Archive for August, 2010

Holy Ghost

Enough Is Enough

Victor said, “I read in the paper about two dolphins trying to drown a man in Greece or someplace. You always hear about noble dolphins saving someone from drowning. Not this time; they were pushing him out to sea. I asked myself what was different about this poor bastard. It turned out he was Russian, naturally, and maybe a little drunk. Why does the reverse of the normal always happen to us? Maybe the dolphins had rescued him a dozen times before. Enough was enough.”

—Martin Cruz Smith, Three Stations

Eggman Slags Lloyd

The Drudge Report is a fetid sewer of lies. Owned and operated by an illiterate closeted troglodyte known as The Eggman, its sole purpose is to sound as carny barker for the seamiest elements of the Republican Party. The truth is not in it. Those who rely on it as anything other than a running indicator of the current obsessions of the racists and retroverts who infest the rightbent precincts of this nation, are fools.

Though his page is always a monument to mendacity, occasionally The Eggman will gird his shriveled loins and stoop below even himself. It is as if he is out to prove that, in his world, the Well of Wrongness knows no bottom.

Today has been one of those days. As of this writing, The Eggman has featured for more than eight hours a story out of Fox News that is a flat-out falsehood. The placement of this story on The Eggman’s site has already caused the hebephrenic hate-show host Michael Savage to have a near-stroke right on the air; assuredly, more of his fellow clowns on the AM dial will burst blood vessels come the morn.

The Fox lie that The Eggman is joyfully smearing across the intertubes, from where it then spreads, as it always does, into and out of the many putrid orifices of the rightwing noise machine, is that John Cusack—a.k.a. Lloyd Dobler—has called for the “satanic death” of Fox News, as well as a couple of GOoPer has-beens.

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Haas Hears A Who

Scientists searching for “lost amphibians” have discovered the Old World’s smallest frog, living in carnivorous pitcher plants in the jungles of Borneo.

As in the Dr. Seuss fable Horton Hears a Who, the pea-sized creatures were detected only because of the sound they made.

According to Malaysian herpetologist Indaeil Das, who discovered the frog with his colleague Alexander Haas of Germany, it was the wee beasties’ “harsh rasping notes” at dusk that drew their attention.

“We heard the calls of this frog and we knew the calls of all frogs in the area and this was different,” Das told AFP. “At first we couldn’t see it, but eventually we found it. I had to trap the frog in one of my baby son’s clean white diapers in order to really see what it looked like, it was so tiny.”

“You often get tiny frogs making quite a noise,” confirmed herpetologist Robin Moore, who is leading expeditions worldwide bent on rediscovering a hundred species of “lost amphibians” declared extinct. Das will join Moore in Indonesia in September, to search for the Sambas stream toad, last seen in the 1950s.

The frog heard by Haas and Das had not previously been classified; museum specimens collected more than a hundred years ago were misidentified as juveniles of another species.

The frog has been dubbed Microhyla nepenthicola, in honor of the Nepenthes ampullaria species of miniature pitcher plant that it needs to breed.

Although the micro-beast is “definitely the tiniest [frog] in Asia, Africa and Europe,” says Das, it is not as small as this frog, Eleutherodactylus iberia, which lives in Cuba, and as yet has no English common name.

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Peasant Palate: Knead Long And Prosper

The science people, they are always wondering: why don’t the French die?

The cheese they eat. The meat. The butter. The cream. The wine, and drinking it, all the live-long day. Why don’t their arteries fill with filth, causing them to keel over, gasping, ushered into death via coronary heart disease, like normal Americans?

There are many answers to this question. The first concerns the “Big Gulp.” Americans seem to believe that bigger is better. You think we would have learned by now, with our military. Though for more than 60 years the American military has been by far the biggest bully on the block, it hasn’t managed to prevail in any armed conflict since the close of World War II, with the exception of that little dustup in Grenada . . . and even there it was nearly run off the island by a handful of Cuban engineers. Oh, and Panama. Where the “bands of brothers” buzzed blithely around leveling hospitals, in pursuit of their own CIA agent, and incidentally abrogating the treaty that returned the Panama Canal to the people of the country in which it is located.

