Sean LaFreniere

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Sean's Political Dictionary
So that YOU know what SEAN is talking about when he opens his big mouth:

 

Conservative:

Date: 1831. From Latin conservare, for "to keep", "guard", or "observe". A Conservative relies upon family traditions and figures of authority to establish and maintain values. 

A Conservative puts group security above personal freedoms. 

A Conservative believes that successful use and maintenance of power proves God's favor for the government. 

A Conservative believes that social values, religious rules, and forms of governments may only be altered gradually. 

Stability and continuity are the goals of government.

 

Liberal:

Date: 1820. From Latin liberalis for "free". A Liberal uses reason and logic to set personal, social, and religious values. 

A Liberal places personal freedom above group security. 

A Liberal believes that governments rule by the consent of the governed. 

A liberal believes that governments may be changed or removed at the will of the people.  

A Liberal supports rapid change in the pursuit of progress and reform.

Freedom and Justice are the goals of government.

 

Note: a nation, and an individual, may move back and forth between these positions often. They rarely sum up a personality completely. And they should never be permanent blinders for anyone to view the world.

When a people succeed in a Liberal revolution, for instance, they often find themselves in the Conservative position protecting these gains. Similarly a person might have a Liberal view on public financial assistance and then move into a conservative position once these demands are met.

One might say that Affirmative Action is a prime example. At one point instituting Affirmative Action was a Liberal position, it was needed to reverse decades of discrimination following the end of Slavery. However, today the Liberal position might well be the ending of Affirmative Action, as it has largely completed its task and now stands as a stumbling block to truly moving the nation beyond race as a discriminatory trait. Meanwhile, the position of defending AA is now actually a Conservative stance (whether its so-called "liberal" defenders realize it or not).

Another way to think about this is that these terms describe a way of thinking about issues, not the positions on those issues. That is a Conservative might support a war because politicians they respect urge it, because the enemy scares them, and ultimately because it just "feels right". A Liberal might also come to support the war in spite of the position of authority figures and celebrities, not because it feels right, but because hours of research and consideration support the cause.

Neither is a "better way" of coming to a position, necessarily. Sometimes too much thinking interferes with a solid moral judgment, such as on the Abortion issue. And then other times only rational examination can skip over the emotional baggage and come to the most reasonable decision, as we see in the Abortion issue.

I realize this might be difficult for some people to accept after a long time of hearing party dogma on the issue. Personally I find value in BOTH positions. On some issues I am myself rather Conservative and on others I am quite Liberal. The same with the terms Radical and Reactionary, noted below. I found that stepping beyond these labels opened up my thoughts and cleared my head of a lot of bs.

 

Reactionary:

Date: 1840. From Latin reagere for "to act". A Reactionary uses government pressure as a means of containing and responding to changes in society.

 

Radical:

Date: 14th century. From Latin radicalis from radix for "root". A Radical supports social movements and political pressure groups as a means of affecting change in government.

 

The Right:

Date: early modern. The term comes from  English Parliamentary Rules; which place the party in power on the right of the Speaker. As the Conservatives held sway for a long time, the term Right came to be associated with the "Establishment" and thus with Conservative politics.

 

The Left:

Date: early modern. The party in Opposition sits on the Speaker's left. The Left came to be associated with labor movements, the lower classes, and socialist politics. It has also come to be associated with Liberalism. This was useful for Conservative politicians, and Socialists as well, during the 60's. But I find this to be a big intellectual and political mistake.

 

Capitol Goods:

Date: circa 1639. From the French from Latin capitalis for "top", used in French for "principal" or "chief". (1) : a stock of accumulated goods; especially at a specified time and in contrast to income received during a specified period (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income

 

Capitalism:

Date: 1877. An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

 

Socialism:

Date: 1837. From Latin socialis for "friend" or "companion" or "associate". Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods; usually there is no private property; in Marxist theory this is also considered just a transitional stage between capitalism and communism and it is distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

 

Communism:

Date: 1840. From French communisme, from Latin communis for "common". A doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. It is the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably. In its only examples of practical application, in the USSR, China, and Cuba it became a totalitarian system where a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production and the people are enslaved in production geared to support the power of this party.

 

Note: in Marxist theory these three systems represent a sliding scale, with Capitalism on the Right, Socialism in the middle, and Communism on the Left. A nation was supposed to move from one to the other over time. However, in practice few systems in the world have ever been purely one or the other. Most national economic models employ some of all three.

While the US and Europe are considered the paragons of Capitalism, they both retain many Socialist elements. Both the US and Europe offer state sanctioned monopolies of public utilities. The American Postal Service is a state owned enterprise, as are the European aerospace entities. Europe offers state run healthcare, as do many American states, and both regulate the health industry heavily.

Through out history Europe and the US have also held some Communist elements. The common grazing lands of town centers and the great unfenced Western plains were both representative of these traditions. One might say that Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Dole are also holdovers from our more communal days.

On the other hand, while China has long been a paragon of Socialism / Communism, it still has many elements of free enterprise. They allow small farmers and craftsmen to sell excess production on the open market, they have private telecoms and industrial companies, and now they have a stock market, the ultimate symbol and apparatus of Capitalism.

When one system or the other fails to serve a nation, many proponents argue that actually the system simply was not implemented purely enough. However, attempts to purify these systems require a heavy hand in government, education, and economic practice. And this has led to oppressive regimes and brutalized citizens.

 

Democracy:

Date: 1576. From Greek dEmokrati, from demos "people" + kracy "rule". A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; usually accompanied by the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges.

 

Republic:

Date: 1604. From Latin respublica; from res "thing" + publica "of the people". A government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who is elected by popular vote.

 

Note: that the root of the word Democracy is Greek, while the root of the word Republic is Latin. These terms are NOT antithetical, they do not even derive from the same language.

In common use they both have come to describe types of Liberal governments, specifically the one is a type of the other. It is possible for a nation to be a Democracy, but NOT also a Republic. However, a nation that is a Republic is ALWAYS also a Democracy. A Republic is a TYPE of Democracy.

