OK, there’s been enough serious discussion in the news recently, so I figured I’d lighten the mood a bit and discuss a totally non-serious passion of mine: fruit. I love fruit! I’d rather have some ripe fruit than candy or even chocolate. If you ever needed proof that Captain Midnight is male, my willingness to skip chocolate for fruit should settle your mind. Not that you should be in doubt. Anyway.

Apples are nice, but oranges are better. I have been known to buy the large 56-72 count crates of oranges around Christmastime and eat most of them. Watching a good movie calls for 3+ oranges, and if you’re nice to me, I’ll let you have some as well. Little V, my niece and the site artist, has been known to prey on my soft side and consume oranges as fast as I can peel them. I have bribed trained her to go to her other uncles and say, “Captain Midnight is my favorite uncle. Who are you?” Oranges make for good bribes.

People are pretty familiar with oranges and other citrus fruits, but did you know that today’s citrus can be traced back to just four original species? Lime, Mandarin, Citron, and Pummelo. All other citrus varieties are hybrids from those four parent species. But as much as I love oranges, I have a real fondness for the atypical produce you don’t always find in American grocery stores. Time to list them off.

Clementines are very similar to mandarin oranges or tangerines, but they peel easier and are tastier in my book. Back when I lived in Germany, I liked buying a large bag of these as I walked home from school. If the family was nice to me, I’d share. Happily, clementines are gaining in popularity and are becoming easier to find during the wintertime. If you find a small box of these golden treasures, snap it up and munch away. Clementines are normally seedless, but an occasional seed or two will sneak in. Every so often, one clementine will make up for the lack of seeds in the rest of the box by having 30+ seeds in it.

This is another fruit that is becoming easier to find. “Pomelo” is a common variant spelling of the Pummelo mentioned above; it is sometimes also called a shaddock. The pomelo is one of the four original citrus fruits, and father of the grapefruit. The average pomelo is somewhere between a softball and a volleyball in size. Like a grapefruit, it has a very thick rind and the membranes surrounding its inner segments are bitter. Happily these membranes can be easily peeled away to allow you to munch the sweet-tart segments. This is a somewhat dry, almost chewy citrus when compared to something like an orange. The wife likes to add peeled pomelo segments to a winter fruit salad, since it is slightly sweeter than most grapefruit.

These are tiny citrus fruits, smaller than clementines, often as big as your thumb. They are unusual in that they are often eaten whole, or as my Dad says, “hide, hair, guts, feathers, and all.” The other unusual thing about these little gems is that they are sour on the inside, but the peel is sweet. I like to bite off the end, suck out the sour insides and then munch the sweet skin. Kumquats were a big favorite of my grandfather, and I cannot eat one of these without thinking of him.

The durian is often referred to as the King of Fruits. Technically, durians shouldn’t show up in this list because I don’t like them. But they are such a funky and wildly popular Asian fruit, even though they are large, spiky and smell really rotten. You can sometimes find them in Asian food markets, shipped frozen from Thailand. If you find a fresh one, give it a good smell. Now you know why I don’t like them. To me, they taste as bad as they smell, but in Asia people love them. Singapore has “no durian” signs for the subways because their smell is so strong, but it wasn’t unusual for me to see durian parties while I was there. It was B.Y.O.D., and everyone would share and decide who brought the best. Doctor Fun has some good durian cartoons here, here, here, and here.

While the durian might be the King of Fruits, the mangosteen is called the Queen of Fruits in Thailand and other Asian countries. Do not confuse these fruits with mangos. Mangosteens have a completely different flavor, and even though they look like little white grubs inside… mmm…. they are very good. I found some mangosteen gum once, and I’d love to find some more. Time to hit the web and do some searching. A word of warning — do not buy canned mangosteens. This is one fruit that just doesn’t can well.

Custard Apples
Custard apples are like nothing you have eaten before. They have a custardy texture, and you can often eat them with a spoon if they are good and ripe. You’ll have to spit out the seeds, though. I have only eaten this fruit in Singapore, but my parents said that they ate lots of them in India. I have no idea how well they would can, but I’d assume it would be a really bad idea because of their custard-like texture. Imagine trying to can up a pudding. OK, you imagine that; I’ll skip the imagining and go straight to the next fruit.

Prickly Pears
Technically, these aren’t pears; they are the fruit of a large cactus species found in Mexico and the American Southwest. In Mexico they are called “tunas,” and street vendors often sell them peeled and chilled on little plates or in bowls. Mmm…. good on a very hot day. Prickly pears are filled with little seeds; you can either spit them out or just slurp ‘em on down. They are very hard seeds, so don’t bother to chew them. I normally just ate the seeds; hours later, they would make their exit via a method I call “shotgunning,” the details of which I will leave to your imagination. The most common prickly pear varieties are green, orangey-red, and purple. I like the green ones best.

Hands down, longans are my favorites. Unlike many other fruits mentioned here, longans can up nicely. Well, nice enough for me and my mom-in-law. I would buy several cans, toss ‘em in the fridge and open one up when it was good and chilled. Since they come already peeled and pitted in the cans, we’d eat them with toothpicks. This is why I am her favorite son-in-law. I found some frozen longans at a shop here in the rainy Northwest, and that is what I’m holding in the picture at the top. These fruits are similar but vastly superior to other fruits like lychees, which my wife prefers, or rambutans, which are furry and have a stronger flavor.

Great, now I’ve made myself hungry.

(BORING GOVERNMENT ARTICLE ALERT! If you are frustrated to tears with governmental inner workings, skip this and read something funnier.)

The U.S. Senate is in a tizzy. Well, more accurately, the Democrat senators are in a tizzy. You see, the President has the Constitutional responsibility to select people to fill roles in the judiciary, but the judges need to be passed to the Senate for “Advise and Consent.” It only takes 51 votes of the current 100 senators to confirm the nomination. That’s all it takes, and the Constitution is mute about the need for more than a simple majority to confirm a judge. There are other instances in the Constitution that require more than a simple majority of the Senate. Amendments, treaty ratifications, and impeachment convictions are three examples of votes requiring more than a simple majority. The passing of a law, as well as the confirmation of a judge, only requires a simple majority–51 votes.

Some things don’t appear in the Constitution which are part of the internal rules and procedures of the Senate. A classic example of this is the motion of cloture. Members of the Senate may debate about the nature of a bill before them and, normally, speak for as long as they wish. To move from this discussion phase to an actual vote requires a procedural act of the Senate and the agreement of 60 senators. When a motion for cloture is proposed, there are some limits imposed upon the senators about the bill. Each senator may only address the Senate twice about the bill in question, and each senator may only talk for one hour in total. There is also a 30-hour limit imposed. Once the 30 hours have passed, the vote on the motion of cloture is taken. If there are 60 or more votes, the bill may be actually voted on. It then requires only 51 votes to pass the bill.

Another particular aspect of the Senate workings is the filibuster. A senator may stand and discourse on the subject at hand, or on any other subject he chooses. In fact, if he follows the rules of debate, he can talk for as long as he is able to do so. At times when a band of senators are riled up enough against a bill, they could gang up to drag out the Senate procedures to delay a bill or even prevent it from being voted on altogether. This fit with the Senate idea that any senator could stand and talk about any subject: favorite recipes, quotations from the phone book, your dog Billy, or even the bill at hand. In the 1930s, Senator Hugh B. Long used the filibuster to delay and stop many bills with his recipes and readings from Shakespeare. His longest filibuster lasted 15 hours. The longest filibuster on record is held by Senator Strom Thurmond, who held the floor for 24 hours and 18 minutes when debating against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

But the most famous filibuster of all time didn’t happen in the Senate. It isn’t even real. It comes from the Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, where Jimmy Stewart pleads passionately to his colleagues, talking himself hoarse as he stands alone against the rest of the Senate. The movie suffers from one factual goof–it couldn’t have happened that way. Back in 1917, the Senate adopted Rule 22 that allowed for a motion of cloture to stop a filibuster if enough votes were gathered. The days of a lone senator being able to stand up, blather on, and stop the rest of the other senators from proceeding were gone with the adoption of that rule. Since 1917, the Senate rules about debate have changed many times. What do the filibuster and the motion of cloture have to do with the Constitution? Well, actually, neither one appears in the Constitution as they are both part of the internal rules voted on by the Senate for its own purposes.

Why do I bring this stuff up? Because many Democrat senators are currently riled up over a proposed change to the Senate internal rules. To put it simply, it takes 60 votes to pass a motion of cloture, but only 51 votes to pass a bill or confirm a nomination. The new rules would apply only to judicial nominees. It would still require the 51 votes to confirm that person, but it would make it easier to pass a motion of cloture. The first motion would still require the 60+ votes. The next would require less, and the next even less. I believe it is the fourth motion of cloture for a nominee that requires only 51 votes to pass. And at that point, the vote for the nomination could proceed. This proposed change in the rules has been called the “Nuclear Option”–a poor choice of words. The change is being proposed because the most important judicial nominees have consistently been held up by Senate Democrats. With the possibility of multiple Supreme Court positions to be filled in President Bush’s last term, the Democrats don’t want to make this process any easier for the Republicans.

