I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy — but that could change.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Geographic Imperative

Voters must keep in mind Israel's tiny dimensions when assessing parties’ platforms

Martin Sherman


If a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, who will be equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passers-by, but also every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the coastal plain (Shimon Peres – Tomorrow is Now).

In a few days Israelis will cast their votes to elect a new government, which is likely to face what, in many respects, are unprecedented challenges in terms of their complexity and strategic significance. It is therefore crucial that as many voters fully comprehend the ramifications of the policies prescribed by the parties they intend to vote for.

With very few exceptions, it has become virtually unchallenged accepted wisdom that, eventually, Israel will have to withdraw from large portions - if not all - of the "West Bank". Invariably, it is the Demographic Imperative that is cited as the incontrovertible reason for such withdrawal being not only desirable, but unavoidable. While not wishing in any way to diminish the very real gravity of this problem and the threat it poses for the future of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, the public should be aware that there is another equally grave - and more immediate – imperative that militates strongly against such withdrawal.

This is the Geographic Imperative. As Hans Morgenthau - arguably the most prominent of the "founding-fathers" of the discipline of international politics as a field of intellectual endeavor given to systematic rational analysis - unequivocally points out, this is a crucial element in the national power of any state and comprises two components: territorial size and topographical structure. These factors determine to a large - albeit not exclusive – degree, the strategic vulnerability of a country i.e. the ease with which vital strategic targets within its borders can be struck.

Given Israel's minuscule territorial dimensions, this is a consideration that assumes acutely critical importance – and is one which needs to be adequately addressed before any responsible Israeli government can contemplate relinquishing control of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) to a Palestinian regime. For from the slopes of limestone hills that rise just beyond 1967 frontier and comprise much of the territory designated for the envisioned Palestinian state, all of the following objectives will be within easy range of weapons being used today against Israel from territories previously relinquished to Palestinian rule (or rather to Palestinian misrule?):

• Major airfields (civilian and military) including the country’s only international airport

• Major sea ports and naval bases

• Vital infrastructure installations (power transmission, water systems, and communication networks)

• Main land transport routes (road and rail)

• Principal power plants

• The national parliament and most government ministries

• Crucial centers of civilian administration and military command

• 80% of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country.

Indeed, the accompanying photographs are of areas designated for the Palestinian State envisioned in the “Peace Process.”

They graphically illustrate the grave significance of the Geographic Imperative and the potential perils involved in not addressing it. They reveal vividly just how exposed and vulnerable vital strategic locations and major urban population centers would be, should Israel transfer control of the highlands east of the coastal plan to a Palestinian regime – and dramatically underscore the commanding position the Palestinians would have over:

• Azrieli Towers and Central Tel Aviv


• Diamond Exchange Area, Ramat Gan


• The Hadera Power Station (Orot Rabin) and the adjacent approaches of Caesaria


In light of recent hostilities, the risk of these dangers materializing can no longer be dismissed as unsubstantiated speculation or malicious scaremongering by the extreme right-wing. Indeed, looking that this graphic evidence, it is not difficult to understand why even Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, who held a


number of ministerial portfolios on behalf of the leftist Meretz faction, including the post of minister of education, once felt compelled to warn that a Palestinian state in these areas "is liable to be an arrow-head aimed at the very heart of Israel with the full force of the Arab world behind it."

So before you cast your vote, dear voter, you might want to re-examine the platform of your chosen party. You might want to inquire whether it presents a convincing program to contend with the dangers that might arise from the Geographic Imperative – other than simply hoping that they won't materialize.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hitler's Children

February 4, 2009:

Strategy.com

While Arabs love to call Israelis "Nazis", it is the Arab world that is the true heir to the Adolph Hitler's vision of how the world should be. A major weapon in the Palestinian arsenal is anti-Semitism. For a long time, even before World War II, the racial hatred tactic was particularly popular in the Arab world. This was partly the result of Islamic radicalism, which pushed hatred of all non-Moslems, not just Jews. But as more Jews began moving into Jerusalem and surrounding areas in the late 19th century, more of the Moslem racial animosity was directed at Jews.

