Friday, November 30, 2007

Knuckleheads on the Raritan

If a big time NCAA football program
can someone please tell me why Rutgers needs a $100 million stadium expansion
or a big time football program? Keep throwing money at it, maybe dear old Rutgers
can becomes as great a school as, oh, West Virginia, Missouri, or LSU.

Gov. Corzine can pay for it out of his own pocket & stick his name on it, just like Boone Pickens at OSU, & never suffer the humilation of having it removed, like the former Brendan T. Byrne Arena.

If you think New Jersey is slowly destroying everything good about itself, you'll find no better evidence than Rutgers. We should cheer the day when Greg Schiano throws in the towel & goes to a knucklehead ACC or Southeastern party school where he belongs. & let Jersey's blue chip high school players follow him.

(The most successful NCAA football team in Jersey this year was Division III College of NJ)

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Water Cure

I just had the unpleasant experience of reading a description of waterboarding by 1st Lt. Grover Flint, who called it the "water cure." It's in the book Flyboys by James Bradley, published in 2003, & Flint was speaking to a Senate panel over 100 years ago about the routine torture of Filipinos by the United States Army.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

republican freakshow

Here are my three top issues for the presidential race:
Iraq screws up everything; our foreign policy & relations, military preparedness, national security, constitutional rights, budget, future veterans' entitlements. The "War On Terror" is primarily a challenge for international policing & intelligence agencies.

Health Care: Wages & the standard of living cannot rise until affordable health insurance & care is unhinged from employment & becomes a right. Even corporate America is finally getting the message.

Global warming & sane, long term energy & environmental policies are linked. Until the United States gets real about this & takes an enlightened leadership role, global efforts will remain half-assed, & America remains chained to a lot of repressive oil-producing regimes. & future generations will hate us.

Then we come to immigration, maybe. Not a completely solvable problem, but certainly a controllable one. The compromise is obvious: Liberals have to accept some tough & expensive border protection measures, lines drawn between here & there, before & after; conservatives have to accept the permanent presence of millions of undocumented Hispanics, & document them by offering a fair & reasonable route to citizenship. We can't know who is actually residing in our country if we keep chasing these people into the shadows. They're here to stay. This issue doesn't even fall into clear left/right divisions, contrary to what Repugs would have us believe. but is so loaded with prejudice & cruelty, with codewords & fallacies, that I'd prefer it not be a major issue in this election. Of course, it will be. Without settling anything.

Repugs are obsessed with dark-skinned people, with homosexuals, & microscopic eggs, & Muslims & anyone else who doesn't brag about reading Christian scripture every day; with scape-goating. They make me sick. I know it's hard to go wrong under-estimating the American voter. But those candidates are just so fucking nuts. All of them. Crazy men.

Chris Isaak, a swell singer with a great backing band, talking about his father, a forklift driver: "My dad would sit on the couch with a big bowl of ice cream, with jelly on top of it, & he'd have a beer, & he'd turn on the television, like boxing, look at me & say, 'Party time.'"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Our Born Again Peacemaker

"I wouldn't be standing here if I didn't believe that peace was possible," the president said.

The Bush administration pronounced itself pleased with the outcome of the conference.
The world had to wait nearly seven years for this? It seems to have had the effect of demonstrating Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's isolation from the Sunni-Arab world. But we already knew that. Perhaps the conference wasn't about "peace" at all, but something else, something regarding Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is hardly a strong leader compared to his predecessors. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not the representative voice of the Palestinian people. We already know how the Israelis will react when the Palestinians raise the subject of East Jerusalem. Lebanon is falling apart - again, Syria's not getting the Golan Heights back. Success is always unlikely, but an American president should never put the goal of justice on the backburner the way the Monkey Brain adminstration has, should never wait until the last year of a lame duck term to begin the "process." Peace without justice is no peace, & the Cheney/Bush junta has never been about justice, or peace.

A great soul

A funeral mass was held today for Mrs. Irene Dolinich. Mrs. D had a heart of inexhaustable kindness & charity. My sincerest condolences to her family, who best know her great soul.

Lovely eulogy in Star-Ledger by Sharon Adarlo.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The landlord

Today the landlord asked if I had any friends looking for an apartment, because he has two vacancies. I could have answered, "What kind of friends do you think I have?" Yeah, I know about those vacancies, he evicted two people I got along with just fine, but who the landlord thinks were a problem to other tenants. He wants tenants like me. Presumably, that means quiet, middle-aged white guys who would live here because they don't have a whole lot of options. I have complaints:For one, the schlemiel upstairs who can't take a bath without splashing half the water on the floor, staining my ceiling tiles & dripping on to my bathroom floor. I said to the landlord, "I can't very well go up there & teach him how to wash himself."
The Tonight Show is reaching way back for repeats, pre-makeover, when Leno was doing the program pretty much the same as Carson did it, with the heavy curtain. He had a more interesting band led by Wynton Marsalis, playing jazz standards during breaks. Marsalis was too cool for the job, didn't laugh loud enough at the boss's lame monologue. Bill Clinton fast food jokes were a staple. In a 1992 appearance, Tom Hanks (looking about 20 years old) told a long, pointless story, but told it well. Since then he's learned (probably at Letterman's suggestion) that it's better to have the show's writers prepare or punch up material. From 1993, a rail-thin, 26 year old Julia Roberts demonstrated how boring she is. They oughta rerun Johnny Carson. Too bad we can't see some of Letterman's totally screwball Late Nights from the 80's. The spirit of those carried over into his first few years at CBS.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Headline brutality

The murder of Riley Ann Sawyers tests one's opposition to the death penalty.
The girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor, Trenor said in the document. She said they kept the body in a storage shed for one to two months before they put it in a plastic bin and dumped it into Galveston Bay.
This is the kind of headline brutality toward children fueling The Nancy Grace Show night after night. But in Elizabeth, a 13 year old boy riding his bike after midnight was shot & killed. In Newark, an 8 year old boy just walking on in daylight was targeted & wounded in a drive-by shooting. Who knows why? For evidence that child abuse & indifference to child welfare is epidemic, just look in today's paper, no matter where you live. A world of sociopaths, alcoholics & drug addicts, sadists, an endless variety of perverted minds.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dream Piano

I'm depressed today, no denying it. Even my depressed nap featured a depressing dream based on events of many years ago for which I've never had good closure. But there was a wild-looking piano in the dream I wish I'd had the lucidity to play. Then it would've been a good dream. From a novel I'm reading by William Lashner, a guy meets an old lover: "Even the lines around her eyes when she smiled caused me pain. It was as if she spent all the years after me laughing."

