Friday, November 23, 2007

Comrade Trottersky lays bare the real EFB issues

Chris Trotter, who is on the record of being all in favour of "acceptable corruption," makes his derision at "the owning class" abundantly clear in a diatribe this morning against a libertarian opponent of the Clark/Peters/Dunne/Fitzsimons Bill to Gag Free Speech & Buy Elections. You can read Comrade Trottersky's column here at Lindsay Mitchell's blog.

Stephen Franks summarises Trotter's position perfectly when he summarises Jeanette Fitzsimons speech to Wednesday's parliamentary protest: "Freedom of speech and political association and action is subordinate to the class war." Both Trotter and Fitzsimons are singing from the same songsheet -- and we all know who's writing their songs, or we should do.

Trotter and Fitzsimons understand just as clearly as Trotsky did the crucial importance of property rights. Where there is no private ownership, Trotsky recognised, individuals can be easily bent to the will of the state. The authors of the Electoral Finance Bill and the fellow travellers of Mr Trotter understand that point more clearly than "the owning class" themselves presently do -- and because they understand it more clearly, and because they despise "the owning class," they're prepared to use all the levers of state power at their command in the battle to control the "inherent power structures" at work in a society in which "the owning class" is allowed to flourish.

They're prepared to justify an "acceptable" level of corruption in our elections -- which includes putting severe restrictions on how much electioneering you can do with your own money, while putting their hand in your pocket to fund their own political campaigns. They're prepared to countenance the muzzling of your free speech while using your resources to trumpet their own. They're prepared to support retrospective legislation legalising eight-hundred thousand dollars of pledge card spending that Labour Party organisers knew at the time was illegal.

They're prepared to support and spin and lie about the real point of the Electoral Finance Bill, which is to use state power to silence as far as possible this "owning class."

Thank goodness then for the columns of old schools socialists like Trotter, whose spin being less opaque than that of his younger more postmodern successors the reader can see more clearly the real issues at stake here. In a sea of spin, his "extreme, unvarnished -- and refreshingly candid -- ideological assertions" are a welcome relief, since they can help us see the issue more clearly.

Make no mistake, it's the very idea of an "owning class" Trotter and Fitzsimons and their fellow travellers find repugnant, and in the name of the poor, the oppressed, the halt and the lame -- of speechless peoples and the "oppressed" everywhere -- they'll do whatever it takes to wipe that class out, or at least to puncture the "power structure" their post-structuralist pomowank tells them is there in society and at the service of this "class." And make no mistake, they're prepared to wrap themselves in all the state's power they need to do that.

That's not just the reason for their willingness to countenance and support this latest obscenity - it provides the explanation too for the many other outrages introduced under the Clark regime, including the nationalisation of children via the anti-smacking amendment, the welfarisation of the middle classes via Welfare for Working Families, and the innumerable other nannying assaults by which we're all kept down.

Do not make a mistake of thinking they don't mean to take your free speech away: they sure as hell do. And once your free speech is gone, all legitimate forms of protest at what they're doing will be gone too.

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28 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Electoral Finance Bill certainly seems to be a piece of flawed legislation. Fortunately, in a democracy, a government can be voted out, and if this legislation brings the sort of dire consequences predicted by its opponents, Labour will live to regret its action.

But leaving aside the particular piece of legislation, the principle of spending limits on political advertising in elections is a sound one.

Democracy is an arena where the interests of sometimes competing groups can be resolved in a peaceful and lawful manner. In order for these groups to compete fairly and effectively, they should be roughly on a level playing field.

Where some groups are able to wield substantially more electoral resources than others, the level playing field becomes skewed in their favour, thus subverting the democratic process.

Similar considerations apply on an individual level. Every adult person is legally on an equal footing in regard to choosing who will represent them in making decisions affecting the future of the society. Where some individuals can exert disproportionate influence over that process by the purchase of influence, democracy is the loser.

Brendan

11/23/2007 08:56:00 pm  
Anonymous lgm said...

Democracy is a failure. A recent book by Hans Herman-Hoppe explains the reaons why. one thing to rember about democracy is that it is a means of government that allows the "majority" to vote the rights of individuals away- analogous to a form of pack rape.

