Re: It really just seems that perhaps I think I feel that my opinion is sacred.

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I liked this a lot too, and referred to it in comments yesterday, where I saw an affinity between Obama's hatred of stupidity and a quality that JFK had, of wanting to be rational above all. Didn't always work out for him but it's what has led me to accept Jamie Galbraith's opinion that he'd made the decision to cut Vietnam by the time of his death, which was quickly rescinded as soon as he was dead.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:12 AM
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Oh man I totally showed that to Sir Kraab before she showed it to you.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:12 AM
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I don't know that it's a matter of rose-colored glasses so much as it's a difference in emphasis from the campaign. Which, hey, talk to who you should be talking to, and if he can do it without contradicting himself than so much the better. We are no longer that important a constituency in this electoral fight, so he's emphasizing the pieces of his political story that we are indifferent or vaguely hostile to. Whichever; dude's a Democrat, and he'll govern as a Democrat. His heart's closer to the right place than any Republican, gutting of the fourth amendment besides.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:15 AM
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3: I feel Tweety is right in my colon.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:18 AM
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I should have used "then" where I used "than", though. Fuck.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:19 AM
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I had that article e-mailed to me last week, and said, "There's a number of problems with Collins's column. For starters, despite what she says, many people preferred Obama for policy reasons and voted for him not because of his compromise talk, but in spite of it, and trusting that he knew what was a proper area of compromise and what was a matter of principle. He did talk a lot about compromise, of course. But there's a couple of problems with applying that to FISA. [Long discussion of how FISA reform was not meaningfully a compromise and the campaign's explicit statement of support of a filibuster for any bill which contained retroactive immunity followed, but you guys know that stuff]"


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:20 AM
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Except, the main move most people really objected to was the FISA vote, which contradicted specific, recent campaign statements during the primaries,, and which Collins does not actually bother to even mention. It's not unreasonable to construe a statement that "I will support a filibuster any bill that contains provision X" to be a clearer statement of a candidate's position on issue X than a lot of vague talk about consensus. Their policy proposals during the primaries were similar, but people thought he was more trustworthy on a certain set of issues (national security, civil liberties, etc.) based mainly on comparing their prior records in office--again, not a crazy approach; the death penalty system that George W. Bush presided over in Texas was a much better predictor of his record in office than all that stuff about "compassionate conservatism." It certainly wasn't nuts to judge Clinton by her performance in office rather than her ability to adopt John Edwards' policy proposals during a Democratic primary; the only stupid thing might've been to judge Obama by his record in office at a time when he was representing a very liberal district & probably wasn't yet contemplating a 2008 presidential run.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:21 AM
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The FISA stuff bothers me a lot.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:21 AM
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During the primary Obama was criticized for this exact thing -- that his "new kind of politics" would basically amount to capitulation to the Republicans on some issues. Obama responded by affirming his commitment to substantively liberal positions and explaining that his new politics had to do with government transparency and decreasing the influence of monied interests. So I don't buy this defense of Obama, whose FISA cave-in is particularly egregious. That said, I don't think Obama has really "flip-flopped" on other issues, he's just toned down his rhetoric a bit.


Posted by: Grumps | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:22 AM
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I'm pretty sure that 4 is violating the sanctity of off-blog whatever.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:22 AM
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10: all sodomy is on-blog.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:23 AM
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all sodomy is on-blog.

It all depends on how one approaches it.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:26 AM
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I would argue that M/tch is a big fat liar.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:26 AM
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Yeah... seriously, FISA's a way bigger deal than she allows for in the article. Especially since one of the huge deals about Obama early on, and in his State Senate career, is firm support for civil liberties. That's supposed to be one of the top areas where he won't compromise, and seeing as this is one of the very few areas where one can draw directly on Constitutional liberties and a system that worked well historically, well, he really shouldn't have needed to compromise there.

Plus, I still say that campaign finance wasn't much of a flip-flop, no matter what she says. He was talking about the troubles with 527s and the special interest groups skewing in the Republicans' favor back when he first said he wanted to have a publically financed campaign. That's why he explicitly said he would need to have a negotiation with the general election opposition about how to restrain outside spending before he could commit to public funding.

Blarg.

(Though the dumb-avoidance is a pretty good point, even if it seems kinda trivial, since it's one of the main reasons so many smart and competent people I know like him.)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:27 AM
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12: from the back, Will.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:29 AM
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I do think much of what Obama has done recently is a reflection of what Collins is writing about (not FISA, however), but I worry that it is not being done very artfully, and therefor is not necessarily having an impact on the target audience. Some of it I would interpret as trying to immunize against later attacks (which will come no matter what). So it all seems a bit too "defensive" to me, speaking tactically. (And all of this may really just be my rediscovery (for the 20 millionth time) of the enduring dickitude of the press.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:29 AM
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We are no longer that important a constituency in this electoral fight, so he's emphasizing the pieces of his political story that we are indifferent or vaguely hostile to.

