Friday, April 01, 2005
Starting afresh. Thought I'd start a new post (but don't forget Steyn in the post from 'yesterday'- truly a tour de force). The reason? To give a proper frame to this excellent article (why is it we're coming up with this kind of clarity after the loss of Terri Schiavo when we couldn't put things so clearly before?) from William Anderson in the Weekly Standard. A taster:
''Students of law, medicine, and ethics will examine this tragedy for decades to come'...
'Much mischief is set loose when the uncertain judgments of medical diagnosis are conflated with the rigid categories of the law. Unlike coma or brain death, persistent vegetative state is a diagnosis that depends on subjective judgment. It requires a finding of unresponsiveness in an awake and alert person. Even skilled diagnosticians may disagree on this assessment. It does not necessarily preclude the possibility of improvement. It has no definitive laboratory tests.'
Posted by ed thomas at 9:26 AM
Thursday, March 31, 2005
So Terri Schiavo has died, and I'm sad about that, but why did the BBC describe her in their headline as 'brain damaged'? (I mean, not as a person who is brain damaged, but a brain damaged person, which though it might seem a pedantic distinction, is in fact what disabled people have long complained about in the presentation of their identities: disabled first, person second). Is this their tacit admission that they always sided with the group that put her in a special category of disabled ie., the vegetative one? Next time they report ex-Home Sec. David Blunkett I'll expect them to put 'blind (ex-Home Sec.) David Blunkett', not.
Post Updated: Melanie Phillips underlines the point.
Forgive another update: there's so much to say about the Schiavo case. There are those who will say this is opportunistically reading political concerns into a personal matter, but I honestly regard the Schiavo case as emblematic of a point in cultural history where we can go in several directions, but it's clear which direction has the greatest momentum.
Steyn touches many of the points of interest, dramatically. So, fascinatingly, does the more prosaic G.W. Bush: Terri and the War on Terror? (Via R.C.P.) W. undercuts the columnists. Who else would dare put it that way?
Posted by ed thomas at 6:13 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Experiencing sexual problems? Thought not. Still, if you were, like these people, you'd want to go to the experts.
Does this sound like they think the UN might be happy to point a finger or two for a change this season? Echoes of Oil for Food and the allegations of CPA corruption in Iraq (a report always available at the BBC site, and always updated regularly), which John Simpson alluded to recently.
Posted by ed thomas at 6:00 PM
Whooeee the BBC's 'study' (er, not the BBC's study, if you get my drift): tranzis at their finest. If you've come within half a blogospherical mile of the BBC's website you can't have missed how they are hot on the case trying to save the world, plastering their front page with articles like this.
As usual the most sensible thing to do is follow the links (commendably placed there for the purpose, as is customary), but not before looking closely at a front-loading adjective such as 'comprehensive'. It you collect your thoughts about this one you realise that here comprehensive doesn't mean 'deep', or 'thorough', 'logical' or even 'scientific'. In this context it probably just means that a lot of people contributed to the study in some way. A dictionary defines 'comprehensive' here.
It's a good starting point, because when you follow the link of the link of the link you find (partially, you give up searching for clarity when the third link leads you somewhere your ill-equipped computer will not follow) made clear that this project involved 'natural and social scientists from developed and developing countries'. By my brutal arithmetic that means that you can divide the overall numbers involved by about four to calculate the number of contributors who theoretically were in a position to say something scientifically meaningful, as opposed to saying what they thought would be received well by the powers that were. Another way of looking at that; when I say scientifically meaningful I mean other than just intelligent hearsay or naked eye observation that you and I can engage in too.
Comprehensive here definitely means quantity rather than quality. When you factor in the extremely bureaucratic nature of the study, and its politicisation (it was engendered by the UN, included UN chief-advisor whatnots, and explicitly had one eye on immediate agenda setting for the great W.C. - world community), it is clearly a monster bred for one purpose only: to leap off the BBC's, and other organs', front pages.
To underline the desire of this study to intimidate the sceptics who oppose their bandwagon, the Beeb enlists a vociferous titled talking head as rottweiler-General:
'"There will undoubtedly be gainsayers, as there are with the IPCC; but I put them in the same box as the flat-Earthers and the people who believe smoking doesn't cause cancer," said Professor Sir John Lawton, former chief executive of the UK's Natural Environment Research Council.'(all textual shenanigans mine alone)
So, there we have it, a quangocrat on the world's greatest quangocasters' website telling us all to be good and obey the quangos or we'll be called very naughty boys and lumped in with the boys that nobody wants to play with.
It's all a long way from 'here is the news', isn't it?
Posted by ed thomas at 5:34 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Where the lawyers might have started.
No I'm not a lawyer, but I think I have a feel for the law (and not just because I've successfully defended myself in court, I just always tend to take narrow legal view of things, which has its drawbacks I can assure you. I thoroughly appreciated Lord Hutton's report, which was dry as dust really; not, I think, because the outcome suited me, but because it was so careful and precise. Hutton's errors are there for anyone to find as a consequence of this, though I would consider them negligible).