What this obscene bill relies on is the notion that all people are so soft in the head that they can be fooled into voting in a particular way by propaganda. Since those who wish to attain (or retain) the treasury benches know that the electral lottery is simply a means of counting heads (regardless of what is in those heads or whose heads they are), they are more than a little keen to ensure they control what notions get put into the heads. "Vote me me mememeeme!"

The bill is the result of such "logic" and it is exactly what is deserved by the electorate. It is a product of democracy.

LGM

11/24/2007 07:53:00 am  
Anonymous Andrew Bates said...

"the principle of spending limits on political advertising in elections is a sound one.

...In order for these groups to compete fairly and effectively, they should be roughly on a level playing field."

Rubbish! If I feel so strongly about something that I want to spend all the money I can promoting my views then that is my right.

No one else has a claim on my money and no one may claim that I subsidise the advocacy of their views - which I may find repugnant.

If they want more funding for their views, let them convince other people of their views and to sponsor the advocacy of those views.

11/24/2007 09:26:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lgm: “Democracy is a failure.”

Compared with what? Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? I won’t repeat Churchill’s famous comment, since we all know it by now, but until we can think up something better, democracy is a good as it gets.

Brendan

11/24/2007 10:28:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew: “Rubbish! If I feel so strongly about something that I want to spend all the money I can promoting my views then that is my right.”

We’re talking about the public square. The democratic principle is ‘one man-one vote’. If this principle were concretised, everyone who had something to say would get equal time. Clearly, an absolute equality in practice is not attainable, nor desirable, since not all views are of equal worth.

Rights are not absolute and nor do they exist in a vacuum. You have the right to promote your views but not the right to drown out the views of others. Limits on spending at least in principle foster a rough balance between parties and interests.

“…let them convince other people of their views and to sponsor the advocacy of those views.”

I think people should be prepared to put their money where their mouth is, but the danger with open slather is that politics becomes hostage to the cash register. I don’t think this is a desirable situation because it favours the interests of some parties over others.

Brendan

11/24/2007 10:34:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It must be relevant to note that Beer Wine and Spirits lobbiest had her own parliamentary pass until stopped by Matt Robson.

Recently I heard a woman talking from the campaign against alcohol advertising. She talked about how hard it is to get politicians to act against business as they employ so many people. I imagine the same is true of the building industry. We are told we need more and more immigrants to provide skills necessary for economic growth. This is probably reason 2 or 3 not 1 which is fill empty subdivisions. In other words bags of money for the party which will do my bidding.

11/24/2007 11:41:00 am  
Anonymous lgm said...

Brendan

You are demonstrating errors in your thinking.

It is un-necessary to compare A with B to state A is a failure if indeed A is a failure. For example, it is not necessary to compare Langley's Aerodrome with Maxim's steam-powered Flier to conclude Langley's Aerodrome was a failure. All you need to know is that Langley crashed, ie his machine failed to fly. You do not need to consider Maxim's effort to form a valid conclusion.

Similarly, it is not necessary to compare the present system of democracy (as presently practiced in places like NZ, Australia, UK, USA, etc) with some arbitraily selected despotism to conclude that democracy does not work. Sure, you can offer the despotism up as an evil, but that does not justify the democratic system (which is itself based on flawed premise). Even the ancient Greeks (who experimented with many different systems of government and its selection) understood that democracy was flawed and just didn't work out.

---

Churchill's comment regarding democracy was an excuse. Anyway, he was being dishonest and knew full well that what he was claiming was false. Churchill was a politician who ruthlessly exploited the system he found. He knew from experience that it was flawed, but it was the system that existed and it was a system he'd ultimately dedicated a successful life & career to. He was hardly going to excoriate that which he had invested so much time and effort mastering...

One would suggest you study up on Churchill's life and activities in order to gain some perspective about the type of person he was.

---

A far superior system than democracy is the Constitutional Republic. In such a system there is a constitution that lays out what functions the government is tasked with. It is allowed certain limited powers to undertake these tasks and no others- all other tasks and powers are forbidden to it. The people are recognised as soverign. The constitution is recognised as absolute and must be folllowed rigorously. Instituted correctly such a constitution would be designed to defend the Individual Rights (of which there are three) of individuals.

