Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sleep well, knowing Rummy's still rich

There are many things I want to discuss in the next few days, still including the events in Gaza and Kucinich's withdrawal from the race, as well as that of John Edwards. And, some additional thoughts on the SOTU and the recession which we can't call a recession yet, given how relentlessly sunny we are supposed to be. Of course if you're not feeling relentlessly sunny, take a pill or something.

1.Xymphora (2006):"it's a small world, anthrax edition"
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld owns a considerable number of shares in a corporation called Gilead Sciences;
  • Gilead owns the intellectual property rights to Tamiflu;
  • Tamiflu is a pharmaceutical touted by the Bush Administration as a remedy for anthrax (although in fact it is not indicated for anthrax);
  • the anthrax attacks on the United States vastly increased the demand for Tamiflu, and thus increased the value of Gilead, and thus made Rumsfeld a lot of money;
  • the anthrax for the attacks almost certainly came from an American military laboratory at Fort Detrick;
  • one of the named suspects at the lab is Philip Zack, a man who left the lab in 1991 after being involved in a racist attack against a fellow scientist of Arab origin, and a man who was observed having unauthorized access to the area of the lab containing the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks, around the time that some of the anthrax went missing.
  • Philip Zack, as neatly described here (found via here), went on to work for Gilead (identified from a scientific paper published in December 2000).
and 2.(2008) in which X takes note of this Doctors without borders bulletin:
Patent revoked on Tenofovir
US patent office’s move to revoke patents on key HIV/AIDS drug could mean increased access in developing world

In a move that could have major implications on access to a cornerstone HIV/AIDS medicine across the developing world, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on January 23, 2008 revoked four key patents held by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences on the drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF).

The public interest group Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which challenged the patents in the US, submitted evidence that TDF was already a known substance at the time of Gilead’s application for the patents, and therefore a patent should not have been granted. The evidence used in the patent office’s ruling may have an impact on whether the drug will be granted patents in other countries, such as India and Brazil.

3. Rob Payne calls my attention to this item by Dennis Perrin, "pre-soaking your sane"(and says some unwarranted nice things about me.)

4.Speaking of copyrights, here's a story from London to Lubbock.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SOTU 2008: Twilight in America

Howard: I don't see it that way, Geoff. Let me tell you what we're dealing with here. A potentially positive learning experience that can—
Grim Reaper: SHUT UP! Shut up, you American! You always talk, you Americans. You talk, and you talk, and say "let me tell you something" and "I just wanna say this". Well, you're dead now, so shut up!
from "Death" in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

1. As I write this I'm guessing Mr preznit is saying all sorts of swell stuff about what an honor it's been, blah blah, and somewhere out there some lame-ass pro-Obama blogger is counting his guy's closeups vs HRCs to detect media bias, and another lame-ass pro-HRC blogger's doing the same.

And nobody on TV will say anything about how America has long-term problems that both Bush and the democrats are only likely to make deeper. You'd have to mention the war, and how it's going-for-broke, off-the books spending helped get us into this mess and in fact helps keep us in it, but this is inconvenient because of how it doesn't jibe so well with the narrative of how it's disloyal to defund the troops, and it reminds us that the democrats are just the enabling, other bad guys, and there's no white-hatted Gary Cooper in sight.

And even though his wife is running for president, you can't talk about how the last recession was dealt with by a president who was denied a "stimulus package" (mostly on political grounds) and subsequently raised taxes, on gasoline and higher incomes, and put some brakes on expenditures-- like the military base closing commission.(Remember that?). Didn't they call Bill Clinton's 1990s the largest economic expansion in postwar history? But even the Clintons are reluctant to talk about that any more, as it might reinforce the sturdy and simple lesson of raising taxes on those who can afford it(including their huge new rolodex of friends acquired since 1992), and undercut her Iron Lady schtick.

On the other hand, it's o.k. to talk about being "addicted to oil", but less o.k. to talk about any practical short-term strategies for actually starting the transition to a post-petroleum economy. Big vague ideas, hydrogen, The Car of the Future, goals for where we'll be in twenty years without a sliver of a plan to get there-- much better.

It's also o.k. to label that ex-president as bigotted, or at least as too-willing to engage with race-baiting, but not so o.k. to talk about the collective racism that took America to war with Iraq.

GWB: We have other work to do on taxes. Unless Congress acts, most of the tax relief we've delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I'm pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders. (Laughter and applause.)

Most Americans think their taxes are high enough. With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about their federal government taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks. There's only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: Make the tax relief permanent. (Applause.) And members of Congress should know: If any bill raises taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it. (Applause.)

Nobody calls him out for being a bloody, psychopathic loonie. Kansas republican governor Sibelius "responds",talking about bipartisanship: code for we're going to screw you too, and protect wealthy democratic donors in an election year.

GWB:"the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast."

Eric Alterman: Here's what [that] new day looks like: residents in 40,000 trailers, provided by FEMA, that contain potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde.
[also here.]

(Junior didn't even mention Katrina reconstruction in SOTU 2007, perhaps because it didn't involve explosions and he was bored with it at that point.)

The idea of an "army of compassion" is an odd one, and strikes me as another indicator that George, Jr is a warped, demented character who, whether by his own fault or others', never quite managed a regular route to adult character development. As far as I know he's never spoken about it, but time and again I imagine this metaphor of a coked or boozed up Dubya watching Patton over an over again at a second-run theater in the early 70s on his off days in the Texas Guard, fantasizing about a powerful future when the old man would never, never lord it over him, ever again.

They say he's stupid. Who knows if he is-- either way he's been remarkably successful in getting a nation of 300 million to go along with his numerous crazy schemes, and hastening her collapse. But I guess we can't talk about that either. Sometimes it puzzles me why there weren't more evil but sane capitalists who were smart enough to see the writing on the wall and be alarmed by the portents enough to do something about it, er, him. (If they thought Kerry was the answer, obviously the evil but sane capitalists aren't much smarter than the rest of us.)

