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Saturday, March 04, 2006
TALES FROM THE TOXIC ZEITGEIST
(Part 4) IN WHICH WE CONCLUDE


I happened to watch CNN today, which is something I rarely ever do, unless it's to watch Lou Dobbs, with whom I generally completely disagree, but whom I appreciate for his integrity to his principles. I occasionally used to think that about William F. Buckley.

Because the CNN report was a strange beast. It didn't make any sense as a "news story" but it made a lot of sense in the sense that I rarely ever watch CNN anymore.

Why do I keep getting the feeling that this is the late-Cold War Soviet Union (where they suppressed bluejeans, rock and roll, and even xeroxing) and I'm watching the Pravda Channel?

But, I guess I have to back up. We were talking about the Machine that's grinding forward to end abortion in America. We had been through the small legislatures, the legal cabals -- if you don't know who and what the Federalist Society is, I suggest you find out, muy pronto -- the 37-year-old Vice President of Time-Warner who's giving up his job to clerk for Samuel Alito, Jr. at the princely sum of $59,000 a year.

We've watched the classical three trimester model remain remarkably durable over millennia, only to suddenly shift into this paroxysm of fanatical "Sex is the punishment of God" mentality that shows up in the United States and the Vatican just after the Civil War. We've watched the Supreme Court's grand construction of privacy from 1965 to 1973, and the ensuing thirty-three-year pushing back against that privacy.

All of the old bugaboos are under attack: pornography (and, in essence, 'nekkidness' in general, else, why the national convulsion after the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" of a CBS Superbowl?) Contraception.

There is a story running this weekend (and it is a measure of our descent into purgatory gulch that it IS a story at all) that WalMart is going to CARRY the morning-after pill, but their pharmacists will still be free to act according to the dictates of their consciences and refuse to dispense it, as long as they direct the woman to another place where she can get it.

That's fair, I guess.

Fairer would be: We practice SCIENCE. Therefore, if a qualified physician prescribes it, YOU WILL dispense it. You are not a physician, and one more incident will result in your immediate termination, Mr. Burns.

But we are stumbling towards a more humane society, right?

Oh, and the attack on contraception AND abortion. The insistence that women's bodies are under their control. But that's only a part of it.

There is the story of a high school teacher in Aurora, Colorado -- where my uncle was a policeman for 20 years -- who made commentary in his classroom the day following the State of the Union speech, and a little member of the Hitler Youth recorded it on his mp3 player, and took it to his father, or his Hitler Youth Gruppenfuhrer, and they got it to the local talk radio station, who found the fateful "Hitler" reference in the teacher's speech, and promptly organized rage and hate, and calls to school board members, naturally.

So, the administrators did what all school administrators do, and suspended the teacher (with pay). The students demonstrated for him. The teachers' union refuses to get involved, since he's not a member. He has an attorney. Etcetera.

And, undoubtedly, the little tyke who so patriotically taped the fateful conversation is being congratulated by his ... what?

These are the old Cold War nuts. They had their McCarthy convulsion based on loathing and paranoia, and now, with camera phones and mp3recorders, our every moment can now be watched and recorded.

By schoolchildren if necessary.

Don't you get it?

It is an attack on every freedom, on the very conception of privacy -- ironically from the most secretive of administrations, secretive societies (like, say, the Federalists), religious interconnections that allow the movement of large amounts of tax-free, non-reportable cash, secret deals, secret meetings, secret hunting accidents.

So, I guess, I just give up.

Nobody minds that Halliburton has just been contracted to build several "alien" detention facilities. Er ... work facilities.

And the whole naked truth that as many Americans died in Katrina as died from the attack on the Twin Towers is ignored in the news cycle, even to an article in USA TODAY that analyzes how media is COVERING the story of Bush knowing full well what he claimed not to know anything about four days later:

http://blogs.usatoday.com/ondeadline/2006/03/heres_how_some_.html
How the media are playing the 'Katrina video'

The story the Associated Press moved Wednesday evening about the video that shows top officials warning President Bush that New Orleans' levees might not withstand Hurricane Katrina is top news everywhere today. Here's how various media and blogs from both sides of the political aisle are playing it:

- At The Swamp, a blog from the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau, the video's called "a stunning piece of bad news for the White House." Why? Because

"it directly contradicts his by now famous statement on the Good Morning America television show days after the hurricane. 'I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.' "

- Power Line blog asks whether the video and related transcripts really do show that federal officials were warned that the hurricane could devastate New Orleans, but moved too slowly to react when it did: "Do the documents show any such thing?" writes Power Line co-author John Hinderaker. "Beats me; the AP didn't release the documents or video footage so we could draw our own conclusions. It merely summarized them for us, in a way obviously intended to make President Bush and the administration look bad."

- FoxNews.com writes that "Some of the footage and transcripts from briefings Aug. 25-31 conflicts with the defenses that federal, state and local officials have made in trying to deflect blame and minimize the political fallout from the failed Katrina response."

- MSNBC notes that "administration officials denied there was anything new" in the video.

- AMERICAblog sums up the news with two words: "BUSH KNEW."

- The New York Daily News' headline says "W knew Kat was 'big one.' "

- The Los Angeles Times says that the video gives "new life to charges that the administration was detached and unresponsive in the face of one of the nation's worst natural disasters."

- "The footage does the president no favors," the BBC reports.

- Radio New Zealand says the news "seems to contradict President George Bush's claim that he had no idea of the ferocity of the approaching Hurricane Katrina last year."

- Wizbang blog says "The AP has dressed up mundane video to try and prove that President Bush (and everyone else) knew that the levees in New Orleans were going to breech. The problem is the evidence they present in their story to make that point does nothing of the sort."

Posted by Mark Memmott at 09:10 AM/ET, March 02, 2006 in Washington
Teachers under attack. Women under attack. Truth under attack.

Oh, here was the story I saw on CNN. A breathless headline reader read: Clinton's connections with Dubai. And they ginned up a non-story about how Bill Clinton had received $450,000 for two speeches in Dubai. (Note: Ronald Reagan once got over $1 million for a speech, so that's not unusual for ex-presidents.) Hilary Clinton was against the Dubai deal. Dubai had donated $400,000 to Clinton's presidential library. Hilary Clinton was against the Dubai deal. Bill Clinton agrees with her.

