Monday, January 31, 2005


I am cautiously optimistic about the Iraqi elections. I would rate it a successful first step, while realizing that for it to be a complete success we need to see how Sunday’s events play out over the next few years. As I see it:

The good:
- It’s the first time in something like 50 years that the Iraqis have had the chance to do this.
- If we do end up pulling out of Iraq, the success of this election could make it less likely they would turn toward an Islamic fundamentalist form of government.
- The fact that there was such a high voter turnout (despite violence) suggests that future elections may also be successful, as this one appears to have been.
- Other Middle Eastern countries might sit up and take notice. If some do, and if they decide to have free elections by their own choice, then I will say this election was definintely a success.
- There was not nearly the amount of violence there could have been. A lot of voters came out to vote, while it seemed as if a lot of the terrorists stayed home.

Approach with caution:
- This successful election is not an end-all. There are more elections to be held; this is only the first in a series… but it is a good first step.
- When US voters elected Lincoln in 1860, it fractured our country. Civil war ensued. If certain Iraqi groups feel disenfranchised, it could happen in Iraq too. I think that part of “restoring order” in Iraq will be to do our best to make sure the various factions feel represented.
- Even though it was less (and thankfully less) than expected, there was still violence.
- Most of the terrorists may have stayed at home Sunday, but that doesn't mean they aren't still in Iraq and in other places around the world.
- We are still occupying Iraq, and it still doesn't look like the troops will be home any time soon.

Nonetheless: I rarely say this, but I think AT LEAST SOME kudos are in order to the Bush administration. However, I think MOST of the kudos shouldn’t go to Bush himself, or to Rummy or Wolfie et al, but rather to our TROOPS for making the Iraqi election possible. (Same goes for capturing Saddam Hussein. We shouldn't forget it wasn't Dubya or the GOP that caught Saddam, it was our troops.) It’s one thing to have an idea, but the people in the trenches are the ones who carry it out. To the administration, I say "I think 'free elections in Iraq' is one of the few good ideas you have had... but thanks." To the troops, I say “GOOD JOB!”

It will be interesting to see what the new Iraqi “government” is like, and how soon it will tell us to get our troops out of Iraq, if it does. It will also be fun to see whether or not the Bush administration uses the success of this election and the success of the upcoming ones to say “Let’s pull our troops out of Iraq” as the pressure mounts at home for withdrawal and as his approval ratings decline. Successful elections there could provide him and his buddies with a "safety valve" of sorts.

I doubt that Bush and the neoconservatives actually want to pull out of Iraq, given the permanent military bases we are building there and given the fact that Iraq is right next to Iran, Bush's probable next target… but if they feel a need to use their spin machine about this, it will give them a way to say “We have pulled our troops out of Iraq” while at the same time leaving plenty of US troops there to man the new military bases. And the American people will be fooled yet again.

I still don’t like the fact that our troops are in a war for which the reasons for our troops being there have been changed seemingly every time the administration is questioned about the last reason it gave for invading Iraq… I think far too many people have died during the last several years to get the situation to where it is today. I also feel badly that Sunday's Iraqi election was part of an ongoing "nation-building" process, in which the US is involved. Bush said he wouldn't engage us in nation-building, yet here we are.

Just the same, by making this election relatively successful, I am happy that the US military has given Iraqis some things to be happy about in the midst of all the uncertainty. After what they've been through during the last few decades, I think they deserve at least that much.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


"What's lime disease?"
"Does that mean you're crazy?"
"I'm going to eat chocolate 'til I barf!"
"Yes, but what man can tame her?"
"And, when the doctor said I didn't have worms any more, that was the happiest day of my life." "He's still funny, but not 'ha-ha' funny."
"My parents won't let me use scissors."
"So, do"
"It says 'I Choo-choo-choose You,' and there's a picture of a train!"
"The doctor said I wouldn't have so many nose bleeds if I kept my finger outta there."
"What's a battle?"
"You're deceptive."
"Wheee! ...ow, I bit my tongue!"
"I'm Idaho."
"My cat's name is mittens"
"What's a diorama?"
"I beat the smart kids! I beat the smart kids!"
"I bent my wookie."
"My cat's breath smells like cat food."

Ralph: "Um, Miss Hoover? There's a dog in the vent."
Miss Hoover: "Ralph, remember the time you said Snagglepuss was outside?"
Ralph: "He was going to the bathroom."

"Principal Skinner, I got carsick in your office."
"Ow, my face is on fire!"
"Somebody took my juice money!"
"I won! I won!"
"Me fail English? That's unpossible."
"Will you cook my dinner for me? My parents aren't around and I'mnot allowed to turn on the stove."
"I'm a boy!"
"I don't feel right."

Ralph: "Miss Hoover? The floor is shaking."
Miss Hoover: "Ralph, remember the time you thought the --"
[gusher explodes through the ceiling, taking Ralph with it]

"Um, hi, Bart. I know you from school."
"Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a viking!"
"When I grow up, I'm going to bovine university!"
"I heard your dad went into a restaurant and ate everything in therestaurant and they had to close the restaurant."
"Was president Lincoln okay?"
"That is sooo 1991."
"My neck hurts and my ear hurts. I have two owwies."
"I'm pedaling backwards!"
"I heard a Frankenstein lives there!"
"Hi, Lisa! We're going to be in a pie!"
"Mrs. Krabappel and Principal Skinner were in the closet makingbabies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me."
"My knob tastes funny."
"I dress myself!"
"I think I wet my bed."
"Daddy, these rubber pants are hot."
"Look, big daddy, it's regular daddy."
"Maybe she drove to the moon."
"Which one is oral?"
"No, Miss Hoover, I'm Ralph."
"Which one is one?"
"Principal Skinner is an old man who lives at the school."
"Teacher made me go to Principal Skinner's office when I was dirty."
"When I grow up, I want to be a principal or a caterpillar."
"But you're suffering!"
"Bye, witches! Thanks for not eating me!"
"I'm special!" (twice)
"You're going to heaven!"

