Member Perspectives: On the Recent Developments in Venezuela

The strength of the American Solidarity Party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world. However, it can also come from how we respectfully argue our positions on other issues that challenge our communities. Here Matthew Cooper gives us his thoughts on the recent developments in Venezuela. See an alternative perspective from Mario Ramos-Reyes  here.

On the Recent Developments in Venezuela

by Matthew Cooper

The recently-contested election in Venezuela has become a matter of profound concern for observers of American foreign policy. The election of Nicolás Maduro of the Partido Socialista Unido (PSU) to the presidency of Venezuela in May of last year was widely regarded to have been unfair by foreign observers in the global “West”, while the results were broadly recognized in the global “East”. The recent assumption of the office of the presidency by opponent Juan Guaidó, a member of the National Assembly from the opposition Voluntad Popular (VP) party—and his subsequent precipitous recognition as Venezuela’s president by United States president Donald Trump—has resulted in a similar split in global opinion. Diplomatic tensions have risen between Venezuela and the United States, owing to allegations of interference by American intelligence agencies in the Venezuelan political process and attempts at suborning the Venezuelan military, to the point that the Venezuelan government has asked American consular staff to leave the country—which they have not done. This leaves open the question of whether Venezuela will fall victim to an American covert operation, a “color revolution”, a proxy war in the style of Syria and Ukraine, or even a direct military intervention.

This question concerns the American Solidarity Party precisely because we have a responsibility, through the national security plank of the national party platform, to articulate a view of foreign affairs that hews to classical Western political doctrines of just war, rather than modern notions of the “responsibility to protect“. This doctrine, though admirable in its stated intention to preserve human dignity, has been egregiously and unconstitutionally abused by the executive branch of our own government in every recent conflict going back to the NATO-led military intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999, which was approved neither by our nation’s Congress (which only passed a non-binding resolution condoning the bombing after the fact) nor by the United Nations.

According to classical just war theory, six criteria must all be met before any military action with any hope of being considered just is declared. These are: that it must be in just cause (that is to say, not punitive or motivated by base self-interest); that military action must be declared by a competent public authority; that the declaring combatant must be guided by proper intentions; that the military action must have a high probability of success; that the military action must be declared as a last resort; and that the benefits of a successful military action outweigh the costs.

In this case, any proposed military or covert action by the American government against the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro would not fulfill all of the ad bellum criteria for a just intervention, even on the most generous possible construction of the terms.

Let us leave aside for a moment just cause and proper intentions—although that is currently in dispute, given that Venezuela currently has the largest stockpile of crude oil in the Western Hemisphere and such base motives are certainly and self-professedly guiding the intentions of American lawmakers such as Republican Senator Marco Rubio. However, let us assume for a moment that the motives guiding the American government are humanitarian and defensive in character. What we have in Venezuela is a situation in which the question of what constitutes a competent public authority is precisely the matter at issue, and it is not clear even from within the context of Venezuelan law that Mr. Guaidó has a legitimate case to be considered the president. Given that under Venezuelan law the military must recognize the president, and they are currently refusing to do so in Mr. Guaidó’s case, that seems to be a mark against him.

The question of probability of success is also conditioned by the fact that the Russian government appears willing to supply direct military aid to the Maduro government, which in the case of an intervention, covert action, or proxy war would almost guarantee a long and protracted conflict between pro-Maduro and pro-Guaidó forces. We have seen, before our eyes, the exact same scenario unfold in the nation of Syria, where our government did not succeed in overthrowing the Russian-backed Syrian President Baššār al-’Asad in favor of a more amenable pro-American régime. This consideration must factor into any calculation of the American government’s probability of success.

It is clear at this point that any military action presently undertaken by the American government would not be a last resort. The vast majority of our own NATO allies—namely, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece—are calling, not for intervention, but for dialogue between the disputing parties, and one NATO ally, Turkey, openly supports Maduro. In this situation, dialogue between the two parties appears to be the option most consistent with the American Solidarity Party’s commitment to a foreign policy approach guided by classical just war principles.

The point on which the supporters of Venezuelan opposition in our government may at first appear to have the strongest ground is in the cost-benefit analysis of military action versus inaction. The humanitarian situation in Venezuela, under the PSU’s leadership, has deteriorated drastically in the past several years: Venezuela sports the Western Hemisphere’s third-highest homicide rate and off-the-charts hyperinflation, while at least a quarter of the population (according to research carried out by the Venezuelan opposition) struggles with food insecurity as a result of shortages. The United States is not blameless in this situation: much of the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country has occurred due to harsh financial and commercial sanctions against Venezuela.

However, as with the probability of success, this consideration has to be tempered by a level-headed, calm, rational, and realistic analysis of the costs of American power projection over the past thirty years, including the conflicts in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen. In Yemen, it deserves to be noted, our intervention on behalf of the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has sparked what many humanitarian observers, including Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch, have described as the “single greatest humanitarian crisis of this century”, with as many as 18 million people—mostly children—at risk of starvation. We ought to consider that a similarly-disastrous outcome may occur if military action is taken against Venezuela.

Another point deserves to be considered here. Our government has accumulated a long and bloody track record of intervention in Central and South American states (Mexican-American War – 1846-1848; Spanish-American War – 1898; Panamá War – 1903; US involvement in Mexican Revolution – 1914; coup in Guatemala – 1954; Bay of Pigs Incident – 1961; coup in Brazil – 1964; intervention in Dominican Civil War – 1965; assassination of Chilean President Salvador Allende – 1973; involvement in Argentine Dirty War – 1974; CIA support of Nicaraguan Contras – 1981; invasion of Grenada – 1983; second US invasion of Panamá – 1989; invasion of Haiti – 1994; coup in Honduras – 2009), including a similar covert coup d’état attempt against Maduro’s predecessor in office, Hugo Chávez, in 2002. The human cost of these interventions, which have often involved atrocities committed against civilians by US-backed dictatorships, has been immense. Indeed, the plight of the refugees coming northward from Honduras and El Salvador can be attributed, in significant part, to the American government’s short-sighted actions in Honduras in 2009 and the repression of the populace by the resulting American-backed and military-led interim government.

