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Archive for December, 2006

Daley Supports Obama: Any of Those Dead People from 1960 Still Around?

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This is interesting. Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago has endorsed Barack Obama for President of these here United States.

“Here you have not only an Illinoisan, but a Chicagoan who is a major contender for the highest office in the land. . . . When in our history have we ever had a favorite son this close to [the White House]? Why not get on board early?” said a Daley confidant, who asked to remain unnamed. “Hillary Clinton has been a great senator, a wonderful civic leader. But logic dictates that a Chicago mayor would be behind the Chicagoan who has taken the world by storm. Beyond that, this man has tremendous potential. The world sees that. It stands to reason that the mayor sees it.”

So it’s a native son type of endorsement, and not all that surprising. Furthermore, Obama has been triangulating like crazy for some time now and Daley is a DINO, so a match made in heaven?

Daley stans to gain a great deal from this arrangement, no matter how far Obama gets. If he runs, he will certainly get a  significant  number of delegates.  He will certainly get virtually all available from Illinois. Daley may look at it like he will have a tidy pile of bargaining chips, if he gets in the game early enough. Bargaining for what? Whattya got?

But wait – there’s more!

Bill Daley (Richie’s brother) has signed on as a senior adviser to Obama, who is expected to formally enter the presidential race next month.

Recall if you will that Bill Daley was part of the Clinton administration and the Gore campaign in 2000. He was a big player in the Florida recount effort, which maybe he doesn’t put first on his resume.

All of which makes me wonder, what happens to this deal if Gore gets in?  If Gore does jump in and take the nomination, can the Daley family be a bridge to the vice-presidency for Barack Obama?

Things that make ya go “Hmmm.”

Written by slothropia

December 21st, 2006 at 12:18 am

Posted in 2008 Election

Iran and Other Matters

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It looks like the Iranian reformers (a relative term perhaps?) are making a strong comeback.

We’d better start bombing soon while we can still invent an excuse.

An excuse is what Isaiah Thomas does not have. He instigated the MSG riot involving the Knicks and Nuggets last weekend. I was surprised when he escaped being suspended with the guilty players.

He should not be running a sports team in New York. He should be working in waste management in New Jersey.

Written by slothropia

December 19th, 2006 at 11:49 pm

Posted in Iran

Jack Welch: Liar or Idiot?

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Just saw Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, interviewed by Colbert. Apparently Welch is flogging a new book about how to succeed in business. Colbert was very generous and not at all hostile to his guest, and why not? But he slipped in one question that was very perceptive and got a very revealing answer.

Welch is on record as saying that he is not concerned about all the manufactuiring jobs that continue to be outsourced from the U.S. Colbert asked why not.

“Because we’ve proven that it works” he replied. To paraphrse and add subtext, Unemployment is down to 4.5% and the stock market is booming, so who needs manufacturing jobs?

Welch, and others like him seem to have never heard of the trade deficit, McJobs, or stagnating real wages. He seems not to know that the unemployment rate only measures the percentage of those actively looking for jobs who do not have one. Discouraged workers are not counted. That is how job creation in this country can continually fall under expectations without the unemployment rate rising.

Jack Welch is either a liar or an idiot and he doesn’t seem all that stupid to me.

Written by slothropia

December 18th, 2006 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Stephen Colbert

If It’s on Teevee It Must Be Real

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First of all, thanks to the small band of occasional if not regualar readers of this blog (you happy few). I have a lot of fun playing with electrons here, so I would post often even if there were no traffic at all. But knowing that someone peeks in once in a while motivates me to do good work. The goodest I can actually.

Posting has been infrequent the last week or so, mainly because I have been fighting the war on Christmas, but also because I have to work (since I don’t live in the kind of world where my genius is recognized and subsidized by all), and work has been intense lately (a good kind of intensity btw).

Now to the present topic, I thought I would share a couple of bizarre teevee watching experiences i had within the last couple of days.

A few nights ago, I was surfing channels when I landed on the O’Reilly Factor. It was a clip show, moderated by that former GOP congressman, John Kasich. They showed this interview that O’reilly did some time in the past with you’ll never guess who. Go ahead. Really. Take a guess.

Did you guess Hitler? Wrong, but not far off.

