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:: Friday, September 19, 2003 ::

Whoops!

Steel Tariffs Appear to Have Backfired on Bush:
In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection.
Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush's order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy.
'They tried to play politics, and it looked like it was working for a while,' said Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist with ties to the administration. 'But now it's fallen apart.'
You'd think, after what happened to his dad, that Bush would have been focused like a laser on the economy, refusing to play politics of any sort until it had been fixed.

After all, history shows that a strong economy tends to reward a faithful President.

But nope! Instead of actually making informed decisions or attempting to aid the economy or, in fact, doing any of the things we supposedly hired him to do....he's made it worse.

For those of few of you who haven't yet twigged onto a very important fact, let me let you in on the big secret: Whatever your problem is, George Bush doesn't care. Whatever America's problem is, George Bush doesn't care. In three years, I have never seen him even try to solve a problem.

George Bush doesn't care about America. He doesn't care about you. He doesn't care about fixing problems, stimulating the economy, or improving the nation.

In all honesty, I don't think he even cares about being President. He just sort of felt "entitled" to the job, and has his servants do the nitty gritty of trying to keep it. You know, rewarding campaign donors and making political gestures to key voting groups.

But the truth remains: George Bush doesn't care about you, about me, or about America. Three years of watching him in action (or inaction, as the case may be), proves that.
:: Morat 9:32 AM :: ::

Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Off the Kuff also reminds us that today is Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrr, mateys! Go read the Dave Barry column that started it all! Arrr!
Today I want to tell you about two such people, John Baur and Mark Summers, who have come up with a concept that is going to make you kick yourself for not thinking of it first: Talk Like a Pirate Day. As the name suggests, this is a day on which everybody would talk like a pirate. Is that a great idea, or what? There are so many practical benefits that I can't even begin to list them all.

Baur and Summers came up with this idea a few years ago. They were playing racquetball, and, as so often happens, they began talking like pirates. And then it struck them: Why not have a day when EVERYBODY talks like a pirate? They decided that the logical day would be Sept. 19, because that -- as you are no doubt aware -- is Summers' ex-wife's birthday.

Since then, Baur and Summers have made a near-superhuman effort to promote Talk Like a Pirate Day. As Baur puts it: ``We've talked like pirates, and encouraged our several friends to, every Sept. 19, except for a couple where we forgot.''

:: Morat 9:14 AM :: ::

MoveOn is a Communist Plot!

It's true! According to the good folks at the Texas Citizen's Activist Network, MoveOn is indisputably linked to communism. The Quorum Report addresses it (all of five minutes work, I'm sure, as TCAN's entire "proof" was that some Communist website linked to MoveOn).
The Texas Citizens Action Network article is at least the second they have put out trying to link MoveOn.org and the "Texas 10" to the communists. They have not a scintilla of evidence -- nor a jot of argument -- to prove their point. Just because people or groups support you or link to you on the Internet, you are not they, nor are you their "arm". That's equally true of the Republicans' skinhead support.
In passing, the Quorum Report notes that the founders of TCAN are pretty well-known in conservative circles (in Texas, at least). Kind of scary that actual movers and shakers are willing to spew crap like this. To quote Jon Stewart: "Do they think we're retarded?" (Links via Off the Kuff)
:: Morat 9:10 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, September 18, 2003 ::

Much Ado About Clark

Clark Makes It 10, Roiling Democratic Presidential Race:
General Clark's candidacy came with a push not only from the Draft Clark movement but also from the most establishment of Democrats: His advisers include Democrats close to Mr. Clinton, including Mark Fabiani, Skip Rutherford and Ron Klain.
General Clark's speech seemed intended to bridge the insurgent aspects of Dr. Dean's candidacy and the concerns of the party regulars who have viewed the prospect of a Dean nomination as a potential debacle for the party.
Now that's a neat trick. And one doomed, in my mind, to utter failure.

I'm not sure it's possible to be both an "insurgent outsider" and a "party establishment" candidate at the same time. If he can pull it off, I've got some water he can turn to wine....and I'll stop worrying about Bush being reelected.

