Conceived above a saloon, delivered into this world by a masked man identified by his heavily sedated mother as Captain Video, raised by a kindly West Virginian woman, a mild-mannered former reporter with modest delusions of grandeur and no tolerance of idiots and the intellectually dishonest.


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Saturday, December 24, 2005

...and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


(Click on the photo for a link to more Earthlights)

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A Christmas Observation

Christmas trees are sort of like farts. Yours are ok, but everyone else's stinks.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

If you're going to burn in Hell...

At least do it with top-notch production values.

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Ouch

(via AvWeb)

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No need for concern...

As a US Government official, I believe that most Americans are not overly concerned about the US Government recording their phone conversations and e-mails without a court order, as long as it helps in the War On Terror.

... At least, that's what most Americans are saying in the phone conversations and e-mails I've been recording.

(KGB's friend at the CIA, the Covert Comic)

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Quote of the day

Merry Christmas, Nearly Everybody!
Ogden Nash

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Resistance is futile, and so is the care

My post about Tirhas Habtegiris, a legal African immigrant who had no medical insurance and who died 15 minutes after she was unplugged, while conscious, from her ventilator under the provisions of the Texas Futile Care Law disturbed me so much I started poking around the web. What I found was really unsettling.

The link to the story I originally posted now requires registration, so you can also go here for the sordid details.

At the risk of oversimplification, the law says that medical professionals can give you ten days' warning that they're going to withdraw life-sustaining treatment if, in their sole discretion, they determine that treatment is futile because death is inevitable.

What's particularly stunning about this is that said medical professionals can do this even if the terminal patient is conscious, lucid, and not yet inclined to shuffle off this mortal coil and join the choir invisible. Indeed, the patient may even take part in the proceedings in which the determination to terminate treatment is made. But since the medical professionals are, well, professionals, they're far more equipped to determine whether its worth expending the effort- and, more importantly, spending the money- necessary to save your sorry ass.

Jesus. I think I saw this on an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I posted this story to Dave Farber's Interesting Persons last and received a number of responses:

"I have a friend out here in California who was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was 50. She went into a coma after surgery, and the doctors almost got her elderly father to sign a release to take no extraordinary measures to save her life. Her boyfriend showed up and prevented the old man from signing it. He said that 'no extraordinary measures' was something for people who are very old and infirm. He insisted that the hospital take extraordinary measures and my friend was out of her coma ten days later because of them. She would have died without them, no question.

"Researching the whole incident, the boyfriend learned that my friend had really lousy insurance, that the hospital had only realized this after she had been admitted and wouldn't have admitted her if they had known. They were trying to get her out of the hospital as quickly as possible, in a box if need be. My friend is still alive and active five years later.

"The hospital is in the chain owned by Bill Frist's family. They deserve to make money, and of course they have to, but when Frist participated in the Schiavo charade earlier this year I wanted to puke."

(Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is under investigation by federal authorities for his sale of stock in his family founded hospital chain, HCA. Supposedly held in a blind trust, Frist dumped the stock two weeks before share prices dropped nine percent.)

Why is there no hue and cry over this? Where's the mainline media? Where are the Schiavo people? Where are the Culture of Life people? I'm confused.

The Texas Futile Care Law was signed by President Bush in 1999, when he was governor. The same governor who oversaw a record number of executions during his tenure.

But this is also the guy who's against assisted suicide. The guy who interrupted one of his series of endless vacations to fly back to DC to sign the pointless, political grandstanding Schiavo resolution.

An argument for government medical insurance, you say? Not so fast, Skippy. Read the article below.

I think someone's thrown the switch on the Wayback Machine, and we're all hurtling into the Dark Ages.

Oh, yeah. And Merry Christmas.

Suing for the Right to Live:
Two cases of European doctors refusing to treat their patients are cause for concern: Futile Care Theory may be coming to America.

By: Wesley J. Smith
Weekly Standard
March 11, 2004

A little noticed litigation in the United Kingdom could be a harbinger of medical woes to come here in the United States. Leslie Burke, age 44, is suing for the right to stay alive. Yes, you read right: Burke, who has a terminal neurological disease, is deathly afraid that doctors will refuse to provide him wanted food and water when his condition deteriorates to the point that has to receive nourishment through a feeding tube.

