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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!
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DogBloggerel
for February 2009 (cont'd)

 



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Saturday Signs - Universal Edition

This sign was hand-painted decades ago (can you tell?) at the "old" Star Pizza, the one near Shepherd and US 59. The aliens in the saucer speak in surprisingly Greek-like characters; the translated conversation runs "THE TRIP WAS WORTH IT" and "BEST PIZZA IN THE GALAXY". Who am I to disagree!



 

Back to the topic with which I'm now obsessed. The move is requiring more time and energy (not to mention money) than I ever would have believed, but we're getting there. The deadline for furniture moving is 3/14, and we've hired the best small family moving business in town. (I know that because they moved me to this apartment. Everyone should have such a good attitude toward their work.) This has been a week of starting up utilities, arranging services, etc. Now comes the packing in earnest... not fun. But once again, I look at the house... and of course I look at Stella... and decide again and again that it's all worth it.

Steve
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Uninsured

I have now officially joined the ranks of the medically uninsured. Is this a great country, or what?

Steve
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Friday Alert Mau Blogging

Lotus, our friend Catherine's Egyptian Mau, notices something on the sofa beside me...



If Lotus is a representative example of the breed, the Egyptian Mau is an exceptionally bright, alert, involved cat. That aspect is real enough... but I have to admit that the traffic-light eyes are an artifact of the flash photo.

Steve
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Chimps And Watermelons

The blatant public racism continues. If a cartoon of police shooting a chimpanzee, with a caption making it clear that the reference was to President Obama (sorry; I will not link it), wasn't enough for you, take a look at the linked article, which contains a drawing of the White House with its lawn used as a field of watermelons. The small-town California mayor who emailed the drawing denies knowing that the watermelon reference is a racist stereotype. Yeah, right.

The New York Times reminds us that in America, "The Right to Offend Is Sacred," and indeed it is, but that misses the point. The question is not whether such expressions (and others such as Ann Coulter's email referencing "O'Boy Obama") are illegal (they're not) or whether they are constitutionally protected by the First Amendment (they surely are) or whether the Rev. Al Sharpton's response may be over the top (that could well be the case). The real question is this: why are so many American institutions and publicly prominent individuals still engaging in practically undeniably racist speech?

There's an easy way to dodge the blowback from such cartoons, drawings and epithets: don't create them. It is not too much to ask that Americans, especially those in high public office and/or positions of celebrity, refrain from racist expression, or expression that can so easily be perceived as racist. This is not, in my mind, a First Amendment question at all: without doubt, such expression is constitutionally protected. It is, rather, a question of how our public institutions and leading citizens can best serve the American ideal of diversity as a virtue. Such cartoons and drawings most certainly do not do that... and using the word "Boy" in association with the name of our first African American president is downright offensive to me, even though my skin is painfully pale. These drawings and epithets are not political expression: they are crude and racist garbage of a sort common enough two generations ago, but utterly inappropriate in today's America. That they are legal is irrelevant. That they serve no legitimate purpose is the point. Those in public life who insist on retaining the racist modes of fifty or a hundred years ago must be held to account... not through the law or the Constitution, but through the strongest possible social condemnation.

(Someone will doubtless respond that I, the self-designated Yellow Doggerel Democrat, have frequently and with premeditation been as offensive as possible to Republicans, and may occasionally have called Bush a chimp. That is true. But no one is born a Republican, and any Republican who sees the error of his or her ways can forsake that state immediately. By contrast, no one can (or should have to) forsake his or her race or sex or orientation. Moreover, there is no tradition in American history of destructive bigotry toward Republicans which can rationally be compared to racism: no one is lynched, assaulted or denied economic access to the benefits of American citizenship just for being a Republican. The comparison is thus completely illegitimate. If you espouse it, just give it up.)

