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March 02, 2005

Lies Terri Schiavo's parents told me

The Terri Schiavo case has transfixed the right wing media while attracting comparatively little attention from the left. This is discrepancy is understandable. Once you know the facts, there's very little to argue about. The case is literally a no brainer.

The Schiavo case presents no intricate medical, ethical, or legal dilemmas. Abstract Appeal's comprehensive legal chronology shows just how straightforward this case should have been. Michael Schiavo is Terri's legal guardian, the courts have determined that Terri wouldn't want a feeding tube, and Michael asked the doctors to take the tube out. That's really all there is to it.

The campaign to "save" Terri Schiavo is a vicious and lavishly-funded propaganda campaign. Terri's parents and their allies are using pseudoscience and character assassination to destroy Michael Schiavo. Of course, the right wing is eating it up.

If progressives don't counter these blatant misrepresentations now, the Terri Schiavo myths will be used against us for years to come.

Myths about the Terri Schiavo case

1. Terri is conscious

Court-appointed, government-appointed, and private physicians have confirmed that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Schiavo suffered massive brain damage 15 years ago and ongoing neurological degeneration.

Patients in a PVS have no higher cognitive function and no chance of recovery.

Terri is neither comatose, nor brain dead. She is in a vegetative state because her higher brain centers have been destroyed and replaced by fluid.

1.' A recent study showed that patients like Terri are more conscious than we thought

A recent fMRI by study found that two patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) showed slightly more brain activity during speech recognition tasks than would have been predicted based on the severity of their injuries and behavioral observations (Schiff ND, Rodriguez-Moreno D, Kamal A, et al, 2005). When the study was released, some commentators inappropriately cited this result as evidence that Terri Schiavo's level of consciousness might have been underestimated.

Terri Schiavo is not in an MCS. According to the authors of the study, a diagnosis of MCS is reserved for a subset of patients who demonstrate "unequivocal, but intermittent, behavioral evidence of awareness of self or their environment." Unfortunately, Terri isn't conscious at all.

2. There are new treatments that might help Terri

Despite what Terri's parents say, there are no new treatments that could help their daughter. Anyone who claims that he can improve Terri's level of consciousness is a quack. You can't treat a brain that isn't there.

3. Terri's collapse is unexplained and/or suspicious

In an attempt to discredit Michael Schiavo, Terri's parents and their supporters are circulating unsubstantiated rumors of abuse and even accusations of attempted murder.

Former chief medical examiner for the city of New York and co-director of the Medicolegal Investigation Unit of the New York State Police, Dr. [Michael] Baden is often quoted in news reports and interviewed on television. [...] Dr. Baden, who has written three books on forensic pathology, told [Greta]van Susteren: "It's extremely rare for a 20-year-old to have a cardiac arrest from low potassium who has no other diseases . . . which she doesn't have. . . . The reason that she's in the state she's in is because there was a period of time, maybe five or eight minutes, when not enough oxygen was going to her brain. That can happen because the heart stops for five or eight minutes, but she had a healthy heart from what we can see." [Village Voice]

Terri Schiavo was not a healthy young woman. Her heart stopped because of a potassium imbalance induced by severe bulimia nervosa.[AP]

Hypokalemic cardiac arrests are rare in the population at large, but they all too common in young women with severe eating disorders. Michael Schiavo successfully sued Terri's doctors for failing to diagnose her condition. If there had been an alternate explanation for Terri's condition--like attempted murder by the plaintiff--you would think the doctors Schiavo sued would have brought it up.

Here's a transcript of the Greta van Susteren's interview with Dr. Baden on FOX News.

In the interview Baden alludes to Terri's alleged "history of trauma" and suggested that her brain damage might have been caused by a "head injury." Dr. Baden's insinuations don't hang together. Both Terri's bulimia and her potassium imbalance are well-documented. Whereas there is no evidence that Terri Schiavo's brain was destroyed by any kind of trauma.

BADEN: Yeah, your staff has provided me with a bone scan that you guys obtained ah from her initial admission in 1991 to the hospital. And that bone scan describes her as having a head injury. That’s why she’s there, that’s why she’s getting a bone scan. And a head injury can cause, lead to the vegetative state that Ms. Schiavo is in now, and it does show evidence that there are other injuries, other bone fractures, that on healing-stage, so that...

