Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

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Former Launch Officer on Trump’s Potential for Nuclear First Strike

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John Noonan is a defense analyst and former United States Air Force officer who performed duties as a Minuteman III launch officer. In a nuclear war, he would have been one of the people turning the keys to end civilization as we know it. As a result, his series of tweets analyzing Donald Trump’s potential attitude toward using nuclear weapons carry a certain moral weight not available to most discussions on the matter.

Noonan writes in response to anonymous allegations reported by Joe Scarborough that Trump asked a foreign policy expert “three times,” “if we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” The Trump campaign has denied Scarborough’s statement, saying, “There is no truth to this [story].”

Enter Noonan’s series of tweets, which analyze the consequences of such a shift in nuclear weapons use philosophy, if true.


Noonan tells those who are just tuning in (like myself) that he has significant experience with nuclear weapons.


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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:58 am

«— Who Has “Found the True Faith”?
—» Former Launch Officer on Trump’s Potential for Nuclear First Strike

You Won’t Believe How Ted Cruz Treats Syrian Christians

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Senator Ted Cruz wants the US to accept only Christian refugees from Syria and other ISIL-ravaged countries in the Middle East, reports Amy Davidson in the New Yorker. This is curious, because his past actions tell a different story than his recent words.
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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:38 pm

«— A Sacrifice for Gaza
—» Removing Permanent Marker from a Dry-erase Board

The Magical Negro, in Context

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Chip Saltsman, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, wanted to become the chairman of the Republican National Committee. In December, he circulated a CD of parodies which included a song entitled, “Barack the Magic Negro.” When first I read this, I was mortified. Who could be so callous?

Saltsman claimed that the media judged him by a double standard. He was vilified for distributing Paul Shanklin’s parody, which Saltsman says, “should be easily recognized as satire directed at the [Los Angeles] Times.” The Times in March 2007 ran an op-ed piece with the headline, “Obama the ‘Magic Negro’.” According to Saltsman, no one was outraged at the Times, and thus the double standard. But as the saying goes, context is everything.

Part of the context, as pointed out in a LA Times blog[1] , is that the piece is “op-ed.”

An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often believed to be abbreviated from opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board. These are different from editorials, which are usually unsigned and written by editorial board members. Op-eds are so named because they are generally printed on the page opposite the editorial.[2]

In another LA Times op-ed piece, this one responding to Saltsman’s distribution of Shanklin’s parody, Tim Rutten makes an important point about the context of national politics:

The point is, when it comes to discussions of race in America — and particularly racial or ethnic humor — context is everything. In fact, racial and ethnic humor are probably the most contextually sensitive of all forms of satire. They work only when everyone is clear that the person making the joke regards the differences and foibles of another group affectionately and as something that makes everybody’s life more interesting. Lots of traditional Jewish and Irish humor falls into that category, though even there, it depends on who is telling the joke, and to whom.

The right contextual conditions, however, never exist in politics, which is why ethnic or racial references in that venue nearly always offend — or, at best, fall flat.[3]

It is entirely possible for ethnically different people to get along, poking fun at themselves and each other. Yet, as Rutten points out, there must be a context assuring the good-will — maybe even compassion and care — of every member of the community. Most importantly, politics are a combined context in which this can never be assured. As a communication context, politics always imply ambition and what Nietzsche called the “will to power.” Not exactly the heights of good-will, not to speak of care or compassion.

So, when a white man sings in a faux Al Sharpton voice, “Barack the Magic Negro, lives in D.C. / The L.A. Times, they called him that / ‘Cause he’s black, but not authentically. / Some say Barack’s “articulate” / And bright and new and “clean.” / The media sure loves this guy, / A white interloper’s dream!”[4] , it is entirely different from black director Spike Lee labelling the stock characters typically played by Morgan Freeman the “super duper magical negro.”[5] Why? Because context is everything.

(As an aside, when a white man imitating Al Sharpton discourages voting for a black man because he’s too white, it is the height of dramatic irony on so many levels.)

Which brings us back to the original op-ed article by David Ehrenstein.

