Monday, March 21, 2005

George W. Bush shows us again that Omnipotence is merely a state of mind.

In the early hours of March 21, 2005, Congress voted 203-58, passing Republican backed legislation that would continue to prolong the life of Terri Schiavo, a severely brain damaged 41 year old woman on life support in the state of Florida. Court-appointed doctors have said say she has no hope of recovery and will continue to persistent in a vegetative state.

Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband and under Florida law her legal guardian, had stated numerous times that his wife would not have wanted to continue living under such conditions even though the rest of her family has disagreed with him over the matter.

In order to sign this legislation as quickly as possible, President George W. Bush cut short his vacation at his Texas ranch in order to fly back to Washington so that he could immediately sign the bill into law. Due to the nature of the “Emergency” session, a two-thirds majority was needed to pass the bill in congress. At the time congress was on a two-week recess and of the 435 House members, 261 returned to Washington to cast their vote.

Democrats, such as Florida Representative Jim Davis viewed the situation as “…a travesty.” and where, “…congressional leaders are poised to appoint this Congress as a judge and a jury," and Robert Wexler, also a Florida Democratic Representative felt that it undermined the Florida State court system by completely disregarding seven years worth of reviews in the case in which 19 judges had participated by moving the Florida case into Federal court, which had already sent the case back to the state court numerous times. The House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California even referred to this kind of use of legislative authority as "constitutionally dubious legislation" and "highly irregular and an improper." Several other Democrats raised objections to the legislation and felt that it is a tragic family matter that is being exploited for political reasons.

On the other hand, the Republicans don’t see this as a political issue or feel that Congress is overstepping its bounds by getting involved but instead see it as a “Right to Life” issue. According to Wisconsin Republican Representative and Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenne, it is one in which it is the responsibility of Congress to "reinforce the law's commitment to justice and compassion for all Americans, particularly the most vulnerable." Also weighing in on the matter was House Majority leader and Republican representative Tom Delay who said, “We will fight for Terri's life and spend all the time necessary to do that," … "So, to friends, family and millions of people praying around the world this Palm Sunday weekend don't be afraid. Terri Schiavo will not be forsaken." DeLay went on to say (referring to the three senators that blocked the Republican backed Incapacitated Persons Protection Act (H.R. 1151), "Those senators responsible for blocking our bill yesterday afternoon - Senator (Barbara) Boxer (D-Calif.), Senator (Ron) Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senator (Carl) Levin (D-Mich.) - have put Mrs. Schiavo's life at risk to prove a point; an unprecedented profile of cowardice."

Although there are a number of issues with regards to the matter, the first is, what is the emergency which has called the attention of Congress and is of such great importance that Bush had to fly back to Washington; The answer, widespread publicity over the case and the intense lobbying efforts of the Christian conservative groups. In other words, the Republicans need to appease their financial backers or else the cash cow might begin to dry up, and money not life is what the majority of poloticians in office seem to be all about.

Let’s take a look at Bush’s record on morality and the right to life. While Bush was governor of Texas, 131 people were executed. An in-depth investigation be the Chicago Tribune found that dozens of inmates executed on Death Row had their cases based upon unreliable evidence, were defended by attorneys that were later suspended or disbarred for unethical behavior, and that their defense efforts were meager at best.

In as many as 40 cases, defense attorneys either presented absolutely no evidence in their clients’ defense or only one witness. The investigation also goes on to state that, “In at least 29 cases, the prosecution presented damaging testimony from a psychiatrist who, based upon a hypothetical question describing the defendant's past, predicted the defendant would commit future violence. In most of these cases, the psychiatrist offered this opinion without ever examining the defendant.”

Imagine being convicted of murder based upon a hypothetical situation? You’re sitting there while the prosecution asks the expert if you’re capable of committing murder “IF” you were possibly abused as a child, and “IF” you were predisposed to violent behavior. And the “expert” witness replies: yes, the defendant is capable and may have even committed the murder. Meanwhile you’ve come from a decent home and have never been prone to violent behavior. But hey, according to the expert you’re a cold-blooded killer and you would even kill again.

The cases go on to include damaging testimony from a forensic scientist that was temporarily released from a psychiatric hospital to provide testimony; a pathologist who had admitted to faking autopsies; and a psychiatrist that had been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association; not to mention a judge who had been reprimanded for lying and defense attorneys that were known for sleeping during the trials.

In several cases, DNA evidence later showed the defendants innocent of the crimes they were sentenced to death for supposedly having committed. Yet, there have also been several cases in which the innocent had had their death sentences carried out. The most famous of which was that of David Wayne Stoker who was executed on June 16, 1997.

The prosecutors’ key witness was paid for his testimony, even though he denied it but records proved otherwise, and had drug charges against him dropped. Both the police and district attorney gave false testimony in the case. In the case of Odell Barnes, DNA evidence conclusively proved that blood at the crime scene did not come from Barnes at the time the crime had been committed. Tests showed that the blood at the crime scene contained traces of a preservative that is in samples that are taken from suspects. The only way for this to be at the crime scene would have been if police planted a sample taken from the suspect. Even given this new evidence proving Barnes’ innocence, the courts refused to re-open the case. Odell Barnes was executed on March 1, 2001.

The list of problems goes on. Even though a number of those convicted have admitted their guilt, one still has to ask the question, how many innocent people have paid with their lives so that Bush could be the tough Texas cowboy governor.

What does Bush have to do with all of this? Well as the Governor of Texas at the time, Bush had final say as to whether a death sentence was carried out or whether a case was re-opened or the sentence was commuted to life in prison. This is a man who is recently referred to the Schiavo case as, "… a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life,” yet according to his own staff as governor, Bush would only spend an average of 15 to 30 minutes reviewing a case. To this day he insists that no innocent person has ever been executed while he was Governor of Texas.

As Governor of Texas, Bush also signed the Texas Futile Care Law giving hospitals the right to deny life support, even against the wishes of the family. Such was the case of Sun Hudson. After a review by the hospitals ethics committee, the hospital decided to remove him from life support against the wishes of his mother. Sun was a six-month-old infant who was born with a congregative disorder. The law, which Bush signed as governor in 1999, requires the hospital to give families ten days to find another facility willing to care for the patient.

In considering patients rights to life support there are two factors that come into play. One is if the patient’s condition is terminal. The other is whether the patient or their family can pay for such care. The bottom line is; if you only have a short time to live anyway and can’t afford medical care, then your life not only lacks value but is also a simple waste of money.

So as Bush stands on his soapbox claiming the moral high ground, be sure to take a look at his record of immoral and often questionable actions. It seams that in his mind, that if God is omnipotent and that if he is doing God’s will, then that must mean that his will is God’s will. He can never be wrong, for he is an omnipotent being, at least in his own mind.