The selection of employes of the government is then a matter of preference so long as the constitution is absolute. One can have universal sufferage, restricted voting, panel appointment, hereditary selection, genetic selection, critieria set according to wealth or education or other qualification, selection by age or family etc etc etc. It is a secondary matter and lesser importance. It could indeed be by democratic means but not necessarily so. In fact there are good reasons not to use universal sufferage and democratic voting schemes at all, but in preference choose hereditary or career appointment instead.

The important thing to realise is that in such a system the government does not govern. It supplies a particular specialised service or function, acting analogously to the many other service providers in society who provide all the other services (like, say, your dentist- and just as with the dentist, it is not to be exercising control over your life or supervising how you live). The government does not rule or govern, it is under a more onerous restriction, it obeys. Each individual is soverign, not a central authority- democratic or not.

So, the answer to your question is Constitutional Republic. It is superior to the schemes of absolute democracy we presently labour UNDER.

---

To get a comprehensive understanding of these and other issues pertaining to democracy, and why it is a failure, it is a good idea to get hold of a copy of Hans Herman Hoppe's book "Democracy, the God that Failed." In this he not only explins the errors underlying the democractic idea, he also demonstrates the nature of the failures in practice, why they occur and what they lead to. He contrasts this system with others, demonstrating their advantages and disadvantages. The conclusions are well researched and presented. Highly recommened reading.

Regards

LGM

11/25/2007 06:51:00 am  
Blogger Brendan said...

lgm: “It is un-necessary to compare A with B to state A is a failure if indeed A is a failure.”

Remember your original claim: “Democracy is a failure”. Failure in relation to what? Not providing sufficient steam engines?

Presumably, the failure involves stuff that governments do, in which case in the absence of any argument by you a comparison with other countries is quite in order.

Now, having claimed an “error” in my citing of an “arbitraily [sic] selected” but nevertheless very real despotism, you proceed to contrast democracy with a “far superior” but nevertheless wholly hypothetical system you call a “Constitutional Republic”. Check your premises. Reality trumps fantasy.

“The people are recognised as soverign. The constitution is recognised as absolute and must be folllowed rigorously.”

So whose authority is absolute: the people’s, or the constitution’s?

11/25/2007 09:11:00 am  
Anonymous lgm said...

Brendan

And now you start playing with words; arguing for the sake of it, using selective quotation and making excuses. Damn poor stuff really, but about what I'd expect from your sort.

Try very hard to understand, selective quotation and shifting context, as you have been doing, is dishonest.

---

First up. If you were uncertain of what I meant by democracy being a failure, you should have carefully read what I actually wrote. The context is clear. Still, should you have been unsure of what was meant about it being a

"means of government that allows the 'majority' to vote the rights of individuals away- analogous to a form of pack rape",

then you could have asked for clarification.

Instead you immediately tried to justify your favoured system of political lottery and destruction of Individual Rights by demonstrating you could think of something more flawed and destructive of Individual Rights.

The trouble is that your approach does not justify your preference at all. All you've managed to do is lable a version of totalitarianism as wrong. So what? It's irrelevant to the issue under investigation here.

As demonstrated, your argument does not work. It is flawed. Your excuses do nothing to make it correct.

To say that democracy is a failure it is not necessary to compare it to something else which is also a failure. What is required is to point out that it fails and, if required, indicate the failure. In this case, it is a failure as, among other problems, it fails to defend Individual Rights. It fails to perform function.

---

Next up; a clarification. The constitution is the document that defines what the government is tasked to undertake. It must be followed by the government (that is, all those who work for and in that institution or organisation) absolutely and rigorously. Hence the constitution has an authority over what the government does and how it does it. It has this authority for a reason.

Each of the people (that is, each separate individual), is soverign over him/herself. The constitution is properly constructed as a means of ensuring this individual soverignty is maintained and protected. For each to remain soverign, Individual Rights are defended.

This is exactly what the Constitution of the USA sets out to achieve. The drafters of that dpcument made a reasonabe effort.

Now all this is basic Objectivist politics and shares a lot of the features of Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism. You really must look the material up for yourself, as it is not up to me to spoon-feed it to you. Go do the research.