On March 16th, moveon.org held a rally with several Democrat speakers (full transcripts here). Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia said the following:

An ill wind is blowing across this country. That wind sows the seeds of destruction. Our Constitution is under attack. We must speak out. We must kill this dangerous effort to rewrite our precious Constitution. Your freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Your freedom. My freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Some in the United States Senate want to bully the American people and the Senate and force feed us far right wing judges. We cannot let them do it. Don’t let them do it. Speak out. Tell the people. Get the people. Get the people. We cannot let them do it. Their view of the Constitution is based on the opinions of a fancy Washington law firm. Our view, your view, of the Constitution is based on the plain words of the framers who wrote that Constitution.

The opponents of the filibuster, the opponents of freedom of speech, say that we don’t need 217 years of American history. Oh no. According to the opponents of the filibuster, 217 years of history is a bore. It’s simply passe. Old hat. Well they say the Constitution is stale bread. The opponents of free speech see no need to rely on Jefferson. To rely on Franklin. To rely on Madison. To rely on Hamilton. They want to nuke. Nuke. N-U-K-E. They want to nuke debate in the Senate, and stand the Senate rules on their head.

I find it interesting that a Democrat would call for “plain words” to understand the Constitution. It really isn’t that hard to understand, but it is a pity that the Supreme Court doesn’t agree. They have been ignoring what the Constitution says, relying on the opinions and laws of other nations to make some of their recent decisions. But what Senator Byrd failed to say was that he, himself, led the charge to change the filibuster rules four times when he led the Senate. So much for 217 years of history.

Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton claimed to be able to read the minds of her Republican colleagues, and messed up a movie reference for good measure:

You know, I serve with a lot of Republican Senators with whom I have worked. Some much to my amazement, to tell you the truth, that I am working with, on issues that are important to New York and America. I know that a number of them have serious doubts about the wisdom of this. They know kinda deep down in their gut this is not a good thing to do. To upend the way the Senate has operated, just because you can for sheer political power? For partisan advantage? To basically end minority rights? To go ahead and consign Mr. Smith Goes To Washington to the dustbin of history?

I have already pointed out that the unlimited filibuster died in 1917, but that doesn’t stop people like Senators Byrd and Clinton from pretending otherwise as they talk about Frank Capra’s fictional movie and the equally fictitious claim of 217 years of unchanged filibuster history. But Senator Barbara Boxer really takes the cake as the senator who speaks the plain truth about what the Democrat senators have been doing.

Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we’re saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn’t too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don’t you think so? It’s the only check and balance on these people. They’re in for life. They don’t stand for election like we do, which is scary. [emphasis mine]

So much for the vaunted Constitution and history! Senator Boxer thinks that the judicial nominees with whom Democrats disagree should require 60 votes instead of the Constitutional 51, solely because Democrats want it to be the case. Listen closely–you can hear the Democrat cry of “Waaah! We’re not in power!” wherever you live.

The judicial farce surrounding the Terri Schiavo case has shown a desperate need for judges who understand the Constitution. When Congress passed the bill that President Bush signed into law, telling the federal courts to look into the Schiavo case de novo, rather than doing what Congress had the authority to tell them to do, the judges went against the will of our elected representatives. America needs judges that will look at the Constitution and base their decisions on what it says–not what they think it says, or what they think it ought to say, or what other people in other countries think, but what the text actually says. Sadly, it appears there are not enough senators with the necessary backbone to make the “nuclear option” a reality. This means that the Democrats will be able to continue slowing down the process of swearing in important judges, just because they disagree with them.

Addendum (5/26/2005): The Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement that has put aside the nuclear option. I wish the Republicans could have held together, but some squishy types failed to come through for the party. Democrats promise suggest that they won’t mount a judicial filibuster unless there are extraordinary circumstances. But they don’t state what those are. Anyone taking bets on how long the Senate goes before the Democrats threaten to filibuster another nominee? Cox and Forkum do a good job of outlining what “extraordinary circumstances” means to Democrats.

As I begin to type this article, Terri Schiavo has gone 149 hours without food or water, based on the wishes of her husband Michael Schiavo, his statement that she didn’t want to remain alive like this, and the agreement of a multitude of judges. Much has been spoken and written about Terri’s situation, and much of it is emotionally charged. I have used some fairly harsh language myself, but mostly toned it down when I typed here. Peggy Noonan wrote about the characteristics of one of the two sides recently:

I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people. What is driving their engagement? Is it because they are compassionate, and their hearts bleed at the thought that Mrs. Schiavo suffers? But throughout this case no one has testified that she is in persistent pain, as those with terminal cancer are.

If they care so much about her pain, why are they unconcerned at the suffering caused her by the denial of food and water? And why do those who argue for Mrs. Schiavo’s death employ language and imagery that is so violent and aggressive? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans “brain dead.” Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay “a slithering snake.”

The way I see it, there is only a small set of possibilities in this situation: Terri is either completely brain dead and a vegetable, or she is not. She either truly wished to be allowed to die, or she did not. She will either be fed, or she will not. The legal decision not to feed her is currently leading to her death. Let’s tie these sets of possibilities to the overriding idea of doing the least amount of harm to Terri. I’m focusing on harm because of the Hippocratic Oath that doctors used to swear. It says, in part, “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” [emphasis mine] Doctors no longer swear the Hippocratic Oath. I think it is mainly because of the part further down that says, “Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.” But that’s just my take.

Going back to harm, below is a grid of the possibilities and whether or not Terri would suffer harm by each set of options:

Wants to die Yes No Yes No
Fed no
harm no
Not fed no

If Terri is brain dead, it really doesn’t matter to her what happens. If she is brain dead, then Terri doesn’t live there anymore. Nothing done to her will affect her. But if she is not brain dead, then there are options that will harm her: either through feeding her when she wants to die, or not feeding her if she wishes to live. It would appear to me that the only chance of causing Terri harm comes if she is not, in fact, brain dead. That should be the first item to be determined. Michael Schiavo has succeeded in convincing the court that Terri is brain dead. If we accept that as fact, then nothing that is done to Terri at this point makes any difference to her.

Since neither being fed nor starved will harm Terri, we need to see who else will be harmed. If Terri is not fed and she dies, Terri’s parents, family and friends will be harmed. They have proven their concerns by their frantic actions to keep her alive and fed. Clearly Michael will not be harmed if she dies, because he is the primary person fighting for her death. That result is precisely his desire. Who will be harmed if Terri is fed and allowed to live? No one will be harmed. This end would satisfy Terri’s family and not harm them, and Michael Schiavo would not be harmed because his life would continue to be precisely as it is now. I say that Michael is not currently being harmed because he has shown an absolute unwillingness to divorce Terri. If he were truly suffering from the situation of Terri’s incapacitation, he could leave her. That he has steadily refused to divorce Terri tells me that he prefers the status quo over divorce, and Terri’s death above all else.

Who is struggling to keep Terri alive? Well, it certainly isn’t Michael. When I first heard this issue years ago, I was struck with an elegant solution. You see, Solomon had a similar issue when he had to judge which of two women was the real mother of a living child. He called for a sword and ordered that the child be chopped in two. The actual mother was willing to see the child given away as long as he stayed alive; the false mother was willing to see the child suffer the fate of the Gordian Knot. Solomon saw who truly loved the boy and returned him to his mother. To use Solomon’s solution in a modern context, Terri’s parents are fighting to keep her alive while her husband is fighting for her to die. The Solomonic solution is to give Terri to the people who really love her.

But that is not what the judges have done in this case. They obviously lack the wisdom of Solomon. In fact, they do not even rise to the level of the Roman soldier who tried to give vinegar and gall to another thirsty, suffering person.

Addendum (3/24/2005): Gov. Jeb Bush wanted the Florida Department of Children & Families to take custody of Terri Schiavo. Judge Greer denied this request and gave the Florida governor the judicial middle finger. As I was typing the above, the Florida Supreme Court seconded the judicial middle finger by refusing to overturn Judge Greer’s decision.

153 hours now.

Addendum (3/24/2005): Yay! I no longer get time-outs connecting to Good Richard’s Almanac. Richard points out what President Bush and Gov. Bush can do now that the judicial branch has blocked all attempts to save Terri’s life: ignore the courts. His other points are very good, so read the rest of his archives. What are you waiting for?

Addendum (3/25/2005): 170 hours, and Terri’s father says she is “down to her last hours.” Drudge also reports that a ten year old has been arrested for the crime of water. It’s a good thing we have the police there to allow Terri to die. Otherwise they’d be off wasting their time arresting folk like Scott Peterson.

The Weekly Standard has a trio of good articles that are well worth reading.

Addendum (3/26/2005): It’s been 190 hours. At this time, the likelihood of a reprieve by anyone swiftly reaches the vanishing point. Not being a doctor myself, I don’t know if there is a point where the effects of dehydration have taken Terri’s body beyond recovery. If she were to have her tube reconnected, has her body reached the point where it is already too late?

Good Richard is asked if anarchy is what he wants when he pointed out that Gov. Bush and President Bush could step into this issue more forcefully. They are, after all, the executives of Florida and the United States, respectively. They have the power and authority to order the members of the executive branch to act, and there is precedent for the executive to ignore the judiciary. Heck, we just saw judges ignore the expressed will of both Congress and the President. Is it so awful for the executive to ignore the judges? There would be a political price to pay for such an act, and there will be a political price to pay if they don’t. Best to err on the side of life, no? Richard lists an undeniable fact, and asks at what point the number of forced starvations forces us to act:

It is a fact that there is an American citizen being forcibly starved to death in Florida tonight. People are being arrested as they attempt to bring her food and water.