Steve
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2 Cats, 2 Humans 2 Share Domicile

OK, it looks as if this is really going to happen. Stella and I, and of course Tabitha and Samantha, will be moving into a house starting the middle of next month. After ranging far and wide looking for a suitable place, we found a spacious one-story rent house just a few blocks from here. "Spacious" is important to us: not only are we combining two households, each full of a lifetime's accumulation of books and... well... stuff, but each of us has lived alone for many years, and both of us need privacy. Oh, and the place is only 1½ blocks from our favorite public library... what more could one ask!



The place has hardwood floors (oh, the acoustics!) and a mirror wall in the living room that makes it look even larger than it is. If I were still an active performer, that room would be a great rehearsal space.

I'd like to thank our apartment complex, which motivated us by raising the rent on both our apartments drastically, to a point at which the combined total was not much below the rent on a house.

I'm looking forward to the companionship and the space, but I admit I am dreading the move. All words of comfort about moving are appreciated, whether they're true or not. Needless to say, blogging will be irregular for a while, starting about next month.


(Steve walks away humming...)

Our... house...
Is a very, very, very fine house...
With two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
...

- CSNY

(Yes, about things other than politics, I can be an incurable romantic.)

Steve
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Kuttner's Open Letter

... to David Axelrod is one of the best examinations of the political aspects of President Obama's response to the recession that I've read anywhere. Now if Axelrod will only read it...

Steve
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Down, Down, Down - UPDATED (DOWNDATED?)

... not into that Ring of Fire (YouTube), because there's no love in it, but it's down, down, down nonetheless:

     ...

"We witnessed the collapse of the financial system," [George] Soros said at a Columbia University dinner. "It was placed on life support, and it's still on life support. There's no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom."

     ...

"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world," [former Federal Reserve chair Paul] Volcker said.

     ...

Here we gooooo...


UPDATE: please read News Writer's superb evaluation of conservative positions on our descent into the economic nightmare. Be sure to follow her links to Billmon as well.

Steve
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Real Life Interrupts Blogging - UPDATED

I'm dealing simultaneously with a possible contract, a possible move and a possible loss of my medical insurance. All these involve negotiations, lots of phone calls, etc. If I don't post for a day or so, please forgive me.

UPDATE Monday morning: OK, most of the phone calls are done; all I can do now is wait for other people's decisions. I'll let you know.

Steve
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Unbelievable? No. Unacceptable? Totally

I may have just lost all respect for President Obama.

HuffPo:

Obama Backs Bush On Bagram Detainees
NEDRA PICKLER and MATT APUZZO | February 20, 2009 07:48 PM EST

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, siding with the Bush White House, contended Friday that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.

In a two-sentence court filing, the Justice Department said it agreed that detainees at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The filing shocked human rights attorneys.

"The hope we all had in President Obama to lead us on a different path has not turned out as we'd hoped," said Tina Monshipour Foster, a human rights attorney representing a detainee at the Bagram Airfield. "We all expected better."

     ...

Of course it's by Nedra Pickler; maybe we'll be lucky and the story will just be a Republican plant? Sadly, no; it's confirmed by Raw Story:

Despite rhetoric, Obama continues Bush policy on detainees: Indefinite detention,
no legal rights

John Byrne
Published: Saturday February 21, 2009
Bagram airbase flies under the radar but will continue to operate without US law

In a stunning departure from his rhetoric on Guantánamo Bay prison, President Barack Obama signaled Friday he will continue Bush Administration policy with regard to detainees held at a US airbase in Afghanistan, saying they have no right to challenge their detentions in US courts -- and denying them legal status altogether.

"This Court’s Order of January 22, 2009 invited the Government to inform the Court by February 20, 2009, whether it intends to refine its position on whether the Court has jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by detainees held at the United States military base in Bagram, Afghanistan," Acting Assistant Obama Attorney General Michael Hertz wrote in a brief filed Friday. "Having considered the matter, the Government adheres to its previously articulated position."

The move seems to be a reversal from Obama's much-trumpeted announcement to close the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba in January, in which he promised to return the United States to the "moral high ground" and "restore the standards of due process"

     ...