---

Final point. It was you who suggested that no-one had thought up a superior system to the democratic one (as presently in force). I've refuted that by presenting you with an example of a superior system (which BTW is real and has led to substantial successes- check the history record you fool).

Your question was answered and some constructive suggestion was made as to where you may find further information. How about you go look it up? Do the research and learn something real for a change. No more excuses, false choices, arbitrary restrictions after the fact, or slimey wriggling from you!

For a clear exposition of what I have been referring to, read "Democracy, the God that failed" by Hans Herman Hoppe.

LGM

11/25/2007 01:04:00 pm  
Blogger Brendan said...

lgm: “If you were uncertain of what I meant by democracy being a failure…means of government that allows the 'majority' to vote the rights of individuals away…”

You need to put more thought into your posts. ‘Failure’ usually means something like falling short of one’s intentions. Your claim is that democracy is a failure because it allows the majority to vote away the rights of individuals, but you haven’t explained why you consider this a failure.

Is it a) because the practice of democracy falls short of its own ideals; or b) because democracy is in some sense flawed in both principle and practice?

If you can work your way through those questions, you should gain some much needed clarity on the case you are trying to make.

“The constitution is the document that defines what the government is tasked to undertake.”

All democracies have rules of one sort or another. What makes your proposal different? And if I am sovereign, why should I accept yours or anyone else’s constitution? Why cannot I contract for these services for myself from a party of my own choosing?

11/25/2007 08:20:00 pm  
Blogger libertyscott said...

"Your claim is that democracy is a failure because it allows the majority to vote away the rights of individuals, but you haven’t explained why you consider this a failure."

Rights that can be voted away are no longer rights. If you do not believe this to be a failure then you do not believe individuals have rights per se - only what is granted by a counting of heads. In this case, voting in a government that wishes to execute a significant minority of people would be fine.

11/25/2007 10:49:00 pm  
Anonymous lgm said...

Come on Brendan, you're not going to slime your way out of this. Go look at the material you were directed to.

LGM

11/25/2007 11:14:00 pm  
Blogger Brendan said...

Libertyscott: “Rights that can be voted away are no longer rights.”

Since rights are agreements between people, if they are “voted away” then for obvious reasons they will no longer exist.

“In this case, voting in a government that wishes to execute a significant minority of people would be fine.”

The fact that rights are subject to agreement does not justify government atrocities. Why should it? What’s more, the existence of rights “per se” has never prevented governments from committing atrocities.

11/26/2007 10:18:00 pm  
Blogger Brendan said...

lgm: “Come on Brendan, you're not going to slime your way out of this.”

Fuck off. I’m a busy man. Answer my questions. Show you’re more than mouth.

11/26/2007 10:20:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Hi Brendan .. I'm a busy 'man', too. The productive usually are! :)

Does the issue of 'freedom' and the protection of individual rights not come down to a simple choice: (i) my calling my own shots, or (ii) the govt doing so on my behalf? The second option meaning with or without my consent, the latter of which contradicts any notion of free choice.

So if I believe that freedom allows me to determine my own choices, that automatically allows me to spend as much or as little as I like in order to express a political opinion, yes?

That's why I'm opposed to the EFB in its entirety.

Cheers.

11/27/2007 11:40:00 am  
Anonymous Sus said...

Error: delete 'and the protection of individual rights' above. (I changed tack en route).

11/27/2007 11:44:00 am  
Blogger Brendan said...

Sus: “Does the issue of 'freedom'…not come down to a simple choice: (i) my calling my own shots, or (ii) the govt doing so on my behalf?”

If it were a matter of only you and the government, you’d have a reasonable argument. But everybody else also has an interest in the outcome of an election, so electioneering involves many people with different interests. And of course people of similar interests often group themselves into interest groups.

As a result, we have a number of players with differing resources. If electoral legislation is, among other things, about providing interested parties with a fair opportunity to have their voice heard, some limitations on time and resources is necessary in order to keep the playing field roughly level.

In principle, this seems to me to be a fair way of setting the ground rules. Does this limit your freedom of choice? Yes. But so do the road rules, where not only is there in most countries an absolute limit placed on speed, but there are differing speeds and conditions for different classes of vehicles and different types of roads.

