The Powers That Blog

While we keep track of politics at a certain level, this is not a poliblog, nor a warblog. Maybe "eclectiblog" is a good description, as we note thoughts on topics from art to parenting to whatever comes to mind.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Petition to Impeach Judge Greer

Below is a highly informative petition to begin impeachment procedings for Judge Greer, who has been the presiding judge in the Terri Schiavo case since the beginning. Please take the time to read and sign it. We do not need judges like this on the bench.

Also, please sign this short petition posted by the Justice Coalition. If you haven't already, please sign the other petitions posted here. Finally, be sure to visit www.blogsforterri.com for more ways you can help save Terri Schiavo's life. This is where I received the info on these petitions. There is a lot going on, and lots you can still do to help. Let's all continue to do what we can.

To: Florida House of Representatives

Whereas the Florida Constitution Article III Section 17 provides for the impeachment of judges for misdemeanor in office, misdemeanor being defined as a misdeed or offense less than a felony.

Whereas Judge George W. Greer is a judge in the 6th circuit court of Florida and bound to rule in agreement with Florida Statutes and the Judicial Code of Ethics,

The undersigned are petitioning Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and the Florida House of Representatives to impeach Judge George W. Greer pursuant to the provisions in the Florida Constitution for the following violations of Statutes and Judicial Canons, which prove justification for impeachment.

Judge George W. Greer has caused public confidence in the judiciary to deteriorate due to his rulings regarding Terri Schiavo and thus violated Judicial Canon 1.

Judge George W. Greer has made rulings, which advance the private interests of Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Senate President Jim King by allowing the statutes, which apply, to persons with terminal illness to order the death of Terri Schiavo by dehydration and starvation at the request of Michael Schiavo and thus is in violation of Judicial Canon 2B.

Judge George W. Greer has not ruled according to law in the case of whether to remove Terri Schiavo’s tube by which she receives nutrition and hydration. The rulings, which are inconsistent with Florida Statutes and Constitution, are:

1. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(2 ) for failure to discharge his duties as guardian. The statute requires that the guardian protect the rights of the ward, provide for her health and safety, properly manage her financial resources and help her regain her abilities to the maximum extent possible.

2. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(3) for abuse of his powers as evidenced by his denying her any significant sensory stimulation and his efforts to have her life ended.

3. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(7) for wasting, embezzlement, or other mismanagement of the ward's property, one example is Michael’s statement on national television that he had Terri’s wedding rings melted down and made into jewelry for himself.

4. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(11) because of a conflict of interest between the ward and the guardian due to Michael Schiavo living with and fathering children with another woman.

5. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(13) for failure to comply with the guardianship report.

6. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(14) for failure to file annual guardianship reports in a timely manner.

7. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(16) for improperly managing the ward’s assets by using Terri’s money which was awarded by a court to be used for her rehabilitation but at the authorization of Judge Greer is being used to pay legal fees in an effort to end Terri’s life.

8. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(17) because there has been a significant change in Terri’s assets due to the actions of her guardian. Terri’s assets have likely increased since her accident and Michael Schiavo is denying Terri the benefit of any assets accrued after the malpractice award which would be equally hers as Michael’s legal spouse.

9. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian even though he should be removed as Terri’s guardian pursuant to Florida Statute 744.474(18) because Michael’s adulterous relationship (which is a misdemeanor under Florida law) with another woman ought to disqualify Michael as a suitable guardian for Terri as the interest which Michael said (in malpractice trial court proceedings) he had toward Terri is directed to another woman who is not his wife and has two children by said other woman of whom he is the father.

10. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to remain as Terri’s guardian and has aided Michael in abusing, neglecting, and exploiting Terri, a vulnerable adult, by appropriating funds that were awarded for her rehabilitation to pay legal fees, and has aided in exploiting Terri by denying the money to be used for her benefit. Both these infractions were committed with the knowledge that Terri lacked the capacity to consent and explained in detail in Florida Statute 415.102.

11. Judge Greer’s rulings to date have deprived Terri Schiavo of her constitutional right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property which are detailed in Section 2 of the Florida Constitution by ordering her life to be ended by denying her hydration and nutrition.

12. Judge Greer has deprived Terri of her constitutional religious rights by allowing Michael Schiavo to prevent Monsignor Malonowski from visiting Terri, by allowing Michael to prevent Monsignor Malinowski from administering last rites when her feeding tube was removed in October 2003, and by allowing Michael to prevent Terri’s blood relatives from placing pictures of religious figures in her room.

13. Judge Greer has allowed Terri’s constitutional right to privacy to be violated by Michael Schiavo by not restricting his comments during interviews on national television.

14. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215C(a) To have an annual review of the guardianship report and plan.

15. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215(b) (b) to have continuing review of the need for restriction of her rights.

16. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right to be restored to capacity, FL statute 744.3215C.

17. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215(d) (d) to be treated humanely, with dignity and respect, and to be protected against abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

18. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215(e) to have a qualified guardian.

19. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215(f) to remain as independent as possible, including having her preference as to place and standard of living honored, either as she expressed or demonstrated her preference prior to the determination of his or her incapacity or as she currently expresses her preference, insofar as such request is reasonable.

20. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215 (g) to be properly educated. She is not receiving any rehabilitative therapy.

21. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215 (h) to receive prudent financial management for her property and to be informed how her property is being managed. Michael Schiavo stated on national television that he melted Terri’s wedding rings down and had them made into jewelry for himself.

22. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215 (i) to receive necessary services and rehabilitation. Judge Greer has allowed Michael to deprive Terri of the same. She did not have a working wheelchair for an extended and unnecessarily long period of time.

23. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215 (k) to have access to the courts. Judge Greer has relied upon the testimony of others related to Michael Schiavo as to Terri’s condition yet ignored the testimony of her blood relatives which was contradictory to information provided by Michael and his family.

24. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215(l) to counsel.

25. Judge Greer has denied Terri the right under 744.3215(m) to receive visitors and communicate with others.

26. Judge Greer has allowed violation of 744.3215(a) by allowing Terri to be moved to different facilities without prior approval of the court.

27. Judge Greer has allowed violation of 744.3215(b) not requiring Michael to have follow up examinations of electrodes, which were implanted in Terri’s brain. These implants should have been removed years ago, as they are a source for both infection and hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus may cause pressure that could suppress cognitive function and be responsible for much of Terri’s condition. If so, there could be a vast improvement in her condition if a shunt were placed. Hydrocephalus could also cause pressure that would flatten the brain and show fluid filled areas on a brain scan.

28. Judge Greer has allowed Michael to violate a court order stating that he is to keep Terri’s family advised of her medical condition.

29. Judge Greer has ignored Terri’s right under 765.102(5)(a) to palliative care which addresses physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and existential needs of patients.

30. Judge Greer has not required Michael Schiavo to implement a plan which would provide for Terri’s needs under 765.102(5)(a).

31. Judge Greer has allowed Michael Schiavo to neglect Guardianship Education, which is a requirement under Florida law.

32. Judge Greer relied on Dr. Ronald Cranford’s definition of PVS (Persistent Vegetative State) instead of the legal definition contained in the Florida Statutes. There were several doctors who gave reports that Terri is not PVS but Greer decided not to use the Florida Statute’s definition.

33. Judge Greer has failed to be impartial and has ignored testimony and evidence presented by Counsel for Terri’s natural family and has consistently ruled in agreement with Counsel for Michael Schiavo.

34. Judge Greer has allowed Michael to continue denying visitation to Terri’s family even though a police investigation found that they were not responsible for marks found on her arm.

35. Judge Greer in his February 11, 2000 Order, committed malpractice by misdiagnosing Terri as being an unconscious and unaware person and then ordered the Guardian of the Ward to commit a 1st Degree Felony Crime by removing Terri's feeding tube and denying her constitutional and legal right to be protected and not feloniously victimized by being caused to die.

35. Judge Greer authorized the euthanization of Terri Schiavo by authorizing the removal of her feeding tube when she does not fit the definition of PVS under Florida statutes. Euthanasia is illegal in Florida.

36. Judge Greer has violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Sections 12101 provides that necessary and appropriate rehabilitation services and physical/motor skill therapy may not be denied a substantially disabled patient in the United States of America.

37. Judge Greer has violated the ADA Cf 28 CFR, Ch 1, Subpart B, Sect 35.130 States "Nothing in the Act or this part authorizes the representative or guardian of an individual with a disability to decline food, water, medical treatment, or medical services for that individual."

38. Judge Greer has violated FS 38.10 four times by not disqualifying himself from the case when it was requested. The statute states whenever a party to any action or proceeding makes and files an affidavit stating fear that he or she will not receive a fair trial in the court where the suit is pending on account of the prejudice of the judge of that court against the applicant or in favor of the adverse party, the judge shall proceed no further, but another judge shall be designated in the manner prescribed by the laws of this state for the substitution of judges for the trial of causes in which the presiding judge is disqualified. The rulings and actions listed above are in violation of Judicial Canon 3B(2) Judge Greer has violated Judicial Canon 3B(4) as seen in a video clip of a court proceeding where Judge Greer was visibly impatient and angry during court proceedings. The video can be viewed at this url. http://real.scripps.com:8480/ramgen/tampalive/
news/http://www.flcourts.org/osca/divisions/Guardian/
The Undersigned

View Current Signatures

The
Impeach Judge George W. Greer of Florida's Sixth Judicial Circuit Petition to Florida House of Representatives was created by RiPe4Change and written by P. R. Karnbach. This petition is hosted here at www.PetitionOnline.com as a public service.