Then again, maybe the evil but sane types decided to just ride 2004-2008 out, recognizing it would help to further cow the democratic party, possibly as part of a long-term project designed to convert tomorrow's democratic leadership into yesterday's pre-evangelized Nixonian republicans, since the speaking-in-tongue crazies who had increasingly taken control of the GOP had probably begun to embarrass the industrialists, and even started to get a bit uppity. You're going to put the kibosh on public funding of research that benefits the private sector, you bible-thumping little shits? Oh, hell no!

Certainly if you look at pretty much any democrat who has risen to any level of national prominence in the last 8 years, their voting records, and increasingly even their rhetoric sound pretty GOP. If Hillary Clinton didn't exist the funders of such a project would have had to pour her out of a test tube, while Barach Obama seems to channel MLK and Reagan with equal facility. Against such a discouraging background it's difficult to tell if Chris Dodd's crusade against the odious FISA legislation is the real deal or not, and certainly if it is he deserves to be commended-- especially given how tough his road has been made by unfortunate characters like Harry Reid. Maybe Dodd is an exception who helps demonstrate just what a hidebound, reactionary body the Senate has become, on both sides of the aisle.

2. Going back to Mark Twain and James Fenimore Cooper and maybe even earlier, Americans have been stirred by the twin myths of innocence and exceptionalism. These were probably pretty easy to nourish and keep functional for quite some time, as white settlers expanded from New England and the Old South and obliterated the people they encountered with weaponry and diseases that the natives never had to face before. And oh yeah, slavery, a few hundred years of it. Maybe the only choice for a society that builds itself with such underpinnings was between racist denial or insanity, and naturally we human beings try to avoid the latter.

One of the best bloggers most of you have never heard of, Jay Taber, calls his site "a journal of the American psyche in transition." I don't know what we're transitioning to, but from my vantage point Old America looks pretty much dead. A walking corpse with eye-sockets stuffed with reality-TV and celebrities, and a surfeit of nuclear weapons dangling precariously out of the pockets. We have the greatest concentration of wealth on the continent, while Cuba, the little runt of a country we've embargoed for 40 plus years, has lower infant mortality rates and universal healthcare.

And we're functionally bankrupt, our appearance of solvency dependent on furiously buying and selling foreign-made trinkets from one another, often with money borrowed from the banks of the trinket-makers. You think your country is alive?

[A late night addendum: see also "Twilight of Empire" by Rob Payne, and

Barbara O'Brien's "When 'bipartisan' means we're screwed." Sometimes when you can't sleep its because you forgot something. I'm no Shakespeare, but like old Will I try to only borrow good stuff. G'night.]

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The only one of you characters who has any balls is Dennis Kucinich, and you sorry sons-of-bitches had to run him out of the race

I have a lengthy post about the SOTU which will be up Wednesday night. In the meantime, here a 2 parts(out of 7) of a Real News interview with Gore Vidal from last year.

1.Gore Vidal on FDR: "he smiled benignly on the oil wells."

2.Gore Vidal on Truman:"Hiroshima was the end of the American republic"

3.Vidal on McCarthyism and the Military Comissions Act of 2006

4.Vidal on the US media: "the people have no voice because they have no information."

5.Vidal on the dems and religion.

If you want the other items they're at their site. I found the 1st two plus the one on the media the most interesting, the others less so.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

in passing: Suharto

Initially I wanted to make the crack about how "only the good die young" upon hearing of Suharto's passing, but it occurs to me that in the recent geopolitical context that would suggest an appreciation of Benazir Bhutto that I never had.

While I didn't cheer her untimely death in December by any means, I recognize she and her husband were also judged to be kick-back dealing crooks, if on a somewhat smaller (and substantially less bloody) scale than Suharto and his family.

some additional thoughts[1.28]: occasional guest varmint Rob Payne has some pointed commentary about the US role in the subjugation of East Timor over at Halcyon Days.

Just as the US media tends to skip lightly over that, for some reason Suharto's US ties are also glossed over in The Year of Living Dangerously. Well, at least in the film. Anti-intellectual boob that I am, I dunno about the source novel. Then again, as Billy Kwan says, "If it's in focus, it's pornography, if it's out of focus, it's art." Maybe this is a guiding principle of journalism in some circles.

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Sundry items for a Sunday


1. Most of the time I have difficulty mustering sympathy for
Nancy "I ♥ Junior" Pelosi, but this item casts her in a somewhat sympathetic (or perhaps merely pathetic) light:"Thanks for stopping by."(Bag News)

Sentimentality aside, it begs the question: why would the most powerful person in congress allow herself to become so easily buffaloed? The photo was taken in relation to the recent dem collapse on the shaping of the economic stimulus bill. (Incidentally, besides oozing oil and smarm, doesn't Treasury's Paulson(photo) looks like he's trying to pick her up?)

2. via Raw Story:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

2b.And then there's Huckabee's thoughts (via the Easter bunny (of destruction):

Now, everybody can look back and say, ‘Oh, well, we didn’t find the[WMD] weapons.’ It doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Just because you didn’t find every Easter egg didn’t mean that it wasn’t planted.
Of course his use of the word "planted" suggests a tin ear as well as a straw brain, conjuring up as it does images of doctored evidence. Anyway, you'd imagine such aberrant thinking would disqualify a candidate in the eyes of his supporters, at least with(ahem!) most constituencies...

3.I note that very little fuss has been made regarding the absense of Obama and HRC from the FISA extension vote, where they could have helped protect Chris Dodd's position(and the Constitution's). But dang it, what if that pesky John Edwards had snuck in a win in their absense if they went to do the jobs they were elected to do?

CORRECTION: My mistake-- the vote has been postponed to tomorrow, Monday 28 January, with 36 no votes presently. Noes from Obama and HRC would only bring the total to a still-vulnerable 38, but their votes tend to affect those of others.

