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The Iowa Caucus Con

Posted on Dec 26, 2007
Clinton in Iowa
AP photo / M. Spencer Green

Hillary Clinton gives caucus information to supporters on a campaign stop in Ottumwa, Iowa, on Dec. 18.

By Bill Boyarsky

DES MOINES, Iowa—This may be the last place in America where political journalists are embraced as heroes.

Usually these reporters, particularly those in the mainstream media, take hits from academia and a growing number of media critics.  In Iowa, they are eagerly welcomed when they show up to cover the state’s unique system of selecting presidential nominees.  The reason is simple: The media is a co-conspirator in a con, the Iowa caucuses.

I covered the first highly publicized Iowa caucuses in 1976, when unknown Jimmy Carter finished ahead of all the Democratic candidates and went on to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the presidency. We reporters found the unfamiliar system a welcome change from what we usually covered. Iowans were friendly and eager to talk, and the caucuses were peculiar but intriguing. After the caucuses, I moved on to the next stop, the New Hampshire primary, not giving any more thought to the Iowa system.  That’s a reporter for you: Out of sight, out of mind.

In the intervening years, my career took a turn toward covering city councils, boards of supervisors, fixers, angry community leaders, lobbyists and the rest of the cast that makes local politics compelling. Down in the muck of real politics, I became more cynical.  I learned that everybody has an angle, and you have to understand the system to know it for what it is.  As I prepared to fly to Iowa on this current assignment, I wondered if I’d be able to figure out what the angle was for caucus participants.

I talked to a lot of people here, but oddly enough, I learned more from Iowa’s State Historical Museum, where there is a large display that explains a lot about the caucuses.

The exhibit tells the history:  The caucus system was created in 1846, when Iowa entered the union, and took the form of a New England town meeting to decide political matters,  such as picking national convention delegates.

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Democrats and Republicans hold caucuses in each of the state’s precincts.  These precinct caucuses choose delegates to a county convention.  Nobody paid much attention to Iowa’s way of doing things until 1972, when some of the state’s sharpies moved up the date to January so their caucuses would be held ahead of the New Hampshire primary and would thus become the first presidential campaign test in an election year.  Presidential candidate George McGovern jumped on the idea, did pretty well that year, and won the nomination.  Carter did even better in the 1976 caucuses.

In another area of the museum, I found something more interesting: large cut-out figures of men and women. One looked as heroic as workers did in old Soviet Union statues.  He was a reporter, dressed in a perfectly fitted brown sport coat, nicely cut blue jeans and brown loafers.  His gray hair was cut short.  He had a press pass around his neck and a pad and pen held loosely in his hands.  I wondered how he managed to look so good, thinking of my own shaggy hair and heavy winter shoes, my clothes rumpled from being in a suitcase.  This cut-out reporter, the accompanying text informed us, “has spent the last two presidential elections covering the caucuses and has discovered Iowa’s best Thai restaurant, martini, burger and round-trip airline schedule.”

Why was he being lionized?  Why were his addictions to martinis and heavy food being praised?  The answer came in a museum audio recording that explained, “The story of the Iowa caucuses needs to be told.  It is our opportunity to shape the view of Iowa that gets reported and beamed around the world.  It is the very best platform for the national and international press to experience the surprising things about Iowa that not always are shown.”

In other words, the caucuses are a promotional device, just like the Rose Bowl is a way for Pasadena to pitch itself to the world.  The caucuses put Iowa on television, promoting the state to businesses like Google, which is opening a data center in Council Bluffs in 2009, a $200 million investment that will produce 200 jobs. 

But the Rose Bowl is a football game operating under strict rules, with officials enforcing them.  That’s not the case with the Iowa caucus system.  The caucuses are a game with few rules and no real enforcement.  I fault the media for not explaining this and for giving the false impression that the caucuses are an exercise in democracy. 

Here’s how the caucuses work, as explained patiently to me by several participants, supplemented by my reading of the rules.  Democrats and Republicans in each Iowa precinct hold a caucus.  This is the first step in a long process. Any registered voter living in the precinct can attend. You can register at the door.

Remember this important point:  The Democratic and Republican caucuses merely select delegates to county conventions, who pick delegates to district conventions.  Participants at these events select representatives to the state convention, where the actual national convention delegations are chosen.  So the highly publicized caucuses are merely the first step in a long process that is unimportant nationally because Iowa has relatively few delegates at the national conventions.

The Republicans’ system in Iowa is pretty straightforward.  Their precinct caucus opens with a secret ballot straw poll on the presidential candidates. The caucuses then pick delegates to the county convention.  The results of the secret ballots are phoned in to Republican state officials in Des Moines, where they are tabulated and released to the media.

That’s not the case with the Democratic caucuses.  Caucus attendees cast a vote for their candidate or vote “undecided.”  Candidates not reaching the 15 percent mark are dropped, and their supporters are urged to vote in a second round for a stronger candidate. That’s where the bargaining starts.

The bargaining concept set my city hall mind working.

What if one of the candidate’s supporters was a city council member or some sort of commissioner?  Couldn’t a commissioner, trying to switch a vote, mention to a caucus-goer: “You know that garage conversion permit you’re having trouble with?  Don’t worry about it.”  When I outlined this scenario to a prominent Democrat, she said it would be illegal.  But, she added, it wouldn’t be illegal for the commissioner to remind the caucus-goer that he had taken care of the garage matter.  People tell me about promises of lawn care, pet sitting, cookies and other goodies, big and small, being made during the vote-switching process.