Word from Rome, 2/25/05

This caught my eye in this week's Word from Rome:

Among other things, Gaillardetz wittily remarked that if a small diocese gets a prelate who's even halfway competent and energetic, it's clear from the outset that he's a "Rent-A-Bishop" - in other words, before long he'll be transferred somewhere else


In the Denver archdiocese, there were two bishops, and one of them has recently been transferred elsewhere, leaving the senior bishop where he's at. That's a model that could be less stressful to smaller dioceses - have the main guy, and then a sub-bishop who maybe proves himself meant for bigger and better things. If he's not quite good enough to go bigger then he stays and eases transition when the main guy retires. If he moves on, there's no big stress over the question of "who will they send to replace him?"

John Allen is a good reporter. There just wasn't much to pique my interest this week, and Il Papa didn't get a tracheotomy until the Word From Rome had already been filed.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A Tale of Two Cancers

This past year, two people afflicted with pancreatic cancer have crossed my path. One patient, an elderly grandmother, died peacefully in her home about three months after she was diagnosed. The other, a young mother of two young children, is fighting for every extra day she can spend with her family.

I met the grandmother, whom I’ll call Sylvia, a few months before she died because I started bringing Communion to her shortly after she got diagnosed. Sylvia was a very cheerful, friendly woman, and I got to like her immediately. She was usually tired and had very little appetite the entire time I knew her, but she was cheerful. She tried chemotherapy and it didn’t work. She may have tried other treatments, but in any case, she found herself out of options while the cancer continued to grow inside her.

I’d heard something about treating cancer naturally through diet, so I did a little research to see if there was anything out there on treating pancreatic cancer that way. I figured if I found something simple, I’d pass it on to Sylvia. After all, it couldn’t hurt. I didn’t find much. Most of what I came across at the time dealt with using diet to prevent cancer, not to treat it once it struck. So I didn’t say anything to Sylvia about that. It became clear to me from our weekly visits that it was getting close to Sylvia’s time to go. She was ready. Her family was ready. Our priest stopped by and gave her Last Rites. It was just a matter of when.

I last saw Sylvia two days before she died. She was lying in a hospital bed at home breathing heavily, not talking, not eating. She seemed to be already in another world, but I had the sense that she also vaguely knew what was going on around her. She died in her sleep later that week.

People who continue to believe the Terri Schiavo case is largely an end of life issue might have the impression those of us fighting to save her life are these insensitive monsters who can’t handle the fact that everyone dies at some point. We’d stuff a feeding tube down the throat of a dying woman in the hopes of postponing her inevitable death and prolonging her suffering by another week. But it isn’t so. I don’t think anyone caring for Sylvia would have even considered force-feeding her. It certainly never occurred to me at the time. She was losing her battle to cancer and her body was going to succumb to it whether she ate anything or not. She didn’t feel like eating, so she didn’t and no one argued. Had she wanted to eat something, I know food would not have been refused her. She died peacefully at home under the care of her family—a family who had tried all the known reasonable options to save her life and in the end accepted that her life was over.

I haven’t met the young mother, whom I’ll call Jamie. Her story as I understand it is that she has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. About the same time her diagnosis came in, she developed some sort of infection. The combination of the cancer and the infection made Jamie so sick that she was confined to her bed and her doctors gave her two weeks to live. Not only that, it was too late to even try anything like chemotherapy. She was already too sick, and there was nothing they could do for her.

Jamie decided there was something she could do. In 1995, a group of scientists in a remote laboratory in Sweden made the serendipetous discovery that something in human breast milk causes cancer cells to commit suicide—all kinds of cancer cells. Since then, people have come up with a way to process human milk so that it can be taken as a treatment for cancer. Jamie decided to try it. If it would buy her even one extra day with her family, it would be worth it. So breastfeeding mothers she knows and the mothers they know quickly got organized to extract their own milk and give it to her. I found out about her situation and the opportunity to donate breast milk through an email that someone in my mom’s group posted. She’d copied it from a post on her doula discussion board.

I was in the area where Jamie and her friends live over the weekend so I made a donation yesterday. I believe in doing whatever I can to save a life, and at this time in my life, my body is producing another mother’s last hope. The little bit of milk I give, along with the milk many other mothers are giving, has the possibility of prolonging Jamie’s life not just by days, but by years.

Jamie has already taken one or two treatments of specially processed human milk. She is feeling much better and is now able to sit up. In fact, she has improved so much that she can now use both chemotherapy and radiation treatment to fight the cancer. She will also continue to ingest breast milk; that, at least comes without the nasty side effects. Other people on that treatment have lived for years beyond the amount of time their doctors told them they had.

I hope Jamie’s cancer goes into remission. I’m told pancreatic cancer is an especially aggressive disease, so she’s in for a big fight. It’s a fight she wants to win for the sake of her children. I am planning to give her more of my milk and will keep in touch with the people who know her.

For those of you who are curious or skeptical, here is a page of links to websites which talk about using human baby milk for treating adult problems. Next time I meet someone with cancer I will definitely recommend they consider this possibility.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

MunchK's first sentence

This week the MunchK spoke her first sentence: "I'm done." She first said it on the potty, and I overheard the Beautiful Belgian Babe say "You spoke your first sentence!" Later as I carried her along, I asked what that first sentence had been. When the BBB repeated it, the MunchK looked up at me with calm, clear understanding and said "I'm done."

It might not seem like much, but it was a terribly starting thing to me. It was the look in her eyes, really, a look that said "I'm not just repeating fragmentary connections here, I know exactly what's going on and exactly what I'm saying and I know exactly what you're thinking when you hear it."

Years ago I met a woman who had been born with a defect that basically took out the middle bone of each finger, toe, and apparently the middle section of other bones as well. She was tremendously short, very child-sized, but there warn't nothin' wrong with her brain, sonny. I think she was a student at Northern Arizona University, but I could have that wrong. Very friendly person, and I got the impression that she was so confident in herself that she wouldn't have been offended if someone had talked to her like a very little girl. She would just have replied as herself, not role-playing, and had that look in her eyes that said she understood perfectly what other people thought but viewed herself very much as an equal.

That's the look I saw in the eyes of the MunchK.

Three weeks to go

So Terri Schiavo has been given a three-week reprieve on being deliberately starved to death. In one sense, I wish it was less time. Three weeks is enough time for people to lose the emotional edge of realizing what will happen to her, but (seemingly) not quite enough time for a real investigation to take place as to the status of her guardian. (Geez, "guardian". It's like calling a kidnapper a "temporary custodian".) We'll continue bringing up the issues, though. Don't give up on her yet!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Climbing Walls

[originally started this post 2/23 and had to wait]

Last night I was reminded (again, sigh) of a story that I guess has become a minor legend to small boys in the neighborhood. A few years ago some of the neighbor boys were at our house and I was chasing them up and down hallways, into closets, over furniture, and somehow managing to not quite catch them most of the time. If I did tackle one, of course, I gave him a thorough digging in the ribs to shrieking giggles, until another boy could come to the rescue and tackle me off the helpless sibling.

One favorite destination was the guest bathroom, halfway down the long center hallway. I would chase them wildly only to have the door slam in my face. Slink away, slink away, around a corner or in a next room, and wait for the laughter to subside and small boys come sneaking out, cautiously peering around corners to see where I was waiting in ambush. I got pretty good at luring them far from the safety of the bathroom door and then pouncing.

One day as a door slammed in my face, I got to looking around and thinking "This hallway isn't any wider than the places I used to climb when I was a kid." So I braced my back against the wall, found the upright board behind the other wall, planted my feet on it, and levered myself up to the ceiling to wait.

Pretty soon the bathroom door creaked open and a little blond head peered out, up the hallway, down the hallway...and soon he crept out of hiding, right underneath me. He must have heard something though, his head came up just as I pounced. Eyes wide and mouth in an "O", he tried to back away but he was much too late. However, the ensuing tickling didn't seem to faze him much at all, since he kept demanding in a loud voice "How did you get up there! How did you get up there!"

Naturally I had to show them. Brace back against wall, place feet on opposite wall (make sure a board is behind it) and walk up to the ceiling. For weeks after that, little boys would show up before I came home from work and ask the Beautiful Belgian Babe "Can we climb your walls?" (Yes, yes, all the "climbing walls" jokes jumped into my head too). What could she say? Only grownups are supposed to do that?

Some of the bigger boys in the neighborhood heard about it, and they wanted to see a demonstration. So I showed them, too. Brace back, place feet. One step up, two steps up, three, "...and you can go all the way to the ceiling!" I said - just before my left foot slipped. I tried to jam it back against the wall, which I managed, but I missed the solid part of the wall, which is critical. I fell, leaving a very nice footprint shaped hole in the wallboard.

