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WE'VE MOVED! Click here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/blog/blogger.html

WE'VE MOVED! Click here: http://www.hartwilliams.com/blog/blogger.html

Saturday, December 24, 2005
(and my Christmas Gift to YOU - see end)

This week, the Zogby poll revealed that 49% of my fellow Americans are morons. Yes, Virginia, it's true, sad to say:

Released: December 21, 2005

Nation Split Over Bush Communication Intercept; Presidential Job Approval Improves To 44%, Up 6% In Latest poll, New Zogby Interactive Poll Shows

UTICA, New York - A narrow plurality of likely voters nationwide believe President Bush acted within his Constitutional powers when he authorized the interception of international communications without the approval of a federal judge, but the public is closely divided on the issue, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Nearly half - 49% - said they think he has the power to authorize the intercepts, while 45% said he does not, the survey showed.
You would think that the novelty of self-rule, of not being bullied by some imperious schmuck would not have worn off so quickly. But evidently, 49% of Americans have not taken the time to familiarize themselves with the Constitution. It is clear that the illegal snooping, the spying on Americans, and persons living in America (which are PROTECTED by that Constitution, whether or not they are citizens), well, it's clear that Bush engaged in illegal action -- all the more so because of revelations that he ASKED for the authority from Congress, and Congress said "no."

Clearer still from these comments archived on the White House Web Site:

April 20, 2004
President Bush: Information Sharing, Patriot Act Vital to Homeland Security
Remarks by the President in a Conversation on the USA Patriot Act
Kleinshans Music Hall
Buffalo, New York

"... there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
Which he stated, knowing full well that he was NOT getting court orders. Lying, in other words.

But, alas, 49% of the American public are so self-satisfied, so smug, and so stupid that these nuances are lost on them. The lesson of Christmases past suggests that they will have plenty of time to contemplate the error of their ways in gulags, or when their children are sacrificed to Moloch and the War Machine in unjustified wars waged by those too craven, too cowardly to have served themselves.

Sadly, the Christmas economy has been severely depressed by the current state of things. Worse, we have, for some reason, based our entire commercial economy on rabid consumerism at Christmastime (ironically, depressed by the Faux Nooz Team and their phony "War on Christmas" harangues -- as though fighting, name-calling and rabble-rousing by these demagogues would assuage their God, Mammon).

Retailer step up holiday discounts
Stores need an especially strong late rush to make up for a lackluster season so far.
December 24, 2005: 10:28 AM EST

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Retailers rolled out one last round of discounts and opened stores at dawn Saturday as they try to wrap up a solid, if unspectacular, holiday shopping season on a high note.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which set the tone for a fiercely competitive holiday shopping season with discounts including a laptop computer for under $400, said it was on pace to meet its December sales forecast. The retailer predicted big crowds Saturday as the holiday season comes down the wire.


Wall Street will have to wait until early January for official reports on holiday sales, which account for about one-fourth of annual retail sales and a big chunk of profits.

Store chains are counting on strong demand Saturday to make up for unspectacular sales so far. The Saturday before Christmas has become the busiest shopping day of the year as consumers hold out for last-minute discounts.

But this year has proven difficult to predict because the final Saturday is also Christmas Eve, so many consumers are expected to be traveling rather than shopping. Malls were still hoping for big crowds, however, and reported heavy foot traffic Friday.


Analysts said retailers cut prices more this year than they did last year in the hope of luring cost-conscious consumers, many of whom are grappling with steep gasoline prices and bracing for bigger winter heating bills.

Although oil prices have retreated from record highs notched after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico, they remain higher than they were a year earlier, putting pressure on household budgets.
"Business! Mankind was my business!" quoth Jacob Marley's Ghost, in the Dickens classic. Too bad that we've perverted Christmas into Scroogian seeking after profits.

I won't be patronizing the stores this year. It would be an insult to whatever we generally agree that Christmas means. No blood for oil; no presents to prop up the misers.

And while we're on the subject of obscene profits, here's a little story to warm the cockles of the monopolist's wallet:

Alastair Cooke's bones may have been stolen, sold
By The Associated Press
Friday, December 23, 2005

NEW YORK -- Authorities are investigating allegations that the body of British broadcaster Alistair Cooke -- among hundreds of others -- was illegally carved up in the back room of a funeral home and sold so its parts could be used in transplants.

Officials confirmed this week that investigators found paperwork indicating Cooke's bones had been removed and sold by Biomedical Tissue Services, a Fort Lee, N.J., tissue bank, before he was cremated.

Cooke, longtime host of PBS' "Masterpiece Theatre" and known around the world for his "Letter From America" shows on the BBC, died from cancer last year at age 95 in New York.

His family said it never agreed to the bone removal and that someone falsified documents by changing Cooke's cause of death to heart attack and by lowering his age to 85.

A day after his death, Cooke's bones were allegedly sold for about $7,000 to two transplant companies. The family was supplied with what they were told were his ashes, and scattered them in Central Park.

A daughter, Susan Cooke Kittredge, said the family was "shocked and saddened" by the news.

"That people in need would have received his body parts, considering his age and the fact he was ill when he died, is appalling to the family, as is that his remains were violated," she said.

A phone number listed for Biomedical Tissue Services was disconnected.
I leave it to the reader to reflect on the fixation on money and the Burke and Hare-brained evil of this scheme.

The Voice of America reports that Bethlehem is hurting, as well:

Christians Disappearing in Birthplace of Jesus
By Jim Teeple
24 December 2005

Every year at this time, Christians around the world turn their attention to Bethlehem, a small city in the West Bank, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born. Christians have lived in Bethlehem for centuries, but now many are leaving.... However few pilgrims have been visiting Bethlehem in recent years. Five years of Palestinian violence, known as the second intifada, have destroyed Bethlehem's economy, which is heavily based on tourism. Bethlehem's mayor, Dr. Victor Batarseh, says the violence is forcing people to leave their city, and most affected are Bethlehem's Christians.


