Northern Valley Beacon

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


That whooshing sound is Homestake being flushed out of contention

Homestake Mine

The news came during Thanksgiving weekend. The water collecting in the 8,000-foot deep Homestake Goldmine has reached the 5,600-foot level.

Doug Wiken at Dakota Today has posted on the matter. He cites the water as an example of mismanagement by the party in power.

Barrick Gold, who recently turned over the mine to the State of South Dakota, stalled in the negotiations to turn the mine over to the state for development as the site of the Deep Underground Science and Engineerng Laboratory. Barrick wanted to be assured that it would have no environmental liabilities if it turned the mine over to the state. The state did not want to get stuck with any huge environmental problems. And so, the negotiations seem stalled at times, and Barrick turned off the pumps that keep the mine dry. Barrick said it would be less costly to pump the mine out once plans for a laboratory were set than to keep them running. However, the scientists who originally promoted turning the old gold mine into an underground laboratory were more concerned about the possibility of doing any more science in the mine. The scientific community, as reported in the Whyfiles , thought "A waterlogged mine would be useless as a research vessel, but clearing it out would take years and millions of dollars. It would also stall the project that scientists are already restless to get moving."

Physicist Wick Haxton of the University of Washington led the group of physicists who had near-unanimous support from their colleagues throughout the U.S. and Canada for the proposal to convert Homestake into a national underground laboratory. But when the pumps were turned off, he said, "Our fondest hope is that [the proposal] will go through before water reaches 7400 foot level, where we do our major work.

As of this month, that level was under 1800 feet of water.

Water in the Homestake Mine was reported by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority to be at the 5600 foot level as of November 6.

Shortly after the pumps were turned off, Haxton and the large majority of
his physicist colleagues abandoned the Homestake plan and started looking for other places to do their scientific research and experiments.

The National Science Foundation, which will select the site where the federal money for an underground lab will go, kept hopes for Homestake alive when it designated Homestake and Henderson Mine in Colorado as the finalists in the selection process. Extensive plans for the construction of a national underground laboratory are due from each of the sites on January 9.

In early October, I had a chance to visit the Henderson site and people from the academic and scientific communities who support it. As I explained then (October 9 archives) the Henderson site lacks some of the potential of Homestake. But it has the active interest and support of its academic community and within a few hours drive, researchers and their
families have access to the resources of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado School of Mines, and the 3-institution Auraria Campus in Denver. In addition, Henderson has a professor-scientist led group, the Colorado Alliance for Underground Science and Engineering, and a more diverse group called the Arapahoe Project working to develop and promote the site.

A crucial factor to be decided in the selection process is the level of local expertise and support that each site can muster. The South Dakota higher education community appears not to be involved in the Homestake project at all. Many scientists who once promoted Homestake now dismiss it as something of a hare-brained economic development scheme. In contrast, Colorado has institutions and personnel who are consulted, who are interested, and who are ready to begin work at the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory the minute they are given the go ahead.

As stated, Homestake has geological potential that is unmatched in the U.S. But other places have the human resources, talent, and academic interest that weighs heavier and heavier as the water inches up in the abandoned mine shafts at Homestake.

Among the DUSEL supporters, the advice is that Homestake is a long shot at this point. The rising waters seem to be washing it out of contention. South Dakota simply has never demonstrated the respect and interest for higher education and research that is an increasingly important factor in deciding where the DUSEL should be located.

Friday, November 24, 2006


A Thanksgiving compromised by Islam's burden

As the civil war in Iraq intensifies (and don't try any of that semantic shit with me about what defines civil war), one must wonder if Islam has any interest at all in bettering and helping human beings. Shiites, who believe that the religion's authority is invested in its clerics by lines of succession, and the Sunni, who believe that the authority is invested in the Koran and the customs of the sect, are killing each other over that ostensible difference. But we saw the same violence, although not in the same magnitude, between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

There is an understandable and growing cynicism among people about whether religion has any role or relevance in the quality of human life and human affairs. It seems to be the issue over which people find more occasions these days to vilify and harm each other than to extend understanding, good will, and peace.

Christianity has its divisions. Some put priority on the Old Testament which records wars and demonstrates the eye-for-an-eye principle. Others see the New Law in the New Testament as specified in the Beatitudes as the essential characteristics of Christianity. Damned few Christians actually believe or practice the instructions of Jesus Christ. But professing Christianity and a belief in the teachings of Christ are customary facades behind which lurk all manner of wicked and evil motives.

At least most Christians profess the message of good will to all people and peace on earth. At least on their Christmas cards, and increasingly in those gaudy light displays they put up in their yards. It is a nice pretense. And in this age, pretense is about all we have that we can depend on.

Islam makes no pretense to good will and peace. While some sectarian spokespeople insist that the Muslim religion advocates good will toward humankind and peace on earth, events of the 21st century make that terribly hard to take seriously. 9/11 when suicide bombers shouted "God is great" as they crashed jet plans into the World Trade Center are hardly examples of beneficence. Neither is Iran's constant threats against Israel and the U.S. And most plots by Muslims against the rest of word, whether successfully completed or in the planning process, take place with mosques as central in their instigation and planning. The first attack on the World Trade Center is a case in point.

This is a bit frightening because 20 percent of the world's population claims to be Muslim. And we have still to witness evidence that the religion has any restraints, let alone any prohibitions, against committing mass atrocities on the rest of the world.

Those of us in democratic countries are reluctant to suggest that Islam is the vector of the mass atrocities. Ironically, if the fact that Islam seems to have the franchise on the violence and atrocities committed on the world is pointed out, the Muslims go into a frenzied rage that their religion is being disrespected. But Islam has proven to be both the motive and means for atrocities committed in the name of Allah.