Having read the article, however, I can't help but wonder if Clark is making a big mistake. He's counting on stealing Dean's base, but lacks the fire (and the "real deal" feel of doing it back when it wasn't popular) that Dean has. Worse yet, the man's entire platform now is "electability". I don't know about you, but "I'm electable" isn't the sort of fiery passion that seems to be motivating Dean's supporters....if anything, it almost ties Lieberman in terms of bland and uninspiring.

All in all, it looks like Clark's campaign is being run by people who simply don't get Dean's appeal. Heck, they don't even seem to get Clark's appeal. They looked at DraftClark, figured Clark had that "special something" Dean has, and proceeded to set up a normal campaign....without bothering to identify that special quality, much less take care not to lose it. Clark appealed, like Dean, because he wasn't "part of the establishment". He was viewed as a fighter, someone who would fight for what's right. A man who would share the Democratic ideals and beliefs. Not someone "electable".

And I'm rather afraid that Clark's campaign will quickly kill off the aspects that most appealed to the DraftClark people, and that would most appeal to the Dean voters....leaving Clark nothing more than an empty resume, a living embodiment of "Anyone But Bush".

That's not enough. You have to give voters, you have to give the public, a reason to vote for you. Not just a reason to vote against the other guy.
:: Morat 10:01 AM :: ::

Senator John Cornyn

I saw this via the Volokh Conspiracy (whose views on gay marriage I disagree with). It's a letter about the Federal Marriage Amendment from Senator John Cornyn:
And of course, numerous groups on the left have already filed lawsuit after lawsuit, amicus brief after amicus brief, trying to take the issue of marriage away from the American people and the democratic process – including groups like Lambda Legal Defense, the ACLU, and the People for the American Way. These groups show no signs of stopping until they succeed in convincing courts to strike down traditional marriage laws.
No mention, of course, of the fact that denying gays the right to marry is taking the issue of marriage away from the American people.

Unless you believe, of course, that gays aren't American.
:: Morat 9:49 AM :: ::

Thomas Friedman's Latest Insights...

Our War With France:
It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.
If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq.
First off, I'd like to note that I predicted this.

Secondly, I'd like to ask why anyone takes Friedman seriously? But just for those who don't feel like wading through the piece, I'll offer a shorter version:

"Because France refuses to clean up our mess, the fact that the mess exists is France's fault. Not ours."
:: Morat 9:13 AM :: ::

Saudis consider nuclear bomb

Saudis consider nuclear bomb:
Saudi Arabia, in response to the current upheaval in the Middle East, has embarked on a strategic review that includes acquiring nuclear weapons, the Guardian has learned.
This new threat of proliferation in one of the most dangerous regions of the world comes on top of a crisis over Iran's alleged nuclear programme.
After all, what are we going to do? Impose sanctions?

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse. Thank you very much, George. Under your watch we've managed to see Iran and North Korea leap at nuclear weapons, apparently because they're afraid of you, and now Saudi Arabia is considering it.

Can we please elect someone with actual diplomatic skills next time? Please?

Update: Saudi Arabia is formally denying this. They'ld have to, true or false, so I'm not sure how much it's worth. (Source: Corrente)
:: Morat 9:05 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, September 17, 2003 ::

Eric Alterman: Altercation

Eric Alterman really puts the cart before the horse today.
So, what’s it going to be, boys and girls? Will the Deanies switch to Clark? Will Dean consider running as Clark’s No. 2? (Don’t tell me it should be the other way around. Perhaps it should, but Clark’s advantages dissipate in the No. 2 spot. Nobody votes for a vice president except the immediate members of his family, and if I were Mary Cheney, I would have thought long and hard about even that.)
Why should they switch? It's not like Clark's actually won or anything. Eric's "abstract arguments" don't really mean a whole lot, especially given that Clark is still a resume. The man hasn't campaigned, hasn't raised money, hasn't participated in a debate, hasn't even spent a month seeing if America likes him.

