The Shiavo effect
The Terri Shiavo story and the debates and issues it provokes, like Terri herself, refuses to die. Read my post on it here, and Josie’s I-couldn’t-leave-comments-because-of-blogger-so-I wrote-my-whole-response-on-my-blog response post here. Josie in essence agrees that the whole thing is both fishy and shitty ( not in these words exactly), but believes that people should respect the court’s decision. Money shot quote here: True, but Sandmonkey, the court has reviewed everything, taken testimony from friends & relatives, and made a decision. It happened to be the decision the Schindler's didn't like... and that we might not like, but the bottom line is that the court had all the information, and we don't. Now I agree that we don’t have the full information, but the only witnesses that Michael has to support his claim are from his own family and they were passing comments. I remember that I said one day 3 years ago that if I ever contracted HIV from someone I would probably just kill them and hope I would get capital punishment, cause my life would be over and I would be as good as dead. Now, that statement is stupid and immature and I really don’t feel this way now , nor did I really meant it back then. I was talking out of my ass. It happens, you know? And I hope that in the remote and highly unlikely case of me actually getting HIV from someone who wounds up murdered a few weeks later that that statement would not be used against me as evidence. Now I am thinking I should track down the person I said that to and inform them that I was “just talking out of my ass”. You can never be too careful these days! That rant aside, what I meant to say is, sometimes courts get it wrong. It happens. The examples are numerous and well known. And when someone’s life hangs in the balance, there has to be absolutely no room for error or reasonable doubt, whichever the case maybe. This is why I was glad that Terri’s parents got a federal appeals court early Wednesday to consider an emergency bid for a new hearing on whether to reconnect her feeding tube. This thing wasn't over yet! Now the reason why i said "was glad" and not "am glad" is that unfortunately such hopes got crushed 15 hours later on when that same federal appeals court rejected her parents' latest attempt to get the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube reconnected. It almost seemed like a cruel joke was being played at their expense, which is why i would not be surprised that because of the high emotional appeal of this case, that as this article on slate argues, the judiciary may end up the big losers in the Schiavo mess: Was Terri Schiavo's piteous ordeal a victory for the rule of law? After all, interest groups and the politicians they pressured were trumped by the courts. The macabre circus that arose around Mrs. Schiavo's case counted for nothing: Pinellas County Judge George W. Greer issued a steady series of rulings despite being targeted for electoral defeat and impeachment, compared to Joseph Mengele and other Nazis, and even threatened with death. The public didn't buy legislation that sought to rig the case for Schiavo's parents. "If nothing else," wrote a New York Times analysis, "this series of decisions vindicated the one conception of American judicial power." But that isn't quite right. In fact, the Schiavo episode spells trouble ahead for the courts that protect our rights. The judiciary is fast becoming enemy No. 1 in the culture wars—and the side wearing the black robes is losing. The anguish over Mrs. Schiavo's nightmare is boosting a rising common culture of attacks on the independence and legitimacy of our courts. In Washington and far beyond the Beltway, this new war on the courts is being waged through legislation and political intimidation, fueled by special interest campaigns of rage. "Federal courts have no army or navy," warned Rep. John Hostettler late last year. "At the end of the day, we're saying the court can't enforce its opinions." Basically the article argues that lately a couple of laws and measures are being passed that would make the powers of the courts and their independence eventually extinct. I believe that independent courts are a good thing, and I agree with the author when he mentions that sometimes the courts have to take stands on decisions that are “the right thing to do” no matter how unpopular they may be: The job of protecting our rights sometimes requires that our judges show a little steel. After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision, lawmakers tried to impeach justices, abolish life tenure on the Supreme Court, and strip it of jurisdiction over public-education cases. When the court struck down laws banning interracial marriage in 1968, opponents pointed to polls showing that more than 70 percent of Americans disapproved. In 1943, at the height of the global fight against fascism, the court struck down laws requiring Jehovah's Witnesses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. All this is well and good, but there is a flipside to that coin : sometimes the court’s decision is both unpopular and wrong. Judges aren’t infallible, nor is their reasoning always “the right thing to do”. To show a little steel, even when you are wrong, well, that would make you both stupid and stubborn. It’s why the government has 3 branches of government people; checks and balances: a nifty idea indeed. And it’s also why you have so many levels of courts in the judicial system, so you can appeal such a judgment. What the courts may not decide, the legislative branch can create laws for. The problem is, the judicial branch can strike down laws penned by the legislative branch, but not the other way around. It’s why the retiring age of the supreme court justices has become so important to presidential candidates: if one retires on your watch as president, you can put someone who will share your views in there till they die. It’s no longer about who is qualified, it’s about who thinks like me! But that’s also a different issue. Anyway… Something in this article seemed a lil fishy though: every single example it uses on how the courts independence being tampered with, it’s an example that involves right-wing politicians (i.e. republicans). This article aims to paint a picture of an America where republican politicians, not liking “good laws” and “independent judges”, resorting to sneaky bills and amendments that would make them laws useless. For some reason the good author forgets that part of the job of the legislative branch, is to make and pass new laws. Whether or not you agree with these laws ideologically, well, that’s a completely different issue. FDR , for example, muscled Social security on the republican minority at the time of the great depression when the majority in congress were democrats. Whether you are a fan or not, social security is something that the founding fathers of the USA would’ve probably never agreed on and considered illegal or unconstitutional, since it violates their principles of small government. Hell, people on the right back then hated its guts, and some still do till this day. But it was popular back then with the majority of people and the rest is history. Yes, at times the majority of people are on the wrong side of things (civil rights in the 1950’s), but at other times, they are also on the right side of things (Electing Bush for a second term). That’s how democracy works. It’s a concept that has many flaws and shortcomings, but it’s the best concept we have came up with so far. For some reason the left these days really don’t like it in action. Call me crazy, but maybe because unlike the 1940’s, they are no longer the majority. So maybe now the outcome will be that judges may not always get their way and that people will actually try to change laws and decisions that they think the judicial branch got wrong. This may have its drawbacks, but it may not be so bad. Sometimes the courts pushes a right idea on the people way before its time or before people are ready for it ( civil rights for example), and that causes some of those people to never privately accept the idea no matter how much merit it may have. The effect of that seems apparent when the courts push their luck and try to impose an idea ( notice how I didn’t say right or wrong) that is so “progressive” and “ahead of its time”, like gay marriage, that the people may just right out reject it and go to extreme measures (constitutional amendment) to stop it. A Balance needs to be maintained between the legislative and the judicial branch, in order for people to have a society that’s anchored right in the middle; you know, a place where everyone can get along. And who knows, maybe that’s what the so called culture wars will eventually accomplish. You never know! Speaking of the "culture war", check this out and tell me what you think!