This was not the usual ethnic animosity found in Europe, but something more in line with the extreme violence of the Nazis. In fact, during World War II, the Nazis were very popular in the Arab world. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (the highest Islamic official in the area) spent the war in Berlin (to avoid arrest by the British). Iraq, which had become independent during the 1930s, declared itself a German ally in 1941 (and was promptly invaded and re-conquered by three British divisions, before the Germans could get many troops into the territory of their new ally). After World War II, the Arab language media continued Nazi-grade anti-Semitism. The Arabs had enough sense to tone down this race hatred, and pro-Nazi, line in their English language media.

Over the last few decades, and especially since the end of the Cold War, many Westerners have adopted the anti-Semitic angle in denouncing Israeli attempts to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism. Such self-defense measures are now seriously discussed as "war crimes" in the West. To the Arabs, the very existence of Israel is a "war crime," but the Arabs have been unable to do much beyond fanaticizing about destroying Israel. Now they have many political activists and progressive thinkers in the West fanaticizing along with them. Tangible gains from this ethnic hatred strategy have been scant. Many in the West are appalled by it, and the leadership in most Western nations does not buy into it. But much of the popular media does, and incidents of anti-Semitism, including assault and murder, are on the increase in Europe. Arabs see their anti-Semitism strategy as a success, as Arabs tend to take solace in symbolism, given their lack of substantial progress in destroying Israel. So every anti-Semitic attack in Europe is a victory, as is every European politician who denounces Israel for non-existent war crimes, or ignores the very real atrocities that the Arabs commit against each other. To many Arabs, living the fantasy is easier than dealing with reality.

The reality of Gaza is that the Israeli attack prompted Hamas to increase their terror operations against Fatah followers in Gaza. Hamas denies this sort of thing, but plenty of evidence is getting out. The official Hamas response to this is that all this violence is Israeli propaganda, and that, at most, there are family feuds or clashes between rival criminal gangs occurring in Gaza. Foreign backers of Hamas use this fiction to dismiss allegations that Hamas is trying to wipe out Fatah support in Gaza.

Relations with Turkey, and it's pro-Islamic government, have deteriorated. The Turkish government has taken the public position that Israel is all wrong about Gaza. Israel has responded that Turkey would do the same thing if attacked. Actually, Turkey is doing the same thing, regularly bombing PKK Kurdish terrorist camps inside Iraq, and sending in troops as well. While many Turks want continued good relations with Israel, the emotionalism of support for the Palestinians in the Moslem world leaves no room for logic or justice.

Palestinian terrorists continue to fire rockets, mortars and machine-guns into Israel. This happens daily, but usually to no effect. However, the rocket attacks usually trigger the Israeli rocket alert system, which sends thousands of Israelis scrambling for bomb shelters. The Israeli response has been some air raids on suspected tunnels on the Egyptian border, and missile attacks on known terrorists. Finding such targets has become more difficult, since the 22 day war revealed to Hamas a more extensive Israeli intelligence system inside Gaza than they had previously believed. As a result of this, Hamas has been going after anyone guilty of any suspicious behavior indicating they might be supplying Israel with information. This has led to a lot of innocent people getting beaten, killed or locked up in a basement (all the jails have been bombed by Israeli aircraft). Hamas is not too bothered by this, as most of the victims are from the rival Fatah party. In addition to the "no-snitch" campaign, Hamas personnel have gone into hiding. They move around a lot, trying not to work or sleep in the same place too many days in a row. This gets old pretty fast, and Israeli intelligence officers are getting more target information on Hamas leaders who are staying in one place. Meanwhile, Israeli air attacks are destroying locations where 24/7 UAV coverage and informants indicates rockets and other weapons are being stored. There are usually no casualties from these attacks, as the Israelis continue to call ahead, warning any civilians in the area to get out of the way before the bombs hit. No such warnings are given when the target is a Hamas operative, and that's where civilian casualties continue to occur.

