A Cautious Man
March 31, 2005
Multiple Choice Question
As a Catholic, what do you do upon hearing that a person has passed away?

Do you (a) quietly say:
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon her.
May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Or, do you (b), race to be among the first to clamber on top of the body in order to issue yet another hate-laden, distorted political statement that manages to insult people of almost every faith?

Unfortunately, the tragedy of this one woman, of this one couple, of this one family, is being exploited (and will probably continue to be exploited) by such self-serving types as this.

[Edited to add] Well, the link above used to point to Catholic "League" President William Donohue's statement on the death of Ms. Schiavo, which began, "The let-her-starve crowd has finally seen its death wish for Terri Schiavo become a reality", and concludes saying, "the teachings of the Catholic Church on end-of-life issues is a model of clarity compared to that of all the other religions". All-in-all, uncalled-for put-downs of other people with sincere religious and philosophical beliefs. I'll fix the link later, after I'm certain that they won't move it around again.

March 30, 2005
Labels such as "conservative" and "liberal" are misused, to the extent that people try to use them to predict what a particular person may believe. Former Senator John Danforth had a piece in today's NY Times, which demonstrates this fact:
I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another.


As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.
As always, I suggest you read the whole thing (if you have to register, use "CautiousMan" as the Member ID, and "Cautious" as the password).

Think It Over, Judge, One More Time
When the United States Congress passed a special law directed to the tragic case of Ms. Schiavo, I had expressed some concerns about that. But, I am not a judge on a Federal Appeals Court, so why should you care what I think? However, an actual Federal Appeals Court Judge has made some observations, which are reasonable and should be considered:
The 11th Circuit Court decision, signed by Chief Judge J. L. Edmondson, was only a sentence long. But in a concurring opinion, Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., appointed by the first President Bush in 1990, wrote that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the case and that the law enacted by Congress and President Bush allowing the Schindlers to seek a federal court review was unconstitutional.

"When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene," wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. "If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow."

Judge Birch said he had not had time before now to consider the constitutionality of the law, which Congress passed and Mr. Bush signed before dawn March 21, because of "the rapid developments and sensitivities in this case." The 11th Circuit Court considered and rejected several appeals from the Schindlers last week after Judge James D. Whittemore of Federal District Court in Tampa denied their motions.

In particular, Judge Birch wrote, a provision of the new law requiring a fresh federal review of all the evidence presented in the case, litigated for seven years in state court, made it unconstitutional. Because that provision constitutes "legislative dictation of how a federal court should exercise its judicial functions," he wrote, it "invades the province of the judiciary and violates the separation of powers principle."

David J. Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University who closely follows the 11th Circuit, said Judge Birch's opinion was striking because the judge was a conservative Republican, especially regarding social issues. Judge Birch wrote the ruling for a three-judge panel of the court last year unanimously upholding a Florida law that prohibits gay men and lesbians from adopting children.

"This is a Republican judge going out of his way to directly criticize the Congress and President Bush for what they've done," Mr. Garrow said.

Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at Duke University, said Judge Birch probably felt it important to address the constitutionality of the law because the opportunity might never arise again.

"When Terri Schiavo dies this law expires because it was only about her," Mr. Chemerinsky said. "This raised an important constitutional issue that could come up again, and he's saying it's important that some judge be on the record about it."
You can read the whole article here (Link is to the NY Times - if you have to register, use "CautiousMan" as the Member ID, and "Cautious" as the password).

March 26, 2005
". . . Unhealthy For Children And Other Living Things"
Who knew, at the start of Lent, that we'd all be seeing this spectacle being played out at Easter? Forty days ago, I'd pointed out the suggestion from Pax Christi to not just give up something, but to give some thought to peace. Turns out that peace is still elusive here at home, in addition to around the world. Their thoughts for world peace may be just as applicable to the need for healing here:
Give us the strength it takes
to listen rather than to judge,
to trust rather than to fear,
to try again and again
to make peace even when peace eludes us.
I think that one thing which has been lacking is perspective. Ono Ekeh had some thoughts earlier in the week, related to that point:
Again, thousands of these cases occur each year in which a family member decides to pull the plug on a family member in a vegetative state. I am baffled why, if this is such a pro-life issue, why not then go to the crux of the matter and push for legislation on all such cases? Because they know that first of all, it is not the will of the people and secondly there is no basis to do that. But then, it really isn't about a pro-life reading on all such cases, is it? It is about this particular case because a point can be made in this case.

There are thousands of children, innocent children who have died in the Iraq war in the most horrible ways you can think as parents in despair watched helplessly. Many have died slowly in carpet bombings, in sicknesses, diseases, etc. Even if the conservatives don't like the adult Iraqis who deserve it, I'm sure they'd have some compassion to spare for the children? Or is out of sight, out of mind? Why expend all this energy on Terri Schiavo, who did not wish to be kept alive, but be unmoved by the horror of the plight of Iraqi kids dying slowly in this war? There is something so disproportionately out of whack in all of this. It simply doesn't make any sense.
We can still hope for some way to add some sense to the political process.

March 24, 2005
Things Getting Ugly
You may have read about Peggy Noonan going over-the-top today in her column today for the Wall Street Journal. Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog reprints the best worst parts, and adds an entirely appropriate take-down. I can't add anything to that, but I'd note that Matt Conigliaro at Abstract Appeal (who is hands-down the essential source of facts about the Schiavo case) has a reflection which is also suitable as a response to people of Ms. Noonan's ilk:
I'm disturbed. I've just finished watching a round of television programs where Judge Greer was once again assailed as lawless, power-grabbing, and out of control. On a mission to kill, it's said.