Finally: I've been fitfully working on two longer posts, one on Dennis Kucinich's recent withdrawal from the race and another on Gaza(and Pan-Arabism). I promise to have them up soon.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Voytek the bear

An amazing story from the BBC:

A campaign has been launched to build a permanent memorial to a bear which spent much of its life in Scotland - after fighting in World War II. The bear - named Voytek - was adopted in the Middle East by Polish troops in 1943, becoming much more than a mascot. The large animal even helped their armed forces to carry ammunition at the Battle of Monte Cassino. Voytek - known as the Soldier Bear - later lived near Hutton in the Borders and ended his days at Edinburgh Zoo. He was found wandering in the hills of Iran by Polish soldiers in 1943. They adopted him and as he grew he was trained to carry heavy mortar rounds. When Polish forces were deployed to Europe the only way to take the bear with them was to "enlist" him. So he was given a name, rank and number and took part in the Italian campaign. He saw action at Monte Cassino before being billeted - along with about 3,000 other Polish troops - at the army camp in the Scottish Borders. The soldiers who were stationed with him say that he was easy to get along with. "He was just like a dog - nobody was scared of him," said Polish veteran Augustyn Karolewski, who still lives near the site of the camp. "He liked a cigarette, he liked a bottle of beer - he drank a bottle of beer like any man."

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Friday, January 25, 2008

from Alive in Baghdad

I'll be gone for a few days, returning next week.
(I meant to post this last week...)

In the meantime, go check out the short documentaries at Journeyman Pictures(most under 1 hr). The following link is to their latest, on far-right groups in Russia(21 min.)

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

there and back again


Undoubtedly a trip to San Antonio to go see one's aunts is a timid soul's form of adventure, unless maybe if you're from Kerrville or Boerne. But I returned with a horrible chest cold, proving at least that I'm not afraid of germs.

1.thanks to Rob Payne for pinch hitting, and

2.tho' I'm sick, I will rise to opine again.

by the way, do you remember the scene in Red Dawn in which Lea Thompson tells Powers Booth to name the capital of Texas and he correctly says Austin and she tells him it's Houston?

The real correct answer is "well, Austin is the capital, but the birthplace of Texas Liberty is San Antonio." And yes, I know it's a politically and historically loaded answer.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Keeping up with the Rabble

The monetary system has created two distinct classes in the world today, the super wealthy and the rest of the rabble. Which one do you belong to? Oh never mind. As the super rich of the Western powers continue their rapacious slaughter and mugging of the masses they are now perhaps thinking they may have something to worry about. In this Machiavellian world they have molded they are at last looking into the future and the poor dears are becoming a bit nervous. While our powdered and pampered stooges of power vie within their power structure to see who can become the next kingpin of crime in the White House (It has just struck me that the “white” in White House has a double meaning) the military leaders of the West have come up with their own The Prince.

Chris Floyd gives us one of his astute rundowns on plans for a new and improved NATO whereby the Western powers shall keep the various brown peoples of the world in their place by reserving our white right to a first nuclear strike mandate so as to preserve for all time those vaunted and glorious “interests” of the Western powers from the rampaging hordes who clamor and come a-knocking upon our door.

The Lords of the West have called upon their elder chieftains of war to chart a course that will preserve their power and preeminence in the face of an ever-more uncertain future. The answer? A meaner, leaner NATO, openly committed to a nuclear first-strike strategy and stripped of all the "consensus" garbage that has sometimes hampered the organization's American bosses.

Five former military headmen from the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Holland have issued a "radical manifesto" calling for "root-and-branch reform" of NATO and a new "grand strategy" yoking the United States, NATO and the European Union more tightly together in a military behemoth under Washington's dominion, the Guardian reports.

The Mighty Five – who wrote their report "following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views" – were adamant in their insistence that a "nuke first, ask questions later policy" was "indispensible" in fending off any of the lesser breeds who want a piece of the action. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation," say the big brass.

(Who show a delightful talent for turning a phrase, by the way. "Quiver of escalation!" Fine stuff indeed, capturing both the minatory image of weapons at the ready – and the psychosexual thrill that all militarists feel at the thought of a good surge.)

In order to "prevail" over the dusky hordes, the brass also call for: "an overhaul of NATO decision-making methods;" eliminating consensus votes and national vetoes; doing away with the right of member nations to restrict how their troops will be used in an operation; "the use of force without UN Security Council authorization," and setting up a "new directorate" of leaders who can bypass "EU obstructions" (i.e., objections to America's will) and "respond rapidly" when Washington whistles.

You are probably thinking, wow I am glad I am one with the West, a good U.S. citizen on the side of white and right. But think again. There is only them and there are the rest of us. Unless you belong to that class of the super wealthy you are just cannon fodder and slated for sacrifice to the great god meat grinder who awaits you with open maw.

Paul Craig Roberts

US job growth in the 21st century has been confined to low-pay domestic services. During 2007, waitresses and bartenders, health care and social assistance, and wholesale and retail trade, transportation and utilities accounted for 91% of new private sector jobs.

When a population drowning in debt is hit with unemployment from recession on top of unemployment from offshoring, will the people spend their rebates in eating places and bars, thus boosting employment among waitresses and bartenders? Will they spend their rebates in shopping malls, thus boosting employment for retail clerks? If they become ill, the lack of medical insurance will direct their rebates to doctors' bills.

Economists and other shills for globalism told Americans not to worry about the loss of manufacturing jobs. Good riddance, they said, to these "old economy" jobs. The "new economy" would bring better and higher paying jobs in technical and professional services that would free Americans from the drudgery of factory work. So far, these jobs haven't shown up, and if they do, most will be susceptible to offshoring, just like the manufacturing jobs.

David Lindorff

So now the Federal Reserve has weighed in with a 3/4 percent cut in the Federal Funds rate. Even though commercial banks followed suit, lowering the prime lending rate by a similar 3/4 percent, the stock market showed how much good that move would do, dropping almost 300 points at the opening bell today--about what it had been expected to do even without an interest-rate cut.

There was one place where the Fed's action did have an impact though: the exchange value of the dollar in foreign currency markets. No sooner was word of the interest rate cut announced, than the dollar fell against major currencies like the British Pound, the Euro and the Japanese Yen.