More than 3,000 Christians, or about 10 percent of Bethlehem's Christian population, have left the city since the Palestinian uprising began five years ago. Until the middle of the 20th Century, Bethlehem was about 90 percent Christian. However thousands of Muslim Palestinian refugees poured into the city following the establishment of Israel in 1948, beginning a population shift that continues to this day. Now Muslims far outnumber Christians, who now make up about 35 percent of Bethlehem's 60,000 residents.

Bernard Sabella is a Palestinian Christian, who teaches sociology at Bethlehem University. He says, another factor that could increase Christian emigration from Bethlehem is that Bethlehem's traditional social and economic ties to nearby Jerusalem have been cut both by the violence, and by Israel's construction of a massive wall, or security barrier, that seals Bethlehem off from Jerusalem.

"The political situation reflects quite negatively on the economic situation," said Mr. Sabella. "Therefore, when you have a bad economic situation, that becomes a push factor. Now add to this, recently, the building of the barrier, or the separation wall, that Israel built.

"If you go to Bethlehem today, and you see the wall, well, some people actually start crying and weeping, because, really, it is horrible to see the little town of Bethlehem surrounded by a wall," he continued. ...
Bethlehem's residents say Israel's 680-kilometer security barrier is strangling their city, and will cut off the slow economic recovery that began this year, when violence largely subsided, in part due to a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian groups ... Israel allows relatively free access to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, but just about everyone who returns to Jerusalem, including tourists, who visit the city in large buses, must get off and wait in long lines, before passing through turnstiles, while buses and luggage are carefully checked.

Nadia Hazboun, from one of the largest Christian families in Bethlehem, runs a small souvenir shop off of Manger Square, says the restrictions and reputation for violence that people now associate with Bethlehem mean that, even when tourists visit, they seldom linger. She says life for Christians in Bethlehem has become very hard.

"Many of the families here in Bethlehem, not only my family, but most families in Bethlehem, cannot bring food for their children," she said. "It is a very difficult life, I think, so they leave."

Nadia Hazboun says, while a few tourists started to return recently, not enough are coming to ease the economic burdens of Bethlehem's Christians, who dominate the town's tourist trade. Christmas in Bethlehem, she says, is no longer merry.
Well, thanks to your Tax Dollars At Work, the Voice of America provides these reports ... but are prohibited by law from broadcasting them inside the United States. Thank Kris Kringle for the Internet (since Bush has successfully foisted off the lie that Al Gore had nothing to do with its genesis, funding and nurture).

But all is not doom and gloom. Far from it. The wicked are getting their lumps of coal:


Republicans rue 2005's disappointments as midterm polls loom
By Holly Yeager, December 23 2005

As the US Senate finished its work this week, Bill Frist, the Republican majority leader, wasted no time before boasting about all that Congress had accomplished during the past year.

The list includes many initiatives Republicans had championed for years, such as bankruptcy reform, class action lawsuit reform and energy and highway bills, as well as approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The tie-breaking vote by Vice-President Dick Cheney early on Monday allowed Republican leaders to add a five-year, $39.7bn (£22.8bn, Eu33.5bn) package of spending cuts to the list, a vital piece of the push to remind the public of their commitment to fiscal discipline.

But the close vote on spending cuts, and showdowns over the anti-terror Patriot Act and oil drilling in Alaska, offered clear evidence that President George W. Bush and congressional leaders are not in complete command.

"It was not quite the finale that the president and the Republican leadership had in mind," said Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

The political disappointments will intensify Republican concerns about the 2006 mid-term elections, and add to pressure to show voters more concrete accomplishments if they are to maintain their majorities next November.

To pass a defence spending bill, Republicans on Wednesday had to remove a provision that would have opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. Mr Bush backed the provision, which Republicans say would increase the domestic supply of oil. Democrats say it would threaten precious wilderness.

Bowing to pressure from Democrats and a handful of Republicans, Mr. Frist and other leaders agreed to a six-month extension of the Patriot Act, giving lawmakers time to address their concerns about civil liberties protections before granting a longer renewal of the law. The White House and Mr. Frist had balked at a three-month extension, but Mr. Bush accepted the six-month provision.

There was even a stutter over the spending cuts bill, which Democrats forced back to the House of Representatives, to sign off on the elimination of some non-budget provisions, before it could be sent to Mr. Bush for his signature.

Republican leaders surely had something else in mind when they began the year vowing to use their enhanced majorities in both chambers to act on many fronts, including Alaska drilling and Social Security reform, which had been Mr Bush's top domestic priority.

But several factors have combined to limit their progress. Weak public support for Mr Bush - attributed to his handling of the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina - united and emboldened Democrats.

Concerns about Mr. Bush's conduct of the war on terror prompted lawmakers to increase their scrutiny of the administration and the policies adopted after the September 11 terror attacks.

Recent disclosures that the president authorised secret domestic surveillance of US citizens strengthened the hand of those who opposed renewal of the Patriot Act without first toughening its civil liberties protections.

At the same time, after a long struggle with the White House, defence measures approved by Congress included a provision - backed by John McCain, the Arizona Republican - that prohibits US personnel from engaging in "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment of detainees anywhere in the world.

Divisions between fiscal conservatives - worried that the Republican party had lost sight of its commitment to controlling spending -- and moderate Republicans, unhappy with cuts to benefits programmes for the poor, elderly, disabled and students, complicated negotiations on spending cuts.

Taken together, these factors also underscored the weakness of the Republican leadership. Tom DeLay was forced to step down as House majority leader, following his indictment in Texas on money laundering charges. Roy Blunt has stepped into his role, but several close votes have prompted questions about his effectiveness, and some Republicans are pushing for new leadership elections early next year.