This is horribly difficult to watch. I cannot help but think that well meaning, honest Americans are home watching these programs, thinking there must be some truth behind the repeated assertions that a single judge or two have turned the justice system upside down. The public deserves better.

Florida law told Judge Greer what he had to do here. Once fate chose him as the judge in the case, he was responsible for following the law laid out by both the Florida Supreme Court and the Florida Legislature, all of which said that where those close to the incapacitated person cannot agree on what the ward would choose to do, then the court should resolve the matter.

Judge Greer is a Republican and a Southern Baptist. No doubt he has his own views about what he thinks he would do, or what he thinks might be in Terri's best interests. But he was charged with deciding only what Terri would do. He found the evidence presented at trial clear and convincing that Terri would choose not to have her life prolonged by the affirmative intervention of modern medicine. Three appellate judges unanimously affirmed that decision.

I receive email after email telling me that no judge has the authority to end someone's life. That life must be preserved where there is even unreasonable hope, or where there is any uncertainty regarding the person's wishes. That oral evidence can never be clear and convincing. That removing "life support" is okay, but removing a feeding tube is barbaric and unacceptable. Perhaps those sentiments are noble, but they are not the law, and it was not within Judge Greer's power to make them the law. It is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the law on these points, but to condemn the judge for following the law as it exists is irresponsible and contrary to the basic principles on which our government, with its separate branches, was created.
(Emphasis added) Read the rest, and more of his thoughts, at this link.

The Same Old Played Out Scenes
Just to be repetitious -

I said the other day that I was not sure that a "living will" would have helped in the Schiavo situation, since there are people who cannot accept that her condition is permanent. This feeling is reinforced by the report I mentioned the other day, by the Guardian ad Litem appointed by Governor Jeb Bush, at page 14:
Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive. Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional, difficult testimony that appeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. Throughout this painful and difficult trial, the family acknowledged that Theresa was in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state.
(Emphasis added) Again, the entire report is at this link (courtesy of Abstract Appeal).

And, apparently Governor Jeb Bush is claiming to have "new evidence" to support having the State of Florida take Ms. Schiavo under its care and custody. Again, it bears noting the aforementioned report from the Governor's own appointee, which states the following at page 18:
By mid 2003, the landscape and texture of Theresa Schiavo’s case underwent profound changes. National media coverage, active involvement by groups advocating right to life, and the attention of the Governor’s office and the Florida Legislature, catapulted Theresa’s case into a different dimension.

The Schindlers, acting on behalf of Theresa, filed a motion in federal district court seeking a preliminary injunction to stay the removal of the artificial life support from Theresa, scheduled to occur on 15 October 2003. On 6 October 2003, Florida Governor Jeb Bush filed an Amicus brief in support of the motion for a preliminary injunction. The brief argues that removal of artificial nutrition, resulting in death, should be avoided if that person can take oral nutrition and hydration. The Governor predicates his memorandum on the pivotal question as to whether Theresa could ingest food and water on her own. That Theresa is in a diagnosed, persistent vegetative state is explicitly recognized.
(Emphasis added) Does it seem that the greater the media attention, the more people like the Governor "forget" what they knew, said, and did before?

"I Can Say Anything I Want To Say"
In case you're wondering, I don't always grouch about people abusing the sincerely-held philosophical, moral and religious beliefs of others in a cynical attempt to advance their personal, political and professional careers. Okay, so I just did it again, but moving on ...

I've added David Corn to my online reading list, which I should have done sooner. Believe it or not, while I had a great time at Steve Earle's performance last week, it sounds as if Mr. Corn had even more fun (scroll down the entry) at the D.C. show over the weekend:
Prior to show time, drummer Rigby asked if I wanted to be a "celebrity" contributor to the show by participating in the chant that occurs in the middle of Earle's anti-FCC tune, "F the CC." Without thinking much about it, I answered, "Sure." Then I realized this would mean jumping on stage and spelling out the F word rather loud. I started expressing misgivings, and Rigby seemed to suggest there would be others. Well, I thought, there's less potential embarassment in numbers. And I also said to myself, "What would Hunter do." Certainly, the recently departed Hunter Thompson is not a role model for any responsible family man. But why not push the envelope when you can--especially when there's no health risk.


So when the time came, I was there on the side of the stage. I looked around for the others who would join us in this Country Joe moment (remember the F chant at Woodstock?). But there was no one else from the audience. I had misunderstood Rigby. It was just me and two band members, Patrick Earle and Frahn.
Lucky duck. I've also added a link to the folks at Crooked Timber, all of whom share the same characteristic as the rest of the folks on my list - they write better, about more interesting things, than I can.

March 23, 2005
As A Wise Man Once Said -
"What Liberal Media?"

How the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit describes itself:
Established by Congress in 1981, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit has jurisdiction over federal cases originating in the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. The circuit includes nine district court's with each state divided into Northern, Middle and Southern Districts.

In terms of cases filed and terminated by three-judge panels, the court is the busiest federal appellate court in the United States with its twelve authorized judgeships.
How the introduction to MSNBC's "Special Edition" coverage of the Schiavo matter describes that same court:
Tonight, a special edition of THE ABRAMS REPORT.

