The Real News of the Month

September 2001
Volume 8, No. 9

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> The Moving Picture (plus Exclusives to this edition)
  -> The Cultural War
Nuggets (plus Exclusives to this edition)
List of Columns Reprinted


The Moving Picture
(pages 1-2)

     The death of Katharine Graham, publisher of the 
WASHINGTON POST, was bound to test the nation's capital's 
capacity for fulsome praise. And to be sure, obsequies 
have seldom been so obsequious. Kay Graham, a hostess 
rather than a journalist, was the very personification of 
the Establishment. Well, someone has to be, and we can't 
hold that against her. But her eulogists insisted on 
turning the grande dame into a rebel: she had "no sacred 
cows," she "inspired" younger women by her example, she 
"shook the establishment," she was even, according to the 
ancient doyen of Washington courtiers, Arthur Schlesinger 
Jr., "a quiet revolutionary." Yes, just like that old 
Bastille-stormer Queen Victoria. Meaning no disrespect, 
the surest proof of Mrs. Graham's mediocrity is that 
nobody hated her.

*          *          *

     Perhaps the most revealing tribute was delivered by 
one of Mrs. Graham's favorite dinner guests, Henry 
Kissinger: "The Kay of the permanent establishment [!] 
never lost sight of the fact that societies thrive not by 
the victories of their factions but by their ultimate 
reconciliation." Yes, indeed: as Bill Clinton might say, 
the things that unite the two parties in Washington are 
more important than the things that divide them. At Kay 
Graham's dinner parties, political adversaries could be 
frank and friendly; everything was off the record. Her 
social mission was to foster the one-party system. No 
wonder the praise was so unanimous.

*          *          *

     Recent events in Genoa remind us, once again, that 
the "international community" comprises more 
organizations than you can shake a stick at: the United 
Nations, NATO, the G-8 nations, the International 
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Union, et 
cetera. Can anyone keep track of them all, or follow 
their workings? Clearly we are inching toward world 
government of some sort; and just as clearly, we aren't 
meant to understand it. We won't know just who our rulers 
are, or who (if anyone) elected them; in most cases they 
will be, for all practical purposes, unelected. Under 
"globalization," it appears that self-government, 
democracy, national sovereignty, and constitutional law 
will all become tenuous, problematic, and eventually 
meaningless. The old story will be recapitulated: what 
begins as loose federation will end in centralized, 
anonymous rule, which it would be rude and benighted to 
call tyranny.

*          *          *

     How eerie, to covet power without glory! The Roman 
emperors expected deification; it was part of the job 
description. Today's rulers don't want us to know who 
they are. What terrifying pusillanimity!

*          *          *

     Maybe we should be careful about judging such 
unsavory rulers as Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, 
Slobodan Milosevic, and Ariel Sharon. Whatever their 
vices, at least they resist assimilation to the New World 
Order. The old-fashioned tyrants had personalities. The 
new ones are bores who blend innocuously into their 
corporate environments. It's the difference between music 
and Muzak. Man has been replaced by "process."

*          *          *

     Over the last generation the Unites States has 
changed beyond recognition, and not for the better. So 
when I read about "anti-Americanism" abroad, I can't help 
reflecting that the United States has become the kind of 
country we used to think we had to save the world from. 
Is it really any wonder that many countries -- some of 
them culturally conservative -- now think the world has 
to be saved from the United States?

*          *          *

     The Pope's condemnation of stem-cell research on 
human embryos was greeted by the usual derision, 
sophisticated and otherwise. While the prestige news 
media cited polls showing that even most Catholics favor 
such research (see?), callers to C-SPAN emitted a 
ceaseless flow of ignorantly anti-Catholic sentiment. You 
had to hear it to believe it: the Pope has no moral 
authority because other popes have had girlfriends and 
taught that the earth was flat and failed to condemn the 
Holocaust, so there. As Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty 
says, after a similar exercise in ratiocination, "That's 
logic." It's also a reflection of American education, 
state-run and, alas, Catholic.

*          *          *

     Democrats in Congress don't seem unduly disturbed 
that Gary Condit had an amour with Chandra Levy. The same 
Democrats who acted shocked and unbelieving when Bill 
Clinton was accused of playing around with an intern -- 
it was "reprehensible," if true -- are now acting as if 
such conduct is the norm.