Ralph: "Daddy, I'm scared. Too scared to even wet my pants."
Chief Wiggum: "Just relax and it'll come, son."

"Go, banana!"
"I ated the purple berries"
"It tastes like ... burning"
"I found a moon rock in my nose!"
"Hey, I know you, my daddy took your beer."
"Your hair is tall, and pretty!"
"Help! She's touching my special area!"
"My toys are all sticky."
"Slow down, Bart! My legs don't know how to be as long as yours."
"Bushes are nice 'cause they don't have prickers. Unless they do. This one did. Ouch!"
"This is my sandbox, I'm not allowed to go in the deep end."
"That's where I saw the Leprchaun. He tells me to burn things!"
"He's gonna smell like hot dogs."
"Maybe it's presents for all of us!"
"Then, the doctor told me that BOTH my eyes were lazy! And that'swhy it was the best summer ever."
"This snowflake tastes like fishsticks."
"Is this my house?"
"She's gonna say my name!"
"Hi, Principal Skinner! Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers!"
"Somebody should iron you."
"Look, Daddy, a whale egg!"
"You're King David! I love you 'cause you kill people."
"Daddy says I'm _this_ close to sleeping in the yard."
"And I want a bike and a monkey and a friend for the monkey."
"At my house, we call them [fires] 'Uh-Oh's.'"
"Eww, Daddy, this tastes like Gramma!"
"I can't breathe good and it's making me sleepy."
(Pointing at Homer) "Mommy has bosoms like that."
"Mr. Flanders, you're blinded-ed."
"I fell out two times."
"Teacher, my shoes are making noise."
"My daddy shoots people!"
"Lisa's bad dancing makes my feet sad."
"I ate too much plastic candy."
"Freeze, you crazy mommy!"
(After being soaked in fake blood) "I look like cable TV!"
"Sim-Sim likes to boogie."
"Mr. Army Man, I can't sleep without my Reggie Rabbit!"
He says a scouring pad is "cold and hurty"
(After seeing the comic store's "Adult Section") "Everybody's hugging!"
"Whee! I'm a pop sensation."
"I'm wearing a bathrobe, and I'm not even sick."
"Pop music's hard work."
"I wanna twirl."
"His tummy sounds angry, daddy."
"We're a totem pole!"
[about Homer's knee wound] "Can I touch it?"
"It's healing over my hand!"
"You have the bestest Dad. He read me a story about Chinese food.
[when asked to say a swear] "Mittens!"
"I almost died."


Here are the 13 senators who voted against the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State:

Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
John Kerry, D-Mass.
Carl Levin, D-Mich.
James Jeffords, I-Vt.
Jack Reed, D-R.I
Mark Dayton, D-Minn.
Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii
Evan Bayh, D-Ind.
Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Kudos to the above Senators for standing against greed, corruption, war and deceit. They knew they wouldn't prevail, but a strong statement was made. The vote against Rice’s confirmation was the highest against a nominee for secretary of state at least since World War II. Grievances were aired, and the above group spoke for the other Democrat Senators who didn't have the guts to say "No".

Where were you, Barack Obama? Where were you, Joe Biden? Senate Minority Leader Reid? Oregon Senator Ron Wyden? Washington Senator Patty Murray?

Anyway, it is encouraging to see Democratic Senators gradually feeling more comfortable about standing up to the administration. I think it's a trend that will continue. Look for more encouraging naysaying from the left side of the aisle during the Abu Gonzales confirmation hearings. 2006, here we come!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Bill Frist's pickle on Social Security
Champion of personal accounts lost big in the market
By Mark Murray
NBC News
Jan. 25, 2005

WASHINGTON - With his party controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was simply doing his job as he tried to sell President Bush’s plan to revamp Social Security.

At a news conference unveiling the GOP’s agenda for the 109th Congress, Frist on Monday touted the linchpin of Bush’s proposal, which would allow younger workers to divert a portion of their payroll taxes to create personal retirement accounts and enable them to invest this money in the stock market.

Such voluntary personal accounts, Frist noted, "will not only enhance their future retirement income but also provide them with an opportunity to create a nest egg of wealth that can be passed on to their loved ones."

But Frist, some of his political opponents say, might not be the ideal person to sell this part of Bush’s plan. As it turns out, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, a Frist political campaign fund established in 2000 has actually lost nearly $500,000 in stock market investments since that time. (An FEC spokesman says there are no restrictions against investing campaign money into the stock market, although the practice isn’t that common.)

In early December, a handful of media outlets, such as the Washington Post, reported on this stock-market loss. But in media appearances and interviews since then, including at Monday’s Capitol Hill news conference, Frist has not had to answer any questions linking his support for private accounts with his loss. Of course, the senator isn’t the only person who has lost money after the burst of the tech-stock bubble and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Still, some of his political opponents and other independent observers wonder: If this can happen to Frist — a U.S. senator and a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Medical School — then could it also happen to an ordinary American’s retirement fund?

Such a question attracts even more scrutiny since Frist, as majority leader, will be quarterbacking this legislation in the Senate — where Republicans have a majority, but not a filibuster-proof one. He is also considered a possible presidential candidate in 2008. "It will complicate his life enormously to have people tell this story over and over again" in the debate over Social Security, said Roger Hickey, co-chair of the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, which is campaigning against the president’s Social Security reform plan.

