Friday, March 31, 2006

HAS IT REALLY BEEN A YEAR???


One year ago today Terri Schiavo was finally allowed to die.

As the Villager reminds us, "The tragic story of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo brought out the worst in the religious right as Congress, led by Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, tried to reverse the historical role of our independent court system, and Bush got off his horse in Texas to rush back to the White House to deal with this manufactured national crisis."

Right wing conservatives and their friends on the Religious Right are still using Terri Shciavo to try and advance their agenda (and make a little cash at the same time). These leeches simply never know when enough is enough.

The following article is borrowed from Media Transparency (although I knew Bill long before they did)


One year later, conservatives still cashing in on Terri Schiavo
Bill Berkowitz

One year later, conservatives still cashing in on Terri Schiavo
The religious right still doesn't believe the scientific evidence that proved Schiavo was in a 'persistent vegetative state' since 1990. Their shameful, embarrassing and expensive crusade continues to this day


Last year at this time, stories about Terri Schiavo -- the woman who had been in a "persistent vegetative state" since 1990 -- dominated the political landscape. In a recent story in The New Yorker magazine about the Bush Administration's protracted war on science, Michael Specter wrote that In 1998, when Michael Schiavo "asked that [Terri's] feeding tube be removed...a legal war with her parents [was ignited] that eventually turned into a national conflict."

After several years of legal wrangling, it finally came down to a passion-packed month where regular press conferences were held by her parents, Mary and Bob Schindler and their surrogates, mostly right wing politicians and leaders of Christian conservative organizations, demonstrations and vigils organized by a cadre of longtime Christian right activists, fundraising pitches were sent by a host of Christian conservative organizations, and a well-orchestrated campaign was aimed at vilifying Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband.

With the encouragement of Terri's parents, religious right activists unleashed a 24/7, no-holds-barred campaign aimed at winning the battle over public opinion. What was a private family matter turned into a media feeding frenzy and a public spectacle.

'More than just Terri Schiavo'
For right wing partisans, the "cause" was always greater than Terri Schiavo's life. Speaking frankly at a March 23, 2005, Family Research Council-organized event at the Willard Hotel in Washington, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX.) laid out what the Schiavo case meant to the conservative movement:

"It is more than just Terri Schiavo. This is a critical issue for people in this position, and it is also a critical issue to fight that fight for life, whether it be euthanasia or abortion. I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, one thing God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks. I mean, in America that's going to happen if we don't win this fight"
On March 31, 2005, soon after being removed from life support, Terri Schiavo died.

Mobilizing Conservatives
The final month of Terri Schiavo's life was akin to a made-for-television mini-series, with a cast of characters that included the nation's most powerful politicians including, President George W. Bush, his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, DeLay, a host of longtime Christian conservative evangelical leaders and a horde of shameless conservative pundits and media personalities -- exemplified by Fox Television's Sean Hannity.

Steeped as we are in a today's-news-trumps-all mentality -- author/playwright Gore Vidal dubs the U.S.A., the United States of Amnesia -- it is unlikely that on the first anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death, the right wing's embarrassing and shameful behavior will be remembered by the media.

It is doubtful the White House will circulate footage of the president rushing back to the White House from the ranch in Crawford, Texas, to sign a hastily-crafted "emergency measure" that, The New Yorker's Michael Specter reported, "attempted to force the courts to review the Schiavo case and require that the feeding tube [that had been removed from Schiavo] be reinserted." After the Supreme Court "for the sixth time, declined to hear the case," the president --shortly after the second anniversary of the bloody war in Iraq -- spoke out in favor of the "culture of life."

Florida Governor Jeb Bush not only played a leading role in the case, he continued attacking Michael Schiavo even after "an autopsy supported" Schiavo's "contention that she was unaware of her condition and incapable of recovering," Specter reported. "Within days Jeb Bush...ordered a state prosecutor to investigate whether Schiavo's husband had purposely delayed calling an ambulance when she fell ill, in 1990." According to Specter, "Bush produced no evidence, and his actions alarmed even his Republican allies," and "the investigation was quickly dropped."