The Muslim clerics who were removed from a plane because other passengers, who have been told to report any suspicious activity, became alarmed have protested that they are victims of profiling and stereotyping. It has been the relentless string of atrocities committed in the name of Islam, not indoctrination by the American government, that has earned the distrust not only of Americans, but much of the world. It is regrettable that they may have been falsely suspected, but rather than railing at American society, they had better work at restoring some credibility of decency to their sect. The world has been given good and sufficient cause to be wary of the goings-on within Islam.

Humans tend toward factionalism. Madison noted this in the 10th Federalist Paper:

So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

Madison recommends our republican form of democracy as the means to moderate the passions that cause human strife. As we have seen in Iraq, that form of moderation does not have much of chance where people kill each other for reasons of exercising power and imposing their wills on other people.

We Americans, in particular, tend strongly to let people have their own religious beliefs. This causes a predicament when Islamic religious doctrine is given as the basis for the terrorist war being waged on our country. But there is a semantic way out of this dilemma that does not violate the Constitutional principles most of us revere.

It lies in the doctrine of separation of church and state, as orginally and most eloquently outlined by Roger Williams. He said:

But if a Man hold forth or profess any Error or false way, with a boisterous and arrogant spirit, to the disturbance of Civil peace, he may be justly punished according to the quality and measure of the disturbance caused by him...

The semantic problem is that poltical powers are being exercised under the cloak of Muslim religion. At this point in the atrocities committed, it may be time to remove the designation of "religion" from Islam and recognize it as a subversive political force, just as we have treated other subversive plots against our country in the past.

If Islam in general is not bent on carrying out a jihad against the western world, it has a formidable task in the face of 21st century history in establishing that it is a religion, not a political movement bent upon dominating or destroying the rest of the world.

We have bodies killed in the act of atrocities strewn throughout the world that speak to the ill will and violence committed in the name of a religion. Who is to blame but the people who commit and condone such violence if the rest of the world looks at Islam as a political force bent on domination and violence, not as a religion bent on uplifting humankind?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The new racism centered right here at home

The assassination of a government minister of industry in Lebanon added another few stones of despair to the hopeless morass of the Middle East. At some point we have to ask with the psalmist, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" David answers his own question, "The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence." And then he predicts that the lord shall destroy the wicked. But that does not offer much hope for Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and that part of the world which exercises violence and atrocities as a mandate of religious doctrine.

The fact is that what is happening to people in the Middle East makes the Holocaust look like a minor chink in the foundations of human decency. Aside from the horrendous moral and political bungling of the U.S. incursion into Iraq, the Muslim jihad against the world is a massive attack against the foundations of human society. Democracy is certainly a casualty.

As counterproductive as it is economically, the free world may have to set up border fences and isolate itself from the insidious forces that love violence and hate the very soul of peace and good will toward people.

To engage hatred and atrocity is to descend to its level and to allow it to enter in to our own thinking and behavior. The very foundation of peace and good will has been destroyed, and those who advocate it can practice it only on their own.

Because while we are focused on a horrifyingly obscence war, we are losing some battles against hatred in our own back yard. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said when he was asked to respond to a slavery issue a thousand miles away, "Go love thy infant, love thy woodchopper...Thy love afar is spite at home." The seeds of hatred have sprouted and sent their wicked tentacles throughout our own community here in Aberdeen. We should not let the massive atrocities in the middle east misdirect our attention from the malignant forces thriving here at home.

The latest symptom of that malignancy involves a beef plant being planned in Aberdeen. Some people think it will bring stench, noise, and nuisance to the community. Some home owners nearest the plant are suing the promoters for the presumed decline in their property values it will bring. But other people are ranting and raging against the people it might attract.

A loyal correspondent of mine has provided me with reams of discussion from newspaper discussion boards and blog commentaries, and they are full of racist invective. Mostly, they object to the idea of minorities coming to Aberdeen. They assume that the crime rate will soar and the community will turn into a ghetto. Here is an example from a newspaper discussion board:

In some ways I cannot wait until I prove to the blind folks that this beef plant will cause untold misery and damage to the community. It may take some time but just remember all your feel good comments about how we should live together in peace and harmony. Those words will haunt not only you but others who do not have a clue.

While we wait, put bars on your windows, alarms on your house, bullet proof vests for your kids to stop the knife and bullet attacks, anchor down everything you have that is valuable, buy a steering wheel lock and car alarm, and hold on
tight. It is going to be a heck of a ride.

Others attribute the expected rise in crime and cultural devastation to the assumption that the influx of minority will be mostly illegal aliens. Some of the writers cite the experiences of other cities that have had packing plants as evidence that hordes of races with moral defects and criminal agendas will descend upon the town. They cite as evidence the rantings of people from those towns who have their own racist axes to grind.

Actually, the lawsuits against the beef plant may have zoning, property value, and nuisance issues as their pretext, but the speech of many involved very quickly reveals that their real motives deal with people of various colors--particularly those of Latino and Asian backgrounds.

People dismiss the racist tirades and hate as the product of a few people on discussion boards and blogs because they seem to comprise a small minority. Consultants who analyze such matters point out that these voices tend to dominate the discussions they participate in, and that is the real point of significance in examining how a community reacts to racism and hate speech. In the case of the newspaper discussion boards, the presence of such raging without requirements for valid evidence to support the statements and without any kind of editorial remonstrance is a tacit expression of at least part of the community leadership.

While the sectarian violence in Iraq casts a deep, seething shadow on the any prospects for democracy in the middle east, the rumblings of racist and class hatred in Aberdeen are signs that the foundations of democracy and civil government are under siege in our own town.

We can't help but wonder how much the war on Iraq and the moral chaos it has created in the world contributes to the racist, hate-filled mindset in Aberdeen. Whatever the source and occasion for this hatred, it needs to be dealt with. We need to divert our attention away from our global identity and assess just how we are doing here at home.