Burke's fears are, quite rationally, based on current international legal and bioethical trends. Futile Care Theory, the bioethical maxim that gives doctors the right to refuse wanted life-sustaining treatment based on their perception of the quality of their patient's life, has imbedded itself like barbed hook into British medical ethics and law. Indeed, current British Medical Association ethical guidelines permit doctors to stop tube-supplied nutrition and hydration if they believe the patient's quality of life is poor, leading to eventual death. In such cases, patients' or relatives' views on the matter must succumb to the medical and bioethical consensus.

Making matters worse for Burke, British courts previously stamped their imprimatur upon Futile Care Theory, bringing with it the terrifying prospect that Burke will be denied wanted life-sustaining treatment. Indeed, a previous lawsuit involving a disabled child already granted doctors the final say as to whether the boy lives or is abandoned to death through the denial of resuscitating treatment.

The case involved David Glass, who in 1998 at age 12 suffered respiratory failure. His parents rushed him to St. Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth, only to have doctors refuse to save his life. Not only that, they sought to inject David with a palliative agent that would have further suppressed his respiration. Their reasoning: David's profound development and physical disabilities made his life not worth living.

Amazingly, David's folks were able to resuscitate him after the doctors turned their backs. Then, outraged at the medical discrimination imposed against their son, they sued to prevent doctors from refusing to save David again if he suffers another medical emergency. But the unrepentant doctors fought back, one testifying that he objected to the parents' resuscitative actions because they had "prevented him from dying."

Clearly, the issue in the case wasn't whether David's life was beyond saving but whether it was worth saving. Shockingly, the trial and appellate courts supported the doctors, ruling that in the United Kingdom, doctors--not patients or parents--have the final say as to who should live and who should die. And if Burke loses his case, it will mean that competent patients in Britain who opt in advance for life-sustaining treatment in the event of future incapacitation, cannot be confident that their desires will be respected.

Lest you stretch, yawn, and think that Burke's fears have little relevance here, the dark shadow of Futile Care Theory has already reached our shores. Throughout the country, hospital and nursing home bioethics committees have begun to quietly promulgate procedural protocols that allow them to impose Futile Care Theory on America's most defenseless and helpless patients.

These "medical futility" or "inappropriate care" guidelines establish internal bureaucratic procedures that generally work something like this:

In the event of a dispute over providing wanted life-sustaining treatment, the matter will first be discussed informally among bioethics, chaplains, social workers, doctors, family, and patient (if capable).

If the dispute cannot be resolved informally, it will be brought to the hospital bioethics committee or other body established for "adjudication."

The committee hears from the doctors, family, bioethics experts, and others. If the committee rules that the treatment is not to be provided, the patient will be denied all further treatment in the hospital, other than comfort care--this, even if the family finds a doctor willing to provide the desired services.

At that point, patients and their families have three options: (1) Acquiesce, meaning that the patient probably dies. (2) Find another hospital--a daunting if not impossible task given that the patients who would be refused care under futility protocols would usually be the most expensive to care for and thus, given the economics of managed care, probably unwelcome in another institution. (3) They could sue.

A primary reason bioethicists have created futility protocols is to stack the deck against such patient/family lawsuits. Indeed, as one Futile Care Theory apologia published in the Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics in 2001 put it, "Hospitals are likely to find the legal system willing (and even eager) to defer to well-defined and procedurally scrupulous processes for internal resolutions of futility disputes." In other words, bioethicists and hospital lawyers plan to say to the judge, "Our futility protocol has already been agreed to by the experts. It represents the standard of care. Who are you, a mere lawyer after all, to tell us how to practice medicine?" Given that the courts increasingly reflect the views of the elites rather than the people, this tactic seems a good bet to succeed.

Weak and vulnerable patients in the United Kingdom are having a duty to die imposed upon them by medical ethicists and the courts' approval of Futile Care Theory. The same game is now afoot here. Bioethicists are getting their futility procedural ducks in a row to persuade the courts to permit them to impose their values on the patients and families of America. And lest you believe that U.S. courts would never allow the medical intelligentsia to impose Futile Care Theory on Americans, remember this: The United States Supreme Court now looks to European courts for precedent and guidance on how to decide cutting-edge legal and cultural issues. This means that the Burke and Glass cases could eventually become the justifications used by U.S. courts to deny you or someone you love, wanted life sustaining medical care.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

I knew there'd be an applicable Carlin quote....