And there's the rub. The Fed is in a trap. It cannot cut interest rates much more without causing a collapse in the dollar, which, because of the huge US trade imbalance, and all those consumer goods and raw materials--especially oil--that are imported--would lead to serious and politically dangerous inflation. And there is another constraint: with the current rate cut, the US now has the third lowest interest rates in the world. If the Fed makes another cut, as it has hinted it might in a week or so, only Japan would have a lower interest rate environment than the US. That makes the dollar a very undesirable currency for foreigner investors, which means they won't want to hold dollars, and they won't want to hold US stocks.

Yet if the Fed doesn't cut interest rates even further, the stock market will continue to plunge, which again discourages foreign investors from pouring their money into the U.S., which in turn puts downward pressure on the dollar.

There is the whiff of a New World Odor in the air but it does not smell of roses, methinks it stinks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking Back

With the peace movement of the sixties it seemed to some impressionable young minds that perhaps the U.S. or at least parts of the U.S. was evolving toward a better way of life, that of peace rather than wars of choice. There seemed to be a growth of awareness for the well being of the environment, for rising above racial hatred and for ending an unjust war in Vietnam though as it turns out none of these things were lasting. Vietnam was one unjust war among many to follow and had been preceded by a long history of war before it. The feeling that we were moving towards a better world was also dependent on where you lived in the U.S. and unless you traveled to conservative strongholds as in most of the nation you might well have believed that humans were progressing socially.

Looking back it is easy to see that it was naïve to believe that a culture based on military worship and war, indeed a culture that had been conceived in the embrace of imperialism and racist views could be changed without a sustained effort. Arrayed against this new awareness of what the world could be like was the establishment sustained by capitalism, rampant ignorance and racial hates that had been forged long before this nation was even formed and passed on from parent to child as is the case of cultural chains, and the rise of the military-industrial complex.

Today the peace movement barely exists, as for the environment even though we give lip service to it many people now drive gas guzzling trucks and SUVs which pollute the air. Long gone is the idea of conservation of resources and small cars with small engines rather it has become bigger is better. Sadly much of this desire to own such behemoth vehicles is driven by status rather than any practical need for such things. Racial inequality is still alive and well as was brought home in the Katrina disaster.

We give lip service to peace, racial equality, and ecology yet that is all most of it is …lip service. Today we, or some of us, honor the memory of Martin Luther King yet many hold up a Martin Luther King wannabe Barack Obama who though speaks with great eloquence is no Martin Luther King, not by a long shot. Where I live people talk of loving nature yet almost every vehicle on the road is a polluting truck or SUV. Talking with the locals one hears of hatred for Mexicans, people of the Arab world, African Americans, you name the race and they hate them. Rural America is an ugly place filled with ugly people who live in a world of hypocrisy and delusion which they like to refer to as common sense. Of course that is a generalization as naturally there are exceptions to this yet by and large that is the way it is.

The U.S. prides itself on its scientific and technological contributions to the world yet a majority of U.S. citizens are steeped in superstitious sanctimonious religious dogma and refuse to believe in evolution, a branch of science that has been proven beyond doubt with a plethora of evidence that few other sciences enjoy. We have become a nation of dualities where reality and fable intertwine which creates a web of self deceit preventing us moving forward. The Iraq War continues unabated and though many now oppose it that is only because it is a failure not because it is wrong. This is a very sad state of affairs and adds a touch of surrealism to a day when we recall a man of peace Martin Luther King.

Pavlov's Democrats

Today Obama said “If elected I will make pomegranates the planetary fruit of Neptune.” And of course the Democrat faithful reacted with their usual enthusiasm and optimism of a future filled with hope.

Obama and Hillary’s secret of course is Pavlov. The DLC has trained its constituents to drool as a reaction to the stimulus of hearing Hillary or Obama speak especially if they use key buzzwords like “change” or “hope.” Of course hope is not a plan nor is change whatever that means and of course since these nebulous terms mean nothing you can read into it whatever you wish to.

When you wish upon a star,

It won’t get you very far.

Sung to the melody of when you wish upon a star of course.

If you have never read Barry Crimmins you really ought to check him out.

Here is an excerpt just to whet your appetite.

Unless, in an attempt to minimize the deleterious climactic effect of heated debate at a deadlocked convention, Al Gore accepts the nomination, the Dem nominee will be Clinton or Obama. Many of us have already gone through the uniquely American process of glorifying one or the other of these venally ambitious people (or worse, one of the R's).

I can't do that because I understand a basic truth: he or she who wants to be in control is a dick and probably crazy. The premise behind most presidential bids is shockingly simple: I've looked at the entire world and there is one glaring problem-- I'm not in charge!

Let us form a committee and worship you, oh great and infallible one.

Ridiculous as that sounds -- that's exactly what many people do. Then they try to influence the rest of us to fall in line behind a stump-speaking blowhard possessed of not even a hint of lactose intolerance to the green mother's milk of politics. And if we question or challenge their American Idol, we risk the swift-boating of our own common decency.

The thing is, emotionally and intellectually mature people should have a healthy distrust for those who want to be in charge. They seek to rule us. I don't know about you but I do not seek to be ruled. Would-be leaders aren't strong so much as they are shameless and needy. Usually they are just self-loathing, hypocritical weaklings who feel that the extra authority and special privilege of high office will somehow camouflage their massive character flaws.

So as much as I will take great joy in watching W(easel) leave town a year from today, I assume that on that day, as on this, most Americans will be more excited by the prospects of the NFL playoffs than by the prospects of a new megalomaniac extolling the virtues of their particular brand of leadership. Enjoy the games.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

State of Terror in the Terror State

The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
The first, that it flies to the highest point;
the second, that it does not suffer for company,
not even of its own kind;
the third, that it aims its beak to the skies;
the fourth, that it does not have a definite color;
the fifth, that it sings very softly.

