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Saturday, October 30, 2004

THE WAR PRESIDENT 

AN ELECTION EVE REVISION
By Jack Random

It is the season when all promises and all actions must be taken with a great deal of cynicism. Having waited four years for an economic recovery to register beyond corporate profits, the president is searching for answers to joblessness and the loss of living wages. Having failed to slow the rising trade deficit or reduce the national debt, he renews his call for permanent tax cuts. Having failed to deliver a prescription drug benefit to seniors, he pushes through a Medicare reform bill written by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Having failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he no longer believes the question is relevant. It is sufficient that Saddam Hussein had the intention to develop such weapons. It is sufficient that Saddam committed crimes against humanity. It is sufficient that Saddam was a very bad man.

Given the president’s enormous insight and incomparable certitude, he is confident he did the right thing. He is confident that American soldiers are not dying in a mistaken war. He is so confident that he swears, knowing what we know now, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that there was no link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, he would still go to war.

“I’m a war president,” he intoned with a smirk.

Finally, we found an issue upon which we could take the president at his word. If by some miracle of incredulity, you were not frightened before, now is the time. Until now, the president has been constrained by the prospect of a coming election. If he were to be reelected, the true war-seeking nature of this administration would be unleashed upon the world.

As the Bush Doctrine clearly dictates, the warlords of this White House do not require an imminent threat. They do not require international alliances or the blessings of international law. They proclaim the right to strike any nation at any time in order to advance their cause of global supremacy. They speak glowingly of democracy but their actions belie their words. Democracy notwithstanding, they are content with controlling the world’s resources.

Much of the debate in civil society has been directed at the wars already begun. Considerably less has been devoted to the wars that will follow if the policy of global dominance is allowed to grow and flourish. The possibilities are as varied as moves on a chessboard but the signs are all around us and they are neither disguised nor hidden. The warlords are so arrogant that they promote their dark vision openly and without shame. They boldly state their plans for remaking the world but their portraits lack depth; they are not drawn in flesh and blood detail. It is time to take them at their word and follow the lines of their intentions to real world consequences.

Immediately upon election to a second term, the Bush team will confront a monumental problem. Plainly stated, there are not enough soldiers to pursue their objectives. They cannot continue to abuse the guard and reserves as they have. They will press for international support but it is a hopeless cause. They will expand the use of mercenary forces but it will not be enough. Mark it: They will find an occasion, real or fabricated, to renew military conscription. It will not be the first time the president has betrayed his word and he will no longer face the judgment of the electorate. To those who remained unconvinced: What in the president’s record suggests that we should believe him on the critical question of the draft? He has practiced a policy of deception on every issue from nation building and the war on terror to prescription drugs and the tenor of his tax cuts.

Mark it, post and save: If the president is reelected, there will be a military draft.

Young Americans, many of whom are woefully unprepared to make such judgments, will be compelled to choose between military service and civil disobedience. The antiwar movement will grow tenfold and the guard and reserves will come home to fight the battle on America’s streets. The machinery created by the Patriot Act will be brought to bear on our own citizens. More divided than ever, America will be at war from within.

Undaunted and eager to secure his legacy, the president will be in search of war. The search will begin where the staff has already been planted: The Middle East. Those of us who have listened carefully have come to realize that when he speaks of terrorist ties in Iraq he is no longer merely summoning Al Qaeda; he is speaking of Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations known for their efforts to free Palestine from Israeli occupation. By redefining the enemy to include such organizations, the war on terrorism will be expanded to engage the entire Arab and Islamic worlds, beginning with Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Palestine. Every nation in the region would be compelled to take sides: Us or them?

In this manner, the misbegotten policies of one president could easily evolve into a war of centuries, a battle of civilizations, and a march of death and destruction that would surpass anything the world has yet known. We cannot know what this president intends but the ends of warfare are often unpredictable and this administration, despite its vaunted brainpower, has displayed a startling lack of foresight.