Hamas is trying to have it both ways, by claiming that it cannot control the continued rocket and mortar attacks on Israel, and that Israel must open up the borders and allow goods to enter freely. But Israel is particularly sensitive about allowing materials (like pipes and certain chemicals) that can be used to build the Kassam rockets (pipes form the body of the missile, and chemicals are combined in makeshift labs to produce propellant and explosives for the warheads and detonators). Hamas tolerates the smaller terrorist groups, some of which are technically affiliated with Fatah, as long as they do not threaten Hamas rule of Gaza, and confine their activities to attacks on Israel. Publically, Hamas denies this connection, as a way of absolving itself of responsibility for the daily ceasefire violations. The fiction of high civilian losses during the 22 day war is believed in the Islamic world and by many in the West, thus reinforcing Hamas control of Gaza. In actuality, most of the 500 or so dead were Hamas members, and most of the damage was to Hamas facilities. Israel is in no hurry to allow more building materials into Gaza, since most of the rebuilding will be of Hamas headquarters, rocket building workshops and jails for Hamas opponents.

Israel is offering to allow more stuff into Gaza if Hamas frees Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit (kidnapped in June 2006). While Hamas has declared itself the victor of the 22 day war, it is now much worse off than before the war. Less stuff is getting into Gaza and many Hamas assets and personnel are gone. Hamas has a PR boost from its status as chief victim in this situation. But you can't eat PR, and long term, Hamas faces continued resistance inside Gaza. Israel appears to be seeking a longer term strategy to defeat Hamas. There are a lot of people in Gaza who hate Hamas, and the longer Hamas cannot do anything to improve the daily lives of Gazans, the more disliked the Islamic radical organization is. While many Israelis would prefer a quicker take down of Hamas, using military force, that would get dozens of Israelis killed, and Israeli politicians feel more comfortable with a more indirect approach. Israeli politicians have been dealing with Arab politics for a long time, and see this indirect approach as eminently doable. Time, as in weeks or months, not years, will tell.

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Barbarism has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society

Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil

When will our luminaries stop making excuses for terror?

This week marks the seventh anniversary of the murder of our son, former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. My wife Ruth and I wonder: Would Danny have believed that today's world emerged after his tragedy?

[Commentary] Reuters/Corbis

Jimmy Carter.

The answer does not come easily. Danny was an optimist, a true believer in the goodness of mankind. Yet he was also a realist, and would not let idealism bend the harshness of facts.

Neither he, nor the millions who were shocked by his murder, could have possibly predicted that seven years later his abductor, Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to several South Asian reports, would be planning terror acts from the safety of a Pakistani jail. Or that his murderer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, now in Guantanamo, would proudly boast of his murder in a military tribunal in March 2007 to the cheers of sympathetic jihadi supporters. Or that this ideology of barbarism would be celebrated in European and American universities, fueling rally after rally for Hamas, Hezbollah and other heroes of "the resistance." Or that another kidnapped young man, Israeli Gilad Shalit, would spend his 950th day of captivity with no Red Cross visitation while world leaders seriously debate whether his kidnappers deserve international recognition.

No. Those around the world who mourned for Danny in 2002 genuinely hoped that Danny's murder would be a turning point in the history of man's inhumanity to man, and that the targeting of innocents to transmit political messages would quickly become, like slavery and human sacrifice, an embarrassing relic of a bygone era.

But somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

I believe it all started with well-meaning analysts, who in their zeal to find creative solutions to terror decided that terror is not a real enemy, but a tactic. Thus the basic engine that propels acts of terrorism -- the ideological license to elevate one's grievances above the norms of civilized society -- was wished away in favor of seemingly more manageable "tactical" considerations.

This mentality of surrender then worked its way through politicians like the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In July 2005 he told Sky News that suicide bombing is almost man's second nature. "In an unfair balance, that's what people use," explained Mr. Livingstone.

But the clearest endorsement of terror as a legitimate instrument of political bargaining came from former President Jimmy Carter. In his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," Mr. Carter appeals to the sponsors of suicide bombing. "It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel." Acts of terror, according to Mr. Carter, are no longer taboo, but effective tools for terrorists to address perceived injustices.

Mr. Carter's logic has become the dominant paradigm in rationalizing terror. When asked what Israel should do to stop Hamas's rockets aimed at innocent civilians, the Syrian first lady, Asma Al-Assad, did not hesitate for a moment in her response: "They should end the occupation." In other words, terror must earn a dividend before it is stopped.

The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.

