Brian O'Connell

on war, politics, and stuff - go to the new blog

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06/09/2002 - 06/16/2002
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06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003
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11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003
11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003
11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003
11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003
12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003
12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003
12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004
01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004
02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004
03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004

Response to Prominent Americans (Not in Our Name)

Complexity and Universal Truth

From Multiculturalism to Anti-Americanism in Six Easy Steps

Andrew Sullivan

A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice

Armed and Dangerous

Asymmetrical Information

Beauty of Gray

Belmont Club

Bjørn Stærk blog


Cinderella Bloggerfeller

Cold Fury




Dr. Weevil

Eject! Eject! Eject!



it comes in pints?


Little Green Footballs

LILEKS (James)

Man Without Qualities

Matt Welch

Michael J. Totten

My Two Cents

Natalie Solent

Oliver Willis


Public Nuisance

Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing

Shadow of the Hegemon

Steven Chapman

The CounterRevolutionary

The Machinery of Night


The Truth Laid Bear

Tim Blair

Twisted Spinster

USS Clueless


Winds of Change.NET


Mysteries of Netscape Revealed!

Thanks to a detailed report from PJ in Maryland, I think I've solved The Case of the Crashing Browser. If you don't care about HTML and style sheets and geeky web talk, then you should never read this.

First of all, I think the default text size in both IE and NN is too large. So whenever I do anything in HTML, I shrink the size of HTML's <p> tag. I had been doing this by assigning <p> a smaller pixel size in a style sheet. Then I noticed that visitors can't increase or decrease a web page's overall text size (using that browser option) if I assigned an absolute value in pixels to a piece of text. Shortly thereafter I discovered the wonders of ems. Typically, I would make a <p> tag .8 ems big. This would make text the size I wanted it to be, but still allow visitors, some of whom might have vision problems, to increase all the text at their option.

The problem arose because ems inherit. I don't close my paragraphs with closing </p> tags, at least not on this blog. (I know that's not HTML 4.01 compliant but I'm lazy.) So Netscape thinks that the second paragraph is a child of the first and should be rendered as .8 em * .8 em or .64 em. The third paragraph is even smaller, and so on. This doesn't happen if I just make a paragraph 10 points or 12 pixels large.

So when NN4.x tried to render a post with text it thought should be .003 pixels big, or whatever, it crashed, much as Landru did after its run-in with Capt. Kirk.

To solve this problem, I got rid of the ems and specified my text sizes in pts. Alas, the vision-impaired will have to sue me for discrimination in public accommodations under the ADA.
Unfortunately for PJ, the Netscape Disaster Relief Fund has been drained of resources so he cannot collect on his $200 (he crashed twice). Many suspect embezzlement and malfeasance. An independent counsel is being explored.


Good Housekeeping

So I noticed that a good 10% of you are still using Netscape 4.something. It didn't occur to me as I was amateurishly hacking this site's template together that I should see what it looks like in NN4. So I revs up the old captain's wheel, and after the smoke and dust dissipated, surfed over here.

CRASH! Netscape Navigator has caused an error in NETSCAPE.EXE. Netscape Navigator will now close.

Hmmm. That's not how this site is supposed to look in Netscape Navigator.

The template itself, from my hard drive, works fine in NN. Other Blogspot sites, some using the same YACCS and Bravenet doodads that I do, work fine. But calling this site live on NN crashed the browser every time. I re-cut and re-pasted the code from those doodad sites again, fooled with the JavaScript, and tinkered with the blogger code. And still the site crashes NN4.

So now I'm thinking that there's something wrong with my browser installation. If you're reading this on Navigator 4.x, please post a comment to let me know that you can indeed view this site without crashing.

If your browser did crash, then I'm truly sorry. But in that case you can't read this and therefore can't be aware of the $100 for pain and suffering that I'm offering in compensation.

I don't know what to tell that person who came over here in Navigator 3. As my company's webmaster once said, you never know what people will use when they visit your site. In some poor countries, people are forced to use a pile of rocks as a browser.

So please let me know if I've killed your computer. Angry complaints from Mac users are also welcome. Anyways, thanks for the feedback.


