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Author Topic: Left & Right; Good & Bad; Totalitarian & Free - Thoughts?
Fed
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Babbler # 8926

posted 06 May 2005 11:02 AM      Profile for Fed        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Let's talk philosophy for a moment.

Just finished reading this article: [URL=
http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/print2005/schall_libcons_may05.html
]On Being Neither Liberal nor Conservative[/URL]

And was thinking about right/left; liberal/conservative. As I often do, because I still haven't got my head fully around the concepts. Here's a couple of paragraphs:

quote:
The division of the world into "liberal" and "conservative" on every topic from politics to our taste in cuisine, clothes, or automobiles is one of the really restricting developments that has ever happened to us. If we are not what is considered popularly a "liberal," then we must, by some convoluted logic, be a "conservative," or vice versa. No third or fourth option is available as is usually the case in the real world. It has to be, we are told, either this way or that. ... Most social coercion today seems to come from those called liberal/left, not from those called conservatives, who are pretty "liberal" by comparison to self-designated "liberals." But then social coercion has always been a trademark of the left, which is overly anxious to improve things in this world, as, in their view, there is no other world or no other way to accomplish any improvement. So we find a certain impatience and restlessness in their agenda. The spiritual origins of totalitarianism are often found in a certain impatience at the slowness of the world to become what the ideologies tell us it ought to become.

So, as a group of self-identified left/progressives, do you think it an accurate characterization of the left as being "overly anxious to improve things?" And at what point would "impatience with slowness of change" tilt over into totalitarianism?

I'm thinking, f'rinstance, of non-smoking by-laws and the opposition to them. Being a non-smoker, I think it is marvellously convenient because now I can go into the bar of my choice and have a pint of my favourite without all the noxious cig fumes.

However, I want to think about this totalitarianism and right/left stuff from a more philosophical point of view.

Seems to me that only the real nutcases are arguing that smoking is harmless. Most of the folks that are against such by-laws are against it because they feel that any impetus for any such non-smoking should have come from the public demanding it and voting with their feet to patronize non-smoking establishments, or politicians campaigning on the issue and getting folks to vote for them on that, or something. They feel that by out-of-the-blue *legislating* the ban on smoking, government has crossed the line into the realm of totalitarianism, even if it would be a "lite" form of totalitarianism, and even if you are a non-smoker yourself.

Meself, methinks this is jumping the gun a tad. One would have a fair ways farther to go than a smoking by-law before a government would really be totalitarian. Nevertheless, where would that point be, then? If not a smoking by-law, then what?

If one argues that a law (say) banning all nudity in films is totalitarian, then what is a law banning (say) sexist sex-role stereotyping in school textbooks?

Is it such totalitarianism, in and of itself, that is "bad"?

Or is such totalitarianism only a tool that can be used to ban something which is of its own essence "bad"?

Or can it change from being a neutral tool to a bad thing in at of itsef at some point? That is where I am leaning at the moment....

Which of course then brings you back to how does one define "a good thing" and "a bad thing?" It can't all be relative. ("Well, it's a bad thing for YOU, but for ME, it's good." Or vice versa.)

Seems like no matter how hard one tries to avoid such, one can't get around having to make some statement about absolute good and absolute bad at one point or another.....

Any thoughts, anyone?


From: http://babblestrike.lbprojects.com/ | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Sisyphus
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posted 06 May 2005 01:11 PM      Profile for Sisyphus     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
From Chris Rock:
quote:
The whole country's got a fucked up mentality. We all got a gang mentality. Republicans are fucking idiots. Democrats are fucking idiots. Conservatives are idiots and liberals are idiots.

Anyone who makes up their mind before they hear the issue is a fucking fool!Everybody, nah, nah, nah, everybody is so busy wanting to be down with a gang! I'm a conservative! I'm a liberal! I'm a conservative! It's bullshit!

Be a fucking person. Listen. Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion.

No normal decent person is one thing. OK!?! I got some shit I'm conservative about, I got some shit I'm liberal about. Crime - I'm conservative. Prostitution - I'm liberal.


-emphasis added

From: Never Never Land | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Fed
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Babbler # 8926

posted 06 May 2005 03:33 PM      Profile for Fed        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Anyone who makes up their mind before they hear the issue is a fucking fool!

