Patterico's Pontifications


Grokster Case is Critical to Free Speech

Filed under: Civil Liberties — Patterico @ 10:37 pm

I agree with Justin Levine about the importance of the Grokster case.

I still wish he or Volokh would weigh in on the “neutral reporting privilege” issue.

L.A. Times On Memos Being “Ascribed” — and on Reporting Push Polls as Legitimate

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 10:16 pm

There are at least two problems with today’s L.A. Times article discussing the political hit that the GOP is taking for its actions in the Schiavo case.


Two Interesting Opinions on the Schiavo Case

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Schiavo — Patterico @ 9:23 pm

Two interesting takes on the Terri Schiavo case:

The first is titled Bigotry and the Murder of Terri Schiavo, by Joe Ford:

The reason for this public support of removal from ordinary sustenance, I believe, is not that most people understand or care about Terri Schiavo. Like many others with disabilities, I believe that the American public, to one degree or another, holds that disabled people are better off dead. To put it in a simpler way, many Americans are bigots. A close examination of the facts of the Schiavo case reveals not a case of difficult decisions but a basic test of this country’s decency.

I’m not sure I would have put it this way. I think the words “murder” and “bigotry” are extreme — especially when I take into account the opinions of so many well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) people who have commented on this blog.

Still, I’m not going to be too critical of Ford. He has personal experiences that are relevant — some doctor once tried to kill him because of an anticipated disability.

Go read his piece. It’s very well-written and thought-provoking. (Via Power Line.)

The second piece I want to highlight is titled The Other Self-Righteous Fanatics, by (believe it or not) Julian Sanchez Jesse Walker:

Much of the pro-death side pretends that they’re neutral bystanders who don’t want to “interfere” with a family’s private business, even as they actively argue for one side of the family dispute. They say they want to respect the woman’s wishes, even as [they] refer more readily to what they’d want for themselves in such a situation. And they warn gravely of a slippery slope to theocracy, without pausing to wonder whether there are any other slippery slopes to worry about.

(Via Xrlq.)

Amen, brother. Sanchez makes a good argument that current trends may not value individual interests. Libertarians, take note.

Terri Schiavo Will Have Autopsy

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:30 am

Terri Schiavo will have an autopsy . (Via Michelle Malkin.)

I think this is a positive step. An autopsy would hopefully provide more definitive information regarding the state of Terri Schiavo’s brain. If it truly shows that her cerebral cortex had liquified, as many claim it has, that might prove reassuring to those in despair over her death.

Also, I hope that the autopsy is thorough enough to address any allegations that Michael Schiavo may have put Terri Schiavo in this condition to begin with. I have never advanced that argument, but if it’s not the case, it’s in Michael Schiavo’s best interest to have any such suggestion definitively ruled out.

Schiavo-Related Letters in the L.A. Times

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 12:12 am

The L.A. Times has printed several letters about the Terri Schiavo controversy here. One of them opposes the paper’s comparison of the Schiavo case to that of Tom DeLay’s father. But none makes the point I made in my letter (which will apparently not be printed): the biggest difference between the two cases is that the elder DeLay’s wishes were clear, while Terri Schiavo’s wishes remain a mystery.


Calling All Jurors From the Schiavo Civil Litigation

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 11:44 pm

I’m just curious. Has anyone heard from the jurors who served on Michael Schiavo’s lawsuit — the one where he claimed he was going to spend the recovery rehabilitating Terri Schiavo?

I wonder what they would say about what he’s doing now.

If anyone knows one of them — or their cousin’s mom’s best friend — tell them we’d like to know what they think about this controversy.

A Good Whacking

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 11:13 pm

Jack Shafer whacks David Shaw. And deservedly so.

I have whacked Shaw once or twice (or thrice) myself. But I am happy to see Shafer pile on. Shaw deserves no less.

UPDATE: More whacking (and a roundup of other whacks) here.

Surprising Non-Ruling

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Court Decisions — Patterico @ 7:14 pm

I am very surprised at this. The Supreme Court has let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that there is no “neutral reporting privilege” implicit in the First Amendment. In plain English, this means that you can be held liable for reporting false allegations, even if it is legitimate news that the accusation was made at all.

In other words, reporting that “Politician Jones said Politician Smith is a child molester” can lead to civil liability, if done with reckless disregard for the truth of the allegation about Politician Smith — even if it is undeniably true that Politician Jones made the accusation.