Terri Schiavo’s parents take their case to a federal appeals court, the same court that sent Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba, refused to stop the recount in 2000’s disputed presidential election and ruled against Alabama’s 10 Commandments monument. Three judges are now weighing the case.
Any questions?

Just The Facts
Okay, no opinions or pointless musing this time - just the facts.

First - There's going to be all sorts of fulminating about the decision of the Federal Appeals Court to let stand the denial of an injunction to resume life-sustaining measures in the Schiavo case. In all the cable news and talk-radio conversations about the judges "thwarting the will of Congress", I wonder if any of those commenters will actually read that decision (as always, I suggest that you read it). If they did, they would see that the Court quoted from the Senate debate on the law passed last weekend, on the issue of whether Congress required that injunctive relief be granted:
Mr. LEVIN. . . . The absence of any state [Note: probably "stay"] provision in the new bill simply means that Congress relies on current law. Under current law, a judge may decide whether or not a stay is appropriate.

Does the majority leader share my understanding of the bill?

Mr. FRIST. I share the understanding of the Senator from Michigan, as does the junior Senator from Florida who is the chief sponsor of this bill. Nothing in the current bill or its legislative history mandates a stay.
Second - If you watch cable news shows (I am not allowed to, if the Cautious Spouse is in the room, due to my tendency to talk back to the TV), you have probably heard all sorts of people make all sorts of claims about how Ms. Schiavo came to be in this condition, about the opinions of doctors, and about how much all of this has been examined by the courts. If you're looking for some way to clear up the confusion caused by all of that, you may want to read the report of an independent Guardian Ad Litem (or "GAL") appointed by Governor Jeb Bush in 2003, found on the "Terri Schiavo Information Page" provided by Abstract Appeal, noted here the other day. The report recounts the events which took place over the years (and which are now much-argued about, from the media to the floor of the House of Representatives). Most of the "facts" being argued about, are addressed in that report. The GAL appointed by Governor Bush concluded as follows:
The Schindlers and the Schiavos are normal, decent people who have found themselves within the construct of an exceptional circumstance which none of them, indeed, few reasonable and normal people could have imagined. As a consequence of this circumstance, extensive urban mythology has created toxic clouds, causing the parties and others to behave in ways that may not, in the order of things, serve the best interests of [Ms. Schiavo].

The GAL concludes that the trier of fact and the evidence that served as the basis for the decisions regarding Theresa Schiavo were firmly grounded within Florida statutory and case law, which clearly and unequivocally provide for the removal of artificial nutrition in cases of persistent vegetative states, where there is no advance directive, through substituted/proxy judgment of the guardian and/or the court as guardian, and with the use of evidence regarding the medical condition and the intent of the parties that was deemed, by the trier of fact to be clear and convincing.
As always, you should read the whole thing.

March 22, 2005
Further Random Thoughts On A Tragic Situation
Some more really random thoughts about the terrible tragedy in Florida. There's just no way that you or I, or anyone, can really know what the Schiavo and Schindler families are going through, or why this situation has come to this. I know that some commentators (mostly conservative, you can look it up) believe that character assasination is the best strategy in this situation. That's just wrong. As of this morning, the Federal judge hearing the request for injunctive relief, to continue the provision of nutrition to Ms. Schiavo, has rejected that request (despite the arguments of the Schindlers' attorney that the judge would be forcing Ms. Schiavo to commit a mortal sin by refusing treatment, but more on that in a moment).

By the way, before I go on, let me say that I'm not convinced that having a "living will" would have solved this situation. Look at what some of the politicians are saying, in echoing arguments made by some members of Ms. Schiavo's family:
Like other Republican lawmakers championing Schiavo's bill, DeLay often suggests she is alert and potentially treatable.

"She talks and she laughs and she expresses likes and discomforts," he said Sunday evening. "It won't take a miracle to help Terri Schiavo. It will only take the medical care and therapy that patients require."
If they are arguing that Ms. Schiavo's condition is not permanent, then a "living will" would be useless - despite the fact that Congressman DeLay, or Senator Frist, are not basing these claims on any objective medical evidence.

Now, back to the part about mortal sin. As soon as I heard the report, about the argument made by the Schindlers' attorney, that really bothered me and I tried to gather my thoughts to say something. Fortunately, Ed Deluzain at Iron Knee has already taken care of that, better than I could:
The lawyer representing Terri Shiavo's parents tried to bring religious issues into the hearing today about whether Judge James Whittemore should grant a temporary restraining order to allow Terri's feeding tube to be reinserted until they can have a full-dress federal trial on the matter. Here's the exchange:
During the hearing, David Gibbs, a lawyer for the parents, said that forcing Terri Schiavo to die by starvation and dehydration would be "a mortal sin" under her Roman Catholic beliefs.

"It is a complete violation to her rights and to her religious liberty, to force her in a position of refusing nutrition," Gibbs told Whittemore.

But the judge told Gibbs that he still wasn't completely sold on the argument.
David Gibbs tried to make this sound like Terri Shiavo would be committing a mortal sin if she is deprived of nutrition and hydration. If Gibbs knows anything about Catholic theology, and I suspect he does, he knows this is a bald faced lie. In her permanent vegetative state, Terri Shiavo is totally incapable of committing sin, mortal or otherwise. Gibbs makes it sound like Terri is being forced to sin, but that's absurd according to my understanding of Catholic teaching on the subject.