The family next door played their Christian music this morning while I was still in bed. It wasn't such a terrible CD, popular protestant songs done by an Amy Grant type to a basic countrified accompaniment, some tasteful pedal steel in it. But the bass was boosted. It gave me a slight headache. Then they turned the music down for awhile, the guy yelled at his kids, & after noon they went off to their church service. It's a jacket & tie kind of church. They've been a lot better about the bass & volume the past few months, since I complained. I counted on them being church folk whether or not they they thought I had cause. Fact is, I'm a quiet neighbor.

So I listened to Jones & X-Ray conversing on WFMU for awhile. X-Ray dwelled so long & so graphically on recalling the death of Sammy Davis Jr. that Glen had to change the subject before the whole show bummed out. Jones, a Rat Pack devotee, prefers to imagine them still alive, singin' & swingin' in fantastic Vegas circa 1960. As do I.

Holly Beach NJ

About 100 years ago. Now known as Wildwood NJ.
This must have been an excellent black & white photo.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

I am an overnight sensation at 67

That's Rep. Barney Frank, who made a persuasive appeal on Charlie Rose's show last night for a promoting a liberal, populist agenda in '08. In Frank's talk about wage stagnation, it was pretty easy to make a connection between that & the scapegoating that fuels the immigration debate, although Rose didn't pick up on it. Just as well, probably. Scapegoating is the most reliable diversionary strategy in the reactionary playbook.
Why did Democrats win in the 2006 congressional elections? Partly the war, and partly because the Republicans stressed the economy, in their words a very healthy and robust, growing economy. But reality is that 95% of the population has had no growth in real income over the last 6 years. When people feel they are not receiving their fair share of a steadily growing economy, and not just that but losing their investments, their pensions, and their health care, they start to ask where is all that growth going?
Frank also hit on the need for unionization:
The greatest growth in jobs has been and will be in services, occupations that are not generally protected by unions. They should be unionized and can be because they cannot be outsourced; nobody in Mumbai can make the hotel beds in Peoria. That’s another big difference between the parties, Democrats support unions and Republicans try to destroy them.
He means all the lower tier "dirty" jobs that are largely done by immigrants, legal or not. Republicans have not been able to explain just exactly who will be cleaning nursing home bathrooms if a substantial portion of the labor force disappears, or why unionizing these occupations would be a bad thing if they expect native-born Americans to be doing that work.

The video isn't up yet at Charlie Rose website. Democratic presidential candidates should be listening to Frank. He's hardly a radical leftist. He's endorsed Hillary.

Monarch seeks suitable mate

Enjoys candlelight dinners & long walks on the parapets.

"The earliest known full-length portrait of Queen Elizabeth I has fetched £2.6m at auction in London.

"Painted by Steven van der Meulen, it is thought to have been commissioned to help the monarch "advertise" herself to potential suitors."

I love her, but I'd rather take my chances with a giant, female praying mantis.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Spirit of Black Friday

Come early Friday when we'll be offering a high definition TV only five-ninety-nine-ninety-nine,
and a laptop computer only two-ninety-nine-ninety-nine.
Announcement at Pathmark, Wednesday night

You wanna buy a laptop at a supermarket, fine. But it's gonna cost you another two-ninety-nine-ninety-nine to upgrade it to the quality of a marginal $600 laptop.

Christmas season demonstrates why the religious right never had a chance in the culture wars. The best offense assholes like Bill O'Reilly can up come up with is "Nyah nyah, we'll boycott your store if your decorations, ads, & underpaid clerks say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas." Some retail giants responded with, "Alright, then we'll say Merry Christmas, too. Whatever it takes to get you idiots in the store." The War on Christmas is over, because Christmas is now first & foremost about selling & buying product. Any product. People wait for Christmas to purchase everything from TVs & computers to mattresses & refrigerators. & of course, toys.

It wasn't all that long ago - I'm not talking ancient history - when the main selling point for the Christmas shopping season was getting us to buy lots of presents for other people. Some popular stuff was on sale & some wasn't. That's over. Now the retail industry nakedly promotes the season as an opportunity to buy expensive stuff for ourselves. The people camping outside the electronics stores aren't there to purchase a deeply discounted flat screen TV they'll wrap up in decorative paper & ribbon & put next to the Christmas Tree as a surprise for someone else.

The old "Do your Christmas shopping early" advice was not only to avoid the rush, but to take advantage of Labor & Columbus Day sales. Christmas was an undependable time for bargains on toys & big ticket items. No more. The retail industry whined long & loud about how much it depended on Christmas to turn a profit. So maybe the American consumer finally got wise to this: the big box & chain stores need us at Christmas more than we need any particular one of them. We can comparison shop. That Christmas has become a cutthroat sales season is a victory for shoppers. Very little remains of the Christian significance, which had already been obscured by the potlatch spirit. We're passing beyond the stage in which we demonstrate our status through absurd generosity. Now the goal is to obtain & display as many expensive personal possessions as possible. The purpose isn't merely to "keep up with the Joneses" or upstage them but to completely humiliate them. Even if it requires refinancing one's home & blowing the money on things that immediate depreciate in value & eventually become junk.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Take a nap & go home

Never a favorite holiday of mine. Christmas without the presents, the eye candy of decorations & tree, & the "good will." Too much tryptophan. I've always liked turkey sandwiches & turkey soup more than the roast bird itself, & the pies more than the main course. The best table conversation I ever had was at some veggie friends' dinner. The most fun was a girlfriend's extended family gathering packed into a small house without a single green vegetable served, & someone brought great kielbasa & saurkraut from a Perth Amboy Polish deli, beer was considered a perfectly reasonable beverage, & it was difficult to tell when dinner began & ended because the entire event was so loose. The family was so large that the leftovers quickly disappeared into Tupperware & were carried out the door & stashed in cars before anyone else claimed them. I was just the guy an aunt/cousin/niece/sister/daughter had brought, nobody interrogated me.

