Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

More material on the never-ending-decline of CNN. This is the text from the front page of the site, as of 12:11 AM on the east coast ...

A representative of the parents of Terri Schiavo said Sunday last-ditch appeals will be made in Washington to get the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube reinserted. After a news conference announcing the plan, a woman, saying she was from the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigades, grabbed the microphone to say Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die in peace.

Nope. Not The Onion, CNN.

I'm not sure I can stay up late enough to see their report on sword-swallowing privatizers or the preview of the new CNN Presents documentary on the man raised from infancy by a pack of lizards and his brave struggle to adjust to life among humans.

Reader mail ...

I am a public employee in California. For 16 years I worked at UCLA, and for nearly 17 years I have worked for LA Superior Court. Not only is Arnold trying to change the State pension system, his proposals include every pension system covering public employees, from the State to cities and counties, to school districts, to water districts, etc. We are all under attack. Information from my Union shows that LACERA, Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, gets 75% of its funding from dividends, about 12% from the County, and the rest from employees. My University of California pension is coordinated with Social Security. So basically, both my pensions and Social Security are being held hostage by the Republican party. This is a horror story for my family. What we thought would be a good retirement for us may collapse as Arnold wants the end of all funding for public employee pensions by 2006. I have money invested for retirement, that is my deferred compensation which could tank any time. I really am glad to see you put this on your blog for the rest of the country to see. And if Arnold wins in California, no state will be safe from the Republican plan to repeal the 20th century and promises made to employees. I would love to move out of the country now. Thank you for publicizing this.


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I haven't paid as much attention as I should to the political struggle brewing in California -- though that is where I grew up (1975-1987). This article by Dan Balz in tomorrow's Washington Post paints a revealing picture of just how much Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) has embraced both the policies and the confrontational style of President Bush.

A family-wide <$NoAd$>problem ...

At the same time one of Florida's most visible television reporters brought the news to viewers around the state, he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on the side from the government agencies he covered.

Mike Vasilinda, a 30-year veteran of the Tallahassee press corps, does public relations work and provides film editing services to more than a dozen state agencies.

His Tallahassee company, Mike Vasilinda Productions Inc., has earned more than $100,000 over the past four years through contracts with Gov. Jeb Bush's office, the Secretary of State, the Department of Education and other government entities that are routinely part of Vasilinda's stories.

See the rest from the Herald-Tribune.

One of the many interesting things about writing a blog, and the rapid feedback it provides, is writing a post with a particular viewpoint and then having a reader write back, disagreeing, who then goes on to make the same point you thought you just made.

Got that?

True clarity in writing or speaking is a difficult proposition, especially in a medium that doesn't afford the luxury of extensive revision and editing.

This point occurred to me this evening when I received a note from a reader disagreeing with my earlier post about the Schiavo case.

Respectfully and patiently, the reader told me that I had missed the issue which was really at stake and then went on to press the point about the rule of law.

As I suggested above, I couldn't find anything in what he said that I disagreed with. So evidently, in some fashion or another, he and I were talking past each other. And when I considered it further, the issue that I hadn't dealt with clearly enough was the difference between this case in its moral dimension and its legal one.

When I said this case was "murky and dark and difficult to reason through" I was talking about the moral and human questions it raises. Who's right and who's wrong in this instance? Whose wishes should prevail in such a case? How do we compare the life of someone who has no consciousness of their surroundings or existence to someone with all their faculties intact?

Let me share with you one of the letters about the Schiavo case that has had the greatest impact on me ...

1) My mother suffered cardiac arrest in May 2003, and was revived, but with severe brain damage. I faced the do-we-pull-the-plug decision. Everyone -- doctors, other family members, etc. -- assumed that I would and this place enormous pressure on me. I took me a week to realize that, in my own mind, the decision was equally clear: I did not want to pull the plug. My mother's doctor spoke condescendingly of my "not being ready to let go yet". The doctor at the nursing home, to which she was moved, couldn't hide the shock on his face when I told him I'm an atheist, and that, no, I wasn't doing it for religious reasons.