Indeed! That messages get dismissed out of hand because of the identity of the messenger is one of the signs of a propagandized society, said Jacques Ellul in _Propaganda_.


From: http://babblestrike.lbprojects.com/ | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
maestro
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posted 06 May 2005 04:58 PM      Profile for maestro     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Most social coercion today seems to come from those called liberal/left, not from those called conservatives, who are pretty "liberal" by comparison to self-designated "liberals."

Yeah...it's the physical coercion that comes from the conservatives.

quote:
But then social coercion has always been a trademark of the left, which is overly anxious to improve things in this world, as, in their view, there is no other world or no other way to accomplish any improvement.

What does this guy call the invasion of Iraq. Was that not a self-described attempt to 'improve things in this world'? How about the invasion of Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Grenada? How about messing in the politics in Chile, Cuba, Venezuela?

quote:
So we find a certain impatience and restlessness in their agenda. The spiritual origins of totalitarianism are often found in a certain impatience at the slowness of the world to become what the ideologies tell us it ought to become.

Right! So how does than explain the rightwing Bush adiministration's 'impatience' at the progress in Iraq? God this is almost funny, if it wasn't so tragically stupid.

quote:
The reason the present pope is consistently called "conservative," or "arch-conservative’ has nothing to do with the normal use of these terms or a fair understanding of his ideas. We might better call Benedict XVI a wild "radical" or even a crypto-"revolutionary," because what he stands for is not something that is constantly changing.

We're back at the pope, for some reason. This is just rank sophistry. My dictionary defines conservative as one who is "inclined to preserve the existing order of things". This is precisely what Pope Benedict in known for, and I doubt he would argue with a definition of himself as a 'conservative'.

quote:
That is to say, if most every one maintains that abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and so on are all right, it is a truly brave and "radical" view to think that they are not and to have reasons why they are not.

'Homosexuality and so on'? How does homosexuality relate to abortion and divorce? Presumably this dimwit believes homosexuality is a choice, which is just plain ignorant.

And what of the 'and so on'? Does everyone know what he speaks of? Apparently he thinks all will understand what 'and so on' is, which is a pretty patronizing assumption.

quote:
No one is radical as we are over against a culture that has embodied these practices into its very soul.

This is what Pope Ratzinger meant by observing that it is the world, not he, that has changed.

When Benedict XVI is called a "conservative" or an "arch-conservative," he is in fact nothing of the sort. He is much more "radical" than the wildest theory on the left or the right, however it be designated.


So eventually we get to the meat of the matter. This article is, despite the fancy trimmings, a defence of a pope who the world has left behind.

Bear in mind that all the arguments made in this piece to describe the pope as 'radical' could just as well be used to describe someone in favour of slavery as 'radical' or 'revolutionary'.

At that point, words cease to have any meaning at all.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged
fossilnut
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Babbler # 8972

posted 06 May 2005 05:28 PM      Profile for fossilnut        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
An excellent opening posting.

Most people believe they have 'the answer'. It's as if there is a final solution to the issue of mankind that will one day be revealed and we can go 'see, I told you we were right'.

I'm an atheist but even I fall into the trap of some pre-ordained 'goodness'. A 'right' and a 'wrong'. We just accept that democracy is 'good' and equality is 'good'...we never stop and question on what basis. Why is democracy 'good'? It may be practical and efficient but 'good'? Those who think otherwise are 'evil'...according to what? a god? What god, where?

The term progressive sometimes takes on religious conotations. It implies there is a 'right' answer. A 'good' answer. Those who live in darkness must be shown the light and once they see the light then they will pick ip the torch...not a lot different perspective from religious movements. 'We' have the answer and 'You' will one day have it too.

Those nebulous questions in society like abortion, the death penalty, pornography, etc. get divided up into opposing camps and then the camps go fishing for arguments to support or refute a position. People start to believe they have 'the answer'. They start to believe there is a 'right' answer and a 'wrong' answer...back to light versus darkness...good versus evil.


From: calgary | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Ron Webb
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posted 06 May 2005 09:38 PM      Profile for Ron Webb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
IMHO there are two kinds of people: those who believe that it is useful or helpful to divide people into two kinds, and those who do not.