Now, my wife does have something to say about climbing walls. The little boys were terribly disappointed that it was ix-nay on the wallclimbing, but they had quite the story about my fall. They still talk about it. They still laugh about it. They still tease me about it. Which has led to a very important resolution: When we build our dream house, it's going to have very solidly-braced walls.

After all, I want to climb walls again too!

Sherri claims corruption in Schiavo case

Straight Up With Sherri indicates she has had sources she deems reliable tell her that a lot of very corrupt things are happening in Florida over the Schiao case.


One very explosive charge is that the State Attorney’s Office had at one point given a directive to the local police department to not take any complaints or do any investigations about Terri Schiavo


I wish she could say more; it's always hard to judge anonymous sources, even when it's the *spit* reliable mainstream media *spit* reporting. Not that corruption in this case is tough to believe, but I hope this source of hers will come forward with testimony and evidence soon. (I also hope Sherri realizes how much her credibility may ride on these sources. Credibility is a tough thing to gain and an easy one to lose.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Few Facts About Terri

I copied this right from BlogsForTerri. How many times will these facts need to be repeated before people get it?

February 24, 2005
A few facts about Terri
For those of you who have not been keeping up with Terri's plight, here are some facts about Terri that you should know:

· Terri Schiavo is not a “vegetable,” she is not “brain dead,” and she is not in a persistent vegetative state. She recognizes and responds to others and makes attempts to verbally communicate. Videos and the truth about her condition is available at BlogsforTerri.com and terrisfight.org .

· Terri is not on life support but does receive food and water through a removable tube, which experts testify would not even be necessary if she were given therapy. This assisted feeding is a natural means of preserving life and not a medical act of life support or heroic measures.

· Twelve medical experts and nurses who cared for her confirmed these facts. Video available through BlogsforTerri.com shows Terri responding and interacting with others. Health care workers have testified under oath that she expresses herself using words, such as “mommy” and “help me”. This evidence was not allowed in court by Judge Greer.

· Terri is a person with disabilities who thinks and expresses her moods and desires. She is loved by her family and responds to their visits with smiles and laughter.

· Terri Schiavo may be the victim of ongoing negligence and injustice. She has been denied therapy and rehabilitation by her guardian since 1991. Florida’s guardianship laws REQUIRE that these necessary services be given to her.

· In 1992, Terri’s husband Michael won $1.7 million in negligence lawsuit under the pretext of funding her rehabilitation and care. He testified, “I believe in the vows that I took with my wife. Through sickness, in health, for richer or poorer. I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I'm going to do that.” Since that time, Terri has received no rehabilitation, all beneficial forms of stimulation (e.g. music) have been prohibited and basic health care, such as treatment for a life threatening urinary tract infection, has been purposefully withheld at Michael’s direction.

· Even though Terri’s husband has started a family of his own with another woman and their two children, he refuses to end his marriage to Terri or relinquish her care to her immediate family.

· Terri’s “collapse” has become controversial after a previously unavailable bone scan surfaced in 2002 which revealed multiple fractures consistent with a traumatic event. To date, no investigation has been conducted to determine the source of Terri’s injuries, but a radiologist gave a sworn statement that the date of those injuries would fall within the period of her mysterious collapse.

· Remarkably, The Florida Courts have sided with Michael, accepting the testimony of two “expert witnesses”, one of whom is a known advocate of “mercy killing”, over that of twelve independent medical professionals (6 of them neurologists).

· Without intervention by the Florida Governor and Legislature, Judge George Greer is set to give Michael the legal empowerment to withhold food and water from his wife for the purpose of starving her to death.

· Terri Schiavo deserves to have medical tests and therapy. She does not deserve to be starved and dehydrated to death.

· Advancements in the understanding of brain activity and misdiagnosis and the recent recovery of a patient after 20 years in a persistent vegetative state, further calls into question any decision that would end the life of Terri Schiavo.

Terri deserves to be cared for and loved by her family. She laughs and cries, she has a need for human companionship, she feels emotional and physical pain, she loves music, and she hates her dad's mustache when he kisses her (she makes a face). Her body isn't perfect, but her heart is. Why does Michael Schiavo, Judge George Greer, and George Felos want her dead?

Posted by richard at February 24, 2005 06:55 PM
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More Petitions and Contacts

You can find a number of petitions (including the two I posted earlier) by going here.

Names and numbers of people to contact can be found here and here.

It's important to let the people who can make important decisions know your concern and desire for Terri's life to be spared. In calling people, please be courteous and friendly. Your comments will be noted and they do matter.

Also, please visit BlogsForTerri for the latest news and information. Richard and Tim update this site almost hourly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Father's Fear

Tom McMahon sent me the following story about his own son. This is a reminder that although we are focusing on saving Terri Schiavo's life--and that alone is worth doing--many other disabled people will be impacted by what happens to Terri.

When Will They Be Coming For Ryan?
In February 1991 our son Ryan suffered a severe brain injury. He was in the hospital for 6 months, and has never regained the ability to walk or talk. He cannot answer Yes or No by any means. He is totally dependent on our care. When he came home from the hospital, he had a feeding tube to his stomach just like Terri Schiavo does now. Through a lot of repetition he learned how to eat and drink again at home, and since we didn't need the feeding tube we removed it and the hole in his stomach healed quite well, quite naturally. He likes to be around people, and he watches a lot of TV.

In short, Ryan's pretty close to the level of functioning of Terri Schiavo, as far as I can tell from the news reports about her. And now her husband, Michael Schiavo, is very close to having her feeding tube removed and having her starved to death. It's at this point I hear the words of actress Frances McDormand as Fargo's Police Chief Marge Gunderson in my head: "And for what? A little bit of money." A little bit of money. The hundreds of thousands Michael Schiavo got to help her, he now stands to receive when she is starved to death. So he can continue on with the other woman he now lives with, and their children. The honorable thing would be for him to simply walk away and let Terri live, but I guess precedent-setting case law is not often set by honorable men doing the honorable thing.

So Terri Schiavo is about to die of a court-ordered thirst, to be starved to death. Ironic, isn't it? In this country a condemned man gets a Last Meal of whatever he wants -- steak, lobster, you name it. So the only thing you can conclude is that mass murderers have more rights than Terri Schiavo. But that's not the worst of it. If a demented disk jockey were to attempt to stage a wacky radio stunt that involved starving a bunch of small rodents, he would be run out of town on a rail. In this country, even gerbils have more rights than Terri Schiavo.

Right now the chess game in the courts continues. And when Terri Schiavo is put to death, you all will feel bad about it for a while, but it will slowly fade from memory as you move on to other things. But for us, a haunting question will remain: When Will They Be Coming For Ryan?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

on Terri Schiavo, with Keith and Gail and the BBB

Transcript of (part of) this morning's show.

8:07 am MST Mornings with Keith and Gail on 800 AM KCOL

K = Keith;
G = Gail;
BBB = Beautiful Belgian Babe

Additions in brackets are mine for clarity or obfuscation, as appropriate. Errors are almost certainly mine. -Crazy Diamond


K: 8:07 now on Mornings with Keith and Gail, newsradio 600 KCOL. About a week ago we got into this conversation about this study that came out that suggested that a good number of the estimated one hundred to three hundred thousand of people in this nation with significant brain damage may be prisoners within themselves. The study basically suggesting that thousands of brain-damaged people who are treated as if they are almost completely unaware of what’s going on around them may in fact hear and register what’s going on but be unable to respond. And it was chilling because we got into a conversation with you setting up this situation where What if, for example, you could see, and hear, and maybe even feel what was going on around you but there was absolutely no way you could communicate anything back in the opposite direction. You couldn’t move, you couldn’t move your eyes, right and left or up and down or blink, you couldn’t move a finger, you couldn’t talk, you couldn’t make any signal back because of a brain injury or brain damage, any signal back, but you could receive incoming information. Well, this study is suggesting that a lot of the people that we think are brain-damaged to the point where we think they are gone, may not be brain-damaged to that point and may be prisoners in their own situation. We got to thinking what would happen if you were in charge of deciding whether that person is to live or die. And before you decide quickly, the situation can flip on itself, because it’s entirely possible the person inside there does not want to continue living but can’t even communicate that. So – Terri Schiavo comes to mind.

G: And imagine if you were Terri Schiavo, or Terri Schiavo’s friends, and family, and the Terri Schiavo case today has reached a critical juncture. Terri Schiavo of course the young Florida woman that has been in a coma for the past fifteen years, many doctors calling it a “Persistent Vegetative State”, but the question is, “Is it? Is she able to respond to certain stimuli? Is she able to respond to her friends, her family, that come in, to music, to just basic feelings of love and support that her family provide her?” Her husband, who has moved on with his life, that has remained her husband for the past fifteen years, says No. Has hired a euthanasia attorney. The reason I say this case has reached a critical juncture is because today, at one p.m., there was a motion filed that seemingly has been approved by a circuit court, that will remove Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, essentially starving her to death. Many people have become aware of this story, it’s tugged at their heartstrings, because it is one of those conundrums in life. And what would you do? Over a hundred and thirty bloggers nationwide have picked up the gauntlet and have now established their own blogsite, called triple-dub Terri’s fight dot org [Gail corrected this later in the show. The correct website is Blogs for Terri www.terrisfight.org is of course the official family site. – C.D.]. And we’re fortunate enough to be contacted by a Northern Colorado resident, [BBB], who actually is a blogger herself, and has gotten involved in the effort. [BBB], good morning.

