Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Atlantis, Louisiana

I hadn't paid much attention to Katrina, because I thought it was just another hurricane. I turned on the local tv news last night and a montage of sunken buildings, bodies, and boats in city streets flashed past me a little faster than I could make sense of. When I was a child, I loved the story of Atlantis, the advanced civilization that wound up at the bottom of the sea somewhere lost to history except for a reference in Plato. It was, however, the romance of lost technology that intrigued me. I always skipped over the part about all the peoople being drowned.

There's a lot written about the long term economic impact of the disaster. The Port of New Orleans gets wheat to the world after it has made its way down the Mississippi River. Much of US oil production and refinery capacity is on or near the gulf there. The Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 may have killed far more people, but this one may have more far reaching consequences. Right now though, I just see the grief, fear, and the possible loss of a great city that tied the north to the south for two centuries both through commerce and jazz. As I say this, I realize that I'm minimizing the impact on the gulf coast of Mississippi where cities like Biloxi are also all but destroyed.

They used to call them omens. In China, when a dynasty was about to lose the mandate of heaven, it was widely believed that heaven would send messages. Thus far, there's been an unprecedented terrorist attack on New York and Washington DC (well technically Arlington, Virginia), the Challenger fell out of the sky on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq, now a hurricane puts major cities in the southeast under water.

At the same time, I think about the Bush family from time to time and the life of George Senior. He went to war with Saddam, but decided not to go on to Baghdad, check. He was a pioneer of offshore drilling in the oil business, check. He headed the CIA, check. He was our ambassador to the UN, check. He was the youngest combat pilot in World War 2, check.I'm honestly really worried about the fact that Bush the elder was also ambassador to China Does that mean Jr. will have to declare war on China too? Hopefully he'll do something more harmless like run over hundreds of bags of pork rinds with his mountain bike. I wonder if we should be more relieved or scared that Bush the younger is taking time off of his working vacation.

I have not gotten my mind around the whole picture. We are at war in a place where 680 people just died because of a sudden fear of a possible suicide bomber. If nothing else, that other horrific event should tell you how deeply fear has penetrated Iraqi life. A major city and many other cities in the gulf of Mexico have become some version of Pompey or Atlantis. In the meantime, the president is delaying a visit there because he doesn't want to cause a distraction.

When Omens confronted older civilizations, they took the time to consider what signals the heavens or the earth were sending. No city symbolizes the Mississippi River more than New Orleans. The river itself has been a binding force in American history and culture. For 2 centuries, the natives of New Orleans have commented on the city's vulnerability to the inevitability of nature and water. Nature still has power that man can not contain, especially when man does not respect that power.

The US only has a certain amount of resources whether it be National Guard units, oil, or capacity to influence the rest of the world.
We need to think about how we are prioritizing those resources. Is it better spent on infrastructure that makes us secure not just from other humans but from nature as well. How much of a role should serious science and engineering play in that? Should we be spending it on billions of dollars in flypaper instead?

Omens like this are a test of a culture's wisdom and its leadership. I hope we have enough of both. It doesn't matter whether it comes from members of a particular party or even if those folk have been thoroughly incompetent in the past. As the waters rise in the gulf, we need the vision to rise above it.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Searching for Self:

My first experience with a search engine hooked me. Ten years ago, a coworker showed me something called "Inktomi" which I believe was either the first or one of the first "spidered" search engines. Yahoo already had a search function but back in 1994, links in a yahoo search were largely found by human beings at Yahoo. Formula-based searches that browsed the net for relevant hits could find items in places humans would never have the time or inclination to look into or hook up to a search term. Up to then, you could easily find stories on Bill Clinton, the Palestinian question, or the best bottle of red wine for under ten dollars. You couldn't necessarily just put in an obscure name like "Osama Bin Laden"
or the back in private business "Dick Cheney" and get much if anything. My first time with Inktomi, I typed in the name of an old girlfriend. The story popped up "_____ has leukemia and her friends are raising money and trying to help her find a bone marrow match."

She died six weeks later, but because of Inktomi I had the opportunity to talk to her first. Her then current, who was very devoted to her and saw her through the illness, didn't tell her that I had phoned. After a ten days, I tried phoning again and just happened to catch her at which point she told me "She was recovered and doing okay."

Can you blame me if I came away convinced that search engines had some sort of metaphysical power? This was way better than those old plastic 8 balls with the 12-sided die inside it that answered questions with slightly shaded variations on yes or no.

Of course, one of the next items I put into a search engine was me where I discovered that I had accumulated almost a page of links without ever having had my own web page. There were a few bloggers even then, but I still was bracketed with html-phobia, not to mention all those questions about copyright, being hacked, being outed, etc.

Within weeks, google had more or less shoved Inktomi asside, but search engines became part of my everyday life. In that time, I've looked up virtually everything on the web from travel plans, recipes, and electronics purchases to articles explaining the history of the mideast and the names of people I'd just encountered in person. It worries my wife. I should never have told her that I tracked down an old girlfriend via search engine. Certainly, I do show signs of addiction to the great memory crutch that search engines appear to be. If you think of a google/yahoo/dogpile search as the ultimate prosthetic for your brain (there was an article in Sports Illustrated about amputee sprinters that hinted at the possibility that individuals could be outfitted with prosthetics that might make them faster than "able-bodied" peers some day), doing searches much of the day leaves you inside your head rather than interacting with the "natural" world and with people who don't appear as an array of pixels on a screen.Chancelucky foretold his own doom

At some point, they may have to develop tools to go in a couple directions. Things like "spirit" searches on the net where you can ask questions like "What is the purpose of my life?" and get individualized answers or timers that just say your 200 searches for the week or up, go outside and take a walk or something. In any case, I already have the name for a metaphysical search engine, "Cogito", thanks to Nicodemus where users might search their souls instead of the internet or might they use the internet to search their souls. (Imagine if you simply had a counter that tracked all your search items over the course of a three month period and what that might say about you?) Sadly, I crossed the line a long time ago where my internet time passed either time spent in front of television (maybe not a bad thing), reading books on paper (definitely a bad thing), and exercising. Yes, I confess, I'm pathetic.

Since I blogged myself into existence on the web a few months ago, I've discovered a parallel evil to the search engine and that's the hit counter. The hit counter not only lets me know how many people flash by this site, but it also occasionally tells me that they got here via search engine. In the meantime, my wife keeps asking me why I'm so obsessed with whether or not people read this site or not.

I'd say that a good percentage of chancelucky is vaguely or explicitly political. There are, however, hundreds even thousands of people blogging about Cindy Sheehan, Karl Rove, and the War in Iraq. I think that leaves this very modest site way back on the hits list. Instead, I get lots of hits about volleyball players. One of the amazing things is that "pictures of Rachel Wacholder" is close to the most popular search item that gets people here. Two odd things about that. First, I've never posted any pictures of anyone on this site and I've never written an article about Rachel Wacholder, though I have written about beach volleyball. Second, I'm about ten pages back in any search list for Rachel Wacholder pictures. By the way, I'm happy to have the visitors for any reason, just sorry to disappoint. Perhaps she has a lot of ex-boyfriends who don't know where she is or what she looks like anymore.

Another oddity, I misspelled Scott McClellan's name once and was getting hits linking the press secretary to Karl Rove. Once I corrected the spelling, I've never gotten another McClellan/Rove hit.

Search engines appear to have already developed one metaphysical quality: Uniqueness helps and the world has an insatiable appetite for pictures of attractive people. One friend has suggested I try working Clive Owen's name into my blogs, but I say the name and I think of that strange man being mean to Natalie Portman in the champagne room in the movie Closer.

In the meantime and ten years later, I'm still searching for the soulof Chancelucky or at least the one that may have once belonged to his alter-ego.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Understanding Numbers

We keep hearing this number 1,875 and rising as the media's "official number" of US combatants killed in action. I know I'm not the first one to do this, but actually looking this up myself taught me a lot. The defense department has its own accounting webpage through something called DIOR (Directorate for Information and Operation and Reports)DOD’s Own Counts

You can look up the official number of deaths. You can also find items like the “accounting practices” for the classifications like KIA
KIA: Killed in Action. Casualty category applicable to a hostile casualty, other than the victim of a terrorist activity, who is killed outright or who dies as a result of wounds received or other injuries before reaching a medical treatment facility.

The first time through, I got confused looking at the right hand column of the spreadsheet and thought for about thirty minutes that DIOR was saying that 16,000 had died in Iraq and Afghanistan together. It turned out that the total was for killed and wounded. Wounded means you have to be injured to the point where you can no longer carry out your military duties. The number of killed does not count the “contract” personnel or Americans who weren’t combatants in any form. It’s hard to estimate the number of contractors killed carrying out duties that would in past wars have been carried out by soldiers. Contractor Estimate
In general, the 230+ who have died in Afghanistan aren’t in anyone’s running count. The real “official” number would appear to be closer to 2300. There have been a few people who have claimed that the number may be much higher than 2300.

