Smoke a Joint and Your Future is McDonald's

Smoke a Joint and Your Future is McDonald's
Posted by CN Staff on May 20, 2002 at 07:40:14 PT
By Janelle Brown
America loves a happy ending: The prisoner on the brink of release decides it's time to straighten out and go to college; the addict gets himself off drugs and becomes a community leader; the teenager grows up and gets responsible. Rebounding from a troubled past is a great American tradition, rewarded even with the highest post in the nation: President George W. Bush is a former alcoholic turned born-again Christian turned world leader. 
Chris Berry wanted to be the subject of one of those stories. A factory worker in his 20s with a wife and four kids, he was caught and convicted of possession of marijuana several times before he decided it was time to go to college and get on with his life. But he needed financial aid to afford an education; and this, unfortunately, was where his plans went awry. Thanks to a provision in the Higher Education Act -- a federal law governing the funding of public colleges and universities, as well as student financial aid -- Berry discovered that he was ineligible for federal aid because of his prior drug convictions. Despite the setback, Berry was able to scrabble together a $2,000 loan from the nonprofit group Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, and he entered Mountain Home Arkansas College last year. But the money ran out after a year, and so did his time in college. "I'm not a student right now," he complains. "I just can't afford to go to school." The federal law that foiled Berry in his plan to restart his life is called Drug-Free Student Aid Provision, a piece of legislation passed four years ago in the hysteria of the war on drugs. It is a textbook case of knee-jerk lawmaking, a measure that was ill-conceived and poorly implemented. Not only does it fail to affect the population it was supposed to address, but it unfairly affects struggling minority and low-income students. The provision singles out drug users and gives a free pass to those convicted of other crimes. And most importantly, the legislation effectively thwarts young adults who are trying to clean up their lives and get an education, throwing up barriers that stop them from accomplishing their goals. There was some outcry when the law was passed in 1998, but it wasn't until the 2001-2002 school year that the provision was put into effect and students began losing their aid. Now, as its impact finally becomes evident, students and civil libertarians are taking a public stand against the law and organizing protests to get rid of it. Meanwhile, the financial aid officers at a handful of universities have reimbursed students affected by the law, and their colleagues around the country are looking for ways to follow suit. Last month, Yale University became the fourth private university to announce that it would begin reimbursing students who lost their financial aid because of the Higher Education Act. A bill that would repeal the provision, proposed by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has gained some momentum; and Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., who wrote and sponsored the law, is now backing a bill to change his own legislation. "I think the law is mean-spirited and short-sighted," says Barbara Hubler, director of financial aid at San Francisco State University. "We're out here trying to improve students; education is a way to help people become better citizens. It shouldn't be a bureaucracy that throws up obstacles and frustrates their attempts to move ahead with their lives." The battle against the Drug-Free Student Aid provision is, in effect, one more protest against laws quickly cobbled together in an unrealistic drive to purge the country of drugs. In the quest to ensure that no one, particularly not young Americans, touches drugs, Congress managed to pass sweeping and draconian measures that fail to differentiate between degrees of drug use and abuse, or between victims and villains. Opponents of the financial aid provision, like the opponents of drug conspiracy laws and the harsh sentencing of drug offenders, are questioning the effectiveness and fairness of broad rules that have tended to punish many in hopes of sending a message to the few, and are now derailing an educational system once known for its inclusiveness. The measures proposed to change or eliminate the Drug-Free Student Aid provision, even if they are passed, will not help the thousands of students already denied financial aid under the measure. It is not likely to influence the many students who, when denied aid, gave up on higher education altogether. In fact, this year's freshmen, unless they are enrolled at a university that has taken a stand against the measure, will be widely affected by the rule. The provision may seem like a relatively small piece of legislation, reaching only a fraction of all college students, but its implications are far-reaching. The message it sends about our nation's priorities is ominous: As the ACLU's director of drug policy litigation, Graham Boyd, sums it up, "The government is creating two classes of people: One class to whom we want to give an education and succeed in life, and another class of low-income drug users who we want to relegate to a life of working at McDonalds." The Drug-Free Student Aid provision was tacked on to the Higher Education Act of 1998 as part of Souder's aggressive anti-drug agenda. The law was intended to be both an incentive