Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Report: Pope Given Extreme Unction

That's what Drudge is reporting. Seems his infection has worsened.

UPDATE: It does not appear that things are improving.

I fear we're in for a very sad weekend.

Terri Schiavo Has Died

That's what the reports are. I doubt you're hearing this for the first time from me. I'm just including it for the sake of the completeness of the record.

et Lux perpetua luceat eis

May God welcome her into the glory of the Heavenly banquet

For a Gray Peace Corps

Semi-buried in this Jagdish Bhagwati op-ed, linked to by The American Scene is what I think to be a fantastic idea. Bhagwati, concerned that direct cash-aid to Africa will have distorting negative effects, considers more indirect ways to aid the continent, including research on crop improvement, trying to cure diseases like malaria and yellow fever, eliminating agricultural subsidies in the developed world. And then this:
A Gray Peace Corps could be established that deploys the senior citizens in our aging society to spend periods in Africa, where they would alleviate the enormous shortages of skills that cripple African development. The possibilities are limitless.
I think this is a fascinating, brilliant idea, and one that captures nicely the central insight of, of all things, this book, which came so highly recommended by Instapundit and Professor Bainbridge: that, when one has rough and difficult work to do, the experience of a life long-lived is at least as valuable as the energy and durability of youth.

The current Peace Corps system basically sends over Americans from our physically strongest but least practically skilled adult age cohort to do the nuts-and-bolts work of development: build schools and teach, build wells, hospitals, &c. This is obviously a good, noble, etc., thing, but it's worth asking if it's the optimal use of the full gamut of the human in all the societies involved. Africa, Central America, etc., have no shortage of unskilled manual labor, and I have a hard time imagining that our idealistic college students have a meaningful competitive advantage on that front. Our advantage is in skilled labor. But if that's the case, why do we systematically send our least skilled adult citizens? Obviously, we don't want to be sending over people at the heart of their careers, when they're supporting young families and generating lots of outputs for the U.S. economy. But why not recent retirees? They have enormous skill sets developed over a lifetime's work, maturity and perspective, and as much (if not more) time on their hands as a recent college grad. Honestly, who would you rather have teaching in that school in Honduras: a bunch of recently retired teachers, or the kids from Bard and UC-Santa Cruz with nothing but their BAs in peace studies and anthropology? And this is to say nothing of the other areas of development - showing how to run a modern police force / factory / farm / university/ capital market / legal system - in which "actual experience and expertise" rapidly outstrips "youthful strength and enthusiasm" as the most important characteristic for our Peace Corpsmen to have.

The major problem is obviously a motivational one: our retirees want to retire, not go gallivanting around the world doing sustainable development work with hippies. That's true, but I wonder to what extent it isn't culturally conditioned. If we had a "Gray Peace Corps" and the meme started to disseminate that for recent retirees with the right skill sets the idealistic / patriotic / humanitarian thing to do was to spend a few years working in the developing world, might we not actually start to see results?

No need to replace the existing Corps, but an interesting supplement, no?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ooo, Free Pie!

Noted neocon newsman Bill Kristol got a pie to the face during a speech at Earlham College in Indiana. He seems to be unhurt, and (like his hero T.R., though obviously in much less serious circumstances) continued to speak.

I had no idea when I got involved with this conservatism gig that it involved free dessert. I'm now announcing a new official Mansfield Fox policy: Will Opine for Food.

UPDATE: And now Pat Buchannan gets doused in salad dressing. If somebody can be convinced to hurl a nice fillet mignon at, say, Charles Krauthammer, we'll have a decent meal going here.

You're From Where? Conk-Id?

Here's a great site for non-New Englanders struggling with Massachusetts place-names (a not-undaunting subject).

For example: I went to high school in Ahhn-Dovah and college in Amurst. The longest run I've ever been on took me through Tooks-Bury (which I actually think is pronounced "TOOKS-bree", but what do I know?) where I went for a swim in a state pond. I once got caught in a pretty bad fog around Bear-E on my way back from Loll (no pronunciation up yet).

The list isn't exhaustive (after seven years in Mass, and nine in New England, I still have no idea how to pronounce Scituate) but what's there is useful.

Massachusetts and America: two nations separated by a common tongue.

UPDATE: See, this is why I blog, to learn things. Brodie tells me it's pronounced "SIT-chew-it". Since he's from Newt-Un, which is only 40-odd miles from Sit-Chew-It, I'll take his word.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Another friend, also from Massachusetts (though I can't remember which town) says it's "Sitch-wit" and remarks
Seems clear enough to me -- I mean, just look at it. What other way COULD it be pronounced?
What other way indeed? I think we've stumbled onto a serious debate here.

EVEN MORE UPDATING: Bill from Byfield (pronounced, oddly, "Byfield") suggests that it's "si-tchew-it", which he says is
similar to Brodie, but with the "t" sound kicking off the second syllable
As I said, it's a serious debate!

Best. Google. Search. Ever.

Monday, March 28, 2005

On the Need for a Legal Reader's Digest

As I near the midway point of a 200-page law review article (actually, I think it's the manuscript for a book, but that distinction's not especially relevant for purposes of this post) a thought occurs to me: wouldn't it be a good idea to publish a legal-scholarship version of Reader's Digest, in which we published recent (or, I suppose, classic) and important pieces of legal scholarship for consumption by the general public? We could distill the argument into 10-20 pages, strip out the citations, and phrase everything in ordinary English. That way, ordinary citizens (or, for that matter, lawyers short on time) could keep abreast of the latest theoretical developments and empirical studies in the field without having to dedicate hundreds of pages mostly filled with endless infras and supras that no one but the initial crew of earnest student-editors will ever bother to check.

This idea occurs to me after reading a single footnote, a reference to Jerry Mashaw's Greed, Chaos, and Governance: Using Public Choice to Improve Public Law. According to Adrian Vermeule, the author of the piece I'm reading, Mashaw says,
[McNollgast's approach] is enormously information demanding. If McNollgast mean [sic] to suggest that legislative history is reliable only when it can be deployed in this sophisticated fashion (using Bayesian decision theory in the bargain), they may have offered judges and administrators a tool that they cannot use.
Now, you may not find that idea interesting, but I found it fascinating, and would like to learn more. Except. I'm not going to read an entire book about it. I simply don't have the time. (And yet, I have the time to blog. What a world.) But if there were a condensed version of it (an extended abstract, if you will) I could easily see myself making the time (half an hour, tops) to read that. And if I still wanted to learn more, or to find references I could follow to other sources, I'd get the whole book.

The background value here, I guess, is that the purpose of scholarship is the generation and dissemination of knowledge and understanding. At present, the world of legal scholarship is pretty good at the generation part (how much of what's generated is hokum I won't - because I can't - say) but pretty lousy at the dissemination part. The volume of what's generated is simply too large, both in terms of the number of articles and their length, for even those who dedicate their lives to legal scholarship, let alone the general public or even the community of practicing lawyers, to read more than a small fraction of what's produced. And the general public doesn't read any of it, and so gets its legal theory primarily from politicians - to whom we all seem to be ambulance-chasing trial lawyers or "judicial activists" of one or another political stripe - or daytime TV court shows. If they could read what was coming out of the legal academy, expressed concisely and in plain (or plainish) English, they might come to an understanding of what the profession's all about. They might not agree with what's being said (indeed, they probably wouldn't) but at least they'd understand what they're disagreeing with. A legal Reader's Digest would thus have salutary effects both within the profession and in the profession's relationship to the outside world.

What's not to love?

[Self-referential, postmodern moment: this is the kind of Laputan about-the-profession post regarding which Will links to me with some insightful (and doubtless devastating) comment, which prompts other law student bloggers to link here with passionate claims that I'm a loon who's set to ruin everything, which in turn causes me to lose the next several days furiously updating as I try to respond to everything that's been said. I guess what I'm saying is: if I look unfocused in BizOrgs tomorrow morning, I am.]

UPDATE: Or not.

Ain't I A Man?

No; it's not about Terri Schiavo. And it hasn't been for quite awhile.

It's about us.

It's about each of us who thinks "I wouldn't want to live if I were a vegetable." It's about each one of us who thinks, as one blogger wrote, that Michael Schiavo has been "chained to a drooling shitbag for 15 years."

