Mickey Kaus has a post called Bonus Gratuitous LAT-Bashing. And below that post is still more Dog Trainer bashing. Click on the link, if you like that sort of thing. (And what are you doing reading Patterico if you don’t?)
Steve Lopez says Arnold should quadruple the car tax. I agree with one of his points: that if the car tax is reduced, some other way must be found to fund local police and fire departments, and other public safety agencies. But I have to admit I chuckled when I read Lopez’s line: “Excuse me, but I’m happy to pay my car tax.”
Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he be? Lopez gets paid $300,000 a year to write three columns a week — and thinks it’s hilarious that you, the average citizen, are excited about saving an average of $140 on your auto registration.
There sure are a lot of rich liberals who mouth off about how happy they are to pay their taxes, and how they wouldn’t mind paying even more. I wonder how many of these folks donate a few extra thousand to the IRS every year — just because they wouldn’t mind.
BEAR FLAG REVIEW: Click on the link and check out what some of the other Bear Flaggers have been saying.
Also, coming soon: Bear Flag League merchandise!
I write this final column on Charles Pickering because, in some 50 years as a reporter, I have seldom seen such reckless, unfair, and repeated attacks on a person — not only by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee but also by organizations that gather financial contributions because of their proclaimed dedication to civil rights, civil liberties, and honest research. (People for the American Way, Alliance for Justice, et al.)
This is stern stuff coming from Hentoff, a lifelong liberal. But the sternest stuff comes at the end of the column, as Hentoff says that certain liberals’ very reputations depend on the outcome of the vote on Pickering:
Not only Pickering’s nomination rides on this nomination. So do the reputations of those Pickering opponents who demonize him. And that includes The New York Times‘ editorial writers. Now, on the floor, how many Democrats will vote for Pickering?
Ironically enough, the answer came today, even before Hentoff’s column came online:
Senate Republicans on Thursday failed to break a Democratic filibuster of U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering’s promotion to the federal appeals court, continuing a two-year standoff tinged with accusations of racial, religious and regional politics.
So much for the reputations of Chuckie S. and his pals at the New York Times — in Hentoff’s eyes. In the eyes of many of us, their reputations were shot to hell years ago.
“HOW APPEALING” TO INTERVIEW STEPHEN REINHARDT: Howard Bashman reports that Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt will be the February 2004 participant in the “20 questions for the appellate judge” feature at the indispensable How Appealing web site.
Howard Bashman continues to land the big fish. One suggestion: when you’re done with the interview, Howard, throw this one back.
STILL MORE SLOPPINESS AND/OR DUPLICITY FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: Re the Schiavo case, a reader alerts me to the similar case of a California man named Robert Wendland.
Wendland was not in a “persistent vegetative state” but rather a “minimally conscious state,” but the case was otherwise very similar to that of Ms. Schiavo. The spouse and other witnesses said that he had told them he didn’t want to “live like a vegetable.” His mother and sister argued to keep him alive.
The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a conservator could not refuse life-sustaining treatment for Mr. Wendland. (Wendland had died of pneumonia by the time the decision was issued, but the court decided the case anyway, due to the importance of the issues involved.) The court reasoned that, since he had not specifically indicated a desire to refuse such treatment in a formal way while competent, there was no “clear and convincing evidence” of his wish to die. The court stated that this ruling might be different if a patient were in a persistent vegetative state. However, in my opinion, the California Supreme Court’s approach is well-suited to the Schiavo case.
While reading about Wendland, I learned a very interesting fact in an article about his death. The article says that his wife, who had argued that he should die,
praised Dr. Ronald Cranford, a Minnesota neurologist and bioethicist, for providing her with medical and moral advice during Robert’s final days. Cranford, a consultant in several high-profile right-to-die cases, did not personally treat Wendland but advised doctors on his care. His presence at the hospital enraged some pro-life activists, who fired off a statement Tuesday denouncing his involvement.
Does the name “Ron Cranford” sound familiar? Maybe you remember him from the New York Times article I discussed here titled In Feeding-Tube Case, Many Neurologists Back Courts. As I pointed out in my post, the article failed to live up to its headline, because only one neurologist who had viewed the tapes believed that Ms. Schiavo had no chance of recovering: Dr. Ron Cranford.
The Times article mentioned that he had testified for Mr. Schiavo, and I discounted his opinion accordingly. But the article didn’t mention that he also regularly takes a pro-death position in litigated, high-profile “right-to-die” cases.
In these cases, Cranford’s opinion carries about the same credibility as that of Jack Kevorkian. To be accurate, the Times‘s headline should have read: “In Feeding-Tube Case, One Right-to-Die Activist Backs Courts.” Wow! Stop the presses!