No one I know really expected Obama to be a champion of the American worker, and everyone expected him to side with corporations in economic conflicts. But I consoled myself that at least he would be an improvement over the Shrubbery on human rights issues and constitutional issues. At least that's what I expected.

No more.

Some days, I wonder why I get up in the morning and open the browser...


Afterthought: the ACLU Blog of Rights has compiled a list of reservations about rights-related actions in the first few weeks of the Obama administration. The list appears to have been written before this latest administration position, but taken together with this latest and most egregious action, it indicates cause for serious concern. Perhaps the Bushists really did succeed in permanently changing the presidency for the worse.

Steve
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Socks The Cat (March 1989–February 20, 2009)

President Clinton's "First Feline," Socks, has died, euthanized yesterday due to his jaw cancer, just short of his 20th birthday. For those of you who are not owned by a cat, please note that 20 is a ripe old age for a domestic cat. Betty Currie must have taken really good care of Socks.

Socks had the distinction of being perhaps the only White House pet to be challenged by a Republican Representative, Dan Burton, over the use of White House funds to answer received mail addressed to the cat. What a sorry motherfucker... Burton, I mean, not Socks.

And who could forget Socks's virtual appearance on the sitcom Murphy Brown in 1993!

Rest in peace, Socks. May your heaven contain more mice to chase than the White House ever held... and no dogs like Buddy to torment you.

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Pizza Edition

Our favorite pizza place in Houston... OK, so it's everybody's favorite pizza place in Houston...



Yes, the sign really is shaped like a slightly squashed sphere, just like the Earth. I'm generally not wild about gentrification, but I admit it would be nice to have one of those new condos they're constructing across the street, just for the easy access to excellent pizza.

Steve
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Friday Perfect Pair Blogging

If these two aren't the perfect pair, then no one is...



Steve
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Gitmo Guard Tells Of Torture

Scott Horton outlines the testimony of Specialist Brandon Neely:

Army Private Brandon Neely served as a prison guard at Guantánamo in the first years the facility was in operation. With the Bush Administration, and thus the threat of retaliation against him, now gone, Neely decided to step forward and tell his story. “The stuff I did and the stuff I saw was just wrong,” he told the Associated Press. Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed. It makes for fascinating reading.

     ...

No one guard can begin to convey the scope of the Bush administration's program of abuse of prisoners, and no one location such as Guantanamo stands as representative of the worst that was done in many places. For more information on that, you'll have to read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side (see listing in LibraryThing). But Horton notes the central atrocities revealed in Neely's testimony:

  • Neely and other guards had to be pressured to make them violate Geneva Convention rules, in which all U.S. military personnel are trained;
  • Camp authorities in Gitmo were manifestly contemptuous of Islam;
  • Health professionals participated, contrary to their ethical standards, in abuses invasive of prisoners' bodies.

I am not a lawyer, but from what I have read, the U.S. is obligated to prosecute the torturers. It isn't optional. Obama does not get to choose; it's an obligation under international law.

So why the delay? Just how far are we citizens of the United States willing to see our country sink? Torture is an act about as evil as possible... period. It is not less deplorable than murder. A nation's use of torture... under any circumstances whatsoever... marks that nation as an outlaw state of the worst order. Enough is enough: Obama must immediately order an end to all rules and policies that even remotely suggest that torture may be employed. And... this is the hard part, politically... he must initiate the prosecution of those responsible for torture already engaged in, not because anyone advocates vengeance, but because torture must not go unanswered.


(Here is Spc. Neely's testimony. It is in the form of an interview.)

Steve
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Cut!!!

In making this movie in which we're all bit players, Recession: The Pushback, that's what Obama seems to be shouting more than anything else: "Cut!!!" Cut taxes, cut Social Security benefits and Medicare, cut assistance to states (and don't even mention cities), etc., etc. This might be an excellent approach to take... if he were a conservative Republican intent on destroying the nation in order to save it from Democratic rule.