America seems to be slipping under the tide of malice that is rising in the world.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Sorry, Dr. B., I got impatient with some silly answers

Another chance to identify.

Here is a better shot of a pork pie hat which includes the crown. However, this man has the brim up, and his face is turned away. I am a down-brimmer. Here is the same instrument, same caliber of talent as Coleman Hawkins.

The man singing with him is a good clue as to the time of the photo.

Hey, Epp. You diggin this?

Monday, November 13, 2006


Epp outed me. See for yourself.

How do I wear my pork pie brim? See for yourself.

(If you know who my alter ego is, I'll give you an Al Sharpton campaign button.)


South Dakota blogs on the propagation, care, and feeding of bigotry

.A story circulated in the South Dakota press about an incident concerning an SDSU student who was attending the FFA convention where American Idol winner Carrie Underwood was appearing. The South Dakota student led a walkout during Underwood's performance because Ms. Underwood is a vegetarian and a member of the Humane Society. Jerry Hinkle of the Holabird Advocate has the best commentary on the manner in which he nominates the protestor for the PEDA (People Eating Delicious Animals Award). The young woman, Amanda Nolz, protested that Carrie Underwood was undermining animal agriculture that works so hard to provide food for the rest of us.

The problem was that Ms. Nolz charged Ms. Underwood with being a member of the humane society and an activist against meat-producing agriculture. Ms. Underwood is a vegetarian. So, Ms. Nolz passed out flyers at the FFA convention urging attendees to walk out when Ms. Underwood took the stage. Quite a few apparently did.

The story got a play in the blogs, with South Dakota War College lauding Ms. Nolz for her courage to take a stand. Then, some commentators asked who did the booking of a vegetarian and humane advocate for an FFA convention. We assume Ms. Underwood was booked for her talent as a singer, not her personal diet and attitude toward animals.

I suppose, by the standards of some bloggers, I am an activist against animal agriculture, although I have a freezer full of Brown County beef and have dabbled in the livestock business. Our family dog, Ingrid, is a greyhound rescued from the Denver track (she placed in 84 of the 86 races she ran there). In the photo, she is doing her impression of roadkill. The snowshoe Siamese, Simon, was found hung up in a chain link fence on Skyline Drive in Rapid City. Ziggy, the silver tabby, was adopted from a woman in Britton who rescues and finds homes for cats. Harboring animals such as these surely makes me an enemy of animal agriculture.

I also have a large vegetable garden on the banks of the James River. I eat veggies along with the beef, pork, poultry, and fish. Boycott me, baby.

The newspaper I worked for as farm editor was a big supporter of FFA and 4-H activities. (All of my children have been in 4-H.) I often had kids accompany me on my rounds as apprentices. (For obvious reasons, I am avoiding the term "intern.") It was made clear to us editors that our tasks as mentors was to give the young people experience and to guide them in the kind of behavior and conduct that produced good results. If a young person made a mistake, like confusing PETA with the humane society, we were expected to point out the error. If they chose to commit an act of rudeness against someone because they objected to that someone's personal tastes and preferences, we were expected to discourage them from displays of bad manners and suggest that there was a big difference between acting out on the basis of a bigotry and taking a stance on moral and ethical issues.

But in South Dakota blogs, young people get applauded for acting out of error and being rude. Ironically, shortly after Ms. Underwood appeared at the FFA convention, she won the CMA female vocalist of the year award.

Unfortunately, the War College missed a chance to laud what looked like some resentful shenanigans by competing singers. But we are sure the blog would have lauded any bad manners shown toward Ms. Underwood if it could.

The fostering of ignorant resentment is a non-partisan activity with blogs. I hit the bigot button bigtime on a liberal blog with a commentary on an incident in Aberdeen on election over the Referred Law 6 campaigns. Some young people who were pressed into service acted out in such a way that their actions received an extensive commentary on the editorial page of the local newspaper. I wrote a commentary in which the main point was that, yes, sometimes young people make blunders and get out of hand (see below), but we older people have to assume responsibility for such behavior because we do not offer effective support and guidance. And I said young people do tend to get full of themselves and make blunders, but I also said older people do no better. I was portraying a barrier that exists between the older and the young. It is something that impedes campaigns.

My comments triggered Todd Epp's stereotype machine. He said he could envision "The Newk hiking his pants up to his nipples, putting on a pork pie hat, wearing a powder blue polyester short-sleeved jumpsuit, and screaming out his front door, "You kids get of the yard!"

He left out the part about stealing, stinking, wearing loose shoes, and lusting after white women. Oh, that's another stereotype. Not the ageist one. But what's the difference?

I did raise some concerns about the factionalism in high schools as a reflection of the divisions within adult society. Todd says it all sounds like his high school experience and kids survived it and went on to become productive adults. He referred to the 20-year-old film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." That is another irony, because while the film was popular with the younger set, critics termed it an exercise in stereotypes that exploited the resentments of the young. But the subject of factions and their effect on the educational process is something that educators discuss and try to deal with every day.

The fact is that there are many kids who do not survive. They drop out or get lost along the way. One of the huge frauds in the No Child Left Behind program is that school systems are not reporting the drop-out rates. In the post below, I relate the way in which young people themselves recognized and dealt with the divisivenss in their schools--which I state is a projection of the divisions in the larger culture. But this was treated as the rant of an old fool bashing kids.

It is probably easier and more pleasurable to construct a stereotype than to read the actual words and attend to the actual points.

Kids have a lot to learn and deal with. Sometimes they make mistakes. So do adults. That's why we have education. As someone who spent 30 years in classrooms and have two teen-age children, I am well aware of what kids face, what they do, and why they do it. Analyzing the impediments to their learning is not kid bashing.

I know I also raise much resentment because I find blogs to be ignorant, petty, mean, and prejudiced. Like Todd Epp says in regard to another blogger, I think their main value often is that they reveal a level of thought and expression that we ostensibly, at least, would like to surmount.