In the Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating a sale of stock by Mr Frist. He has also been criticised for being out of touch with members of his caucus, most recently in underestimating the determination of those concerned about the Patriot Act.

When Congress returns next year, lawmakers will resume work on bills to ex-tend several popular tax cuts enacted during Mr Bush's first term. But, just as Social Security has slipped off the agenda, hopes of a broader tax reform are fading.

That leaves immigration as a domestic priority for the White House and Congress. But the issue divides Republicans, particularly on the question of granting legal guestworker status to those who have entered the country illegally.

Mr. Mann is not optimistic that the situation will improve soon for Republicans. "Everything I've seen here suggests that next year is going to be worse."
And, a great (if based in fundamental cowardice) Christmas present for a dad whose son is currently a hostage to Bush's bloodlust (from the same source):


Iraqi elections prompt US to cut troop numbers by 7,000
By Neil MacDonald in Cairo
Published: December 24 2005 02:00

As Iraqi election commissioners revealed partial ballot counts from last week's elections, the US administration yesterday announced the first stage in one of the hoped-for dividends of the voting: a reduction in troop numbers.

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, announced on a trip to the country that the number of US combat brigades inside Iraq would be reduced from 17 to 15 - a total cut of 7,000 troops. It is the first move below the base level of 138,000 troops which has been maintained for most of this year.

US troop numbers were temporarily inflated by more than 20,000 for last week's parliamentary elections. But President George W. Bush has authorised further cuts to the US presence, Mr Rumsfeld told a gathering of US armed-forces members in Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold captured by US forces 13 months ago....
THAT is good news! ANYTHING that draws down our presence is good news.

And in other good news, the Olin Foundation (far MORE lucrative a funding source for the various right wing attack dogs like the Heritage Foundation, etc. than Richard Mellon Scaife) is going out of business. That's a kick in the slats for the endless far-right fringe groups his dead hand supported (as I've reported here before). From NEWSMAX, who may well have been a recipient of John Olin's dead largesse:

Monday, Nov. 28, 2005 11:26 a.m. EST
John M. Olin Foundation to Close After 52 Years of Philanthropy

The John M. Olin Foundation, one of the great underwriters of the conservative movement, is shutting down after 52 years and hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to right-wing causes.

Industrialist Olin wanted the foundation to eventually disband because he "feared that if it were to exist in perpetuity, it would eventually be captured by hostile forces," John J. Miller, author of "A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America," writes in the New York Times' Op-Ed section.

"The example of Henry Ford II, who quit the board of the Ford Foundation in frustration over its liberal agenda, had especially impressed him."

When former U.S. Treasury Secretary William E. Simon took over as president of the foundation in 1977, he sought to provide a counterbalance to what he considered the liberal dominance of the news media, universities and nonprofit organizations.

To that end, the "Olin Foundation and other right-leaning philanthropies - particularly the Bradley, Scaife and Smith Richardson Foundations - provided a pool of venture capital that helped build a network of research institutions, academic fellowships and highbrow journals for the conservative movement," Miller writes....
THAT is good news (if seemingly obscure and certainly little noted). The engine that drove the Right Wing putsch just ran out of gas. And just as the Repugnantlicans are breaking down like the Germans during the siege of Stalingrad.

And, speaking of an agenda fueled by money that ofttimes seems antithetical to freedom, here's some more tidings of comfort and joy:


Microsoft Sells Most of Stake in TV Channel
Cable's MSNBC will now be controlled by NBC Universal as the software giant tries to concentrate on threats to its core business.
By Chris Gaither, Times Staff writer

The MS is slowly coming out of MSNBC.

Microsoft Corp. on Friday said that after months of negotiations it had sold most of its stake in the 24-hour cable news channel to partner NBC Universal.

Once a 50-50 partner with Microsoft, NBC Universal will now own a controlling 82% interest in MSNBC with an option to buy the rest of the channel within two years.

Financial terms weren't disclosed. The network is home to such programs as "Hardball With Chris Matthews," "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" and "Scarborough Country."

The companies said they would continue to share equal ownership of MSNBC.com, which has become one of the most popular news sites on the Web even as the TV channel struggled.

Friday's deal portends the eventual unraveling of what had been a landmark television joint venture when it was unveiled nearly a decade ago.

The teaming of Microsoft, the world's largest software company, with one of the biggest news operations was part of a larger strategy that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates hoped would give his company the content it needed to gain a powerful foothold on the Internet.

But Microsoft executives realized several years ago that they were better off developing software and Internet services to deliver content created by others.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company sold its online magazine, Slate, to Washington Post Co. last year and has been looking for a graceful way out of the cable channel....
And, finally, we put on my 19-year-old radio pilot script as a live radio drama yesterday morning (which is why I had no time for blogging, of late). It turned out wonderfully well, and I was astonished at the response.

My Christmas gift to you, this Christmas Eve, is the remixed, remastered and cleaned up, compressed 23-minute, complete version, from yesterday morning.

It's a 4.1 meg .mp3 (mono, as was the original AM broadcast). Download the MP3 (right click and "save as"):
God Bless us Every One!

And, from myself, to all the many readers and secret assistants that make Skiing Uphill not only possible, but a joy to do, thanks so much. Merry Christmas. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

[Warning: this is a polite rant. If not in the mood, please disregard. I'll return to speaking in the third person on the nonce. Or the nonce-and-a-half.]

One of the perks of having turned fifty is that I'm no longer just a "kid from Wyoming" trying to make it as a freelancer. Now, I'm a grizzled veteran of thirty years' media wars, and, as if to underscore the point, I had an interesting interlude with Salon.com last Sunday that bears careful examination. (Well, that, gray hair and my incipient crows feet. But those will have to wait for another blog entry.)

It begins back in October, when I sent a polite, professional query to Salon's book editor regarding the possibility of doing book reviews for the online magazine.

Here are the guidelines on their website:
Salon welcomes article queries and submissions. The best way to submit articles and story pitches is via e-mail.