The final tally from each caucus is based on a rather complex mathematical formula.  Suppose that in a caucus of 100, Sen. Barack Obama got 49 votes, former Sen. John Edwards 32 and Sen. Hillary Clinton 19. The delegates would be distributed in this manner: Obama 5, Edwards 3, Clinton 1.

But as I pointed out earlier, the news you receive about the Democratic caucuses are not statewide totals, just the numbers of delegates sent to county conventions. It has no relation to actual support.  In my mythical match, Obama’s five votes probably mean his organization did a better job in bringing people to the caucus.

I discussed my doubts with a sharp young journalist, Chase Martyn, managing editor of the Iowa Independent, one of the Web sites established around the country by the Center for Independent Media to promote independent online journalism.  The Independent has citizen journalists—also known as part-timers—filing reports on the caucuses around the state, and Martyn does his own reporting.  So it is a plugged-in operation.

I told him I didn’t think much of the caucus system.  He likes it.  “It forces candidates to compete in a state where it doesn’t take a lot of money to win,” he said.  Face-to-face meetings between Iowans and candidates, as reported by the national media, help the nation “pick a good nominee and president.” 

But the caucuses aren’t democratic, I said.  “Nobody would say they are democratic,’” Martyn replied.  “The sense I get [from Iowans] is that “‘this is the game, these are the rules of the game, and don’t argue about the rules in the middle of the game.”

But if political journalists were to explain the rules, the rest of America would know that the caucuses don’t mean much.  They are a fraud, like “The Wizard of Oz.”

But explaining the rules is tough.  I have spent a career describing complex budget formulas, health care plans and water projects.  This is one of the hardest processes I have ever had to explain. It took a long time, and now that I am done, I have no idea whether my editors or readers will know or care what I am talking about.

But the media should try to shed light on the process instead of helping Iowa keep this promotional device alive.  Unmask the wizard, journalists, and set America free from the shackles of the Iowa caucuses.


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By i,Q, January 4, 2008 at 3:15 am Link to this comment

RP sure gets some mileage out of a few one liners at the debates. Do your homework and stop cheerleading.

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By i,Q, January 4, 2008 at 3:13 am Link to this comment

i second that!

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By hetzer, January 2, 2008 at 9:05 pm Link to this comment

Hillery is a crook.  So is her husband.  They are shills for the corporate state.  They love to hear the screams of the tortured.  And, the lie effortlessly.  Did I mention that the Republican Nazis are just as bad.

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By Conservative Yankee, January 2, 2008 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By Sue, January 2 at 10:21 am #

“My point is, Hillary has the audacity to run for president in a man’s world! How dare she?

All this negativity towards her is for that reason and that reason alone.”

No it’s not. The FALN placed a bomb in my father’s office building, killing a person (a security guard) I knew…I joked with, who rode me around on his shoulders…

On his way out of the White House, Bill pardoned the FALN terrorists at Hillary’s behest so she could pick up a few more hispanic votes in her first Senate campaign.

That’s what my negativity is about.

Add to that her Walmart sojourn where she was a member of the board of directors but never once advocated for their under-paid under-insured workers, or all the sweat shop children they use in China, India, and elsewhere.

I know victim-hood is the new US pass time, if Obama doesn’t get it it is because he’s black, if Richardson dosen’t get it it is because he’s Hispanic, and if Kucinich doesn’t get it it is because he’s short..  If US citizens could count (Men 48% of population, Women 52% of population they would see that if the gender based vote was solid, we’d never have another male president…. Fortunately some women do more than complain, some women study the issues, and the spin… Hill-the-business-shill comes up short in the “believability” category.

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By Sue, January 2, 2008 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As I was saying before I was unexpectedly interrupted… If you want the truth on what’s happening in Iowa and New Hamsphire, you’re better off traveling there and seeing it for yourself.

If Hillary loses, it won’t be because of her lack of self-proclaimed expirience, her looks, her supposed stumble over drivers licences for illegal immigrants, her playing negative politics with Obama, her playing the gender card, her miss-speaks, mis-steps and what have you.

All these things you see have been reported by the main stream media, either in print or on air.

When the report about her inexpirience in the White House came out, I remember reading the header caption stating that “this article is in-part to on-going articles on all the candidates”.  Well guss what?, I havent’t seen any other articles on the other candidates yet. None that read anything like they are portraying her. Her experience is all the years spent in the governers house, the white house, and now the senate. Looks like more expirience than some candidates can boast.

My point is, Hillary has the audacity to run for president in a man’s world! How dare she?

All this negativity towards her is for that reason and that reason alone.  I love watching the circus, but I know deep down that because she’s a woman trying to make her high mark in a man’s world, well there you have it.

She’s doing pretty well so far and holding her own in spite of all the bad press against her.  Good for her for that.  But, she’ll face much more scrutiny and bad press if she can manage to make it past these next two states. I’m sure she is well aware, and will stand up and press on like the expirience she has with that.

I only hope for her sake the good people in the states of Iowa and New Hamshire are in this for true politics and voting for who they think we’ll make the better candidate for America, and not turn this into a popularity contest which the media is spent on making it look like.

I say to all the media outlets, Report the truth!
Not what your personal political affiliation is.

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By hetzer, January 2, 2008 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

It is important to let the peasants think they matter.  The whole election has probably been scripted by Kissinger, Cheney, and Murdock.  We have to abandon the carnival and assault the castle walls.

