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Author Topic: Speculation: Are we experiencing the emergence of a new 'dark age'
Groggle
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Icon 5 posted November 07, 2004 20:04      Profile for Groggle     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
We live in a troubled world today - perhaps more so than we realize.

With the re-election of George W. Bush (aka Bush II), I find myself musing over a few things:

1) Bush is vehemently anti-intellectual. To the degree that he actively has put policies in place to supress/subvert significant exploration of various areas.

2) Universities have moved somewhat away from the "Liberal Arts", focusing more on "useful" degrees.

3) Tuition costs for Universities are rapidly reaching the point where only the very wealthy will have access to them.

4) The power struggles in the world over dwindling resources are emerging - be it oil, water, lumber etc.

5) The economy of the "western" world is beginning to look seriously out of kilter. Prices are remaining very high, even when other axis of the 'supply-demand' equation suggest that consumer prices should drop.

6) The stock market (equities markets in general) are demanding huge returns from corporations, even when the market shares are dropping. (This may be a factor in 5 above?)

7) The US economy in particular is entering a scary place, with a burgeoning deficit (and therefore, debt); ongoing military spending at a positively disturbing burn rate.

8) Laws are being enacted in the name of "security" that clearly do not improve the lot of the citizens - in fact they go as far as to impinge upon civil rights.

9) Political propaganda is emerging that essentially objectifies rival/target powers. People are encouraged to judge, not understand. (e.g. Iraq)

I know this is a bit lengthy, but all of these things suggest that society is beginning to shift towards another "Dark Age", not at all unlike the period that followed the disintegration of the Roman Empire.

So, putting aside the partisan politics of whether you like George Bush, and looking at the broader tapestry of events in the overall world picture, what do you see emerging on the world stage?

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Cap'n Vic

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Icon 1 posted November 07, 2004 22:17      Profile for Cap'n Vic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
America hater.

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Callipygous
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 02:52      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
No this is just a temporary, though extremely worrying phase. Never underestimate the capability of the electorate to make fabulously stupid choices. Remember that even Nixon, the most blindingly obviously crooked politician imaginable, was elected to his second term with a landslide. Take comfort though that in a democracy with a reasonably free media, no political illusion can last very long. The hubris demonstrated by GWB in his first post election statement about how he intends to spend the political capital he has earned will come back to bite his ankles like a rabid dog! Second terms are nearly always much more difficult than first ones, and GWB has already sown the wind. In some respects I believe the most important thing is that the religious right and the neoconservatives pernicious ideology, which is corrosive of democracy, be thoroughly discredited and utterly destroyed, which is more likely in this situation.

Don't worry - you cannot fool all the people (or even 51% of the electorate) all the time. Truth will out.

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TheMoMan
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 03:56      Profile for TheMoMan         Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Groggle _________I agree with most of your assumptions, however I feel it will go somewhat like the McCarthy era with a lot of finger pointing and hand waving peoples, lives disrupted and then again some form of return to normal.

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Groggle
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 06:13      Profile for Groggle     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Says Cap'n Vic:
quote:
America hater.
No, not at all. My politics are decidedly anti-Bush, but not anti-America (or American). No matter how hard I try (and I have tried), I cannot bring myself to appreciate his policy direction in a positive light.

In this case, America happens to be in the position of being a focal point. Unsurprisingly, the rising troubles in America will have spillover into the rest of the world. Similar problems exist in other countries as well (Canada, and Alberta in particular among them) The patterns I am drawing are much broader than one nation.

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Groggle
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 06:18      Profile for Groggle     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Callipygous, TheMoMan:

I think what worries me most is not the political policy environment, but rather how that environment looks in the context of longer term patterns in the various "Western European" countries.

Among the worrisome prospects is the increase in "absolutism" in policy when it combines with a steady decline in public investment in education.

Add to that an increasing concentration of wealth and power in a relatively small number of hands, and one starts to identify a shifting in actual power from a military/political basis to an economic/political basis. (Corporate Feudalism perhaps?)

With luck, what we are seeing is only a 10 year down cycle - as you have proposed. I find myself wondering just what our grandchildren will see though.

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Stereo

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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 08:06      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Groogle, Cap'n Vic only forgot to put a smiley in his post. He's the last one to seriously call someone an America hater on such petty matters (I even think he'd quickly put himself on that line, if things were to be put in a manichean light.)

