realize that the security afforded by some of these cameras is worth the loss of some privacy.

Personally, I think it’s pretty cool stuff. Say cheese!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Some Good May Come from Schiavo Fiasco

The most litigated right-to-die controversy in U.S. history finally ended last Thursday as Terri Schiavo, who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years, died 13 days after the removal of her feeding tubes.

But the family feud continues between her husband and her parents. There were allegations that her husband barred her brother from her room shortly before she died. And there were differences over Terri’s funeral arrangements. But Michael Schiavo, her husband, has custody of her body and planned to have her cremated.

After a state judge in Florida allowed her life support to be removed, even the U.S. Congress and President Bush got into the fray. Congress passed, and Bush signed, legislation permitting Schiavo’s parents to go through the federal courts, hoping that it would gain Schiavo more time. The scheme failed, as the federal courts rebuffed Congress at every appeal.

One of the justices of the 11th Circuit Court blasted Congress and Bush for trying to overstep their constitutional authority, which clearly outlines a separation of powers among the three branches of government. The Supreme Court six times refused to get involved.

Most Americans, whatever their opinions about Schiavo’s fate, were strongly opposed to federal intervention in what should have been a private family matter. Polls showed Bush lost considerable support, with an approval rating falling to 45 percent, his lowest ever.

Even so, House Republican leader Tom DeLay threatened further congressional action to stop what he termed “an arrogant and out-of-control judiciary.” But over the course of the Schiavo dispute, 40 judges were involved in some manner. With that many justices all on the same page, it doesn’t appear as though they were acting in an out-of-control manner.

It was purely and simply a political maneuver by Republicans in Congress. It happened to backfire. The only Americans who supported such action were the right-wing religious zealots like those who were camped outside Schiavo’s hospice. None of those people ever knew her personally; they were there not for the love of Schiavo, but for the love of their reactionary cause.

And it was the same with Congress and Bush. The same man who sent more than 1,500 Americans to their deaths to help out a third-world Middle Eastern country that didn’t even whole-heartedly want our help cut his vacation short in order to fly back to Washington to sign the bill that was supposed to help Schiavo’s vegetative body live longer.

If there was one positive thing that came out of the Schiavo media circus it was that it prompted more people to consider their own end-of-life scenarios. It compelled many of them to start writing their living wills and letting their families know what they would desire under similar circumstances.

One guy even published his living will on the Internet so everyone would know his wishes. Barney McClelland wrote in his Web log that his family should tell the doctors to “pull the plug” if he didn’t sit up and ask for a pint of Guinness beer within a reasonable amount of time. He also said he did not want Congress or the president to act on his behalf.

“I do not give a [darn] if a million semi-literate home-schooled religious zealots send grammatically incorrect and misspelled e-mails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me,” he went on. “I do not know these people, and I certainly have not authorized them to preach and crusade on my behalf.”

The Schiavo case might even prompt state governments to clarify who is in charge of a terminally-ill person. Indiana law lists various relatives, such as spouse, parents, and children, but places them in no particular order of priority.

Hopefully, too, more states will follow Oregon’s lead and pass legislation granting terminally ill and vegetative patients the right to end their own lives through euthanasia. After the judge in Schiavo’s case granted her husband the right to remove her feeding tube, most people would have felt more comfortable about her death if she had been given a lethal injection, instead of just being allowed to starve to death.