Fat Steve's Blatherings

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Well, They Got Her

      Terri Schiavo is dead.

      I sincerely hope she was as vegetative as they claimed, but I don't think we'll ever know.

      Mark Steyn wrote another of his typically brilliant columns, saying among other things:
Until a year or two back, I spent a lot of my summer Saturdays manning the historical society booth at the flea markets on the town common, and I passed many a pleasant quarter-hour or so chit-chatting with elderly ladies leading some now middle-aged simpleton child around. Both parties seemed to enjoy the occasion. The child is no doubt a ‘burden’: he was born because he just was; there was no ‘choice’ about it in those days. Having done away with those kinds of ‘burdens’ at birth, we’re less inclined to tolerate them when they strike in adulthood, as they did in Terri Schiavo’s case.

In that sense, the Schiavo debate provides a glimpse of the Western world the day after tomorrow — a world of nonagenarian baby boomers who’ve conquered most of the common-or-garden diseases and instead get stricken by freaky protracted colossally expensive chronic illnesses; a world of more and more dependents, with fewer and fewer people to depend on. In Europe, where demographic reality means that in a generation or so all the dependents will be elderly European Christians and most of the fellows they’re dependent on will be young North African or Arab Muslims, the social consensus for government health care is unlikely to survive. Terri Schiavo failed to demonstrate conclusively why she should be permitted by the state to continue living. As Western nations evolve rapidly into the oldest societies in human history, many more of us will be found similarly wanting.

      May God bless and keep you Terri.  And may he have mercy on us all, for the euthanizers will be coming for us.


Don't Know my own Strength

      Visiting a web site where I'd left a comment, I found my pearls of wisdom on display -- except for my tagline about the necessity of destroying the Sauds.  That was gone, replaced with something like [line likely to cause violence removed by moderator].

      Wow!  It never occurred to me that people reading someone else's blog would jump onto a plane, fly to Saudi Arabia, and assault members of the Royal family, just because of what I'd written.

      But if someone does attack the Sauds because of moi, I'll send them a thank you card.  The Kingdom is the source of most of the money for Islamofascist terrorism, and a very large share of terrorists.  The murderers get this support, with the acquiescence of the Saudi Royal family, as a way of keeping their own corrupt autocracy in power.

      Three thousand died in New York, D.C., Pennsylvania.  Thirty thousand or so Saudi Royals would compensate nicely.

      So remember, tell your friends, family, and everyone you meet:


I'm Very Impressed

      Over at normblog, there's a post about the elections in Zimbabwe, detailing how the poll watchers will operate:
We go to the polls here in Zimbabwe in three days time! Those of us who are deeply involved with the MDC are totally exhausted, many are hoarse from speaking at meetings two and three times a day for weeks, many are both physically and mentally exhausted by the effort they have put into the campaign. . . .

On Wednesday evening we will deploy our own army to their posts. An army of peasant farmers, widows, grandmothers and low-income workers. This army - numbering 35,000 - have all volunteered to have their names printed in the newspaper for all to see, along with their ID numbers and physical addresses, and will go out to witness and supervise the elections at 8,300 polling stations.

They will have to walk to their stations in most cases; many will sleep at the stations they are looking after because they live too far away. Only a handful will have their own transport and the MDC simply cannot move them to their stations because they themselves have no "wheels". . . .

They will have to man their stations for up to 24 hours straight - no sleep as people will vote all day and in some cases well into the night. They run the risk of physical violence and intimidation and offers of money to abandon their posts or allow the operation of the station to be subverted while they are there.

After the election they have been threatened with the loss of their jobs, transfers to hostile places and the denial of food and medicine for their families. In Masvingo the Head of the Armed forces said this past week that the "bushes would become soldiers and MDC supporters beheaded".

At their polling stations they will enter a totally hostile environment. There will be police present, probably youth militia, peasant farmers will be faced with their traditional leaders all of whom are paid to work for the State and Zanu PF. All the officials in the polling station will be hostile - probably drawn from the army or the CIO. Even the staff of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will be vetted by Zanu PF and will be proven Zanu supporters and cadres.

And into this situation will march our rag tag army of polling agents - some barefoot or in sandals made out of old tyres, wearing their best clothes because this is an honor. They will be armed with two pens, some stationery and their commitment to democratic principles and a free and fair environment for our people to vote in. They will only be allowed one at a time into the polling station itself and there they will watch the whole voting process. They will be alert for any actions that may result in the returns for that station being subverted in some way.

They will have had a day's training from the MDC and a couple of hours with the ZEC. They are the only way we can stop the kind of activity that we saw and experienced in 2000 and 2002 and which resulted in the election being stolen from the democrats. For that is what we are - we are the only democrats in this race - for the others, this is not a test of public opinion, it is just a front for electoral fraud on a massive scale.

What astonishes me and gives me hope for Zimbabwe and for Africa is that the commitment to real democracy at this level of our society is so strong and alive. These may be the poor, but we have found that they not only fully understand the value of democracy but also want it to work for them. Ask any group of poor Zimbabweans if they are "ready". You do not have to explain, they know you are asking "are you ready to vote?" and the answer without exception is yes! . . .

They are in small groups - three per station, in lonely places, many kilometers from the nearest town. They are armed only with their principles and pens. They cannot call on reinforcements if they get into trouble and we may not even get news of them for hours after any incidents. But these are the people who are holding the line for democracy in Africa and I am so proud to be one of them.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 28th March 2005

      And Mugabe is ready to kill in all directions in order to hold on to power.

      My hat's off to you, Zimbabwe citizens.  God help you in this, because you'll need it.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Scoop!: Solving the "Schiavo Memo" Mystery

      World Exclusive Story!  Must credit Fat Steve's Blatherings!  (Gee, I liked writing that).

      On March 18th, ABC's World News Tonite ran a story about a purported memo 'circulated among Republican Senators' concerning the then pending Schiavo bill.  On March 23rd, I mentioned the issue in The Other Current Media Scandal.  The allegedly Republican memo supposedly stated the bill would be good politically for the GOP, and bad for the Democrats.  The memo also featured talking points about why Congress should pass the bill.  Copies of the memo ended up in the hands of ABC News, the Washington Post, and the web site Raw Story.

      Almost immediately, questions were raised concerning the memo's authenticity.  It wasn't signed; it wasn't on letterhead paper; the number of the bill was wrong (S.529 on the memo, S.539 in reality); the copy obtained by ABC had five or six typos (depending if you count "1p.m."); another copy, the one Raw Story posted, had three of the errors corrected; the actual "talking points" portion of the memo appeared to have been copied from the Traditional Values web site; in turn, Traditional Values seem to have derived the talking points from press releases issued by Sen. Mel Martinez and Rep. Dave Weldon, the Congressional sponsors of S.539.  There was a strong feeling among right-wingers on the 'Net that the whole thing was a hoax concocted by Democrats (see here, and the many posts at Michelle Malkin and Powerline).

      Yesterday, Howard Kurtz did a column on the memo.  It's rather unfocused, but I think it gives us the information we need to clear most points up.  I'll summarize him in question and answer format.

      Question: Who wrote the memo?

      Answer: Kurtz doesn't know.  Further, he doesn't appear to be very interested (if he asked anyone, the column doesn't mention it).  There is a denial:
A Democratic Senate official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the party is not publicly discussing the memo's origin, said: "It's ridiculous to suggest that these are some talking points concocted by a Democratic staffer."[my addition: note the careful use of the words "talking points" -- St. Onge]

      That's it regarding authorship.

      A question for Mr. Kurtz: Did you ask anyone if they knew who wrote the memo?  If so, did you get any answers?

      After the memo was written, by whoever wrote it, it was supposedly distributed to Republican Senators.

      Questions: If the memo was in fact distributed to Republican Senators, who distributed it?  Which Republican Senators was it distributed to?

      Answer: That question doesn't seem to have been raised either.  Kurtz has this:
"ABC News had very reliable, multiple sources who indicated the memo was distributed to Republicans on the floor of the Senate, and that is what we reported," network spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said yesterday.