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By Bob Kull, January 1, 2008 at 11:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I appreciate Boyrasky’s attempt to explain the caucus system, from my perspective he was unsuccessful.  The following two paragraphs, which seem to be the heart of the matter, make no sense to me. 

“The final tally from each caucus is based on a rather complex mathematical formula.  Suppose that in a caucus of 100, Sen. Barack Obama got 49 votes, former Sen. John Edwards 32 and Sen. Hillary Clinton 19. The delegates would be distributed in this manner: Obama 5, Edwards 3, Clinton 1.

But as I pointed out earlier, the news you receive about the Democratic caucuses are not statewide totals, just the numbers of delegates sent to county conventions. It has no relation to actual support.  In my mythical match, Obama’s five votes probably mean his organization did a better job in bringing people to the caucus.”

Why does the the final outcome have no relationship to the level of support?  What does it mean to say: “Obama’s five votes probably mean his organization did a better job in bringing people to the caucus.”  Isn’t this like saying that strong support for the winner of any election probably means that the winner’s organization did a better job of bringing people to the polls? 

If anyone can clear this up, I would appreciate it.

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By cyrena, January 1, 2008 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

You may be right Blacksphere, about Bloomberg’s chances being ‘nil’.

I’m not so sure of that myself. Based on the article that I posted, they were allegedly meeting to discuss whether or not a third party should even RUN, and not necessarily whether or not Bloomberg himself would be on the ticket. (He merely has the personal funds to finance it).

Now since then of course, the MSM has come up with at least one story that I’ve seen myself, that suggests that HE may run. That isn’t what I necessarily got from the article that I posted though. In looking though the list of ‘attendees’ at this upcoming conference, a few other names jumped out at me as well, including Chuck Hagel. You might remember that he left the Senate last year, and that there was speculation at the time, (albeit very briefly) that HE might consider a run on a 3rd party ticket.

Then there is the mysterious NY lunch that Bloomberg and Obama shared a few months back. No details as to what were discussed, but my own intuition is that it could very much have been on this very issue…the possibility of a 3rd party candidacy in this race, including or at least funded by Bloomberg.

And, I don’t find that at all surprising, based on what there has been to “offer” or ‘select from, in the current candidates from either party. The republican side has NOBODY. Period. There is simply no person in the race from that party, at this point, who would be anything less than a disaster, from one point or another. And, it doesn’t really matter HOW the final wipeout comes about, we can only be assured that any of these candidates would definitely spell the end of us.

The Democrats aren’t in a whole lot better shape, but for different reasons. With the exception of Hillary, most of them would at least head off the final disaster. (she might as well be with the repugs). The others, to a greater or lesser degree, would be OK, except of course that the best of them, (Kucinich in my opinion) seems to have been cut off at the knees, (thanks to the MSM and standard competitive politics) so there’s the legitimate concern that he doesn’t stand a chance. The same is true for Gravel, Richardson, and Dodd. So, it would appear that Obama and Edwards are among the most ‘electable’ at this point, and that’s taking a major roll of the dice.

So, that’s why I believe that (not unlike Nadar a few months back) the idea of a 3rd party run sponsored by Bloomberg, is a backup to the possibility that Hillary will wind up as the Democratic runner, and in playing the appropriate flavor of ‘real politic’, this thing with Bloomberg (and the conference planned for Jan 7) was intentionally put out there when it was – (and the article says this) so that it would NOT come across as a reaction to, or an endorsement of, anything that will come of the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses. IOW, at this point, things aren’t looking good at all. The populace is still far too polarized, and there’s no telling WHAT the hell could happen.

By and large, and far more than any time that I can remember in my own voting life, Americans are truly desperate. Not just those that don’t matter, and never have, (at least to the deciding majority) but the MAJORITY of Americans are desperate now, even if they don’t know how or why things have become so awful for them. And, we are no closer at this point, (even after this ridiculously long ‘election run up’) at reaching any sort of consensus on who might best be able to at least STOP the damage, and even possibly begin to reverse it.

Now, Rudy Giuliani did some really horrible things to the citizens of New York City as Mayor, and they did elect Bloomberg, with the hope that he could put things back on some sort of balance. The idea here, (I think) is that he could do or sponsor the same, if only by restoring some sense of unity among the populace, and bringing us back from the edge of extremism – extremism in all forms.

That’s just my own take.

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By John Hanks, January 1, 2008 at 11:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Every important election enriches the crook media, which does the first and last cul.  If a candidate doesn’t look good on the screen, he is no longer a candidate.  If he insists on making full and intelligent comments, out he goes.  We need direct voting for candidates that are never on the TV screen.

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By CJ, December 31, 2007 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Boyarsky’s piece struck this reader as descriptive of a microcosm (Iowa caucuses), all too illustrative of what passes for “politics” in America, whether by means of caucusing or primary. Upshot is most likely someone no one really wants to vote for come the big show. First, there’s the problem of a petrified two-party system, in the end, winner take all. How anyone could describe such a system as “democratic” is beyond my comprehension. Our system is not, in fact, intended to be an exercise in any kind of participatory democracy, so much as it provides for the illusion of participatory democracy.

NO WONDER Boyarsky has found Iowa caucuses harder to explain than machinations of city councils and budgets incorporating creative bookkeeping. Ideologies (as opposed to political creeds) are not easy to penetrate, much less explain. Trying to do so is akin to trying to convince a paranoid schizophrenic that he’s not being surveilled—seriously, man! The museum Boyarsky describes is nothing less than an site, purpose of which is to maintain ideological illusion. Not as a matter of conspiracy, but as matter of systemic constraint, which in the end amounts only to doing a thing in a certain way for the simple reason that certain thing has always been done in a certain way. Tautology goes by the name, “tradition.” (Because we’ve always done so-and-so in such-and-such way, we MUST continue to do so-and-so in such-and-such way.)