MORE SCHIAVO INFO: Via Mickey Kaus comes this April 2003 Newsday.com story on Terri Schiavo — packed with information I had not read previously. For example, a childhood friend named Diane Meyer testified that Terri
once uncharacteristically lost her temper when Meyer told a joke about Karen Quinlan. “What is the state vegetable of New Jersey?” Meyer asked Terri in the summer of 1982. The punch line was “Karen Ann Quinlan.”
“She said the joke wasn’t funny and did not approve of what was going on in the Quinlan case,” Meyer testified, referring to the legal battle to remove the woman from life support. “I remember one of the things she said is, ‘How did they know she would want this?’”
Other friends and relatives testified that Terri described Michael Schiavo as “mentally abusive,” and repeatedly talked about divorcing him, as late as days before her collapse. Also, as mentioned on this blog before, a guardian ad litem was appointed who “concluded that he had not found clear and convincing evidence that Terri would have rejected life support.” The probate judge rejected this recommendation.
New to me was this astounding evidence:
The Schindlers had contacted a woman Michael dated in 1991 who told them Michael had confessed to her he did not know what Terri would want. Although the woman refused to sign an affidavit, it bought the Schindlers some time. And with it, they found Trudy Capone.
A former co-worker of Michael’s, Capone signed an affidavit on May 9, 2001, stating “Michael confided in me all the time about Terri . . . He said to me many times that he had no idea what her wishes were.”
How was some probate judge able to find “clear and convincing evidence” of her wish to die, given these facts??
TAKING A STEP BACK: THOUGHTS ON THE SCHIAVO CASE: Much of the blogging I have seen on the Terri Schiavo controversy is driven by day-to-day events. This is understandable, given the fast-paced nature of the story. (For instance, just yesterday we learned here that Michael Schiavo’s lawyers (as expected) filed court papers challenging the constitutionality of “Terri’s Bill.”) But I think it might be worthwhile at this point to take a step back and look at some of the issues raised by the controversy, without getting bogged down in whatever happened today.
The Schiavo case is remarkable for the depth of feeling it inspires in people on both sides of the issue. I have received more letters on this topic than any other topic I have discussed since this blog began. I have had a regular reader tell me he is boycotting my site because he disagrees so violently with my opinions. Many others have written me to support my point of view, to share their thoughts, and to encourage me to continue the discussion.
The emotions people feel are understandable. Although there are far more serious issues in the world, this one has a deeply personal aspect to it. Many people have had a relative or friend in a similar position, and have had to make difficult decisions about life-or-death issues — often based on limited information regarding what their friend or loved one would really want.
Even if you haven’t been through such an experience, it is very easy to imagine yourself in the position of someone in the case. We wonder what we would do if we were the Schindlers, or Mr. Schiavo. Worst of all, we can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be Ms. Schiavo herself.
Unfortunately, as often happens when people feel strongly about an issue, many are allowing their feelings to cloud their judgment. People (mostly from the political left) have been heard making all sorts of unreasonable arguments, and discarding compelling evidence on the flimsiest basis. For example, I had a debate with a woman on a leftist internet site in which she discounted three affidavits (filed by a nurse and two nurses’ aides) because they were all notarized by the same person. When you start making objections based upon such trivia, we are in OJ-land.
To my knowledge, Terri Schiavo never killed anyone — but many on the left advocate treating her worse than they would treat a convicted murderer. Early on in this debate I noted the irony that, at the same time a court had ordered Terri Schiavo to die in a manner (forced starvation and dehydration) that appears cruel, our United States Supreme Court had granted a stay to a man convicted of murdering two people, sparing him from a lethal injection — because he has collapsed veins.
This is not the only way in which Ms. Schiavo has received less consideration than an accused or convicted murderer. Criminal defendants are constitutionally entitled to have their cases decided by a jury — bringing to bear the collective experience and wisdom of a group of diverse people — rather than by a single judge. Criminal defendants are also entitled to have their guilt decided according to the “reasonable doubt” standard — whereas Ms. Schiavo was condemned to death based on findings made according to the less stringent “clear and convincing evidence” legal standard.
If nothing else, this case suggests that the procedural protections available to criminal defendants should be available to people who can’t speak for themselves, whose very life or death hinges upon the trial court’s decision. Is not Terri Schiavo’s life worth at least as much as that of someone charged with a deliberate, cold-blooded murder? Why, then, do we not accord her at least the same protections under the law that we would accord to the suspected murderer?
We should also recognize that, even with all of these protections, the courts are fallible. Courts get things wrong, every day. Judges and jurors are people like you and me. They have preconceptions and biases. They make mistakes. You think the O.J. jury got it right?? You think O.J. deserved custody of his children??
If you have any doubts about the fallibility of trial courts, just look at the dozens of provably innocent people who have been on Death Row in this country. I support the death penalty in principle, but if you think that no innocent people make it onto Death Row, you just haven’t been paying attention.