Dr. Baden says that the bone scan describes Terri as having a head injury. The implication is that the bone scan reveals that she suffered a head injury. The paperwork requesting the bone scan lists Schiavo as having had a head injury, but the bone scan doesn't show any evidence of head or neck trauma.

The head injury hypothesis is utterly far-fetched. Believe me, if Terri had been bleeding into her brain on the night in question, the ER would have noticed.

An even crazier theory of Terri's collapse is phantom strangulation. This one got a sympathetic hearing from both Hannity and Colmes. The evidence is that Terri was admitted with a rigid neck. So far, no one has claimed that Terri had any of the classic signs of manual strangulation. Patients who have been strangled tend to have bruises on their necks, petechiae (blood flecks) in the whites of their eyes, and bits of their assailant's flesh under their fingernails. Manual strangulation doesn't always leave marks, but why attribute to phantom stranglers what can be explained by hypokalemia?

4. Michael Schiavo abused Terri

There is no evidence that anyone abused Terri. A judge ruled the abuse allegation irrelevant years ago, but Terri's "supporters" are determined to keep meme alive just to destroy Michael Schiavo's reputation.

Dr. Baden alleges that a bone scan taken in 1991 showed that Terri had suffered trauma. Here is the deposition of the radiologist who analyzed Terri's bone scan, Dr. William Campbell Walker.

During the deposition, Walker acknowledges that the abnormalities on the bone scan could have been caused by Schiavo's collapse, vigorous CPR, an earlier car accident, prolonged immobility, or aggressive physiotherapy. Contrary to Dr. Baden's insinuation, the scan revealed no abnormalities in the head or neck.

By the time the scan was taken, Terri had already been in the care of a nursing home for several months. For all anyone knows, Terri's bones may have been damaged by neglect or abuse at the nursing facility.

5. Terri's brain damage was caused by a closed head injury

The head injury claim has been repeated over and over in the right wing media. Here's the only evidence I was able to find for this bold claim: In his deposition, Dr. Walker says that Dr. James Carnahan, Terri's rehabilitation physician, wrote "closed head injury" on a form requesting a radiological trauma work up. Maybe Schiavo has a history of closed head injuries, but it is absurd to think that a closed head injury caused her current vegetative state.

6. Michael Schiavo just wants to inherit Terri's fortune

What fortune? Even the pro-tube Terri Schiavo Foundation reports that of the nearly one million dollar malpractice settlement earmarked for Terri's future medical care, less than $50,000 is left.

The TSF is righteously indignant that a fair chunk of that money has gone to attorneys' fees. A judge authorized Michael Schiavo to spend that money on legal representation for himself and his incapacitated wife. It's odd that the TSF is so indignant, seeing as they picked the legal fight that depleted the account.

The TSF also acknowledges that Schiavo offered to donate whatever money he stood to inherit to charity if Terri's parents would stop trying interfere with his right to make medical decisions on behalf of his wife.

I just hope that these character assassins can be discredited before they ruin another person's life. Michael Schiavo has suffered enough.

[Cross-posted at Pandagon.]

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Comments

Thanks. Hadn't paid much attention to the Schiavo case, so it's good to see the disinformation disentangled.

Amen!

The Right's manipulation of the Schiavo case for less than honorable purposes has been a major sore spot for me for a long time. In my own humble little moral reality :=D , what they've done (and are doing) is grossly immoral.

She deserves peace. And so does Michael.

This is a great synopsis of the case and the misinformation surrounding it. However.... I'm not sure you have made the case that this belongs in the political arena. Is it a core progressive value that PVS patients should not be kept alive? I understand that the parents have decided to use the right wing media machine to smear their son-in-law. But does that mean we have to automatically take up the opposite position? How are we harmed if Terri is forced to live?

This is a pitch in the dirt that we would be well advised not to swing at. I can already hear the wingnutosphere: "See! Those Libruls want to kill your daughters and wives! They are on the side of people who want to kill your loved ones." This case is certainly a tragedy and it is shamefull that the parents are lying to the extent they are. But this should not be allowed to sink into an ideological fight.

Jesus, Mike, it's already an ideological fight, whether we decide to fight back or not.

See! Those Libruls want to kill your daughters and wives! They are on the side of people who want to kill your loved ones."

I got news for you -- they are already saying that, and they will continue to say it no matter what we actually do.

Allowing people to make their own decisions about healthcare is a core progressive value--but the Schiavo case doesn't extend individual autonomy in any new or interesting ways. It's just an application of the existing rules.

