Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘2004

Strikes and Gutters, Ups and Downs

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Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you. It was obviously a tough night for Democrats but on some level it was always going to be—with unemployment at 9.6% and millions of people underwater on their mortgages the Democrats were doomed to lose and lose big. On this the stimulus really was the original sin—if it had been bigger and better-targeted the economic situation could have been better, but it wasn’t and here we are. Unlike 2000 and 2004 I think this election stings, but it doesn’t hurt; a big loss like this has been baked in the cake for a while.

Remember that as the pundits play bad political commentary bingo all month.

As I mentioned last night, overs beat the unders, which means my more optimistic predictions were 2/3 wrong: Republicans overshot the House predictions and Sestak and Giannoulias both lost their close races in PA and IL. But I was right that young people can’t be trusted to vote even when marijuana legalization is on the ballot. Cynicism wins again! I’ll remember that for next time.

I was on Twitter for most of the night last night and most of my observations about last night have already been made there. A few highlights from the night:

* Who could have predicted: Democrats are already playing down the notion that they’ll get much done in a lame duck session. They’d rather punt to January particularly the big issues, like tax cuts. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Don’t even bother. On taxes, the outline of a compromise is there, having been floated by Vice President Biden: the rates might stay in place for a larger number of wealthier Americans. The Estate Tax, which jumps up to 55% in January, will probably be restored at a lower rate. Capital gains taxes will also be higher, but not as high as they’re slated to be. Supporters of the START treaty are very worried. Gee, maybe Obama shouldn’t have appealed DADT after all.

* Last night’s big Dem winner: implausibly, Harry Reid. Second place (of a sort): Howard Dean, whose entire happy legacy as DNC chair was wiped out in one fell swoop last night—and then some. Fire Kaine, bring Dean back.

* Last night’s big Republican losers: the Tea Party, and Sarah Palin specifically. The crazies cost them the Senate.

* An upside: most of the losses last night were from bad Democrats, especially the Blue Dog caucus, which was nearly decimated. The progressive caucus only lost three seats and now constitutes 40% of the Democratic House caucus.

* Most of the progressive online left is saddest to see Feingold lose, I think.

* Personally happiest to see Tancredo lose in Colorado. That guy’s completely nuts.

* At least losing the House means we don’t have to deal with individual Senate egomaniacs anymore.

* Weird proposition watch: Denver votes down UFO commission. Missouri prevents a feared pupocalypse. Oklahoma bans Sharia law, thereby saving freedom forever.

* The most important proposition, and the most important victory for the left, was probably California’s Proposition 23 on climate change, which went down. Quoting the HuffPo article: “California is the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and its global warming law, passed in 2006, mandates the largest legislated reductions in greenhouse gases in the world.” This was a big win.

* Sad statistic of the night: “Meg Whitman’s personal spending on her campaign: $163 mil. Natl Endowment for the Arts 2010 budget: $161.4 mil.”

* And Republican gains are bad news for higher education. This is probably especially true for state universities in North Carolina, where Republicans now control the state legislature for the first time in a century.

Anything I missed?

The Zeitgeist

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If artists depend on angst and unrest to fuel their creative fire, then at least in one sense the 43rd presidency has been a blessing. Eight years is an eternity in the life of a culture, and when we look back on an era, we do it through pinholes: a movie here, a book there. What will stand out, decades from now, as the singular emblems of this moment in history? Newsweek asked its cultural critics to pick the one work in their field that they believe exemplifies what it was like to be alive in the age of George W. Bush.

Battlestar Galactica
American Idol

Jeff Koons’s Hanging Heart
The Corrections
Black Hawk Down

Cohen’s Borat
Green Day’s American Idiot
Far Away
Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life

Battlestar is a decent if limited pick, and Idol a fairly inspired one, though not for the reasons given—but the exclusion of The Wire is simply criminal, not to mention Sopranos and Deadwood, and (yes) 24. For film, it might actually be The Dark Knight, or else There Will Be Blood. (Maybe Children of Men?) For books—surely the hardest category—it’s probably The Road, for a few reasons. I’m too illiterate in music to even begin to answer: the best I could manage would be a half-serious suggestion of Gnarls Barkley, or else just name a Springsteen album because that’s how I roll.

Via The Chutry Experiment, who points (among other things) to the unforgivable omission of viral video.

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December 16, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Image of the Day, Plus Young Voters

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Image of the day: the New York Times‘s map of changing national demographics between 2004 and 2008. At right: a county-by-county map of places that voted more Democratic this year.