Sorry, Eric...you're going to have to do better than "in the abstract" if you want voters to dump the clear front-runner in favor of a guy who announced today. Try back next month.

And people claim the Deanies are arrogant. Good lord.
:: Morat 11:45 AM :: ::

Balanced Budgets and Liberal politics

In the runup to the Democratic primary, there's been a rather healthy debate about what's "left" and "right", what's "conservative" and "liberal", what's "progressive" and what's not....the sorts of discussions that are critically important to a party's success.

And I've come to conclude that balanced budgets, at least budgets that are balanced across a business cycle, should be a core concern of the Democratic party....and progressives in general.

Simply speaking: Without money, we cannot advance any progressive or liberal ideas. Without money, without a sound economy there is no use in pushing for better health care, better raises, better working conditions, a sounder environment....all of these things require a healthy economy and a fully-funded government.

A balanced budget pays off in the long-run, freeing up more money for useful causes (and not, say, paying the interest on a 6 trillion dollar debt) and giving Congress the ability to run stimulative deficits without harming long-term prospects.

You can't do anything without money. As such, our number one concern should be a strong economy and a government that lives within it's means. Without both, no cause, no matter how noble or right, is going to come to fruition.
:: Morat 10:52 AM :: ::

Cheney Wants Supreme Court Review on Energy Case

- Cheney Wants Supreme Court Review on Energy Case:
The Bush administration signaled its intent on Tuesday to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) a ruling requiring Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) to divulge information about his energy task force.

In papers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, Cheney's Justice Department (news - web sites) lawyers said they intend to file a petition with the Supreme Court no later than Sept. 30.
Last week, the appeals court refused to reconsider its previous ruling against Cheney, leaving him with the option of appealing to the Supreme Court or complying with a lower court order to release information about his task force's contacts with the energy industry while drafting policy in 2001.
I have to agree with Tom Spencer. What the hell are they hiding? Did they light their cigars with copies of the Clean Air Act or something?

Once he loses this case at the Supreme Court (Which he will. I'd be a bit surprised if they even took it. SCOTUS is already facing the return of Bush v. Gore, and I doubt that they have any desire to get involved in politics at the moment), he'll try to claim Executive Privilege...and this whole mess will start over again.

Except, of course, that the Executive Privilege claim is a lot simpler....with any luck, whatever it is that Cheney is so desperate to hide will come out around August of next year. Right before the elections.
:: Morat 10:03 AM :: ::

More on Krugman

From the Mark Egan piece, what has to be the quote of the year:
"There's a confusion between objectivity and even-handedness, they are not the same thing," Krugman said. "If Bush said the earth was flat, the reports in the mainstream media would say, 'Shape of the Earth: Views Differ."'

:: Morat 9:58 AM :: ::

Look up!

Notice the little "Boot Bush" icon? Go kick a few dollars to the DNC. They're going to need it, with Bush set to raise 200 million for next year's election. (You'd think he was planning on buying the election, not winning it.....)
:: Morat 9:51 AM :: ::

Truth / Too little of it on Iraq

Atrios points out this very pointed editorial in the Star Tribune.
Editorial: Truth / Too little of it on Iraq:
Cheney repeated the mantra that the nation ignored the terrorism threat before Sept. 11. In fact, President Bill Clinton and his counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, took the threat very seriously, especially after the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000. By December, Clarke had prepared plans for a military operation to attack Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, go after terrorist financing and work with police officials around the world to take down the terrorist network.

Because Clinton was to leave office in a few weeks, he decided against handing Bush a war in progress as he worked to put a new administration together.

Instead, Clarke briefed national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Cheney and others. He emphasized that time was short and action was urgent. The Bush administration sat on the report for months and months. The first high-level discussion took place on Sept. 4, 2001, just a week before the attacks. The actions taken by the Bush administration following Sept. 11 closely parallel actions recommended in Clarke's nine-month-old plan. Who ignored the threat?

