Thursday, March 24, 2005

Enough with the sympathetic calls for killing her.

Reading comments here and here, it occurs to me that if the proponents of cutting off her food and water are correct that she's brain dead, it makes no sense to refer to her "misery," "indignity," or "pain and suffering." As ghoulish as it appears to some to keep her breathing and fed, if her parents pay for it I see no reason not to let them. There's no way any of us can ever know what, if anything, is going on in her skull. The only real objection to maintaining her seems to me to be that it's inefficient and wasteful of resources, but then you could say that about watching TV, drinking beer, or a host of other things.

If you don't believe she is still alive, you can't logically feel sorry for her, since she has no more consciousness than a fly. You can't even say what you'd want if you were in her position, because if you were, you'd be brain dead. If she has a spirit, as I believe she does, I doubt that it is still in her body. If I were her parent, I'd have let her go along time ago and comforted myself with the faith and hope that she is now more free and happy that she was after her brain injury. I'm not willing to impose that on her parents, however. Maybe the correct decision is to allow anyone willing to pay her keep to keep her breathing. This Florida judge may think he rendered a Solomonic decision, but all he's really done is cut the baby in half, regardless of who its real mother is.

As Hugh Hewitt points out, we give federal protection to all kinds of "endangered" creatures. Why does she or her parents deserve any less?

One other thing that I'm noticing is how bitchy doctors can be about each other, sneering at credentials and dismissing their opinions.

Update: Michael Schiavo's attorney earns the Tin-Ear award for his remark about how beautifulTerri looks as her life ebbs away. I've never seen a beautiful corpse. They always look like a bad attempt at sculpture.

She might have preferred this, but the proof of that is pretty skimpy. That's what makes it such a hard case.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Great Moments in Religious Education

When I was in college I had a professor who counseled us not to encourage our kids to believe in Santa Claus, because it would cause them to mistrust us about God and Jesus and cause them real emotional trouble.

I wonder how many counselors it will take to cover this passion play. The Easter Bunny produced by Mel Gibson.

Deck chairs on the Titanic

CNN's plan to overtake Fox News.

Yeah, that'll work.

Great moments in Sunday School

I had a professor in college who maintained that we shouldn't teach our kids to believe in Santa Claus because it would make them mistrust us about God and Jesus. I shudder to think what this spectacle will do to them. Maybe one or two people too many watched the Passion of the Christ.

Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hopping down the . . . Oh, good Lord!

Cheny in '08?

I admire Dick Cheney a lot, but I think that running him for President would be a disaster for Republicans. I think that Mitt Romney is a better bet.

Schiavo Fallout

James Pinkerton comments on the politics of the Schiavo case:
t's politically viable for "Deep Blue" Democrats, such as Barney Frank of Massachusetts, to vote their liberal conscience in opposition to Republican efforts to intervene and preserve the life of Schiavo. But for the Democratic Party to flourish in Red States, it simply can't oppose the wishes of energetic Protestant and Catholic constituencies. So it's bad news for the national party that a majority of those Democrats in the House early yesterday voted against the life-saving intervention, while Republicans voted 30-1 for that intervention.
He further notes that Congress's insertion of itself into the matter could have repercussions in the health care debate.

I've decided that Terri is a goner, and has been for years, and that it's best to proceed with the court's order. However, the same point Pinkerton makes may turn public opinion against judges who act as though they were acting to spite the politicians who dared to trespass on their turf. The point here was to suspend the march toward letting her die while we can answer all the new points being made and clear up the suspicions, but the courts have reacted with technicalities and what seems to be irritation. I think that this will end up giving support to the criticisms of judges as overreaching and legislating from the bench, even if this case is correctly decided. Judges seem to have decided that their own pronouncements have more legitimacy than anybody who doesn't have life tenure. That could be changed, and if it is, they will have only themselves to blame.

I have a friend who just spent a week at his mother's bedside after her feeding tubes were withdrawn, bidding her farewell. She had made it clear that she did not want to remain tied to her worn out body, and her children honored her wishes. He's contemptuous of Terri's parents for prolonging her suffering. If, as I read today, her brain has basically dissolved and all that's working is her brainstem, it's futile to cling to illusions that she could be cured. That doesn't really answer all my concerns, however. I would hope that cases like this would be resolved transparently, but there are still a lot of questions that may never be answered without more testing or an autopsy.