The office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is unlikely to issue a press release reminding the public of the senator's keen ability to diagnose Schiavo's condition by viewing video highlights of her in her hospital room. (According to the Associated Press, Frist had this to say about "the lessons he learned from the Schiavo controversy: 'The American people don't want you involved in these decisions.'")

You'd be betting against the house if you thought that the beleaguered, and indicted, former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay will once again be threatening retribution against a handful of judges, as he did last year at this time.

Randall Terry, the anti-abortion activist who was designated by the Schiavo family as their spokesperson, and was one of the people expected to mobilize support for Schiavo amongst conservative Christians, will likely receive a mere particle, if any, of media face-time this year.

Following the money
In his book, "Using Terri: The Religious Right's Conspiracy to Take Away Our Rights" (HarperCollins, 2005), Jon Eisenberg, an attorney working pro bono for Michael Schiavo, wrote that the case was a key battle in the religious right's culture wars which is being fought out on "multiple fronts," including "pushing for prayer and creationism in the public schools, and opposing stem-cell research, women's reproductive rights, and gay civil unions and marriage."

After returning to his home in Oakland, California from a hearing in Tallahassee, Florida, Eisenberg found himself wondering, "Who was funding the Schindlers' advocates." After visiting the Media Transparency website, Eisenberg "began to understand the think-tank machinery and its critical role in the Schiavo case. There is a money trail leading to virtually all of the lawyers for the Schindlers and Governor Jeb Bush, through more than a dozen religious Right organizations, from a handful of foundations that are quietly finding just about every ultraconservative cause on the political map."

Eisenberg identified a "three-tiered structure" that included "seven foundations...fourteen think tanks and other religious Right organizations ... and eighteen foot soldiers" behind the case:

"The lawyers, activists, and politicians" -- "The foot soldiers" included David Gibbs III and Barbara Weller, attorneys with the Tampa-area Gibbs Law Firm. Gibbs, whose family controls the Christian Law Association, started working on the case in 2003, and became lead attorney for the Schindlers in September 2004; Pat Anderson, the Schindler's lead attorney before Sept. 2004; Robert Destro, a law professor at Washington, D.C.'s Catholic University of America and "principal investigator for the antigay" Marriage Law Project, represented Jeb Bush "in litigation arising from the passage of 'Terri's Law' in 2003, and joined ... Gibbs III in representing the Schindlers in March 2005; Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice, was "one of the Schindler's attorneys in the 'Terri's Law' litigation"; Deborah Berliner and Brett Wood, "formally affiliated with ... Judicial Watch"; Wesley J. Smith, "the anti-euthanasia activist" served as a "behind-the-scenes 'informal advisor' to the Schindlers"; Rita Marker, the executive director of the anti-euthanasia International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide; Kenneth Connor, the former head of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, worked on "Terri's Law"; William Saunders and Jon Halisky, lawyers for the FRC's Center for Human Life and Bioethics; Max Lapertosa, Kenneth Walden, and Geoge Rahdert, disability rights lawyers; Rep. Tom DeLay who spearheaded congressional intervention' Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) "sponsored a version of the congressional bill that threw the Schiavo case into the federal courts; Governor Jeb Bush.

"Think tanks and other organizations that get money from the foundations to pursue their litigation, publication, activism, education, and lobbying strategies" -- "The officer corps" included the Alliance Defense Fund, Family Research Council, American Center for Law and Justice, Life Legal Defense Fund, National Right to Life Committee, Christian Law Association, Discovery Institute for Public Policy, Encounter Books, International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, National Organization on Disability, World Institute on Disability, Judicial Watch, Values Action Team, Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying group founded by two former aides to DeLay.

"The foundations"--"The high command" included the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Scaife family foundations, Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Randolph Foundation, JM Foundation, Koch family foundations, Heritage Foundation.