The second interesting part of the DIOR site is the list and size of private contracts with the Department of Defense. List of Pentagon Contracts Over 25k
I looked at two of the larger defense contracts there. One company, Evironmental Chemical, has two contracts for roughly 180 million dollars. On Environmental Chemical’s web site, they explain that they carry out a number of defense infrastructure functions with one essentially being “dealing with bombs”. I don’t know what portion of the contract goes to that. A second company, IAP, has about 130 million in contracts for supplying a variety of support equipment like water purifiers, electrical equipment, etc.and they have only existed since 1989. One of the company's has a commitment for more than a billion dollars of contracts for the next several years in Iraq Center for Public Integrity
There aren’t any signs that these contracts are getting smaller, which may or may not suggest what the Department of Defense knows about the likelihood of a US withdrawal any time soon. It’s amazing what you can find on the net sometimes. I’m always reminded that often the facts are out there. Just try to do the math on how many Iraqi troops and police would need to be trained to stabilize the current situation. Think about this, there are 140 thousand Americans there now and the situation isn’t stable with alleged large numbers of current Iraqi troops and police. How long would it take and how much would it cost to train and supply 280 thousand Iraqi soldiers and peace officers? Would that number even be able to carry out the task? btw, there are roughly 7.5 million men in Iraq between 15 and 64. Not all of them are on the same side as US interests.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Theobertarianism pt. 2

I'm convinced that one reason that political debate in America has become increasingly circular and seemingly fact proof is that common words and phrases have completely different meanings for Theobertarians. I suppose I should leave the more technical analysis of this to someone like George Lakoff who is an actual linguist. Still, I've discovered that as I check in with right wing blogs, thanks to the Daou Report, I'm able to stay calmer when I recognize that we often exploit the cultural resonance of certain words and phrases the same way. It's just that we're not talking about the same thing. I believe though that it is possible to maneuver between these moving definitions of common terms without being Wittgenstein. btw, Does anyone out there know much of Wittgenstein's adventures as a primary school teacher? It sounds like it could be a great movie script for say Johnny Depp. World's most significant philosopher completes his thesis then takes post as idealistic primary school teacher in rural Austria. Whoops, didn't mean to wander off there. :} I've just determined that most of my hits come from passing mentin of things that aren't really on my website. I get many searches for pictures of Rachel Wacholder, the volleyball player, because I used her name once. I've gotten several searches for pictures of Danica Patrick. I figured if I slipped in a mention of "Johnny Depp" playing Wittgenstein maybe with an undressed Charlize Theron or Monica Belluci.

Theobertarian terms:

Environment: It may seem strange to some, but the current administration claims to be very environmentally conscious. It's not often mentioned that in the last 5 years, grasslands have greatly expanded in several otherwise dry western states often right in the middle of unfairly criticized new luxury housing developments. These grasslands possess certain unique characteristics. Holes appear roughly every 350 yards amid the shortest patches of grass and those holes always appear in multiples of 18.

Second, the administration has extended the grazing range of a succesor to that great symbol of frontier America, the buffalo. Herds of these new mechanical buffalo can be found during commute hours surrounding virtually every American city. They do not consume grass and only use a minimal amount of water. Now that they have casinos, American indians have been said to hunt for these neo-Buffaloes st dealerships across America.

A third ecosytem has flourished under Theobertarian rule, the gated community. Much like rainforests in the southern hemishpere, these fragile ecosystems are extremely sensitive to the introduction of non-native species and fauna. It is said that the introduction of the wrong kind of family can send property values in these communities tumbling overnight. Theobertarians help such laissez faire ecosystems flourish by manipulating the prime rate, controlling visits from outsiderss, and the use of a privatized system of park rangers known as security guards and off duty policemen who serve to protect this delicate and valuiable way of life.

Non Theobertarians have a difficult time appreciating the Theobertarian commitment to their environment because non-believers have different environmental priorities. Certainly ecosytems in America are far more important than say Kyoto, the Arctic, or even the ozone layer.

Theobertarians believe that education consists of giving children standardized tests every year. If enough students do well on these pen and paper tests, then everyone will be educated. It doesn't matter if schools cheat or do nothing but teach to the tests or if students never learn to solve real world problems or write anything other than a five paragraph essay. It certainly doesn't matter if the arts disappear. Even if schools and teachers don't have the resources necessary to help all their students or if the students themselves have no incentives to try. If students don't pass these tests, the schools will be punished and held up to ridicule for being incompetent regardless of what they actually did or tried. In Communist China, they called this policy 5 year plans or the Great Leap Forward, the reported results were often spectacular.
If you opposed the 5 year plan, you were then reeducated.

Some oppose this form of Education because it is Survival of the Fittest and everyone knows that you can't teach evolution in the schools. Actually, if you've read Darwin, he never says "survival of the fittest". It's really more about requisite variety and having traits that are suited to survival. For example, intelligent design may now have greater survival value for teachers than teaching actual science. Teachers who lack the requisite variety to be flexible enough to teach religion in biology class may soon find themselves out of jobs regardless of how their students do on tests. This is one reason that Theobertarians encourage prayer in public schools both for students and staff.

In the meantime, Theobertarians are helping to reduce the impact on public schools of this test often, test always policy, by sending more and more of their own children to private and sectarian schools.

I realize that this is unfair to define Theobertarian terms without offering my own definitions. I'll be dabbling with my own definitions of some of these terms in future installments. I'll also be adding to the Theobertarian dictionary. Words and phrases include sanctity of life, accountability, News, and executive privilege.


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Friday, August 26, 2005

Counter Protest?

I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Lamb, the founder of CSPAN, once. If you've met him, he likes to tell the story about the moment that inspired his network. During the Vietnam war he observed an anti-war protest at the pentagon where the protesters picketed while the cameras were present then stopped picketing as soon as the tv crews took a break or left, making it less of a "sit in" than a "camera in". I'm a big fan of CSPAN, but I'm not sure agree with him that "media savvy" protesting is necesarily a form of cheating. Still, I have to wonder at times. Take this Melanie Morgan counter-protest of Cindy Sheehan headed to Crawford.

My first question is what the heck are they counter-porotesting?

1) Are they saying that the President shouldn't meet with grieving mothers who disagree with him? Is this a protest to make sure the president doesn't show compassion?

2) Are they saying they don't want to know why we have 140,000 men and women in Iraq?
If they have a satisfactory answer for Cindy Sheehan's question, why not just articulate it so the President doesn't have to? that's an interesting paradox.

3) Are they expecting the President to meet with them instead? And if he doesn't, doesn't that make for an odd photo opportunity indeed. Two fields or ditches filled with family members of the dead who the president can't meet with for some reason?
If he does, talk about being president of all Americans....not.

It does present one significant problem. There's been a lot of folk criticizing Cindy Sheehan as a publicity seeker using her son to make a political point. I happen to disagree about that. Assuminbg arguendo though that these folks have a point about Cindy Sheehan using the media, what the heck are these counter protesters doing then if they plan to say they have children in Iraq and suport the war? How else can I characterize their counter-protest unless it's to say that they too want to exploit the media? Besides how do you counter protest a bunch of white crosses? I saw one attempt with a black pickup truck. If this turns into these are our dead kids vs. your dead kids, what exactly are the counter protesters saying about America?

Won't their presence just further expose the fact that the President lacks the guts to just hop on his mountain bike and face Cindy Sheehan himself with or without his yellow jersey for always leading the Tour De Crawford It's bad enough that he spent last week in Idaho finding families to meet with. Certain kinds of counter-protests don't make sense. Thinking back to Rosa Parks, would it have made sense for all those in favor of Jim Crow to start jumping on busses and taking seats from black people in the back of the bus?

And if all these folk feel the need to hop on a bus to occupy the right side of the ditches by the road in Crawford, what's it tell you about how effective Cindy Sheehan and other Gold Star Mothers for Peace like Karen Meredith, Celeste Zappala, and Sue Niederer have been?

"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Zimerman Virus Ch. 2 (alternate history)

(This is the first version of the second chapter of my experiment in alternate history and collaboratively nudged writing. I've decided to sketch out rough ideas with each chapter then a second more finished version will appear a few days later.:

He had been a baseball player too, good enough to get a scholarship to the University of Connecticut, not good enough to make it out of the low minors. A few breaks, maybe knowing the right people, having an influential father instead of a convicted war criminal for a father, George Walker’s life might have been very different. No war criminal father, he might have at least gone to Yale instead of UCONN. Who knows, just a few differences, and he, George Walker, might have been president himself one of these days. If the son of an Arab grocer in Detroit could be president....
Walker had to laugh at his own daydream. Maybe if baseball hadn’t integrated racially in 1940 , he might have had a better chance. Walker shook his head at how, “Separate but equal may have ruined his life.”

In 1934 the Homestead Grays, a negro barnstorming team had sued for the right to enter the National League on the basis of Plessy v. Ferguson. The team would be all negro. They would have their own dressing quarters, their own transportation. Branch Rickey, an executive for the longtime losing Pittsburgh Pirates, had seen the gate possibilities of an all negro team playing in the league. The Grays would have no home town. They would live out of a bus most of the season and play their “home games” at a mix of Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Griffith Stadium in DC, and Comiskey Park in Chicago. With the retirement of Babe Ruth the Sultan of the Strikeout and the unexpected knee injury to the Streakin Sheik, the sport had lost its two biggest gate attractions. Rickey talked the owners of the National league into the “great experiment.”