The Middle East scenario is the most dangerous we will face. At its worst, it is Armageddon. At best, it is a horrifying waste of human life, a waste that would be inconceivable if not for the liquid treasure beneath the sands of Arabia. It is a scenario that engages the second of the president’s infamous Axis of Evil.

The third member of the exclusive club is North Korea, a nuclear threat that has grown seven fold in response to the Bush doctrine of war. Of course, it would be sheer madness to attack a power whose immediate response would bring death to hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Seoul but the Bush doctrinaires have a high tolerance for the deaths of dark skinned foreigners – especially when it supports their vision of unconscionably evil enemies.

It should not go unnoticed that the administration has pushed the development of a new class of tactical nuclear weapons. This alone is evidence that the madness of King George has taken hold and its names are Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle. Given the “bunker busting” bombs we have already demonstrated, it is unlikely that the tactical nuke is for this purpose. It is more likely that they are designed for a preemptive strike that would decimate all nuclear facilities in a target nation before that nation could strike back. While such a strike could be applied to North Korea, it could also apply to Pakistan – especially in the event of another military coup. Since the destruction would be somewhat contained, our leaders could claim humanitarian motives but the nuclear nightmare would be upon us and the world would shudder in horror.

As terrifying as these scenarios may be, we cannot leave the future wars in faraway lands. Latin America has long been the favorite playground of American warlords. When presidential adviser Condoleezza Rice prematurely expressed satisfaction at the news of a coup in Venezuela, she not only signaled American approval but probable American involvement. The admission was particularly revealing because Hugo Chavez was a lawfully elected president. Support for a military takeover exposed the lie of our support for democracy. It is also revealing that Venezuela has the richest oil reserves in the hemisphere.

All of Latin America is suffering under the failed policies of the US dominated World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Electorates have increasingly turned to progressive, anti-American parties. The people have begun to suspect that the WTO-IMF policies have not failed at all. Rather, they have enabled international corporations, America’s partners in global dominance, to take control of their natural resources. Poverty is good business except that it has a tendency to breed discontent. Discontent has a tendency to breed organized opposition and organized opposition has a tendency to be labeled “terrorism.”

America has a rich tradition of intervention in Latin America with only minimal cover. In Chile, 9-11 has a dual meaning: It was also the day the CIA overthrew Salvador Allende and supplanted him with the monstrous dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Throughout the region, the people are well acquainted with American foreign policy. Under prior administrations, the excuse was always the drug war or the Cold War. Now, it is the war on terror.

If the administration engages in Latin America, it will hope to draw Fidel Castro into the conflict. If it succeeds, the administration will achieve the one goal it cherishes even more than the overthrow of Hugo Chavez: Regime change in Cuba.

These are but a handful of the possibilities awaiting a second term of the Bush administration. Potential conflicts are as easy to foresee as geological surveys allow. Wherever oil is in the equation (Nigeria, Somalia), intervention is an excuse away. No longer will such scenarios belong in the realm of screenwriters and novelists. They will no longer be remote and many of them will most assuredly become stark realities.

We cannot afford to test the hypotheses. We cannot afford to gamble the lives of so many soldiers and innocent bystanders. The world cannot afford four more years of a war president in the White House. For though we are shocked by the losses already sustained, they are but minor compared to the profound horror the future may reveal.

The lords of war and avarice will go to the ends of the world to maintain their hold on the reigns of power. If we fail to deny them, we will become the generation that lives forever in infamy and shame. Often has it been foretold but never with more urgency: We hold the future in our hands.

For all the derision heaped upon him in a campaign of partisan politics, Howard Dean was right: As long as we live in a democracy, we have the power. It is time we used it.

On Election Day 2004, the right and privilege of voting carries with it a heavy burden of responsibility. When you close the curtain, you will be alone with your conscience. Let your conscience cast your vote.

Jazz.

THE FINAL ESSAY OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, VOLUME II: THE WAR CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS 2004), ORIGINAL VERSION PUBLISHED BY THE ALBION MONITOR 2/24/04.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

OSAMA SURPRISE 

ALIVE & WELL
By Jack Random

The October surprise has finally arrived and the real surprise is that it was delivered by Al Jazeera.