But it's also about those of us who are those vegetables, those drooling shitbags. Those of us who want to live but know we're a burden to our families. Those of us who fear "do not resuscitate" orders. Those of us who use ventilators, and who use feeding tubes. And those of us who can communicate with clarity only through artificial means.
Read the whole thing. (via Amy Welborn)

The author goes on to detail a litany of recent cases in which family members have murdered their physically or mentally disabled kin, and then escaped punishment. And I don't mean "murdered" in the oh-Angus-you-hyperbolic-pro-lifer sense. I mean "murdered" in the throat-cutting, bludgeoning, three-shots-to-the-chest sense.

In Preparation for the Last Things

While I was away, Terri Schiavo was permitted to receive the Blessed Sacrament for Easter. Only under the species of wine, but that's still enough for a complete communion. (She also seems to have received the Extreme Unction.) I wasn't initially sure, but this seems to qualify as the Viaticum. Although, after the past 15 years, and especially the last 10 days, I don't think her tenure in Purgatory was not likely to be too extended.

There also seems to be a conflict between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers about funeral services. I suspect Michael will win - it's hard to imagine he'd be his wife's undisputed guardian with regard to whether or not to kill her, but not with how to bury her - and that Terri will be cremated and buried in the Schiavo family plot in Pennsylvania without benefit of a Catholic funeral Mass. And yet, why? Michael may have absolute rights to the body, but why should the body be necessary for a funeral Mass? Those lost at sea can have such Masses said for them, can't they? Why can't the Schindlers have a Catholic funeral sine corpore for their daughter? Heck, we can do one better - we could have churches all over the country simultaneously offering Masses for Terri. Nothing Michael Schiavo can do about that, can he?

Walker Percy Lives!

When I saw Erik Estrada in an ad for this community in northwest Arkansas
HOLIDAY ISLAND is a golf and lake resort community that sits on the shoreline of a 53-mile long lake with 800 miles of shoreline to explore. With 27 holes of challenging golf and many other amenities, this community is located in Northwest Arkansas, the 6th fastest growing region in the US. Forbes ranked Northwest Arkansas #23 for "Best Places For Business and Career". I think you will see that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you will not want to miss!
I immediately thought: Knotheads!

Millions and Millions

As a treat for Easter (well, my second treat, the first being that I had chocolate ice cream - with chocolate sprinkles and a bit of a brownie mashed in - for lunch) I went to see the new Danny Boyle flick Millions at the new Criterion theater. (The theater, by the way, is excellent: good sound, comfy seats, very clean.)

I was expecting a lighthearted fable, charmingly overdirected in the classic Danny Boyle style, a pleasant diversion. In retrospect, I set my sights too low. The movie was fantastic. And not just because I have a soft spot for shy Irish-diaspora boys who've lost their mother (though, of course, I do). The movie's excellently made, surprisingly serious and lighthearted at the same time. It's also one of the most Catholic movies I've ever seen, certainly the most since The Passion.

This is best seen in the movie's treatment of the saints. The movie's not especially theological, but it is suffused with a very Catholic sense of the nature of the Communion of Saints. The saints aren't just moral exemplars from the past, or the denizens of the heavenly kingdom, or even supernatural presences who can be called on for aid in specific circumstances. They're family, just one branch of a Church that spans Heaven and Earth (and Purgatory), a big extended family with members visible and invisible that's always around, like an Irish wake that never ends. The saints are beings whose presence is as ordinary and intimate as their power to help is strange and miraculous. The movie excellently captures the odd mix of the reverent and the casual that characterizes the relationship between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant. The lead boy, Damian, has a series of encounters with notable saints - Clare and Francis of Assisi, Nicholas of Myra, St Joseph - that all begin the same way: he recites the name and dates of birth and death of the saint, as if he were still reading from his child's book of saint's lives. They then proceed to have a remarkably ordinary conversation, as if they were simply old friends catching up. Damian is both awed and utterly non-plussed by his miraculous visitations. In one scene, he strips naked (offscreen) in front of St Peter as he changes into his pajamas. In another, he's completely unphased to discover the Ugandan Martyrs repairing the fort he's built for himself from cardboard boxes. The whole movie is suffused with the sense that the saints are a constant presence in our lives, giving us aid both practical and supernatural and protecting us from harm. Even when they're just shuffling around in the background, the saints are always with us.

The movie (or most of it, at least) is also remarkably moral. It's not that the characters are plaster saints who always do the right thing. Indeed, all of the characters wind up seriously (if subtly) compromised at some point. But moral questions, and a sense the importance of grappling with the moral questions that life presents, are all over the film. This too marks the film as uniquely Catholic. Not that Catholics have some monopoly on the moral life or on moral reasoning, but the way the questions are (implicitly) framed suggests (to me, at least; I may have an over-eager eye for these things) that the movie draws heavily on the general moral teachings of the Church and its catechism: that some things (like stealing) are intrinsically evil, that we must not do evil so that good might occur, but that God can bring good out of evil, that "sin darkens the intellect". Again, it's not that the characters unfailingly keep these principles - indeed, by and large, they don't - but that these notions of the good life suffuse the story and frame the choices that the characters have to make.

I don't want to say to much more, for fear of ruining the movie. Suffice it to say: it was a charming tale of surprising depth. It gets the Fox's full endorsement. See it at your next convenience.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Rebellion Against Rightful Authority (e.g., Me)

Things did not go as poorly at the Easter Vigil, if only because I had fewer ushering duties. I just had to do Communion, and was assigned to the same row (far right). It was a good lesson in the unruliness and ungovernability (and I mean those, I think, in a good way) of Catholics - even pious Catholics (remember that these people were in the process of sitting through a three hour liturgy on a Saturday night).

As I sent the first dozen rows or so, I was walking backwards, stopping at each pew and signaling that they could go. After the dozenth pew, as I tried to step back, I bumped into somebody. I turned around and, to my horror, saw an enormous line of people gathered behind me. About half of my aisle had decided that the presence of a man in a dark suit wearing a Knights of Columbus pin (OK, they probably couldn't see the pin) meant nothing, that they were definitely not being ushered, and that they should proceed to Communion as on any other Sunday. Perhaps these people had been in my aisle on Good Friday and had decided not to put up with my maladministration again. (Perhaps they'd read my post on the subject.... Nah.) I ducked into a pew to survey the situation. It was quickly evident that a) nobody was going to be able to start directing the line again, and b)the rightful occupants of the pew were about to return. So I got on line and received the Blessed Sacrament (under both species!).

As for my earlier speculation that the line would run more efficiently if simply let be: it did take less time, at least in comparison to the other side aisle, but the samples may be non-comparable because a lot of people left before Holy Communion. (Remember, this was about two hours and forty-five minutes into the Mass....)

Anyway, congratulations to all those brought into the Holy Mother Church, either through Baptism or Confirmation. And thanks to everybody who's bought me chocolate or beer - you're loved more than you can know.

Alleluia, Alleluia: Resurrexit Sicut Dixit

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

(Matthew 28:1-10)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Constitutional Crisis/Firefight Avoided

Via Drudge: It seems that Governor Bush did attempt (as some of us had suggested) to send in state law enforcement officials to save Terri Schiavo. They stopped when local police told them they would enforce Judge Greer's order (presumably to avoid a shoot-out). It's an interesting question as to whom the Pinellas Park police department owes loyalty in the event of a dispute; though, with regard to Mrs. Schiavo, it's probably a moot one now.

A Triumph of Market Principles

I got called on for ushering (ushing?) duties at yesterday's solemn liturgy of the Lord's Passion. (One of the many privileges of being in the Father Michael J. McGivney Council of the Knights of Columbus is that we're the first line of assistance for the parish.) St Mary's was packed to the gills (standing room only!) so there was a concern that, without ushers to control the flow of traffic, the Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion would disintegrate into confused morasses. So I was assigned to the far-right aisle (how apropos, you think to yourself), the one with the Shrine of the Infant of Prague at the head, to maintain a short, orderly and constant line.

That was the theory, anyway. In practice, I wound up making a (not enormous, by certainly non-trivial) mess of things, and confirming in myself a general libertarian that top-down supervision of human affairs often introduces far more problems than it solves. During the Veneration, I wound up sending people far too quickly, far faster than people were actually venerating the cross, so that pressure from the rear caused the line to snake around, to the point where those in the last pew had to go up the side aisle, across, and then down and back the entirety of the center aisle. Among these people was a big bear of a guy who looked to be about 19 and was on crutches with some kind of foot injury. Man, I feel bad for that guy. Why not make him climb some stairs, while I'm at it?