Christmas season is the retail economic engine in America & there's nothing anyone can do about it. The more one resists, the more unendurable it becomes. But Thanksgiving is just over-rated. I don't understand why half the population is compelled to uproot itself & visit the other half on this day. On more Thanksgivings than I care to recall, I've felt like the odd man out. The men talked about pro football & power tools. The women congregated in the kitchen. The kids wouldn't let me play video games because I was too slow & unskilled. No wonder I'd feel an overwhelming desire to take a nap.



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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey, "The perfect protein"

Many people in supermarket tonight buying large frozen turkeys. That seemed like a gamble; what if turkeys had sold out? Listening to a ridiculous radio ad for wonderful, fresh, wholesome farm turkeys, with the noise of thousands of birds gobbling in the background, I wondered how they were prepared for human consumption.
The fully conscious turkeys are hung by their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. The first station on most poultry slaughterhouse assembly lines is the stunning tank, where the turkeys' heads are submerged in an electrified bath of water. Stunning procedures are not monitored, and are often inadequate, leaving fully conscious birds to continue along the slaughterhouse assembly line. Some slaughterhouses do not even attempt to render turkeys unconscious, as turkeys and other poultry are specifically excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act, which requires stunning.

After passing through the stunning tank, the turkeys' throats are slashed, usually by a mechanical blade, and blood begins rushing out of their bodies. Inevitably, the blade misses some turkeys who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. Here they are submerged in boiling hot water, and turkeys missed by the killing blade are boiled alive.
This information comes from Adopt-a-Turkey. There is nothing on The National Turkey Federation website about how the birds are bred, raised, treated in captivity, & slaughtered. I'm not a vegetarian. I do try to remember that however we prepare, dress up or disguise meat, very few of us are willing to kill the animals. The pile of anonymous frozen butterballs in the store freezer case were all individual birds that had short miserable lives.

Occasionally, I comfort a bereaved person who lost a beloved pet dog or cat. I might even reassuringly say animals go to heaven - The Peaceable Kingdom - not because I'm certain there is a heaven but because I'm unable to reason intellectually through to a conclusion of why they would not go there; I'd have to accept the human species as the only creature worthy of redemption when I'm inclined to believe we're the only creature on this particular planet in need of redemption.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Chinese Take Out

Last Friday afternoon, a man being transported to a mental health facility freaked out in the back of an ambulance on Interstate 78, threatening an attendent with a pair of scissors. When the driver pulled over on the shoulder, the deranged man jumped out of the ambulance, leaped over the highway guardrail, & ran toward downtown Springfield NJ. He was wearing a hospital gown - presumably the common style that never quite covers your ass. He ran through the back door of a Chinese restaurant, into the kitchen. Most employees & patrons quickly beat it out the front door, a couple of cooks cowered in the dining area. But the crazy guy wasn't holding them hostage. Maybe he didn't even notice them. Apparently, he just wouldn't go to the hospital, through the door that locks from both sides. So he grabbed a big knife & held the Springfriend police, a SWAT team, & the County Mobile Emergency Communications Unit at bay for a few hours. Until they got tired of hanging around & trying to reason with an unreasonable man who was causing serious rush hour traffic tieups. FInally, they tossed in a flash grenade, barged into the place & tackled the guy.

I have no idea what was wrong with him, & I'm not approving his violent method of escape. But it's no stretch to feel sympathy toward someone so upset, so frightened, so confused, that he actually did in real life what nearly all of us have done in our dreams: Gone out in public naked or nearly naked, in a place where such lack of clothing is inappropriate & unexpected. I still remember one of those dreams, must have had it when I was 12 or 13, I was riding a bicycle on a busy street in my hometown, a community where "everybody knows your name" as the Cheers theme goes, & realized I was wearing only white cotton briefs. That probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow in Finland in July, but it was humiliating for a shy boy in Jersey passing through puberty. The dream was so traumatic that I can recount it now as if it had actually occurred in reality. So when & if the unfortunate man in the news the other day gets his wits back, I hope he doesn't remember anything about the incident. Or he might need additional therapy.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

First train outta Newark

Winding down from a radio show & traveling home from Jersey City at 4 am., first time I've done it at that hour. Exchange Place PATH station was deserted, except for some green vested workers I was glad to see. Large, slick wall ads for condos, "River views starting at low 500's." Yeah, they leave off the dollar signs & zeros. Outdoor pool. Health club. Concierge service. Fancy name for the person you call when the toilet breaks. The long escalator squeaking & clanking, cold wind blowing out of the tunnel as the train approached under the Hudson. The train picked up early risers at Grove Street & Journal Square, many made the transfer with me to the first Trenton local out of Newark at 4:40 am. Penn Station in Newark has a 24 hour newsstand & sandwich shop now, the morning papers were being stacked, lot of people around. A few sleeping homeless, out of the way, the police let them be. The main concourse is always safe. Hard to resist the smell of fresh coffee when you know you have to go to sleep. It was snowing in Elizabeth, big wet flakes with the drizzle - I don't think we saw a snowflake until January last winter. That last part of the journey, the walk, was cold & desolate, I didn't mind the lousy weather, there can be strange folks out & about on warm nights. Even so, I passed a stumbling drunk. Walked in the door a few minutes after 5, still nighttime dark. I really dislike coming home at sunrise.