Gibbs's reference to mortal sin is wrong-headed, and it's just another example of the radical right wing's propensity to twist the truth. What he said was an obvious grandstand appeal, and fortunately Judge Whittemore was smart enough not to be swayed. I won't resort to gutter language on this blog, but don't think for a minute I'm not capable of using it "in real life" to describe these people, or that I don't do so regularly.
Yes, I really liked Mr. Deluzain's last comment. I suggest you read the whole thing, and his other thoughts on this case.

Now, I understand that there is a range of opinions among thoughtful Catholics, about end-of-life decisions to forego nutrition and hydration. But, the position put forward by the Schindlers' attorney is too extreme, and therefore wrong. An example of a more thoughtful approach is that expressed in 2003 by the Bishop of St. Petersburg, which is the diocese in which Ms. Schiavo and her family live. In considering this matter, he comes down on the side of continuing to provide nutrition, given the uncerainties of the case. However, he makes it clear that a "living will" that addresses nutrition is not contrary to Catholic teaching. As always, I suggest that you read the whole thing, but some important points are the following:
Some in Terri’s family believe that her condition calls for the removal of her feeding tube and others do not. Even physicians, who have evaluated Terri’s condition, with varying degrees of access for clinical analysis, disagree on her condition. In Florida, when families cannot agree, trial judges are permitted to act as proxies and make decisions about life-prolonging procedures. In so doing, we ask our judges to make decisions that they might not make for themselves or their loved ones, but ones that clear and convincing evidence shows the individual would make for herself or himself.

Proper care of our lives requires that we seek necessary medical care from others but we are not required to use every possible remedy in every circumstance. We are obliged to preserve our own lives, and help others preserve theirs, by use of means that have a reasonable hope of sustaining life without imposing unreasonable burdens on those we seek to help, that is, on the patient and his or her family and community. In general, we are only required to use ordinary means that do not involve an excessive burden, for others or for our ourselves. What may be too difficult for some may not be for others.


Terri Schiavo’s case is especially difficult because her actual medical situation is in dispute. The court has determined based on the medical evidence which was presented to it that she is in a “persistent or permanent vegetative state,” commonly referred to as PVS. Her husband agrees with this. Her parents and other family members do not. Physicians who have examined her also have opposing opinions. It is currently assumed that Terri cannot swallow food naturally. All agree, however, that there is extensive and permanent damage to her brain but it is not clear whether the medically assisted nutrition and hydration is delaying her dying process to no avail, is unreasonably burdensome for her, and contrary to what she would wish if she could tell us.
As a result, the Bishop had a three-part suggestion:
This situation is tragic. I strongly recommend that
1. in the presence of so much uncertainty and dispute about her actual physical state, all parties pursue a clearer understanding of her actual physical condition;

2. Terri’s family be allowed to attempt a medical protocol which they feel would improve her condition;

3. Excessive rhetoric like the use of “murder” or the designation of the trial judge or appellate judges as “murderers” not be used by anyone from our Judeo-Christian tradition. This is a much harder case than those who use facile language might know.
In other words, determine the facts, provide treatment to help her (if such treatment exists), and knock off the name-calling (some of those policians and commentators referenced above would do well to keep that last point in mind).

Finally, the Bishop's most recent statement on this matter continues with this view - not that one choice is better or more moral than the other, but that this is a personal decision which, unfortunately, has become a legal dispute:
At the end of the day (the judicial, legislative days) the decision to remove Terri’s artificial feeding tube will be that of her husband, Michael. It is he who will give the order, not the courts or certainly the governor or legislature or the medical personnel surrounding and caring for Terri. In other words, as I have said from the beginning of this sad situation, the decision will be made within a family. A significant part of that family feels they are outside of the decision-making process and they are in great pain and suffering mightily.

I urge and pray that before the finality, one last effort be made for mediation. Normally, at the end of life, families of the person in extremis agree that it is time to allow the Lord to call a loved one to Himself, feeling that they have done all they possibly might to provide alternatives to death, every possible treatment protocol which might be helpful has been attempted. There is a peace. This will not happen in this instance because of the seeming intractability of both sides. I beg and pray that both sides might step back a little and allow some mediation in these final hours. The legacy of Terri’s situation should not be that of those who love her the most, loathing the actions of one another, but of a heroic moment of concern for the feelings of each other, guided by moral and ethical considerations, with a single focus of achieving the best result for Terri.
That may not serve the interests of the politicians, but who cares?

March 21, 2005
Wild Billy's Circus Story
These are going to be more-random-than-usual thoughts, on a tragic situation. I sat transfixed watching C-SPAN last evening, as the House of Representatives engaged in debate on continued the circus initiated by Sen. Bill Frist's special legislation about Terri Schiavo. Why is this a "circus"? Because they showed that they do not know (and I certainly don't know) what poor Ms. Schiavo would have chosen for herself. And that should be the only, the absolute only criteria here. I know that people have sincere beliefs that no life-sustaining care should ever be withheld - but there are also people who believe that, under certain circumstances, it is appropriate to withdraw medical care, and even nutrition, from a person in a persistent vegetative state. The government should not interfere with a person's legal right to continue to receive treatment - and, in the same way, the government should not interfere with a legal right to decline treatment.

It's also a circus because Senator Frist and others are trying to deny the undeniable - that this is a law directed to a single individual's case (Note - if the link does not work, go to the Library of Congress "Thomas" Web Site, and search for S. 686):

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida shall have jurisdiction to hear, determine, and render judgment on a suit or claim by or on behalf of Theresa Marie Schiavo for the alleged violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution or laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.