Are there concrete examples of his treating us (assuming "us" is defined as left-of-center democratic-ish types) as an important constituency? I don't remember his doing so.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:29 AM
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10: I'm pretty sure that 4 is violating the sanctity of off-blog whatever.

But how can it be bad to share something that feels so right?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:30 AM
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I agree that the FISA vote is horrendous, and a change in his position, but people were calling him a sellout before that, as though he had pretended to be the Great Left Hope. Our task has always been to push him to -- not keep him to -- the left.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:36 AM
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You know, I'm increasingly inclined to distrust my own sense of the FISA bill's importance, just because it's become such a huge stalking-horse in the blogosphere. I've found myself susceptible to echo chambers before, so I feel like I have no ability to really evaluate this rationally right now. I mean, do I really be want to be finding Chris fucking Boring McSubprime Dodd a better model for a Democrat?

Anyhow, I hope Obama ends the war, works with the Democratic congress, doesn't fuck up and totally implode, and buys me a Wii. Or some subset thereof. Ginning up particular anger for outrages -- even outrageous ones -- I find my energy for that dissipating. Here's hoping we can take one step forward to counteract the eight or twelve we've taken back.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:36 AM
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2 is my opinion. You can't question someone's opinion.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:37 AM
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There's no excuse for the FISA thing. And the "dumb-avoidant" stuff is extremely patronizing, it's establishment-speak for saying that popular positions they disagree with are ipso facto stupid. Since when are all of our trading agreements smart? And why is it necessarily "dumb" to want a strict timeline on withdrawing from Iraq? I mean, even the Iraqis are asking for one now. Conditioning withdrawal on "stability" is disturbingly similar to the waffle technique the Bush Administration has been using for years. Obama should get called on that rhetoric.

Also, I can't resist pointing out that if Collins had posted some of this stuff about Obama's centrism on Unfogged during the primary, she would have been viciously chewed out and called a troll.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:37 AM
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His decision to ditch public campaign financing, on the other hand, was nothing but a complete, total, purebred flip-flop. If you are a person who feels campaign finance reform is the most important issue facing America right now, you should either vote for John McCain or go home and put a pillow over your head.

Echoing PoMo, this is just kind of stupid, given that Obama didn't decline public financing in order to appeal to a certain class of voter. For Collins to cite McCain as a champion of campaign finance in this context is idiotic and lazy. After all, McCain has been breaking his own law with impunity, and only brings up Obama's rejection of public financing for political advantage. Who's flip flopping?


Posted by: Grumps | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:40 AM
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Some people are saying that Sir Kraab's been riding m/tch's coattails. I'm just saying.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:41 AM
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Even apart from policy, I think Obama has mismanaged his standard waffly-Democratic moves to the right. It's the old Democratic thing of thinking that acting weak will make you look strong. Some of this may help explain his drift downward in the polls -- he's looking just a little more same old, same old than he used to. I think a strong FISA stand actually would have been politically helpful.

He needs to shrink the maneuvering lobe of his brain a bit and plug back in to the "what I believe" part. I get the impression that he hasn't settled on where he wants to draw lines that he'll state clearly and defend. Doing that in a somewhat controversial area would help him.

In today's disgusted political environment, you need to do a Sister Souljah on the fucking establishment, not on poor black people or rappers.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:42 AM
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if Collins had posted some of this stuff about Obama's centrism on Unfogged during the primary, she would have been viciously chewed out and called a troll

I don't know what blog you were reading.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:43 AM
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26: the primaries hadn't started yet when that was posted. It was months before even Iowa, and well before the vicious intra-party tribal war. People were still being sensible.

Where has IA gone to, anyway?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:46 AM
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24: Will is banned, and whatnot.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:47 AM
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Where has IA gone to, anyway?

Still here, name change.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:49 AM
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"You know, I'm increasingly inclined to distrust my own sense of the FISA bill's importance, just because it's become such a huge stalking-horse in the blogosphere. I've found myself susceptible to echo chambers before, so I feel like I have no ability to really evaluate this rationally right now. I mean, do I really be want to be finding Chris fucking Boring McSubprime Dodd a better model for a Democrat?"