Much to everyone’ surprise, the Grays won consecutive world series in 1937 and 1938. Negroes filled the stands at Grays games. Every young negro ballplayer wanted to play for the Grays. Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige, Willie Wells, Ray Dandgridge and even an aging Joe Rogan gave the Grays more talent than any team in baseball. In order to compete, the rest of baseball began signing their own negro players least they go to the Grays. In need of a pitcher in 1940, the Cardinals traded for Satchel Paige who was in the midst of arguing with Gray’s management for a bigger contract.

Once that happened, a good fielding first baseman who happened to be a marginal hitter from New England just didn’t have quite enough even to attract the attention of the Yankees much less the perennial pennant winners, the Red Sox. With baseball closed off as a future career, George Walker went into the family business, selling guns and armaments on the black market. As he liked to tell his fraternity brothers at UConn, well it might be a crime family, but it’s my family.

George Walker inspected a crate of Johnson rifles due to go out on the next tramp steamer to Lisbon. Even after his father’s conviction, the family had kept its connection to the Harriman lines. For forty years Geroge Walker had gotten rifles, handguns, and a huge variety of bomb making devices into Europe from the western hemisphere. For ten years his father had all but financed the last German army.

Two men in black approached and bowed their heads. “Poppo, it is done.”

“Including box number 13?”

The men nodded.

“Certainly, number 13 will be ready for pickup in Lisbon.”

“You’re sure.”

Getting state of the art sniper rifles to Lisbon was the easy part.

The men nodded again. George Walker sighed. He was, to be honest, tired of smuggling arms. With the twenty two years war long over, business might never recover. He needed to diversify, to take the family legitimate once again.

If things went to plan with the snipers in Damascus on November 22, 1963, the assassination of President Bin Laden would be George Walker’s last venture in the arms trade.

If everything went according to plan, the family would be the first American family of the oil business, a perfectly legal enterprise that promised revenues well beyond anything the sale of a few thousand cases of rifles and machine guns could generate.

A generation in the oil business and the Walker family might even be able to begin using the family’s original name, George Walker could once again be George Walker Bush and the shame of Prescott Bush’s trading arms to Germany might well be forgotten.

If only he didn’t have to depend on Christian radicals to get the job done. They were certainly loyal, but half the time it hardly seemed like they operated in the real world.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Theobertarianism Chancelucky's First Treatise of Contemporary Government

Got this Political Compass from Alan Howard’s Life Through My Eyes site. If you answer a bunch of questions about your beliefs, it helps you locate your personal political philosophy on a set of Cartesian coordinates. Libertarianism neo Liberalism is the extreme right of the east-west axis and Communism is the left. Fascism is the extreme top of the north-south axis with Anarchy/Libertarian the bottom. I have some issues with mapping political beliefs in two dimensions or treating them as if they are linear functions, since humans just aren’t all that linear. Of course, this one only assigns a set of coordinates, making our thoughts a fixed point on a fixed plane and does not necessarily predict where we'd line or curve up in a dynamic situation. Most people are sort of a cloud of moving points in any given span of time and with respect to any issue. It’s still a fun exercise. It was pretty clear to me that I’d wind up somewhere in the lower left quadrant somewhere between Gandhi, Bakunin, Emma Goldman, Thomas Jefferson, Steven Wright,and Linus Torvaald. What wasn’t so clear to me was where the current US administration might show up?

A lot of people argue that the Bush administration isn’t traditionally conservative nor is it actually Republican. It’s clearly not liberal, so what do you call it? After some struggle, I’ve come up with a name, “Theobertarian” . Of course, in the true spirit of the administration I should have asked for bids or sold the name under no bid contract. What is a theobertarian? It is as you might guess a sometimes paradoxical combination of a theocratic belief that Religion has a key role in the way we govern our everyday lives and a libertarian or laissez faire take on the responsibilities of a government to its citizens.

Most political philosophies are associated with some well known thinker. The founding fathers drew from John Locke, David Hume, and Anthony Shaftesbury. The Soviet Experiment was based on Marx and Lenin himself put his political philosophy in writing. Even Hitler wrote a book and sometimes quoted Nietzsche and Spencer. While there are books written by and about the current administration, it is hard to compare anything dictated by Rush Limbaugh or the Fox Commentariat to coherent political philosophy. since Rush often claims not to have said what he said.A Good Source on Rushisms and Other Thoght Free Talk Types Some day, I imagine the president himself or those who speak for him at times like the guy who ran over the crosses in Crawford will come forward with a manifesto of their own. While they sometimes do refer to Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Rawls, and William Kristol as told through PNAC, one would be hard pressed at times to actually see administration policy as an extension of these theorists. Even Ayn Rand doesn’t quite work.

In the meantime, here are some identifying characteristics of Theobertarian Political Thought that may help to clear up some confusion when Theobertarians use traditional terms.

Democracy: Theobertarians believe in preaching democracy as a moral value, but not a process. For instance they do not necessarily believe in counting all the votes, making sure everyone who wants to vote can, or making sure that voting machines are subject to any inspection measures or paper-trail examination. They call for “free” and fair elections, but oppose campaign spending reform measures of all kinds.

This also explains why they see no problem with implementing “democracy” by invasion. It is important to claim to be a democracy, but you don’t have to get there or keep one by democratic means.

Patriotism: Is another important moral value in Theobertarianism that runs parallel and sometimes gets confused with piety. According to Theobertarianism, patriotism is a series of acts or rituals. Saluting and respecting the flag, applauding the president, voicing unquestioning support for the war are all patriotic acts. If you do these things consistently and as publicly as possible, you are “patriotic”. If you don’t, you can’t be patriotic.

As long as you follow the rituals of Theobertarian patriotism, it doesn’t matter if you let men and women die without a purpose, lie about going to war, put intelligence assets at risk, or compromise safety for no bid contracts. It doesn’t even matter if you fully supply troops in the field as long as you say that you support them and don’t question the policy that got them there. In fact, patriotism isn't even measured by whether or not you served in the armed forces in a time of war.

Free Market:
Theobertarians believe that a free market entitles companies to take profits and improve revenues without the burden of either taxes or regulation. At the same time, liability for any wrongs these companies do in seeking profit should be protected or limited by the government. If companies are responsible for all the harm they do to others, then they would obviously not be able to make a profit. Also, Theobertarians oppose the rights of workers to band together and form unions. Companies can merge, but workers who band together for bargaining purposes are interfering with the basic values of the free market.
Theobertarian market philosophy often claims to be pro-business. This is not necessarily true for small or independent businesses. Truly free markets are for corporations that give large amounts of money to Theobertarian causes and leaders. This is considered a show of faith in the “Free Market” and indicates that you honor free enterprise as a moral value rather than an economic system based on accurate information, open accounting, and genuine accountability for what one’s products do in the market.

Strict Construction of the Constitution:
Theobertarians believe the Constitution of the United States is a kind of holy document, something they share with the ACLU.
Unlike the ACLU, they do not always follow the explicit words of the Constitution, but seem to rely on some more private more original verison of the text.
They, for instance, believe there are rights written into the constitution that aren’t necessarily explicitly there. They believe that the constitution clearly prohibits abortion and that it gives the executive an unlimited right not to disclose information to either congress or the judiciary even though it gives it a greater right to privacy than a prospective mother. They believe that the ten commandments are an integral part of that true original constitution. In those instances, Theobertarians strongly support amending the constitution as they see fit.

Gun Control:
Theobertarians strongly believe in the individual right to bear arms of virtually any kind. It is one of the reasons that when right wing groups were linked to the anthrax mailings after 9/11 that Theobertarians had to back off of any further investigation. At the same time, they strongly believe that people in other countries should not be able to bear arms, particularly if they are Weapons of Mass Destruction like the United States has and continues to develop. Theobertarian tenets around arms control are essentially Twenty First Century Thirty Millimeter Mercantilism, an economic/trade philosophy from the colonial era that some say culminated in the Opium War. (see also Iran-Contra) Gunpowder mercantilism apparently has a patron philospher named "Glock", but I've never read any of his or her writings because they are only printed in blood.

Is one of the holiest words in all Theobertarianism. It is according to their tenets, monolithic and absolute. It is always "Freedom", there are no specific freedoms or rights. Theobertarian freedom is always singular never plural. If it were pluralist, it would be separable and thus open to analysis. In this way, Freedom always means the same thing to the Theobertarian inner circle and never actually has to be explained in detail which makes it something like the Holy Ghost of Theobertarianism.

This makes it possible to preserve "freedom" by arresting hundreds of people without charging them, limiting the right to privacy and association through the Patriot act (see Patritism above), and calling anyone who dissents an enemy of those who fight for "Freedom:. Freedom Inc. is a publicly held company and was recently listed on the NYSE and should not be confused with anything in the Bill of Rights. With Theobertarian freedom, you are either with it or against it. One is free to marry as long as its a marriage that would be sanctioned by Christianity. One is free to buy stock in or pay for anything that might be for sale, as long as one has the credit.