Mark Steyn's not a lawyer either, and I think he's just too rounded a person to be a legal sort. He can hobnob and talk morality too, and get on with backwoodsmen as well, apparently, as he shmoozes with the high and mighty. But I think that he appreciates the kind of solid framework on which justice is founded.
His take on the Schiavo affair is not arrogant, assuming he knows better than the courts, but he zeros in effortlessly on areas that could have founded a simple and effective case for Terri.
'There seems to be a genuine dispute about her condition -- between those on her husband's side, who say she has ''no consciousness,'' and those on her parents' side, who say she is capable of basic, childlike reactions. If the latter are correct, ending her life is an act of murder. If the former are correct, what difference does it make? If she feels nothing -- if there's no there there -- she has no misery to be put out of. That being so, why not err in favor of the non-irreversible option?'
'Michael Schiavo took a vow to be faithful in sickness and in health, forsaking all others till death do them part. He's forsaken his wife and been unfaithful to her: She is, de facto, his ex-wife, yet, de jure, he appears to have the right to order her execution. This is preposterous. Suppose his current common-law partner were to fall victim to a disabling accident. Would he also be able to have her terminated? Can he exercise his spousal rights polygamously? The legal deference to Mr. Schiavo's position, to his rights overriding her parents', is at odds with reality.'
'it behooves us to maintain a certain modesty about presuming to speak for others -- even those we know well. Example: ''Driving down there, I remember distinctly thinking that Chris would rather not live than be in this condition.'' That's Barbara Johnson recalling the 1995 accident of her son Christopher Reeve. Her instinct was to pull the plug; his was to live.'
The tragedy is, I think, that we don't have people who speak as simply yet as eloquently as Mark Steyn in positions where they can uphold justice; they're too rounded to fit into the system, preferring maverick roles with some kind of sex appeal (Steyn would laugh, I think, but it is the case that columnists are sexier than lawyers). Then again, the notion of 'due process' which I hear bandied around in all sorts of contexts (take note, BBC), strikes me as little more than playing the system, which doesn't appeal to narrow types like me who prefer the idea that 'due process' refers back to a common pool of experience and wisdom too wide and too rich to make justice a matter of legalism.
The Law really is in the news at the moment, and what's interesting is that the Left, having lost so many battles in the court of public opinion, are deciding to put their undoubted (by themselves) superior intelligence quotient to the test in the narrower arenas of the legal profession. Steyn also has things to say about this (at least, in one instance of it).
At bottom though the reason Leftists run to their mamma courtroom is that they know they have the energy to bore other people into the ground. The trick will be if the Right, in which I would claim a small demesne, has the energy to counteract the overwhelming will to self-justify and express their sacred POV which motivates their opponents.
Posted by ed thomas at 1:48 PM
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Life and Death
The more I think about it, the more I agree with Orson Scott Card about the Michael/Terri Schiavo case:
'The incredible thing — to me, at least, and yet I have to believe it, don’t I — is that he was able to find a judge who would give him the right to kill this woman.'
I appreciate that most people would say, with some reasonableness on their side, that we can't possibly know the ins and outs that all those court cases involved. That we shouldn't comment from ignorance, driven mainly by our emotions. However I think that my interest has not be emotionally driven except by the curiosity (a kind of species of intellectual emotion) of seeing advocates of death saying that the moving eyes and lips and head of a clearly brain damaged woman are no evidence that she feels anything whatsoever. Perhaps there is a deeper form of logic at work there than that of traditional empirical observation, willing to bet all on the efficacy of those brain charts.
I agree with these Weekly Standard contributors that those who promoted the death of Terri Schiavo as part of the panapoly of right-to-interfere and right-to-die issues, apparently as a trial of their own strength, will be unleashing a perfect storm upon themselves. I think that the Schiavo case will be a wake-up call for many, and it certainly deserves to be on merit.
What's clear as well is that legal minds have been more concerned in the Schiavo case with the enforcement of 'due process' than with a sense of Terri Schiavo's right to life. Terri's parents (the Schindlers) do appear to have antagonised the profession by apparently ingenuously and passionately believing that to state the obvious ought to be sufficient. Unfortunately for lawyerly minds seeing and not believing is pretty much part of the reason for their profession's proud place in society.
I might just add one little point about the recent attempts by the Schindlers to claim that Terri recently uttered several syllables in answer to an invitation to indicate her will to live. To me this encapsulated the Schindler's naive approach. I'm not inclined to believe that it happened at all, frankly, but one could see in it an obvious attempt to echo the vague claims about Terri's wishes that were offered by Michael Schiavo's representatives, and accepted. The trouble is that proving double standards will not shame a court, or a judge, at all, if they already consider that you are troublemakers.
I honestly believe that savvier representations would have seen Terri's right to life upheld. That's the shame of it; not that I find the outcome unappealing, but that I find many of the steps involved to be brazenly counter-commonsensical and actually unfair.
To demonstrate that grasp of reason is not limited to the rationalists advocating Terri's death, have a look at Malkin's demolition of some unfair personal journalism. To show that I can listen to the other point of view, Donald Sensing makes as good a case as anyone (but I think he's wrong). Oh yes, and this a pretty intelligent anti-Terri case too (terrible to put it in these terms but she is dying)
Posted by ed thomas at 9:19 AM