:: Morat 9:44 AM :: ::

Shorter Paul Krugman

Mark Egan wrote a nifty little piece on everyone's favorite shrill economist.
NY Times Columnist Sees Gloom in America's Future:
President Bush (news - web sites) is an incessant liar bent on destroying America's social safety net, central bank guru Alan Greenspan (news - web sites) should shut his mouth on issues unrelated to monetary policy and the U.S. media have done a terrible job of keeping the public informed.

If those opinions seem stark, they are meant to be. The New York Times pays op-ed columnist Paul Krugman to ruffle feathers. The Princeton University economist has been writing for the Times since 1999 -- work now compiled in his latest book 'The Great Unraveling.'
Best of all, look what's lurking near the end of the piece?
While some critics dismiss Krugman's views as inflammatory, his book shows many of his predictions have come true, especially those about the nation's budget. And that makes his ultimate prognosis of the nation's fiscal outlook chilling.
(Link via Best of the Blogs).
:: Morat 9:41 AM :: ::

Hans Blix: Iraq Destroyed WMD 10 Years Ago

Hans Blix: Iraq Destroyed WMD 10 Years Ago:
Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix now believes Iraq (news - web sites) destroyed its weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago and that intelligence agencies were wrong in their weapons assessment that led to war.

In an interview with Australian radio from Sweden, Blix said the search for evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons would probably only uncover documents at best.
'The more time that has passed, the more I think it's unlikely that anything will be found,' Blix said in the interview, which was broadcast on Wednesday.
'I'm certainly more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed almost all of what they had in the summer of 1991,' Blix said.
So, just to get this straight...if Blix is right (something that looks increasingly likely) this means in the run-up to war that Saddam was being more truthful than Bush.

Now, I suppose it can be argued that Saddam was telling the truth and Bush was merely misguided or wrong. But I think it's pretty clear that Bush was saying a lot of things the White House either knew to be utterly wrong, or had serious doubts about. In the end, I'm sure it will all boil down to how you define the word "imminent".
:: Morat 9:22 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, September 16, 2003 ::

Message to all Dean supporters

Has Dean been on The Daily Show? Because if he hasn't, he should be. As often as possible. And if he has (or is going to be), when?
:: Morat 10:14 AM :: ::

Political Roundup

Clark is in and David Brock thinks Dean is the worst possible candidate for the Dems. (Links via Untelevised)

Now I know Dean is the one to vote for.

As for Clark, it's good to see him in the race. I can't help but think, however, that he's going to be a disappointment to his biggest followers. In a lot of ways -- at least to his supporters -- Clark has been shoved into the position as being the Democratic Savior, swooping down in his blinding perfection to rescue us from the evils of George Bush.

He's not going to be that savior. He might be an excellent candidate, but only time will tell. I simply don't understand the mindset shared by the more ardent Clark supporters. Clark has never run for elected office, is starting months late, and he's trying to be an insurgent in a race that already has one.

He's got a tough row to hoe, even if he has the chops to actually run for President....something that no one can truly know until he tries.

I welcome Clark to the race, but I hope his biggest fans realize that, for all the hype, he's merely a man.
:: Morat 9:19 AM :: ::

Thank heavens for good credit

For the past decade (all of my adult life, really) I have made it a habit to, no matter what the situation, pay all loans, bills, car notes, rents, mortgages or whatnot on time. Every time. It paid off today, as I was able to get money I desperately needed...in less than 20 hours. My wife is off to make sure we're current everywhere, bill-wise, and then off to go job hunting.

It's not that the situation still isn't bad. If she doesn't start working within the next week or two, we're still pretty shafted....but this gives us some breathing room. And if she does get a job, we won't be digging ourselves out of a hole. We'll have an even start. As far as I'm concerned, taking out this loan made my monthly bills go down by twenty bucks. Of course, I've now got three years left on it instead of 18 months, but....it's better than bankruptcy.