Whenever I'm inclined to think taking mass transit home from Jersey City is a hardship, I recall the night in 2000 a ball joint blew out on the Turnpike exit ramp in Elizabeth, about 3 am. I didn't get home until 6 am - I was lucky, walking from the repair shop in Rahway where a tow truck had deposited me & my car, & driven away with a lot of my money, in cash.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kearny NJ

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

CSI: Miami

Eric Delko: H, the vic's name is Carlos Diego Milagros.
Horatio Caine: So, Eric, we probably have a dead Hispanic male.
Calleigh Duquesne: He has a single bullet wound to the right temple.
Horatio Caine: So, Calleigh, it appears he was killed with a gun.
Eric Delco: Here's a Mala Noche tattoo on his wrist.
Horatio Caine: So, Eric, what we have here is a gang member.
Ryan Wolfe: Or he loved the Gus Van Zant movie from 1985.
Horatio Caine: If so, Mr. Wolfe, he liked it enough to become a criminal.
Dr. Alexx Woods: Look, Horatio, there's a white powder in his nose.
Horatio Caine: So, Alexx, he may have been snorting cocaine.
Dr. Alexx Woods: I estimate he's been dead about three hours. It's now noon.
Horatio Caine: So, Alexx, he died about 9 am.
Detective Frank Tripp: He has $500 cash in his wallet, Horatio.
Horatio Caine: So, Frank, the motive wasn't robbery.
Eric Delco: We have a mystery here, H.
Horatio Caine: Eric, solving our business.


Max Metronome

I don't agree with Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine on much. The craziness of giving tax breaks to SUVs. Shore towns that want to protect surfers from the good surf. But I agree with his assessment of E Street drummer Max Weinberg:
...I attended two shows on the Bruce Springsteen tour in Washington last week. My brother and I had lousy tickets for the first show, nosebleed seats behind the stage. From that perspective it was impossible to ignore Weinberg's drumming. It was dreadful, as usual.
He just thumps away. Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. In a memorable review of the 2003 Springsteen tour, rock critic Michael Corcoran of the Austin American-Statesman referred to him as "that headache machine Wax Weinberg," a characterization I couldn't get out of my head as I stared down from the heights that night.
Mulshine heaps praise on the late Keith Moon, a guy everyone concedes is in a class by himself. I compare Max unfavorably with Dino Danelli of The Rascals & Johnny "Bee" Badanjek of The Detroit Wheels, two drummers who would have suited Springsteen's style. Both, I believe, were available for hire in the mid-Seventies.

What I most dislike is Max's pile-driving stiffness, & what it's done to some very good Springsteen material over the decades. Not that I despise the pile drivers of arena rock; I like Ralph Molina of Crazy Horse; & I've lavished praise on Carmine Appice's drumming with Vanilla Fudge, which I've described as "bludgeoning a mortar shell with a sledge hammer." & many others. But if you listen to Stones drummer Charlie Watts on certain songs, or especially the late Al Jackson Jr. of The MGs & Stax fame on anything, they nudge the rhythm along by lagging ever-so-slightly behind the beat. A drummer can learn this provided the inner capacity is there to begin with. It never sounds natural when Weinberg tries to do it. Springsteen may most appreciate Max's stamina, reliability, & sheer volume. But subtle he ain't. Max himself has very good taste in drummers; he just hasn't been able to apply much of what he's learned from them.

I'm too involved with other music to give much attention to Bruce Springsteen. My main complaints are that he isn't an especially gifted melodist (compared to say, Neil Young; mentioning Brian Wilson would be unfair), & his use of Biblical references suggests he doesn't get them directly from the sourcebook. Among ancient rockers, Neil still has a capacity for inspiring or infuriating younger musicians, his influence has to be confronted; he produces music of "popular" appeal almost as an afterthought, where the Bruce machine is completely geared to trying to remain politically & culturally relevant.


Friday, November 16, 2007

In a far away desert kingdom

From BBC News, an account what a woman gets when she appeals for justice in Saudi Arabia:
... the 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in Qatif in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.

Seven men were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years.

The rapists' sentences were also doubled by the court. Correspondents say the sentences were still low considering the rapists could have faced the death penalty.

The rape victim was punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.

On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.
Only a few weeks ago, the Saudi King visited England (bringing an entourage of 600 for a three day stay), got the full royal treatment, & British Prime Minister Gordon Brown praised the shared values of the two nations.

Whatcha gonna do when the well runs dry?

There's an old saying, "Thousands live without love, none without water." Tom Englehardt's article about drought & water resources, As the World Burns, is a long, depressing read. But he gets at basic if catastrophic facts. Entire civilizations have vanished because they lacked water. When there is no water, people move or die. There is social upheaval. This is as applicable to Atlanta, Los Angeles, & Phoenix as it was to the cities & cultures of precolumbian Mexico, Saharan Africa, & the ancient Mideast.

Water resources have to be planned decades in advance. By the time a regional climate shift happens, it's too late to do anything. If the drought in the southeast doesn't break within the next year (few months), breaking with above average rainfall, what is a city like Atlanta to do? What does it take to refill the lakes & reservoirs? Putting aside global warming, if the southwest is in a cyclical 50 or 100 year downward trend, there's no multibillion dollar public works solution that can be applied in time, which would be have to be within the next decade. There will be no water, above or below ground. There's nowhere to get it from. There will be more & worse fires. & every fire makes the environment that much drier.

A relatively brief drought - about 8 years - in the United States in the 1930s, combined with poor farming & grazing practices to create the "Dust Bowl." It was an ecological & human disaster from Texas to Canada. It caused a mass migration out of the plains states. Imagine if this had continued for 20 or 30 years; it would have hobbled America's effort in World War Two and our post-war recovery & boom.

