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31 July 2003

Interview with Samuel R. Delaney

This is not exactly timely, but any time is a good time for Samuel R. Delaney, in my book. Delaney is "disturbing". You betcha.

Poindexter to Resign Following Terrorist Futures Debacle

I am so happy to blog some good news for a change. So long, Poindexter.

30 July 2003

Salam Pax Visits Saddam's Birthplace

Salam Pax's column in the Guardian today was about his visit to Tikrit, and to the actual village where Saddam was born, which apparently means "Twisted" in Arabic. One of many wonderful quotes:
"His actual birthplace is a small mud hut. It had fallen down and Saddam had it rebuilt in brick, then covered with mud. The funny thing is that there is an American army base right beside it and they had no idea what that "tool shed" was. They just told us that they have been here for a long time and nobody gave them that piece of information. Well, I bet there is a lot they are not telling you about."

29 July 2003

Guardian Updates Story But Leaves the Same Link - Terrorism Futures are off the drawing board.

The story below was updated at 5:30 pm BST. This link and the one below now go to the same story: Pentagon to scrap plans for futures market in terror. But earlier when I first blogged it, it was a different story, only mentioning the two Senators opposition to it (from yesterday, presumably.) Too bad, I was gearing up for a righteous fight. (For one thing, President Pious-face - how un-Christian!)

Terrorism Futures?

Aaack! Just when you think things cannot get any worse! Not content with TIA (Total Information Awareness) an anti-privacy rights initiative that is straight out of 1984, the same branch of the Pentagon (DARPA) now brings us - Policy Analysis Market. This is, I am not kidding, a program whereby a futures market is set up for terrorist events, political unrest and assassinations. It is run by a consortium consisting of DARPA and two private firms, one of which is affiliated with the Economist magazine.

28 July 2003

Ever Wonder How the Middle East Got That Way?

There is an excellent post over at A Berkeley Economist Against Empire (longish but worth it) based on excerpts from a book the blogger is reading, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. The post has long quotes, and concentrates on drawing parallels between the events of 1915-1916 and today, as well as exploring some of the roots of present-day conflicts throughout the Middle East. Take a look - it's fascinating.

"I Didn't Want To Be A Collaborator"

Isam al-Khafaji has an article in today's Guardian about why he resigned from the interim governing council of Iraq.

My Detox Weekend

No blogging all weekend! If I were on a twelve-step program, I would be feeling very successful. But seriously, the news is so depressing and it seems to be repeating itself a lot lately. And I have been gardening and houseworking and such. DH built a shed this weekend; I had to help him lift the roof, which was quite painful and he walked me straight into a pile of bricks while I was carrying it and I got an ugly graze on my calf. But at least I got all my old herbs that were past their use-by date chopped down, and did a lot of weeding. I harvested two lovely beetroots, too.

25 July 2003

One Serious, One Silly and One About Electoral Politics

The Daily Dose of news from and about Iraq: Jonathan Steele's analysis of recent events concludes that resistance is not just a remnant of Saddam's regime. A truly shocking story by Amy Worthington in the Idaho Observer is picked up by the very reliable Iraq War blog iraqwar.ru from Russia; it concerns the widespread use of depleted uranium (DU) in Gulf War II and the likely results of that, given the US DoD's history of deceit and denial on DU.


Meanwhile, back in the US of A, James Carville has an article on what it will take for the Democrats to win in 2004.

Here is the funny but also slightly sad tale of Midnight, the Klepto Kitty from Kalifornia.

24 July 2003

23 July 2003

It's easy to see who's the Daddy in this relationship. . .

If you need a giggle, look at the second picture in this post from the Fat Buddha.

22 July 2003

Throwing David Kelly to the wolves

David Aaronovitch is annoyed by the "blame game" going on over Dr. David Kelly's suicide, and simply by passing on all the self-serving theories, exposes it for the dangerous and unfounded foolishness that it is. And he makes a good point, one which I would expound on by saying: it doesn't matter whether the government is accusing the media or the media is accusing the government of "throwing Dr. Kelly to the wolves". Because if the evil deed of the "other side" is throwing the victim to the wolves, then your side must be - um - er - the wolves? Yep.