*          *          *

     A contrite Peter Benchley now says: "I couldn't 
write JAWS today." He's learned a lot about sharks 
lately, and he feels they're misunderstood: "Except in 
the rarest of instances, great white shark attacks are 
mistakes." Spoken like a true liberal, Benchley. Soon 
Steven Spielberg will reach the sorrowful conclusion that 
tyrannosaurus rex was more sinned against than sinning. 
How do some people manage to get more naive with age?

*          *          *

     Alexander Solzhenitsyn has published a new book, TWO 
HUNDRED YEARS TOGETHER, examining the troubled relations 
between Russians and Jews. The WASHINGTON POST gave its 
account of the book the interesting headline 
"Solzhenitsyn Again Treads on History's Dangerous 
Ground." Why should this book be "dangerous"? Is 
criticizing the Jews like affronting the KGB? Apparently 
the POST thinks so.

*          *          *

     As we go to press, President Bush has just announced 
his approval of "limited" federal funding of research on 
human embryos. The strict constructionist didn't say 
which clause in the Constitution authorizes any federal 
funding thereof. Catholic spokesmen blasted Bush's 
decision, and even Rush Limbaugh didn't defend him this 
time. Bush may now have done to his political base what 
his father did by raising taxes. It's as if Solomon had 
thought he could really satisfy both claimants by cutting 
the baby in half.

Exclusive to the electronic version:

     I keep wondering whether I should convert to 
Judaism. I'm tired of being called an anti-Semite; I'd 
rather be known as a self-hater.

*          *          *

     Reading the morning paper the other day, I was 
elated to see that a cool front was about to end the 
current local heat wave. Then I remembered I was reading 
an out-of-town paper.

The Cultural War
(pages 3-6)

     In the closely divided 2000 presidential election, 
George W. Bush won about 60 percent of the votes of 
people who frequently attend church. Al Gore won about 
the same percentage of those who seldom or never attend. 
"Americans increasingly vote as they pray -- or don't 
pray," says the political analyst Michael Barone.

     Bush won by a similar margin among white males and 
did nearly as well among married voters. Though Gore did 
well enough among racial minorities and unmarried voters 
to make the race even (he crowed that he won the popular 
vote, but for what it's worth, that's doubtful), Bush won 
in many more congressional districts and over a much 
broader geographical area, with Gore's vote heavily 
concentrated on the coasts and in the big cities. Gore 
also won among both the best- and least-educated voters, 
while Bush prevailed among high-school and college 

     The columnist Morton Kondracke calls this the 
"culture gap," and he notes that the Democratic 
Leadership Council is worried that the party is headed 
too far to the left, especially on social issues. There 
are amusing ironies here. The Democrats, while accusing 
the Republicans of "extremism," themselves appeal to the 
margins; whereas the Republicans find their strength in 
the demographic mainstream. And the more moderate 
Democrats are now -- finally! -- admitting the reality of 
the "cultural and religious war" they reviled Pat 
Buchanan for describing a decade ago.

     But can the Democrats, at this point, cease to be 
the party of moral chaos? They have committed themselves 
to virtually the entire agenda of the sexual revolution 
-- abortion (even in the late term), radical feminism, 
sodomy, fetal experimentation, stem-cell research, 
whatever. During the Clinton scandals, and again in the 
case of Gary Condit, they consistently trivialized 
adultery, even when it involved serious nonsexual crimes 
like perjury. In short, they stand opposed to the 
traditional moral code of Christianity.

     What's more, they equate that morality with 
"extremism." Even Kondracke says opposition to using 
human embryos for stem-cell research is "arguably extreme 
religious dogmatism." So much for the Catholic Church.

     It won't be easy for the Democrats to change 
positions they have embraced so ardently. Not only would 
reversing themselves to emulate their "extremist" 
Republican enemies be embarrassing; their core voters 
would be outraged, and they would lose the support of 
prestige intellectuals, the entertainment industry, and 
the news media.

     In fact, they might provoke a new third party of the 
left. Ralph Nader, on an ad hoc ticket, cost them the 
presidency last year by winning only 4 percent of the 
popular vote, most of it disaffected Democrats. A more 
organized and permanent leftist party could shift power 
to the Republicans for years to come.

