Archive for August, 2006
29 Aug 2006

Overheard in New York

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There is now a web-site collecting those overheard moments of New York surrealism.

Non-Ivy-Leaguer: So where do you go to school?
Ivy-Leaguer: Princeton.
Non-Ivy-Leaguer: California? That’s awesome.

–5th Ave between 26th & 27th
Overheard by: Shocked Onlooker


The Widely-Shared Janet Reno Fantasy
Hipster #1: Man, she is so hot.
Hipster #2: Oh yeah.
Hipster #1: But sometimes she looks like a guy.
Hipster #2: True.

–Outside Shea Stadium


Grandpa: Honey, take off your shoes and put them on the belt.
5-Year-Old granddaughter: Me?!
Grandpa: Yes, everyone has to take off their shoes.
Granddaughter: But me?! Really?!
Grandpa: Yes, you too.
Granddaughter: What kind of airport is this?!


Hat tip to Karen Myers.

29 Aug 2006

J.K. Rowling Encounters Salman Rushdie

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J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and John Irving read from their books, and answered audience questions, in two benefit performances for Doctors Without Borders and The Haven Foundation at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on August 1st and 2nd.

J.K. Rowling (note her shoes) reads from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Rowling is very cute, but I would not have linked any of this, except for the Question & Answer session, in which her questioner proves to be Salman Rushdie, who asks a very good one.


28 Aug 2006

Prep Rap

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This link arrived via my college class email list this morning.


Hat tip to Michael Lawler.

28 Aug 2006

Still Whining One Year Later

Amanda at Think Progress reports the current state of New Orleans on the eve of Katrina’s one year anniversary:

— Less than half of the city’s pre-storm population of 460,000 has returned, putting the population at roughly what it was in 1880.

— Nearly a third of the trash has yet to be picked up.

— Sixty percent of homes still lack electricity.

— Seventeen percent of the buses are operational.

— Half of the physicians have left, and there is a shortage of 1,000 nurses.

— Six of the nine hospitals remain closed.

— Sixty-six percent of public schools have reopened.

— A 40 percent hike in rental rates, disproportionately affecting black and low-income families.

— A 300 percent increase in the suicide rate.

Eighty-four percent of New Orleans residents rate the government’s recovery efforts negatively, , while 66 percent believe the recovery money has been “mostly wasted.”

Amanda reproachfully quotes the person she regards as responsible:

Standing in Jackson Square on Sept. 15, President Bush stated, “This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina” and promised to “get the work done quickly.”

$117 billions in federal allocations for last years’ hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma is not enough. George W. Bush is somehow personally at fault for local inefficiency and corruption in the same New Orleans which re-elected clownish Mayor Ray Nagin.

One year, and billions upon billions of federal recovery assistance dollars later, a corrupt and dysfunctional city with incompetent pols sitting atop a corrupt one-party political system is still whining and blaming everybody but itself. And New Orleans has still got its hand out, looking for more pity and more other people’s dollars.

Galveston was far worse devastated in 1900 by a hurricane featuring 135 mph winds which killed as many as 12,000 people (out of 42,000), and which caused Galveston forever to cease to be a major port and a major city. But the people in Galveston didn’t blame the president and the federal government for their troubles. They didn’t look for free trailers and two thousand dollar ATM cards, and they did not expect the rest of the country to rebuild their uninsured property.

A lot of people in New Orleans, and on the left generally, are simply avoiding facing the obvious moral that the practice of shifting all responsibility for your fate onto the distant shoulders of a variety of complex and impersonal federal bureaucracies does not always produce a very desirable result, no matter how much money gets spent.

28 Aug 2006

The Good Guys Win One in California

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California Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a Republican-sponsored bill, acceding to the wishes of the Vietnamese community-in-exile in California, which will allow the flag of the fallen Republic of South Vietnam to be flown in California displays of the flags of world nations, instead of the Communist flag of North Vietnam.

California state buildings and parks now have the governor’s blessing to fly the former flag of South Vietnam during holidays and special occasions.

At an impromptu stop in Little Saigon on Saturday morning, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the long-awaited symbolic measure that gives the yellow flag with three red stripes the state’s official recognition.

About 10 states and over a dozen California cities and counties already have done so.

Schwarzenegger praised the Vietnamese immigrant community for its courage, vitality and cultural and economic contribution to the state.

Most Vietnamese immigrants fled their country after the communists’ victory and feel contempt for the country’s current red flag.

Vietnamese leaders have pushed for the traditional flag’s recognition for years, said Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Westminster.

The move gained momentum last month when Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher, R-Fullerton, who is running for state Senate in the district covering Little Saigon, appealed to the governor for help.