Liberals don't have to campaign for the right to die in order to point out that right wing ideologues are trying to slander an innocent man in order to get their way. The ideologues are also trying to slander liberals as cold-blooded handicapped-hating murderers. If we don't at least rebut the lies, Terri Schiavo is going to become a stick that they use to beat us forever.

How are we harmed if Terri is forced to live?

I don't know about you, but on some level it hurts me whenever lies get major media traction. I admit that not every well-meaning person feels like this, but I'm funny that way.

Michael Baden's insinuation into the story is doubly disturbing. He's a pathologist, and by all accounts a first-rate one; I recommend his book Unnatural Death. And in it you will find multiple instances where medical doctors who lack specialization in the field botch pathology exams. Too bad he doesn't take his own advice. And it's too bad a sensationalizing media has no restrictions on doing the same. Pretension of expertise where none exists is far, far too common.

Mike G. is right; we should just watch this one go by. It's completely unconsequential.

Nothing in this post refutes the pro-tube position, because much of the case turns on facts that are disputed. All Majikthise does is say that Terri's parents are wrong and her husband is right. Maybe, but that doesn't really help settle anything.

For instance, there is this:


"Despite what Terri's parents say, there are no new treatments that could help their daughter."


Well ... okay, but no argument of any kind. Just the assertion that anyone who says otherwise is a quack. (Incidentally, I don't think the parents are saying her "level of consciousness" could be raised; I think they're saying, e.g., she could be taught how to swallow or something. I have no idea if that is the case.)


She does better w/ 4, 5, and 6, though.

And if she truly is not at all conscious like M. claims, then who cares what happens to her? If her parents want to keep her alive, why not just let them?

Dadahead, as Michael Schiavo is Terri's legal guardian. The courts have heard the evidence and made their rulings. Schiavo has Florida law and multiple court decisions on his side. Terri's parents had a chance to make their case, and they lost. As far as the law is concerned, the facts are no longer in dispute. They can keep complaining as long as they want. That and two dollars will get them a subway ride.

The bottom line is that Michael authorized to make medical decisions on his wife's behalf and her parents aren't. When it comes down to it, somebody has to be the voice of patient who can't speak for herself. The courts have decided who its going to be.

I think it's ironic that so many of the pro-tubers consider themselves to be staunch defenders of marriage. In fact, they're showing that they're willing to undermine the institution of marriage when it suits them.

There is no treatment for organic brain damage like Terri's. There is no question of teaching her how to do anything. She can't learn anything because she can't see, hear, or process any other sensory information. Nor can she make voluntary movements. Once brain tissue is dead, it doesn't regrow. Terri's brain will only degenerate further. There is no scientifically accepted medical treatment for persistent vegetative state. Anyone who says differently is a quack.

Dadahead, she can't be taught to swallow again.

It's late and I'm exhausted and can't reach back into my brain for the info, but it goes something along the lines of swallowing is some kind of very basic reflex, whatever - and in general, once it's lost, it's lost, except in very rare cases.

It's commonly lost in stroke patients and others with profound brain damage.

Feeding by mouth for people with swallowing problems is very problematic, due to aspiration, etc., which often causes pneumonia and can contribute to further brain damage. The reason her parents were banned from seeing her at one point, if I'm remembering correctly, is because they kept trying to feed her by mouth. Bad, bad, bad idea.

The issue of the feeding tube is a really nasty can of worms. I'm actually completely opposed to them, except for people who are fully cognizant but for whatever reason (injury, disease, whatever) are no longer able to take food by mouth. Yes, they can keep someone alive --- indefinitely. But so what? They're no different than a ventilator in that sense. Should we demand all people who end up n ventilators stay on them for perpetuity?

It's criminal, IMO, that Terri Schiavo's dilemma has been turned into such a circus and has been so thoroughly muddied by disinformation.

I saw Lindsey's post over at Pandagon where she posited Terri's fate, should they not allow her to die. It's absolutely factually correct.

Yes, she will get bedsores. Bedsores may not sound like a big deal to you, but they are horrifically painful and are often a primary factor in death --- a kind of death much more gruesome than what Terri faces from removal of the feeding tube.

Yes, she will get shuttled away into some grim home or hospital corner somewhere. Whatever insurance money her husband got was gone long ago --- there's no doubt her bills to this point have already run into the millions.