"What this experience has demonstrated is even bigwigs and smart people who have stock brokers can lose their shirt," Hickey added. "Imagine when an average investor faces in terms of navigating the stock market."

Personal accounts have become one of the most contentious battlegrounds in the present debate over Social Security. Bush and many Republicans support such accounts because they promote "an ownership society" that empowers Americans to manage their own retirement plans. Opponents contend, however, that creating personal accounts could cost the federal government up to $2 trillion in transition costs, and would subject retirement funds to the whims of the stock market, instead of the guaranteed benefit that Social Security currently provides.

Yet Nick Smith, a spokesman for Frist, dismisses the idea that the senator’s stock-market loss prevents him from championing the president’s Social Security plan. Smith argues that this short-term loss belies the historically high rate of return the stock market provides to investors, and he calls the loss "a snapshot in the life of a short-term return from the market."

"Sen. Frist has full confidence in the market and believes that personal accounts can offer younger generations a chance to increase their savings," he said.

Republican strategist, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t feel comfortable speaking on Frist’s behalf, adds that the market’s long-term performance is precisely why unions and companies invest their pension programs in it. "The reason they do it is because it winds up being successful in the long run," the strategist said.

President Bush made nearly the same point during a forum on Social Security earlier this month, arguing that any attempt to partially privatize the system would have guidelines to minimize risk. "I’ve heard some say, well, this is risky to allow people to invest their own money…. But it’s not risky," he said. "Federal employees — the Thrift Savings plans — invest under certain guidelines, and I don’t hear them screaming it’s risky. It makes sense to try and get a better rate of return on your money, if you expect there to be a Social Security system which is going broke."

Norman J. Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute, doesn’t dispute that, over the long term, investing in the stock market provides a higher rate of return than Social Security does. But he notes that Frist’s $500,000 loss still makes it harder to assure less sophisticated and affluent Americans that they won’t get fleeced or receive bad advice when they invest their retirement funds in the market. In addition, he says, Frist’s case drives home the point that timing matters in investing: Under Bush’s plan, for instance, someone who retired during the market downturn in 2001 would have far less retirement income than someone who retired a year before, when the market was at its peak.

Ornstein adds that Frist and the Republicans can certainly counter arguments against personal accounts. "But when [their opponents] have a concrete example — who happens to be the majority leader — it’s a burden they would probably not want to carry."


Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth. -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

WHAT IF... ?

My wife and were watching the news on TV this morning. On the news-ticker, we noticed an item about "The Passion Of The Christ" which said that movie had been given Oscar nominations for three categories including best music. My wife said "It looks like Mel Brooks didn't get a nomination for directing that movie." I said no, probably not, because it was Mel Gibson who directed it. I know, she just slipped up, but it was a good slip and we had a good laugh. Although it did get us wondering...

What if Mel Brooks HAD directed "The Passion Of The Christ"? What would have been the result?

GOP Reads Like Pulp Fiction

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

I've been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won't be any nuance: the villains won't just espouse an ideology I disagree with - they'll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.

In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator's diatribe against gay marriage will link it to "man on dog" sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.

In my bad novel, the president will choose as head of homeland security a "good man" who turns out to have been the subject of an arrest warrant, who turned an apartment set aside for rescue workers into his personal love nest and who stalked at least one of his ex-lovers.

In my bad novel, a TV personality who claims to stand up for regular Americans against the elite will pay a large settlement in a sexual harassment case, in which he used his position of power to - on second thought, that story is too embarrassing even for a bad novel.

In my bad novel, apologists for the administration will charge foreign policy critics with anti-Semitism. But they will be silent when a prominent conservative declares that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular."

In my bad novel the administration will use the slogan "support the troops" to suppress criticism of its war policy. But it will ignore repeated complaints that the troops lack armor.

The secretary of defense - another "good man," according to the president - won't even bother signing letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.

Last but not least, in my bad novel the president, who portrays himself as the defender of good against evil, will preside over the widespread use of torture.

How did we find ourselves living in a bad novel? It was not ever thus. Hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels have always been with us, on both sides of the aisle. But 9/11 created an environment some liberals summarize with the acronym Iokiyar: it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

The public became unwilling to believe bad things about those who claim to be defending the nation against terrorism. And the hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels of the right, empowered by the public's credulity, have come out in unprecedented force.

Apologists for the administration would like us to forget all about the Kerik affair, but Bernard Kerik perfectly symbolizes the times we live in. Like Rudolph Giuliani and, yes, President Bush, he wasn't a hero of 9/11, but he played one on TV. And like Mr. Giuliani, he was quick to cash in, literally, on his undeserved reputation.

Once the New York newspapers began digging, it became clear that Mr. Kerik is, professionally and personally, a real piece of work. But that's not unusual these days among people who successfully pass themselves off as patriots and defenders of moral values. Mr. Kerik must still be wondering why he, unlike so many others, didn't get away with it.

And Alberto Gonzales must be hoping that senators don't bring up the subject.

The principal objection to making Mr. Gonzales attorney general is that doing so will tell the world that America thinks it's acceptable to torture people. But his confirmation will also be a statement about ethics.

As White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales was charged with vetting Mr. Kerik. He must have realized what kind of man he was dealing with - yet he declared Mr. Kerik fit to oversee homeland security.

Did Mr. Gonzales defer to the wishes of a president who wanted Mr. Kerik anyway, or did he decide that his boss wouldn't want to know? (The Nelson Report, a respected newsletter, reports that Mr. Bush has made it clear to his subordinates that he doesn't want to hear bad news about Iraq.)

