Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Fun Facts

Didya know:

About fifty percent of couples whose names I collect have the same middle initial? You'd think there wouldn't be that many. I see a lot of mirror sets, too -- all three initials the same for husband and wife. So, I guess anyone with the middle initial "M" --- you're my future soulmate and spouse. Or not. Since it presupposes a lot, like I have a soulmate, a future spouse or even a future.

Didya know:

Religious groups practice bait and switch on Google?

It's true. When searching the term painless suicide, for example, the first site on Google comes up with the tag "easiest way to end the pain."

But upon opening, it's all about giving up your life to Jesus, and dying in the sense of being born again. Gah. Imagine what that does to suicidal atheists! People searching for non-invasive, bloodless eternal peace aren't looking to get into heaven - just to get outta hell.

Looking for ways to end it all and finding a bunch of platitudes? Talk about your proverbial straws.

And, uh, aren't Christians not supposed to lie?

The next in line on Google's Suicide lineup is A Practical Guide to Suicide.

Sounds straightforward enough, right? Sure. Except the associated website is

You know, I didn't even have the huevos to open that page. Satan sponsored suicide or Biblical bait and switch: which is the bigger downer?

And who said death didn't offer choices?

I heard allegations that religious people go to Hell for such acts, but never realized that Lucifer had the requisite servers and web savvy to actively seek new recruits online. Blogging Satan - now we've seen everything.

Didya know:

Wisteria, at least the asian varieties, if left unattended can lift roofs from buildings, and buildings from foundations? Neither did I, until moving here. There's a fabulous Japanese wisteria out back, eternally coupled with the chainlink fence. It managed to send runners out across the yard, on a diagonal, and attempt to choke the life out of a very old lilac tree and evergreen. Its natural proclivity is climbing - and mine is headed for electric and phone wires.

It even sent runners towards the house. As they touch ground they flatten and resemble rubber track from toy race car sets. Across the bottoms of the flat bands grow new roots. Pulling these runners out of the ground is time and strength consuming. One went halfway across the yard!

Last fall I spent a day hacking away at the wisteria, sturdying myself at the prospect of it not blooming for the first time since our first summer here. Seems silly. But the wisteria in bloom is almost supernaturally beautiful, giving off such a heady scent. And I've spent years learning how to work with it, to best engage its desire to bloom.

Nevertheless, I hacked and sawed and took off several feet from the gnarled old trunk. And it literally took hours.

But if I hadn't...well...

"Wisteria have been known to cause structural problems, roof damage, and damage to deck or porch railings. Without regular pruning, wisteria can take over a structure."

Anyway, here's a section of our wisteria, photographed last May in early bloom stages:

Helen Thomas gets 108 dozen roses

Sometimes a story just touches your heart and you must share it. This is one of those times.

Members of Democratic Underground (along with some Kossacks) got together and sent Helen Thomas 108 dozen roses for asking Bush and Scotty the tough questions, and for all her grace under pressure.

She sent the following note in response:

Blessed are the peacemakers. The bounty of beautiful roses from such wonderful people has lifted my heart and will remain in my memory for the rest of my life. Thank you for caring that others may live.

Helen Thomas
Columnist, Hearst Newspapers

Eternally classy, Thomas donated the flowers to the wounded military personnel at Walter Reed Army Hospital. What a great lady.

CultureJamming the Tahoe: the first ad

This is the one that started it all. I've posted several at, but the quality is poor. Click below to see the best (now that Chevy removed it from their site.)

Lotsa mileage for the Chevy Tahoe ad

Witty, disturbing, sad and all points in's a page full of links to various homemade Chevy Tahoe ads. Worth checking out, to see how amazingly this make your own commercial for the big corporation experiment turned into something else entirely.

My personal favorite, just for sheer apolitical disturbing wackiness, is this entry from JackMad at Crooks and Liars.

For obvious reasons Chevy may be taking these down soon. If so, some of the best have been saved for posterity here.

I love these kinds of people-powered political movements and statements. As GM can no doubt attest, they pack quite a punch.

Here's my second effort, slightly different approach.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Spring cleaning. . .

So, whaddaya think of the new digs? I painted, rearranged and spruced the place up a bit. Sit down, have a drink and put your feet up. Mi virtual casa es su virtual casa.

Check out this ad - it won't be around much longer

Chevy's having its own "Apprentice" contest where people can design ads for the Tahoe. This one is a keeper -- but Chevy's not gonna think so.

I'm blown away. Talk about truth in advertising. But you'd better hurry to catch this little piece of agitprop. It'll be gone once the head honchos get whiff of it.

We paved the prairies..
We deforested the hills
We strip-mined our mountains
and sold ourselves for oil
To bring you this beautiful machine
So you can finally drive
to see what's left of our wilderness
and now that we're here
We can't get out of the car...

America 2006: The Ultimate Padded Cell

[Hat tip to Jank2112]

[Edit: Make one yourself! Here's the link to the one I made. Ru-roh. That's not gonna be around long, either!

Kaloogian -- you big Turkey!

After the dust-up with candidate Kaloogian's fake Baghdad photo, I've decided that bloggers are society's scrubby bubbles: workin' hard so the media doesn't have to. Because God knows, they won't.

Anyone could've seen that Kaloogian's "photo of the 'peaceful' Baghdad was an utter fraud. But who discovered it was really a photo taken in Istanbul, Turkey? Intrepid Kossacks and other Bloggers, like TPM.

The NYTimes article linked in the underlined text above takes a somewhat snarky approach to what should be a serious matter:

LOS ANGELES, March 29 — The sleuths of cyberspace never sleep.

Starting Tuesday afternoon and working through the night, a group of bloggers dissected a photo and a caption on the Web site of a Republican Congressional candidate in California, Howard Kaloogian, and declared it a fraud. Within hours, Mr. Kaloogian withdrew the picture, blamed an unnamed staff member for the blunder and apologized.

So, let's see...

We have Republican Ben Domenech, blaming his editor for his plagiarism.

Now we have Republican candidate Kaloogian, blaming his webmaster for his lies.

The party of personal responsibility, my ass.

Sorry I wasn't a part of the efforts to unveil Kaloogian's falsehoods. What's even more disgusting is his replacement picture: nearly an aerial photograph from which no details can be obtained, it's merely another deception.

And to top everything off - his Iraq "Truth Tour" (what a beautiful misnomer!) took place in July of 2005.

That's much like me posting pictures of New Orleans Mardi Gras in 2004 in support of how well the city's holding-up since Katrina.

And he would've gotten away with it, too. If it wasn't for the meddling Kos Kids. Why? Because this country lacks an inquisitive, engaged media on all levels. Kaloogian the Konniving, like so many mendacious Republicans before him, knows that people will believe what they wish, given a little help and some fake photos. Nice turkey, Kaloogian. Looks like you came wearing the egg, though.


by Shel Silverstein

I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The world's not so lucky anymore . . .

Because Meteor Blades at Dailykos wrote the singlemost beautiful diary on FDR and why we need a couple dozen just like him today. . .

Dear Mrs Roosevelt

by Woody Guthrie

Dear Missis Roosevelt, don't hang your head and cry;
His mortal clay is laid away, but his good work fills the sky;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He's born in a money family on that Hudson's rocky shore;
Outrun every kid a-growin' up 'round Hyde Park just for fun;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went away to grade school and wrote back to his folks;
He drew such funny pictures and always pulling a joke;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He went on up towards Harvard, he read his books of law;
He loved his trees and horses, loved everything he saw;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He got struck down by fever and it settled in his leg;
He loved the folks that wished him well as everybody did;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He took his office on a crippled leg, he said to one and all:
"You money changin' racket boys have sure 'nuff got to fall;"
This world was lucky to see him born,

In senate walls and congress halls he used his gift of tongue
To get you thieves and liars told and put you on the run;
This world was lucky to see him born,

I voted for him for lots o' jobs, I'd vote his name again;
He tried to find an honest job for every idle man;
This world was lucky to see him born,

He helped to build my union hall, he learned me how to talk;
I could see he was a cripple but he learned my soul to walk;
This world was lucky to see him born.

You Nazis and you fascists tried to boss this world by hate;
He fought my war the union way and the hate gang all got beat;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I sent him 'cross that ocean to Yalta and to Tehran;
He didn't like Churchill very much and told him man to man;
This world was lucky to see him born.

He said he didn't like DeGaulle, nor no Chiang Kai Shek;
Shook hands with Joseph Stalin, says: "There's a man I like!"
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was torpedoed on my merchant ship the day he took command;
He was hated by my captain, but loved by all ships hands;
This world was lucky to see him born.

I was a Gl in my army camp that day he passed away,
And over my shoulder talkin' I could hear some soldier say:
"This world was lucky to see him born."

I guess this world was lucky just to see him born;
I know this world was lucky just to see him born;
This world was lucky to see him born.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

When you call, God answers. Says he's resigning

After my feverish online letter to God, I was only slightly surprised when, this morning at 6:47 a.m. EST, He appeared in my living room. Before you get into your gas guzzling SUVs and head on over to worship my ancient gray carpet, just a word of advice: I'm armed.

Holding a pre-dawn press conference on the lawn, He surprised everyone with a stunning announcement.

"Effective immediately, I hereby resign," he said, as seven hundred cameras clicked in unison and budding grass seedlets were trampled underfoot.