Well, until shit hits fan. At which times, people’s imaginations seem finally to fire up. Or so they have in the past. (History by now concluded according to Fukuyama. Aside from absurdity of Francis’ claim, how DULL!) Imagination isn’t lacking, so much as it seems to enter hibernation for periods of decades, if not centuries.

Candidates’ mantra has been, for many decades by now (in words of daddy Bush): “Read my lips…”  Democrats some time ago, as led by DLC, finally took a hint from Republicans re “big government.” All well and good, no doubt, not least for those of us who are most radically left, since our own ideal envisions no government of any kind. (The actual purpose of government, in the end, is maintenance of status quo, no matter claims on the part of right- and left-wing candidates.)

What passes for “politics” in America is indeed a charade, invariably about lesser of two evils. Maybe appropriate enough, given that government is by definition evil. What’s more, however, government relieves citizens of responsibility, but for annoying trip to booth to pull levers or push buttons for one or another set of idiots and corporate-sponsored propositions. Or to caucus, in the case of Iowans. Intricacies of caucuses hardly matter, since result is always the same—lesser of two evils, third-, fourth- or fifth-party candidates, for all practical purposes, IED-ed by Dems and Repubs. Which is to say: Anyone with an actual idea has far less chance of attaining throne than do the Miami Dolphins of attaining the Lombardi trophy this season. What with winner-take-all, such that anyone who imagines something different will never find representation in this here republic.

I have to give Boyarksy points for hanging in under circumstances of big-media collusion in maintenance of ideology (tradition). Nothing new about that, given ideology; namely, a la Walter Lippmann via Chomsky: Two democracies—one for us (Lippmann, himself, along with those for whom he toiled) and one for them (the rest of us, who quite obviously are incapable of participatory democracy, thanks in large part to dumbing down exactly on the part of big media, which is both owned by and operated in the interest of the few who’ve yet to let go the old ideology of divine right of kings).

Happy New Year and good luck to humanity, those not human even more so, as humans have about done in other species entirely.

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By DELBERT MATHANEY, December 31, 2007 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

—THERE IS A COBNGRESSMAN WHO HAS PICKED UP THE DENNIS KUCHNICH IMPEACHMENT RESOLUTION AND IS RUNNING WITH IT—I HOPE YOU WILL CONSIDER LOOKING AT: WEXLEREWANTSHEARINGS.COM   /// AND HAPPY NEW YEARS TO YOU SIR.  //

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By Blackspeare, December 31, 2007 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

Cyrena you posted:  “Bipartisan Group Eyes Independent Bid”

It is possible that Bloomberg may decide to run.  His chances are nil, but at least he’s not an odd-ball like Perot or a one-issue spoiler like Nader.  But more importantly the US needs a viable third party to effect a real change and direction in US politics.  Of course, a viable candidate will initially throw the election into the House of Representatives, but it will give notice
of a resounding voice that change is needed and desired by the “Silent Majority.”  Also, little known is that viable third party candidates, by virtue of three-way voting, eliminate outright stolen elections——when you have only two candidates running in a close election any shenanigans can steal the election and usually do!

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By Robin & Russell Smith, December 31, 2007 at 9:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s easy now to see how Iowa is able to get away with its caucus scam.  Its image as a state full of corn fed, God fearing folk makes it easier for them to pull it off.  Thanks for illuminating this Byzantine sytem.

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By cyrena, December 30, 2007 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment

Louise #122985
Louise…YOU GO GIRL!!!
You just keep getting better and better, and making us proud.
Thank you especially, for this part:

•  “We who knew better did as much as we could. And those who spent a fortune in time and money pulling together the EVIDENCE did more than anyone could be expected to do!”

And, that’s the TRUTH!!

Then there’s this..

•  “The failure was in the leadership of the country, a wimpy democrat candidate, the media, and those citizens who chose to say nothing because they were afraid of being labeled conspiratorial, or not supporting the president, or worst of all, sore losers!”

I would also add….COWARDS!

Meantime, Thomas, I too respect your opinion, and generally I agree as well. Still, let’s not do a blanket name/blame here, because too many people risked (and lost) far too much, to stand up to these thugs, and we got NO SUPPORT!!

As a matter of fact, many of those who gave the most, have been vilified by the public, (Cindy Sheehan is one that comes to mind, and let’s not forget Joseph and Valerie Wilson) and there are many others of whom you are not even aware, and probably will never be, if only because there’s so much that will remain buried.

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By Conservative Yankee, December 30, 2007 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By Expat, December 29 at 5:52 am #
 
“We made life too easy for them.”

Maybe life has been too easy for the younger generation you know, but what I see is our generation never grew up, so the children never had responsible parents. “let the state do it” has been the mantra of the children of the 50’s and 60’s, and now I see them left with what we gave them WHICH (If you will pardon an opinion) is FAR LESS than the WW II generation left us…

We all should be ashamed, BUT I see little shame for what we have done, and what we have allowed.

History is not going to be kind to us!

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By cyrena, December 30, 2007 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

Ah Louise…

Thanks for the uplift. And you’re right…it ain’t over till it’s over.

Now, this is sort of ‘hot off the press’, though not entirely unexpected. (at least by some of us).