      And also this:
The Post's [Mike] Allen [who originally reported the story for the Post] said . . . "The document was provided by an official who has a long record of trustworthiness, and this official gave a precise account of the document's provenance, satisfying us that it was authentic and that it had been used in an attempt to influence Republican senators." Allen said that under the journalistic ground rules, he could not say whether the source was a Democrat or a Republican.

      Kurtz doesn't mention getting in touch with the Raw Story site at all.

      Question: Aside from the assertions of ABC and the Post, is there any evidence that this memo was ever in the hands of Republican Senators at all?

      Answer: There is a little.  The unnamed "Senate Democratic Official" said:
The fact is, these talking points were given to a Democratic member by a Republican senator. [my addition: again, note that phrase "talking points" ]

      The flip side is unanimous denials by Republicans that they knew about it before it was distributed to the media.  Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard said "I couldn't discover anybody showing any evidence that this memo was distributed to Republican Senators."

      Question: How did ABC News, the Washington Post, and Raw Story get the memo?

      ABC and the Post got it from one or more sources they won't identify.  As noted, Raw Story wasn't asked, but since their copy cleaned up mistakes in ABC's copy, it may have been a different source.

      Kurtz also notes that, according a story in the New York Times, the story was given to the media by unnamed Democratic staffers.

      In short, the MSM's line on the memo is "Trust us!"

      At this point, just for laughs, you might want to go read one of my early posts on Rathgate.  It lists the various defenses CBS made of those forged memos, almost all of which were lies -- and by "lies," I don't mean matters of opinion or dispute, but statements CBS knew were not true when they made them, e.g., that CBS had the memos for six weeks before they ran the story.

      No, MSM, we don't trust you anymore.

      Still, thanks to the good work of John Hindraker at Powerline, and Michelle Malkin at her web site, and the information that Kurtz managed to collect, I think we can reconstruct what happened.  Note well: up to this point, the material is derived from the cited sources.  The analysis which follows is original with me.

      Martinez and Weldon introduced the Schiavo bill.  They held a press conference and issued their press releases.  The Traditional Values site posted talking points gleaned from the releases and press conference.

      Someone then printed out the Traditional Values talking points, and passed it around among Republican Senators.  One or more Republicans gave copies to Democrats.

      At this point, some unknown person(s) *cough* Democratic aide(s) *cough* decided to play a dirty trick.  They retyped the talking points, with inadvertent typos, and added the parts about the bill having to be acted on quickly, exciting the "pro-life base," and being a "great political issue" that would hurt FL's Sen. Nelson and other Democrats.

      The retyped, ALTERED memo was then given to the media, perhaps by the fraudster(s), perhaps using one or several cutouts.  The claim that it had been distributed among Republicans was a half truth and a whole lie -- the Martinez/Weldon talking points had been distributed, the added material had not been.

      Sometime after ABC got the a copy, the trickster(s) realized the phonied up memo had some typos, and the three spotted were corrected.  A corrected copy was leaked to Raw Story.

      ABC News, and the Washington Post fell for the fraud.  They checked,and found that portions of the memo had been circulated among Republicans.  From there, as the con artist(s) intended, they leaped to the conclusion that the whole, fraudulent memo had circulated.  And being opposed to the Schiavo bill anyway (that last is surmise on my part, but most MSM members opposed the bill), ABC and the Post ran with the story.

      During Rathgate, CBS emphasized its claim that it had used normal MSM procedures and standards to 'verify' their set of forged documents.  I have a sickening feeling that claim was true.

      I believe this explains all the facts as we have them.  It doesn't tell us who altered the memo, but the MSM will keep their sources confidential, and the person(s) responsible for the alteration will keep their mouths shut.  It's very unlikely we'll find out which Democrat(s) perpetrated the fraud.

      And it is absolutely certain that the MSM will never come clean on how they were fooled, or admit the memo as they ran it was altered.  They still can't bring themselves to say that the CBS memos were forged, obvious as that is.

      But the bottom line is, someone manipulated the MSM again, and very easily.

      Mystery mostly solved.  Next question, please?

      At 11:02 CST, I updated to correct some typos.

      Update: OOPS!  See here.


A FAQ About Terri

      It can be found here, and instead of telling you what you should think, it just gives information.



A Challenge to Neurologists

      CodeBlueBlog continues to be a great source for medical news about Terri.  Today, Dr CBB issues a challenge to neurologists.

      Dr CBB reminds us that neurologists don't interpret CT scans.  Radiologists do, and he's a radiologist:
When I look at a CT of the brain every case is a new mystery about a patient I don't know. I must look at the images, come to a conclusion, dictate my findings and report a conclusion. This becomes a part of the official legal record for which I am liable. I bill Medicare for a CT interpretation and am paid for this service.

Neurologists do not do this. They don't go on the record, alone, in written legal documents stating their impressions about CT's of the brain. The neurologist doesn't get sued for making a mistake on an opinion of a CT of the brain THE RADIOLOGIST DOES.

      So, the doctor proposes a wager:
To prove my point I am offering $100,000 on a $25,000 wager for ANY neurologist (and $125,000 for any neurologist/bioethicist) involved in Terri Schiavo's case--including all the neurologists reviewed on television and in the newspapers who can accurately single out PVS patients from functioning patients with better than 60% accuracy on CT scans.

I will provide 100 single cuts from 100 different patient's brain CT's. All the neurologist has to do is say which ones represent patients with PVS and which do not.

If the neurologist can be right 6 out of 10 times he wins the $100,000.

      Maybe I'm cynical, but I don't think he'll get many takers.


A Nurse Comments on Terri, and the Brave New World We'll Soon Have

      Holly Lisle, novelist and nurse, blogged about Killing Grandma for Fun and Profit: Florida's Trojan Horse:
1. The plaintiff for the 'victim' can sue for the cessation of extraordinary measures in sustaining life, whether or not the plaintiff stands to profit substantially by the death of the 'victim';
2. The 'victim' never has to have stated in any form a wish not to have extraordinary measures taken to save his or her life;
3. Food and water are defined as extraordinary measures.

Now add in one final goody, and we can have some real fun. These precedents have been established in Florida, the Sunshine State. Three beats. Come on. Think ugly thoughts with me here. The retirement capital of the world? Old people, including well-off old people who bought that house on Long Island for $7000 forty or fifty years ago and sold it for $500,000 last year?

Getting there? Florida is cheek to jowl with old people, who get confused if you take them out of their surroundings, so that all you really need to obtain a power of attorney is to be the closest living relative when Grandma goes into the hospital for an overnight stay, and starts seeing bugs on the wall.

And you know what? No one even has to appoint a lawyer to represent you and your rights personally. The person acting in what he or she decides will be your best interests can have a lawyer, and that lawyer will speak for both of you. So there you go. Who could complain about the fairness of that?

The Trojans won the war, and no one even saw them coming. Pretty good horse they made, huh?

      Well, that drew some responses, the most interesting of which Lisle printed yesterday The Value of a Bed (Warning, Profanity):

I'd like to focus on one that was just left of the middle. Written by a woman who thinks she's very reasonable. Very sensible. Because I found her e-mail the most chilling of all. The basic content was that I was wrong in my assessment of the situation -- that cases like this have been around for ages, that Schiavo is getting standard treatment, and since she's not getting better, she needs to die. Her parents should just move on, because the hospice needs the bed.

Here's an unedited quote.

"Food and water for a person who is cognizant and award of people and surroundings isn't an extraordinary measure. A feeding tube for someone who IS NOT aware of or capable of interacting with their environment and/or other is an extraordinary measure. and also kind of a waste. Once your brain function is gone (and I would love to see something to substantiate that hers wasn't- I don't like the black and white nature this whole thing has taken on) you're not really a person anymore. You're a houseplant, and as you well know as a nurse, the hospices and hospitals need the bed."

. . .

So let's talk about the value of that bed, honey.