And, even better, I can pay off the pesky IRS, which is one less worry. All told, if my wife can just find work (anyone in Houston need an experienced secretary? She spent three years working for a NASA contractor, with glowing reviews....how about an educator? She has a BS in education, and is enrolled in the Region IV 4-8 Generalist certification program. Her education included a heavy emphasis on early childhood development and mathematics....) we'll be okay, long-term.

:: Morat 8:52 AM :: ::

An Interview With Paul Krugman

Calpundit's Interview With Paul Krugman is up. A sample:
If you were king of the economy, what's the Krugman plan?

A phased elimination of all the Bush tax cuts, plus some additional taxes. I'd probably look first at some way to make the corporate profits tax actually effective again — the nominal rate is 35% but the effective rate is only 15% or so. Look at some cuts, maybe you start to talk about retirement age, and possibly some means testing of Medicare, and that's enough to bring the budget under control. And meanwhile you have to manage the economy, you have to talk about what we can do to actually get demand going faster, and there are lots of things you can do….

Are there? We're running a $500 billion deficit, interest rates are at one percent…

We're running the wrong kind of deficit. We need aid to state and local government, more checks to lower and middle income people. We need some WPA type of projects, and as it happens the homeland security stuff would be a perfect candidate. I just looked to find out how much of that $20 billion New York has actually gotten so far, and the answer is $5.6 billion. Two years after September 11th New York has gotten less than $6 billion in aid, so how about a little bit more on all of that?
Go read.
:: Morat 7:49 AM :: ::

:: Monday, September 15, 2003 ::

Money woes

It's been hard to concentrate (or frankly, care) about politics or current events or anything lately. Thanks to the current job market, and especially the No Child Left Behind Act, my household finances have been quite strained lately.

My wife took off the summer to take classes for a teacher's certification (she has an education degree, but didn't teach after leaving college). After a thousand dollars worth of classes, and now almost five months of not working, we're rather broke. Actually, totally broke.

To add to the mix, I was recently informed I owe several hundred dollars in taxes, and found out that my electric company had canceled my balanced billing some months back. I found this out today, when my electricity went off because I hadn't paid them enough.

Admittedly, they mailed me little notes in the bill, but we pay online...and never saw them. We just sent them their balanced billing amount and went on with life, while the real bill built up. So I find that I owe them almost a thousand dollars, the mortgage is late, and my wife still doesn't have a job.

How does this related to George Bush? Quite easily. She didn't get a teaching position because virtually every local district feels they cannot hire an uncertified teacher (she needs to teach a year to finish her certification) even if that teacher has a better and more focused education and experience than a certified teacher. That drastically narrows the number of teaching slots she could be considered for. (It didn't help, of course, that her classes didn't finish until late July...well after most hiring is done). Further, the recession and the corresponding slashing of education budgets nationwide (and the singular lack of Congressional help) has led to school-districts being unwilling and unable to create as many teaching slots as they need, or to pay to rapidly certify or obtain waivers.

And of course the horrible job market means that even finding a low-paying college-student level job has become damn difficult.

My only real hope at this point is one of the local school districts feels they owe us. (Long story short: They offered her a teaching position, then had to retract it while she was filling out the paperwork. It was one of those things that happens, but everyone felt bad about it). And, apparently, they have several low-level non-teaching positions open. So, tomorrow morning, she'll hopefully be given one of those. The pay is half of what she was making last year or would make as a teacher, but it's enough to get by on. And, given she's actually over-qualified for the jobs, perhaps she'll be a bit higher up the pay scale than most new hires. I doubt it, but anything's possible.

Which leaves us with only the problem of making it to her first (they pay once a month) paycheck...and dealing with a multi-month backlog of bills. Needless to say, it's added a great deal of stress to my life. Hopefully, it'll be over soon. And there is a big job fair tomorrow that she plans to attend as well.