Answer: O’Reilly was interviewing David Duke. Man, talk about a fight in which I did not have a dog…

No doubt they showed the clip because Duke was among the participants in that Holocaust deniers conference last week in Tehran. I din’t know why O’Reilly interviewed Duke in the first place. In any case it was a waste of time. O’Reilly tried to nail the Dukester for name calling (I love irony) but Duke has been smarter than that for a long time. He works very hard at sounding reasonable. Unlike some Fox News and falafel personalities I could mention.

Last Friday night, I was again trying to sneak past FNC, when my attention was arrested by the specatcle of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Paul Gigot moderated the discussion of what to do in Iraq. The yuppie looking white guy (Robert Pollock) thought this surge idea was just swell and would be really easy to do. The African American gentleman (Jason Riley) wasn’t so sure, but he hoped for the best. The token woman (no name) on the panel said that the President needed to communicate his plan for Iraq better!!!!!

I love it when W tries to communicate and persuade. Remember how he sold his plan for Social Security? And how much help he was to Republican candidates in the recent election?

By all means Mr. President, do your best to convince the American people of the rightness of whatever you decide is the New Way Forward (rhymes with Great Leap Forward Doesn’t it?).
So here is at least a sample of the WSJ editorial board, clearly in favour of an intensified effort in Iraq. I wonder how the WSJ’s business readership feels about policies that:

  1. Increase the deficit and debt
  2. Weaken U.S. influence around the globe, with serious implications therein for business

I imagine that while there is a higher percentage of Republicans than Dems that read the Journal, they still are reflected by public opinion polling and have moved largely against the war and want the troops home in a reasonable time. I wonder why the Wall Street Journal is so hostile to the interests and wishes of its own readership.

Written by slothropia

December 18th, 2006 at 9:09 am

Posted in Iraq

Pinochet and Kirkpatrick

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Within the last week, General Augusto Pinochet and Jeanne Kirkpatrick both died. I shed no tears for either of them.

Wanna know why not? Because he murdered over 3000 people and she enbled the murder, kidnap and torture of how many?

That’s why not.

Written by slothropia

December 16th, 2006 at 12:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

“A Dog’s Obeyed in Office”

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In the following passage from Shakespeare’s King Lear, the eponymous tragic hero is mad and therefore speaks more wisely than he did earlier in the play when he possessed all of his faculties. He has encountered the loyal Gloucester, who has been blinded by the bad guys.

From KING LEAR – Act IV, scene vi

O, ho, are you there with me? No eyes in your
head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in
a heavy case, your purse in a light; yet you see how
this world goes.

GLOUCESTER

I see it feelingly.

KING LEAR

What, art mad? A man may see how this world goes
with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond
justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen
a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?

GLOUCESTER

Ay, sir.

KING LEAR

And the creature run from the cur? There thou
mightst behold the great image of authority: a
dog’s obeyed in office.

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.

I have bolded the money quote from this scene, a sentence that concisely convey’s the sense of the corrupt and hypocritical world in whichLear and Gloucester live.

The Bard might as well have been writing about the good old USA and A in this the year of our Lord 2006. Let me splain, Lucy.

First, consider this from Reuters:

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College in London, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country. China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 870,000.

The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the highest, followed by 611 in Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. In contrast, the incarceration rates in many Western industrial nations range around 100 per 100,000 people.

I guess the good news here is that the U.S. is first at something.  We have slipped to 53rd in press freedom, the dollar is weak against the Euro, life expectancy is down and infant mortality is up. But at least we have more convicts than anybody else.

…see how yond
justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
is the justice, which is the thief? 

Meanwhile in Washington, the House ethics committee has concluded its hard nosed investigation into the Foley Affairgate.

Former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record) was described as a “ticking time bomb” for his sexual come-ons to male pages, but Republican lawmakers and aides for a decade failed to protect the teenagers vulnerable to his advances, the House ethics committee concluded Friday. Despite that finding, the panel said no rules had been broken and no one should be punished.

You see, Hastert, Reynolds, Shimkus, Pryce are all honourable persons, and even though they done wrong, it would be unfair to hold them accountable.

Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it. 

And lest ye think that dog like office holders have no mandate from the people for corruption, consider that Congressman Jefferson of Louisiana has just been reelected,  despite being video taped discussing bribes and having a boatload of frozen dollars.

Shakespeare wrote King Lear in the early years of the 17th century, just before Englishmen founded Jamestown and, within a few years, introduced slavery into what would become the U.S. Somehow, the fact of slavery and Jim Crow is entwined into the obsessive need to punish America seems to suffer from,  but so is the inequality between social classes which does not exist because it is not mentioned in Constitution.

