Thursday, March 24, 2005

My muse is once again on an unannounced hiatus. While I wait for her to stop traipsing around Florida (where she seems to be having fun at Spring Training and soaking up the Schiavo mess), a few more naked links to stuff you might have missed.
  • As further evidence that the Red Sox world series victory did in fact require someone to sell their soul, please note that a plane owned by a partner in the group that owns the baseball team has been delivering prisoners to torture chambers.
  • The record company lobbies that oppose P2P software say they're doing it for the good of their artists, so they can get properly compensated for their work. As a benchmark of their sincerity, consider Fiona Apple's latest album. It's been bootlegged, and is widely available on P2P. Most of her fans would love to pay for it, but they can't -- the album isn't to the taste of the record company's marketing execs, so they're sitting on it.
  • Remember when a Pentagon scandal was when some idiots in Congress were spending billions on weapons so bad even the generals didn't want them? Well, maybe we've moved on, but Congress hasn't.
  • Tom Friedman's still on his meds. His latest column correctly notes that killing prisoners of war is a bad thing, going against not only the Geneva conventions but centuries of American tradition. I'm stunned. What's next? Might the widely read commenter on global economic affairs notice next that we have a bit of a problem with China?
  • And speaking of China, in case you haven't been paying attention, our good Communist friends in the government there are still running an oppressive, corrupt dictatorship. It's good to keep track of these things.

Monday, March 21, 2005

With all the controversy about Terri Schiavo's medical case, it's worth taking a look at the bill Congress passed itself. A glance reveals the bill has strange features of its own:


The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida shall have jurisdiction to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution or laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.


Any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo shall have standing to bring a suit under this Act. The suit may be brought against any other person who was a party to State court proceedings ...

This is a bill that applies only to particular, named individuals. The founding fathers had a name for bills like that, in which the legislature stepped in to decide particular cases, usurping the role of the courts: they called them bills of attainder. The constitution forbids them. As Susan Madrak notes, they didn't like them very much.

Never mind what you think of the particular case. If Congress has the right to pass a bill like this -- allowing particular individuals to sue for a particular cause in a particular court -- then they can also pass taxes which only particular individuals have to pay, grant tax breaks that apply only to folks who are particularly favored; heck what's to stop them from passing particular crimes?

By the way, no matter what you've seen on teevee news, the people understand there's something wrong with this. Or at least seventy percent of them do.

But going on with the bill:


After a determination of the merits of a suit brought under this Act, the District Court shall issue such declaratory and injunctive relief as may be necessary to protect the rights of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution and laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.

Among her rights, as several bloggers have pointed out, is the right to refuse treatment -- exercised in her stead by her spouse, according to the law. And numerous courts have already found strong evidence that she would have refused treatment. (Her parents claim otherwise, but their testimony is dubious at best). But never mind that. Let's look at the bill.

The bill gives the judge no guidance as to how to balance competing claims as to her rights, or who speaks for her. But this case has been litigated all over Florida, and the rulings have uniformly favored her husband, who wants to spare her the indignity of her present living death, in which her lungs keep breathing while the vast bulk of her brain has literally rotted away. A judge who evaluates the same evidence according to the same laws is not going to come to a different conclusion. But the bill gives the judge no new law to apply. The Congressmen who passed this bill -- all soi-disant opponents of "judicial activism" -- clearly desire in this case for the judge to pull something novel out of his ass.

At this point, it's worth stepping back, and trying to figure out what's really going on here. The Schiavo case is tragic, but it's a kind of tragedy that's enacted in the United States several times a day. In fact, as has been well-chronicled on liberal blogs, Dubya himself signed a bill in Texas allowing hospitals to discontinue treatment for patients in Mrs. Schiavo's condition over the objections of their relatives, if any are offered. So, given that the vast Republican propaganda machine is pushing this case, now, it's worth asking what agenda they're pursuing in doing that.

Well, let's look at the line they're pursuing. First off, they are pushing the notion of the courts as heartless -- in fact, as murderers. Second, they are establishing the right of Congress to intervene in particular cases, undermining 200 years of American political tradition. And third, they are demanding that judges rule in opposition to established law. The effect, in each case, is to undermine rule of law -- a single, consistent law that applies to everyone.

It's been said that any academic discipline that has to call itself a science ("Social Sciences"; "Computer Science") isn't. It's been said that countries that call themselves democracies ("Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea") aren't. It's been said that when athletes say it's not about the money, it's about the money. They call themselves Republicans, but they sure don't want to live an a Republic.

Once again, my muse is on an unannounced hiatus. Digby, His Zemblan Majesty, and The Poor Man should keep you informed until her return...

More: via Julia, here's what you need to know about Condi Rice's nuanced support for democracy in Lebanon: it's fine with her, so long as the majority doesn't take power...