We ask that you please send the text of your query or submission in plain text in the body of your e-mail, rather than as an attached file, as we may not be able to read the format of your file.

If you wish to contribute, please spend some time familiarizing yourself with Salon's various sites and features. Please put the words "EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS" in the subject line of the e-mail. You can find the editor's name on our Salon Staff page. And please tell us a little about yourself -- your experience and background as a writer and qualifications for writing a particular story. If you have clips you can send us via e-mail, or Web addresses of pages that contain your work, please send us a representative sampling (no more than three or four, please).

We do our best to respond to all inquiries, but be aware that we are sometimes inundated. If you have not heard back from us after three weeks, please assume that we will not be able to use your idea or submission.

Also please note that Salon does not solicit fiction or poetry submissions and will not be able to respond to such submissions.
So, using these guidelines, I queried. Please note that I have reviewed books for 29 years now, and have invariably been assigned by my editors. I have never had to, nor been asked to "pitch" a particular book. Here's the query, more or less in the same format that I've used these past three decades.
From: "Hart Williams"
To: ****@salon.com
Date: Wed, 5 Oct 2005 16:49:50 -0700

Dear ****:

This is a query: I'd like to review books for SALON. (Obviously, we ought to start out in the singular.)

I've been a compensated book reviewer/critic since 1976, from the LOS ANGELES TIMES to the WASHINGTON POST, the (Portland) OREGONIAN, the SANTA FE SUN, the KANSAS CITY STAR, etc.

Here are three virtual clips:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/books/reviews/anddream.htm (Washington POST)

http://www.hartwilliams.com/oreg/oreg04.htm (Oregonian, this year)

http://www.hartwilliams.com/kc08.htm (Kansas City STAR).

A bonus clip, if needed: http://www.hartwilliams.com/oreg/oreg03.htm

I've always handled history and fiction, but I am reasonably facile in a number of fields, and if I don't have anything to contribute, or any knowledge on a given topic, I will certainly say so.

The clips ought to speak for themselves. I look forward to your response.


Hart Williams,
Eugene, Oregon
A month goes by. Things do get lost in cyberspace, so I followed up in November. You might note that I cc'ed ****s boss. The sad fact of publishing is that editors change a lot, and the "correct" contact on the Chain-of-Command might be absent for whatever reason, so you cc: the department head (in this case the "Arts Editor") and that way, the query follow up can be filtered to the proper sub-editor or secretary.
From: "Hart Williams"
To: ****@salon.com
Date: Tue, 8 Nov 2005 14:39:09 -0800

Dear ****:

I am re-sending my query regarding book reviews for SALON, originally sent you on October 5.

This query may have been lost in cyberspace, my spam-filter might have deleted your response, or our emails might have crossed. But since a month has passed, I thought I should resubmit it.

I might add that my computer literacy goes back to 1978, when I began working as a computer typesetter (1974, if you count FORTRAN IV classes, which I don't). My website won a gold medal in the first world Internet Exposition in 1995, and came with $1000 in prizes. While I began on foolscap with a 10-pitch pica typewriter, I am up to date, and manage a 10-PC network for a tax/accounting business locally.

None of which has anything to do with books. I have been a free-lancer for 29 years (compensated), and have been in print since 1973. I have included links to three representative reviews, as requested in your submission guidelines.

My OREGONIAN blurb just came out on the back cover of Pete Dexter's TRAIN trade paperback in 24-point orange type, so someone believes in my criticism chops.

I look forward to a reply of any sort.


Hart Williams
Now, at this point ANOTHER month goes by, and then another fortnight. I have no knowledge of the arcane politics of Salon.com, but they evidently are "reinventing the wheel" by dumping generations of editorial/auctorial politesse in their low-flow toilets.

Get this straight: I spent a good chunk of my twenties reading slush -- the generic term for unsolicited manuscript submissions. On my twenty-fourth birthday, I had, as per usual, a more than foot-high stack of slush dumped on my desk. This had been a source of some bureaucratic infighting, but I requisitioned an extra two plastic, stackable "in" boxes for my desk, because the sheer weight of the manuscripts that came in each and every day warped the one tray I already had.

[Bureaucracy being what it is, after personally explaining the situation to whatever passes for the quartermaster of my publisher, I got my two plastic trays.]

And what you had, back in those stone ages of Selectric III typewriters and manila envelopes with paper manuscripts paper-clipped to a cardboard backing, was a pre-printed stack of "rejection notices." These said, politely (everybody used them, more or less like this):
[Company Logo] We thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, due to the large volume of manuscripts received, we cannot respond personally to each submission.
-- Sincerely, The Editor(s)
And that was minimal professionalism. I have literally hundreds of them. And even PLAYBOY, which was once the toughest market to crack (since they paid better than anyone else) sent polite form rejections on those mad occasions that I felt myself presumptuous enough to submit a short story.

Now, with macro scripts, and etceteras, I would create a standard form rejection (in plain text and .html with the Company Logo) that I would assign to function key "F-11" (F-12 is invariably used for an "em-dash") and simply hit "F-11" to send a form rejection.

But these Salon boobs are either too technically inept, or too self-absorbed to acknowledge the simple act of manuscript submission.

Because it takes something to submit a query, or a short story, or a whatever. Minimal professional courtesy used to suggest that the courtesy of a reply was obligatory (presuming that you DID include a Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope, the infamous SASE).

In a computer age, it costs nothing to send a reply.

So, recognizing this fact, I decided to burn my bridge, and, roiling a stick in the hornets nest of narcissism that invariably surrounds a successful publication, I thought they might tip their hand. They did.
From: "Hart Williams"
To: ****@salon.com
Cc: xxxx@salon.com
Bcc: zzz@salon.com,
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 10:15:13 -0800

To Whom it May Concern:

As you will note from the below-referenced letters, I sent a query -- using the guidelines on SALON's website -- regarding book reviews seventy-four days ago. A month later, I sent a polite follow-up.