Too many of our leaders and their scribes don’t consider why a human behaves as they do. Doesn’t matter. If they are locked up they cannot offend.

It is a simple choice to be made between denial of the truth and driving a dog from office. So it is that there are no calls for the resignation of a President who has proven over and over to be mendacious, incompetent and (to be gentle) out of touch.

And the war goes on.

Written by slothropia

December 10th, 2006 at 11:16 pm

The Politics of Iraq: Train Wreck Ahead?

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The Iraq Study Group has handed in its term paper, and Professor Bush is pissed.

I have not read the report, nor its 79 recommendations in any detail. I do have a high level awareness of them though. Jack Murtha has analyzed them:

“On November 7th, 2006 the American public sent a message on Iraq and as the new Democratic majority, we must respond with decisive action. Staying in Iraq is not an option politically, militarily or fiscally. The American people understand this. Today there is near consensus that there is no U.S. military solution and we must disengage our military from Iraq. The ISG recommended that we begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops by early 2008, depending on conditions on the ground. This is no different than the current policy. We must do what is best for America and insist on a responsible plan for redeployment. Iraq is plagued by a growing civil war and only the Iraqis can solve it.”

Russ Feingold had another good point:

“Unfortunately, the Iraq Study Group report does too little to change the flawed mind-set that led to the misguided war in Iraq. Maybe there are still people in Washington who need a study group to tell them that the policy in Iraq isn’t working, but the American people are way ahead of this report.

While the report has regenerated a few good ideas, it doesn’t adequately put Iraq in the context of a broader national security strategy. We need an Iraq policy that is guided by our top national security priority – defeating the terrorist network that attacked us on 9/11 and its allies. We can’t continue to just look at Iraq in isolation. Unless we set a serious timetable for redeploying our troops from Iraq, we will be unable to effectively address these global threats. In the end, this report is a regrettable example of ‘official Washington’ missing the point.”

And on Countdown, the Wisconsin Senator told Olberman, “The fact is, this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and who did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism.”

The other county not heard from is the people of Iraq itself. I haven’t seen a lot of polls measuring Iraqi public opinion about the U.S. occupation but in at least one, most Iraquis said the U.S. military was a destabilizng force in that country. American public opinion grows increasingly opposed to the U.S. war/occupation there. A new AP/Ipsos poll of 1000 adults counts 71% against the way G.W. Bush is handling the Iraq issue. 60% want a timetable to get the U.S. out of Iraq by the middle of 2007; 71% want out by 2008 a the latest.Bush gets a whopping 30% approval in the latest Zogby. And it was just about a month ago that Bush and the Congressional Republicans were filleted by the voters.

In a number of ways then, the American people have spoken. It could not be clearer that on this issue Murtha and Feingold speak for they whom the President is trying mightily to ignore. And now so does Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — In an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday night, Sen Gordon Smith, a moderate Republican from Oregon who has been a supporter of the war in Iraq, said the U.S. military’s “tactics have failed” and he “cannot support that anymore.”

Smith said he is at, “the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up the same bombs, day after day.

“That is absurd,” he said. “It may even be criminal.”

Criminal!

Well, Senator Smith, as I said is from Oregon, so he’s probably a dope smoking, tie dyed, granola crunching hippie. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Point being, W cannot even count on his party to have his back anymore. He grows more and more lonely as he pushes further into the Big Muddy. If he keeps ignoring reality and  public opinion, can anyone stop him? Will anyone try? And if not, what do the people do? Get drunk? Start fights in the subway? Go shopping? Write a poem?

If the war goes on as it is going, and the Commander in Chief won’t change direction and if the Congress, now in Opposition hands, does not force a change, will we face some sort of national crisis? To be resolved how?

Written by slothropia

December 8th, 2006 at 11:40 pm

Jaw Jaw Still better Than War War

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Found an OpEd piece by Lawrence J. Haas in my local rag (Peoria Journal Star) today. It is headlined “Don’t indulge sponsors of terrorism” and seems to be a neo-con inspired argument about how it would be a mistake for the United States to engage in direct talks with Iran and Syria. Haas begins by arguing thusly:

Why not talk? It seems harmless and it might produce something good, right?

Wrong. U.S. talks with Iran and Syria would give an American stamp of legitimacy to two outlaw regimes, rewarding their deadly behavior and their refusal to stop violating basic international norms – whether it’s Iran’s threat to wipe Israel off the map or Syria’s refusal to respect the territorial integrity of Lebanon.