So while it is true that freedom should allow you to determine your own choices, in the real world there are many others like you, so in the absence of any other mechanism we establish various rules so that your freedom does not impinge upon others’, and vice versa.

11/27/2007 07:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Thanks for the response, Brendan, but I still think you're contradicting yourself.

You talk about everybody having a 'fair opportunity to have their voice heard'.

You cannot legislate to attain perfection. Socialists have been trying to do that since the year dot, and it still doesn't work. Besides: my working definition of 'fair' might be entirely different to yours. Who's 'right' and who's 'wrong'?

I cannot accept your road rules analogy. They exist for reasons of safety. Should I be irresponsible enough to drive unsafely, I run the risk of harming myself and/or others. As such, I deserve to be punished, make restitution, etc.

When it comes to electioneering, every single person has the right to make himself heard, or not. Some have more money at their disposal than others. So what? If you're not in that secondary group and are determined to have your voice heard, you'll work even harder to find the dough to do so. Find others who feel the same way. Knock yourself out. Nobody's stopping you. I wouldn't dream of stopping anybody ... but you would in the name of 'fairness'.

Are you suggesting that because not every driver can afford a Mercedes, we should level the playing field and penalise those who can? That's communism. To hell with that. AFAIC, any form of regulation is anathema to free speech.

I have no doubt that you mean well. That you have good intentions, but we all know with what the road to hell is paved.

And good intentions are always pleaded for any assumption of power. As a libertarian, *that* is what worries me - big time.

11/28/2007 11:01:00 am  
Blogger Brendan said...

Sus: “You cannot legislate to attain perfection.”

I’m not trying to. Merely suggesting that since resources and opportunities are finite, a balanced allotment seems fair. My understanding of “fair” is the standard one, eg even-handed, equality of opportunity etc.

“Are you suggesting that because not every driver can afford a Mercedes, we should level the playing field and penalise those who can?”

My road rules analogy was to illustrate that since people of differing circumstances have an interest in the outcome of elections, we should set some ground rules. One of those ground rules is a speed limit, which must be adhered to by all, including Mercedes owners, who may well regard such an imposition as a “penalty”, but that view is over-ridden by the matter of safety.

Similarly, we make rules governing speech, for example in relation to libel and slander. Limits on spending for elections is simply an addition to those types of rules.

11/28/2007 09:16:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Brendan, we must agree to disagree. You believe legislation should be imposed .. it's always 'imposed' .. upon individuals in an election year to somehow level the playing field as far as free speech is concerned.

I don't. Speech is either 'free', ie unfettered, or not. Your libel/slander argument doesn't stand. Those laws rightly exist to protect against fraud.

As such, an action could always be taken should electioneering be deemed fraudulent. Oh, but wait a minute, it was. But then the govt went and legalised the illegality, didn't it! The same govt that now wants to sanctimoniously ration free speech.

Sorry, Brendan. I can't buy this exercise in 'fairness'. Labour's filthy that the Nats receive more donations from their supporters than Labour does.

I see this bill as a monstrosity. We must agree to disagree.

11/29/2007 09:50:00 am  
Anonymous anonymous said...

Sus

Do you not see? The Mercedes owner has the right to drive the car but only according to the permission the government grants. Do you forget the government claims authority over the road? It is true that the Mercedes car can go faster than the speed limit, but for the sake of safety and egalitarian ideals this must be prohibited.

Do you not see? People such as you have the right to speak your mind but only according to the permission the government grants you. Do you forget the government claims authority over politics? It is true the rich can spend more money on politics, but for the sake of safety and egalitarian ideals this must be prohibited.

11/29/2007 11:42:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Yes, you're quite right Brenda, it's not possible to have free speech without censorship.

Censorship is Free Speech.

We can go further: War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

You have read Orwell, haven't you?

11/29/2007 11:51:00 am  
Blogger Anon said...

I thought that anonymous comment was satire, but then I'm getting slow in my old age.

You're in good form - you have insulted just about every commenter so far today PC - going on the threads I subscribe to!

One problem with free speech is that they'll sell a computer and internet access to just about anyone these days.

11/29/2007 01:31:00 pm  
Blogger Brendan said...