I'd like to relieve your guilt at needing to respond: I only work with professionals, and anyone who can't get back on an email query in 74 days is not anyone that I'd care to work with. As I said, I only work with professionals, having been one since 1976.

I realize that you think you're "boldly going where no one has gone before," but, with the exception of a minor alteration in printing methods, the canons of professionalism, courtesy, and the implicit promise of timeliness have not changed.

It takes literally nothing to send a "form letter" using email: merely hitting a "reply" button. (I point this out only because this technical procedure seems unfamiliar to you. If you have questions, I'm sure your IT manager will be glad to train you in this arcane and seemingly-quite-difficult technical procedure.)

Nonetheless, since this seems beyond the intellectual capacities of SALON, I would respectfully withdraw any request to review books for your e-publication.

Whether a lack of fundamental professional courtesy bothers you or not says an awful lot about what a "professional" gang you are.

I leave it to you to divine WHAT that says.


Hart Williams

Yeah, I know. But remember that I had already determined that these weren't people that were worth doing business with. Frankly, this casual abuse of writers (this Louis the XVIIth attitude) is counter-productive on every level, and I thought their noses needed a tweaking. And you never know what will happen if you poke the stick in the hive a couple times.

Remember, I sent the above email at 10:15:13 AM [atomic clock time] on a Sunday morning to a "magazine" that had not replied to two polite requests in 74 days.

Less than two hours later, I received this at 12:11:04 PM
From: ****@salon.com
Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2005 12:11 PM
To: "Hart Williams"

Dear Mr. Williams,

I am sorry that you did not get a response to your earlier emails. When writers pitch me specific books, I do my best to respond to them in a timely manner. As you sent a general query about writing, I filed it away in the event that I am looking for new freelancers to take on specific books. I'm sure you've noticed that the majority of our books (sic) articles are handled by Salon staff, and that I do not use a great many freelancers. That said, I'll remove your name from my list of potential reviewers, as per your request.

Now, let's examine that reply. Two hours later? On a Sunday morning? And why couldn't THAT have been a reply 74 days ago? Why waste MY time? As noted, I've never been expected to "pitch" a book in 29 years of this racket, but the snippy tone suggests that I was expected to read minds, and, by the by, we don't actually use freelancers (so, WHY would they list a books editor?) and I should know THIS, because I don't have anything better to do with my time, other than matching book reviewers names with names on the company masthead.

Doesn't EVERYone do that?


But, approaching my third decade in the "books" racket, I get this New York guttersnipe of an editor, sniffing down her nose after I politely followed their guidelines.

This is, sadly, and typically, unprofessional.

After several years of writing center sections for the WASHINGTON POST (they'd send me a box with seven or eight books and say: Review five.), one day, their gutless-wonder-of-an-editor simply stopped "speaking" with me. No rhyme, no reason. Just stopped writing. Wouldn't answer phone messages. Wouldn't answer email. Wouldn't answer written letters.

What had I done? I have never found out.

And that, kiddies, is unacceptably debilitating. So much of writing is the use of one's emotions, and fighting self-doubts, and failing to observe simply courtesy (as in a canned reply to a query) is unacceptable, and unprofessional. If they have decided you can't write, at least SAY so. Not saying *anything* simply opens a black can of psychic worms, and that's not very nice.

Frankly, in the writing racket, politeness and grammar are just about all we've got. Oh, that and the various typewriter characters. (Or, you might say, "professional courtesy," which I have only ever observed in the huge magazine discounts that you are offered if you manage to get on the "professional rate" mailing lists.)

But note that she is almost undoubtedly lying. Compare "As you sent a general query about writing, I filed it away in the event that I am looking for new freelancers to take on specific books." with the earlier "I am sorry that you did not get a response to your earlier emails." -- as though this "response" were in other hands than hers.

Do any of us seriously believe that BOTH emails were inadvertently unanswered after being "filed"? This would seem an implausible explanation, given the tagline of the second query: "I look forward to a reply of any sort."

We can reasonably induce from this that neither letter was ever read, let alone "filed." This seems to be a careful rationalization for the slipshod adherence to professional ethics. In other words, it is a convenient excuse for behavior that said editor tacitly believes to be misfeasant, and, therefore, said behavior NEVER TOOK PLACE.

Why, she was SCRUPULOUS in "filing" the prior two letters in an undoubtedly imaginary "file" containing, in her words, "in the event that I am looking for new freelancers to take on specific books" (mighty long for a filename, but maybe she's got XP.).

So, I sent the following response, cc:ed to the various suspects. But I know that they are incurious, and so I really don't give much of a damn WHAT they think. If you've put up your shingle, and listed your address and your submission requirements, then you've got an ETHICAL responsibility to respond to the submissions you've ADVERTISED for. Or ASKED for: take your pick.

It is precisely the same implicit compact entered into when one sets up a storefront business: having posted your hours of business on the front door, you have an ethical (or purely self-interested) duty to be reasonably diligent in BEING open during those hours. I know this much: retail establishments that ignore this maxim are, most often, out of business in short order. Compared to this, the simple courtesy of a canned response is as nothing, stacked up against making sure that someone is ALWAYS there to open the shop and close the shop at promised (or premised) hours.

The sheer gutlessness and timorous spinelessness of editors in failing to take responsibility for their actions over all these years has never failed to astonish me.
From: "Hart Williams"
To: ****@salon.com
Cc: xxxx@salon.com
Bcc: zzz@salon.com,
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 17:28:51 -0800

Dear ****:


Two polite query letters over 74 days net zero response. Yet, one indignant letter nets a response in less than two hours.

On a Sunday.

It would seem that my assertion of a lack of professionalism has been confirmed in spades.

I would merely put it to you that when politeness utterly fails, and indignance obtains immediate -- if not all but instantaneous -- response, you should expect quite a bit more of the latter than the former.)