This was the very last in a very long series of Democrats in Congress caving to the administration on key votes regarding issues of war, peace, civil liberties, the rule of law, blah blah blah--the only base where liberal blogs had successfully held the line, and thought it would continue to hold (at least I did). So it got used as a proxy for a whole set of issues. I don't know that it's a perfect proxy--maybe Obama actually objects more to gross human rights violations than to surveillance; maybe he'll actually be better in office when he can set the agenda than during the campaign--but I think it's the best one we have. Better than his legislative record in the Illinois State Senate or his statements during the primary. And it's kind of alarming.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:50 AM
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29: Wow. That totally changes my view of somebody. I just don't know who. This will be a fun guessing game for a while.

I'm pretty sure it isn't Read.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:50 AM
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31: Think about where IA was from.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:54 AM
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"Dumb-avoidance" as a political platform is really rather compelling.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:54 AM
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32: Ah! I like that person, I like IA, it all fits!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:55 AM
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33: "vote for me or you're stupid" is not a compelling platform. Neither is "vote for me, I'm smarter than you". Not in a nation of proud C students. Well, B+ after grade inflation, but you know.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:57 AM
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27: Seriously, I don't know what you're talking about. We had endless discussions about Clinton & Obama both being centrists, and the differences between them being only: 1) their Iraq votes; 2) her health care plan slightly better than his; and 3) electability.

Those of us who supported Edwards talked about our disappointment in having to move to the right to support a candidate -- either of them.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:57 AM
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Insofar as there's a campaign finance position change it's because Obama pledged to vigorously pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee on public financing. And he should have pursued those negotiations, in bad faith. The end goal of the negotiations was impossible anyway, since there's no framework the campaigns could possibly have agreed upon to control the actions of outside groups, so the only reason I've though of not to have them was to give the issue a shorter shelf life.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:57 AM
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IA was from New York


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:58 AM
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"vote for me or you're stupid" is not a compelling platform. Neither is "vote for me, I'm smarter than you".

This isn't what the author means by dumb-avoidant.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 10:59 AM
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"vote for me or you're stupid" is not a compelling platform. Neither is "vote for me, I'm smarter than you".

"Vote for me because I know you're smart!" isn't bad. But also, what heebie said.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:01 AM
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IA was from New York

That's not my recollection. Or am I missing a joke here?


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:04 AM
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Also, I can't resist pointing out that if Collins had posted some of this stuff about Obama's centrism on Unfogged during the primary, she would have been viciously chewed out and called a troll.

Huh. I can't resist pointing that's pure bullshit. Go back and look. We've noted forever that Obama is a neolib. A left neolib, but a neolib. That's what's left at the top levels of the Democratic party. (Also, I'm not sure the Unfogged readers are all that liberal, but then I'm not sure precisely what "liberal" means anymore.)

I really like Collins. She doesn't get the credit she deserves.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:07 AM
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IA is from the Great White North, but lives in New York.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:07 AM
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SPOILER ALERT:

IA's name change was not a secret


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:09 AM
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Dumb avoidance is one of Obama's most attractive qualities. It works for policy (gas tax holiday) and it works for rhetoric (the "race" speech was remarkably egg-heady and yet appealed to a wide audience). Moreover, both these examples garnered praise from the press. He should do more of this, aggressively. Truth over truthiness.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:11 AM
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If memory serves, this episode of the Brian Lehrer show features both Gail Collins (health insurance was not the only policy difference between Clinton and Obama, no matter how often someone says so) and Austan Goolsbee (my understanding is that Obama's economic plans are expected to increase the deficit, somewhat) saying false things.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:14 AM
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FISA really does suck, and his support for that bill really disappointed me.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:21 AM
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The Lizza article is better--somewhat along the same lines as Collins but with lots of original reporting of stuff I didn't know as opposed to the standard "earth to netroots, he's a politician!" And he talks a lot about unity!" approach. Though, Lizza does tend to fall into the trap of assuming that you don't care at all about substantive policy issues unless they're politically harmful to you. I don't actually *mind* that Obama's Iraq speech didn't sound like Dennis Kucinich, & I don't think that undermines the value of his opposition to the war one little bit. And if he wants to make deals with the political establishment in D.C. to pass good legislation to burnish his credentials for his next election, that will also be just fine by me. That's how it's supposed to work. And anyone running for the most powerful job in the world is interested in acquiring power. I mainly wonder:

1. Is he primarily interested in acquiring power for the sake of having power, or acquiring power to do good stuff with?

2. Was the basic, encouraging orientation to the U.S. electorate (not talking to us like idiots, seeming to lack the average Dem politicians' fear that the voters are xenophobic warmongering morons who hate liberal policies, an emphasis on grassroots organizing, etc.) he displayed during the primaries just an unusually effective means of raising money & getting volunteers for the Democratic primaries? Or is it going to be something more meaningful than that?

