19 March 2005

Cracks in Florida GOP widen

Following the divisive vote in the Florida Senate on whether the government should intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, Florida Republicans are seeing the cracks in their political base widen. While an all-out civil war has not yet erupted within the state GOP, some argue that such a result may not be as far off as Republicans would like to believe.

As reported by today's Palm Beach Post, the vote in the state senate on whether the government should require life support against a patient's wishes has divided the Republican caucus which is typically united and willing to march lockstep behind its leadership. This is just the latest in the conflict within the Republican Party between the religious right and the party's libertarian and traditionally conservative wing which has continued for more than a decade. While this division has become more pronounced in recent years, it is nothing new.

During the 1992 Republican National Convention, conservative icon Patrick Buchanan declared declared a holy war against liberals and announced his alliance with the religious right against secular America. In a speech that alienated mainstream voters in middle America, Buchanan resorted to name calling and typical "us vs. them" rhetoric. The argument at the time, which now dominates the platform of the national Republican Party, is that organized religion is failing in this country and that it is the obligation of the government to dictate religious beliefs. Conservative columnist and blogger Andrew Sullivan has stated that the new position of the GOP is that of "big government moral conservatism." In recent years, the Republican Party has abandoned the positions of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, who famously declared in his first inaugural speech that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Today's Republicans are now addicted to the drug of big government.

Traditional conservatives within the GOP caucus in the Florida Senate stood up to the religious right this week and with the support of Senate Democrats, defeated legislation championed by the anti-abortion movement. Senator Nancy Argenziano (R- Crystal River) blamed the Christian fundamentalists' "machine" for "imposing their will on everybody else." Senator Dan Webster (R-Winter Garden) threatened retribution against traditional conservatives, and incoming Speaker Marco Rubio (R-Miami) insisted that comments by House members who voted against the bill be placed in the official record. Argenziano denounced the strategy used by the extremist members of her own Party, stating "It's completely un-Republican."

The divisions in the Republican Party are not necessarily good news for Florida Democrats. State Democrats have failed to articulate a clear position on the issue, and Party Chairman Scott Maddox sidestepped the issue, instead choosing this difficult week to kickstart his own campaign for governor. Whether the Democrats find their voice and actually stand for something is up to them. Simply waiting for the GOP wall to crumble is not an option for Democrats who want to be the majority party in Florida again.

Misinformation campaign continues

As the Republican leadership in Washington, religious fundamentalists, and FOX News work overtime to spread misinformation to the American people regarding the Terri Schiavo tragedy, it becomes imperative that those who cherish freedom and liberty learn the truth about this important issue. Let's look at the ridiculous claims made by the special interest groups seeking to overrule Terri's wishes.

CLAIM #1: Terri never wished to be kept off of life support and this is only the word of one person, her husband Michael Schiavo.

The courts have found "clear and convincing evidence," which is the highest standard of proof in civil law, to suggest that Terri Schiavo did not wish to be kept alive by life support. (Under Florida law, feeding tubes are considered life support.) Three witnesses, not just Michael Schiavo, testified under oath that Terri never wanted to be kept on life support. Terri told her husband on numerous occasions that she never wanted to be kept alive "on anything artificial" and that she did "not want to live like that." After watching a movie with her best friend Joan about an athlete that was kept alive by artificial means, Terri stated that she "would not want to go through that" and that she "would want the tubes and everything taken out." When Michael's grandmother was kept alive by a respirator, Terri stated that the grandmother was "pretty much gone" and stated to her brother-in-law, "If I ever go like that, just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine."

CLAIM #2: Terri can recover from her condition if she receives adequate therapy.

In 2000 and again in 2003, the guardianship court concluded "beyond all doubt that [Terri] is in a persistent vegetative state" with "no hope of ever regaining consciousness." Schindler attorney David Gibbs has been stating on television that Terri is simply disabled and likens her condition to that of one who is a paraplegic. This statement contradicts the findings of the guardianship court, which the state appellate court praised, stating that "It is likely that no guardianship court has ever received as much high-quality medical evidence."