Hart Williams
I will only say this: when I was an editor, having sat on the other end of that process, I was scrupulous in sending out rejection notes, and I always tried to attach a kind word of some sort to cheer the writer, because rejection always hurts.

All these years later, it still hurts, and needs to hurt, else you take no pride in your craft. It is sad that I have too-rarely met editors who didn't somehow think that a simple kindness was too expensive a waste of their invaluable time.

Alas: instead, we get snoots like Ms. Snippy. She could have responded in October. She could have responded in November, but prick her ego about being a "professional" and you get a reply within two hours or less.

Now, it can be reasonably interpreted that I either did this foolish thing to "get back" at Salon, or else, having determined that they WERE as they proved themselves to be, I was tweaking them on behalf of a truckload of writers they've pulled this inexcusable crap on. Slapping their wrists. You are free to choose either interpretation, but I prefer the latter -- as much because it's comforting as because it's true. (Or at least what I'm rationalizing as true).

Merry Christmas, big-shot Salon.com. Old Bob Crachit will just get along with your snippy reply. But you might remember that many of the magazines that were a "big deal" when I started out aren't published anymore, or are substantially weakened and/or diluted. So I will probably outlive you, which is always the best revenge on the arrogant and self-anointed.

So: Now you know where their buttons are, go push 'em. Power to the AuthorPeople, Write On!

Peace on Earth, Good Will To Persons.

[NOTE: Today, the Winter Solstice occurs at 10:35 PM PST, or -8 ZULU time]
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The right-wing noise machine is about to ramp up like it's never ramped before.

I think that we were all in a bit of a shock to see a sitting president not merely admit to a high crime, but unblushingly demand that it was his right to do so and that he would continue to do so.

For some reason, I could not escape yesterday's press conference. Finally, via a miracle of technology and an accidental touch of the wrong button on the digital recorder, I ended up watching King George in slow, very slow, and then in fast and even faster motion, and both were equally odd. And weirdly homogenous.

The CSPAN or pool camera was focused to keep him tightly framed. But as he strutted and bobbed, and weaved, and went through the oddest facial eructations, I could not help but notice that it was the stance of the trapped boxer, cut off in the corner. He was often shifty-eyed, and would suddenly look down, either as an involuntary body language signal that he was knowingly telling an untruth, else to get his lines from the pea-sized microphone in his ear.

It didn't matter, either way. The act was already old -- four speeches and a press conference in four days, and ALL a prepared response to the New York TIMES' Friday revelation of domestic spying by the NSA. If Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and his editor met with Bush on December 6, to try and quash the story -- that the TIMES had been sitting on for a YEAR!?!? -- that meant they had ten days to prepare this media blitz.

The mere fact of daily speeches over a weekend (in a presidency that worships the weekend only slightly less than long Augusts in Crawford, Texas) OUGHT to tip us off that the Bushies are taking this very seriously. Hell, they called Wild Dick Cheney back home from his first-ever visit to Baghdad -- guess he must have "had other priorities." They don't circle the wagons if they don't think the attack is imminent.

But the FACIAL expressions on Bush's super-slo-mo face were weird, unstable, stressed and, at times, horrific. The camera, set on telephoto, exaggerated his motions, as the background lurched right and left, to and fro, hither and yon. Bush hacked at the air with his karate chop. He pursed his fingers as if trying to milk an onion; he spread his fingers like a spider and trampolined it on the lectern. And he made his "gee, shucks, ma, I don't know WHO broke the cookie jar" face. A lot.

Essentially, we, the "wife" just walked home unexpectedly and have caught George in bed with the next door neighbor. And now George is trying to tell us that what we think we saw isn't what we really saw while the next door neighbor is attempting to climb out the window.

I think that the eerie silence since Friday has been a long-birthing scream, on the part of "We, The People."

You know, them farmers ain't dumb.

And now comes the counter-screaming from the right wing echo machine. What will it be? I could not begin to guess. This is merely the eerie silence after the lightning bolt.

But, whatever the "talking points" end up being, this much can be guaranteed:

It will be amazing. They'll be flimming faster than they've ever flammed before. The rapid-fire patois of the Medicine Show barker will be as nothing to the steaming piles of fertilizer that they'll be shoveling.

It will be astonishing.

But another thought occurs to me, and it chills the blood.

The one thing that Bush & Co. could REALLY, REALLY use to divert attention right now would be another terrorist attack. It's really the only thing that could do the job.

And it sure would be one heckuva coincidence.

But that's just anile dithering. Such things don't happen.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The director David Lynch used to do a cartoon strip for the L.A. READER (from 1983-1992) entitled "The Angriest Dog in the World," which featured the same four panels and opened with the explanation: "The dog who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis."

How ya doin, George?

I now know how that dog feels.

Because I've been trying to write this column since Friday evening.

I have been trying to write something about the Friday revelation that King George has been using the Constitution as toilet paper again. In this case, dual Fourth Amendment revelations that Bush himself had authorized the NSA (one of our most secretive spy agencies) to spy inside the USA on, in many cases, US citizens, but, chillingly, inside the USA without any oversight or authorization but his own.

And, flying under the radar, the revelation that the Pentagon had engaged in domestic surveillance on groups including the Quakers -- for being against the war.

The whole Watergate era came crashing back, not helped by Bush's Sunday night speech, which sounded, in parts, eerily like Richard Nixon justifying his various Vietnam adventures, such as the unilateral invasion of Cambodia.

It's been tough. Every time I began to write, Bush would be back on the television or on the radio, trying to blast all other news off the front pages: another "victory" speech on Friday morning. A "rare" live radio address on Saturday, which, weirdly, wasn't available as an audio file on his PR website, www.whitehouse.gov, but as a VIDEO file!