FISA calls both those things into doubt a bit--it also is a needed reminder that whatever you think of Obama, the Democrats in Congress are awful on these issues & will remain so until there's a strong constituency pushing them not to be. And it's just not a very good idea to place all your hope in a presidential candidate to just fix things on executive power & accountability & rule of law issues because he's a virtuous goo-goo do-gooder type.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:23 AM
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W/will is reinstated! For life, no backsies!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:28 AM
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20: Anyhow, I hope Obama ends the war, works with the Democratic congress, doesn't fuck up and totally implode, and buys me a Wii. Or some subset thereof

I actually do think that Tweety is right here. My desires for a Dem presidential candidate is to win and stop the bleeding. For me all routes to more 'positive" states-of-affairs run through that particular junction, as sad a statement as that may be.

That said, I did hate the FISA stuff (maybe even tactically), but I do see where FISA and similar things are "wrong" as part of a long-time historical trajectory (decades) and really are hard to "fit" into the narrative of a months-long presidential campaign. Now, maybe it is an indicator that he* will not even try to "stop the bleeding", but I am willing to forestall judgment on that for now. If I am wrong we have more serious structural problems in our entire conception of a civil society and its governance model.

*That is not quite right, it does not hinge entirely on Obama per se, but rather the whole leadership of the Dems.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:47 AM
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My desires for a Dem presidential candidate is to win and stop the bleeding.

And, I would add, help us win lots of down ballot races.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:49 AM
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FISA sucks, but this is a good move.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:51 AM
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I do see where FISA and similar things are "wrong" as part of a long-time historical trajectory (decades) and really are hard to "fit" into the narrative of a months-long presidential campaign

Yep. And it may be that we're fucked if we don't turn that trajectory around (signs point to yes), but we can't expect it to be instant, or easy, or something that e.g. somebody trying to win a national election is going to be right there with us about. Which, yeah, unfortunate, but here we are, 60 years into the creeping police state.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:51 AM
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What bothered me about FISA is that it showed Obama buying into the old political frame of cowering on national security. Even though I thought he had political room to make a stand here. He didn't seem to have the political courage to make a break. It's a troubling sign.

But he's remained basically OK on Iraq, though he's wobbled a bit in a way that I think hurt him.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:56 AM
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The problem is that the terms of the debate have shifted in a very-McCain favorable direction recently. (Obama facing media intense scrutiny all of his weakest points (and potential weaknesses); McCain facing more or less no media scrutiny whatsover as far as I can tell.) The key isn't really in the response to any one of these issues that have been needling Obama (which individually don't really matter much), the key is figuring out a way to shift the debate back towards McCain's flaws and weaknesses (and Obama's strengths).


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:03 PM
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Wow, that was unusually illiterate, even for me.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:04 PM
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"Yep. And it may be that we're fucked if we don't turn that trajectory around (signs point to yes), but we can't expect it to be instant, or easy, or something that e.g. somebody trying to win a national election is going to be right there with us about."

Which is exactly why if this is a priority for you you've got to: (1) try to increase the political price of breaking campaign promises on this issue (2) devote your resources to changing public opinion & pressuring all politicians to turn the trajectory instead of acting like an ATM for Democratic candidates regardless of whether or not they give a fuck about, or do anything about, your issues. The hysteria in Kos comments-- donating to the ACLU instead of buying Obama's tv commercials right after he breaks a campaign promise is a HUGE BETRAYAL and it will LOSE THE ELECTION and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT and this is just like VOTING FOR NADER--was pathetic.

The excuses for Obama's vote are strikingly parallel to the excuses for Clinton's war vote: Couldn't have changed the outcome anyway. He wanted to win the election, he had to do this. He's (gasp!) a politician. It was easy for her to vote no--she's not the nominee. etc. etc. We held enough of a grudge about that vote to support her opponent in the primaries & cost her the nomination, and I'm glad we did. We're now in the general election, and FISA is smaller potatoes than Iraq, but it's the best proxy we have on these issues, and the consequences to Obama have been minimal: two weeks of crap on blogs, some lost donations (what, maybe a couple million) & volunteers, and some bad press about flip flopping. The reaction was entirely justified, and it's not going to swing the election to John McCain. It's either going to have no effect or it's going to make Obama hesitate at least a little before doing this again.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:11 PM
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For what it's worth, I haven't given the guy money since then. I'm trying to be as instinctual as possible about my small dollar donations, and press the button like a good little pavlovian progressive when he does something I like.