And I could not make sense of it in any news sense. It was all innuendo. There was no real factual information in it, and no ethical breach was ever suggested, let alone a crime.

And I wondered: was this a reflexive "attack Bill Clinton" spasm on the part of the new Right Wing Management of CNN? CNN -- Whose company, Time-Warner, you might recall, is contributing a Senior Vice President to the Alito Abortion Deal. For those of you who've been paying attention, you might recall that Ted Turner is stepping off the Time-Warner board, for what I surmise to be disgust. Certainly I doubt he's any more happier with CNN than am I.

Feh.

Or, was this another Fox (as in "there's Fox, and then there's FACTS) smokescreen to pull the classical Right Wing dodge tactic, BLAME BILL CLINTON? (Also known as "Bill Clinton DID IT!")

The truth is whatever Big Brother tells you it is. The war is wherever King George says it is, and if (Vice) President Cheney shoots a guy in the face, the victim apologizes not only to Cheney, but TO HIS FAMILY, too.

Great jumping horny toads.

There's Halliburton -- from whom Cheney receives six to seven figures a year in "deferred compensation" -- which of course means that they're giving the sitting veep a massive bribe, but because they've got paperwork to prove that it isn't a bribe, it isn't a bribe at all. Still, it's ODD how they keep getting these amazing contracts. And the latest one is to build detention work camps.

The "concentration camps" of Nazi Germany began as work camps for "terrorists" detained after the Burning of the Reichstag. I think we all remember how they evolved.

So, seeing the handwriting on the wall, I quit.

My new year's resolution is to be the LAST kid on my block dragged off to Camp Reagan, out in the forlorn desert of Oregon, near Burns, or maybe Juntura. Nope. If my "punditry" has been the least bit perspicacious, or precognitive or even prescient, then it's obvious to me where it's going. Of course, it doesn't take much in the way of brains to see it.

Meantime, we're drowning in what comes out of the south end of a north-bound horse.

And nobody's standing up. Nobody at all.

Which makes my firm decision a simple and obvious one.

From here on in, I'm chucking my controversial opinions, and getting with the program. I'm joining a gym, buying an SUV and joining a full gospel church. I won't stop the blog. That's not what I mean. I mean I'm going to be more P.K. (Penologically Keereckt).

As in, I ain't getting dragged off to pick no oranges and strawberries for citizens who don't have the cojones to stand up ter these bastards.

No, indeedy. I'm going straight.

Tomorrow, I'll be discussing the Oscars -- who's best dressed and worst dressed, and who the best and worst red carpet interviewers are. And, oh yes, the gayety and frivolity of the post-Oscar parties. It'll rock!

And on Monday, we'll talk about Oprah's latest Book Club book!

Toodles.

Courage.
.
Friday, March 03, 2006
FRIDAY'S AUDIO BLOG
or, KATRINA REVISITED

Here is the piece heard on KOPT Friday morning.

Funny how the passage of time alters our perception of "facts." Here it is in all its glory, Chertoff spinning, Brown denying, Bush lying, while all along, the residents of New Orleans watch the dead pile up and no help arriving. Sobering stuff. (Yeah, I know it's a rerun. I'll post Rush Limbaugh singing later. Right now, listen to this.)

It's a 2.4 meg download. The (hilarious) piece runs exactly 5:05.

Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):

http://www.hartwilliams.com/levee.mp3

Still, the Bush apologists have been twisting their logic into pretzels (no acknowledgment of Steely Dan, either), and we all know how dangerous pretzels are to King George. Maybe they want to rethink their rationalizations. Then again, maybe not.

Courage.
.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
TALES FROM THE TOXIC ZEITGEIST
or, (Part 3) WHAT'S ALL THIS THEN?

Full disclosure: Dr. Dave is not a medical doctor. That's important if you need to judge the credibility of the following history. I cut 27 footnotes out of the excerpt I'm about to present. And that's important for parsing it, as well. Dr. Dave has a footnote for nearly every paragraph in what follows. I suggest that you read them after you've finished this. They are, each, illuminating.

So, Hart, why didn't YOU write it?

That's a damned fine question, Binky, and I'm glad that you asked it. It just goes to prove what a perceptive and intelligent reader you are.

Dr. Dave's summary of the history of abortion is so perfectly balanced and clear that paraphrasing it would merely do it violence. He was a columnist for many years, and (excepting the footnotes, which get obnoxious after awhile, like tiny fruit flies buzzing 'round the bananas in your breakfast cereal) and this is damned fine writing. Here's Dr. Dave:

http://www.americanvoice2004.org/aboutus.html
David Morris is Vice President of the Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. based Institute for Local Self-Reliance. He is the author of five books ranging from a history of Chile to an inquiry into the future role of neighborhoods and cities in America's political and economic life to an assessment of the future of the American electricity system. Mr. Morris serves on a congressionally created advisory committee to federal agencies on energy policy. He was appointed by the Clinton Administration and reappointed by the Bush Administration. He holds degrees in Industrial and Labor Relations (BS), Political Science (MA) and Public Policy (Ph.D.). Dr. Dave was a general interest columnist for 14 years for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
And here is a short history of our topic. In five minutes your expertise on the subject will put you in the top fifth percentile of the Public. (You'll have to typeset your own certificate, though.)

http://www.americanvoice2004.org/health/contraception.html#Anchor-49575
Contraception and abortion have been practiced in virtually all human communities from the earliest times.

In determining whether to impose restrictions on abortion many cultures took into account the age of the fetus. The most influential scholar of ancient times, Aristotle (ca. 350 BC) developed a gestational time line that proved remarkably durable. Aristotle believed embryos pass through three distinct stages: 1) the nutritive/vegetative stage, characteristic of plants; 2) the sensitive stage, characteristic of animals, and, finally; 3) the intellectual/rational stage, where it becomes fully human. He maintained that the male fetus reached the recognizably human stage at about 40 days while the female arrived at that stage in 80-90 days.

