02 April 2005

What did Tom DeLay mean?

Much is being said regarding the statement by the Republican leader in Congress, Tom DeLay. Republicans have been quick to distance themselves from their leader, and some have offered their own interpretations of the statement, trying to create a fictional account of Thursday's press conference. Let's go to the text:

"Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow." (emphasis added)

OK. He was pandering. Actually that may be the most extreme case of pandering to the religious right that I can recall. It is, however, important that we read the text closely and accurately digest its meaning. This statement by the majority leader of the United States Congress is a declaration of war on the judiciary. For many years, conservative Republicans have had only one bogeyman who was more popular than trial lawyers and liberals ... that is activist judges. A primary goal of the Republican-controlled Congress and of the Bush administration has been to stack the federal judiciary with their own activist judges who adhere to a strict conservative ideology. Most recently, Senator Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), Republican leader in the U.S. Senate, has proposed a "nuclear option" to eliminate the centuries-old tradition of using the filibuster to protect minority rights so that the GOP could ram through their unqualified and philosophically extreme candidates for the bench. This battle is just the beginning.

We have seen the Republicans plotting their strategy for years. The statement by Tom DeLay upon the death of Terri Schiavo did not signal an "end." It was a "beginning." So be prepared my fellow freedom fighters ... the war has begun!

01 April 2005

Conservatives in a post-Terri world

Yesterday's passing of Terri Schiavo was a sad moment for all of us. Regardless of how you felt about the legal wranglings surrounding this unfortunate circumstance, it still has been a trying two weeks for America. Terri

During the Schiavo saga, the conservatives showed their true colors and Americans must now pay attention. It is important to note that today's GOP is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. As conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan stated last year about the modern Republican Party, "This is not Reaganism. It isn't Gingrichism. It's Big Government Moral Conservatism: fiscally liberal and socially conservative." The size of government has never been bigger, federal spending is at an all-time high, deficits are sky-high, and government's role in our private affairs has never been greater nor more intrusive. Over the past two weeks, national and state Republicans have shown their hand and revealed their true agenda to the world. They want a larger, more powerful government that creates order by exercising greater control over the nation's citizens. Advocating government sponsored prayer, rescinding our rights to privacy, usurping our civil rights ... like I said, this is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan.

The Schiavo saga revealed that conservatives would like to take away an American's right to die with dignity and to refuse treatment for terminal illness. These objectives were made very clear. Thursday evening on Hardball, David Gregory, who was guest hosting for Chris Matthews, interviewed Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, a Schindler family spokesman and leader of the religious right. Father Pavone stated that what occurred to Terri Schiavo was technically murder. When asked to explain his statement, the priest stated that since the removal of Terri's feeding tube caused her death and since the government mandated the removal of the tube, one must conclude that the government murdered Terri. I don't agree, but I will concede that it is a logical argument. However if you apply that same reasoning to every situation where artificial means are used to keep someone alive, then every case when a person is removed from life support, whether by a ventilator or feeding tube, is technically assisted suicide, or euthanasia. Leaders of the religious right and most public officials agree that euthanasia is not justified in our society. Therefore if you apply Father Pavone's standard to all situations of life support or sustenance by artificial means, removal of life support, whether by court order or living will, should be illegal. Father Pavone telegraphed his intentions and the goal of the religious right.

So, you think I'm overreacting? I don't blame you. But don't take my word for it. Listen to the religious right. Reverend Pat Mahoney, executive director of the Christian Defense Coalition and a strong supporter of the Schindlers, has stated that a major goal of the religious right is to roll back laws that recognize artificial sustenance and hydration as medical treatment. Mahoney is not alone. "I cannot disagree more: Food and water is not medical treatment. It's ordinary care," said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. Stemberger went further: "Our primary interest is what the law should be, not what the law is, and this will be one of our top priorities: to create new public policy." Since 1990, the federal courts have recognized a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment, including artificial sustenance and hydration. Mahoney and others aim to change those definitions. In fact, that is what they were trying to do with Terri Schiavo.

On the same Thursday episode of Hardball, David Gregory interviewed Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) by telephone to discuss the Schiavo case. Santorum stated that he was opposed to how the issue concluded, so Gregory asked him the million dollar question. He asked if the senator believed in an individual's right to die. Santorum said "no." While people in good faith may disagree on the merits of the Schiavo case, the Santorum position is much more extreme. By his statement, Senator Santorum opposes living wills when the subject's wishes are to not live by artificial means. This goes much further than the case of Terri Schiavo where there was some dispute on her wishes. Santorum, and conservatives like him, believe that Americans should not ... Americans must not have the right to refuse medical treatment, including artifical sustenance and hydration.

