Sunday, March 20, 2005

Death and politics

Since the congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo life support case has been all that the television talking heads wanted to discuss this weekend, I thought I'd weigh in with my take on it. Then I found that Steven Taylor at PoliBlog has already addressed the legality and morality of the matter with more eloquence than I could have mustered. I highly recommend his post.

All that I would add to Taylor's post is how truly disgusted I am that both parties are tossing around the Schiavo situation like a political football. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday that "if the House Republicans refuse to pass our bipartisan bill, they bear responsibility for the consequences." Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who would like you to forget all about his little ethics brouhahas and the criminal indictments of his associates, decided to question the manhood of Schiavo's husband on Friday. But an anonymous Republican won the crassness battle this week with a memo that called the Schiavo situation "a great political issue" for the GOP.

Disgusting as the memo may be, at least its motives were clear. That's more than I can say for the grandstanders on Capitol Hill.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In his Senate speech yesterday, Frist denounced an unsigned memo circulated to Republican lawmakers over the weekend calling the Schiavo case "a great political issue."

Frist said he had not seen the memo, adding: "I condemn the content of the memo and reaffirm that the interest in this case by myself, and the many members of the Senate on both sides of the aisle, is to assure that Mrs. Schiavo has another chance at life."

I find it odd that Frist condemned a memo he said he hadn't seen, though I'm guessing that if such a memo existed, his colleagues would have told him about it. Still, if you're going to condemn an anonymous memo, it helps if you have a copy with you to provide proof of your story.

But onto your assertion. Since we haven't seen this memo, how do you know it came from a Republican, or that it even existed at all? If it was unsigned, it could have come from a Republican-supporting organization instead of a Republican lawmaker. It could have come from the Democratic side. Frist could have even written it himself (or had someone in his office author it) and then denounced a creation that came from his own office.

I think both parties know that this would be a good issue to "win." It's a dirty truth - both political parties seem to have a compelling interest other than for the well-being of Terri Schiavo and her family members. I'm disgusted over such an interest of the parties, too.


4:27 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Do I know with 100 percent certainty that the memo exists? Nope. I haven't seen it personally. Do I know with 100 percent certainty that Switzerland exists? Nope. I haven't seen it personally. Not to get too metaphysical, but at some point you have to rely on a preponderance of the evidence and your own common sense in deciding what to believe.

If numerous media outlets are reporting the contents of the memo, and if U.S. senators are talking publicly about the contents of the memo, chances are that there's a memo. I'm sure the media also could rattle off a clear chain of title for you that would confirm that the memo came from a Republican staffer or congressman, but they'd likely also have to expose an anonymous source in the process.

Are you so skeptical of everything that you read and hear that you won't believe anything that came from an anonymous source? If so, good luck getting much information on corruption and misdeeds in the government and corporate worlds.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cliches, sadly, don't prove a thing, especially not in this case.

I don't have time to absorb every media outlet, so I don't know what each has reported. Maybe the memo was from a Republican.

What I did have time to read was YOUR blog, where YOU asserted that the memo was from a Republican. Even the Washington Post article you cite that mentions the memo doesn't say where the memo exactly came from.

When you claim something, you have to back it up, and you didn't do that. And if you can't back it up, then should I believe wholeheartedly with what you said?

"Michael Jackson is guilty, because there are pictures of him inappropriately touching a boy. I haven't seen the photos, and I don't have copies of them, but I know they'd prove he's guilty." If I'm a prosecutor uttering these words in a court of law, would you take me seriously as a lawyer?

And we're not talking about an anonymous tipster ratting on his/her bosses for laundering company money - we're talking about a politician making a claim that something bad was written, and that he denounces what this bad piece of paper, which he doesn't have a copy of to show me, said. I haven't read this bad piece of paper, but I have read this to know when I should believe others or when to question them.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

To quote from The Washington Post: "Frist denounced an unsigned memo circulated to Republican lawmakers over the weekend calling the Schiavo case 'a great political issue.'"

Yep, the Senate majority leader makes public statements about nonexistent memos that would make his party look bad all the time; it's the hottest new thing in public relations. And logic and common sense and everyday experience would indicate that Republican staffers would have absolutely nothing to do with the drafting and distribution of memos circulated internally around GOP congressional offices. It must have been someone else, and it doesn't strain credulity in the least to assert that.

FYI, I've cut the list price on those beachside condos in Tucson.

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all we know, the "memo" could've been faxed from the outside to some or all Republican lawmakers, then passed around. That would still make it considered circulated. The quote doesn't specify that this memo was an internal memo.

We get faxes from outside sources all the time. It's not an uncommon occurrence. And sometimes, I show my coworkers what we got faxed. No biggie.

Maybe a Republican did write it. If Frist denounces it, he's not denouncing the entire party, only the person who wrote it. Politicians of every party don't always vote with their party on every issue. And some party members disagree with the views of some of their colleagues. If one of Frist's colleagues did write it, then I wouldn't be surprised if Frist wants to distance himself from it.