Western Civilisation? I think it would be a good idea . . .

Testimony gained through torture is acceptable, according to a British intelligence source known only as Witness A. Res ipsa loquitor - no further comment needed.

21 July 2003

It was a dark and cheesy night . . .

The winning entry from this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest:
"They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white ... Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently." By Mariann Simms, an aspiring comedy writer from Alabama. (Quoted from the Guardian).

The Great GM Anticlimax

The great GM Debate ended Friday, as I mentioned earlier, and now the summing up and the decision will follow on swiftly. The Guardian has a compendium of all their articles on GM gathered in a Special Report. The first two entries, dated today, comprise the scientific review and a summary of it; this will (presumably) be the basis for the government's decision. Watch this space.

20 July 2003

Deborama Tentatively Makes A Controversial Statement

I haven't been blogging the past day and a half, because I don't feel like commenting on what is almost the only news item going - the apparent suicide of Dr. David Kelly. What I said before is now more so, but this is the way the story unfolds, and it does not make any sense to me. Nothing quite adds up and it all just leaves me feeling very disheartened.

OK. I will say just this. If you have been reading my blog since it started in March, you will know that although I have been very critical of the conduct of the war in Iraq, I was not totally opposed to it; I am not a pacifist although I tend that way, and I do believe that a response and a remedy to terrorism is needed, though I disagree strongly with how the US in particular is pursuing this aim.

What you might not know about me, and this is very controversial I am sure, is that I do not in fact believe that the worst thing a leader in a democratic society can do is lie. There is a part of me, probably the same part of me that loves certain war movies and leads me to study military history, that really wanted to stand up and cheer when that Colonel played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men said "You can't handle the truth". Not that I was on his side in that actual instance, but I do think there are times when a leader has to be less than honest with the people, and it is certainly true that a large part of the American public and the British public as well cannot handle the truth, in the sense that they can't process it, can't understand, can't act sensibly on the basis of it. So, for these varied reasons, I feel very out of step with the whole "dodgy dossier" debate. Oh, don't get me wrong, I do think there is a moral flaw at the heart of New Labour, and I do despise the Machiavellian machinations that go on in day to day British politics, just as I despise the lazy cynicism that is at the heart of American national politics these days. But anyway, that's me, and I will probably say no more about dodgy dossiers, missing WMDs and mysterious deaths of government scientists (because it was mysterious, even if proven to be suicide).

18 July 2003

On the verge of farce, a sudden tragedy . . .

But of course, the big story today is the death of David Kelly, thought by some to be the "mole" who first brought the "dodgy dossier" story to the attention of the BBC. That's death under very mysterious circumstances, cause as yet unknown. The BBC is being very facile and bizarrely idiotic in their handling of the story - a weird blend of maudlin praises of the man (yes, yes, I'm sure he was kind and good, but that's not the point right now - why is he dead?) and squirmy self-examination driven by inappropriate guilt. Days like these, I really want to blow up my TV and move to the country.

One for the graffiti artists

Another one I meant to post yesterday : The strange halfway world of Banksy, the UK's foremost graffiti artist.

Government Climb-down - Part II

The US government is backing away from its determination to try, convict and execute the two British subjects in Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay. It looks like our Tone had to cash in all his chips with the President Unelected at once. But at least I am glad he had the courage to do it (if indeed it was courage; it's hard to tell with TB, him being so politically calculating.)

Government Climb-down?

The UK government is backing away from GM foods. Ha! Gotcha! They so deserve this after the ham-fisted way they tried to manipulate the so-called GM Debate, which ended today.

Meant to post this yesterday:Whole units of American soldiers on suicide watch - the betrayal of the 3ID, from iraqwar.ru. And from ABC news, more on the same story.