So, I thought I’d just sort of throw it out there, and maybe give us something to speculate on.

And, for the most part, they’re not asking me to shut up anymore either. (well, maybe some of them. wink )

Bipartisan Group Eyes Independent Bid
  By David S. Broder
  The Washington Post
  Sunday 30 December 2007

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/123007B.shtml

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By Jim High, December 30, 2007 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with Bill Boyrasky about the value of the Iowa Cacus and the fact tht the media makes way to much of it and does not tell the truth about how really insignifant it is.  But even he did not tell the whole truth.  You see the Democratic Cacus is not by secret ballot.  The people attending the cacus are split up to different parts of the room acording to who they are there to support.  And then the trading begins until each canidate has at least 15% of the people attending in their corner of the room.  This is 180 degrees from a secret balout and in and of itself does not give you a true picture of who those attending are really for.  It is sure hard for the public to get the truth when even the journalist who are trying to give us the truth don’t tell the whole story.

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By Louise, December 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm Link to this comment

I went through a similar period of inward looking 20 years ago, and I’m still here! And very glad I am.

So if anything I should be asking myself what did I fail to do, and what can I do now?

When the bush first opened his silly mouth and started speaking presidential, I started warning people what would happen if he was elected. Most tolerated me, some asked me to shut up! 

Bush gained access to our White House through fraud. Everybody knows that. But when he moved in [accompanied by the most irresponsible, dim-witted pack of liars ever found in one room at one time] a few good men began digging, and discovered the LAST time the repubs cheated.

You see breaking the law, caging, vote fraud, lying, all these well known traits we associate with Bush and company have been faithful offspring of the GOP and the RNC for many, many years. Probably forever.

Of course they were severely punished for cheating [not] and told naughty, naughty, don’t do that again, and the RNC, GOP said ok promise, cross our heart, and started shopping for a way to cheat without getting caught, and even better, a way to control the courts so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

There’s only one way to control crime and that’s to stop it. And the only one way to stop it is to lock the criminals up.

As long as there are those who will do anything for power and money there will be crime. Even the possibility of imprisonment will never stop crime. But it will slow it down, cause a lot of folks will decide the cost of getting caught and punished isn’t worth it.

On the other hand, so long as crime goes unpunished, crime will feed on itself and grow. Especially if the crime is part of the history and nature of a family, or a political party, to the point where the behavior becomes favored myth, to be replicated.

Take Bush for example. When Grandpa was charged with trading with the enemy, the money he made working with the Nazis was confiscated. Which meant absolutely nothing, because it was returned. The charges were hollow, because there was no punishment. No jail time.

Like wise when George HW was found involved in Iran Contra, nothing happened. Likewise when Jeb ripped off a few thousand people in the S & L meltdown, nothing happened, and in that family alone, there are numerous other examples of criminal behavior gone un-punished. Is it any wonder George W is what he is?

No, the wonder is we never thought about it until it was too late. But that’s not really entirely our fault. I asked my kids at a family gathering when W was “fixing” to become president, “Remember all those times I moved between 1986 and 1991? Did you think that was because I love to move? No. That was because like MOST folks in this country at the time, I was getting “pee’d” on by Reagan-omics, and had to keep moving to find work!”

They grew, and married and left home and went to school and worked and had families and now, they are getting pee’d on!

They no longer tolerate or ignore me. They no longer ask me to shut up. They phone and write and ask, what does this mean, or is this true. So if I failed then, I have a second chance. But so did the education and the media fail us, and still does. And most of all so did our congress who let Preston off the hook!

Behind every lie there are a thousand truths, and every time someone gets hurt they want to hear the truth. And a lot of people are getting hurt right now. So it falls to those of us who are older to keep that truth in front of them.

And as long as I can draw a breath, or say my piece, I will. It does make a difference. You should hear my grandkids talk about the Constitution!

So keep on keepen on!
It’s never too late!
It’s not over till it’s over!

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By cuento, December 29, 2007 at 11:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

George Bush, rigged elections, stolen rights, trampled constitution, Dick Cheney skullduggery, secret prisons, institutionalized torture, suspension of habeas corpus, extraordinary rendition, domestic surveillance, exhausted military, paranoia, apathetic electorate, burgeoning national debt, falling dollar, outing CIA operatives, broken educational system, widening gulf between rich and poor,  loss of respect by other nations, and the list continues to mount. None of these, collectively or singularly, are the reasons The United States is in its decline as a world power. 
These are the symptoms of the approaching end of an empire.  Did we really think we would rule the world forever?  All empires believe they will.  All empires have their time on center world stage.  All empires suffer the fates of their predecessors.  Eventually another world power will take their place.  Eventually there is a paradigm shift and we, or more likely our progeny,  live in a new world.
Of course this is not a new idea.  One needs merely to think of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Spain, France, Britain and the extent and duration of world empires reveal themselves.  And all empires become irrelevant if the planet dies or we complete our cosmological journey to our distant destiny.
I am sixty years old, a Vietnam Vet helicopter pilot, born of the boomer generation and glad that I’m as old as I am.  I also suffer from, and barely survived, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I read and study, write and create.  I am hopeful that my grandsons and granddaughter will inherit a livable world but hope is all I have.  The symptoms of our present state intensify but even an old fart like myself still has reason to believe in a radical miracle when George Bush and his ilk become irrelevant.