I'm a mother, and as a mother, I know the value of a daughter or a son. I am a human being, and I know the value and joy of drawing breath. But most of all, then, now, and forever, I am still a nurse. I fought my battles right on the front fucking lines, in ERs and ICUs and Med-Surg wards. I saw all the shit and piss and vomit you'd ever want to see, wore other people's blood on my skin, celebrated when we won someone back from oblivion, held the hands of the dying and hugged the bereaved who'd lost their dead. I fought. Fought. Life and death, and pain and suffering and grief and hope, and my own anguish when I when I couldn't do anything for the young mother dying of cancer, when I couldn't save the two young children crushed in a dirt cave-in, when I couldn't save the son killed in the car accident. I pumped stomachs and did IVs and jugular sticks and intubated and did CPR. I know life and death intimately. A staff RN is the equivalent of enlisted, a staff sergeant, the person who goes in and gets filthy and does what has to be done because the job matters. I was a working woman -- don't salute me.

And you're going to lecture me on the value of the bed? A mother and a father are losing the daughter they would have paid to save, and you're going to stand with the bean-counters and the corporate cocksuckers who have turned medicine from a calling that men and women pursued because life mattered, because people mattered, into another watch-the-bottom-line, turn-a-profit-for-the-shareholders industry ... and you're going to tell me the BED is the important part of this equation?

"... Once your brain function is gone (and I would love to see something to substantiate that hers wasn't- I don't like the black and white nature this whole thing has taken on) ..."

The writer of that e-mail would love to see something that would substantiate that Terry Schiavo's brain function wasn't gone. Never mind that the medical standard is and always has been that you're alive until proven dead. Because to people like this writer, you're dead unless you can prove you're alive. You're guilty unless you can prove you're innocent. You're dead unless you can stand up and fight for yourself. The weak, the helpless, the mute, have no room in her heart, because they're all costing someone money. And the hospice needs the bed.

      And one day, they'll be coming for us.  Don't say you weren't warned.


The Myth of Media Bias

      There is no media bias against the GOP or the President.  How did you ever get such a silly idea?

      Let me demonstrate the objective, unbiased journalism we enjoy.

      From the Bayou Buzz, this two week old story:
According to a just-released poll, three-fifths of voters age 55 and older believe that offering personal retirement accounts to younger workers is a good idea, so long as nothing changes in their own Social Security benefits, with AARP members slightly more likely to say personal accounts are a good idea than non-AARP members, according to a new poll released today.

      And from the Washington Post today, this story about the AARP and its objection to individual accounts as part of Social Security reform (on page two, well into the story):
"When AARP has a consensus among its members, it's difficult to stop," said James A. Thurber, a lobbying expert at American University. "On this issue it has a consensus."

In late 2003, however, AARP shocked official Washington and much of its membership by backing Bush's drive to add a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare. The support helped the legislation to become law, but it also led to the resignation of 70,000 AARP members and angered Democratic members of Congress who had considered AARP a reliable partner.

This time around, AARP won't take its members' loyalty so lightly, Novelli said. Its in-house polling division will take surveys and conduct focus groups before the organization takes any new stand on Social Security changes.

      Good thing we have an unbiased press.  A biased press might try to feed us phony stories about the state of public opinion on the Social Security issue.  It might let us think that the AARP would take positions without consulting its members, or even positions in opposition to its members.  Thank Ghod that will never happen.

      (Hat Tip: AnkleBitingPundits)


Extraordinarily good posts about the Terri Situation

      First, Slate's essay by Harriet McBryde Johnson, titled Not Dead At All:
I watch nourishment flowing into a slim tube that runs through a neat, round, surgically created orifice in Ms. Schiavo's abdomen, and I'm almost envious. What effortless intake! Due to a congenital neuromuscular disease, I am having trouble swallowing, and it's a constant struggle to get by mouth the calories my skinny body needs. For whatever reason, I'm still trying, but I know a tube is in my future. So, possibly, is speechlessness. That's a scary thought. . . .

In the Senate, a key supporter of a federal remedy was Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, a progressive Democrat and longtime friend of labor and civil rights, including disability rights. Harkin told reporters, "There are a lot of people in the shadows, all over this country, who are incapacitated because of a disability, and many times there is no one to speak for them, and it is hard to determine what their wishes really are or were. So I think there ought to be a broader type of a proceeding that would apply to people in similar circumstances who are incapacitated."

I hope against hope that I will never be one of those people in the shadows, that I will always, one way or another, be able to make my wishes known. I hope that I will not outlive my usefulness or my capacity (at least occasionally) to amuse the people around me. But if it happens otherwise, I hope whoever is appointed to speak for me will be subject to legal constraints. Even if my guardian thinks I'd be better off dead—even if I think so myself—I hope to live and die in a world that recognizes that killing, even of people with the most severe disabilities, is a matter of more than private concern. . .

      Read the whole thing, as Johnson lays out ten points that ought to be considered, but haven't been nearly enough.

      The other is a Village Voice column by Nat Hentoff, Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder:
For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.

She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.

Among many other violations of her due process rights, Terri Schiavo has never been allowed by the primary judge in her case—Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, whose conclusions have been robotically upheld by all the courts above him—to have her own lawyer represent her. . . .

Months ago, in discussing this case with ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, and later reading ACLU statements, I saw no sign that this bastion of the Bill of Rights has ever examined the facts concerning the egregious conflicts of interest of her husband and guardian Michael Schiavo, who has been living with another woman for years, with whom he has two children, and has violated a long list of his legal responsibilities as her guardian, some of them directly preventing her chances for improvement. Judge Greer has ignored all of them.

In February, Florida's Department of Children and Families presented Judge Greer with a 34-page document listing charges of neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Terri by her husband, with a request for 60 days to fully investigate the charges. Judge Greer, soon to remove Terri's feeding tube for the third time, rejected the 60-day extension. (The media have ignored these charges, and much of what follows in this article.) . . .
Many readers of this column are pro-choice, pro-abortion rights. But what choice did Terri Schiavo have under our vaunted rule of law—which the president is eagerly trying to export to the rest of the world? She had not left a living will or a durable power of attorney, and so could not speak for herself. But the American system of justice would not slake her thirst as she, on television, was dying in front of us all.

What kind of a nation are we becoming? The CIA outsources torture—in violation of American and international law—in the name of the freedoms we are fighting to protect against terrorism. And we have watched as this woman, whose only crime is that she is disabled, is tortured to death by judges, all the way to the Supreme Court.

And keep in mind from the Ralph Nader-Wesley Smith report: "The courts . . . have [also] ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, they have ordered her to be made dead."

In this country, even condemned serial killers are not executed in this way.

      Read all of Hentoff too.


Apostasy, or Heresy?

      Via Yahoo, Reuters reports the alarming news that:
Many Americans are so sleepy that they are having problems in their marriages, making mistakes at work and even going without sex.

      Going without sex?  That's intolerable behavior.  Someone alert the Church of the Holy Orgasm and get these swine back to taking the sacrament, pronto!

      In case you somehow misplaced it, you can find the contact information for the Church authorities here and here.


The Left: Shooting itself in the foot?

      The Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting post on ideological non-diversity in academia (Hat Tip: Instapundit).  In it, Todd Zywicki says that he hears from many students that they just ignore their professors' political views.  They may repeat them, in classwork, but once they have the grade, they stop pretending.  The students "dismiss" their profs. as 'cartoonishly left-wing' and 'risible ideologues.'

      I don't think that students will just ignore lefty professors, though.  Instead, I think they'll associate left wing views with unfair, ignorant windbags, and be moved to the right in reaction.  In short, the faculty's attempts at indoctrination will backfire.

      Couldn't happen to a more deserving set of bigots.

      One note: Zywicki says is surprised that faculty in the religous studies department are as liberal as anyone else.  Someone needs to give him a copy of Bill Buckley's God and Man at Yale!