and punishment for currently enrolled students who were battling drug problems: Students who were receiving aid but had strayed from the straight and narrow would lose that money unless they could prove that they'd cleaned themselves up. "We wanted to ensure that students who were receiving taxpayer subsidizations were not breaking the law," explains Seth Becker, Souder's press secretary. The provision passed quickly, with support from both sides of Congress. Under the rule, any student who has been convicted of the possession or sale of a controlled substance is temporarily -- or perhaps permanently, depending on the offense -- ineligible for any federal grants, loans or work assistance. Students with one drug possession conviction lose their aid for one year from the date of conviction; with two convictions, they lose two years; and upon a third offense they may lose their aid forever. Sanctions are even stricter if students are caught selling drugs: A first offense is punished with a two-year aid loss, and a second conviction gets you indefinitely barred. There is one caveat: If a student completes a federally approved drug rehabilitation program, and then passes two unannounced drug tests, he or she could get the aid reinstated. But in their rush to get the law on the books, Congress failed to conceive of a reasonable strategy to enforce the provision. The lack of an implementation procedure has resulted in far more students being affected by the law than anyone, even Souder, ever intended. This glitch is compounded further by the inherent unfairness of the law: It specifically targets minority students of lower income, and ignores any financial aid applicants who have committed crimes unrelated to drugs. Even though the provision was intended to deny aid to currently enrolled students who are convicted of drugs, it has had the effect of punishing new students who have sinned in the past. What the law didn't take into consideration is that the Department of Education has no way of knowing when recipients of financial aid get in trouble with the law. Indeed, college financial aid officers have no means of tracking the arrests and convictions of their students. Under the circumstances, applicants for aid are required to self-report their past drug convictions when they sign up for support for the first time. The outcome of this system is that the only students who can be identified as having drug convictions are new applicants who haven't even begun to receive aid (and who also haven't been savvy enough to lie about their drug histories when filling out their application). Both opponents and proponents of the provision agree that this is an unfair way to ferret out drug offenders; because of the way the law is being used, it is no more than a belated punishment for crimes that happened long before the student applied for college. But the sides disagree on how many students have lost their aid because of it. The Department of Education's numbers fail to clearly illustrate the impact of this provision. It's possible, in the strictest sense, to say that only 1,019 students have lost their aid since 1991 because of a past drug conviction. But this ignores thousands more students who are dropping out of the financial aid process halfway through, thanks to the way the application is formatted. Since 1991, some 59,543 students have either left the question about drug convictions blank on their applications or failed to return worksheets that grilled them about their drug convictions, thereby making them ineligible. No one is tracking these students to find out why they gave up, but it's probably a fair assumption that many of them had drug convictions they didn't want to reveal and so simply decided not to bother. Similarly, no one is tracking what happens to students who are denied financial aid: Do they continue on to college anyway, find other forms of financial aid and take on second jobs? Or do they just drop out altogether? There is no national data on these questions, but an informal survey of some local colleges and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area unearthed some disturbing trends. At San Francisco State University, for example, 48 students were turned down for financial aid last year because of their prior drug convictions; of those 48, says financial aid director Hubler, only 4 students ultimately enrolled in school. At City College of San Francisco, 10 students were turned down; a slight majority continued on to school and the rest disappeared. (The more prestigious University of California at Berkeley and Stanford University didn't recall any students who had been denied financial aid.) "One could theorize from the numbers that students are being denied aid and then not enrolling," says Hubler. "And another group of students with convictions surely looked at the application and said, 'I'm not even going to apply for financial aid.' We have no idea how many of those students there are." Although it's possible to go through drug rehab to reclaim eligibility, it's a circuitous and insulting process that could deter many students. Students who already have gone through Narcotics Anonymous, for example, are informed that the program doesn't meet federal standards. Their only option is to enter drug rehab again. Students convicted of a minor possession -- say, having a small amount of marijuana -- have to go through the same measures as a heroin addict. Some, if not most, approved drug-rehab programs are both expensive and time-consuming. Only one of