And who knows, maybe denouncing this possible Republican memo is Frist setting the stage for pulling a Zell Miller.

Maybe you should try selling used cars.


10:21 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

I never condemned Frist, so I don't see why you feel the need to defend him from a nonexistent attack. Unless, of course, you just enjoy knocking over straw men that much.

"Maybe you should try selling used cars." Wow, I can't match that level of mature discourse. I won't even try.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason I suggested you should become a used car salesman is to play on your joke about that "oceanfront property in Arizona" you keep trying to sell. I was jokingly suggesting you to switch from real estate to auto sales. Don't make jokes if you can't take jokes.

Again, I haven't been able to absorb every bit of news regarding this case. But the news you've linked to and even quoted doesn't back up your statement that this memo came from a crass Republican. Maybe it did, but there's the possibility that it came from an outside source, which I presented earlier.

Your sarcasm has a point in that the possibility that a Republican lawmaker authored this memo is not far-fetched, but neither is the possibility that it came from elsewhere.

Maybe if you didn't look down on those who disagree with you so much, you could look up and see the world around you. Hey, that world ain't so bad.


12:20 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

There's always a "possibility" that anyone could have written the memo (the existence of which I'm glad to see that you've finally conceded), including a Martian with a hidden agenda. But the cumulative circumstantial evidence in this situation leads me overwhelmingly to the conclusion that an unnamed GOP staffer wrote the memo. Most criminal convictions rely heavily or exclusively on circumstantial evidence, so it's not like I'm deviating from standard analytical practice in reaching a conclusion here.

It's clear that in this particular situation, you've opted, for some reason, to ignore your critical-thinking skills and dispose of Occam's Razor, and that's your prerogative. Just don't feel entitled to condemn me if I choose not to do the same.

1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't concede that there was a memo, but for the sake of my last argument I said there was and gave a few possibilities as to its origin.

I prefer the Gillette brand to Occam's Razor, because using the latter allows me to use some of the lessons I've learned in school and life. One of those lessons is to not assume anything (and we both know the cliche of what happens when we assume). A Republican authoring the said "memo" may seem to be the simplest explanation to you, but if accept it without question, then I'm not doing my job as a journalist.

Another lesson is to explore every rational possibility. A "Martian with a hidden agenda" isn't rational, but having the memo come off the fax machine is.

Since when are not assuming anything and exploring rational possibilities not critical-thinking skills?

2:05 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Feel free to continue believing in a world where politicians are above reproach rather than being, well, politicians. Some people are far more skeptical than others, and it seems almost no amount of evidence will be enough to convince you here, short of a videotape of a GOP staffer writing the memo while holding up two forms of identification to the camera and then mailing a copy directly to you. I won't be able to provide that, so if it makes you feel better, you can continue to cling to the belief that the media made up the whole thing.

At any rate, you've had a full hearing on this subject, and the argument long ago started going in circles, which accomplishes nothing. This discussion is exhausted, so please don't extend it.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me - "Frist could have even written it himself (or had someone in his office author it) and then denounced a creation that came from his own office."

That's from my first response to your post. So from that response you can tell that I believe that Frist may very well be acting like a stereotypical politician - dishonestly.

And sorry for being a skeptic, but I'm a bit wary of the media after another "memo" from last year turned out to be fake and some of our "news pieces" actually come from the White House.

But as I said in almost every post, I haven't seen all the coverage on the subject, so I haven't had the opportunity to consider what the networks have presented on this and judge for myself.

You - "Most criminal convictions rely heavily or exclusively on circumstantial evidence, so it's not like I'm deviating from standard analytical practice in reaching a conclusion here."

I'm not in law school, so I don't know this for sure, but aren't many of those criminal convictions overturned later by evidence such as DNA evidence?

And I find it scary that criminal convictions could rely exclusively on circumstantial evidence when a jury is supposed to find the accused guilty only when it's "beyond a shadow of a doubt."


10:57 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Plenty of criminal convictions rely on loads of circumstantial evidence that, taken together, points in only one direction. Unless there's some kind of constitutional violation or procedural error, those convictions are upheld if there's enough evidence for a reasonable jury to link end-to-end to build a bridge over any reasonable doubt.

For a criminal conviction, the law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt; it doesn't specify that the proof must come by way of direct evidence. Most of the proof in any case isn't direct; television shows like CSI mislead the public into thinking there's always an incriminating strand of DNA, when that usually just isn't true.

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something relevant to the original post:

Earlier today, The Washington Times reported that all Republican senators said they had never read the memo that Democrats said was circulated among Republicans while the Schiavo case was being discussed on the floor.

Later today, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla) said he had inadvertently passed the memo, which was written by a member of his legal counsel, to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on the Senate floor.

So while it came from the Republican side and passed by a Republican senator, it wasn't written by a Republican lawmaker.


10:21 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Thanks for the info. I'll use it in a new post.

10:55 PM  

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