Truth to the Highest Bidder

Just last week during the Oklahoma State University game, three ESPN announcers took turns reaming out T. Boone Pickens' butthole because the reactionary zillionaire gave $165 million to the school, which entitled him to put his name on the stadium & anywhere else he wanted to see it. But do ya think John Kerry will collect on Pickens' offer to pay a million bucks to anyone who can disprove a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Pickens gave Veterans for Truth three million back in 2004. That was the year Kerry campaigned for president in the tradition of Walter Mondale & Mike Dukakis by wearing a sign that said "Kick Me I'm Liberal" taped to his back. Let it go, John. You should know by now that in right wing politics there's no honor even among war veterans when a guy like Pickens is buying them off. This is Bush America. Truth goes to the highest bidder.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mitt's wild years

Here's a frightening account of how presidential candidate Mitt Romney spent his later adolescence years. I'll sum it up for you.

In 1966, this privileged teenager dropped out of Stanford & was posted to France as a Mormon missionary. In Paris & Bordeaux, Romney & his fellow LDS cultists did what Mormon missionaries do: They knocked on doors 12 hours-a-day. Their freedom of movement was severely restricted, conformity enforced, watching TV & reading newspapers discouraged, & the members kept each other under close observation. His only rebellion consisted of sneaking off to the movies, probably to watch Jerry Lewis with subtitles. Since Romney's interactions with French people required him to see them only as potential converts, he didn't learn much about them as real human beings. His typical encounter ended with a door slammed in his face, sometimes with an angry comment about Vietnam. Romney couldn't drink French wine. The spartan existence ruled out sampling the cuisine. Sampling female université students was out of the question. Centuries of incomparable French culture were ignored (Mormon culture is so banal it hardly qualifies as middlebrow). He may not even have enjoyed the scenery. He certainly didn't waste his time loitering in pleasant sidewalk cafes over espresso & discussions of philosophy, poetry, & love. When the general strike of '68 broke out, he ignorantly dismissed the years of political ferment & de Gaullean arrogance that had caused the upheaval. He returned to America more narrow-minded than when he had left, transferred to Brigham Young University, became a campus swell in a natty blue blazer (BYU existed in 1950s timewarp), then got married shortly before or after he drew a safe Selective Service lottery number. Our next president?

A comparable cultural experience came to mind; Dave Thomas, the affable but proudly dull founder of Wendy's served a year in Germany with the Army & rarely left the base, spending his spare time in the mess hall kitchen experimenting with mass production hamburgers. But Dave at least gave the world Wendy's Value Menu.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bob, prepare for Mars retrograde!

There it was in my spam box, caught my eye just as I hit the delete button. "Prepare" not "beware." Whew! I figured it was spam from Astrology on the Web or some site I got a free chart.
On November 15, 2007, Mars reaches his retrograde station, in preparation for a period of retrograde motion which will last until January 30th, 2008. On top of that, the effects of the retrograde period will continue to be felt until he returns in direct motion on April 4th, 2008 to the degree where he first made his station (12° Cancer 27'). The first beginnings of the effect take place from October 20, as Mars begins to slow, so prepare for issues to cloud, especially if you have strong Cardinal Sign placements in your chart. The Cardinal Signs are Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.
I'm a Scorpio, a "fixed " sign. We believe everything is fixed; horse races, elections, zoning variances, love. We used to be ruled by Mars, then were transferred to Pluto after it was discovered. Now Pluto's been downgraded from planet to the kind of object you make out of rock & ice & throw at the kid down the street you hate, but astrologers won't send us back to Mars.
Mars retrograde gives rise to irrational action; introspection; depression and self-assessment; sexual issues and relationship conflicts. Major rethinks and reorientation of current projects are also often required.
That describes my normal days.
Sexual desire is activated and sexual action intensified with passion is often associated with the urge to violence and control. Political leaders should also avoid becoming unduly concerned with homeland security and avoid imposing needless restrictions. This position makes the temper rather uncertain and there is a tendency for people to get restless, being inclined to change occupations.
In other words, Mars is always in retrograde for Republicans, especially Cheney (Aquarius). He'll probably have an intense desire to go to a game farm, shoot defenseless half-tame animals , & ejaculate in his Depends. & we can expect Democrats to act more like Republicans - wasn't that already a problem?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to kill a neighbor part two

The area of Elizabeth NJ where a 13 year old boy was shot off his bike & killed is one of the toughest sections of this big city. The murderer may be a gang wannabe making his bones. Or it could be a tragedy of mistaken identity: Teenage boys riding small bikes are part of street drug crews even in suburbia. It's occurred to me more than once that they present easy targets for competitors as they ride down empty streets at night.

I wish the anti-violence crowds that rally around grief-stricken families after shootings in gang-infested neighborhoods, with the candles, indignant preachers, & printed signs, would gather once-in-awhile for no reason other than to take back the streets for a few hours & to remind the gangs, & City Hall, that these are neighborhoods with peaceful people & children living in them.


How to kill a neighbor

This tragic story is a nightmare of internet anonymity. It's not exactly about sexual predation, although that's a part of what happened; it's an example of what seemingly ordinary middle class people will do when they can mask themselves - literally the folks down the street - acting without ethics, without decency, without compassion, without remorse, & apparently within the law. (via Jill)

One of the first & most important decisions I made when I became active on the internet was that I would not use a cloak of anonymity. Even where I use screennames (Asbury Park, Wesley Lake, RixArcade), my profiles point to my actual identity. I did this not only to promote myself, but to remind myself (& others) that anonymity breeds cruelty. From many years on the radio, I knew what I was capable of saying from a bully pulpit when I was merely a disembodied voice. I also knew where I would stop, & where I would have to stop.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Headed out for a late walk to supermarket, but I felt rain lurking in the air & I'm going that direction tomorrow to Home Depot, so turned around & came home.

From the elite Magnum Photo Agency, Six Decades in Twelve Images. Swell.

An environmental disaster on The Black Sea.

TV/mega preacher Creflo Dollar's Church of the Almighty Dollar took in $69 million last year. Creflo doesn't buy his suits off the rack. Bible in one hand, spreadsheet in the other.