Still and all, to say that this somehow indicates that OBAMA IS NOT WHO WE THOUGHT HE WON'T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO CIVIL LIBERTIES seems both premature and likely to be immanentizing the world-historical in a way talking about Iraq votes isn't.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:15 PM
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55 is right, but the proposed solution may not be possible. I buy into the idea that the election is almost entirely about Obama. The swing electorate do want change, but can they "trust" this guy. So his success depends on his ability to weather the scrutiny (and maybe the good faith nature of the scrutiny) and sooth the fence-sitters. The primaries were good practice for this trial by ordeal.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:16 PM
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"but I do see where FISA and similar things are "wrong" as part of a long-time historical trajectory (decades) and really are hard to "fit" into the narrative of a months-long presidential campaign"

You can talk about decades long trajectory if you like, but the really alarming trajectory is over the past 7 years. Obama won the nomination in part because a share of the Democratic primary electorate was so furious about Clinton's role in the 7-year trajectory--he seemed to fit the narrative about that into his presidential campaign just dandy a couple of months ago. "I won't just end the war, I'll end the mindset that got us into war," applause lines in the Constitution about his speeches, explicit promises about filibusters, yadda yadda yadda.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:18 PM
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I could understand the resistance for a potential president to limit his own powers, but what annoys me most about his FISA vote is his 'firm pledge to carefully monitor the program.' Especially, following his previous 'pledge' to filibuster it.

His emphasis change on Iraq was distressing, but more troublesome is his proposal to raise ground troops by 65K and marines by 27K. wtf?

His support on gun rights and the death penalty for rape are not centrist policies. He's commended Isreal for their attack on Lebanon last year. And I don't know how you can give religious groups money for secular purposes.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:24 PM
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IA is from the Great White North, but lives in New York.

IA is shivbunny!!!!!

I refuse to follow the link in 44, because this conclusion is too pleasing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:25 PM
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What was weird to me was that the FISA flip-flop was so inexplicable. There's no way filibustering FISA is going to cost him more votes than it wins him. The people who are against immunity are really against immunity. The people who are in favor of immunity are probably pissed that Obama isn't more pro-torture.

It's like when he became the nominee, they showed him all of the secrets of how things work, like how Yog-Sothoth really is walled up inside the Pentagon, and FISA immunity is the only way to keep him from escaping.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:28 PM
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You can talk about decades long trajectory if you like, but the really alarming trajectory is over the past 7 years.

I dunno, I think it seems that way because it's the most immediate, but look, the Church Commission was how many years ago? There was a switch to flip at NSA because the Echelon infrastructure had been developed for how many decades? The pull of omnipresent surveillance, and the often-doomed fight against it, is no new thing. I would wager it looks like the end times to us for much the same reason it looks like the Singularity to a certain species of techie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:28 PM
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His emphasis change on Iraq was distressing, but more troublesome is his proposal to raise ground troops by 65K and marines by 27K. wtf?

What, overall? He's been talking about increasing the size of the military all along.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:30 PM
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"Still and all, to say that this somehow indicates that OBAMA IS NOT WHO WE THOUGHT HE WON'T PAY ANY ATTENTION TO CIVIL LIBERTIES seems both premature and likely to be immanentizing the world-historical in a way talking about Iraq votes isn't."

I was already skeptical about how much attention he'd pay. He hasn't actually even promised to take the steps I consider essential; why should I assume he will when he fails to keep his word on things he DID promise him? This vote was my far the best proxy I had. I don't trust him on these issues. That's not premature--if anything was premature, it was trusting him too much on the first place. He absolutely will need to be pressured. And the blogs, while they care about civil liberties a lot, have a lot of other priorities and really, really short attention spans. The Democrats systematically do not give a fuck about these issues. As far as I'm concerned: pressure from a relative handful of crappily funded journalists, human rights activists, pro bono lawyers, etc. has accomplished more on civil liberties & torture from 2001 to the present than every Democratic officeholder in D.C. put together. Having a Democrat in the White House might very well outweigh the accomplishments of the ad-hoc group I'm talking about, simply because it would mean that we *don't* have a lunatic Republican & his minions running the country for a little while. But everyone is so eager to get Bush out of power that our brains short circuit when we talk about the election results & we forget to do the other part of the calculation: how much impact is a given vote in Congress, a given donation to a candidate, etc. actually has any impact on the outcome of the election? Not bloody likely.