Yet the left continually argues that “19 judges” have ruled for Mr. Schiavo. This argument ignores the fact that the only judge whose opinion really mattered was the trial judge, who made the factual findings in this case. After that, appellate judges deferred to the trial judge’s findings. For better or worse, our legal system depends to an incredible extent upon such findings of fact, and it is well-nigh impossible to obtain a reversal based on an argument that the factfinder got the facts wrong.
By the way, the deference that appellate courts show to factual findings made in the trial court is the main reason that innocent people on Death Row are rarely freed through the orderly workings of the justice system. Far too often, a defendant’s innocence is revealed not by layers of judicial review, but rather by the efforts of activists — who usually have to fight the judicial system to obtain a defendant’s release, even when the defendant’s innocence is clear.
Consistent with their other bizarre positions, leftists also purport to be outraged at the idea that the Florida Legislature gave the Governor the power to stop the starvation of Ms. Schiavo. If she had murdered someone, these same leftists would likely praise a commutation of the death sentence — even though such an order is (like Gov. Bush’s order in this case) an executive order that directly overturns a valid judgment rendered in a court of competent jurisdiction. But Gov. Bush’s order was in essence a stay of execution for Ms. Schiavo. So what made it so outrageous — the fact that she hadn’t murdered someone before she was condemned to die?
The media, which often operates in effect as an arm of the political left, has been equally complicit in making silly arguments, distorting the facts, and generally behaving in an irrational and irresponsible fashion. As I have documented on this site, a one-sided view of the story has been presented in virtually all forms of available media, including news articles and editorials in major newspapers, articles in national magazines, stories on the radio, and TV talk-shows.
But here’s the thing. Even after you strip away the silly arguments discussed above, society is still faced with a very difficult decision. We all have to admit that we don’t really know what Ms. Schiavo would want in this situation. We can make the best judgment we can, based on the facts we know. But there will inevitably be facts we don’t know, and will probably never know.
So what to do? I don’t have all the answers. Here’s what I do know:
Absent a clear written directive, issues of life and death should be resolved by a jury, not a judge, applying a stringent evidentiary standard. If this standard can be met by hearsay testimony from people with glaring conflicts of interest, the standard is too low.
I am not inclined to put blind faith in doctors, any more than I would in the courts. There are too many credible stories of people who were written off by doctors as vegetables and lived to tell the tale. If you are rabidly in favor of killing Terri Schiavo, I would like to introduce you to Rus Cooper-Dowda and Stephen Drake. Tell them that we need to trust the doctors. Tell them that when a doctor diagnoses someone as a “vegetable” with no chance of recovery, the doctor must be right.
Finally, I will agree with Mr. Schiavo and his attorney on one point: this case highlights the need to reduce to writing your wishes regarding such important decisions.
At the risk of seeming flippant, I think it also highlights the need to be careful whom you marry.
YET ANOTHER ARTICULATE FORMER “VEGETABLE”: Add Stephen Drake (author of this L.A. Times op-ed) to the list of people who were written off by doctors as vegetables — yet lived to tell the tale:
I was born brain-damaged as a result of a forceps delivery. The doctor told my parents I would be a “vegetable” for the rest of my life — the same word now being used for Schiavo — and that the best thing would be for nature to take its course. They refused. Although I had a lot of health problems, surgeries and pain as a child, I went on to lead a happy life.
It’s impossible not to wonder: how many Stephen Drakes or Rus Cooper-Dowdas weren’t so lucky?
BARKING MOONBATS ON THE RECALL: Troublemaker Mark Ridley-Thomas and “Expert on Everything”™ Erwin Chemerinsky have a joint op-ed in this morning’s Dog Trainer titled Now That It’s Finally Over, Let’s Revamp the Recall.
They make a number of suggestions, starting with this one: “First, it is far too easy to qualify a recall for the ballot.” This is clearly a major problem, since the state had to spend millions on a recall that, ultimately, was unsuccessful and changed nothing in Sacramento.
Right, Erwin? Is that the problem, Mark?
They state that their “most important” suggestion is that, “in the event of a recall, there should be no race for a successor.” Rather, they argue, the lieutenant governor should succeed the governor in the event of a successful recall. Their reasoning? “We believe this would dramatically depoliticize the recall process.”
Like the guy on the mattress commercials says: “Hey, Erwin!” The recall process is a political process! When a law professor starts talking about how he wants to “depoliticize” a political process, that’s when you should get nervous.
Ridley-Thomas and Chemerinsky end with this lovely speech:
We know that everyone is exhausted from the events of the last few months, and it is tempting to pretend that this was a unique political earthquake never to be repeated and to just move on. But we owe it to the future of California to learn from what we have experienced and to create a better recall process.
Ignore the whole thing.