A new article, brief history of carousels in Seaside Heights NJ, by Dr. Floyd Moreland, fowarded by a fellow Prince of Bennies, Jeff Jotz. The dearth of great carousels in Jersey is sad, given how many we've had on boardwalks & in amusement parks. It must be great to have a carousel named for you, like Dr. Moreland - more affection in it than a school or airport. I remember the night I was hanging out at Casino Pier listening to the band organ, & it played "Obla Di Obla Da" by the Beatles, someone had taken the time to program the song , it worked perfectly as a carousel tune & seemed the pinnacle of songwriting success, a minor Beatles song in a ideal context.

Lady Scarlet Knights lost their home opener last night on a questionable call with 1/10th second remaining & two free throws by Stanford All-American Candace Wiggins. Rutgers was ranked #3 & Stanford #7 in a meaningless preseason poll, it's hardly accurate to call it an "upset" but for giving up the home court advantage. Rutgers has only two big goals this season: Win the next game & win the National Championship come March. After last season's run to the NCAA Tournament Finals & the publicity of the Imus thing, Rutgers is drawing attention as a program on the same level with Tennessee, LSU, Duke, UConn, so the team will be measured & judged accordingly. Coach Stringer doesn't believe in scheduling a bunch of creampuff opponents to fatten up on early season wins. Top teams cruelly expose weaknesses when there's still time to correct them, as Rutgers learned from a horrendous home loss to Duke last fall. Months later they beat Duke when they had to win or the season would be over. We can be certain Stringer was absolutely livid afterward in the RAC locker room, with praise only for Candace Wiggins.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rainbow Warriors

I watched most of the Hawaii-Fresno State game last night, mainly to see Hawaii's remarkable quarterback, Colt Brennan. It was college football the way it oughta be. Aloha Stadium overlooks Pearl Harbor. The coach, June Jones, wore a tropical shirt. Lovely surfer girl/boy cheerleaders. The University of Hawaii "mascot" is a hefty student done up as a fierce Hawaiian warrior; completely possessed by the role, he was a crowd pleaser. Might as well try frightening enemies away rather than immediately clubbing them to death. With most college football, it's expected that the regular home season weather ranges from sun stroke to hypothermia. In Hawaii, it's about 75 degrees.


Camp Kilmer NJ

Constructed in a matter of months at the start of WWII, Camp Kilmer was a huge processing & embarkation center sprawling across Piscataway & Edison & into South Plainfield. By the late Sixties it was a ghostly city of boarded up buildings & roads & railroad spurs to nowhere, popular with local teenagers & Rutgers students. It was many more years before government got serious about security at abandoned installations like Camp Kilmer, Sandy Hook, & the old Nike Missile bases. Rutgers has used much of the Kilmer property for campus expansion.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer

The New York Times obituary calls him a "towering writer." When I was a teenager he was a towering presence. He wasn't even writing novels at the time, but he was everywhere - in magazines, on TV, had an opinion on everything. He was one model of what a writer could be & could do (reclusive J.D. Salinger at the other extreme). Mailer was as New York City as action painting, hard bop jazz, the five Mafia families, & the crazy old socialists who hung around the chess tables in Washington Square.

Walking on the beach

Tomorrow, Nov. 11, is my birthday. What was called "Armistice Day" when I was small child, remembering the end of World War I. A "minor" holiday, but a day off from school was a day off. I don't remember many birthdays so I don't expect others to know mine. I remember astrological signs & sometimes the approximate date. One of my girlfriends was born on St. Patrick's Day, can't forget that, no date for a quiet toast at a bar.

Getting older, I miss playing the good bad boy. Not a dangerous bad boy (sometimes a criminal mistaken for a rogue, more often a faithless womanizer misjudged as a flirt). Rather, I was the self-centered artiste. When I was younger there were always young women challenged to compete with my selfish embrace of The Muse, to coexist with the goddess if not take her place.

I enjoyed the calculated romantic gesture, most effective when it was thoughtfully creative yet modest. I could never afford the expensive gesture, so I had to be creative. Steal flowers out of gardens & add an original poem. Some women did say they liked "walks on the beach." Most guys don't like walking on the beach unless they're going somewhere in order to do something & they have to walk on the beach first to get there. If the walk was the thing, I was all for it. Especially if I could choose the beach & the route to the beach. I quickly lost interest in one woman because she had no desire to go to a place not more than 10 minutes from her home where we could watch tugboats on Arthur Kill, the tidal waterway between Jersey & Staten Island. So what if the view also included oil tanks & a mountainous garbage dump on the other side. A certain type of young woman was pleased when a good bad young man poet would rather walk on a beach than fill his hours with more responsible or profitable activities. She didn't need to believe that was the way I was all the time. She could tell herself it was only a phase. Eventually, she learned the truth.

The beaches people my age walk on are in Florida, or the Bahamas, or Hawaii. It's not just that they've earned & can afford those beautiful locations; there's also a general dulling of senses. The familiar becomes bland. So many of them also love the staged glitz, phony class, & noise of gambling casinos . They go for the $100 showroom extravaganzas, the oldies acts, the country singers on the downward slope, the comedians with the reliable material, the 90 minute abridged versions of Broadway musicals. These are good rewards for financial security? For being responsible, raising kids, making the mortgage payments on time? Feeding the profits into slot machines? (There's a lot to like about Vegas, but the people who live & work there ain't fooled by it.)

Now I'm just irresponsible & unprofitable. I got lost on the road less traveled by. The speaker in the Robert Frost poem says that road makes "all the difference," & it does, but the poem doesn't promise it's a better road. It's not about that. We think about the roads we didn't take, the alternative timelines. We try to think about them without regrets.
Ten years ago I thought my living alone was an unusual occurrance, just a bridge from one relationship to another. Then I knew I was choosing it, & that I was choosing it one day at a time. I met other people making the same choice. It was a sad realization, as few of those people seemed especially happy; some expressed dissatisfaction, but digging a bit deeper it usually turned out they were alright. They reached that point not by raising their standards & looking for some unlikely "soulmate" & becoming frustrated with the search, but by skipping the matter altogether. Part of it is that one no longer feels "lucky." If one ever did. I've had some relationships that were really good for awhile, even a long while. I was so naive that it genuinely surprised me when I encountered middle-aged people who had never had a reliable lover/companion. But it made sense if a woman who had endured a miserable, short-lived marriage, then raised children on her own - few single men are looking for those women in those years - would hardly place a "relationship" at the top of the list when the work is largely finished after two decades of struggle. & during those same decades I was doing whatever I wanted & indulging myself with a weekly radio show. Literally & figuratively walking on the beach.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lucky Day for the Dems

Jerry Lewis impersonator Jennifer Beck reacts to her 5th place finish on the America's Got Talent TV show with an ear-splitting "Heyyy Laaydeeeee."