"But, God --why?" asked Geraldo Rivera. That Geraldo. He's never afraid to intrepidly go where nobody else dares. In this case, Hell.

Stroking his long white beared reflexively, The Lord looked upwards, eyes etched in tears.

"Why? You need to ask Me why?? I should've smote mankind long, long ago. Especially you, Gerry Rivers, pretending to rescue that little old lady in New Orleans."

"That said, take a look around. You're all nuts. Every last one of you, even the pacifists. They weren't nuts before 2000, but now look at 'em: fixated on news blogs, watching CNN all the time, eating McDonalds."

He grimaced.

"Still, I could handle that. What I just cannot take is the hatred. People who pretend to be My poster children, consumed by rage and bigotry. Stealing, cheating, lying, killing. Is this the stuff I taught you? Or the parents I gave you - did they raise you this way? I think not. Put that notebook down and look at me when I'm talking to you!"

"Miss Helen Thomas, come forward. Your work has pleased Me greatly. You may ask the first real question," he said, casting the stink-eye at Geraldo.

"Who will be taking over your duties, God?" asked Thomas.

"Well...we're transitioning right now. I tried to give it to Jesus, but then he reminded me of the Crucifixion. Admittedly, he's suffered enough. Some of the second stringers on my squad - Moses, Peter, Paul. . .they just aren't interested. It's rather a thankless job, anymore. So. . ."

"We're gonna auction off the position on E-Bay. Frankly, though I wish them the best of luck, I don't think it really matters. You are all out of control. It's too psychically draining for me to bring on the End Days right now and really, you're doing such a good job of making your world one big Apocalyptic nightmare, why should I expend the energy? I'm no spring chicken, you know."

"Also, speaking of that? I'm tired. Sometimes wish I'd have just stopped with the zebras. Now there's an accomplishment. You try making such perfect stripes, even on paper! But no. I got carried away, kept going for bigger, better -- more, more, more."

He paused, surveying the crowd, then continued:

"That's the problem; it was during this mindset I created you all in my image. Now look at you: greedy, gluttonous, wannabe-Mes trying to create your own world, paving right over Mine, knocking down everything standing in the way. Including Me."

A few more questions followed -- wherein Our Creator admitted that yes, He too is stunned how much the Magic Bullet really can do in the kitchen ("Wish I'd thought of that little stunner - so handy! " He quipped) and no, he would not go 'on the record' about Bush's relation to the anti-Christ --- and then, to the strains of God Bless America, He ascended back up into the Heavens.

Presumably, much work must be done before he can clear out his heavenly desk and call it an eternity.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Make it stop

These three tiny words are my mantra now. Taking up permanent residence, tumbling over and over, sometimes staccato, matter of fact; sometimes plaintive; sometimes demanding. Always there. Always.

"What's wrong?" I ask, walking in the door.

Tears are rolling down her face. She murmurs a sheepish, "I'm sorry." I lean over now, where once I would've reached up, wrapping my arms around her. She nearly disappears into them, a tiny, thinning-haired, slump shouldered doll leaning against me.

"What's wrong?" I ask again, quietly. "Are you in pain right now?"

She's silent for a moment.

"No...I just...I'm just being a baby."

Suddenly, loudly, in a tone heard only once before - when I'd laughed at her lecture about teenage girls not staying out all night - she snaps.

"I just want to walk! I HATE NOT BEING ABLE TO JUST WALK!"

Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.

"'s okay. It's okay," I say, stroking her shoulders so far beneath my own. "You're not a baby. It's gotta be so hard." I'm almost whispering now, absently stroking her hair.

"You know, I really like that new doctor," he says from across the room. Apropos of nothing, it shifts all our gears.

"Great, dad. I'm glad. Give me your prescriptions and I'll go get---"

"No. Not tonight. It's late and you have to work," he says. "Come by tomorrow with the bread, okay, and you can go then."

By now we've detangled. She leans on the table, arms shaking, sliding one leg forward cautiously over the chair's edge, hovering for a moment before her arms let go and she drops into the chair with a thud. "I don't know...maybe you can call the pharmacy and see how much these new prescriptions are..." her voice, tentative, trails off. Always a sure sign of something missing, something more, tucked out of sight - a phantom hanging between us.

I pick up the reports. It's all gibberish to me. Along with the white jackets, the stethascopes, words nobody really understands - this is their power, these men who hold sway over our lives, who are supposed to have the answers.

Finally, on the MRI, words I can at least read: brain diminishment, calcification. On another page, this time in mom's tiny handwriting - diabetes advancing in legs, with a question mark after it. Arteries narrowed.

"So, dad's legs hurt more now because of this?" I ask, gesturing to her notes.

With a strange look - resignation, pity and fear all at one time, she says nothing. Just places her hand over mine.

Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.

"Your brother yelled at me today. Can you believe that?" he says, voice bellowing across the room. It's ever thus: conversations never finished, most things left unsaid, and him, the boisterous bandleader always changing tempo, mid-song.

Oh, I can more than believe it.

"Yeah...well, you, too. He's just worried and always the drill instructor, remember?" I say, smiling at him. "Don't pay any attention to him."

"No!" he says, "I don't like what he said to me. Tellin' me all I ever did was stand behind that bar. I cleaned every night until 5 in the morning. Scrubbed damn toilets and mopped floors. I worked my ass off to get all this and he doesn't know..."

His voice gets louder, but there's something else. The slightest tremble. He stops, but it reminds me of Gab, pleading her case to me against her sister, voice a potent mixture of righteous anger and wounded indignation.

"Can you fix this?" she asks, handing me the blood monitor. "I got new strips, but forgot how to set the code. See, this old package has a 'nine' on it. But this one says '15.'

I turn it on. Set the code to 15. Piling up the hospital test results and prescriptions, I remind them we've got paperwork: the VA application, forms for her hip surgeon. For his neurologist. She rifles through some envelopes in the drawer, two bills from Medicare for premiums totaling $1000, a check from Social Security for $100 - half the money to pay for one month's worth of one diabetes prescription.

Realization smacks me in the face: it's not because I've got to work tomorrow. They can't afford the medicine right now.

Oh, God. Please make this stop.

"You know, I should sell the house, come back here for awhile before the surgery. I can always get something else later," I say.

"No. You are not selling that house," he yells, still riled-up from before.

" then? She's not going to be able to get up for awhile. You can't do it on your own. I can't be here all the time."


Except in my head, where the drumbeat refrain begins again...

Forget Blondie, I want the real Rapture

Years as a Sunday School teacher should preclude me from saying any of the following. Sadly, I'm far too lapsed - and outraged - at this point.

So, make way for a rant of Biblical proportions.

I've got no problem with religious people. Am - or more like was - one myself. But at this point I'd rather chew shards of glass, poke my eyes out with sticks or extract my own larynx then ever associate with any members of the religious right. Between the misogynistic laws creeping up everywhere, propping-up of BushCo, callous disregard for the 100,000 or more Iraqis we've senselessly killed, willful blindness while millions more American children lapse into poverty and despair, hatred towards gays, demand for so-called family values...I simply can't take it anymore.

So, I'm going to ask the only Being left who can fix this:

Dear God,

I've been away and I'm sorry. But if you wouldn't mind much, can you bring on this Rapture thing some of Your biggest supporters keep babbling about?

Just get Your Eternal ShopVac out and start sucking them up, en masse, like so many bigoted dustbunnies during a spring cleaning bender.

Peaceful coexistence is impossible anymore. As well You know, I've done wrong things in the past, and failed. But this one? It's not my fault. Period.

I read Your Son's words; know that we're measured by our acts of goodness and kindness. Frankly, that's why I didn't bust a blood vessel over their crap years ago. Since You made them, maybe You can explain: why aren't they happy simply living their lives following Your tenets? Why must they try to force everyone else to live the way they want - and only the way they want - or else face prosecution?

Surely You didn't want them to do this. You don't seem to be the fallible type. Well, okay, there's one mistake I did want to bring up. . .

Fred Phelps. You must've had quite the chuckle over Your creation there, and how much of a test he'd be for the rest of us trying to to follow The Sermon on the Mount. A flat-out bigoted mass of teeming omnipresent hatred with his own megaphone and rabid unwashed followers. Talk about Your more inspiring challenges!

But Lord, the joke has to be over soon. Maybe You can send Your Son back to straighten out Your most vocal followers.

I'd settle for a new president to arrive, proclaiming our long national cabal rule finally over. Or You know, Moses...and another Burning Bush...then maybe a wee reminder about the whole "Thou Shall Not Kill" thing.

You've got to be watching us from some huge Plasma screen up there, but just in case You're not...I hope it's not inappropriate to tell you: they're giving You a really bad rap.

Not just with the gay hate, the racial profiling, bigoted and misogynistic lawmaking, planned separation of immigrant families or even their attempts to use NSA to be as omniscient as You are...

Lord, it's worse. Much, much worse. They're turning some otherwise loving, good people against You. They're killing people in Your name, far far away from here. And those people don't just hate us for what's happening to them. They hate You. They're screaming out at You.

And now, so am I.

Because You may be the only thing separating the sane people from this smallish group of bigoted, corrupted Bush loving pseudo-religious people, You're really our only hope. Can you please think about fulfilling their wishes, and soon? They're ready. Hopefully You're ready. I'm standing by, ready to help them all pack.