16 July 2003

Summer in Iraq

A long-ish post from Salam Pax appeared yesterday. I can hardly bear to think about the people of Iraq these days - the grinding tedium, misery and stress they must be experiencing. We had a mini-heatwave here (which just broke tonight with a lovely thundershower) and I never once felt sorry for myself - because I have experienced 105 degrees F in Atlanta and Chicago, so I know that the 85-90 degree F we are having here feels like a relief after that. And also, here it gets quite cool in the middle of the night, even in a heat wave. In Baghdad the temperatures are higher than that in the middle of the night, and to that suffering is added power outages, water shortages, and roving anarchic criminals.

One of the notable things about both Salam's own words and the e-mail from another Iraqi he quotes in his post is the way they go out of their way to not blame the coalition military, and to condemn the ongoing attacks on them. "If you can keep your head when all about you, etc. etc." If you pray, pray for the people of Iraq and the soldiers serving there.

On a personal note . . .

Just a little personal blogging for a change: our garden yielded its first green beans for tonight's supper. My DH is doing a mid-life career change, so just now he is a house-husband, potter and mature student, instead of the miserable, grumpy but highly-paid project manager he was when we met. And he is also becoming quite a keen gardener. Below is a picture of last year's garden, where I did maybe 20% of the work (if that) and the crop was all salad greens, radishes, fennel, courgettes (that's zucchini to Americans and Australians, marrow to Brits over 70) and a shedload of spaghetti squash. This year we have a bit less of the cucurbits, but we have branched out to include beetroot, green beans, bok choi, and with the addition of three mini-greenhouses, tomatoes, basil, bell peppers and chillis. There are some tiny green courgettes in the kitchen, the advance troops of what will be an onslaught. There are a few small green tomatoes. We have been eating huge designer salads for a month already. Life is good.

'Hinesville [Georgia] is the armpit of the world. Right now, I'll take the armpit' US troops learn of their indefinite stay in Iraq - and they are not happy.

The Winds of Change - is the UK finally poised to take wind power seriously?

A former well-wisher turns on Blair. This is a somewhat personal account of one man's history with Tony Blair, from 1987 when he was a barely-known young MP to his current incarnation as the passionate defender of his controversial policies. John Lanchester, literary critic and editor, believes that the problem with Margaret Thatcher is that she always had to be Right, and Blair's similar problem is that he always has to be Good.

"The key issue for Blair seems to be his own sincerity. He is desperate to convince us that he believes in the rightness of his actions. This has been a faultline in his personality from the very beginning."

15 July 2003

Jewish groups are objecting to a PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) advertisement comparing the treatment of animals being sent to slaughter with the treatment of Holocaust victims. Admittedly, I am pro-animal rights, and admittedly, I am not Jewish nor closely related to anyone who suffered or died in the Holocaust. But surely, the reason that the treatment of Jews and other Holocaust victims was so morally repugnant was precisely that they were treated like animals. They were denied "human" rights and "human" dignity. The same theme is knowingly and unashamedly used in Toni Morrison's masterpiece Beloved to show the analogy between slavery and the treatment of animals.

Well, in my opinion, and in the opinion, I feel sure, of PETA, and in the writings of many great spiritual teachers, the next step in the moral ascent to enlightenment is the realisation that if such treatment of humans is abhorrent because it is like the treatment of animals, what does that make the treatment of animals if not abhorrent? Quod erat demonstrandum. I think PETA have got it absolutely right, and that the Holocaust victims are glorified, not shamed, by this analogy.

Because Our Tone is going over to the US today to (among other things) address the Congress, the Guantanamo detainees story is really hot. CNN reports "Brits Stand Up To Bush", although that is not quite the way it is reported over here. James Ross, in the Observer, wrote "What Tony Blair Must Say in Washington" but I don't think anyone now, just two days later, expects him to say it. In fact, the Guardian comes right out and says that the UK is giving up on the Guantanamo prisoners.

On the BBC Radio Four, I heard some listeners' responses. A lot of them really bothered me, I have to say. I have grown used to American bloggers, debaters and commentators (including, horrifyingly, Ivy League law students) arguing entirely from the presumption of the guilt of all the men in Camp Delta, apparently unaware that presumption of innocence, even in war crimes and treason, is the cornerstone of the Western enlightenment we are supposedly defending. But apparently that logical slip is common enough amongst Brits as well. And I can't believe that the people putting forth this belief know, for example, that one of the British detainees was picked up in Pakistan where he was working in an Islamic school.