Anyway. Americans like their food, like their military, big. Big portions. Big steaks. Big drinks. But, just as our big military is killing us, so too are our big meals. When Americans eat, they eat too much. Which is bad for you. And Americans snack. All the time. Which is also bad for you.

The French do neither. The concept of the “Big Gulp” is unknown in that country, except in the hideous fast-food joints which Americans have imperialistically forced upon them, and which French patriots destroy whenever they get the opportunity. The French do not snack, and the portions they consume, when at table, are moderate.

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The Weight

As if the planet were not already under enough stress, now we learn that more than 30% of the people in 9 southern states here in the US are clinically obese. This is up from 25% just three years ago. Meanwhile, over 25% of the people in 38 states nationwide are obese. In 28 of these states, people are fatter today than they were a year ago.

Gravity exercises constant pressure on the earth; to this we must now add additional pressure from millions of lumbering fat people. As global warming inevitably raises the level of the oceans, so too shall global fattening lower the level of the land. Not good.

Animals, at least those in the wild, don’t become obese. A person may think an animal looks fat, but that’s simply a mistake in percep-tion. Sea lions may appear pretty obese, but in truth these creatures are built that way for a reason: to thrive in waters cold enough to freeze to death a human being in less than five minutes. Bears in winter go into the den “fat” so they don’t have to get up and eat for six months; when they emerge in the spring, they’re pretty darn gaunt. And grumpy. A mallard may seem to be carrying a lot of weight there in the chest: well, you try flying 3000 miles, under your own power, and then tell me how much poundage you’d like up there.

Ever notice that those motorized carts in grocery stores are these days occupied less by disabled people than by people so obese that they really ought to think twice about purchasing all those groceries? Animals are not able to avail themselves of these sorts of “fat carts.” An obese rabbit can’t crank up a fat cart to flee faster into the brush; s/he just becomes dinner. Just as an obese hawk will go without dinner.

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Fat City

My short-story teacher at the University of Oregon was a guy named J.B. Hall. He was a controversial character there because he wore white shoes. At that time, wearing white shoes meant that you were either a faggot or a commie, or maybe both. Anyway, he at one time pointed out to me a part in a short story called “Soldier’s Home” by Hemingway in which this guy Krebs has come home from the war and he’s sitting there in the morning wondering what to do with the day—whether to go watch his sister play indoor baseball or just exactly what. His mother wants him to go get a job, but he doesn’t want to move. As he’s sitting there, he watches the bacon fat harden on his plate. And J.B. Hall says, “See, that’s what it is. There’s where it happens; right there.” And I saw it. I saw, “Right! That’s what it’s about! That’s what literature is about!” And a door opened up to me and it’s never been closed. I thank this man from the bottom of my heart. It’s a turn-on like—it has nothing to do with intelligence. It has to do with somebody grabbing somebody and saying, “I know something that’s good. I’ll give it to you for nothing. You’ll have it all your life.”

—Ken Kesey, “Earthshoes & Other Remarks”

Woman Scorned

Not many people are aware that Eve was not the first mate to Adam.

First Adam got jiggy with the various beasts, birds, and other living things that Yahweh paraded before him. As Robert Graves and Raphael Patai record in Hebrew Myths:

When they passed before him in pairs, male and female, Adam—being already like a twenty-year-old man—felt jealous of their loves, and though he tried copulating with each female in turn, found no satisfaction in the act. He therefore cried: “Every creature but I has a proper mate!”, and prayed God would remedy this injustice.

Yahweh then presented Adam with Lilith, a human female. A being run up from the same sort of dust from which Adam was created. Rather than yanked from Adam’s own flesh as a rib, as was, later, Eve.

Adam, however, proved a boor, and Lilith left him. Graves and Patai recount what happened:

Adam and Lilith never found peace together; for when he wished to lie with her, she took offence at the recumbent posture he demanded. “Why must I lie beneath you?” she asked. “I also was made from dust, and am therefore your equal.” Because Adam tried to compel her obedience by force, Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him.