As you can see, it’s just about everywhere.

More on demos from The Next Right, which notes with some dismay that “Obama has reshaped the electorate. And it’s been only partially through new voter registration. He has gobbled up every last, existing young voter and African American.” Given the “stickiness” of both voting behavior and party ID, locking up new voters so completely bespeaks the sort of transformational realignment I’ve been hoping we’d see.

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November 7, 2008 at 2:05 am

2004 Flashback #1

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Looking through my personal Three Guys archives for what I was writing on Election Day in ’04, I came across a post from the next afternoon I hardly remember writing at all:

Obama ’08?
Maybe I’ll write Barack Obama a letter tonight. If he wants to form a North Carolina presidential exploratory committee tomorrow, I’ll do whatever it needs.

I think we need to anoint someone as the front-runner for 2008 as soon as humanly possible, and, as my good friend Jenny T was saying earlier today, watch their back for the next four years. I’d very much like it to be Obama, rather than Hillary. And given how angry I am that the homophobia brigade swung last night’s election, I’m not exactly sympathetic to the notion that “America just isn’t ready for a black president yet” right now.

All I can say is, America better get ready. For a lot of things. We lost to a incumbent wartime president — a man who had 90% approval ratings in September 2001 — in a squeaker. And we did it with “the most liberal man in the Senate,” a weak-kneed Francophile outofthemainstream “flip-flopper” from Taxachusetts.

Last night, 49% of the country firmly rejected the Bushist agenda. That 49% isn’t wavering. We’re steadfast. We’re resolute. We’re not letting these people drag our country back to the dark ages.

We have 49%. We only need 1 more.

I was wrong about anointing a front-runner—it’s clear in retrospect that the long primary helped Democrats tremendously this year, perhaps even making the difference between victory and defeat on the one hand and victory and landslide on the other—but beyond that I think I called it fairly well. Of course, it doesn’t match the eloquence of my first-ever post about Barack Obama, but what could?

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November 4, 2008 at 8:20 pm

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Kerry v. Obama

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Kevin Drum has gotten a lot of people talking with his suggestion that the Left is better off having lost with Kerry in 2004 if it meant going on to win with Obama in 2008.

Back in 2004, I remember at least a few bloggers and pundits arguing that liberals would be better off if John Kerry lost. I never really bought this, but the arguments were pretty reasonable. Leaving George Bush in power meant that he’d retain responsibility and blame for the Iraq war. (Despite the surge, that’s exactly what happened.) Four more years of Republican control would turn the American public firmly against conservative misrule. (Actually, it only took two years.) If we waited, a better candidate than Kerry would come along. (Arguably, both Hillary Clinton and Obama were better candidates.)

Conversely, it’s unlikely that John Kerry could have gotten much done with a razor-thin victory and a Congress still controlled by the GOP. What’s more, there’s a good chance that the 2006 midterm rebellion against congressional Republicans wouldn’t have happened if Kerry had gotten elected. By waiting, we’ve gotten a strong, charismatic candidate who’s likely to win convincingly and have huge Democratic majorities in Congress behind him. If he’s willing to fully use the power of his office, Obama could very well be a transformational president.

Dana at The Edge of the American West and Hilzoy both make arguments that this is something a political partisan must never allow themselves to consider—you have to fight to win, every time, as hard as you can, because the future is uncertain and unknowable and the present is immediate. And yet it seems to me that Kevin is obviously right that the horrific Bush victory in 2004 could in fact turn out to have been better than a Kerry victory, given a successful Obama presidency and a long-enough time horizon. It depends what Obama does once he takes office, if he turns out to be the transformational president I have long believed he will be, and to what extent the disastrous policies of the last four years can be “undone” through wise policy in the next eight.

As it stands, alongside what evil he has done, Bush has nearly singlehandedly destroyed both the Republican Party and conservatism as an ideology. Republicans were driven from Congress in historic proportions in 2006, with 2008 looking to surpass it. Obama, the most progressive candidate for president in my lifetime, will nominate at least two, and possibly more, judges to the Supreme Court, while (again, in the best-case scenario) implementing environmental and social reforms that could come to redefine American capitalism in much the same way as the New Deal. 2008 could realign the country politically, in our favor, for decades.