BBB: Good morning.

G: Welcome to Mornings with Keith and Gail.

BBB: Thank you, glad to be here.

G: Tell us a little bit how you got involved with this entire effort to save Terri’s life.

BBB: Well, I remember when it first came out, back in the nineties. I had heard about it kind of on the peripheral, and I knew about it then because I had been involved in the pro-life movement. And then my husband and I started blogging a couple of months ago, and there was a comment posted on one of our posts that alerted us to the situation about where Terri Schiavo is now, and so I decided to check it out and get the information and find out for myself, and what I read convinced me to get involved.

K: [BBB], what… okay, get involved, but what can bloggers do, what are bloggers resolving to try and do to have a potential effect? I mean, the court’s set to rule today on the action of removing of the feeding tube. What is hoped, I believe, is that the court will stay that action and wait until tomorrow’s hearing. What are bloggers specifically trying to do to help Terri?

BBB: We’re trying to do whatever we can. A big part of it is just getting the word out to people, especially people in Florida where she lives, and also we are asking people to write Governor Bush and ask him to use his authority to stay this starving her to death. There is actually a Florida statute that says that he can assign her a new guardian and begin an actual investigation into the case by the Division of Children and Families based on the evidence that is out there, which I’m planning to talk about. So we’re trying to do that, and we’re also trying to raise ten thousand dollars to put a full-page ad in the Saint Petersburg Times, to get the word out to people and cause them to get involved, or to at least get them to call their representative, call the governor, and there’s a few other key people in Florida that we’re trying to contact. The Saint Petersburg Times has a circulation of about 450,000. So basically, it’s get the word out.

G: So with all the legal wrangling that’s going on in this case, and you and I talked briefly about this last night, there was a spark of hope – and it gets kind of confusing, because apparently the Schindlers’, Terri’s parents’, attorney, had filed a motion to stay the removing of the feeding tube, and that motion, the hearing on that motion, is not scheduled until Wednesday, unfortunately the removal of the feeding tube is supposed to happen today at one p.m. But at that time the judge is also supposed to rule on whether the stay will be put in effect. So it’s kind of convoluted how this whole thing is working out. Do you have any more information on that?

BBB: You pretty much summed it up. It would appear to me, based on my understanding, that she will not be having any food starting at one o’clock today, until they make up their minds. And then of course depending on what happens.

G: And by that you mean "make up their minds on whether there will be a hearing tomorrow to reinstate the feeding tube."

BBB: No, the hearing is already decided that it will take place but I guess what they decide at the hearing is whether to keep out the feeding tube or put it back in.

K: I think the judge issues a mandate based on that decision today.

G: Ah.

K: And the question is, will he stay the mandate.

G: Exactly.

K: Until tomorrow. [BBB], let me play devil’s advocate for a moment, and this by no way indicates which side of this issue I come down on, but I wonder if the bloggers have discussed it. Have you discussed… has it been introduced into your discussion in the blogs, What if Terri Schiavo is one of these people that is talked about in this recent study by the Journal of Neurology… who is receptive, as her parents think, may be receiving incoming information but can’t relay any outgoing information and therefore, what if she wants to let go?

BBB: Let me answer that by summarizing the actual facts about her responsive level. She actually does respond. She tracks objects, she tries to communicate like with her voice, she blinks her eyes, she moves around. There’s videos online that show all of this…

K: Do you have websites?

BBB: Yes.

G: Yes, actually it’s terrisfight.org , is that correct?

BBB: That is correct.

K: Okay.

BBB: And also, there’s also an affidavit signed by a certified radiologist that…I’m sorry, I’m getting this mixed up. Alexander Gimon, who’s a PhD in clinical neuropsychology has studied her responsiveness level and basically said in that legal language or whatever that she is indeed responsive, she’s not comatose, she’s not in a persistent vegetative state, she sleeps at certain times, she wakes up, she responds to people around her.

G: And she’s not hooked up to machines.

BBB: No, in fact the feeding tube is on…she uses that when she needs to eat, so it’s intermittent. Even that’s intermittent. And the other thing too is that there are people that believe, people that are close to her that believe that she could swallow, and they have requested many times that she be given a swallow test, and that’s been consistently denied by Judge Greer.

G: And what’s so interesting is, is they talk a lot about too the fact that Terri might be able to eat someday on her own, given that opportunity, and if there had been any sort of remedial action taken in the last twelve years, those steps have all been blocked by her husband, Michael Schiavo.

BBB: Right.

K: Terri, we’re going to ask you to hang on just a few minutes, because there are some unanswered questions, and I’d like to know what people on the blogosphere are saying…I’m sorry, I called you ‘Terri’, you’re [BBB]. Hold on just a minute, we’re going to break for a quick look at news, weather, traffic, and a quick look at sports, and we’ll be back with more with [BBB], who is a Northern Colorado blogger who is involved in the effort to try and keep Terri Schiavo alive. Mornings with Keith and Gail, it’s 8:17.

[Commercials, followed by more broadcasting brilliance from The Voice of the Rams Rich Bircumshaw, Double-Doppler Don Day, the fast talking (but just-the-right-speed driving, yes?) Terri Landreth, and of course the man who can make the dullest sporting event sound like it deserves a deep analysis in sports history, Corbu Stathes.]



K: …It’s 8:22, Terri Shiavo today a court expected to either issue or stay a mandate to have her feeding tube removed. The woman who in Florida [who] has been in what is defined as a Vegetative State for fifteen years…

G: …although that is under debate as well.

K: …under debate in that the family is struggling in any way they can to keep the feeding tube from being removed. The family has a court hearing scheduled for tomorrow and it’s hoped the court will stay the order to remove the feeding tubes today to hear the additional evidence the family has to input tomorrow.

G: According to Florida statutes … and I kind of get hung up on this whole ‘Persistent Vegetative State’ … Florida statutes say that a Persistent Vegetative State includes the absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior of ANY kind – an inability to communicate or interact purposefully with the environment. Now we can argue semantics on that, but her behavior does not meet the medical or statutory definition of a Persistent Vegetative State.

K: Bloggers nationwide have banded together in an effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive. [BBB] is a blogger here in Northern Colorado who is part of that effort. [BBB], what’s said on the blogosphere about the theory that the husband who has been behind the efforts to have the feeding tube removed is doing it for reasons of financial gain?

BBB: Well, actually, there’s not a whole lot said about that he might be doing it for financial gain, at least that I’ve read. What I have kind of focused on in my own reading, because I can’t read all of it, is that he… it seems like there’s evidence that he may have been an abusive husband before the collapse occurred, and that… the possibility is that the collapse Terri suffered in 1990 may have been precipitated by, may have been the result of an attack by her husband.

K: What was the cause of her injury?

BBB: That’s a little bit murky, people don’t really know. I mean, a heart attack was ruled out, a bone scan that was done by a radiologist named Dr. Walker showed numerous, a lot of different trauma on her legs, her ribs, her neck, which could only be consistent with…typically when they see that sort of bone scan they attribute it to a really bad car accident. But since she wasn’t in a car accident, the only other thing that they could come up with that makes sense with the data would be being hit with blunt objects. And the other thing is that when she came in she had a stiff neck that this, Dr. Walker says, is only been attributed to… the only other time he’s seen it, it was attributed to a strangulation attempt.

G: Here’s what’s so interesting is, regardless of the conditions that led to Terri’s present condition of being in a coma… it’s been said that perhaps she suffered from an eating disorder, and the imbalance, the chemical imbalance, potassium imbalance that resulted from that could have led in part to the stage she is in today. But they would awareded, in 1992, a jury was awarded nearly… TERRI was awarded nearly one million dollars by a malpractice jury in an out-of-court malpractice settlement. Now of these funds, less than fifty thousand dollars remains today. Financial records are sealed on exactly how this money is being spent, but court records show that Judge Greer, who has been involved in this case from the beginning, has approved the spending of Terri’s medical fund – remember, these funds were awarded specifically to ensure that Terri Schiavo would be taken care of – according to records, these funds have been used to pay for attorneys. [Michael] Schiavo’s attorney George Felos has received upwards of four hundred thousand dollars since [Michael] Schiavo hired him, and this is the same attorney who has publicly likened Terri to ‘a houseplant’.

BBB: Right.

K: (sotto voce) Oh, man. Ahck.

G: The problem is…

K: Because I’m thinking as you’re saying this "Now wait a minute, these are attorneys that have been, that have… they’re efforts have kept her alive up to this moment" …

G: No, no. No.

K: …but it doesn’t sound like it.

G: And Michael, for the past ten years, has not permitted any of these funds to be spent for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation that could have made a difference in Terri Schiavo’s present state.