Having one's words misrepresented and given some ridiculously untenable interpretations has become an essential feature of web logging. Blogging is a kind of pack commentary. Todd raised a stereotype, and people who obviously had not read my post chimed in with charges that my post said things that it absolutely did not.

I do not recommend that young people read blogs unless they want examples of what to avoid. And as for petty bigotry. As long as we have blogs, it will be alive and well and will endure. But not if I can help it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Bad day at Sixth Avenue and Dakota Street

Last Tuesday, gangs of teen-agers gathered on the south corners of the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Dakota Street at the behest of anti-abortion and pro-choice organizations to carry signs and demonstrate the positions of their sponsors on Referred Law 6. For those who are not familiar with Aberdeen, Sixth Avenue is the main drag. It is also U.S. 12. As you drive in from the east, you will pass the major implement dealers, the airport, Wal-Mart, Menards, Target, what is left of the mall, fast-food outlets, motels, the library, a multitude of strip malls, and on it goes out to the cattle farms and ranches to the west. The corner of Sixth and Dakota features Burger King, KFC, a bank, and an outfit that sells hot tubs. The anti-abortion demonstrators camped in front of the hot tubs. The pro-choice demonstrators were in front of "have it your way" Burger King.

The anti-abortion people had their teen-age surrogates out there first. When the pro-choice organizations heard this, they lined up kids to represent the opposition viewpoint. Nothing wrong with that. Except that they were kids.

Some vile exchanges took place between the demonstrator camps and between them and passing motorists. The vileness had little to do with the convictions of the demonstrators. It has more to do with the culture of the young and what--much as we deny it--our high schools have turned into. We are a viciously divided society, and the attitudes of our culture are reflected in the bitter and often dangerous factions that create the social atmosphere of our high schools. While the administrative and teaching staffs of our schools try their hardest every day to moderate the factionalism and turn the focus to education, their efforts cannot compensate for the rip-tides of hatred that surge through teen-age society and carry young people out to angry, stormy seas.

Teen-age culture is angry and bigoted. It is divided into factions. Over the years when I have asked freshmen students to write analytical papers about their educational experiences, they all acknowledge the divisions of students into the popular kids, the preppies, the gangstas, the motor heads, the druggies, the gothics, the jocks, and on and on. The papers all reflected a bitter disdain held by the factions toward each other. They were remarkable in that only an isolated few reflected any inclination toward tolerance, good will, and the acceptance of differences. To someone of my age, this is not familiar territory. While there were social factions in high schools of my day, the student body was not divided by them. People of varying backgrounds and varying interests were more involved with including diversity rather than finding social pretexts for exclusion. I have two high school-aged children, and I am troubled and puzzled by the attitudes they hold toward their peers. I also recognize that I am part of a group that they disdain. I am old. I have nothing I can communicate. My life and its experiences are irrelevant. Their attitudes are shaped by popular culture and peers.

As a long-time political operative and "adviser," I have been critical of the way election campaigns are run. Major political figures hire young operatives from out-of-state to come in and run their campaign offices. I have no problem with that. They work cheap, they put in horrendously long hours, and they invest a level of energy that is daunting. The problem is that they are young. Their inexperience and their youthful presumptions often damage campaigns.

I am not suggesting that we elders can do any better. Many older people are mired in the well-this-is-the-way-we-used-to-do-it mode. They are not particularly tolerant of youthful presumption. A few years ago, I suggested that a board of experienced people in the county be organized to consult with the young campaign staffs and show them around the county so that they would know who was who and what was what. Initially, the advisers did head off some potentially harmful intra-party gaffs and some mistakes in organizing supporters. But the sense of self-importance and impatience of the young soon prevailed, and they tended to dismiss the information given by the more experienced hands. When mature people realize that their efforts are an annoyance to the campaign staffs, they tend to withdraw from campaign activities. After this last election, I am more convinced than ever that political parties need to find a way to utilize the knowledge from experience and the energy of youth in coordinated ways. It would civilize campaigns considerably.

What happened on Sixth Avenue last Tuesday was as much a problem with the mindless factionalism of youth as it was with the issue at hand. The kids were responding much like they do at confrontations with fans from opposing sports teams. There was an element of juvenile exhibitionism that soon turns to anger and confrontation. The groups yelled insults at each other. One group had a bull horn and shouted every insult they could remember from the Comedy Channel. For them, the whole experience was something of a lark, but it turned to anger and got out-of-control and the police were called quite a few times.

I had a discussion with some of the young demonstrators and asked if they thought their behavior was making a positive statement for the pro-choice side. They looked at me with that what-has-that-to-do-with-it? look and showed the resentment that the young often have for the old. Some of us called the headquarters of the sponsoring organization that pays the local staff members, and they ordered the staff to either establish some decorum or send the young demonstrators home. Things quietened down, but for many witnesses the confrontations were not forgotten. They carry images and incidents that for them characerterizes the sides of the abortion debate.

We cannot blame the kids for their excesses. Adults showed the same anger and intolerance in their letters to the editors--except that editors will not allow such abusive and profane language. Many bloggers framed the debate in terms of hostility and hatred, too. Blogs often reveal character. The kids and their propensity for getting vicious and acting out bring to the surface the attitudes and values that drive our general culture. While we may lament and shame our youth for their behavior, we cannot face the fact that they are expressing the attitudes and values of the culture that is shaping them. We adults have created that culture, but we have little influence in controlling its results.

The week before the election, I stopped by the printer to pick up some campaign literature we had ordered. As I came in the door, a woman behind the counter said, "Brown County Democrats, right.?" Before I could say yes, another woman customer snarled something about Democrats and gave an evil derisive laugh. This little episode is what was being replayed and intensified out on Sixth Avenue on election day.