Four days before the election, America’s most despised appears on every television screen in the nation to deliver his pre-election message: He holds American leadership accountable for crimes against the Islamic world with specific reference to Israel, Lebanon, Beirut, and the Palestinian occupation. His issue is with the foreign policy of our nation and his alliance is with Palestine.

Lacking the reluctance to pronounce a clear winner after the massacre in Miami (the first presidential debate), media pundits were quick to declare that the appearance of Osama is a decisive blow to the Kerry campaign. It is of little consequence that the conclusion defies logic and assumes a guttural response of the electorate, rallying without reason to the support of the sitting president. It also assumes the political naivety of Osama.

Is there any compelling reason to believe that Osama prefers one candidate or the other? If we believe that Osama desires Jihad, the president has delivered it with his policies of war and his indifference to the plight of the Palestinians. If we assume that Osama desires survival, why replace the president who has turned his attention elsewhere? If we assume that Osama wanted a massive recruiting drive, what could have been better than Abu Ghraib and the atrocities of Iraq?

As Americans, we owe it to our democracy not to be swayed by the last minute machinations of the enemy.

Would Osama be alive and free if we had pursued him with American Special Forces in Tora Bora? We do not know.

Would Al Qaeda be operative and apparently flourishing if we had stayed the course in our pursuit of the real terrorists? Again, we do not know.

We do know, however, that by every objective measure, this is a failed presidency. It has failed the poor and infirm with blatant neglect. It has failed the middle class with false promises. It has failed even the elite by handing them a weak and unstable economy. It has failed the world with its arrogant isolationism. Most importantly, it has failed our soldiers with an unnecessary war.

Indeed, when all accounts are settled, honest historians will record the anomaly of George W. Bush as one of the worst presidencies in the annals of the Republic.

What will they write of us if we grant him a second term?

Vote your conscience.

Jazz.

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WAITING FOR THE FACTS 

THE REMARKABLE CONSISTENCY OF MR. BUSH
By Jack Random

“A president has to wait for all the facts before jumping to a conclusion.”
-- GW Bush on the campaign trail, October 2004.

Have we forgotten March 21, 2003, the day of Shock and Awe, so soon? Have we forgotten the pleadings of United Nations inspectors Hans Blix and Mahamed ElBaradei for the Security Council and the Bush administration to wait for the facts before we jump to the conclusion that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction? Have we forgotten that they were right, that the administration was wrong, and that Iraq did not in fact possess weapons of mass destruction?

The president lambastes his opponent for not waiting until after the election to level the charge of executive malfeasance in the loss of mass quantities of conventional explosives. It has been a year and a half since the invasion of Iraq. There is no question but that the administration was officially warned about the Al Qa Qaa facility well in advance of the war. We can assume, then, that the administration has had plenty of time to determine the facts and come to a reasoned conclusion. That they have either not done so or have chosen to bury the facts until after November 2, is all the revelation we require. The administration ought to know where the explosives went yet it appears they do not. The commander-in-chief ought to have gone to great lengths to secure the facility yet clearly did not.

That the president has been less than forthcoming with the American people is nothing new. His entire presidency has been based on the policies of exploitation under the cover of deceptive propaganda, with the all-too-eager cooperation of a corporate media. Questioning the president’s competence in his handling of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is also nothing new. It has never been a challenge to the courage or competence of our troops on the ground.

When we failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, it was the commander’s call. When we failed to take out Abu Musab Zarqawi in northern Iraq before the war, it was the commander’s decision. Finally, when we opted to guard the Oil Ministry before turning our attention to massive caches of explosives, it is the commander’s responsibility.

These are by no means the central issues of this election.

The president has taken the nation to war based on a package of lies and deceptions that millions of Americans still believe: that Saddam Hussein was connected to Al Qaeda and the attack on this nation; and that Iraq possessed massive stockpiles of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. From all accounts, we know that the deception was planned and deliberate.

As a result, over 1,100 American soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis are dead.