The UK is a Democracy, but not a Republic, because of the Queen. Ireland became a Republic only after it dropped from the Commonwealth and replaced the Queen with an elected President

 

Fascism:

Date: 1921 From Latin fascis for "bundle" or group. Last, but not least, is this term, which actually combines the economic system and the political system entirely. In this system the state and large corporations merge, the rights of the individual are subordinated to the glory of the State, and all dissent is suppressed. It often utilizes a racial or religious cause to motivate the people into giving up their rights in the first place. These states usually rise out of an economic collapse or hardship with high inflation and unemployment.

 
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Monday, May 31, 2004

POW Reality Check

Ok, its been awhile, I don't think that I am disrespecting any of the Iraqi victims by an effort to put their abuse into context today...

Jason MacDonald at the WWII database tell us that:

25%-50% of Allied POWs died in captivity.

There was a fundamental devaluing of Allied POWs as human beings; packed into the "Hell Ships", made to work in dangerous conditions, the POWs were not considered to be human.

In China, a Japanese biological/chemical warfare unit performed live vivisections on Allied POWs. Designated Unit 731, the research unit also dropped bubonic plague by air.

Beatings were routine and reasons were not even presumed needed. Thousands died in captivity in the first few days after surrender.

Several American pilots shot down over the Japanese First Air Fleet were captured, interrogated, and beheaded on deck after they had talked. A famous photograph smuggled out of occupied New Guinea in 1945 showed an Australian flyer being executed by samurai sword.


History Accused quotes from Gavan Daws's 1994 POWS of World War II in the Pacific:

POWs were subjected to strict discipline, arbitrary beatings, inadequate food and medicine, and executed if they tried to escape. When the Red Cross tried to publicize worldwide about the treatment POWs were receiving at the hands of the Japanese, they denied it. When the Japanese realized they were loosing the war, their abuse became worse and they murdered or caused the deaths of thousands of POWs. They did this because they knew liberation was near and they did not want the POWs to be liberated.


Steven Goode and Linda Goetz Holmes discuss her recent book, Unjust Enrichment and remind us:

Tens of thousands of US POW's were used in Japan's wartime industries, such as mining, and that the government, the military, and the businesses were 100% aware of their violation of international laws and standards regarding POW's. The prisoners were malnourished and mistreated and both medical and red cross attention was denied. Furthermore, the most abusive guards were often graduates from American universities who fully understood American values and morals. Most importantly the Japanese never accepted responsibility for their misdeeds and still omit this history in their own schools today.


Our abuse at Abu Garab was isolated and limited. Those guilty will be investigated, tried, and punished and their misdeeds made public. The US military and civilian government all condemn their actions and the public is deeply shamed and embarrassed. Meanwhile our enemy routinely encourages and rewards exactly such behavior.

While we must surely hold ourselves accountable as a people for the wrongs at Abu Garab we should not incapacitate ourselves with our remorse. Move on and win the battle for Iraq and the war on terror. Memorialize the sacrifices of the 1940's with the resolve to continue to "make the world safe for democracy" in the 21st century.

Sean: Monday, May 31, 2004 [+] |
...
Friday, May 28, 2004
Brave Achilles

Troy didn't suck. In fact, it was a pretty good film. And... I know you were wondering... Brad does get naked, no you dont see everything.

Let's get the flaws out of the way... some red vase pottery appears in the film, 400 years too early; the soldiers dont use accurate techniques; there are too many cgi boats and soldiers; everyone has a British accent ('cept Pitt); and they killed someone they really shouldn't have.

But the sets were bitchen, the fights were cool, and there were some awesome chicks (also nek'd).

Bottom line, didn't suck.

Sean: Friday, May 28, 2004 [+] |
...
Thursday, May 27, 2004
British Battle With Bayonnets Near Basra

The BBC reports that: the The Prince of Wales's Royal Regiment battle group fought back an ambush by Sadr's thugs. "It's like soccer hooligans in England," one officer told me. "They're unemployed, and they have too much time on their hands. We're an easy target for their frustrations." Outnumbered and even outgunned they eventually "went British" on their opponents...

Sadr's troops had thrown everything they had at the British: heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The British returned fire and in the end they mounted old fashioned frontal assaults - their troops even fixed bayonets, the first time they have carried out a "bayonet charge" since the Falklands war in 1982.

"We gave them a bloody nose," said one officer. "They might think twice before launching that sort of attack again."

"We are in the ascendancy here," one officer told me.


It's nice to know that someone in Europe still has metal, er... mettle.

Hat tip to Andrew at Apostablog.

Sean: Thursday, May 27, 2004 [+] |
...
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Michael Reels Em In

Michael Totten has finally gotten his comment trolls under control. And his threads are already catching some better fish. Interesting comments on this one about Americans trying to come to grips with Islam and the Arabs.

TmjUtah writes:

I spent two weeks in Jordan, back in the eighties. I ended up being the liaison NCO for our Host Officer. Nice guy, told us to call him Capt. Abby.

After burying my best friend after Beirut, my intended goal for any liberty time in Jordan was to catch an Arab or two in any convenient alley and gut them like fish. Capt. Abby caught the vibe.

But after listening to the truck driver's and sheepherder's songs and poems about life, dreams, family, and tribe over coffee and tobacco.

I got the strangest feeling these boys could fit in at the Penwell Truck Terminal at the end of a long day...just they wouldn't be drinking any Coors.

Without my experience driving that Jordanian around I would have been one of those people wanting to see the mideast east of Israel turned to glass.

These days I'm just trying to keep up with the world and decide what to do with myself since I don't survey any more. Capt. Abby got promoted out of zone, and now runs Jordan as King Abdullah.


Commenter Van Gale tells us...

I know a young man in the Marine Corps who studied Arabic during his active duty service a few years ago. He said the classes were full, and this was pre 9/11.

My son took some classes in Arab history and culture at UCSD and says he'll be learning Arabic. He's now in Marine Corps boot camp and hopes to be deployed to Iraq.

Funny how the young men and women who are actually putting their lives on the line so that the rest of us can navel gaze on the Internet, are actually taking some steps to understand Arab culture.