For Communion, I resolved to correct for my earlier mistakes (which was, of course, my next mistake!) and to send the pews more slowly. (Thankfully there was no risk of creating an enormous line that snaked around the church, since Father Kalisch was distributing the Eucharist at the head of the aisle.) Of course, as always happens when one is fighting the last war, I was blindsided by new, but in retrospect utterly predictable, problems. The line I was creating was somewhat staggered anyway, and the back traffic of people returning to their seats widened those gaps substantially (or created new ones). Would-be communicants were compelled to rush up the aisle (not running, of course, but, shall we say?, hustling), a sight which was odd and, in appearance, somewhat irreverent (though doubtless they were reverent in their hearts). I was the last of my aisle (indeed, the last in the church, my wards continuing to receive long after the rest of the congregation was silently at prayer) to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and, because of the stress and because I hadn't had anything to eat or drink all day, my tongue was so dry that I almost lost the Host. (Thankfully, not.)

And so, for all the problems I caused, what is my reward? I'll probably be asked to usher again at the Easter Vigil this evening. (Will they never learn?) Hopefully, I'll be given some measure of wisdom to go with my experience, and won't produce such disastrous results this time. Hopefully.

UPDATE: I just wanted to suggest that this might be an example of the "secret sin" theory of politics: that my libertarianism (to the extent that I'm a libertarian) emerges from the knowledge that, were I King of the World, things would be egregiously poorly run.

Terri Schiavo and the "Citizen's Media"

In the Weekly Standard, Wesley Smith makes a point that I've been meaning to make for a while: that, even though it now appears all but certain that she will die, the struggle to save Terri Schiavo's life represents a genuine victory for what Jeff Jarvis has called the "citizen's media".
After all, hers is hardly the first "food and fluids" case to have bitterly divided a family, and it won't be the last. Nor is it at all uncommon in America for patients who are Terri's age and younger to be deprived of food and water so that they will die, even when there is doubt about what they would choose in such circumstances, and even though they are neither brain dead nor terminally ill.

Terri's putative husband (he started a new family in the mid-1990s) isn't the first spouse to fight in court with in-laws over the removal of a feeding tube. Two cases in the 1990s were strikingly similar, albeit the courts ruled in favor of life. Both Michael Martin of Michigan and Robert Wendland of California were unquestionably conscious when their wives fought nasty, protracted court battles through trial, appeal, and final decision by state supreme courts to see them die. Michael Martin had allegedly expressed a desire to live to an examining doctor using a facilitated communication device; Robert Wendland could roll a wheelchair down a hospital corridor. Both cases made the news, yet neither consumed the entire country or caused the deep societal divisions that Terri's case has generated.

This controversy hit the stratosphere, I believe, because of one simple but very powerful innovation: the Internet. When the Michael Martin and Robert Wendland families fought almost identical battles in the 1990s, the Internet, especially as a source of news, was still in its infancy. It was difficult to spread facts or perspectives that the mainstream media did not want to present--and the reporting of those cases was as skewed and one-sided in favor of death as has been the coverage of Terri Schiavo.

Moreover, and I think more important, the guardian-spouses maintained tight control over the images of their husbands. Almost every contemporary picture of Robert Wendland and Michael Martin that was made public was one that Mary Martin and Rose Wendland's lawyers wanted to be seen. While the parents were telling the world that their sons were responsive and aware, the approved photographs and videos generally depicted them as nonresponsive. Indeed, when despite this tight control a San Francisco television program managed to air an "unapproved" video that showed Wendland taking pegs from a board and replacing them during a therapy session, lawyers for Lodi Memorial Hospital--whose spokeswoman had claimed incorrectly that Robert was as good as comatose--sought (unsuccessfully) to have a gag order imposed in the case.

By the time the Schiavo litigation came along, the Internet was booming and becoming ever more sophisticated. Ordinary users had the technical means to view videos uploaded onto websites. Knowing that cases such as these are often won and lost in the sphere of public relations, Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, and their supporters created a website,, which carried news of the case, copies of court documents, the story of Terri's life, and most crucially, powerful videos of Terri Schiavo apparently reacting to the world around her.

In one scene, Terri is asked by a doctor to open her eyes. For a moment; nothing. Then, Terri's eyes flutter and she opens them. She seems to be so eager to please--and this really touched my heart when I first saw it--that she opens her eyes so wide her forehead wrinkles.

In another scene, Terri's mother comes into the room. She talks happily to her daughter, "Hi! Hi, it's Mommy. How are you?" As Mary Schindler adjusts Terri on the bed, it sure looks as if she recognizes her mother, and she smiles happily. In a third scene Terri appears to respond happily when music is turned on. And so it goes.

These videos made all of the difference. Rather than being an abstract "vegetable" (a truly loathsome word to describe any human being), Terri came to be seen as a real person, obviously alive, and fully human. Michael Schiavo's supporters and proponents of Terri's dehydration within the bioethics community stomped and fussed, insisting that the appearance of interactivity in the videos were actually just reflexes. But many viewers saw these complaints as being akin to the cheating husband who tells his wife after she has caught him in flagrante delicto: "Who are you going to believe--me, or your lying eyes?" The videos told a different story than that of a supposedly vegetative woman unable to interact with others. And for hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, the real Terri came out of the shadows, a sub-human no more.
A couple websites with not enough money to pay their bandwidth fees; an enterprising, almost monomaniacal priest from a diocese 1,000 miles away; a diffuse network of Catholic and Evangelical bloggers: an unlikely cadre to force a national debate, to pull Congress out of recess, and, perhaps, to unsettle "end of life" issues the elite had thought settled.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

Pray. Fast. Sorrow.

Know that God's victory is at hand.

"Still Beautiful, Still Human"

A Wall Street Journal reporter gives an account of her struggle to keep her severely disabled mother alive.

It's a moving story. One takeaway point:
In the wake of the Terri Schiavo ordeal, we are now treated to published accounts of children recalling how they denied their own parents nutrition. "Defining deviancy down" was the phrase coined by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to describe a society that had lost its moral compass and lowered its capacity for outrage. The phrase seems perfect to describe the middle- and upper-middle-class children who have surfaced to boast of how they ended their parents' lives--as if it had been somehow an act of valor. It is also a chillingly apt description of a society that, in the name of the law, forces a young woman to die of thirst and to starve even as we watch.
The commonality of this practice simply makes it a more vicious and tenacious foe; it does not, and can never, make it right.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ralph Nader on Terri Schiavo

Now I remember why I voted for this guy in 2000. (via the Corner)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Are We Back in the Summer of the Shark?

In his MSNBC column, Glenn Reynolds wonders if the Terri Schiavo story is the most recent iteration of the "summer of the shark" phenomenon, in which the media cycle latches on to compelling but ultimately trivial story (in 2001 it was the supposed wave of shark attacks) and runs with it constantly, ignoring stories that are of real consequence but are difficult to explain and seem boring.
Compared to the responsibilities facing Congress -- a war, a budget deficit, Social Security reform, and more -- the Schiavo case isn't very important.
You won't be surprised to discover that I disagree.

It's not that I entirely disagree. I'll gladly concede that, from the point of view of the survival of the Republic over time, the fate of one woman, even an unjustly killed woman, of Terri qua Terri, does not matter a great deal. Human history will doubtless forget Terri Schiavo, and will remember of 2005 the wars, the social programs that were or were not reformed, and the like - the deeds of great men and nations. If you don't believe, say, that God will judge you with regard to what you do or don't do with regard to this case, I can see why the whole thing could seem like a massive waste of everyone's time.

But I don't think this is just a case about one woman in Florida. Just under the surface are a series of meaningful social, political and civilizational debates, the resolution to which is at least as important as the issue of whether or not we reform Social Security to include personal retirement accounts. It's about what Mickey Kaus described as the "disingenuous machinery of euthanasia":
Opposition to the Florida court's ruling seems like a legitimate protest against what appears to be a disingenuous machinery of euthanasia lawyers are busy establishing under the guise of a "right to die" (a right Terry Schiavo can only be said to be exercising by an extremely suspect chain of reasoning). ... Our society is going to have to have this out at some point--why not now? And why isn't it a perfectly reasonable issue for the national legislature to address?
Question of how we treat the dying and the severely disabled - should we allow euthanasia? Active or passive? Voluntary or involuntary? - ultimately implicate much deeper questions about what it means to be human, and a person, (and if those are separable things). Are we just our cerebral cortices? Does human freedom include the freedom to obliterate one's self? Is human dignity an inherent or an accidental characteristic? Is death preferable to a life full of suffering? To a life of severe, and perhaps humiliating disability? What duties do the strong owe the weak?