As Maestro said, "conservative" means inclined to adhere to ("conserve") the attitudes of the past, and therefore inclined to oppose change; and "liberal" means inclined to be accepting of new and different opinions, and therefore to accept change. Neither position is inherently coercive: if past practice was coercive, then the conservative position on that issue is coercive, and the liberal position is not; and vice versa.

Your example of smoking is a good one. At one time there was very little coercion regarding who can smoke where and when. The conservative position would be to maintain that individual freedom, while the liberal position is to impose increasingly severe sanctions against smoking.

On the other hand, something like abortion used to be extremely coercive. The liberal attitude of allowing individual freedom of choice is non-coercive, whereas it's the conservatives who wish to "conserve" the coercive attitudes of days gone by.

I suppose it's reasonable to observe that individuals tend toward liberalism or conservatism to some extent, just as some individuals are more accepting of change than others; but IMHO to declare oneself to be "liberal" or "conservative" in general, is like being in favour of or opposed to change in general. It's a mindless ideological statement. A thinking person can only be liberal or conservative with regard to specific issues.

[ 06 May 2005: Message edited by: Ron Webb ]


From: Winnipeg | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Ron Webb
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posted 06 May 2005 09:40 PM      Profile for Ron Webb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
[Oops! Double post!)

[ 06 May 2005: Message edited by: Ron Webb ]


From: Winnipeg | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
No Yards
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posted 06 May 2005 09:58 PM      Profile for No Yards   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
here's some "philosophy" for you ... humanity, the world, everything evolves, everything moves on, in the end conservatives always lose and are always proven wrong ... deal with it!
From: Defending traditional marriage since June 28, 2005 | Registered: Jun 2003  |  IP: Logged
CourtneyGQuinn
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posted 07 May 2005 12:13 AM      Profile for CourtneyGQuinn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
ya know..i don't really know if i'm "left" or "right"....i'm religious, but i'm very scientific....i'm pacifist, yet i understand the need for military (science really) expenditure....i'm pro-worker, yet i don't understand the need for excess bureaucracy (paper pushers/lawyers)...i'm for gun/crime control, yet i wonder about vast sums being spent on plastic id cards...i'm for the environment, yet i wonder about a questionable CO2 registry.....i'm for better health care, yet i wonder about diminished expectations and higher costs...i'm all for publically subsidized, higher education, yet i wonder why digitally recording/archiving/translating lectors isn't being utilized....i'm all for space, yet i don't know why it cost $10 000/pound to launch stuff into orbit with water (H + O) and pop cans (aluminium)....

i don't know if i'm "left" or "right"...but methinks too many people sign up for one side and spend less time thinking about formulating personal opinions...


From: Winnipeg | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Ron Webb
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posted 07 May 2005 12:49 AM      Profile for Ron Webb     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It's like I said, Courtney: there are two kinds of people... I guess you and I belong to the second kind -- we believe that separating humanity into liberals and conservatives, good guys and bad guys, us vs. them, etc., is not helpful.
From: Winnipeg | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
The Other Todd
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Babbler # 7964

posted 07 May 2005 12:55 AM      Profile for The Other Todd     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Fed:
So, as a group of self-identified left/progressives, do you think it an accurate characterization of the left as being "overly anxious to improve things?" And at what point would "impatience with slowness of change" tilt over into totalitarianism?

Is there a point to your questions?

quote:
Researchers help define what makes a political conservative
http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/07/22_politics.shtml

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations | 22 July 2003 (revised 7/25/03)

BERKELEY – Politically conservative agendas may range from supporting
the Vietnam War to upholding traditional moral and religious values to
opposing welfare. But are there consistent underlying motivations?


http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/2003/2003-July/018599.html

and a related article here:

http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/2003/2003-September/021309.html

This characterization of leftists can fit just as well onto late capitalism and the bourgeois state:

Impatience with the slowness of change: the rentiers and owners want their money and they want it yesterday.

Totalitarianism: computer terminals and phones for workers at help-desks record and analyze key-strokes and length of time on calls for later helpful analysis by management; workers at meat processing facilities have been fined for "taking too long bathroom breaks".

G. B. Shaw made a quite witty comment: if one goes far enough either left or right, one finds out that the world is round. Amusing but pointless other than to try to puff up ones ego by assuming one can oh-so easily rise up out of The Lies and find shining Truth.