the 48 students at SF State who were denied federal aid bothered to go through rehab, which deeply concerns financial aid administrators. Jorge Bell, the associate dean of financial aid at City College, observed several students drop out rather than undergo rehab. "There might be some students out there who are deciding not to continue their education because of this extra hoop," he says. "Financial aid is so important, if you have to wait for your aid -- or even just wait weeks to go through a drug rehab program -- you may give up altogether." The Drug-Free Student Aid provision also imposes class and racial biases, in addition to an oddly arbitrary rating of various types of crime. For example, the measure, because it concerns only drug-related transgressions, does not apply to rapists, batterers or armed robbers, among others. Student groups, infuriated at being singled out as lurking enemies in the war on drugs, have organized against the provision. "Are you telling us that drug laws in the United States aren't deterrent enough?" asks Shawn Heller, national director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which is coordinating students across the nation to protest the legislation. "It's drug war politicking," he says. "Souder wants to go back to his district and say 'I'm tough on drugs and I created laws that buckle down on users.' But if he wanted to do anything about drug problems on campus, he'd give additional funds for local programs that actually reduce drugs on campus. It's another zero tolerance law in which you take discretion away from judges and people who deal with these problems on a daily basis, and give it to the federal government instead." Civil libertarians argue that this law is an example of blatant discrimination, based on income and race. By definition, they say, the law is designed to penalize the less fortunate college applicants: Students who can pay for college with their own (or more likely, their parents' own) money, are unaffected by the law, while needy students are subjected to unfair scrutiny and the loss of an education. The law also unfairly targets minority citizens, by virtue of the deep racial inequality of the nation's war on drugs: Sixty-two percent of those with drug convictions are African-American, even though they make up only 12 percent of the population and 13 percent of all drug offenders. "It's well documented that drug war enforcement is heavily skewed towards blacks," says the ACLU's Boyd. "Since the Drug-Free Student Aid provision is more about who gets convicted by the system than it is about the drug offense, it's much more likely that you'll lose your funding if you are black than white. "It's extending the racial injustice that you see on the street corner into colleges, and the consequences are profoundly unfair, since education is extremely important." Because the provision is a federal law, only prestigious, private institutions have the freedom to financially assist students who have lost their aid to it, thanks to the private money on hand. At public universities -- where more students are likely to have been affected by the law in the first place -- the financial aid offices are bound by their reliance on public funding. But that has not stopped many of them from speaking out against the provision. A handful of the private institutions have used their freedom to defy the provision by reimbursing students who have lost their aid, or offering them special scholarships. Last year, three private universities, Hampshire, Swarthmore and Western Washington University, took this action. In April, Yale University, where students have protested the law, joined in. Although no students at Yale have ever lost aid because of the drug provision, any who do in the future will be reimbursed by Yale's private scholarship funds. (The student does have to agree to participate in a drug rehab program, however). Yale spokesman Tom Conroy is careful not to condemn the law, pointing out that Yale historically has guaranteed all students the financial aid they require for their education, regardless of reason. Still, the provision's opponents are thrilled by Yale's action, and hope that if one private Ivy League school takes action, the rest will fall in line. Opponents of the law are further delighted by the symbolism in the defiance by Yale, alma mater of George W. Bush. "Yale's decision is tremendously important for political reasons," says Boyd. "Because it is an elite institution, which many of our elected leaders actually attended, it sends the message that this is a law that is so fundamentally unfair that the universities are effectively opting out." Still other universities have shown some interest in taking action against the measure. The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) held a national conference about the provision last year, explaining how financial aid officers could reimburse students who lost their aid. Administrators from 50 colleges, including Yale, attended. The SSDP also has organized student action groups at more than 200 colleges around the nation, including strong chapters at Harvard and Wesleyan, to push their schools to follow Yale's lead. Some schools, which have yet to lose a student due to the provision, appear to be waiting to see what happens (or if any other universities stick their neck out first). At Stanford University, one financial aid administrator explained that the university would consider a similar action "if the situation were to arise here." In the meantime, there's