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By Conservative Yankee, December 29, 2007 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I can not comment about the IOWA caucus, but here in Maine we have absolute representation.  If you are a Maine citizen who could vote in a primary (no matter your disability) you can vote in a caucus.  absentee ballots are available, and the ballot is counted at the LOCAL (town or city caucus.) at the local caucus, delegates are selected for the State convention. Having been to many state conventions, I have observed people with disabilities (in wheel chairs, or on crutches) there. At the State Caucus delegates are selected for the national convention. and as we all have observed, folks with disabilities make it to these.

In Maine, if you are able to vote in a primary, you can vote in a caucus…

Maine does disallow folks with sever mental impairment.  I’m embarrassed by this!

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By Expat, December 29, 2007 at 6:52 am Link to this comment

By Louise, December 29 at 5:25 am #
(339 comments total)

Louise, you are so right.  But the reason impeachment is off of the table is because the other candidates want to retain the powers Bush has stolen from us.  We will never again see the freedoms you and I grew up with; they are long gone and a spineless population will do nothing to save themselves.  I am glad I am old, I won’t have to suffer this for too much longer.  I am so ashamed of the American public for their apathy in this time of crisis.  In my youth I fought like hell; for what?  So our children could squander everything for their greed and self-indulgence/me, me, me?  We made life too easy for them. 
Aw crap!  Whats the point?  It’s done.  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.

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By Louise, December 29, 2007 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

Dear Thomas, I think on this we can agree to agree:

“... the suffering that comes when an inepet and balless democratic leadership sweeps the one thing that can alleviate the suffering off the table.Impeachment.”

And agree to disagree:

“... until the democrats get some spine and do what the Constitution demands I am powerless but to accept him as my President.”

I will never accept a pretender to the thrown as my president!

From the Declaration of Independence:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

***
We are in an untenable position. If we accept, even under protest, the current power that George W. Bush has taken unto himself, we must accept that future presidents, no matter what they say they will do, will most likely pick up where this man leaves off and the abuse of the people, the Constitution and the United States will continue, worsen and eventually bring complete collapse.
***

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government ...”

***
Maybe the candidates need a refresher course in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. I would love to see questions from the “caucusers” demanding a position statement from the candidates, on the above mentioned legally binding documents!

Actually Kucinich has issued one, which may very well be why he has been shunned by the other candidates. Perhaps they [the other candidates] don’t understand what any of those documents mean! It certainly appears the current occupant of the White House does not!

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By Thomas Billis, December 29, 2007 at 2:25 am Link to this comment

Dear Louise when I said suffer I meant the suffering that comes when an inepet and balless democratic leadership sweeps the one thing that can alleviate the suffering off the table.Impeachment.The point I was making is that until the democrats get some spine and do what the Constitution demands I am powerless but to accept him as my President.Is that Nazi like I do not think so because I I can say my President sucks and I will not follow him into anything I deem is immoral.I do not want him impeached as retribution for Clinton I want him impeached because I love my country.

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By pogblog, December 28, 2007 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

“I can’t caucus. I’m a cripple.” An elderly lady in Iowa told me this yesterday on the phone. A rotten secret of the horrible caucus system is that you cannot be represented unless you can get your body there. Period. No Vote By Mail. Howard in a wheelchair. Susan & Naomi who will be out of town on Jan 3. The couple who are housebound because of his bad heart.

All of these folks get zero say in what happens. This is anti-democracy and is shameful, but no one reports on it.

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By heavyrunner, December 28, 2007 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

I just read Dennis Kucinich’s autobiography “The Courage to Survive.”  It’s a great read.  I couldn’t put it down.  It bears no resemblance to the usual ghost written campaign biography.

Very few people have come out of a childhood like the one Congressman Kucinich had healthy enough to write about it.  That is an important book, even if the person it is about was not running for President.

The Iowa Democrats discredited themselves to a lot more people than they realize by keeping Kucinich out of the debate.

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By Louise, December 28, 2007 at 11:35 am Link to this comment

#122790 by Thomas Billis
“If he cheated then we who knew better did not do enough to rectify the situation.The one thing I will not do is what the republicans did vs Clinton and claimed many times he was not their president.We have a President George Bush and we elected him and we will have to suffer for another year.”

***
Dear Thomas, I appreciate your response, more than you realize. Because you have in a very succinct and precise way explained exactly why we are in the mess we are in and why our congress refuses to talk about impeachment!
***

“... we who knew better did not do enough to rectify the situation.”

***
We who knew better did as much as we could. And those who spent a fortune in time and money pulling together the EVIDENCE did more than anyone could be expected to do!

The failure was in the leadership of the country, a wimpy democrat candidate, the media, and those citizens who chose to say nothing because they were afraid of being labeled conspiratorial, or not supporting the president, or worst of all, sore losers!

You may feel you have a president “George Bush” and you as a part of the body of “we” elected him and you as a part of the body of “we” will have to suffer for another year. But aside from the fact that we will all suffer for another year because of archaic thinking that says, “my president right or wrong” I could not agree less with your position.

That’s like asking the child who gets beaten and abused by a parent every night to accept it as OK, because the abuser is their parent!

Every year kids DIE because they accepted it!

And every day kids are dying because of “our” president and the decisions he has made and our stupid acceptance of this man and his dangerous policies and decisions!

Sorry, I can’t sit quietly when I know VOTE FRAUD created this president! Particularly when it turns out he is the very worst president we have ever had. And is responsible for some of the very worst things that have ever happened to this country!

That would put me on the same level as the proven corrupt republican politicians, the cowardly dems who haven’t got the balls to IMPEACH, the dim-wits who want to believe Bush was appointed by God, and the neo-cons and war-mongers who want a cheat and a liar and the puppet of the corrupt, sitting in the White House. So they can continue to lie and steal and kill at will!