But the worst argument was that the two men facing trial are "not really British". Right. I think that kind of thing speaks for itself.

14 July 2003

William Greider has a blog! I didn't know that before, but I am adding it this minute to my Blogroll. Meanwhile, here is an excellent essay from his blog about the inherent contradictions in pursuing imperialism (badly) while jabbering about idealism and democracy (unconvincingly). And why Bush should adopt the "Aiken plan" for ending the Vietnam war (declare victory and get out) in response to Iraq. (The downside of that is it might help him be elected in 2004).

From Giles Fraser (fast becoming one of my favourite writers to link to) in the Guardian, a valuable expose of the evangelical movement in the UK, which he says is becoming, to the Anglican church, what the Militant Tendency was to the Labour party. There is also a summary of some of their historical antecedents, e.g. witch-burners.

13 July 2003

I was directed to this story about George W Bush's use of abusive, emotive language as a political tool from the blog called Eschaton. (Another link I posted over a month ago referred to his whole behaviour pattern as "dry-drunk syndrome", which fits in very well with this kind of character disorder.) What's really good about this article is that it ends up by offering language tips to Democratic opponents on how they can counter the toxic effects of the President Unelected's speeches and sound bites.

Last night I caught "Lost in La Mancha" on BBC Four. It is very moving and sad. Almost like a movie.

The schism looms even nearer! This gays-vs-evangelicals in the Church thing is really developing swiftly.

The Observer today has a fascinating, if sickening, story about the unholy alliance between certain extremeist paramilitary groups and the English neo-Nazi elements in the North of England.

12 July 2003

What did I say? Didn't I say "looming schism"? That's what I said! "Gay protesters" this morning brought the Anglican synod to an adjournment with an angry demonstration and demand for discussion on the issue of the place of gay people in the Church. Damn, I may have to join the Church of England as well as becoming a British "subject" (just to keep up the side, you know.) I wish this darned country would get its head out of the 19th century if I am going to have to live here!

11 July 2003

Due to public pressure, the British government is beginning, reluctantly, to get a little more real in its defence of the two British detainees in Guantanamo's Camp Delta. Now the government claims to be at least discussing extradition, although that appears to be full of legal complications in itself.
Perhaps the reason for the reluctance is that it is difficult to lodge a very strong protest to US treatment of British citizens when the UK is doing almost the same thing to foreign detainees here. The difference is that the detention itself is more humane, and the death penalty is not at issue. But Britain has suspended the European human rights guarantees it otherwise adheres to in order to hold these secret trials, and to detain certain asylum-seekers or refugees indefinitely without charges.
Also being held in Camp Delta are two accused terrorists who, though not British citizens, were "London businessmen", now in a sort of stateless legal limbo.

10 July 2003

Superweeds are coming. I think this is one of those things the GM development companies and the crooked politicians who support them said was scientifically impossible, and just plain silly. Am I the only one who notices how sarcasm masquerades as science these days?

How the Cannot find WMD - 404 error spoof page got to to the top of the Google page ranks.

09 July 2003

How very, very English! In the online Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (or H2G2), in the top category "Life", "Humour" has 134 members, while "Sex" has 4.

Let us all err and stray! Another take on the aborted career of the would-be Bishop of Reading.

Lord Palmerston, 1850, asks the House of Commons to decide, "whether... a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong".
In 2003, Tristram Hunt asks: Where is our Palmerston? Three British citizens are shot by Israeli soldiers (two dead and one with brain damage), and the Foreign Office response is "pusillanimous". Two British citizens are held by the US without counsel or charges for 18 months, then subject to an illegal so-called military commission with a possible outcome of the death penalty, and the Foreign Office response is to have "issues" and ask for a "vigorous discussion".

08 July 2003

Good old Hippieville! The very small but perfectly informed city of Arcata, California stands firm against the US Patriot Act.

"The prediction was not hard to make. If Britain kept supporting the US government as it trampled the sovereignty of other nations, before long it would come to threaten our own. But few guessed that this would happen so soon." George Monbiot, the Guardian.