Looking over election results, Democrats did pretty good in Jersey in the kind of off year election that could've hurt a majority party, with Jerseyans in a foul mood over taxes, debt, corruption, & the economy. The Democratic safety net here is still George W. Bush - only a hard core percentage trusts the Repugs with him & Cheney at the top of the pyramid. Jeff Van Drew solidly defeated an incumbent Senator in South Jersey & he had coattails. Another Senate gain in the Atlantic City area district, without coattails. Wingnut special interest money failed to defeat two targeted pro-choice Democrats. Ellen Karcher gave back a Senate seat Repugs had lost in a scandal. A rare reform Democrat had the party line in Bergen County - reform mainly because she was a popular choice who successfully out-maneuvered the county machine in the primary.

I was mildly surprised at the $450 million Stem Cell Research Bond being defeated by such a wide margin, 54% - 44%. The religious right will claim a moral victory, but this was a year when 40% voted against removing the word "idiot" from the constitution. Like the "Property Tax Reform" question, also defeated, voters were not giving Trenton a mountain of money without even vaguely understanding how it would be spent. I voted for the Stem Cell Bonds, not enthusiastically, & with justifiable suspicions that a lot of politically connected people were already scheming to get a piece of the state-sponsored stem cell research business. Huge infrastructure repair bond issuances are probably unavoidable here in the near future no matter how generous a Democratic Congress & President are toward us. Additional gasoline taxes won't cover the cost. We're still waiting to find out how much we're getting from the Feds toward children's health care, & I think opinion is Jersey is shifting toward some form of universal coverage. Jersey is a moderately progressive state that cannot afford to be more progressive, a damned shame.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stop diddling around & just pitch

As if baseball games aren't already tedious:
ORLANDO, Fla. - For the first time Tuesday, baseball general managers recommended instant replay be used to help umpires make difficult decisions.

The recommendation, by a 25-5 vote, was limited to boundary calls — whether potential home runs are fair or foul, whether balls go over fences or hit the top and bounce back, and whether fans interfere with possible homers.
I suppose it's inevitable. The bad call is one thing about baseball I like. But the most interesting goofs are tag outs & trapped ball catches, & this rule change wouldn't deal with those, although it opens the door. Perhaps Major League Baseball will eventually adopt a Home Run Derby solution for resolving extra inning games, with batting practice pitchers lobbing grapefruits over the middle of the plate for designated sluggers.

A ballot of choices, not solutions

What a lousy ballot for today's election. In the races, I have the choice of the Union County Democratic Machine, the repugs, or a "Clean Up Government" ticket of wingnuts. Only one of the four Public Questions raises no doubts in my mind; a substitution of neutral legalese for the phrase "idiot or insane person" in the State Constitution. Dedicating a portion of the sales tax toward "property tax reform" is an admission of failure to reform. The ballot does not explain how this money will be used, only that it will be placed in a special account & "annually appropriated." The Stem Cell Research Bond is a funding matter promoted or opposed on the basis of "values." So it will pass because a large majority of Jersey voters favor stem cell research, which isn't the question being asked. The Green Acres Bond for $200 million actually made me laugh. Here's the whole thing:
Shall the “Green Acres, Farmland, Blue Acres, and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2007,” which authorizes the State to issue bonds in the amount of $200 million to provide moneys for (1) the acquisition and development of lands for recreation and conservation purposes, (2) the preservation of farmland for agricultural or horticultural use and production, (3) the acquisition, for recreation and conservation purposes, of properties in the floodways of the Delaware River, Passaic River, and Raritan River, and their tributaries, that are prone to or have incurred flood or storm damage, and (4) funding historic preservation projects; and providing the ways and means to pay the interest on the debt and also to pay and discharge the principal thereof, be approved?
That's much to squeeze out of 200 mill in this state. Environmental groups endorse it as a "bridge" until better solutions are found. There are no better solutions. Open space is preserved by getting it off the real estate market. Speculators still profit (with the cooperation of politicians) by driving up the value of real estate they're pretty certain government wants to protect. Keeping genuine farmers farming is directly related to the first ballot question, property taxes.

I appreciate residing in a "safe" Democratic area, although it's not good for the regular party establishment to feel safe all the time. There are contested districts in Monmouth & Atlantic counties where my vote would be more useful & there are candidates I care about.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ticket please!

On the train from Newark yesterday, a young drunk in the seat behind me had no ticket, claiming his two friends in the next car had it. He was traveling to Belmar on the Jersey shore. The conductor said, "I'll get back to you." A few minutes later he came back, said the ticket would be $17 & change, the drunk said he had no money but would look for his friends. The conductor said, "You've got plenty of stops," as a warning he wouldn't forget. The drunk went stumbling into the next car. He returned scowling, red-faced, headed in the other direction. As we pulled into Elizabeth, I said to the man in the seat next to me, "I'm glad I'm getting off the train now. That is one nasty-looking drunk guy, his friends dumped him, he's gonna get sick, too, before or after they kick him off."

I spent 7 dollars at the WFMU Record Fair. Just before close, a nearby dealer abandoned boxes of "unsellable" product. I found a few classical rekkids I had to rescue, including Stokowski conducting Beethoven's 9th, & a 4 disk set of Schubert piano music by a pianist I like in nearly unplayed condition. They had too much dignity to go in the dumpster, although I wouldn't have bought them. I'll transfer some to CD. Also from those boxes of freebies, I replaced my worn copy of Golden Goodies Vol 15, which contains "Symbol of Love" & "Cause You're Mine" by the G Clefs - the latter an all time fav jive doo wop with a loony sax break in the middle; & grabbed Oldies But Goodies Vol. 6 for "You Were Mine" by The Fireflies ("You were mine at the time, & the feeling was sublime.").