As Lilith was not around or involved when Adam and Eve consumed the forbidden fruit, she was not subject to the penalties inflicted by Yahweh upon the rest of the human race: death, the pain of labor, enmity between wo/man and nature. Some say Lilith lives to this day in the Edomite Desert, among satyrs, pelicans, owls, ostriches, arrow-snakes, and unicorns.

“We Protect The Taliban”

The Wikileaks release of classified documents involving the War on Terra in Afghanistan contained no surprises for anyone who has attentively followed Operation Enduring Fiefdom. Among the non-surprises: that the government of Pakistan, America’s putative ally in the War on Terra, has in fact ignored, enabled, or actively assisted the Taliban, throughout the latter’s nine-year fight against the United States.

Last Sunday, the New York Times printed one of the more provocative stories yet involving this Pakistani-Taliban relationship.

It involves the capture in January of Abdul Ghani Baradar, identified as one of those ubiquitous “number two” most-wanteds, in this case “number two” to Taliban chieftain Mullah Muhammed Omar.

Throughout the War on Terra, it has generally been the “number twos”—of which there seem to be an unlimited supply—who get snatched or snuffed . . . never, it seems, any “number ones.”

In any event, number-two Baradar’s capture was at the time heralded as a model of US-Pakistani cooperation, as well as the usual “breakthrough” in the crusade against Wrong People.

Now, however, we learn that Baradar’s capture was engineered by Pakistan, and its purpose was to shut down peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Talks from which Pakistan had been excluded. And which it feared might in some way benefit its bete noire, India.

Around the same time, Pakistan also rolled up some 23 Taliban leaders inside its own borders, people whom the Pakistani government had been protecting for years. Because they too had the temerity and effrontery to consider ending the conflict, without first consulting Pakistan.

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and the Indians.”

Great.

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What’s Good: Moonbows

I like it when I stumble upon a form of magic that I never even knew existed.

That’s what happened Thursday, as I desultorily flipped through A Book About A Thousand Things, the 1946 magpie’s-nest from George Stimpson that addresses such burning questions as “how do bees hum?” and “does fright cause the guinea fowl’s flesh to turn blue?”

And therein I learned that there is such a thing as a “moonbow.”

Rainbows by moonlight, known as moonbows, are unusual but not rare phenomena. Aristotle referred to lunar bows about twenty-two hundred years ago, and they are well known to scientists, although they are not often observed, chiefly because of the faintness of the light at night. Only under exceptional conditions can the colors of a moonbow be seen. Lunar rainbows are most likely to occur after showers on nights when the moon is bright but not too high in the heavens. Similar lunar bows are periodically visible in the spray of certain waterfalls, such as the Cumberland Falls about eighteen miles southwest of Corbin, Kentucky.

That’s a Cumberland Falls moonbow, of the harvest kind, up yonder. More moonbows beyond the “furthur.”

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Simplemente Roja

Extraordinary Cruelty And Evil

A federal district court has ruled for the first time that the 1994 Congressional statute known as “the Torture Act” is constitutional. This statute, 18 USC §2340-2340A, provides that the United States may prosecute those who have tortured human beings outside the confines of the United States, so long as the accused is a US national, or found within the US. The Torture Act was approved by Congress following the adoption by the United States of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture.

The defendant in this case, Charles McArthur Emmanuel, more familiarly known as “Chuckie Taylor,” is the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is himself currently on trial before an in-ternational war-crimes tribunal in the Hague. Emmanuel had argued that Congress im-permissibly exceeded its authority in approving the Torture Act. But in its 87-page decision in US v. Belfast II, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit told Emmanuel to blow it out his kiester.

“The United States,” the panel held, “validly adopted the CAT pursuant to the President’s Article II treaty-making authority, and it was well within Congress’s power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to criminalize both torture, as defined by the Torture Act, and conspiracy to commit torture.”