More on Protest Letter

That should not necessarily be pronounced like moron protest letter, by the way.

Steve Den Beste weighs in as does Richard Bennett.

Both of them mention the oddity of Gloria Steinem's signature on the letter, a bit of further weirdness that escaped my notice. Ms. Steinem was an early anti-Taliban voice, but she's also anti-war, apparently.

Update: See also Damian Penny, Juan Gato, and Ken Layne.


Response to Prominent Americans

The Guardian has published this open letter from Prominent Americans. Reading it has moved me to respond, and I have done so point by point. Thanks to Dr. Frank for the link.

Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression.

In contrast to the old measures of repression, I guess.

The signers of this statement call on the people of the US to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11 and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.

Particularly danger-posed is Al Qaeda, but why bring them up? It would just muddy the message.

We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers.

Are Iran, Iraq and North Korea great powers? Do their people have the right to determine their own destiny? Anyway the Taliban's right to determine their own destiny ended where the World Trade Center began (I'd give credit if I remembered who wrote that first- it's a great line).

We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the US government should have the same rights of due process.

Imagine if WWII had been prosecuted in the US courts.

We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected.

Except in American universities. But as another blogger wrote recently, dissent has no value in itself; it's only as valuable as its content. You don't get a gold star just for disagreeing- you also have to have a good point.

We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.

We shall overcome...

We believe that people of conscience must take responsibility for what their own governments do - we must first of all oppose the injustice that is done in our own name. Thus we call on all Americans to resist the war and repression that has been loosed on the world by the Bush administration.

Loosed on the world! That's quite the vapid cliche. But on the contrary, the war is quite deliberate.

It is unjust, immoral and illegitimate. We choose to make common cause with the people of the world.

There is no "common" cause with the people of the world when some of those people are Islamofascists. This statement is based on the obviously wrong assumption that all people of the world share the signers' values and that the only true enemy is war.

We too watched with shock the horrific events of September 11. We too mourned the thousands of innocent dead and shook our heads at the terrible scenes of carnage - even as we recalled similar scenes in Baghdad, Panama City and, a generation ago, Vietnam.

Yeah, we remember. You were the Yesbuts.

We too joined the anguished questioning of millions of Americans who asked why such a thing could happen.

And you came up with a strange answer.

But the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge.

The American people didn't need leaders to "unleash" revenge. We're capable of our own emotions once in a while (between commercials). But the purpose of the war in Afghanistan was to incapacitate Al Qaeda in their main base of operations. And it did have that effect.

They put out a simplistic script of "good v evil" that was taken up by a pliant and intimidated media.

How is Al Qaeda not evil? Please enumerate the ways.

They told us that asking why these terrible events had happened verged on treason.

It wasn't what you said so much as how you said it. Advocating weakness or appeasement is not treason per se, it's more of an indirect form of treason. Pacificists make it easier on the enemy.

There was to be no debate. There were by definition no valid political or moral questions.

The American public hasn't been this united since WWII, so by definition, there were no major political questions to be asked. Most Americans' politics are informed by their morality, so to an extent, this was covered also. But moral questions were asked and the American people answered. You just didn't like the answer.

The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at home.

War against our enemies abroad, repression and detention for enemy combatants at home. Not the only possible answer. For instance, another answer might be "let's engage the people of the world in a dialogue and reach a consensus and achieve true harmony amongst all peoples." But that answer sucks.

In our name, the Bush administration, with near unanimity from Congress, not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated to itself and its allies the right to rain down military force anywhere and anytime.

Congress represents the people so complaining that Congress was nearly unanimous is close to complaining that the American people were nearly unanimous. In essence, the complaint is that most Americans support the war in Afghanstan. But even the beloved UN agrees that nations have the right to defend themselves without permission from mom.

The brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines to Palestine.

From Abu Sayeff to Al Aqsa. Brutal.

The government now openly prepares to wage all-out war on Iraq - a country which has no connection to the horror of September 11.

Probably no connection, true. But most Americans aren't willing to wait until we have a new horror to connect them to.