You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans.
-George Carlin

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Bonus quote of the day

Vice President Dick Cheney cut short his visit to the Middle East to rush back to the Senate to vote on legislation to open the Alaskan Wildlife Preserve to oil drilling. Isn't it amazing? It takes a week for these guys to get off their ass for a hurricane, but when it involves oil, it's "When's the next flight!?"...
Jay Leno

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I got yer "Compassionate Conservatism" right here, pally

The next time some right wing nut job starts spewing about Terry Schiavo and the "Culture of Life", point them here. It's the charming tale about a terminally ill- but fully conscious and responsive woman- who was removed from her ventilator and took fifteen minutes to die from asphyxiation. This execution was sanctioned by the state of Texas, under the provisions of a law signed by then-governor George W. Bush, which allows hospitals to pull the plug when the patient's money runs out.

Let's see Pat Robertson and his fundamentalist brethren whip up some good old-fashioned righteous indignation here.

What? Oh. The deadbeat patient was a non-white immigrant?

How unfortunate. Terrible things happen in this world.

There are more important things to worry about. Like... like... the WAR ON CHRISTMAS! Yeah, that's the ticket...

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Bin Laden phone leak an urban myth

(In which the Bushies further demonstrate their knack of distributing misinformation meant to demonize those who don't agree with them...)

By Glenn Kessler Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, December 22, 2005

President Bush asserted this week that the news media published a U.S. government leak in 1998 about Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, alerting the al Qaeda leader to government monitoring and prompting him to abandon the device.

The story of the vicious leak that destroyed a valuable intelligence operation was first reported by a best-selling book, validated by the Sept. 11 commission and then repeated by the president.

But it appears to be an urban myth.

The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.

Causal effects are hard to prove, but other factors could have persuaded bin Laden to turn off his satellite phone in August 1998. A day earlier, the United States had fired dozens of cruise missiles at his training camps, missing him by hours.

Bush made his assertion at a news conference Monday, in which he defended his authorization of warrantless monitoring of communications between some U.S. citizens and suspected terrorists overseas. He fumed that "the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak." He berated the media for "revealing sources, methods and what we use the information for" and thus helping "the enemy" change its operations.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday that the president was referring to an article that appeared in the Washington Times on Aug. 21, 1998, the day after the cruise missile attack, which was launched in retaliation for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa two weeks earlier. The Sept. 11 commission also cited the article as "a leak" that prompted bin Laden to stop using his satellite phone, though it noted that he had added more bodyguards and began moving his sleeping place "frequently and unpredictably" after the missile attack.

Two former Clinton administration officials first fingered the Times article in a 2002 book, "The Age of Sacred Terror." Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon wrote that after the "unabashed right-wing newspaper" published the story, bin Laden "stopped using the satellite phone instantly" and "the United States lost its best chance to find him."

The article, a profile of bin Laden, buried the information about his satellite phone in the 21st paragraph. It never said that the United States was listening in on bin Laden, as the president alleged. The writer, Martin Sieff, said yesterday that the information about the phone was "already in the public domain" when he wrote the story.

A search of media databases shows that Time magazine had first reported on Dec. 16, 1996, that bin Laden "uses satellite phones to contact fellow Islamic militants in Europe, the Middle East and Africa." Taliban officials provided the information, with one official -- security chief Mulla Abdul Mannan Niazi -- telling Time, "He's in high spirits."

The day before the Washington Times article was published -- and the day of the attacks -- CNN producer Peter Bergen appeared on the network to talk about an interview he had with bin Laden in 1997.

"He communicates by satellite phone, even though Afghanistan in some levels is back in the Middle Ages and a country that barely functions," Bergen said.