"In some instances," Eisenberg wrote, "I was able to trace payments directly to a foot soldier...In other instances, I discovered broader financial connections where there was a constant flow of money to the foot soldiers, not discernibly earmarked for the Schiavo case in particular but generally financing the foot soldiers' work in the trenches of the culture wars, thus facilitating their work in the Schiavo battle."

Still using Schiavo
As the one-year anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death approached, RightMarch.com, was hell-bent on defying science, common sense and public opinion. It also got a head start on mining the marketing possibilities.

In a communiqué from William Greene, the President of RightMarch.com, the organization claimed that:

"Contrary to anything you may have heard, Terri was NOT brain dead; Terri was NOT in a coma; she was NOT in a "persistent vegetative state;" nor was she on ANY life-support system.

"Terri laughed, Terri cried, she moved, and she made child-like attempts at speech with her family. Sometimes she would say 'Mom' or 'Dad' or 'yeah' when they asked her a question. When her mother or father kissed her hello or goodbye, she would look at them and 'pucker up' her lips."

Michael Schiavo, who bore the brunt of the vitriol from the Schiavo family and their spokespersons, was accused of everything from failing to provide her with the necessary physical therapy to exacerbating her condition, to wanting her dead for financial reasons.

According to the RightMarch.com e-Alert:

Now Michael Schiavo, Terri's estranged husband who denied her any therapy for over a decade and then collaborated with those activist judges and legislators to starve her to death, has stepped into the media spotlight once again. He's started a PAC (political action committee) to exploit Terri's name and raise money to defeat the Congressmen and Senators who tried to save her life.

He even has the nerve to call it "TerriPAC". He should be ashamed of himself, but instead he paints himself as a victim and a hero, who "loved his wife". (Never mind the he lived with his "fiancée" the whole time Terri was being starved, had two children by her, and spent the money that was supposed to be for Terri's rehabilitation on lawyers in order to have her killed.) Now, once again, Michael Schiavo is hitting the news shows and the talk show circuit to tell the world that Terri "wanted to die" -- in fact, he was just on Keith Olbermann's liberal "news" show on MSNBC spouting the same old rhetoric.

In addition to rewriting history, these claims were aimed at blunting the launch of Schiavo's new political action committee called TerriPAC. The political action committee intends to raise money in order to be able to hold the politicians that used the tragedy of the Terri Schiavo case for their own partisan purposes, accountable to voters this November.

The PAC "is committed to educating the public about the social and political issues surrounding the case of Terri Schiavo," said Derek Newton, TerriPAC Director, in a recent news release. "Providing information to resources on end-of-life care is part of that mission."

Battle of the books
Last year's polarizing conflict is turning into this year's battle of the books, England's Telegraph newspaper recently reported.

On one side, is a book written by Terri Schiavo's parents, her brother Bobby Schindler, and her sister Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo, called "A Life That Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo--A Lesson For Us All." The book, set to be released a few days before the first anniversary of Terri's death, "recount[s] their failed legal struggle to keep the brain-damaged woman alive against the wishes of her husband and presenting accounts of his alleged violent temper," the Telegraph noted.

"Describing themselves as the people who loved and knew her best, they say that their narrative 'separates lies from truth, myth from facts" and will correct misconceptions of a story that became "buried under the avalanche of politics and power.'" Reuters reported that in the book, "the Schindlers again accuse Michael Schiavo of abusing Terri."

Michael Schiavo new book "Terri: The Truth," written with Michael Hirsh and published by Dutton, will also be released just prior to the first anniversary of Terri's death. According to Reuters, Schiavo wrote: "A religious zealot put a $250,000 bounty on my head, urging that I be tortured before I'm killed. I was condemned by the president of the United States, the majority leaders of the House and Senate, the governor of Florida, the Pope, Jesse Jackson and the right-wing media."

At least two other books will hit bookstores in the near future: George Felos, Michael Schiavo's lawyer, has written "Beyond Schiavo: Searching For Death With Dignity," and David Gibbs, a lawyer for the Schindlers has authored "Fighting For Dear Life: The Untold Story Of Terri Schiavo and What It Means For All Of Us."

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