What kind of world will this become if the US government has a blank cheque to drop commandos, assassins, and bombs wherever it wants?

Depends on where it wants. What kind of world will this become if the US government has a blank cheque to drop commandos, assassins, and bombs on Iraq, Iran, and North Korea? A better one.

In our name the government has created two classes of people within the US: those to whom the basic rights of the US legal system are at least promised, and those who now seem to have no rights at all.

Oh I love that "at least promised". You and I are "at least promised" basic rights. Those poor Al Qaeda operatives now seem to have no rights at all.

The government rounded up more than 1,000 immigrants and detained them in secret and indefinitely. Hundreds have been deported and hundreds of others still languish today in prison.

Yeah it's war. The US should be able to deport non-citizens at will during war time. The detainees are a matter of concern. In the short term, I support the governments efforts. In the longer term, some form of judicial review will be necessary.

For the first time in decades, immigration procedures single out certain nationalities for unequal treatment.

'Bout time.
In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression over society.


The president's spokesperson warns people to "watch what they say".

That was over the top, but the president's spokesperson doesn't exactly rule by fiat.

Dissident artists, intellectuals, and professors find their views distorted, attacked, and suppressed.

Suppressed by the government or by their more level-headed bosses and bankrollers? There's a difference. But what's with the complaint about having views attacked? For the millionth time, free speech does not protect anyone's views from being attacked. Freedom of speech allows people's views to be attacked. Marketplace of ideas and all that. Oops! Said a dirty word!

The so-called Patriot Act - along with a host of similar measures on the state level - gives police sweeping new powers of search and seizure, supervised, if at all, by secret proceedings before secret courts.

Sweeping is in the eye of the beholder. But secret courts are an absolute necessity when dealing with enemy combatants at home. We can't have all the evidence against this Padilla trotted out in public for obvious reasons.

In our name, the executive has steadily usurped the roles and functions of the other branches of government. Military tribunals with lax rules of evidence and no right to appeal to the regular courts are put in place by executive order.

There does need to be a civilian gatekeeper for US citizens before they're funneled to the military. But after that, I'm all for military rules of evidence and no right to appeal. Here come de judge!

Groups are declared "terrorist" at the stroke of a presidential pen.

Well they are.

We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when they talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak of a new domestic order.

Gee, new domestic order sounds a lot like new world order. Must be a coincidence. I do take the highest officers of the land seriously when they talk of a war that will last a generation. But I'm hoping we can do it in 15 years.

We are confronting a new openly imperial policy towards the world and a domestic policy that manufactures and manipulates fear to curtail rights.

Empire. I'd prefer not, but there's no choice really. What should the empire's role be in the India-Pakistan dispute? Or during the troubles in the Balkans, or in Rwanda? There are lots of opinions out there from different people about when we should act as the hegemon and when we shouldn't. Easy to say no now, isn't it? And I think the Bush administration did manipulate fear to get the "What did Bush know and when did he know it" crowd to shut up. The administration said, "Yeah, want to know what we know right now? Here it is!" And the crowd said, "Check, please!" But manufacturing fear? There's nothing to support that.

There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months that must be seen for what it is and resisted. Too many times in history people have waited until it was too late to resist.

Ask the Czechs about that. They got screwed over twice by people waiting too long to resist.

President Bush has declared: "You're either with us or against us." Here is our answer: We refuse to allow you to speak for all the American people. We will not give up our right to question. We will not hand over our consciences in return for a hollow promise of safety.

No, you'll hand over your safety in return for a hollow promise of a conscience.

We say not in our name. We refuse to be party to these wars and we repudiate any inference that they are being waged in our name or for our welfare.

OK. The United States (except Laurie Anderson, Edward Asner, Russell Banks, Noam Chomsky, Ossie Davis, Mos Def, Eve Ensler, Martin Luther King III, Barbara Kingsolver, Tony Kushner, Edward Said, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, John Edgar Wideman, Howard Zinn, and 53 others) is at war!

We extend a hand to those around the world suffering from these policies; we will show our solidarity in word and deed.