In light of these considerations, guided by the consistent application of a just war ethic, the American Solidarity Party must move immediately to condemn the precipitous recognition of Mr Guaidó by our government’s executive branch, as well as insist that the US join the other NATO members’ call for dialogue,  lift sanctions to ease the unfolding humanitarian crisis and cease and desist any ongoing covert attempts to interfere in the Venezuelan legal or political processes.

Member Perspectives: Religious Liberty

The strength of the American Solidarity Party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world. However, it can also come from how we respectfully argue our positions on other issues that challenge our communities. Here ASP Party Member Joe Grabowski offers these thoughts on Religious Liberty and the First Amendment.

Religious Liberty

by Joe Grabowski

In the last few election cycles, confirmation hearings, and other politically-charged events, the subject of religious liberty has been growing in prominence in our public discourse. I say “religious liberty,” but a variety of other nomenclatures abound: “religious freedom,” “freedom of religion,” “free exercise,” “freedom to worship,” and so on. The abundance of terms itself attests to the confusion the debate can cause, as well as to the various ideologies that people bring to the discussion. In spite of the free exercise of religion being “the first of the first” liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights, the contemporary debate on this matter takes nothing for granted and calls into question old presumptions. It also brings to bear, against the First Amendment’s ostensible meaning, new problems and challenges unforeseen not only by the Founders, but by jurists, legislators, and scholars, even those of the last few decades.

It seems arguable that a solidarist perspective on religious liberty should include a rather broad construal of the meaning of the First Amendment’s dual-pronged approach to this matter. These two prongs are referred to respectively as the “Establishment Clause” and the “Free Exercise Clause.” The establishment clause stipulates that Congress shall make no law “respecting an establishment of religion,” and the free exercise clause that no law shall be made “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. A broad interpretation of the latter not only precludes interpreting “free exercise” as mere “freedom of worship,” but also encompasses the freedom to observe tenets that might govern daily life, like the wearing of religious garb. Such an interpretation also seems to embrace and rationalize the “establishment” question, revealing the first clause to be bound up with and directed towards the second. After all, a formal establishment of a State religion would risk disadvantaging non-adherents in many ways and be felt as a pressure for them to abandon the free exercise of their own creeds. But broad interpretation of the question of establishment requires that the government remain free from any animus toward a particular religious belief and refrain from establishing a secular “orthodoxy” of its own. In a pluralist society, what really distinguishes a mere philosophy from a religion anyway? Is the First Amendment to be limited only to non-establishment of theistic belief systems specifically? What of the beliefs of secular humanism, which rest upon an equally fideist set of first principles?

Such an expansive interpretation of religious freedom has been reflected in a number of policy and judicial decisions over the last few decades, from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress under the Clinton Administration to the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC (2012). However, other policy and court decisions demonstrate a significant lack of consensus as to just how broad this construal of free exercise really should be: witness the infamous “HHS mandate” of the Obama Administration regarding coverage of contraceptive costs in health care options provided by religious employers like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or the narrow 5-4 SCOTUS ruling in favor of two other employers seeking religious-freedom protection from the same mandate, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

The matter of the HHS mandate exemplifies one of the main bones of contention in the debate over religious freedom being worked out slowly through our courts and legislatures: granted that free exercise is a constitutional right, and even that this right includes being able to live out one’s faith in daily life, at what point must this right give way to other private rights of individuals or public interests of the State?

This is far from being merely an academic question. Consider an example of where such a contest between rights and public concern has led for some other nations. For years, leaders in the Jewish community throughout Western Europe have voiced concerns over a growing trend of State regulations and laws related to the processing of animal food products. Several countries have adopted guidelines stipulating that animals must be stunned before slaughter, and this presents a problem for kosher slaughterhouses which are not allowed by ritual mandate to kill animals in such a way. Similar ritual butchering techniques used by observant Muslims may also run afoul of such new regulations. And the trend makes it seem likely that even more EU countries will adopt similar restrictions in coming years. This has led to numerous lawsuits, petitions, and appeals for exemptions by these faith communities.

Of course, so far the desired exemptions have often been granted. But the doubts and uncertainties experienced while waiting for such reprieves have been a real strain on people of faith. This anxiety has an impact at the family level: a son or daughter coming of age and interested in taking over what may be a centuries-old family trade in kosher foods may be left feeling uncertain whether five years from now that job will be legal. And even once exemptions are granted, some feel the reprieve to be too tenuous and anxiety-inducing in itself: for what if the shifting winds of politics and public sentiment blow even stricter regulations their way in the future, ones that trump the once-granted sanctions?

The problem is that here the free exercise of religion is being treated provisionally, as a “by your leave” writ afforded by positive law, whereas historically, in Western legal and philosophical tradition, religious freedom has been considered sacrosanct, a fundamental human right. The ominous trend of recent decades, however, even in cases where religious freedom has ostensibly been firmly upheld, such as those referenced above, is that religious freedom is no longer placed on such a pedestal. It is rather handled like any other private right and adjudicated on a case-by-case basis; it is a personal eccentricity perhaps, which must be “accommodated” and made to fit in with other legal novelties. It is a topsy-turvydom of legal reasoning and political philosophy that places the presumed or perceived well-being of cattle above essential, fundamental human rights enshrined in law for millennia! And yet such are the state of affairs and affairs of State in which we now find ourselves.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all questions of free exercise of religion, admittedly. There are indeed some matters of public interest that may demand, in exceptional circumstances, that a claimed religious liberty be partly restricted or curtailed. But it seems that a working solidarist first principle regarding the free exercise of religion should be along the lines of this admission: the limiting or restricting of religious freedom should be the rare exception and not the norm. The onus should be on lawmakers or courts to demonstrate that there really is no other way to achieve a State interest, and that such an interest truly is compelling, rather than requiring those who desire to exercise their religious freedom to justify themselves constantly at each new twist and turn of public policy. Otherwise, a religious adherent is left in the doubtful and uncertain situation against which the establishment clause seems to have been reared: allowed to go on practicing under the State orthodoxies but always fearful of finally stepping outside the bounds of what is merely tolerated. Religious freedom, true religious freedom as our Founders envisioned, cannot be constrained in such a way. Freedom is not simply about being allowed to exist, but about flourishing. And flourishing cannot happen when one is inhibited by fear that the law might one day make a traditional way of life untenable.