Terri: A good, but sad, illustration of the confusion

      There's an excellent long post in Reason's "Hit and Run" that shows why we should be so careful in this case.  It's very much worth reading.  (Hat Tip: Prof. Reynolds).  In it, Jesse Walker notes the way so many people project their own wishes onto Terri Schiavo ('I wouldn't want to live like that, therefore she wouldn't).  Walker also discusses the way the 'Right-to-Die' movement started out as proclaiming that patients and their legal guardians had the right to defy their doctors' wishes, and refuse treatment, then morphed into asserting the rights of doctors to defy the wishes of the patients and their guardians, and refuse treatment to those they don't wish to keep alive.

      And there's a huge number of comments full of one sided, inane bilge that mindlessly recycles the "Kill Terri Now" crowd's talking points -- although a post made at 02:41 AM today, March 30th, is spectacularly intelligent.

      There are a lot of people in this country who want the state to kill the helpless.  Some of them call themselves Libertarians.


(Qualified) Sympathy for the Devils Dummies

      I was reading this post (Hat Tip: Instapundit), and I was reminded of a thought about the Main Stream Media I'd had recently when reading about the 'Blogs and the Media' conferences recently.  The thought: we should have pity on them.

      Ask yourself, what's the job of the MSM?  As far as I can see, something like this:

1) Collect information from all over on what's happening;

2) Collate and create a picture of the state of the world;

3) Pick out the most important items, and present them to their audience, in a clear, interesting, memorable manner.

      Now, change 'MSM' above to 'CIA.'  Hmmm, yes, that also fits pretty well.  And we've seen in recent days, as we hash over the 9/11 failures, just how tough it is for the CIA to figure out what's important.  So we shouldn't be surprised that the MSM find it so difficult.  We should cut them some slack.  They have one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

      But only some slack.  For one thing, they knew the job was dangerous when they took it.  For another, they deliberately handicap themselves in the performance of their duties.

      To pick out what's important in the news, you already have to have a model of the world in your head.  You need to know that some things are as expected ('Fifty million people got up and went to work yesterday), and some aren't ('Labor shortages developing in Arizona, surpluses developing in California).  You need to have a feel for whose efforts will change the world, and whose won't.  You need to appreciate the difference between stuff that's dramatic, but expected ('Mudslides in Southern California in Spring'), and stuff that's really novel ('Privately Developed Craft Flies to the Edge of Space').

      Since no one can know everything, and since super geniuses like Robert Oppenheimer are rare, you have to have a lot of people with different abilities working on this.  You also need to have people with different viewpoints in the process, because what you think is important may not be, and vice versa.  You need to step back and check your model against the world regularly, and look for divergences.  When things work out significantly differently than expected, it's a sign your model needs adjustment.

      There's an old joke that the MSM always get everything right, except when they report on a story you already know something about; there they invariably screw up big time.  A proper MSM would have a lot fewer liberal Democrats, and a lot more conservative Republicans.  Hell, a proper MSM would have a lot fewer graduates of journalism school, and more cops, engineers, lawyers and novelists.

      The MSM is largely an ingroup of people with similar backgrounds and ideas.  If they weren't, CBS would have had veterans-turned-journalists at 60 Minutes Wednesday, and they'd have looked at the phony memos and said, 'Hmmm, these don't look right to me.'  Or lawyers-turned-reporter, who would have said 'The source is known to have lied about W. before, there's no chain of evidence, a documents expert thinks they may be fake -- I wouldn't want to go to court with evidence this flimsy.'

      Cromwell once wrote "I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."  What has lost the MSM so much of its audience is its arrogant refusal to give a decent respect to those who disagree with them, combined with a huge number of egregious errors and outright lies.  They'll do better when they admit how tough a job they've taken on, and change the way they go about it.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Danger and Opportunity

      Instapundit links to an item on military applications of nanotechnology that's worth reading.

      Summary: there's a danger of pollution from nanomaterials flaking off.  Nanofilters that remove toxic substances may create point concentrations of those toxins.  Nanoweapons may become a new 'landmine problem;' receptor addiction.

      Opportunities: lighter, stronger, smoother, stealthier materials; filters; artificial blood cells that enhance human performance; small, "smart weapons"; receptors to improve human awareness and reaction time.


The Non-Politics of Terri Schiavo

      Despite the hopes among some militant secularists, I don't think the Terri tragedy will any long term effects on party politics.

      With Ralph Nader and Jesse Jackson and the Liberals for Terri, we see that many people don't see this through the lens of party politics.  If the Democratic Party tries to peel off Republicans using Terri, it will lose votes among these lefty supporters of her.  Meanwhile, there's enough opposition in Republican ranks, and enough Democrats who voted for the Terri bill, to keep Republicans from using this for partisan advantage.

      Which is how it should be.  We desperately need better thinking on how to deal with such situations.  A sincerely bipartisan effort will be welcome.

      By the way, over at my other blog, I have a personal anecdote about Jesse Jackson.


Lying by definition

      There's this new meme floating around, the '500 mpg car.'  You can see it, for example, in the latest column by Max Boot.

      Nice, but it isn't true.  The column talks of hybrid cars that can be plugged into the wall, so you can run them off batteries till the batteries get low, then use the engine and fuel tank.

      Where do you think the electricity comes from?  It comes from power plants, and they mostly burn fossil fuel.  Now do you begin to see where the high mpg number comes from?  If you burn oil in your car, they count that as gallons.  Burn the same oil in a power plant, and it won't be counted.

      All of this is supposed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, although the column obfuscates the issue by referring to imported "gasoline."  But if you strip away the camouflage, what it comes down to is "Build a lot more power plants, either coal burning or nuclear."  You can make good arguments for either course, but don't fool yourself about what you're advocating.  And you might want to check with Greenpeace and the rest of the environmental movement when you talk about building new coal or nuclear plants.  I think you'll find there's a bit of opposition there.

      Boot also talks of methanol and ethanol.  Well, if you have a car that uses gasoline, you can already use methanol and ethanol.  So why isn't it being offered?  Because the miles per gallon of alcohol fuel are less than you get with gasoline, so you fill up more.  And the price of the fuel is high enough that you pay more per mile when you use it than when you use gasoline.

      In the end, I repeat, we have three alternatives: imported oil, domestic coal and nuclear power.  I favor nukes, you may not.  But until someone makes a technological breakthrough, don't lie to yourself about the options.


On the other hand, maybe there's nothing to worry about

      A Muslim scholar has predicted the U.S. will be destroyed in 2007. (Hat Tip LGF)


Terri: What's at the Bottom of the Slope

      The following is from NRO:
Wesley Smith: Bill, do you think Terri is a person?

Bill Allen: No, I do not. I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood. Even minimal awareness would support some criterion of personhood, but I don't think complete absence of awareness does.

      Exchange you name for Terri's, and insert whatever reason you wish for 'awareness,' and that's what we face.  Since the eighteenth century, the Left has decided that some people are not really people, then killed them.

      They will come for us, if we let them.


The Horror, the Horror

      Paul Krugman has a tantrum in print at the New York Times.

      For those who are busy, a paraphrase:
People with religious convictions win way too many elections.  And since they're all crazy fanatics, they'll soon murdering us.

      Paul, Paul, we'll never shoot you.  Too merciful.  Meanwhile, resume your meds.

      (Hat Tip: Ankle Biting Pundits)


Living in Fantasyland

      Bill Quick of Daily Pundit has formed the American Liberty League, seeking to create:
an interest group of moderates and libertarians who become crucial to the balance of power.

      In it's way, this is just like the left-wing "revive the class-war" group of Democrats I blogged about yesterday.  The reason the govt. keeps increasing spending is because most of the public wants spending increased.  The ALL wants to stop this, and figures it can do this by building up enough supporters to be able to decide close elections.

      Dream on.  The support the ALL will offer will be offset by the support the swing voters give the other side.  There are more of those swing voters, so they will have the whip hand.

      The only way to restrain Congressional spending is first, convince the public it is too high; so dangerously high that they're willing to see whatever programs they want most suffer budget cuts if that's what it takes to control spending.  Second, pass Constitutional Amendments that force Congress to set tax-and-total-spending levels before they pass individual bills.

      Good luck.

      Quick has other priorities, such as stopping illegal immigration, ethnic profiling at airports, etc., that the public isn't willing to support either.