Does a Kerry presidency match this? As much as I like Kerry and as hard as I worked to get him elected, this counterhistory seems much less successful. A Kerry who wins 2004 in a squeaker in Ohio still faces the disastrous consequences of the first Bush term, as well as Katrina and perhaps even, to some extent or another, this year’s bottoming-out of the post-Fordist culture of debt. In that universe we might well be watching Kerry go down to a nail-biter against Romney, a fight I’m not at all sure we’d win. Likewise, Republicans weren’t forced out from Congress in 2006, and don’t face crushing losses in 2008. The country, though spared four very bad years, has not been transformed.

The point is this: taking a longer view than the four-year election cycle, a very successful Obama presidency will have been better for both the Left and the country as a whole than the weak, “caretaker” Kerry presidency we likely would have gotten out of 2004. If Obama lives up to the hype, historically speaking it might have all been worth it. Let’s hope.

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November 4, 2008 at 3:00 am

The Polls

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Above is a chart from Chris Bowers by way of Matt Yglesias charting the comparative advantages of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Al Gore over the course of the campaign season. This is an important charts for Democrats who are about to be confronted with something that has long seemed impossible: not just a victory but what looks to be a blowout. For the last fifty days of election 2004, we were never ahead, according to the polls—we just thought we were, having mystified the polls and made faulty assumptions about turnout and the undecided break.

Obama’s situation is quite different, with a nine-point lead in the final NBC/WSJ poll and between nine and eleven points in Gallup. Those numbers would have McCain underperforming Dukakis, and if you believe in Nate Silver’s cellphone effect, the margin could be even larger. This same movement is reflected in the tracking polls—despite persistent claims that “the polls are narrowing,” there’s no real evidence of this.

And Obama has already locked down good margins in the early vote, to all appearances: over 2.5 million people have already voted in North Carolina, including almost half of the state’s African-American population and 44% of registered Democrats. In Colorado and New Mexico in particular, the margins may already be too great to overcome.

What I’m saying is, though there’s still work to be done, this time I really think we actually win.

‘Obama Leading In Eight Battlegrounds Bush Led In Four Years Ago’

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The headline reads: ‘Obama Leading In Eight Battlegrounds Bush Led In Four Years Ago.’ Full details and impressive-looking numbers at the link.

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October 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Friday Evening Links

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Friday evening links.

* Joe the Plumber…for Congress?

* New Jersey’s Star-Ledger cuts it newsroom staff by half.

* Joe “Let’s Assume the Best” Lieberman hits another Sarah Palin question right out of the park.

[W]hen asked by The Advocate if Palin is ready to be president from day one, Lieberman said “thank God she’s not going to have to be president from day one. McCain’s going to be alive and well.”

* Palin 2012? The buzz continues!

* Republicans are at each other’s throats, and the rats-off-a-sinking-ship watch hits a new high water mark with the first Obama endorsement by a McCain advisor.

* And Barack Obama is well ahead of both Kerry and Gore, eleven days out.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 25, 2008 at 12:54 am

black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, city dwellers, farm dwellers, we’re all together

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There are no real parts of the country and fake parts of the country.

There are no pro-America parts of the country and anti-America parts of the country.

We all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, city dwellers, farm dwellers, we’re all together…

Al Giordano looks at Obama’s powerful closing argument and notices it looks a whole lot like his powerful opening argument.

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October 23, 2008 at 8:51 pm

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Six Reasons Obama Will Win

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Six reasons Obama will win at National Journal Online, via

1. No candidate this far back two weeks out has ever won.
2. Early voting is going strong and even if something big happens, those votes are already cast.
3. The Democrats have a 10% advantage in party registration; in 2004 it was even.
4. Obama is outspending McCain 4 to 1 in many states.
5. There is no evidence for the so-called Bradley effect in the past 15 years.
6. Obama is safe in all the Kerry states and ahead in half a dozen states Bush won.

I remember the glorious afternoon and heartbreaking evening of November 2, 2004, well enough to know not to count America’s chickens before they come home to roost.

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October 22, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Places I’ve Lived

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Cleveland’s Plain-Dealer, which endorsed Bush (!) in 2000 and chose not to endorse anyone in 2004, endorses Barack Obama.

Kerry took 67% of the vote in Cuyahoga County in 2004, hoping to win the state on the back of Cleveland’s comparatively huge population; unfortunately, putting aside questions of election malfeasance and voter suppression for the moment, the margin was such that Kerry would have needed upwards of 80% of Cuyahoga’s vote to offset his losses elsewhere in the state.

The battle in Ohio this year will be about turnout, not newspaper endorsements, but every bit helps.

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October 19, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Politics Links

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Politics links.