Support for the position of President is based on trust. There can be no trust when one knows the position has been gained by fraud. There can be no respect when there is no trust. The great sin of the nation is we refuse to talk loud and long about the fraud!

Even now,  with all the proof we have at our disposal, the republicans, the RNC, the GOP and their utterly corrupt supporters are planning how they will fix the outcome of the next election, and force their choice of president on us, through FRAUD!
***

http://www.democracynow.org/2007/12/28/headlines#11
“Kansas Republican Party Chair Kris Kobach admitted the party is engaged in vote caging, a direct form of voter suppression. In the email message, Kobach wrote: “To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years.”

***
Just one of many methods the Republicans have created to control the outcome of a presidential election. By the way, vote suppression is AGAINST THE LAW!

How can they get away with it?
Can anyone really NOT KNOW HOW?
Because they have!
Because they do!
Because we remain silent!

Thomas, I respect you and often agree with your comments, so I ask you to think about this: You accept Bush as the President because you respect the Office of President. But the man you call president DOES NOT RESPECT THAT OFFICE! 

It has nothing to do with Clinton or anyone else. This nightmare is about a republican called Bush!

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By AllenWms33, December 28, 2007 at 9:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Who does it hurt to let smaller states play a more prominent role early on?  The larger states hold all the power in the actual presidential election, so this is the chance for smaller states to have some impact on the process. 

Everyone has always known that the Iowa caucuses are, more than anything else, a reflection on organization and execution.  And what is wrong with that?  Aren’t those important aspects to what a president and his/her administration can get done when in office?  There’s more to being president than what you believe in and stand for.  Yes, those are very important, but so is what a person can get done as a leader.

California and New York can dominate things later on like they always do.  For now, Iowa and New Hampshire have the power.  You’re going to just have to grin and bear it Mr. Boyarsky, because this is how it is.  If you don’t like it, too bad.

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By Expat, December 28, 2007 at 4:15 am Link to this comment

The Iowa Caucus Con:

The only people who can be conned are the people who are looking for something too good to be true.  Second oldest game in the world.

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By TomR, December 27, 2007 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment

THERE YOU GO AGAIN: Orwell Comes to America, Panel Discussion

This is relevant to campaigning by the presidential candidates.  If you have time, I highly recommend checking out the videos here (each part is approx. an hour long):

Part 1 Panel includes George Soros
http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/pep/pepdesc.cfm?id=3498

Part 2 Panel includes George Lakoff and Frank Luntz
http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/pep/pepdesc.cfm?id=3499

If you really want to understand why our country has turned in a fascist direction over the last 7 years, these panelists shed light on how it works.

- Tom

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By don't feel like logging in, December 27, 2007 at 6:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Can someone please tell me why we don’t have a rotating system of primary voting so that each state has a chance at being first?  Why do we have small, predominantly white, predominantly republican states picking our democratic nominee?

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By weather, December 27, 2007 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Non Credo - my reply to your post wasn’t clear. What you wrote was very funny and profiles so well who goes into politics today. thanks again

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By karina de beers, December 27, 2007 at 2:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Mr. Spin Commenter,

Ron Paul leaves his religion out of his politics.  He is focused on sound monetary policy and ending illegal wars that have been propagated by religionists.

Keep it real about Ron Paul smile

Karina De Beers

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By Robert Crawfis, December 27, 2007 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey, all you Ron Paul supporters, look at the new article on the opening page of Truthdig—-Ron Paul doesn’t believe in evolution.  Aren’t you tired of anti-science policies and a country run by southern Bible-thumpers?  I know I am.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, December 27, 2007 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

Hank, I never thought of Iowa as the kind of place where a Dennis Kucinich could pull off an upset.

If there could ever be open, honest, illuminating dialogue and debate about all the issues affecting Americans, do you think the “truth” could ever be brought out and acknowledged by enough voters to elect the “right” person to lead the country back to a position of world democracy leader?

Could there ever be the right person in consort with the right congress?  Seems impossible to me. 

Furthermore, I doubt there is a TRUTH.  Isn’t that why we have alcohol and pot?

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By Thomas Billis, December 27, 2007 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

Dear Louise when I see we elected George Bush I mean as a country.I personally would not have voted for George Bush to clean shit out of diarhrea wards.If he cheated then we who knew better did not do enough to rectify the situation.The one thing I will not do is what the republicans did vs Clinton and claimed many times he was not their president.We have a President George Bush and we elected him and we will have to suffer for another year.We have seen what happens when the citizenry is not vigilant and I would implore everyone to be especially vigilant this coming election day and with as much force that can be raised in a democratic society to not ever allow what happened in 00 to ever happen again.We owe it to our kids.

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By weather, December 27, 2007 at 10:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Non Credo - you go directly to the head of the class, your post says alot, thanks.

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By Louise, December 27, 2007 at 9:58 am Link to this comment

Since I’m not in the business of promoting anybody’s business, I hope you’all understand references are because a certain investigative journalist named Palast has worked his butt off to bring us the truth. If we fail to avail ourselves of this information, I guess we deserve whatever we get. All the same, the info can be found without paying for it, all you need do is hunt for it!
If that’s not too much trouble ...

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B333DC3E436C920E

http://goleft.tv/viewer.asp?v=96

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/3956129.stm#

http://www.gregpalast.com/2007 Scroll blue print on right side.