If you believe the forced starvation of this one woman is not enough to risk the stability of the nation over, then you must believe there is some number of forced starvations that are acceptable before it’s severe enough to risk the stability of the nation.

How many forced starvations are enough to risk the stability of the nation?

This basic question is posed to Johnny Rico as he attends Officer Candidates School in Robert Heinlein’s book, Starship Troopers. His class is given the hypothetical situation of captured prisoners being held by the other side after the end of a war. Here is almost a page worth of the discussion pared down by me:

“Are a thousand unreleased prisoners sufficient reason to start or resume a war? Bear in mind that millions of innocent people may die, almost certainly will die, if war is started or resumed.”

I didn’t hesitate. “Yes sir! More than enough reason.”

” ‘More than enough.’ Very well, is one prisoner, unreleased by the enemy, enough reason to start or resume a war? Wouldn’t it be criminal to endanger a country — two countries in fact — to save one man? Especially as he may not deserve it? Or may die in the meantime? Thousands of people die every day in accidents. . .so why hesitate over one man?”

“It doesn’t matter whether it is a thousand — or just one, sir. You fight.”

“Aha! The number of prisoners is irrelevant. Good. Now prove your answer. Some may claim that you have asserted, by analogy, that one potato is worth, no more, no less, as one thousand potatoes. No?”

“Men are not potatoes.”

People say that Terri at this point is a potato. I respond, “Are you sure?” Congress and the President asked that the judges take a new, fresh look at this case, and not rely on years old testimonies. People point to doctors who say she is in a persistent vegetative state and will never recover. I respond, “Are you sure?” Her family says she speaks, and at least one nurse has filed an affidavit saying that she speaks, so I ask again, “Are you sure?” I have outlined above the central question of who is harmed if she is allowed food and water and the case is reviewed by fresh eyes.

People sitting on death row, who have committed murder and have been judged worthy of death, are granted more care and attention than Terri. Terri is a unique individual, as we all are, and we should be hesitant to call for her death merely because she has become inconvenient to the husband who has moved on to live with Jodi Centonze, the backup Mrs. Schiavo.

As I posted this, I saw that the Drudge Report linked to a Knight Ridder article saying that Gov. Bush had dispatched law enforcement agents to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube, but they stopped when the police said they would enforce Judge Greer’s order and prevent them from seeing her. I have film noir images of a running gun battle between both sides of the law if they hadn’t backed down. This shows that the police officers who backed down do not agree with Johnny Rico. For them, one person is not enough.

Addendum (3/27/2005): On this Easter Sunday, many millions will gather in remembrance and celebration of One who was deemed by His government to be worthy of death. He died, and three days later returned to life. He was the Son of God, and on this Easter Sunday we remember the sacrifice He made and the glory of His resurrection. On this Easter day, there is another who has been deemed by her government to be worthy of death. Unless some miracle occurs, she will die; unlike Jesus of Nazareth, she will not return to life after three days. But as a Christian, I believe that she will be restored to a perfect body and a perfect mind in the final resurrection. This gives me the hope that even in cases of great tragedy, there will come a just day.

Her parents have withdrawn their additional appeals, perhaps with the understanding that the government will not come to their daughter’s aid. On this Easter Sunday, I believe the Schindlers have a better understanding today of what it was like for Mary to be at the foot of the cross and see her child suffer and die. They have done what they could; now it is time to wait and count the hours. At this point, Terri has gone 215 hours without food or water. She is not even allowed to have a fragment of Host or drop of wine as part of the Eucharist this holy day because that would violate the judge’s orders.

Addendum (3/28/2005): 235 hours without food and water. The end for Terri cannot be far off, but the end for the people involved is not. Michael wants to cremate Terri’s body, while her parents wants to give her a proper Roman Catholic burial. Michael will, in all likelihood, win. The subsequent cremation will accomplish two things: first, rendering the body impossible to examine; second, ignoring the wishes of his wife. Yep, Michael Schiavo, poster-boy for following the “wishes of his wife,” will now completely ignore the way Roman Catholics feel about cremation.

John Fund wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal today comparing and contrasting the Elian Gonzalez case and the Terri Schiavo case. He ends with the following bit:

According to some reports, Gov. Jeb Bush considered seizing Mrs. Schiavo, à la Elian, and taking her to a hospital so she could be fed. But he did not do so. “I’ve consistently said that I can’t go beyond what my powers are, and I’m not going to do it,” the governor says. Janet Reno and the Clinton administration showed no such restraint when it came to Elian Gonzalez.

Addendum (3/28/2005): As Terri goes 246 hours without food or water, I heard an interesting suggestion from Jim Quinn. Since Article 3, Section 1 of the Constitution gives the Congress the authority to “ordain and establish” any courts other than the Supreme Court, Congress could pass a law that would dissolve the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and show the judges the door. They could then turn around and institute it again a bit later and allow President Bush to select new judges. This is not a punishment because the 11th Circuit Court didn’t rule as the Congress wished because the Congress didn’t tell the Court how to rule. The 11th Circuit Court should be removed because the Congress and President crafted a law telling the Court to review this case de novo, and they refused. Because they gave the judicial middle finger to the President, Congress, and, by extension, the public for having voted in Congress and the President as their representatives. For these reasons the Congress should provide part of the checks and balances of the Constitution to reign in judges who have grown arrogant and self-important.

Cox and Forkum has drawn up a cartoon about the way people are divided over the Terri Schiavo situation. Too bad they didn’t mention that many of the left side of the political spectrum are also divided about this case.

Addendum (3/29/2005): As Terri goes 263 hours without food or water, I did a bit of reading on Michelle Malkin’s site. Two things she linked to jumped out at me. First was a comment from the Blue State Conservative:

Can someone please tell me why Terri Schiavo needs morphine if starvation and dehydration is a euphoric and painless way to die?

Michael told Larry King and others that this is a happy-happy joy-joy way to die. He also said that this was Terri’s wish to die. Since the first is evidently not true because of the use of morphine, how does that affect the possible truthfulness of the second claim?

And speaking of second, the second article that caught my eye was written by Mark Steyn. Here are two parts that I see worth repeating here.

That’s how I feel about the Terri Schiavo case. I’m neither a Floridian nor a lawyer, and, for all I know, it may be legal under Florida law for the state to order her to be starved to death. But it is still wrong.

Michael Schiavo took a vow to be faithful in sickness and in health, forsaking all others till death do them part. He’s forsaken his wife and been unfaithful to her: She is, de facto, his ex-wife, yet, de jure, he appears to have the right to order her execution. This is preposterous. Suppose his current common-law partner were to fall victim to a disabling accident. Would he also be able to have her terminated? Can he exercise his spousal rights polygamously? The legal deference to Mr. Schiavo’s position, to his rights overriding her parents’, is at odds with reality.

Addendum (3/30/2005): Terri passes 284 hours without food or water, and some new players jump into the fray. Captain Ed points out that two well-known right-wing Christian types have joined the discussion on the side of Terri Schiavo. These two are Jesse Jackson and Nat Hentoff. In case you didn’t catch the tongue-in-cheek comment of “right-wing” above, neither of these two are such. Read the full article on Captain’s Quarters.

The second piece of news I feel has come too late. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to “consider a petition for a new hearing” about reconnecting Terri’s feeding tube. If her tube were to be reconnected right now, I’m not sure how much good it would do. At over 12 days without food and water, I would guess much of her body’s functions have shut down. I don’t see Terri’s feeding tube being put back any time soon if the 11th Circuit is just in the midst of considering the petition. I’m guessing that this would be a de novo look at the case, but too late to actually save her.

Addendum (3/30/2005): The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal of Terri’s parents. And the clock still ticks for Terri, now at 292 hours without food or water.

Addendum (3/30/2005): Joan has sent me several emails, but here is the gist of our conversation condensed into one paragraph:

The whole thing is just absolutely terrible and frightening. But at least Terri will not have lived in vain. I have just gotten a very good power of attorney for health care – and would not have had it if it were not for this terrible thing.

Richard quotes the writing of a figure in the news and asks if you can name the author. Go visit Good Richard’s Almanac and see if you can figure out who wrote it.

Addendum (3/31/2005): The Associated Press has announced that Terri Schiavo has died. Her husband has had his wish, and she was starved and dehydrated to death. We can’t do that to a dog in the U.S., but we can do it to a human being if the courts are behind it.

Addendum (3/31/2005): By my calculations Terri spent 311 hours slowly starving and dehydrating to death. I am truly saddened over her death, but I’ve been expecting this for a few days now. At this point she is beyond suffering, and I can see her being gently enfolded in the loving arms of her Heavenly Father as she slipped past the veil of this mortal existence and He welcomed her home. I add my small voice to the countless others who are asking for prayers and heartfelt words of comfort for those who are suffering with Terri’s passing, particularly her family.

I find it very interesting that Terri’s death has been bumped from the top news item on the Drudge Report for flash news that Pope John Paul II has been given the last rites. While this doesn’t mean that the Pope is on his death bed, since it is often given to Catholics who are seriously ill, his failing health has been a concern for the millions of Roman Catholic people around the globe. On the one hand, we have a Catholic woman who had her feeding tube taken away from her so she would die, and on the other, we have a Catholic man who has recently been fitted with a feeding tube to provide him with nourishment so he could live. The woman died at 41, not because her body was failing her, but because her body was forced to fail. If the man dies soon at 84, it will be because his body has grown too frail. On one hand the courts failed the woman, and on the other hand an octogenarian body will fail the man. Terri died because the court ruled that she should. The Pope will die when God says he should.

