Friday, March 25, 2005

Kangaroo Courts...
Re: Terri Schiavo and something I've noticed happening with regularity elsewhere: the courts in this country are screwed up beyond all belief.

The sticmking point, for lack of a better term, in Terri's case, seems to be a black-letter reading of the law. In this case, Terri's husband Michael is her guardian by virtue of marriage. In every true legal sense, he is/was authorized to make the request that Terri's feeding tube be removed seven years ago. Because there can be no verification of what Terri's true wishes might have been at the time (i.e. she was unable to make them known, there was no living will, etc.), a judge was bound by the law to order it. Medical evidence notwithstanding, there was no question that Michael was empowered to ask the judge to do so.

Thus, the legal battle to keep her alive comes down to somoething that has been engraved in stone since the inception of the legal system: the right of a spouse to make medical decisions for a disabled husband or wife.

However, such a decision discounts common sense and humanity. Get the "right" judge, the "right" experts and the 'right" venue, and you can argue that a ham sandwich has more mental firepower than Terri Schiavo. Extend that argument just a bit, and you can argue that the ham sandwich should have it's life terminated, since it's not a living thing. Terri, in the minds of many, is no longer a living thing.

One gets the impression watching the courts work on this case that the judges involved, all the way up to the Supreme Court, wishes this woman would just die already and save them from the embarrassment of having to defend a point of law that, in this case, makes the entire legal system look heartless. The courts are punting in order to save an established premise of the law in order to avoid making a decision that might one day come back to bite them on the collective ass with unintended consequences.

But courts create unintended consequences every day with some of their rulings.

When sanctuary laws lead not to protecting the innocent and oppressed, but instead to exacerbating the illegal immigration problem, that's an unintended consequence. When the recognition of gay marriage by one court in one state leads to another potential Terri situation in another state that does not recognize such a union, that'll be another. The discovery of new, unintended rights in the Constitution on a daily basis leads to many uninteded consequences: abortions are performed, criminals avoid punishment, the foundations of society such as marriage and the family, are altered beyond recognition and under assault.

Many have complained for decades that our courts are runaway trains, hijacked by radicals intent on destroying the very fabric of American society. Instead, I'd like to think that perhaps our courts have been hijacked by people with a profound lack of common sense. They hide behind the authority and the respect of the law and wash their hands of the consequences.

Part of this is our fault. In the past we have glorified the law and elevated the lawyer to heights so lofty that they appear to be something from a Cecil B. DeMille movie. We very often take what is said by a judge or a lawyer as if it had been handed down from Mount Sinai and don't stop to take the time to think about what a decision might mean for the rest of us.

Perhaps it's time to start holding our judges to account. No more semantic arguments about the intracacies of the law. No more interpretation of the Constitution in the loosest terms. Perhaps it's time we pass an amendment to the Constitution stating that judges be elected, instead of appointed. Stop lifetime tenure for Supreme Court judges. Some will argue that if judges have to run for election, they might start skewing their legal decisions to satisfy a constituency and therefore, make bad law. In response, judges are not supposed to make law, only interpret it, and secondly, perhaps if judges feared losing their jobs when making indefensible decisions, they might start applying common sense to their decisions. Since our system allows appeals to a judges decision, anyone that feels they got a bad rap from a judge could always seek remedy.
While we're at it, let's take a look at the entire legal profession, top to bottom. I'd like to know what the ABA talks about in smoky rooms on a daily basis; it has a direct effect on the public. I'd like to see more transparancy in the Supreme Court --- perhaps C-Span could create a new Supreme Court channel. After all, if cameras can be placed in a courtroom for a murder trial, they can be in place for a case regarding the amendments to the Constitution. The courts, in my opinion, have gotten away with murder (in this case, literally) because they enjoy anonymity. Their inner workings and personalities are often shielded from the public because we usually don't care unless the case is a juicy, celebrity murder.

No more judges under the impression that they are Solomon, or even worse, God.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cradle to Grave...
Liberals have long been accused of wanting to implement and enforce Cradle to Grave Socialism in this country. I've always thought that too, until the Terri Schiavo case got me to thinking.

In the American liberal's worldview, no one is entitled to a cradle --- should your mother decide to treat you in the same manner as she might treat a malignant mole on her back, you won't need one anyway. Abortion, you see, reduces the need for cradles! Of course, if your mother makes the incorrect decision and decides to carry you to term anyway, the government should pay for that damn cradle, figuratively and literally. Because we have abortion, there should, theorhetically, be more cradles to go around, once Hilary gets into office and begins putting "our children" first.

On the other hand, just as the enlightened feel they are all-powerful and omniscient, and know instinctively who should be allowed to make it out of the womb, they also hold the portfolio of death in their mighty hands. They can decide who dies, too, thus handing you the second portion of the equation.

Who dies? Certainly not murderers, rapists, certain Senators from New England, or Terrorists. However, if you're a Texas Christian, a fetus, or someone deemed incapable of enjoying some soon-to-be-rigidly-defined "quality of life", you might be just about ready to enjoy your government-provided underground condo. That is, of course, unless the ovens Hilary ordered in preparation of her coronation are delivered in time.

This, they claim, is the utopia we've been promised. True cradle to grave protection, Democratic party style.
Al Sharpton, Republican...
Caught Reverend Al on TV the other night, talking about the danger to scoeity caused by gansta rap. Al is now on a crusade to get the FCC and the record companies to clean up their respective acts.

The catalyst for this new agenda was a shooting outside ofradio station where two gangs of rival rappers were booked on the same show. They were obviously booked together in order to create some kind of incident, and thus, more interesting radio. Al objected, vehemently, and is now set to use the power of market forces to hammer the genie back into the bottle.

Al Sharpton suggesting that a market regulate itself? How did that happen?