a chance that the law could simply go away. In February 2001, Barney Frank introduced a bill to Congress that would repeal the law. Since then, 66 cosponsors from both parties have signed on. But as Frank's secretary Peter Kovar complains, "There's been no action on the bill, and frankly it's an uphill fight with the Republican administration." Meanwhile, in December, Souder submitted an amendment to his bill that would restrict the disqualification of students for drug offenses to "those students who committed offenses while receiving student financial aid." The amendment is slowly working its way through the committee process, but it still doesn't address the question of how, exactly, the Department of Education would find those students in the first place. (Souder's press secretary Becker suggests that maybe there could be some kind of "reporting mechanism between legal agencies" that would track student drug convictions, but he's noticeably vague on the details.) This piece of panicked legislation, like others that emerged during the war on drugs, is likely to be slow to change. Nearly 20 years after the national hysteria about crack, for example, we still have laws on the books that will put a person in jail for decades for possessing even the tiniest amount of crack, or throwing a party where drugs are used. The Drug-Free Student Aid provision, which is so flawed that even the congressman who wrote it wants it to change it, may not disappear any faster. The nation's war on drugs has consumed vast amounts of funding -- for the criminal justice system, interdiction and heavy-handed propaganda designed to bring national drug use to a halt. But education, with its psychological and financial benefits, is widely acknowledged to be perhaps the best deterrent of all. Isn't it ironic, then, that this piece of legislation would deny even a small amount of financial aid to those with troubled pasts who are now trying to improve their lives. The proponents of the provision argue that public money shouldn't be going to students who are using drugs. By this backhanded reasoning, we must be satisfied with the fact that the money we save keeping kids out of college can be put to better use building jails, where these same kids, hopeless and unsupported, will eventually end up. Note: A federal law passed in a burst of drug war fervor denies financial aid to the country's neediest students.About the writerJanelle Brown is a former Salon staffer and frequent contributor. Source: Salon (US Web)Author: Janelle BrownPublished: May 20, 2002Copyright: 2002 SalonWebsite: salon salonmagazine.comRelated Articles & Web Site:SSDP: and Colleges Not Mixing Is Responsible for Students Losing Education? CannabisNews Articles - SSDP 
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Comment #9 posted by E_Johnson on May 20, 2002 at 20:07:08 PT
A meeting between Matthew and Woland
From Master and Margaret, where the character who is supposedly the Devil, Woland, brings the heroic lovers of the story to meet Christ and find out their eternal fate after death. Christ has decided to reward the Master with eternal peace and Matthew has come to tell Woland to fetch the couple whom he has been magickally aiding throughout the story.
"Ha!" exclaimed Woland, looking mockingly at the newcomer. "You are the last one I would expect here! What brings you, uninvited guest?""I am here to see you, spirit of evil and ruler of shadows," answered the visitor with a sullen look under his brow."If you have come to see me, then why don't you wish me a good evening, tax collector?" Woland asked sternly."Because I do not wish you a good evening," the newcomer answered insolently."Nevertheless, you will have to bear with it." said Woland and a dry smile twisted his lips. "No sooner do you appear on the roof than you put your foot in it. And I'll tell you what it is -- it is your tone. You spoke the words as if you did not recognize the existence of either shadows or evil. But would you be kind enough to give some thought to this: what would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if the shadows disappeared from it? After all, shadows are cast by objects and people. There is the shadow of my sword. But there are also shadows of trees and other living creatures. Would you like to denude the earth of all the trees and all the living beings in order to satisfy your fantasy of rejoicing in the naked light? You are a fool"
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Comment #8 posted by E_Johnson on May 20, 2002 at 19:51:43 PT
Sorry for shouting
Forgot to close a tag oops!
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Comment #7 posted by E_Johnson on May 20, 2002 at 19:50:36 PT
Rukupisi ne goryat!!
Manuscripts do not burn!This is what the Devil says in Master and Margaret when he pulls the manuscript of the life of Christ written by the Master from the fire, where he tried to burn it out of bitterness over further repression.Do you understand how significant this idea was in the collapse of the Soviet Empire? A whole generation of Soviet youth culture took up the Master and Margaret as their Bible.It's my Bible too.
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Comment #6 posted by E_Johnson on May 20, 2002 at 19:46:35 PT
Thanks Lehder I have that book too
I never realized how relevant her eloquent and heroic act of witnessing would become to me!!Another one I reach for is Master and Margaret by Mikhail Bulgakov which is about the same thing, really, in its own magickal mystickal way.