Now, about that "new dark age theory," there is one reason why you are wrong and it won't come down to that: knowlege is widely accessible. Even if college and graduate studies are pricing themselves out of reach of the ordinary citizen, everyone* learns to read, and books are pretty cheap (even free when you go to a public library). Plus, knowlege is now a planetary thing, so the fall of one nation doesn't doom all others. There may (will?) be a period of great instability, but no severe setback of our civilisation.

As an aside: isn't it ironical that we owe this avoidance of a new dark age to a man who rose shortly(!) after the roman fall: Charlemagne, king of Franks! (One of my all-time hero, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Gutenberg.)

Now, let's switch the question to the comparison you made at the end of your first post: are we witnessing the fall of the US empire? My answer is: someone will have to steer hard and soon in order to avoid the wreckage; cause GWB has set the ship on a collision course with an historical reef.

*Or more exactly, everyone has opportunities to learn to read, even if not everyone achieve literacy.

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Cap'n Vic

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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 08:47      Profile for Cap'n Vic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Groogle...America Hater is kind of an on going joke. I have been tagged with it a few times meself.....although I can't understand why [Razz]

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fanboy_uk

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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 08:57      Profile for fanboy_uk   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Groogle, I can empathise with you.

With Bush returned for a second term it can only indicate that things will continue in a downward spiral for a while.

I am assuming (possibly incorrectly) that as your location is denoted as Calgary that you are from Canada. Is that correct?
Part of your fear I guess comes from not only your close physical proximity to the States, but also the way your country is economically linked to the States.
It is the same here in the UK. Whilst we are not so closely tied economically, we are tied to Bush's apron strings. As the States' star rises so does ours, if it falls so does ours.

I personally think that Blair is trying to be friends with too many people. He wanted to be the Party of the People, he wants to be friends with the States, he wants to be friends with Europe and he wants to be a big player on the world stage.

Whilst I agree with you, Calli, when you say that it isn't a permanent thing I also believe that there is a real potential for the thing that changes people's minds about Bush to be a 'big' thing. Yes Nixon was a crook and got re-elected, but it was the impact of Watergate that instigated his removal from office. What would get Bush out now? Americans weren't convinced of the allegeded connections between his family and the Bin Ladens. Not sure where I'm going with this, but I dread the thought of what the current and future administration are capable of.

Decades ago people claimed that the arrogant nature of British Empire stemed from its island mentality that prompted it to expand beyond its frontiers. Is the same happening to the States?

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Erbo
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 10:17            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm going to take a few of your points and try to address them...I wish I had time to address them all here, but I don't...

With regard to point (1): are you referring to stem-cell research? If so, diffidently may I point out that lack of federal funding for an activity does not constitute a "ban." The United States has fewer legal restrictions on stem-cell research than almost any country in the world, as long as you don't need American tax dollars to do it. (Though I thought California's Prop. 71 was a bad idea, mainly on fiscal grounds, it'll be interesting to see if anything comes of it; maybe they'll be vindicated and Bush's go-slow policy on federal funding will be discredited thereby. Could happen.)

Point (2): Most liberal-arts faculties are chock full of unreformed Communists, socialists, and other leftists. Perhaps we're starting to see a backlash against this. At least, in the "useful" fields (by which I think you mean "any subject ultimately ruled by mathematics"), there are "right" answers, and it's possible for anybody to get them no matter what your point of view is.

(3) is definitely a problem, and I'm not sure what can be done about this...though there are probably people that have ideas. One issue might be that college educations are far more heavily in demand than they used to be...and the Law of Supply and Demand dictates that the price will go up, unless the supply expands, which hasn't happened to as great an extent. Used to be people could make good lives for themselves without having to go to college...but those days have mostly fallen by the wayside.

(4) is also a problem. Perhaps part of the answer here is to more aggressively develop space travel so we can gain access to off-Earth resources more cheaply. (Answering "conservation" won't solve the problem, as any savings seen from conservation will be rapidly subsumed by the additional resource usage stemming from economic growth. At best, you'll decrease the slope of the upward-trending curve...unless you really want to kick off a global recession.)

With regard to (8), I'll expand the scope and say that laws and regulations of all sorts are a big problem, in that there are too many of them and they're too confusing; the ones you cite are an important subclass of the problem, though. Perhaps all new laws need to have automatic "sunset clauses" attached to them (with the proviso that, if they're renewed for X number of consecutive times, they become "permanent"). Also, I'd like to see something like the "Plain English Amendment" that would allow laws to be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that they were ambivalent, equivocal, or could not be understood by a person of average intelligence.