The only mud that momentarily stuck was criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama’s alleged “inauthenticty,” as compared to such sterling examples of “genuine” blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg. Speaking as an African American whose last name has led to his racial “credentials” being challenged — often several times a day — I know how pesky this sort of thing can be.[6]

A week ago, former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele was selected as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Saltsman withdrew his name at the eleventh hour without explanation. Steele becomes the first African-American GOP chairman.[7] Perhaps Republicans selected Steele as a response to President Barack Obama’s victory in November. Or maybe, Republicans were responding to Saltsman’s tasteless self-advertising. Context, as they say, is everything.

Linknotes:
  1. Jon Healey – “Closing the ‘Magic Negro’ loop”
  2. Wikipedia – Op-ed [emphasis in original]
  3. Tim Rutten – Chip Saltsman’s ‘Magic Negro’ mistake
  4. Paul Shanklin – Barack the Magic Negro
  5. Wikipedia – Magical Negro
  6. David Ehrenstein – Obama the ‘Magic Negro’
  7. Liz Sidoti – “Michael Steele becomes first black RNC chairman”
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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:21 am

«— Are You Greek?
—» The Magical Negro, in Context

A Sacrifice for Gaza

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Imagine this: You are a Native American living on a reservation. Because some members of your reservation have been agitating for change, your home has been blockaded by the National Guard for several years. You cannot get in or out, and basic living supplies are difficult to come by. Attacks by the American troops sometimes destroy power plants, and you survive without electricity or running water for days. The American people, many of whom are descendants of European colonists, first arrived a few centuries ago on the soil that your ancestors inhabited for thousands of years. In spite of this, the international community is deaf to your cries for help and relief. Now imagine that the United States has had enough of your agitators and is launching a full-scale assault on your people with all its military superiority, even though your people are barely armed with rifles and a few missiles. Your home looks to be a parking lot in a few years.

Sounds outlandish! Unreal. Even as fiction, no one would believe it. Now, stop imagining and see that this is the reality of the situation in the Gaza strip.

The current conflict has been marked by little or no restraint on the part of Israel. Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview with the Washington Post, “I don’t like the term cease-fire since it looks like an agreement between two legitimate sides.” Elsewhere in the same interview she said, “Israel is not going to show restraint anymore. . . . it is not a missile against a missile. We are going to attack strongly if they continue.”[1] If we were to decode the political rhetoric, Livni’s statement might read:

“We have a far bigger stick than you, and we will level you to the dirt.”

Israel supports its overwhelming use of military force by saying it is a response to “terror.”[2] Many nations list Hamas as a terrorist organization.[3] Yet according to many sources, Israel originally supported Hamas secretly to destabilize support for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). “according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. … Israel’s support for Hamas ‘was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,’ said a former senior CIA official.”[4] In a recent email letter to her supporters, Dr. Maria Khoury, a Palestinian Christian who lives in Taybeh, West Bank, relates a personal memory of this support for Hamas by the Israeli government. If this knowledge was widespread throughout Palestine, how demoralizing it must be for Palestinians to be used as pawns.

Far more demoralizing, though, is the human cost. Families seeking refuge from the destruction are killed while they try to escape.
“Movement [while fleeing] is complicated by the confusion over when it is safe to leave,” writes the New York Times. “When the Abu Hajaj family received a leaflet last weekend, they took it as a sign of safe passage. But Majad Abdel Karim Abu Hajaj, a teacher at a United Nations school, said his mother and sister were killed as they walked holding a white flag. Their bodies remain where they fell, he said, because ambulances cannot get to the area.”[5]

We have a far bigger stick than you, and we will level you to the dirt.

And what has been the cost for Israel? The Los Angeles Times reports that the death toll for Israel is thirteen. “Israel has suffered 13 dead: 10 soldiers, four of them by ‘friendly fire,’ and three civilians by Hamas rockets.” How does that compare to the cost suffered by Palestine?

The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported Monday that the death toll had risen from 884 to 910, according to an update from United Nations officials in Gaza. The dead include 292 children and 75 women, the officials said. The number of injured Palestinians stood at 4,250, of whom 1,497 are children and 626 are women….

More than 28,000 Palestinian civilians have been displaced, inundating makeshift refugee centers.[6]

We have a far bigger stick than you, and we will level you to the dirt.