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Comment #5 posted by Lehder on May 20, 2002 at 15:13:08 PT
the task of universal destruction
This book...may never see the light of day. There is nothing easier than to destroy a book, unless it already circulates in samizdat or has found its way into print....But even if it is destroyed, it may, perhaps, nt have been entirely in vain. Before being consigned to the flames, it will be read by those whose expert task it is to destroy books, to eradicate words, to stamp out thought. They will understand none of it, but perhaps somewhere in the recesses of their strange minds the idea will stick that this crazy old woman fears nothing and despises force. It will be something if they understand that much. The thought of it will be like a little pinch of salt to sprinkle on their privileged rations, or a garnishing to whet their appetite for that other literature designed to edify and instruct people of their kind, functionaries to whom nothing matters, neither life, nor man, nor the earth, not anything - dimmed by their very breath - that lights our way. Heaven help them. But willthey really succeed in their task of universal destruction?--Nadezhda Mandelstam Hope AbandonedFor the sake of what idea was it necessary to send those countless trainloads of prisoners, including the man who was so dear to me, to forced labor in eastern Siberia? M. always said that they always knew what they were doing: the aim was to destroy not only people, but the intellect itself.--Nadezhda Mandelstam Hope Against Hope
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Comment #4 posted by paul peterson on May 20, 2002 at 10:33:17 PT:
I borrowed student loan money a full generation ago. I went to college & law school. I paid my student loan money back in full. I practiced law for 20 years and tried to help disadvantaged (and seriously injured) workers and homeless people. I found out I had a brain chemical imbalance called ADD. I took the pills they told me to take. I stopped smoking cannabis when they told me to.What I got for all this was a depressive downslide every night, which some 15 other pills didn't with. Then a therapist suggested marijuana might alleviate that slide (which it did). Illinois has a world class law allowing medical use of same.I then came forward to gain proper authorization for the legal use of this medication. What I got for this was a SUSPENSION OF MY LICENSE TO PRACTICE LAW. Now, merely because I tried to help myself by taking a therapist's recommendations to heart, to help to balance my moods and to save my marriage and family unit, I HAVE BEEN IMPUGNED, LIED TO, DEFAMED, DEFRAUDED OF MY LICENSE TO PLY MY TRADE, PERJURED IN COURT DOCUMENTS, and rduced to total poverty and hunger. This is no worse, of course, than the travails that have been visited upon some other 700,000 persons, citizens of this supposedly free and just society, each and every year for the past 30 years or so. This is no worse, of course, than what happens to the thousands of young people that are routinely denied basic chances to better themselves, with schooling and training to prepare for their own careers.Of course, I detect that a change is occuring, slowly, perhaps imperceptively, where judges are finally thinking about constitutional rights, where politicians are coming forward to discuss difficult issues, where other English speaking nations are finally seeing just how repressive and oppressive the United States of America has become. For instance, STEVE KUBBY has just been told he qualifies for POLITICAL REFUGEE STATUS IN CANADA, because if he were to return to the fascist US of A, he would be PERSECUTED, etc.Federal judges are striking down laws and mandates and dictates of the BUSH MANIA MACHINE all over this country. Of course, the United States Supreme Court still stands as a beacon of treachery, after first annointing BUSH AS KING, then PAYING HOMAGE TO THE CZARS, in the interest of GREED of the DRUG KING PINS (they call them corporations or something like).But remember, each of those HIGH JUDGES still read the newspapers, each of those judges still hears what people say about them, each of those judges still lives in a house, somewhere, where there are real people living right next door, that sometimes might even talk to those judges about these issues, and each of those judges know deep in their hearts that the WAR ON DRUGS does more damage than the DRUGS THEMSELVES. Each of those judges knows just how stupid RICHARD NIXON looks now, some thirty years later, for his despicable rantings about starting the WAR ON DRUGS in the first place.Each of those judges knows that the battle lines for medical marijuana legalization are growing more and more clear, and that the movement will continue to advance, all the way to their gates. Each of these judges knows that more and more judges are speaking out about these very things as time marches towards their gates. Each of these judges knows that the more research that is done proves more and more that less and less is bad about marijuana.So each of these judges knows that if they prove to the American people that they are just PUPPETS TO THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS, they will, just like RICHARD