K: [BBB] we’ve got to run, we appreciate talking with you this morning, this is going to be a story over the next couple of days because these court actions are going to happen today and again tomorrow. We’d like to keep in touch with you and … because that helps us keep in touch with what you’re hearing from the bloggers, okay?

BBB: Okay.

K: And Hugh Hewitt this afternoon, I should think would have something to say about this because he is very active in the blogging community, and this is probably going to really ripple around like crazy this afternoon because of this court decision at one o’clock today. More, and we’ll take your calls at eight-six-six triple-eight fifty-four forty-nine. Rich Bircumshaw has your news, meteorologist Don Day has your weather forecast, and Terri Landreth will check Northern Colorado traffic. Keep it right here, Mornings with Keith and Gail. It’s 8:27.

Petition to the President

Sunnye has started circulating a petition to President George Bush asking him to issue an "Executive Order to stay the removal of Terri's feeding tubes and to remand her to the care of her parents." I urge you all to take the time to sign it. The text is below:

Dear President Bush,

Time is of the essence: Terri Schindler Schiavo is about to be denied the right to "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" that every citizen of the United States takes for granted.

The date set for her murder is February 22, 2005.

Although Terri is alive, aware and responsive, her husband has been trying for 15 years to have her killed. Using "right to die" laws and arguments he has succeeded in convincing the Florida court to order the tube that gives her sustenance to sustain life removed.

Doing so will not only deprive her of life, but do so in a particularly painful and agonizing way -- death due to starvation and dehydration.

Mr. Schiavo has refused prescribed therapy for Terri for 15 years; he has taken more than $2 million of money directed to her care by the court and has not spent any on her. He has refused medical care for her when she was sick and on one occasion asked a nurse, "Isn't the bitch dead yet?" Today (Feb. 21) he told her father he would "start killing Terri at the earliest possible moment."

Terri's parents have offered Mr. Schiavo money, immunity from lawsuits and everything else they could think of in return for either divorce or allowing them to become her guardians and he has refused.

Mr. President, in swearing to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States surely you also assume the protection of those inalienable rights defined by our forefathers for the citizens of this country.

Therefore, we respectfully ask you to issue an Executive Order to stay the removal of Terri's feeding tubes and to remand her to the care of her parents.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned


Update: Here is a petition started by Fr. Frank Pavone, James Dobson, Randall Terry and other caring Americans to Florida Governor Jeb Bush:

Dear Governor, PLEASE, you must intervene once again to save the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. Don't let a handful of judges stop the will of the overwhelming majority of Florida's people from prevailing.

1) Please call the legislature into special session and
2) Work with Florida Representatives and Florida Senators to immediately enact into law HB701, the Florida Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with Disabilities Prevention Act.

Let Florida lead America's judiciary from promoting the culture of death to respect for life, with a bill which BINDS the law to REQUIRE that courts rule in favor of lifesaving medical treatment unless a patient has stipulated in advance, in writing (such as a "living will"), before witnesses, that he or she does not wish such treatment. Only such protections can prevent the evil violation of innocent life being perpetrated on those like Terri, and enforced by power-hungry judges who care nothing for the principles and beliefs of the People.

Gov. Bush, your leadership got "Terri's Law" passed. You can do it again! And your example will embolden other governors and state legislatures to reclaim from an out-of-control judiciary their co-equal and balancing roles, powers and prerogatives in government, as envisioned for them by our Founders. Sir, please act now!

Thank you for not letting one innocent life be ended that is in your power to save. God bless you!

Signed:

Monday, February 21, 2005

My Campaign to Involve More Blogs

Earlier today I located this page of links to Catholic blogs—about eight printed pages worth. I know a few of them are probably already involved in the Blogburst, but many are not. Practicing Catholics are very much pro-life and would be deeply concerned about what is happening with Terri. I would like to contact each one of these blogs and invite them to join, but I need help doing it. I propose to assign 5-10 blogs to each one of you who responds. You would need to go to that blog, find a contact email and then send an email briefly explaining what it is we’re hoping to accomplish and invite them to become a part of the effort. Please respond to me either directly by email (powersthatblog@gmail.com) or by posting a comment to this post. Let me know how many blogs you are willing to contact. I will be checking as often as I can throughout the next few days.

Here’s the letter I composed, which you can copy or modify as you see fit:

Dear Catholic Blogger (Fill in name of blogger):

I am writing to invite you to become part of an organized effort amongbloggers to help bring a just resolution to the plight of TerriSchiavo.Terri Schiavo is a disabled woman who has been denied appropriatemedical treatment and whose life has been threatened for the pastfifteen years. Right now there is a massive effort in the Blogosphereto first save her life and then restore her rights to appropriatemedical treatment. You can help in this effort. Here's how:

1. Educate yourself on her situation. A good comprehensive website tostart with is her family's official website at www.terrisfight.org.You can find the latest breaking news on her case at www.blogsforterri.com. In addition, there are many other linked websites and blogs you can visit, and you can find your own sources with the help of your favorite search engine.

2. Get the word out. Email your family and friends, your local radio stations, newspapers, and anyone else you can think of.

3. Join the effort at http://www.blogsforterri.com/archives/2005/02/
where_do_i_begi.php. Since you have a blog, consider joining the blogburst and post about Terri on a daily basis. Contact the key people in Florida providedhere at http://www.blogsforterri.com/archives
/2005/02/people_to_conta_1.php. You also have an opportunity to participate in a pledge drive to raise funds to place a full page ad in the St. Petersburg Times, Terri Schiavo's local paper. Go to http://www.blogsforterri.com/
archives/2005/02/blogsforterri_a_1.php for more information. No doubt, there are other ways to get involved in the works. Check back at www.blogsforterri.org often for updates.

I know we can't all do everything, but if we all do what we can, we can make a difference. Please join our efforts to help save Terri Schiavo's life and provide her with the medical treatment she has been so long denied. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Beautiful Belgian Babe
The Powers That Blog
http://powersthatblog.blogspot.com

I know there are other lists of blogs out there, so I would invite you to organize a plan to contact those blogs as well. Email me about that too and I can help you get started. I will be keeping the good people at BlogsForTerri apprised on our progress.

How You Can Help Terri

Terri Schiavo is a disabled woman who has been denied appropriate medical treatment and whose life has been threatened for the past fifteen years. Right now there is a massive effort in the Blogosphere to first save her life and then restore her rights to appropriate medical treatment. You can help in this effort. Here's how:

1. Educate yourself on her situation. A good comprehensive website to start with is her family's official website. You can find the latest breaking news on her case here. In addition, there are many other websites and blogs you can visit. See the Blogs for Terri roll to the left, and you can find your own sources with the help of your favorite search engine.

2. Get the word out. Email your family and friends, your local radio stations, newspapers, and anyone else you can think of.

3. Join the effort. If you have a blog, consider joining the blogburst and post about Terri on a daily basis. Contact the key people in Florida provided here. Shortly there will be an opportunity to participate in a pledge drive to raise funds to place a full page ad in the St. Petersburg Times. No doubt, there are other ways to get involved in the works. Check back here often for updates.

I know we can't all do everything, but if we all do what we can, we can make a difference.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Tort Reform Retort - Cultural reform first

There is a group of people Americans fear deeply, much more deeply than Osama Bin Laden. I venture to say we fear them more deeply than we ever feared the Soviet Union or even the Nazis. Their effect on our society is much harder to identify and much harder to challenge. Can you guess? The group names begins with an "L".

No, it's not Liberals. Sheeesh!

Lawyers, people, I'm talking about lawyers. Liberals are as frightened of lawyers as anybody else.

Last year Glenn Reynolds linked to an Ann Althouse blog entry asking why people consider it socially acceptable to tell lawyer jokes implying they should all be dead. (Unfortunately, due to relatively pathetic computer skills I can't seem to find either archive.) I think it's because we ordinary nonlegal folks think of powerful lawyers and judges as frighteningly unpredictable. We haven't gotten frightened to the point of stringing anybody up, but it's reached a point where many more people are talking about limiting judicial power through various proposals like "tort reform".

Two years ago a lawyer friend of mine shocked me speechless. We were discussing various crazy things that happened in the legal system, and I mentioned that years ago Singapore had limited the number of law degrees that could be awarded to 100 per year. "Since I'm a lawyer," he laughed, "anything that means there are more lawyers is good news to me!"

I was as horrified as if he had said "I'm a homicide detective, so anything that means we need more homicide detectives is a good thing!" Lawyers, like homicide detectives, are a sort of necessary evil. Their existence means we have a serious problem. The existence of lawyers mitigates the symptoms of the problem, but does nothing for the problem itself, and that problem is that judges can't really be trusted to judge well without a great deal of outside input (and plenty of times even with it). And part of that problem is that many laws (written mostly by lawyers) are murky at best.

Undoubtedly anyone with legal training is shaking their head at my naivetee, so let me ask this: What do you think is the purpose of lawyers? For that matter, what is the purpose of laws?