      One of the great, enduring forms of madness in the Western world since the 17th century is the inability to realize that other people really have different points of view.  The whole idea of the "General Will," found in Rousseau and other European philosophers, is that a deep level everyone agrees.

      In Europe, this led to totalitarianism.  Since everyone "really" wants X, forcing it on the people is actually democratic!  In the U.S. and other countries with actual elections, it merely leads to defeat at the polls.

      And by the way, in case you forgot, WE'RE FIGHTING A WAR!  To get what he needed for that war, Bush had to ignore the less important goals.  That remains true today.  It would have been nice if Bush had vetoed the Medicare drug bill, but it would have been disastrous not to have invaded Iraq.  Quick and co. don't have their priorities straight.

      The final thing wrong with the ALL is the idea that it can stay unified enough to provide swing vote in elections, and actually deliver that vote.  Does the phrase 'herding cats' ring any bells.

      It may be fun to watch this movement fail, but the time isn't right for serious spending control.  The public doesn't care enough yet.


Well, maybe we will get Answers after all.

      A SC newspaper, The State, reports that Michael Schiavo will allow an autopsy on his wife's body, as soon as dies of thirst (which she hasn't yet, as I type).

      That will be interesting.  Assuming it really occurs, and the results are really made public.


This is Scary as Hell

      You may have posted your tax return to the Interntet.

      I repeat, you may have posted your tax return on the Internet.

      One more time: you may have posted your tax return on the Internet.

      Are you scared now?  Good.  I am.

      Lots of people are using Peer-to-Peer file sharing programs to swap music files.  When you download these programs, they make lots of others peoples music files accessible to you -- and unless you are careful, those P2P programs make most of your own files accessible to others.  Files like your credit cards, your tax returns, your bank and CC PINs -- the list goes on.

      Go to See What You Share, for details of what you have made available to the world.

      I'll close with a quote, posted on March 6th of this year:
In the past month, I have personally called three different individuals where it was obvious they were unknowingly sharing information, including one that was overseas. All three responded with, thank you very, very much…… Someone has been using my credit cards and the bank's fraud detection system picked up on it; now I know how they got my info!


Monday, March 28, 2005

The Culture Wars: A Thought Experiment

      Over at First Things, James Neuchterlain has a long essay-review of What's the Matter with Kansas?, by Thomas Frank.  It's worth reading if you have the time.

      But it stimulated a thought.  At one point, Frank is quoted as writing:
[Democrats] have left themselves vulnerable to cultural wedge issues like guns and abortion and the rest whose hallucinatory appeal would ordinarily be far overshadowed by material concerns.”

      OK, Democrats, I have your Republican Killer option here for you: concede on the cultural issues.  Let abortion get restricted, abandon all thought of gun control, go along with the 'cultural wedge issues,' and preach your class-war gospel with it.  You'll be headed right back to being the majority party . . .

      Oh, wait, I'm hearing a cry from the audience.  It says that these cultural issues are important matters of principal, and the Democratic Party couldn't even think of compromising them.  They have to be defended because they are right, just, etc.

      And there we have what's wrong with Frank, and why the Dems keep losing.  The issues are matters of principal, and both sides believe deeply in their position.  Frank doesn't really want to drop them from politics.  He wants the people who vote Republican to forget about them and vote Democratic for class reasons, while the Democratic activists get their way on the cultural issues.

      It ain't in the cards.  The Conservatives/Republicans are in the majority, and they won't shut up about cultural issues because the Liberals/Democrats would like them to.


A True Silver Lining?

      The New York Times says that Congress will debate the question of what to do with the disabled when family members disagree, and perhaps provide for an automatic federal court review.

      Terri Schiavo will die, but just maybe, a rational policy will emerge from all this.

      At least we can hope so.


Morton Kondracke Shows Sense on Terri Schiavo

      Morton Kondracke writes a sensitive, honest post about Terri Schiavo.  (Hat Tip: RealClearPolitics for March 28th)

      First, he says, we should determine what the medical facts are.  For that, a PET scan would be needed.

      Second, if the PET showed Terri was not in a PVS, turn her over to her parents for therapy.  If she is in a PVS, let Michael kill her.

      As it happens, I disagree with Kondracke.  Given the lack of what I think is clear and compelling evidence, much less evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, I think Terri should live.  And even if she dies, she shouldn't die of thirst, unless she's deeply sedated first.

      But the post is definitely worth reading, because it makes a clear, honest, thoughtful argument for its position.  It illustrates the way we ought to be debating these matters.  Go read it, please.


Help Wanted in Locating Missing Headline

      Over at Countercolumn, Jason apparently pays attention to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  Why, I couldn't possibly say.

      But he does, and he noticed that both papers are missing a headline:

"130 Terrorists, Car Bomb Factory, Captured near Kerbala,"

      Also missing was the story to go with it, detailing how the Iraqi and Coalition forces, with intelligence help from local Sunnis, managed to round these murderers up before they could use the tons of explosives and three fully assembled car bombs they had handy.  They're missing from both coast's Times, the Left Coast's and the Leftwing Coast's.

      Jason also notes that version of the headline and story was seen in Australia, though since the story was from Reuters Anti-News Agency, the word 'terrorist' is nowhere to be found.

      If you have information on the missing headlines or stories, contact Jason.  And check out Countercolumn, a site I wasn't familiar with before.  It looks pretty good.

      (Hat Tip: Instapundit)


Bitter Sanity Looks Down the Slippery Slope

      Perhaps he's wrong about what he sees, but I wish we didn't have to bet on it.

      Unfortunately, we do.  I sure hope Jaed is wrong.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Steyn on Schiavo


I'm neither a Floridian nor a lawyer, and, for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong.

      Read the whole thing.


More Reynolds Dishonesty

      Glenn Reynolds, who wasn't really interested in the Schiavo case, and didn't have an opinion, continues to post long entries on it.  The entries are interesting for their use of ad hominem and dishonesty.

      For example, he recommends a Terri Schiavo FAQ from Football Fans For Truth, which he says is "no lefty front group!"

      The FFfT repeats the standard line of the "Let Her Die" folks.  Reynolds quotes this part of the FAQ:
Courts, however, rely on facts. Facts are determined by a predetermined process. In this case, the process has gone on for a very long time. Both sides have had every opportunity to have their say on several occasions. Independent factfinders and physicians have made their reports. Several courts have upheld Judge Greer's rulings, including one in which the appellate court reviewed all the evidence.

      Well, courts are certainly supposed to rely on facts, but history shows that courts sometimes err.  If you looked at the above, you'd get the idea that the courts have been working to "determine the facts" for a long time.  Actually, in our system, the trial court makes a ruling on the facts, and afterwards the appeals courts look at how the law was applied.  They do not reexamine the evidence to decide if judge's "findings of facts" are correct, just whether they're reasonable, given the evidence.

      So Greer listened to testimony from Michael Schiavo, Mike's brother, and Mike's sister-in-law, saying that Terri wanted to die if she was in this situation.  He heard testimony from others, saying Terri would not want to die.  He ruled that Terri would want to die if brain damaged.  This became a 'legal fact.'  No appeals court can challenge it.  Only Greer can change that 'fact,' by being presented with some new piece of evidence and ruling that, if he'd known that in the original trial, he'd have found differently.

      The entire 'factual' argument of the 'Kill Terri' crowd reduces to 'Trust Judge Greer.'  I don't, because of his conflicts of interest and apparent refusal to consider evidence that didn't agree with the conclusion he reached.  The fact that FFfT and Glenn Reynolds can't even be bothered to mention the issue, much less discuss it, shows a bias on their part.

      In one of the parts of the FAQ that Reynolds didn't quote [Update: I goofed; Reynolds linked to the FAQ and another post; Reynolds quoted the other post, not the FAQ], the FFfT say that Michael Schiavo didn't remove Terri's feeding tube.  Judge Greer ordered it removed.  Yes, true, because Michael brought suit seeking that outcome, and won the legal battle.  If a Mafia chieftain orders a hit, and a killer for hire pulls the trigger, the chieftain is legally and morally guilty of murder.  Michael Schiavo is responsible for Terri's death by dehydration.  It's a lie to pretend otherwise.