--San Juan de la Cruz, Dichos de Luz y Amor

During those heady first days of the Iraq War, if it can be dignified in that manner, really it is just a criminal act -- I heard all kinds of ridiculous stuff from otherwise intelligent people. I was doing some volunteer work at a public library and was discussing the war with a librarian. She told me she felt that the war was all about the emancipation of the women of Iraq. However what she was really saying was that the people of Iraq did not know how to conduct themselves in a civilized manner and that we would impose our own noble standards of the western world upon Iraq. And in a weird way this was partially true for it is quite in line with American exceptionalism whose roots can be traced back to the time of manifest destiny which lives on today in the American world view. It has been our own arrogance that has led us down the rosy path to endless wars, the beginnings of a police state, and most of all, made us the most hated and feared nation on the face of the planet. We have flaunted international law by way of right of might casting our military far and wide raining down destruction on countless innocents who had never done any harm to us, imprisoned people without cause depriving them of any of the basic rights that this nation supposedly stood for and made torture a tool of the state. In short in lieu of our headlong rush to wage war against terrorism we have become the largest purveyors of terrorism alienating most of the world against us. But don’t misunderstand me this is nothing new in our history for we have waged wars and intervened as well as tortured for many, many years now long before the invasion of Iraq. I suppose what is so shocking is that we have become so open about it even justifying it through intellectual contortions that would have made Houdini jealous.

Americans can still afford to be smug in their bed of delusions yet there are signs of decay all around us. Our banking institutions are in a world of trouble, our higher paying middle class jobs are evaporating as they stampede to other nations across the sundering seas which sunder no longer along with the more menial jobs that we were told in the inception of free trade agreements would be the only jobs to migrate. I myself used to work as a mechanical designer in the high tech industry of Silicon Valley working on varied projects from telecommunications equipment, chip etching devices, to the batteries for the space station and building satellites. I had begun as a drafter but after many years I worked up to where I was designing parts only to have my way of earning money destroyed by the deregulation of industry that began in the Reagan years and finally put to death under Bill Clinton and his NAFTA. However I see this as small beans when compared to the immense suffering we have inflicted upon Iraq and for whose consequences there will be hell to pay.

Though there are disputes for the number of deaths in Iraq that America is responsible for, either directly or indirectly, I suspect it is much worse than any of the estimations but that is just my opinion but even so how many deaths are acceptable? Are 100 deaths A-okay? How about one thousand? Is even one death perpetrated by the American killing machine nothing to lose sleep about? You tell me. And then there are the people who have been horribly wounded and mutilated, their lives forever changed and the countless Iraqi people who have been forced to flee for their lives. The people of Iraq who are left live under the thumb of our oppressive government and the warlords we empower without many of the things we take for granted like electricity, food, water and adequate medical treatments. However far too many citizens of the USA do not care to think about such things rather we are obsessed with our conceit and another meaningless election where one pawn of the establishment shall be replaced by another. Whoopee-do. After all Americans believe they are world leaders blessed by God with the Midas touch of “can-do-ism” whose destiny is to ensure the rest of the world shall wear baseball caps and blue jeans spreading democracy and capitalism where ever we trod and none shall withstand our onslaught for who is there who can stand against such mega-power? Apparently quite a few can withstand such mega-power and this is a reality the USA shall have to come to grips with sooner or later however sooner would be the most desirable.

It is long due past the time when the citizens of the United States should have developed that most basic trait of human understanding which is to put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes and ask of yourself, would I like this if it happened to me? We are only one culture among many, only one imperial state among many that the world has witnessed on humanities journey through history and perhaps a little humility would have kept us from taking so many wrong paths.

There are other world views than that of our own culture and who is to say which is best?


A man staring at his equations
said that the universe had a beginning.
There had been an explosion, he said.
A bang of bangs, and the universe was born.
And it is expanding, he said.
He had even calculated the length of its life:
ten billion revolutions of the earth around the sun.
The entire globe cheered;
They found his calculations to be science.
None thought that by proposing that the universe began,
the man had merely mirrored the syntax of his mother tongue;
a syntax which demands beginnings, like birth,
and developments, like maturation,
and ends, like death, as statements of facts.
The universe began,
and it is getting old, the man assured us,
and it will die, like all things die,
like he himself died after confirming mathemtically
the syntax of his mother tongue.

The Other Syntax

Did the universe really begin ?
Is the theory of the big bang true ?
These are not questions, though they sound like they are.
Is the syntax that requires beginnings, developments
and ends as statements of fact the only syntax that exists ?
That's the real question.
There are other syntaxes.
There is one, for example, which demands that varieties
of intensity be taken as facts.
In that syntax nothing begins and nothing ends;
thus birth is not a clean, clear-cut event,
but a specific type of intensity,
and so is maturation, and so is death.
A man of that syntax, looking over his equations, finds that
he has calculated enough varieties of intensity
to say with authority
that the universe never began
and will never end,
but that it has gone, and is going on now, and will go
through endless fluctuations of intensity.
That man could very well conclude that the universe itself
is the chariot of intensity
and that one can board it
to journey through changes without end.
He will conclude all that, and much more,
perhaps without ever realizing
that he is merely confirming
the syntax of his mother tongue.

--Carlos Casteneda The Active Side of Infinity

Friday, January 18, 2008

Marta discusses TV journalism

Here Marta Costello discusses some of her experiences working as a TV journalist-- it's very enlightening.

Meanwhile, I'm going to be gone for a few days, but I'll be back next week. Maybe I'll have a mysterious guest(no, not Marta.)in the interim...

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Moulitas's Michigan hubris


A couple of weeks ago I promised you an essay about the countercurrents within modern liberalism, in which I would try to explain why the connection between liberalism and conservatism today is anything but the two-dimensional continuum that most people think it is, and how there are very significant ways in which the popular conceptions of the democratic party leadership are just plain wrong, and they are hardly "liberal" in any meaningful sense.