Not all Americans are ignorant of the world, friend or foe.

Sean: Wednesday, May 26, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
French Airport Collapses

Canadian Press reports: "A huge portion of the vaulted roof of the new passenger terminal at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport collapsed Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring three in a shower of concrete, glass and steel."

My first response to this news came on the heals of several days of classes on "image architecture"... you know the kind, where part of the building looks like a jug of wine, a pair of binoculars, or an orange.

So, naturally I thought that the French got what they ordered, like MIT, something big and ego stroking, but structurally unsound.



Turns out that the architect has done about a hundred of these, all over the world. He studied specifically to build these buildings and has completed studies on nearly 60 airports world wide.

So what went wrong? They will be looking into this for years, no doubt. It probably wasn't terrorism, it probably was some sort of design or material flaw.

There were warning signs... "Some witnesses heard something cracking just before the collapse. There were cracks and some dust from the concrete."/

The investigation should center in no small part on why they didn't pay the warnings more heed.

Sean: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, May 24, 2004
Eurocrats

The NY Times reports that the cushiest job in Europe might well be working for its parliament.


Many Europeans cannot identify their representative. But if being one of 732 Parliament members does not assure great power or prominence, it certainly pays in perks.

"It's really like gravy train gone mad," a member from England said privately.

Eurocrats may take advantage of Strasbourg Fridays, in which they collect their $314 stipend just by signing in... even though parliament does not meet on Fridays.

Some members race to register at the Parliament office, which opens at 8 a.m., before dashing to the airport.

In one videotaped sequence, an Irish legislator, John Joseph McCartin, waited edgily at 7:59 a.m. to register before making a 9:30 a.m. flight. When the registry did not open on time, he simply left his signature on a piece of paper and rushed to an elevator, saying, "Seven minutes is a lot to lose!"

Members can fly to Brussles at the economy fare of less than $100 and then claim the highest available fare for reimbursement.

Mr. Paasilinna, the laconic Finnish Social Democrat confided [that] he could generally clear the equivalent of $3,000 for each round trip between Helsinki and Brussels. Many months, he makes the trip four times.

Add to the above: taxi allowances, free language lessons and daily expense stipends, even on days when no official business is conducted. You can also employ your family as personal aides. And the pension plan is worth about $1,500 a month. Oh, and all of the above are tax free.

But it looks like the gravy train might yet end, or at least be derailed...

Bill Miller of Scotland, said the system had to be brought under control. "I've been accused of being greedy," he said. "I've been accused of being a parasite. I've been accused of being a leech. And that's just by members of my own political party."

"I'm telling you, if we don't reform the expenses system, it will crucify us once again at the next election," warned Eluned Morgan of Wales.

If the Euros aren't careful they may end up with the same faith in government that the US enjoys.

Sean: Monday, May 24, 2004 [+] |
...
Friday, May 21, 2004
Where Is The Freedom?

Former Iraqi detainee in the Abu Ghraib prison, Saddam Saleh, 29, demonstrates with a banner reading 'Where is the freedom' outside the heavily guarded 'Green Zone' in Baghdad, Iraq.


The rest of his sign reads: "I was a prisoner. I want you to let me into the court room. Please."

The reports on the military court martial have been conflicting. First we hear that it is to be open to the public, an unheard of concilitary gesture, and then we hear that seats went empty and members of human rights groups and identified victims like Saleh were not let inside. I think we can do better.

From the AP:


One detainee said he was told during the holy month of Ramadan he would be released if he cooperated and was ordered to curse Islam. "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I curse my religion. They ordered me to thank Jesus I am alive."

The abuses were said to include prisoners being forced to masturbate in front of female soldiers as well as an Army translator having sex with a boy 15 to 18 years old, an incident detainee Kasim Mehaddi Hilas said was documented in photos taken by a female soldier.

"They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees," detainee No. 13077, Hiadar Sabar Ahed Miktub al-Aboodi, said. "We had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy."

One clip showed five hooded and naked detainees standing against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating, with two other hooded detainees crouched at their feet.

The statements added allegations of prisoners being ridden like animals, sodomized with a phosphoric light, sexually fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets, the newspaper said.

"They started to take photographs as if it was a porn movie," one detainee said in a statement on the abuse of naked prisoners.

U.S. soldiers also turned the cameras on themselves, filming scenes of consensual sex, the the Post said.




The US military should not be in the business of running prisons. They are a war fighting machine. They have been taught to kill the enemy, not provide him food and shelter. If you ask a soldier to play corrections officer, you are asking for trouble.

The prisoners at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are not worth their political costs. They should be either put into a simple "holding camp" run at the highest standards of human decency - with Red Cross offices on site, transfered to the civilian court system and treated "as US citizens", or released back to the wild.

Sean: Friday, May 21, 2004 [+] |
...
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Shattered Crass

The NY reports that Iraqi blowhard, and perhaps international financial criminal, Ahmad Chalabi was disturbed this morning by Iraqi police and American soldiers who served arrest warrents for his top two aides and carted off computers and files for an ongoing investigation.

"My house was attacked." Mr. Chalabi said.

Reporters who entered Mr. Chalabi's office compound after the raid found a scene of destruction — furniture overturned, doors broken down, documents strewn across the floor and a framed photograph of Mr. Chalabi smashed.

"When America treats its friends this way, then they are in big trouble," Mr. Chalabi said. "My relationship with the Coalition Provisional Authority now is nonexistent."

"Bremer," said one Chalabi aide, "has lost his mind."

Whatever their purpose, the raids illuminated a huge rupture in what had been the Bush administration's most important personal and political relationship in Iraq.

Ahhh, look who's no longer the Defense Secretary's pet?

Sean: Thursday, May 20, 2004 [+] |
...
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
New Swiss Guards Sworn In

Catholic news: Earlier this month, 33 new Swiss Guards stepped forward to swear their fealty to the Pope in Paul VI Hall.

Encyclopedia entry of the day:

The Swiss Guard protects the Pope and the College of Cardinals. They were founded by Pope Julius II in 1506. It is perhaps the world's smallest army.