The best lack all conviction

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."



No, I haven't converted to a millenarian sect. My vision is no more apocalyptic than it ever was. But these words from Yeats's "The Second Coming" keep coming back to me. The two stories I have been tracking the most intensely - the upcoming trials at Guantanamo Bay, and the looming schism in Christianity (it's not just the Anglican church, although that's the one on the boil at the moment) over the Godliness, or maybe even the human-ness of homosexuals, have both appeared in headlines today at crisis point.


There is a thread that connects the stories, and that thread is two men, very alike in their positions in the world, and very, very alike in the fury and disappointment and betrayal that their former supporters are now feeling. Those two men are Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both men have revealed themselves as weak and mistaken and the tools of a joined up force embodied in, at present, the US administration of George W. Bush (aka the Smirking Chimp, aka aWol, aka the Shrub Who Stole the Presidency) and the world-wide dangerous cult of Christian right-wing evangelism.


Here is the story of MPs' (both leftist Labour and opposition parties!) fury at the PM for caving in entirely to Bush & Co. over the two British detainees at Guantanamo facing military "trials". Here is the story of liberal Anglicans' pain about the Archbishop caving in entirely to evangelical pressure, even to the point of forcing the resignation of Canon Jeffrey Johns from his appointment to the post of suffragan bishop. Note the similarity. Note the fact that both Blair and Williams have been eloquent champions of such lofty ideals as democracy, radical Christianity, tolerance, uncompromising defence of human rights, and most tellingly, "speaking truth to power". The best lack all convictions. . .

07 July 2003

Iraqi prisoners of war have been so badly treated and accounting for them has been chaotic and unacceptable, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has accused Blair and Bush of a breach of the Geneva Convention.

The big story this morning is that Canon Jeffrey Johns's "resignation" was not voluntary. The Archbishop of Canterbury, or senior staff whom he inherited from his evangelical predecessor, John Carey, pressured Johns into his announcement that he was going to ask the Queen to allow him to withdraw from his appointment, in a six hour long meeting at Lambeth Palace, that left him shattered and dazed. The leader in the Guardian, "The Bigots Win", sums up my feelings on the matter.

06 July 2003

I suppose I should applaud any coverage at all in American mainstream media of the upcoming military "commissions" at Guantanamo. This story on the CBS News website, listed at BuzzFlash, is titled "Why we should care about Guantanamo" but it does not answer that question. (Nor does it answer my question, which is why do you even have to ask the question?) It is also very poorly written; the prose is clumsy and it begins to discuss subtopics and then just drops them without closure and it uses some very strange word choices. It is written by a law professor, but don't expect to learn anything about the law from it, apart from the fact that some cases of dubious applicability are cited. Still, some credit is due for trying.

Canon Jeffrey Johns will ask the Crown to allow him to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Reading, because of the "damage my consecration might cause to the unity of the Church". In case you haven't been following this story, Canon Johns is openly gay. He has a long-term partner, with whom he has been completely celibate for some years, in obedience to a church doctrine with which he personally disagrees. It seems that most English church leaders supported his appointment, but there was bitter opposition from UK conservative Anglicans and church leaders in other countries, notably some African bishops. An earlier posting here links to an article by Giles Fraser on the subject.

The Daily Kos has this commentary on an article in today's Observer about a diabolical new wrinkle in the case of the six scapegoat detainees, or accused terrorists. They are being offered a sentence of 20 years imprisonment if they confess to terrorist crimes, which both British detainees vehemently deny, against the death penalty if they plead not guilty and are convicted by a military star chamber. There are at this moment well over 200 comments on the Daily Kos site, so I doubt if I can add anything to the discussion, other to get the message out there. Here is the original Observer article cited.