Either way, when the Senate confirms Mr. Gonzales, it will mean that Iokiyar remains in effect, that the basic rules of ethics don't apply to people aligned with the ruling party. And reality will continue to be worse than any fiction I could write.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


I read a comment on another blog and an angry right-winger asserted the following about left-wingers and about our current state of affairs:

Taxes and welfare are what keep people in poverty.
"Economy - Government kills it with overspending (Republicans) and taxes (Democrats). And the Democrats tax AND spend."
The budget - there never was a surplus. The deficit is largely the GOP's fault but the Dems "only want spending stopped on the War on Terro and defense. Everything else, the Dems are still crying for more spending."
"Iraq - This IS the war on terror. I'll tell you traitorous cowards one more time..." etc.

I wrote such a long blatherous comment there that I figured I might want to share it here too:

The Republicans DON'T tax and then they SPEND SPEND SPEND. Doesn't the word "bankrputcy" cause any shivers of fear to course down the GOP's collective spine, it it indeed has a spine? If it did, it would keep its president in check instead of giving him carte blanche with the country's money. He is leaving a huge mess for his successor to deal with, and he won't give a hoot because he'll be hanging out in Crawford or Kennebunkport having a beer and watching ballgames. While he enjoys his cushy retirement, the country will probably be suffering in the international community from an economic disaster here at home.

I haven't paid much attention to the welfare issue lately, other than to know Clinton gave lots of conservatives what they wanted by starting welfare reform. What has Bush done about continuing welfare reform, or has he been too busy clearing brush at Crawford or working on war plans?

The Democrats want increased spending on Homeland Security, if I'm not mistaken. The president and his friends created the department, but they don't seem to waht to give it all the money it needs to make our ports and borders safe. I would have rather seen more money going into that first... than being spent on military adventures abroad. If we are so concerned about the safety of Americans, why hasn't a heck of a lot more been done to make us safer here at home? I guess the money is being funneled into the war.

And I have never seen solid evidence that the war in Iraq IS the war on terror. The war on terror is a nebulous concept. The war on terror is eternal, never-ending. It can't end, because how can we be sure the guy next door to us isn't a terrorist? We sure can't kill off every Muslim on earth. This makes me think of McCarthy and his thing about the Communists.

So what IS the war on terror, and how can it possibly be won? I will say that the war in Iraq HAS drawn a number of terrorist types from around the world to fight against American troops. That could be a good thing, because there is no-one better to physically fight them than American troops. But for every one of those guys coming to Iraq, there is probably another one entering America, trying get some deadly weapon into our country and trying to find a way to cause another disaster of unimaginable proportions on American soil.

The typical GOP solution to a problem is to cut off the branches of the sick tree, rather than getting at the roots. The president is noble in his assertion that freedom is essential for the world. I have to question his methods of spreading it.

So, how do we win this war on terror? If we keep on cutting taxes there will be a lot less money with which to do it, and our everyday life will suffer here in the US because war will be the priority. Of course starving the beast of big government by taking away the money is what Bush and friends are after anyway. By running up the deficit, maybe we can get rid of all those left-wing programs. Then, once the memory of FDR is erased, we can put Reagan on Mt. Rushmore or bury him in the empty tomb beneath the capital rotunda! Heh...


I know Gary North doesn't speak for all Christians... he doesn't even come close. However, as a Christian Reconstructivist, he is also a theocrat. I view the introduction of religion into our government as a slippery slope. I hope believers and non-believers alike can work together to prevent the kind of scenario North advocates. Here is his observation about cursing:

"The question eventually must be raised: Is it a criminal offense to take the name of the Lord in vain? When people curse their parents, it unquestionably is a capital crime (Ex. 21:17). The son or daughter is under the lawful jurisdiction of the family. The integrity of the family must be maintained by the threat of death. Clearly, cursing God (blasphemy) is a comparable crime, and is therefore a capital crime (Lev. 24:16).

"What about the integrity of the church? What if someone who is not a member of the church publicly curses the church? Is the State required to apply the same sanction? The person may not be covenantally subordinate to the particular church, or any church, unlike the subordinate child who curses a parent. There is no specific reference to any civil penalty for cursing anyone but a parent or God, nor is there any civil penalty assigned for using God’s name in vain. Then is there a general prohibition against cursing? On what grounds could a church prosecute a cursing rebel?

"One possible answer is the law against assault. Battery involves physical violence against a person, but assault can be verbal. A threat is made. A curse is a threat: calling the wrath of God down upon someone. Another approach is the law against public indecency. A third: cursing as a violation of the victim’s peace and quiet. Restitution could be imposed by the civil magistrate to defend a church or an individual who is victimized by cursing.

"What about cursing a civil magistrate? It is clear that this is an act of rebellion analogous to someone in the military who is insubordinate to his superior officer. A citizen or resident alien is under the lawful authority of the civil government. By publicly challenging this lawful authority, the person becomes a criminal rebel. There is no explicit penalty assigned to this crime. We know, however, that public flogging is lawful, up to forty lashes (Deut. 25:3), yet no crime in the Bible ever explicitly requires public physical punishment, except on an eye-for-eye basis, or the unique case of the woman who has her palm split in response to her specific prohibited physical violence against her husband’s opponent in a fight (Deut. 25:11-12). The punishment for cursing a civil magistrate is therefore left to the discretion of the magistrates or a jury. It might be public flogging; it might be a fine imposed in lieu of public flogging."

Gary North, The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1986), pp. 59-60

Comments? I'll be posting some more items by this guy and his buddies.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Utah State Lawmaker Defends Polygamy
Sat Jan 22

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Republican state lawmaker countered a Senate colleague's dispersal of an anti-polygamy book by passing out materials to fellow legislators defending the practice as natural and not necessarily harmful.

State Sen. Carlene Walker said she was offended by the book, "God's Brothel," that Democratic Senate Minority Whip Ron Allen distributed to legislators Tuesday.