On the central questions, the facts are in and they allow only one conclusion: The reign of George W. Bush must end.

Jazz.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

THE CURSE IS LIFTED 

A DAY WITHOUT POLITICS

For one glorious day, there is no politics. The Boston Red Sox have lifted the curse of the great Bambino. For the first time in eighty-six years, the little guys have risen to the top of the heap, the working stiffs have grabbed the glory, the sun has set on the eastern skyline and the world is somehow a better place.

Since the end of the First World War, when Woodrow Wilson was president and Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms, never has there been a more hopeless cause than that of the lowly Red Sox. Never has there been a more poignant display of the unbeatable human spirit than that of the Red Sox fan and their annual fall epitaph, “Wait ‘til next year.”

All hail the Boston Red Sox: A lone Indian and eight cowboys on the field of dreams that never die.

All hail the Red Sox nation. You have given every underdog, every lonesome sailor, every soul who has loved and lost, every forlorn soldier, every unemployed factory worker, every down-on-his-luck gambler, and every down-to-his-last-buck stranger fresh new hope for a better day.

Our sincere condolences to the Saint Louis Cardinals: You played the game honorably and well, but this one belongs to the kids from Fenway.

Here’s to the Babe and all the players who toiled beneath his enormous shadow. Here’s to the end of the curse.

Next year may it be the hapless Cubbies and the year after my beloved Giants.

Jazz.

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CRIMES AGAINST DEMOCRACY 

DISENFRANCHISEMENT, FRAUD & THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
By Jack Random

Ann Coulter, the blonde bombshell of rightwing ideologues, famously accused liberal Democrats of treason for not adhering to her narrowly defined vision of America’s role in the world. Where does Ann Coulter stand on the stealing of a presidential election? Where does she stand on disenfranchisement, voter fraud and intimidation? Indeed, where does Ann stand on the issue of democracy in America?

Seven days before the election, horror stories of electoral fraud have become a daily revelation, surpassed only by the daily accounts of horrors in Iraq. An election official in Ohio decides to enforce an obscure law requiring registration forms to be submitted on paper of a specified weight. Voters improperly disenfranchised in Florida 2000 have still not had their voting rights restored by a foot-dragging Governor Jeb Bush. Early voting offered in some states is unavailable in districts with a high proportion of black voters. Thugs disguised as law enforcement officers patrol polling places to discourage certain types of voters. In Nevada, officials destroy the application forms of newly registered Democrats.

The perpetrators of these despicable acts are guilty of crimes against democracy yet it is unlikely that any will face the consequence of a well-earned prison sentence. We proclaim ourselves the world’s champion of democracy yet we regard the blatant and willful betrayal of democracy at home as harmless shenanigans. Is it any wonder the world regards us as both hypocritical and arrogant?

If you believe in democracy as I do, with the unbridled passion of Jefferson, Franklin and Paine, then her deliberate betrayal, regardless of party loyalty, is comparable to providing state secrets to a sworn enemy. That such acts are not only tolerated but often glorified (as was the case with former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris) is symptomatic of a dangerous and profound sickness in American politics.

The solution to the problem of rampant election fraud is simple: Put the offenders in jail. Let Martha Stewart go free and Katherine Harris discover the virtues of a federal penitentiary. Let a hundred or a thousand petty drug abusers walk out and let those who destroyed registration forms in Nevada walk in through the iron gates of restitution.

The truth is that neither of the major parties is committed to the virtues of democracy. The Republicans are fond of pointing out that we are not literally a democracy (odd that we should want to bestow on other nations a system we do not employ), neglecting to note that a republic is nothing more nor less than a representative democracy. For their part, the Democrats failed to stand up for democracy in Florida 2000 by refusing to demand a full recount (as required by Florida law) and by refusing to even raise the question of disenfranchisement in deference to expediency. The Democrats lost the White House by their betrayal of democracy.

The fact is: A nation that still embraces the absurdly archaic and blatantly anti-democratic system of the Electoral College can never claim to be democracy’s champion.