      But lying is a recurring theme in this dispute, so FFfT's behavior, and Reynolds's approval, are not surprising.  But I think they are disgusting.


Some Famous Magazines are Dishonest and Treasonous

      The big brains at Harper's have a cover showing some Marine recruits in a row, with one faded out.  This is to illustrate a story with the title AWOL IN AMERICA: When desertion is the only option.

      Hmm, why is it that I can think of other options (like not volunteering in the first place, or committing suicide, or even doing your sworn duty?)

      And by the way, the owner of the picture is mad, because it didn't have one person faded, and Harper's wasn't supposed to alter it. The Marines are also angry, since they aren't deserters, and don't like illustrating a story about deserters.

Comments Florida Cracker:
Giulia Melucci, vice-president for public relations for Harper's says the cover photo is merely decoration. There's no word on what her reaction would be if she were pictured on the cover of Time with a knife superimposed in her hand to illustrate a story on "Women Who Kill."

Or if the HQ of Harper's was pictured on the cover of Newsweek to illustrate a story "Does Media Profit From Child Porn?"

Or "Magazines That Suck."

      Good question, that.  If anyone acquires data, let me know.


Seeing What You Want to See

      There's a story here from the AP, noting the disagreements among doctors about whether Terri Schiavo had any consciousness left, or could have been helped by treatment.  It's pretty good, too, very little bias and a good coverage of basic issues.

      And there's a reaction to that story, here, stating that it shows that anyone who questions whether Terri was in a persistent vegetative state was either a quack or hadn't examined her thoroughly.  Which is not what I read in the story.

      Interesting, in a macabre and sickening way.  Very interesting.  'Anyone who disagrees with us must be wrong.'  That was Jacobin France's creed, and Nazi Germany's, and the Soviet Union's.  Which is another reason this mess scares me so.


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Beldar Gets to the Point

      There was a forty page legal brief in the news recently, in which various journalists and news organizations argued that the Plame case investigation should not ask journalists for their sources until it has been determined that a crime was committed.

      Beldar points out the legal stupidity of all this.  The document says:
As the Special Counsel concedes, an investigation that is brought in "bad faith" alters the application of Branzburg. While there is no suggestion that the Special Counsel is proceeding in bad faith,

      That's egregious grammar.  The "While" should be removed, and the comma replaced with a period.  The statement that there is no bad faith shoots down their legal claim.

      To be fair, I think the brief is trying to argue that before the investigation proceeds, someone should make sure that Valerie Plame was a covert agent whose identity was protected by the act in question.  If having X tell Robert Novack about Plame was not a crime, then the question of X's name is unimportant.

      But shouldn't the people who howled for an investigation in the first place have checked into that question themselves?  And aren't arguments that no crime was committed usually made at the trial?

      Meanwhile, I enjoy seeing the MSM twist slowly in the wind.


Be Glad Terri is not a Cow

      If she were, she might be suffering.


Rachel on a Roll

I feel a lot less sorry for millions of dying children now, thanks to all of the experts who keep assuring us all that Terri Schiavo wouldn't be suffering right now even if she had some shred of consciousness because this is such a peaceful way to die. Whew! And here I've spent my whole life losing sleep over something so fuckin' pleasant. Won't do that anymore.


That's Gotta Hurt

      Blackfive has a post on an after action report from Iraq.  To summarize briefly: forty to fifty Iraqis attacked a truck convoy guarded by three hummers.  They pinned it down, but then three more hummers carrying seven members of a KY National Guard MP unit showed up.  They counterattacked, and killed 24 terrorists, wounded and captured six, and captured one more unwounded.

      What's really humiliating, though, is that of the seven MPs, two were women, including one of the senior sergeants!  I wonder how that will play in the Muslim world -- 'Our brave jihadis, who can't win when they fight women, and outnumber the enemy seven to one.'

      Good Going, Kentucky!  MUCH HONOR!


Fearless Crystal Ball Gazing

      In Iran, the maneuvering goes on (Hat Tip: Best of the Web Today).  But just what is the point?  And what will happen?

      My read: The Europeans are looking for a victory for 'soft power.'  The Iranians are playing for time.  The U.S. is playing to win.

      The Europeans negotiate with Iran in the hopes of preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.  They really ache to do this, so they can preen in front of the world, showing how diplomacy is better than military action, and they are the best diplomats.

      As a matter of fact, they've already lost the negotiations.  They lost when the U.S. agreed to join them, in return for real assurances that Iran won't get the bomb, and support at the Security Council if the Europeans fail.  The Iranians will never agree to Europe's demands.  So sooner or later, the Europeans will have to either admit defeat and support the U.S. at the UN, or welsh on their agreement, making them look even more weak, cowardly, and foolish.

      The Iranians are playing for time.  They think that they can acquire nuclear weapons, and scare off the U.S. with them.  But it's one thing to have one clumsy nuke, it's quite another to have lots of them, it's still a third thing to be able to deliver them.  Iran with a few bombs isn't going to scare us much.

      If the U.S. has evidence they're about to get bombs, we'll move on them.  Even if they somehow get a few, their regime is unstable.  Are they going to nuke themselves, to stop demonstrations?

      The U.S. aims at the destruction of the Iranian regime.  Instead of invading, this will probably occur by revolution within Iran.  It's also likely that Syria and Hezb'allah will go first, and that their fall will destabilize the mullahs.  In any case, the U.S. will hit where the Iranians are weak and vulnerable.  If necessary, we will invade, but that isn't likely.  If we do invade, it will probably follow rioting in the streets, and attempts by the mullahs to butcher the demonstrators.

      Prediction: Another U.S. victory, more evidence of European perfidy in the archives, more evidence of state support of terrorism, more defeats for the terrorists.


Sheer Silliness on Schiavo

      I admire Charles Johnson, and like his site, but I think this is ridiculous:
My opinion is that it's singularly unwise for the federal government to become involved in what should be a private matter between the families and their doctors.

      It's silly because the family hasn't and can't resolve the issue.  The Schindlers want to keep Terri alive, Michael wants her dead.  Should the Schindlers and Michael settle their differences with private violence?

      If not, then government gets involved, by deciding who gets to make the decision.  It is not obvious that this is a matter where state governments should have the only authority.


Terri Schiavo: A Certain Strain of Dishonesty

      In his post arguing that Michael Schiavo and the State of Florida have the right to kill Terri Schiavo, Donald Sensing writes:
Furthermore, it is worth considering the words of Justice Antonin Scalia in his concurring opinion in Cruzan v. Director, MDH, 1990, a landmark case that closely mirrors the Schiavo case:
[T]he federal courts have no business in this field; that American law has always accorded the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide - including suicide by refusing to take appropriate measures necessary to preserve one's life; that the point at which life becomes "worthless," and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become "extraordinary" or "inappropriate," are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine Justices of this Court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory; and hence, that even when it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that a patient no longer wishes certain measures to be taken to preserve her life, it is up to the citizens of Missouri to decide, through their elected representatives, whether that wish will be honored. It is quite impossible (because the Constitution says nothing about the matter) that those citizens will decide upon a line less lawful than the one we would choose; and it is unlikely (because we know no more about "life-and-death" than they do) that they will decide upon a line less reasonable.

      Now, if you look up the Cruzan case, you will indeed find certain parallels to the Schiavo case.  Nancy Cruzan was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, she was said to have told a room mate that she didn't want to live in such a condition, her guardians (her parents) requested that her feeding tube be removed.

      But there are differences which Sensing doesn't mention.  The hospital refused to remove the tube.  A lower court of Missouri told them to remove it.  The Missouri Supreme Court then overruled the lower court, and commanded the tube feeding continue.   The Supreme Court decided to hear the case, and concurred in the Missouri Supreme Court's decision.  I want to repeat that: THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RULED, IN THE Cruzan CASE, THAT THE STATE OF MISSOURI COULD CONTINUE TO FEED NANCY CRUZAN.