Both Schwarzenegger and Tran endorsed Daucher in her bid.

Among registered Vietnamese-born voters in Orange County, Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-to-1.

On Friday, the word spread that the move was final, and hundreds of Vietnamese gathered at the Rose Center in Westminster to cheer.

28 Aug 2006



Wheel comes off race car, posing hazard to other drivers on the course.


28 Aug 2006

Gace de la Buigne and Randy Newman

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Steve Bodio quotes the Norman chaplain Gace de la Buigne (from Roman des deduis written c.1359-1377):

De chiens, d’oyseaux, d’armes, d’amours,

Pour une joye, cent doulours.

[With hunting dogs, falcons, wars, and women

For every joy, a hundred pains.]

and a Randy Newman parody reflecting the fact that the same hierarchy of status of hunting hawks tends to prevail today as in Gace’s time.

28 Aug 2006

British Left Abandons Multiculturalism

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Rod Liddle, in the Sunday London Times, reads the eulogy at the funeral service for multiculturalism in Britain.

Quick, somebody buy a wreath. Last week marked the passing of multiculturalism as official government doctrine. No longer will opponents of this corrosive and divisive creed be silenced simply by the massed Pavlovian ovine accusation: “Racist!” Better still, the very people who foisted multiculturalism upon the country are the ones who have decided that it has now outlived its usefulness — that is, the political left.

It is amazing how a few by-election shocks and some madmen with explosive backpacks can concentrate the mind. At any rate, British citizens, black and white, can move onwards together — towards a sunlit upland of monoculturalism, or maybe zeroculturalism, whatever takes your fancy…

Some 22 years ago Ray Honeyford, the previously obscure headmaster of Drummond middle school in Bradford, suggested, in the low-circulation right-wing periodical The Salisbury Review, that his Asian pupils should really be better integrated into British society.

They should learn English, for a start, and a bit of British history and a sense of what the country is about; further, Asian (Muslim) girls should be allowed to learn to swim despite the objections of their parents (who did not like them stripping down even in front of each other). Muslim kids should be treated like every other pupil, in other words.

For these mild contentions, Honeyford was investigated by the government, vilified as a racist by the press, ridiculed every day by leftie demonstrators outside his office and was eventually hounded from his job. He has not worked since.

Perhaps it will be a consolation to him, as he sits idly in his neat, small, semi-detached house in Bury, Lancashire, that he has now been comprehensively outflanked on the far right by a whole bunch of Labour politicians, including at least one minister, and indeed the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality. Then again, perhaps it won’t.

It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this shift. To give you an example of the lunacy that prevailed back in Honeyford’s time: then, the Commission for Racial Equality was happy to instruct Britain’s journalists that Chinese people were henceforth to be described as “black” because that, objectively, was their subjective political experience at the hands of the oppressive white hegemony.

I don’t suppose they asked the Chinese if they minded this appellation or derogation — the question would not even have occurred.

By definition, people who were “not-white” — from Beijing to Barbados — were banded together in their oppression and implacable opposition to the prevailing white culture and thus united in their political aspirations. People from Baluchistan, Tobago and Bangladesh were defined solely by their lack of whiteness.

This was, when you think about it, a quintessentially racist assumption, as well as being authoritarian and — as the writer Kenan Malik puts it — “anti-human”.

We are not born with a gene that insists we become Muslim or Christian or Rastafarian. We are born, all of us, with a tabula rasa; we are not defined by the nationality or religion or cultural assumptions of our parents. But that was the mindset which, at that time, prevailed.

This is how far we have come in the past year or so. When an ICM poll of Britain’s Muslims in February this year revealed that some 40% (that is, about 800,000 people) wished to see Islamic law introduced in parts of Britain, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality responded by saying that they should therefore pack their bags and clear off. Sir Trevor Phillips’s exact words were these: “If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.”

My guess is this: if such a statement had been made by a member of the Tory party’s Monday Club in 1984 — or, for that matter, 1994 — he would have been excoriated and quite probably would have been kicked out of the party. “If you don’t like it here then go somewhere else” was once considered the apogee of “racism”. People who did not like it here were exhorted to exert their political muscle and change the status quo…

It has transpired that this was the final triumph of multiculturalism — to create within British society a sizeable body of people who have been assured that it is absolutely fine not to integrate because, if we’re honest, the prevailing culture is worthless: oppressive and decadent. People who are, as a result, perhaps terminally estranged and who have been relentlessly encouraged in their sense of alienation.

The news that the bombers of July 7 last year and those who allegedly plotted to blow up a whole bunch of aeroplanes were British born apparently came as a shock to the government. Well, it did not come as a shock to those of us who viewed multiculturalism as both dangerous and inherently racist.