Many religions made a distinction between the early embryo and later embryonic stages. Jewish law, for example, imposed few restrictions on abortions taking place before the fetus is first 40 days, a time when it is viewed as "mere water".

Most Islamic scholars believe that abortion after "ensoulment" is prohibited except to save the mother's life. They differ on when ensoulment occurs. Some calculate 40 days, others 80 days and still others120 days.

The early Christians adopted Aristotle's typology. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (ca. 415 AD), one of the most influential Catholic theologians, proposed that abortion should not be regarded "as homicide, for there cannot be a living soul in a body that lacks sensation due to its not yet being formed." For Augustine an abortion required penance only for the sexual aspect of the sin. Echoing Aristotle, Augustine believed that "hominization" took place at 40 days after conception for males and 80 days for females. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1250) also embraced Aristotle's view that a fetus is first endowed with a vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and then -- when its body is fully developed -- a rational, human soul.

At the beginning of the 13th century Pope Innocent II proposed that "quickening"(the time when the woman first feels the fetus move within her) was the moment at which abortion became homicide. Abortions occurring prior to that moment constituted a less serious sin. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV proclaimed that quickening occurred after 116 days. His declaration that early abortion was not grounds for excommunication guided Church policy until 1869. In 1869, Pope Pius IX eliminated the distinction between the animated and non-animated fetus and required excommunication for abortions at any stage of pregnancy. This was written into the Code of Canon Law in 1917.

On the civil side, English common law from 1307 to 1803 did not punish abortions occurring before the fetus moved perceptibly. In 1803, for the first time, England criminalized abortion. Abortion after quickening became a capital offense. Abortions performed prior to that time incurred lesser penalties.

In the mid 19th century, spurred on by newly formed associations of doctors, many countries and American states began to criminalize abortion. In many cases these laws were justified as a way to protect the health of the mother rather than to protect the fetus. For example, the first statutes, enacted in the 1820s and 1830s, sometimes were called "poison control measures" because they banned the sale of dangerous or fatal drugs used by women to induce abortion. These statutes did not ban abortion per se.

From the second half of the 19th century to World War II abortion was outlawed in most parts of the world and in all American states.

In the 1830s, reliable contraceptives like rubber condoms and cervical caps were introduced. By the 1870s they had become widely available. For a variety of reasons, states enacted laws that restricted the sale of contraceptives. In 1872, the U.S. Congress criminalized the distribution of obscene materials, the definition of which included contraceptives, via the postal service.

In 1916, Margaret Sanger was arrested shortly after opening the nation's first birth control clinic. The New York State Court of Appeals upheld her conviction. But it ruled that licensed physicians had the right to provide birth control advice to married women for health reasons.

In 1930 Pope Pius XI officially condemned any "artificial" means of birth control as mortal sins and grounds for excommunication. These included using condoms, diaphragms, douches and spermicides. According to Church doctrine, tampering with the "male seed" was tantamount to murder. Pope Paul VI reaffirmed this view in 1968 as did Pope John Paul II in 1993.

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill in 1960, 30 states prohibited the sale of contraceptives to married and unmarried persons. In 1965 the Supreme Court overturned all state laws that denied married people access to contraceptives. In 1972, it extended the right to contraception to unmarried persons.

Today contraception is legal for all people in all states. The Catholic Church continues to view the use of contraceptive devices as a sin. Virtually all protestant denominations allow birth control devices that prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg.]

The reexamination of statutes regarding contraception led to a reexamination of statutes regarding abortion. Between 1967 and 1972, thirteen states changed their laws to allow for abortion in cases of rape, incest, danger to the physical or mental health of the mother, or fetal defect.

In 1973, the Supreme Court overturned all state laws prohibiting abortions. It extended the right to privacy, first embraced as a constitutional right in 1965 in its decision overturning Connecticut's ban on the sale of contraceptives to married couples, to abortion. The right to privacy, the Court concluded, "is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."

The Court did not allow abortion in all cases. Instead, taking a page from Aristotle and most religious and civil law through the ages, the Court permitted increasingly severe restrictions by the state depending on the age of the fetus. In the first 12 weeks, which largely coincided with the traditional definition of the time before "quickening," the Court prohibited states from imposing any restrictions on a woman's right to an abortion. In the second trimester, states may regulate abortion procedures to protect the health of the woman. In the third trimester (after 24 weeks), when fetuses may be viable outside of the womb, states may restrict abortions.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have not repealed their pre-Roe v. Wade abortion bans. Two enacted laws banning abortion after Roe. These state laws would come into force if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe.

In the 1970s and '80s, the Supreme Court struck down a variety of parental and spousal consent laws, waiting periods, and restrictions on the type of abortion that could be performed in the second trimester. The Court did uphold restrictions on the use of public funds for abortions, and allowed restrictions on where and by whom abortions can be performed.

In 1989, the Supreme Court upheld a Missouri law declaring that life begins at conception. It also upheld Missouri's ban on the use of public facilities to perform abortions not medically necessary and its requirement that doctors perform fetal viability tests before performing abortions after the 20th week of gestation.]

In 1992 the Court allowed states to enact restrictions on abortion - including mandatory waiting periods, and parental consent requirements - so long as they do not create an undue burden for women seeking abortion.

In November 2003 President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act into law. The Act imposes prison sentences for doctors who perform the procedures defined in the legislation. It does not provide exceptions to protect the health of the mother. The law is blocked from going into effect pending the outcome of legal challenges. In Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), the Supreme Court struck down a Nebraska law similar to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. The government argues that the law is constitutional despite the court's ruling because it is based on Congressional findings that the banned procedure is never medically necessary. Federal District Judges in San Francisco and New York have declared the new law unconstitutional, consistent with the Carhart decision, and a judge in Nebraska has yet to rule on another challenge. The Justice Department is appealing the decisions.

In April 2004, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act became the first federal law to recognize a fetus in any stage of development as a legal person. The law makes it a separate crime to harm or kill a fetus during the commission of a federal crime. In the law, a "child in utero" is defined as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."

In May 2004 the Food and Drug Administration voted not to allow over the counter sales of so-called "morning after" birth control pills.
Which brings us back to the present.