The comments by Mr. Gibbs are fueled by those who have seen the same video footage of Terri on television. Unfortunately, this footage is approximately 30 - 45 seconds of six hours of video. The groups supporting Terri's parents have selected the most persuasive footage and have discarded the remaining 5 hours and 59 minutes of video which shows a completely different Terri Schiavo. The actions by Terri in the video are simply reflexive and not the result of any cognitive thought.

CLAIM #3: Terri has not received adequate due process under the law.

Terri Schiavo's case has been reviewed by so many judges that her due process rights have received more than typical attention by our nation and state's judiciary. The special interest groups supporting the parents would like you to believe that one jurist, Judge Greer, has unilaterally decided how to decide Terri's fate. This is not true. Terri's case has been reviewed by jurists seated on the state circuit court, the state appellate court, the Florida Supreme Court, a federal district court, and the United States Supreme Court. Additionally, three independent attorneys have been assigned to Terri to ensure that her interests were protected.

18 March 2005

Noonan to conservatives: Use Terri for political gain

Since Terri's tube was removed this afternoon, not much has changed. Representatives of all parties have appeared on television and offered their version of the facts, and the Schindlers have filed a number of law suits to reinsert the feeding tube against Terri's wishes. Of course, the conservative politics are wringing their hands and thinking of how they can use this tragic event for their own purpose.

Conservative pundit, Peggy Noonan, who served in the Reagan administration and most recently for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, wrote a disturbing editorial for the Wall Street Journal arguing for conservatives to use the Terri Schiavo tragedy for their own political gain. (Read Ms. Noonan's column here.)

In her column, Ms. Noonan begins with the following. " It appears we've reached the pivotal moment in the Terri Schiavo case, and it also appears our politicians, our senators and congressmen, might benefit from some observations." She then reminds readers that Republicans control the U.S. Senate, House, and the White House, and she notes that the GOP could benefit by using the government for force-feed Terri Schiavo against her wishes. Then Ms. Noonan makes her most obscene statement: " So let me write a sentence I never thought I'd write: Politicians, please, think of yourselves! " The remainder of the column explains how the Schiavo situation could be manipulated to help Republican candidates at the polls.

This shameful essay clearly demonstrates what Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, was talking about when he said that "[Terri] has become a pawn in a political football game."

The Era of Big Government is BACK

Today, Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives decided to intervene in the Schiavo case by taking extreme action. Controversial and ethically-challenged Republican House leader Tom DeLay led the move to issue five subpoenas to participants of the Schiavo saga, including Terri herself. Initially, GOP leaders claimed that they legitimately intended to investigate the issue; however, as the day progressed, they revealed that their true purpose was to buy some time and keep Terri's feeding tube attached for as long as possible. It is currently a federal crime to interfere with a congressional investigation; therefore, fear exists that by removing Terri's feeding tube, one may be open to criminal prosecution if she were to pass away and fail to appear before Congress. The tube was scheduled to be removed today at 1:00 PM but was actually removed at approximately 1:45 PM.

While the actions of House Republicans are extreme, they are not unprecedented. As you may remember in 2000, Elian Gonzalez, who washed up on Florida's shore and was taken in by his Miami relatives, faced deportation to Cuba. Republican leaders, in an attempt to pander to Cuban American voters who opposed deportation, subpoenaed the boy to testify before Congress. Like today, their hopes were that the U.S. Department of Justice would refuse to deport the boy for fear of criminal prosecution under federal law. Federal immigration law, which was made extremely stringent and unreasonable by Republicans in the mid-90s, clearly dictated that the boy be returned to his father, and the federal government followed the law. Congress' attempt was unsuccessful, and Gonzalez was returned to his biological father.

Now in a flip-flop of ideology, the national Republican Party has decided that they believe in a bigger, more powerful, and more intrusive government. Unfortunately, the party of "less government" and "more personal freedom" has declared that the era of big government is back. And as a result, our liberty and freedom are in jeopardy.

