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Senate Pyromaniacs
The Wall Street Journal ^ | November 13, 2003 | Editorial

Posted on 11/13/2003 5:56:58 AM PST by OESY

Edited on 04/22/2004 11:50:20 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]

Terrible as it sounds, we're beginning to wonder if someone shouldn't spark another hundred-thousand-acre wildfire. That seems to be the only thing that will force Senate Democrats to take action on the rotting forests that cause the West's annual infernos.


(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: California; US: Colorado; US: South Dakota
KEYWORDS: bush; california; daschle; environment; healthyforests; oregon; senatedemocrats; southdakota; wildfires; wyden

1 posted on 11/13/2003 5:56:58 AM PST by OESY
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To: Senator Kunte Klinte
Mr. Daschle would have more credibility if he hadn't pulled this political smokeout before. Last year he won points with South Dakota voters by inserting a provision into a spending bill that allowed for forest cleanup in his own state. He then quietly squashed similar provisions for the rest of the country as a private little favor to the Sierra Club.

Also searing.

2 posted on 11/13/2003 5:57:45 AM PST by OESY
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To: OESY
Massive, out of control forest fires are not prevented by cutting down the healthiest living trees in a forest. Such fires are prevented by first allowing smaller fires to occur on a natural basis. Second, if a lack of such policy leads to excessive fuel buildup, catastrophic fires are prevented by picking up the dead wood that has fallen due to disease, high winds, natural death, etc. Unfortunately, such wood is often not usable for lumber, and thus removing it is unattractive to the lumber companies (for whom this legislation is written). And when trees are lumbered, the branches are removed from the trunks so that the trunks can be stacked on trucks and removed. These branches, called "slash", are often not cleaned up particularly well, which actually ADDS to the fire risk.

The endpoint is that the healthy trees are removed, the fuel overburden is unabated, and fire still sweeps through the forest. This time, though, there's fewer healthy trees left to repopulate the forest, as the lumbering companies have removed them. Since the lumber companies only take certain species of trees, the balance of species in the resultant forest is out of whack and they are less likely to reforest properly and provide the same habitat as they once did. "Healthy Forests" is a rhetorical deception; it will in fact leave us with no such thing.

Now, if you want to see how a problem like this should actually be handled, go to the Superior National Forest web site. This is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, where a huge storm in 1999 blew over hundreds of thousands of acres of trees at once. Fearful that all that dead wood would burn up and totally destroy the entire area (heavily used by canoeists, fishermen, and others for recreation), numerous alternatives were considered. Logging the downed trees was considered but eventually found unattractive; conventional logging would require building roads thoughout the entire area, destroying the wilderness character, and helicopter logging was uneconomic. Instead, the area was divided up into sections, and the overburden is being burned off section by section in controlled fashion.

This would work fine for the forests in California, Arizona, etc., as well. But getting rid of the fuel overburden in those forests, which is what causes the fire risk, is not the priority of the Bush administration. Allowing lumbering companies to cherry-pick the best healthy trees, which does nothing to reduce the fire risk, is.

3 posted on 11/13/2003 6:18:28 AM PST by RonF
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To: OESY

4 posted on 11/13/2003 6:22:08 AM PST by Diogenesis (If you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us)
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To: OESY
BTTT
5 posted on 11/13/2003 6:40:38 AM PST by TroutStalker
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To: RonF
Seems that if a forest has maybe 4 times the "normal" tree load, some selective thinning might be beneficial.

For example - in So. California, forests had perhaps 200 trees per acre, when a natural loading was 40 - 50 trees per acre before forest management and agressive fire-fighting was employed. Allowing lumber companies the rights to thin down to perhaps 80 - 100 trees per acre allows them to make a profit sufficient to require additional controls on the lumbering process.

It might even be beneficial to create zones where tree loading is thinned to 20 - 30 trees per acre as a more natural fire break to slow the spread of a massive fire from regions of high loading.

But dead wood on the ground is not the major fuel contributor that you suggest. After a few months with rain - the dead wood starts decaying. It quickly absorbs moisture and is far less significant to any fire than the live trees (or the diseased trees that are dying or dead, but still standing).

But Ecko-wackos would rather have a forest burn down "naturally" than allow any logging company from making a profit. (And when a logging company makes a profit, it means lumber for various projects - more jobs, more convenience for people ... good ol' capitalism, etc. ... and Ecko-wackos might be "Earth First" - but also "People Last".