(I speculate it was to keep the number of downloads down. The Whitehouse website's videos download with astonishing slowness, and the audio is often distorted to the point of unintelligibility -- which, in Bush's case is a hard call: how can you tell whether it's Bush or the recording? But WHY would they want FEWER downloads of this "important" radio address?)

Then, he shoved himself into prime time for a speech Sunday night (the weirdly Nixonian speech) and then held a press conference Monday morning! Four days out of four, Bush attempted to blatantly hijack the news cycle. I'd say that comprises pretty good prima fascie evidence that he's running as scared as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

But I'm still too angry to talk about it intelligibly. Here's what the Royal Bush said this morning, in part:
Press Conference December 19, 2005

Q ... why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts?

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I -- right after September the 11th, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That's what the American people want. We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program, because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that's important. We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent.

We use FISA* still -- you're referring to the FISA court in your question -- of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect.

[FISA is the secret intelligence court, about which you'll be hearing a LOT more from, though I doubt from me. - HW]

Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am -- I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.
This afternoon on the Ed Schultz Show, former Senator (and Democratic Majority/Minorty leader) Tom Dashiell noted that there is nothing in the post 9-11 authorization to invade Afghanistan that conferred such powers.

And: "I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.)[AP]

The hue and cry has been widespread, if not exactly unalloyed by conditional statements and general lawyering kinds of doublespeak. But I'd prefer to quote a couple of dead men, instead. In the landmark case, KATZ v. UNITED STATES, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), the Supreme Court held that wiretaps required search warrants (after listening to a series of Bush-like arguments that since it wasn't a home, and only a phone booth, the fourth amendment didn't apply, etc.) Justice William O. Douglas, joined by Justice William F. Brennan added this concurrence to the decision, just to make it crystal clear what might be at stake:

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN joins, concurring.

While I join the opinion of the Court, I feel compelled to reply to the separate concurring opinion of my Brother WHITE, which I view as a wholly unwarranted green light for the Executive Branch to resort to electronic eaves-dropping without a warrant in cases which the Executive Branch itself labels "national security" matters.

Neither the President nor the Attorney General is a magistrate. In matters where they believe national security may be involved they are not detached, disinterested, and neutral as a court or magistrate must be. Under the separation of powers created by the Constitution, the Executive Branch is not supposed to be neutral and disinterested. Rather it should vigorously investigate [389 U.S. 347, 360] and prevent breaches of national security and prosecute those who violate the pertinent federal laws. The President and Attorney General are properly interested parties, cast in the role of adversary, in national security cases. They may even be the intended victims of subversive action. Since spies and saboteurs are as entitled to the protection of the Fourth Amendment as suspected gamblers like petitioner, I cannot agree that where spies and saboteurs are involved adequate protection of Fourth Amendment rights is assured when the President and Attorney General assume both the position of adversary-and-prosecutor and disinterested, neutral magistrate.

There is, so far as I understand constitutional history, no distinction under the Fourth Amendment between types of crimes. Article III, 3, gives "treason" a very narrow definition and puts restrictions on its proof. But the Fourth Amendment draws no lines between various substantive offenses. The arrests in cases of "hot pursuit" and the arrests on visible or other evidence of probable cause cut across the board and are not peculiar to any kind of crime.

I would respect the present lines of distinction and not improvise because a particular crime seems particularly heinous. When the Framers took that step, as they did with treason, the worst crime of all, they made their purpose manifest.
And that's the whole Bush case in a nutshell. He's a "wartime" president (though NO WAR HAS YET BEEN DECLARED!!!!), and, therefore has plenary powers to do whatever he chooses whenever he chooses, wherever he chooses, here, from the beginning of the Saturday 12-17-05 "live" radio address:
As President, I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I have no greater responsibility than to protect our people, our freedom, and our way of life. On September the 11th, 2001, our freedom and way of life came under attack by brutal enemies who killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans. We're fighting these enemies across the world. Yet in this first war of the 21st century, one of the most critical battlefronts is the home front. And since September the 11th, we've been on the offensive against the terrorists plotting within our borders.
Later, he baldly asserts a legal monstrousity, that:
To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as Commander-in-Chief.

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.
OK. He's invoked 9-11 (invariably a subordinate clause to shield perfidy in the main clause of the sentence), Al Qaeda, "terrorism," "war," congress and "U.S. law and the Constitution."

You know, that same Constitution that sources in the White House claim he referred to last week, as "just a goddamned piece of paper."

But re-read Justice Douglas' concurrence: phony or "real" wars DO not abrogate the Constitution. Neither does Congress, whether they "authorized" his depredations (dubious) or not (highly likely). The Fourth Amendment remains the Fourth Amendment, and the only felon in the land who doesn't seem to understand that the disaster that took place on his watch was not an opportunity for King George to ignore the Constitution -- as he has ignored law and rules since he was but a wee laddie.

It is time for Americans to tell George that laws apply to everybody. That is the BASIS of our system. (That and "voting.") That is what Republican hypocrites are invoking when they sneer haughtily about "the Rule of Law."

I am still the angriest dog in the world. It is hard for me to even type these words. So, while I massage the piano-wires that suddenly seem my forearms, this was what Patrick Henry (remember him? "Give me liberty or give me death") stated as one of his fears of this proposed "presidency" during The Constitutional Convention debates:
from the Speech of Patrick Henry
June 7, 1788