The passing of Terri Schiavo was a sad moment. It should also, however, be a wake-up call to those who value our liberties. There are conservatives who want to infringe on our God-given freedom, and it is imperative that those who love America and everything that it represents stand up and fight.

31 March 2005

Media reports regarding cremation and the Catholic Church

Throughout the tragic Schiavo ordeal, most have been greatly disappointed with the irresponsible reporting by the cable news networks and other 24-hour news outlets. Now as a family struggle emerges over how to lay Terri Schiavo to rest, the media is falsely reporting statements regarding Catholic dogma.

Another dispute between Michael Schiavo and Terri's parents is emerging. Following an autopsy by the Chief Medical Examiner representing Pinellas County, Michael would like to have Terri's body cremated, while the parents claim that this would be against their Catholic faith. The media continues to broadcast this claim, which is blatantly false.

For many centuries, the Catholic Church opposed the cremation of deceased Catholics. This is, however, no longer the case. In 1963 on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI and the Holy Office issued the following statement: "Cremation does not affect the soul nor prevent God's omnipotence from restoring the body; neither then, does it in itself include an objective denial of ... dogma. The issue is not therefore an intrinsically evil act, opposed per se to the Christian religion."

In the Code of Canon Law, 1985, the Catholic Church clarifies its position by stating, "The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremations, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching."

Additionally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body."

The media should not choose sides on this issue; however, they have an obligation to report the truth. If the parents wish that Terri's body not be cremated, the media has an obligation to report those wishes. The media, however, has an obligation to prevent false information from being disseminated via their network.

CNN offers biased perspective following Terri's death

As further proof that CNN is attempting to move its news perspective to the right, the coverage immediately following the death of Terri Schiavo was extremely biased on behalf of the parents. In an interview at approximately 10:40 AM, anchor Daryn Kagan, who is currently dating right-wing radio show host Rush Limbaugh, granted an exclusive interview to anti-abortion extremist and Schindler spokesman, Randall Terry. During the interview, Terry continued attacks on Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo, and continued to use this tragedy for his own political purposes.

With FOX News, FOX-lite (aka - MSNBC), and now CNN (the Conservative News Network), there is no longer any fair and balanced news on cable.

BREAKING NEWS: Terri Schiavo has died

According to news reports just coming from Pinellas Park, Terri Schiavo has died, thirteen days after being removed from life support and sixteen years after her heart attack.

More to come ...

Bullard and the Swallow Test, Part II

Today at 9:22 AM, Senator Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami) asked for a point of personal privilege on the floor. Senate President Tom Lee (R-Brandon) gave a look as if he had soiled himself, then denied the motion and asked Senator Bullard to join him in the front of the Senate chamber to discuss her "point."

Obviously, Senator Bullard is attempting to clarify her statements yesterday calling for a "swallow test" in the case of Terri Schiavo.

More to come ... I'm sure!

Bullard and the Swallow Test

Senator Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami), who frequently provides comic relief to the Florida Legislature's upper chamber. Following her "no" vote on the legislation by Senator Daniel Webster last week that was intended to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, Senator Bullard has continued to stick to her guns. A visit by Reverend Jesse Jackson may have changed her mind.

Following her meeting with Reverend Jackson, Senator Bullard stated that she would be willing to change her vote if it could be proven to her that Terri Schiavo could pass a "swallow test." Her statements caused quite a stir in the state's capitol, so Bullard released a clarification through a statement later in the day. Bullard stated, "there has to be absolute proof that Ms. Terri Schiavo is currently physically able to pass a swallow test. By this I mean non-reflexive swallowing affirming by independent medical personnel. Until that test is met and proven to me beyond a shadow of a doubt, I will not change my vote."

More to come ...

30 March 2005

Politicians to the people: "You're stupid!"

The next time a politician shakes your hand, smiles at your family, or kisses your baby, don't be fooled. He or she doesn't respect you. In the eyes of a politician, the voters are stupid and can't be trusted with their own futures. Therefore, these so-called public servants are pushing forward three constitutional amendments that will make it nearly impossible for individuals and grassroots organizations to amend the state's governing document. And can you blame them? After passing initiatives that have done such horrible things like limiting class size, creating universal pre-kindergarten, and raising the minimum wage, it is evident that the voters of Florida must be saved from themselves. Today at 2:00 PM, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider two of the bills that will leave Florida voters completely impotent and forced out of the political process. But apparently, it is for our own good.

Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Senator Jim King (R-Jacksonville), would limit all future initiatives to issues that are already addressed in the state constitution. The majority of constitutional amendments that have been voted upon by the people of Florida have been placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature themselves. Of course, those amendments advanced by the Legislature would not be affected by SB 4. Only the amendments that originate with the people would face these unreasonable limits. How would this affect us? If this standard had been in place in 2002 and 2004, the class size, universal pre-K, and minimum wage amendments would not have been eligible for the ballot and the voters would not have been allowed to make a decision on these important issues. Again, we apparently need protection from ourselves.