Platform Analysis: Economic Participation and Income Inequality

We will be blogging intermittently on each pillar of our platform as a means of both further explaining and defending our platform policies, but also to encourage dialogue among those who read it. Our first pillar is under the Economic Participation section of our platform found here.

Economic policies that expand opportunities for the poor, and rebuilding and supporting a vibrant middle class, the erosion of which is a fundamental threat to our democracy.

Income Inequality

by Kris Follmer

By nearly all accounts, income inequality is increasing dramatically in the United States.  For years, despite macroeconomic trends showing solid economic recovery, the recovery from the Great Recession has largely been limited to those with the highest incomes. Even with record-low unemployment numbers, the middle class and poor have not felt it. The GINI coefficient (a measure of income inequality) for the United States has risen considerably since 1979, and among the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of thirty-six of the largest democracies across the world, the United States regularly ranks as one of the five most unequal countries.  This inequality, and the growth in its rate of increase, should concern us greatly because income inequality divides us at a time when we need to focus on overcoming the polarization of our society.

Income inequality has been shown to reduce growth, increase volatility, and foster discontent and disillusionment among citizens.  This inequality within the United States has produced the rise of the Occupy movement, increased movement away from capitalism, and led to the groundswell of nationalistic ideologies.  Left unchecked, such discontent can erode national cohesion and even lead to revolution and national collapse.  In fact, a NASA-funded study showed that income inequality is a foundational cause behind every civilizational collapse of the last five thousand years.

To put it in economic terms, increasing inequality means falling aggregate demand because the rich have a much lower propensity to spend, and choose rather to save or to send money overseas.  One key indicator of economic health is increase in national gross domestic product (GDP), of which consumer spending comprises slightly more than two-thirds.  A recovery for those who are more likely to spend will increase aggregate demand and increase GDP more than any other macroeconomic force.

Income inequality negatively affects the national economy; but, more importantly, it is also a fundamental threat to our democracy.  The rich have the luxury of disposable income, while the poor are often forced to spend more money than they can make. If this spiral of consumer indebtedness continues for too long, systems of democracy erode and financial systems sometimes collapse.

The American Solidarity Party is committed to equitable economic policies that limit income inequality and ensure that the poor and middle class have opportunities to work with dignity for a living wage.  They must, like the wealthy, have the chance to work for their future and the future of their children.

Politics and Eggs: Remarks to the ASP-Midwestern Conference

The following was written by Tara Thieke and previously published by Imago Dei Politics (formerly the Dorothy Day Caucus) here.

The following address was delivered to the American Solidarity Party’s second annual Midwestern Conference on Saturday, October 21, 2017 by Tara Ann Thieke, Chairwoman of the Dorothy Day Caucus and Vice-Chair of the ASP-PA Chapter.

Good afternoon everyone! My name is Tara Thieke, and I’ve just been elected the new Vice-Chair of Pennsylvania, and am currently the Chairwoman of the Dorothy Day Caucus, which is an independent group of ASP members. I’m thankful to be here with you all today, and want to extend my especial gratitude to Dr. John Das who so kindly invited me here to talk a little bit about Christian Democracy, the state of our society, and why I believe the American Solidarity Party is our best hope for transforming our politics.

I don’t know how familiar any of you may be with contemporary Japanese fiction, but there’s a particular author I’m very fond of named Haruki Murakami who I’d like to discuss. He isn’t Christian, and he isn’t overtly political. About seven years ago he was invited to accept an award in Jerusalem, an award he was pressured to turn down for political reasons.

Mr. Murakami did not turn down the award. Instead, he went to Jerusalem, where he spoke some words which have stayed in my heart since I read the transcript of his speech a few days later. I’d like to share them with you, and then talk about how these words are relevant for believers in Christian Democracy, third parties, and the sacredness of all human life:

“Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide. If there were a novelist who, for whatever reason, wrote works standing with the wall, of what value would such works be?

What is the meaning of this metaphor? In some cases, it is all too simple and clear. Bombers and tanks and rockets and white phosphorus shells are that high, solid wall. The eggs are the unarmed civilians who are crushed and burned and shot by them. This is one meaning of the metaphor.

This is not all, though. It carries a deeper meaning. Think of it this way. Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically.

I have only one thing I hope to convey to you today. We are all human beings, individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong – and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others’ souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

Take a moment to think about this. Each of us possesses a tangible, living soul. The System has no such thing. We must not allow The System to exploit us. We must not allow The System to take on a life of its own. The System did not make us: We made The System.

That is all I have to say to you.”

Mr. Murakami has chosen the side of the egg. The human face, the human soul, that is the egg. And it is the face, the soul, that our current political and cultural conversation ignores.

Our thought leaders, our think tanks, our cable news networks are full of utilitarian thinking, of fulfilling Daft Punk’s dream of “Bigger Better Faster Stronger.” But mere accelerationism tells us nothing about the present, about the souls around us and their needs. Perhaps this is why Christian Democracy is treated with such wariness: because it is so desperately needed, and because it recognizes goods which cannot be sold on the market.

A politics built around Christian Democracy places the person at its very center, because the person is made in the image of God. It establishes both a rule and a limit at its core, and that is what accelerated state capitalism seeks to destroy.

We have heard such beautiful promises, of the End of History in one breath and ever-increasing prosperity in the next. Perhaps we should ask what is happening to the people without megaphones, to see what it is like for our neighbors:

In America:

  • Suicide rates are increasing every year.
  • Teenagers and children face a particularly gruesome escalation in suicide rates.
  • Teen depression, anxiety, and stress are all rising. Adults face a similar, though less stark, rise.
  • Over 3,000 abortions are committed each day, destroying a human life and leaving a woman with a scar that will last a lifetime.
  • We are in the grips of the most powerful opioid crisis we have ever seen.
  • The number of homebound, elderly Americans who are all alone has never been higher.
  • We have the highest incarceration rates in the world.
  • Working-class men without college degrees are disappearing from the work force.
  • The elderly and disabled are increasingly at risk of being pressured to end their lives prematurely.
  • Heavy binge drinking has dramatically increased in the past ten years.
  • The use of antidepressants has increased almost 400% since the 1990s.
  • Children, especially boys, are increasingly drugged.
  • Foster care children are the most drugged of all.
  • Alienation, however it manifests, is killing millions of  Americans.