I once lost a friend over the issue of Schiavo. I've ranted on this so much over the past few years, I can't rant on it anymore.

But anyone who's ever been in a similar situation as Terri's husband --- who's been a primary caretaker for someone suffering profound brain damage or similar --- they know how many lies have been propagated over all this ---

And they know the greater cruelty is forcing Terri to stay alive for ... for what?

Lindsay, with all due respect if humanity based its moral compass on judicial proceedings, slavery would still be legal. Would you argue that Tawney was right in Dred Scot simply because that was what the Tawney court ruled? I should hope not. Even so, that is the stand you would have to make if you wanted to maintain consistency in your argument. You can't pick and choose this ruling or that ruling in your quest for uberprogressiveness if you want the majority public to take your position seriously. Indeed, your reason needs to come from a higher place than that because judges, (including those in Florida and in Washington, D.C.) are human and make mistakes like anyone else. I would think you would understand this given your philosophical background.

The fact of the matter is the Schindler case is far more complicated than your sophomoric explanation and there are many questions that remain to be answered. There are doctors on both sides and independent examiners and there is absolutely no consensus that Terri is only a hollow shell of breathing biomass.

One thing IS certain. If Terri Schindler is "alive," depriving her of food is both torture and murder.

If she is braindead, then what does it matter?

So, given that, it seems to me that the court and all concerned should tread carefully and err on the side of caution because dispite Amerikkka's progressive policywonks, murder is still murder and facilitating the death of another human being in the name of a political agenda is immoral, unethical, and disgusting.

Jason Matthew,

Of course "humanity" shouldn't base "its moral compass" (whatever that means) on the rulings of the courts. Unfortunately for you, not only does Lindsay have the rulings of the courts on her side, but she has reasonable moral values on her side as well. It's your moral compass that appears to be experiencing the perturbing effects of a bizarre and unjustified moral field. If I were you, I'd examine your mistaken assumption that not forcing food into the stomach a living person (you erroneously employ the notion of "depriving") is "both torture and murder". Furthermore, "murder" is roughly "unjustified killing". Since Terri has presumably expressed the wish that nutcases not be permitted to forcefeed her, your sophomoric and unsubstantiated contention that this is most "certainly" unjustified is ludicrous. Finally, if and when you enter a PVS, why shouldn't we use your body as a some sort of urinal (if you find that too extreme, substitute your own more benign exampe)? Hint: On pain of inconsistency, your answer cannot be that, while you were relatively coherent, you expressed, or could reasonably be expected to have expressed, a desire not to be used as a urinal after you became braindead. Perhaps the last point will illicit a remark that brings to light what I suspect will be the strangeness of your moral theory.

Jason, I'm not arguing that it's right to remove a PVS patient's feeding tube if a court says so.

Here's what I'm arguing:

1) Every person has the right to refuse medical treatment.

2) If a person doesn't have an advance medical directive, then her legal guardian must determine what the patient would have wanted.

3) If the guardian believes that the patient would NOT want a treatment, then he morally and legally obliged to refuse it on her behalf.

4) Generally speaking, if a married person becomes incapacitated, her spouse automatically becomes her legal guardian.

5) The law allows interested parties to challenge a spouse's guardianship--but the challengers have to show some good reason why the spouse should be stripped of his authority. The Schindlers tried and failed, repeatedly.

6) Sometimes, people can challenge the guardian's decisions in court, like Terri's parents did. The presented their evidence and they lost, repeatedly.

That leaves Michael Schiavo with the legal right and the moral obligation to have his wife's feeding tube removed. Her parents want to interfere, but it's not their call to make.

I'm with Cookie, I don't think feeding tubes are a good idea for deeply brain damaged people. I'm entitled to my opinion, but I don't have the authority to make that decision for anyone else. Terri's parents have no more right to intervene in Terri's medical care than I do. I'd say the same thing if the roles were reversed and Schiavo wanted to keep the tube and her parents wanted to take it out. Their opinion wouldn't matter either way. It's not about them.

As far as the law is concerned, the facts are no longer in dispute. They can keep complaining as long as they want. That and two dollars will get them a subway ride.

Agreed. There's no doubt about that. I wasn't trying to argue that her parents have any particular legal justification. If I understand correctly, the law is pretty clear on this issue -- though as someone already pointed out, that doesn't settle the moral issue.

I think it's ironic that so many of the pro-tubers consider themselves to be staunch defenders of marriage. In fact, they're showing that they're willing to undermine the institution of marriage when it suits them.