From: Ottawa | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged
Vigilante
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Babbler # 8104

posted 07 May 2005 01:26 AM      Profile for Vigilante        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Master and Slave morality explain the left/right dichotome pretty well in my view. You can guess where each fits. Both are illegitimate in that they create a heirarchy of values.
From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
remind
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posted 07 May 2005 01:51 AM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Wow, this is a mirror thread title straight off the dark site. It seems they are busy spamming everywhere on line today with their crappola.
From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
al-Qa'bong
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posted 07 May 2005 02:29 AM      Profile for al-Qa'bong   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
No General but Ludd means the Poor any good.
From: Saskatchistan | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
maestro
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posted 07 May 2005 05:59 AM      Profile for maestro     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
There are three kinds of people out there.

Those that understand mathematics...and those that don't.


From: Vancouver | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged
Carter
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Babbler # 8667

posted 08 May 2005 02:57 PM      Profile for Carter        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
When all night long a chap remains
On sentry-go, to chase monotony
He exercises of his brains,
That is, assuming that he's got any.
Though never nurtured in the lap
Of luxury, yet I admonish you,
I am an intellectual chap,
And think of things that would astonish you.

I often think it's comical--Fal, lal, la! Fal, lal, la!
How Nature always does contrive--Fal, lal, la, la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la! Fal, lal, la!
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la!

When in that House M.P.'s divide,
If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,
They've got to leave that brain outside,
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.
But then the prospect of a lot
Of dull M. P.'s in close proximity,
All thinking for themselves, is what
No man can face with equanimity.

Then let's rejoice with loud Fal la--Fal la la! Fal la la!
That Nature always does contrive--Fal, lal, la, la!
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la! Fal, lal, la!
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
Fal, lal, la!

Gilbert & Sullivan
Iolanthe


From: Goin' Down the Road | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged
Fed
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 8926

posted 09 May 2005 12:56 PM      Profile for Fed        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
When I take tests like the:

The Political Compass

I come out a few pixels to the left of the origin. I try to read both "left" and "right" wing stuff, and each of them seems to make sense to me in one way or another. Which is probably why I worry about this sort of thing a lot.

fossilnut wrote:

quote:
Most people believe they have 'the answer'. It's as if there is a final solution to the issue of mankind that will one day be revealed and we can go 'see, I told you we were right'....
The term progressive sometimes takes on religious conotations. It implies there is a 'right' answer. A 'good' answer. Those who live in darkness must be shown the light and once they see the light then they will pick ip the torch...not a lot different perspective from religious movements. 'We' have the answer and 'You' will one day have it too.

A very interesting observation, and one I would agree with. I've been to a few political conventions (e.g. nomination meetings) and I've watched others on TV. They really strike me as being very similar to religious revival meetings!

No Yards wrote:

quote:
here's some "philosophy" for you ... humanity, the world, everything evolves, everything moves on, in the end conservatives always lose and are always proven wrong ... deal with it!

I agree change exists. Some changes are improvements; and some changes are not improvements. I'm still trying to get my head around what it means to be either a conservative or a liberal, and I'm not sure which camp I would fully thow myself behind. There are aspects of each that I like. I agree with what CourtneyGQuinn wrote, especially: "i don't know if i'm "left" or "right"...but methinks too many people sign up for one side and spend less time thinking about formulating personal opinions..." Sisyphus's quote from Chris Rock said pretty much the same thing, and I agree with that as well.

I think the definition proposed by maestro's dictionary is good one, but not a complete one, namely: "a conservative is one who is inclined to preserve the existing order of things". One would think it would depend on what that existing order was.

I read the links thatThe Other Todd posted. One paragraph from the first article reads:

quote:
Conservatives don't feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions, he said. "They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm," Glaser said.

If that's the case, I think I may be a liberal! Confirming evidence would be from the second article linked, which has the following paragraph:

quote:
...it is also true that liberals could be characterized on the basis of our overall profile as relatively disorganized, indecisive and perhaps overly drawn to ambiguity...

....and that describes me to a T!!