The Swiss Guard currently consists of a total of 100 men: 4 officials, 1 chaplain, 23 noncommissioned officers, 70 halbardiers, and 2 drummers.

Guard recruits must be Roman Catholic men of Swiss nationality who are single, under 30 years old and stand at least 5-feet, 8-inches tall.

Guards need to have completed their initial military training in the Swiss Armed Forces, and obtained a certificate of good conduct from an ecclesiastical and a civil authority.

Fun Fact: During the Sack of Rome on May 6, 1527, when heroically fighting against the troops of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, 147 Swiss Guards died alongside then-commander Kaspar Roist, while 42 were saved with Clement Vll (Giulio de' Medici) in Castle San Angelo.



Colored Guard

"Indian-born Swiss Guard Dhani Bachmann, 21, stands at attention during a changing of the guard at the Vatican. Dhani Bachmann, who was adopted at five years of age and became a naturalised Swiss citizen, is the first non-white member of the elite Swiss Guard."

Change in the Pope's pomp? Never!


Sean: Wednesday, May 19, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
The Middle of the Begining Of The End

The Harvard Crimson reports:
REPUBLICANS FOR MARRIAGE: In a sign of the future, some of the young supporters of the first gay couples to exercise their civil rights were Republicans and Christians:

The crowd of supporters included seven members of the Harvard Republican Club (HRC), with two executive board members among them.

One of the HRC members, Joshua A. Barro '05, appealed earlier to the club's open-list for Republicans to show that the “next generation of Republicans is tolerant and inclusive" by joining in the march.

"It’s not an official club-sanctioned event, but we are coming to show that there are Republicans who support gay marriage," said Barro, wearing his blue HRC T-shirt. "I think this is the direction the Republican Party is heading."

Members of the Harvard Christian Fellowship also participated in the procession, though not as an official contingent of the Harvard student group.

"We're coming out as individual Christians to show our support for the gays and lesbians who are getting married tonight," said Stephen E. Dewey '07. "We are very happy for them."
Me too.


I don't see how the Christian Right can claim to have a mainstream view on this issue, certainly not after this story.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, from whom I tore this linkage.

Sean: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, May 17, 2004
Head of Iraqi Governing Council assassinated By Terrorists

CNN reports:
Izzedine Salim was slain on Monday morning in Baghdad by a suicide bombing at a checkpoint near the Green Zone.

Al-Yawar, a Sunni Muslim from the northern city of Mosul who would have assumed the rotating council presidency June 1, will complete Salim's term and serve through the scheduled handover.

"We should all unify our efforts in our words and in our actions in chasing those criminals and paralyzing their hand and to unify our energy in working for a democratic and free Iraq," the new president said.

Another governing council member, Aquila al-Hashimi, died after an attack in September.


No rest for the wicked.

International condemnation of Salim's assassination was widespread...
but muted.

Oh... and they found evidence of WMD in Iraq, as they do every few months, not like Chirac would like you to read about it much.

Meanwhile, a U.S. convoy in Iraq found an artillery shell loaded with sarin gas -- a deadly nerve agent used in chemical weapons, the coalition said Monday.

Gnrl. Kimmitt said the shell contained two chemicals which, when mixed during the flight of an artillery shell, formed the nerve agent.

He said the shell had been rigged as a makeshift bomb that resulted in a small dispersal of the agent when it exploded before an ordnance team could disarm it.

Kimmitt said the artillery round was of an old style that Saddam Hussein's regime had declared it no longer possessed after the Persian Gulf War.

"It was a weapon we believed was stocked from the ex-regime time," Kimmitt said. "It had been thought to be an ordinary artillery shell, set up like an IED [improvised explosive device]. When it exploded, it indicated that it had some sarin in it."

The general said the Iraqi Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, would determine if the shell's discovery indicated Saddam possessed chemical weapons before the U.S. invasion last year. Officials in Washington said another shell -- this one containing mustard gas -- was found 10 days ago in Iraq.


No other evidence of possible chemical weapons has been found in Iraq. The Bush administration cited weapons of mass destruction as a key reason for its invasion.


Repeating this statement, after publishing what preceded it, is ridiculous... this is what is called a "meme".


Sean: Monday, May 17, 2004 [+] |
...
Friday, May 14, 2004
Holler If You Know This Place

Still looking for feedback from people who have actually been to the place... Reston, VA.

Reston used to be known as "leafy" and "rural". Now days people comment on the lack of trees, the high prices, the missing grocery stores...

Can new places work in today's America?

Sean: Friday, May 14, 2004 [+] |
...
Prisoner Release

CNN reports that nearly 300 Iraqis were released from Abu Garab prison yesterday... another several hundred will be released by the 21st.

The prison's new commander, Gen Miller, plans to reduce the headcount at the prison from over 3000 to around 1500.

Good thing?

Sean: Friday, May 14, 2004 [+] |
...
WE LIED

CNN reports that the Daily Mirror's editor, Piers Morgan, has resigned over the publication of "fake" pictures of British soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees.

There is a lesson for Mr. Rumsfeld in this story.

Sean: Friday, May 14, 2004 [+] |
...
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Coolest Guy Ever

CBS reports:
Yesterday, Berg was remembered by friends and former teachers as creative, curious and deeply concerned for the world's "have-nots."

Berg owned a communications equipment company, Prometheus Methods Tower Service Inc.

"He had this idea that he could help rebuild the infrastructure," said Nick's mother.

"He was approximately the coolest guy ever — he could build a computer out of cardboard and tin foil — and that's not really an exaggeration," said Will Scott, a 27 year old software developer in Austin, Texas, who went to high school with Berg.

Scott recalled a summer science program he attended with Berg.

"Nick had an entire department of his own that he basically invented called Bergology — it was this weird combination of computer engineering, electronics, craftsmanship — the kids loved it," Scott said. "He was really good at it — he had an energetic personality and a really good attitude — he would really get along with anybody."