Addendum (4/2/2005): The Vatican has announced that Pope John Paul II has died this Saturday at the age of 84. I am not Catholic, but I have been following the Pontif’s failing health these last few weeks, and I am saddened at his passing. The annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started this morning. And I listened as President Gordon B. Hinckley, president and prophet of the Church, opened by stating the Church’s regret at the impending passing of the Holy Father who had done so much good in the world and was such a champion for Christianity. Terri died when her body failed her because life-sustaining food and water were denied to her, and she literally wasted away. The Pontif died when his body failed him because it was worn out after 84 years of labor, and medical treatment couldn’t reverse the effects of that labor.

On Friday one of my coworkers wondered out loud why the Pope couldn’t just retire. Why was it necessary for this old man to keep working as the Pope until he died? I explained that there is a very long tradition of the leader of the church working until his death. As I explained to my coworker, this Christian tradition goes back to Jesus Christ, who labored to bring souls to God up to His death, and then beyond. In my own Mormon faith, President Hinckley will serve as the leader and prophet until he is finally released at his death.

I will leave Terisa Marie Schindler Schiavo alone now. Further updating will come only if warranted, but I will close with the a link to something Orson Scott Card wrote on March 20th, while Terri was still alive. “Whose Life Is Worth Living?” is well worth the time to read it.

Addendum (6/22/2005): So the autopsy was completed and announced. A coworker remarked about how Terri’s brain was half its normal size. I responded that the brain is 75% water, and Terri died from dehydration. So is it any wonder that Terri’s brain was not normal size after she had gone almost two weeks with no food or water?

If you have done any driving in a city, you have seen a bumper sticker on the car in front of you. I like driving behind the cars plastered with lots of stickers. With just a little bit of reading, you can figure out the driver’s stance on current events, politics, environment, religion and business. The following are eight bumper stickers I have seen in my current neck of the woods and my response to them.

I’m too poor to vote Republican

Ah, yes, the old “rich Republican” meme. But if you look at the major movers and shakers from the last election, you’d find billionaire George Soros leading the Democrat side and forking out $26 million to pull President Bush out of the Oval Office. That ain’t chump change from a minimum wage worker, folks. If you look at how much money was contributed to the two main parties, you’d see that the Republicans were successful in raising more money than their Democrat rivals. Well, no duh, Republican = rich, right? Actually, no. In a yearly report on the 50 richest people in Congress, Democrats average $55.6 million each, while Republicans come in at $34.8 million each. As for contributions, the top five contributors to the Republican party gave just slightly under $4 million total, while the top five for the Democrats totaled up more than $46 million combined. But the Democrats are the party of the little people. Yeah, right.

Kerry / Edwards

Look–they lost. When you drive around with a Kerry / Edwards sticker (or worse, a Gore / Lieberman sticker) you are proclaiming that you voted for the loser. And while Americans do like underdogs, we aren’t all that fond of losers. We can leave loving the world’s losers (and Jerry Lewis) to the French. It’s time for both the Bush and Kerry stickers to come off. Whether your candidate won or lost, at this point it’s time to recognize that we are all Americans. It’s time that we moveon.org past our differences.

Frodo has failed! Bush has the ring!

OK, this one is funny in a geeky sort of way. Doesn’t really make sense if you realize that President Bush has to fight for his plans, but it is still funny.

Power to the Peaceful

Peace is wonderful. Who doesn’t want peace? I have heard some people say that the military is a band of bloodthirsty warmongers, and they are always longing for war. Having grown up in the home of an Air Force fighter pilot, I can tell you that my dad certainly didn’t long for war, nor did any of the other servicemen and women I met. They knew very well just what their weapons would do to people and places. They trained for war so they could place themselves, as a certain old song puts it, “between their lov’d homes and the war’s desolation.” They do this because they understand that peace has a price. A very strong, highly-trained military is the greatest instrument in the cause of peace that this nation will ever have. Certain people and nations will be quick to take away our peace if they view us as weak. So power to the peacemakers–the U.S. military!

No Violence / Know Peace

This is similar to the preceding bumper sticker in its misguided theme. We have peace here in the United States because we can threaten thugs with violence. We know that the September 11 plans were drawn up precisely because those thugs viewed the U.S. as weak. The peace we have enjoyed here in the States since that bright blue day in 2001 has been purchased with blood shed by the members of the American armed forces.

It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need, and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

This one has been around for a long time. The Constitution gives the Federal government the responsibility for national defense, but it does not grant any responsibility for education. The 9th and 10th Amendments mean that education is the responsibility of the people and the individual States, but that hasn’t stopped the Federal government from appropriating this power to itself. But regardless of whether this is a role of the Federal government, there is an unasked question: at what dollar amount would a school be “fully funded”? At this point, Washington D.C. spends in the top three of the nation with over $11,000 per student in K-12, but its graduation rate is in the bottom third. Obviously, just throwing more money at the problem isn’t the solution. Jim Quinn has suggested a way of ending this “fully funded” myth: find out what the States say they need per student to be “fully funded,” and give them that amount for the next five years. If the resulting test scores, graduations, and overall numbers don’t show a massive increase, then the problem isn’t money–it is the way that money is administered.

Think. It’s patriotic.

The unspoken part of this statement is that if you don’t agree with the driver’s mode of thought, you have obviously failed to think. It may come as a shock for some people to realize that an intelligent person can look at exactly the same raw data as they did, and come to a completely different conclusion. I do agree that being thoughtful and engaged in current events makes one a better American, but I’m guessing that’s not what the owner of this bumper sticker meant. I read this as, “Think as I do. It’s patriotic.”

Celebrate Diversity

I would guess that diversity is one of the top three rallying cries of the Marxist Left. The problem is that they never bother to explain what they mean by “diversity.” As I see it, liberals want diversity of skin, gender, and methods by which Tab A can be fit into Slot B, but they don’t support diversity of thought. If the Left lumps you into a particular group, you had better think and speak the way the liberals think you should. This is why the Marxist Left will call people like Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” and Secretary Condoleezza Rice an “Oreo.” I found a great example of the liberal notion of celebrating diversity over at the Coyote Blog.

Fortunately, hat tip to James Taranto, the diversity term is clarified on the web site of an Oregon lodge. The page begins:

Respecting the interdependence & diversity of all life.

Helpfully, they clarify what they mean by diversity a bit down the page:

No Smokers…No Pets…No Visitors…No Hummers, No RVs, No Bush Voters (due to his environmental destructive policies.)

Oh, and in the spirit of good customer service: no refunds for cancellations.

Since the Ocean Haven webpage and its strangled view of diversity was passed around and snickered at by numerous people on the Internet and talk shows, the website was updated last week. It now says that Ocean Haven respects the “diversity of all nature loving species.” The text about No Bush Voters is missing, but dislike of automobile diversity is still present.

Yep, that’s diversity for you. And this is the level of logical thinking you get when you resort to bumper sticker politics.

Back in 2003, I wrote about Terri Schiavo:

In 1990, at the age of 26, Terri Schiavo suffered a collapse and subsequent brain damage. Since that time she has been cared for in nursing homes or a hospice facility, and by means of a feeding tube, she gets the food and water she needs. According to her husband, Michael Schiavo, and his attorney, Terri is completely brain-dead, like a vegetable or a houseplant. But her family points out that she smiles, laughs and cries, and she even responds to their presence in her room. Her husband’s doctors say this is just a reflex–albeit one that only occurs when her family is present.

Terri’s case has been in the news for years now, but the National Organization for Women, that champion for women’s rights, still remains quiet about her. If you haven’t already realized that NOW is all about liberal women, hopefully this was the last clue you needed. While her case has been front page news in the past and often falls out of the public eye, today she is back in the headlines and many bloggers are writing about her. You can read some of the comments by Michelle Malkin, Captain Ed, La Shawn Barber, and many, many others at Blogs for Terri. Terri Schiavo has returned to the news today, March 18, 2004, because her feeding tube has once again been removed by court order. Andrew McCarthy wrote up an interesting article on National Review Online comparing the treatment we give to terrorists and Terri Schiavo:

A few months back, I wrote an article for Commentary arguing that we ought to reconsider our anti-torture laws. The argument wasn’t novel. It echoed contentions that had been made with great persuasive force by Harvard’s Professor Alan Dershowitz: that under circumstances of imminent harm to thousands of moral innocents (the so-called “ticking bomb” scenario), it would be appropriate to inflict, under court-supervision, intense but non-lethal pain in an effort to wring information from a morally culpable person — a terrorist known to be complicit in the plot.

As one might predict with such a third rail, my mail was copious and indignant. Opening the door by even a sliver for torture, I was admonished, was the most reprehensible of slippery slopes. No matter how well-intentioned was the idea, no matter the lives that might be saved, no matter how certain we might be about the guilt of the detainee, the very thought that such a thing might be legal would render us no better than the savages we were fighting.

Well, lo and behold, a court-ordered torture is set to begin in Florida on Friday at 1 P.M.

It will not produce a scintilla of socially useful information. It will not save a single innocent life. It is not narrowly targeted on a morally culpable person — the torture-victim is herself as innocent as she is defenseless. It is not, moreover, meant to be brief and non-lethal: The torture will take about two excruciating weeks, and its sole and only purpose is to kill the victim.