      In portions of his concurring opinion that Sensing doesn't mention, Scalia explicitly mentioned that suicide had long been a felony in English Common law, and that the State had the right to prevent it, if necessary by force feeding someone who wouldn't eat.  For instance:
To raise up a constitutional right here, we would have to create out of nothing (for it exists neither in text nor tradition) some constitutional principle whereby, although the State may insist that an individual come in out of the cold and eat food, it may not insist that he take medicine; and although it may pump his stomach empty of poison he has ingested, it may not fill his stomach with food he has failed to ingest.

      Note also that there was no federal legislation in sight, and no Fourteenth Amendment question.  In the Cruzan case, the Supreme Court was asked to recognize a constitutional right to die that overrode the laws against suicide of the State of Missouri.  The Supreme Court declined to do so.

      Perhaps I'm missing something, but I think that rather changes the issues involved.

      And I'm very disturbed that the people arguing for Terri's death can't seem to make fair and honest statements of the case.  I get the feeling they don't think they'd win if they acknowledged the uncertainties and disputes in this situation.

      I case that can't be supported with honesty probably shouldn't be supported at all.


Terri Schiavo: The South Rises Again

      Two different opinions illustrate one of the odder aspects of the Schiavo case: a weird nostalgia for the early nineteenth century.

      The April 11th edition of Nation Review notes:
. . . a House committee issued a subpoena that would have had the effect of keeping Mrs. Schiavo’s tube from being disconnected (and could, in theory, have led to a clarification of some of the factual disputes in the case). Whatever one thinks of the merits of that use of the subpoena power, it seems remarkably highhanded of Judge Greer to flout it.

Congressional subpoenas have not heretofore been considered subject to the review of state courts — a point that was lost on all the commentators who confidently opined that it was the congressmen who were threatening the separation of powers.

      Yes indeed, it is remarkable.  Even more remarkable is that so many people supported the idea.

      Meanwhile, Donald Sensing wrote:
As a resident of Tennessee, I have no standing to tell the people of Florida that their laws are either unjust or incorrectly applied by their state courts.

      Huh?  Free speech obviously gives him the "standing" to tell anyone in the U.S. anything at all, as long as certain general limits are observed (no threats, no "fighting words," no invasion of privacy, etc.).

      But note that word "standing" again.  It's a legal term.  I, Stephen M. St. Onge, a resident of Minnesota who is no known relation of Terri Schiavo, have no right to bring a suit in Florida's or Minnesota's courts on this issue.  But I, Stephen M. St. Onge, a citizen of the United States of America, have every right to petition the Congress over anything I want.  Most certainly I have a right to petition Congress to do its Fourteenth Amendment duties of preventing a state court from depriving someone of life without due process of law.

      The opponents of the Schiavo bill seem to want to give the "several States" a sovereignity they had before the Civil War -- or at any rate, a sovereignity they claimed.  They won't get it.  What they will get is more authority for judges to kill people, not as punishment for crime, but because they are inconvenient.  I don't think, in the long run, that they will like that.


Measuring For the Hangman's Rope

      Ward Churchill will be fired, though not soon. CU has released its "preliminary report" on Churchill, and has decided that his offensive opinions are constitutionally protected speech.  They decided not to investigate claims of teaching malpractice, because of lack of evidence.  But they will pursue the complaints that his research is plagiarized, fraudulent, and dishonest, and they will also look into his claim to be an Injun.

      Given what's already come out, I can't see him surviving these inquiries.  It will take a while, but he's been handed the black spot, and he's going down.


Friday, March 25, 2005

This Summarizes My Position Fairly Well

From Jerry Pournelle today:

To reiterate the principles here:

1. The presumption is or should be that husbands do not have the right to kill their wives by starvation, nor to hire others to do so, and that their statement that the wife wanted to die is not sufficient to grant them immunity from killing the wife or hiring others to do it.

2. Legislatures make law and are the usually presumptive agents for expressing the will of the people and the consent of the governed. Judges interpret law and apply it to cases, but they are not presumed to be supreme or sovereign.

3. Legislatures which make law may make exceptions to that law, and the prohibition against ex post facto law and bills of attainder is intended to prevent punishment, pains, and penalties: not to prohibit the legislature from awarding prizes, or seeking to exempt someone from pains and penalties. The legislature could retroactively abolish the death penalty, as an example.

4. There is neither a legal nor a moral compulsion to keep someone alive using extraordinary means, and certainly not so when they have expressly and unambiguously indicated wishes to the contrary.

5. It is an established and accepted maxim that no man should serve as judge in his own cause: those with substantial interests in a case should not judge that case.

Now for particulars:

Had she left an unambiguous documentary statement of her preferences in these circumstances, she would have been gone years ago. While some dispute the "right to die", most do not, and the legislature would not have acted in the face of unambiguous evidence. Moreover, were she comatose the matter would be long over, and the legislature would not have acted.

The Legislature of Florida decided that the Governor could intervene in Terri's behalf. The courts have ruled otherwise on principles not made clear in their decision, other than an assertion of judicial sovereignty.

Mr. Schiavo has acquired a second wife and two children, and this would be grounds for divorce in Florida.

The only evidence we have that Mrs. Terri Schiavo would not seek a divorce is her failure to file one: but that decision is in the hands of an interested party.

The opinion polls say most Americans want Terri Schiavo to die and get it over with. This has reduced the support she might have had from the political entities of the nation.

It was considered appropriate by at least one major network to seek the opinions of Kevorkian on this matter.

It is Good Friday.

None of this matters in one sense; but those who rejoice in the present resolution of this matter may discover precedents to regret at a future time. It is very easy to undermine the notion that life ought to prevail over convenience, particularly when dealing with the burdensome helpless. It is not so easy to restore it.

If the price of continuing the preference for life over death is that those who have not made unambiguously clear their preferences in the matter may be kept alive despite their preferences, that is the price.


A Failure to Locate the Problem

      James Pinkerton has a column in Newsday about the Schiavo bill that nicely illustrates another missed political point in this tragedy. (Hat Tip: Professor Bainbridge)

      Pinkerton writes:
... the Republicans have their victory, but now they must live with consequences of having made a state case into a federal case. Having intervened in this state issue in 2005, future Republicans will have a hard time urging federal restraint in the name of decentralization. Which is to say, whenever the Democrats retake power and resume their own ambitious national agenda, they will happily trample on "states' rights," citing the Schiavo legislation as their precedent. But maybe by then Republicans won't care as much, because the traditional conservative belief system, which grounded its politics in the original intent of the Founding Fathers, has been superseded - the Constitutional Right now being the Religious Right. . .

Americans are now learning that the social-issue core of the newly energized, Southernized and Christianized Republican Party cares a lot more about its faith and its values than about the old verity of small government.

      Let's leave aside the odious history of the phrase "state's rights," which was so frequently an excuse for racism and unconstitutionality.  Let's not dwell either on the fact that the Founders believed in a society where one sex couldn't vote, and one race could be enslaved.  Instead, look to the future.  Does anyone really think that the Democrats will someday be in power, have a measure they wish to pass, not be able to pass it, and then, suddenly, get it accepted by brandishing the Schiavo bill as a precedent?  If so, I suggest you keep the cops from finding out just what it is you're smoking.

      The "old verity" of small government has been gone for seventy years, at least.  The voters elected politicians who believed in big govt.  And there is no sign that the voters minds have been changed on this issue.  There is no popular support for repealing the New Deal.

      In the real world, the limits on big government will be our ability to pay, and our sense of what's appropriate for the government to be involved in at all.  All indications are that "state's rights" is dead, and "small government" is in critical condition.  I don't necessarily like that, but that's the way it is.  Terri Schiavo's case has nothing to do with it.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Prof. Bainbridge on the Schiavo Case, or Another Post Too Long

      Professor Stephen Bainbridge, who teaches law at UCLA, has a post on the Schiavo case, a mixture of what I think is sense and nonsense.  It nicely illustrates the different ways the legal and moral issues have been thought about in this tragedy.  I'll try to summarize his position accurately, then indicate why I agree or disagree.