     But aside from party alignments, this country has 
undergone some disturbing changes. Gore's near victory, 
like Clinton's two victories, showed that the old 
Christian consensus is gone. A large part of America is 
now in apostasy.

     Some Christians describe this as paganism (or 
"neopaganism"), but it is not. As C.S. Lewis once said, a 
post-Christian society can no more revert to paganism 
than a divorcee can revert to virginity. A Protestant 
culture, continually liberalizing, has finally dissolved 
into an anti-Christian reaction, hating its own origins, 
constantly validating itself by exalting the abnormal. 
Having no center of its own, it defines itself by 
contrast with orthodox Christianity -- especially 
Catholicism. Spiritually, it resembles the Protestant 
Reformation less than the French Revolution. Its note is 
not affirmation but rejection.

     Liberalism can't build; it can only destroy. It has 
no positive theory of humanity, of man as a creature of 
God with a fixed nature and an immortal soul, whose final 
destiny has been revealed by Christ. It can only see man 
as a bundle of amoral desires, victimized because those 
desires are frustrated by social institutions -- chiefly 
the Church. Man must be freed by the State, a system of 
power organized to cater to his desires, which are called 
"rights" -- though these desires can't be rights in any 
ultimate sense, since liberalism rejects the idea of a 
permanent natural order of right and wrong. Since man's 
desires are boundless, the liberal state must always keep 
expanding as new desires are disclosed. There can be no 
stable or final definition of the liberal state; 
liberalism, in a parody of the "unfolding revelation" of 
the Church, keeps pursuing new moral, or rather pseudo-
moral, fads.

     Far from being abashed by its own instability, 
liberalism glories in it. It regards each new pseudo-
moral fad -- abortion rights (but also children's 
rights!), civil rights, women's rights, workers' rights, 
"gay" rights, and so on -- as a duty. Each requires the 
state to adopt new compulsory powers to "protect" the 
designated victims, if only from "discrimination" -- the 
preference of others not to associate freely with them. 
The more "rights," the more organized state coercion.

     The Christian (who for this purpose may be anything 
from a Catholic to an Orthodox Jew) beholds the progress 
of liberalism aghast and baffled. He is puzzled by the 
use of the term "rights" outside any objective framework 
of justice. Because every right implies a correlative 
duty, he can't understand how "rights" can multiply and 
expand without limit. He may be slow to grasp that 
liberalism is using the language of "rights" without the 
defining context of a moral order in which alone that 
language can make sense to him.

     The Christian doesn't comprehend how there can be a 
"right" to do what is fundamentally wrong, such as 
killing an unborn child, and he may be amazed at the 
confidence with which the liberal asserts such a "right." 
It takes him a while to grasp that the liberal is a 
pretty assertive fellow, who is utterly untroubled by the 
absurdity and self-contradiction of such an assertion.

     The liberal feels that his will, not God's, 
constitutes a "right." Of course he knows that his own 
unsupported individual will would be unavailing; in 
practice he needs other liberals to assert the same 
"right." If he and his co-religionists (or co-
irreligionists) are sufficiently numerous, the state will 
make their claim stick, as it has in the matter of 

     The idea of a *new* right is alien and repugnant to 
the Christian. The moral order, being eternal, is also 
ancient. It was realized, through revelation and reason, 
long ago. Nothing essential can be added to it; nothing 
can be removed from it. Certain modifications, according 
to circumstance, may be made, but these are necessarily 
minor. The notion of a moral *revolution* is to his mind 
absurd and dangerous.

     But liberalism thrives on, and is positively 
inspired by, the idea of change and revolution, entailing 
social and political overthrow of the old. To the 
liberal, nothing is permanent, eternal, or venerable -- 
only "old," "medieval," "outmoded," "obsolete," and so 
forth. Endurance is no recommendation; just the opposite. 
The more ancient, the more obviously worthy of 
destruction. The most damning terms in liberal rhetoric 
are those that consign its enemies to the past, the Dark 
Ages, Middle Ages, the thirteenth or fourteenth or 
nineteenth century.

     "The old tyrants appealed to the past," Chesterton 
predicted; "the new tyrants will appeal to the future." 
Liberalism, claiming the future as its own, needs no 
pedigree. It judges other regimes by their records; it 
insists that its own regime, a mere abstract dream, be 
judged by its promises.