You will note a general tightening of issues surrounding a woman's reproductive apparatus. And, I will admit, there is a gray area there: there is a point at which society in the larger sense DOES have a vested interest in pregnancy.

But, alas, the bias of the bluenoses has been to use the consequences of sex as a punishment for having HAD sex.

Hahahahahahah! they chortle. It is a sad commentary on our history that prudes and censors almost never go to prison for their intolerance, but that their victims often do.

Jose Ortega y Gasset said ("The Revolt of the Masses," 1932 ):
The political doctrine which has represented the loftiest endeavour towards common life is liberal democracy. It carries to the extreme the determination to have consideration for one's neighbour and is the prototype of "indirect action." Liberalism is that principle of political rights, according to which the public authority, in spite of being all-powerful, limits itself and attempts, even at its own expense, to leave room in the State over which it rules for those to live who neither think nor feel as it does, that is to say as do the stronger, the majority. Liberalism -- it is well to recall this to-day -- is the supreme form of generosity; it is the right which the majority concedes to minorities and hence it is the noblest cry that has ever resounded in this planet. It announces the determination to share existence with the enemy; more than that, with an enemy which is weak. It was incredible that the human species should have arrived at so noble an attitude, so paradoxical, so refined, so acrobatic, so anti-natural. Hence, it is not to be wondered at that this same humanity should soon appear anxious to get rid of it. It is a discipline too difficult and complex to take firm root on earth.
We can marvel at the wisdom of Ortega y Gasset's insight as we consider the bullying that characterizes the "socially conservative" stance of the anti-choice, anti-woman forces. One was even on a radio show that I heard earlier this morning, utterly refusing to admit that the basis of her opposition to the availability of the "morning after pill" was rooted in her "morality" even as she rationalized medical reason after medical reason for denying women access to them.

And, perhaps it derives from instinct, and not from the rational brain. Because the characterizing position of the anti-choice, anti-woman forces is that biology MUST be destiny, and that what has been decreed by biology (i.e. fucking) MUST be accepted, no matter what medical science exists to alleviate the pregnancy.

Funny. They don't ever seem to believe this when it comes to glasses, false teeth, wigs, trusses or stoma bags.

It's only when some (wicked, fallen) woman engages in sex and gets herself "in trouble" that the Wrath of (their) God descends upon that hapless Jezebel.

Funny enough for Catholics, for whom this malevolent practice has been recently coined by celibate (allegedly) male clerics.

Funnier still for all the wrinkled prunes and raisins invariably lecturing the plums and grapes on their brazenness.

But it gets worse.

Tomorrow, we'll try to finish up. I realize that quixotic mission has failed today, but I am still irrationally exuberant that it can be accomplished.

Let me conclude with this remembrance from a reader of this little blog:
I'm going to suggest a point that I expected to hear from you, but didn't.

This is how it was explained to me as a boy growing up in [Midwestern state] and introduced to Christianity via The Church of Christ:

ALL babies MUST be born, because one of them is going to be the anti-christ.

And one of them is going to be Jesus II. The appeareance of the anti-christ is important, as Jesus will not return until the anti-christ has arrived and taken over global government. And we all want Jesus to return.

Hence, masturbation is a great sin, as the "seeds spilled on the earth" could be the anti-christ, OR another divine miracle like Jesus II.

"It is better to spill one's seeds into the belly of a whore, than to spill them on the ground."

Don't ask me where that is in the Bible. It was placed in my mind by [Midwestern] neocons, circa 1960.

So by that logic, a woman who is raped by her father, brother, uncles, and the guy next door COULD produce the next Messiah, or the anti-christ [ just as important ].

So make damn sure she has the baby.
That's right. Even if you were raped by your male relatives. (Well, only in Mississippi and South Dakota at present. But that list will undoubtedly lengthen as time progresses and America regresses.)

Courage.
.
.
I'D RATHER HAVE A BOTTLE IN FRONT OF ME
THAN TO HAVE A PREFRONTAL BUSHOTOMY


The blog reaction overnight has been astonishing: astounding semantic contortions, wild accusations of stoooopid "liberals" and the usual tripe.

And, of course, the inevitable confabulation of Clinton's sins with Bush's.

But ... does anyone notice that there is a vast difference between Monica's blowjob and Katrina's?

I mean any of the Bushotomized, of course.

Courage.
.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

TOPICAL HUMOR
or, SOMETIMES YOU JUST WRITE JOKES

  • The Iraqi insurgents want one thing more than anything else: they want the U.S. government off their backs. What could be more Republican than that?
  • Bush learned that his approval rating was 35%. Then they told him that Cheney's approval rating was 18%. Bush laughed. "See? I'm TWICE as popular as Cheney!"
  • Bush runs into a bar. No one can explain why he didn't see it coming.

Courage.
.

.
TALES FROM THE TOXIC ZEITGEIST
or, (Part 2) MONKEYS AT THE HELM


In a story that no one seems to have picked up on, a 37-year-old Senior Vice President at Time-Warner has been hired as Alito's law clerk. In a world of kids fresh out of law schools, any Sesame Street graduate knows that this is the Thing That Doesn't Fit. And we ask ourselves, Why?

Lock up your daughters!

Ever heard of a "Murder Board"?

Samuel Alito had a murder board to prepare him for his confirmation hearings -- you remember? The ones where he never answered anything, never showed his hand?