Just to make things clear, I am not in any way advocating the continued tube-feeding of this woman. I could give two shits about what happens in this case. I mean, it's sad, but that's just the situation. It's going to be sad no matter what.

The point about marriage is a good one. I did read some wingnutter blog a while ago where somebody was arguing that conservatives lay off on this case for precisely that reason--it undermines the "sanctity of marriage."

As for swallowing, I don't know; I was just pulling an example out of my ass (my metaphorical ass, of course). I was just meaning to point out that the facts regarding the woman's condition are at issue. I'm not saying the parents are correct about it, just that they dispute the diagnosis of her being vegetative.

That's why it's kinda pointless just to say, "But she's in a vegetative state!" Kinda question-begging, no?

I was just meaning to point out that the facts regarding the woman's condition are at issue.

Just because one party disputes a set of facts doesn't mean that the facts are "at issue." That's like saying that the jury is still out on global warming because the industry-funded Tech Central Station crowd say it is, or that natural selection is in dispute because the ID wankers say it is. There is an objective fact of the matter, which Lindsay outlines above, and Terri's parents have been making allegations that are completely wrong. If they were claiming 2+2=5, they could not possibly be more wrong.

If there is a debate going on over Terri Schiavo, and part of that debate includes differing opinions as to what the facts of the case are, then the facts are indeed "at issue." This is perhaps even tautological.

Saying the facts are at issue doesn't pass any judgment on which side is right; I'm not denying that there is a fact of the matter, and I'm not even denying that one side is obviously wrong. My point was just that an argument trying to establish that they're wrong cannot contain a premise that says "They're wrong." Again, this should be totally uncontroversial.

Natural selection is disputed. This is just the way it is. Doesn't mean that IDers have a leg to stand on, but the mere fact that they dispute natural selection means that it is disputed.

Granted, this would be a strange way to describe certain situations: for instance, some people still believe in a flat-earth, but it would be odd to say that the quesiton of the shape of the earth is disputed or at issue. But that's only because the vast, vast majority of people accept the same fact.

Whenever a considerable number of people don't accept certain facts, then it makes sense to say that those facts are at issue, or are disputed. If half of the people believed in a flat earth, I would say that the facts regarding the shape of the earth are at issue. This wouldn't mean that flat earthers aren't chowder heads; it would mean that if you were trying to construct a non-question-begging argument to try to convince them they were wrong, "It's a fact that the earth is round" needs to be your conclusion, not your premise.

Granted, this would be a strange way to describe certain situations: for instance, some people still believe in a flat-earth, but it would be odd to say that the quesiton of the shape of the earth is disputed or at issue.

No kidding. That's why I reject your definition of "at issue" as absurd.

If half of the people believed in a flat earth, I would say that the facts regarding the shape of the earth are at issue.

Not only is that completely insane, it cuts to the heart what's wrong with the "he-said-she-said" model of "objective" journalism.

"It's a fact that the earth is round" needs to be your conclusion, not your premise.

Look, your variety of "skepticism" leads to infinite regress and insanity like "You can't prove the moon landing wasn't faked!"

Lindsay is correct that there is no treatment that could even conceivably help Terri at this point. Her higher brain centers have been destroyed fercrissakes, and there's no coming back from that. That's not "in dispute," that's reality.

You're completely misunderstanding my point.

What I'm saying has nothing to do with skepticism, and nothing to do with infinite regresses.

It has to do with the meaning of simple phrases.

"At issue" means something people are debating about. Given that this post addressed these very topics, I'd say they're being debated.

I'm not saying she's wrong. I'm not saying there is no fact of the matter.

"At issue" or "in dispute" are phrases that describe the state of people's opinions -- they have nothing to do with the subject of those opinions.

You say "That's not "in dispute," that's reality," as if these two things were somehow in opposition. It's the reality--or the facts--that are in dispute, because PEOPLE FUCKING DISPUTE THEM.

Consider these definitions of "in dispute" from dictionary.com:

1. Disagreed about, in controversy. For example, This parcel of land is in dispute, claimed by several persons, or The origin of this phrase is in dispute. [Mid-1600s]

2. now in consideration or under discussion; "regarding the matter in hand" [syn: at issue, in dispute, in hand, in question, under consideration]

Now tell me how this DOESN'T describe the facts surrounding the Schiavo case. Are they disagreed about? Obviously. Again, why would she even have bothered posting on it otherwise?