The Illusion of Reform

Kofi Annan is calling for reform and a whole lot more money.

The gift to bloggers that keeps on giving

The flow of assinity coming from the left never runs out.

The Kid in Minnesota

Why is it that we hear about all the warning signs AFTER the school gets shot up? Or do most of these cases get caught before they descend into madness?

The Next Challenger to Fox News

Al Jazeera in English! This could be the worst thing for the image of Muslims in the West since 9/11; or it could be hilarious. Or both.

How long before it gets bought by Time-Warner?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Free speech doesn't mean free trust

You have the right to say nearly anything you want to in a political context, but what does it do to your credibility when you compare your opponents to the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the kind of inflammatory invective that leads to violence. The action of Congress in the Schiavo case is certainly questionable on a number of grounds, but this statement seems to have the analogy reversed:
The cynical use by the US Republican Party of the Terri Schiavo case repeats . . . the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and theocrats in places like Egypt and Pakistan. These tactics involve a disturbing tendency to make private, intimate decisions matters of public interest and then to bring the courts and the legislature to bear on them. President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders like Tom Delay have taken us one step closer to theocracy on the Muslim Brotherhood model."
If you want to incite violence, you have to first dehumanize your foes.

Utah Foot in Mouth

Salt Lake City's professional soccer team is called the Real, pronounced Ray-al, as in Spanish. It reminds me that some years ago the state tourism bureau adopted the slogan "Utah--a pretty, great state." Of course, most people missed the comma and read it as damning the state with faint praise.

Are Utahns just too entranced by wordplay? We don't seem to be burdened with much marketing talent.

Monday, March 21, 2005


Did you ever notice how low the threshold is for the left when it comes to accusing others of lying? For that matter, when did Democrats become so morally upright and pure that they have standing to make honesty an issue?

Schiavo, all the news; all the time!

The only thing that really disturbs me about the Congress getting into Terri Schiavo's case is that this scenario is repeated all over the country all the time, but those which don't get litigated and publicized will probably be ignored. Things like this are only news the first or second time they occur.

Update: On Joe Scarborough's program, some allegations I haven't hear before. If true, the case for removing this from the Florida courts is strengthened. Her husband won a sizeable award for malpractice, and if she dies, he gets the money. She told her parents she was leaving him the evening before she was found in her home in a coma. A doctor who treated her says that she was responsive and recognized people coming into the room and could follow instructions. That doesn't sound like PVS to me. There are claims that he told the hospice personnel not to treat her infections. The whole case smells bad. The husband has an obvious conflict of interest, and I can't understand why the judge wouldn't remove him, unless he is crooked or himself in a PVS.

They say hard cases make bad law, but so do bad judges. I really don't like having the federal government intervening in this way, but there has to be some more time granted to settle all of these allegations. Of course, they could all be false or misleading, but the harm done by keeping her alive a little longer is neglible compared with that of killing her without sufficient cause. If I were in that state, I wouldn't want to live, but I wouldn't want someone who stands to profit from my death to make the call. We allow death row inmates to have federal courts review their cases; why not this woman?

I'm fully aware that support of this law is not consistent with my own arguments, but given the direction our common law has taken, I have a hard time denying the same scrutiny to an innocent woman that is routinely given to murderers on death row.

Update: The federal judge in Florida has refused to reinstate Schiavo's feeding tube, apparently using an ambiguity in the law to duck the real issue and to rebuke Congress for trying to overrule Judge Greer. The opinion holds that Schiavo's parents did not meet the requirements for granting a Temporary Restraining Order, specifically the condition that they have a "substantial likelihood of success on the merits." He then reviewed the claims of her parents that she has been denied due process, and found them without merit.

Ironically, the 17-year-old who killed nine people and himself in Minnesota, could not have been given the death penalty, had he not committed suicide. Hugh Hewitt argues that "Endangered Vegetables Get More Protections Than Terri Schiavo," citing the Endangered Species Act. Andrew McCarthy confirms my suspicions:
it bears noting that Whittemore was placed on the federal bench by President Clinton in 2000 after spending a decade as a judge in the state courts of Florida. His opinion is a staunch approbation of the integrity of Florida�s procedural framework, and extremely deferential to the performance of his former state-court colleague, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer. Essentially, Judge Whittemore reasons: Florida�s procedures are fair and designed to achieve a just result, there is no basis to suspect that those procedures did not produce a just result here, and, therefore, federal due process has been satisfied � without any need to revisit (i.e. , conduct a de novo review of) the facts that were actually found here under those fair procedures.
The law passed only granted him jurisdiction; it didn't tell him he had to do a de novo review, so he used a technical loophole to avoid reaching the merits of the case. It strikes me as an ornery reaction to a public outcry--in essence telling the public and political branches that democracy has no place in the courts, and justice not a very large one. As Hugh Hewitt points out, this is Pontius Pilate justice.