Well, he had a prep team: they prepped him for his private meetings with senators, his public appearances; his "application" and follow-up written documents. And they prepared him for each and every question. To show you how extensive this 'murder board' was, this list from

http://www.law.com/jsp/scm/PubArticleSCM.jsp?id=1138356408625

Alito's 'Murder Board' a Mix of the Legal Elite
Ted Olson, Harriet Miers on rehearsal staff
Marcia Coyle
The National Law Journal
01-30-2006

ALITO MURDER BOARD PARTICIPANTS

WHITE HOUSE

Steve Schmidt, special advisor to the President in charge of the White House confirmation team
Harriet Miers, Counsel to the President
Bill Kelley, deputy counsel to the President
Brett Kavanaugh, assistant to the President and staff secretary
Bill Burck, deputy assistant to the President and deputy staff secretary
Bill Kelley, deputy counsel to the President
Jenny Brosnahan, associate counsel to the President
Grant Dixton, associate counsel to the President
Leslie Fahrenkopf, associate counsel to the President
Dabney Friedrich, associate counsel to the President
Richard Painter, associate counsel to the President
Ben Powell, associate counsel to the President
Naomi Rao, associate counsel to the President
Brett Gerry, associate counsel to the President
Robert F. Hoyt, executive office of the President
Shannen W. Coffin, general counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, former partner in Washington, D.C.'s Steptoe & Johnson

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
Raul Yanes, senior counsel to the attorney general
Wan Kim, assistant attorney general Civil Rights Division
Steve Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel
Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Policy
Richard Hertling, principal deputy assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Policy
Kristi Macklin, deputy assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Policy
Brent McIntosh, deputy assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Policy
Gordon Todd, counsel to the assistant attorney general, Civil Rights Division
Ryan Bound, chief of staff, Office of Legal Policy
John Elwood, Assistant to the Solicitor General
Jamie Brown, Office of Professional Responsibility, former special assistant to President Bush, Legislative Affairs
Elisebeth Cook, Office of the Attorney General

U.S. SENATE

Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.

NON-GOVERNMENT

Ed Gillespie, Republican lobbyist and former chairman of the Republican National Committee
Theodore B. Olson, partner in Washington, D.C.'s Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, former Solicitor General
Adam Ciongoli, senior vice president and general counsel, Time Warner Inc., former Alito law clerk [emphasis added]
Michael A. Carvin, partner in Washington, D.C.'s Jones Day, a former deputy assistant attorney general Office of Legal Counsel
Charles J. Cooper, partner in Washington, D.C.'s Cooper & Kirk, a former assistant attorney general Office of Legal Counsel
Timothy Flanigan, general counsel for corporate and international law, Tyco, a former deputy counsel to the President
Leonard Leo, Executive vice president of the Federalist Society
John Manning, Harvard Law

Source: Senate Judiciary Committee

Scan back up a minute to that last Non-Government list.

Now, underneath political fixer Ed Gillespie, and Federalist Society bigwig, Bush recount legal eagle and then Solicitor General (who argues the Government's cases before the Supreme Court) Ted Olson, you will note Adam Ciongoli, who used to be an Alito law clerk, say, ten years ago.

And is law clerk again. Must be something, for a high-powered Time-Warner Vice President and lawyer to leave a high-paying gig like that for a Supreme Court clerk's wages -- in 2004, it was $59,039. Contrast that with:

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1087501804363

The intense annual competition to lure elite Supreme Court law clerks to top law firms is reaching record heights this year, with some firms offering jaw-dropping hiring bonuses of $150,000 or more.

These bonuses, added to base salaries in the third-year associate range, make it likely that some of the Court's 35 law clerks this term will be paid upward of $300,000 the first year they leave their justice's chambers...

("High Court Clerks Show Market Clout as Firms Boost Bonuses," by Tony Mauro, Legal Times\ 06-21-2004)
So, one can understand why a hotshot young law school grad would begin at the relatively low wage of $59K a year -- which is meager, when one considers the high cost of living involved in living near the heart of Washington, D.C.

Now: why would a Time-Warner Senior Vice President leave a job undoubtedly paying much, much more than $300,000 a year for a $59K clerk's job?

I think we can deduce from the "murder board's" makeup that Adam Ciongoli is there specifically as a handler. I don't doubt that there are powerful forces at work when "anonymous" donors offer to chip in $1 million to fund South Dakota's anti-Roe lawsuit to the Supreme Court.

And, with Alito on the court, can there be ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER as to why he is there? As to WHAT, specifically, his "litmus test" was?

No: one need only look at a high powered corporate attorney eschewing a fantastically lucrative salary for the relative 'widow's mite' wages that the Supremes pay.

But here is something more:

Alito Hires as a Clerk Former Ashcroft Aide
Lawyer Played Key Role at Justice Dept.

By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 15, 2006; A12

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has hired one of the architects of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's policies to serve as his law clerk at the Supreme Court for the rest of the current term, the court announced yesterday.

Adam G. Ciongoli, 37, a senior vice president at Time Warner Inc., served as counselor to Ashcroft from 2001 to 2003. He attended Georgetown University Law Center, clerked for Alito at the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit from 1995 to 1996, and helped prepare the justice for his recent confirmation hearings.

Ciongoli was an aide to Ashcroft during Ashcroft's years as a senator and then came to the Justice Department, where he advised Ashcroft on terrorism issues in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among the issues he worked on were the detention of thousands of terrorism suspects in the United States and the use of military tribunals to try them.

As a law clerk for Alito, his responsibilities will include helping Alito draft opinions, prepare for oral argument and sift through the mountain of appeals that arrive each week. ... Among those who have come to the court after working elsewhere, none in recent memory had held a government position as senior as Ciongoli's at the Justice Department, where he was widely regarded as one of Ashcroft's closest confidants....
When fanaticism trumps cold, hard cash in Republican circles, you know that you need to be worried. Especially when that kind of fanaticism has been enshrined on the Supreme Court. Consider the "hundredth monkey" proposition:

-- The Skeptic's Dictionary, http://skepdic.com/monkey.html

The hundredth monkey phenomenon refers to a sudden spontaneous and mysterious leap of consciousness achieved when an allegedly "critical mass" point is reached. The idea of the hundredth monkey phenomenon comes from Dr. Lyall Watson in his book Lifetide (1979).
Well, Alito may well be the hundredth monkey on the SCOTUS. As alluded to earlier, Scalia is a vicious nut (he reminds me astonishingly of Al Capp, American asshole, at the John and Yoko "bagism" protests, chronicled in the Lennon documentary, "Imagine."). And Clarence "Me Too" Thomas is so firmly tied to Scalia that Scalia even converted Thomas to Catholicism. And consider new Chief Justice John G. Roberts, whose wife has been a high muckymuck in "Feminists for Choice" an anti-Roe group dating to the 'seventies.