Any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo shall have standing to bring a suit under this Act. The suit may be brought against any other person who was a party to State court proceedings relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain the life of Theresa Marie Schiavo, or who may act pursuant to a State court order authorizing or directing the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. In such a suit, the District Court shall determine de novo any claim of a violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo within the scope of this Act, notwithstanding any prior State court determination and regardless of whether such a claim has previously been raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings. The District Court shall entertain and determine the suit without any delay or abstention in favor of State court proceedings, and regardless of whether remedies available in the State courts have been exhausted.


After a determination of the merits of a suit brought under this Act, the District Court shall issue such declaratory and injunctive relief as may be necessary to protect the rights of Theresa Marie Schiavo under the Constitution and laws of the United States relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.
What is so wrong with this? Well, it turns out that there already are laws in Florida which provide for proceedings to protect patients like Ms. Schiavo. I was curious about what Florida law actually says about this issue, and found that Florida has a law specifically granting the right to decline life-sustaining measures - and also provides for how to make that decision if the patient is in a "persistent vegetative state":
1) If an incapacitated or developmentally disabled patient has not executed an advance directive, or designated a surrogate to execute an advance directive, or the designated or alternate surrogate is no longer available to make health care decisions, health care decisions may be made for the patient by any of the following individuals, in the following order of priority, if no individual in a prior class is reasonably available, willing, or competent to act:

(a) The judicially appointed guardian of the patient or the guardian advocate of the person having a developmental disability as defined in s. 393.063, who has been authorized to consent to medical treatment, if such guardian has previously been appointed; however, this paragraph shall not be construed to require such appointment before a treatment decision can be made under this subsection;

(b) The patient's spouse;

(c) An adult child of the patient, or if the patient has more than one adult child, a majority of the adult children who are reasonably available for consultation;

(d) A parent of the patient;

(e) The adult sibling of the patient or, if the patient has more than one sibling, a majority of the adult siblings who are reasonably available for consultation;

(f) An adult relative of the patient who has exhibited special care and concern for the patient and who has maintained regular contact with the patient and who is familiar with the patient's activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs; or

(g) A close friend of the patient.
You'll notice that "parent" is further down the list, after "guardian" and "spouse". I'm unaware as to whether the existence of this law was even recognized by Congress in passing Sen. Frist's bill. The Florida law provides for protection of the rights of the patient:
(2) Any health care decision made under this part must be based on the proxy's informed consent and on the decision the proxy reasonably believes the patient would have made under the circumstances. If there is no indication of what the patient would have chosen, the proxy may consider the patient's best interest in deciding that proposed treatments are to be withheld or that treatments currently in effect are to be withdrawn.

(3) Before exercising the incapacitated patient's rights to select or decline health care, the proxy must comply with the provisions of ss. 765.205 and 765.305, except that a proxy's decision to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging procedures must be supported by clear and convincing evidence that the decision would have been the one the patient would have chosen had the patient been competent or, if there is no indication of what the patient would have chosen, that the decision is in the patient's best interest.
Okay, so there's already a law in Florida about this. Was anything done to legally determine what should be done in the case of Ms. Schiavo? Yes, there was, but once again this is something which the Federal enactment ignores. Through reading at No More Mister Nice Blog and Roger Ailes, I learned about a website with a valuable store of information on this matter, run by a gentleman named Matt Conigliaro and called Abstract Appeal. He has a specific "Terri Schiavo Information Page", and explains better than I could why that's important: "I have created this page to help people understand the legal circumstances surrounding the Terri Schiavo saga. In my view, there continues to be a need for an objective look at the matter. There is an unbelievable amount of misinformation being circulated." There, for the first time, I was able to find the February 11, 2000 decision of the Florida court concerning what Ms. Schiavo would have wanted. I think that should be read, by anybody discussing this matter. Sen. Frist's bill, on the other hand, tells the Federal courts that they should not pay attention to the decision of the judge who actually heard the witnesses and the doctors testify: "In such a suit, the District Court shall determine de novo any claim of a violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo within the scope of this Act, notwithstanding any prior State court determination and regardless of whether such a claim has previously been raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings."

That brings me back to what I thought about at the start of this post. While some may disagree, I think that people have the right to make these decisions. Florida law provides for this, the law also provides for a process to determine the patient's wishes, and that process was carried out. Despite this, the politicians have postured on this case, and inserted themselves into this tragic situation, without even caring about or bothering to learn the facts. For more on the hypocrisy which is a big part of this, I suggest reading this post from Digby, and especially this post from Mark Kleiman, about how less newsworthy patients have their life-sustaining treatment removed even over the objections of their decision-making family members:
Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child.
You should read the rest.

As for how this will end, who knows? In the end, I don't really think that Sen. Frist or many of the other Senators and Congressmen who pushed for this actually care. They made their political point, and they'll move on, safe in the knowledge that the people whose votes they are pandering to get, won't ever really find out all the facts of the case.

Oh, yeah, and the U.S. Catholic Bishops are launching their campaign against the death penalty today. Will Sen. Frist, Congressman Sensenbrenner, & co. rush to join in that one? Somehow, I doubt it.