From Abu Sayeff to Al Aqsa. Brutal.

We who sign this statement call on all Americans to join together to rise to this challenge. We applaud and support the questioning and protest now going on, even as we recognise the need for much, much more to actually stop this juggernaut.

Much, much, much, much more. Most people can see that there is no viable alternative to the war, and so they support the war. The juggernaut is the united American people, not the government.

We draw inspiration from the Israeli reservists who, at great personal risk, declare "there is a limit" and refuse to serve in the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Yes, and Jane Fonda.

We draw on the many examples of resistance and conscience from the past of the US: from those who fought slavery with rebellions and the underground railroad, to those who defied the Vietnam war by refusing orders, resisting the draft, and standing in solidarity with resisters. Let us not allow the watching world to despair of our silence and our failure to act.

Uh, I doubt the watching world was despairing of Lou Grant's and "O Superman"'s silence. I for one was just getting used to it.

Instead, let the world hear our pledge: we will resist the machinery of war and repression and rally others to do everything possible to stop it.

Stop the machinery of war! Start the machinery of protest! Oh, it's in the shop. Start the back-up machinery of protest! Don't worry though- Donahue's returning to television!

Hmm. In that whole letter, there's not one mention of the Islamofascist enemy that attacked us and started this war. And that fact tells us more about where these Prominent Americans stand than all of my comments.


Even More on Padilla

WaPo again (link via Dr. Frank):

The government may be right that an American citizen working with al Qaeda can be held as an enemy combatant for the duration of the war on terrorism. As a legal matter, the contention has precedent in prior conflicts, though how to apply those precedents during an undeclared war against a non-state actor when the administration itself seems to regard the conflict as never-ending is no easy question. International law permits the detention of captured enemy soldiers, even those who have committed no crimes, and it would be reckless of the government simply to release people bent on detonating dirty bombs. The question is not whether the government can detain an enemy combatant bent on doing America great harm but whether it can designate anyone it chooses as such a person without meaningful review.

That's exactly the crux of the issue. It's not how the military handles enemy combatants, rather it's how a US citizen with full rights, such as Padilla, gets stripped of them. I don't blame the Bush administration for not trusting the courts in this matter, but I don't see how a US citizen can be detained by the military without at least some form of judicial review.

Further on:

The idea of indefinite detentions of Americans who have not been convicted of any crime is alarming under any circumstances. Without the meaningful supervision of the courts, it is a dangerous overreach of presidential power.

Yes, but that's not quite exactly right. The executive branch shouldn't need to prove that Padilla committed a crime. They need to demonstrate that he's an enemy agent. It's not crimes that have already been committed that we're concerned with. It's acts of war that we would expect an enemy combatant to commit in the future that should be the focus. Moreover, I suggest that the standard of proof should be preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But the Post is right to the extent that, in the case of US citizens, a civilian court ought to be the gatekeeper between civilian courts and military courts.


NPR Bias

Much has been written on this of course. On the drive home from work this evening, I noticed another example. In a report on the end of the ABM Treaty (it officially ended today, 6 months after Bush gave notice to the Russians), the reporter mentioned that the treaty supported mutual deterrence. Hmm, "mutual deterrence" sounds fine and dandy, something we should all support. How dare Bush get rid of such a fine upstanding institution!

But wait a minute. Whatever happened to "mutual assured destruction"- MAD? How can NPR report on the ABM treaty without mentioning that it supported MAD, which in any other context is supposedly mad? The lefty media has been railing against MAD at least since the tedious "No Nukes" concert movie. Now that Bush has ended a treaty that in effect codified MAD, mutual assured destruction has transmogrified into the inoffensive mutual deterrence. Whatever.


Dumbass Peacenik Watch

Announcing a new feature on broc7: Dumbass Peacenik Watch, or, Morale Draining, Confidence Leeching Enemies Within Watch. The first title is zippier. First up is Mark Morford writing for SFGate (link via the prolific and always right on PejmanPundit):

And if there was any doubt about how flagrantly this current administration intends to leverage the horror and sadness of 9/11 to turn America from a place of nonpanicky relatively calm defense into a seething pit-bull death squad of desultory military aggression, this announcement killed it for good.