Why are the doctors willing to let Terri dehydrate and starve to death? Why is her husband Michael, who promised to love, honor and cherish his wife, so willing to see her die this way? Her parents have asked that Michael divorce Terri and allow them to assume custody and support over her. But Michael Schiavo has refused to divorce Terri. One might assume that he just loves her too much to divorce her, yet he has instead been busy with Jodi Centonze, whom he refers to as his fiancé, and Michael has already fathered two children with her. I think a pretty good case could be made here that Michael is no longer an interested party in Terri’s life, since he has already moved on, both emotionally and physically.

Michael showed up on “Nightline” on March 15th, 2004 and made some interesting comments: “It’s a constitutional right to say, ‘I don’t want medical treatment’ and the state can’t force you to have it.” That is true, Michael, but a feeding tube is not “medical treatment.” It is normal nursing care. He also answered a question near the last with “And to sit here and be called a murderer and an adulterer by people that don’t know me…” Captain Midnight to Clueless Michael! You are legally married to Terri, yet you have two children with Jodi Centonze. If that doesn’t make you an adulterer, I don’t know what would. And, no, I don’t have to know you to apply that label to you. As for “murderer,” well, since Terri is still alive, you are not a murderer. Yet. But you certainly want her dead and are doing everything you can to cause her death, so you cannot deny that your actions make you a willful partner to her murder by slow dehydration and starvation.

It has been claimed that Terri said she didn’t wish to be kept alive if she ever found herself in a vegetative state, but the only witness to those comments is the same man who seeks to end her life, and who is busy boinking another woman. I don’t think this secondhand comment can be given too much credence, but Judge George Greer is willing to give this hearsay sufficient weight to let Terri die a lingering death. Why it must be by dehydration isn’t really clear to me. If she must die, why not a quick pistol shot to the head, or some drugs? Why not a pillow held to her head? Could it be because all those methods would clearly be seen as murder? Those ways of ending Terri’s life are too harsh, but letting her starve or die of thirst is somehow more, what, humane?

Let’s look at this logically. If Terri is truly brain-dead, then she is no longer the person Michael married. He would be fully justified in divorcing her and getting on with his life. This would make it possible for Terri’s parents to step in and take over her care, as they have requested. On the other hand, if Terri is not brain-dead, then it is horrific to think of her suffering as she slowly dies, and Michael’s wish to condemn her to a lingering death is even worse.

Congress has issued subpoenas, calling both Terri and Michael to testify before them. This legal act should be sufficient to keep Terri alive, but Judge Greer has ignored it and ordered her feeding tube removed anyway. Michael’s attorney, George Felos, calls these subpoenas “nothing short of thuggery.” I’d call them the opposite, since a thug is interested in robbing and killing. These subpoenas were issued to keep people from robbing Terri of her life. “It was odious, it was shocking, it was disgusting and I think all Americans should be very alarmed about that,” Felos said, and continued with “Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert are not members of the Politburo in Stalinist Russia.” Felos should be glad of that, because if these slandered Congressmen were Politburo members in the old USSR, they could simply order him shot.

Terri Schiavo is alive today. If her parents have their way, she will continue to live. If her husband has his way, she will die a lingering death. Please tell me–which group is showing a greater love for Terri?

Addendum (3/21/2005): Congress passed a bill and President Bush signed it early this morning.

“When a person’s intentions regarding whether to receive lifesaving treatment are unclear, the responsibility of a compassionate nation is to affirm that person’s right to life,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. “In our deeds and public actions, we must build a culture of life that welcomes and defends all human life.”

At this point, it will be interesting to see what Judge Greer does in response to this bill, as he has already ignored a Congressional subpoena.

You should also read James Lileks’ post today about Terri Schiavo.

Addendum (3/21/2005): I have received an email with some information about Michael Schiavo. It is extremely easy to say anything you want on the Internet, especially from a free email address, so I won’t pass on most of what Just Me wrote, but I will quote this one piece:

The point you make on the marriage issue is something we all agree with and can not understand why the Catholic church or the state does not annull [sic] this marriage for abandmonment [sic] of the husband and adultery. This is not a marriage.

But the key point here, which we feel is the most important, is this is only a matter of his word against her parent’s. There was NO LIVING WILL. He is the only one who SAYS she wanted it, but how are we to know this is true? Give me a break already. He should have absolutely no say in the matter of Terri, who has no idea he is living in her house with another woman and the the two children they made together while she lay vegitating. [sic]

Why Michael is not willing to divorce Terri is a critical question for me. If Terri is truly a vegetable, then that shell is no longer his wife. Since the parents are willing to resume care, logically he should sever his ties to her. If she is not a vegetable, then choosing to starve her, when her wishes have only been substantiated by his second-hand testimony, is barbaric. I do disagree with Just Me about Terri being in a vegetative state. There are videos of Terri acting and responding to her surroundings and family. Not what you’d get from a potato.

Addendum (3/21/2005): I have received a clarification from e-mailer Just Me, indicating that Terri’s so-called vegetative state was an inaccurate description, and that Terri is very much still aware of her surroundings.

Addendum (3/22/2005): I woke up to find that U.S. District Judge James Whittemore denied the request to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube. Judge Whittemore wrote:

This court concludes that Theresa Schiavo’s life and liberty interests were adequately protected by the extensive process provided in the state courts.

Terri’s problem is that she’s not a cop-killer like Mumia Abu-Jamal. Then she’d be championed by the Marxist Left. Or if she drowned her kids like Andrea Yates, she would have the National Organization for Women standing in her corner. If she had actually written a living will stating that she didn’t want to be kept alive if she ever needed to be feed via a tube, there would be no debate. But we only have the word of her adulterous husband. Yeah, he really loves Terri. *spit*

If Terri dies, it will be murder. Murder because it is the intentional killing of a living, breathing human being. And in my eyes, that will make Michael a murderer. I see no difference between the man who orders the killing, and the man who carries out the order. And Terri’s murder is exactly what Michael wants and has asked for.

Addendum (3/22/2005): Thomas Sowell wrote an excellent article today –”Cruel and unusual

Every member of Terri Schiavo’s family wants her kept alive — except the one person who has a vested interest in her death, her husband. Her death will allow him to marry the woman he has been living with, and having children by, for years.

Legally, he is Terri’s guardian and that legal technicality is all that gives him the right to starve her to death. Courts cannot remove guardians without serious reasons. But neither should they refuse to remove guardians with a clear conflict of interest.

Addendum (3/22/2005): Unless the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals picks up this case, Terri will die. The next step above the 11th Circuit is the Supreme Court, and the likelihood that they would actually look at this issue is practically nil. As much as I would like to see the judicial process save Terri, I don’t see it happening with Justice Whittemore’s denial of the case. Hugh Hewitt points out that more care is given to insects like the Delhi Sands Flower-loving Fly than to Terri as a living human being. Hugh mentions that even the Munz’s Onion, a true vegetable, is cared for more by the government than Terri. I think a very telling point is the arrest of Lana Jacobs today for the horrible crime of taking water to Terri Schiavo.

Addendum (3/23/2005): The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals told Terri, “No soup for you!” And no other food or water, either. And this is for your good, Terri. Remember that, as you slowly waste away. And the best part is your “loving” husband, who is off boinking the next Mrs. Schiavo, can continue with his claim that this is a painless death for you.

This is just heart-rending. In a 2-1 decision, the 11th Circuit denied the appeal of Terri Schiavo’s parents to have her feeding tube reinstated so she can get the food and water she needs to stay alive.

As much as I like the editorial cartoonists, Cox & Forkum, I think they missed the boat with this cartoon. Congress and President Bush didn’t violate the separation of powers, as stated by Robert Tracinski. The Legislative and Executive branches told the Judicial branch to look at Terri Schiavo’s case with fresh eyes. Captain Ed explains how looking at the case de novo is what the law was about, and looking at the case de novo is precisely what these four judges have not done. They looked at the case as just a simple appeal, and three of the four said it was OK for Terri to starve to death at the wish of her adulterous husband. If this doesn’t point up the need for President Bush to be able to get good judges confirmed, what does?

If any of these Judges had called for Terri to have her feeding tube put back in while they do a complete examination of the evidence and testimonies, who would be harmed? Certainly not Terri. President Bush stated what should be our motivation in this situation, “In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.” But three judges have sided with death.

I see this as a direct result of the Roe v. Wade decision so many years ago. When it is OK to kill the unborn because they are inconvenient, then killing the already born when they are inconvenient is the next step. This exact thing is happening in “enlightened” Europe with the Groningen Protocols and the news that almost 1/3 of Dutch pediatricians have killed infants. What’s next? Taking our old and handicapped and staking them out in the Arizona desert without food or water so they could “drift off to a nice little sleep,” as Michael Schiavo says it will be? I challenge you to go 36 hours without food or water and tell me if you agree with Michael that “It is a very painless procedure.” If you can manage to go without during 36 hours, imagine doing so for 115 hours. That’s how long Terri has gone without food or water so far.

Michelle Malkin sums up the 11th Circuit’s ruling here and includes the money quote by Linda Chavez — “If a court can order Terri Schiavo to be slowly starved to death on the wishes of an estranged husband, who will be next?”