How can everything be wonderful and getting better every moment when more children and teenagers kill themselves with each passing year? When children and teenagers and young adults are enduring a mental health crisis, how can we neglect what our politics has failed to do? As liquid capital has been allowed to dictate the norms of our world, reality itself is liquidized and replaced by virtual substitutes. Youth, with no defined roots or common good to attach themselves to, are burdened with the task of self-creation, a self-creation that is actually promoted and defined by a market which calls for every bond to be dissolved and replaced by a profitable dissatisfaction. So it is that even their own bodies are weaponized against them.

The evidence is before our eyes but we lack the will to see it or the strength to admit the prevailing orthodoxy is ill-equipped to understand the depths of the crisis. It’s time we admit that, whatever great gifts our economic and technological progress have bestowed upon us, we have done nothing to off-set the negative consequences of that progress. The balance sheet is not drawn in favor of human good, but for the good of a System which counts success in numbers. Our failure to recognize human beings have needs other than to watch large numbers get larger, or gadgets get smaller, has created a culture of despair, of addiction, of waste, of inhumanity. We must restore a vocabulary which has a fuller understanding of the human condition, which does not run to programs or markets to solve problems, but understands the depth of our need for meaningful relationships and lasting bonds.

Christian Democracy is what is missing from our vision. Not to be confused with the Religious Right, Christian Democracy recognizes values other than utilitarianism, growth, or mere respect from the powerful. It restores a voice to those left voiceless by The System.

We need a politics which does more than try to win elections. Christian Democracy enables us to encounter and hear our neighbors. We need a politics that worries about more than electable candidates. Christian Democracy meets this need by knowing a strategy is only as good as its motivating values. We need a politics where people outside gated communities are heard, not merely managed. This requires subsidiarity, a principle too quickly discarded for its difficulties, but that Christian Democracy recognizes as necessary to some degree for common flourishing.

We need a politics willing to do more than encourage polarization or self-righteous tribalism. Christian Democracy is rooted in the humility of Christ, and reminds us we, too, are sinners, and that we are called to love people even while disagreeing with them. We need a politics unafraid to ask what a good life looks like beyond “college degree, resume-building, travel, and access to cutting-edge technology and fine dining.” Christian Democracy understands a human life is not a mere balance sheet tabulating up the pleasant and unpleasant experiences, but a gift bestowed by God. Peace, love, wonder, and Theosis are our highest callings. They cannot be purchased, they cannot be sold.

We need a politics that asks what makes a community, what makes a home. Christian Democracy, recognizing how the family stabilizes and provides a context for finding our place in the world, is able to identify the catastrophic effects of what Zygmunt Bauman called “liquid modernity.” We have long endured a process of  liquidization which devours mediating institutions and uproots families in order to make them more manageable workers or consumers (depending upon where you live in the world). Christian Democracy seeks to protect the family and local communities, knowing that it is relationships which best heal, and it is restored relationships we crave. We need a politics willing to ask if machines serve people, or if people serve machines. Christian Democracy can be open to the positive changes of technology, but is willing to step in when the progress of machines interferes with the good of people. We need a politics that asks how many people have to die to acknowledge mass despair is a political issue, we need a politics that asks what progress could ever mean in a world where any child commits suicide, let alone one where more and more do so. Christian Democracy maintains an unshakeable commitment to the truth that our good cannot be found by liquidizing those things which make for human flourishing simply in order to be richer, more autonomous, or better entertained. It instead proclaims every human being is of irreplaceable worth from conception to natural death, and we are bound to one another as neighbors and children of God.

Too often political choices are framed as though if we act in our self-interest we are acting amorally, while if we act guided by morality we are acting altruistically. We must reject any such distinctions. If we are to succeed as a political party, it will be by articulating and demonstrating how moral politics (a politics rooted not in the performance of markets or the aggregation of statistics, but in the fundamental dignity of every human being), is in the self-interest of every single human being.

Our politics have too long ignored the eggs smashed against The System. The coltan miner in the Congo who works as a virtual slave is the egg. The Chinese worker in the iPhone factory with suicide nets outside the windows is the egg. The dispossessed farmer in India is the egg. Our youth facing unemployment or prison are the egg.The laid-off factory worker in Ohio is the egg. The teenagers addicted to social media and unable to identify the cause of their increasing anxiety are the egg.

But the wealthy professionals of Silicon Valley, DC, and New York are also the eggs, however convinced they may be that they (and the rest of us) are better off with smart phones and tablets and infinite options for streaming entertainment and meal delivery services than we would be with thriving local communities and strong neighborly and familial bonds. Their shells may strengthen the wall after they crash against it, but they are still fundamentally smashed eggs.

Telling people the things and systems they believe are making them happier and the world better are actually making them more miserable and the world worse will not be well-received. This was a truth faced by Christ, faced by all the prophets. It will indeed be mocked by many. But we will never succeed as political party by chasing people where they are. There are two political parties in this country with incredible resources and with brands, however damaged, that are known by all. We cannot hope to beat them at the game they themselves crafted. Even if we were to devise the most popular combination of policy positions and the cleverest of messaging, as long as we were not threatening the current power structure in any great way, that platform and messaging would just be coopted by one (or both) of the two existing parties.

We face, even among ourselves, even within ourselves, a failure to imagine alternatives, a desire to fall back upon the same answers which have inadvertently wrought the destruction and stalemates we currently struggle against. The temptation is overwhelming: trust that this time the self-proclaimed experts will get it right. They may not have changed the goal, they may not have even understood the criticism leveled against them, but if we would just put aside our pesky devotion to ideals of localism, our recognition that healthy families and communities are the best guarantees of health and happiness, then our flying cars will be just around the corner. Or self-driving ones, at least.