I've dropped the ball so far, mostly because of sundry distractions but also because of the unwieldiness of the subject matter. But I will address it, fairly soon. In the meantime other things keep happening that function to dovetail with that percolating essay about the hidebound democratic leadership and their deep-in-denial followers. One of them was an absolutely idiotic, too-clever essay by daily Kos's founder Markos Moulitsas in which he advocated that his readers (often termed "Kossacks") cross over and vote for Mitt Romney in Michigan.

"Let's Have Some Fun in Michigan"

In 1972, Republican voters in Michigan decided to make a little mischief, crossing over to vote in the open Democratic primary and voting for segregationist Democrat George Wallace, seriously embarrassing the state's Democrats. In fact, a third of the voters (PDF) in the Democratic primary were Republican crossover votes. In 1988, Republican voters again crossed over, helping Jesse Jackson win the Democratic primary, helping rack up big margins for Jackson in Republican precincts. (Michigan Republicans can clearly be counted on to practice the worst of racial politics.) In 1998, Republicans helped Jack Kevorkian's lawyer -- quack Geoffrey Feiger -- win his Democratic primary, thus guaranteeing their hold on the governor's mansion that year.

With a history of meddling in our primaries, why don't we try and return the favor. Next Tuesday, January 15th, Michigan will hold its primary. Michigan Democrats should vote for Mitt Romney, because if Mitt wins, Democrats win. How so?

For Michigan Democrats, the Democratic primary is meaningless since the DNC stripped the state of all its delegates (at least temporarily) for violating party rules. Hillary Clinton is alone on the ballot...

First of all, Hillary Clinton was not alone on the ballot-- Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were still on the ballot, as well as withdrawn candidate Chris Dodd. More on that in a moment. Moulitsas wanted to encourage his readers, as well as their readers(since many blog readers(possibly most) are also themselves bloggers) to encourage Michigan democrats to "cross over" and vote for Mitt Romney, because this would allegedly hurt the Republican party.

Kos's hubris is difficult to fathom, although I suppose given how prominent DKos has become in recent years, maybe it shouldn't be surprising. There are many bone-headed assumptions here, even though if stroking the egos of his readership is the goal and he doesn't really care about what the democratic party supposedly stands for-- an increasingly common trait-- then I suppose he's actually pretty smart in making his pitch for Romney, irrespective of the outcome.

Obviously there are a large number of things liberal and would-be liberal Michiganders could do with their vote. You could stay home and say "fuck you democratic party" for taking away my state's delegates and telling me my vote won't count-- perhaps even with an email, with or without cursing.(I'd recommend without.) You could vote in the republican primary, also held on Jan 15th, whether for Romney or someone else-- such as for Ron Paul.

Kos insists that voting for Romney, who went into Michigan without a major primary win(he did win the barely-covered Wyoming caucus), would somehow hurt the GOP because their eventual nominee wouldn't be decided way ahead of time. He's smarter than us noobs because he's been on Meet the Press(above), so he knows this is so.

Anyway. You could vote for Kucinich or Gravel to protest the way the democrats have shrunk from the fight in congress, or even for Dodd to register your more specific disapproval for retroactive immunity of the telecoms that handed over personal data to the administration without legal authority. I would think a couple of thousand votes for Dodd might not be reported by MSNBC and company, but you can bet Senate staffers would take notice of it a lot more than a couple of thousand emails.

Avedon takes a similar tack, although she is more gracious to Kos than I am. Here's the comment I left her:

Kos has gotten arrogant, which leads to stupidity. I didn't read all the posts he wrote about Michigan, but he fails to note in the "Let's Have Some Fun..." one that Romney was in fact leading in the delegate count going into Michigan. Either he didn't know this or didn't care. Either way it seems he's starting to believe his own publicity, as it were.

And besides, why do people automatically assume it's bad for a candidate to not have the nomination sewn up before the convention? Just as some voters may have voted for HRC because they were tired of Matthews and others dumping on her, might not the party that goes into its convention without a clear winner end up with an advantage and a more sympathetic candidate, partly because people are getting tired of the horse-race style political coverage, and partly because the party that goes into the convention w/out a clear winner will paint the other one(not entirely unreasonably), as the party that gamed their own voters into voting for their pet establishment candidate?

I know that if I was Romney or McCain or Huckabee and I only managed to get the nomination at the convention itself that's how I'd paint "HRC Clinton the 2nd.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

the gnooze:Marta re Iran

I don't know what it is, but Marta Costello's phunny news shows are growing on me. Plus, it's a way to get phunny news without crossing a virtual picket line(ahem!).

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Sunday, January 13, 2008


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Reuters:Hormuz speedboat video

I'd really like to know if there is any polling data about how much credence the proverbial man on the street is paying to all this. We've had so much fuss about whether or not the polling in New Hampshire was accurate-- I think this poll would be more interesting.

see also:
US Navy press release: "Three U.S. Navy Ships Approached by Iranian Boats"

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday 11 Jan 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bill Richardson

from Bill Richardson's Myspace bulletin(emphases are mine):

Jan 10, 2008 3:06 PM
Subject:Thank You
Body: Dear Friend:

It is with great pride, understanding and acceptance that I am ending my campaign for President of the United States. It was my hope that all of you would first hear this news from me and not a news organization. But unfortunately, as with too many things in our world today, it's the ending of something that garners the most intense interest and speculation.
A year ago, we were the only major campaign calling for the removal of all of our troops within a year's time from Iraq. We were the only campaign calling for a complete reform of education in this country, including the scrapping of No Child Left Behind. And we were the campaign with the most aggressive clean energy plan and the most ambitious standards for reducing global warming.

Now, all of the remaining candidates are coming to our point of view. I am confident that the next President of the United States will implement much of what we've been urging for the last twelve months, and our nation and world will be the better for it.
Running for president brings out the best in everyone who graces the stage, and I have learned much from the other candidates running. They have all brought great talents and abilities to the campaign.

Senator Biden's passion and intellect are remarkable.

Senator Dodd is the epitome of selfless dedication to public service and the Democratic Party.

Senator Edwards is a singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us.