"Everybody's crushed. Everybody I've talked to is just floored," said band teacher James Morrison, who knew Berg all through high school.

The manner of Berg's murder was particularly horrifying, Morrison said.

"I expected to be interviewed some day about how successful he was, that he had saved a Third World country," said Morrison, who choked back tears as he spoke.

He said Berg visited the school around Thanksgiving 2003, and told about having recently made a trip to Africa.

"He said he showed a village how to better make bricks. That's the kind of kid he was."

Shop teacher Harry "Skip" Best said Berg was "really interested in bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots."

Best described Berg as "an all-around Renaissance man."

Morrison said he doubted that business was Berg's principal concern in going to Iraq. "A kid like that just wanted to help," he said.

Charlotte Knighton, who taught Berg's 8th grade science class, remembered as an "individualist," who would carve his own path in life.

Speaking from her home in Bozeman, Montana, Knighton said that Berg was a complex young man — funny, dramatic, compassionate, and a humanitarian.

"He had gone to Africa when he was in college and he was so taken by the starving people over there that when he came home it was difficult for him to even eat," she said.


And THAT's the kind of man that the Islamists chose to murder.



UPDATE: This was apparently a very interesting fact for the AP:

Berg, who was Jewish, spoke to his parents March 24 and told them he would return home on March 30, according to his family in suburban Philadelphia.


UPDATE 2: Some reactions:

"It seems too senseless that an American who went over there to try to help this country rebuild its telecommunications infrastructure could wind up with a fate like this," said Gov. Rendell, voicing the thoughts of many of his numbed constituents.

Added GOP maverick Sen. John McCain: "These people have no regard for humanity or any common decency, and that's why we've got to win in Iraq."


Sean: Thursday, May 13, 2004 [+] |
...
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Retaliation Or More Of The Usual From Islamists?

Nick Berg was murdered. He was not "humiliated" or even tortured (or mock tortured). His death was slow and very, very painful. He was in Iraq not as a soldier but as a telephone/power repair man. He has family in Mosul.

The ghastly video and still images of his death are making the rounds. I myself dutifully watched the footage just so that you don't have to. Call me a martyr, no call Nick a martyr...

The footage starts out with Nick giving his personal details, naming family, etc. Behind him stand a row of hooded men. One of them shoves Nick to the ground. Then his head is slowly sawed off with a machete. During the scene he can be heard making a variety of noises. But I mostly noticed the cameraman snickering and chortling as he filmed.

This is ghastly. And it does not... and let me pause here and say that I have tried to avoid deflecting criticism of Abu Garab on the grounds of "Saddam was worse"... oh I may have hinted at this, and even said it now and again, but I also resisted on many an occasion.... but now... this beheading in no way equates with the abuse at Abu Garab.

As far as I know the American mp's never made the Iraqis identify themselves and their family members, they rarely inflicted actual physical harm, and they did not laugh openly at their obvious physical pain and distress. Am I wrong, does someone know differently?

Even if this act was actually on par with US prison abuses... will there be a swift investigation, a full revelation of the abuses to elected officials actually empowered to do something about this? Will Muslim officials from around the world condemn this act? Will any leader of the Iraqi "resistance" resign, or consider it, will members of the so-called resistance even call for it?

Meanwhile, let's not forget what each side is fighting for with this brutality... either brutality...

The US prison guards were roughing up captured terrorists in an attempt to extract information about planned attacks on Iraqi civilians and US military targets... and the reason they are in Iraq in the first place is to remove a known genocidal maniac and experienced torturer and give the Iraqi people some sort of representative government.

The Islamists slaughtered an innocent civilian who was in their country to rebuild their power system. They did so in order to scare the US into retreating and allowing them to install another maniac as dictator of Iraq - or maybe a group of such men. Their end goal is a subjugated Iraq under strict Islamic rule.

Are these goals the same? Are these men the same, the captives or the captors? Who do you want to win?

The hooded men in the video claimed that their crime was in "retaliation" for Abu Garab... however, they executed an Italian, Fabrizio Quattrochi ("Now I will show you how an Italian dies!") last month, long before the prison story broke. They executed Daniel Pearl the same way two years ago, long before the prison story broke. Retaliation, or more of the same?

Sean: Wednesday, May 12, 2004 [+] |
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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
The Edge Of Nowhere

The term "edge city" was coined by Washington Post correspondent and senior fellow at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, Joel Garreau in his 1991 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. By "edge city" Joel refers to those new centers of urbanism that have begun to crop up in rings around or between older downtowns from New Jersey to California. Joel argues that these new centers are not necessarily trouble for the American landscape, but are ingenious adaptations to the rule of the automobile.

Joel sees edge cities as unique from standard suburbs or older rural towns. Edge cities have more than 5 million square feet of office space and more than 600,000 sf of retail space. They usually have more jobs than houses and are considered single destinations "that have everything" by area residents. Ideally these places were nothing like a town 30-40 years ago.

Reston, Virginia is a classic edge city. It has over 17 million sf of office space and more than 1.8 million sf of retail space. It counts over 90 thousand jobs to its 50 thousand residents and 27 thousand homes. It has been touted by its land corporation as the new "downtown" for Louden and Fairfax counties. And 40 years ago it was nothing more than "well-watered woods".

Reston was originally developed by Robert E. Simon; a builder of suburban shopping centers from New York. It was rescued from bankruptcy by Gulf Oil in 1967 and sold to Mobil Oil in 1978. In 1980 the residents voted against incorporation and today the development receives "fourth level government services” from the Reston Land Corporation, a subsidiary of Mobil.

Reston contains 4 lakes, 73 acres of ball fields and playgrounds, and 800 acres of common woods, meadows and wetlands. Reston also counts 15 pools, 49 tennis courts, and 55 miles of paths and trails. Reston also has two 18-hole golf courses, three ice rinks, and a major cinemaplex. There are 8 grade schools, one middle school, and one high school. There are also nine major shopping centers in the area.