I will be adding to this first treatise and glossary of Theobertarian thought in future installments. Additions, recommendations, and changes are more than welcome. I should mention that the notion of a glossary was partly inspired by Mr. Pogblog Pogblog's own more metaphysical glossary
who may have also gotten a nudge from Ambrose Bierce.

More from the Theobertarian dictionary

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Making the Cut in the NFL vs the Mainstream Media

Quick, name two members of the American armed forces who have died in the "War Against Terror?". Let me guess, most of you got Casey Sheehan and Pat Tillman. Sheehan's name has been in the news lately because his mother went to Crawford. Tillman left the NFL to fight on America's Real Team and was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan. For the other 2,300 Americans who have died in this war, 1864 reported in Iraq, 230 in Afghanistan, and some 240 civilian contractors who in past wars would have been miltary personnel, dying for the administration's noble cause has meant dying anonymously. So a 23 year old man dies in the San Francisco 49er locker room while trying to make the team and all of America knows the name of Thomas Herrion, well at least for a week or so.

Weirder yet, the articles tell the story of a brave and fine young man who lived for the dream of making the NFL so he might buy his mother a house and a car for himself.
This, to the mainstream media, is a noble cause worth several columns and endless medical reports. I am perfectly happy believing that Thomas Herrion was good guy, even a very good guy, but doesn't anyone notice the tiniest bit of irony here?
The media will no doubt cover the funeral. Famous athletes will serve as pallbearers. Someone will likely start a trust fund for the family back in Texas, if there isn't a lawsuit instead. Why all this? Because we will be told that Herrion was just a hardworking young man pursuing his dream.

Last weekend, four young men allegedly protecting our dreams in Afghanistan were blown up and another young man was killed in Iraq. Why doesn't anyone want us to know their names? Shouldn't we at least understand what they died for? Aren't their lives worth a good reason backed by solid evidence? Even if it's just to keep the rest of us in new cars.

Am I the only one that thinks it's odd that President Bush is more likely to attend or comment on the Texas funeral of Thomas Herrion than any funeral for a fallen service man or woman or to meet with any members of Goldstar Mothers for Peace?


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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Zimmerman Virus (alternate history fiction) Ch1

(this is a redraft of the first chapter with some additions, thanks for the comments. The next imstallment will be the second chapter)

The president of the United States was facing northeast for his early evening prayers when his chief of staff, Gardner Harris, came into the Oval Office. The blonde haired chief of staff waited as the president got up from his knees and rolled up his prayer rug, before getting the chief executive’s attention.

"President Bin Laden, I apologize for being a three minutes early. I just needed to make sure you had your copy of the agenda for your trip to the Damascus Summit.”

The president nodded. He was clean shaven and wore a dark blue suit as was his custom. In 1960, he had been elected as the first Moslem president. America knew that, but the strategy had always been to downplay the fact. The press had cooperated by taking care to never photograph him while praying or coming out of a Mosque. To the voting public, he had been M.B. Laden, the centerfielder. He was not just any baseball player either. M.B. Laden had in his American League debut hit three home runs off of Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth in 1929 and prevented the second greatest pitcher of all time from winning his 350th game. From that day forward, Bin Laden had been the “Streakin’ Sheikh”. When the Streakin Sheikh appointed Byron Whizzer White as his Attorney General, the press had gone into overdrive with old footage of both men’s athletic careers. The photo that spring of Bin Laden standing next to White as he threw out the first pitch of the season to the Senators veteran Cuban pitcher and players' union activist Fidel Castro had made every major paper in America.

Laden switched on two different televisions to catch the evening news. The Damascus summit hadn’t made the headlines. Instead there was more talk of Mexico agitating for more of what had been Texas and Arizona. Chet Huntley, as was his habit, referred three times to the threat of Nuclear attack from the Mexicans. When the United States had closed its borders in the wake of the twenty two years war, Mexico had taken most of Europe’s surviving scientists and engineers. Tweny years later, they had given Mexico the bomb used to destroy Midland, Texas and force the U.S. into concessions.

“Singer-Actor, Elvis Presley shook hands with Senator John Kennedy of Massachussetts before he boarded a ship in Miami for military service in Guantanamo Cuba. The performer will be working at state of the art radar station and minimizing shake, rattle, and roll that might interfere with transmissions there,” Huntley announced. Radar had been developed by the Japanese in the late 1950’s and its military applications were only now being realized.

Bin Laden smiled, Kennedy was the favorite to run on the anti-communist Sociocrat ticket in 1964. Word was that he had offered to make California senator Richard Nixon his running mate.

"He doesn’t have your charisma, especially on television,” Harris assured him somehow reading the president’s mind.

It was his athletic celebrity that had made M.B. Laden the first presidential candidate to use the television effectively in his campaign. The 1960 debates had allowed him to send the message that M.B. Laden was a redblooded American filled with baseball stories, reverence for Abraham Lincoln, had a mother who quoted Thomas Edison and Khalil Gibran, and a daughter who went to the prom without a burkha. A television commercial of Laden playing catch with James Cool Papa Bell, the star of the Homestead Grays, as the first Negro team to play in the majors, Hank Greenberg, and Mickey Mantle all talking about Civil Rights as a kind of baseball game had helped him win the north and west. In the southern version, it had been Laden leaving a game to go fishing with Pee Wee Reese. The original script had them at a barbeque. Bin Laden lost the south to the anti-communist sociacrats. In doing so, he had caught an over-confident Adlai Stevenson who had counted on his wit and intellect to carry him through the debate. Since then, the right wing of the sociocrats had been slowly taking control of the party founded by President Debs.

“Nothing about Damascus yet again,” he murmurred.

“You didn’t seriously expect to push Elvis out of the headlines did you Mr. President?”

“Only if I unretired and went to hit against Robin Roberts or Sandy Koufax.”

Harris smiled. In fifteen years together, he had learned a great deal about Bin Laden including the fact that the shortest distance to pray to Mecca was northeast over the pole rather than due East as instinct would suggest. If Bin Laden brought up baseball, it was always, for some reason a sign that he wanted to talk policy. It was part of the president’s way of shifting field so rapidly that his opponents never seemed able to trap him. If he appeared folksy, he was going to say something important.

“I don’t think Americans much worry about a Jewish homeland, especially one in what used to be Germany and Poland.”

Bin Laden nodded. He personally thought it was a good idea. “Israel” would serve as a buffer state between the Soviet Union and the Ottomans. It also might keep Western Europe from reforming into language-based nation states as they had before the twenty two years war the world-changing conflict that started in 1914 and ended with ninety percent of all European adult males dead. It had been a miracle that the United States had managed to stay out of the war. Otherwise it would not today be part of the five powers summit in Damascus with Japan, the Soviets, Mexico, and the Ottomans.

“You would think they’d be interested in the petroleum question at least,” said Harris as he changed the station on the one television from Walter Cronkite where yet another image of Elvis boarding a boat in his army uniform dominated the news. “At least this one didn’t have Kennedy in it.”

“This matter of moving the world to an oil-based economy could have enormous repercussions,” Harris continued.

It had almost happened forty years earlier when a British naval attache named Churchill had endorsed the strategy of moving the British navy from coal to oil. In the wake of Gallipoli though the Turks had decided to coopt T.E. Lawrence and made peace with the Arabs under the umbrella of Islamic sovereignty. One result was that the Arab-Ottoman alliance had shut down the Suez Canal and cut off the possible flow of oil to Europe. His plan a failure, Churchill disappeared from British politics and died in trench warfare near Dunkirk during a German amphibious invasion.

“You know, I think Kennedy is going to have a hard time in the election being Catholic,” said Bin Laden.

Harris nodded. Too many Americans associated Catholics with terror bombings. After the bombing and destruction of the Vatican in 1934, radical Catholics had campaigned for a homeland and sanctuary in a less volatile part of the world.
The most radical had sought the town of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus as their capital. In the meantime, Catholic refugees poured into Palestine and other Catholics were trying to terrify the rest of the world into granting them their wish. The Ottomans had spent a generation tolerating a Catholic presence in the heart of their Empire, but with each explosion, they were running out of patience. There had, as well, been dozens of bombings in the United States as the Catholics blamed the United States’s neutrality for the destruction of the Vatican and the death of the Pope and most of the college of cardinals. The Catholics had been especially vocal about their opposition to a Jewish homeland pushing them out of Silesia and Cracow.

“Do I really have to stop in Paris?”

“What’s the matter with Paris?,” asked Gardner Harris.

“It’s just that there’s almost nothing there. All the buildings are from after 1936, the food is suspect, and it’s filled with homeless families camping out in the rubble of the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.”

“The North African elite there is anxious to see a Moslem president. They feel it will enhance their own credibility.”

Harris winced. His mother’s family was French. He had been raised Catholic himself before he joined many other Americans in turning away from Christianity after the brutality of the war and repeated child abuse scandals within the priesthood. Even Notre Dame had gone secular in the nineteen fifties. It was either that or lose its endowment. Some Christian sects though had flourished in the middle of the twentieth century, the Mormons with their belief in an American holy land and the Jehovah’s witnesses with their claim that the twenty two years war had signalled the beginning of the book of Revelations and the end of the world.

