Friday, April 01, 2005

Doctors vs. Lawyers - Round XIVIXIVIXIVIV 

Some more information on malpractice claims, premium rates, and the neverending clash of the professions.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

The paper is the product of data analysis by 4 law professors, including the University of Texas's own professors Black and Silver.

Basically, it demonstrates that since 1988, malpractice claims in our state have not changed at all, and small claims have actually declined. So why the rise of premiums, etc.?

My proposal: Instead of another round of Doctors vs. Lawyers, we do a round of Lawyers and Doctors vs. Insurance Companies.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Democracy Arsenal 

Lame name, good idea.

I've posted some in the past on Democrats needing to get a handle on their (our) take on foreign policy and national defense.

Democracy Arsenal is a new blog dedicated to doing just that, and it's worth a read - though they get off-topic at points.

Pro Life Stem Cellers 

In my post below on Danforth's op-ed about the Republican Party being the political arm of the conservative Christian movement, I lauded him (while maintaining my disagreement) for his take on the nexus of the abortion debate and the stem cell research debate.

Matt Yglesias disagrees.

To recap, Danforth says:
In my state, Missouri, Republicans in the General Assembly have advanced legislation to criminalize even stem cell research in which the cells are artificially produced in petri dishes and will never be transplanted into the human uterus. They argue that such cells are human life that must be protected, by threat of criminal prosecution, from promising research on diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and juvenile diabetes.

It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.
Yglesias argues cogently that this position is rooted firmly in sexism on the part of its advocates, citing Danforth and Orrin Hatch as examples of those who hold the view. His point is summed up fairly well at the end of the post:
[T]he view seems to be that the moral standing of embryonic life is somehow large enough to override a woman's interest in her autonomy, but small enough to be overridden by our interest in maybe developing a treatment for Parkinson's Disease. This seems like one of those things you sort of have to be a man to believe.
I agree that the view is a little inconsistent, making the distinction between two otherwise biologically identical things because one is in a lab and the other in a woman. I don't know if I pin the blame on any overt sexism, but I get his point. As he puts it:
Whether or not a fertilized egg and the resulting embryo should have the moral status of a person can't possibly depend on whether or not the egg is located "in the womb."
In other words, if killing an embryo is killing a person, then why does it matter where the killing occurs? It would be silly to think of a law prohibiting murder in one zip code but permitting it in another.

On the other hand, as an advocate of stem cell research, I still laud both Danforth and Hatch (and others who hold this view) for the simple reason of expediency. I'm not going to get them to agree with me that first trimester abortions should be permissible, but if they can draw a line that permits them to support stem cell research despite our disagreement on the abortion issue, then draw away - sexist or not.

Headlines and the Canine Conspiracy 

Thief Steals Poop from Woman Walking Dog

First off, this is the greatest opening line to an AP wire...ever.
The hunt is on for a turd burglar.
I'm not sure if the writer knows that the "turd burglar" thing is a rather offensive slur in some parts of the world, but political correctness aside, that's a funny ass intro.

But the more important part of this story comes later on:
He then aimed his .22-caliber semiautomatic at Misty [the dog] and pulled the trigger twice but the gun didn't fire, Hassen said.
Clearly, the canines have discovered some way to telekenetically jam our weapons systems. We're doomed I tell you...doomed!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Theocracy Watch - More Republicans Jump Ship 

This is a great op-ed.

First, a little about-the-author:
John C. Danforth, a former United States senator from Missouri, resigned in January as United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is an Episcopal minister.
Note that he was a Republican senator from Missouri and still identifies with the party as he criticizes it.

I think that reasonable Republicans everywhere should be listening to Danforth and Chris Shays. The further the Elephant stumbles down the road to Theocracy, the more plausible a backlash becomes. I, for one, would welcome a backlash and expect it to be forthcoming in 2006, but my Republican friends would probably do well to start convincing their compatriots to spend more time on fiscal responsibility and less on feeding tubes, lest the party completely lose its compass.

On the abortion issue and how it relates with the debate over stem cell research, Danforth draws a line that I find fairly reasonable (though I disagree with him):
It is not evident to many of us that cells in a petri dish are equivalent to identifiable people suffering from terrible diseases. I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.
There is a difference between having religious views inform legislation and having religious doctrine become legislation. It's good to see that at least some on the Right recognize that distinction. Danforth makes it exceptionally clear:
I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.
This is a more eloquently worded version of a statement I made here a while back.
Evangelize all you want, just don't do it through the government of my country.
Danforth makes the reason for this all-to-clear. Although I think it should be clear to everyone from what we know of Islamic states in the Middle East why religion's capture of government is a bad thing.
While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.
Advancing the cause of one religion to the detriment of another (or to those who adhere to no religion, I insist upon adding) is one of the primary reasons for a little bit of text we call the 1st Amendment. Kudos to Danforth for trying to steer his party back to being a political party, rather than the political arm of a religious movement.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

More Republican Lawsuits 

Via Wampum.