Thanks for listening, God.


Mourning Exercises

Breaking Daylight

Across America new electrical spikes
between five and seven before
the rest of the house is up
between fear and worry
peace and quiet
our bodies awaken
earlier and earlier
yet sleepwalk all day
through torture and death
through spying and lies
we stagger halfhearted
running through habitrails
jumping only to rest

Below Sea Level

Crashing against rocks
without remorse or end
forceful vocal flood
Why not? You must! I can't.
Smashing, destroying torrent
recedes into murky plunge
Below cool pink coral
Becoming a distant hum
Deepening dangerously farther
silent caverns beckon
walls like enveloping arms
peaceful soldiers standing guard
Why not? No more! I can't.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Easy to understand economics

Bonddad at dailykos has a fairly regular contributing column on the economy that's always straightforward and (atypical of economists) easily digested. Today's entry proves a bit more complex in terms of areas covered, but it's still very user friendly - with data links, too.

A brief excerpt:

Comparing Bush's establishment job growth to all other expansions since 1960 indicates Bush's job creation is the weakest of the last 40 years. The economy has created 2.318 million jobs after 62 months of Bush's presidency. At the same time in Clinton's presidency (62 months) that number was 15,089,000 - not total jobs, but jobs created (that's six times the amount establishment jobs under Clinton compared to Bush). In fact, when you compare Bush's average annual percentage change in the employment numbers to all the other economic expansions in the last 40 years Bush's record of job creation comes up dead last. Bush's average annual percentage change in payroll employment is .6%. The next lowest is Clinton's expansion, where the average annual percentage change in payroll employment was 1.9% -- three times higher.

Well worth reading the entire article: The 6 Major Problems of the Current US Economy.

Timely, too, in light of the fact new housing sales dropped an unexpected 15 percent recently - signaling the end of the housing bubble.

Friday, March 24, 2006

On plagiarism, getting caught and contrition

One of the main thoughts I recall from reading Gone With the Wind at the tender age of nine was Rhett informing Scarlett that her comments after she worried about going to hell for some dubious act were not contrite, but rather the concerns of someone who was upset not for their acts, but getting caught. This left a mark, and became my own way to measure regret. Was I sorry to commit an act, or simply a hypocrite, sorry to be discovered?

Reading Ben Domenech's half-realized "explanation" for what appear to be blatant acts of plagiarism both at the college and professional levels brought Rhett's voice to my ear.

You see, Ben states that it wasn't plagiarism; that famed writer P.J. O'Rourke gave him personal permission to recast the latter's own words into a sort of tribute college piece. Unfortunately, this isn't included in any online version of the essay. Which makes it. . .wait for it. . .still plagiarism. No attribution exists.

And it bears repeating until everyone fully understands: plagiarism of someone else's previously published work in the world of printed media is the worst offense a writer can commit. Even in high school, it brings serious trouble. In many colleges disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, follows.

Domenech is neither contrite, nor willing to confess. Instead, he heaps scorn upon what he sees as a liberal plot to "get him" (nevermind his being hoist on his own petard) and calls the Washington Post editors idiots for not defending him.

This, even as the National Review Online posts an apology of their own: see, apparently one of Domenech's movie reviews was liberally cadged from a Cox News writer's previous review. To the point that NRO painted its own face with egg and expressed their collective regret for allowing Domenech to do this.

[Edit: In fact, since I first wrote this, NRO has returned with even more examples of Ben's blatant plagiarism they've found by combing old articles he wrote for their organization. Click the underlined text, above, to see their findings.]

Not completely done with the elementary school level of excuses, Ben then goes on to state that his editors at The Flat Hat, his William and Mary College alma mater's newspaper, added sentences to his copy, unbeknownst to him.

Even without this post at Atrios from one of his previous editors, may I politely call horsepucky?

As former editor-in-chief of only a small college weekly, it's an inconceivable allegation that editors would deliberately add any previously published text, let alone full plagiarized paragraphs, to any reporter's copy.

Editors punch-up, clarify, maybe even add a few original lines for clarification (but even that's a stretch). Usually they hand back the copy to its original author with requests for more info or clarity.

It's also laughable, the idea that any editor whose name is featured on the paper's masthead, who is responsible for every bit of copy and advertising in every issue, would put his/her reputation, future career and continued education on the line to do something so ridiculous. Not even for their own copy, let alone to fluff-up someone else's byline.

But the absolute dealbreaker on Domenech's fractured fairytale is this: in all these years of writing, I've never met any writer (myself included) that doesn't read their stories once they've hit the printed page. Equal parts vanity and review demand nothing less.

Yet Domenech not only wants people to believe his editors added previously published paragraphs and passed them off as his original work, but that he never read a single article he ever wrote and noticed these additions.

Slightly less likely than my winning the lottery tomorrow by not buying a ticket.

I will never understand why people confronted with facts cannot simply admit they're human, they made mistakes. It's part of having some character and decency - perhaps one of the most important parts.

Look Ben: if you're sorry you got caught, many people (including Rhett) will understand. But you're making things worse, not better. When caught red-handed, a simple apology would've been the elegant, decent thing to do. Leave with some shreds of your integrity left to stitch back together into tomorrow's whole cloth.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why I'm a proud Kossack/Kossite/Kosanian

Even though we can't quite decide on a final name for its denizens, the 70,000 plus members of are as tightknit as any group that size can be. We're also as diverse as any other organization numbering near 100,000. That said, most people who post at Kos share a love for America, the desire to see it change for the better, and committed passion to the political process.

I arrived there several months before the 2004 election. But Daily Kos isn't just about national elections. Or even local elections (though there's plenty to learn about these as well.)

It's about science, where individuals trained and working in various sciences share what they've learned about genetics, global warming, physics...

It's about economics - where people like Jerome and others help everyone better understand what's going wrong, how to fix it, and our chances of economic turnaround.

It's about law, where legal scholars get together and discuss the ramifications of judicial decisions.

It's also about ranting, commisserating, empowering, joyfully connecting and everything else any good online community is about.

Teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, Senators Kerry, Obama, Kennedy, Feingold, Boxer, Rep Slaughter, my hero John Conyers and everyday people like me from all over America and Europe joined forces at Kos. Our goals are as different as our names and locations, but at heart we all want the same thing: to create a better world for us, for our children and our children's children. To share comments with our leaders, to read their plans and words, brings an incredible sense of hope and synergy.

Kossacks helped John Aravosis (Americablog) break the "Jeff Gannon/James Guckert credentialess White House reporter and sex stud for hire" story. Today, they exposed Ben Domenench, new "Red America" Washington Post blogger, for the plagiarist he is. Hopefully he'll be fired by the Post. They don't need a Stephen Glass/Jayson Blair fake reporter scandal.

Also today, President Carter wrote his first blog. My jaw dropped seeing his name on the Kos site, and his words brought tears to several eyes.

DailyKos has made me smarter, prettier, and my hair, eyes and skin shinier.

Okay, really? Just smarter.

But it's also brought me a sense of shared purpose, community, and throughout one of the most desolate times in our country's history, a real hope from knowing there are still a lot of really good people out there trying to make a difference.

Painful pregnancy or simple Ponzi scheme?

You know, if women actually got rich by "trapping" innocent men, getting them drunk and forcing them to spill their precious seed, we'd be living in a matriarchal society by now. There'd be Boys Gone Wild videos, dancing man-servants in those mansions all women have, and male nannies to care for our kids while we did our nails and ate our bon-bons.

While I don't see any of that happening, the groups who propose "equal reproductive rights for men" seem to see it, everywhere. At the center of their little morality play (Roe v. Wade For Men - like it's some sort of ad for unisex deodorant) and subsequent argument for their rights is always a wildly fertile femme who uses her apparently singular skills of manipulation and devious plotting to earn money through babymaking.

To them, her vagina is a cash register, complete with the ka-ching sound. She strings along all these little local Rockefellers by seduction, luring them in just to collect the millions in child support that'll have her living large in no time!

And, according to these deadbeat-dads-in-waiting, the only way to rectify their horrific, yet tragically doomed future is to allow men equal rights to decision-making when it comes to pregnancy. More pointedly: to opt out of responsibility, period.

(Did you think I was going to say "ask them to be responsible for their own protection?" Don't be silly! That's too easy.)

Since they shell-out those millions in support to keep the hideously deadly She SpiderMom in furs and jewels, they argue that they should be able to terminate parental responsibility and/or have a say in whether or not a woman has the child. After all, they reason, adoption is always an alternative for the woman if she doesn't want the responsibility of motherhood. Where are their options?

These poor oppressed men.

It almost sounds reasonable, until we think about the reality of an unwed mother's situation. Nobody offers her the right to reneg on her responsibilities, to opt-out, once she takes that child home. She is inherently responsible for feeding, clothing, nurturing, growing and meeting the needs of that child - whether or not the father is financially contributing. She must have the child attended by an adult at all times, if not her, then someone else. Should she be financially or otherwise unable to provide these things, she must seek help from others, including the government, to do what she cannot. And if she fails at these, she is legally punished.

The law already puts a larger burden on the female in the case of unwed parents. The father of the child doesn't have to take her to court to prove she's responsible for these basic details. The court impudes half the cost of yearly care to the mother, automatically. Because it isn't physically seen as money transferring from one set of hands to another, it's apparently discounted by those who argue for patriarchal equal rights.