The next proposed amendment limiting the voice of Florida's voters is Senate Bill 6, again sponsored by Senator King. This legislation would increase the percentage needed for passage of a constitutional amendment from a majority (fifty percent plus one) to a super-majority of sixty percent. Fortunately the politicians have decided to treat this amendment fairly by applying it to all types of constitutional amendments, even those proposed by the Florida Legislature. It would, however, have a negative affect on important issues in Florida. If this standard had previously been in place, the class size and universal pre-K amendments, along with the recent slot machines initiative, would have failed.

The Florida Legislature has 37 days remaining, and many of the politicians will use these five weeks to remove us pesky citizens completely from the political process. Considering that the reappointment process has rigged all of Congressional and state legislative seats so that the politicians are no longer voted into office by the people but rather selected by the party bosses, it is imperative that the legislature not be allowed to banish the citizens from the public square. If these senators and representatives are successful in their quest, this last light of democracy in Florida, the right of the people to have a say in their government, will be extinguished forever.

28 March 2005

Pro-choice: Locked & Loaded?

While every self-respecting anti-abortion extremist is either in Washington, Tallahassee, or Pinellas Park attempting to use the tragedy of Terri Schiavo for their own purpose, an interesting piece of legislation has been fast tracked for passage in the Florida Legislature. Under the bill entitled, Protection of Persons/Use of Force, a person may use deadly force against another if he or she reasonably believes that a threat of harm exists. If this becomes law, anti-abortion activists may find themselves facing the barrel of a gun next time they aggressively protest at a clinic.

Under Senate Bill 436, "[a] person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." This legislation has been applauded by most on the right and some on the left, and the National Rifle Association has expressed great pride that they were able to push this bill through the legislature. What the sponsors of the bill, Senator Durell Peaden (R-Crestview) and Representative Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), may have failed to consider is that this bill will provide Planned Parenthood with the ammunition, no pun intended, they need to fend off those protestors who act aggressively.

Anti-abortion activists have a rich history of violence and terrorism. Extremists like Randall Terry, who has recently served as spokesman for the parents of Terri Schiavo and founded the violent organization Operation Rescue, has spawned such killers as James Kopp and the infamous Paul Hill, who was recently executed in Florida. Because of the violence that exists in the anti-abortion movement, women who seek these procedures may "reasonably believe" that protestors who act billigerently may try to kill or cause great bodily harm to them. The legislation creates a subjective standard of perception for those who are victims of an aggressor. This means that women entering abortion clinics, or their escorts, will have legal protection to start blasting if the protestors get too close and too outrageous.

This bill appears to be a victory for the Florida GOP, but the right-wingers in Tallahassee shouldn't be too quick to pat themselves on the back. The next time they see Planned Parenthood loading supporters on a bus, they may not be transporting them to a rally, but rather a gun show. And the next time their conduct gets out-of-hand in front of a medical clinic, anti-abortion activists may find that they need this law like they need a hole in the head.

Religious Right: The GOP created a monster

What do Osama bin Ladin, Saddam Hussein, and the religious right have in common? They are all creations of the GOP that have come back to haunt them.

This week, Republicans in Congress and Florida are feeling the backlash of religious activists that feel betrayed by the GOP regarding Terri Schiavo. Randall Terry, Alan Keyes, Larry Klayman, and other national leaders of the Republican Party spent the weekend lashing out at their party for failing to assist Terri Schiavo. During a press conference on Easter Sunday, Klayman asked Governor Jeb Bush to "be a man" and to act in saving Terri's life.

The governor has claimed that he doesn't have the power to intervene. That's this week. Two weeks ago, the governor was leading the charge for government intervention in the Schiavo case. And in October 2003, the governor led the fight to "save" Terri by forcing through the Florida Legislature a bill that was known to be unconstitutional. By doing so, the governor violated the oath he swore to uphold when he took office.

But now, Governor Bush doesn't care. "It is heart-breaking for me to not have the power to be able to intervene, but I don't," the governor said. Of course, Governor Bush didn't seem to mind in 2003 and two weeks ago that he didn't have the power to intervene, but then the poll numbers were different then. Suddenly, polls are against breaking hard against the religious right, and as a result, Governor Bush has been hit with a rare case of humility.

The outrage by religious activists is sure to continue, and there is not much that Governor Bush can do to stop them. To date, the governor's response has been incredibly weak and will probably fail to calm the storm on the right. As domestic terrorist and founder of Operation Rescue Randall Terry warned the Republican Party, there will be "hell to pay."