About an hour into my shift Sunday at the Record Fair El Cheapo one dollar record tables, management decided to make the price 25 cents. It was a great idea. Some customers had been lingering over the boxes since I arrived. The tables became a feeding frenzy. The Fair began Friday night, all through the event the one dollar stock had been replenished as needed. But even I recognized much of the vinyl from years past, hauled from the WFMU storeroom to the New York & back. Just get rid of it. About a half an hour before closing, the remarkable decision was made to give away whatever remained. People walked away with huge stacks. Even so, we boxed thousands of leftovers at the end. DJ Jason Das & I diiscussed why neither of us went for the LP of 10th Century Liturgical Chant with the attractive cover. We agreed that we liked the idea of an album of really, really old music, but we'd never listen to it.

I do not enjoy the PATH 33rd Street train, slow curves with shrieking metal wheels & a tube laid in a Hudson River mud trench rather than drilled through bedrock.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Atlantic City NJ

Capt. Starn's on the Inlet.
A ride on on his boat, drinks & dinner, & a souvenir postcard.
"Out of the water into the pan"

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Navy Blue and Gold

Navy beat Notre Dame 46 to 44 in three overtimes. To put in context for myself, the last time Navy beat Notre Dame, I was in high school. It was a brand new high school. John F. Kennedy was president, with less than three weeks to live. We were all hearing crazy stuff about The Beatles but few had heard an entire song by them. The Contrarian himself was but a potentiality of the Eternal Mind, hardly predestined to receive frequent appeals for money from the Notre Dame Alumni Association. If that 1963 game was televised, & if I watched, it was to see Roger Staubach, the superstar Navy quarterback. Navy won 35-14. Navy lost the next 43 games to the Irish. So I was rooting for the Middies to win today, & in South Bend. Notre Dame is historically lousy this year - set their own record today for consecutive home losses - worse than mediocre. Navy was obviously the smaller team in the matchup. Navy finished the 1963 season rated #2. The Army-Navy Game still generated national interest. It would be preposterous to think that Navy could field a national champion contender now, or Army even crack the top 25. Maybe not.

Touching after game ritual of both teams staying on the field for their respective Alma Mater songs, which were composed to be sung after drinking copious quantities of beer.

Tomorrow, I spend the afternoon at the WFMU Record Fair in New York, a pleasant way to put in some volunteer time for the station. I work the "El Cheapo" tables, all CDs & records for a dollar. It's the goal of El Cheapo to get whatever change remains in the customers' pockets after they've spent massive amounts of money browsing the other 100 or so dealers. I'm perfect for the job. I promote my fill-in radio shows as "Discount Free Form." My own budget for the fair is ridiculously small, & I give myself only a hour or so to look around. I'm no longer a record collector; it's been years since I had to feel the hungry maw of a weekly free form show. So I shuffle through the one & two dollar boxes underneath the dealer tables. Even at those prices something really has to catch my eye. Last year it was an LP of Hawaiian songs performed with a small, first rate jazz ensemble, made my "Best of" list for the year.

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Friday, November 02, 2007


Terrific Jersey sunset of pink cloud bands generated by the outermost fringe of the massive Hurricane Noel system. The storm is so large & powerful that we're expecting 35 mph sustained wind here tomorrow even though the center will be several hundred miles out at sea. If Noel had taken a track closer to the coast we'd have really serious coastal flooding & beach erosion. Saturday will be a good day for ocean gazing, preferably through a window to avoid the sandpaper on face effect.

Happy Birthday to Glen Jones (Nov. 4), friend, fellow Scorpio, free form DJ, & Asbury Park resident.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Enola Gay

Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the commander and pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II, died today at his home in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92.
I tried writing a poem about Tibbets, inspired by some lines of dialogue from Above & Beyond, a 1952 movie dramatizing his life. I tinkered with the poem for several years, abandoned it, thwarted by my own ambivalence.

The history of warfare is filled with examples of deadly technology developed & used under conditions of extreme national peril. But the atomic bomb was like a neolithic tribe discovering TNT. There's no doubt in my mind the Germans & Japanese would have dropped one on us. We were all at the same general evolutionary stage. The Japanese suffered the consequences of our having The Bomb before we burned every one of their cities to ashes with "conventional" incendiary devices, which we would have tried to do before invading their home islands in 1946. Although the Japanese are convincing advocates for the banning of nuclear weapons, on occasion they've shown a peculiar forgetfulness as to exactly why President Truman did not hesitate in ordering the incineration of Hiroshima. Truman couldn't even be absolutely certain what he was ordering: if it worked the way it did in the desert, it would be terrible beyond imagining. If.

The dilemma was always greater than Hiroshima. In 1945, only a comparative handful of physicists & technocrats, some of them visionary & some of them visionary crackpots, understood the enormity of what the five ton "Little Boy" bomb was unleashing on the human race, & they were divided on what to do about it. Absurdly, we're still debating it over 60 years later. Nuclear weapons provided a rationale for invading Iraq, & they're leading two crazy presidents toward something awful in Iran. Nuclear missiles inflame Russian xenophobia, & make little men from Washington D.C. to Pyongyang think they have big balls. The existence of "The Bomb," what it has done to the human psyche, how it warps the politics & policies of the entire world, has caused far more death & human suffering than the combined casualties of Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

Tibbets was a soldier. God knows how he maintained the level of detachment he exhibited throughout his life; mental discipline, I suppose. He didn't order himself to fly the Hiroshima bombing mission. In that sense, he was no more guilty or innocent than any soldier or sailor or pilot in the chain of command. The buck stopped with Truman then, as it does with every President. Unlike George W., Harry didn't start his long war, but he intended to end it, quickly.

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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