It's unusual to hear anyone on the left refer to America as a place of "nonpanicky relatively calm defense". I thought we were always "a seething pit-bull death squad of desultory military aggression". It's absurdly obvious that the writer is painting a rosier picture than he otherwise would in order to better smear the current adminsitration.

But more importantly, he's arguing against the idea that the only defense against terrorism is to bring the fight to the terrorists. After the '93 bombing of the WTC, the embassy bombings, the USS Cole, and 9/11, only an idiot would suggest that appeasement could work.

In our current situation, facing a terrorist network at war with us, we have to change that old cliche to "The only defense is a good offense."

There's plenty worse I could quote, but Pejman Yousefzadeh already did and rips the whole article apart.


First Customer

This blog had its very first reader late last night, a one Cybrludite, also a newbie to the blogosphere. I thank him for stopping by and leaving a comment on my first post. If this were a Brooklyn pizzeria, I’d be taping a dollar bill to the wall behind the counter right about now. Alas, Cyberludite did not see fit to leave a buck or two in the tip jar (not that I blame him or anything- that tip jar is sheer presumptuousness on my part). Even if he did leave a buck, it would be hard to tape electronic money to the pixels that make up this blog. Maybe I’d cut and paste the Amazon transaction ID into the background.


More on Padilla

The Washington Post zeros in on what I previously wrote was the crux of the problem regarding civil rights and enemy combatants (link by way of Dr. Frank):

The government's dilemma here is real. People bent on bringing terrorism to the United States, even U.S. citizens, must be stopped. Prevention may require acting before a suspect has actually committed a crime, or while the evidence is highly classified. It seems suicidal to argue that the government should have to release people bent on detonating dirty bombs.

Yet the government's actions in this latest case cut against basic elements of life under the rule of law. If its positions are correct, nothing would prevent the president -- even in the absence of a formal declaration of war -- from designating any American as an enemy combatant. Without proving the correctness of the charge before a court, the military could then detain that person forever. And having done so, it could prevent that detainee from hiring a lawyer to argue that the government, in fact, has it all wrong. If that's the case, nobody's constitutional rights are safe. The administration owes the country a more thoughtful balance; Congress's role -- the patriotic thing to do -- is to help find it.

It seems obvious (to me, anyway) that we need a little more than just the President's say so when it comes to determining who is to be treated as an enemy of the US and lose claim to the rights we're guaranteed. But at the same time, we don't want a full blown public trial, which would defeat the purpose of military detainment and/or a military tribunal to some extent. I think a private hearing with a civilian judge is the way to go, assuming no extenuating circumstances (like a bomb set to go off somewhere).


Precedent for Dealing with al Muhajir

More on the handling of Abdullah al Muhajir from Victoria Toensing writing in NRO. This quote concerns how the Supreme Court ruled on the military tribunals of 8 German saboteurs, 2 of whom were US citizens, during WWII:
The U.S. Supreme Court spoke clearly on this issue 60 years ago when it affirmed the status and convictions of the eight saboteurs, which resulted in six executions, including one of the two U.S. citizens.

In Ex Parte Quirin, the Court affirmed that entering a country by stealth (in non-military garb) to destroy "life or property" is an offense "against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals."

The Court concluded that U.S. citizenship "does not relieve" an individual from the consequences of violating the law of war. "Citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts, are enemy belligerents within the meaning of the Hague Convention and the law of war," declared the Quirin Court.

Seven Army generals, not the traditional peer jury, tried the group. The Court upheld that procedure too.

The only difference between that case and this one is the absence of an "enemy government", at least one that's on record. Hence the new paradigm of this war: a fight against a shadow network rather than an official government with currency and stamps and men in uniform. This difference will continue to pop up in our deliberations and how we handle the war. It already has in the case of the Guantanamo detainees, and in complaints about their treatment.

Some make the argument, at least implicity, that because there is no enemy government, that we have to treat Al Qaeda as if it were some non-profit NGO, and accord all its members full legal rights as we would any individuals. But we can't let Al Qaeda's lack of a national border tie our hands and stop us from doing what we need to do to fight them.