But I think calling all this the onset of a "new Dark Age" may be a tad premature, to say the least.

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magefile
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 12:49      Profile for magefile     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It's not a ban per se, but look at how much money it takes to develop new drugs - and this isn't a new drug, it's a whole new field of research! Without government money, things will go much slower (you'd be surprised how much "private" research is actually partially government funded).

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ooby
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 13:51      Profile for ooby     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
There is a government effort to adopt language standards that shy away from legalese.

On the point of Liberal Arts faculty being commies and such, I think that sounds like a broad generalization. I'd also like to add that while I was in college, I was close friends with some liberal arts people encompasing a broad range of political views. The political slant of the faculty may have had little effect on thier views. I did, however, have a few teachers that were pretty slanted toward the liberal side. I don't think it would be easy to gather any trend data regarding the distribution of people with different views to state otherwise.

Also, Nixon was neither removed from office, nor was he impeached. He may have been on his way to impeachment, but he resigned before they released the hounds.

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Erbo
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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 19:35            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by magefile:
It's not a ban per se, but look at how much money it takes to develop new drugs - and this isn't a new drug, it's a whole new field of research! Without government money, things will go much slower (you'd be surprised how much "private" research is actually partially government funded).

And why is government funding actually required? Doesn't Bill Gates, for instance, maybe want to fund research that'll help him live longer? Or some other rich guy? For a model, look at the relationship between Paul Allen and Scaled Composites (the SpaceShipOne team). And maybe someone will fund the stem-cell equivalent of an X-Prize, too. You gotta "think different" here...

Plus, the Californians won't have the same restrictions on their money that the Feds put on theirs. Bottom line, if somebody wants to do it, they'll find a way.

quote:
Originally posted by ooby:
On the point of Liberal Arts faculty being commies and such, I think that sounds like a broad generalization. I'd also like to add that while I was in college, I was close friends with some liberal arts people encompasing a broad range of political views. The political slant of the faculty may have had little effect on thier views. I did, however, have a few teachers that were pretty slanted toward the liberal side. I don't think it would be easy to gather any trend data regarding the distribution of people with different views to state otherwise.

How long ago were you in college? I know it's gotten worse since I graduated, back in 1990. Back then, political correctness was already a serious factor, and it's had fourteen years to dig in since then...
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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted November 08, 2004 19:53      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Erbo:
I know it's gotten worse since I graduated, back in 1990. Back then, political correctness was already a serious factor, and it's had fourteen years to dig in since then...

Don't mistake Political Correctness for Communism.

There's a world of difference between "Don't say 'n_gg_r - it's not nice"
and "Come the Revolution, you'll be first against the wall"

And far from having 14 years to 'dig in', the Language Police have largely been pushed aside, people got sick of all those "Don't say 'short', say 'vertically challenged'" jokes.

The exception, of course, is those silly net filters Bush insists schools and public libraries in the US use......

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ooby
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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 05:07      Profile for ooby     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I graduated way back in 2003.

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Cap'n Vic

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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 08:59      Profile for Cap'n Vic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The letters 'BC' follow the date on my degree [ohwell]

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Erbo
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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 09:18            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
The exception, of course, is those silly net filters Bush insists schools and public libraries in the US use......

Which don't work worth a damn. And which are a prime example of the kind of stuff the Administration shouldn't be wasting its time on, in my opinion.

See, there are three basic Republican principles (that I read somewhere, I don't remember where) that I think are important:

  • People should get to keep more of what they earn.
  • Keep Americans safe by displaying strength to the world.
  • Get government off the people's backs.

To the extent that something that the Bush Administration does is in line with those three principles, I'm for it. But, if it's not, I'm going to say, "Why are these idiots wasting time on this crap, which probably isn't gonna work out anyway?"

Anyway, sorry for the diversion. For some background on the domination of universities by the Left, have a look at this Tech Central Station article, in two parts. Author Edward Feser outlines a number of possible theories why this domination has arisen, shows what's wrong with them, and then advances his own theory. For my part, I'm glad that, as a Computer Science major, I didn't have to contend with this all the time...

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Mac D
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I got my Bartending Certificate in 2002. My diploma form high school was almost a decade ago [ohwell]

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There's nothing wrong with me, This is how I'm supposed to be.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 13:31      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Erbo:
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
The exception, of course, is those silly net filters Bush insists schools and public libraries in the US use......

Which don't work worth a damn. And which are a prime example of the kind of stuff the Administration shouldn't be wasting its time on, in my opinion.

