Monday, March 28, 2005

Jeb's Rebellion

Aside from a few major papers, I don't usually send TIA Daily readers to websites that require registration. But this is an extremely important story that has not apparently been covered anywhere else—even though it ought to dominate the headlines. The Miami Herald reports that Florida Governor Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement officials to seize Terry Schiavo from her hospice in defiance of state and federal courts.

This is the clearest indication of the dictatorial urge lurking beneath the surface of the religious right: their willingness to knock the law flat in the pursuit of their religious agenda. In this case, the lawlessness took a stark form: the prospect of a standoff between two groups of armed men, between state police sent to seize Terri Schiavo's body and local police determined to enforce the judge's ruling.

One can only imagine that there was a moment when a bunch of cops sat wordlessly around a table staring at each other, all took a deep breath, and then decided that it was probably best if they didn't start shooting each other. This is America, after all, not some anarchic tin-pot dictatorship, and that was the message implicitly relayed to Governor Bush—who apparently needs to be reminded of this fact.

"Police 'Showdown' Averted," Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, 3/26/05

"Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted—but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned. Agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told police in Pinellas Park, the small town where Schiavo lies at Hospice Woodside, on Thursday that they were on the way to take her to a hospital to resume her feeding. For a brief period, local police, who have officers at the hospice to keep protesters out, prepared for what sources called 'a showdown.' In the end, the squad from the FDLE and the Department of Children & Families backed down, apparently concerned about confronting local police outside the hospice. 'We told them that unless they had the judge with them when they came, they were not going to get in,' said a source with the local police. 'The FDLE called to say they were en route to the scene,' said an official with the city police who requested anonymity. 'When the sheriff's department and our department told them they could not enforce their order, they backed off.' ... Participants in the high-stakes test of wills, who spoke with The Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they believed the standoff could ultimately have led to a constitutional crisis and a confrontation between dueling lawmen. 'There were two sets of law enforcement officers facing off, waiting for the other to blink,' said one official with knowledge of Thursday morning's activities. In jest, one official said local police discussed 'whether we had enough officers to hold off the National Guard.' 'It was kind of a showdown on the part of the locals and the state police,' the official said. 'It was not too long after that Jeb Bush was on TV saying that, evidently, he doesn't have as much authority as people think.' "

PS: I am still getting a few e-mails with confusions on the legal and scientific issues in this case, so I thought I should post links to several original sources.

The summary of the Florida state court's finding on Terri Schiavo's medical state and on her previous statements about whether she wanted to be kept alive on artificial life support are available in .pdf form. It demonstrates the rationality of the process behind the original court rulings on this case.

There is an excellent analysis of the science and pseudo-science behind the case, including a link to the CAT-scan showing the atrophy of Schiavo's cerebral cortex on a blog called "Respectful of Otters." Thanks to Cox & Forkum's Allen Forkum for recommending this page, which is better than most science reporting from the big newspapers—a further demonstration of the value of blogs.