People can donate if they like, but for all the talk about how it's unreasonable to expect politicians to change things overnight given what public opinion is like, there is very little ability to think long term or make a serious effort to shift public opinion.

I'm not saying that voting & donating to campaigns & calling your Senator in the last minute panic when it's too late to stop yet another crappy vote aren't worth it. I'm saying it's bizarre and frustrating the extent to which those are the only activities recognized as "doing something," and the rest of the time we sit around talking about how useless and futile it all is. Votes and donations and canvassing and calls to Senators are as futile as anything else, individually.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:44 PM
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64: I keep saying that I'm using surveillance as a proxy for other stuff.

66 was me.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:46 PM
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67: I guess I don't understand what you're using it as a proxy for (I haven't been reading that many of the political threads, so this isn't that much of a surprise), or what's to be done besides, you know, voting and donating and canvassing and calls to senators and blathering nonstop on blogs.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:49 PM
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68: It's like John has never mentioned his hog farm idea.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:52 PM
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67: What about stuff like the Habeas Lawyers for Obama? Do you know how they're feeling about after his FISA-gutting vote?


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:53 PM
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The Democrats systematically do not give a fuck about these issues.

It's healthy to repeat this to yourself every day. Interestingly, it holds true pretty much no matter what issues you are referencing.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:54 PM
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"I could understand the resistance for a potential president to limit his own powers, but what annoys me most about his FISA vote is his 'firm pledge to carefully monitor the program.' Especially, following his previous 'pledge' to filibuster it. "

Oh, yes. There's some basis in Obama's past record for thinking that he believes in the need for openness in gov't, disclosure, etc. But all that went right out the window with this vote and his justification for it. He doesn't promise to make the abuses public--he doesn't even hint at it. Instead he trumpets the fact that the Inspector General will publish a (classified, almost certainly) report about it as some major concession that makes this "compromise" acceptable. As if he couldn't have asked his Inspector General to do this anyway, and a GOP Inspector General's report won't be either influenced by political appointees or stuck in a locked drawer or both, and a classified executive branch report is any kind of adequate substitute for a hearing in open court. Obama talks about "watching the watchers", but his new answer for who watches the watchers is: "me, I promise."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:54 PM
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Is there a better way than to support the ACLU? I mean, I hope that mainstream beliefs about having a reason to imprison even foreigners become more like mine, but that's not likely, and I don't like to fund propaganda-like advertisements, the most practical means for changing minds. So, ACLU, or some other organization for defensive action?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 12:57 PM
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Katherine, do you have an opinion on Alliance for Justice?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:01 PM
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"67: I guess I don't understand what you're using it as a proxy for (I haven't been reading that many of the political threads, so this isn't that much of a surprise), or what's to be done besides, you know, voting and donating and canvassing and calls to senators and blathering nonstop on blogs."

Executive & corporate accountability for, & public disclosure of, torture & human rights abuses (i.e. the other major set of Bush administration felonies). Didn't I say this upthread? And repeatedly in other threads? And don't people bitching about FISA tend to belabor it at length? Sorry, I thought that was obvious.

Also general foreign policy hawkishness, to a lesser extent, but it's not as close a parallel, and I'm far more confident about Obama remaining opposed to dumb wars than about him doing what's necessary on detainee issues.

I suppose everyone feels this way about their own bet issue, but I find the "netroots" collectively pretty useless on this stuff. There's intermittent "this is an outrage!!!" blogging, but most posts about it are of the "this is too depressing to post about and Bush should go to jail but it's hopeless, America is over" variety. There isn't any sense that it's useful to give sustained attention to covering the facts--we know the U.S. tortures, we deplore it, knowing the details & either covering them ourselves or trying to get the press to support them is not thought to be important. There isn't any serious attempt to figure out what we want from a new administration, or to try to get Obama to agree to do those things. He says he wants to close Guantanamo & that he'll end torture, so he's on our side, right? There's some coverage of what Congress does, but it's usually reactive & too late to accomplish anything.