Nevertheless, I defy anyone to raise a child on, say, $4,000 a year. Which is the amount of child support paid in Ohio by men making approximately $70,000 per year.

$4,000 a year will buy food for a child. It might, when stretched, also pay for clothing (if said clothing is purchased secondhand or cheaply). What it will not do, by any stretch of anyone's imagination, is provide housing, medical, food, clothing, school supplies, haircuts, musical instruments, recreational activities, school fees, and so on and so on.

But I digress. This isn't a discussion about money (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

It's about men's equal rights. And it's about time, too, since having only ruled our country for 200 some years men are certainly oppressed. So they want to have their say about whether or not a woman can bear their children and whether or not they should have to pay their half for said children. Oh, wait. I thought this wasn't about money...

A long time ago, a wise divorce attorney told me that every domestic relations case involving children that he handled boiled down to two issues; for the man, the issue was money. For the woman, the issue was the children. Men often used the children as leverage when it came to getting what they wanted (less spousal support) and women used the money as leverage to getting what they wanted (sole custody). Having worked in the field, I came to believe he was right.

But for some paternal rights advocates, it actually does go beyond money. Way beyond.
Up to, and including, the choice for abortion. Believe it or not.

Salon's own Farhad Manjoo has this to say:

"Conley's call for fathers to have a greater say in whether an abortion occurs really means two things: One, that the father should have a right to veto an abortion, but also that the father should have a right to veto a pregnancy by insisting on an abortion. And to this second scenario -- giving a man a right to an abortion -- I say, Why not?"

Well, let me tell you why not, Mr. Manjoo:

Let's extrapolate on this vision of fairness you see. How will it be implemented? Will women be dragged off by the authorities, strapped to tables and have their pregnancies terminated against their will? Alternatively, if the man desires the woman carry a child to term, and she does not wish to, will she be held under observation, perhaps locked-up, and then forced to give birth nine months later?

How would either of those scenarios be different than imprisonment and/or enslavement?

Doing either of these things to a minor - yes, even your own child - would result in a prison sentence for the parent or adult. The law recognizes that children have a modicum of autonomous rights and are not the property of parents.

But what is being suggested by this group of advocates is giving a man more rights over his spouse than parents have over children. Which is why Justices Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor declared unconstitutional Pennslyvania's clause that a woman must inform her husband of abortion decisions in Planned Parenthood v Casey.

Section 3209's husband notification provision constitutes an undue burden, and is therefore invalid. A significant number of women will likely be prevented from obtaining an abortion just as surely as if Pennsylvania had outlawed the procedure entirely. The fact that § 3209 may affect fewer than one percent of women seeking abortions does not save it from facial invalidity, since the proper focus of constitutional inquiry [505 U.S. 838] is the group for whom the law is a restriction, not the group for whom it is irrelevant. Furthermore, it cannot be claimed that the father's interest in the fetus' welfare is equal to the mother's protected liberty, since it is an inescapable biological fact that state regulation with respect to the fetus will have a far greater impact on the pregnant woman's bodily integrity than it will on the husband. Section 3209 embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common law status of married women, but repugnant to this Court's present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. See Planned Parenthood of Central Mo. v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52, 69. Pp. 887-898.

If children are (rightfully and sanely) not allowed to be viewed as their parents' chattel, how can anyone argue that women should legally be the chattel of men -- in 2006? Yet that is what some paternal rights fans advocate: control over what a woman does with her body.

And, while they're at it, some of these same advocates are also in favor of teaching only abstinence to high schoolers, removing birth control options from the public market and reducing social safety nets like Medicaid and Welfare. Which largely benefit children of single parents.

Thanks for trying to consign us back to the dark ages, where women will have two choices: raise a child in abject poverty, alone, or get married to someone - anyone - just to give said child a fighting chance at survival.

We've come a long way, baby. Apparently, in the eyes of some men, much farther than we should've.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Who needs the Apocalypse when we've got Peak Oil?

If you read nothing else this year, this article on Peak Oil is a must. It didn't require sitting through a free ad for access; but even if it did, the information is worth it.

From page 3:

"The fact is, though, the Cassandras of peak oil are not all wearing fleece and Birkenstocks, and using peak oil as a convenient reason to rekindle back-to-the-land fantasies. They are geologists and energy experts in governments, universities and think tanks. And many of them echo the core conviction of the activists: Oil-drunk America has to go on the wagon or it will soon be heading into a dauntingly thirsty future.

Experts point out that U.S. domestic oil production peaked in the early '70s. The world is expected to consume 85 million barrels of oil per day this year, with the U.S. guzzling some 21 million of that. Even Chevron admits that the era of oil that's easy to extract -- "the easy oil" -- is over. The question of when exactly global production will peak and then slide down the bell curve, with demand outstripping supply, is disputed by geologists, but some believe that it's already here and the world is already experiencing the fallout."

America's last living journalist

There is one woman, one sole reporter, who commands my respect and eternal gratitude: Helen Thomas. Would that she could live forever, and remain as thorny to the sides of President Bush as she's been since the first.

Wise as a sage, soulful as my own grandmother and tougher than nails, Thomas is the last living journalist we have left in America. The Bush War Machine is so fearful of her they pushed her from Press Conference Front Row (a spot she's held through several administrations) and Bush stopped taking her questions three years ago.

Until yesterday. And now, probably not for three more years!

Yesterday he sputtered and gasped through her question, as expected. But it was this exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that proved Thomas Yoda-like in her Zen Journalist artistry. She completely sets him up, contrasting his ability to be a journalist during the Clinton administration with his slobbering fealty to the Bush administration:

BLITZER: All right. So he called on you today...

THOMAS: And very nice of him to call on me.

BLITZER: And you asked him a tough question. Did you accept his answer? Namely, that he didn't come into the presidency believing he was going to go to war against Saddam Hussein, but after 9/11 his world view changed?

THOMAS: It doesn't -- it doesn't parse. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, it certainly had -- was secular, it was not tied to al Qaeda.

I think he wanted to go into Iraq because he had all the neo- conservatives advising at the top of their agenda for Project for a New American Century. First Iraq, then Iran -- then Syria, then Iran, and so forth.

BLITZER: So you believe even before 9/11, he was about -- he wanted to take out Saddam Hussein?

THOMAS: Oh, I think this is very clear. You couldn't sit in that press room day after day. Every time -- every time it was mentioned by Ari Fleischer or Scott, they would say in one breath, 9/11, Saddam Hussein, 9/11, Saddam Hussein.

I don't -- I don't blame the American public for thinking there was a tie.

BLITZER: So you don't accept his answer today? You think, what, he was still spinning? Is that what you're suggesting?

THOMAS: It wasn't that. I think maybe in his own mind he didn't, but I think that everybody knows, everybody who was in the know, knows that Iraq was on target, it was on the radar screen from the moment he came into office. The Treasury secretary says it, people in CIA say it, and so forth .

Nothing would deter him. It was a very big goal.

BLITZER: You're thinking of Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary.


BLITZER: Richard Clarke, who was one of the counterterrorist advisers...

THOMAS: Right.

BLITZER: ... who have made those kinds of suggestions.

Let's go back to this issue, being the worst president ever. And you've covered a lot of presidents, going back to President Kennedy.

Worse than Richard Nixon?

THOMAS: Well, I think what this president has done is really strike a match to the tinderbox that we all know is the Middle East. And I think that Nixon's crime, so-called, was the abuse of government power.

In the case, in the case of the president and his cohorts, I think they have really spread war throughout the Middle East. They have really encouraged all of the horror that is going on.

We have killed so many innocent people. I mean...

BLITZER: But you can't forget 9/11. Three thousand people were killed.

THOMAS: But the Iraqis didn't do it. I mean, how can you -- why don't you go bomb some other country? I mean, if you have no reason -- this is -- I don't believe in preemptive war, and it certainly is against international law. It's against the U.N. charter, it's against Geneva, and it's against Nuremberg.

BLITZER: Tell our viewers, who, as I said earlier, have grown up with you, Helen, what you're up to nowadays, how you feel, what your goals are right now.

THOMAS: My goals are to seek the truth, wherever it leads me. And I do think that's the goal of journalists, and I think we fell down on the job.

BLITZER: The news media in general? That we weren't watching?

THOMAS: Come back. All is forgiven.

BLITZER: You're going to forgive us?

THOMAS: To the White House.

BLITZER: You're part of -- they're part of the news media, too.

THOMAS: Right.

BLITZER: We sat in those briefings for a long time together.

Helen, I hope you're around...

THOMAS: You ask very tough questions.

BLITZER: Well, I'm trying to do the best I can, like you.

THOMAS: You asked President Clinton why he wouldn't resign.

Wolf immediately ends the segment. Played like a fiddle, and he knows it. How great would it be if her peers believed in the nature of their jobs and performed them fully, instead of carrying water for the Administration?

Come back from the dark side, Wolfie. All is forgiven, just like Helen said. For my part, I'd like to send Miss Thomas a big bouquet of flowers and wish her long, long life.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Grilled cheese and whine

Yay, the mailman just opened my door and dropped off Capote! It's the highlight of an otherwise abysmal day. Why did they push the release date back, though? There's nothing about Hoffman's Best Actor win; just a sticker that says "Nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture."