Our children did not do us proud that day. But they are expressions of what they learn from us. Don't disparage the kids. Examine our failings as a culture and a society.

Here is a link to another account of this incident:

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Let's choose up sides and smell armpits

The post-election drivel in the media and in the blogs is enough to gag a maggot. (From the headline, you can probably tell this is cliche day.) This was driven home when we attended a Veterans Day program featuring the 147th FA Army band in Huron. We were asked how we regarded politics and elections in those days when our asses were covered in khaki and olive drab. (Camouflage is so gauche.)

Neither in civilian life or in the military did our political orientations enter in to our relationships with other people. The kind of political divisions in our country did not enter in until people like Rush Limbaugh and his minions started equating liberalism with the kind of social divisions that once divided white folks and black folks. While I was in the service and in general life up through the 1980s, political beliefs were personal preferences of the same magnitude as automobile and cologne preferences. They were not forces that divided society, but were part of the array of individuality that we cherished. Our political preferences were not freighted with hate propaganda a la Limbaugh.

In the military, our focus was on the job we had to do. Relationships were formed on the cooperative enterprise of getting the job done. A difference was that we had no reason to question the motives of our commander in chief for assigning us our tasks or the intellectual competence or moral integrity of the higher commands in ordering us to do those jobs.

That is not true today. Mired down in an Orwellian war that cannot possibly be "won" through military means, our country is very much divided. After the election the self-appointed idiot corps has started in carping about how much the Democrats are becoming conservative as a means to alleviate the sting of rejection of the Republicans. Voters, they contend, did not vote against Republicans, they voted for Democrats gone conservative. In their pronouncements they apply the Forest Gump principle: stupid is as stupid does.

In the field of general semantics, an error of thought and perception is called the two-prong mode of thinking. People possessed by this mode of thinking are hung up on the two-pronged horns of a dilemma. Things are either black or white, hot or cold, liberal or conservative. In this mode of thought, people cannot see the total spectrum of situation and belief on which society arrays itself. It is not divided according to some simple-minded choice of two extremes. The fact is that the Democratic Party has never been totally "liberal" (and watch for the invidious definition imposed on the term by Limbaughites) or "conservative." It has largely been composed of people who see problems and are looking for ways to solve them. It is the self-professed "conservatives" who define themselves according to some party-line doctrine.

While the commentators may try to portray the upcoming sessions of Congress as tussles between liberal and conservative beliefs, the real task is how to solve problems, like

Let those who want to divide themselves up into hostile groups and sniff each others armpits inhale to their hearts' (or their nostrils') content. Let the rest of us get on with the business of the country. That is what election 2006 was all about.

Friday, November 10, 2006


We salute you. We will remember you.


Honor our military. Stop killing them.

As a veteran, I can attest that nothing is more infuriating than people who mouth all the platitudes about honoring our troops, and then support actions which designate them as expendable and disposable. For this Veterans Day, it would be nice to see our troops honored as something other than cannon fodder.

Today, a veteran from the Iraq debacle was interviewed on CNN because he was self-employed and while he was serving his country, his business was damaged and he returned to a $100,000 debt. When asked if he would go back to Iraq, he said yes. Anything positive he could do to help keep his comrades in arms alive, he would do. His statement expresses the deep sorrow and regret over the loss of lives, especially when those losses cannot be justified on the basis of our country's security and lifting the weight of oppression off of a people who want to be free.

While the pussies among us are whining and prattling over "bi-partisan" possibilities with the Democratic congress which will take power in January, the real political battle is shaping up. Six months before our invasion of Iraq, many people, including incoming Sen. Webb from Virginia, were warning of the false premise of the invasion and the terrorism and violence it would inspire. Webb is a Viet Nam veteran and was Secretary of the Navy under Reagan. He ain't no pussy.

A journalist who has also warned about the false premise and utter foolery of the war on Iraq is Joseph Galloway. He wrote, "We were Soldiers, and Young," which was made into a film. No one's voice has spoken out against the waste and tragedy of lives taken by unwarranted, poorly planned and executed military action like he has.

In honor of veterans, it is fitting to reprint in its entirety his column from today's newspapers. It lists the way we can honor our soldiers and our veterans and set this nation on the right course.

Posted on Fri, Nov. 10, 2006

New Congress needs revised defense 'to do' list

Better late than never.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is gone, but there's little time for celebration, even for those of us who long ago began calling for his removal. The damage that men do lives after them, and it's time at last for an accounting. The nation's voters have spoken, and it's reasonable to expect that the Congress finally will begin to exercise some oversight of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after five years of serving as rubber stamp and doormats.

Can you spell "subpoena"?

For the Democrats who will soon take charge of the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, too, here's a preliminary laundry list of some of the things that need doing:

• A comprehensive investigation of the pre-war intelligence on Iraq and how it was perverted, how the mine was salted, and by whom.

• A thorough investigation of what pre-war advice was offered by senior American military commanders on troop strength, equipment requirements and strategy and tactics. Did even one general ignore the bullying from on high and ask for more troops, and how did Rumsfeld respond?

• Why did the Pentagon send American troops into battle without enough armored vests, armored vehicles, rifles, ammunition, food and water? Who's responsible for that debacle, which cost so much in blood and money?

• Where did our money go? Billions of dollars of taxpayer money disappeared down various rat holes in Iraq, forked over to contractors without even so much as a handwritten receipt. Who got the money? What did they do for it?

• What about those no-bid Defense Department contracts that were parceled out to the Halliburtons and KBRs and Blackwaters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other more costly weapons and equipment contracts that went to big defense industry conglomerates accustomed to writing very generous checks to the Republicans?

• Why did an administration that was hell-bent on going to war, with the inevitable and terrible human casualties among our troops, consistently under-fund the Veterans Administration, which is charged with caring for our wounded and disabled?