In spite of the temptations which beset us to abandon our commitment to our principles, the American Solidarity Party possesses a virtue which is the key all other third parties in our country have lacked: central to our identity is our belief in the irreplaceable sacredness of every human life. If you believe all people contain within them the Imago Dei, the image of God, then no person can be a means to an end. No person is only a vote. No person is just a path to power. No strategy is more important than a human being. We are not means to an end: we are ends in ourselves, and the end is greater than mere power. It is greater than mere speed. It is greater than mere credentials.

Thus our party has written into itself a principle which is also a gift: the gift of being able to put down our megaphone and meet our neighbor not just with words on our lips, but with ears to listen. We can encounter human beings as opposed to simply yelling at them. With the most firm and loving of all first principles as its foundation, the American Solidarity Party is better equipped than any party in US history to love our members rather than use them. We have built our party upon something greater than ourselves. We have built our party upon our common humanity, rather than narrow self-interest.

It is easy to say the time we live in is dark. It is harder to say what we in this room, or the American Solidarity Party as a whole, can do about it. It is hard to know in any moment where in the ebbs and flows of history we stand, or how far things can go in any one direction before a critical mass will decide they have gone too far. We should do all we can to build a raging fire, but accept that for this moment in history, our role might be to merely light a spark, or gather kindling, or simply to keep the wood dry. What we absolutely cannot do is to accept the darkness and hope our eyes adjust to it.

We will leave here today and return to the difficult, perhaps impossible task of pushing back against a culture of death and despair. All around us will be eggs undergoing the slow, horrible process of being smashed. We will hear the familiar and exhorting commands that we acquiesce to the solutions offered by the powerful, to the promises of false compromises and shallow dreams. People and pundits alike will chide us for our idealism, pushing always for the lesser of two evils, and never daring to articulate a true good. We will constantly be steered towards the lowest common denominator, while told we should rejoice at what is clearly only a quickening degradation. The weight will be heavy. We will be surrounded by temptations to throw in the towel, to acknowledge the egg is too fragile, and we are too weak, the world too strong.

But let us remember this: the American Solidarity Party holds up the pelican, an ancient but persistent presence in Christian iconography. Legend testifies the mother will pierce its own breast in order to feed its young. Rather than squawking like seagulls or hovering like a vulture, it silently observes the pain of hunger and asks itself what is lacking. Then she looks to herself for the change its young depend upon. The pelican exemplifies the “revolution of the heart,” the seeking of the common good before its own. The pelican’s sacrifice brings strength and health; the beauty of the sacrifice inspires our devotion to something higher than our appetites, to things which have no price, and inspires us to value love over power. We look at the pelican in awe and joy, and are thus transformed.

Perhaps it takes a pelican to protect an egg.

Member Perspectives: Is Nuclear Energy Safe, Clean, and Sustainable?

The American Solidarity Party platform takes specific positions on a number of issues, but our members often have a variety of well-formed opinions on other topics that all party members can consider and thoughtfully discuss. The strength of the party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world; however, it can also come from how we respectfully disagree about other issues that challenge our communities. This month, we consider the positions of two party members on nuclear energy.

Is Nuclear Energy Safe, Clean, and Sustainable?

by Matthew Gargani

As an engineer, I have worked and studied in the fields of oil & gas and nuclear energies. The topic of energy has always been dear to me, growing up in the oil town of Houston, Texas. It’s the chemical energy in the food we eat that lets us live; it’s the energy in the gasoline that makes our cars move; it’s the energy produced by power plants that keeps the lights on at home and at the factories. Energy gives us the ability to make the world a better place and aid our fellow man, but it also has the potential for disastrous consequences. The major questions I hear about nuclear energy are: “Is nuclear energy safe? Will the radiation hurt me?” or “I’ve heard nuclear energy doesn’t have emissions, but is it actually clean?” or “Uranium isn’t renewable, is nuclear energy a viable long-term option over oil?” I will attempt to answer these three questions at a very high level for you today, so that you can be better informed in what energy policies you support.

Is Nuclear Energy Safe?

An important fact that most people do not know: every moment of every day you are receiving radiation (or “being irradiated”). This everyday radiation is known as “background radiation” and is harmless. Radiation is measured in “rem” or “Sv” and we receive in the US on average about 300 mrem (3 mSv) per year. High levels of radiation are linked with an increased risk of cancer, but the increase in risk of cancer for 10 rem/yr is 1 in 1,000,000, and there are some places in Brazil and France where the background radiation is above 10 rem/yr(1). The point I want you to understand is that not all levels of radiation are dangerous, but getting massive doses of radiation—like the people who responded to the Chernobyl disaster did—is dangerous.

The worst nuclear energy disaster was Chernobyl. The effects of it are still devastating for the immediately surrounding area. But are nuclear reactors any safer now? Yes, they are. The Chernobyl reactor was designed to produce more power the hotter the reactor got—this led to an uncontrolled reaction which the reactor could not handle leading to a major meltdown and release of

Is Nuclear Energy Clean?

The previous table got at one measure of cleanness—the life-ending effect of a bad environment—but that is not the only measure. Most people are used to comparing carbon emissions. When a nuclear plant is running, it does not produce any emissions to the environment at all by the nuclear process. All of the by-products of the nuclear process are contained within the fuel that is in the reactor. But there are environmental costs to building the large nuclear plant. After including construction costs, wind energy and nuclear energy have the smallest carbon footprints with only 15 grams of CO2 emitted per kWh of energy, which is 1.7% of coal’s 900 g/kWh. One of the complaints about nuclear energy is that it has a nuclear waste problem. I ask: what is the problem? Who is having their health hurt by the spent fuel? Who is getting lung cancer from the emissions and dying? No one. People also say “But Uranium and other materials have such a long half-life, they will be around for billions of years before they are gone!” as if that is a bad thing. What they have really said is that the nuclear waste gets less and less toxic over time, whereas other wastes from other industries are stable and do not become less hazardous. Nuclear waste is one of the few wastes that gets less dangerous over time. I’d also like to bring up that the reason nuclear waste is dangerous is because it is so concentrated: instead of spewing the waste into the atmosphere, it is all stored within the fuel rods and kept on site or at a geological repository. The nuclear process produces so much less waste than fossil fuels because uranium has so much more energy within it than any chemical process. To illustrate this I have included a comic from (4):