The believers in democracy are rightfully appalled by the disenfranchisement of any citizen, yet the Electoral College effectively disenfranchises the vast majority of Americans in every presidential election. New Yorkers and Californians are disenfranchised. Since the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson, the entire south outside of Florida is essentially disenfranchised. A voter from Alabama, Wyoming, Washington or Texas can vote for the Virgin Mary with a clear conscience, assured that it will have no impact. The only votes that matter in a modern presidential election are those in a handful of battleground states.

If this is democratic, then Ann Coulter is a compassionate conservative and GW Bush is a competent chief executive.

That the Electoral College is anti-democratic is so obvious and clear it needs no further elaboration. The 2000 election was the third occasion where a president was selected with fewer votes than his primary opponent. No other democracy in the world would accept such a record of failure.

The proposition is simple: If we believe in democracy then we can no longer support a system that tolerates, sanctions and embraces crimes against democracy.

It is long past time to abandon a system that elevates the abstraction of a state over the simple and fundamental premise of democracy: One person, one vote.

Jazz.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

THE NADER QUESTION 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.

A RESPONSE TO A LETTER FROM MINNESOTA
By Jack Random

As a voice for independence from political parties and an advocate for third parties as a means to that end, it was an agonizing decision to dedicate whatever small measure of influence I could muster toward replacing George W. Bush with the Democrat John Kerry. It would perhaps have been less agonizing had the Democrats found the courage to nominate a candidate with a strong antiwar position, but I have grown accustomed to disappointment in both sides of the mainstream political aisle.

The unwavering gravitation of the Democrats to the muddled middle ground has forced the Republicans to the far right so that the progressive left is no longer represented in what passes for fair and balanced political discourse.

To those who would question Nader’s integrity, sanity or character, save your breath. Do not give the words you will have to swallow in the next campaign. Nader is right: The politics of pragmatism is the foremost enemy in the battle for independence.

On the other hand, when Ralph Nader decries such luminaries as Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn as “liberal intelligentsia” and laments that they have lost their nerve, he is no longer fighting the good fight. He is no longer fearlessly striking out at the powers of corporate corruption. He is attacking the heart and soul of the progressive movement. He is further alienating those who were honestly torn by this critical dilemma.

It is one thing to disagree on the relative harm of GW Bush; it is another to accuse those who have arrived at a contrasting view of spinelessness.

On substance, Ralph Nader is right on every major issue and most especially on the matter of extracting ourselves from the disaster in Iraq, but he is wrong when he suggests that we have not pushed Kerry toward a more progressive stance, most especially on the war. That we have not done so in the name of Ralph Nader does not render our efforts meaningless. In fact, I believe we have had some effect.

I would also note that my perception of the role of a third party movement differs from Nader’s in one important respect. He appears to believe that the goal is to apply pressure to the lesser of two evils (i.e., the Democrats). This is also the politics of pragmatism. I believe that the only goal worth pursuing is the defeat of the two-party system.

The real question at this time and place in history is this: Who has done more to forward the cause of independence in this election: Ralph Nader, standing strong on principle and sacrificing much of the dedicated support he once enjoyed, or those of us who have compromised by acknowledging that there are times when our own cause must yield to a greater cause – in this case, the cause of peace?

It is not an easy question. It is a question that each and every one of us should ask and answer conscientiously. It is a question that has the power to divide. Bear in mind that we have not asked the gay and lesbian community to stand down because the issue of gay marriage can only feed the religious right and therefore help George Bush. We have not asked abortion rights to take a holiday. In fact, we have not asked any group or individual to sacrifice their cause for political expedience, nor should we, except for the candidacy of Ralph Nader.

I will never side with those who claim that Nader betrayed the cause or the greater good. It is rarely that simple and the electoral dilemma of this election is no exception. When all is said, Ralph Nader’s legacy will place him alongside Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez as a champion of the common people. His virtue has always been that he never regarded the working people as somehow inferior or less deserving of American justice and prosperity as the members of the elite.