Reston ranks about half the national average for crime. There is a local bus service running four daytime lines 6 days a week for $.50 fares - D.C.'s Metro is making an effort to connect the Dulles Airport and the Reston Town Center. Home prices generally range from around $50,000 up to over $1 million, averaging about $215-218,000, and property taxes are about half the national average at $12 per $1000 assessed value. Home association dues are about $400 a year.

As the Dulles area becomes more and more connected to the nation’s capital and to international destinations more and more companies are moving regional offices and labs to the area. Reston boasts more than 28 thousand major corporate employers. Reston-Herndon is home to Accenture, Airbus, Dimension Data, EDS, Network Solutions, Nextel, Northrup Grumman, Oracle, Siebel, Sallie Mae, Software AG, Titan, USGS, and Verisign.

Reston was modeled after the British "garden cities", specifically Milton Keynes. Attention was paid to centering development around "water features" such as lakes (many man-made) and streams. Back in the 70's area residents were struck by how remote Reston was from metro Washington D.C.. People commented on the many trees and parks and most often described Reston "leafy" and "rural".

Recent development in the area is becoming more typical of suburban office centers... edge cities. Acres of pavement, multi-lane arterial roads, and 20 story office towers are common. More attention is now paid to traffic circulation and to catching the attention of national employers. And residents have begun to notice missing trees and ponds.

Edge cities might be as inevitable as Joel Garreau suggests. Edge cities certainly take the pressure of transportation woes away from central cities. However, they also siphon tax dollars and human capital away from the truly urban cores that ultimately sustain them. And increasingly they fail to provide the rural escape they once offered to their inhabitants.

These "eyesores" made Howard Kuntsler's monthly list... they are 99% likely from Reston.

Links:

http://www.fairfaxcountyeda.org/publications/headquarters_facts.pdf
nhttp://www.planning.org/pathways/plancomm.htm
nhttp://www.reston.org/reston/r_history.html
nhttp://www.reston-homes.com/history_popup.html
nhttp://www.restonweb.com/contrib/memories.html
nhttp://www.rickmansworthherts.freeserve.co.uk/howard1.htm
http://rubens.anu.edu.au/raider4/turkey/turkeybook/splendid2.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_planned_cities
Garreau, Joel. Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. New York, Doubleday, 1991

If you ever lived in reston... I would love to get a comment or two about your feelings for the place.


Sean: Tuesday, May 11, 2004 [+] |
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Monday, May 10, 2004
Abu Garab Interview

Ali is a 33 year old graduat from Baghdad university. He did a few years of service in the Army. Now he is working in Baghdad as a senior resident and studying to become a pediatrician. His personal interests include chess, reading (history, parapsychology, politics and novels). He participates in a group blog at Iraq The Model

Ali begins a post last week end with this introduction...

Yesterday a friend of mine, who’s also a doctor, visited us. After chatting about old memories, I asked him about his opinions on the current situations in Iraq. I’ve always known this friend to be apathetic when it comes to politics, even if it means what’s happening in Iraq. It was obvious that he hadn’t change and didn’t show any interest in going deep into this conversation. However when I asked him about his opinion on GWB response to the prisoners’ abuse issue, I was surprised to see him show anger and disgust as he said:


Doctor - This whole thing makes me sick.

Ali - Why is that?! I asked.

Doctor - These thugs are treated much better than what they really deserve!

Ali - What are you saying!? You can’t possibly think that this didn’t happen! And they’re still human beings, and there could be some innocents among them.

Doctor - Of course it happened, and I’m not talking about all the prisoners nor do I support these actions, and there could be some innocents among them.

Ali - Why do you say they are very well treated?

Doctor - They are fed much better than they get at their homes. I mean they eat the same stuff we eat, and it’s pretty good; eggs, cheese, milk and tea, meat, bread and vegetables, everything! And that happened every day, and a good quality too.

Ali - Are they allowed to smoke? (I asked this because at Saddam’s times, it was a crime to smoke in prison and anyone caught while doing this would be punished severely).

Doctor - Yes, but they are given only two cigarettes every day.

Ali - What else? How often are they allowed to take a bath? (This may sound strange to some people, but my friend understood my question. We knew from those who spent sometime in Saddam’s prisons, and survived, that they were allowed to take a shower only once every 2-3 weeks.)

Doctor - Anytime they want! There are bathrooms next to each hall.

Ali - How often do they shave?

Doctor - I’m not sure, from what I saw, it seemed that there was a barber visiting them frequently, because they had different hair cuts, some of them shaved their beards others kept them or left what was on their chins only. I mean it seemed that they had the haircut they desired!

Ali - Are they allowed to get outside, and how often? Do they have fans or air coolers inside their halls?

Doctor - Of course they are! Even you still compare this to what it used to be at Saddam’s times and there’s absolutely no comparison. They play volleyball or basketball everyday, and they have fans in their halls.

Ali - Do they have sport suits?

Doctor - No, it’s much better than Saddam’s days but it’s still a prison and not the Sheraton. They use the same clothes but I’ve seen them wearing train shoes when they play.

Ali - Are they allowed to read?

Doctor - Yes, I’ve seen the ordinary criminals read, and I believe the political are allowed too, because I remember one of them asking me to tell one of the American soldiers that he wanted his book that one of the soldiers had borrowed from him.

Ali - And how did you find American soldiers in general?

Doctor - I’ll tell you about that; first let me tell you that I was surprised with their politeness. Whenever they come to the hospital, they would take of their helmets and show great respect and they either call me Sir or doctor. As for the way they treat the prisoners, they never handcuff anyone of those, political or else, when they bring them for examination and treatment unless I ask them to do so if I know that a particular prisoner is aggressive, and I never saw them beat a prisoner and rarely did one of them use an offensive language with a prisoner.

Ali - Did you witness any aggressiveness from American soldiers?

Doctor - Only once. There was a guy who is a troublemaker. He was abnormally aggressive and hated Americans so much. One of those days the soldiers were delivering lunch and he took the soup pot that was still hot and threw it at one of the guards. The guard avoided it and the other guards caught the convict and one of them used an irritant spray that causes sever itching, and then they brought the prisoner to me to treat him.

Ali - So you think that these events are isolated?