Bergen noted that as early as 1997, bin Laden's men were very concerned about electronic surveillance. "They scanned us electronically," he said, because they were worried that anyone meeting with bin Laden "might have some tracking device from some intelligence agency." In 1996, the Chechen insurgent leader Dzhokhar Dudayev was killed by a Russian missile that locked in to his satellite phone signal.

That same day, CBS reported that bin Laden used a satellite phone to give a television interview. USA Today ran a profile of bin Laden on the same day as the Washington Times's article, quoting a former U.S. official about his "fondness for his cell phone."

It was not until Sept. 7, 1998 -- after bin Laden apparently stopped using his phone -- that a newspaper reported that the United States had intercepted his phone calls and obtained his voiceprint. U.S. authorities "used their communications intercept capacity to pick up calls placed by bin Laden on his Inmarsat satellite phone, despite his apparent use of electronic 'scramblers,' " the Los Angeles Times reported.

Officials could not explain yesterday why they focused on the Washington Times story when other news organizations at the same time reported on the satellite phone -- and that the information was not particularly newsworthy.

"You got me," said Benjamin, who was director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council staff at the time. "That was the understanding in the White House and the intelligence community. The story ran and the lights went out."

Lee H. Hamilton, vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, gave a speech in October in which he said the leak "was terribly damaging." Yesterday, he said the commission relied on the testimony of three "very responsible, very senior intelligence officers," who he said "linked the Times story to the cessation of the use of the phone." He said they described it as a very serious leak.

But Hamilton said he did not recall any discussion about other news outlets' reports. "I cannot conceive we would have singled out the Washington Times if we knew about all of the reporting," he said.

A White House official said last night the administration was confident that press reports changed bin Laden's behavior. CIA spokesman Tom Crispell declined to comment, saying the question involves intelligence sources and methods.

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Quote of the day

The Vatican is against surrogate motherhood. Good thing they didn't have that rule when Jesus was born.
-Elayne Boosler

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quote of the day

I want no heaven for which I must give my reason, no happiness in exchange for liberty, and no immortality that demands surrender of my morality.
-Robert Green Ingersoll

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Question of the Day

Q. How many Bush cabinet members does it take to change a light bulb?

A. None. There's nothing wrong with the bulb. Conditions, with regards to the bulb, improve daily. Reports of darkness are indicative of liberal media bias. The bulb has served honorably and warrants our continued support. To criticize the alleged lack of light dishonors its service.

(Tim Lockley)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Just wondering...

The administration says that the NSA has used Bush's warrantless wiretaps over 18,000 times in the past two years. Does that mean there are over 18,000 Al Qaeda operatives in the United States? If so, we have a bigger problem than violations of the Constitution. If not... well, we still have bigger problems than violations of the Constitution.

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Puppy Pesci

"Whattya mean I'm funny? I'm funny how? I mean funny, like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I'm here to effin' amuse you? Whattya mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?"

(Lots of funny small furry mammals at cuteoverload.com)

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Just in time for the holidays!

A source of both pride and anger! You can't go wrong! (click on image)

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Not a pretty sight...

...when disgruntled Steelers fans are also good with PhotoShop.

(via Marc McCune)

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Churches close because its... Christmas?

(I mentioned this development to the minister of the local Methodist church last Sunday. The conversation went something like this:

"They're doing what, now?"

"Not holding services on Christmas Day."

"But it's a Sunday."

"Well, yeah, but they say attendance will be too low."

"But it's a Sunday."

"They'll have several services on Christmas Eve."

"But it's a Sunday."

I might as well have been speaking in tongues. The concept of not having services on Sunday was beyond his comprehension.

As H.L. Mencken said, "The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.")

(AP) THIS CHRISTMAS, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the United States.

Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are cancelling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day.

Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.

It is almost unheard of for a Christian church to cancel services on a Sunday, and opponents of the closures are accusing these congregations of bowing to secular culture.

"This is a consumer mentality at work: 'Let's not impose the church on people. Let's not make church in any way inconvenient'," said David Wells, professor of history and systematic theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Hamilton, Massachusetts. "I think what this does is feed into the individualism that is found throughout American culture, where everyone does their own thing."

STARK CONTRAST

The closures stand in stark contrast to Roman Catholic parishes in the U.S., which will see some of their largest crowds of the year on Christmas, and mainline Protestant congregations such as the Episcopal, Methodist and Lutheran churches, where Sunday services are rarely, if ever, cancelled.