“You will at least ship in my food while I’m there.” Bin Laden moved away from the window of the oval office and turned off the television.

Harris nodded as he straightened his tie. He made a habit of arranging all things with precision including the president’s trip agenda which was broken down into twenty minute segments.

“You will be met in Paris by the Caliphs of Madrid and Budapest,” Harris began reading off his list.

"This is the first American presidential visit outside the western hemisphere since 1936 and the end of the war. Am I going to be received as a Moslem or an American?”

“Certainly as an American, but your appeal as a Moslem there can’t be denied. The Moslem French who now run that country want to see a Moslem president announce “Lafayette, we are here.”

“They have television in France?”

“It’s no Tokyo or Baghdad, but yes they use it for prayers. When they read from the Koran, the native French can follow along with French subtitles. It’s been very effective.”

“I thought the plan was to let America see me fully as a Moslem when I visited Mecca?”

“Mr. President, I’m very aware of that. The ambassador to North Africa has been letting them know that you will be in a business suit and are not to be filmed either praying or washing your feet while in Paris.”

“They need to understand that America can have a Moslem President without the country being Moslem. We are a secular country and I have pledged to keep it that way.”

Harris shook his head. He had, after all, been the campaign manager when Bin Laden had first won office as governor of Michigan and had developed the MB Laden’s centerfielder for America campaign.

"Anything else I should know about Paris?”

“Well, with the famines curtailed, they are rebuilding the Louvre. The Soviets have offered to return the Venus de Milo and dozens of works by impressionists for a proposed modern wing. They even managed to save a giant canvas by David, but imagery of Napoleon is still banned there for the time being.”

“I suppose that means I might have to answer questions about the Smithsonian’s ownership of the Mona Lisa and Whistler’s Mother.”

“I imagine they’ll let us keep Whistler’s Mother.”

“There’s also some interest among non-Moslems there to revive the wine industry. You'll be taking some graftings from California as a gesture of goodwill and a subtle message that the US supports a secular non-Moslem non-Christian future for western Europe.”

“What is the word on influenza?”

Both men closed their eyes. Starting with an epidemic in 1919, the flu had killed more Europeans than the war itself.

“No fatalities in three years, you should be safe.”

The evening news over, Bin Laden shut off both televisions.
The president looked at his Swiss made watch. Remarkable how that one now very crowded country had avoided the war. Harris recognized this as his signal to finish up his end of the meeting.

“Mr. President, there’s one more thing.”


“I don’t think it’s anything big, but I have to pass this on.”

“The OSI is investigating a threat to assasinate you on your visit to Damascus. We’ll have to take extra precautions.”

The two men stared at one another.

“Such as?”

“They are recommending that you only tour the city in a closed vehicle.”

“A Moslem president arrives for the first time in a great and ancient Moslem city and he must act terrified! I expect to greet the city in an open car, besides the steam from the boilers makes a closed vehicle all but unbearable. The United States is a free society, an open society, a democracy. How will they understand the difference if I am protected like some despot?”

“How will democracy spread with you assasinated in November of 1963 the third year of your first term?”

"OSI will just have to protect their president in an open car. It is, as you say, just a possibility, a matter for investigation.”

Gardner Harris paused. For two weeks, he had known more the president. Still, this was not the time. Full disclosure would mean chaos. Too much was at stake in Damascus for the president to be distracted by rumors of Christian homeland terrorists in alliance with the mafia.....

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Zimmerman Virus (fiction alternate history)

Note: I've never tried alternate history. A friend suggested I start something on my web site, wait for comments and see where it goes as a kind of collaborative web-based novel. So, here's the first couple paragraphs. If there's interest, I'll keep fiddling with it.

Mohammed Bin Laden was the first Moslem to have served as president of the United States. He had also promised to be the first to make a pilgrimage to Mecca while in office. For decades, no American president had left the western hemisphere at least since the end of the First World War in 1936 and the Treaty of Istanbul in the same year. He had met the Caliphs of Madrid and Budapest when they had visited the United States just after Ramadan in 1957, but he not been outside the United States since he was a teenager. The Great Powers Summit of 1963 would decide three things. First, would Japan, Russia, the Ottomans, and the United States create a homeland for the Jewish people in what had once been Germany and Poland.
Second, how would the remainder of Europe be divided up? Could there still be sovereign states in the region based on language and ethnicity even after the twenty two year war that had killed 90% of the adult male population of Western Europe. Third, would the United States be able to negotiate for Middle Eastern oil and thus have the resources to protect its own borders.

He had just completed his three o’clock prayers when his chief of staff came in. “Mr. President, I trust you received the agenda for the summit?”

"Yes, but must I stop in Paris?”

“Security is much improved there?”

“It’s so barren. The streets are filled with mendicants, most of them smelly.”

“It’s not as bad as the rumors Mr. President. There’s even word that they are getting together funds to rebuild the Louvre.”

“They’ll probably demand the return of the Mona Lisa and the Whistler’s Mother then.”

“The Russians promised them Victory at Samothrace and even some Impressionists works that were smuggled out.”

Gardner Harris was an efficient chief of staff, but a very literal conversationalist. President Bin Laden was already getting bored.

“The fact is Mr. President that the North African elite who now control France are anxious for your appearance on the Seine. You remain a symbol to the Moslem world of their place in what was once the west. The image of you coming into the city will be seen on television there.”

“They have television?”

“It’s not Tokyo or Baghdad, but France has some modern conveniences.They use the television for prayer rituals and for readings of the Koran. The subtitles help the French born to understand.”

“My food will be shipped in with me?”

Gardner Harris raised a thick blonde eyebrow.

“It’s just that the local fare might not be safe yet.”

The chief of staff nodded.

The president looked at his Swiss made watch. Remarkable how that one now very crowded country had avoided the war. Harris recognized this as his signal to finish up his end of the meeting.

“Mr. President, there’s one more thing.”


“I don’t think it’s anything big, but I have to pass this on.”

“The OSI is investigating a threat to assasinate you on your visit to Damascus. We’ll have to take extra precautions.”

The two men stared at one another.

“Such as?”

“They are recommending that you only tour the city in a closed vehicle.”

“A Moslem president arrives for the first time in a great and ancient Moslem city and he must act terrified! I expect to greet the city in an open car. The United States is a free society, an open society, a democracy. How will they understand the difference if I am protected like some despot?”

“How will democracy spread with you assasinated in November of 1963 the third year of your first term?”

"OSI will just have to protect their president in an open car. It is, as you say, just a possibility, a matter for investigation.”

Gardner Harris paused. For two weeks, he had known more the president. Still, this was not the time. Full disclosure would mean chaos. Too much was at stake in Istanbul for the president to be distracted by rumors of fringe Christian fundamentalists in alliance with the mafia.....

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Where's Laura Bush?

Cindy Sheehan is asking the president to meet with her as a grieving mother of a son killed in war. I’ve been puzzled that the president has been so stubborn about not meeting with her during his vacation. I’m even more puzzled by another absence. In this season of the missing woman news cycle, where’s the First Lady, Laura Bush? The last time I saw her she was cracking jokes at the White House Correspondents’ dinner about being a Desperate Housewife and comparing her mother in law to Don Corleone.

The Karl Rove White House(slowly being painted a creamy shade of pumpkin) has been praised for its skill in manipulating the symbols of the presidency. Standing at Ground Zero shortly after 9/11, toppling the Gulliver like statue of Saddam, landing on aircraft carriers to proclaim the end of the war some two years ago, bending forward to hug a young girl and console her fears of terrorists, clearing brush in Crawford, have all been part of the Rove/Noonan deck in public opinion Gin Rummy (the card game not the armor-challenged defense secretary) . So what would be a more powerful image than the First Lady asking Cindy Sheehan to take a few minutes out of her vigil to come pray together in Church for all mothers of children at war? A mother to mother request and moment would certainly be a classic Roveian counterpunch. The man has built his career on going right at opponents’ strengths. Why haven't they gone Mommo a Mommo? Maybe even invite the twins along and help them improve their public image?

Is it that Rove, who has made something of a career of attacking wives and family, only knows how to play the hand negatively? If the First Lady has a job, it has historically been to serve as the administration’s symbol of compassion. Eleanor Roosevelt was the most active, but Nancy Reagan holding an HIV positive baby in her arms was such a potent symbol that it nearly erased President’ Reagan’s more mixed record of recognizing and advocating for funding for the disease. Betty Ford became a spokesperson for getting treatment for substance abuse, Rosalyn Carter worked on behalf of the developmentally disabled, Barbara Biush’s worked on literacy by writing a book with her dog, Hillary Clinton worked as an advocate for the welfare of children, As a grieving mother stands vigil outside her ranch, where is the visible symbol of the First Lady’s compassion for another mother.
In fact, where is the First Lady?

I’m puzzled by the fact that the party of family values is so tone deaf to the language of motherhood itself. Nothing would communicate actual sympathy for Cindy Sheehan and all gold star motherly grief better than an image of the First Lady meeting Cindy Sheehan face to face. Might I suggest that if the President looks bad for not coming out and saying hi, that the First Lady is looking even worse for simply disappearing from view. Instead they are letting shotguns and cross mutiliations speak for their noble cause.