Most of what these organizations do is aimed at trying to uncover what happened, to influence public opinion & lobbying elected officials. Even the court cases have been more effective at influencing & informing the public rather than in actually winning any court victories. The netroots are the main group that's responded to this, and I'm sort of being a whiny horrible ingrate about it--it's great that anyone even cares at all about the Mukasey vote, & the hearings, and reads & links to the news stories, and so forth. That's why all the Democratic candidates said the right things about these issues during the primaries, and it will probably at the very least make any Democratic president hesitate before pulling something like the Clinton-era rendition program. But the idea that getting informed on this stuff, informing others about it, pressuring the media to ask about it, and pressuring politicians about it in a sustained way is actually useful activity has not penetrated at all. I can certainly understand thinking: "it's depressing, and it's futile," but it's only true as far as--you doing this yourself is extraordinarily unlikely to change anything. Which is equally true of donating to campaigns & voting & canvassing---frankly, I find participating in campaigns more futile & more depressing than anything else. So it's frustrating to me that one set of individually-futile, collectively-maybe-useful activities gets filed under "activism! crashing the gate!" and so forth, and the other does not.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:22 PM
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"Katherine, do you have an opinion on Alliance for Justice?"

Not really. I've heard of them, I have a vague idea tof them as mainly as a group that does lobbying on court nominees, but I don't know if that's right.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:30 PM
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76: They do that, as well as lobbying on laws that affect access to courts (habeus and more), and mentoring new advocacy organizations. I'm generally impressed with them and was wondering if they had a reputation with other lawyers of a similar stripe.

I went to a thing they put on once with an excellent and moving speech by, I kid you not, Mike Farrell.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:43 PM
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Also--my pet issues aside--in general, I think the most useful thing that blogs could do is get serious about replacing "political journalism" instead of just bitching about political journalism--or, if you prefer, replacing the lousy parts of the media & promoting the good parts of the media. Obviously, we lack the resources to do much as far as foreign coverage, investigative reporting, stuff that requires a budget or access to confidential sources or a great deal of time, etc. But "political reporting" requires almost none of that. You can do an awful, awful lot from open sources, because there's such a huge gap of what's been publicly reported somewhere or is readily available from government documents, and what any significant portion of the public actually knows.

It's not like I'm any paragon about any of this; I mainly get into arguments that go nowhere & blow off steam.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:45 PM
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77: I bet they do have a reputation in D.C.--I'm probably out of the loop.


Posted by: katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:46 PM
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I ain't no reporter. I'm too lazy.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:48 PM
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Well, sure. I'm too lazy to canvass, & crappy at it to boot.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:51 PM
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And I don't know how you can give religious groups money for secular purposes.

That's been done for years. Catholic Charities, and their Lutheran equivalent have gotten tons of money for things like housing. You set up an organization that doesn't discriminate in hiring, has no religious test for the recipients of its services and doesn't proselytize.

djw at Lawyers Guns and Money had an intreresting comment on this. For a lot of people it might be a little bit less intimidating to go to a local church than to get certain types of help from state bureaucracies.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:55 PM
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This kind of reminds me when my friends and I were pushing this thing we called "hacktivism"; what a good idea, we thought, if all this energy devoted to fucking with computers went to trying to encourage political change. As it turns out, exhorting other people to go do what you aren't going to do yourself is no mean trick, and the intersecting set of [ people with actual hacking skills ] and [ people with the desire and energy to make their point ] turned out to be basically null.

You're absolutely right, of course, that we shouldn't just stand back and bitch about our country's slow descent into informational totalitarianism. It's just... hard.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:55 PM
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Cont'd to 82: Obama's earliest organizing experience was with churches, so presumably he understands their role in urban communities. As long as you're dealing with a well-designed program -- and not a disingenuous handout to evangelical propagandists designed by GOP slimeballs -- it's not the evilest thing in the world.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:56 PM
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83 to Katherine, generally.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 1:57 PM
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Right. Look, if I were devoted to being useful as all that, I wouldn't post here at all. I'm just saying--donating & voting & canvassing do not exhaust the universe of politically relevant activities. If you like those things, fine, but there are other ways, that might sometimes be better tailored to our goals.


Posted by: katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 2:00 PM
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(and focusing on those other things if a candidate is depressing or disappointing you is not "taking your ball and going home," or "supporting John McCain", or "throwing a temper tantrum", or what-have-you. I am not quoting anyone on this thread, these are just stock responses to people who've been pissed at Obama lately.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 2:04 PM
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The excuses for Obama's vote are strikingly parallel to the excuses for Clinton's war vote: Couldn't have changed the outcome anyway. He wanted to win the election, he had to do this. He's (gasp!) a politician. It was easy for her to vote no--she's not the nominee. etc. etc... FISA is smaller potatoes than Iraq, but it's the best proxy we have on these issues,

Precisely what worries me


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 2:32 PM
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60: You can talk about decades long trajectory if you like, but the really alarming trajectory is over the past 7 years.