Vigilante wrote:

quote:
Master and Slave morality explain the left/right dichotome pretty well in my view. You can guess where each fits. Both are illegitimate in that they create a heirarchy of values. /QUOTE]

I agree that sometimes the emphasis on "differences" is a euphemism for "ranking" things. Someone mentioned the Indian Caste system, for example. But differences need not logically imply a value-ranking. Think of a choir, for example. It would sound pretty dull if everyone were singing the same tune in the same voice. Polyphonic, multi-voiced singing is phenomenally beautiful precisely because of the different voices and the different tunes being sung. The richness of the natural world would be another example, and that earthworms (such small "lowly" things) are so valuable makes nonsense out of any "ranking" scheme.

I'm drawn to Distributism (an economy of all small businesses and co-ops) as an ecomomic philosophy because it seems to mirror this on an economic level. Is Distributism left wing or right wing? It is "capitalist" in that businesses are owned privately, but "socialist" in that you have a government which through laws has given sharp edges to the economy so that there can be no giant all-controlling corporations.

remind says:

[QUOTE] Wow, this is a mirror thread title straight off the dark site. It seems they are busy spamming everywhere on line today with their crappola.


I really don't think I am spamming, but I suppose that is for the moderators to decide. But yes I have asked the same question in other places. I like to hear what all sorts of people think. Part of that love of ambiguity and the fact that I feel no particular need for closure.

Thanks for the G&S, Carter! Love those guys.


From: http://babblestrike.lbprojects.com/ | Registered: Apr 2005  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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posted 09 May 2005 05:24 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, just for starters I hate the term "liberal". It means way less than "socialist" and that's saying something. And there's practically no such thing as a "conservative" any more, at least on the political stage in most of the English-speaking world.

I'm not sure there was ever a time when the "right" could be equated with "conservatism" in the sense of keeping things the way they used to be. Fascists are definitely on the "right", but they were also clearly agents of change.

Ultimately, the "right" basically defines political forces and positions which believe in increasing, enforcing and defending the rights of capital over all other claims. They may do this because they believe that unfettered capitalism will ultimately be best for all. They may seem to conserve things where capital already has many rights and so their emphasis is on defence. But it is not keeping things as they are, or pursuing what one thinks is best for all (many political stripes do that), which defines the right, it is the goal of ensuring that private capital owns as much as possible and has as few restrictions on its operations as possible. That, incidentally, also involves the activist government activity of stopping anyone from interfering with private capital, even if it is damaging them.

The left, broadly speaking, basically defines political forces which believe in increasing, enforcing and defending the claims of that majority of society without individual power or wealth, or who are otherwise vulnerable. That includes the "working class", small farmers, women, blacks, gays, yadda yadda. And again, this agenda is not necessarily about creating change; in much of the world, the great conflict is between the efforts of peasant farmers to retain their way of life, to make improvements in the context of continuing to own their own land, produce their own food using their own seeds etc., with the left favouring this over the massive changes pushed by the right, generally involving those peasants losing their land, and becoming rootless stoop labour on huge plantations owned by a few very wealthy landlords or agribusines corporations. And indeed, in much of the world including Canada, a major project of the left has become the desperate attempt to conserve social gains made by the poor, the working class, women, visible minorities etc. against right-wing attack which seeks radical change. Theoretically, the left could accept the notion that unfettered capitalism was the best way to achieve its ends; in practise, few on the left do because the evidence strongly suggests it isn't. So you end up with some advocating fettered capitalism, and others advocating no capitalism at all; but this is a squabble over means, rather than ends.

As a side note: The left agenda has often been hijacked due to the difficulty of creating really egalitarian structures of governance, and the prevalence of ruthless egotists at the forefront of political movements in general. So you end up with Stalins and other authoritarian "left" leaders who end up privileging some group of cronies or some "co-ordinator class" as Michael Albert would put it, and grinding down the people. And the left generally disavows these people, because they have betrayed the basic agenda of the left. This is a contrast with the right--right wingers who gain massive individual power are not betraying the vision of the right, they are fulfilling it. Right wing philosophy calls for those who can to amass as much individual wealth, power and control as possible. So generally you'll find the right does *not* disavow Pinochets or similar garbage until they are seen to commit such horrors that the general public would desert any political group that didn't disavow them. Indeed, much of the right hasn't disavowed Pinochet himself to this day (e.g. Ralph Klein).

[ 09 May 2005: Message edited by: Rufus Polson ]


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