Addendum (3/23/2005): Terri is now at 126 hours without food and water, and yet another person has been arrested for the horrible crime of stabbing Terri Schiavo three times with a large butchers knife. No, I lie. What was Gabriel Keys’ horrible crime? A glass of water. Yep, he is another one of those nasty criminals like Lana Jacobs who yesterday tried to give Terri water. The Washington Post reports that 10 people have been arrested today for the crime of trying to give Terri water. I’m sure glad the Judiciary is there to protect our interests.

Speaking of the Judiciary, the 11th Circus Court of Appeals voted 10-2 for Terri to snuff it. Congress and the President asked them to review Terri’s case fresh, and the 11th Circuit as well as U.S. District Judge James Whittemore have given them the finger by not doing do. Good Richard’s Almanac points out that Judge Whittemore cited four factors why an injunction could be ordered : 1) good chance of succeeding, 2) great harm if no injunction, 3) the harm, if carried out, is greater than if the injunction happens, and 4) the injunction would not be bad for the general public. As he points out, three out of four ain’t bad. But for Judge Whittemore, the first option trumps the rest, and so he denied the request. (Good Richard’s Almanac isn’t pulling up for me right now, so I did that from memory.)

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida is continuing to find any avenue of aid for Terri, but the Florida Senate shot down another attempt to stop Terri’s death.

And to reiterate: this is not a “right to die” issue. This is a “right to starve” issue, and I find it telling to see who is yelling so loudly for her death.

Addendum (3/24/2005): 140 hours and counting since the feeding tube was removed from Terri Schiavo.

Wretchard at The Belmont Club parses the tragedy of Terri Schiavo both based on law and on politics.

Laura Ingraham links to two articles. Here’s are interesting parts from a USA Today editorial:

Much has been made about the fact that Schiavo’s life lacks quality, but this assertion is not a permission slip to end it. The pathway to death should not be inhumane just because more humane choices, such as physician-assisted suicide, are not legal. Because she breathes on her own and is not in apparent pain, there is no quick or rational way to end her life. Until there is, we should let her live.

It is generally accepted that a physician’s role in health care is to prolong life or relieve undue suffering. The only time a true medical debate emerges is when these two roles come into conflict. The Schiavo case is not such a time. It is difficult to argue for euthanasia because she does not appear to be suffering. Working to prolong her life simply means providing nutrition, which physicians usually do without endless debate.

And the second is a sworn affidavit by Carla Iyer, a registered nurse in Florida who tended Terri for a while.

7. Terri’s medical condition was systematically distorted and misrepresented. When I worked with her, she was alert and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence, saying such things as “mommy,” and “help me.” “Help me” was, in fact, one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times. Terri would try to say the word “pain” when she was in discomfort, but it came out more like “pay.” She didn’t say the “n” sound very well. During her menses she would indicate her discomfort by saying “pay” and moving her arms toward her lower abdominal area. Other ways that she would indicate that she was in pain included pursing her lips, grimacing, thrashing in bed, curling her toes or moving her legs around. She would let you know when she had a bowel movement by flipping up the covers and pulling on her diaper.

These are not the acts of someone who is a vegetable. Number 11 is particularly chilling.

Addendum (3/24/2005): The Supreme Court has refused to hear the Schiavo case. This is the last judicial option for the family to stop Terri’s husband from succeeding in starving his wife. The Supreme Court has the Constitutional power to either review a case based on the prior lower court rulings, or to hear it new, de novo, as if it were the first court hearing the case. But they chose the third option — not deal with the icky case at all.

So Terri will die a lingering death from dehydration. At this point, hope for someone to be able to step in and stop her death is almost gone. Terri will be dead, and Michael will get his wish — a dead wife to open the way for a new wife, the same woman he’s had two children with already. Yeah, you can’t tell me Michael loves Terri and has her best interests at heart.

142 hours now. How much longer will Terri hang on? Or to quote the caring Michael, “Has she died yet?”

Some Links: Captain Ed does an excellent job taking Judge Greer to task for ignoring multiple testimonies. Deacon takes Juan Cole and Maureen Dowd to task for their comments about the legal circus surrounding Terri. And Deacon points out Hugh Hewitt’s article talking about the failure of the judges to look at Terri’s case de novo.

Addendum (3/24/2005): I wrote a new comment here about Terri’s situation focusing mainly on a logical breakdown of who is harmed and who benefits from her death. I’ll be continuing on in that article with any updates on this situation.

Lá Fhéile Phádraig Sona Dhaiobh! That should mean “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all of you.” But since I don’t speak Gaelic, I have no idea if that was right, or if I just insulted your mom. But let’s pretend that I got it right and go on to the real reason why I, neither Irish nor Catholic, like St. Patrick’s Day. “Why do you like St. Patrick’s Day?” I hear you cry, and I wonder why you cry so easily, but it’s a simple reason.


Mmmm… food. When I think of St. Patrick’s Day, it means making some corned beef. Since I am typing this up on the 17th, it is already too late to get the corned beef cooking, since I like letting it cook for a good 18-24 hours. Here is my recipe for corned beef a la Captain Midnight.

Captain Midnight’s Corned Beef
(a thing of beauty)

corned beef (1lb. per 2-3 people)
10+ peeled garlic cloves
10-20 whole peppercorns
4-8 allspice berries
1 T. mustard seeds
2-3 bay leaves
water as needed

Buy enough corned beef to feed the horde. Place in a crock pot or normal pot if it won’t fit. Fill with water to cover. Add the rest of the above ingredients. Cover the pot and heat on high until the water starts to boil. Then reduce and simmer for 18 – 24 hours. Shortly before serving, pull the corned beef out of the water and scrape off any fat. Cut into 1/4 inch slices and serve with the garlic from the pot. It will be very soft and not strong at all.

Most of the time the garlic is eaten in the kitchen by the cooks and wandering family. Cooking the corned beef this long fills the house with a delicious aroma that will bring the family when you call. Now, you won’t only have corned beef, so you should cook up some veggies:

Irish Potatoes

corned beef broth

Peel and chop the potatoes. Peel and chop the carrots, or be lazy like me and buy the bags of baby carrots. Fill a large enough pot with water and 1-2 cups of corned beef broth and bring to a boil. You will not need to add any salt to this water. Put the carrots into the water about 10 minutes before you start cooking the potatoes. In homage to my British ancestors, I boil them extra soft. Drain and serve.

Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

3 pounds red cabbage, sliced thinly
6 slices bacon, diced (I like more)
1 onion, sliced
3 apples, sliced thinly
1 cup chicken stock *
4 T. red wine
4 T. vinegar
4 T. brown sugar
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper

In a large pot (8 quarts or so), saute the bacon and onions until the bacon is clear. Drain most of the fat, but keep some for flavor. Add the sliced cabbage and apples. Saute all this until the cabbage begins to collapse a bit. Add the remaining ingredients and cover. Cook over medium heat, stirring now and then, until all is nice and tender. This takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

*If you really want to jazz this up, use corned beef broth instead of chicken broth. Trust me, this is like having a secret weapon in the kitchen wars.


1 quart sauerkraut in a glass jar, drained
5 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 T. brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine *
1 bay leaf
2 t. caraway seeds
1 cup grated and peeled potato, rinsed and drained

Fry the bacon and drain the fat. Fry the onions until golden. Add all the ingredients and enough water to cover. Simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

* Yep, more corned beef broth goes here since I don’t drink.

I will make the above four things whenever I get the hankering for something really yummy, or on the 17th of March. I normally ask my wife to whip up a white sauce with lots of horseradish to pour on the potatoes. The red cabbage and sauerkraut go very nicely together later. For some reason, the corned beef never makes it off the table. If I want some for lunch at work the next day, I have to put that aside before putting the food on the table.

I’d be eating that about right now, but since the lovely wife is off with her mom, I’ll hold off on making this until she can come back and enjoy it with me. Food always tastes better with love.

Ah! Living the life of a bachelor–well, at least for the rest of the week while the wife is off looking after her mother. This means being able to turn the radio up loud in the bathroom as I get ready for the day. This means calls from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed while I’m in bed because she didn’t pay attention to the time zone difference. [THPBHPT. -TPK] This means eating whatever I want for dinner, like a yummy green curry with pork over fragrant jasmine rice. What? You thought it would be take-out and frozen pizzas? Hah! Just shows what you know about me. My brothers and I were well-taught by our mom, and we are all good cooks. If we went several days once on nothing but Orange Juliuses and popcorn, it was because we wanted to, not because it was the only thing we knew how to make. We did it because we were too busy playing Dungeons & Dragons to be bothered with making food. And the game is nothing like the Dungeons & Dragons movie, which brings me to the topic of this article–movies.

Since I’m all alone, I figured I’d write about the movies I have watched since the wife flew out: 50 First Dates, Hero, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, and I, Robot. This is your last warning if you don’t want the plots spoiled for you, so don’t come whining to me if I ruin the plots for you.

*Spoiler Warning*
(or as the wife says, “Arr! Thar be spoilers ahead!” She normally swings a cutlass around when she says that, so it’s not an idle warning.)

50 First Dates

This is a silly romance staring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, paring them up again as in the successful movie, The Wedding Singer. The hook in this movie is the way Barrymore’s character, Lucy, has short-term memory loss and can’t remember anything that has happened since her accident over a year before. Each day is Sunday and her Dad’s birthday for her, only to be forgotten again when she falls asleep that night. Enter Robbie, played by Sandler, who is smitten by her and has to win her over each day.