• What's been the effect of the grotesque politicization of the selection and promotion system for senior military commanders by the office of the secretary of defense?

• Who at the top bears responsibility for the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and the Guantanamo detention camp? A score of Pentagon investigations got to the bottom of the chain of command but declared that the top, in Rumsfeld's office and the White House, was innocent.

• Who's responsible for breaking our understrength Army and Marine Corps with endless combat duty tours in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who stubbornly refused even to consider the inevitable consequences of an Army so tied down trying to man these wars that it no longer could react to an emergency anywhere else in a dangerous world?

Simply put, the jig is up. President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld have come to the end of their free ride. No longer can they act without thought or ignore the boundaries of the Constitution, the law and common sense.
Did they really think they could get away with all of this without ever being called to answer to history and the American people?

They all deserve what's about to descend on their heads. They deserve every subpoena. They deserve every indictment. Most of all, they deserve a reserved place atop the ash heap of history.

Joseph L. Galloway is a columnist for McClatchy Tribune Information Services. His column appears most Fridays. Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail:

Thursday, November 09, 2006



So, there.

I'll be happy to call her Madam Speaker. And if she became Commander-in-Chief, I'd re-enlist. At my age. There is something about women with brains. Actually, there is something about anybody with brains.

There is a bright day coming.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Election day thoughts on the failures of democracies

Nothing is more stupid than party leaders getting on television and radio and radiating optimism about how their party is going to win an election. When anyone does this, I lose immense amounts of respect for the person. It is as unseemly as abusing oneself on the busiest traffic corner in town. Aside from a few folks who are custodial patients at some developmental institution, I do not know of anyone who is impaired enough to believe this crap.

I will excuse a few people who get on the news shows and talk about polls. I used to run polls. Therefore, I know what transitory and tentative information they give. That most of them turn out to be fairly accurate does not change the fact that the polling samples can shift their intentions in a matter of hours. They are interesting gauges for political campaigns to test how they are doing, but they are not good predictors. People often do not do what they say they will do.

And that gets to the subject of failures of democracy. It is one thing to recognize that American democracy is an exquisitely crafted system that has worked well, for the most part, for 217 years under the Constitution, despite the dire predictions of the Old World. But our democracy is driven by the will of the people. And there are significant numbers of people out there who do not like democracy or who like it only when it gives them privileges and denies others equal privileges. They are those who imagine they form some kind of authority that has the right to disenfranchise--the military term is "fuck over"--other people. Such is the case with Referred Law 6 in South Dakota. This law was developed by a sham procedure in one of the most fraudulent processes to ever go through a so-called democratic legislative process. And very few people protested the fraud. That does not give much confidence in democracy.

A huge majority of people agree that some rules have to be established regarding abortion. And most people who identify themselves a pro-choice object to a law whose supporters have even spoken out in favor of the requirement that a child conceived through rape be carried to term.
Such rules, however, have to be built upon real science, not the voodoo-get-them-rosaries-on-the-ovaries fraud pulled upon the people of South Dakota, and built with the rights of women and judgments of physicians protected, and worked out with the knowledge that genuine mutual agreements will be needed.

I do not trust the people to vote for good things in South Dakota. A very significant portion of the electorate could care less about freedom, equality, and justice. They want to feel like the ruling class by interfering with and hurting other people. That is the only thing that gives them a sense of pleasure and well-being. Why do I say that? Because people take Sibson seriously and give him immense amounts of attention. Those same people will go off an insane rage over a legitimate policy agreement that is backed by sound information and rigorous thinking. In tolerating Sibby, a large sector has declared its values. And they are the opposite of what freedom, equality, and justice is supposed to be all about.

South Dakota and the U.S. is quite capable of voting itself out of democracy. George W. Bush has carried us to the edge of the authoritarian abyss.

I have no predictions about what is happening today. I do have contingency plans. At this time in our history, some other countries are operating on American-inspired principles much better than America is. It may be time to move on. Or find ways to reignite the American Revolution. But the stage is better set for angry insurrection that cannot lead to a rejuvenation of democracy. What we did to Iraq we are poised to do to ourselves.

Monday, November 06, 2006


RED ALERT. Hide your face. Cheney is coming.

Vice President Cheney's office announced that he is coming to South Dakota tomorrow on a hunting trip. Reporters asked, "Pheasants?" "No," said the press secretary, "he comes for the great faces. He's grabbed his gun and it's full steam ahead."

Saturday, November 04, 2006


The only "winners" in the war on Iraq are the contractors

The most dismaying aspect of the war on Iraq is that the people who have sent our troops there seem to consider them disposable and expendable. They give them words of honor and praise, but they don't honor their lives by taking competent military measures to keep them alive. Contrast this attitude with the billions of dollars of our money that is going to the benefit of contractors, who are engaged in a huge rip-off of our country while doing little to rebuild Iraq. Evidence indicates that the only organization really helping to rebuild Iraq is the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

While there is a Senate investigation into profiteering, shoddy work and tactics, and dishonesty, few people are investigating how much the rip-offs by the contractors have contributed to the insurgency.

A lengthy story on the matter is in the Washington Post.


Big Brother's little siblings try their hand

During the week, a story broke that a government website was taken down because it contained information on how to go about making an atomic bomb. The web site contained documents from Iraq and was put up at the urging of some Republican senators who thought it might contain that information to support the Bush regime's claims for going to war: that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq had links with Al Qaida.

Based upon a lengthy account in the New York Times, some bloggers are claiming that the newspaper has produced evidence that Saddam Hussein did in fact have weapons of mass destruction. They base their claim on this paragraph:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

The bloggers claim that the last sentence is evidence that George W. Bush was right in his claim of weapons of mass destruction.

