Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

March 7, 2005

Habeas Corpus for Terri Schiavo?

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:55 pm

Concerning the Terri Schiavo case, much has been said about how Terri seems to have fewer rights than convicted (let alone accused) murderers on death row (examples here). If the Judge’s latest stay is lifted, Terri is due to be killed in a manner (starvation and dehydration) that is considered unconstitutionally “cruel and unusual” for convicted murderers; furthermore, she does not have similar rights as criminals, such as to be represented by an attorney, to be deprived of life only upon conviction of something, and so on.

By the way, this method of death is “necessary” because Terri is not brain-dead, not in a coma, and breathing on her own without a respirator. They can’t just “remove life support” because she isn’t on life support, unless you define a feeding tube as life support, which they don’t. (Actually, she might not even need the feeding tube — a court order at the husband’s request has prevented a swallowing test since 1992.)

There is a bill scheduled to be introduced by Rep. Dave Weldon (a medical doctor) in the House of Representatives tomorrow (Tueday, March 8 ), that might fix this. In particular, the Incapacitated Person’s Legal Protection Act of 2005 would extend to incapacitated persons the same rights to habeas corpus that accused and convicted criminals have. This does not seem to be getting much media play — as I write this, a Google news search turns up only seven hits, six of which are from Christian news services, and only one of which is from a regular media outlet, the Tampa Tribune.

I’m amazed at how explicit this provision in the proposed law is:

§ 2256. Extension of habeas protections to certain persons subject to court orders.

(a) For the purposes of this chapter, an incapacitated person shall be deemed to be in custody under sentence of a court established by Congress, or deemed to be in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State Court, as the case may be, when an order of such a court authorizes or directs the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment necessary to sustain the person’s life. In a habeas proceeding under this section the person having custody shall be deemed to encompass those parties authorized or directed by the court order to withdraw or withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment, and there shall be no requirement to produce at the hearing the body of the incapacitated person. As used in this section, the term “incapacitated person” means an individual who is presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law.

There is an exception:

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply in the case of a judicial proceeding in which no party disputes, and the court finds, that the incapacitated person, while having capacity, had executed a written advance directive valid under applicable law that clearly authorized the withholding or withdrawal of food or fluids or medical treatment in the applicable circumstances.

This would not apply to Terri Schiavo, since she executed no such written advance directive. (Her husband claims he knows she’d want to die, but that’s all the “evidence” we have of her preferences.)

There is also a definition:

(c) As used in this section, the term “incapacitated person” means an individual who is presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of food, fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law.

I have one small quibble with this: it ought to read “an individual who is presently incapable of making known relevant decisions.” There are cases (for example, that of Rus Cooper-Dowda, who was in worse shape than Terri Schiavo but ultimately recovered) in which people have been able to make such decisions in their heads, but have been incapable of communicating them to anyone else (until they recovered, but by then it’s irrelevant). I can imagine some bizarre judicial scenario in which someone claims that a person is not incapacitated under the definition of this law because the Rus Cooper-Dowda case shows the patient can make decisions, so the law doesn’t apply, and the guardian “knows” that the decision would be to pull the feeding tube.

Anyway, if you agree with this law, you can contact your Representative here.

Phi Beta Kappa and George Mason University

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:28 pm

I didn’t make Phi Beta Kappa in college, but that’s never been more than a really minor disappointment to me. Until now, when I wish I’d made it jsut so I could resign in protest over this story (another version

Apparently, up-and-coming George Mason University was denied a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for disinviting Michael Moore.

Naturally, they don’t officially give reasons for these decisions. But the gut-instinct version, of course, is that Phi Beta Kappa is liberal and anti-Bush and didn’t want to admit a university whose left-wing anti-Bush credentials were in question. But of course, even if that were true, they would know better than to say it, so the official unofficial version is that Phi Beta Kappa apparently didn’t like the fact that GMU, a state-funded university, disinvited Moore after state lawmakers objected to spending $35,000 of state-taxpayer money to pay his speaking fee.

University President Alan G. Merten said it was Moore’s $35,000 fee, to be paid with state funds, that prompted the university to pull out, not opposition to the filmmaker’s rhetoric. But Phi Beta Kappa officials apparently were not convinced: The organization, citing concerns about academic freedom, promptly rejected George Mason’s application, according to university professors involved in the process.

Which means, in effect, that Phi Beta Kappa believes if infringes on academic freedom for a taxpayer-funded university to acquiese to taxpayer’s elected representatives having a say in the use of taxpayer funds.

I’m not really sure how that makes Phi Beta Kappa look any better than they do in the “gut instinct” version. It makes Phi Beta Kappa look like they are opposed to democracy. Is that really any better than looking like they are against non-liberal universities?

Trivia that some people may find relevant: I’m not anti-academic. I’ve attended three universities (seven if you count summer and extra courses), I have a Ph.D., and I’ve even taught at one. I strongly believe in academic freedom — but I believe even more strongly in freedom generally, including democracy and democratic control of taxpayer funds. If GMU were a private university, no conflict between the two would exists — and Phi Beta Kappa would be forced to either form a chapter their, find some even-more-transparent excuse not to, or show their true colors. Any of which would, in my opinion, be a better outcome.