Walker said she has known polygamists who are "fine, honest, educated, wonderful people."
"To characterize the whole polygamy community as abusive to children and the welfare system is inaccurate," she said.

The book distributed by Allen and written by Salt Lake City author Andrea Moore-Emmett tells the stories of 18 women who claim they suffered rape, incest and violence in polygamous communities.

"It's not fair to say we should ignore it," he said.

Allen helped enact a child bigamy law in 2003 that made forced marriages of minors a second-degree felony punishable by one to 15 years in prison. The offense previously carried only a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail, and was rarely enforced.

It's believed that tens of thousands in Utah and more than 30,000 across the West continue to practice polygamy.


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My opinion: for more information about fundamentalist Mormonism, the book "Under The Banner Of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer is very informative. From experience with the LDS church, I can say the matters on which Krakauer writes are anything but common in the Mormon world.

Fundamentalist Mormons comprise a very small percentage of the Mormon population. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) tend for the most part to be devoted church members who are industrious, clean, hard-working, productive citizens. While their beliefs may seem odd or far-fetched to those outside their church, I do not see where Mormonism necessarily has a negative impact. It is nothing to be afraid of.

I did notice when in Utah that it was hard to find a good drink! At that time, a permit was required for consuming hard liquor. One can get a beer in a tavern in Utah, but taverns aren't that common. You won't see very much of this in Utah:

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Mormons tend to not drink anything containing caffeine, and they tend not to smoke. There is not a great deal of poverty, as they tend to look after each other. Large Mormon families are not uncommon; one local LDS family here in La Grande had 13 kids, and one of my high school classmates is the mother of 12.

Being in Utah is almost like being in a different country... but it's nice there. With all the scenic wonders, it's sure worth a visit! Arches National Park is but one of many amazing places to see.

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If you are in Salt Lake City, and if you are into music or the science of sound, be sure to check out the Mormon Tabernacle!

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I find the Mormon culture strange, but I like learning about it. It is mysterious, unique and fascinating!


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Bhutan banned tobacco. Could the rest of the world follow?

By Eric Weiner
Thursday, Jan. 20, 2005

Smoke free by decree

If you're indignant that your boss just shut the smoking room and outraged that you have to leave the bar to light up, take heart. Life could be worse. You could be Bhutanese.

The tiny, trendy Himalayan kingdom recently became the world's first nonsmoking nation. Since Dec. 17, it has been illegal to smoke in public or sell tobacco. Violators are fined the equivalent of $232—more than two months' salary in Bhutan. Authorities heralded the ban by igniting a bonfire of cigarette cartons in the capital, Thimphu, and stringing banners across the main thoroughfare, exhorting people to kick the habit. As if they have a choice.

Meddling with an issue as personal as smoking is always tricky, and politicians err at their own peril. Yet Bhutan's ban appears to be sticking and with little public outcry. Even the country's smokers seem resigned to a smoke-free future. "If you can't get it, you can't smoke it," concludes Tshewang Dendup, who works for Bhutan's only broadcaster. He picked up his smoking habit while studying at Berkeley, but says he is now rapidly "downsizing" his consumption.

So, how has Bhutan managed to pull off a nationwide smoking ban while other nations dither? Bhutan is a Buddhist nation, and many Buddhists believe smoking is bad for their karma. Then again, Sri Lanka and Thailand are also predominantly Buddhist, and plenty of people smoke there.

The answer lies not in Bhutan's religion but in its famous quirkiness. This is a country that has elevated contrariness to a national trait. Convention says an impoverished yet stunningly beautiful nation like Bhutan should welcome tourists with open arms—and count the dollars. Yet Bhutan restricts the number of foreign tourists (about 9,000 last year) and charges fees of $200 per day. Convention says that gross national product is the best measure of national progress. Yet Bhutan is aiming for another mark: What it calls "gross national happiness." If Bhutan were a celebrity, it would be Johnny Depp:

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...reclusive, a bit odd, but endearing nonetheless.

The Himalayas that surround and engulf Bhutan are a curse and a blessing, cushioning the nation from the shock waves that globalization has generated in other developing countries. The first foreign tourists only arrived in 1974. Television and the Internet are even more novel, having arrived only in 1999. Yet Bhutan largely remains the Shangri-la that wealthy tourists crave. Thimphu is the world's only capital city with no traffic lights.

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So, having sat out the traditional development rush, Bhutan hopes to steer its own course, avoiding the mistakes of the industrialized world. Because of its homogenous and small population (anywhere from 800,000 to 2 million people, depending on which estimates you believe), Bhutan just might succeed in barring the demon weed. The nation's unusual culture makes a sudden and complete tobacco ban possible. The country is ruled by a benevolent king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, who is widely revered and universally obeyed. "Bhutanese are pretty happy to sacrifice for their fellow citizen," says Linda Leaming, an American who has lived in Bhutan for the past eight years. "The individual is subjugated to the good of society."

It also helps that Bhutan has few smokers compared other nations. Only about 1 percent of the population lights up, according to the health ministry. (Foreign observers believe the actual figure is 3 percent or 4 percent.) Tobacco isn't grown in Bhutan. It is a very small, poor market, and it costs a tremendous amount to import goods. All these are factors that have reduced interest in cigarettes.

Yet, even in obedient Bhutan, a few whispers of dissent have cropped up—where else?—on the Internet. "Policy makers wake up," griped one anonymous Bhutanese, writing about the smoking ban on the Web site "There is something called personal rights that should be upheld. Educate rather than force or impose." Others worry the tobacco ban will merely encourage a black market in Marlboros. Also others chime in that Bhutan faces more pressing problems than smoking: corruption, alcoholism, and a penchant for doma or betel nut, which Bhutanese chew habitually. Doma, a stimulant that turns your saliva red, has been linked to higher incidence of oral cancer.