Anyway, looks like the extras include three documentaries - one called "Answered Prayers" about Capote, and two behind the scenes. Also, two commentaries, one with PSH. Should be great.

Since I've caught G's creeping crud, think Wednesday's gonna be a day of Thera-Flu and Capote.

Thought I smelled something burning downtown yesterday

During yesterday's speech at Cleveland's City Club, Bush takes an unscripted question (I hope he does more of this; it's fun to watch foot in mouth disease in action) regarding his rationale for war with Iraq.

The questioner states Bush's three rationales for invading Iraq never held-up under scrutiny: the threat of WMD's; the claim that Saddam had sponsored the 9/11 terrorists; and that Saddam had purchased nuclear materials from Niger.

Bush interrupts the guy to state "I was very careful never to say Hussein ordered the attacks on America."

He also states that he never said there was a connection between 9/11 and Hussein.

Olbermann nails him on this, showing Bush's State of the Union 2003 speech, where he says just that.


Olbermann: Then that must have been a different George W. Bush who gave the State of the Union Address on January 28th, 2003.

Bush [from SOTU]: Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists... including members of al Qaeda.... Before September the 11th many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained.

Olbermann: Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda in the same sentence, separated by seven words. Two sentences later, September the 11th and Saddam Hussein, separated by six words.

In a moment, [we will] discuss the fundamental remaining question, who does the President think he's f'n kidding?

Can I take this moment to ask Keith Olbermann to marry me? :)

Click the underlined text above to see the video from Crooks and Liars.

What exactly is Bush admitting when he says he was "very careful never to state that?" Conscious efforts at creating plausible deniability, going in. That's about the gist of it.

Are you ready to cross the rubicon?

There's simply too much evidence and information to dismiss if one is to assume 9/11 happened without any advance knowledge, without a hint. But I know people, myself included for awhile afterwards, who have refused to entertain anything but the standard mythology we've been given regarding the events surrounding that day.

If we're ever to have a real national discussion (and not rely on that lovely book sitting on my dresser, written by the "commission") some of these videos are good jumping-off points. Start with this one - Project for a New American Century and its now renowned document Rebuilding America's Defenses - that says such a radical foreign policy would likely not be embraced by the American public "absent a catastrophic and cataclysmic event, like a new Pearl Harbor."

The video states that it was written in 2000. Other documentation I've read lists 1998. No matter, really. It's all about what's inside. Also at that site linked above are other videos

As time goes by, many people become more aware of inconsistent statements, strange coincidences and odd actions by various members of the government on or in reference to 9/11. I don't claim to understand or believe all of it, but like everyone else, even after reading the official commission report, I have specific questions and concerns. The quasi-official detail of events stretches credulity. And then there's the Moussaoui trial, bringing so much of it back under a spotlight.

Some particularly disturbing testimony in the trial from FBI agent Samit this week. Take a look. It raises serious questions on what the government knew and when they knew it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Iraq three year anniversary: Why are they surprised?

[Edit: I reposted this Saturday post due to problems accessing it. Apparently changing the title makes the original inaccessible from some pages. Thanks for the email heads up!]

It's not without some satisfaction the headlines come flying at me: Republican Party is Over for Bush (Houston Chronicle), Impeach Bush Chorus Grows (Times Online UK), Two Thirds in US Say Bush is Mishandling Iraq (Forbes). Sure, there's schadenfreude. More importantly, though, there's incredulity and sorrow.

Have Bush's central policies changed since, oh, 2002? Has his personality fundamentally altered? I don't think so. Sad to say, but nearly everything we read today about his administration and their basic conceits were - and are - predictable. Not only that, but people pinpointed them in 2002.

Take, for example, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Everything you needed to know abo
ut where the Bush and his cronies (and therefore we) were headed was highlighted in that movie. Moore may be a polemicist, but he's the Herb Alpert of documentarians: he doesn't get near enough credit and his skills are more than people are willing to acknowledge.

War for fictitious reasons - remember that? He took quite the beating for speaking out so soon after the Iraq debacle began. And yet, years later. . .we now know this war that has killed 120,000 Iraqis and over 2000 troops is based on just that: fiction. No WMD. No real threat. No mushroom cloud.

In F 9/11, we saw a peace group infiltrated and surveilled. A skeptical public didn't want to believe their eyes. That can't be happening nationwide. Must've been a local thing. Or maybe Moore talked to a bunch of paranoid peaceniks?

Now we know for certain the FBI's been watching Greenpeace, the Quakers, The Catholic Workers. We know NSA spies on us without warrants. Moore's Colorado peace group must feel vindicated.

Though not really alone, he managed to bring together groups of people who felt they were just that: marginalized, powerless, somehow unpatriotic for daring to disagree and question.

Back in 2001, Jason and I spent more time trading computer printouts - pithy and sarcastic comments written in margins - than we did working. Well, not really that much; but a fair amount of our time was spent discussing the oncoming trainwreck we both saw. Before the war. Before the treasury was looted. Before everything truly went to hell and half the company was laid-off (including both of us).

Most crucially, it was before we knew how many others sensed as we did, and we felt marooned together on some political island, especially after 9/11.

But then, we both knew about 1997's Project for a New American Century think tank, and the imperialistic warmongering goals contained therein. Yes, even about war with Iran. It's a veritable blueprint for endless war, signed by many of Bush's "top" people, and written in the late 90's. I'm still amazed by how many people have no knowledge of it, even though the documents are online. More amazing is that their documents basically stated none of their goals could be accomplished without another Pearl Harbor type event to rally the public behind war. Funny, how life just works out exactly as desired, sometimes. . .

I often wonder what Jason thinks now, as he's completing grad school in Colorado. Does he find sudden public awareness both reassuring and annoying, as I do?

In 2004, experienced generals predicted unstoppable civil war in Iraq. People told me they were crazy - I was crazy. The war was going relatively well. We'd be out in no time.

Even prior to invasion, skeptics said civil war was inevitable. During the runup, the announcement of war when I sat crying and drinking in front of the television, I knew better. Would like to think most of us knew better. Even the most slackjawed students of history know war is nearly always ideologically fought, unremittingly painful, seldom won and inevitably more harmful than good for everyone concerned. A civil war scenario was described, in vivid detail, by Iraqis themselves and the most honest of Iraq scholars. NPR's foreign correspondent Anne Garrels spoke with Iraqis, often furtively when their "minders" were away for a moment, and produced a segment on this. I remember an Iraqi explaining that though Hussein was hated and feared, he managed to keep the four factions of Iraq from warring with one another. Something the Iraqi feared wouldn't be the case if he were overthrown.

Fast forward to 2006. Quelle surprise to see all of this play out. So where were we? What went wrong? How did we allow for these horrific scenarios? There's no simple answer. A convergence of both events and personalities led us here, and looking back decades from now, they'll form a more distinct, though still murky, picture. At the center will be 9/11 and a complacent, wealthy nation overrun by unmitigated fear, searching blindly and grasping onto a seemingly benevolent, genial father figure. But instead of assuaging our fears, he furthered his agenda through capitalizing on them. All according to plan, some may say - though I've not crossed the rubicon completely on this issue.

But none of it: not the pious seeming patriotism, the ignorance to preplanned empire building, the kickbacks, treasury looting, mendacity, craven neglect of our own nation and false drumbeat to war -- none of it could be accomplished without a willing and duplicitious press.

Where was the mainstream media for the past six years? It didn't take a Rhodes Scholar to look at Bush's Texas record and predict a miserable future. Yet they remained silent. Worse, they heaped scorn on anyone daring to challenge Bush, be they political opponents, army generals, Iraqi or concerned American citizens, or the occasional brave pundit.

Now they're acting surprised at the disaster they helped create?

It could've been stopped, and they were the ones to educate the public about PNAC, ask the questions and give voice to people like me, Jason and the millions in America who didn't like getting peed on and being told it was raining.

So, while I'm slightly happy the tide appears to be turning, I'm not counting on it. Every so often they toss us all a bone, recognize our concerns and play journalists. Inevitably they return to their bubbles full of softball questions, cheerleading, pandering and painting rosy pictures. I've concluded that they're bought and sold, just like our country now is. And I've no long-term hope for either.

Welcome to reality, corporate whores. You helped create it. But we've been waiting years for you to arrive.

Ain't no "they" there. Just us chickens

When I first started writing in college, one of my newspaper commentaries referred to "them." Ken Olcott, the advisor, asked me who "they" were.

"Oh, you know - them. The powers-that-be."

"The ubiquitous they who get blamed for everything?" he asked. "In that case, "they" don't exist."

It was a good lesson, one I'm still trying to adopt.

Surely such a demarcation line really does exist, regardless of what Ken (rest his soul) told me. They cannot be we. If we are they, then we are hella fucked-up in the head, and everything bad has our name on it. And in the abstract, that's true. Directly? Not really. Obviously, we are to some extent not them. But they are truly us, if you get my drift. Everything our government's doing, we own. We either voted for them, didn't vote hard enough in numbers large enough against them, or didn't vote at all. Saving our ever-important civic duty for American Idol, one supposes.

In many ways, though, we aren't them. Obviously we don't set fiscal policy, start wars, garner millions and small groups of us don't make decisions that impact the entire nation. But let's put that aside and focus instead on the fact, in the broader sense, there really is no "they."