March 18, 2005
Just To Be Clear -
I posted earlier about how the two foundations for the Congressional authorization of military action in Iraq were not supported. I received a comment which, in its own way, summarized arguments similar to those noted by the widely-read Professor:
WAR CRITICS want to mark the anniversary of the war -- there will be an "antiwar protest" at my local mall tomorrow and there are all sorts of events planned worldwide -- but a proper way of marking the date would be with a mass apology to the Iraqi people, and to George W. Bush, for taking the wrong side at a crucial moment in history.

But, that's misrepresenting the argument, isn't it? Remember, the tool of invasion was authorized, and justified, because of the WMD and terrorist allegations. Nobody said that we shouldn't work to change the regime in Iraq - but people did disagree on whether bombing the cr*p out of everyone there was the right way to go about it. If the President's main goal was reform of the Iraqi government, nobody can say that choosing war was the only, or even the best, way to go about it.

"And If You Sing Loud Enough ..."
At the last minute, the Cautious Spouse and I decided to go to Steve Earle's show last night. We had a great time, of course. The venue seemed to be sort of an over-sized roadhouse – perfect for a Steve Earle performance. It was in a part of New Jersey (a.k.a. way in the middle of nowhere) where I had not ventured before. I guess I'm not the only one, since while I believe his performance tonight in New York is sold out, we had no trouble getting in last night. As a matter of fact, when Mr. Earle ambled onto the stage before the start, he grinningly said, "Welcome to the secret show!"

If you're not familiar with his music, remedy that. Mr. Earle is a talented writer and performer, whose shows veer through rock, country and bluegrass sounds, with songs of love, lost love, peace, justice, and having a good time. I suppose he may be the suburbanite's favorite rebel (yours truly is an example of that), and he's got us pegged, as in his song Amerika v. 6.0:
Look at ya
Yeah, take a look in the mirror now tell me what you see
Another satisfied customer in the front of the line for the American dream
I remember when we was both out on the boulevard
Talkin' revolution and singin' the blues
Nowadays it's letters to the editor and cheatin' on our taxes
Is the best that we can do
I think he's earned that following with work that compels honest looks at some significant issues. I know that some may belittle the notion of a religiously-based social justice agenda (e.g., opposition to unjust war, opposition to the death penalty, and support for peace, justice, unions and a living wage for workers), but for those who do not, you can find all these themes and similar ones in Mr. Earle's music.

We last saw him on Halloween, at Webster Hall in NYC, just before the election. As you can imagine, when he exhorted the crowd to sing as if they could change the world, there was a sense that a change was actually imminent. His post-election spirit is still unbowed ("The thing you have to remember about an ass-whuppin', is that it's only an ass-whuppin'", as he noted last night). He cited Woody Guthrie for the principle that you don't stop a war by listening to music, you stop it by singing. That means, to me, that no matter what you want, you have to do something to make it happen. And sitting around, feeling sorry or dejected, is not the way to act, even now.

As I said, we had a great time, with some great music from a great performer (it was Saint Patrick's Day, and he did do Galway Girl). Sure, one night or one song by itself won't change the world, but they can be replicated over and over. And then, who knows?

[Edited to add] I forgot to remind you - "F the CC!"

I Guess It's Two Years Gone By
It seems to me that nobody focuses on how we found ourselves at this point. Two years on, with American soldiers still fighting and dying in Iraq. There were no WMD stockpiles, and the CIA has confirmed that the invasion increased, not decreased, the terrorist presence in Iraq. And don't let anybody tell you that there were other reasons for this invasion. The President went to Congress for a resolution authorizing the use of U.S. troops to invade – and to comply with that authorization, he sent the following letter to Congress, two years ago today:
Presidential Letter

Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate

March 18, 2003

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:

(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.


This requires a real investigation, not the half-hearted, "how could the intelligence agencies have been so wrong" inquiry now under way. Pardon my language, but dammit, this is actionable, people.

But somehow, Congress is more concerned with investigating whether Jose Canseco stuck a needle full of steroids into Mark McGwire's derriere.

(And, yes, Rep. Henry Waxman did send a letter to the Committee Chair stating that the testimony of Canseco and McGwire was necessary "to get to the bottom of this growing scandal.")

March 17, 2005
The Mighty Casey
Today starts the Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball. I think it was Jon Stewart of the Daily Show who asked something like: "Let's see, Halliburton, Abu Ghraib - and they decide to investigate BASEBALL?!!"

Of course, the classic testimony before Congress about baseball came from (who else?) Casey Stengel:
I had many years that I was not so successful as a ballplayer, as it is a game of skill. And then I was no doubt discharged by baseball in which I had to go back to the minor leagues as a manager, and after being in the minor leagues as a manager, I became a major league manager in several cities and was discharged, we call it "discharged," because there is no question I had to leave. And I returned to the minor leagues at Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Oakland, Calif., and then returned to the major leagues.

In the last ten years, naturally, in major league baseball with the New York Yankees, the New York Yankees have had tremendous success and while I am not the ballplayer who does the work, I have no doubt worked for a ball club that is very capable in the office. I must have splendid ownership, I must have very capable men who are in radio and television, which is no doubt you know that we have mentioned the three names — you will say they are very great.

We have a wonderful press that follows us. Anybody should in New York City, where you have so many million people. Our ballclub has been successful because we have it, and we have the Spirit of 1776. We put it into the ball field and if you are not capable of becoming a great ballplayer since I have been in as a manager, in ten years, you are notified that if you don't produce on the ball field, the salary that you receive, we will allow you to be traded to play and give your services to other clubs.
There's more, a lot more, of course. And, when he was finished, he was followed by Mickey Mantle, who could only add: "My views are about the same as Casey's."