Doctor - As far as I know and from what I’ve seen, I’m sure that they are isolated.

Ali - But couldn’t it be true that there were abusive actions at those times that the prisoners were afraid to tell you about?

Doctor - Are you serious!? These criminals, and I mean both types tell me all about there 'adventures and bravery'. Some of them told me how they killed an American soldier or burned a humvee, and in their circumstances this equals a confession! Do you think they would’ve been abused and remained silent and not tell me at least!? No, I don’t think any of this happened during the time I was there. It seemed that this happened to a very small group of whom I met no one during that month.

Ali - So, you believe there’s a lot of clamor here?

Doctor - As you said these things are unaccepted but I’m sure that they are isolated and they are just very few exceptions that need to be dealt with, but definitely not the rule. The rule is kindness, care and respect that most of these thugs don’t deserve, and that I have seen by my own eyes. However I still don't understand why did this happen.

Ali Concludes with: "As for "why"; I must say that these few exceptions happen everywhere, only in good society they can be exposed and dealt with fast, while in corrupted regimes, it may take decades for such atrocities to be exposed which encourage the evil people to go on, and exceptions become the rule. What happened in Abu-Gharib should be a lesson for us, Iraqis, above all. It showed how justice functions in a democratic society. We should study this lesson carefully, since sooner or later we'll be left alone and it will be our responsibility to deal with such atrocities, as these will never cease to happen."


Sean: Monday, May 10, 2004 [+] |
...
Friday, May 07, 2004
Gin Rummy

Today Donald "Rummy" Rumsfeld offered his "deepest apology" for the abuse of some Iraqi prisoners by their U.S. captors and accepted "full responsibility" for the Abu Garab prison abuse scandal.

"These events occurred on my watch," Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility."


Fine. Then resign.

Let's face it, there is no other way to tell the world this kind of abuse "is against our principles" and there is no other way for Rummy to "accept full responsibility".

Simply saying that you accept responsibility is not the same as taking responsibility. Responsibility means that you were the one who could have or should have stopped these people from acting as they did... Rummy failed... that means that their guilt is his too. If they should be tossed out of the lower ranks of the Army, shouldn't Rummy be tossed from the top?

And I say this as someone who has offered to keep an "open mind" on the efficacy and need of "torture" as a military policy.

The fact is that Rummy and crew promised America, Iraq, and the world that we would be "better for Iraq than Saddam"... and even if our abuse is sooo much less than his (feeding victims feet first into a plastics recycler because that way their screams lasted longer) the wider public cares about kind not degrees of behavior.

We failed, Rummy failed, and Rummy can only redeem us, such as he can, by truly taking "full responsibility".

Good bye Mr. Rumsfeld.

Sean: Friday, May 07, 2004 [+] |
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Thursday, May 06, 2004

Muslims Capture Iraqi/American Ditchdigger, Hold Hostage, Despite His Being "A Good Muslim"

"The Arabic TV network Al-Arabiya aired video Thursday of an American hostage in Iraq who identified himself as Aban Elias of Denver, Colorado. In Denver, his brother Kazwan Elias saw the video and confirmed the man's identity. He said his brother is a 41-year-old American who was born in Baghdad. Kazwan Elias said his sibling lives near Fallujah and works with a relative on road projects. Aban Elias is married and has three sons, ages 1, 4 and 6, his brother said. Thursday in Denver, Elias' mother sobbed, begging in Arabic for her son's release. She said her son is a good Muslim and has nothing to do with politics."

Muslims Impose Sharia Law In Nigeria, Begin Civil War, Thousands Dead

"Religious violence has killed at least 5,000 people since 2000, when 12 northern states predominantly inhabited by Muslims established Islamic Sharia law.On Sunday, hundreds of Christian Tarok militia invaded the town of Yelwa, sealed off roads to town with felled trees, and killed hundreds of Fulani with machine guns and machetes. A Muslim community leader said 630 bodies had been buried in the town. The attack followed the killing of almost 100 Christians in Yelwa in February, including 48 massacred in a church, and brought the total death toll in three months of fighting in the region to at least 1,000."

Muslims In Thailand Threaten Budhist Monks

"Armed with M-16 assault rifles, a pair of Thai soldiers accompany a Buddhist monk near the village of Bacho, 656 miles south of Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 7, 2004. The region, which is dominated by the Muslim religion, has been the scene of militant violence recently with attacks against the police and Buddhist monks. Attacks by Muslim militants on April 28, 2004 that left 107 dead."

When Budhist monks fear your faith can you really claim to be about peace?

Update: Elderly Thai Budhist beheaded by muslims.

Sean: Thursday, May 06, 2004 [+] |
...
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
The Truth About Torture

Michael Totten is appalled that, as of his posting, 46% of respondents to a CNN poll reply that "some torture" could be justified in extreme cases. Instead Michael has often mentioned how torture "doesn't work" and has repeatedly called for the much more humane use of the "so-called Truth Serum". Is it that easy to simply step out of the moral shadow of torture with the use of a "humane drug" or other means?

Some research into Truth Serums such as Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, and Pentothal... genericaly known as amobarbitals reveals that they simply do not work and they can also be dangerous. Sodium Pentathal, the most common "truth serum" is most often used as a preparatory anesthetic to "knock out" a patient more easily. But it also lowers respiration, blood pressure and heart rate and could possibly kill a patient.

Other drugs, alcohol, and sleep interruption techniques can induce the same effects as Truth Serum drugs. These tactics do cause suspects to talk more, but none of them can ensure cooperation. Studies have shown that suspects can still withhold the truth and even lie directly to interrogators because the basic willpower of the suspect remains intact.

Militaries and police forces have long developed and employed methods of "breaking" a person and defeating their will power. Suspects might be deprived of food or sleep or threatened with longer imprisonment. But all such tactics require the "abuse" of the suspect via either physical or mental leverage.

Global Security and the San Francisco Chronicle report that the US military has long found that the "softest" interrogation techniques give them the most accurate intel.