We can do little to change the political situation. The nations of this world will continue their demonic use of military power until the end of the age. However, we must help sacrificially as we are able. Recently, Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen), the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, released a public statement encouraging support of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and spoke directly about our obligation to Palestine:

The parishes and members of the Orthodox Church in America should urgently offer their financial support to IOCC, earmarking this support at this time for work in Gaza. As Orthodox Christians, members of the Orthodox Church in America are in deep solidarity with the suffering people in the Middle East — Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The many hundreds of dead and wounded civilians in Gaza and in the whole region bear witness in their suffering to the real meaning of military and political conflict: it is innocent people who suffer the most.[7]

We are mostly powerless to change the political situation, but I can express solidarity with the Palestinian people through sacrifice — giving of myself as an offering. Here are three things I will be doing:

  1. Give. I will give to the IOCC.[8] They already have an infrastructure on the ground in Palestine, because they have been working there for many years. Give sacrificially.
  2. Pray. “The heartfelt prayer of someone upright works very powerfully.”[9] I will pray an akathist for the people of Palestine and specifically for Gaza. Take extra time during your day or your week to pray for the people of Gaza and Palestine. Pray an akathist, a decade of the rosary, or an additional round on your prayer rope (chotki, komboskini) for release and relief. If set prayers are not part of your faith tradition, set aside extra time to pray extemporaneously for Palestine. Pray sacrificially.
  3. Speak. Declare it. I have already written this article, obviously. Get the word out. Blog, tweet, or post on Facebook and other social networking sites. I will also speak out at my church. Speak out at your church, mosque, temple, or other house of worship. Be bold. Tell people what you know. Speak sacrificially.

Of course, there is so much more. Be creative. You can sacrifice your time, either by organizing a fundraiser or even by participating in one near you. The most daring among you can sacrifice your time by volunteering with an organization and traveling to Gaza in the flesh. This is ultimately the deepest sacrfice you can make. Do not let your fear put your motivation on the shelf: Do something.

Linknotes:
  1. Weymouth, Lally. – “Israel Is Not Going to Show Restraint,” Washington Post, January 10, 2009
  2. Weymouth, ibid.
  3. Wikipedia – “Hamas.” Accessed on January 13, 2009. Specifically, “Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, and the United States, and is banned in Jordan. Australia and the United Kingdom list only the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, as a terrorist organization. The United States and the European Union have both implemented restrictive measures against Hamas on an international level.”
  4. Sale, Richard. UPI article. – quoted in J. Raimondo, “Hamas, Son of Israel”
  5. El-Khodary, Taghreed, and Sabrina Tavernise – New York Times, “U.N. Warns of Refugee Crisis in Gaza Strip,” January 13, 2009
  6. Rotella, Sebastian, and Rushdi abu Alouf – Israel steps up attacks in Gaza; Hamas indicates it’s open to a truce,” Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2009
  7. OCA.org – “Metropolitan Jonah appeals to OCA faithful to support IOCC relief efforts in Gaza.” Press release, January 12, 2009
  8. I tried to Google for alternate charities to list, but there was just too much noise due to the current conflict. If you know of other charities with infrastructure on the ground in the region, please feel free to leave a comment.
  9. James 5:16 – NJB
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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:04 pm

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Obama and Islam

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I have already indicated that I will probably vote for Ron Paul, even if I write his name in on the absentee ballot with my own blood. So, having said that, let me make it clear that this article is not about support for Senator Obama. It’s about being sane and reasonable about what one reads on the intarweb. Also, it’s for my folks who stupefied me by repeating some of this stuff back to me as truth.

Barack Obama
Photo by Marc Nozzel, CC BY license

The videos and quoted material on Snopes is great. It may be my new best friend for debunking stupid stuff.

Dear Mom and Dad: Love you lots. Call me when you read this!

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Filed under: — Basil @ 10:31 pm

«— Usage note: Roll versus role
—» Cruise Spoofology

Clark Carlton on Presidential Candidate Ron Paul

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An Open Letter to Orthodox Christians, on Behalf of Ron Paul

by Clark Carlton

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

The 2008 US presidential election is almost a year and a half away, and yet the various campaigns are in full swing. With states vying to move the primary season up into late 2007, it is time that we as citizens of the United States start to think about who we would like to see elected to the White House next year.

Before I express my own thoughts about the upcoming election, let me begin with a couple of obvious, but nonetheless vital, observations. First of all, reasonable people – and certainly the reason-endowed sheep of Christ’s flock – can disagree about political philosophies and the relative virtues and vices of particular candidates. I do not believe that there is one “Orthodox” answer to some of the questions that I will raise below. In other words, I will question neither the purity of your faith nor the sincerity of your commitment to Christ if you disagree with my thoughts.