It seemed, to people like Honeyford, a simple case of cause and effect. In the end, it is not the mad mullahs at whom we should direct our wrath, but the white liberals who enabled them to prosper. That the creed has now been binned should be a cause for celebration; but don’t for a moment expect an admission that they got it wrong in the first place.

27 Aug 2006

Plamegame Leaker Identified in New Leftist Book

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Michael Issikoff himself reveals in Newsweek, that a forthcoming book he co-authored with the Nation’s Washington editor Davd Cornidentifies Robert Novak’s source for Valerie Plame’s employment as the long-suspected Richard Armitage.

In the early morning of Oct. 1, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell received an urgent phone call from his No. 2 at the State Department. Richard Armitage was clearly agitated. As recounted in a new book, “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War,” Armitage had been at home reading the newspaper and had come across a column by journalist Robert Novak. Months earlier, Novak had caused a huge stir when he revealed that Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq-war critic Joseph Wilson, was a CIA officer. Ever since, Washington had been trying to find out who leaked the information to Novak. The columnist himself had kept quiet. But now, in a second column, Novak provided a tantalizing clue: his primary source, he wrote, was a “senior administration official” who was “not a partisan gunslinger.” Armitage was shaken. After reading the column, he knew immediately who the leaker was…

Armitage, a well-known gossip who loves to dish and receive juicy tidbits about Washington characters, apparently hadn’t thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame’s identity. “I’m afraid I may be the guy that caused this whole thing,” he later told Carl Ford Jr., State’s intelligence chief. Ford says Armitage admitted to him that he had “slipped up” and told Novak more than he should have. “He was basically beside himself that he was the guy that f—ed up. My sense from Rich is that it was just chitchat,” Ford recalls in “Hubris,” to be published next week by Crown and co-written by the author of this article and David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation magazine.

As it turned out, Novak wasn’t the only person Armitage talked to about Plame. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has also said he was told of Plame’s identity in June 2003. Woodward did not respond to requests for comment for this article, but, as late as last week, he referred reporters to his comments in November 2005 that he learned of her identity in a “casual and offhand” conversation with an administration official he declined to identify. According to three government officials, a lawyer familiar with the case and an Armitage confidant, all of whom would not be named discussing these details, Armitage told Woodward about Plame three weeks before talking to Novak. Armitage has consistently refused to discuss the case; through an assistant last week he declined to comment for this story. Novak would say only: “I don’t discuss my sources until they reveal themselves.”

The left has never really yearned for Armitage’s scalp. however, since:

Armitage was a member of the administration’s small moderate wing. Along with his boss and good friend, Powell, he had deep misgivings about President George W. Bush’s march to war. A barrel-chested Vietnam vet who had volunteered for combat, Armitage at times expressed disdain for Dick Cheney and other administration war hawks who had never served in the military. Armitage routinely returned from White House meetings shaking his head at the armchair warriors. “One day,” says Powell’s former chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, “we were walking into his office and Rich turned to me and said, ‘Larry, these guys never heard a bullet go by their ears in anger … None of them ever served. They’re a bunch of jerks’.”

Captain Ed puts all this into the proper perspective, which reflects abysmally on both Patrick Fitzgerald and Richard Armitage:

This means that the Department of Justice knew the source of the Plame leak within four months of its occurrence. It also knew that the leak had no malicious intent. Patrick Fitzgerald, who almost certainly knew of it within the first days of his investigation, never attempted to indict the man whom he knew leaked the information. Why, then, has Fitzgerald’s mandate continued after the first week of October?

Fitzgerald took the case on September 26. If this book is accurate about its dates, the DoJ and Fitzgerald would have known about Armitage’s role as the source of the leak five days later. Instead of either charging Armitage or closing down the investigation, Fitzgerald went on a witch hunt. He didn’t even talk to Scooter Libby until two weeks after Armitage’s confession. A year later, Fitzgerald had reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to divulge a source about a leaker from whom Fitzgerald had already received a confession.

This shows the danger of independent investigators who answer to star chambers instead of the elected representatives that have electoral accountability. The entire Fitzgerald investigation is a massive waste of money and energy, an ego project for one man, a wild-goose chase without the goose. Up to now, we all thought that Armitage never came forward or did so much later in the process. This time line shows Fitzgerald as a dangerous Cotton Mather with a briefcase. What else should we think of a prosecutor who hauls people into court and jails them for contempt when his culprit confessed at the very beginning?