      The Professor discusses the implications of the case from four "first principles."

      Firstly, there's "The Culture of Life."  Bainbridge is a believing Catholic, and agrees with the Church that life is sacred.  My own religious convictions can only be described as "confused," but I largely agree with him here.  As he puts it:
Abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. What next? Solving Social Security's woes by putting the old folks out to sea on ice floes?

      No, we won't put old folks out to freeze -- that would be too honest.  But I very much fear we'll find ways of doing the killing while pretending its something other than murder.

      Secondly, Prof. Bainbridge believes in limited govt:
I am no libertarian. Like most conservatives, however, I do believe in a limited government. . . . If government does not have a legitimate role in protecting someone so vulnerable, of what use is government at all?

      Here I also agree with Prof. Bainbridge, about limited govt., protecting the vulnerable, and not being a libertarian.

      The Professor's third principle is federalism.  He says:
The national government is, as the 10th Amendment to the Constitution makes clear, a government of limited and enumerated powers. To be sure, the Civil War and the post-War amendments de facto expanded the scope of the national government's powers. Likewise, the infamous "switch in time that saved nine" de facto eviscerated the 10th Amendment. Of late, however, we seem to have been slowly recovering some aspects of what might be called the Constitution-in-Exile.

      But since the Tenth Amendment doesn't list the powers delegated to the States, we have to look at the rest of the Constitution to decide if the Federal Government has the power to act.  (By the way, I don't understand what Bainbridge could mean when he writes of "de facto" Amendments.  An Amendment to the Constitution is de jure, by definition.)

      From the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. . . The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

      The Professor's fourth point is "rule of law."  Here's where we get down to brass tacks.  He says:
I believe that the rule of law is a serious obstacle to federal intervention.

      How does the 'rule of law' prohibit Congressional intervention, especially in light of the Fourteenth Amendment's apparent grant of power to override the acts of State governments that deprive citizens of their rights?

      The Professor says
the rule of law prohibits ex post facto legislation.

      Well, actually, the Constitution prohibits it.  For those who have forgotten, an ex post facto is "A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after it has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier."

      But what has this to do with the Schiavo legislation?  No act previously legal is declared illegal at the time it was committed.  Neither does it create a wrong over which someone may be sued.

      Next, Prof. Bainbridge claims "the rule of law counsels against crafting laws that apply to an individual case."  Since when?  They have a long history in the United States (one came before Congress when Davie Crockett was a Congressman; did the rule of law expire in 1836?) and are a recognized procedure:
A private bill provides benefits to specified individuals (including corporate bodies). Individuals sometimes request relief through private legislation when administrative or legal remedies are exhausted. Many private bills deal with immigration, granting citizenship or permanent residency. Private bills may also be introduced for individuals who have claims again the government, veterans benefits claims, claims for military decorations, or taxation problems. The title of a private bill usually begins with the phrase, "For the relief of. . . ." If a private bill is passed in identical form by both houses of Congress and is signed by the President, it becomes a private law.

      So the argument appears to be that they may be traditional and constitutional, but it's bad public policy to ever, under any circumstances, pass a private bill.  Why?

      I see private bills as useful and appropriate.  Reality is messy, and circumstances vary greatly.  I ceased to be a libertarian in large part because I decided that libertarianism was disconnected from any possible real life.  A principle that tells a legislator that he must ignore all individuals, and only think about abstract groups, has nothing to do with human beings as they really are.  And if there are people who think only of groups, never of individuals, I wouldn't want them to be making laws.  Neither would the voters.

      And by the way, as a believer in limited govt., I'd frequently rather have the legislature making laws that affect one person at a time, rather than whole groups.  I think of farm subsidies, and shudder.

      We come at last to what I suspect is the really important objection to the Schiavo bill:
Finally, the rule of law requires the separation of powers. It is the job of Congress and state legislatures to pass laws of general applicability. It is the job of courts to apply those laws in particular cases.

I'll grant you that the judges in Florida often seem more concerned with enacting personal policy preferences (and getting favorable mentions from the NY Times) than following the law. See, e.g., Bush v. Gore. I'm reliably informed by an attorney who was involved in the Schiavo cases that the presiding judge committed two structural errors: (1) the judge compromised his judicial independence by assuming inconsistent roles and (2) Terri was denied effective representation because of her husband/guardian's conflict of interest.

If so, the rule of law was compromised by the presiding judge. The solution to such judicial errors, however, is an appeal within the judicial system. Ex post facto laws limited to a single case are not an appropriate solution.

      As we've seen, the Schiavo bill didn't make any ex post facto law, technically.  You can regard it as punishing Judge Greer, and the Florida state court system by overruling them, and taking the case out of their hands.  That's sort of stretching the meaning of punishment.  But I suspect that's what really bothers Bainbridge about this bill.  Mere legislators have refused to kowtow before a court system.

      Prof. Bainbridge gives his frank opinion that Judge Greer failed to do his duty as a judge, and one can infer that the Florida state courts failed to do theirs, since they upheld the ruling.  His answer as to what we are to do about this is -- well, nothing, I guess.  If Judge Greer violates Terri Schiavo's rights to life and due process, and if the Florida state courts go along with it, there is nothing to be done.  Of course, if a law permitting appeals to the federal courts had been in existence already, it would presumably be all right.  But for anyone but a judge to stop the abuse of power by another judge is verbotten.

      Perhaps I've mistaken Prof. Bainbridge's argument, but in the end, the only thing I can see he has is a personal preference for no private bills, and another personal preference for making court decisions untouchable.

      Prof. Bainbridge referred to the "Constitution-in-exile," the notion that our legal arrangements routinely include laws forbidden by the U.S. Constitution, if I read him correctly.  How, I wonder, does he think we got into this mess?  It was by treating courts as supreme over the legislature and executive.  By regarding their decisions as imperatives to be obeyed even when they clearly violate the law.  By making their whims untouchable except by Constitutional Amendment.

      It's interesting that, in a part of his post I skipped over before, Bainbridge said:
Yet, like most virtues, federalism is capable of becoming a vice if we make a fetish of it. Would the rest of the country really stand by and watch if Florida adopted a Logan's Run-like policy of euthanizing anybody over a certain age? If Appomattox proved anything, it proved that the national government can (and should) override state's rights to protect the basic human rights of the weak and vulnerable.

      So, fighting a war to overturn the decisions of eleven conventions called by the citizens of their states is ok, even though that war kills hundreds of thousands of people, destroys huge amounts of property, disrupts an economy, abolishes a form of property that was Constitutionally recognized, and creates sectional hostilities that last for generations.  Extending a previously all-state appeals process to the federal courts can't be countenanced.  I think the Prof. has made a fetish out of 'rule of law.'

      I regard the idea of a written Constitution 'binding' a govt. as a fantasy, for no words on paper can prevent an act.  Your mileage may vary.  But the Prof.'s principles won't attain his alleged goals.  They will serve, however, to kill Terri Schiavo.  Of all the things that bother about this case, it's the fact that so many people don't really care about that.  Prof. Bainbridge thinks the atrocity of Terri Schiavo dying of thirst is less important than maintaining the status of judges as demigods.  I disagree.

      Update: Jerry Pournelle points out an example of the fallcy of the "ex post facto" argument -- the legislature could abolish the death penalty tomorrow.  No one would argue that people sentenced before the penalty was abolished had to be executed anyway.


I'm a Paranoid Idiot in a Tinfoil Hat

      And how did I discover this?  Well, I followed a link from Rachel Lucas's site, and it told me that abuse allegations against Michael Schiavo have been made by three of Terri's nurses.  Not abuse before her collapse, but while she was in the hospitals and nursing homes.

      A sane person would instantly dismiss all this, but I think it's worth looking into.  So that proves I'm insane.  I know this, because all I have to do is look at various comment sites, for instance the comments to this post.

      Gee, I wish I could be sane, and happy, and just kicking up my heels at the thought of this woman's death.  Instead, I ended up crazy -- and it sucks bigtime.