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By Hank Van den Berg, December 27, 2007 at 9:52 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Being from Nebraska, we have always had a strong inkling that the whole caucus process next door in Iowa was not terribly democratic.  Look at how Dennis Kucinich has been intentionally undermined by his own party bigwigs to prevent his grass roots support from pulling off an upset in Iowa.  Unfortunately, Iowa is more democratic than the poltical process in our state, and it is better than in most states where big money simply pushes its favored candidates stright into office.  When will Americans wake up and realize they don’t live in a democracy?

Our politicians work for special interests, not us, but most Americans still believe the popular myth that we are the World’s leading democracy.  In truth, there are at least 50 countries ahead of us in terms of how democratic they are.  These countries have public funding of short and focused campaigns, rules about equal access for all parties, and more equal coverage of issues in the media, among other things.  But, these countries don’t spend $800 billion per year on their militaries, so they don’t count.  We not only get bragging rights but we get to impose our system on the rest of the world.  Watch the development of a completely corrupt and complicit government in Iraq, one that we will label “democratic.” 

There is one thing that Americans can do right now to force change: Change your voter registration to a minor party and participate in grass roots political activity.  Help to express the interests of groups that do not hit the radar screens of the corrupt major parties, like the poor, those without healthcare, the poorly educated, the 2.5 million incarcerated, etc.  But you must do it through a minor party, like the Greens.  If you stay with one of the two majors, your voice will be smothered, and your efforts will be exploited to serve the special interests that run these parties.  Go ahead, do it.  Register Green, Libertarian, anything but Dem or Repub.

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By Louise, December 27, 2007 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

#122662 by Thomas Billis

Once again dear Thomas, let me remind you we DID NOT elect George W, Bush twice! We DID NOT elect George W. Bush ONCE!

George W. Bush is a squatter in OUR White House. Put there by CHEATING!

George W. Bush CHEATED.
As did all of his devoted followers.
CHEATS! All of them.

Dishonest people can not come out on top any other way!

Cheating and lying and stealing are methods favored and understood by all organized criminals! Even political ones. But then politics has nothing to do with it, it’s about ideology. In this case, “We the repubs are right, therefore we can do anything wrong, and it’s all right.”

I know, crazy but that’s another characteristic of organized crime and organized crime families. And that most assuredly is characteristic of repub leadership. All one needs do is listen to them on the campaign trail.

It’s real easy to figure out.

And I know dems can be pretty darn dumb at times, even criminal. But when it comes to corruption and dishonesty and CHEATING, the repubs win hands down. At least that has been the case for the majority of time, through this century!

http://www.gregpalast.com/youre-not-supposed-to-see-this/

CHEATS!
CHEAIS!
CHEATS!

Well documented in 2000, 2004, and coming soon ... 2008!

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By weather, December 27, 2007 at 8:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ron Paul w/the hopes he’ll ask Jimmy Carter as Secty.of State - we so need Adults w/integrity.

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By Douglas Chalmers, December 27, 2007 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

Bill Boyarsky: “This cut-out reporter….. has spent the last two presidential elections covering the caucuses and has discovered Iowa’s best Thai restaurant, martini, burger and round-trip airline schedule….”

Just like fellow journalism academic Rob Scheer, both from the University of Southern Californa’s Annenberg School for Communication, Boyarsky fails in a significant way when it comes to understanding the simple truth when it is right under his nose.

Addictions to martinis and heavy food have nothing whatsoever to do with Thai restaurants. Perhaps more in common with garbage-guts journalists looking for a free lumch, though. But perhaps the Iowa caucuses can be said to have become a bit too heavy now too, uhh?

I guess Hillary will come up with a new model “economical restaurant” typical of what Thais eat themselves - and Vietnamese, etc etc. Fresh food, low-fat, low-meat and a real family atmosphere at affordable prices. Go try one for yourself….. and learn how to throw bean sprouts and basil into your soup!

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By Jimmy Case (Justins Brother), December 27, 2007 at 3:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Say no to tyranny, vote Ron Paul!

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By cyrena, December 27, 2007 at 2:36 am Link to this comment

#122649 by Louise

I ditto Louise. (and thomas billis)

And, in answer to this for Bill

“.... This is one of the hardest processes I have ever had to explain. It took a long time, and now that I am done, I have no idea whether my editors or readers will know or care what I am talking about…”

YES. We DO care. (and now we know what you’re talking about, because of your excellant explanation).

So, thanks. I think it was worth the hard work. (of course I only had to read it, not investigate and then explain it).

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By DennisD, December 26, 2007 at 8:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Caucus…Shamacus - let’s see all your blue thumbs, people. We the voters are already getting the middle finger.

Bill, the Wizard of OZ is a fraud too? - Dorothy you’re not in Kansas anymore, it’s Iowa and we do things a “little” differently. Like in it doesn’t make any sense, differently.

Let’s hope “undecided” wins so they all go home.

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By Thomas Billis, December 26, 2007 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment

Here nis a great way to pick the nominees for a party.Take the smallest least important states you can find with nary a wisp of minorities keep the rest of the country in the dark about the process and then let the moron Americans think that there is a tide of popularity rising for whomever wins them.The real culprit and victim in this process is the American public.We elected George Bush twice what do you expect.

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By Louise, December 26, 2007 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment

“But if political journalists explained the rules, the rest of America would know that the caucuses don’t mean much.  They are a fraud, like the Wizard of Oz.”
***

Thank you Bill.

Please, all you good people pass this article around!

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