Addendum: The more I think about this, the angrier I get — and not just at Patrick Fitzgerald. Richard Armitage confessed to the DoJ in October 2003, and then sat on his ass for the next three years as the media and the Left play this into a paranoid fantasy of conspiracies and revenge. I know Armitage dislikes Rove, Libby, Cheney, and Bush, but what kind of man sits around while the world accuses people of a “crime” that he himself committed? Armitage did nothing while the nation spent years and millions of dollars chasing a series of red herrings, never speaking out to remove the mystery and end the witch hunt. Even three years later, Armitage hasn’t mustered the testicular fortitude to publicly admit that he leaked Plame’s identity and status; he has Isikoff and Corn do it for him.

27 Aug 2006

Fox Journalists Released After Gunpoint Conversion

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Michelle Malkin provides (as usual) an excellent link collection, including video.

I find it rather depressing to live in a time in which everyone seems to think that it’s perfectly acceptable to change one’s convictions under duress.


On the face of it, conversion to Islam would appear to provide a painless escape device for any hostage who happens to fall into fundamentalist terrorist hands. After all, once free, the hostage can always revert to his real faith or non-faith. It is hard to blame the two Fox News journalists, the American Steve Centanni, 60, and the New Zealander, Olaf Wiig, 36, for taking that path on to buy their way out of an uncertain fate at the hands of Palestinian terrorists — especially as they later reported they were forced to make the gesture at gunpoint.

and the poltroonery does not stop there. Depkafile reports:

Various Palestinian middlemen were used by British agents at the request of the US to bring the Fox journalists home. They worked out a convoluted deal which entailed their public conversion to Islam, an anti-American harangue on air and a six-figure cash ransom paid under the table to Dughmush to fund his terrorist militia’s operations in Gaza. While the first two parts of the ransom were publicly aired, the third part will no doubt be vehemently denied. But the face remains that a terrorist chief who freelances for at least three fundamentalist terrorist organizations walks free with a strong incentive to develop his profitable hostage-taking business.

For Israel, the fate of Gilead Shalit, whom Hamas kidnapped from sovereign Israel in a cross-border assault, is left up in the air. Israel did not link him to the two Fox journalists; Hamas did. The Americans, the New Zealanders and the British worked fast to separate the two abduction episodes. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who says he does not sleep at night for worrying about Shalit and the two Israelis in Hizballah hands, did not take advantage of the subsequent abductions of Centanni and Wiig to have him included in the package for their release. He must have known that the two journalists would not have been released without the say-so of the Hamas group holding the Israeli soldier. This was a card Olmert did not play.

All that remains to be found out now about this shabby episode is the size of the rake-off the Palestinian warlord Dughmush has handed over from his ransom to Shalit’s Hamas abductors.

No wonder the wogs have no respect for the West.

26 Aug 2006

Fox News Journalists Kidnapper ID’d

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Zakaria Dughmush’s photo did not come from Google

Mossad-mouthpiece Depkafile is dishing out the dirt on the Fox News kidnapping. The not-always-reliable Israel-based source claims:

Palestinian warlord Zakaria Dughmush kidnapped the Fox News journalists on behalf of Hamas.

The Hamas team which abducted Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit on June 25 sought to ease the pressure for his release by staging a more spectacular snatch. For this reason, they hired Zakaria Dughmush and his masked men to capture the two Fox News journalists in Gaza City on Aug. 14.

Although their fates are intertwined, the American Steve Centanni, 60, and New Zealander Olaf Wiig, 36, are not being held in the same place as Gilead Shalit. The Fox journalists are thought to be hidden in Gaza City by the gang which kidnapped him, while Shalit is in a Hamas team’s hands, either in Rafah or Khan Younes in the southern Gaza Strip.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive sources on Aug. 25 identified the kidnapper as Dughmush, a former follower of the late Jemal Semhadana, head of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees who was killed in Rafah by rockets fired from an Israeli warplane on June 8, 2006.

Semhadana was the first Palestinian terrorist to attack Americans. He staged the bombing attack of October 15, 2003 on a US embassy convoy from Tel Aviv as it drove past Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip.

Three American security officers died in that attack.

After Semhadana’s death, his PRC fragmented into several small militias, one of them led by Dughmush, a rabid fundamentalist who set up base in Gaza City. He was adopted by Hamas, but also draws funds and weapons from al Qaeda and Hizballah elements working together in the Gaza Strip.

Our counter-terror sources reveal that Dughmush was handed the contract to kidnap one or more Americans by the abductors of the Israeli soldier when their efforts to negotiate a prisoner swap broke down. Hamas ended up refusing the quid pro quo of a promise by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, already deposited with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, to release 600 Palestinian prisoners. They held out for a simultaneous trade and then withdrew from the talks.