Such delineation strips us of power, for one thing. As long as we're speaking academically about government, the media, even the economy our powerlessness is inherent and assumed. "What can you do?" we say with resigned sighs. "They run things."

But. . .we own them, as a governing body. That's our grandparents and great grandparents democracy speaking. The number one civics lesson all of us seem to have forgotten. Their workings should not be mysterious and shadowed; if we hired them, we have rights to see their output, both in volume and content. When we fail to demand our rights, we lose them. Simple as that, in some ways.

The same goes with the media. While I do rail on the media nearly daily in real life, I recognize that we no longer really own them. That's the problem. Their purpose as defined - to inform the general public of what's actually happening - is no longer operable. We stopped reading; they stopped being beholden to us and became corporate lackeys. Not the reporters, per se: they're trying to make a living. But the editorial staff, and most importantly, publishers. Still, it's not that hard to find good media. One need only look a bit farther, or a bit closer, than the WaPo and NYT. Your local papers still try to represent your interests. If not, their free weekly counterparts do. Add the media view from outside the US - The Guardian, IndyMedia, etc. and a picture emerges, ground more in reality than corporate profit.

Ultimately, though, media is made of people. No monolithic entity that breathes, types and thinks in lockstep. (Well, maybe Fox News - but who doesn't recognize those biases?) So when you hear "liberal media" or "conservative media" it's best to realize this group's thinking is heterogenous and therefore varied. Smaller groups of right-leaning and left-leaning organizations do exist - more online than any other media outlet - but they're easily recognizable. And it is up to us, we the discerning readers, to recognize and assess bias.

When people talk to me about economics, a common refrain is that it's "too hard" to understand. Bush cheerleaders tell me the economy is doing good, and the ubiquitous they - media, economists, concerned individuals - are either lying or wrong.

But we don't need such assessments, really. And we don't need no stinking graphs, or Laffer Curves or economic theories to really know the truth. Each of us lives the economy. We are the economy. Our job markets are either shrinking or expanding; we either have more or less discretionary income; housing, food, clothing, gasoline, college: they're either more affordable or becoming unprocurable. Our debts - both personally and nationally - are either becoming more manageable or out of control. So, you tell me: is the "liberal" media making these things up, or is our economy tanking?

In order to seize back our control of this democracy, we need to stop delineating between us and them, and not allow our own perceived limitations derail common sense. You and me: we're the government, the media and the economists. With or without specific education in these areas, we have enough knowledge, and access to more knowledge, to sift the truth from the lies. But until we stop seeing these groups as somehow divorced from our lives, or too complex, we hand our power, and our democracy, to bad stewards whose best interests are vastly different than our own.

As the quote goes: You may not take an interest in politics, but politics takes an interest in you.

Three years later - a view from up close

Riverbend, an Iraqi blogger whose posts were culled to create a wonderful book, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq posted this on Saturday. If you've not read her book, consider picking it up from the library or Amazon. It's heartfelt, at times humorous, but always honest and painful to read.

Her post is copied in its entirety below.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Three Years...
It has been three years since the beginning of the war that marked the end of Iraq’s independence. Three years of occupation and bloodshed.

Spring should be about renewal and rebirth. For Iraqis, spring has been about reliving painful memories and preparing for future disasters. In many ways, this year is like 2003 prior to the war when we were stocking up on fuel, water, food and first aid supplies and medications. We're doing it again this year but now we don't discuss what we're stocking up for. Bombs and B-52's are so much easier to face than other possibilities.

I don’t think anyone imagined three years ago that things could be quite this bad today. The last few weeks have been ridden with tension. I’m so tired of it all- we’re all tired.

Three years and the electricity is worse than ever. The security situation has gone from bad to worse. The country feels like it’s on the brink of chaos once more- but a pre-planned, pre-fabricated chaos being led by religious militias and zealots.

School, college and work have been on again, off again affairs. It seems for every two days of work/school, there are five days of sitting at home waiting for the situation to improve. Right now college and school are on hold because the “arba3eeniya” or the “40th Day” is coming up- more black and green flags, mobs of men in black and latmiyas. We were told the children should try going back to school next Wednesday. I say “try” because prior to the much-awaited parliamentary meeting a couple of days ago, schools were out. After the Samarra mosque bombing, schools were out. The children have been at home this year more than they’ve been in school.

I’m especially worried about the Arba3eeniya this year. I’m worried we’ll see more of what happened to the Askari mosque in Samarra. Most Iraqis seem to agree that the whole thing was set up by those who had most to gain by driving Iraqis apart.

I’m sitting here trying to think what makes this year, 2006, so much worse than 2005 or 2004. It’s not the outward differences- things such as electricity, water, dilapidated buildings, broken streets and ugly concrete security walls. Those things are disturbing, but they are fixable. Iraqis have proved again and again that countries can be rebuilt. No- it’s not the obvious that fills us with foreboding.

The real fear is the mentality of so many people lately- the rift that seems to have worked it’s way through the very heart of the country, dividing people. It’s disheartening to talk to acquaintances- sophisticated, civilized people- and hear how Sunnis are like this, and Shia are like that… To watch people pick up their things to move to “Sunni neighborhoods” or “Shia neighborhoods”. How did this happen?

I read constantly analyses mostly written by foreigners or Iraqis who’ve been abroad for decades talking about how there was always a divide between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq (which, ironically, only becomes apparent when you're not actually living amongst Iraqis they claim)… but how under a dictator, nobody saw it or nobody wanted to see it. That is simply not true- if there was a divide, it was between the fanatics on both ends. The extreme Shia and extreme Sunnis. Most people simply didn’t go around making friends or socializing with neighbors based on their sect. People didn't care- you could ask that question, but everyone would look at you like you were silly and rude.

I remember as a child, during a visit, I was playing outside with one of the neighbors children. Amal was exactly my age- we were even born in the same month, only three days apart. We were laughing at a silly joke and suddenly she turned and asked coyly, “Are you Sanafir or Shanakil?” I stood there, puzzled. ‘Sanafir’ is the Arabic word for “Smurfs” and ‘Shanakil” is the Arabic word for “Snorks”. I didn’t understand why she was asking me if I was a Smurf or a Snork. Apparently, it was an indirect way to ask whether I was Sunni (Sanafir) or Shia (Shanakil).

“What???” I asked, half smiling. She laughed and asked me whether I prayed with my hands to my sides or folded against my stomach. I shrugged, not very interested and a little bit ashamed to admit that I still didn’t really know how to pray properly, at the tender age of 10.

Later that evening, I sat at my aunt’s house and remember to ask my mother whether we were Smurfs or Snorks. She gave me the same blank look I had given Amal. “Mama- do we pray like THIS or like THIS?!” I got up and did both prayer positions. My mother’s eyes cleared and she shook her head and rolled her eyes at my aunt, “Why are you asking? Who wants to know?” I explained how Amal, our Shanakil neighbor, had asked me earlier that day. “Well tell Amal we’re not Shanakil and we’re not Sanafir- we’re Muslims- there’s no difference.”

It was years later before I learned that half the family were Sanafir, and the other half were Shanakil, but nobody cared. We didn’t sit around during family reunions or family dinners and argue Sunni Islam or Shia Islam. The family didn’t care about how this cousin prayed with his hands at his side and that one prayed with her hands folded across her stomach. Many Iraqis of my generation have that attitude. We were brought up to believe that people who discriminated in any way- positively or negatively- based on sect or ethnicity were backward, uneducated and uncivilized.

The thing most worrisome about the situation now, is that discrimination based on sect has become so commonplace. For the average educated Iraqi in Baghdad, there is still scorn for all the Sunni/Shia talk. Sadly though, people are being pushed into claiming to be this or that because political parties are promoting it with every speech and every newspaper- the whole ‘us’ / ‘them’. We read constantly about how ‘We Sunnis should unite with our Shia brothers…’ or how ‘We Shia should forgive our Sunni brothers…’ (note how us Sunni and Shia sisters don’t really fit into either equation at this point). Politicians and religious figures seem to forget at the end of the day that we’re all simply Iraqis.

And what role are the occupiers playing in all of this? It’s very convenient for them, I believe. It’s all very good if Iraqis are abducting and killing each other- then they can be the neutral foreign party trying to promote peace and understanding between people who, up until the occupation, were very peaceful and understanding.

Three years after the war, and we’ve managed to move backwards in a visible way, and in a not so visible way.

In the last weeks alone, thousands have died in senseless violence and the American and Iraqi army bomb Samarra as I write this. The sad thing isn’t the air raid, which is one of hundreds of air raids we’ve seen in three years- it’s the resignation in the people. They sit in their homes in Samarra because there’s no where to go. Before, we’d get refugees in Baghdad and surrounding areas… Now, Baghdadis themselves are looking for ways out of the city… out of the country. The typical Iraqi dream has become to find some safe haven abroad.

Three years later and the nightmares of bombings and of shock and awe have evolved into another sort of nightmare. The difference between now and then was that three years ago, we were still worrying about material things- possessions, houses, cars, electricity, water, fuel… It’s difficult to define what worries us most now. Even the most cynical war critics couldn't imagine the country being this bad three years after the war... Allah yistur min il rab3a (God protect us from the fourth year).