Perhaps Karl Rove is otherwise busy. Perhaps Laura Bush might say something very different if directly asked about that other mother down the road in Crawford. Perhaps the first family doesn't care enough to even fake it. If that's the case, by missing the opprtunity to stand at the ground zero of grief, they may have already lost a deeper war on terror.


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Monday, August 15, 2005

Ironies of the Espionage Act of (1917) from Schenck to Sheehan, Palmer to Rove

Karl Rove’s likely outing of Valerie Plame as a covert agent has provoked a great deal of discussion about the requirements of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 and the elements of perjury, the legal basis of most political scandals since Watergate or even Alger Hiss. Mention of engaging everyone’s favorite deputy chief of staff in trench warfare around the Espionage Act of 1917 rang a Pavlovian bell for me. As a long ago con law student, it reminded me of the most famous Espionage Act Case and the first significant Supreme Court test of the first amendment, Schenck v. United States and a former attorney general with presidential ambitions, Mitchell Palmer.

Charles Schenck was a socialist who opposed the draft during World War I. If you’ve ever taught high school history, one of the hardest questions to get students to comprehend is “Why did the United States get involved in World War I ?”
The actual reasons are complicated and remain somewhat controversial. Two incidents do stand out, the sinking of the Lusitania and the Zimmerman Telegram. In 1915, a German U-Boat torpedoed the British cruise ship Lusitania which happened to be carrying a large number of American passengers. One reason the Lusitania exploded so quickly was that the ship was carrying millions of rounds of ammunition, something that would have made it a legitimate wartime target. British intelligence played an active role in supressing the “munitions” issue, and the incident helped to sway America’s officially neutral sensibilities towards the allies. The ship was also carrying large quantities of aluminum powder, then used in the manufacture of explosives. Remember the claims in our times of "aliminum tubing imports".
Looking back, the Lusitania presents a serious question of who it was that actually endangered American lives that day.

The Zimmerman telegram was one of the first triumphs of modern codebreaking. The British interecepted a telegram from Zimmerman, the German ambassador to the US, to Mexico. In the telegram, the Germans assert that they hope to keep the US neutral in WW1, but in the event that the US entered the war it proposes a German-Mexican alliance with the promise of support for the reacquisiton of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (which would have made the president Mexican). fwiw The Mexicans wrote back and indicated that they could never hold three state/provinces filled with hostile Americans. Talk about a Harry Turtledove alternate history plot though.
The British revealed it to the US, Zimmerman, German Ambassador to the US, made the mistake of trying to explain rather than deny the telegram. The US entered the war on the British side. The British never revealed that the actual telegram was lifted from a US “secure” diplomatic telegraph line. In other words, they were spying on the US themselves and had to do some contortions to cover over that fact so they could get the text of the telegram to Woodrow Wilson.

World War 1 was the first time the US and Britain formally allied in a major war. While we share a common language, the British remain the only country to have invaded the continental United States. In short, British intelligence played a huge role in getting the US into World War I and this link between British intelligence and the US runs through the British evidence cited about Uranium in Africa and the need to “fix intelligence” alluded to in the Downing Street Memos.
It is also the context for Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer two Philadelphia socialists who opposed the draft in the year of the Bolshevik Revolution. The actual pamphlet Schenck and Baer (at least two of the espionage act defendants were women. Remember that women didn’t yet vote in national elections in 1918) distributed some 15,000 pamphlets that advocated peaceful resistance to the draft on the grounds that a draft for a foreign war was precisely the sort of militarism that most Americans sought to escape. (one source of unhappiness in the colonies was being drawn into the French and Indian (Seven Years War) as combatants. Schenck and Baer were convicted for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 which then contained provisions making it unlawful to interfere with the draft in any way. Yes, this is the same Espionage Act that Karl Rove may have violated.
Schenck and Baer appealed by challenging the Espionage Act as a violation of their first amendment right to free speech. Their argument was essentially what most Americans consider to be the essence of the first amendment, “dissent was an American right even in wartime”. The unanimous Supreme Court led by Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the Espionage Act by claiming that the pamphlet presented a “Clear and Present Danger”
The Schenck Decision
that went beyond protected speech during war time. While Americans routinely claim that one of the great things about our system is that it gives you the right to criticize your country even during wartime, it actually wasn’t true for many years. Schenck is surprisingly still good law, though it was narrowed considerably by Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1968 when the court decided to intercede on behalf of the right of the KKK to hold rallies as long as their speech did not present an “imminent” danger. I have no idea why pacifists fare worse in free speech cases than the KKK or the Nazis, but it’s been part of a long pattern.

Schenck went to prison for 6 months and Baer was sentenced to 90 days for the 1918 equivalent of blogging against the draft for a foreign war in which the United States had no clear immediate interest. As I track the many things written about Cindy Sheehan, even the president, unlike his shotgun firing dove hunting neighbor, seems to give lip service to the notion that we are free to demonstrate and dissent against an ongoing war.

Mitchell Palmer, a democrat, used the espionage act after the war (at the end of the war, the act stayed on the books) to round up Americans alleged to be Bolsheviks involved in a series of bombings in the US after World War 1 including one near his residence. (terrorism has a longer history in the US than most acknowledge). In fact, one of the bombings was a hundred pounds of dynamite detonated on Wall St. in front of the offices of J.P. Morgan, eerily thr rough equivalent of the WTC for the 1920's. At one point 10,000 individuals were arrested under the Espionage Act and the subsequent sedition act which essentially made dissent during war time illegal, and arrested and held without charge. Again, the truth is that Guantanomo isn’t all that un-American in a literal sense. fwiw Palmer was a quaker. Richard Nixon was another prominent quaker in American political history. Quakers were historically the one group considered legitimate Religious conscientious objectors to military service.

Palmer’s point man for this was a new wing of the federal government known as the Bureau of Investigation for the Justice Department, now the FBI, and its postwar director J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover began to keep dossiers on suspicious citizens most of whom had no criminal record. In other words, they started an early form of “profiling”. Palmer’s raids were directed largely at immigrants and radicals. In one 1919 roundup 249 individuals were simply put on a boat to Russia without being charged. One of the people on that boat was Emma Goldman. Palmer built his raids around a claim that there would be a Communist uprising in the US on May 1, 1920, kind of an early version of color-coded terror alerts.

Palmer used the notoriety from his Palmer Raids and the Red Scare to run for the democratic nomination in 1920. He lost to James Cox at least partly because May 1, 1920 never materialized. In 1921, Palmer eventually was caught for falsifying evidence and misappropriating government funds.

The Republicans took back the White House in 1920 behind a later scandal ridden governor of Ohio, Warren G. Harding who is mostly remembered for Teapot Dome an oil for national parks scandal. :} a sort of precursor to Halliburton in which US strategic oil reserves in a national park were leased to a private company without a competitive bid in exchange for a bribe.

Should Karl Rove be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which though trimmed back, still survives in US Code, it would be one of history’s sweetest ironies and Charles Schenck and Elizabeth Baer would at least have to crack a smile.


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Friday, August 12, 2005

Looking the President Straight in the Eye

Why Baseball Players voted for Bush I'd posted this link in reference to Rafael Palmeiro a bit earlier, but I started thinking about it in connection with Cindy Sheehan. Knowing what I know now, it was comforting to see that the President got Kenny Rogers strong left-armed endorsement. If his gaze is so charismatic in a locker room full of muscular athletes, why is the president unwilling to spend a few minutes to look in the eyes of a grieving 48 year old woman?

Some differences between Texas Rangers players and Cindy Sheehan

1) Cindy Sheehan doesn't earn millions of dollars/year
2) She thinks the loss of her son is a bigger priority than more tax breaks
3) Her name does not appear in any book by Jose Canseco
4) She's not being investigated by congress.
5) she registered to vote

This is not a disagreement about policy. It's one about an act of courtesy. To be honest, I was shocked that the president had met with only the families of 274 of those who had died in this war. Considering the fact that he often meets with several at a time, it's fewer hands than you would shake at an average fundraiser. Having served in the armed forces just like G. David Schine, I'm sure the president faced greater dangers in your service than meeting with an unarmed citizen who disagrees with him. She's not expecting a change in policy during the meeting, she's asking for a direct explanation abotu why you committed her son to Iraq.

If he admires and trusts Rafael Palmeiro because he stood up in front of the klieg lights, why can't he do the same for a woman who has? These two incidents together tell me a lot about the quality of our "leadership".

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

AWOL Again

Somewhere outside Crawford, Texas a smart-tough woman threatens the president with weapons of mass media destruction or is it weapons of mom's derision. Cindy Sheehan is 48 and wants the president to explain what noble cause her son Casey died for in Sadr City. She has pledged to wait for a meeting with the president as long as he stays in Crawford on his 5 week vacation. Thus far, the president has not met with her personally, a small gesture that grows in significance the longer Cindy Sheehan waits between the road and ditch in Crawford.