Are they in controversy? Again, obviously.

Are they in consideration and under discussion? Well, what else is going on here?

The reason it would be odd to say that the shape of the earth is "at issue" is NOT because the earth is obviously round. It is odd because nobody really disagrees about it.

By your definition, no facts could ever be in dispute. After all, there is always some objective truth; if I think p and you think ~p, one of is right and one of us is wrong--just like with regard to Terri Schiavo's brain. On your view, p could never be in dispute, regardless of what proposition it stood for.

THAT is insane.

By your definition, no facts could ever be in dispute.

Not at all. Facts that are as yet unknown or uncertain or rely on imperfect evidence are in dispute. When reasonable people disagree because the evidence suggests competing hypotheses, the facts can be said to be in dispute. For instance, it's currently under dispute whether men who are diagnosed in the early stages of prostate cancer have better long-term survival prospects with radiation, or with surgery. While both options have strong partisans and detractors, a good argument can be made for either form of treatment -- or you can say we just don't have enough evidence yet to make that kind of judgment. But there is a fact of the matter about whether radiation or surgery is better. It's just a fact which is currently under dispute.

But the facts surrounding Terri Schiavo's case are not in dispute. All of the best evidence tells us that her brain is irreparably damaged and there is no chance that she will ever recover. No qualified doctor has come up with any remotely plausible hypothesis that explains how the damage to her frontal lobes could ever be repaired. Just because one side is delusional or lying does not mean that the facts are in dispute -- all it means is that one side is delusional, or lying.

I believe that Dadahead does not exist.
From now on I will ignore him, since it is pointless to argue with someone whose very existence is in dispute.

By your definition, I couldn't say:

"At issue in the 2004 election was whether George W. Bush deserved another four years in the White House"

or

"John Kerry's credibility is in dispute as a result of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."


Because it is obvious to any minimally rational person--i.e., not retarded and/or deluded--that GWB does NOT deserve fo' mo' years, and that the Swift Boat idiots were liars.

But the propositions in quotes above are obviously true.

And Xboy is right. I do not exist.

At issue in the 2004 election was whether George W. Bush deserved another four years in the White House"

You're conflating empirical facts with opinions. Much as I would like to claim that it's an empirical fact that W did not deserve reelection on account of being the worst president ever, that's not an empirical fact in the same way that "Much of Terri Schiavo's cerebral cortex has been replaced with cerebral spinal fluid" is.

John Kerry's credibility is in dispute as a result of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."

Again, you're conflating fact and opinion. It was true that the SWBT douchebags hurt Kerry's credibility in some quarters, so your statement above is correct. But that's a completely different statement from: "The question of whether John Kerry deserved his Vietnam War medals is in dispute." That statement isn't true. The question of whether John Kerry deserved his Vietnam War medals was investigated and settled years ago, and the SWBT were clearly a pack of liars, who gained a bunch of undeserved credibility precisely because the media kept saying that the facts were "in dispute," when they were not.

Your standard of what it means for the facts to be "in dispute" does lead to infinite regress. Would you say, for instance:

"The question of whether NASA actually landed a spacecraft on the moon is in dispute"?

"The question of whether Elvis is still alive is in dispute"?

"The question of whether Bill and Hilary Clinton had Vince Foster murdered is in dispute"?

"The question of whether Saddam Hussein personally masterminded the 9/11 attack is in dispute"?

An awful lot of people believe an awful lot of things that are completely fucking nuts. Sometimes -- often, actually --a majority of people believe stuff that just isn't true. So what's your threshold for believing that the facts of a case aren't in dispute? How few people have to be actively disputin' for the facts to be considered, ah, "indisputable"?

You never made a distinction between empirical facts and opinions.

I would say the atrociousness of the Bush administration is a fact if anything is.

You're trying to get me on an infinite regress, but you're really just talking about the problem of vagueness.

Can I specify how many people have to dispute something for it to be "in dispute"? Of course not. But I can't specify how many hairs you need to lose to be bald, either.

Wittgenstein:

"One might say that the concept 'game' is a concept with blurred edges.--'But is a blurred concept a concept at all?'--Is an indistinct photograph a picture of a person at all?

"Frege compares a concept to an area and says that an area with vague boundaries cannot be called an area at all. ... But is it senseless to say: 'Stand roughly there'?"

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