Uranium is 3,000,000 times more energy dense. The nuclear reactors in the US are designed the opposite way: the hotter they get, the less power they produce. They are intentionally designed this way to reduce the risk of a Chernobyl-type accident.
The Three Mile Island accident is famous in the US where the reactor got out of control and had a meltdown and breach of the containment facility. However, due to its design being safer than Chernobyl, even with a meltdown and breach there were no injuries or adverse health effects from the accident and the release of radiation was not above background levels to local residents(2). Three Mile Island demonstrated how safe US reactors are, but instead people took it to mean reactors were not safe.
An additional measure of safety is the “deathprint” of an industry. The carbon footprint is a measure of the CO2 released per unit of energy; the deathprint is a measure of the number of people who die per unit of energy and includes the entire life-cycle of the plant. The deathprint of various energy sources is provided below in the table reproduced from (3). Some things become readily apparent from the table: regulations in the US have greatly reduced the deathprints of energy in the US (compare “Coal – Global” to “Coal – US”) and nuclear energy in the US is by far the safest energy source. We have a duty to our fellow man to promote energy sources that do not kill our fellow man.

Energy Source Mortality Rate
(deaths/trillion kWh)
Coal – global average 100,000 (41% global electricity)
Coal – China 170,000 (75% China’s electricity)
Coal – U.S. 10,000 (32% U.S. electricity)
Oil 36,000 (33% of energy)
Natural Gas 4,000 (22% global electricity)
Biofuel/Biomass/td> 24,000 (21% global energy)
Solar (rooftop) 440 (< 1% global electricity)
Wind 150 (2% global electricity)
Hydro – global average 1,400 (16% global electricity)
Hydro – U.S. 5 (6% U.S. electricity)
Nuclear – global average 90 (11% global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)
Nuclear – U.S. 0.1 (19% U.S. electricity)

Is Nuclear Energy Sustainable?

Currently we mine uranium ore to power our reactors. It is estimated that this should last us over a hundred years, but clearly, that is not sustainable. However, there are two additional major sources of nuclear energy not being utilized: breeder reactors and uranium in seawater. Breeder reactors use a quirk of the nuclear process to make more nuclear fuel than they consume! Breeder reactors “breed” fuel by turning U-235 (the typical fuel) into energy and neutrons (and fission products), which then go on to turn U-238 into Pu-239 which is also a fuel. By the end of the reactor’s life, there is more energy in the Pu-239 than there was at the start in the U-235. However, to get the Pu-239, a complicated reprocessing procedure is required, which was made illegal. Reprocessing would also reduce the radioactive content of the existing spent fuel to lower levels. The other source of uranium is from seawater. Uranium is naturally occurring in seawater, just like it is naturally occurring in soil. Some processes have been developed which would open up a new and larger source of uranium than we have ever had on land(5).


Nuclear energy is safe, clean, and sustainable as long as the appropriate technology is applied. The energy that we get from the nuclear process can be used reliably to power our world and improve the lives of everyone in it without forcing someone else to deal with our emissions. Fear of the unknown has led to major political setbacks for nuclear energy, but we can educate people in order to promote the use of this good fuel.


Member Perspectives: Nuclear Energy = Nuclear Madness

The American Solidarity Party platform takes specific positions on a number of issues, but our members often have a variety of well-formed opinions on other topics that all party members can consider and thoughtfully discuss. The strength of the party will always be our passionate defense of our four principles of respect for life, social justice, environmental stewardship, and a more peaceful world; however, it can also come from how we respectfully disagree about other issues that challenge our communities. This month, we consider the positions of two party members on nuclear energy.

Stuck on Stupid? (Nuclear energy = Nuclear madness)

by “Average Joe” Schriner

Enriched Uranium-235 has a half-life of 700 million years, give or take, oh, a couple million years. If one is exposed to enriched uranium, there’s a tremendously heightened chance they’ll get cancer and, well, die. So…we’ve built nuclear power plants to use this highly dangerous fission reaction to generate energy and nuclear weapons. What’s more, the containment vessels to hold the nuclear waste won’t last as long as the nuclear reaction.This makes me wonder if we are stuck on stupid?
Bonnie Urfer thinks so. We traveled to Luck, Wisconsin to meet with Ms. Urfer, who is the co-director of the non-profit watchdog agency Nukewatch. She said the government and nuclear industry claim that nuclear energy is “clean.” Well, the millions of people downwind from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the ones who developed extreme kidney disease, cancer, birth-defects in their babies…might not use the word “clean” in the same sentence with nuclear energy.

Nor would, maybe, the people living downwind from Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant after the meltdown caused by the tsunami. (Tsunamis happen in the darndest places, like earthquakes, tornadoes, and the occasional terrorist bombing…just sayin’.) Of course, this couldn’t happen in America, except for Three Mile Island and Davis-Besse.

In our campaign travels, we happened to be in Port Clinton, Ohio (home of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant), the day they delivered the new, rather huge, nuclear reactor head. What was wrong with the old one? Strangest thing. A routine check-up at the plant a couple years earlier revealed that corrosion had chewed a hole into the reactor head. Only 3/16th of an inch of steel remained in this spot. No big thing if this kind of corrosion/rust is on my 2004 Equinox. It’s a whole other thing, however, if it’s eating away at a gigantic NUCLEAR REACTOR HEAD! The result if it had eaten all the way through (which wasn’t that much more)? Um, a catastrophic nuclear meltdown and a massive release of radioactivity.

If that had happened and the wind was blowing south from Port Clinton, Ohio, our family, living an hour south in Bluffton, Ohio, would have been right in the middle of the radiation fall-out zone.