Is Alito and his Ashcroft henchman Adam Ciongoli "the hundredth monkey"? (Or, more correctly, are they the hundredth monkeys? Oh, hell, send me one mongoose, and while you're at it send me another one.)

We shall leave aside the Borkian firepower arrayed to kill Roe in its bath, much as Marat was murdered by Charlotte Corday. Instead, let's clear up a misconception that a lot of Catholics have about the so-called "culture of life," that abortion anti-represents.

Alas, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Meantime, Mississippi has now passed a law, similar to South Dakota's, which purposely contains no exceptions for rape and incest. Only if the life of the mother is at risk can an abortion be performed: again, mysteriously, the "government brood mare" proposition is propounded -- I'd say "government mule" but mules are sterile, and that's exactly what the anti-choice forces DON'T want. Indeed: they want to shove fertility down our collective throats.

And, to underscore the point:

Miss. House advances bill to ban abortion
Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. - Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday he would probably sign a bill under consideration in the state House that would ban most abortions in Mississippi.

The measure, which passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday, would allow abortion only to save a woman's life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

Barbour, a Republican, said he preferred an exception in cases of rape and incest, but if such a bill came to his desk: "I suspect I'll sign it."

The full House could vote on the bill next week, and it would then go to the Senate.

South Dakota lawmakers passed a similar bill last week that was intended to provoke a legal showdown over Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing the right to an abortion. The measure is awaiting Republican Gov. Mike Rounds' signature. He has said he is inclined to sign it.

Mississippi already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. It requires a 24-hour waiting period and counseling for all abortions, plus the consent of both parents for minors who seek the procedure.
But, soft. The wild and wacky denouement is on the way. Tomorrow.

Courage.
.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
TALES FROM THE TOXIC ZEITGEIST
or, (Part 1) LOOSING THE HELL HOUNDS

It is an irony of history, perhaps, that when the South Dakota legislature approved throwing down the gauntlet on Roe v. Wade, during a session in the state House and Senate, in which only ONE brave legislator had the guts to stand up to the yowling of the self-righteous barbarians, I was sitting in front of the local abortion clinic, doing guard duty against those self-same barbarians.

I'm not sure what that means.

What I am sure of is that the attack on women's bodies proceeds like a well-oiled meatgrinder, including the savage insistence that even if gang-raped with her father, brother and uncle taking part and holding her down, a woman must bear any consequent zygote to term.

I'm not making this up.

Indeed, the South Dakota loons are so viciously certain of their allegiance to a theoretical "baby" that the real woman, whose body will be ravaged by the pregnancy she's held to be involuntarily responsible for, is only accorded respect if said pregnancy will so harm her health that she won't continue to be available as a brood mare for the State.

What the hell. We already have our wetback slaves. Brood mares for the Master Race aren't really that much of a stretch, right? Or, to put it in simple terms that anti-choicers can understand ("pro-life" is an oxymoron that I won't use -- think about it): this is all about their fantasy about "cute" babies. It's about that instinctual response to "awwwwwwwww, baaaaaabie!" that every new parent is forced to kowtow to in supermarkets, at church, at social functions, etc.

People are kraaaaazee about them cute leetle BAAAAAAABIES!

Well, duh.

It's called human nature (if you're euphemizing) and instinct (if you're not). It's a necessary component to the preservation of the species, but it is pre-human, and, perhaps, pre-mammal. There is nothing "ennobled" about finding babies are cute. It's hard-wired into our nervous systems, and operates at a purely instinctual level. Just like digestion.

Some of the corollary aspects are, anthropologists have theorized, our obsession with "miniatures," which proceeds from the miniature nature of babies. How many times have you heard that "ohhh, look at those little hands!" And, "tiny, tiny widdle fingers!"

You get the point.

And the South Dakota legislature evidently heard "scientific" testimony sanctifying the DNA of the zygote, speciously and conveniently enshrining "life" at the moment of conception.

Odd that they couldn't carry the concept back one step to sperm and eggs: Every menstruation a murder; every masturbation an Auschwitz. Don't laugh: this was actually, the medieval conception of masturbation. Every sperm contained a "miniature" human being, a homunculus, or "little man," (plural: homunculi), and masturbation represented the wholesale massacre of these "little men."

Sound superstitious, backwards and, well, medieval? Well, yes. So does the anti-choice debate.

Indeed, during the House debate on the question, one shrill Phyllis Schlafly wannabe, upset that her point had already been won (no exceptions for rape or incest) insisted on giving her speech ANYWAY, to the effect of "the crime of the father shouldn't penalize the pure, sweet, innocent BAY-BEEE!!"

Which is why, in South Dakota, if we gang-rape your daughter, it's not the BAY-BEE's fault that we held her down and pumped her full of hostile homunculi. It's her DUTY to breed for us.

Of course, the same instinct (maternal) that produces the "oooh, it's a BAY-BEE!" response in supermarkets and WalMarts, creates a psychological bond, a need in the mother, that makes adoption such a trauma, makes many women forced to carry pregnancy to term accept the child, etcetera, etcetera.

The maternal instinct is the most powerful instinct in the species -- for the obvious reason that there wouldn't be a species without it. But there is no choice. The mind that considers all children fathered by rape, incest or both as being of equal validity before an Invisible Man in the Sky (who purportedly wrote a book, you know), is a mind lost in the Dark Ages.

If you don't believe me; if you want to hear the Salem Witch Trials in the 21st Century, you can listen to the Senate and House debates online (courtesy of the S.D. legislature), as I did on Saturday. Each is about an hour and twelve minutes.

http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2006/1215.htm

house debate:

http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2006/Audio.aspx?MeetingDate=02/09/2006&CommitteeCode=HOU&BillNumber=1215

senate debate:

http://legis.state.sd.us/sessions/2006/Audio.aspx?MeetingDate=02/22/2006&CommitteeCode=SEN&BillNumber=1215

But be forewarned: it is disgusting, sickening, question-begging stuff. Still, you owe it to yourself to listen to it. Because you need to know what kind of country you're living in.