The churches closing on Christmas plan multiple services in the days leading up to the holiday, including on Christmas Eve. Most normally do not hold Christmas Day services, preferring instead to mark the holiday in the days and night before. However, Sunday worship has been a Christian practice since ancient times.

Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, said church leaders decided that organizing Christmas Day services on a Sunday would not be the most effective use of staff and volunteer resources. The last time Christmas fell on a Sunday was 1994, and only a small number of people showed up to pray, she said.

OUR MISSION

"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said.

Among the other megachurches closing on Christmas Day are Southland Christian Church in Nicholasville, Kentucky, near Lexington, and Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, outside of Dallas. North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, said on its website that no services will be held on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, which also falls on a Sunday. A spokesman for North Point did not respond to requests for comment.

Cindy Willison, a spokeswoman for the evangelical Southland Christian Church, said at least 500 volunteers are needed, along with staff, to run Sunday services for the estimated 8,000 people who usually attend. She said many of the volunteers appreciate the chance to spend Christmas with their families instead of working, although she said a few church members complained.

SECULAR VIEWPOINT

"If we weren't having services at all, I would probably tend to feel that we were too accommodating to the secular viewpoint, but we're having multiple services on Saturday and an additional service Friday night," Willison said. "We believe that you worship every day of the week, not just on a weekend, and you don't have to be in a church building to worship."

Southland Christian Church senior minister Jon Weece, 32, said in a story carried in Lexington Herald-Ledger on December 11 that the 12,000-member church will hold one service on December 23 and three services Christmas Eve. He called on the congregation to perform acts of charity on Christmas Day.

Weece praised the church's elders for making the decision. He said of them: "You chose to value families: People over policy," he said. "I've watched too many ministers in my life sacrifice their families on the altar of ministry, and ego and pride ..." the newspaper reported.

Troy Page, a spokesman for Fellowship Church, said the congregation was hardly shirking its religious obligations. Fellowship will hold 21 services in four locations in the days leading up to the holiday. Last year, more than 30,000 worshippers participated. "Doing them early allows you to reach people who may be leaving town Friday," Page said.

These megachurches are not alone in adjusting Sunday worship to accommodate families on Christmas. But most other congregations are scaling back services instead of closing their doors.

First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, led by the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will hold one service instead of the usual two. New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, led by the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, will hold one Sunday service instead of the typical three.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Some things never change

"When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
-Richard M. Nixon

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A matter of semantics

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it "Christmas" and went to church; the Jews called it "Hanukkah" and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Hanukkah!" or (to the atheists) "Look out for the wall!"
-Dave Barry

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Copyright © 1987-2014 by Kevin G. Barkes
All rights reserved.
Violators will be prosecuted.
So there.  
The kgb@kgb.com e-mail address is now something other than kgb@kgb.com saga.
kgbreport.com used to be kgb.com until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up kgb.com and adopting kgbreport.com created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the kgb.com domain name in 1993, and had since that time used kgb@kgb.com as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that kgb@kgb.com was no longer kgb@kgb.com but rather kgbarkes@gmail.com which is longer than kgb@kgb.com and more letters to type than kgb@kgb.com and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than kgb@kgb.com but actually just as functional as kgb@kgb.com? I sent e-mails from the kgb@kgb.com address to just about everybody I knew who had used kgb@kgb.com in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the kgb@kgb.com change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which kgb@kgb.com was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for kgb@kgb.com would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that kgb@kgb.com no longer is the kgb@kgb.com they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. kgb@kgb.com. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...

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Laugh while you can, monkey-boy


I am a professional. Do not try this at home.


I canna change the laws of physics


As a matter of fact, I *am* the boss of you.
(as a matter of fact, i AM the boss of you.)


Truly great madness cannot be achieved without signficant intelligence


I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.


Left wing liberal nut job


Flies spread disease. Keep yours zipped.


Eff the ineffable, scrute the inscrutable.


If my answers frighten you then you should cease asking scary questions.


If evolution is just a theory, why am I surrounded by monkeys?


Nutrition makes me puke


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eat wisely


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