* The NSA has been shamelessly spying on people they knew had nothing to do with terrorism. More at Washington Monthly. Why is nobody in jail over this?

* Matt has a flashback back to 2004 to argue that thinking we would win back them is nothing like thinking we’re going to win now.

* Will a reverse Bradley effect benefit Obama? Maybe, but it’s certain that corrupt voter-roll tampering will once again help the Republicans. Why is nobody in jail over this?

* You can only steal a close election. West Virginia is a tossup?

* The GOP is grumbling in Nevada and Virginia.

* Can the Dems hit 60 in the Senate? Ezra Klein look at the possibilities, while Matt Yglesias says 59 isn’t really all that different from 61. (Maybe, but I’d still like 61.)

* What are the candidates transition teams like? Did you just say one of them doesn’t have one?

* Obama gives his most direct statement on Ayers yet.

Obama “had assumed” from Bill Ayers’ stature in Chicago, he told the Philadelphia-based Michael Smerconish, that Ayers had been “rehabilitated” since his 1960s crimes.

In the interview, which was taped this afternoon and will air tomorrow, and which you can listen to above, Obama recalled moving back to Chicago after law school, and becoming involved in civic life there.

“The gentleman in question, Bill Ayers, is a college professor, teaches education at the University of Illinois,” he said. “That’s how i met him — working on a school reform project that was funded by an ambassador and very close friend of Ronald Reagan’s” along with “a bunch of conservative businessmen and civic leaders.”

“Ultimately, I ended up learning about the fact that he had engaged in this reprehensible act 40 years ago, but I was eight years old at the time and I assumed that he had been rehabilitated,” Obama said.

* And George Packer, touring rural Ohio in the lead-up to the election, writes up his experiences there in the New Yorker.

Dave Herbert was a stocky, talkative building contractor in an Ohio State athletic jersey. At thirty-eight, he considerably lowered the average age in Bonnie’s. “I’m self-employed,” he said. “I can’t afford to be a Democrat.” Herbert was a devoted viewer of Fox News and talked in fluent sound bites about McCain’s post-Convention “bounce” and Sarah Palin’s “executive experience.” At one point, he had doubted that Obama stood a chance in Glouster. “From Bob and Pete’s generation there are a lot of racists—not out-and-out, but I thought there was so much racism here that Obama’d never win.” Then he heard a man who freely used the “ ‘n’ word” declare his support for Obama: “That blew my theory out of the water.”

A maintenance man at the nearby high school, who declined to give his name, said that he had been undecided until McCain selected Palin to be his running mate, which swung his support to Obama.

“So you’re a sexist more than a racist,” Herbert joked.

“I just think the guy Obama picked would do better if he got assassinated than McCain’s if he died of frickin’ old age in office,” the maintenance man said.

Four women of retirement age were sitting at the next table. All of them spoke warmly of Palin. “She’d fit right in with us,” Greta Jennice said. “We should invite her over.” None had a good word to say about Obama. “I think he’s a radical,” a white-haired woman who wouldn’t give her name said. “The church he went to, the people he associated with. You don’t see the media digging into that.”

“I don’t know anyone who’s for Obama,” said Jennice, a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton and who won’t vote in November.

“If they are, they don’t say it, because it would be unpopular,” an elderly former teacher named Marcella said. That had not been true of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry, she added.

“I think the party-line Democrats are having a hard time with Obama,” Bobbie Dunham, a retired fourth-grade teacher, told me. When I asked if Obama’s health-care plan wouldn’t be a good thing for people in Glouster, she said, “I’ll believe it when I see it. If it’s actually happening, I’d say that’s good.” But she and the others had far more complaints about locals freeloading off public assistance than about the health-insurance industry and corporations. Dunham declared her intention to write in a vote for either Snoopy or T. Boone Pickens. “I’m not going to vote for a Republican—they’ve had their chance for the last eight years and they’ve screwed it up,” she said. “But I really just don’t trust Obama. He only says half-truths. He calls himself a Christian, but he only became one to run for office. He calls himself a black, but he’s two-thirds Arab.”

I asked where she had learned that.

“On the Internet.”

Written by gerrycanavan

October 10, 2008 at 12:40 am

Repeating the Mistakes of 2004?

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Here is a chart of the RCP Poll of Polls from 2004.

The small, three-point jump for Kerry at the start of August was the Democratic National Convention, accompanied (oddly) by a concurrent small rise in Bush’s numbers.