Baghdad Burning

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The worst thing I've ever seen

Words cannot describe this thread at daily kos about the March 15 raid on a house in Isahagi, Iraq. We owe it to ourselves and Iraq to take a good long look at these photos and this story.

Who bound and shot these eleven people, including five children under the age of five? Ultimately, we may never know the specifics, as the article states. But we know who caused their deaths. The Bush administration did. WE did.

I wonder about the soldiers that will come home after seeing war and changing. They'll be living amongst us, with a VA system that drags its feet and seldom offers the help they so desperately need. I wonder about all of us - what we've created, what we'll get in return - when all is said and done.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Warrantless wiretaps has a twin - warrantless home invasion

A US News and World Report article hitting the stands this week exposes the Bush Administration uses the same justification for warrantless wiretaps to physically search homes without court approval. Keith Olbermann discussed the matter with Jonathan Turley, GW Law School Professor:

Olbermann: (reading from a U.S. News & World Report press release) "Soon after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that allowed warrentless electronic surveillance inside the US, could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects homes & businesses without court approval."

Olbermann: Doesn't that send chills down your spine?

Turley: Well it does. It's horrific, because what that would constitute is to effectively remove the 4th Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and the fact that it was so quick as a suggestion shows the inclinations, unfortunately, of this administration. It treats the Constitution as some legal technicality instead of the thing were trying to fight to protect. Notably, the U.S. News & World Report story says the FBI officals, or some of them apparently, objected... [W]e're seeing a lot of people in the administration with the courage to say "Hold it, this is not what we're supposed to be about. If we're fighting a war, it's a war of self definition and if we start to take whole amendments out of the Constitution in the name of the war on terror-we have to wonder what's left at the end, except victory."

Olbermann: (reading from the press release) "According to 2 two current and former government officals . . . the Bush administration lawyers presented the arguments to senior FBI officals who expressed strong reservations about their proposal. . . . It could not be determined whether any warrentless physical searches had been carried out under the legal authority cited by the administration, but at least one defense attorney representing a terrorism suspect has alleged that his law office and home may have been searched without a court warrant."

Olbermann: The attorney's office and home not the suspect's office and home. Is there away to overstate this? When you start to talk about the 4th amendment and protections of constitution verses the needs to try to track down terrorists, you can move very quickly into tin-foil hat zone. When you sound totally Paranoid-like they're spying on us through our walls, but is this not the first thing you would see if you did some sort of... prequel to the book 1984, wouldn't this be somewhere in the 1st chapter?

Turley: I'm afraid it would. This is something to be very concerned about. These are not trival matters. We've seen a sort of broad-based assault on basic Constitutional rights in our country since 9/11. We have a President who ordered electronic surveillance by the NSA without warrants in something that constitutes a federal crime. Congress isn't even holding serious hearings on that. So we have a system that has checks & balances but none of them seem to be working. At the same time, as we noted earlier, we have an attack on the Judiciary itself, all of this should present a picture of concern for any American.

Thanks to Kossack Chamonix for the unofficial transcript from Olberman's show. The full article won't be out until this evening. Lots of questions until then, and so few answers.

It's precisely this kind of illegal activity we feared upon learning the government had overreached with regard to wiretaps. And people thought that was a bridge too far. So much for being paranoid about the 4th amendment. It's already gone.

You'd think this would force the Senate's investigation. But given the imbalance of power, no such checks and balances exist. Even the FBI's concerns about illegality of such actions are brushed off and negated.

Who's gonna stop this train?

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Aristocrats

100 comedians. One disgusting, lewd joke. Add 97 minutes of film and shake well.

Just watched this tonight and I'm ambivalent. Some parts were hysterically funny (the mime enacting the famous joke, Sara Silverman's take) and some were way beyond my comfort level. Which, based on this blog, is a pretty high bar when it comes to scatalogical humor and swearing. Miss Jean Brodie I'm not. Anyway, pushing the boundaries is part of the film's point.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure if even in its tamest form, the joke is truly funny. Ironic, yes. Sidesplittingly humorous? Not so much. Although the ability to make me recoil and laugh at the same time is worthy of applause. The movie itself isn't so much about "the joke" as it is a witty observation on the art of creating humor, and the different ways comedians will make jokes their own. Kevin Pollack does a terrific interpretation of Christopher Walken telling the joke.

The best performers of The Aristocrats joke were those who didn't go right in for the jugular, but rather found ways to inject additional asides into the telling. Jon Stewart dancing around, up to and back from the entire concept was excellent, as always.

Whether you laugh a little or a lot, The Aristocrats offers a window into art, humor, and where our social and personal fault lines exist. It's yet another provocative 2005 film.

The Wearing (on my nerves) o' The Green

Maybe it's the whole Teutonic nationality thing, but I've never been much of a fan of Saint Patrick's Day. Green beer, green soup, green mashed potatoes...

No. Just no.

Perhaps it was my husband. Today was about the only day he didn't drink; yes he was Irish and yes, it's a stereotype, but some stereotypes are worth their weight in suds. The drinking and fighting Irish thing definitely applied, in that case.

So how glad am I to be working at home today? How glad am I to have a decent job in the first place with a super cool boss who lets me work in my jammies at any hour, day or night, run out to the store whenever I desire and stay far, far away from the maddening parade crowds?

Very glad. I just wish my boss didn't have to spend every extra penny on her family so she could get me. . .uh, her. . .er, us. . .health benefits!

What is St. Patrick's Day about, anyway? I don't mean the snakes and the Saint stuff -- but why do we celebrate it in the current world? It seems just an excuse to get drunk. Thanks, but I've had enough of those in my lifetime and don't have a need for a single one anymore.

And another thing: slap my go braugh and call me Erin, but if I hear one more lame "Green" song on the local radio I'm gonna bash my own head in with a Blarney Stone. I love Green Day as much as the next faux Irish lassie, but enough is enough. It's like the stations trade these uber demented ideas with one another: Hey, I know - for St. Patrick's Day, why don't we play a band with the name "Green" in it all day? And in between, we'll play snippets of bagpipe music. How festive!

Doesn't anyone realize Green Day are from the West Coast? That accent was affected, not organic, people! And the green hair was just a phase.

Tonight after your Irish eyes are bloodshot and you're paying green homage to the porcelain God, remember: nobody forces you to play Irish. And wearing that kilt in 25 degree weather? Yes. It was a lousy idea.

But you can hum along to Billy Joe as you hurl:

Don't want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It's calling out to idiot America...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pornographers go to prison - unless they're already guards

Ironic on the day Abu Gonzalez announces the bust of an international child pornography ring we're "treated to" the newly released pictures of systemic abuse and degradation at Abu Ghraib prison.

The Salon article states that one of these inmates was "crazy" and sodomized himself with a banana, covered himself in his own feces. . . yet most of the pictures of him indicate he's bound and cuffed. Perhaps he's also the second arrival of Harry Houdini.

Most Americans will, if they view these photos at all, view them with shock, horror and disgust.

Bear in mind that these are the same acts Rush Limbaugh referred to as "nothing more than the equivalent of fraternity hazing" and "brilliant." Bush supporters will likely clamor for "Four more years! Four more years!" Until, of course, this same treatment is given to one of our soldiers. Then they'll cry out about the "inhuman Muslim extremists." Good thing both groups wear such different clothing. Otherwise, it would be hard to tell them apart.

I really have nothing pithy to say, no profound quotes that can somehow illuminate our collective darkness. What have we become?

Monday, March 13, 2006

It's the UnCola Man!

Remember that commercial, the seemingly Jamaican man talking about Seven-Up as "the UnCola?"

Well, slide in your Calypso CD and get out the limbo stick - Bush's approval ratings have dropped to 36 percent, according to the latest CNN/Gallup Poll.

So 36 percent of the country still would support Bush if he went on live tv, sodomized puppies and ripped out a human heart, Mayan style. But the rest of us? We're done.

C'mon Democrats - support Russ Feingold's motion for censure. Cheney is at 18 percent ( People who Enjoy Facial Shots of the Non-Sexual Variety Washington Local 880 has his back. So to speak.)

If they get any weaker, no telling what they'll do. Cornered rats being ever true to form. So, no time like the present!

The actual poll results, including question, are below:

Of the following, which do you most like and want to keep around?

1. George Bush 36 %
2. Venereal disease 41%
3. Colo-rectal polyps 39%
4. Tuberculosis 38%

Of all these causing long-term problems, none are so widely detrimental as the first.

Spring: time for ubiquitous romance?

Cleveland Craigslist is a catch all of the mundane, strange, and fascinating. My favorite spots are the "rants and raves" and the "missed connections" sections. They allow for anonymous posting by angry or ecstatic denizens and the lovelorn, respectively.

What I found this morning brightened my whole day. Here it is:

Seeking You
Reply to:
Date: 2006-03-10, 6:56AM CST

I wish you were going to be with me this weekend. It would be so much better with you along. Why did you have to do this to us? We are going to end up together. You know this is true. Why have all this pain in between? You are reading this for a reason. Fix it. Fix us. Stop this craziness already.

I love you.

I miss you.

I can't stand not having you in my life.

You can't expect me to wait forever.

Besides squeezing my inner Charmin (romantic that I am) this message is delightful in its universality. Obviously, the person feels close enough to the other person to forego all those crazy details like who it's being sent to, and some hint as to how they'll know who wrote it.