Almost exactly fifty years ago, it was Rosa Parks who helped put a face on the Civil Rights movement for the media. Looking back, the story would never have gone national had the bus driver not called the police and had the police not gone through with the arrest. Something many people don't realize was that Rosa Parks was both a seamstress and the secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP and had attended something called the "Highlander Folk School" a training institute for worker and civil rights. Rosa Parks was not the first African-American to refuse to give up a seat on the bus or train. There had been many others since Homer Plessy refused in New Orleans 60 years earlier. Rosa Parks was the story that became a national/international pheomenon.

I admire Cindy Sheehan. I'm proud of the fact that she comes from Vacaville, about 50 miles from where I live. While the media wants to see the simple grieving mother. I admire the discipline and thought that went into her trip to Crawford. It wasn't national political figures who gave the Civil Rights movement its first boost into national consciousness, it was Rosa Parks, a group of students in suits at a lunch counter in Greensboro, a minister in Montgomery, Alabama who gave the movement a face. We forget that even then though, it wasn't just faces, there was a media strategy behind each of these "incidents". Each time, the strategy worked it was at least partly because the opposition would do the stupidest thing. Whether that was arresting an old woman sitting in the black section of the bus because she wouldn't give her seat up to a white man, using firehoses and dogs on peaceful marchers, or simply refusing to serve four well-dressed polite North Carolina A&T students at Woolworth's lunch counter.

I'm not sure what would happen if President Bush walked out by himself and invited Mrs. Sheehanin for a cold drink and a private chat. It woudn't take more than 20 minutes and what would there be to protest once that happened. The worst thing Cindy Sheehan would have to say is that the president disagreed with her and maybe didn't seem very sympathetic. Hypnotists use something called "paradoxical induction" where the only way to resist is by doing something the hypnotist wants you to do....e.g. "Tell me why you don't want to be hypnotized..." the subject starts telling the reasons and thus starts following the hypnotists directions to resist"
Coming to Crawford and asking to meet with the president is a classic paradoxical induction. If the president doesn't meet with you, the world sees an elected public servant who can't take time out from his vacation to spend a few minutes with a grieving mother. If he does, then he's done what she asked. She also gets the comfort of knowing the president cares at least a little bit. It's what happens when you challenge somenoen to be actually compassionate.

I'm not sure where the "they're threatening to arrest us on Thursday" thing came from, but it certainly works as a way to focus the coverage and give them an event non-event to count down to. I for one am guessing that the President and his advisors will make the wrong call. I have no idea what the administration is so afraid of about having the meeting. Perhaps they believe there will be thousands more Cindy Sheehans wanting to meet with him sooner than we think. Perhaps, the president can't look her in the eye and explain without a script or a box underneath the back of his suit. Perhaps, they don't want to appear like they're giving in to what Gold Star Mothers for Peace has orchestrated and simply don't understand the paradox it presents for them.

I think back to 1955 and ask, "What would have happened if the bus driver had simply let it go or if the officers didn't make the arrest or if the man had simply told the driver "It's okay, I'll stand this time." What became so scary that they coudn't engage in a small act of kindness? The President's handlers appear to have backed themselves into a Godelian paradox. When asked in the 2004 debates if he could name the three biggest mistakes of his presidence, the president struggled with and never answered the question. It seems that this infallibility is more important than just cutting the gordian knot and coming out offering the woman who lost her son some lemonade even though she disagrees with him. Somehow if Donald Rumsfeld could shake hands with Saddam, this one hardly seems like a stretch. On the other hand, the president didn't wind up on the best of terms with the New Jersey Widows from 9/11 who simply wanted hearings about the events that led to their loved ones' deaths.

Presidents don't make laws. Often, even their decisions are really based on recommendations from layers of advisers rather than first-hand in depth study. Much of what a president does is ceremonial. He, maybe someday, she has to give the impression that the government and the president are there to serve all Americans whether they gave money to the campaign or not. Attacking the character of a grieving mom who just lost a son to your war hardly makes one seem more presidential. Suggesting that each grieving family is entilted to just one presidential visit is like trying to ration freedom. The pope has robes but the mystique of the presidency depeneds on our myths about democracy. A cherished part of that myth is that the president is not a king or queen, but a first citizen elected by his/her fellow citizens. When Richard Nixon lost this, he lost even Republicans, except the ones like Karl Rove who found a way to get back in power.

When the president fails in this role of keeping the "myth of the citizen leader" alive, he is AWOL. Every day Cindy Sheehan waits is one more day for the American public to ask the question. Is this the only duty this president has been AWOL for? btw, I'm not talking about the National Guard here.

Meet With Cindy

If you can't get to Crawford

Thank you Cindy Sheehan for being smart and for being tough. At least someone in Crawford appears to be both of those things.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bush Nominates Larry Krueger as Ambassador to Dominican

If you didn't get the joke, you're probably not a Bay Area sports fan or you're John Bolton. Larry Krueger is a sports talk host on KNBR AM 680, the all sports station that carries SF Giants games. For the last 13 years, the Giants have generally fielded competitive teams with managers who speak Spanish. The Giants also were the first major league team to scout the Caribbean, turning up eventual Hall of Famers, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda in the late fifties. Current Giants manager Felipe Alou was a part of that group and played on the Giants 1962 pennant winner. He returned to the Giants in his late sixties and has played a role in making the Giants clubhouse a place that welcomes Latin players. The San Francisco Bay Area takes pride both in its diversity and tolerance. The Giants take some pride in being the first major league team to bring up Latin players in numbers and to have opened the majors to the advantages of the bilingual dugout.

With the loss of Barry Bonds, the Giants have had a disappointing year. Krueger, a journeyman sportstalk guy, went on a self-described rant after a recent Giants loss and complained that the team had too many "brain-dead" Caribbean hitters swinging at slop and that manager Alou's brain was turning to Cream of Wheat. This happened about two months after the San Francisco 49ers fired their community relations person for making a videotape for the players about how to handle the media that included stereotypes of Asians, gay and lesbian jokes, etc. KNBR responded by suspending Krueger for a week without pay. Alou and the Giants feel that Krueger's rant deserved to be treated even more seriously. Krueger has apologized.

First, I took a quick look at the Giants statistics. Two of the players with the lowest ratio of walks to strikeouts and at bats on the team aren't Latin at all. Lance Niekro (13 bb 30k 209 ab) is a rookie and the son and nephew of knuckleballers Joe and Phil. Mike Matheny (21 bb 57k 295 ab) is a catcher signed as free agent because he had a reputation as one of the smartest players in the game. This is not to say that any of the Giants Latin payers have Barry Bonds or Money Ball base on ball percentages, in fact the whole team isn't good at the patience thing. The team leader in walks is Moises Alou, Felipe's son (46 bb 32k 302 ab) . There are a couple Latin players w/ dismal ratios like Devi Cruz with 9 walks in 185 at bats, but there are corresponding non-Latins like JT Snow, also considered a smart player who have 22 walks in 243 at bats. As a team, the Giants do draw roughly 100 fewer walks than they give (305 vs 403) but clearly the difference this year comes down to the African American Barry Bonds who drew 232 walks last year in 373 at bats. The Latin players on the Giants aren't any worse at drawing walks than the non-Latin. He might have more accurately called all the team's hitters brain-dead.

Most people believe there was no "malice" in Krueger's remarks. The same was said about Al Campanis, the Dodgers executive who was fired for saying that African Americans lacked the necessaries to be managers. I don't especially have an opinion on whether or not Krueger deserves to be fired instead of suspended, though I will mention that "saying things the right way" is an integral part of his job description.

It's obviously not a good thing that stereotypes of Latin ball players persist. At this point, major league baseball is highly internationalized and heavily Latin. Latin stars and role players can be found at every position in the game. Some hit home runs, some get by with their gloves, some throw smoke, some get by on smarts, some don't (if anyone remembers Ruben Rivera's adventure around the bases as a Giant and adventures in the locker room as a Yankee).

For me, though, I'm more concerned about the quality of debate that unfolded. I've read a bunch of articles about this matter and none of them actually looked at the Giants statistics readily available on Yahoo. Instead, most are about whether this is political correctness run amok or if Krueger's remarks uncovered some unfortunate mindset in the sporting zeitgeist. Sports fans prefer to argue what they feel rather than examine the facts. Then, it struck me that the brain-dead Krueger thing is remarkably like political debate in the United States. Numbers like, the actual year Social Security starts to fail, the number of trained troops and police needed in Iraq, the size of the deficit, the availability of new oil reserves are all readily available and while there is some debate about the precise figures those who debate the topics often never refer to these numbers or their very clear implications

In the Krueger case, people jumped into a debate about whether he was racist, whether he should be fired, etc. Hardly anyone mentioned that Moises Alou is leading the team in walks and Mike Matheny who is considered a smart player has some of the worsetbb/k totals on the team. Everyone preferred to have opinions without facts, apparently because it makes for good sports talk and I suspect pretty terrible public policy. Now if you want to talk about something interesting, why is bilingual education in California politically dead yet bilingual clubhouses are considered a potential competitive advantage? Is it because you can measure when a team is winning, but despite the plethora of current tests it remains very difficult to talk about when a school and its methods are actually winning when it comes to helping non-English speaking children master English?