From a textbook macroeconomics standpoint, though, it pretty well sucks. And as I noted before, we have a good real-world example in the Great Depression... the crash of 1929, the improvements starting with the beginning of FDR's first term in 1933 and his aggressive programs of government investments, the backsliding in 1937 when FDR allowed himself to be persuaded to back off, and the resumption of recovery once the New Deal was restarted. (Note: those who say W.W. II, rather than the New Deal, caused the recovery are full of crap. A great deal of the recovery had already taken place by 1941 when the U.S. entered the war.)

So the New Deal and later the Great Society established Social Security and Medicare. Today's retirees and people close to retirement age (the YDD among them) paid into the funding of those programs all their working lives. The programs are often called a "contract across generations": I paid for them on behalf of my parents' retirement and care; younger workers are, at least in theory, paying for them on my behalf. Social Security, far from being bankrupt, is good for at least another 40 years even if we make no changes whatsoever.

It is not unreasonable for me to say that I've paid my dues. I put my tax money into those plans in good faith, assuming that at least some of it would be coming back to me when my working days were over. If Obama and his crew now take away my "membership" in the already marginal thing that passes for America's retirement plan, they have effectively defrauded me. If that happens, and if, further, they allow Wall Street investment firms to run away with the loot I put away to supplement the public programs, I shall not be pleased... and I will not make any promises about how I will express my displeasure.

So... will this happen? will we lose Social Security and Medicare? Dean Baker thinks we might, if we don't watch the actions of a certain billionaire banker:

     ...

Workers are likely to be especially fearful about the prospects of getting their Social Security benefits now, due to an all out assault on the program financed by billionaire banker Peter Peterson. Peterson has spent much of the last two decades trying to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits for the elderly. He recently contributed a billion dollars to a foundation bearing his name that is primarily committed to this goal.

     ...

You know, there are some people who seem to have forgotten their history. One might hope that Peterson would receive a reminder of the consequences of willful economic injustice perpetrated by the very wealthy, except that revolutions are so very messy...

On the more peaceful side, economist James K. Galbraith asks and proposes, What is to be Done? Next Steps for Economic Recovery, in which he lists five steps that should be taken immediately, to repair the deficiencies in the recently passed recovery bill. Galbraith's suggestions are well worth reading.


(H/T Digby for leading me to one of Baker's articles.)

Steve
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Goodness Gracious, Great Ball O' Fire!

NYT:

HOUSTON — The fireball that streaked across the Texas sky and appeared to dive toward earth over the weekend remained a mystery on Monday after the military said the event had nothing to do with a collision of satellites last week and did not seem to involve an artificial satellite coming down.

“We still think it’s possible it might be a natural phenomenon, a meteor or asteroid,” said Maj. Regina Winchester, a spokeswoman for the United States Strategic Command, in Nebraska.

Whatever it was, the fireball on Sunday caused great consternation and wonder across Central Texas. Dozens of people called the police to report sonic booms and a bright fireball plunging toward the ground around 11 a.m.

     ...

No, I didn't see it; Houston is not in Central Texas. But c'mon, we all know what it is... it's the very evil that every right wing nut rails on about, the evil that could be prevented by building that 40-foot fence along the border between Texas and space... it's (drum roll, please) an illegal alien!

Steve
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When Life Hands Stella Lemons...

... this is what she does with them:



Even waitstaff, who surely have seen everything done at table, smile at her efforts.

Some major life decisions are coming up in a relatively short time. Forgive me if I blog silly things even more often than usual for a while; I need the stress release.

Steve
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Selected Links To Recent Posts

 
Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to. Some very recent posts may be included in their entirety.

Stop, Hey, What's That...

[silence]

Everybody look what's goin' down...

Muzak. Yes, that's right: the elevator is going down for the earworm manufacturing company, the heretofore master of vacuous tunes, the remover of all interest from musical arrangements. Muzak has filed for Chapter 11. Try to resist humming along: they've requested that their funeral music include "Killing Me Softly."

(H/T Cookie Jill.)