17 March 2005

Schiavo bill passes House, goes to Florida Senate

Today, the Florida House of Representatives passed "Terri's Law II" by a vote of 78-37. (Click here to see how your representative voted.) Tomorrow, the Florida Senate will take up its version of the bill, and a vote is scheduled for morning. The session convenes at 9:00 AM.

The discussion on the floor of the Senate today was very interesting. Senator Webster proposed an amendment to replace the language of the bill. (See my previous post.) Surprisingly after much debate, the amendment faced bipartisan opposition and failed 16-21. (Click here to see how your senator voted.) The amendment was rolled over to its final reading, which will be tomorrow, but it will not be the version that Webster expected.

The Senate and House bills are significantly different. The Webster amendment would not have helped, because the two chambers have serious ideological differences on the issue. If proponents of the bill are going to send a bill to the governor by tomorrow, much needs to be done. Either the Senate would have to accept the House version or the Senate would have to pass their version and send it to the House for their approval. Both scenarios are long-shots, but possible. If you haven't contacted your legislators yet, NOW is the time to act.

To send an email to members of the Florida Senate, click here and here (2 emails to 20 members each).

You can also obtain phone numbers and email addresses by scrolling down or linking to:

http://floridapolitix.blogspot.com/2005/03/terris-law-ii-act-now-before-fridays.html

Stay up on the latest in Florida politics - www.floridapolitix.com

Terri's Law II - Act NOW before Friday's vote

Today, the Florida Senate and House are discussing different versions of Terri's Law II. The House version is likely unconstitutional, but observers believe that the sponsor has the votes to pass it. The Senate is a different story.

Senator Webster has proposed an amendment to the bill that replaces the previous language in an attempt to make the bill more palatable to members of the Senate. (View the amendment here.) Still, the vote, scheduled for tomorrow is expect to be very close. If you would like your voice to be heard, call the Florida Senate today.

For a blast email (two groups of 20), click here and here.

To contact each individual office, use the following directory.

Senator J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales)
(850) 487-5044 - alexander.jd.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Nancy Argenziano (R-Crystal River)
(850) 487-5017 - argenziano.nancy.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres)
(850) 487-5356 - aronberg.dave.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Jeffrey H. Atwater (R-North Palm Beach)
(850) 487-5100 - atwater.jeff.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Carey Baker (R-Eustis)
(850) 487-5014 - baker.carey.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Michael S. Bennett (R-Bradenton)
(850) 487-5078 - bennett.mike.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami)
(850) 487-5127 - bullard.larcenia.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Walter G. Campbell (D-Tamarac)
(850) 487-5094 - campbell.walter.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Lisa Carlton (R-Osprey)
(850) 487-5081 - carlton.lisa.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Charlie Clary (R-Destin)
(850) 487-5009 - clary.charlie.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Lee Constantine (R-Altamonte)
(850) 487-5050 - constantine.lee.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Victor D. Crist (R-Tampa)
(850) 487-5068 - crist.victor.web@flsenate.gov

Senator M. Mandy Dawson (D-Fort Lauderdale)
(850) 487-5112 - dawson.mandy.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami)
(850) 487-5109 - portilla.alex.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland)
(850) 487-5040 - dockery.paula.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey)
(850) 487-5062 - fasano.mike.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Rudy Garcia (R-Hialeah)
(850) 487-5106 - garcia.rudy.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Steven A. Geller (D-Hallandale Beach)
(850) 487-5097 - geller.steven.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Mike Haridopolis (R-Melbourne)
(850) 487-5056 - haridopolis.mike.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Anthony C. Hill (D-Jacksonville)
(850) 487-5024 - hill.tony.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Dennis L. Jones (R-Seminole)
(850) 487-5065 - jones.dennis.web@flsenate.gov