The bloggers, as is typical of the neo-regressive mentality, leave out the entire context of the news report. The documents cited were written by weapons inspectors who were charged after the Gulf War with seeing that Iraq was not continuing its program of making unconventional weapons. The reports deal with their findings, and the sentence that says Iraqi "scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away," the story is recounting the state of affairs at the time the work of the scientists was disrupted by the 1991 Gulf War. This is not new or startling information.

It is just more evidence of the malevolent dishonesty and mental incompetence that possesses the George W. Bush regime. They are earnest in their efforts to deceive the people and put them under totalitarian rule.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Revising and suppressing George Orwell

Todd Epp was on a panel at Augustana College (the Norwegian branch in Sioux Falls) that discussed Orwell's 1984. The discussion prefaces a play version that is coming to Sioux Falls. There is a reason that Orwell and 1984 are being examined and discussed extensively throughout the United States: most of the symptoms of a society going totalitarian that Orwell portrayed in his novel have become stunningly apparent in the U.S.A. of the 21st century.

I was not at the discussion, so I have to rely on news accounts of what was said. But the Argus Leader reported that Todd said that three slogans emphasized in the novel have become the hallmarks of the Bush administration:

The first slogan, Todd said, mirrors the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and the last reflects its efforts to frustrate the press and keep the public from having any knowledge of how it operates.

The newspaper account earned Todd one of those scurrilous personal attacks which is the blog South Dakota Politics most distinquishing aspect. When some of the posters on that blog encounter something that refutes their mindset, they launch into a barrage of insult and abuse (often based upon their other characteristic device of misquotation) that asserts that their erstwhile opponent is not only bereft of reason but has some defect of mentality that makes them incapable of reason. This time Todd Epp was portrayed as having a straw brain, like the scarecrow of Oz fame. This kind of playground invective is what the blogger has in the past called witty repartee.

The poster asserts that Todd Epp's parallels are absurd: "No reasonable person could suppose that the Newspeak slogans of 1984 "fit" this or any other administration." He prefaces this comment with the charge that Todd Epp "now deems himself a professor, qualified to comment on literature."

Many blogs, such as SDP, are often the product of personality issues. Todd Epp being selected to speak on 1984 obviously piqued a sense of unique eminence and the wounded ego replied through a blog. But 1984 is what is termed a thesis novel of cultural criticism. Orwell's career included being a colonial police officer, a participant on the communist side of the Spanish Civil War, and later a propaganda analyst for the British government. He was a student of how totalitarianism became instituted, and 1984 is a fictional examination of the principles he identified. While many readers assumed that 1984 was a critique of the Soviet Union, it was a novel that dealt with how some of the techniques of repression and control used in the Soviet Union were a threat even within democratic societies.

Orwell noted that the totalitarian impulse was a constant in human society, and that democracy is in a constant struggle with it. There are certain human traits that could be manipulated into dominance through the use of the electronic media. This is a major theme in the novel, and his description of it has a startling accuracy for how the media is used today to set up and elicit conditioned responses from a large portion of the populace.

The war on Iraq has precise parallels to how war was fomented and maintained as a neverending means of keeping the population of Oceania under the control under the pretense of patriotism. People are never as cohesive as when they perceive an enemy that threatens them. Bush used the impetus from 9/11 to launch the war on Iraq, although the reasons he gave at the time--WMDs and links to Al Qaida--were proven to be totally false. But once the war was launched, his adminstration had a means to manipulate a trusting populace into seeing him as the Big Brother that was making them secure and protecting them from terrorists. Dissidents were, as is described in detail in the novel, as enemies of the state. Forty-some percent of U.S. citizens objected to the war on Iraq, but they were portrayed by the Bush administration as unpatriotic enemies of the people and traitors. Recall the ads run during the Daschle campaign that pictured him with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden because he had criticised the rush to combat and the eschewal of diplomacy in attacking Iraq. That same technique was used in the attack on Todd Epp when he was portrayed by a picture of the straw-brained scarecrow. We call this scurrilous propaganda. Totalitarian minds call it witty repartee.

It does not take a professor of literature--such as me (I have taught 1984 18 or 20 times)--or even an undergraduate English literature major such as Todd Epp to be able to read the parallels between the regime of Oceania and the regime of George Bush in waging a war as a means of retaining internal political power. He tells us that our peace is dependent on this war, hence, War is peace. The ploy worked. It got him re-elected in 2004. But now a majority of Americans see the wrongness and the self-destructive dangers of a war designed to do nothing but maintain the top leader's role of commander in chief.

This is one of the main reasons 1984 has a resurgence of interest and relevance. It fits our current situation.

Freedom is slavery reflects that argument that our insistence upon the Constitutional guarantees of freedom from illegal search and seizure, due process, and equality will make us slaves to Islamic terrorism, if we insist upon them. They impeded Big Brother's efforts to keep us safe. Therefore, we must relinquish them. This Newspeak argument is carefully laid out in the novel and it is precisely the kind of reasoning used by the Bush administration to justify its curtailments of personal privacy and due process.

And, of course, nearly every working journalist in D.C. has pointed out that the Bush adminstration has been the most secretive in our history. What the people don't know won't hurt them. But most of what the people don't know won't hurt the Bush regime. But the people are now in the know.

In writings other than 1984, Orwell gives more analytic perspectives on how totalitarianism works. I append some here. They are even more salient in defining some of the tactics of the Bush administration than 1984.

Here is a paragraph from "The Prevention of Literature:"

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." "

And this:

"The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient of the same nature as military deception. It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary. Among intelligent Communists there is an underground legend to the effect that although the Russian government is obliged now to deal in lying propaganda, frame-up trials, and so forth, it is secretly recording the true facts and will publish them at some future time. We can, I believe, be quite certain that this is not the case, because the mentality implied by such an action is that of a liberal historian who believes that the past cannot be altered and that a correct knowledge of history is valuable as a matter of course. From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revelation of prominent historical figures. This kind of thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism however, does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts or the emotional sincerity that literary creation demands. But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy -- or even two orthodoxies, as often happens -- good writing stops. This was well illustrated by the Spanish civil war. To many English intellectuals the war was a deeply moving experience, but not an experience about which they could write sincerely. There were only two things that you were allowed to say, and both of them were palpable lies: as a result, the war produced acres of print but almost nothing worth reading."