Mike

6 posted on 11/13/2003 6:58:07 AM PST by Vineyard
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To: farmfriend
ping
7 posted on 11/13/2003 8:58:24 AM PST by Libertarianize the GOP (Ideas have consequences)
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To: OESY; AAABEST; Ace2U; Alamo-Girl; Alas; amom; AndreaZingg; Anonymous2; ApesForEvolution; ...
Rights, farms, environment ping.

Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I don't get offended if you want to be removed.

For real time political chat - Radio Free Republic chat room

8 posted on 11/13/2003 9:06:23 AM PST by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
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To: RonF
You don't know Squat about our forests...most of the big trees are dying due to beetle infestation and drought..leaving them would be a safety hazard (falling down) and leaving the logs would cause sterilizing forest fires. One size does not fit all for forest management.
9 posted on 11/13/2003 9:25:55 AM PST by kaktuskid
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To: farmfriend
BTTT!!!!
10 posted on 11/13/2003 9:33:40 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: RonF
Allowing lumbering companies to cherry-pick the best healthy trees, which does nothing to reduce the fire risk, is.

Besides we already let those greedy tomato growers get away with doing this.

Trees are a renewable resource, cut old ones, plant new ones. Of course we can just let them burn then plant new ones which is what you propose I guess.

11 posted on 11/13/2003 11:07:56 AM PST by itsahoot (The lesser of two evils, is evil still...Alan Keyes)
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To: Vineyard
Selective thinning is certainly a reasonable policy. But whether or not that translates into an economically viable logging operation is another thing. Is that's what's being called for in the "Healthy Forests" initiative?
12 posted on 11/13/2003 11:33:24 AM PST by RonF
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To: Vineyard
For example - in So. California, forests had perhaps 200 trees per acre, when a natural loading was 40 - 50 trees per acre before forest management and agressive fire-fighting was employed.

I fully agree that the old policy of "no fires whatsoever" was harmful, and that its effects need some kind of action to be alleviated. I also agree that this necessarily includes the cutting and removal of trees. My question is whether the cutting and removal operation that the logging companies will execute is optimal for ending up with a healthy forest as well as a healthy profit. Digging up the forests with a bunch of logging roads, stripping out the healthiest of trees and leaving the most diseased ones standing, preferentially removing some species over another, leaving piles of logging waste, etc., is not the way to create a healthy forest.

But dead wood on the ground is not the major fuel contributor that you suggest.

The people in charge of cleaning up the Superior National Forest and the BWCAW after the 1999 blowdown seem to have a different opinion on this matter. So would the people who had to clean up the Boy Scout camp I take my Troop to after we let some loggers in to thin out the forest and they rewarded us by leaving piles and piles of branches around. We had to clean those out before they caught fire and started the whole camp up.

One of the areas that caught on fire in California was a forest where an infestation of beetles had killed off a large number of trees. The infestation had left the trees apparently uneconomic for harvest, so they were still standing, dead, when the fires came. No "tree huggers" were standing in the way of their removal, and they've been known to be a fire hazard to the local inhabitants for a few years. But there wsa no money for cleaning those up.

Conservationists don't stand in the way of making forests healthy, even when that involves tree cutting. What they stand in the way of is having the logging companies do it in ways that are at odds with maintaining the forests to the purposes for which they were set aside, which was not as tree farms for logging companies but as wilderness areas, game refuges, hunting and fishing recreational areas, watershed protection, etc.

13 posted on 11/13/2003 11:46:06 AM PST by RonF
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To: kaktuskid
You don't know Squat about our forests...most of the big trees are dying due to beetle infestation and drought..leaving them would be a safety hazard (falling down) and leaving the logs would cause sterilizing forest fires.

You apparently don't know squat about reading posts and citations before you respond to them. I don't propose leaving diseased trees standing, nor do I propose leaving excessive numbers of logs laying around to form an excessive fuel overburden. What I'm pointing out is that logging companies want to cut living, healthy trees, which is the least of the problems in the forests, and whose removal does little to alleviate the fire problem. If they would remove diseased and dying trees and take out the excessive downed trees, and do so without digging a bunch of logging roads all over the place, I'd be glad to welcome them into the forests. But they're not going to do that, and I don't blame them. What the forests need is conservation, not logging, unless the loggers can and will incorporate conservation practices into their harvesting techniques.