Senator James E. King (R-Jacksonville)
(850) 487-5030 - king.james.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Ron Klein (D-Delray Beach)
(850) 487-5091 - klein.ron.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Alfred Lawson (D-Tallahassee)
(850) 487-5004 - lawson.alfred.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon)
(850) 487-5072 - lee.tom.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Evelyn J. Lynn (R-Ormond Beach)
(850) 487-5033 - lynn.evelyn.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Gwen Margolis (D-Bay Harbor Island)
(850) 487-5121 - margolis.gwen.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Lesley Miller (D-Tampa)
(850) 487-5059 - miller.lesley.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Durell Peaden (R-Crestview)
(850) 487-5000 - peaden.durell.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Bill Posey (R-Rockledge)
(850) 487-5053 - posey.bill.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Ken Pruitt (R-Port St. Lucie)
(850) 487-5088 - pruitt.ken.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Nan H. Rich (D-Sunrise)
(850) 487-5103 - rich.nan.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Burt L. Saunders (R-Naples)
(850) 487-5124 - saunders.burt.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Jim Sebesta (R-St. Petersburg)
(850) 487-5075 - sebesta.jim.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Gary Siplin (D-Orlando)
(850) 487-5190 - siplin.gary.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville)
(850) 487-5020 - smith.rod.web@flsenate.gov

Senator J. Alex Villalobos (R-Miami)
(850) 487-5130 - villalobos.alex.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Daniel Webster (R-Winter Garden)
(850) 487-5047 - webster.daniel.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Frederica S. Wilson (D-Miami)
(850) 487-5116 - wilson.frederica.web@flsenate.gov

Senator Stephen R. Wise (R-Jacksonville)
(850) 487-5027 - wise.stephen.web@flsenate.gov

16 March 2005

Terri's Law II - The Details

Senate Bill 804, sponsored by Senator Dan Webster (R-Winter Park) and House Bill 701, sponsored by Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), have been filed in the Florida Legislature and are scheduled to be heard on Thursday, March 17, 2005 and voted on the following day, Friday, March 18th.

The two bills are essentially the same and do the following:

Artificially provided sustenance and hydration may not be discontinued for a person in a persistent vegetative state (1) if the purpose of the feeding tube's removal is to end one's life, (2) if interested parties disagree on what the wishes of the patient would be if they could make them known, and (3) no living will exists that authorizes the removal of nutrition and hydration.

Both bills allow government intervention in determining whether to terminate life support for a patient if the government is petitioned by an interested party. The Senate bill limits who would fall under the term "interested parties", but the House bill is vague and ambiguous. Hypothetically, anyone could make a reasonable argument that they are an interested party under the House bill.

The Senate bill limits interested parties to the following persons: a judicially appointed guardian, the patient's spouse, an adult child of the patient, a parent of the patient, an adult sibling of the patient, or an adult relative of the patient.

There exist concerns that both bills may violate Florida's constitutional right of privacy by authorizing the government to supercede the wishes of a patient. Article I, Section 23 of the Florida Constitution provides: "Right of Privacy.--Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from government intrusion into the person's private life..."

The bill is scheduled to be heard for discussion in the Senate and House on Thursday, March 17, 2005. Both bills should come to a vote on Friday, March 18, 2005.

Contact your senator and representative and let them know your thoughts.

Florida Senate - http://www.flsenate.gov/
Florida House of Representatives - http://www.myfloridahouse.com/

The Schiavo Saga - The Facts

Over the last few years, much misinformation has been diseminated by special interest groups that have hijacked a tragic family squabble and turned it into an international circus. Here are some common questions with the appropriate facts.

What is Terri's condition and how did this happen?

On February 25, 1990, Terri Schiavo suffered a heart attack and her brain went many minutes without oxygen. In 1993, Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, received on her behalf a $1 million settlement from Terri's doctors for their failure to diagnose Bulimia which led to her heart failure. In December 2003, Dr. Jay Wolfson issued a report to Governor Jeb Bush which identified the likelihood that Terri's cardiac arrest was caused by Bulimia.