     Communism was the distilled essence of liberalism, 
the regime totally liberated from the past and dedicated 
to the project of "building a new society" by massive 
coercion and the destruction of every traditional 
institution (chiefly church, property, and family). "I 
have been over into the future, and it works," exulted 
the American liberal Lincoln Steffens after visiting the 
Soviet Union.

     But Soviet liberalism failed ignominiously; despite 
its brutality, which most American liberals could (and 
did) excuse, it couldn't keep its extravagant promises of 
increased production.

     American liberalism avoided the Soviet mistake, 
partly because American liberals never achieved total 
power. The Soviets, who did achieve such power, couldn't 
escape taking responsibility for economic management. 
This proved a fundamental blunder. After a while it 
became impossible to blame saboteurs, reactionaries, and 
counterrevolutionaries for unremitting economic disaster. 
Maybe you couldn't make an omelet without breaking eggs, 
but when millions upon millions of broken eggs yielded 
only a few omelets, the game was up.

     In America the liberal strategy was not to seize the 
means of production, but to blame capitalism for 
everything liberals chose to call a "failure," chiefly 
the unequal distribution of wealth. Liberals couldn't 
destroy the institution of property, but they learned to 
sap it -- through taxation, redistribution, regulation, 
"civil-rights" legislation, and other devices. Having 
vitiated its success, they accused it of failing. They 
deliberately confused *relative* poverty -- which is 
inevitable -- with utter destitution, which, in America, 
had ceased to exist. The most ingenious rhetorical 
strategy was that of the socialist Michael Harrington, 
who invented the idea of "invisible" poverty. Unable to 
impose wholesale socialism, liberalism settled for a 
retail version, at every step moving toward the socialist 
paradigm without acknowledging its ultimate goal. At 
every step liberals pushed for increasing the power of 
the state over property and commerce.

     And at every step liberalism likewise opposed the 
authority of religion -- in the name of "separation of 
church and state" -- and fought to weaken the family -- 
in the name of "women's rights" and "sexual freedom." As 
the Russian dissident Igor Shafarevich noted, socialism, 
under the guise of promoting equality, has always 
attacked the triad of property, family, and church. 
Property, because it affords economic independence from 
the state; family, because it provides a loyalty prior to 
the state; and church, because it represents a higher 
authority than the state. Communism, when it took power, 
attacked these institutions frontally. American 
liberalism attacks them by subversion, while pretending 
to accept and respect them. But the driving impulse is 
the same. Whatever its outward guise, liberalism seeks to 
make us "equal" by making us interchangeable units of the 
state. This is far from the classic Christian republican 
understanding of equality, which meant simply that no man 
had a right to rule another without his consent, as 
hereditary rulers -- kings and aristocrats -- had 
traditionally done. The new version of equality would 
lead to the rise of all-powerful (though nonhereditary) 
monarchs and elites.

     Not that individual liberals are fully conscious of 
what they are doing. But the pattern is clear enough. 
Naive conservatives may suppose that because there is a 
pattern, there is a conspiracy. But naive liberals, 
knowing they aren't parties to any conspiracy, just as 
erroneously assume there is no pattern. They feel that 
their actions are free and spontaneous. But all the same, 
their impulses drive them to behave just as predictably 
as if they were obeying orders from a central command. 
Their conformity is no less real for being instinctive.

     This is why I like to compare liberals to a beehive, 
in which each bee spontaneously contributes to an 
observable system of which it is unaware. The studious 
apiarist sees what no bee sees. He knows them better than 
they know themselves.

     Bees also have an elaborate system of communication. 
When they find pollen, they return to the hive to 
"inform" the others, by flying in little figure eights 
that tell their peers in which direction, and how far, 
they must go to get the swag.

     In a similar way, liberals have a communication 
system consisting of innocent-sounding words that perform 
the same directive function: such shibboleths as "civil 
rights," "civil liberties," "equality," "academic 
freedom," "choice," "social justice," "freedom of 
speech," "protecting the environment," and countless 
other terms have special imperative meanings for their 
peers. Such words have entirely different meanings for 
nonliberals, who don't suspect that the liberal Hive is 
engaged in building a power system -- the total state -- 
rather than fighting for ostensibly unrelated causes.