Today’s linkfests

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:08 pm

For more reading, check out this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists, and last weekend’s (but the most recent; I’m just slow in linking) Carnival of Cordite, which contains a link to this story about a police chief in Massachusetts who is OK leaving women defenseless against domestic violence and forcing security guards into unemployment, but is really tough when it comes to prosecuting people who lose rented videos. (OK, so I took some poetic licencse with that, but if you read that post, you may be surprised by how little I took!)

UPDATE (3/7/05 9:08pm):

Oh yes, I can’t believe I forgot this one: Arthur Chrenkoff’s Good News from Afghanistan from the past month. This is not a blog round-up, but a news round-up, and it published in OpinionJournal.com, which is of course related to the Wall Street Journal. (I have no idea if this appears in the print version as well.) Arthur, of course, has his blog here.

UPDATE (3/8/05 1:20am):

Grand Rounds 24, the weekly round-up of medical and health care blogs, is here.

Mathias Döpfner on European Thinking (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:57 pm

More than a month after I posted it, this essay is still getting comments. Check them out.

If drugs were not outlawed… (2)

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:44 pm

I’ve updated this post with an extensive comment, in reply to a comment by Kevin Baker.

Sony Appoints British-American CEO

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:14 pm

I think this is going to turn out to be big news in the “history of business” category.

Sony Corporation has appointed Howard Stringer as its new Chairman and CEO
, replacing Nobuyuki Idei, effective June 22. Mr. Stringer was born in Wales, U.K., and because naturalized U.S. citizen in 1985. In addition to heading the entire company, he will also retain his current position as corporate executive officer, vice chairman and COO of the Sony Entertainment business group, and head of Sony Corporation of America.

Anyone about my age (mid-30s [gosh!]) or older will remember a time in the 1970s and 1980s when it was fashionable for Americans to think that the time of American economic dominance had ended, and the economic leadership of America’s big companies would give way to Japan’s. I remember thinking that myself (and wrote a report or two to that effect in sixth grade when assigned to do a project on “a country”).

But that thinking turned out to be not only wrong, but flagrantly wrong. Japan’s economy went into free fall in 1985, into full-on recession by 1990, and has not really recovered since. In fact, the recession may only be ending now, in 2005. The Nikkei index, the main index of the Japanese stock market, lost 80% of its value between 1989 and 2003. It has gained somewhat, but is still only at 30% of its peak value at the end of 1989. (For comparison, the Ameican S&P 500 index is at about 600% of its end-of-1989 value.)

(For some theories as to what went wrong, see this article by Benjamin Powell.)

Pro-Life Diversity, Oregon-style

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:32 pm

Ocean Haven claims to offer “Nature Friendly Lodging on the Beautiful Oregon Coast” where one can

Have a whale of a time discovering the spirit of Ocean Haven….trail to a sandy beach, tide pools teeming with marine creatures, seals, pelagic birds, eagles & elk and wandering whales await you.

According to this page on their web site,

Respecting the interdependence & diversity of all life.


For health, safety and conservation concerns, Ocean Haven is unable to accommodate smokers.


No Bush Voters (due to his environmental destructive policies.)

And in case you missed that, right on the bottom of the home page, it has this notice in what is (on my monitor anyway) a horrible, nearly-so-bright-it’s-unreadable color:


(Boldface in original.)

James Taranto, who pointed out this site, commented, “Wow, this place sounds almost as diverse as a college campus!”

Sure, but I’d prefer to look at the implications for the pro-life movement. These folsk proclaim “respect for all life” — but their definition of “life” does not seem to include smokers, domesticated animals (but it does seem to include wild ones), Hummer drivers, or Bush voters. Thus, they presumably consider such “people” as no more deserving of life as the pro-choice movement considers fetuses. If you think this is too extreme, consider that Oregon is the one state in the U.S. that has legalized assisted suicide. It is not a long step, logically, to combine their definition of life, the legality of assisted suicide, and the legality of abortion (which is not subject to the approval of the fetus), to allow for “post-natal abortions” of smokers, Hummer drivers, and Bush voters.

This would be a bad time to sell life insurance to the 866,831 Bush voters who “live” (if they are allowed to call it that) in Oregon.

Perhaps the assisted suicides would be like that of Ukraine’s former interior minister Yuri F. Kravchenko who, it is claimed, committed suicide by shooting himself twice in the head.

If you think that’s not possible … well, until a few minutes ago I though it was not possible to define smokers, Hummer drivers, and Bush voters as “not alive.”

Betsy Hoffman Resigns

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:47 pm

Betsy Hoffman, president of the University of Colorado, has announced her resignation “effective June 30, 2005 or whenever the Board names a successor.”

I’ve only heard of her in connection with the Ward Churchill controversy and a seemingly off-the-cuff remark she made about science and math programs which I claimed was related to the Larry Summers kerfuffle, but apparently there was also a (gasp) football sex scandal. According to one report “At least nine women have said they were assaulted by Colorado football players or recruits since 1997,” which was three years before Betsy Hoffman became CU president.

I don’t know all the issues involved, but it seems to me that between her and Ward Churchill, the wrong person at CU resigned.

Sorry for the interruption

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:38 pm

Sorry for the lack of blogging. I’ve had a busy weekend. Thanks to everyone who’s been posting comments in my absence. Keep it up! ;-)

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