Senator Obama is a bright light of hope and optimism at a time of great national unease, yet he is also grounded in thoughtful wisdom beyond his years.

Senator Clinton's poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face.

Representative Kucinich is a man of great decency and dedication who will faithfully soldier on no matter how great the odds.

And all of us in the Democratic Party owe Senator Mike Gravel our appreciation for his leadership during the national turmoil of Vietnam.

I am honored to have shared the stage with each of these Democrats. And I am enormously grateful to all of my supporters who chose to stand with me despite so many other candidates of accomplishment and potential.

Now that my time in this national campaign has come to an end, I would urge those who supported my candidacy to take a long and thoughtful look at the remaining Democrats. They are all strong contenders who each, in their own way, would bring desperately needed change to our country. All I ask is that you make your own independent choice with the same care and dedication to this country that you honored me with during this campaign. At this time, I will not endorse any candidate.

Now I am returning to a job that I love, serving a state that I cherish and doing the work of the people I was elected to serve. As I have always said, I am the luckiest man I know. I am married to my high school sweetheart. I live in a place called the Land of Enchantment. I have the best job in the world. And I just got to run for president of the United States.

It doesn't get any better than that. With my deepest appreciation for all that you have done,


Governor Bill Richardson
The Governor's Mansion
Santa Fe, New Mexico

I tend to think Richardson is overgenerous to some of the persons above, but it's classy of him to bow out with a nod to Kucinich and Gravel. (I wonder if Biden and Dodd mentioned them in their speeches.) Yes, I suppose he could have boycotted a debate or two in which they were excluded, but that's probably expecting too much.

Also, I wonder if his statement that "all of the remaining candidates are coming to our point of view" is a feeler indicating that he'll endorse another dem only once she revises past rhetoric and calls for all the troops out within a year. But that may be wishful thinking, maybe even both on Richardson's part and my own, and I'm guessing that both Obama and HRC would decide they didn't need his support that badly if that were the case.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Hampshire horse race 2: the wall holds

a brief additional quote from Greenwald's essay that I excerpted yesterday:

As Kevin Drum says, there are all kinds of reasons why a rational person might consider the defeat of Hillary Clinton to be a good thing. The fact that it's being caused, in part, by snide, catty sniping over petty matters from reporters who hate the Clintons isn't one of them.

Greenwald's comment above is of course apropo of Obama's somewhat surprising win in the Iowa caucus, but his point is still worth discussing in the context of HRC winning in New Hampshire. Many people in Big Media and the lefty blogosphere have been spinning Senator Clinton's victory as a repudiation of the pollsters, or a repudiation of Obama's messianic affect, or even a repudiation of the people who like to dump on the Clintons. While I imagine all these may have an element of truth to them, I'm a little surprised that I've heard no one say that(see below*) maybe, just maybe, the kindly, well-meaning and mostly caucasian democrats of New Hampshire may have simply freaked out and contemplated the suddenly very real possibility that their party might go to bat against the GOP in November with a black guy.

Apparently this is something we're not allowed to discuss. Not only is racism bad-- and yes, its badness is a good thing-- but suggesting that somebody, or a group of people, are acting according to racially tinged motives is just not done.

We've all agreed not to talk about it, and that's how we know it doesn't exist, and the people who bring it up are a bunch of troublemakers anyway, so we try to ignore them.

Many years ago my friend "Tracy", a nice white girl from the suburbs, told me that her mother said that she shouldn't date outside her race because society will make life harder on her. I imagine her mother was partly right, that her daughter would experience social pressure in some quarters, but this just begs the question of how much power you want to give to people who want you to behave according to their vision of a society where people know their place and "stick with their kind."

Now I won't for a moment claim to have George Bush Junior's ability to look into someone's soul, Russian or otherwise, and assess the contents. So I won't say that I know that New Hampshire's democrats are prejudiced against Obama because of his race, or even his funny name. For one thing, I happen to think there is a wide assortment of reasons to not vote for Obama that have nothing to do with race(or even a funny name), although to my mind I fail to see how they'd subsequently lead you to Hillary's arms-- but that's another post.

However-- just like Tracy's mother, maybe some of New Hampshire's democrats decided that while they don't have a problem with a black guy as the party's standard bearer, maybe other voters who might otherwise consider a democrat for president nevertheless wouldn't go for a black democrat.

("I'M not prejudiced, but I know that a lot of other people are. What?")

I've heard of the South Carolina GOP primary referred to as the "firewall" designed to protect establishment republicans from insurgents and supposed insurgents, such as when Bush beat McCain there in 2000. But nobody talks about Iowa and New Hampshire as firewalls against the same for the democrats, perhaps because democrats are less comfortable discussing these things-- but given Iowa's 92% and New Hampshire's 96% white populations, maybe they are, or at least they're supposed to be. And whatever you think of Obama, maybe it is in fact a testament to Iowa's young people that they weren't white in quite the way the big time party strategists thought they'd be.

Needless to say, political reasoning isn't the same as choosing a lover, or at least it isn't supposed to be. Voting against Obama because you think he'd have a hard time in the general isn't the same thing as shunning your black neighbors, or your black co-workers, or your daughter's boyfriend.

But it's not that different either. If you hold electability as the greatest good beyond practically everything else, you are empowering the troglodyte Big Media types that Greenwald rails against, as well as prejudiced voters, in the same way that Tracy's mother encouraged her to live according to dictates of the most hateful members of her community.

Now, I happen to think that Obama and Hillary Clinton are both unsatisfactory choices, but the idea of voting for or against either one based on (TV news dictated perceptions of)"electability" strikes me as exceptionally cowardly and vacuous, and even a threat to democracy.

Because additionally, you are helping to create today's post-liberal democratic party that can't get anything done besides aligning itself with big business and traditional republican interests, apart from on a few token identity politics issues-- the same post-liberal democratic party that lefty bloggers and the democratic rank-and-file are so fond of decrying.