March 16, 2005
"I Can’t Say That I’m Sorry
For The Things That We Done"

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Iraq war, another Administration official is heard on Capitol Hill, explaining:
"I look back and I would say to you, if confronted with the same evidence we had back then, I would recommend exactly what I recommended then. It turns out we were all wrong."
Wait a minute, that was Alan Greenspan discussing why he thought the first Bush tax cuts were a good idea.

No word yet on second thoughts from those who made decisions which had more life-and-death consequences.

March 15, 2005
Something In The Night
It is not always a waste of time to visit OpinionJournal.com (home of the leading contender for "Most Annoying Person on the Internet"). Today's edition includes an essay by John J. Miller, through which I learned about the new Library of America edition of the work of H.P. Lovecraft:
If our country's literary canon has a dress code, then surely it involves those shiny black jackets covering the volumes produced by the Library of America. Lovecraft's new one runs for more than 800 pages and includes 22 novellas and short stories with titles such as "The Horror at Red Hook," "At the Mountains of Madness" and "The Thing on the Doorstep." There are now 25,000 copies in print, which is an above-average number for the nonprofit publisher.


Lovecraft wrote in this dark and distinguished tradition, and much of his early work displays the influence of Poe and other predecessors. By the late 1920s, however, he was no longer a mere dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants but a genuine innovator whose lasting impact appears mainly in a set of stories known as the "Cthulhu Mythos." They begin with "The Call of Cthulhu," written in 1926 and one of Lovecraft's finest pieces. It's about a young sculptor's bizarre dreams, a hideous statuette he manufactures in his sleep, a dastardly voodoo cult, a shadowy book called the Necronomicon, and a menacing encounter in the Pacific Ocean with a monster that's perhaps best described as a gargantuan alien octopus with wings (and owning the unpronounceable name "Cthulhu").

This may sound silly and, at a certain level, it surely is. Yet "The Call of Cthulhu" is also strangely engrossing, and contains many elements that will be familiar to fans of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown: The main character is an Ivy League professor determined to investigate ancient mysteries and their lingering effects on the present day. Readers who become accustomed to Lovecraft's writing style may find that it possesses a florid eloquence.

They will also appreciate his skill at producing a sense of mounting dread. Lovecraft knew what to place onstage as well as what to leave inside the haunted imaginations of his readers. "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear," he once wrote, "and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." If Lovecraft had been a film director, he might have come up with a movie much like "The Blair Witch Project," only scarier.
Not to mention being the inspiration for the classic send-up of those Jack Chick tracts (which the latter's lawyers have chased all over the Internet) - "Who Will Be Eaten First?"

I just may replace my ratty old paperbacks with this new collection.

March 13, 2005
Dog Bites Man
Headline in my local paper yesterday -

GOP looks to cut food aid for poor

WASHINGTON -- Cuts in food programs for the poor are getting support in Congress as an alternative to President Bush's idea of slicing billions of dollars from the payments that go to large farm operations.

Senior Republicans in both the House and Senate are open to small reductions in farm subsidies, but they adamantly oppose the deep cuts sought by Bush to hold down future federal deficits.


Instead, Republican committee chairmen are looking to carve savings from nutrition and land conservation programs that are also run by the Agriculture Department. The government is projected to spend $52 billion this year on nutrition programs like food stamps, school lunches and special aid to low-income pregnant women and children. Farm subsidies will total less than half that, $24 billion.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said the $36 billion food stamp program is a good place to look for savings.
I'm shocked, shocked to discover this.

March 11, 2005
That Counts The Men Fallen Away
To The Price You Pay

Towards the top of my page, to the right, under the heading "Because People Need to Pay Attention to This Stuff", is a link to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website. It’s a useful and sobering, not to mention eye-opening, compendium of the reality of war. It's a reminder of the simple fact that the choice of war, over other available options, carries a price which is paid, not be the decision-makers, but by those who trusted that the right decision was made.

Interestingly enough, the Iraq Casualty Count was linked to yesterday by none other than James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal. His "Best of the Web Today" is a compendium of a different sort of reality, one where (usually) the best of lame right-wing "humor", overlaid with a veneer of smarminess and incompetently-rendered snark, is used to try to obscure the facts of foreign and domestic issues in that classic, "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" fashion - all of which qualifies him as a finalist if there's ever a "Most Annoying Person on the Internet" competition. But I digress …

Because of a news item yesterday in which, it was claimed, an ex-Marine described Saddam Hussein's capture as being different from the version we first heard, the "BOTWT" staff needed some facts to debunk this possibility. Since the story claimed that a Marine of Sudanese origin had been killed in the encounter, the intrepid WSJ team needed some facts about actual casualties (there's a first time for everything). And, voila, they found them, and linked to the Iraq Casualty Count for their readers in order to demonstrate that no Marines were killed around that time, let alone one with a Sudanese-sounding name.

I don't know how many of Mr. Taranto's fans have ever bothered to look at the facts about the casualties of the Iraq war, or have even been aware that such information is available at their fingertips. Maybe having been sent there, they'll explore that site further, and obtain an education about the price we've asked our troops to pay.

March 10, 2005
Roulette, That’s The Game Now
Apparently, the Bush Administration's obsessive devotion to a capital punishment culture, trumps its interest in protecting Americans abroad. As reported in the news today:
The United States has withdrawn from an accord that lets an international court decide disputes over foreign inmates, an agreement U.S. death penalty opponents have been using to fight death row cases.