The point is this is just to note that we are -- at least in New York, where I live -- pretty far along toward the pro-life-support position becoming disreputable, and I hope some good comes out of the Schiavo case in at least letting people who feel as I do know that they are not alone. Schiavo's parents, let's not forget, have been trying to preserve her life: this wasn't a case invented by Republican attack group.

So, yes, the moral case is cloudy, difficult and painful. But the legal one, as near as I can tell, is not. And that, to me, is the crux of the matter.

The law is not the same as morality. Law is rooted in values and moral judgments, yes. Often moral judgments are what prompt us as a society to pick up the pen again and rewrite the law. But the two are not the same. And that is precisely the point. That is the power of the law -- or one of its great attributes, what makes the 'rule of law' more than just empty rhetoric.

It is precisely because we cannot come to agreement on the most contentious and profound questions of morality that we have the law -- an agreed-upon-in-advance set of rules -- to find our way to solutions which are at least equitably-arrived-at if not necessarily moral or ones that we ourselves agree with. The alternative is a descent into public violence and lawlessness, which we are already seeing the first hints of in Florida.

There is a high public morality at stake in respecting the rule of law even in cases where we disagree with the outcomes it generates or even find them immoral in themselves.

Another take on the Schiavo case, from an article in USAToday. Good stuff. Or rather, good article.

Grover Norquist, quoted in the Post: "Advocates of using federal power to keep this woman alive need to seriously study the polling data that's come out on this. I think that a lot of conservative leaders assumed there was broader support for saying that they wanted to have the federal government save this woman's life."

If this is really about 'sav[ing] this woman's life' why look at the polling data?

I hesitate to dive much more into this than I have in a few brief posts because this is such a murky and dark and difficult to reason through situation. There's no black and white to it. Clearly, you've got a family that truly believes they're watching their daughter being allowed to die for lack of nourishment. Whatever the antics of their supporters or the larger political purposes this is being put to, they believe it. And I can only imagine the sense of impotence and despair they must be experiencing.

From the relatively little I know of this case, there has been a truly unconscionable years-long campaign of slander and defamation against the husband -- accusing him of everything under the sun including attempted murder. But immediate families in such cases must always be judged by very different standards than the ones we rightly apply to the political sharks and outrage-addicts who swarm around these people to feed off their tragedy.

What's more, as Kevin Drum mentioned on his site earier, I could see where a state might make a law that absent clear and specific evidence (like a living will) of a patient's pre-illness wishes, you assume they would want to be kept alive. I'm not saying that's the right or the wrong approach. I'm only making the point that I don't see anything sacrosanct about the particular legal regime about end-of-life care that currently prevails in Florida.

(For what it's worth, some of the most sensible and humane points I've read on this whole case have been on Andrew Sullivan's site.)

The only clarity I've been able to see in this case or find in it is that there is a set of laws governing these issues in Florida and those laws appear to have been followed. Not only followed, but now submitted to numerous appeals. As for the medical questions involved -- specifically, Shiavo's level of awareness or consciousness -- from what I can tell, every independent doctor who has examined her has put her in the PVS category. Those who don't turn out to be either quacks or doctors who didn't do a complete examination.

That doesn't mean those legal or medical judgments are correct. But I know that those judgments have been arrived at by people with vastly more expertise and information at their disposal than I have.

Obviously, I lack any medical understanding to judge these issues myself and I don't know that much about the legal history of the case. But the one thing I'm quite clear on is that I won't get any more clarity on either point from the comic book coverage coming out of CNN and the rest of the cable networks. And the folks who've poured gasoline on this fire for cheap political reasons are truly beneath contempt.


Just out from the Miami Herald ...

Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted -- but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned.

Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding.

For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called "a showdown."

In the end, the squad from the FDLE and the Department of Children & Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice.

"We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in," said a source with the local police.

"The FDLE called to say they were en route to the scene," said an official with the city police who requested anonymity. "When the sheriff's department and our department told them they could not enforce their order, they backed off."

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