How we answer these questions will have a profound impact on the kind of civilization we become. Our descendants may little note, nor long remember who Terri Schiavo was, but how we resolve the questions her case poses will profoundly affect them and the world in which they live, far more than the movement of carrier groups or the rearranging of public pensions.

120 Hours

Five full days without food or water. I don't know if Terri Schiavo is conscious or not, but if she is, her agony must be excruciating.

At the Bottom of the Sea

Zorak on Terri Schiavo and the Kursk incident.

Tragedies Come Large-Scale, Too

Lest we forget, death by starvation is not a phenomenon that happens merely in central Florida. The latest from the Coalition for Darfur:
Humanitarian Workers at Risk

Last week, the United Nations was forced to withdraw its staff from parts of western Sudan after the Janjaweed militia declared that it would begin targeting foreigners and U.N. humanitarian convoys.

Yesterday, a 26 year-old USAID worker was shot in the face when the clearly-marked humanitarian convoy she was traveling in was ambushed in broad daylight.

It is still unknown just who carried out this ambush, but Sudan expert Eric Reeves reported yesterday that he had "received from multiple, highly authoritative sources intelligence indicating that Khartoum has ambitious plans for accelerating the obstruction of humanitarian access by means of orchestrated violence and insecurity, including the use of targeted violence against humanitarian aid workers."

If such a plan is truly in the works, it will have dire consequences for the people of Darfur. Last year, Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that as many as 100,000 people could die in Darfur every month if those providing humanitarian assistance were forced to withdraw due to insecurity.

Save the Children has already lost 4 of its aid workers in the last year, yet they continue to provide medical care, food, water, shelter, and protection to more than 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

The members of the Coalition for Darfur are working together to raise money for Save the Children and if each coalition partner can raise a mere $10 dollars a week, together we can generate $2,000 a month to support Save the Children's life saving work.

We hope that you might consider making a small donation.

Terri Schiavo & Disability Rights

Harriet McBryde Johnson lays out (in part) the disability rights case for not killing Terri Schiavo.
In addition to the rights all people enjoy, Ms. Schiavo has a statutory right under the Americans With Disabilities Act not to be treated differently because of her disability. Obviously, Florida law would not allow a husband to kill a nondisabled wife by starvation and dehydration; killing is not ordinarily considered a private family concern or a matter of choice. It is Ms. Schiavo's disability that makes her killing different in the eyes of the Florida courts. Because the state is overtly drawing lines based on disability, it has the burden under the ADA of justifying those lines.
I'm not sure what the legal standard is for justifying treating disabled/non-disabled people differently in a non-accomodation situation under the ADA, but surely it's not nothing.

11th Circuit Denies Appeal

A three-judge panel on the Eleventh Circuit rejected the Schindler's appeal of the denial of a TRO to reinstate the feeding tube by a vote of 2-1.

Despite days of Congressional wrangling, the "Passion Sunday Compromise" and the Sunday post-midnight vote, we're now back where we were last week, with the Schindler's only options as the Supreme Court, extraordinary action by Jeb Bush, or the conversion of Michael Schiavo.

It's hard to believe that the courts would look at all the activity in Congress last weekend and assume that all the political branches intended was that they give a cursory glance over the trial record from state court, make sure nothing obviously and egregiously unconstitutional happened, and then let the woman die. The law clearly contemplated a thorough, de novo review of the case. A thorough review would necessarily be a lengthy one. A lengthy review will be impossible if the case is mooted. The case will be mooted if Terri Schiavo dies. Terri Schiavo will die if her feeding tube is not reinserted. Ergo, if Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is not reinserted, at least preliminarily, there can be no thorough, de novo review of the case, and the manifest intent of Congress will be thwarted. And yet the federal courts, under the guise of fulfilling Congress' will, have done exactly the opposite.

Theresa Marie Schiavo has now gone over 115 hours without food or water.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Apparently, I Want to Destroy Free Government

"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Culture of Life?"

It's good to be a subversive working for the overthrow of the Republic. It's been a while.

Is Santorum Coming Around on the DP?

From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
A new poll showing that Catholics are backing off support for the death penalty was no surprise to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, an outspoken conservative Catholic, who says he has been re-examining his own view.

He has not become an abolitionist, and he believes church teaching against the death penalty carries less weight than its longer-standing opposition to abortion. But he questions what he once unquestioningly supported.
(via the Corner)

On Living Wills

One of the pieces of settled conventional wisdom that seems to be emerging from the Terri Schiavo story is that living wills are an unalloyed good. I'm not so sure.

SoxBlog, speaking from the experience of one with Cystic Fibrosis, speaks of the "failure of imagination" that can beset youth and health when asked to contemplate age and disability. This is actually part of my problem with living wills. They're obviously tremendously practically useful, but they have real problems. They place in the hands of one person (the healthy me of now) the power to make medical decisions for another person (the incapacitated me of later) despite the fact that the former may have an inaccurate sense of what the latter's condition is actually like, certainly has no experience with the subjective experience of what it's like to be the latter, and may have a genuine conflict of interest (revulsion at being associated, across time, with a person in such a degraded state). "I wouldn't want to live like that" is, I think, more a descriptive than a predictive statement. It says a great deal about the person speaking, and far less about the person with respect to whom medical care will one day be administered or denied. It may be that any alternative method for determining whether to provide medical treatment in extremis is even worse and that we ought to stick with the living will formula as our default, but we should do so with the realization that, at best, the living will is a least-worst solution. (And, by pointing out the living will's problems we might actually help fix them, by encouraging people to actually think seriously about what life would be like in, say, a persistent vegetative state, or a minimally conscious state, rather than simply blithely assuming that it's an existence of meaningless torture that no one rational would prefer to death.)

Trying to Make Out a Colorable Legal Claim

Since I wrote the previous post, I've been wracking my brains (on and off; I've been in class) trying to devise a colorable legal claim that gets to the heart of the Schindler's argument - that Terri has been incorrectly diagnosed as PVS - without just saying, "The trial court was wrong; review the facts de novo."

The best I can come up with (and I actually think it's a decent claim) is that, in cases where the the state is going to order that someone be killed*, and where the decision to kill that person hinges, as a matter of law, on a determination of a medical fact (such as a finding of PVS), the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that all reasonable efforts be made to make that the determination is correctly made. Which would mean that, for those said to be PVS, at the very least an MRI and a substantial period of observation by the diagnosing doctor would be required. In other words, the Constitution requires that, in civil proceedings in which a certain diagnosis may mean death, the court not be permitted to rely on for-hire medical experts who fly in, make a cursory examination, give a litigant the diagnosis they want, and then leave. The Constitution doesn't require heroic levels of medical examination, but given the gravity of the constitutional right in jeopardy and the risks of misdiagnosis (in one British study, 43% of PVS diagnoses were believed to be incorrect, with another 33% of those diagnosed with PVS recovering with therapy, which, again, Terri has not had [but I digress]) something more exacting than what Terri got - 45 minutes of observation and a view of an old CAT scan - is surely required.

* as, whatever you think of the case, Terri's present state and her pre-accident desires, has clearly happened here

I don't know whether this claim would ultimately prevail, but it's at least a colorable legal claim that might prevail, and would therefore obliged Judge Whittemore to issue the TRO ordering the tube's reinsertion.

90 Hours and Counting

Judge Whittemore denied the motion for a temporary restraining order to restore Terri's feeding tube (read the opinion here) on the grounds that the Schindlers fail to show a substantial likelihood of success on any of their claims.