Civil Rights and Terrorists

Good David Tell article (by way of LGF) on the irresponsible behavior of the civil rights hysterics during this war:

Three thousand people are dead, the movement that killed them fully intends to do it again, and the president and his Justice Department have proposed or undertaken myriad steps to deter such a renewed attack. We need to be sure those steps are proper ones. Which means we need to discuss them intelligently and thoroughly. And yet, time and again, whether the particular initiative or reform at issue is truly fraught with significance or plainly a no-brainer, a huge chunk of otherwise articulate America has proved itself unwilling or unable to engage the conversation on grownup terms. Instead, we get such as Arlen Specter's upside-down Martin Niemoller routine: First they came for Osama bin Laden's second-strike foot soldiers, and I said nothing.

There was another example of the problem David Tell writes about on Nightline last night. Jose Padilla, or Abdullah al Muhajir if you prefer, was transferred from DoJ to DoD, and may be tried by a military tribunal. A guy (don't recall his name) took the against-it position on the show last night.

So this lawyer guy kept on saying, to my annoyance, that what separates us from the terrorists is the rule of law. Apparently, this was the hook whereby he'd win everyone over. Except it's not true. There are many differences between Islamofascists and the West besides the rule of law. Take Bush's 7 points from his State of the Union address as a starting point.

A case might even be made that the terrorists actually do have an appreciation for the rule of law: Sharia law. So that guy's implication that all that seperates us from the terrorists is the rule of law is just wrong. He used that line in order to make the silly point that if we didn't try Padilla in a civilian court, we'd be no better than the terrorists and (everybody, now) the terrorists will have won.

The government's use of different methods and tactics during a war or national emergency is actually a pretty simple concept. The people who argue that we can't do anything differently during wartime suffer from a lack of imagination and short-sightedness at best, and defeatist aims at worst.


Gone Fishing!?

Andrew Sullivan's taking a few days off. How dare he. My light is gone. I stumble forward in the darkness, hoping that the light up ahead isn't an oncoming train. Was that a whistle?


What We're Up Against is Still There (and Here)

Foaming at the mouth quote from one Sulaiman Bu Ghaith, by way of LGF:
He said the United States had killed, directly or indirectly, thousands in Iraq, Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Sudan, Philippines, Bosnia and Kashmir.

"So we have the right to kill four million Americans, including one million children, displace double that figure and injure and cripple hundreds of thousands," he said.

I commented on how Bu Ghaith's rationale for attacking America sounds a lot like the American (and European) left. Can there be any doubt at this point that much of the Arab cult of victimhood was imported from the Western left?

The left's insistence that the majority of problems the Arab world faces are external (that is, our fault) encourages Arabs to see the West rather than their own society's serious problems as the root cause of the Arab world's failure. The red herring that the left has presented the Arab world will not help them at all. In fact, since a good portion of the Arab world's best and brightest have been and will apparently continue to believe that the problem with Islam is the West, it's a net loss, and can only delay the solution.


Democracy in Action

From Reuters:
Political bickering has delayed for five hours the start on Monday of Afghanistan's grand assembly of tribal elders, or Loya Jirga, which is to pick a government to rule the country until general elections in two years time.

Sounds like Congress. This reminds me of a Churchill quote (you know the one). The excitement will really begin in earnest when some tax issue gets bogged down in a subcommittee. Then Afghanistan will have arrived. Or the terrorists will have lost. What is it about terrorists that cries out for the use of the future perfect tense?


Here's a Good One

Funny line from James S. Robbins writing in NRO:
Government reorganization frequently arises from emergencies or dire need. The advent of the Cold War gave us the Defense Department, the energy crisis gave us the Energy Department, the Education Department gave us the education crisis — OK, sometimes it works backwards.

Whatever happened to that plan to ditch the Education Department anyway?


Yet Another Blog

This is my first post to this blog! Aren't you glad you're in on the ground floor of something this exciting?

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© 2002-2004
Brian O'Connell,
for what it's worth.