They turned to Dughmush when pressure built up to end the episode from many quarters, including the Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, the Egyptians and the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas.

Because neither set of abductors wanted Palestinians branded as kidnappers of Americans, they invented a group no one had heard of, calling it the Brigades of the Holy Jihad. This phantom group released a communiqué and videotape Wednesday, August 23, demanding the release within 72 hours of Muslim prisoners in American jails. The deadline was up Saturday noon with no word from the abductors.

Nothing had been said about the fate of the captives if the deadline was not met.

With three hostages in hand, the Palestinian terrorists expect a higher price for their release, such as a large number of Palestinians held in Israel and possibly the United States as well.

DEBKAfile adds:

Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniya both know exactly who kidnapped Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. They are embarrassed enough to go through the motions of protesting the abductions, but not enough to take real action to put a stop to the Hamas scheme of holding the two Fox journalists hostage to raise the ante for the Israeli soldier.

26 Aug 2006

Farmers Think Cows Moo With Regional Accent

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The British West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers are convinced that cows pick up regional accents from their owners. Some of the farmers believe they can detect an echo of their own Somersetshire drawl in the voices of the British Friesians (what we call “Holsteins”).


26 Aug 2006

Osama? What Osama? Osama Who?

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The Hindustan Times reports a Pakistani legislature from Chitral (the northernmost district in the North-West Frontier Province) protesting his province’s innocence in exactly the manner which arouses the most suspicion.

US intelligence agencies’ reports suggesting that Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden was present in Chitral are “unauthentic and unjustified”, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) legislator Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali has said.

“Neither have we sheltered anybody nor will we tolerate foreign interference in the area,” the Daily Times quoted Chitrali as saying.

Raising a point of order in the National Assembly on Friday, Chitrali said that the mountainous Chitral area shared a border with five countries, but “was completely peaceful”.

He said that the CIA and FBI had set up offices in Chitral, but had left the area after locals protested their presence.

A couple of days ago, a US official had said that Laden was living comfortably in a house, possibly with a family and no more than two bodyguards.

And here’s the US anonymous source rumor.

26 Aug 2006

California’s Rich Against Everybody Else

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The spectacular scenery, a typically booming economy, and a climate which permits you to grow lemons and avocados in your backyard makes Californians seem rather spoiled to the rest of us. Californians typically express their appreciation for all their good fortune by the cultivation as a local art form of cloaking an unlimited sense of entitlement in the rhetoric of idealism.

How do you keep the other fellow (who actually owns the land) from doing anything with it that might deprive you of the pleasure of looking at it undeveloped? You just come up with an appropriate worthy cause: protecting some purportedly endangered amphibian, rodent or weed; avoiding sprawl; maintaining open space; and voila! You get to keep out the riff raff, and be spiritually enlightened too.

Today’s Wall Street Journal describes the plight of the Mexican immigrant worker in Monterey County renting out a room in the 1000 sq. ft. house that cost him half a million dollars, and still spending 70% of his income on his mortgage payment.

Meanwhile, Reuters describes the accelerating middle class exodus from idyllic coastal California to the baking hot interior Central Valley (renowned for its 110 degree temperatures) in search of affordable housing.

OAKLAND, California – Father Mark Wiesner has grown accustomed to wishing parishioners bon voyage as they flee the San Francisco area’s high housing costs for California’s Central Valley, where developers are increasingly transforming farms and ranches into a new suburbia.

“So many young couples I marry have to go to Modesto or Tracy to start their married lives,” said Wiesner, a Catholic priest in Oakland on the San Francisco Bay. “They simply can’t afford to stay here in the Bay area and to buy a single-family dwelling.”

Tracy and Modesto are 50 and 80 miles east of Oakland respectively. Both have seen blistering growth in recent years amid a middle-class exodus from California’s famed coastal urban centers in search of affordable housing.

Analysts say the middle-class flight will press on even if coastal home prices sag amid a national housing slowdown. Home prices near the state’s coastline would need to collapse to make buying a home there possible for many households.

Barring a collapse, ever more Californians will call the state’s Central Valley home because homes there are relatively affordable. July’s median home price in San Francisco was $771,000, compared with $438,000 in San Joaquin County roughly 60 miles to the east, according to real estate information service DataQuick Information Systems.

Southern California is seeing a similar exodus to Riverside and San Bernardino counties, known as the region’s Inland Empire, from Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

“Having been in the house market in Los Angeles, I can tell you a house with little bit of privacy and space to call your own is pretty hard to come by,” said economist Christopher Thornberg of the consulting firm Beacon Economics. “For many people getting out to that Inland Empire is the only way to really have a backyard for the kids.”

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