Terri has never regained consciousness and is currently in a persistent vegetative state. She is unable to live without receiving nourishment from a feeding tube. Medical experts and the courts have determined that there exists no new medical treatment that could improve Terri's condition.

Is it true that Terri exhibits expressions, recognizes her parents, and is trying to speak, which may become possible through therapy?

As stated above, Terri's condition is irreversible and absent a miracle from God, she will never recover. Terri's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, have aired a video that appears to show Terri as responsive to her mother. In another scene of the video, Mr. Schindler holds a balloon and Terri appears to follow the balloon; however, Mr. Schindler is unable to get Terri to follow the balloon with her eyes a second time. The trial court thoroughly studied the video and found that Terri's "actions were neither consistent nor reproducible."

Has the court determined that Terri wished to not be kept on life support?

Unfortunately, Terri Schiavo did not have a living will, so there is no documented record of her wishes. Michael and other witnesses, however, have testified that Terri made oral statements that she did not wish to live on life support. The court heard testimony from Michael, the Schindlers, and other witnesses and ruled that Terri would not have wanted to remain on life support.

Would Michael have any personal motive for removing Terri's life support?

Many allegations have been made against Michael, but none have been substantiated. Following Terri's heart attack, Michael lived with the Schindlers and worked together to care for Terri. When Michael determined that Terri could not recover and decided to remove her life support, the Schindlers changed their opinion of Michael. There is no proof that Michael has any motive to end Terri's life.

A rumor that Michael was an abusive husband has been circulating among political activists for years, but physicians have never found any evidence that this is true. The Second Court of Appeal found, to the contrary, that Michael was a caring husband who loved his wife. There are accusations that Michael wants to end Terri's life, so she could never recuperate and testify against him for domestic violence. Physicians have determined that Terri will never recover from her condition and would therefore never be able to testify against Michael for any wrongdoing. Still, doctors have not found any evidence to support the accusations of domestic violence.

Another rumor is that Michael wants Terri to die so he could receive payment under her life insurance policy. There is, of course, no way to know for sure; however, it does seem obvious that Michael is not looking for a quick payoff. In recent weeks, Michael Schiavo has been offered payments of $1 million and $10 million if he surrenders his authority to terminate life support for Terri. He has refused both offers and instead continues to care for his wife.


Source: http://abstractappeal.com/

Schiavo disputes smear attacks

On ABC's Nightline, Schiavo disputed many of the vicious smear attacks circulating on the Internet regarding the motives behind his decision to remove his wife from life support and allow her to die with dignity this Friday.

Schiavo dismissed the rumor that he wants to end his wife's suffering so he can recover money won in a medical malpractice lawsuit in the 1990s. The fact is that the award of nearly $800,000 has been nearly exhausted paying for Terri's medical bills and other expenses related to her care. Another rumor that is equally offensive is that Schiavo physically abused his wife and caused her condition. (The attack was found by a court of law to have been caused by bulimia.)

To the contrary, the Florida Second Court of Appeal stated, "Theresa has been blessed with loving parents and a loving husband. Many patients in this condition would have been abandoned by friends and family within the first year. Michael has continued to care for her and to visit her all these years. He has never divorced her. He has become a professional respiratory therapist and works in a nearby hospital. As a guardian, he has always attempted to provide optimum treatment for his wife. He has been a diligent watch guard of Theresa's care, never hesitating to annoy the nursing staff in order to assure that she receives the proper treatment."

The attacks on Michael Schiavo and his supporters have stepped up in recent days and should peak by Friday. He states, however, that he will remain committed to his wife's cause and will continue to ensure that her wishes are honored.

Michael Schiavo honors wife on national television

Last night, Michael Schiavo appeared on ABC's Nightline to discuss the saga regarding his wife, Terri. At times becoming emotional, Schiavo discussed his conversations with his wife before her heart attack when she stated that she never wanted to be kept alive by machines. He criticized Governor Jeb Bush and members of the Florida Legislature who are using his wife to win political points by pandering to religious extremists.