To me, laws are simply the recorded expectations of a society, written down so that no one has to be surprised by the responses to their actions. Oh, I know there are all sorts of grand theories about the basis of law and the workings of legal systems. All I've read so far amounts to attempts to make the legal systems of a particular culture seem purely logical and objective, not really rooted in the fears and desires of that particular society. Maybe there is a perfectly objective legal theory; so far I haven't read it. Emails (powersthatblog-at-gmail-dot-com) to alleviate my ignorance are welcome. But the main point to me is that laws are meant to keep away surprises. If I toss your mangled body off a Texas cliff, it should come as no surprise later to find myself strapped in to Old Sparky. Maybe it's a complete mystery to me why this culture disapproves of murder, but there's no reason for the end to come as a shock (yes, I'm deliberately ignoring current Texas practice for the sake of a pun).

So, do you feel confident that you know what the outcome of a legal case will be in this country? If a law limiting your political freedom of speech was passed, do you have confidence that no judge would allow you to be convicted for violating it? If a chunk of money was set aside for your medical care after a debilitating injury, how confident are you that no judge would decide that money could be given to lawyers instead of doctors? Do you have confidence that any ludicrous lawsuit filed against you would be thoroughly fisked by the presiding judge without you ever having to hire a lawyer? Are you confident that no amount of polysyllabic legal phrases could unjustly cause your property to be confiscated, sold, and given to your opponent?

Most of us are not. There are plenty of voices calling for tort reform, so that the rulings of judges will conform more to the expectations of our society. We expect silly damage claims to be treated with contempt. We also expect that the guilty will not escape on technicalities, and that the innocent will not be condemned on technicalities.

So what is it that we see in "officers of the court"? Lawyers, of course, are hired guns, sent to present the best possible argument for their client, downplaying arguments not in their favor. The other guy is supposed to also hire a lawyer who will balance things out. Two lawyers get hired, when only one is needed (if even one)! The judge then plays referee to the rhetorical tennis match and rules the winner on (to lay observers) incomprehensible rules of play.

It shouldn't be this way. You should be able to walk into a court without a lawyer and present your side without a need to shout fancy objections in latin phrases and reply to the subtle innuendo of your opponent. The judge should do all that for you, thoroughly fisking any silly lawsuit filed against you.

Ah, but doesn't that give judges too much subjective power? Only if murky laws are allowed. Unfortunately, this completes the self-perpetuating triangle of legislators, lawyers, and judges. All three jobs are filled mostly by lawyers, and they work hard to make sure that more and more lawyers are necessary all the time. (Heck, there's even such a thing as pre-paid legal services. If you think you would be interested in a sort of legal insurance that costs about thirty bucks a month I can help you get in touch with people who do that sort of thing.)

President Bush wants tort reform through laws. I think that is one of the most hilariously inappropriate actions I can think of. You want to reform the behavior of lawyers and judges - and you want to put reform in the hands of lawyers and judges? Please, don't kill me. I laugh hard enough at good knock-knock jokes.

We don't need legal tort reform, but cultural reform of our legal system.

I have a friend who works for a law firm in a big city. I figured he fetched files for the lawyers until he described the setup. This place has its own cafeteria and food service! It's not a law firm, the place is a damned lawsuit factory.

Let me say it again: it's a lawsuit factory. One factory in an industry, dear readers, with its own cherished sense of monopoly and laissez-faire profit-taking. Lawyers are not trained by the law school culture to make life more predictable for their clients (as we expect of the judges and legislators who graduate from said schools). If law was predictable, what need would anyone have for lawyers? Or at least the lesser-talented legal minds? So reform has to be in our hands, not theirs.

For a cultural reform of the legal industry, we must treat the legal industry in the same way we treat other industries. We do not allow the CEO of Grumman to be Secretary of Defense, too. Conflict of interest, you see. In the same way, we should consider any lawyer who attempts to become a judge with deep, deep suspicion. In fact, their election to such a position should be extremely rare. The same is true of any of the lawyer/judge/legislator triangle - any of them who try to switch career tracks to another part of the triangle should be treated as highly suspicious elements of society.

There needs to be separation of legal powers and practices. Legislators should be charged with writing clear laws that any fifth grader can understand. Unclear laws should be veto-able by executive branch or judges, either way. (So any laws containing words like "tort", or "ad litem", or "fiduciary" should be immediately struck down. If they can't explain it in English, let them be sent back to the chamber with a dictionary and thesaurus.) Lawyers must continue to treat law as a tool for obtaining justice, not as the definition of justice. That's the only way they can maintain a hired-gun status. And judges must treat the law as the definition of justice, not as a tool to obtain justice. Judges also need to be given the right to say to the legislature "I am faced with a situation for which there is no clear law written. Here is my judgment. You have ninety days to come up with your own law that will handle this case, or my judgment becomes the law. You have sixty days to vote a 3/4 majority that this case is handled under existing law in a manner different than what I have stated, and begin proceedings to remove me from the bench as an incompetent fool who can't see the obvious."

My wife is currently blogging a lot about Terri Schiavo's case. She (Schiavo) was awarded a big chunk of money in a malpractice suit, and our society expects that the purpose for such awards is to help the person with medical expenses. Her guardian denied the use of that money for that purpose. Not only did the judge in the case not toss the man in jail for such an action, but also allowed the money to be used to pay members of his industry, the lawsuit factories of America. How is it that the Florida legislature did not have the power to remove this judge as thoroughly stained with a conflict of interest? For this issue, I don't even care that much about some claim that the judge in the Schiavo case is illegally holding court as an unelected judge. How has he managed to avoid the obvious consequences of his actions regarding the malpractice settlement money?

That's the case that comes to mind, late tonight. Any of you can probably think of equal examples of judicial nonsense from your local newspaper.

The answer to a legal system that has made life less predictable is not more laws, but a change in cultural expectations and voting practices (no lawyers elected to legislative or judicial positions).

Of course, if you have a better suggestion, I'd like to hear it. I wouldn't mind seeing reform happen faster than cultural shifts usually take place.

I leave you with this question: How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

First, you have to have the lawyers in a legislature write two hundred pages of definitions on which configurations of glass, electrical wiring, and filaments constitute a light bulb, who has responsibility for screwing one in and in what direction, and what the applicable fines are for installation failures. Then you need a multi-name law firm to file suit on behalf of a homeowner who found that his new modular palace lacked a lightbulb in one outlet. A second multi-name law firm is hired to present the contractor's case that due to recent technological innovations, the light-emitting structure desired by the homeowner does not legally constitute a "light bulb". Lawyers who are judges must then rule in favor of one side or another, which the other will appeal, all the way up to the Supreme Snort if necessary, which will then refuse to hear the case on the basis that it is not a constitutional issue. Constitutions have emanations and penumbras, but light bulbs (legally) do not. So the case collapses back to whatever other court made the most recent decision, probably multimillion dollar damages for the homeowner's pain and suffering. Said homeowner, delighted, will then be able to pay his attorney's fees. Less delighted, he will then realize that he has just enough left to buy ... a lightbulb. Hopefully the legislators wrote him the authority to install it, so he can't be sued for doing so. But why should they? They, after all, are mostly busy making life easier for lawyers, not homeowners.

:)

It's All About Respect

TulipGirl currently has a lot of discussion on her blog about various ways to handle children, particularly infants. There are a number of parenting authors who promote treatments such as letting a baby cry herself to sleep alone in her crib, putting a drop of hot sauce on a child's tongue when that child has cursed, imposing arbitrary consequences on children who won't obey, and on spanking babies as young as eight months old. There are also those authors who decry such treatments as cruel, punitive and shaming, and rightly so.

What I find disturbing is that this is even controversial. It seems that in our society children get treated as second class citizens. We do things to our children that we would not even think about doing to another adult. Why?

A lot of new parents are advised, even by their pediatricians, to let their baby cry it out at night. The theory is that this will help baby get used to sleeping all night in the crib. How cruel is that? Here is a baby who is upset, lonely, maybe hungry and trying to ask for help in the only way he knows how. And the loving parents are supposed to just ignore him? Let's suppose I have a really difficult day and I start crying in front of my husbasnd. He first hugs me and runs through a few possible solutions. I'm still not feeling better. "Well," he says, "I've tried everything and I think you're just trying to manipulate me. Go to bed and talk to me in the morning when you're done crying." You'd be right in saying he was being quite insensitive, to say the least. No decent husband would treat his wife this way (and for the record, Crazy Diamond is an awesome husband who'd rather die than treat me that way). So, if it's not OK for a husband to let his wife cry it out alone, then why is it OK for parents to let a baby cry it out alone? The distraught wife can at least do something for herself, like call a friend, but what can the baby do?

What about giving an older child consequences? So my son comes home a half-hour late from riding his bike. I have told him repeatedly that he needs to come home at a certain time to eat dinner with the family. He's late anyway. I tell him to go to bed without any dinner. That's the consequence. I really hate it when Crazy Diamond comes home late from work. Ask him. Should I send him to bed without dinner? OK, so he works hard to support our family and that's different from just goofing off. Suppose he stopped off at a bar a few times and came home late for that reason? Should I refuse to give him dinner then? Of course not. There are much better ways of dealing with this conflict. So again I ask, why is it OK to do this to my child?