Instead, anyone can now claim it for their very own.

Sure, it rained all day and Mondays at work suck...but now you know that someone loves you! And they miss you! And they know, deep down inside they know, you two will end up together.

Just think: someone, somewhere, can't stand your absence. Maybe they haven't found the words yet to tell you directly. Maybe they think of you all the time, but haven't told a soul. You two have music that reminds you of each other, and seasons of memories - or maybe just one little first date bowling, before it all went awry. Nevertheless, the clock is ticking.

It could be written by a guy or a girl. Who knows. It could be someone old to someone young, or vice-versa. It could be the result of a two week relationship or one that's spanned 20 years. They may have broken up yesterday, or decades ago.

But you are reading it, and the message is clearly being sent to you, right then and right there. So naturally it (hopefully) makes you think of someone specific, and wish they were writing that to you.

I spent all day today with a bounce in my step and a smile on my lips after reading this note. Isn't that a great way to go through a Monday?

It's the perfect all purpose love letter being sent out across the universe, I think.

No Rest for the Wicked (or politically minded)

My email is about to go bust. Not because people write me; they really don't (sadly enough). I'd love to know what old friends are up to now, but they apparently don't share that sentiment.

No, it's overflowing with updates from Anton Newcombe's (Brian Jonestown Massacre) blog. Which I completely love. It's irreverent, cheeky, and often serves up more news per hour than CNN. Say what you will about Anton; he's truly concerned with what's happening in our world -- and he updates his blog like five or six times a day with new info.

And I know that costs something. Know it because I don't relish heading back down the hill into battle once more, now that Oscars season is over. Crooks and Liars and Americablog are still on my favorites list, but I haven't been to either in months.

Things have calmed down, for the time being: my parents are relatively okay at the moment, Best Buy finally installed the icemaker after six calls and two weeks of screw-ups, and I've dismantled and discarded the bunk beds with their 8,000 bolts (Thanks for the socket wrench set, parents!) in anticipation of the new adult bed for my youngest.

Yet I still can't seem to muster interest in politics, aside from a panicky feeling that I'm not doing the right thing.

So, email tragedies aside, reading Anton's myspace blog really helps with the transition. I know. I know. Why should you care? No reason. It's just rainy and nasty here and I'm feeling very Monday-ish, with little new to discuss.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Now serving number 55...

I really love the concepts of Heaven and Hell, as probably many people do. So orderly, so reassuring: like pile A or pile B, you're sorted into the great cosmic in and out boxes at the end of your run. But like any kind of faith-based concepts, best not to examine with a microscope.

For instance, I often get to wondering if Heaven is overcrowded. If it is, you can be sure Hell is a festering cesspool without elbow room; CBGB's on a Saturday night with much less chic, slightly charcoaled people, no good music, and zero drugs.

Hundreds of millions of people believe in Heaven. If such a place exists, of those people probably 80 percent actually qualify for a pass. So even if souls are tiny little orbs or floaty balls like we saw in Poltergeist, that's still a lot of things crammed into finite space. Assuming Heaven is finite. No religion's really clear on those details, and Jesus only said there are many rooms in His Father's mansion. But what size is the mansion? Something Trump like, or the Maharishi's Massachussetts white compound on the hill? To me, a mansion is something larger than 2500 square feet. But back in Jesus' day, everyone lived in these little mud holes in the wall, one modest room with a dirt floor. So what was a mansion to Him?

No matter how big any mansion we could envision, it's still not big enough for all good eternal souls to find reasonable breathing space.

My brother's ex-wife was a Pentacostal Baptist who often told me all sorts of interesting things about Heaven. First, that I wouldn't be going there, and neither would my parents, because we weren't "Born Again." I argued that God would be more benevolent. He'd hardly act like a pedantic third-world dictator: "Who cares if you did good. Get outta here, infidel!" But really, who knows? Nobody.

She assured me I was wrong.

"Unless you accept Jesus and are born again, you'll go to Hell."

"Even if I do the very best I can to not do bad things?"

"Yes, even then."

"So, say, Mother Theresa...all that work in Calcutta, all those children she helped, but she's going to----"

"Yep. If she's not born again, she's not getting into Heaven."

This strikes me as very unfair.

I asked her if the converse is true: if a murderer or pedophile would get into heaven, just as long as he was "born again." She confirmed this was the case. Again, very unfair. Why would God be as rigid as my third grade gym teacher, tossing kids onto kickball teams without much thought on their specific strengths and weaknesses?

This, she claimed, was the meaning of free will. That because of free will, we could give ourselves over to God at any time and He would erase our sins.

But that smacks of God as Geico: Driving record? Who cares. Just switch over today and you're in!

So where was the incentive to do good, if one would or would not ascend to Heaven based on such capricious reasons?

To me, goodness is innately human. You don't behave a certain way simply to get into Heaven or avoid Hell. If that were the only motivating factor behind ethical living, all atheists would be gang bangers. Surely if a person behaved as well as they could but didn't give the born again pledge, God would take this into consideration and not act like an arbitrary bouncer.

Some people say there's no such thing as a selfless act. That people do things either for their perceived glory on earth (either to get something in return, or to "feel good" about themselves). But I disagree, completely. Having seen people do things for one another that will get them absolutely nothing except a great deal of frustration - both in the doing and in how they feel about themselves afterwards - the argument smacks of cynicism.

Children seem to have an innate understanding of when they do something wrong or right - whether they're seen or not. For example, when we were six, my friend and I decided that wild blueberries should be smeared all over her neighbor's aluminum siding. Sort of artistic. The way I imagine Farrah Fawcett looked at painting her body and then tossing herself on canvas: it seemed like a good idea at the time.

We weren't thinking about the fact it was daylight and anyone, including my parents, could look out their window and see us. But, no matter. Halfway through, I felt just terrible and stopped smearing. The bright purple looked shockingly lovely on stark, virginal white. It was artistic. It was also wrong as wrong could be, and somehow, I knew it. This knowledge made me feel awful inside, like I was shrinking.

We did get caught, too. But that didn't matter as much as how I felt for the three hours between the act and having my dad lecture me at dinner.

So it strikes me as funny to consider the theory that people would be compelled to do good only because it would get them into Heaven. And then find out they get a free pass no matter what they do, as long as they parrot a well-chosen acceptance speech in church one day.

But for a minute, assuming it's true explains a great deal about the extreme Born Again Christians I've encountered in life and online. For one, they don't have any trouble saying some of the most hateful things to people who disagree with them, and telling us how we're headed straight to Hell, because of our beliefs, our sexual activities, our liberalism and generally any belief that doesn't square with them. It's totally rude, too. There's no sweetness or softly spoken kind words. Apparently, accepting Jesus into your heart also allows a whole lotta hate to flow outward, unencumbered and unchallenged. They're still going to Heaven. What's a torrent of demeaning invective when you're rounding third and headed for home already?

They're also quite happy about Jesus returning to the earth, and ASAP. While you or I might faint dead away or lose control of our bodily functions if Jesus in all His glory happened to descend from the split-open heavens and land on our weedy front lawn, Born Again Christians talk about this with the same kind of calm certainty usually used while paying this month's phone bill.

They want Him to come, and the sooner the better. Don't believe it? Go to and take a gander at the forums. They're prepared for the basics. Now it's just a matter of discerning whether or not all children go to Heaven even if they're too young to give voice to their acceptance of Jesus. Or whether the latest outbreak of fighting between Palestine and Israel puts their Rapture Ready Index over Armageddon quota.

Among my sister-in-law's other interesting theories, she believes the Rapture will lift the right people up into Heaven and the rest of us will be sitting there, in the middle of ordering our steaks medium rare, wondering where the hell the waitress went when she gets sucked up into the air, sans shoes. Yes, without shoes. Apparently you get your clothes and whatever you're wearing when it's time, but millions of people will be leaving their Jimmy Choos behind for we devilish folks to snag.

She also believes that there's food in Heaven. I don't mean like exotic, amazing, incredible dishes -- but regular food, like cold-cuts and Wonder Bread. And get this: it never goes bad. The sandwich you accidently dropped behind the couch six months ago will materialize in Heaven, absent the mold and cat hair - bread, mayo and meat as fresh as the day it was built.

For some reason, I have trouble with this concept as well. Why would souls need food? How would it be smelled, or tasted? Where would it go? If there are bathrooms in Heaven, are they unisex, like angels are?

That brings me back to the question of space. With bathrooms, and food, we're talking serious celestial overpopulation. Even if it's true we're all getting more corrupt, that's still gonna be problematic. Will there be orderly lines, or will it be more like a Who concert, every soul for itself suddenly let loose through the gates?

Maybe they'll use those number machines that were once so popular in bakeries, grocery stores and the unemployment line. You know, with those flashing red letters that change as each person is served. St. Peter might call out the number, if it happens to be missed, like a host at some fancy restaurant. "Number 25, your Heaven space is ready now. Now serving Number 25. NUMBER 25???"

Of course, since the only rules I follow are the Commandments, a hodgepodge of minor infractions (Honor thy Father and Mother) along with some misdemeanors (Keep the Sabbath Holy) and downright felonies (Do not kill) that make it virtually impossible for someone not to break atleast one once in awhile, I'll probably never get a number.

Maybe for the best. Chances are I'd be downstairs smoking, just like in life.

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