Mr. Schiavo discussed the time he spends with his wife and how he looks into Terri's eyes and sees no response. Schiavo has repeatedly invited Governor Bush to join him at his wife's bedside, so the governor could see her condition firsthand. Schiavo stated that Bush's concern is not really with Terri, because he has never taken him up on his offer. Last weekend, Governor Bush was 20 minutes away from the hospice where Terri is located, but he chose not to visit.

The right-wing organizations that are fueling this fight have little concern for Terri. The so-called "supporters" of Terri Schiavo, such as the American Family Association, have launched an aggressive campaign to call, and at times harrass, the offices of state legislators and provide misinformation about the case. The AFA is clearly out of the mainstream of America, devoting their web site homepage to defending the execution of children and attacking the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants for being a homosexual. Another web site for so-called "supporters" of Terri Schiavo has opened the "I Starved My Wife To Death" Web Store. On the web site, they offer t-shirts, key chains, and coffee mugs featuring a photo of Michael Schiavo's head pasted on the body of Fonzi from Happy Days with the text, "I starved my wife to death and all I got was this lousy t-shirt". This is absolutely disgusting.

Schiavo also addressed the rumor started by right-wing groups that he beat his wife and may have caused her condition. Experts and the courts have determined that this is not the case, and Schiavo said that those accusations are the most painful for him to endure. "Where's the documentation?" asked Schiavo.

15 March 2005

Medical privacy, as seen on television

House, M.D. is a new television show on the Fox network dealing with a team of doctors who are assigned to care for patients whom other doctors are unable to treat. In tonight's episode, there was a patient who displayed symptoms of colon cancer. Her physician said that he would need to conduct a colonoscopy, but the patient initially refused. Now, don't worry. Everything worked out in the end, and the patient lived. But the episode raised some serious questions. If the Florida Legislature had its way, would a patient ever be able to refuse treatment? When will private individuals be able to make their own decisions and when will those decisions be made by the government?

The most recent bill filed in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature regarding the Terri Schiavo case begins what may be a very dangerous trend - the government gaining more control over our personal lives, essentially eroding our individual liberty. Remember the Republican Party that talked about "less government" and "more personal freedom"? Well, that Party is gone. The new Republican Party of Florida believes that people need to be protected from themselves and that the government is the one to do the protecting.

Schiavo bill empowers government over families

In October 2003, the Florida Legislature passed the bill which later became known as "Terri's Law." Terri Schiavo, as you may remember, has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990 following a heart attack. Physicians have declared that her brain damage is irreversible, and she is unable to live without the help of a feeding tube. Her husband Michael Schiavo originally cared for his wife, but when the doctors said her condition would only deteriorate, he decided that the tube should be removed so Terri could die with dignity. Michael's wife had told him prior to her heart attack that she never wanted to be kept alive by machines.

The 2003 legislation, championed by then Florida House Speaker Johnny Byrd, was specifically drafted so it would only affect one person, Terri Schiavo. Legislation is typically not written to affect only one person, and the courts eventually struck down the bill. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the bill unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The legislation that is currently before the Florida Legislature is broadly written in order to avoid any potential constitutional issues. This is why the Floridians should be alarmed.

THE 2005 LEGISLATION

The two bills in the Florida Legislature, Senate Bill 804 and House Bill 701, are different pieces of legislation, but they have striking similarities. Most importantly, both bills contain provisions where the government may take life and death decisions away from families. If you oppose machines keeping you alive, you must specifically state your wishes in a living will - and this may not be fool-proof. If your living will states that you do not wish to be kept alive by machines, but you fail to specifically mention that you do not wish to be kept alive by a feeding or hydration tube, the government could intervene and overrule your wishes at a time when you can no longer speak for yourself. Essentially, the government is taking important decisions away from Floridians because some Tallahassee politicians think they know better.