I wasn’t expecting too much from this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised and ended up liking it. Sure, it has more crude humor in it than I like, but there were some very funny and surprisingly touching scenes that made up for the coarser bits. And who knew that Rob Schneider could pull off playing a Hawaiian? However, I’m still not going to go out of my way to see a movie with Rob in it. Sorry, but Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo isn’t on my list of must-see movies.

I give 50 First Dates 2 1/2 stars out of four and a pineapple.


People have compared this film to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and while there are some similarities, Hero is a much more visual movie. Hero takes place in ancient China before it was unified. The hero in the movie is called Nameless and is ordered to come before the King of Qin because he was successful in defeating three assassins plotting against the king. Most of this movie is told as flashbacks as Nameless and the King talk about the three assassins. This movie is stunning in the use of red, blue, green, and white in the four flashbacks. Like CTHD, this film stars Zhang Ziyi, and it is a Wu Xia movie involving the same fantastic flying Chinese martial arts. In CTHD there was a visually arresting fight in the top of the trees, but Hero tops that scene with a fight over a mirror-smooth lake. No matter how much I trained, I’ve never danced on the water like they do. Nor could I run across it the way Chiun did in Remo Williams. He was incredible. “No, I am better than that!” Hush, Chiun. Besides, you’re Korean, and Hero is a Chinese movie.

I give Hero 3 stars and a *flip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip* sound effect.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator

I had dreamed of a paring up of the Alien and Predator movies ever since the comic book cross-over came out. Oh, sorry. They are “graphic novels” now, I guess. I really liked Alien and Aliens, but the next two movies left me unimpressed. Predator is a great Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, but Predator 2 suffers from sequelitis. It did do a good job of foreshadowing AVP when the predator is tracked down to this ship, and the movie shows that hanging on the wall with the other victim skulls is an alien skull.

I liked the way they added this film into the Alien and Predator universe while still making it a working and worthwhile movie on its own. As plots go, this was a nicely done action flick, even if I did see the final gotcha coming long before it happened.

A good 2 1/2 stars and egg-opening willies.

I, Robot

Set in the near future, I, Robot tracks Will Smith as a cop who distrusts the robots that are everywhere. Based on the robot novels written by Isaac Asimov, this movie really feels like something written by the master storyteller. It has the themes of problem robots, human reactions to robots taking their place, and the nature of what makes an individual “human” that Asimov wove into his many robot-based short stories and novels. I, Robot works as a better translation from story to film than Bicentennial Man turned out to be, although that film also was pretty true to the feel of the short story from whence it came. Comparing the movie to the written word is like comparing, well, video to text. Both are successful in what they do best. I, Robot succeeds in presenting strong visual images, while the books have the depth and length that make reading so enjoyable for me.

Of all the movies, this was the one I was looking forward to seeing the most. As both a mystery and sci-fi movie, it succeeded well in both regards. At times like this I wish my honey were around to see the movie, so I could discuss it with her and see if she noticed the same things I did.

I, Robot racks up a solid 3 stars and a hankering for more from me.

In addition to watching these movies over the last few days, these four have another thing in common: I wanted to see them in theaters, but I never got around to dragging my cutie out to seeing them. I’ll have to drag her to a good movie when she gets back. But while she is gone, I still have Event Horizon, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, and The Incredibles to be tossed into the DVD player.

Hmm… what to watch next?

Addendum (3/16/2005): Just finished watching Event Horizon. I got an email from TBPG, who summed up the movie in two words: “It blows.” And blow it did. I must admit that the worst part of the movie wasn’t the bad dialogue, or the bad plot, or the bad “hey, let’s gross ‘em out with gallons of blood” idea, but the really bad science.

Captain Midnight to Hollywood: Do not attempt to do a science fiction movie if you hear an inner voice telling you, “Increase the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around!” It’s clear that you don’t have a clue.

Single case in point: they have to go into stasis because the ship will be doing 30 gravities. Since the trip was 57 days long and assuming constant acceleration of 30 gravities (g) for 57 days (1/2 speeding up, 1/2 slowing down), they would have traveled 1.1 trillion miles doing that sort of acceleration. To make this relevant to their trip to Neptune, a distance of 1.1 trillion miles would allow them to go to Neptune and back 200 times. Let’s scratch the 30g comment and assume that the ship can accelerate at a constant 1g. This puts Neptune 16-21 days away, depending on orbits. Bad science = bad movie! Argh! It’s enough to make me want to gouge out my eyes.

On February 4th, journalist Giuliana Sgrena was kidnapped in Iraq. A video was released almost two weeks later of Sgrena, showing her kneeling and pleading for her life. “Nobody should come to Iraq. Please help me. Get the government to withdraw its troops. My life depends on it,” she said. Sgrena is from Italy, the same country that gave birth to Fabrizio Quattrochi–another captive of murderous thugs in Iraq, who defiantly cried out “I’ll show you how an Italian dies” seconds before his captors shot him in the neck.

But Sgrena is no Quattrochi. She is a reporter for Il Manifesto, a communist paper in Italy, and she favors the people who put a bullet into Quattrochi over her fellow Italians. She was released a month after her capture–ransomed for, it is reported, a figure somewhere between $1 million and $13 million. Michelle Malkin sums up the ransom this way:

Whatever the final tally, it’s a whopping bounty that will undoubtedly come in handy for cash-hungry killers in need of spiffy new rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s, mortars, landmines, components for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, and recruitment fees. (To put this windfall in perspective, bear in mind that the 9/11 plot was a half-million dollar drop in the bucket for Osama bin Laden.)

On the way back from the kidnappers, Sgrena’s car was fired upon by American soldiers as it approached a checkpoint on one of the most dangerous roads in Baghdad. Sgrena was wounded and Nicola Calipari, another passenger in the car, was killed.

Cue the finger-pointing:

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini told his country’s parliament today that the shooting was an accident, but he contradicted the U.S. military’s account of the incident. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, which controls Baghdad, said in a statement that the vehicle was “traveling at high speeds” and did not stop at the checkpoint, despite a number of warnings. The military said U.S. soldiers only opened fire after the car ignored the warnings.

Fini, however, said the car was traveling no faster than 25 mph, and disputed the U.S. military’s assertion that several warnings were given. He said the U.S. government must conduct a thorough investigation, “that responsibilities be pinpointed, and, where found, that the culprits be punished.” ABC News [link]

Sgrena told colleagues the vehicle was not travelling fast and had already passed several checkpoints on its way to the airport. The Americans shone a flashlight at the car and then fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle. The Observer [link]

PIER SCOLARI (translated): I have heard it said that the Americans signalled many times to the car to stop, but Giuliana told me she didn’t see anything. They were driving calmly. They had already passed many checkpoints, therefore everybody had been informed. They phoned and warned that they were going to the airport.

Suddenly as they were talking to each other without any signal a flashlight was switched on and three or four hundred bullets were shot towards the car. Giuliana told me she collected handfuls of bullets on the seats. AM (Australia) [link]

Some of the discrepancies here could attributed to the fact that Sgrena was right in the midst of the action, so how could she tell whether the 300-400 rounds supposedly fired at her came from an armored vehicle or from personal firearms? Well, you’d think that as a reporter she would be a careful eyewitness, but take a look at the picture above. It is a photograph of the car in which Sgrena was riding. Do you see hundreds of bullet holes? Neither do I. Nor do I see how she could have picked up “handfuls of bullets” in the back seat when the car shows no evidence of having been pierced by hundreds of bullets.

So what are the facts? David Frum wrote, quoting Sgrena: “Since her liberation, Sgrena has accused the United States of deliberately targeting her vehicle. ‘Everyone knows that the Americans don’t want hostages to be freed by negotiations, and for that reason, I don’t see why I should rule out that I was their target,’ she claimed in a television interview on Sunday.” Sgrena’s official story is that the U.S. wanted her dead. So why isn’t she? If hundreds of rounds were fired at her car as reported, she should be so much hamburger at this point. Instead she is recovering from a single bullet wound. Eason Jordan notwithstanding, to believe Sgrena’s cries of conspiracy against the U.S. military you must swallow the tale that the U.S. government wanted her dead, that soldiers had been ordered to kill her, but that they were so inept they somehow missed the car or that they fired only a few shots before giving up.

Jim Quinn has a competing conspiracy theory: Sgrena, an ardent communist and sympathizer with terrorists in Iraq, deliberately got herself kidnapped so a ransom could be paid to them.

If we are to judge wisely between these two conspiracy theories, perhaps we should lean on the rule of logic known as Occam’s Razor. It says that the simplest explanation is usually the best. Of the two, Quinn’s conspiracy theory is simpler. Rather than using Occam’s Razor, though, I think Hanlon’s Razor best applies:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Addendum (3/14/2005): Sgrena flipflops in her story again. This time, the Americans were not out to kill her. This leads me to wonder just how often her story will continue to evolve.

Addendum (4/29/2005): CBS News aired a report on Thursday, April 28th, 2005, that used satillite photos of Sgrena’s car, and it shows that the car was going over 60 mph when it was fired on. This completely contradicts her statement that they were doing less than that.

The other day I was playing Asheron’s Call, a fun online game that my wife calls Asheron’s Crack for reasons I’ll leave up to the reader to discern. A group of eight or nine of us had ventured to a rather nasty section of the Dires to slay some difficult monsters. Our aim was simple: to slay as many fly-ridden Lugians as we could and maximize the amount of experience per hour we could earn, so we could improve our skills. To maximize our chances of success, we were grouped together. The leader of our fellowship was a character called Code-Red, and it was soon apparent that she had problems associating with several of the other players. My friend Tan Po and I noticed that all the other members of the fellowship got along just fine, but Code-Red kept having issues with various people. To paraphrase her own words, “There’s a bunch of jerks around today.”