Let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that Haas has it right about Iranian and Syrian behaviour. Let us also posit that there is an American interest in changing that behaviour. Is it not easier to achieve that goal through diplomacy, even if other means are also used?

Talks also would send the wrong signal to three key audiences:

– U.S. allies in the region would worry that we do not recognize the dangers of a rising Iran that is seeking nuclear weapons.

U.S. allies in the region are scared silly thanks to the incompetence of the current administration, and because the administration listens too much top people like Mr. Haas

– Activists in Iran and Syria who risk their lives to replace authoritarianism with democracy at home would worry that we have abandoned that goal.

I am sympathetic to such activists, but harsh Soviet treatment of it’s dissidents did not prevent even Ronald Reagan from talking to them. Nixonh went to China and now the PRCV is like one of the late Milton Friedman wet dreams, an authoriatarian form of capitalism.  Kind of like Chile under Pinochet (another Nixonian project).

– The American people would lose sight of the key roles of Iran and Syria in fueling the global terror that threatens us.

I don’t understand this argument at all.

Americans must understand that Iran and Syria are at war with the United States – Iran’s leaders, after all, often proudly say so. They are run by outlaw regimes that provide critical funding, training, logistics and other support to terrorist groups with which we are doing battle.

I was not aware that either Syria or Iran had declared was on the U.S. I will have to read the newspapers more often I guess. I am aware that elements within the Bush administration are itching for a fight with Iran. Maybe Mr. Haas is confused on this one.

The growing calls for Washington to talk to Tehran and Damascus are rooted in the belief that all three nations share key goals. Surely, we hear, Iran and Syria want a stable Iraq as much as we do, rather than one roiled by sectarian violence that could spill into their countries. Surely, they want a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute that so poisons the region.

Senator Hagel refuted this one on Face the Nation:

HAGEL: No, that’s not the point. Of course the Iranians and Syrians are not going to come to our assistance. Of course not. But they are going to respond in their own self-interest. All nations respond in their own self-interests. Tallyrand once said that nations don’t have friends. They have interests. He was right. Ahh, it’s not in the interest of Syria or Jordan or Iran to have a failed state that would be a complete mess for the middle east.

Here is how Haas concludes:

Rather than talk with these regimes, the U.S. should rally the global community to raise the heat on them, making clear they must either abide by global norms or face growing isolation.

You should have seen the coffee come out of my nose when I read this one. I don’t know if Haas has noticed, but the United States doesn’t have much credibility or support in theh global community right now.  Ironically, it is the U.S. that is growing more isolated, thanks to actions taken  by George  W. Bush, again upon the advice of the Lawrence J,. Haases of this nation.  Heckuva job, neo-cons!

Written by slothropia

December 4th, 2006 at 12:56 am

Posted in Iran,Iraq

Dion to Lead Canadian Liberals

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The Liberal Party of Canada chose a new Leader on Saturday. His name is Stephane Dion, a former cabinet minister in the Chretien and Martin governments. A leadership contest was made necessary earlier this year when Paul Martin Jr. resigned as Liberal Leader after losing the last election to the Conservatives and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Dion becomes Leader of the Opposition and will try to lead the liberals back into power when the next election is called.

Before I can explain what this might mean for Canadain politics and Canada/U.S. relations, I need to compare and contrast the main political parties in the two countriies.

In the Canadian federal parliament, there are currently four parties with elected members. Here they are with their U.S. counterparts (if any):

  1. The governing Conservatives = the Republican Party
  2. The Official Opposition Liberals = The Democratic Party
  3. The Bloc Quebecois = No equivalent party
  4. The New Democratic Party = The Green Party and part of the Democratric Party

There is also a Canadian Green Party, but they have failed to elect any members to date. The Canadian Green Party is not quite aligned with the U.S. franchise, and until recently has been measurably to the right of on some issues.

The Conservatives are conservative (like the GOP), and the Liberals are centrist (like the main body of the Dems). The New Democrats are a centre left, social democratic party, nominally aligned with the labour movement and strong on environmental and social equality issues. New Democrats would be comfortable in the U.S. Green Party or would be with Dennis Kucinich among the Dems. Note that Bernie Sanders, the new socialist Senator who will caucus with the Democrats, is from Vermont and can probably smell Montreal poutine from his back porch.

There is of course no U.S. equivalent of the Bloc Quebecois (BQ), a centre left party whose reason for being is to facilitate the separation of Quebec from the Canadian confederation.