That the Torture Act has been ruled constitutional is not good news for those BushCo War On Terra-era US government agents and contractors currently under investigation by the extraordinarily tight-lipped special prosecutor John Durham. Because the Act would apply to them, too.

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Why I Haven’t Posted Here Much Of Late

Tell Mama

Science People at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab have determined that a phone conversation with Mom can release in young girls as much of the calming and caressing chemical oxytocin as actual physical motherly love.

Sixty-one girls aged 7 to 12 were placed in a stressful situation: solve math problems in front of strangers; deliver an impromptu speech. After, some were allowed to hug their mothers, others were only able to talk to their mothers on the phone, while still others were compelled to watch March of the Penguins, which apparently put many of them to sleep.

The results? Oxytocin levels rose almost exactly as much in the girls who were comforted in person, as in the girls who’d been calmed via phone.

Oxytocin has been found to promote such qualities as generosity and empathy. It is believed that the chemical evolved to allow human beings to surmount their natural wariness of one another long enough to come into the close physical contact necessary to mate and thereby procreate. Without the stuff, apparently, we wouldn’t even be here.

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Scheherazade, Munich To Moscow, August 1991

Arkady set a table of brown bread, cheese, tea and cigarettes and sat facing the radio as if it had come to dinner.

The bread was fresh and the cheese was sweet. A breeze drifted in the open window and the curtain stirred like a skirt.

Listening, he found himself leaning toward the radio. He felt ridiculous, as if he should be holding up his side of the con-versation.

The news was not important; he hardly heard it. It was her voice and breath transmitted across a thousand miles.

She was Scheherazade, Arkady thought. Night after night she could tell him tales of oppression, insurrection, strikes, and natural disasters, and he would listen as if she were spinning stories of exotic lands, magical spices, flashing scimitars and pearl-eyed dragons with scales of gold. As long as she would talk to him.

—Martin Cruz Smith, Red Square

La Musica: Earworms

“Earworms” are songs, or snatches of songs, or jingles, or various assorted other musical blats, that compulsively sound in one’s head, beyond any effort to control or expell them.

They’ve been around for a while: Mark Twain wrote about the things in his story “A Literary Nightmare.” Marketing professor James Kellaris, who has studied earworms professionally, describes them as “ex-cit[ing] an abnormal reaction in the brain.” He says that while 98% of all human beings are afflicted with earworms at one time or another, they tend to linger longer in, and irritate more, women.

Generally earworms are perceived as negative creatures—persistent irritants like “Wooly Bully,” or the “Frito Bandito” TV commercial, both of which have, over the years, recurrently haunted me unto near-weeping.

But sometimes there sound in my head earworms to which I don’t begrudge at all the cranial space. Now is one of those times. There are three particular tunes ringing now and again in my brainpan, and I like all three of them. None of them have any real serious application in my life right now, which is a good thing, because one is a sort of curse, the second is a “here’s-the-door” invite, and the third is a yearner. But I like listening to them all the same. If you don’t mind possibly contracting yourself these songs as earworms, follow on along after the “furthur.”

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This Wheel’s On Fire

In 2007 the French people mistakenly elected Nicolas Sarkozy president. Now, in a transparent attempt to strengthen his 2012 re-election bid, by scooping up Gallic rightists who ordinarily cast ballots for perennial presidential contender and flaming bigot Jean-Marie Le Pen, Sarkozy has decided to whomp on the Roma.

Specifically, he has publicly condemned what he claims are “the problems posed by the behaviour of some of the travelling people and Roma,” ordered the dismantling of some 300 Roma campsites his government has declared “illegal,” and apparently approved the deportation of all Roma who cannot properly produce ze papers.

The government has said that Roma and Gypsies from outside France—many, including those kicked out of the Saint Etienne camp Friday, are from Romania—that commit crimes will be expelled back to their countries of origin.

However the top French official for the region said that all Roma without proper papers were being ordered to leave France.