Two women, old friends, met up again after having lost track of each other for many years, and started to catch up on each other’s lives. Out came the family pictures. During this reunion, one of the women was surprised to find out that her friend had been married and divorced multiple times. Her surprised comment was, “Wow! You married all those guys, and each one of them turned out to be a jerk!”

One of the things I learned from growing up in a military family is that time is short. I came to expect that my family would stay somewhere between one and three years in any place. I learned how to make friends quickly because if I waited too long, either I or the other person would be gone. Every place we lived was the best place to be, and the people around us were the nicest people. But I have met other former military brats who never had it that good. As the military transferred them around the globe, they were always sent to the worst hell-holes. To make matters worse, every time they moved, they had the rottenest luck to be transferred right into the midst of a bunch of jerks. Every time.

In the early ’80s, the Walt Disney Company was in trouble. Its first animated feature film of the decade–actually, its first animated feature film since 1977–was the critically-panned The Fox and the Hound, and it wouldn’t be followed by anything until the release of The Black Cauldron four years later. Neither of these titles did much to improve Disney’s standing in the entertainment world. It was almost as if the company had run out of steam, too tired to do anything really interesting.

Enter Michael D. Eisner from Paramount Pictures. Eisner took the reins at Disney in 1984; during his run, the Disney corporation grew from a $2 billion company to a $58 billion behemoth in 2005. Under Eisner, the animation department has turned out blockbusters such as Finding Nemo, The Lion King, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc., Toy Story 2, Aladdin, Toy Story, and Beauty and the Beast. That’s a pretty impressive group of movies. I listed them in the order they appear in the Top 100 grossing movies of all time (as of this writing).

But not all is well in the Mouse House. Eisner took home $737 million from 1996 – 2001 as Disney’s CEO. That’s a pretty penny for any company to spend. And if you add to that figure just two examples of situations where Eisner has cost Disney, the amount goes up past the one billion dollar mark. Eisner picked Michael Ovitz to replace Disney president Frank Wells, who died in a helicopter crash in 1994. But a year later Ovitz was out, with a severance package of about $90 million. I wouldn’t mind being fired from my job if I could walk away with a golden parachute of that size. (Fire me now! Please!) Eisner also had personality clashes with the former Disney studio head, Jeffrey Katzenberg. The primary creative force behind the Disney animation renaissance, Katzenberg was awarded $250 million for broken contractual agreements, and he went off to become the K in Dreamworks SKG, an entertainment empire in direct competition with Disney.

Eisner is also having very public issues with the Weinstein brothers of Miramax Pictures, a Disney subsidiary. This breakup has been compared to a messy divorce with children involved. Each side is pointing various fingers at the other and calling the other jerks. The end result is that the brains behind the Miramax label will soon be out of Eisner’s control.

Another blow is hammering away at Eisner’s continued control of Disney: the Pixar debacle. The Pixar animation team has one more movie that it is contractually obligated to create for Disney, and then the company is free to produce movies for itself. This is not only a major creative loss for Disney, but a serious financial blow as well. Pixar has been a huge cash cow for Disney; in the above-mentioned list of animated Disney movies which make the top 100, five of the eight are Pixar creations. And the loss of Pixar falls squarely on Eisner’s shoulders.

If you saw The Incredibles in theaters, you probably noticed the Pixar short that preceded it–a brief cartoon called Boundin’. Some have been puzzled by this short. As Pixar shorts go, it isn’t nearly as funny as Geri’s Game, For the Birds, or Knick Knack. But the lovely and talented wife sees Boundin’ as an allegory of Pixar and its soured relationship with Disney. *Spoiler Warning* The lamb could be seen as Pixar getting fleeced by Disney for all it is worth. Then along comes wise advice in the shape of the Jackalope, who could be the ghost of Walt Disney, telling the shorn sheep to buck up and to bounce back from the misfortunes. The interesting thing is that Pixar was able to put this allegory past the Disney people, including Eisner.

So Michael Eisner was successful in pulling Disney up from the doldrums where it was languishing in the ’70s and early ’80s, turning it into an entertainment powerhouse, but he continues to have run-ins with creative, talented people. When they inevitably knock heads, Eisner gives them the boot. I guess that’s what you do when you are surrounded by jerks.

There is an old phrase that keeps coming to mind as I think about these stories: “If everyone around you is a jerk, then maybe, just maybe, it’s you.”

Once I built a railroad, I made it run,
Made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done –
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower, up to the sun,
Brick and rivet and lime.
Once I built a tower, now it’s done –
Brother, can you spare a dime?

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

You’ve seen them, sitting on street corners or hanging out at off-ramps, holding up cardboard signs. “Homeless Vietnam Vet.” “Will work for food.” “Hungry, God bless!” And my favorite, held up by a bearded guy in his forties: “Out of work Supermodel.” I had to give him credit for being funny, but did I stop to give him anything? Or, as so many of us do, did I simply drive on by?

Why are they there? I live in a pretty liberal place. Three co-workers have referred to this town as “the place where hippies go to die.” With all its progressive, leftist leanings, why does this city have so many people begging for food on the side of the road? Aren’t there enough programs to feed and clothe the less fortunate? Could it be that some of these people want to do what they are doing?

While I was living in Washington state, a radio talk show host mentioned a woman he often saw at a particular intersection, asking for money with the standard “Homeless — Will work for food” sign. He had someone bring her a cell phone, got her on the show, and began to ask his listeners if someone would be willing to give her a job. Several people called to offer her a position in their businesses. She accepted a job from one of the listeners, but as the host later reported, she never showed up. When the show went to check on her, they found her at the same intersection, again begging for money. In this case, the woman preferred to beg because she got more money for less work than she would have done holding down a $15/hour job.

I recall a news story explaining how some college students dress in their rattiest clothes and head to another town to beg. A convincing student on a good street corner can easily pull in enough money from begging to pay for room and board. The students reported that they would much rather beg than take a part-time job that requires heavy lifting, cleaning, or memorizing the phrase “Would you like fries with that?” No wonder some people would rather slouch with an outstretched hand than hold down a normal job.

“Sparky” Anderson of sparked.stormloader.com once wrote about his run-in with a beggar:

I was in a rush to get to my night class one particular day, but also extremely hungry and extremely broke. I ordered my two hamburgers, forked over the $2 for them, and sat down and started unwrapping one of the burgers. A bum sitting across from me, somewhat obscured by some foliage, asked me if he could ask me a question before I started eating. Now, at this point, you have to realize that I have literally minutes to make it to class where I have to take a quiz, it’s bitterly cold outside, and I’m in a generally grumpy mood. I knew pretty much where this conversation would lead to, and I was in no mood for it. As predicted, he asked if I would go up to the counter and buy him a hot cup of soup. Generally I just give an unemotional “No” without making eye contact and ignore beggars in situations such as this. He was a particularly persistent one, however, and I’d had enough. What I proceeded to tell him was that I paid for my meal with money that I made with the job that I have and that he should consider doing the same, as he surely has enough time to wander down to the nearest employment agency to find employment. When asked if I believe in helping others out — which obviously only meant him — I curtly replied no. He shut up after that.

Sparky continues by declaring that beggars are pathetic creatures on the level of dogs, and we should not enable them to lead such a worthless existence. While his attitude has mellowed a bit since he wrote this article, there are times when you just don’t want to deal with a beggar. You could try this: the next time you see someone holding up a “Will work for food” sign, offer him a hot meal and two bags of groceries if he will do some painting at your house. If he truly wants the opportunity to work, he will jump at the chance to earn the food. But if he is there because begging is easier than working, or to support an addiction, he will turn you down. Try it. I have yet to get anyone to take me up on the offer, despite the piteous slogan on his sign. What does that tell you about the nature of those beggars?

Yet I have given money to beggars. I’m sure you have, too. One of the reasons why I believe I am obligated to help these people comes from a discourse from a man of God. King Benjamin said the following to his people over two thousand years ago:

And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? Mosiah 4:16-19

Since we are all beggars before God, how can I be quick to judge the people who are begging before me? I can’t. I know that some are fakes, some are addicts, and some are truly mentally disturbed and need a doctor much more than they need my spare change. Even so, I believe I have a duty to assist them.

But there are a lot of beggars out there. I could go to the bank, cash out my paycheck, and hand out $100 bills to every beggar I see, but by the time I got home I would have no money left over for my own rent, food, and (more importantly) internet connection until the next paycheck. I could toss every dime I earn to every brother I meet, and the result would be a bunch of beggars rubbing their heads where I hit them with my dimes. Would it change the number of beggars on the street corner the next day? Nope. The need is never-ending. So what is a good God-fearing Christian supposed to do?

King Benjamin also sheds light on this challenge: “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” (Mosiah 4:27)

My primary responsibility is to care and provide for my family. After that, I am my brother’s keeper. Many Christians, Jews and other people of faith have dedicated a portion of every dollar they make as a charitable donation, to help people specifically like those who stand on street corners. And yet, in our abundance, it’s still possible to help those who are standing to the side asking, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

Here’s the response to that request, in the words of an old hymn:

Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of Thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from Thee with every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.