Reading over the decision, I was struck by the inadequacy of our legal system to hear questions like this. The Schindlers' real claim, ultimately, is that the trial court made two egregiously wrong decisions of fact - that Terri is in a permanent vegetative state, and that she indicated when she was healthy that she'd rather die than live in such a state - and that those incorrect factual determinations are what led to the state-ordered death by dehydration of their daughter. Philosophically, at least, this seems to be a compelling claim. But it's also a claim which the legal system is remarkably ill-equipped to hear. The TRO denial decision nowhere mentions the issue, the heart of the Schindler's claim. We're left, instead, to argue over what role Judge Greer was allowed to play under Florida law, whether Terri was entitled to separate legal representation, etc. (The legal representation issue brings about the opinion's sole laugh-out-loud moment, when Judge Whittemore asserts, with no apparent hint of irony, that Terri's rights were protected because George Felos, Michael's attorney, owed her a duty of care. All else may fail us, but the canons of legal ethics are our rock and salvation.)

Look, I understand why we don't want appeals courts acting as de novo triers of fact. But everyone has to acknowledge that this places an enormous amount of power in the hands of trial judges, and that this power, when combined with the commonplace practice in our system of medical experts-for-hire, has the capacity to work real mischief in the PVS/passive euthanasia context. It's not clear to me what protections our system affords to a disabled-but-not-PVS person whose guardian wants them dead. The guardian claims his ward makes statements that they wouldn't want to live in this state, hires an expert who makes a cursory examination and finds PVS, presents his claims to a sympathetic judge and, just like that, we have an essentially appeals-proof factual determination that will, inexorably, lead to a court-ordered death by dehydration. What are a would-be victim and his defenders supposed to do in this circumstance? Cross their fingers and hope they draw a right-wing Catholic judge who'll be less sympathetic to the cause of passive euthanasia? Is that what things have come to in our Republic of Laws, and Not of Men?

Running Out the Clock

Reading this account of the pleadings in the most recent round of the Terri Schiavo case does not make one optimistic.

Judge Whittemore seems to doubt that the Schindlers will be able to prevail at trial. Of course, that prophecy will be self-fulfilling if she dies of dehydration in the meantime, making the case moot.

Terri's already been without food or water for 82 hours. She can't hold out much longer.

Only a miracle, I think, can save her now. But we mustn't lose hope. And once this is over, whatever happens, we need to get to work fixing our laws, reforming the whole damn system if necessary, so this kind of madness doesn't happen again. For Terri's sake.

Monday, March 21, 2005

This Makes No Sense / Is Appalling

Ladies and Gentlemen

Watching the Schiavo bill debate last night on C-SPAN brought to mind a question: how did Congress get stuck with the awful neologism "gentlewoman" for its female members? Wouldn't "lady" be a more natural lexical partner for "gentleman"?

Who Will Stand Up for WiFi?

Will Baude defends the use of wireless internet in class.

I basically agree with him. Wireless access is mostly abused, but the benefits to those who don't abuse it are real and the costs of abuse are born mostly by the abusers themselves.

Grand Old Madness

Well, my NCAA bracket - which had Florida, Wake Forest and Syracuse in the Final Four, with Syracuse beating Wake for the title - is in tatters. My only hope is to win the "worst bracket" booby prize, but even that seems out of reach. (I'm even a failure at failing!)

In the meantime, I'll amuse myself with this alternate form of early spring madness, in which St Louis polling firm is trying to predict (and I use the term extremely loosely) the 2008 GOP nominee.

My highlight thus far, is 15-seed Pat Buchannan upsetting 2-seed Arnold Schwarzenegger. Man, the GOP base really dislikes Ahnuld. Either that, or they don't want to nominate someone constitutionally disqualified from serving. Either/Or.

My dark horse? Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. He won't win the nominee, of course, but he'll advance surprisingly far, and will earn himself a VP spot with a shocking Final Four appearance. Mark it!

UPDATE: Looking over the bracket more closely, I see that Gov. Pawlenty is a 3-seed. Realistically, you can't be a 3-seed and a dark horse simultaneously. Nonetheless, he'll still advance awfully far.

Also, the biggest upset was actually 16-seed Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) beating top seed Sen. John McCain, who, unlike Schwarzenegger, is actually able to be president. The base really doesn't like McCain. As for me? I don't mind him, though the campaign finance thing is just a disaster. He seems to be basically on the right side of the issues that matter most to me (e.g., the war and life issues), he's much less divisive than the current president, etc.

Surely, A Coincidence

Yes, yes, a coincidence.

Will Cruzan Be Overturned?

Jay Anderson worries that, as they did with sodomy and the execution of minors, the Supreme Court will use the Schiavo case to overturn a recent precedent (Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dept. of Health) based on developments of "world opinion".

I don't think so, because even the Supremes know they can only take so much blowback, and even if they wanted to establish a constitutional right to passive euthanasia they'd calculate that the Schiavo case is too hot a potato for them to handle. But I suppose, if you need a new thing to worry about you could do worse than this.

(Link via Open Book)

In the Eye of the Beholder

Or, I suppose, the ear of the behearer.

An audio clip of Terri Schiavo and her father, Bob Schindler, from Drudge's radio show tonight. Depending on your perspective, it's either a severely disabled woman struggling against great odds to say "Hi" and maybe "Yeah" to her father, or a body without consciousness reactively making noises.

Either way, it's deeply sad.


Life for Terri. For now, at least.

"Mr. Speaker, I Ask For The Yeas and Nays."

So says Representative Frank.

So small a thing could kill her still, if not enough Representatives made it back to Washington.

A Nation of Laws, A Nation of Men

One of the points that's been made several times tonight against the Schiavo bill is that it jeopardizes our status as "a nation of laws, and not of men". That's a common trope, and I think it's the idea that underlies the degree of deference to judge-found facts one sees on the anti- side. And yet the idea itself seems almost quaint, an echo of the days before Legal Realism when we really believed that some Platonic idea of "a nation of laws" was possible. Whatever one thinks of the courts of Florida, does anyone really think that the legal process in this case (or in any case) is somehow cabined off from ordinary human passions and frailties? Are judges not men?

(Steny Hoyer, by the way, is a great speaker. Why, exactly is Nancy Pelosi the Minority Leader again?)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Congress Debates the Schiavo Bill

I'm watching the House of Representatives debate the Terri Schiavo case right now. It's not one of the rhetorical high point of the history of the Republic.

I will say, in general, that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has a strong argument that the act under debate is, in fact, private legislation. It is worth asking why, if this measure is a worthwhile one, it can't be expressed as a general principle as opposed to a grant of jurisdiction for one individual. Given the facts on the ground, there's probably no other way to save Terri's life, but I hope that the debate continues even after the act passes. Personally, I'd like to see the law changed such that the removal of feeding tubes ceases to be legal option. I mean, we don't let healthy people starve themselves. (I understand that's not an especially broadly held view.)

Highlights of the debate, thus far:

Lots of bashing of the courts of the state of Florida. Not that they don't deserve it.

The Democrats have been the much more colorful and memorable debaters, thus far. The GOP's sent dozens of people up, who all said basically the same thing.

"Courts have found these facts. Who are we to say that they're wrong?"
Much of the debate revolves around the degree of deference we should give to judge-found facts. Is it enough that the trial court found that Terri said she wouldn't want live hooked up to machines, or that she's in a persistent vegetative state? Does that make it so?

The Most Insensitive Wording award goes to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), commenting on her parents' belief that Terri might recover: "We should not feed those illusions."

Rep. Jim "Crazy" McDermott (D-WA) thinks this bill is some attempt to direct attention from something else. What it is, he won't say.

There's something deeply odd about watching Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) give impassioned defenses of federalism, states' rights, and the finality of state court decisions. Not that they're not sincere; it's just, well, odd.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) gave the most even-handed (rhetorically, at least) speech. He made what I think is the core of the substantive case for killing Terri Schiavo. He said, "It is our cortex that makes us who we are," and that, while those who want to withdraw nutrition would indeed condemn her to death, those who want to keep feeding her would condemn her to a life she might very well not have wanted. (He also said, repeatedly, "We are all pro-life," which is the best evidence I've yet seen that, rhetorically at least, our side is winning, generally.)

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) is the only example of bipartisanship thus far, speaking in opposition to the bill. (Though pro-bill forces say, and I've no reason to doubt, that there are about 30 Democrats supporting them.) He asks, "Why only Terri?"

Rep. Marilyn Musgrove (R-CO) almost broke into tears at the podium.

A couple people brought up the issue of the Texas statute, which President Bush signed as governor, that allows hospitals to remove care over the objections of families. It's a good question, though I don't think the debate is really about the president's hypocrisy or poor judgment as governor. Still, the Texas law sounds like a monstrosity. (See, this is why I want more debate on this subject.)