I would have thought that the mere fact that such an allegation is made is a legitimate news story, regardless of (or perhaps even because of) the lack of a factual basis for the allegation. Letting such a ruling stand has a significant chilling effect on speech. For example: if there is no such privilege, how can a newspaper report fully on a defamation suit, if it cannot republish the statements that give rise to the suit?

I’d like to see Eugene Volokh weigh in on this.

UPDATE: Some quick research appears to indicate that California courts have not yet decided whether the privilege exists in California. A famous Second Circuit case found such a privilege, so you New York journalists appear to be okay. (That’s not legal advice! I don’t give legal advice.) Surprisingly, many other jurisdictions have rejected it. In California, there appear to be some extremely limited statutory provisions in the Civil Code that don’t provide much solace.

This seems like it would have been a perfect issue for the Supreme Court to tackle.

I could be wrong about this; I’m no expert. Justin Levine, where are you when we need you?

My Letter Regarding the Disgraceful DeLay Story

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:48 am

I sent this letter to the L.A. Times this morning:

Recently, we saw a family’s private tragedy dragged into the national spotlight to make a cheap political point. Those involved should be deeply ashamed.

Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case? No, that controversy was already very public when Congress stepped in, responding to entreaties from Schiavo’s parents. I refer instead to The Times’s disgraceful decision to run a front-page article about the death of Congressman Tom DeLay’s father (“DeLay’s Own Tragic Crossroads,” March 27).

There is no comparison between the withdrawal of life support from DeLay’s father and the forced starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo. DeLay’s family was unanimous about his father’s wishes. In stark contrast, Schiavo’s family is deeply divided over hers.

Schiavo’s mother, father, brother, and sister are all adamant that she would want to live — and they welcomed the involvement of Congress. I doubt that the members of DeLay’s family appreciated The Times’s intrusion into their personal lives.

The two situations could not be more different. No matter. It is a great opportunity for sneering cynics to take a cheap shot at Tom DeLay. Why let the facts get in the way?

If you feel similarly, you can write the L.A. Times at


A True or False Question for the “Let Terri Schiavo Die” Folks

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 11:29 am

Looking at the recent coverage of the Schiavo case by the L.A. Times, I am struck by the way the paper consistently portrays the theme of the controversy as “Family vs. Government.” And much of the public appears to be buying it.

This is apparent in today’s disgraceful article about Tom DeLay, which I discussed in this post. The article begins:

A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo’s Florida hospice.

How ironic, right? DeLay wants Government to override the wishes of Family in the Schiavo case — but not in his own private situation.

The same “Family vs. Government” theme appears in the paper’s recent story about two mothers who made different decisions about ending the lives of their children. I discussed that article in this post. According to that article, the mothers believe that the government shouldn’t be involved in the Schiavo case:

There is no one correct course, [Kaye] O’Bara says. It’s a private decision one a family must make on its own, with love.

[Shirley] Bradley feels the same. Watching politicians and protesters presume to know what’s best for Terri angers her. She would not have wanted a stranger to make the choice for Randy.

Quite obviously, I am missing something. I am under this crazy delusion that Terri Schiavo’s family is divided about her wishes — and that most of her family members (including her mother, father, brother, and sister) think she would want to live. If anything, I would have thought that the case is about Congress plus the Schindlers, on one hand, vs. the Florida courts and Michael Schiavo, on the other.

But the L.A. Times says it’s Family vs. Government. And many members of the “Let Terri Schiavo Die” crowd seem to agree.

So enlighten me. Tell me where I am wrong.

Please answer the following statement true or false:

The Terri Schiavo case is, quite simply, a case about Family vs. Government. It pits the wishes of the family against the wishes of politicians.

I am especially interested in having this question answered by those who believe Schiavo should be allowed to die.

Please open your comment with the word “true” or “false.” Then take as much time and space as you need to explain.

I am also interested to hear your reaction as to whether it is appropriate for the L.A. Times to run a story about the death of Tom DeLay’s father. Was that story an utter disgrace, as I believe — or an on-target expose of DeLay’s hypocrisy? In your answer, please address the fact that DeLay’s family was unanimous regarding the wishes of the elder DeLay, whereas Schiavo’s family is virtually unanimous that she would want to live.

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