05 July 2003

By Stan Goff, from Counterpunch, via BuzzFlash: A Special Forces Veteran reacts with horror to President Shrub's manly taunt of the non-existent Iraqi guerrilla. "Bring 'em on?" Some quotes:


In 1970, when I arrived at my unit, Company A, 4th Battalion/503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade, in what was then the Republic of Vietnam, I was charged up for a fight. ... So I was dismayed when one of my new colleagues--a veteran who'd been there ten months--told me, "We are losing this war." Not only that, he said, if I wanted to survive for my one year there, I had to understand one very basic thing. All Vietnamese were the enemy, and for us, the grunts on the ground, this was a race war. Within one month, it was apparent that everything he told me was true, and that every reason that was being given to the American public for the war was not true.


Now, exercising his one true talent--blundering--George W. Bush has begun the improbable process of alienating the very troops upon whom he depends to carry out the neo-con ambition of restructuring the world by arms. Somewhere in Balad, or Fallujah, or Baghdad, there is a soldier telling a new replacement, "We are losing this war."

The City Pages cover story is about the draconian austerity legislation afflicting Minnesota this year. I have a close friend who is the office administrator for Sen. Linda Berglin, so I have been getting periodic updates on the horror by e-mail.

I almost forgot to post a second notice of the art show opening, while we're on the subject of Minneapolis, at the Rogue Buddha gallery. My daughter, Aimee Whatley, is one of the exhibitors, and the others include Charlie Kraft (her partner), Matt Larson, Levi Polson & Gabriel Coombs. The opening is this evening, so I just got this up in time. Here is the old post.

I found this list of blogs, all apparently by editors and contributors of City Pages, a pretty decent weekly newspaper from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The list is called the Babelogue, and it is an online service of City Pages. I have added most of the blogs to my blogroll: Bodies Politic, Bush Wars, Cassel's Civil Liberties Watch, Chairman Mose's Little Red Blog, City Haul, Homeland Insecurities, Inablogadavida and Mississippifarian. All are worth checking out.

04 July 2003

JUSTICE DEAD IN AMERICA, JULY 4TH, 2003
At first, I tried to take a calm view of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. It was only a temporary exercise in hysteria, I thought. Surely justice will prevail eventually. After all, hasn't America always fessed up and apologised later when it was wrong? Didn't hundreds of thousands of white Americans die to end black slavery? Didn't women win the vote in America without having to starve themselves in prison or throw themselves under horses? Isn't most of America now penitent for interning the Japanese, for the Trail of Tears, for segregation, the Klan, McCarthyism and even Kent State?

Constant readers, I was wrong. Justice is dead in America. It lies in an unmarked grave in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Third party movement in the US

Hi, folks. No posts yesterday as I spent most of the day in Chester on a business trip. No, actually I spent most of the day on various trains and a couple of hours in Chester, but you don't want to hear my problems.

Alas, A Blog has posted a copy of an e-mail letter making the rounds amongst Green activists in the US, which is very worth reading. Again, this sounds like the same old discussion that led to the formation of the New Party, of which you do not really hear anymore. Back in the early 1990s, the Greens were all highly suspicious of the "fusion idea" but now they are obviously trying to figure out how to make it work. Good luck to you!

02 July 2003

I haven't been over to the "Russian spies website" for a while, and I checked it out today. Crikey! They have more scary news on there than you find almost anywhere. This one is about the secret conclave in Kuwait to plan the invasion of Iran, sometime in early 2004.

(By the way, these people seem to attract the most interesting comments in the blogosphere - almost intelligent but quite extremist. I like the idea of trying to get anti-imperialists around the world to destroy the US economy, but I think in its naivete it displays a certain lack of understanding of how the global economy works. Nice try, though.)

01 July 2003

I followed a link from On the Third Hand to this article by an American immigrant about 10 things to celebrate about America. I was really getting into it - I thought it was quite good and there was not a thing in it I could disagree with. So imagine my shock when I got to the byline and discovered that the author was Dinesh D'Souza, a person I have heartily despised for his anti-affirmative action writings! But I still say this is a brilliant article and well worth reading. Interesting, too, is the fact that he actually uses the existence of affirmative action to bolster one of his arguments about the goodness of America, merely mentioning that it is "controversial". Such elegant understatement! Well, I never thought I would be recommending the writing of a renowned right-winger, but they say if you live long enough . . . .

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