Antonin Scalia, America's foremost Medieval thinker, would be right at home with it. (Saw him on CSPAN over the weekend, at the American Enterprise Institute, snarking his fellow justices, their views of the Constitution, and, as usual, off-topic, attacking Roe. Oh, and he had a kid who challenged him thrown out of the room by Security. Care to guess how he's gonna rule if South Dakota's case gets to the Supremes?)

I was sickened. I was ashamed to be living in a country where such a charade of "moral purity" could proceed without so much as a giggle. Where the opposition was so cowed that only one of 36 Senators and 70 Representatives would stand up against it. Even one fellow who was bothered by the lack of a rape-and-incest prohibition BRAGGED about how his daughter had talked a friend out of an abortion ("I teach my children that abortion is WRONG" he brayed).

And, in both houses, each debate was prefaced by an admonition to the gallery that spectators were to be neither seen nor heard. They were merely being accorded the "privilege" of observing.

Disgusting.

And now the Supreme Court has raised the 20-year prohibition on violent demonstrations outside clinics. (I don't look forward to guard duty this week.) OK: There's still a federal law blocking violent protests and blockades, the Supremes have admitted that much -- in an opinion by Steven Breyer, not the most conservative of justices on an 8-0 ruling (with Alito not voting).

But the sudden passage of a straight-up challenge to Roe (by a state that already has a "trigger" law in place, i.e. as soon as Roe is overturned, abortion is outlawed) and its suspicious introduction on January 24, exactly a week to the day prior to Alito's confirmation, sponsored, seemingly, by EVERY REPUBLICAN in the South Dakota House ... well, these aren't coincidences.

They don't move the props on stage between acts by sheer happenstance. That couch doesn't move to that spot, and that lamp and table to that spot on a whim. No: the set is being dressed for an attack on a century of women's rights as a person: attacks on abortion, contraception, the rights of underage girls (who are most in need of the option of reproductive choice, after all), it's all of a piece.

The troglodytes of the South Dakota legislature didn't write the bill, nor are they funding the litigation. But they required no payment of bananas, which is the best sort of bribery. They decided that "cute" trumps all. Omnia vincit amor? Not on your tintype. Zygote uber alles.

Which brings us to our point. This is a well-oiled and well-financed machine.

The South Dakota legislature was convulsed with moral paroxysms as they tried to figure out how to accept an "anonymous" donor's offer of $1 million to litigate the case. They had no provision for such "largesse." (The quotes are used to indicate the improper use of the term. The proper word is "fanaticism.")

The forces that shoved Samuel Alito, Jr. up America's collective ass, injecting the diseased homunculi of fanatical anti-choice into the unwilling womb of Constitutional propriety have orchestrated a wide-ranging, well-funded and pervasive campaign to make sure that the State's interests in women's uteruses trump women's private interests in them.

In a story that no one seems to have picked up on, a 37-year-old Senior Vice President at Time-Warner has been hired as Alito's law clerk. In a world of kids fresh out of law schools, any Sesame Street graduate knows that this is the Thing That Doesn't Fit. And we ask ourselves, Why?

But that will have to wait until tomorrow, when Tales From the Toxic Zeitgeist concludes or continues (I don't quite know myself).

Courage.
.
Monday, February 27, 2006
HOW GEORGE SPENT HIS WEEKEND, SORT OF
or, PRIORITIZING MISPLACEMENTS


A thought that kept zapping through my mind all weekend, as I listened to the CNN radio news cycle cycling.

Saturday and Sunday, a series of announcements, pronouncements, statements and rumors floated out from the White House on the Dubai Crisis.

And that's unusual for them. Still, they worship the Sunday News Show Cycle, as we saw with the careful delaying of Cheney's "I shot a guy in the face" story until AFTER the talking heads were off the air.

So they must be really desperately worried about L'affaire Dubai. You know, the biggest bipartisan tempest in the Washington teapot since L'affair Harriet Meyers (Francaise, sic). These guys don't work on Saturdays, even during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not even during Katrina.

And that was the other thread of what I kept thinking. The "happy news" about Mardi Gras kept running every half hour: crowds were "down," but it was still REALLY GREAT. They featured, about six PM Sunday night PST, an interview with someone who had "partied too much" on Friday, and spent Saturday recuperating. The weather was "gorgeous" and sunny, just perfect for those extra two parades that had been cancelled due to the rain.

The "rain"?

I mean, they were actually NewSpeaking (as in Orwell, 1984, and not "Eyewitness News" on your friendly neighborhood local TV station). And what were they hiding?

Well, understandably, Mardi Gras coverage couldn't note that a lead singer in "The Cowsills" of days gone by, well, his BODY had been found in the debris that they're nowhere near to digging out. They got Marines to the Philippines with dispatch, but there are piles of rubble with rotting corpses in New Orleans, but we're covering MARDI GRAS! (Good Morning America -- the penultimate practitioner of the Black Art of "happy news" -- is there, whee!)

Isn't it a Great Triumph of the Strength of Our People, to see this Red Square May Day Parade?

Sorry: for a minute there, I thought I was listening to that old Soviet PRAVDA ("The Truth"). (The irony now is that PRAVDA has a lot of stories that our media doesn't dare touch. Like the story that Saddam's wife met with the fellow they have on trial and said it's one of Saddam's doubles, not Saddam. Maybe not true, but no, our "free" press is covering Mardi Gras!)

We're going to have the Dubai deal delayed for forty-five days, and oh, look, Mardi Gras is going on with those Plucky New Orleanians refusing to note that their city is a pile of RUBBLE!

Oh dear Lordie, Lordie.

Oh, and by the by, this GREAT Company in Dubai, wholly owned by the ownership of the country, er, the ruling family, is ASKING to be investigated. (That way, the White House doesn't have to admit mistake.)

The way the Bushies carry on, you'd think they were a pope, who cannot make a mistake, and therefore, King George could stick to his guns, threatening vetoes, that "MY government" approved it, so it must be good, ad nauseum.

If these purblind nitwits weren't such pussies, they'd be able to find a way to be manly without being macho. As it stands, the macho posturing of these craven cowards, these draft dodgers, deferrers, slaughterers of as many as seventy pheasants in a day* (Deadeye Dick) keeps them from noticing what was actually happening:

One of the most powerful Shi'ite clerics returned to Iraq (he'd been spirited out of country after the Golden Dome was bombed and only returned this weekend) and he called for the Sunni and the Shi'a to unite. The bombing was the Americans' fault.