If we make a King, we may prescribe the rules by which he shall rule his people, and interpose such checks as shall prevent him from infringing them: But the President, in the field, at the head of his army, can prescribe the terms on which he shall reign master, so far that it will puzzle any American ever to get his neck from under the galling yoke. I cannot with patience, think of this idea. If ever he violates the laws, one of two things will happen: He shall come at the head of his army to carry every thing before him; or, he will give bail, or do what Mr. Chief Justice will order him. If he be guilty, will not the recollection of his crimes teach him to make one bold push for the American throne? Will not the immense difference between being master of every thing, and being ignominiously tried and punished, powerfully excite him to make this bold push? But, Sir, where is the existing force to punish him? Can he not at the head of his army beat down every opposition? Away with your President, we shall have a King: The army will salute him Monarch; your militia will leave you and assist in making him King, and fight against you: And what have you to oppose this force? What will then become of you and your rights? Will not absolute despotism ensue?
And while we're on the subject, let's talk about our "interrogation" methods in this phony "war" -- a "war" not authorized as such, and NEVER rising to the level that was contemplated by the founders, nor by the War Powers Act, but more like the phony PR "War" on Drugs, or LBJ's "war" on poverty. Got that? IT IS NOT A WAR! Like "the Cold War" it may be a series of confrontations with an "opponent" -- in this case "terrorism" as opposed to "communism" but NO US President ever claimed that because we were in a "Cold War" that he had wartime powers to suspend the Constitution, engage in domestic surveillance, operate secret prisons, engage in torture and other means of coercing "confessions" to "win" this "war."

Hell, if Osama bin Laden was out to destroy our way of life, he's won! But he never could have done so without the complicity, the aiding and abetting of George W. Bush. If that doesn't constitute "giving aid and comfort to the enemy," I have to wonder what DOES.

Because here is the conclusion of the 12-17 radio address:
The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.
What an astonishingly strange way to "protect them and their civil liberties" (e.g. us), by shredding the Fourth Amendment. The argument that his own legal goons have "reviewed" his depredations, is laughable on the face of it, if it weren't so intrinsically vile and underhanded.

Compare AGAIN with William Douglas' concurrence in KATZ: "Neither the President nor the Attorney General is a magistrate. In matters where they believe national security may be involved they are not detached, disinterested, and neutral as a court or magistrate must be."

Every one of the parties involved in drafting that speech (excepting the giver of the speech, whose knowledge is, admittedly, limited in the extreme) is fully aware that no amount of "in-house" legal review is equivalent to the judicial review mandated in the Constitution, and reaffirmed in every generation by the Supreme Court. this is just vile satanic sputum, and offering such a transparent lie (that his lawyers seeing his orders for illegal wiretaps is enough) OUGHT to finally rouse a sleeping national conscience.

King George the Usurper is a criminal, and, finally, this week, by his own admission.

Let no false sense of national pride KEEP him from the prison cell he so richly deserves. Here, from the Federalist Papers:

The Federalist No. 69
The Real Character of the Executive

Friday, March 14, 1788
[Alexander Hamilton]

In these circumstances there is a total dissimilitude between [the proposed President] and a king of Great Britain, who is an hereditary monarch, possessing the crown as a patrimony descendible to his heirs forever; but there is a close analogy between him and a governor of New York, who is elected for three years, and is re-eligible without limitation or intermission. If we consider how much less time would be requisite for establishing a dangerous influence in a single State, than for establishing a like influence throughout the United States, we must conclude that a duration of four years for the Chief Magistrate of the Union is a degree of permanency far less to be dreaded in that office, than a duration of three years for a corresponding office in a single State.

The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.
But, just to be ironical and hilarious, here's the conclusion of paper #69, comparing the King of Britain (King George) with the proposed "President of the United States." See which one our "King George" most resembles:
The President of the United States would be an officer elected by the people for four years; the king of Great Britain is a perpetual and hereditary prince. The one would be amenable to personal punishment and disgrace; the person of the other is sacred and inviolable. The one would have a qualified negative upon the acts of the legislative body; the other has an absolute negative. The one would have a right to command the military and naval forces of the nation; the other, in addition to this right, possesses that of declaring war, and of raising and regulating fleets and armies by his own authority. The one would have a concurrent power with a branch of the legislature in the formation of treaties; the other is the sole possessor of the power of making treaties. The one would have a like concurrent authority in appointing to offices; the other is the sole author of all appointments. The one can confer no privileges whatever; the other can make denizens of aliens, noblemen of commoners; can erect corporations with all the rights incident to corporate bodies. The one can prescribe no rules concerning the commerce or currency of the nation; the other is in several respects the arbiter of commerce, and in this capacity can establish markets and fairs, can regulate weights and measures, can lay embargoes for a limited time, can coin money, can authorize or prohibit the circulation of foreign coin. The one has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction; the other is the supreme head and governor of the national church! What answer shall we give to those who would persuade us that things so unlike resemble each other? The same that ought to be given to those who tell us that a government, the whole power of which would be in the hands of the elective and periodical servants of the people, is an aristocracy, a monarchy, and a despotism.

PUBLIUS [Alexander Hamilton]
Well, I guess that's the "original intent" kind of stuff from the "founding fathers" that the criminals occupying the White House in an obscene parody of John Adams' prayer don't want to hear. In fact, I doubt that they much care for the prayer*:

"I pray to heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and all that hereafter inhabit it...May none but the honest and wise men ever rule under this roof." (The prayer was later carved in the State Dining Room mantelpiece by FDR, although not literally.)

That's it. Come to your own brilliant conclusions. I'm having a hard time typing right now. I've had this problem for the past four days, as I find myself increasingly -- and inadvertently -- emulating my role model:

"... so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis."
* NOTE: Bush actually DID refer to Adams' prayer once, but spoke around it, as if its very words burned his lips:
May 3, 2001, Remarks by the President During National Day of Prayer Reception

"The first President to live in the White House arrived with a prayer. In a letter to his wife, written on his second night here, John Adams offered a prayer that Heaven might bless this house and all those who would call it home. One of his successors, Franklin D. Roosevelt, thought enough of that prayer to have it inscribed on a mantlepiece in the State Dining Room, where you can still find it today. In this house, I make many decisions. But as I do so, as I make those decisions, I know as surely as you said that many Americans lift me up in prayer. Those prayers are a gracious gift, and Laura and I and my family greatly appreciate them...."
But, evidently, are not interested in their content.
hart williams
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