Bhutan's parliament, which passed the smoking ban, anticipated complaints. It added a few sizable loopholes. Foreigners can still smoke and import tobacco (but if caught selling it to Bhutanese they will be charged with smuggling). Bhutanese are, technically, allowed to smoke in their homes and can even import small quantities of tobacco for "personal use," though they'll pay as much as 200 percent in customs duties and sales taxes for the pleasure.

Bhutanese officials say that, by banning tobacco, they hope to set an example for the rest of the world. Ireland recently banned smoking in public places, though the sale of tobacco remains legal. Other European countries, such as Norway, are enacting less-stringent smoking bans.
In most of Asia, though, the trend is toward more smokers, not fewer, as countries rush to emulate Western habits and as tobacco companies look east for new customers. Once again, Bhutan finds itself the exception to the rule.

(Eric Weiner is a correspondent for NPR's Day to Day program)

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Blogger friend Phil from The-Bottom-Line asked blogger friend J. Marquis: Do you support eliminating the federal Dept of Education and turning over the responsibilities to the states?

I thought about the question, and answered it on Phil's blog. With only a couple of edits, here is what I wrote. I know I've pontificated at grandiloquent length about this already, but it's a matter of importance to me, so here we go again:

As long as schools are able to survive without the federal money, I don't mind if it's all turned over to the states.

I view NCLB as little more than a method for the right wing to systematically defund the public schools so they can become privatized. The bar which schools must meet in order to not lose funding is set higher every year until it supposedly reaches 100% in something like 2012. The current levels schools need to reach are fairly easy to get to. As the bar is raised annually, schools will continue to be rated as to whether the whole school is at a specific level of achievement, but a school can fail if subgroups (and there are a number of them) don't reach criteria, and those are groups like non-English speakers and the learning disabled; the mentally retarded are included as failures every year, practically by default!

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(Oops! Sorry, I already used this picture in the previous rant about the inauguration... but I will intentionally use it again here for emphasis.)

I need to do some research and find out just how much money the schools get from the federal government before I go stating a real opinion. If money is taken away gradually every year, schools won't have much left with which to stay open by eight years from now.

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Then again, I think that's the whole idea.

I work in schools, and I see cutback after cutback. We no longer have PE teachers in our district, and it seems as if subjects like art and music are always on the chopping block. I think we need some kind of national standards, or a general expectation of what kind of education a school should provide... otherwise some states might go ahead and start eliminating the arts, and teaching religion in the classrooms.

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So, that means that until I know just how much money the schools would lose if the D of E was abolished and states took over complete control, I'd have to say I am still in favor of federal oversight. Doesn't mean I like it a whole lot, but I want the schools to survive. I like the idea of local control, and I wish it could happen. Bush doesn't seem to trust the states or the people... government has expanded during his time in office.

I know it should seem odd that someone like me, who works in schools, wouldn't know more about from where the money comes. I don't pay much attention to that because what I love doing is serving kids, and that's my first concern. As more money is taken away, I pay more attention. I guess I need to pick up my learning pace, or else by the time I really know what funding comes from where, there will be no money left about which to learn!

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Friday, January 21, 2005


What am I, of all left-wing people, celebrating today?

Why, the inauguration words of the OAF OF OFFICE himself!

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Some reasons:

1. Even though many of the inauguration festivities are being paid for with private money, it’s costing $40 to $50 million that could be spent charitably in SE Asia or for troop support in the Iraq effort (material support, not just a feel-good "show")... instead of for a partisan political celebration (which seemed to have little if any separation of church and state). I celebrate this only because in some ways it makes rich Republicans look like selfish DOG DOO.
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The same might be argued for sponsors of expensive halftime shows at bowl games, makers of mulit-million dollar movies, etc. Maybe they could take a look at where money is needed. Maybe all of us could. I know I could stand to do it. My Republican readers? Go for it! You can do it too! But it would be mighty helpful if we had someone in the presidency with the moral leadership skills to set an example for all the rest of us. That would make for a great start.

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This inauguration was expensive, and the inaugurations of Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter, et al cost a pretty penny as well, but... they weren’t held during times of war, during post-9-11 times, or during times of natural disasters of unprecendented human proportions. Were they? (If they were, please correct me.) Do we even need to discuss the extra D.C. tax dollars that have gone into the extra-tight security surrounding the inaugural events... ?

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I saw this as an opportunity to make a statement about how the United States wants to improve the situation of the world, but the way I see it, it ends up being a statement about how rich we are. Period.

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Democrats should use these points to their advantage.

2. The president says he wants to expand freedom throughout the world. Considering that he is a man who once said "There ought to be limits to freedom", it appears that he has now changed his tune! This must surely mean that the United States of America will be no longer be involved in unprovoked invasions of other countries, and that the president has finally awakened from his neoconservative Pax Americana pipe dream. Hallelujah! It was about time.

On the other hand, given his earlier quote about freedom, and that he now wants to spread freedom, he looks like a "flip-flopper"... just like he looks since he said he wouldn’t involve the U.S. in nation-building before doing just that in Iraq. But let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt! After all, only the Democrats are "flip-floppers", right? Nope, it looks like the GOP does it too. Again, Democrats should use this to their advantage. Bush is in a much higher-profile position than all the rest of us, so his errors are magnified.

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3. "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." All right! That means the people of Sudan can breathe more easily, knowing that our troops will be there soon to restore order in their country. The Russians and/or Chechnyans must feel relieved to know we will soon be helping solve the problem of Chechnya, and the Palestinians and Israelis must be celebrating right now, knowing we will soon have enough troops stationed in those two countries to keep everybody in line. We had better take a stab at Myanmar while we’re at it... talk about an oppressive government there!