-->Ahh, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who's running the pro side, points out that Bush originally vetoed the bill, and signed it as a least-worst alternative to the status quo, in which Texas hospitals had unfettered discretion to deny care. So that explains why Bush did what he did. But it doesn't explain why the bad law is still in place. Texas Right to Life, get on it!

UPDATE: Always, I defer to my superiors. Amy Welborn is liveblogging the debates, with much greater thoroughness. See here, here, here and here. (There'll probably be others up in a bit.)

UPDATE AGAIN: Sensenbrenner explains why this had to be a private bill (the Senate wouldn't take up the generally worded bill) and says that he wants to move forward with a general statute regarding the rights of appeal of people in cases like these (disputed end of life cases). Good for him.

Without Scruple

Old Oligarch has an excellent post up on the subject of scrupulosity. SoDakMonk comments from personal experience.

It seemed at first somewhat odd, in our libertine and dissenting age, to think of scruple as a serious problem. But O.O. does a good job, I think, of showing the link between scrupulosity and dissent:
Enthusiastic dissenters often make themselves blind to the sole remedy for the scrupulous, since strict following of a legitimate, trustworthy authority is tainted with "paternalism," slavish obedience to "the hierarchy," etc. etc. in their minds. Therefore, the best remedy for the scrupulous in their opinion is to just "get over" the small details in the moral law and "live & love" however seems best. Of course, this advice is at best useless for the scrupulous. Elsewhere Ciarrocchi mentions a study which demonstrates that the best way to reinforce obsessive patterns of behavior is to tell the OCD patient to try not to think about those behaviors for a while. He inevitably fails, and when his former ways of thinking return, they do so with a vengeance. So too then, when one tells a scrupulous person to just "live and love."


The diametrical opposition of scrupulosity and dissent also explain why your typical liberal confessor accuses you of being scrupulous when you are merely obeying the letter of the law in small matters, such as the Eucharistic fast, or if you appear in confession "too frequently," which for many means more than once a month. To a profligate, chastity seems prudish. To a drunk, moderation in drink seems abstemtious. To a dissenter, obedience in small matters seems scrupulous.
Especially for those of use who lack wisdom, treading the line between being scrupulous and being dangerously cavalier about sin is a difficult one. In an age that laughs at the existence of sin, it's all too easy to say, "Eh, no big deal," at small sins; but it's also easy to swing too far in the opposite direction, and to assume that everything's a mortal sin.

Enough from me, read the whole thing.

(And if his stuff about Martin Luther gets your Irish up, check out this post at Pontifications: "The curse of Protestantism is division.")

Why, Exactly, is She Still Being Starved?

Here's a subject of no small confusion to me: it's a virtual certainty that, by early tomorrow morning, the country's laws will be changed to allow an appeal by the Schindlers to federal court. Even those opposing the bill don't think they'll prevail, at least in the short term. Once that happens, it's clear that a stay will be issued on the order allowing the denial of nutrition to Terri Schiavo, and her feeding tube will be reinserted.

That said, all that's been true, and clearly true, since some time yesterday. That there was strong support in both houses of Congress (and in the White House) for some kind of legislative solution that would spare Terri's life at least temporarily has been obvious since yesterday afternoon.

So why is it necessary to wait until the bill is actually passed? Shouldn't the fact that legislative action is likely that will change her legal rights be sufficient to grant at least a temporary stay on the denial of nutrition? As we wait for the formalities of bicameralism and presentment to be satisfied, the woman is starving to death. What if she doesn't make it? Even if she does make it, why impose the additional suffering of two days additional starvation as we dot the i's and cross the t's?

By way of analogy: a condemned man is set to be executed at midnight. As the witching hour approaches, the state legislature works furiously to amend the homicide statute. There's a clear majority in favor of making the specific crime he committed - say, felony murder - no longer a capital crime, and to having that determination apply retroactively. As the clock strikes 12, the bill is still not finished. Should the man be executed? He was after all duly convicted of what is still a capital crime in the state and the assigned time for his execution has arrived. And yet, who wouldn't grant a stay in those circumstances?

I Control the Vertical, I Control the Horizontal

Apparently this blog was on mentioned on TV on Friday night, by Jeff Jarvis on MSNBC's "Connected" in a segment about blog reactions to the Terri Schiavo story. I didn't see it, but I understand that my suggestion that Jeb Bush send in the Florida National Guard was mentioned. Perhaps this will finally convince my jaded siblings that blogging is cool. I mean, they've never been on national TV, now have they?

Hosanna to the Son of David

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in Excelsis.

All Politics is Personal

I caught some of the press conference of the Congressmen objecting to the passage of the Terri Schiavo bill. I sympathize with their procedural objections - I do wish the Congress had more time to debate the measure - but, given that Terri seems to have taken a turn for the worse, this seems a situation in which necessity ought to take precedence over procedure.

One thing that particularly struck me was the brief statement of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz (D-FL). She mentioned that her own family had recently made the same "end of life" decision with regard to her husband's aunt, had removed her feeding tube in order to bring about her death. Now, I've no doubt that Representative Wasserman Schulz's procedural, policy and Constitutional objections to the bill are genuine and sincere. But it doubtless adds to the urgency of her position that the arguments for saving Terri's life presume that what Representative Wasserman Schulz did was deeply, seriously wrong. Even in the dirty world of politics, to hear "Your husband murdered his aunt", even if only by implication, must feel like a low blow, to put it mildly.

From the "A Watched Pot Never Boils" File

So yesterday I basically just gave up. I figured that there was nothing practical I could do to help Terri Schiavo, and that thinking about it all the time was making me tired and ill. I decided to disconnect myself from the world, from the awful, sickening world, and played video games for a couple hours.

While I was away, Congress reached a deal that might save Terri's life.

I suppose I should emphasize might, because there's no guarantee. As I understand it, the bill just allows for an appeal to federal court to determine whether or not her Constitutional due process rights have been violated. (Read the compromise legislation here.) The federal court that hears the case may determine that her Constitutional rights weren't violated. The law might be thrown out as an unconstitutional bill of attainder. (Indeed, it probably is a bill of attainder - I much prefer the original, generally phrased bill.) The real, permanent solution is the bill to change Florida law to establish a strong presumption in favor of nutrition and hydration unless
(3) There is clear and convincing evidence that the incompetent person, when competent, gave express and informed consent to withdrawing or withholding nutrition or hydration in the applicable circumstances.
That's a permanent solution to the problem, one that will, almost certainly, result in Terri continuing to receive food and water.

I've been following this story for too long to express any meaningful happiness at this development - I can't shake the feeling that this is just a brief ray of hope before much darker and more sinister news develops. But perhaps not; I'm certainly open to the possibility.

Meanwhile, to the best of my knowledge, Terri's feeding tube still has not been reinserted, and she's therefore still starving to death.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Why I Keep Writing About Terri Schiavo

In case you can't tell, the situation with Terri Schiavo has upset me greatly. Part of me still can't believe it's happening. I was ecstatic this morning when I woke to see that Senator Enzi had subpoenaed Terri to testify before his committee: surely, I thought, Judge Greer would abide by a Congressional subpoena, no matter how silly or groundless he thought it. Surely it is beyond the role of a state court judge to determine which Congressional investigations are meritorious or not, and beyond his power to simply ignore subpoenas issued in the course of non-worthy investigations.

And yet, not.

I went to Mass twice today. Both times, Father Confer offered the Mass for Terri Schiavo and her parents. The first time, during the noon Mass, I was filled with joy, and wanted to track Father down afterwards and ask if he'd heard the good news: a reprieve! Death forestalled a week perhaps as Congress tried to work out a permanent solution. I prayed for Terri's intentions, but they were long-term intentions - that one or another of the legislative solutions might work, that custody would pass to her parents, that with some therapy she might see some improvement. I thought, was quite convinced, that she was out of any short-term danger.

I labored in this happy delusion for much of the afternoon. I had lunch, then went to the library to do research for my Substantial (the paper I have to write if I want to be promoted to being a third-year law student). I put up an absurdly windy post about the new additions to my blogroll. When Justin Torres linked to a post of mine from Wednesday, I wrote him, cheerfully, to thank him for the link but to say that I was now quite optimistic that things would work out well. I even cracked a joke about my desire to haze him (he's my old boss) if he should wind up a Yale Law 1L next year.

And then I checked The Corner. Where I saw that the feeding tube had been removed.