The decision followed an International Court of Justice ruling last year that ordered new hearings for 51 Mexican death row inmates because U.S. authorities did not tell them they could consult diplomats from their own country right after their arrests.

The withdrawal was likely to anger Mexico, which opposes the U.S. death penalty, on the day Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left for a visit to the southern U.S. neighbor.

The United States initially backed the Vienna Convention protocol, hoping it would further protect its citizens detained abroad. But its withdrawal reflects a determination to counteract international pressure over the U.S. death penalty.

"We are protecting against future International Court of Justice judgments that might similarly interfere in ways we did not anticipate when we joined the optional protocol," State Department spokesman Steve Pike said.
I guess the part they say we "did not anticipate" was that the U.S. would have to comply, and provide the same protections to citizens of other countries, as we would want for ours. That's how these things work, they're reciprocal. By the same token, by saying that we will not longer provide this protection to the citizens of other countries, we remove the same protections from our own citizens.

Just to be clear, the protocol which we withdrew from provided that the International Court of Justice could review of the actions of any country, if it did not provide our citizens with their rights under this article of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations:
Article 36

1. With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State:

(a) consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State;

(b) if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall also be forwarded by the said authorities without delay. The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this sub-paragraph;

(c) consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgment. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.

2. The rights referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this Article are intended.
What does this mean for us? Well, if you compare the list of countries which are signatories to this protocol, with Amnesty International's list of countries that impose the death penalty, you'll find that these are the places where a U.S. citizen has no legal recourse if he is condemned to death, even if his right to contact with and assistance from the U.S. embassy is denied:
Cameroon, China, Congo (Democratic Republic), Gabon, India, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines.
In short, because of its obsession with the death penalty, the Administration has chosen to remove an American's protection against arrest and death at the hands of these foreign governments.

March 09, 2005
Well Now Way Back In The Bible
Through How Appealing, I read the following about legislators in Mississippi:
Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Water Valley, persuaded his colleagues to allow the display of the Beatitudes — the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount about the meek inheriting the Earth and peacemakers being blessed. The Beatitudes are in the book of Matthew.

"We need to not use God's holy word to divide us but to join us," Reynolds said. "The Beatitudes are the bedrock of everything all of us have been taught that is good and pure and decent."

The movement to display religious texts in Mississippi taxpayer-funded buildings comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in cases from Texas and Kentucky on whether Ten Commandments displays are lawful on public property.

Rep. Jim Evans, D-Jackson, who's a minister, objected to the displays, saying politicians who try to use holy texts for their own benefit have "a weak understanding of God's word."
What caught my eye was the suggestion that the Sermon on the Mount should be included. Now, let's think about this, for a moment. Maybe it would be alright to encourage these legislators to vote for this – heck, let's encourage Congress. There would be a catch, though (there's always a catch). They'd have to read the Sermon on the Mount, and explain how they apply those teachings in their own actions. You certainly could start with the Beatitudes:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
You know, you could get called a "liberal" for doing stuff like that. But, why stop there? What about this little ditty:
You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, "You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment." But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.
A rule like that would wipe out most of the cable news shows. Not to mention this left-wing propaganda:
You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you …
But, wait, there's more! The best part would be to have them explain why all of their public pronouncements, and demands for big, publicly-funded monuments (for their religion only) were consistent with this instruction:
(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
I know that reading something before voting on it may be the exception for many elected representatives, but maybe in this case they could give it a try.

March 03, 2005
Somebody Callin' My Secret Name
You may have noticed that "progressive" is the new "liberal". Inside, I guess I would tell myself I was more liberal than conservative, but on the outside it seemed that "liberal" was a notch below "leper" as a word you would want associated with your name. I wasn't sure why I was bothered by substituting the P-word for the L-word, but I recently received some guidance from reading Jeff Jarvis:
Who went to the committee meeting that decided that liberals should be called progressive now?

Well, I can guess who went. And so I know why I wasn't invited. But I would have liked to have gotten the memo... so I could complain about it (and piss off the committee once again).

What wimpery. What balllessness.

It's as if liberals are ashamed of being liberal. It's as if we bought the conservative mantra that it's a bad word. It's as if we, too, started to believe it was a bad word and so they changed the word. It's as if the party believes it can win elections if it just changes a word. If that's the case, why not go all the way: Rename the Democratic Party. Any ideas?
Now, if you've been following along with Mr. Jarvis, you know that he's been having an argument with others over whether you can be a liberal and support some of what the Administration is doing in the Middle East. I think you can be (albeit a misguided one). At least by being a liberal, one is open to thinking about the issue, and refining one's views.

As you know, the conservatives are happy to gloss over their differences. The "financial conservatives" (i.e., "leave me and my money alone") are perfectly happy working with the "social conservatives" (i.e., "let me tell you how to live, and by the way, give me some of your money so I can do the same for other people"). It's a symbiotic relationship, perhaps. The "socials" hope one day to have enough money to be one of the "financials", while the "financials" figure that as long as the "socials" let them keep more of their money, they can buy their way out of any "inconveniences" which the "socials" may put in place.

It is time to take back a perfectly good, descriptive word. Besides, lately the "conservative" side seems to be the one for bloated budgets and "borrow now, tax later" policies.

Or, we could focus less on labels and more on sensible solutions to help improve society (a typical liberal view?).


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