KNBR fires Krueger and others


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The Mysteries of Flypaper

I've seen a bunch of references to the "Flypaper" theory of fighting terrorism. It allegedly works this way--Instead of having US troops guarding the US, we send them to Iraq. The "flies" or terrorists are drawn to Iraq to sting the US troops. Our military then catches them and kills them in far greater numbers than they kill us. In the meantime, instead of flying around the United States, the terrorists are being killed in Iraq instead. The administration has not advanced this theory as explicit strategy, it's largely been an after the fact justification for the occupation as a way to make the US safer from terrorists.

I have nothing against pest control metaphors. Tom Delay fwiw was a very successful pest control guy

and I'm sure he knows a lot about the effectiveness of actual fly paper. That's why I decided to look at some pest control literature. The first thing I learned was that no pest control specialists think of flypaper as a major weapon in any serious strategy to eliminate flies from any environment over the long term. The pest companies and the researchers appear to be unanimous. The most effective strategy for getting rid of flies is to eliminate the things that attract them in the first place. You should dispose of garbage, clean up feces, don't leave food in the open for extended periods of time.

Descriptions of flypaper itself mention that it's useful for possibly diverting flies and trapping some. The consensus is clear however, it's not a substitute for actually addressing the conditions that attract flies to begin with.
They also mention that flypaper is basically disgusting and you don't want to leave it near where people congregate regularly. As in we're either in Iraq to help the Iraqis or were there to leave them covered in dead flies that spread all manner of diseases.

Dave Davis was a Baltimore -based researcher who studied rats and rat control just after World War 2. He is also apparently the father of modern understandings of how to eliminate or at least minimize pests. Basically, Davis found that killing rats doesn't actually eliminate them and in fact might stimulate a growth in the rat population. Rats and most other pests breed at most any pace they need to. As long as there is a food source, the rat population simply grows to the size of the food source. If you kill three quarters of the rats, they simply breed faster. It might be fun to kill rats or flies in this fashion, but in reality killing them has very little to do with eliminating them or reducing their total numbers It really is just an exercise in taking pleasure in killing things you don't like. It's a self-replenishing form of hunting. In fact, the most effective way to deal with rats or flies is to understand where they come from and address it which sounds amazingly liberal. Wow, who knew? :}

Flypaper only works if you're going to have a picnic somwhere and you want to distract some of the flies for a bit. If you do nothing about your garbage, you'll have a much bigger fly problem than you ever imagined. The flypaper approach to terrorism is one issue where maybe it would have helped to ask Tom Delay how it works in real life.

Al Qaeda Spreads and Changes


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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Four Years

There were two anniversaries this week. One was the sixtieth anniversary of the first use of atomic weapons on people by the US in Hiroshima. I do not second guess Harry Truman's decision to use the bomb at the time. The fact does remain, however, that we are on the only country to have used nuclear weapons on people in 60 years of nuclear weapons.

The second anniversary today is that it has been exactly four years since the president got the following Daily White House Briefing from CIA

As far as I can tell the following things happened or didn't happen since the intelligence briefing.

1) The White House took no steps between 8/6/2001 and 9/11/2001 to investigate what Condaleeza Rice called "historical information"

2) The president stayed on vacation in Crawford

3) nothing was done to secure airports or increase security on landmarks in New York

4) 9/11

5) President pledged to catch the perpetrators

6) US invaded Afghanistan with 99-1 vote of senate.

7) Bin Laden has not been captured since. President quoted as saying Bin Laden didn't really matter.

8) US begins to make case that Saddam has nuclear program and biological weapons program

9) US insinuates that Saddam would let terrorists have nuclear weapons

10) US invades Iraq

11) close to 100,000 Iraqis have died and roughly 2000 US soldiers have died in combat in both Afghansitan and Iraq.

12) significant terrorist bombings with possible al qaeda connection in Spain, Egypt, Indonesia, and England

13) WMD are not found in Iraq after extensive search, no sign of any new nuclear weapons capability snce 1992

14) 140,000 US troops remain in Iraq. There is currently no timetable to reduce that number

15) White House staff involved in alleged leaking of the identity of a CIA agent
to discredit claim that US falsified evidence about WMD

16) President is reelected according to polls because voters have greater confidence in his ability to handle "war on terror"

17) CIA director elminated from daily intelligence briefings. During the 9/11 hearings, the White House sought to keep the 8/6/2001 memo classified.

18) New CIA director installed to "clean up" the agency

19) NSA advisor Rice is promoted to Secretary of State

20) President takes another month long "working" vacation 4 years later

Fact Check's Rove-Wilson Chronology
If you want to believe in "intelligent design", I have to say, this isn't it.
15 years from now, I hope to be remembering the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima. In the meantime, I have to ask myself if the last 4 years have made it less or more l1ikely that nuclear weapons will be used on people.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Learning html (technical)

I think of it as No Blogger Left Behind. HTML is a bracketed language, meaning that whatever you open, you have to have a corresponding close command or it makes the browser spin faster than the Republican National Committee after the latest Iraq story breaks. A few days ago my hits dropped very suddenly and I had no idea why. I normally use the Firefox browser (not a Microsoft fan). I happened to check my site via Explorer 6 and found that it was crashing on Explorer but not on Firefox. I had an extra span post command which Explorer couldn't resolve on Wednesday August 3, the day my hit totals dropped off.
For Explorer folk who read this, my apologies. Please do let me know if you do have problems reading or accessing this site.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Does the Hall of Fame Have a Body Count?

Rafael Palmeiro is one of four players in major league history with 3000 hits and 500 home runs. The others are Willie Mays, Hand Aaron, and Eddie Murray who are all in the Hall of Fame. The Orioles first baseman had crept up on these statistical accomplishments. That is people didn't necessarily buy tickets because Palmeiro might be playing. He was arguably best known for doing Viagra (a performance enhancer not banned by major league baseball) ads and for his spirited "I don't and never have done steroids" appearance when Congress decided that steroids in baseball, flag burning, and Terry Schiavo were more presssing issues than say getting body armor to troops or ensuring health care for all children.

On Monday, it was announced that Baseball suspended Palmeiro for ten games for using a banned substance, likely steroids. The President who once owned the Texas Rangers has since vouched for his former player. "I believe him and I believe what he said before congress."
Palmeiro's first comments after the suspension was that it must have been inadvertent or something that was in a dietary supplement that he wasn't aware of. On Wednesday, a source has indicated that the banned substance in question was a powerful steroid, Stanozolol, that isn't generally par of diet supplements. In the meantime, Palmeiro's agreed to turn over his test information to the Government Reform Committee that convened the steroid hearings which to his credit makes him more forthcming with Congress than Joh Bolton. It is fascinating that Congress is so quick to respond to a steroid allegation and much less willing to investigate the falsification of WMD evidence.

I don't know if Palmeiro lied to Congress. It's now more than Jose Canseco's word against Rafael Palmeiro though. A number of sportswriters are suggesting that despite the statistical evidence in his favor, they likely won't vote for Palmeiro for the Hall of Fame despite the President's endorsement of his friend's integrity.) (Did anyone notice that President Bush's defense of Palmeiro was more spirited than Scott Mclellan's no comment in response to questions about the President's confidence in Karl Rove after it turned out that Rove was one of Cooper's sources?) At this point though, Bob from the Enzyte commercials may have more credibility than Rafael Palmeiro.
It all raises a question though. If I think of the Downing St. Memo, various Administration admissions that no WMD were found and that there was no confirmation of actual attempts to buy Uranium in Niger, the various documented issues with US detention facilities, the missing money in Iraq, okay okay, I can't keep typing like seems to me that if the question is should the Bush Administration get voted into the Hall of Fame, much of America would have to say "No", because it fails to meet the emerging Palmeiro/Mcgwire integrity standard. In the meantime, 21 American soldiers were killed in the last 2 days. What's the "integrity" standard for putting our own sons and daughters at risk?

"Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him," Bush said, referring to Palmeiro's denials under oath to a congressional committee on March 17. "He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him. Still do."

Q: So you're not going to respond as to whether or not the President has confidence in his Deputy Chief of Staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, you're asking this question in the context of an ongoing investigation. And I would not read anything into it other than I'm simply not going to comment on an ongoing --

from 7/11 White House press conference
Why not have Karl Rove testify under the klieg lights, so the president can endorse him in the same fashion? btw Palmeiro still seems to be the object of ongoing investigation in some form.

Palmeiro speaks out on Politics

Stray Jose Canseco thoughts,

Stanozolol is the same substance that Jose Canseco had claimed that Palmeiro had used. While I tend to believe that the President likes to be a reflexively loyal guy, I also remember Canseco's much dismissed claim that George Bush team owner likely knew about the steroids and just didn't do anything. I'd consider the possibililty that his passionate defense of Palmeiro vs. his legalese comments on Rove a few weeks ago might be the product of his not wanting Palmeiro to "talk".

btw thank you Paul Hackett for speaking out againt the war and standing by it. Iraq war veterans need to have a voice in Congress as we debate the war

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