So the centrist Liberals chose Stephane Dion as leader. As a Liberal, he is by definition a Quebec federalist, meaning he wants to keep Quebec within Canada. In that sense he is a centrist. He has served as Environment Minister and is thought to have more liberal credentials on those issues. No doubt the Greens, NDP and BQ will attack his performance in that portfolio. Otherwise Dion should be expected to be a traditional pragmatic Liberal leader and will run from the left and govern from the right.

The current Conservative Prime Minster is a political ally of Gerge W. Bush and the Republicans. The Canadian electorate is overwhelmingly opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, but Harper will never say anything negative about anything done by W.

Were Dion to become Prime Minister, we could expect some level of friction between the White House and 24 Sussex Drive (the Ottawa residence of Canadian PMs). Dion would probably be able to get along better with Presidents Clinton, Obama, or Edwards. But not necessarily. Lester Pearson was one Liberal Prime Minister who did not always get along with the Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. That was about Vietnam.

Canada and the U.S. are tied together economically. These days, that is mixed news for Canada, with the falling U.S. dollar and a massive federal deficit. Neither country has to date figured out how to deal with globalization and are therefore losing manufacturing jobs (moreso by far in the U.S. btw).

Naturally, Dion is of much less interest to the U.S. govenment and media and other interests if he does not become Prime Minister. How likely is that? It is really hard to say right now. He has a lot problems to overcome if he wants to win the next election, probably next year sometime.

For one thing, the Liberal party is in a mess, divided between a number of factions and up to its red eyeball in debt. Dion is unpopular in his own province of Quebec because he is seen as limiting Quebec’s aspirations. It remains to be seen if he can communicate effectively with English speaking Canadians.

Meanwhile, he and the Liberals are vulnerable to attacks on policy from the other four parties. If I had to bet right now, i would say that the Liberals will tread water in the next election, winning about the same number of seats. The Conservatives might gain a little at Liberal expense outside Quebec, but will probably only win enough to form another minority goverenment. The BQ will gain a little, though the Libs will gain a little at Tory expense in Quebec.

The New Democrats will gain seats outside Quebec, especially in the Western provinces of B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

So the next parliament will look a lot like the current one, with maybe one Green Party Member added to the mix. As far as Dion is concerned, the question is whether he will be around as Liberal leader long enough to rebuild the party, assuming it is in fact possible to do so.

Written by slothropia

December 3rd, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Blowback

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Fropm the UK Independent (the entire article is well worth the time):

The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Sounds like the Taliban, doesn’t it? And it would be a terrible thing if the Taliban once more ruled Afghanistan. The Taliban of course took over that country after the Soviets had been driven out with U.S. and other Western support.
Here’s a little info about the regime the Soviets invaded Afghanistan to support. The People Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power in 1978 folllowing a bloody coup. Then:

The PDPA, as a pro-communist socialist party, implemented a socialist agenda which included decrees abolishing usury, banning forced marriages, state recognition of women’s rights to vote, replacing religious and traditional laws with secular and Marxist ones, banning tribal courts, and land reform. Men were obliged to cut their beards, women couldn’t wear a burqa, and mosque visiting was forbidden. The PDPA invited the Soviet Union to assist in modernizing its economic infrastructure (predominantly its exploration and mining of rare minerals and natural gas). The USSR also sent contractors to build roads, hospitals, schools and mine for water wells; they also trained and equipped the Afghan army. Upon the PDPA’s ascension to power, and the establishment of the DRA, the Soviet Union promised monetary aid in the amount of at least $1.262 billion.

These reforms and the PDPA’s monopoly on power were met with a large backlash, partly led by members of the traditional establishment. Many groups were formed in an attempt to reverse the dependence on the Soviet Union, some resorting to violent means and sabotage of the country’s industry and infrastructure. The government responded with a heavy handed military intervention and arrested, exiled and executed many mujahedin “holy Muslim warriors”.

Now I wouldn’t be able to vote for the PDA, but ya gotta admit, they seem like a much more humane lot than the Taliban. But because the Russkies got involved (which was dumb and they would have lost anyway, without American invlvement) we had to help Osama Bin Laden make his bone and build up his chops. Which gave us Al Quaeda and the Taliban. Heckuva job, CIA.

All those poeple who carry on about Islamofascists? Where were they or their intellectual predecessors in that fight? Rooting for Russia? Not bloody likely.

Written by slothropia

December 1st, 2006 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Afghanistan,Al Qaeda