Serves me right for being an optimist.

Anyway, nobody wants to hear the whole story of my day. Suffice it to say I went back to St Mary's for the 5:00 Mass, and prayed for the intentions of Terri Schiavo properly. And lit a candle before the Divine Infant of Prague. And wept.

I didn't know what to do. Fasting seemed appropriate - why should I be sated as she starves? - and the activity I'd planned for the evening, bowling with my friends, now seemed ludicrously unseemly. I thought it best to follow the story, so when I got home I turned on my computer and clicked around to some of the sites that had done the best job covering the story - The Corner, Dawn Patrol, Open Book - to see what was happening. And, quite without intending to, I found myself blogging, each new development a new post, until there were no more (nor will there be for a while; this death will be slow, and news slow with it).

I don't know why I blogged. (I don't know why I'm blogging now.) Maybe it's just ingrained habit at this point, the desire to translate my thoughts into pixels. Maybe it's a form of catharsis, superior at least to talking angrily to myself in my otherwise empty apartment. Maybe it's a way of raging against my own impotence - I may not be able to do anything, but I can not-remain-silent, I can scream to the heavens of the madness of the world, I can call evil by its name. And yet: my impotence remains. Gray as dusk. And everywhere.

What is Her Life Worth?

Are Senate Democrats, some of whom have pledged their support face-to-face with the Schindlers, deliberately obstructing the bill that might save her life in an attempt to force the GOP to compromise on issues like drilling in ANWR and the bankruptcy bill?

More Facts From the Schiavo Case

Jonathan Last quotes from a 2003 Wesley Smith article about Michael Schiavo, how he told the jury in his 1993 malpractice suit of the rehabilitative therapy Terri would get, and of how, once the money ($750,000) had been awarded, he put a "do not resuscitate" order on his wife and refused to spend anything on therapy for her. This is another part of why this makes me so angry: I try to be charitable, but it's hard, when one understands the whole story, not to think that Michael had something other than what Terri would have wanted at heart when he first started pushing to have her feeding tube removed.

"I Thirst."

Terri Schiavo's "Exit Protocol", the nursing plan developed in 2001 prior to an earlier attempt to remove her feeding tube. Read it, if you are of a strong enough constitution; it will give you some sense of how horrific it is to die of dehydration.

They Have Come For Her

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. - Thomas Jefferson

My earlier optimism was misplaced. Terri Schiavo's feeding tube has been removed. It's now only a matter of time until this poor woman dies one of the most excruciating deaths imaginable.

St Kolbe, St Jude Thaddeus, St Cyril, St Michael and all the angels and saints, be at her side. Be her firm defense against the enemies who have fallen upon her. Comfort her in her hour of need.

But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. Jeremiah 20:11
By the way, when they told her what was about to happen, Terri cried.

Much Updating of the Sidebar

Added (fairly recently) to the blogroll:

Julie R. Neidlinger and her online gallery Lone Prarie Art Works. Ms. Neidlinger is an artist working in North Dakota. Among other things, she has a cat named Brutus. Which is silly: everyone knows Brutus is a plant's name.

Limyaael's Fantasy Rants, in which a disgruntled reader of fantasy literature goes off on lengthy tirades about the recurring problems of the professional works and fan-fiction of the genre. Good for people who like (or really don't like) fantasy literature. Also for fans of disgruntledness.

A couple of good blawgs: the Statutory Construction Blog (I may be citing this guy's work in my Substantial), the Red State Law Blog, the Contracts Professor Blog, and the Becker-Posner blog, which probably packs more raw brain-power than any blog in the (albeit brief) history of the medium, though it lacks a snazzy name like Mansfield Fox.

In re: matters conservative, I've added Vast. Right. Winged., the blog pf the Yale Free Press, Yale's conservative alt-periodical, and Inkwell, the Independent Women's Forum's blog.

I've also created a new category, "On Tiber's Far Shore", as a home for non-Catholic Christians. ('Cause all real Christians are just Catholics-in-training, even if they don't know it yet.) The category mostly includes people reclassed from elsewhere, though one new addition is With Issue, the blog of a nice Jewish woman who's preparring to enter the Catholic Church. (She'll be upgraded to "Era of the Laity" once she's actually baptized.)

Speaking of "Era of the Laity", the category keeps growing. (Those Catholics, breeding like rabbits.) There are some good lay apologists: Ad Limina Apostolorum, Against the Grain, Jimmy Akin and Catholic Light. For shrewd observations from the Blue coasts, there are Domenico Bettinelli's Bettnet and Mark C.N. Sullivan's Irish Elk (both Boston), Parick Sweeney's Extreme Catholic (NYC) and L.A. Catholic (which seems to be down right now, for some reason). Curt Jester may be the funniest man ever to wear a scapular. If you want to know what the kids are up to, check out Andrew Cusack (a NY-born student at St. Andrews, Scotland), and the Christendom College students of Basia Me, Catholica Sum and Fiddleback Fever. It probably won't give you an accurate portrait of the spirit of their generation, but you'll sleep better at night.

Among the law students: as for Yalies, I've added Suspended Conversation, which is run by a guy I used to do a capella with (don't ask). I've also created a separate category for non-Yale law students, for people at "The Other Law School" (that is, Harvard) and "Other Other Law Schools" (that is, other law schools). It features other members of the Crescat Sententia crew: Class Maledictorian, Waddling Thunder, and Letters of Marque, plus Ex Parte and Ex Post, the blogs of the Federalist Societies of Harvard and Columbia, respectively. There are also a bunch of other interesting law student types: Eye of Polyphemus, from Ninomania's own Regent University, an Inclination to Criticize, Listless Lawyer and Objective Justice.


"Summers Vote Roils Harvard"

Well, the important thing is no one wants to build a clone army. Yet.

(via the Corner)

"Families That Don't Recover"

Emily of After Abortion has a beautiful, and sad, post up about the kinds of family dynamics that can push a woman towards abortion.
The implicit message this daughter learned growing up is that "when bad things happen, this family does not recover".

How would a daughter absorb this message?

It could be that the parent's marriage is not satisfying, and the parents individually and collectively feel a sense of hopelessness about this. The marriage sinks into torpor, or uglinesses. Grace seems to be absent.

It could be that some tragedies or unfortunate events befell the family when the daughter was growing up, and the family projects a sense of never having recovered from this tragedy. (The tragedy could be an illness of an older sibling, a divorce, sexual molestation somewhere in the family, bankruptcy, and many other unfortunate or tragic events.)

Sometimes when I hear about a family like this, the family sounds like a once-grand mansion that has gradually sunk into disrepair and unkemptness, with broken windows, weeds in the garden, and so on.

In a family like this, there is often a sense of a before and an after. There's a time when things felt golden in the family (at least relatively speaking) and after a specific event or series of events happened, things became gray and the golden age is a distant painful memory.

President Bush, Literary Genius

Professor Volokh lambastes the latest Slate "Bushism" (as is his custom), arguing that they've blown a mild verbal stumble in an extemporaneous joke entirely out of proportion. Here's the "Bushism":
"In this job you've got a lot on your plate on a regular basis; you don't have much time to sit around and wander, lonely, in the Oval Office, kind of asking different portraits, 'How do you think my standing will be?'" — Washington, D.C., March 16, 2005
Volokh's argument is basically that people make minor missteps in their off-the-cuff remarks all the time, and that the "Bushism" feature, if it were ever funny, is now pointless and cruel.

I don't think the good professor goes far enough: I think President Bush has (probably accidentally) discovered a fascinating new literary device, one perfect for our postmodern, mash-up age. He's taken two separate expressions - "sit around and wonder" and "wander about" - and, using the fact that in his accent "wonder" and "wander" sound basically the same, he's combined them into one super-expression, "sit around and wander", an expression that manages to convey, briefly, a whole set of actions, motion and motionlessness, the unity of the parts.

I'm being serious. After all, isn't wandering about the Oval Office interrogating oil paintings really just a form of "sitting and wondering"? The portraits, after all, can't reply. His body might be moving, but his mind, and his frame of reference, would remain inert. The synthesis of Bush's mashed-up phrasing reveals a deeper truth, in a way that's succinct and, I think, lyrical.

We always knew that there were subtly brilliant verbal stylists in the Bush Administration, but who would've thought the Big Guy was among them? Or that he was sufficiently clever to get the "Bushisms" people to disseminate his avant-garde literary experiments?