Sus: “I see this bill as a monstrosity. We must agree to disagree.”

That’s fair enough. But I wasn’t actually arguing in favour of the current Bill, rather the general principle of fairness in speech.

The libel/slander argument is relevant in the sense that speech is not in fact “unfettered”, and that an underlying principle of limiting some forms of speech is the notion of harm.

My original point was that people of differing circumstances have an interest in the outcome of elections. The interests of some may be harmed because their speech is drowned out by others with bigger megaphones. In that case, I think it’s fair that there should be rules on the size of the megaphone.

There is no such beast as unfettered freedom. All behaviours are circumscribed in some way. This is true under our current system of balancing the rights of different groups and individuals within society, and would be true under any other system.

11/29/2007 08:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Sus said...

Brendan, some issues have been either lost or confused in this exchange:

1. Libertarians believe in laws against force and fraud. No ifs; no buts. My freedom ends where your nose begins and all that.

2. But you do *not* have to right to stop me from saying what I think, unless I say something untrue, in which case you can take legal action if you wish.

That example about 'rules on the size of megaphones' for instance, is ludicrous. That's all we need: the Loudspeaker Law or the PA Police.

That's just like saying I should be restricted in my letterbox-drop (should I wish to distribute political pamphlets) for having two able legs, as opposed to my double-amputee aunt in Levin who would be disadvantaged by comparison! Sheesh.

Think about the ramifications of what you're saying - please. I'm reminded of the wise words of Ben Franklin:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".

11/30/2007 12:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sus

But safety is safer.

And what's with all the rights? Everybody knows rights are permitted by agreement determined from democratic polls. That's where the balance between rights and fairness comes from.

.

11/30/2007 05:22:00 pm  
Blogger Brendan said...

Sus: “Libertarians believe in laws against force and fraud. No ifs; no buts.”

So do I, although I would make an exception for criminals and other bad dudes – no qualms about using force or fraud on them.

But we don’t outlaw force and fraud because we merely dislike the terms. We do so because we believe they cause harm to peoples’ interests. Laws on electoral spending are based at least in part on the principle of preventing or minimising harm.

“But you do *not* have to right to stop me from saying what I think…”

I’m not trying to stop you from saying what you think, merely place limits on its expression in a particular context. And of course, this is not just about you. It’s about other people, so the proper approach is to protect the interests of all, not just some people.

As for my “megaphone” comment, it was of course a metaphor, and your attempt at a reductio is unconvincing because it takes the notion of balance to a trivial and irrelevant level. However, if you were to run a marathon against your double-amputee aunt, I think you would agree that it would be fair to use some mechanism to level the playing field. The difference between the two examples is one of proportion.

11/30/2007 07:53:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

PC

The trouble with this obscene legislation is that those who promote and support it do not recognise the concept of Individual Rights. Indeed, they likely do not undersand it.

For example, there are those who think rights are an "agreement". In essence, "we" (whoever that may happen to be at the time) are granted permissions which we "agree" not to transgress. Who it is that decides what "we" are granted permission to do or how we "agree" upon them, is not defined. Nor is it clearly defined how such "agreements" and permissions are actually determined in the first instance. Such vexations are based on a poor understanding of political philosophy.

Ah well, you get that.

The Objective view of IR is based on a particular hierarchial derivation. The structure of the derivation proceeds along this path:-
Politics is based on Individual Rights which is in turn based on Ethics which is in turn derived from Nature of Man. Even that requires a solid foundation in Epistemology and beyond that, Metaphysics.

Individual Rights are an absolute and not relative. They are a recognition based on attributes of an entity; Man.

Of course, this is fundamental and basic. It is also very important to get it correct.

Over the years there have been some thorough and elegant derivations, validations and explanations of this material. There have also been some cowardly and ignorant misrepresentations of it (mainly written by socialists, colectivists and similar low-life). It needs to be stated that for a real understanding of Individual Rights it is vital to undertake some background research and reading. Rather than accepting the arbitrary and random notions oozing out of some colectivist shill, wouldn't it be better to know for certain what the concept actually is?

PC, perhaps you might lke to sugest a few references that people could look up for some background.

LGM

12/01/2007 12:00:00 pm  

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