Rich Lowry has a terrific political analysis of this case, in light of the charges of hypocrisy from Democrats. He lists all the "compassionate" intrusions passed by Congress in the past and concludes:
Whenever life-related issues arise, liberals ask: How can conservatives favor preserving life when they support executing people? There's an answer for that (for another day), but the more acute question is for the other side: How can you oppose death sentences for killers, but support one, in effect, for Schiavo, whose only crime is not being capable of feeding herself?

Of course, it's possible to oppose the Schiavo bill on principled procedural grounds, maintaining that it is not the business of Congress or the federal courts. But one suspects that as soon as they are considering anything other than the fate of poor Terri Schiavo, liberals will lose their newfound suspicion of federal action.
I don't find the hypocrisy of the Republicans here nearly as disturbing as that of the left.

Put up or shut up

USA Today has a new policy on using anonymous sources and unnamed "critics," "opponents," etc. A lot of us have suspected that such unnamed sources were being used by reporters to insert their own opinions into "straight reporting" stories. It's a step forward toward regaining credibility which other big papers probably should adopt. Should they really need a rule against reporting stuff that hasn't happened?

How to be a professional

Read this interview by Deborah Solomon of Jeff Gannon/Guckert and put yourself in his shoes. If the sneering hostility of the questions, along with their argumentative nature, is supposed to show him how a "real" journalist asks question, I think we could do with a lot fewer of them.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Bust the Filibuster

I find George Will's argument for keeping the filibuster less than compelling. His piece is a critique of Republican reasoning, but it hardly adds weight to the Democrats' arugments, which seem to consist of asserting Constitutionality for a practice that isn't there. The Constitution's checks and balances should not be mistaken for an imperative to delay.

His reason for wanting to keep the filibuster seems to be that the good guys might want to use it themselves in the future. But that presumes that the people will have elected a Democrat majority in the Senate and that Republicans will always be on the right side. It also fails to consider the dire need for judges who will, it is to be hoped, restore a sense of the proper roles of the judiciary. If the ability to block nominees is the price, I'm for paying it. It this may be the best chance we'll have for some time to roll back the ill-advised arrogations of the past 50 years.

I think that this game-playing is destructive to the respect we should have for our institutions. We shouldn't be sending people to Washington merely to maintain a perpetual stand off.


Catherine Johnson, a frequent commenter on Roger Simon's blog has an eloquent and persuasive post on the Terri Schiavo case. The videos I've seen of Ms. Schiavo certainly don't look like what I would call a Persistent Vegetative State. The NYTimes piece reassuring us that death by starvation/dehydration is "not a horrific thing" only begs the question of whether she is, in fact, in a PVS, in which case a doctor says she would feel nothing anyway. The problem is that neither he nor anyone else can be certain of that.

My brother's oldest son died in a snowmobile accident recently. As shocking and sad as that was, I think having him live on as Terri Schiavo has, and the difficulty of knowing what to do, would have been worse. I believe that we each have an immortal soul, and that mortality is an anomaly in our larger existence. My own life has never been so precious to me as to want to cling to it in such a situation, but I also recognize that someone like Terri Schiavo may have a vibrant mental life that she is unable to express.

Howard Dean's latest blurt

He called Republicans "brain-dead." What does it say about your party that it has lost three elections in a row to the brain-dead? Or that your only answer to its agenda is lame insults? Liberals seem to have a hard times expressing their philosophy in any coherent way, probably because it's incoherent. They want religion out of public life, but believe that government's most important duty is charity. You'd think that people who want God to keep his mouth shut would be far more laissez faire than they seem to be. Or that their professed belief in tolerance and diversity would make them less hostile to religious faith, but just the opposite seems to be the case.

Dean fought hard for the chairmanship of his party and got it. The question that must be in everybody's mind is "Why?" It's unlikely that he has any formula for redressing the party's losses. Rather, he seems to believe in the Bigger Hammer approach to solving problems, which is fine by me.