And my children, most likely, would have looked like the kid from the Ukraine who comes here yearly. That is, they would have looked “ashen white.” How do I know this? Because on the other side of the state, in Northeastern Ohio, I interviewed a couple who is involved with the Children of Chernobyl Project. Kids living in the radiation fall-out zone of Chernobyl are brought over here for the summers by benevolent families “…so their immune systems can replenish themselves” because of the continual exposure to the radiation in the zone. Have I mentioned the 700-million-year thing? This couple told me the boy they sponsor (his parents have already died of cancer) is always ashen white when he gets off the plane, but by the end of the summer, some of his color returns—only to have to go back.

Now, when you Google “Children of Chernobyl,” some of the following images come up.

I often tell the press, and anyone else who will listen, that I’m running for president as a “concerned parent.” And I’m not just concerned about my children, but everyone’s children.

And frankly, how any parent can get behind an initiative (nuclear energy) that does this to kids so the parents can continue on being as comfortable as possible with their central heating, central air conditioning, running a bunch of unnecessary appliances, etc., is a huge conundrum to me.

What’s even more perplexing (yet nonetheless understandable given our fallen natures) is the highly complex set of rationalizations – read: rational lies – that we use to justify this nuclear madness. The next wave, of course, being that the next generation of nuclear power plants will be much safer.

Maybe so, but it remains that, while safer, the plants are still managing and containing extremely toxic radiation that: HAS A HALF-LIFE OF 4.5 BILLION YEARS! Have I mentioned that before? Oh, and one other thing. It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist from, say, MIT, to know that to make nuclear weapons you need nuclear power plants. Right now, we, worldwide, have enough nuclear weapons to blow the planet up hundreds, if not thousands, of times over, and it’s not just nuclear missiles. For instance, we used depleted uranium ammunition (bunker busting missiles, bullets…) in Iraq.

I attended a talk by Ohio Northern University Professor Ray Person, who was a member of an international coalition to ban depleted uranium munitions. Their beef? These munitions leave what they pierce, radioactive. So kids in Iraq, said the professor, play on the abandoned tanks, play in the abandoned pock-marked buildings… and cancer rates go through the roof. The ultimate irony? While we were looking for “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, we left (and are still leaving) the country majorly radiated.

The ASP holds to Just War Principles, including not putting innocent civilians in harm’s way. These kids in Iraq are innocent civilians. The ASP calls for an end to nuclear weapons. The U.S., alone, has more than 2,700 deployable nuclear weapons. (And while we spend $50 billion on them a year, some 24,000 people starve to death every day in the world, according to UN figures. This would be like a limited nuclear explosion going off, every day!)
“What if we let the weapons inspectors into Montana?” I posed to an ABC News affiliate reporter in Toledo, just before we went into Iraq.

And the ASP calls for being good environmental stewards. The U.S. currently has 98 nuclear reactors, with another 50 or so in the works from Obama-era plans. The common denominator in all this? Nuclear power plants.

So if you boil down the whole ASP platform into What Would Jesus Do? (which, I mean, c’mon, that’s what it basically is), does anyone think for a minute (the Doomsday Clock, incidentally, is at two minutes—to midnight) that Jesus would get behind a technology that could leave children ravaged with severe kidney disease, many forms of cancer, and/or horrendous birth defects? Do we honestly think Jesus would get behind a technology that would open the door for mass annihilation of His planet? And short of mass annihilation, does anyone seriously think Jesus would get behind a technology that, say, in various geographic regions, would leave His natural handiwork irradiated FOR 700 MILLION YEARS?

Note: What about taking all the technological smarts being funneled into new nuclear plant designs and, instead, funneling it into developing much better green technology, much better home insulation strategies per region, much better energy conservation methods in general? And what’s more, what about a populace of parents who were willing to sacrifice some energy consumption, like what was done during World War II (across the board), for the sake of the next generation? When you think about it, World War II was, well, a war. And what we have today is, really, nothing less than A War on the Environment – from many fronts. Including nuclear.

Why I’m Running – Raynard Phillips

For decades, there has been a cry for the creation of a third party that will represent the hopes and dreams of the average American. In the 1990s, there was a brief respite from the two-party duopoly when Ross Perot founded the Reform Party, which was able to both receive federal funding and win a significant race (the governorship of Minnesota), but like the fears of the Y2K bug, that effort eventually fizzled by the end of the century. While many parties which predate the founding of the Reform Party have tried to fill that void, none has been able to achieve the type of success that would truly make them viable contenders for the presidency or Congressional seats.

Personally, I believe the ASP can succeed; not just because I believe in the principles and platform, but because I believe that the ASP is a true-to-life grassroots movement that has support from the common man. To succeed, the ASP must learn from the mistakes of both our predecessors and our contemporaries in order to refine our strategy.

The ASP must strive to become a national community of local movements rather than a national organization that tries to win over locals like many parties are today. To this end, with the support of the ASP and my local team, I have decided to run for city council in my city of Inkster, Michigan. I originally planned to run for mayor, but due to my lack of experience I decided to make the change. This city of Inkster is a city that has been failed by both parties over the decades, and if action is not taken, it may be taken over with its local representatives stripped. Our platform, I believe, empowers people by building their character from within by our Christian principles and by acting together so that we can be sure that our God-given rights are secure. Using the ASP platform, Inkster can be the shining example of the ability of the people to reform and transform their communities, and, by extension, our nation.

The ASP is an answer to the prayer of many who cannot identify with either of the mainstream parties. I know, because I was one of those who saw through the flaws of the mainstream parties. In the year 2012, I was someone looking for a party that could express my Christian worldview for caring about the lives of both the unborn and post-born. Unfortunately, it seemed as though this was an impossible task, as the Democrats were committed to abortion and the malignant secularization of our great country; the Republicans, it seemed, cared little for the poor and marginalized, and only seemed interested in advancing the profits of the rich. While I searched agonizingly online for something different, scouring through the independent parties, my search came to a halt when I saw what at the time was called the Christian Democratic Party – USA; now called the American Solidarity Party. To say this was a relief would be an understatement.

With the discovery of the ASP, I could finally represent the values of my community—and, more importantly, my faith, which I have held dear to my heart since the age of 15. The ASP has empowered me to not compromise on what I believe, but rather to focus what I believe toward real achievable goals. I believe that this is the power of this movement: that it takes the power of faith and ideology, and puts it into real concrete action if one is willing to put in the work.