I've already written about spanking, so I will only ask this question: what aspect of the real world could I possibly be preparing my child for by spanking her? The Gulag? A mean boss at work? An abusive husband? I have higher aspirations for the MunchK. I want her to live and work in an environment where she is heard and respected. How is she going to know what that means if she's used to being shamed and not heard at home now?

As parents, we want our children to treat us with respect. I am all in favor of that. I just don't believe in teaching my daughter to respect me by being rude and disrespectful to her. And I don't understand why so many people seem to be convinced that speaking disrespectfully to children or doing physically demeaning things to them is an appropriate way to relate to them. I honestly think a lot of people simply haven't thought of it this way.

Let's always remember that our children are people too. Let's treat them with the same consideration we would treat another adult. This includes our babies too. Don't do something to your baby, toddler or older child that you wouldn't want done to you. After all, a child is so much more vulnerable than an adult, and just as deserving of our love and respect.

For those who wish to learn more about respectful parenting, here's a partial list of recommendations to get you started...

Parenting Decisions
Sears Parenting
Attachment Parenting International
Empathic Discipline

Biblical Parenting by Crystal Lutton
Parenting With Grace by Gregory Popcak
Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Kurcinka
The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears

BrewMunchK

Yesterday the MunchK helped with my homebrewing. The two week first fermentation was finished and I needed to add sugar and bottle the brew. The bottles and equipment has soaked all night in bleach water in the bathtub. The Beautiful Belgian Babe was busy, and I was having a hard time keeping the MunchK away from that intriguing but unfortunately powerful bleach water. Get that on the clothes and momma will not be happy!

Suddenly I realized there's a reason we call her the Coopera-MunchK too - she's always delighted to have a small role to play in our chores. So I rinsed out a few bottles and handed them to her, showing her to hold them away from her body to avoid contamination. ("-'tamin-shun", she repeated). In exaggerated fashion I modeled carrying my own two bottles to the kitchen and she happily toddled after me doing likewise.

Repeated carrying of the bottles in that fashion turned out to be too much for her, so I got a bread pan and put two rinsed bottles in it, which she happily carried to the kitchen with no danger of sticking a finger inside. It took a little while, but we transferred all the bottles.

She didn't help with bottling (she was a napping ZonktaMunchK by then), but I'm proud of the part she played. If the beer is any good, I'll post the recipe. If it's not, well, "If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried." Bad beer makes good compost.

A Visit With Terri Schiavo

This is an article written by Attorney Barbara Weller on her experience meeting Terri Schiavo, who her husband has been trying to starve to death for the past fifteen years. Since it doesn't have a direct link, I have copied it in full. Please visit Terri's website for this article and more information. The main thing this article establishes is that Terri Schiavo is not comatose, nor in permanent vegetative state, nor attached to life support. She has a family who loves her and wants to take care of her, but whose efforts have been largely frustrated by her husband and the Florida courts.

A Visit With Terri Schiavo
Attorney Barbara Weller

This past Christmas Eve day, 2004, I went to visit Terri Schiavo with her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, her sister, her niece, and Attorney David Gibbs III. The visit took place at the Woodside Hospice for about 45 minutes just before noon.

When I knew I was going to visit Terri with her parents, I had no idea what to expect. I was prepared for the possibility that the Schindlers love their daughter and sister so much that they might imagine behaviors by Terri that aren't actually evident to others. The media and Mr. Schiavo clearly give the impression that Terri is in a coma or comatose state and engages only in non-purposeful and reflexive movements and responses. I am a mother and a grandmother, as well as one of the Schindlers’ attorneys, and I could understand how parents might imagine behavior and purposeful activity that is not really there. I was prepared to be as objective as I could be during this visit and not to be disappointed at anything I saw or experienced.

I was truly surprised at what I saw from the moment we entered the little room where Terri is confined. The room is a little wider than the width of two single beds and about as long as the average bedroom, with plenty of room for us to stand at the foot of her bed. Terri is on the first floor and there is a lovely view to the outside grounds of the facility. The room is entered by a short hallway, however, and there is no way for Terri to see out into the hallway or for anyone in the hallway to observe Terri.

From the moment we entered the room, my impression was that Terri was very purposeful and interactive and she seemed very curious about the presence of obvious strangers in her room. Terri was not in bed, but was in her chair, which has a lounge chair appearance and elevates her head at about a 30-degree angle. She was dressed and washed, her hair combed, and she was covered with a holiday blanket. There were no tubes of any kind attached to her body. She was completely free of any restraints that would have indicated any type of artificial life support. Not even her feeding tube was attached and functioning when we entered, as she is not fed 24 hours a day.

The thing that surprised me the most about Terri as I took my turn to greet her by the side of her chair was how beautiful she is. I would have expected to see someone with a sallow and gray complexion and a sick looking countenance. Instead, I saw a very pretty woman with a peaches and cream complexion and a lovely smile, which she even politely extended to me as I introduced myself to her. I was amazed that someone who had not been outside for so many years and who received such minimal health care could look so beautiful. She appeared to have an inner light radiating from her face. I was truly taken aback by her beauty, particularly under the adverse circumstances in which she has found herself for so many years.

Terri’s parents, sister, and niece went immediately to greet Terri when we entered the room and stood in turn directly beside her head, stroking her face, kissing her and talking quietly with her. When she heard their voices, and particularly her mother's voice, Terri instantly turned her head towards them and smiled. Terri established eye contact with her family, particularly with her mother, who spent the most time with her during our visit. It was obvious that she recognized the voices in the room with the exception of one. Although her mother was talking to her at the time, she obviously had heard a new voice and exhibited a curious demeanor. Attorney Gibbs was having a conversation near the door with Terri’s sister. His voice is very deep and resonant and Terri obviously picked it up. Her eyes widened as if to say, “What’s that new sound I hear?” She scanned the room with her eyes, even turning her head in his direction, until she found Attorney Gibbs and the location of the new voice and her eyes rested momentarily in his direction. She then returned to interacting with her mother.

When her mother was close to her, Terri’s whole face lit up. She smiled. She looked directly at her mother and she made all sorts of happy sounds. When her mother talked to her, Terri was quiet and obviously listening. When she stopped, Terri started vocalizing. The vocalizations seemed to be a pattern, not merely random or reflexive at all. There is definitely a pattern of Terri having a conversation with her mother as best she can manage. Initially, she used the vocalization of “uh’uh” but without seeming to mean it as a way of saying “no”, just as a repeated speech pattern. She then began to make purposeful grunts in response to her mother’s conversation. She made the same sorts of sound with her father and sister, but not to the same extent or as delightedly as with her mother. She made no verbal response to her niece or to Attorney Gibbs and myself, but she did appear to pay attention to our words to her.

The whole experience was rather moving. Terri definitely has a personality. Her whole demeanor definitely changes when her mother speaks with her. She lights up and appears to be delighted at the interaction. She has an entirely different reaction to her father who jokes with her and has several standing jokes that he uses when he enters and exits her presence. She appears to merely “tolerate” her father, as a child does when she says “stop” but really means, “this is fun.” When her father greets her, he always does the same thing. He says, “here comes the hug” and hugs her. He then says, “you know what’s coming next---the kiss.” Her father has a scratchy mustache and both times when he went through this little joke routine with her, she laughed in a way she did not do with anyone else. When her father is ready to plant the kiss on her cheek, she immediately makes a face her family calls the “lemon face.” She puckers her lips, screws up her whole face, and turns away from him, as if making ready for the scratchy assault on her cheek that she knows is coming. She did the exact same thing both times that her father initiated this little routine joke between the two of them.

The interactions with her family and our appearance in her room appeared to require some effort and exertion from Terri. From time to time, she would close her eyes as if to rest. This happened primarily when no one was paying particular attention to her, but we were talking among ourselves. After a few minutes or when one of the visitors approached her and started to talk directly to her again, Terri would open her eyes and begin her grunting sounds again in response to their conversations. Although I approached her, leaned close and stroked her arms and spoke to her, she did not verbally respond to me.

Terri’s hands are curled up around little soft cylinders that help her not to injure herself. I understand that these contractures are likely very painful, although there was a time when Terri was receiving simple motion therapy when her hands and arms relaxed and were no longer as constricted. When the therapy was discontinued by order of her guardian and the court, the contractures returned. These contractures would apparently be avoidable if Terri were given the simple range of motion therapy she previously received. It is very sad to observe firsthand these conditions that make her life more difficult, but that would be correctable with little effort.

When we were preparing to leave, the interactions with Terri changed. First, she went through the joke routine with her father and the “lemon face.” When her niece said goodbye to her, Terri did not react. Nor did she react to me or to Attorney Gibbs when we said our goodbyes to her. When her sister went to her to say goodbye, Terri’s verbalizations changed dramatically. Instead of the happy grunting and “uh uh” sounds she had been making throughout the visit, her verbalizations at these goodbyes changed to a very low and different sound that appeared to come from deep in her throat and was almost like a growl. She first made the sound when her sister said goodbye and then, amazingly to me, she made exactly the same sound when her mother said goodbye to her. It seemed Terri was visibly upset that they were leaving. She almost appeared to be trying to cling to them, although this impression came only from her changed facial expression and sounds, since her hands cannot move. It appeared like she did not want to be alone and knew they were leaving. It was definitely apparent in the short time I was there that her emotions changed—it was apparent when she was happy and enjoying herself, when she was amused, when she was resting from her exertion to communicate, and when she was sad at her guests leaving. It was readily apparent and surprising that her mood changed so often in a short 45-minute visit.