The five-point jump for Bush at the end of the month was of course the Republican National Convention, accompanied by a three-point drop in Kerry’s numbers. You can see that gap start to narrow again almost immediately, but it was never enough.

Analogies between any two election years are almost always useless—but if I could link to the Three Guys politics blog I was doing in 2004 you would see how impressed I was with the Democratic National Convention, which seemed to quite literally do everything right. I left Boston feeling confident and completely energized, strongly behind a candidate who had been my third choice (at best) in the primary. But we lost, and we lost at least in part because the Republicans went to their convention, wore Purple Heart Band-Aids, and told the world what an asshole John Kerry is over and over again in every speech for four straight days.

The Republican Party may be a cancer in the colon of American democracy, but it knows how to win presidential elections. Democrats really don’t.

2004’s convention gave us Obama and a lot of hope and excitement and a lot of great speeches, but we lost. I think it’s fair to start to wonder whether we’re managing to lose again with an aimless, largely messageless, far too bloodless convention that in every respect but the prime-time speeches was significantly more lackluster than 2004’s. Only last night had any real bite, and even then I still heard in each of the major speeches that John McCain is an American hero we must all deeply admire.

I’ll be the first to admit that whenever I’ve questioned Obama’s strategy in the past he and his people have turned out to be right, or at least right enough—but suffice it to say a whole lot is riding on Obama tonight, and I hope to hell he’s able to deliver.

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August 28, 2008 at 11:35 am

More on Bush at 82%

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I like what Ezra Klein has to say about the recent wrong-track and Bush-disapproval numbers so much I’ll just quote it:

It’s something of a crisis for our political system that the president has now spent over three years hated and mistrusted by the majority of the country, and yet has never felt the need to take steps to restore his legitimacy. Something is wrong.

It’s worse than that, of course, when you consider the cloud of corruption under which the man was both elected and re-elected. Something, indeed, has gone drastically and dramatically wrong with our democracy; it’s almost as if the opinion of the governed doesn’t actually matter at all.

That said, I must admit I’m pretty fond of the photo he chose to illustrate this somber reflection.

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May 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm

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Friday Night Politics Links: Kos, Endorsements, Fraud

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* This whole “Democrats for Mitt” idea is probably kos’s single stupidest self-inflicted wound since the whole mercenaries debacle. Given that his plan won’t work, it’s irrelevant—and even if it somehow does work, how does this idiotic game benefit any Democrat anywhere? That’s assuming it doesn’t completely blow up in the Left’s face by accidentally propelling Guy Smiley to the White House. In any event, this sort of nonsense invites, legitimately I think, cries of “dirty tricks” from the right, which is something we have no reason to invite. Kos should either promote the “Vote Uncommitted” movement on the grounds that Clinton should not be rewarded by her failure to remove her name from the Michigan ballot, or else do nothing at all.

* Arizona governor Janet Napolitano has endorsed Obama, a significant endorsement not only regionally but also because of the way it plays into the gender dynamics that are now characterizing the Democratic race.

Meanwhile, bestsellers Anne Rice and Michael Chabon have each chosen a favorite, Clinton and Obama respectively. Call me when Lethem weighs in.

* And of course there’s Kucinich’s decision to pursue a recount in New Hampshire. For what it’s worth, as someone who believes that both the 2000 and 2004 elections were influenced and perhaps stolen outright through manipulation of the apparatus of voting—cleansing of the voter rolls, selective closing of precincts, suspicious last-minute swings always redounding to Republican benefit, see RFK Jr. for more—I can perhaps regain some of my “sensible centrist” cred by saying I’m not at all impressed by the claims New Hampshire was stolen. For one, the exit polls I saw bandied about before the results began being reported already indicated that a blowout was not in progress; obviously the telephone polling missed a late surge in Clinton support probably generated in equal parts by sympathy for the beating she was getting in the press and by a belief that Obama couldn’t lose. Likewise, the difference in results between hand-counted precincts and machine-counted precincts, despite the many shouts of Diebold!, is almost certainly a function of the demographics of those areas, not prima facie proof of malfeasance. In short, there’s almost no comparison to 2004, where the exit polls were consistently wrong well outside the margin of error, and the irregularities were both more local and more pronounced.

The assertion of fraud whenever the results don’t go our way only serves to discredit valid claims about electoral fraud and suspicious results.

Still, if I’m wrong and it turns out Kucinich is somehow onto something, I’ll be the first one to admit it.

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January 11, 2008 at 10:47 pm