I grew up a young man in a poor neighborhood knowing how hard it is for many to escape the cycle of poverty. Today I am an IT Tech at a small but growing logistics firm, but I haven’t forgotten the struggle of many Americans to find a way to provide for their families. Therefore, I am running for city council in Inkster under the ASP banner: an uncommon political party dedicated to the common good of the people.

We Can All Run

By Monica Sohler

Me? Run for office? This was my stunned reaction when asked to run for my local town council. In the mid 2000s, I had been attending some local council meetings where a redevelopment project that concerned me was being discussed.

I had a number of reasons NOT to run. I was not a politician. Certainly, the elected officials knew more than I did—didn’t you need to understand law to be in office? But I’d been good at getting the word out about the redevelopment. I had a team of volunteers who put flyers out on doorsteps informing residents of upcoming meetings. I spoke to people in town about the project, and asked what they thought about it, but I had no idea how politics worked.

However, I had a strong position on the issue, one I came to after thought and research, and I had been hoping “someone” would be a voice for those of us opposed to the project—that someone would run as an opposition candidate. When I was asked, I realized I could either be that someone, or do what many others did—just be another person waiting for someone.

So I ran. I ran as someone who knew little about HOW to run. What I knew was how to listen to people, how to speak to people, how to be a voice for their concerns. And isn’t that a major part of what politics should be? I found, in that run, that I knew far more than I had realized. I didn’t win that election, but I lost by a very small number of votes. And even in that loss, I brought attention to the redevelopment plan, which resulted in a lot more involvement by residents in the process. The redevelopment did not go through. So I lost—but we won. And the following election, our little “opposition” team ran another candidate, another person who was not a pro. We’d learned from my run. And this time, by just a few votes—we won.

I learned something—you don’t have to be a “pro” to run. You don’t have to be a pro to win. Fast forward 10 years. Disillusioned by the major parties, unable to compromise my views on pro-life issues (especially, though not limited to, abortion and euthanasia), I discovered the American Solidarity Party. I was looking for someone other than the two major-party candidates to vote for. I knew the Solidarity Party did not have a chance of winning the presidency. But I wanted, for once, the opportunity to vote for other than the lesser of two evils. I wanted to vote my conscience, and because Mike Maturen and Juan Muñoz were willing to put themselves out there to run in a “hopeless” race, I could do that. I read the party platform—I loved the party platform—and I voted.

Did Mike and Juan expect to win? No, but by running, they gave ME a voice, and I am very grateful for that. They also did another vitally important thing. They let many people know that there WAS a choice. They could vote for a party that was pro-life for the whole life– a party that valued the dignity of every human being. And this value led to pro-life positions on abortion, euthanasia, the environment, workers’ rights, etc. Did Mike and Juan know how to run for president? Did they understand all the filing requirements, the work involved for ballot access, and the ins and outs of national politics? Some, they did. Some, they and their team learned. But they also knew that even without the knowledge of professional politicians, they had to step forward.

Our party has grown in leaps and bounds since that “impossible” run. Did we win in 2016? I’d say we did. We are showing disillusioned members of both major parties that there is another way. Those who had given up on their party truly standing for the dignity of every human person, at every stage of development, in every condition, had a home, a choice, a voice. Since then we’ve run a number of candidates for office (in NJ and California), learning more along the way and getting the word out about our party. We have one party member who holds public office. And we have the ability now to run candidates who will not only put word out about the party, but who can win—and bring the life-affirming views of the party into the political sphere.

Do you believe in our platform? Do you really wish there were “someone” who would step up and run for office in your area, who was pro-life for the whole life? Maybe the someone is you. Maybe you don’t know enough about politics. Maybe you don’t stand a chance of winning the election—maybe your chances are as slim as a reality star becoming president. (I mean, that could never happen.) But put that foot forward, be a voice for the voiceless, offer a hand to the powerless, and you never know where it will lead. If you provide the option that Mike and Juan provided for many of us in 2016, no matter the vote count, we win.

Christian Democracy

Christian Democracy is a political movement that first emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, influenced by Catholic social teaching starting with the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII, and by the Neo-Calvinist worldview as heralded by the Dutch Prime Minister, Abraham Kuyper. The strength of this ecumenical collaboration led to Christian Democratic parties coming to power in various countries of Europe, as well as in Latin America, where they emphasized several unique concepts that promoted the common good.

The American Solidarity Party (ASP) identifies itself as a Christian Democratic political party. This is evident in our official logo, which displays the initials CD, an acronym for Christian Democracy. In addition, the official color of the American Solidarity Party is orange, the color used by almost all Christian Democratic parties throughout the world.

In Christian Democratic political theory, the concepts of Solidarity, Subsidiarity, Sphere Sovereignty, and Stewardship are relevant. The teaching of Solidarity emphasizes the interdependence of human beings with one another . It emphasizes our responsibility to care for one another without regard to race, ethnicity, or nationality. Subsidiarity and Sphere Sovereignty are two other related concepts that are emphasized within Christian Democracy. The belief that that family, local communities, and voluntary associations are the first guarantors of human dignity and cultivate mutual care gives rise to the principle of Subsidiarity, which holds that higher order institutions, such as federal government, should support and serve, not supplant or unduly control, these institutions that are closer to the people they serve. Sphere Sovereignty likewise emphasizes the fact that each major area of human activity – family, faith community, workplace, state, etc. – is a distinct sphere with its own responsibilities, competencies and authority, and each sphere of life is separately balanced, both independent and interdependent, with the others. Stewardship, or Creation Care, emphasizes the responsibility of humanity to look after the environment that offers us the resources that we use in everyday life.

In order to prevent the monopolization of power, as well as to encourage ingenuity, while still pursuing the common good and social welfare, Christian democrats have historically advocated a social market economy in contrast to a government-controlled command economy. This social market approach represents a third way between socialism and a laissez faire economy, combining free enterprise with government regulation. To this end, Christian democracy has advocated for labor unions, which help in ensuring that workers have a day of rest, a living wage, and leave for familial responsibility.

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