For most of the past 7 years I would have been inclined to agree with you, but recently I look back on everything since John Mitchell's "This country is going so far to the right you won't recognize it." as being part of that movement. It is pretty complicated, with a lot of "liberalization" of social mores due in part to an even longer-term (centuries long) trajectory of the slow death of the mainstream Abrahamic religions in the world that overlies it. But fundamentally I think there is a slowly entrenching mainstream staus quo "conservatism" that Bushco etal are just the most visible and noxious manifestation of. Some of my rethinking has come from looking back at the Clinton administration and thinking through how the media elite led demonization of this centrist politician and his wife (particualrly in contrast to their treatment of the last 7 years). I mean really, WTF?

[This is incoherently abbreviated, complicated by a lot of factors as I said, but I think that technology and the erosion of our isolation/natural resource/post WWI I advantages continue to wear on us all. FISA sucked, get the Dem elected, and as someone said upthread, a lot of downticket Dems as well.]


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 7:07 PM
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72: (re: trusting Obama to do the watching)

You know, the bad thing for me about telecom immunity wasn't about not punishing the individual companies or their executives, it was losing one of the last avenues to investigate what Bush and company really did to evade FISA. And that isn't a particularly compelling argument for Obama: if he gets elected, he can find out whatever he wants about what happened, and make any part of it public that he wants. That leaves his vote mostly as a symbolic declaration of principle.

Against that, though: what if someone convinced him that there was a good reason not to make details of the program public at this time? Then he might have bought off on the FISA-flop not as a pander to the right, but as a pragmatic move to keep things quiet until after the election.

I don't want to go too far with assuming that this must be what happened, because that treads a bit closely to the right-wing authoritarian "the leader says it's ok, so there must be a good reason for it," only with our guy trusted instead of theirs (which I take to be part of Katherine's point). But I can think of at least two possible scenarios where he might have become convinced:

1. Some technocrat he trusts convinces him that there really is some as-yet undisclosed detail of the program that is likely to come out in the court cases (despite security precautions) and whose disclosure is likely to harm the national interest. There is a precedent for this: in 1944, one of the head codebreakers went to Dewey on his own initiative and convinced Dewey to get the Republicans to lay off public discussion of Pearl Harbor and Japanese codes, because of the risk of exposing Magic and the breaking of the Japanese Purple code, which was still yielding useful intelligence. (The story is in The Codebreakers, by David Kahn.)

2. Some of the Democratic leadership is worried that public disclosure will expose their own complicity in the FISA runaround, and Obama is convinced to give them cover because he needs their support to enact his program if elected.

So while I don't want to assume that one of these must be the case, if something like that did happen, I can see Obama making a practical judgment to let the bill go through and figure he can correct any abuses after the election.


Posted by: DaveW | Link to this comment | 07-15-08 11:10 PM
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The first scenario isn't plausible, and as far as I'm concerned is exactly the kind of "our leader must know something we don't" you fear it is. It's not like everything just becomes public if the cases go forward--classified info is still extremely, extremely restricted. And I'm sure as hell not going to just assume that he plans to disclose abuses when: (1) he's never said he would; instead he justs gives explanations for this vote that insult my intelligence (2) even if he had made a campaign promise stuff like this makes it a bit less reliable. He needs to be *pressured*. Pressuring him before the election won't do great harm. (After the election, I think the netroots will have moved on to other things--we are used to reacting to bad actions, not failures to act).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 07-16-08 7:37 AM
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The first scenario isn't plausible

Boy, but the second one sure is.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-16-08 7:48 AM
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I like 89's combination of shameless abandoning of most principles of government, even those observed under Reagan/BushI, against the backdrop of the long-term liberalization due to Abrahamic decay.

Conservatives are not crazy to insist that they keep losing ground despite controlling all branches of government; their mistake was believing that Supreme Court decisions, legislation, control of executive branch agencies, etc. was what was behind that liberalization, and that it could be reversed by the same means.

Part of their demoralization must be the realization that it probably can't be. Apocalyptic scenarios have been popular as a response to this feeling for generations, but there must be a substantial body of cultural and religious conservatives getting ready to retreat.

I'm for not pursuing them, to let them have their space as much as possible. I know that come October we'll hear, a sign of fall as sure as the falling leaves, of the daughter of some Jewish/Atheist/Wiccan, whose parents somehow chose to live in the farthest recesses, challenging basketball prayer or whatnot all the way to the Supreme Court, in Nina T's unmistakeable voice. The right will need to develop less-lame defenses than "we've always done this and nobody complained before." Probably they already have, and viable alternative cultures and activities will continue to develop. So will home schooling. I'm actually hoping they do, to hasten their retreat.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 07-16-08 8:02 AM
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