Then came the August 2008 birthday of Samir Kuntar, the unrepentant killer who, in 1979, smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl with his rifle after killing her father before her eyes. Al Jazeera elevated Kuntar to heroic heights with orchestras, fireworks and sword dances, presenting him to 50 million viewers as Arab society's role model. No mainstream Western media outlet dared to expose Al Jazeera efforts to warp its young viewers into the likes of Kuntar. Al Jazeera's management continues to receive royal treatment in all major press clubs.

Some American pundits and TV anchors didn't seem much different from Al Jazeera in their analysis of the recent war in Gaza. Bill Moyers was quick to lend Hamas legitimacy as a "resistance" movement, together with honorary membership in PBS's imaginary "cycle of violence." In his Jan. 9 TV show, Mr. Moyers explained to his viewers that "each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man's terrorism becomes another's resistance to oppression." He then stated -- without blushing -- that for readers of the Hebrew Bible "God-soaked violence became genetically coded." The "cycle of violence" platitude allows analysts to empower terror with the guise of reciprocity, and, amazingly, indict terror's victims for violence as immutable as DNA.

When we ask ourselves what it is about the American psyche that enables genocidal organizations like Hamas -- the charter of which would offend every neuron in our brains -- to become tolerated in public discourse, we should take a hard look at our universities and the way they are currently being manipulated by terrorist sympathizers.

At my own university, UCLA, a symposium last week on human rights turned into a Hamas recruitment rally by a clever academic gimmick. The director of the Center for Near East Studies carefully selected only Israel bashers for the panel, each of whom concluded that the Jewish state is the greatest criminal in human history.

The primary purpose of the event was evident the morning after, when unsuspecting, uninvolved students read an article in the campus newspaper titled, "Scholars say: Israel is in violation of human rights in Gaza," to which the good name of the University of California was attached. This is where Hamas scored its main triumph -- another inch of academic respectability, another inroad into Western minds.

Danny's picture is hanging just in front of me, his warm smile as reassuring as ever. But I find it hard to look him straight in the eyes and say: You did not die in vain.

Mr. Pearl, a professor of computer science at UCLA, is president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, founded in memory of his son to promote cross-cultural understanding.

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The Mother of Believers

'Mother' of Iraqi women bomber network arrested

LinkBAGHDAD (AP) — A woman accused of helping recruit dozens of female suicide bombers looked into the camera and described the process: trolling society for likely candidates and then patiently converting the women from troubled souls into deadly attackers.

The accounts, in a video released Tuesday by Iraq police, offer a rare glimpse into the networks used to find and train the women bombers who have become one of the insurgents' most effective weapons as they struggle under increasing crackdowns.

In a separate prison interview with The Associated Press, with interrogators nearby, the woman said she was part of a plot in which young women were raped and then sent to her for matronly advice. She said she would try to persuade the victims to become suicide bombers as their only escape from the shame and to reclaim their honor.

The AP was allowed access on condition the information would not be released until the formal announcement of the arrest.

The U.S. and Iraqi militaries have made past claims without providing much evidence about efforts by insurgents to recruit vulnerable women as well as children as attackers. Those included statements by the Iraqis that two women who blew themselves up last year in Baghdad had Down's Syndrome, accounts that were not supported by subsequent investigations.

It also was not possible independently to verify the claim that insurgents sent out people to rape women who could then be recruited as bombers in the volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

But the suspect, 50-year-old Samira Ahmed Jassim — who said her code name was "The Mother of Believers" — has given unusual firsthand descriptions of the possible workings behind last year's spike in attacks by women bombers.

The Iraqi military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said the suspect had recruited more than 80 women willing to carry out attacks and admitted masterminding 28 bombings in different areas.

Female suicide bombers attempted or successfully carried out 32 attacks last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. Most recently, a woman detonated an explosive under her robes that killed at least 36 people during a Shiite religious gathering last month.

The attacks reflected a shift in insurgent tactics: trying to exploit cultural standards that restrict male security forces from searching women and use the traditional flowing robes of women to hide bomb-rigged belts or vests.

In response, Iraqi security forces have tried to recruit more women. In last week's provincial elections, women teachers and civic workers helped search voters.