“It is clear what I did this morning was in line with presidential instructions,” Loire region prefect Pierre Soubelet told journalists.

“There have been recent instructions to ask Roma to return home. There is no future here for Roma whose papers are not in order.”

Sunday the Roma responded by twice blocking a major highway in Bordeaux and a bridge over the River Garonne, seriously snarling traffic at the close of a major holiday weekend.

Tying up traffic to protest government dunderheadedness is a peculiarly French institution. French truck drivers, for instance, routinely close the approaches to the city of Paris whenever they Feel The Need. In this, therefore, the Roma have proven themselves to be quintessentially French. So Sarkozy should be instructed to return to his bunker, where he can continue to fret over his lost popularity, while the Roma should be permitted to remain.

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Sometimes The Magic Works . . .

. . . sometimes it doesn’t.

Chief Dan George, as Old Lodge Skins, said that, in Little Big Man. And it’s true.

It is also true that, as in many things in life, sometimes the magic sorta works, and sorta doesn’t.

Thus we have Cheryl Carroll-Lagerway, an Australian Aboriginal woman who notified police after dreaming that the body of a missing child, Kiesha Abrahams, could be found at a sacred Aboriginal site, Nurragingy Reserve, at Doonside in western Sydney.

When the Aboriginal elder and police authorities journeyed to the remote creek, they indeed found a body. But it was not that of the child. Instead, they located a dismembered torso wrapped in plastic, which, pending formal identification, is believed to be that of Kristi McDougall, a 31-year-old woman missing since June.

Caroll-Lagerway, who dreamed of the child crying out to her, believes that Kiesha’s remains are still somewhere in the reserve.

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Shine Little Glow Worm

Nearly a quarter-century after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the wild boar of Germany remain radioactive. Der Spiegel reports that government payments compensating boar hunters for lost income have quadrupled since 2007.

Germany’s Atomic Energy Law mandates government compensation to hunters who shoot animals that are too radioactive to consume. In regions particularly problematic, all boar shot are checked for radiation; there are 70 measuring stations in Bavaria alone. Especially in southern Germany, boar routinely test out with high levels of cesium-137, rendering them unfit to eat.

Wild boar are prone to the glow because they consume in large quantities mushrooms and truffles, which are very efficient in absorbing radioactivity. According to Der Spiegel, “the contamination of some types of mushrooms and truffles will likely remain the same, and may even rise slightly—even a quarter century after the Chernobyl accident.”

Mushrooms are 90% water; water accumulates radiation at a rate a thousand times greater than soil.

So one can imagine the lingering effects of Chernobyl in the water that falls and flows and pools throughout Germany. And the rest of Europe. And the world.

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Something Cool

Because it’s the middle of August, so we need something cool. The inimitable Eddie Harris, complaining, tongue firmly in cheek. More Eddie Harris here: scroll down a ways.

Mad Tea Party

Fox News, indefatigable promoter and enabler of those hapless atavistic ignoramuses known as the teabaggers, has filed an amusing story in which various fit-to-be-tied bag people allege that Democrats and other varmints are attempting to pass themselves off as baggers in order to Confuse People and Steal Elections.

Now, Newspeaking numbskulls like Sean Klannity have been assuring us for months that the teabagging movement crosses all party lines, attracting Democrats and inde-pendents, as well as Republicans. This despite those actual pesky facts that demonstrate that teabaggers are indistinguishable from the Republican Party: the two are, in truth, one and the same.

Fox has apparently now abandoned this ludicrous Klannity line (and someone better forward quick to poor dim Sean the new memo), because its piece is full of breathless prose in which the mere hint of any Democratic connection is assumed to be evidence of faux baggerism.

As the midterm election nears, allegations are surfacing across the country that Democrats are exploiting conservatives’ faith in the Tea Party name by putting up bogus candidates in November—the claim is that those “Tea Party” candidates will split the GOP vote and clear the way for Democratic victories.

The theories may prove to be more than just conspiracy talk. Some of the allegations are coming directly from local Tea Party activists who are trying to flag the media and election officials as soon as they smell something fishy on the ballot. And they say they’ve got proof.