It also annoys the hell out of the good people of Scunthorpe [Wink]

As for your point #3, conservative parties around the world usually have something about 'getting the government off the peoples backs', or 'promting individual freedom' in their manifesto, but they're just words, doesn't stop them imposing their particular moral code on the rest of us (Gay Marriage anyone?) [Frown]

/me just had a disturbing vision, caused by using 'gay' and 'off their backs' too close together. [Eek!]

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ooby
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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 14:29      Profile for ooby     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
quote:
Originally posted by Erbo:
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
The exception, of course, is those silly net filters Bush insists schools and public libraries in the US use......

Which don't work worth a damn. And which are a prime example of the kind of stuff the Administration shouldn't be wasting its time on, in my opinion.

It also annoys the hell out of the good people of Scunthorpe [Wink]


Random quote time.
Aside from hometowns, this may be the most mentioned town on this site.

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Groggle
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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 15:00      Profile for Groggle     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
With regard to point (1): are you referring to stem-cell research? If so, diffidently may I point out that lack of federal funding for an activity does not constitute a "ban." The United States has fewer legal restrictions on stem-cell research than almost any country in the world, as long as you don't need American tax dollars to do it. (Though I thought California's Prop. 71 was a bad idea, mainly on fiscal grounds, it'll be interesting to see if anything comes of it; maybe they'll be vindicated and Bush's go-slow policy on federal funding will be discredited thereby. Could happen.)

Point (2): Most liberal-arts faculties are chock full of unreformed Communists, socialists, and other leftists. Perhaps we're starting to see a backlash against this. At least, in the "useful" fields (by which I think you mean "any subject ultimately ruled by mathematics"), there are "right" answers, and it's possible for anybody to get them no matter what your point of view is.

With regards to Bush and science, I was referring to much more than just Stem Cell research. I was also referring to the serious amount of 'spin-abuse' that is being applied to science for political agenda reasons. ( most notable are some of the Bush administration's utter misrepresentations of climate data - which have been contradicted in enough journals to make me very suspicious) The point being that there are political forces at play that do not appear to be making full use of the information at their disposal, but instead are morphing that information inappropriately.

As regards to your over-generalization about Liberal Arts programs being filled with "unreformed Communists, socialists, and other leftists" - all I can say is that it's time to lose the McArthy era phrasebook.

My point was that the Liberal Arts are those areas of human knowledge and endeavor that often bring a great deal of value to an advanced education. (certainly, that was my experience, and others I know have echoed the same sentiment). With colleges and universities focusing on degrees that are directly "employable" (Engineering, Comp Sci. to name two), these other areas of study seem to be getting the short shrift. Pattern wise, this reminds me of how Western European civilization lost touch with Greek thinkers such as Aristotle for over 1000 years, until the rediscovery in the Renaissance.

My assertion, in part, is that if the patterns that are emerging today are persistent, then a more serious problem may emerge in the latter part of this century. (Note that Rome crumbled very slowly - over a period of 300-400 years) It is not this generation, or even our grandchildren that I am thinking of, but their descendants.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 16:17      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The fact that, in the US at least, "intellectual" has become a dirty word doesn't seem to help much.

What, I ask, is so wrong with being an intellectual? What is so negative about it? I's probably silly that I have to ask, but seeing as I don't own and have never owned a TV, my access to mass media is limited to the radio, which I tune almost exclusively to music, the newspapers, and the internet. So I don't get the bombardment of pundits, talking heads, trashy shows, and commercials that TV viewers get, which has left me a bit out of the loop. So, for my own edification, what's so evil about being an intellectual?

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 18:15      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Aaah...you're a smart person...stay away!
/me holds up cross in a cowering manner...stop advancing with that micropipettor held in the air...

Thinking is scary - using the brain too much hurts a good deal. Why would anyone want to think about all the bad things, killing, and other yucky stuff that's going on - my immediate circle of people and events are alright, so what's the big deal?

Now...just remember exactly who is writing this post that's mostly directed to you [Wink] [Smile] .

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted November 09, 2004 18:18      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
The fact that, in the US at least, "intellectual" has become a dirty word doesn't seem to help much.

/me remembers a 'conversation' I had a few years ago with a Nazi. He used the words 'educated' and 'intelligent' as insults.

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

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Icon 9 posted November 09, 2004 18:58      Profile for GMx     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
This article from The Onion is funny, but unfortunately true.
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