Al-Moussawi, the military spokesman, alleged Jassim was in contact with top leaders of Ansar al-Sunnah in Diyala, the last foothold of major Sunni insurgent strength near Baghdad. The group is one of the factions with suspected ties to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Al-Moussawi said Jassim "confessed to recruiting 28 female suicide bombers who carried out terrorist operations in different areas." He gave no other details on the locations or dates of the attacks.

In the video played for reporters, Jassim described how she was approached by insurgents to urge women to carry out suicide attacks. She said her first assignment was Um Hoda, a nickname meaning mother of Hoda.

"I talked to her a number of times," said Jassim, who has four daughters and two sons. "I went back to them and gave them the details on her. And they told me, bring her to us. ... And I took her to the police station, and that's where she blew herself up."

Another woman, whom she called Amal, was involved in long conversations, Jassim said.

"I talked to her many times, sat with her, and she was very depressed," she said on the video. "I took her to them, and then went back for her and she blew herself up."

Jassim gave no further information on the attacks or her role in the video.

In speaking with the AP — a week after her Jan. 21 arrest — Jassim repeated statements she had allegedly made to interrogators that insurgents organized rapes of women and that she would then try to coax the victims to become suicide bombers.

She said she was "able to persuade women to become suicide bombers ... broken women, especially those who were raped."

In many parts of Iraq, including conservative Diyala, a rape victim may be shunned by her family and become an outcast in society.

Police interrogators were not in the room during Jassim's interview with the AP, but they were in an adjoining chamber.

Jassim did not offer additional details on her alleged role in the attacks, but suggested she was pressured into working with the insurgency.

She claimed that Ansar al-Sunnah provided her a house in Diyala, where she operated a shop selling the traditional robes for women called abaya. She added, however, that Ansar al-Sunnah once threatened to bomb her house if she did not cooperate.

"I worked with (Ansar al-Sunnah) for a year and a half," she told the AP.

Women suicide bombers are uncommon, but not unknown, outside Iraq.

Among Palestinians, several woman have carried out suicide bombings for militant groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

There also have been cases of women in the West Bank attacking Israeli soldiers so they can be imprisoned after being accused of breaking traditional rules on sexual conduct. In the Palestinian territories, relatives can seek harsh punishments, including death, on women seen as dishonoring the family.

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Globe and Mail: Account of Israeli attack doesn't hold up to scrutiny

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

JABALYA, GAZA STRIP — Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.

They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel's attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.

There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people's minds, was not quite accurate.

Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.

While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.

The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. "I ran in the direction of the screaming [inside the compound]," he said. "I could see some of the people had been injured, cut. I picked up one girl who was bleeding by her eye, and ran out on the street to get help."But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere."

The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: "Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead."

"Three of my students were killed," he said. "But they were all outside."

Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front.

"There were only three," he said. "They were all out here on the road."

News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge.

Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.

Sensing a public-relations nightmare, Israeli spokespeople quickly asserted that their forces had only returned fire from gunmen inside the school. (They even named two militants.) It was a statement from which they would later retreat, saying there were gunmen in the vicinity of the school.

No witnesses said they saw any gunmen. (If people had seen anyone firing a mortar from the middle of the street outside the school, they likely would not have continued to mill around.)

John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school."

"I told the Israelis that none of the shells landed in the school," he said.

Why would he do that?

"Because they had told everyone they had returned fire from gunmen in the school. That wasn't true."

Mr. Ging blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. "They even came out with a video that purported to show gunmen in the schoolyard. But we had seen it before," he said, "in 2007."

The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school.

"Look at my statements," he said. "I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation."

Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: "Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. ... There's nowhere safe in Gaza."

And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: "On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school ..."

The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited "early reports" that "three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School ..." However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that "Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools ..." including the one at issue.

Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.

"I know no one was killed in the school," Mr. Ging said. "But 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. Many of those people had taken refuge in the school and wandered out onto the street.

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I am a cantankerous man living and working in the Silicon Valley where reading books is an abomination that is virtually unheard of, frowned upon and may be detrimental to one's career. I avoid censure by never conceding that I ever read or owned a book in my life. If anyone accidentally glimpses my scant proficiency in any subject matter, I immediately accredit it to having glanced at DrudgeReport that day.

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