NIXON looks bad now, look bad to the American people later on, after truth and justice and freedom finally wins out in this dramatic struggle against the despotic WAR ON DRUGS. Each of these judges might someday want to come out of their hole, and maybe travel somewhere in this world outside of their own repressive and oppressive country. They will not want to fear that people will recognize them as the puppets that they once were when they go there. I'm betting that they will start to reverse the slide to repression that the PUPPET PRNCE started when he refused to stop terrorism (9/11) so that he could have his little war of bombs and bayonettes. He started that war, so he could finally revenge the disgrace his father left behind in IRAQ. He needs the rest of the world on his side to finish that offensive, and even now, FORTRESS FREEDOM that is Europe, will not back him further in this war unless BUSH backs down in his rhetoric about the other war, the WAR ON DRUGS. That is why he is now stalled. He can't decide between drug company greed or his lust for vengence against those guys in IRAQ.He can't decide whether to invade IRAQ, COLUMBIA, or now CANADA. Just like in that game I used to play with friends in the 60's, called RISK, where each turn, you have to decide where to place your armies, because if you spread them too thin, you will not win any battles, he has to decide which campaign is most important to him, and he can't decide now.(MAYBE) He knew last summer that his first move was to allow those plane jackers to get through the screen so that he could retaliate mightily (but I'm guessing he had no idea just how successful they would really get!), but still, that gave him carte blanche to go off to war.FDR was rumored to have done the same gambit just a few short 60 years ago with Pearl Harbor. Now the media is actually comparing him with FDR in that gambit!.Now, in Canada, the local politicians must feel the gaze of the RISK PLAYER flush with his next turn's armies, threatening a full TRADE WAR, if they will not back down in their plans to downgrade the status of marijuana. And the only ploy the timid Canadians can use right now is to claim that the marijuana they grew for sick patients is bad weed, it's TOO STRONG, because the DEA would not give them the seeds of defeat so they could have grown the same DITCH WEED that the DEA always uses in studies, so that they can prove it doesn't do any medical good, (BECAUSE IT'S DITCH WEED, THAT'S WHAT).And our friends in Columbia (and I'm not talking about that local "District" of Columbia-I'm talking about that colonial territory that has BUSH BABY STORM TROOPERS FLYING AROUND with poison to denude the whole landscape), will all die first, because that is where the RISK GAME MOVE IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW, because for the first time, there are politicians there that are actually trying to seek justice and self-determination (sort of like our friendly friends our west in our own country, that are feeling the DEA storm troopers right now).
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on May 20, 2002 at 09:11:00 PT:
Call the law what it is: social engineering it's ugliest.Republicans reportedly hate 'social engineering'...which is using the power of government to force particular ideological ideals dear to those in power down the throats of those who are either indifferent - or hopping mad about it.The most common claim that Republicans have was that for in excess of 60 plus years, Democrats had been doing just that. The implication was that only Democrats could be guilty of such, because it is always the who favor a nanny state. Now, when the shoe is on the other foot, we see the Republicans doing exactly the same thing. Only it ain't 'Nanny' waiting for you with a report of the little kiddie's doings; it's a big, ugly, overfed, mean-tempered, battle-axe of a matron standing with a rolling pin ready to be applied to your noggin, asking without a hint of subtlety or awareness of her hypocrisy if you've prayed and sent in your campaign contribution. And if you don't make that matron smile (like approving mass piss-testing in high schools to weed out and punish 'the druggies' who might someday grow up to upset multinational corporation apple carts and imperil those same precious campaign contributions ) she'll use the power of the Federal government to make your life miserable...or simply physically impossible.Social engineering of any stripe is odious, because it's always done with 'for your own good' as the underlying premise...when at its' heart it's nothing but bald-faced bigotry cloaked in the sanctimonious hymn-singing of the True Believers. Who inevitably get manipulated by those with clearer heads, sharper eyes...and the morals of snapping turtles.
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Comment #2 posted by masscrusader on May 20, 2002 at 07:56:50 PT
terrorist threats
All these new terrorist threats! If I was a compassion club owner right now I would be scared. Or in Canada..
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Comment #1 posted by masscrusader on May 20, 2002 at 07:55:08 PT
Thanks Salon...
I just wish this one was in the Times...
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