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(Myanmar photo by Goto Osami)

And the North Korean government had better look out!! Once we overthrow them, the people there will welcome us with open arms!

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Of course this all means we will have to increase the size of our armed forces by about 1000% to live up to such a statement by the president, because he doesn't seem to care about using means other than military might for achieving his international goals. But that shouldn’t be a problem given the number of young people ages 18-25 in our country. In fact, there might even be enough young folks to give us some troop numbers to match the Red Chinese army... and we all know about how oppressive the Chinese government is.

I take comfort in knowing that all forces of tyranny and oppression will be quashed! What do you think, fellow Democrats? Maybe we need to write to our Senators and Representatives before some folks in our government start getting too enthusiastic.

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4. The president is calling for "healing".

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He says "We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes, and I will strive in good faith to heal them." Mr. Bush says this at a time when his cabinet is being reshaped to include people who will not question what he says or does. This decreases his accountability to the American people because he has fewer important people asking him "why". As he becomes more insulated and confident I believe he will alienate more people while he pursues his unilateral approach to nearly all things.

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I celebrate this because for all his talk of "healing", it can’t happen unless he changes his approach. He has to change, or else he makes an obvious liar of himself. And if he does change, I will admire him for admitting mistakes and for considering evidence, considering a variety of viewpoints, and considering input from others in his decision-making. If he doesn’t, he will be a lame duck sooner than he thinks. He changes? He swims, we all do better. No change? He sinks, things get worse.

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5. While the president did give plenty of lip service to "freedom" and "liberty", he made very little mention of anything in his agenda re. our economy, education, environmental issues, poverty, and domestic issues which matter to millions of us just as much as (or more than) war. Does this mean Bush doesn't really care about those things, or that he won't be placing emphasis on them? Letting things go to pot here at home (as well as abroad) sounds like a perfect recipe ingredient for helping the horrid secular commie libs gain seats in the House and Senate during the next four years before taking the White House back in 2008.

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Go, you War President, go!!! May your supporters blindly follow, and may your buddies in the House and Senate try and ride your coattails!

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Sure, I admit I have been more than just a teensy bit angry here, with plenty of sarcasm thrown in for good measure... but this has been lots of fun! I can sum it up pretty easily. Democrats: if the guy doesn’t walk the talk, he needs to be called on it. And be ready, because we will have plenty of opportunities to call him on it during the coming four years! This, although small, is cause for celebration in itself.

The "liberal media" won't be reporting much
f anything about Bush's gaffes, so it will be up to us. Let's roll!

Go, Dubya! Bring 'em on!

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Dear Friends,

You may notice there is a lack of stuff you would normally see on my sidebar. Well, repair work is under way. I will restore my goofy polls, the War In Iraq cost counter, and my list of links. Something happened this morning while I was blogging at the same time I was doing other things on the computer, and suddenly everything on my blog... disappeared! And it didn't come back when I asked it to!

True American is back in the saddle. Maybe he had something to do with this! 8-)>

Anyway, things should look usually abnormal again soon.

Mr. Snave, Proprietor, Various Miseries

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Rick Neuheisel, shown here in his glory days as head football coach at the University of Washington, has taken a job somewhere in the NFL as a quarterbacks' coach. College football fans, rejoice!

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Unless he can change his definition of "healing", this is mine:

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Yes, it's all sweetness and light! Everything is fine! No
need for concern!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005


A Tale of Pimps and Payola
By Eunice MoscosoPalm Beach Post

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Government watchdogs, media groups and lawmakers are raising new questions about the Bush White House efforts to shape news coverage after revelations Friday that the Bush administration paid syndicated pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.

The story comes on the heels of an internal government report blasting the Office of National Drug Control Policy for distributing commercials that were broadcast as news reports. The Department of Education also paid a public relations firm to produce commercials last year that were aired by stations across the country as news items.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that the Bush administration's efforts make her "extremely nervous and uneasy."

"At first I thought it was an aberration, but now — certainly with the Education Department — it appears to be a pattern and I'm definitely wondering who else is on their payroll," she said.
Dalglish said she was "blown away" when she heard that Williams accepted $240,000 through his public relations company to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, a major Bush administration initiative that seeks to boost the performance of poor and minority children and punishes schools that don't show results.

Williams is a prominent black conservative voice in the media, hosting the TV and radio show "The Right Side" and writing op-ed pieces that are distributed by Tribune Media Services to various newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, USA Today and the Washington Times.

The contract, negotiated through a deal between the Department of Education and public relations giant Ketchum Inc., required Williams' firm to produce ads promoting the Act, which were run during his shows.

It also required him to regularly comment on the No Child Left Behind Act during the course of his broadcasts and to urge other black journalists to do the same, according to USA Today, which obtained the contract though a Freedom of Information request.
Williams said Friday that he regretted the contract.

"My judgment was not the best. I wouldn't do it again and I learned from it," he said, in an interview. "There's a thin line. There's a gray area and I think I crossed it."
In addition, he said that although he was a commentator, and not a journalist, he still should abide by the same ethical standards.

Williams also said that he did disclose during his show that the Department of Education was paying for the advertisements that featured Education Secretary Rod Paige. Williams would not say whether he knew of other commentators that held similar contracts with the government.
On Capitol Hill, three senators — including Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada — wrote a letter to the White House demanding that the Bush administration recover the $240,000 from Williams.

The letter, also signed by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D- Mass. and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said the payments violated the law and that the Bush administration's attempt to "bribe journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy."
The senators also ask the White House to disclose if any other journalists or media organizations have been paid to "skew their media reports."