But the White House was working overtime on its mascara and exfoliating its Portrait of Dorian Grey complexion.

I kept thinking of Dick Cheney, so imperially insane that he could force the victim of his unforgivably irresponsible (and potentially fatal) gunshot to apologize to HIM and his family for sticking his face in front of Cheney's shotgun. It is a powerful metaphor. The only time I've ever seen anyone apologize to someone for hitting their knee with their balls, and striking another person in the fist with their eye was when that person was trying to avoid being savagely beaten another time.

It's the metaphor for these jagoffs: Sorry for hitting you in the icepick with the back of my neck, Mr. Cheney, sir.

It's only when something rises to a crisis of their Macho, He-Man, Masters of the Universe self-image (the very worst qualities of the ancient and traditional masculine paradigm, I might add) that they work on a Saturday. It is only when they are in direst straits that they work on a SUNDAY.

And, with Iraq poised to explode in OUR faces, what do they consider to be THE crisis that must be addressed?

The Dubai Embarrassment.

And who are they worried about? Our troops? Our sons and daughters? Our 130,000 trying to keep peace in a country of "26,074,906 (July 2005 est.)" -- according to the Official U.S. Government CIA Factbook. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iz.html

Let's divide that out. Hmmm: that's 200.5762 Iraqis per soldier.

Oh, here's a couple other numbers from the CIA:
Age structure:
0-14 years: 40% (male 5,293,709/female 5,130,826)
15-64 years: 57% (male 7,530,619/female 7,338,109)
65 years and over: 3% (male 367,832/female 413,811) (2005 est.)

Median age:
total: 19.43 years
male: 19.35 years
female: 19.51 years (2005 est.)
So, that's about fifty pissed off nineteen-year-old boys per U.S. soldier.

Here is how Iraq is being covered as it verges on explosion:

"No word on Jill Carroll as mortars slam into crowded Baghdad neighborhoods" (AP)

The story goes on to note:
Sunni and Shiite religious leaders have also called for unity and an end to attacks on each other's mosques.

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose own militia was blamed for many of the attacks on Sunnis, repeated the appeal Sunday when he addressed followers in the southern Shiite stronghold of Basra upon his return from neighboring Iran.

He accused Americans and their coalition partners of stirring up sectarian unrest and demanded their withdrawal.
Let's see: the last time that the Shi'ia and Sunni united against a Western invader, that would be Saladdin+, and he expelled the Crusaders. You have to be worried when one of the top Shi'ia leaders (who is, please note, instantly smeared as "Radical Shiite cleric" by a US media that would never label Pat Robertson as a "Homicidal Christian cleric") has just visited Shi'ia state of Iran, and the continuing revolution that the Ayatollah Khomeni brought to power back in the late 1970s -- the "hostage crisis" that brought down the Carter Administration and swept Reagan into office.

Paybacks? Naww.
[+Saladin (SAL uh deen), Arabic Salah ad-Din, 1137?-1193, Muslim warrior and Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, the great opponent of the Crusaders, b. Mesopotamia, of Kurdish descent. He lived for 10 years in Damascus at the court of Nur ad-Din Nur ad-Din (nr ├Ąd-den), 1118-74, ruler of Syria. He was the son of the conqueror Zangi, and he succeeded to power in 1145 ... The reputation that Saladin had among the Christians for generosity and chivalry does not seem to have been a legend, and there seems no doubt that Saladin admired Richard as a worthy opponent. The Crusaders, however, failed in their purpose and succeeded only in capturing Akko. In 1192, Saladin came to agreement with the Crusaders upon the Peace of Ramla, which left the Latin Kingdom only a strip along the coast from Tyre to Yafo. The Christians were never to recover from their defeat. (emphasis added)

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (c) 2005, Columbia University Press.]
The Muslim world is in flames, the cartoon riots continue; The Palestinian/Hamas crisis escalates, there was an attempted coup in the Philippines that still remains at crisis point; in Thailand, literally hundreds of thousands are in the streets demanding that the Prime Minister step down. Oh yeah, and if that weren't enough, New Orleans is still hugely a pile of rubble with rotting corpses mixed in.

But the Bushies spent the weekend worried about Dubai.

There's something known as management skills, and they don't have them. There's something known as "prioritization," and theirs verge on the surreal.

Good grief.

Courage.
.
[* According to NEWSWEEK's February 18 Cover Story on Deadconscience Dick Cheney, "The Shot Heard Round the World,"
"Cheney's hunting friends, who describe him as a crack shot (the veep has downed as many as 70 pheasants in a single day) as well as a by-the-book and safety-conscious hunter, don't believe he will permanently lay his gun down. 'You have to learn from these things, and that's the kind of hunter he is,' says Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, a close friend. 'He'll be back. He'll be out there as soon as he can. It's in his blood.' Cheney is accustomed to being feared and even loathed; still, to be an object of ridicule cannot be easy."
What kind of sick f**k would SHOOT seventy pheasants in one day? Does ANYBODY get what kind of latent, lunatic sadism this represents? It isn't about killing for food, or even for sport. It is sheer, vicious slaughter. It is unsupportable by any conscientious hunter in any society in any age of history. The only time such a killing would be justified would be if you were hunting for a starving village! Evidently Cheney goes on these orgies of bloodletting on a regular basis, and, as a kid from Wyoming, I can SWEAR to you that any woodsman or hunter I ever knew in Wyoming would be sickened at a "townie" who liked slaughtering pen-raised, wing clipped birds seventy at a time.

Does anybody "get" that this is the kind of mind that reveled in the blood sport of the Roman Coliseum under Agrippina and Nero or Agrippina and Caligula? Am I the only one who is appalled by the fundamental sickness of mind that Cheney's bloodlust represents? No? OK. Never mind. Hey! Wasn't that a Karl Rove sleight-of-hand misdirection play over there? No. Over there? See? Yeah. Wow. Ever seen anything like it? What were we talking about?]
.
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