     The Hive achieves perfect secrecy by being 
*perfectly public.* The secrets of the Hive are in a 
sense concealed from the bees themselves. Al Gore doesn't 
think of himself as an agent of tyranny; no extreme of 
torture could make him confess to something he isn't even 
aware of doing in the first place. He simply does what he 
does, using the code of liberalism, and thereby adds his 
bit to the system, the final result of which will be a 
cosmos he can't (and needn't) comprehend. The beehive 
doesn't depend on being planned and understood by any bee 
-- not even the queen. There is no central direction. 
Intelligence mysteriously inheres in the whole, not in 
the parts.

     Only the detached observer may perceive the *telos* 
of the Hive. And even he may mistake it for conscious 
purpose in the liberal bees -- a natural enough error. It 
is tempting to think that these liberals *must* know 
what they're doing. But few of them do. The great 
majority of them pursue seemingly independent causes 
without realizing whither they all tend. They 
instinctively recognize allies and enemies, and they 
swarm angrily against the common foe -- whether it's Joe 
McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Pope John Paul II, 
Ronald Reagan, Robert Bork, Jerry Falwell, Clarence 
Thomas, Newt Gingrich, or Rush Limbaugh, to mention a few 
notable targets of Hive attacks -- but the point is that 
this collective reaction is spontaneous and emotional, 
not cunning, premeditated, or organized. The attackers 
may be Harvard law professors or brainless feminists. But 
regardless of individual intelligence, they all react 
alike, with an unmistakably visceral hostility.

     In ridiculing "conspiracy theories," the Hive is not 
only sincerely protesting, at the conscious level, that 
it is *not* conspiring, but is also, at the instinctive 
level, protecting its camouflage. It senses that it does 
indeed bewray a pattern, which must be hidden from its 
natural enemies in order to remain effective. Once 
ordinary people learn to "decode" the Hive's special 
lingo, the game is up. What the old Stalinists did with 
conscious guile, today's liberals do with a subconscious 
style of evasion. They pose (again, quite sincerely) as 
"pragmatists" and "moderates," ascribing "ideology" and 
"extremism" to their foes.

     The code of the Hive is most effective in the news 
media, where liberals affect to report facts impartially, 
while coloring them with subtle overtones that pass off 
liberal ideology as neutral information. To the untutored 
ear, the code sounds innocuous. Most people have no 
suspicion that they are hearing propaganda. But Hive-
edited "news" is full of tiny cues that, without seeming 
to slant the bare facts, turn reports of current events 
into melodramas whose antagonists are divided into 
"progressive" heroes and "reactionary" villains. Even 
scrupulous journalists may not realize that their liberal 
colleagues are doctoring the data, since liberals 
themselves often don't know they are doing it. The 
liberal code easily becomes second nature.

     As the critic Hugh Kenner has put it, "The style of 
your own time is always invisible." Even the most 
vigilant conservative may fail to discern the liberal 
"spin," because the Hive's idiom has become the accepted 
mode of political thought and expression. We all speak 
it, when we are unwary, and it requires a special effort 
to extricate one's mind from it. By now most of us have 
forgotten the alternatives to liberalism. This represents 
a great triumph of propaganda.

     An ideology has triumphed when it passes for 
etiquette. Liberalism now defines even our manners. We 
feel required to express our thoughts according to its 
prescriptions. It creates social imperatives and taboos. 
One must be uncommonly lucid and ruthless to reject its 
rules of discourse, its assumptions of propriety and 
topicality. Not only must the racist speak as an 
egalitarian; the Christian must speak as an agnostic. All 
doubts as to the authority of liberalism must be 
suppressed, unless they can be argued with rare 
sovereignty of mind and sheer defiance of public opinion 
-- "public opinion" being what everyone thinks everyone 
else thinks, since today "everyone else" is presumed to 
be liberal.

     Today a Bush (though a sincere Christian) is 
deferential to a Gore. Gore, assuredly through no merit 
of his own, holds the upper hand, for no better reason 
than that he belongs to the liberal community -- the 
Hive. Gore didn't win the popular vote last November; an 
honest recount in the cities, if it were possible, would 
prove that. But he stands for a body of opinion that Bush 
doesn't dare dispute. Gore, though stupid, is a militant 
liberal; Bush, despite some conservative impulses, is an 
acquiescent liberal.