I was pleasantly surprised to observe Terri’s purposeful and varied behaviors with the various members of her family and with Attorney Gibbs and myself. I never imagined Terri would be so active, curious, and purposeful. She watched people intently, obviously was attempting to communicate with each one in various ways and with various facial expressions and sounds. She was definitely not in a coma, not even close. This visit certainly shed more light for me on why the Schindlers are fighting so hard to protect her, to get her medical care and rehabilitative assistance, and to spend all they have to protect her life.

I realize that Terri has good days and bad days. There are obviously days when she does not interact with her family, as they had previously told us. There are also apparently days when Terri is even more interactive and responsive to them than she was on the day I visited. Since this visit I am more convinced than ever that the Schindlers are not just parents who refuse to let go of their daughter. There really is a lot going on with their daughter and potentially, it seemed obvious to me, Terri could improve even more with appropriate care and 24 hour a day love that can only come from a dedicated family. As I watched her, my foremost thought was that on the next day, Christmas, Terri should not have been confined to her small room in a hospice center, nice as that room was, but that she should have been gathered around the Christmas dinner table enjoying the holiday with her family.

MEDIA: Call the Gibbs Law Firm Media Director, Mr. Keith Brickell, at O:727-399-8300 or C:727-458-4824 to arrange an interview with Attorney David Gibbs III or Attorney Barbara Weller. He can be reached by email: kbrickell@gibbsfirm.com.

The Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation is the official organization responsible for speaking on behalf of the Schindler family. For more information and background on the case, visit the foundation’s website at www.terrisfight.org.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Upcoming Murder of Terri Schiavo?

We didn't realize it had gotten this far. It appears Terri Schiavo is a step away from her murder and time is running out. It has always struck us as odd (at the very least!) that anyone would consider starving someone to death as a mercy killing. I can imagine the outcry that would occur if that was the chosen execution method for someone on death row, and here's a woman who has broken no laws to be at the mercy of her judge.

Straight Up With Sherri has far more information than we'd be able to hunt down. We'd also be part of the blogburst except that we can't guarantee a blog entry every day to begin with, which is what they want. We'll call people on Monday. In the meantime, check the above links to find more information on this nightmare case.

Spank the MunchK? NOT!

I’ve been under the attack of the common cold this past week and have taken to resting as much as possible with the help of a couple Tom Clancy novels. The ones I’m reading are his earlier ones and an excellent read, but both of them have contained a very small irritation—some gratuitous violence. Both mention in passing (and having nothing to do with the plot) our hero Jack Ryan spanking his daughter. Does that ever grate! I mean why throw that in? The same could be said of an excellent Madeleine L’Engle book I read last month.

The reason it’s mentioned is because both these excellent authors, like many good American people, believe spanking is a normal part of childhood—part of the normal protocol of raising children. You read to them, you love them, you serve them milk and homemade cookies when they get home from school, and you spank them. It’s as much a part of the American culture as red barns, hamburgers and apple pie. And to add to the confusion, parenting experts of all stripes have institutionalized spanking in their writings. Some authors have even gone so far as to declare so authoritatively that if you don’t spank your child, then you must hate your child.

Spanking will not be a part of the MunchK’s normal childhood experience.

This decision began originally as a personal one. We didn’t see anything particularly wrong with it in general; we just weren’t going to do it. The honest truth is I didn’t believe I could handle it. I believed that the combination of raising my hand to hurt my own child on purpose combined with my own memories of being spanked would cause me to become such an emotional wreck that whatever lesson I might have been trying to teach my child would be lost on her. "Please wait in your room while mom recovers from her nervous breakdown. Then we’ll try this again… the reason you’re getting spanked is because you hit your brother…" Or, on second thought, maybe the irony of the situation would send me into fits of laughter I wouldn’t be able to hold a wooden spoon straight. Spanking my child because she hit her brother? Give me a break! Or, should I say, give the spoon a break.

I think spanking begins with the noblest of intentions, and in some rare situations, is even carried out with those intentions intact. You can read books about how you should never spank in anger, how you should always begin and end every session with a hug, and how you should make it very clear to your child exactly why he is getting spanked. But that is where the problems begin. A parent approaches spanking with the intent of teaching the child some very specific lesson. The child learns a completely different lesson, one I believe a loving parent would not want to teach. It has to do with brain development and the fact that no matter what you do, a child will see himself as the center of the universe until he gradually develops the comprehension to understand that the world he knows is only a microscopic part of the universe, and that most people don’t even know he exists.

So, when the loving parent comes up to the child armed with a spanking spoon and starts saying things like "I have to spank you because you did…" what does the child hear? First of all, most children do not separate their behavior from themselves. I find this exercise of "love the sinner, hate the sin" difficult enough as an adult. If a child is told what he did was bad, what he hears is "I am bad." The other thing he realizes is that this person who he loves more than anything and depend on for survival is going to hurt him—on purpose. His first memory of being betrayed. Then there is the deep shame the child feels upon being treated in that degrading manner. No matter how you dress it up, how many Scripture verses you use to justify it, or how calmly you do it, being on the receiving end of a spanking is a humiliating experience. Finally, since it was an authority figure that did this to him, he learns that there are severe consequences to defying authority. Authority is something to be feared and to cower from, not to trust.

So, with a few whacks of a wooden spoon, our loving parent has given her child his first memorable experience of shame, betrayal, humiliation, and fear. And yes, he also suffers physical pain. But the loving mother, believing she has done her duty and no doubt glad it’s over with, is oblivious to all of this. After all, her child is now behaving wonderfully—spankings do have that short term effect. And so, she figures she successfully corrected whatever it was about his behavior that displeased her. The situation repeats itself throughout the child’s toddler years and early childhood until somebody decides the kid is too old to be spanked.

Eventually, our child reaches adulthood. He suffers from poor self-esteem. He can’t shake the nagging doubts in himself when he’s about to take some risk. When he fails at something or life just delivers him a blow, he mentally beats himself up for his stupidity—after all, he caused whatever misfortune struck him in the same way he was told he brought the spankings on himself. At the same time, he believes he deserves no better. Maybe he even contemplates suicide. He encounters some routine interpersonal issues either at work or in a close relationship. But he can’t confront the issues assertively. He’s afraid of authority. What are his bosses going to do to him if he tells them something they don’t want to hear, or if he doesn’t silently go along with whatever hairbrained scheme they’re insisting he be in the middle of. He knows intellectually this is irrational, but what can he do? In his personal relationships, he is either passive or aggressive. Maybe he cowers under the disapproval of his wife. Maybe he abuses his wife. He feels helpless and powerless and he longs to be in control of something or someone. His child does something he deems unacceptable and he repeats the generational curse. Maybe he just lashes out. Maybe he’s read Dare to Discipline and administers the spanking flawlessly. The lessons get passed down, and we could start this essay all over.

Sounds extreme? It may be a little exaggerated. I’m not pretending to cite all the research, though it is out there, make no mistake. But look around you. How many professional counselors are in business? How many people are struggling with self-esteem? How many people are contemplating suicide? How many books are out there teaching assertiveness skills? You know babies come out of the womb assertive. We teach them to be otherwise. How many people just think they aren’t good enough, not worth it, not deserving? How many people really do aim for the very best in life and get it?

Spankings aren’t responsible for all of this. There are other things children experience in life either at home or away from home that can be really harmful. But the connections between spanking and psychological damage have been established, and when you stop to think about it, make perfect sense.

I desire to teach the MunchK many things. As I’m writing this, Crazy Diamond is showing her how to carry sterilized beer bottles to the kitchen without contaminating them (we enjoy brewing our own beer). She is learning how to ask for help when she gets frustrated, rather than throw a fit. She’s learned how to give hugs and kisses and snuggles. She’s learning how to use the potty. She’s about got her shape sorter figured out. She’s learning how to eat with a fork. We’re teaching her pretty much the same way you’d teach anyone something new, by explaining, modeling, helping, then watching her do it, and giving her feedback about her performance. She’s learning very quickly. Yes, I want to teach her the important moral lessons and how to behave appropriately, how to share her toys, and not hit people. And she will learn all of that as the need arises and she is ready.

I do not desire to teach the MunchK those other lessons learned through spanking. This is why the MunchK will not be spanked. Anyway, it’s heartbreaking enough when she falls and hurts herself by accident, and she no doubt will learn from those experiences as well. No need for us to cause her to cry more tears.

And now that I have this off my chest for now, it’s time to enjoy some lunch and then maybe curl up with a good Tom Clancy novel. Maybe later I’ll write his publisher and see if he can take out those extraneous and irritating parts. Maybe when I’m feeling better…