There's a litany of this stuff.

George W., Aaahnold, DeLay - the whole gang is here. Using the services of vile trial lawyers to take hard-earned money from innocent corporations or companies.

Something clearly has to be done.

Evil Trial Lawyers 

So Rick Santorum (R, PA) is a big proponent of tort reform. He thinks trial lawyers are scummy bottomfeeders. Except, apparently when they are helping his wife win a six figure award from her chiropractor.

They never cease to amaze me.

Via Josh Marshall.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Atrios on Democrats and Foreign Policy 

What he said:
And, look, I agree with those who say that Democrats have an image problem on foreign policy. And, I agree with those who think that this image problem is to some degree based on an actual lack of foreign policy substance.

But, on foreign policy as with everything else, the "me too!" position gets you nowhere.

The Democrats who made it impossible for Democrats to have an articulate distinct position on foreign policy are the ones who pushed the party into supporting the Iraq war.

I don't actually disagree with the general proposition that the Democrats need a bit of piss and vinegar in their foreign policy, but they have to figure out where to aim that piss. Peter Beinart and Joe Biden and the rest of the gang didn't aim their piss, they let George Bush grab their dicks and point them towards Baghdad. And, now, two years later, they want to lecture the rest of us on how to be perceived as "strong."

The way to be perceived as strong isn't to let George W. Bush tell you where to point your dick.
That's what I like about Atrios - he really softsteps around central issues.


2 nice headlines in a row on the wires at Salon this morning:

Easter Bunny Pummeled by Boy at Mall


Chihuahua Terrorizes Indiana Postal Workers

If I had to choose between having a 12 year old hand my ass to me while I'm wearing a bunny suit and getting chased by a yippy dog, I think I'll go dog there.

Unless the chihuahua is a member of the canine conspiracy, frequently blogged here before my hiatus.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Legal Positivism - Jurisprudence and Schiavo 

It's rare that the traditional blogosphere gets itself involved in jurisprudential debates, but the Schiavo case has led to some armchair jurisprudential theorizing that I find rather interesting. Most commenters on the case appear to agree that their is a distinct difference between the moral issues involved in making a decision like whether to let Terry Schiavo die and the legal issues involved in how that decision is made.

I'm taking Jurisprudence right now, and we've been going over the primary differences between various forms of Legal Positivism (most notably that espoused by H.L.A. Hart in his classic The Concept of Law) and forms of Natural Law Theory (most commonly in class the species espoused by Ronald Dworkin). I'm certain that Professor Leiter will correct me if I am wrong in any of the roughshod comments I make in this post.

In any event, the Positivist vision of the concept of law adheres to what is known as the "separation thesis" - the claim that law and morality are not, of necessity, bound together. In other words, the law can find validity and function without resort to moral norms.

This post is basically just a "Hey look! Something in my Jurisprudence class is actually happening in the real world - take that everyone who told me to take something 'practical' instead."

Josh Marshall, posting on the Schiavo case, says the following:
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.
Sounds to me like Josh, a layperson where the law is concerned (I presume), would be what is called a Hard Positivist. I deduce from his comments that he would support a strong version of the separation thesis, and given how he describes the dependence of the Rule of Law on the morality of law as anathema to public order, I suppose he would (were he to couch things in these terms) deny, as Raz does but Hart does not, that the Rule of Recognition of our society includes or may include moral criteria of legal validity.

His attitude I see throughout this discussion on the Left. I invoked the difference last night in discussing it with my girlfriend's parents. The colloquial way to invoke the separation thesis is such a situation is to say something along the lines of "well the moral aspects of this situation - which are murky and subjective - differ from the legal aspects - which are clear." In other words, the law does not depend on morality for its authority. Even more "jurisprudentially," this could be described as denying the existence of content-based criteria in the Rule of Recognition.

Sorry for studying out loud, but its rare to have a real world example dangling in front of you when taking such a theoretical course.

I noticed that Matt Yglesias had used the Schiavo case to start a discussion on philosophy, so I thought I'd add an "of law" to the end of that philosophy.

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