Rep. George Miller of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee for Education and the Workforce, said the Williams' contract was "deeply disturbing" and called for an investigation into whether it might be in violation of the law or other ethical standards.
Republican Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, chair of the education committee and one of the chief promoters of the No Child Left Behind Act, wants the Department of Education inspector general to look into the contract, said his spokesman Steve Forde.

"If what has been reported is accurate it is certainly indefensible. ...It is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money," said Boehner's spokesman, Steve Forde.

The White House referred questions to the Department of Education. In a statement, the department said that the contract "paid to provide the straightforward distribution of information about the department's mission" and that it is a "permissible use of taxpayer funds under legal government contracting procedures."

Bob Steele, a scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said that journalists should never be partners with government officials on such efforts and that Williams has created competing loyalties by his contractual, financial obligations.

"It is the role of journalists — and to some degree Armstrong Williams falls within that category — to hold the government and government officials accountable. We should provide meaningful, substantive, fair, accurate and here's the key — independent — reporting on government policies and activities," Steele said.

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg said that Williams should give the money back. "I think he should probably be ashamed of himself for taking it. I think the White House really screwed up...all I can say is that if Bill Clinton had gotten caught giving Joe Conason a quarter of a million dollars to be flogging their policies, guys like me would have smoke coming out of our ears, and the right would go crazy," he told CNN.

The Williams' contract is the latest in a series of apparent efforts by the Bush administration to influence media coverage, including:

— The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said on Thursday that the Office of National Drug Control Policy broke federal law when it produced and distributed packaged news segments about drug use among the nation's youth. The GAO said the videos, broadcast by nearly 300 stations, amounted to "covert propaganda" because they were not identified as government-made.

— In a similar case, the GAO scolded the White House in May for creating television news spots that promoted the new Medicare law, which is intended to help older Americans with the costs of their prescription medicines. The segments — in English and Spanish — had actors posing as television reporters.

— Also last year, the Department of Education paid a public relations firm to rate the reporting on the No Child Left Behind Act of writers from 13 newspapers so that those with low scores could be "targeted for doing more education about the issue."

— Television news shows in more than 20 cities last year included a pre-packaged, favorable story about the federal student loan program that wasn't identified as taxpayer-financed. The story was prepared as a "video news release" for the Department of Education by Ketchum, Inc. The firm also prepared a similar story urging parents to ask local school officials whether their child qualified for free tutoring under the No Child Left Behind Act.

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Melanie Sloan, executive director of the government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that the Bush administration is showing a pattern of using taxpayer money for propaganda.

Sloan's group plans to submit Freedom of Information requests to various government agencies find out what other pundits and journalists are being paid by the government.
"This is very likely only the tip of the iceberg," she said.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

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Saturday, January 15, 2005


... when he already has over 1,000 CDs... and he will stay occupied for weeks. But who says this is necessarily a bad thing?

Here's some of what is in my MP3 player so far, with 2412 songs having been obsessively loaded into the damned thing as of this morning. If there is an asterisk after the number of songs, that means I'm not done adding songs by that artist. Two asterisks means there may be a ton more added... I've downloaded about 25 songs from Napster, the rest have all been "ripped" from my collection. I listed 47 artists with 10+ songs in the player, but there are lots and lots more artists with 5-10 songs. I haven't even really started yet on Pink Floyd, Neil Finn et al, Cream/Clapton, Wilco, Todd Rundgren, Cheap Trick, Hall/Oates, The Verve, Annie Lennox/Eurythmics, Doobie Bros., Patti Smith, U2, specific classical works, and many other personal favorites! Anyway... OCD, ho!

Guided By Voices 144
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Neil Young 105
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Beatles 92
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Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra 59 (these came with the player)

Who 51
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XTC 50
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Radiohead 50
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Lou Reed/Velvet Underground 43
Zeppelin 39
Steely Dan 38*
Nick Cave/Bad Seeds 36
Echo/Bunnymen 34
Elvis Costello 33
Warren Zevon 32**
Coldplay 23
Petty/Heartbreakers 23**
Steve Earle 21*
Porcupine Tree 21*
Smashing Pumpkins 20
Van Morrison 20*
Jethro Tulll 19
Nilsson 19
Robert Pollard 19
Bowie 19**
Crowded House 19**
Doves 17
Dylan 17*
Eno, et al 16*
Cure 16*
REM 16**
Blue Oyster Cult 16*
The Shins 15
The Feelies 14
Doug Gillard 14
Gipsy Kings 14
Elbow 14
John Paul Jones 14
King Crimson 14**
Rolling Stones 14**
Keith Richards 13
Moby Grape 12
The Byrds 12*
Yes 12**
Jimi Hendrix 12
Stevie Wonder 11
Nick Drake 11

This collection features also many punk artists, including Sex Pistols, Rancid, Green Day, Poison Idea, Supersuckers, The Thermals, etc. I don't have much metal, but I do enjoy Pantera and they are well represented.

There are few if any modern "Country" artists on my MP3 player.
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Does this guy look like he has to take a painful dump, or what!?

Of course the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan sounds like he's constipated and straining every time he sings...
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but he plays ROCK AND ROLL!

I don't like modern "Country", which to my ears basically sounds like pop music with a Southern accent and a couple of fiddles thrown in. I do tend to like Steve Earle, and I like some stuff by Dwight Yoakum, The Mavericks, Robert Earl Keen and a few others.

I'll be adding more jazz, along with more Bill Laswell "dub" stuff. There will be a noted absence of Rap, boy-bands, and general modern Top 40.

How many more songs will this thing hold? It's a 30GB player... How many more do I need? Why, I am an American!! I need more!!!

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