What Al suggests, simply, is that the companies that promote the violence for the sake of a dollar, be attacked from within. Instead of having the government do something, or resorting to his usual tactic of starting a riot, the Rev now suggests that the "community" become shareholders. Shareholders have power. When shareholders are upset with the corporation, they can use their ownership to force changes --- they have a voice in how the company conducts business. Makes perfect sense.

It also brings up an interesting point very often overlooked by liberals and their fellow travelers int his day and age: we're now, for better or worse, a shareholder society. Millions of us have 401(k)'s, IRA's, own shares in mutual funds, own stocks, bonds and annuities. The numbers of black Americans with the above has been increasing for over a decade. These, by the way, are the very blacks that would never vote for Al Sharpton --- they actually own something they'd like to keep.

So Al changes his tune, yet again. He takes up a conservative issue (i.e. the dreadful morals, message and activities of some rap artists) and applies a conservative remedy: use the marketplace to clean the industry up.

Yep, every day we get more republicans in this country. Although most of ours have better haircuts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terri's Deathwatch...
Terri Schiavo will die sometime in the next week, I believe. It is inevitible now that the 11th Ciruit Court in Atlanta has decided that removing her feeding tube, as ordered by a host of Florida courts, is the right thing to do. Right, in this case, being narrowly decided on the basis of legal semantics and a manipulation of the letter of the law, while disregarding morality and anything approaching humanity. The appeal is being made, but it too, will fail and ultimately the Supreme Court will refuse to review the case.

Look now for a tidal wave of copycat cases in the immediate future in which every inconvenient relative from the child with Autism to the grandma with Alzheimers to the old-timer with a colostomy bag, parapalegics who run up tremendous medical bills, people lying in comas for more than a week, etc., are now killed or have their life support turned off.

The simple facts in this case seem never to have been taken into consideration: here we have a woman, who is quite unable, at the present, to speak for herself. Her husband (only in the sense that he married her once) tells a judge that his wife once told him not to prolong her life by artificial methods. As far as I can tell, no one else has ever heard her say any such thing and there is no other documentary evidence to gainsay him. Sixteen judges in Florida, and now ten judges in Atlanta, have decided that, all of a sudden, hearsay evidence is now admissible in court, provided it pertains to disposing of a brain-damaged person.

Terri is alive. She breathes on her own. For all we know, she is aware of her surroundings, but unable to react to them or communicate her feelings. According to the doctors who have examined her, her prognosis ranges from "possibility of rehabilitation" to "deader than a doornail". We're dealing with the human brain here, which any doctor worth his salt, would admit is still foreign territory in this day and age, and nothing is certain. She may snap out of this condition tomorrow or she may stick around, making no progress whatsoever, for the next 70 years. The only thing we're sure she cannot do is swallow and thus eat. The only "life support" system that she is on is an intravenous drip that provides her with sustenance. No repirator, no iron lung, no other machinery keeping her internal organs artificially functioning. By every measurable standard, she is alive.

However, there are those that will tell you that she has no measurable brain activity, and therefore, she's as good as dead. I remind you that Ted Kennedy has no measurable brain activity, but somehow, he's not only allowed to continue living, but is also allowed to be a Senator.

So, how do we measure life? How do we measure the "quality" of life? I can point out a few hundred people personally known to me who will often despair that "life sucks", yet they are perfectly capable of getting themselves a cheeseburger in order to prolong that sucky life or overdosing on heroin to end it. The only difference between them is that Terri is unable to do either for herself. Some would tell you that the inability to feed yourself is a reason you should be killed. These same folks will then extend the argument to include being unable to kill yourself is a reason why you should be killed. Some folks are just fascinated by death, I guess.
To some, being able to die (or kill off an inconvenient spouse who just won't kick the bucket on her own) is a matter of "choice". There's that word again, choice.

Choice, to this crowd, pertains to the right to kill anyone who is inconvenient, even before they're born, but not to smoke, own a gun or drive an SUV. The choice of life or death, of course, always falls on someone else's shoulders (a pregnant mother, a husband counting the malpractice settlement, the government, a convicted child molester, etc) but never to the person directly involved --- an unborn child, a murderer's victim, Terri Schiavo.

Should Congress have been involved in this process? Beats me. We're talking about the legal minefinds here. The bill that finally passed will be debated about forever and will rear it's ugly head in courtrooms all over the world. It is now precident: If you want to save the life of anyone, you can now go to your Congresscritter and get a law passed. That we should have to have a law passed in order to maintain the life of the brain-damaged is a sure sign that civilization will soon end. My only question regarding Congressional action is why can't they move that quickly to fix the nation's problems: immigration, eliminating federal waste, confirming judges, making English the chief lingua franca, throwing out the tax code and the IRS, making it easier to kill a convicted sex offender with a pack of wild dogs. I understand the necessity of playing to the right-to-life crowd in terms of politics, but I do not understand why Congress is able to posture easily enough but not accomplish the everyday business of the country. I don't feel a law should have been passed in Terri's case because she is obviously alive. I do, however, understand exactly why some in Congress, the ones who actually acted out of convictions, did what they did.

However, this particular Congressional action may have some unintended consequence. When, for example, a mother decideds to abort a child she knows will be born with physical or mental handicaps, against the father's wishes, does the father now talk his senator into introducing a bill? It will happen, soon, mark my words, and what was a fabulous gesture on behalf of the living will now turn into yet another campaign issue --- something that will be forever debated, but never solved. Kept alive (no pun intended) for the sake of having something to talk about for the next three decades. Like social security reform.

I pray for Terri Schiavo and her family. I thank the truly engaged for the efforts they put forth to save her life. I cringe when I think of the appeals court that dithered and then washed it hands, probably hoping she would die before a decision needed to be made.