One of the reasons I've never understood this is because it's precisely the same idiots who hold "electability" up as the greatest good who are the most susceptible to groupthink and to conning themselves into believing that whoever the party chooses for them really is as blitheringly awesome as the pundits and other clever types say, and will vote for whoever they're told to at the end of the day anyway.

They're the same people who in 2004 rejected Howard Dean in favor of the phlegmatic patrician John Kerry, because the media doctored the sound on a poorly-shot video and told them that Dean was Crazy Shouting Guy. Although most democrats were already against the war by then, they sucked it up and told themselves that Kerry's weasley "I voted against it before I voted for it" actually meant something, and that when Kerry saluted the nice safe audience at the democratic convention in the summer of '04, while he steadfastly ran away from the fight with the Swift Boat smearers, that he was somehow "inspirational."

One of the problems with the democrats rejecting Dean in 2004 was they also ran away from the fight. Dean opposed the war from the get-go, without Kerry's rhetorical hem-hawing baggage, so because the dems ran with Kerry they ran with a candidate who wouldn't allow a real debate to occur about the war. I'm not saying that Dean should be regarded as the second coming of Thomas Jefferson or anything like that, but in rejecting Dean democratic voters, at the behest of their leadership and the people on the teevee, effectively took the debate about the war "off the table", just as Nancy Pelosi did with impeachment two years later.

That's the funny thing about obsessing about "electability." Voters don't exactly have a lot of power to start with, but when they give up what little they have because millionaire pundits and news readers tell them they have to, that's how "you get the politicians you deserve" instead of the ones you need. And simply telling pollsters that you care more about the issues doesn't absolve you of the mundane work of sifting through the muck to actually find out about the candidates and issues rather than worrying about whether they "look presidential", have a pricey haircut, a spouse with a tongue-stud or sundry other brain-clutter foisted on you by Chris Matthews and company.

*An update, and an apparently needed clarification:

Others have in fact discussed the possibility that Obama's support melted because of race. I think my argument is somewhat different from the one that Digby cites, wherein Chris Matthews suggests that Americans are too racist to elect a black person president. Some are, clearly, but that's not what I'm saying.

My argument is that over the past few years democratic voters have become conditioned, to be so readily cowed by their hidebound leadership and the pundit class, that if some jerk with a TV show tells them they need to worry about Obama not being electable, or that they don't dare run a real antiwar candidate if they want to win, or what have you... they chicken out and buckle, empowering their opponents, as well as childish pseudo-journalists who aren't necessarily their opponents but clearly don't give a damn about democratic hopes and aspirations.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire and the horse race

with approximately 86% (via) of the precincts reporting:

Hillary Clinton 95,331 39%
Barack Obama 89,360 37%
John Edwards 41,190 17%
Bill Richardson 11,178 5%
Dennis Kucinich 3,371 1%
Joe Biden 543 0%
Mike Gravel 342 0%
Chris Dodd 163 0%
Precincts Reporting - 259 out of 301 - 86%

Republican Presidential Primary
Candidate Votes Percent Winner
John McCain 74,847 38%
Mitt Romney 63,818 32%
Mike Huckabee 22,253 11%
Rudy Giuliani 17,455 9%
Ron Paul 15,588 8%
Fred Thompson 2,446 1%
Duncan Hunter 1,007 1%

Undoubtedly it's childish of me to point this out, but Dennis Kucinich's one percent is bigger than Fred Thompson's one percent.

96 percent? boy New Hampshire's white. Iowa, New Hampshire...South Carolina. Makes you wonder.

Glenn Greenwald(Jan 7th):

...Aside from the fact that these endless prediction games completely overwhelm any substantive discussions, their guesses -- which are really wishes -- are almost always dreadfully wrong and plainly designed to advance their concealed agenda for which candidates they like and dislike. Why is any of that something that reporters ought to be doing at all? Is there any distinction between what a "reporter" does and what a "pundit" does covering this campaign? There doesn't seem to be any.

As but one example, consider this new daily tracking poll today from Rasumussen Reports. At least according to this poll, it is true that there has been one candidate who has been genuinely surging in the last week or two among Democratic voters nationally -- John Edwards...
I'm not focusing on the accuracy of horse-race predictions here, but instead, on the fact that the traveling press corps endlessly imposes its own narrative on the election, thereby completely excluding from all coverage plainly credible candidates they dislike (such as Edwards) while breathlessly touting the prospects of the candidates of whom they are enamored. Their predictions (i.e., preferences and love affairs) so plainly drive their press coverage -- the candidates they love are lauded as likely winners while the ones they hate are ignored or depicted as collapsing -- which in turn influences the election in the direction they want, making their predictions become self-fulfilling prophecies.

It's just all a completely inappropriate role for political reporters to play, yet it composes virtually the entirety of their election coverage. Go read Time or The New Republic or The Politico or The Washington Post and see if you can find any examples of straight factual reporting about the remaining candidates, their positions, anything substantive -- rather than endless, group-think gossip about tactics and winning/losing predictions. It basically doesn't exist (here's an interview Ana Marie Cox conducted with John McCain yesterday where she tried to press him on his comment that we should remain in Iraq for 100 years -- notable because it's so rare to find any questions of this type).

I realize none of this is a revelation. But it's still astonishing how extreme it is. The point isn't just that this empty chatter squeezes out anything more meaningful -- it does -- but that it completely drives voter perceptions and controls the ability of candidates to be heard.

Here is an interview with Fred Thompson on the Today Show where he makes this point quite well, chiding the interviewer for asking him about nothing other than the sorts of speculative, irrelevant predictive matters that dominate press coverage, to the complete exclusion of anything he is trying to argue as part of his campaign. Inventing exciting dramatic narratives and predicting outcomes just isn't the role of a political reporter, even thought it's what most of them to do to the exclusion of all else.

the Greenwald passage above is from a much longer piece, "The role of political reporters" from Monday's Salon. It's not directly related to the results in New Hampshire, but it's definitely worth reading in its entirety(above emphases are mine).

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Friday, January 04, 2008

via the Onion and Myspace