In the waning days of this campaign, let there be peace within the progressive ranks. Let there be no more recriminations between Nader and those who stand with him on all matters but one. Let us look beyond Election Day and recognize that our cause and movement begins anew on November 3.

We stand together against the war, against corporate corruption and against the inherently corrupt two-party system. We stand for the rights of workers both here and abroad. We stand for living wages. We stand for civil liberties. We stand for universal health care. We stand for real equality and a woman’s right to choose. We stand for reparations for the American Indian and all oppressed minority communities. We stand for debt forgiveness of third world nations and an end to the global dominance schemes of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. We stand for the right of all the world’s inhabitants to be free of industrial contamination. We stand with the world against the war machine.

Let us not forget that when we supported Ralph Nader in the year 2000, we also supported Winona LaDuke. We stand with LaDuke today.

Jazz.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

ZARQAWI: MYTH OR SUPERMAN? 

THE OCTOBER SURPISE?
By Jack Random

We have heard the name Abu Musab Zarqawi all too often in recent weeks. We have heard it in connection with suicide bombings, beheadings and, just today, with the massacre of some 48 new Iraqi Army recruits near the Iranian border. In a recent New Jersey appearance, the president expounded on the subject in a manner reminiscent of his Saddam tirades. It seemed an odd choice for the president since Zarqawi was one the keynotes of Colin Powell’s now notoriously discredited United Nations presentation to justify the war in Iraq.

As I wrote at the time: “Of all the half truths and misleading statements uttered by our Secretary of State, the most insidious was the assertion that an Al Qaeda training camp was operative in northern Iraq. The question immediately arose: If we knew of an active Al Qaeda camp in Iraq, in a region controlled by the Kurds under American and British protection, why then had we not eliminated it? The obvious answer is that it was more important to fabricate an Iraqi Gulf of Tonkin (the lie that committed us to the Vietnam War) than to eliminate a direct terrorist threat.” (Jazzman Chronicles, Volume II: The War Chronicles, Crow Dog Press 2004)

Although the claim that it was an Al Qaeda camp was pointedly false, the president’s audience should be curious to learn that the Pentagon drew up plans to wipe out the Ansar al-Islam camp and the mastermind Zarqawi on no less than three separate occasions (June 2002, October 2002, January 2003). On each occasion, the White House refused to grant approval. Why? The only reason given was offered in a report by NBC on March 2, 2004: “the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.”

So why are we hearing so much about Zarqawi now? Is he in fact the be-all and end-all of the Iraqi resistance? Not according to Iraqi-born terrorism expert Mustafa Alani: “Everybody blames Zarqawi but I think it’s a series of assumptions. It’s of great publicity value to say he is trying to stir a civil war. With all the attacks they blame him for, he’s either superman or a myth.” (LA Times, March 7, 2004)

The question remains: Why? The administration is clearly promoting Zarqawi as the new face of our enemy. He is in the process of supplanting Saddam Hussein just as Saddam supplanted Osama bin Laden. Why?

Could it be that the administration’s plans for capturing the illusive Osama before Election Day have run into a few unexpected obstacles? Could it be that General Musharef of Pakistan is not in position to deliver the goods? Is the White House feeling the need for an alternative October surprise?

If so, so be it.

Let us then be prepared to tell the sordid tale of Abu Musab Zarqawi. It is the story of a terrorist who owes his life to the politics of Karl Rove and the overriding need of the White House to justify an unlawful, immoral and unjustifiable war.

Let us ask the hard question: If what the administration claims is true – that Zarqawi is responsible for countless suicide bombings, beheadings and massacres – then how many lives were lost because the president needed to protect his blatantly fictitious rationale for war?

If this is, in fact, what the administration intends, frankly, we expected better. Frankly, we expected a manacled Osama to be paraded down the aisle at the Republican National Convention, bent to his knees center stage, and forced to recite “God Bless America” with an electric prod to his private parts. Frankly, knowing the extremes to which operatives will resort in times of desperation, we expected that which must not be mentioned.

As Ali said to Frazier in the Thrilla from Manila: “Is that all you’ve got?”

Jazz.

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