But if she doesn't get a job soon, I'm not entirely sure how long I'll have a home....and trust me, I don't want to move back in with my folks at this late a date!
:: Morat 4:37 PM :: ::

Appeals Court Delays California Recall Vote

Appeals Court Delays Calif. Recall Vote:
A federal appeals court postponed the Oct. 7 recall election Monday in a decision that threw what has already been a chaotic campaign into utter turmoil
And the circus continues...
:: Morat 12:14 PM :: ::

The Tax-Cut Con

Paul Krugman has a long (10 pages or so) article in the Times called The Tax-Cut Con:
But it's very difficult to get that answer across in modern American politics, which has been dominated for 25 years by a crusade against taxes.

I don't use the word ''crusade'' lightly. The advocates of tax cuts are relentless, even fanatical. An indication of the movement's fervor -- and of its political power -- came during the Iraq war. War is expensive and is almost always accompanied by tax increases. But not in 2003. ''Nothing is more important in the face of a war,'' declared Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, ''than cutting taxes.'' And sure enough, taxes were cut, not just in a time of war but also in the face of record budget deficits. Nor will it be easy to reverse those tax cuts: the tax-cut movement has convinced many Americans -- like Tinsley -- that everybody still pays far too much in taxes.

A result of the tax-cut crusade is that there is now a fundamental mismatch between the benefits Americans expect to receive from the government and the revenues government collect. This mismatch is already having profound effects at the state and local levels: teachers and policemen are being laid off and children are being denied health insurance. The federal government can mask its problems for a while, by running huge budget deficits, but it, too, will eventually have to decide whether to cut services or raise taxes. And we are not talking about minor policy adjustments. If taxes stay as low as they are now, government as we know it cannot be maintained. In particular, Social Security will have to become far less generous; Medicare will no longer be able to guarantee comprehensive medical care to older Americans; Medicaid will no longer provide basic medical care to the poor.
It's a long article, but well worth the read.
:: Morat 9:43 AM :: ::

Texas Notes

Some interesting links on the latest in Texas, via Off the Kuff. First, we've got something on the third special session on redistricting. Greg at Greg's Opinion thinks:
I've got my own plan to end this mess. It's pretty damn simple, too. And this is a separate point from what I'll make in next week's blogburst. My idea?

Give the GOP exactly what they want. Everything. Doublecheck to see if they even want a few more districts somehow.
And why is that a good plan? Because the US Supreme Court tends to frown on drawing district lines for solely political or racial reasons. The current test is called the Bandemer test, and all the Texas Dems would need to prove is "an intent to discriminate against a political group". That's not hard at all. There's a wealth of quotes from prominent GOP officials, all parroting the same line: "We're redistricting because Texas elected too many Democrats".

Even better, for the purposes of a court case, is that the GOP actually has 20 majority districts in Texas. A quick glance at the 2000 and 2002 election demographics show, quite conclusively, that the redistricting is to deal with the fact that 5 (or 6, depending on how you count it ) Democrats won in GOP majority districts, further proving the point that the intent behind redistricting was to marginalize a political party.

In other news, Byron at Burnt Orange has the vote breakdown on Prop. 12 (which, sadly, passed 51-49). Turnout was a third higher than expected, and the Proposition came a lot close to defeat than was predicted.
:: Morat 9:24 AM :: ::

A way to start your Monday

Talking Points Memo has two good posts up. The first deals with the Kay report:
Then a couple days ago NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported that Kay's survey had come up short, but implied that a report would indeed be issued when Kay returns to Washington this week.
But this morning the Sunday Times of London is reporting (subscription required) that 'Britain and America have decided to delay indefinitely the publication of a full report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction after inspectors found no evidence that any such weapons exist.'
So, just for those of you keeping score, even after changing "Weapons" to "Weapons program" it appears that our invasion of Iraq fails to meet the bar.

His second post deals (surprise!) with the Iraq war as well, but even more with the prevarications of Dick Cheney.
Apparently the Vice-President of the United States can't help lying to and deceiving the people he was elected to serve.
Cheney is still trying to push the Saddam/9-11 connection....silly boy.
:: Morat 8:50 AM :: ::

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