And more:

"The friends of totalitarianism in this country usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie. It is pointed out that all historical records are biased and inaccurate, or on the other hand, that modern physics has proven that what seems to us the real world is an illusion, so that to believe in the evidence of one's senses is simply vulgar philistinism. A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying an historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual. The exact sciences are not, at this date, menaced to anything like the same extent. This partly accounts for the fact that in all countries it is easier for the scientists than for the writers to line up behind their respective governments."

Then, read the whole of his "Politics and the English Language."

Those who lust for totalitarian control over others will always resort to personal attacks and denigrations against those who threaten freedom for them. Wear your scarecrow mantel as a badge of honor, Mr. Epp. And keep reading and writing. That's what really scares them.


Pravda Jr. endorses state control of ovaries

The Aberdeen American News is a wretched rag. While it makes token efforts to look like a newspaper, it models itself after the old Pravda in that it selects what it publishes based upon a mind control doctrine in which the editors determine what the public should and should not read. We are not condemning its right to voice opinions on its editorial page, although we reserve our right to point out that its endorsements this election season exceed its own standards of incoherent stupidity. Nothing that the American News takes a stance on seems to have any connection with reality.

Today, it endorsed HB1215, Referred Law 6, the abortion ban. That is the newspaper's right.

What is not right is its effort to control public opinion.
The letters-to-the-editor columns have been filled with letters urging a yes vote on Referred Law 6, with sometimes one letter urging a no vote appearing on the page as a cover-your-ass token against charges of manipulating the letters published. We know there have been many letters in opposition to the ban. The Aberdeen office of the Campaign for Healthy Families claims that they have at least a dozen complaints filed that letters opposing Referred Law 6 have been submitted but never published by the American News.

The Aberdeen Abominable Newsfraud has never made but the most cursory efforts--for the sake of appearance only--to publish comprehensive, accurate, and documented news. Rather, it adheres to party-line control so that what ekes out reflects a world that exists only in the mind of a few editors who dream the totalitarian dream. And that is because they are incompetent journalists.

Our main opposition to Referred Law 6 is that it is based upon the presumption that the state needs to take control of women's ovaries because the women are not morally competent to determine their reproductive choices. It omits any exceptions for rape and incest, meaning that women who may be impregnated in such situations will be forced to carry the genetic strains of rapists and relatives suffering demented perversions to term. In a state that likes to build prisons and hunt offenders of bad laws as a malicious sport, this measure seems calculated to maintain a good supply of game. It does for the slavering righteous what Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited do for sportsmen who have not graduated to human game. And like the slaveowners of yore who forced slave women to carry to term the get of the owners themselves to keep the labor supply filled, women in South Dakota will be given the experience of having their bodies taken over by the state, which will have nothing to do with the get produced once it has emerged from the womb. Not at least until said get qualifies as fodder for the criminal justice system. The proponents of the abortion ban claim that "science" has shown that each zygote is a unique human being right from the moment that sperm penetrates egg. What science knows is that each zygote has the potential of becoming a human being, and it also knows that there is such a thing as a bad seed in which a woman will be forced to bring to term an organism genetically destined to offenses against humanity, if that is what its uniqueness entails.

The abortion ban itself was conceived in a fraudulent legislative process. It formed a Task Force which stacked the materials it examined so that it heard only people who want to impose totalitarian restrictions on women and dismissed in their report the few people who were allowed to speak in oppostion to the subjugation of women. The Task Force states that its conclusions that a human life is formed immediately upon fertilization are supported by scientific advances since 1973. The scientific advances have been in the ability to capture images of the corporeal development, but also in the ability to measure the degree of sentience. A zygote becomes a fetus and a fetus becomes an organism capable of sensation and the potential for viability as a human late into the development. HB1215 contains fraudulent statements about science and about the puppets the Task Force selected to support their predetermined case.

One need not read any further than the first paragraph of HB1215 to see what a sham this law is based upon. This law never received the kind of critical debate that such legislation should receive in a truly democratic system. The law itself was conceived through a kind of forcible rape that a single-party system can commit on its constituents and get away with.

We sympathize with people who sincerely oppose abortion. We do not sympathize with people who use the issue to open the door to totalitarian control of the most private, personal, and vital factor that women have to face in determining their own lives. It takes a journalistic fraud in complicity with the scheming dictators to dupe the public into accepting subservience in the name of a false morality. The lies in the first paragraph of the law should be enough to condemn it. It asserts that the right-to-life of a zygote supercedes the right of a woman to determine her own life and whether she should allow her body to be the host for an organism that has no human viability.

Enough said. If this law is approved by voters, people who want true liberty, equality, and justice may well have to make some relocation plans.

Here is the first paragraph:

The Legislature accepts and concurs with the conclusion of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, based upon written materials, scientific studies, and testimony of witnesses presented to the task force, that life begins at the time of conception, a conclusion confirmed by scientific advances since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, including the fact that each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilization. Moreover, the Legislature finds, based upon the conclusions of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, and in recognition of the technological advances and medical experience and body of knowledge about abortions produced and made available since the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, that to fully protect the rights, interests, and health of the pregnant mother, the rights, interest, and life of her unborn child, and the mother's fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child, abortions in South Dakota should be prohibited. Moreover, the Legislature finds that the guarantee of due process of law under the Constitution of South Dakota applies equally to born and unborn human beings, and that under the Constitution of South Dakota, a pregnant mother and her unborn child, each possess a natural and inalienable right to life.


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