On the U.S. side, interrogators are trained at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. [Common techniques include] flattery, helping the prisoner rationalize his guilt, feigning experiences sympathetic to the prisoner's and offering incentives ranging from cigarettes to political asylum.


That sounds rather gentle and benign... can it really work?

But the most effective method interrogators use is often the simplest, said David A. Robinson, a former instructor at Fort Huachuca: direct questioning.

The technique works especially well on prisoners taken captive at gunpoint and given shouted orders, often in a language they cannot understand, to submit to searching and confinement by an enemy they have been taught to fear, he said.

In that confusing reality, Robinson said, many captives are relieved to sit down away from the gunfire with a polite person who speaks their language -- even if that person is there to interrogate them.

"You'd be amazed at how well that works," Robinson said. "Any human anywhere, after going through a stressful situation . . . they want to talk about it, and then they're sat down in front of somebody who wants to talk about it."


But what do you do with a really determined suspect?

Nevertheless, torture is[was] still practiced by many interrogators -- including those in [Saddam's] Iraq, according to the State Department and human rights groups. Seventeen Americans held captive by Iraq during the [First] Gulf War say in a federal court lawsuit filed against Iraq that they were subjected to beatings, starvation, freezing, electric shock, cigarette burns, mock executions and threatened with castration while being interrogated.


Even Iraqis can be subtle...

[I]nnocuous information such as POWs' family names, home towns or hobbies, or images of sobbing relatives that could be edited by Iraqi captors -- [were] techniques reportedly used against U.S. prisoners in the 1991 Gulf War.


Martin Lee reports on Alternet that sometimes even our guys think that torture is still the most effective means to the truth.

On Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," for instance, retired Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan said he doubted "truth serum" would work but hoped Webster's suggestion would lead the Bush administration to try torture.

"Maybe it'll be an entre to take us to the next step," Cowan said. "I [would] kid around with people about plugging them up to a 110-volt outlet and flipping the switch if they don't want to talk."

Cowan disputed the view that torture is ineffective. "I'll be honest by saying that I served a lot of time in Vietnam, and in some cases where I worked on prisoner operations, we did go a little bit beyond what normal interrogation techniques would give you, and we got phenomenal information," he said. [Fox News, April 26, 2002]


But we cant actually beat up a suspect - can we? USA Today tells us we dont have to.

U.S. authorities involved in terrorism cases increasingly found themselves drawn into a legal and ethical gray area as they rely on information developed by foreign police whose tactics would be unacceptable or even illegal here.

"Egyptian jails," former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro said, are "full of guys who are missing toenails and fingernails."

U.S. officials got help from the Jordanian police investigating Ahmed Ressam, who was convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during the 1999-2000 celebrations of the new millennium. A Ressam associate who later was tried in Jordan claimed he was beaten by police there.

The rule in such cases, Cannistraro and other CIA veterans said, is a variant on "don't ask, don't tell": U.S. investigators will accept information from anyone, but they cannot encourage torture.


In the end, all interrogation of "hostile witnesses" involves manipulating, lying, and threatening a person as a means of "breaking their will" and getting them to do what they would not normally do... tell us what we want to know. While such coerced evidence cant be used in court, it can save lives. So it seems that CNN is right to at least ask the question: is either freedom and/or security (for us) worth a little lying, drugging, or arm-twisting (of them)?

Come on now, no recourse to mythic "truth serums", just answer the question...

UPDATE: University of Michigan prison experiment still powerfull after all these years...

Sean: Wednesday, May 05, 2004 [+] |
...
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
British Prison Abuse Photos Fakes

We all heard about this story: "The Mirror's pictures, which it said came from two soldiers in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, showed soldiers apparently kicking, stamping and urinating on a hooded Iraqi."

But now CNN reports that experts have found serious issues with the recently publicized photos allegedly depicting British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. The highlights.

Experts say the SA80 rifle shown in the images was not issued to British soldiers currently serving in Iraq.

They also say the alleged captive's shirt depicts the pre-1988 Iraqi flag and is too clean to be that old.

And the location of the photos suggest the inside of a Bedford truck -- but experts say those vehicles are not being used by British forces in southern Iraq.


The Mirror leaves one wondering:

"The two squaddies (British soldiers) admit they cannot answer questions regarding minor details in the photos which were taken months ago," said the newspaper.

A Mirror spokesman declined to say whether the newspaper paid the two men for the pictures.


How long will it be before someone uncovers that the photos of Americans were fakes too?

But John Nichol, a former British soldier captured during the 1991 Gulf War, believes authenticity isn't the issue.

"If we find out in a week's time or four week's that they're not authentic -- it doesn't matter -- the whole Arab world have seen them and it is turning Arab opinion against the forces in Iraq and that can only do immense damage to those troops trying to do the best they can," Nichol told CNN.


Sigh. Fine, it doesn't matter if the story is true, it hurts anyway.

UPDATE: No respite for the wicked... looks like the stories of abuse in the American run prison are true... the same may well be true for the Brits. So, while we are on the subject of morality (or lack thereof), what do you think... is it ok to expose such abuses with trumped up evidence? Why, why not?

UPDATE: for those of you who are still skeptical that the photos are fakes... here is the Guardian, a left-wing anti-war British paper, taking the pictures apart one by one.

Sean: Tuesday, May 04, 2004 [+] |
...
Monday, May 03, 2004
US Contractor Escapes

CNN reports that American Thomas Hamill walked free when his Iraqi guards apparently fled from an approaching U.S. Army patrol. Even more amazing than this escape was the one that failed...

Hamill's cousin, Jason Higginbotham, said Hamill told him he had given his captors the slip days earlier -- only to turn back when he failed to draw the attention of a passing American helicopter.

"He said he escaped one time about three days earlier, and he was out in the middle of the desert," Higginbotham said.

"A helicopter came over, and he tried to flag it down, but it evidently didn't see him. So he decided you know -- he didn't have any food and water -- and he'd more than likely die in the desert trying to make it on his own, and they were taking pretty good care of him. So he went and put himself back in captivity without them knowing."


I am happy for his saftey.

Sean: Monday, May 03, 2004 [+] |
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