Steve
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This Week's Contest: Obama 1, GOP 0

Frank Rich reminds us that despite all the Beltway conventional wisdom spewing from media talking heads unable even to consider the measurable increase in Obama's creds with the American public, passage of the stimulus package was demonstrably a political win for Obama: No matter that no House GOPers and almost no Senate GOPers voted for the package, no matter the split nearly down the middle in the public's stated party affiliation, President Obama's percentage popularity increased to the mid-60's or even mid-70's, depending on which polls you believe. In other words, while bipartisanship was a virtual total failure in Congress and in the Village generally, nationwide, the stimulus had majority public support... and Obama himself enjoyed the support of an overwhelming majority, a majority increased by his stimulus success. Maybe the talking heads should try listening occasionally, even if that's not something they are typically good at. Maybe even the GOP itself should... nah. Not a chance. They are trapped in their own mythology.

That said, Paul Krugman has a different message: the stimulus, political victory though it is, is not nearly good enough to save the economy. Krugman calls it "helpful but inadequate." Here's Krugman, first on the politics...

     ...

But it’s now clear that the [Republican] party’s commitment to deep voodoo — enforced, in part, by pressure groups that stand ready to run primary challengers against heretics — is as strong as ever. In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts.

And the rhetorical response of conservatives to the stimulus plan — which will, it’s worth bearing in mind, cost substantially less than either the Bush administration’s $2 trillion in tax cuts or the $1 trillion and counting spent in Iraq — has bordered on the deranged.

     ...

... and on the deficiencies of the stimulus itself...

     ...

For while Mr. Obama got more or less what he asked for, he almost certainly didn’t ask for enough. We’re probably facing the worst slump since the Great Depression. The Congressional Budget Office, not usually given to hyperbole, predicts that over the next three years there will be a $2.9 trillion gap between what the economy could produce and what it will actually produce. And $800 billion, while it sounds like a lot of money, isn’t nearly enough to bridge that chasm.

     ...

So Obama is better at politics than at economics... no surprise, and not a fatal flaw in a politician, as long as he is good enough at politics to come back for more when the situation demands it, and to win that battle, which may or may not be possible.

I am more concerned about Obama's coming appointment of a task force to "fix" Social Security, a sop to alleged conservatives that will worsen the lives of a lot of people during the coming recession/depression, and which, according to Dean Baker, simply doesn't need fixing:

     ...

The second reason why this task force is strange is that Social Security doesn't need reforming. According to the Congressional Budget Office [.pdf], it can pay all scheduled benefits for the next 40 years with no changes whatsoever.

     ...

I paid into that system all of my working life (well, actually, I spent a few years in Texas Teacher Retirement), and if I end up inadequately funded in retirement because the task force, which according to Baker is not an especially foresightful group of economists, wrecks a working system... I shall take to the streets. I may be old, and I may not be able to walk very fast anymore, but I can carry a pitchfork or a torch with the best of 'em. Remember, Mr. President: senior citizens are not to be trifled with!

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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Friday The Thirteenth Orange Cat Blogging

Steve
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Judd Gregg Withdraws Commerce Acceptance - DOGGEREL!

Steve
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On The Origin Of Specious...

Steve
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Anniversaries

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Motivating Body And Spirit

Steve
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Headline Of The Day

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Obama v. Due Process

Steve
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New Used Book

Steve
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Krugman: The Destructive Center

Steve
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Good Shepard Arrested

Steve
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Beg? Borrow? Steele!

Steve
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Saturday Signs

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'Winning,' Democrat Style

Steve
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Choose Your Crisis

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Friday Face Blogging

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Troubling: Another Faith-Based Presidency

Steve
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US Apparently Threatens UK Over Torture Info

Steve
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Hedges: 'It's Not Going To Be OK'

Steve
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Cheney: After Me, The Flood Of Terrorists

Steve
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Comment Of The Hour

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Earth-Shaking Experience? Not Exactly...

Steve
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Daschle Dashes

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Oh, He's A Gambling Rover, Part 2

Steve
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Obama's Ordinary Rendition - UPDATED

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Security Bowl XLIII

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On, Daschle!

Steve
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Pajama People - UPDATED

Steve
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