They're Coming for Her

Legislative efforts to save Terri Schiavo, in Washington and Tallahassee, seem to have failed. As I see it, there are only three things that might prevent the removal of her feeding tube tomorrow at 1:00 pm:

1. Justice Kennedy grants the emergency stay her parents have sought.

2. Governor Bush sends in the Florida National Guard to, forcibly if necessary, prevent the removal of the feeding tubes.

3. Michael Schiavo, realizing the monstrosity of what he's about to do, changes his mind at the last moment.


UPDATE: And then there's this:
**Exclusive Fri Mar 18 2005 00:50:07 ET** The Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has requested Terri Schiavo to testify before his congressional committee, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. In so doing it triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual.

Members of Congress went to the U.S. Attorney in DC to ask for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a judge, which protects Terri Schiavo from having her life support, including her feeding and hydration tubes, removed... Developing...
She's not just a human being, she's under subpoena!

Thanks be to God (and to St. Jude Thaddeus, who's putting in serious overtime on this case).

Maybe it's just my fallen nature darkening my intelligence, but I really can't believe we're just going to let this woman starve to death. Something will turn up. It just has to.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ireland is a Front in the War on Terror

St Stanislaus Kostka East?

Well, not yet. And, hopefully, not ever. But still...

The story thus far:

Rev. Justinian B. Rweyemamu, a priest at St Bernard's Church in Rockville, Connecticut, was running a charity on the side that was intended to provide aid for his native village in Tanzania. People raised questions about Rev. Rweyemamu's management of the charity, and his bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Cote, tried to inquire about the issue. Rev. Rweyemamu refused to answer Bishop Cote's questions, claiming that he was the victim of racism. Disobeying one's bishop is a big no-no when you've taken a vow of obedience, so Rev. Rweyemamu was removed from his position as parochial vicar at St Bernard's. He continues to refuse to meet with the bishop, or to hand over various documents to the diocese.

Many members of the parish are up in arms. There have been two op-eds in the local newspaper by parishioners who support Rev. Rweyemamu that are very critical of the bishop. There was also a meeting of the parish at which Bishop Cote spoke, and met harsh criticism from members of the parish.

There are many reasons to think we don't have another St Stanislaus on our hands. The rests of the priests of the parish, and - more importantly - the laypeople running the parish council, seem to be supportive of the bishop. There also isn't the complicated ownership/control issue that's making the St Stanislaus controversy possible. So, no, I don't worry that anyone's going to need to bust out the Big Stick of Interdict any time soon.

That said, this story does seem to fit in to a disturbing trend. There's St Stanislaus. There's St Bernard's. There's the thing in Boston, which Domenico Bettinelli comments on here, on which former members of some of the closed parishes are camping out in their churches and having "Communion ceremonies" led by deacons. There's a creeping Protestantism haunting the American branch of the Church: people giving the finger to their bishops, and to the Body of Christ as a whole; people deciding they can do without the Blessed Sacrament; people deciding that all that really matters is "community" (i.e., their parish) and their "personal relationship with God" or their "faith" or whatever. Ugh. Some bad ideas never seem to go away.

Of course, the bishops exposed themselves to a lot of this through their spectacularly bad handling of the molestation crisis. It's a lot easier for people to argue that we don't need to be obedient to the bishops when they can point to specific, and egregious, examples of episcopal bungling. Of course, there's no logic in saying "because Cardinal Law was obscenely lenient with child molesters, therefore Bishop Cote has no right to inquire into the charity Rev. Rweyemamu runs," but since when have people been driven by logic?

There's also the issue of race: though I think, clearly, that Rev. Rweyemamu has the obligation to obey his superior, and that he's therefore being rightly disciplined, I will not dismiss out-of-hand the possibility that race, and racism, had something to do with the underlying accusations. I don't know if they are or not, and we'll probably never know without a real investigation (which is of course impossible without the cooperation of Rev. Rweyemamu). The race issue is going to be a bigger and bigger issue in the coming years, as the supply of American-born priests continues to dwindle and we have to start importing priests from places - Latin America, India, Africa, the Philippines - that are still producing them. Foreign-born priests are going to become less and less the exception, and more and more the rule, in more and more parishes in this country. We'd better get used to priests with dark complexions and, perhaps, an imperfect grasp of English, 'cause that's what's coming. This means the dioceses, too: they'd better start thinking of the Dravidian and Guatemalan priests as indistinguishable from native-born ones, up for the same promotions and assignments, 'cause if they don't, we'll be in for big problems.

Happy Saint Paddy's Day!

Your humble Leprechaun-correspondent poses in front of the banner of the Fightin' 69th.

For the real deal on Irish history, click.

Higher Math: Highly Overrated

So Dawn's gone blonde.

Y'know, she already had more fun than the av-er-age bear. I shudder to think what the outer limits of her more-fun-having capacity are now. Shudder, I tells ya.

Also, am I the only one who thinks that, sans bangs, Dawn now looks like an early model Brigitte Nielson?

The Petite Powerhouse

An, err... less petite powerhouse

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I Sense a Great Disturbance in the Ivy League

So Harvard's faculty passed a no confidence vote in Larry Summers, eh? Yeah, great. Same kind of move sure worked out great for the Galactic Senate, eh? Now, I'm not saying that Professor of Anthropology and African American Studies J. Lorand Matory is some kind of dupe for sinister Sith-like forces, but, then again, well, couldn't he be?

Just keep reminding yourself: the prequels never happened. The prequels never happened. Though, if someone suggests that what Harvard really needs is a nice clone army, run.

Paging Kuat Drive Yards, Kuat Drive Yards

This is cool. The Star Wars-style walkers of tomorrow, today!

(via da Corner, though, oddly, not Jonah Goldberg)

Some Terri Schiavo Facts

People have asked me why I get so worked up about this. How 'bout this?

* Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI scan, nor a PET scan, despite the fact that the former, at least, is now standard in the diagnosis of PVS.

* The doctor who diagnosed her as being in a persistent vegetative state did so after examining her once, for 45 minutes, during which time he whapped her very hard between the eyes.

* That same doctor is a prominent "right to die" expert for hire who has, in the past, argued for the starvation of Alzheimer's patients, and once diagnosed PVS in a man who could play with blocks and operate a wheelchair. (That's quite a vegetable!)

* During the last 12 years, she's received unbelievably poor therapeutic care. She has bed sores from never being turned. Some of her teeth have rotted, because no one brushes them. Her body has become contorted from a lack of physical therapy.

My point, I guess, is that you don't have to be a crazy right-to-lifer like me to wonder why there's such a rush to starve this poor woman to death. (A twelve-year rush? If such a thing is possible.) Shouldn't we at least attempt to make sure we have the diagnosis right, and maybe try some therapy first?

UPDATE: And then there's this. Kate Adamson who was diagnosed with a more severe PVS than Terri, who had her feeding tube removed for eight days, who recovered and is now a motivational speaker. She was aware of what was happening the entire time. Worth remembering when we consider how painless Terri Schiavo's death will be.

Oh, No! They Say He's Got to Go!

Snow, snow Godzilla!

UPDATE: I cannot encourage you strongly enough to click this link.

Ten Thousand a Month

That's the low estimate for deaths in the Darfur genocide. That's the equivalent of the student population of Yale being bombed, shot, starved to death, every month, for the past year and a half. As we dicker over where to try the killers, once all the Fur are dead.

Where Have All the Kerrys Gone?

People occasionally come by here via the Google search is Kerry a boy's name? or some variant thereof. They're looking (though, of course, they can't know it) for this post, in which I make what I think is a pretty airtight case that Senator John Kerry single-handedly destroyed the popularity of "Kerry" as a boy's name.

The argument, in a nutshell, from the time of it's introduction in the 1930s through the 1960s, Kerry was an ever-increasingly popular boy's name and a substantially less popular girl's name. Starting in the 1970s, these trends reversed somewhat, and the use of Kerry as a boy's name went into freefall. (The use of Kerry as a girl's name briefly increased and then shot back down as well.) I link this trend to the 1971 appearance of John Kerry before the Senate, at which point the dour, dull future Senator became the country's most famous Kerry. I mean: would you want to associate your kid with this guy?

Anyway, read the whole thing. I think it holds up fairly well for one of my old pieces. Also, for more name-related fun, monkey around with the Baby Name Voyager.