Read the rest: An Open Letter to Orthodox Christians, on Behalf of Ron Paul by Clark Carlton

Congressman Paul probably will have my vote this year, even if he does not receive the Republican nomination.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 1:45 pm

«— Miscellany
—» Freedom of a Sort

Consent of the Governed, Right to Know

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In a Washington Times editorial, Constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein documents how Congress is endangering the separation of powers between the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial). He concludes with this chilling observation:

…if government by the consent of the governed means anything, it means the right of the people to know what their government is doing to evaluate its wisdom and to adjust their political loyalties or activism accordingly.

Congress has turned invertebrate for twofold reasons: Members are too ignorant of the Constitution to appreciate the magnitude of their derelictions or to fight for their prerogatives; and their loyalties to party dwarf their attachment to the Constitution. If there are any ways to correct these conspicuous member shortcomings, they do not readily come to mind.

Read the whole thing: Moribund Congress

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Filed under: — Basil @ 9:11 pm

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Habeas Corpus Protections Not For Everyone

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Guantanamo Detainees Denied Rights to Legal Appeal in Federal Courts- Google News

From the Christian Science Monitor:

“The suspension clause is a limitation on the powers of Congress,” Judge Rogers writes. “It is only by misreading the historical record and ignoring the Supreme Court’s well-considered and binding dictum in Rasul v. Bush” that the court can conclude that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the detainees’ cases.

From the Guardian:

Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a lawyer representing several of the detainees, said: “The court of appeal has said it is perfectly legal to lock men up for ever without even a hint of due process.

“The conclusion would seem to violate most principles that most Americans believe are fundamental to our country.”

In the ruling, the appeal judges said: “Precedent in this court and the supreme court hold that the constitution does not confer rights on aliens without property or presence within the United States.”

Does the Constitution “confer” rights? Or does it protect them?

What could the Tenth Amendment possibly mean if the Constitution confers rights? To read the Wikipedia article on Amendment X is to read a sad story of the subversion of the Constitution, begun under Lincoln and expanded under Roosevelt.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:57 am

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—» Whispers on Real Christianity

The Twelfth Imam

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Get Religion reveals the apocalypticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The New Republic article requires a subscribtion; use BugMeNot if you’re poor, or visit your local library. In either case, it is essential to understanding the importance of Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

This phrase is, of course, taken from the final act of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s dramatic address at the United Nations. …[H]ere are the crucial quotes:

I emphatically declare that today’s world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.

O, Almighty God, all men and women are your creatures and you have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by you, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.

Does that sound familiar? Did you see this passage played over and over on the evening newscasts and debated on the niche-market shows on cable?

You didn’t?

…Try to imagine what would have happened if President George W. Bush had ended his U.N. address with a call for the second coming of Jesus Christ and pledged that he would strive to see this event come to pass, sooner rather than later. Imagine the mainstream media response. Do you think this would be mentioned in major media? Do you think journalists would jump to cover that topic (as well they should)?

Read the rest: GetReligion: September 25, 2006 — “Waiting on the perfect righteous human being”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 8:11 pm

«— Critical of Criticism
—» A Scientist Who Believes

Lebanon, in Facts and in Pictures

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I have no comment except to point out this report: Bonovox – Journal – Lebanon, in Facts and in Pictures. Warning: That page links to a site which displays graphic images of war. Not for the faint of heart.

Tuesday 18, at 13:22pm, the Israeli Army bombed – by land and air – the old Orthodox Church of St. George in Rashaiya Fakhar (Hasbaiya, Southern Lebanon) as well as its meeting house, the parish priest house and the Orthodox School with 15 bombs, some of them are phosphoric. It destroyed the southern wall of the church and caused a big fire in it. At that time, many parishioners were hiding and praying with their parish priest asking God’s protection. Ten were burnt and wounded. I have to mention that there was a white flag flying on top of the church.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:50 pm

«— Works
—» Another Sign for a Council

It Already Has a Name

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identity: Definition and Much More From Answers.com

It is impossible for someone to steal identity. If, hypothetically, someone made themselves the exactly the same as you in every way, they would be identical to you. You and that person would have identity. Luckily, that horrific case is not within the realm of possibility (outside of science fiction thrillers).