“It’s obvious it’s a Democratic play,” said Jason Gillman, a Tea Party activist from Traverse City, Mich.

And so on.

I feel for these people, because it is not pleasant, when others try to be you.

So I have a simple, helpful suggestion for them. One that will easily and completely separate true bag people from any mischief-making pretenders.

And that is that the true teabaggers should just honestly and openly proclaim that they are racists. For that is what they are. That is the core of their movement, which sprang into being, howling that the government is tyrannical, only when that government fell under the direction of a black man. That is what assorted polls and surveys of teabaggers always show: that they are racist “dumbasses” who believe that President Obama is not an American citizen. Racism is what drives Dale Robertson, founder of TeaParty.org, and the man featured in the photograph there to the right. Teabaggers are racists. Period. Without racism, there would be no teabaggers. If the “true” teabaggers merely proudly proclaim their innate and inherent racism, there will be no confusion.

Problem solved.

For Whom The Tubes Toll

Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens died in a plane crash Monday about 10 miles northwest of the village of Aleknagik, on Bristol Bay in Alaska. Stevens and eight other people were in the midst of a fishing trip, aboard a single-engine DeHavilland DHC-3T, when the plane crashed into a mountainside. Stevens and four other people were killed; four survived.

“Aleknagik” is of the Yupik language, and translates into English as “Wrong Way Home.”

Stevens was 86. To me, there is something quintessentially Mr. Ha-Ha about an 86-year-old man, who has for so long successfully evaded all the many traps and snares of mortality, perishing in a plane crash.

Then again, it could be said that Stevens was gifted with an additional 32 years of life, as he survived the crash of a small private plane in December 1978, a crash which took the life of his wife, Ann, and four other people.

Maybe it’s just me, but death a la Icarus seems a particularly mortifying way to go. Because aloft in the air is not a natural place for human beings; in a crash, there is time to recall that. So too through the millennia have sailors feared most death by drowning, and miners death underground; for neither are human beings created for life in water, or inside the earth.

Stevens was not of my political karass, but I suppose that here in my own fragile corporeal container I will always maintain a small place of fondness for him. Stevens will remain immortal, so long as I am mortal, because it is he who named the Internet “the tubes.”

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Demon Seed

On 26 de Julio I wrote about the Muslim clerics in Malaysia who, though not real happy that Malaysian fans of the UK soccer team Manchester United had adopted clothing sporting cartoon representations of the devil, concluded that such apparel should not be banned.

“We just advise people not to wear this,” advised Harussani Zakaria. “Satan is, for us, our enemy. It’s the wrong value. Satan is always bad.”

Turns out these folks are more tolerant than some Americans—specifically, than Pastor Donald Crosby of God’s Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ in Warner Robins, Georgia, and 30-some of his followers, who Monday disrupted the beginning of classes at Warner Robins High, demanding that the school cease forthwith employing “demons” as a mascot.

The principal Warner Robins demonic being is a red devil with horns, wielding a pitchfork. During football games, a large representation of this Agent of Evil is wheeled out to tower over the end zone. When Warner Robins scores, sparks shoot from The Beast’s pitchfork.

“A demon never has a good connotation. Never,” Crosby ululated to a Macon TV station. “If you look it up in Webster’s Dictionary, there’s nothing good about a demon.”

And so Crosby and his people descended upon Warner Robins High School on Monday, determined to drive out the demons. Instead, they were ordered first by school officials, and then by the police, to disperse. But they persisted in their picketing, Crosby declining an offer from Officer Harry Dennard to accompany him back to his office so he could help Crosby prepare a request form for a permit. “You’re just going to have to lock me up,” Crosby said.

So they did. Crosby was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and picketing without a permit, both misdemeanors. “Let them lock all of you up!” Crosby reportedly instructed his people. None of these, however, elected to follow him into the pokey.

Of course, none of Jesus’ disciples were real eager to follow him, when he was led away, either.

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When I Worked

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