     Liberals constantly accuse conservatives of seeking 
to "impose their views" on society. And from the liberal 
point of view, this is true enough, though rather 
vacuous: after all, what is politics but the eternal 
struggle of contending forces to impose their will (which 
presumably reflects their "views") on each other? This is 
hardly something liberals themselves refrain from doing: 
there can be no more ambitious attempt to "impose views" 
that the total remaking of society through government 

     But the liberal indictment usually refers to 
specific conservative aims, such as outlawing abortion. 
It appeals to the trite notion that Christian fanatics 
want to force everyone to abide by some sectarian 
morality peculiar to them.

     The truth should be too obvious to need saying. 
Conservatives want a government confined to its few 
proper functions, which in their minds begin with 
protection from violence. The abortion laws struck down 
by the liberal regime didn't require any substantial 
expansion of the role of the state; they merely invoked 
the state's support for a pre-existing moral consensus. 
They presumed that the government backed up the Christian 
cultural consensus.

     A few decades ago, conservatives, however they might 
detest such liberal politicians as Franklin Roosevelt and 
Lyndon Johnson, could hardly imagine that their 
government, even in liberal hands, would wage war on 
fundamental features of Christian culture itself. Not 
only has the "cultural and religious war" -- as Pat 
Buchanan dubbed it in 1992 -- come to pass; it has become 
the dominant form of American politics, and is now 
accepted as normal and legitimate by the powerful news 
and entertainment media, which are fighting that war 
themselves -- on the liberal side, of course.

     Not that liberals acknowledge their war. Denial of 
the pattern is always the Hive's strategy. Conservatives 
who perceive it receive jeers -- as Buchanan did in 1992, 
from the very liberals who were waging the war he spoke 
of; as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s, when he referred 
to the "evil empire" of Soviet Communism. (In 1951, 
liberals attacked William Buckley for saying that Yale 
was indoctrinating students with liberalism!)

     As the 1992 election indicates, American voters seem 
evenly divided between the liberal and conservative sides 
in the cultural war. But only one side is really 
fighting, and it has great advantages: control of the 
media, the school system, and the state itself. The other 
side doesn't even act as if it knows there's a war on. 
Which is just the way the Hive prefers it.


THE FINAL STEP: Gay marriage is not enough. We won't have 
*true* equality until there are gay shotgun weddings. 

THE COMEBACK KID: Bill Clinton has finally opened his new 
office in Harlem. In what amounted to the inaugural 
address of his ex-presidency, he announced that his new 
mission will include fighting AIDS. Most of us would be 
satisfied if he just refrained from transmitting it. 
(page 8)

OOPS! Asked about her plans for 2004, Hillary Clinton 
assured the National Press Club that "I'm having a great 
time being presi -- being a first-time senator." What an 
arrogant bi -- I mean, what an arrogant woman. (page 8)

Exclusive to the electronic version:

HAVE YOU NOTICED? Hollywood is not only remaking movies 
movies that never should have been made in the first 
place (OCEAN'S ELEVEN). Or movies based on TV shows 
(CHARLIE'S ANGELS), or even cartoons (ROCKY AND 
BULLWINKLE). Couldn't they spend all that money on 
something more worthwhile, like drugs?

CHRONICLES OF THE BETTER HALF: New York's Senator Clinton 
is grumbling about federal funding for Viagra. The 
reason? It favors men, with no comparable federal 
enhancement for women's sex lives. For a minute I thought 
maybe she'd discovered the Tenth Amendment. No such luck. 

THE RIGHTS EXPLOSION: So now we are getting "patients' 
rights." The very phrase makes one cringe. Without even 
knowing the details, we know that the more state-
proclaimed "rights" we are given, the fewer freedoms we 
have left. 


* What Lies Ahead (July 5, 2001)

* Waiting for the Moral (July 10, 2001)

* Defenders of the Faith (July 17, 2001)

* Death of a Sacred Cow (July 19, 2001)

* Interns and Other Playthings (July 24, 2001)

* Who Killed the Iceman? (July 26, 2001)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran

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