What is called “identity theft” actually already had a name; it’s fraud. People who use your name and identifying information (date of birth, social security number) for clandestine purposes are fraudulently pretending to be you. They haven’t stolen your identity. You are still you. There’s no need for new laws or renamed task forces. Just prosecute them for fraud.

So, I’m a little disgruntled that the administration that came up with silly names like “Department of Homeland Security” has created a “President’s Identity Theft Task Force.”

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Filed under: — Basil @ 11:14 pm

«— Boston.com Explores Brown’s Historical Claims
—» Under Where?

Danforth: Marriage Amendment a Silly Idea

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Former Senator John Danforth says that an ammendment to define marriage is silly.

Danforth, a Missouri Republican and an Episcopal priest, made the comments in a speech Saturday night to the Log Cabin Republicans, which support gay rights. He said history has shown that attempts to regulate human behavior with constitutional amendments are misguided.

“Once before, the Constitution was amended to try to deal with matters of human behavior; that was prohibition. That was such a flop that that was repealed 13 years later,” Danforth said.

Referring to the marriage amendment, he added that perhaps at some point in history there was a constitutional amendment proposed that was “sillier than this one, but I don’t know of one.”

Read more: AOL News – Danforth Says Gay Marriage Ban a Silly Idea

Perhaps he does not consider Amendment XIII (Abolition) to be a real amendment; Missouri was a Confederate state, after all. However, I think he’s probably just being historically myopic to make a silly point.

The point is, after allof course, rather silly. An amendment to define marriage would be just that: A definition of marriage. It would not attempt in any way to curtail anyone’s freedom. It would be an agreement of the United States on the definition of marriage. (One which, recent events should make obvious, is sorely needed. No one needs to define institutions we all agree upon; only when unstable people insinuate absurdities — which begin to be naïvely accepted by the masses — is society compelled to stop and define itself.)

When viewed realistically — and not as a stage for populist soundbites — the amendment aims to do what every amendment does: Define the jurisdiction of the federal government and the states. In this caseHere, the proposed amendment simply makes explicit that neither the federal government nor the statesdoes not have the power to magically make absurdities into realities.

In truth, American society is doing what all societies do: Enacting legislation to protect its own existence and the welfare of its people. In this case, it is explicitly stating that the basic unit of society is the family and not the individual, that living in accordance with nature is better than chaos and anarchy. It is also protecting the welfare of future generations of Americans by refusing to allow dangerous fantasies to be masqueraded as healthy realities.

In short, this amendment is entirely unlike the eighteenth amendment (Prohibition). Whereas one attempted to outlaw a practice that has been a generallysometimes felicitous part of the human experience since the first nomads discovered fermentation, the other explicitly approves and states what has been an essential part of the human experience since well before the dawn of reason upon our ancient hominid ancestors.

As for sillier amendment proposals, I’d say the title definitely goes to the proposed amendment to repeal Amendment XXVI (Right to vote for citizens eighteen years old) and granting the right to vote to citizens sixteen years old.

Hat tip: Fr. Joseph Huneycutt

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Filed under: — Basil @ 3:31 pm

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—» New Navy Uniforms Finally Approved by CNO

Male activists want to opt-out of unplanned pregnancies

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CNN.com – Male activists want say in unplanned pregnancy – Mar 8, 2006:

Roe says a woman can choose to have intimacy and still have control over subsequent consequences,” [Mel Feit, director of the National Center for Men,] said. “No one has ever asked a federal court if that means men should have some similar say.”

In my world, accepting the consequences of your actions is called “responsibility.” It used to be called “manly” to take responsibility for your actions; now it’s just profoundly inconvenient.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 12:28 pm

«— Poverty of Soul
—» Hacker Hatchery

How Government Works: The Night Watchman

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How Government Works: The Night Watchman

My parents sent this to me via email. Pretty much sums up why I’m usually a libertarian. Also, it’s funny.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 6:08 am

«— Dual Anniversaries
—» Marriage Cocktails

Protests Intensify Over Muhammad Drawings – Yahoo! News

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Protests Intensify Over Muhammad Drawings – Yahoo! News

Perhaps I’m just too insensitized to blasphemy, but it seems to me that some people need to get a thicker skin.

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Filed under: — Basil @ 4:43 pm