14 posted on 11/13/2003 11:51:23 AM PST by RonF
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To: RonF
If they would remove diseased and dying trees and take out the excessive downed trees, and do so without digging a bunch of logging roads all over the place, I'd be glad to welcome them into the forests. But they're not going to do that, and I don't blame them. What the forests need is conservation, not logging, unless the loggers can and will incorporate conservation practices into their harvesting techniques.

The price of logs won't pay for your preferences. Until you confront that fact you won't realize that removing some larger trees (note I didn't say all) will be necessary to pay for the rest of the cleanup.

15 posted on 11/13/2003 12:45:57 PM PST by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by politics.)
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To: OESY
If Republicans wanted to be as cynical, they'd let Mr. Daschle kill the bill and blame him for it. By just about every expert calculation, fire season will be in full burn about a month before next year's Senate elections.

I'm glad we aren't as cynical. All those people lost their homes, and some lost their lives. And their blood is on the hands of the environmentalists and their enablers.

16 posted on 11/13/2003 12:51:23 PM PST by Tuscaloosa Goldfinch
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To: Carry_Okie
The price of logs won't pay for your preferences.

I thought that it was pretty obvious from my posting that I was aware of that.

Until you confront that fact you won't realize that removing some larger trees (note I didn't say all) will be necessary to pay for the rest of the cleanup.

That's if you believe that they only way to deal with the cleanup job is to have the logging companies do it and let them do what they otherwise need to do in order to make a profit at it. However, if you decide that the public good of performing the cleanup without the ancillary effects of having the lumber companies do it as a byproduct of logging the forests is worth public expense, then there's no need to involve the logging companies and suffer the bad consequences thereof.

Would you rather not pay anything for the cleanup, and suffer logging roads, erosion, destruction of certain kinds of habitat, logging waste, etc., etc., or would you rather pay for the cleanup with public funds and conserve the forests? In the BWCAW/Superior National Forest, the decision was made in favor of the latter. It gets back to, "What are the purposes of State and National Forests, and how much is it worth to meet those purposes?"

17 posted on 11/13/2003 1:24:27 PM PST by RonF
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To: Tuscaloosa Goldfinch
I'm glad we aren't as cynical. All those people lost their homes, and some lost their lives. And their blood is on the hands of the environmentalists and their enablers.

Nonsense. Environmentalists didn't stand in the way of managing those forests properly. They objected to managing them improperly, at cross-purposes to the reasons why they were established in the first place. But the politicians were too enamored of political contributions from logging interests to honor those reasons, instead of trying to turn the forests into tree farms. The local politicians were too enamored or afraid of the developers to zone fire hazard areas against residential development. The developers were too enamored of potential profit to worry about building homes in a fire-hazard zone. And the people who bought them were too enamored of living in those areas to look around themselves and wonder, "What would happen in case of fire?"

Or is personal responsibility no longer a conservative value?

18 posted on 11/13/2003 1:30:51 PM PST by RonF
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To: RonF
I thought that it was pretty obvious from my posting that I was aware of that.

All that was obvious is that you don't like logging.

That's if you believe that they only way to deal with the cleanup job is to have the logging companies do it and let them do what they otherwise need to do in order to make a profit at it. However, if you decide that the public good of performing the cleanup without the ancillary effects of having the lumber companies do it as a byproduct of logging the forests is worth public expense, then there's no need to involve the logging companies and suffer the bad consequences thereof.

First, do you know what it costs to do the kind of work you are asking for? The typical number I see is $1,400 per acre. There are 190 million acres at critical risk of conflagration. That's $266 billion dollars for a single treatment.

That's a lot of "public good" without taking some trees to pay for it. It's unaffordable.

Second, it takes logging equipment to do that kind of work and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Typically, a forest in the Sierra, for example, has about 40 trees per acre over 24," where before humans intervened (according to forest archaeologist, Dr. Tom Bonnicksen of Texas A&M) there were but six larger trees per acre, albeit as much as six feet in diameter. When trees are stocked at 300 per acre, you often need a climber to take it apart without screwing up the keepers. So there is reason to take a fair number of larger trees if only to reduce water competition.

I do full blown habitat restoration work, so I do the kind of work you would like to see in done in forests. I conduct continuous process development in native plant reintroduction and pest plant control. Somebody has to get that fuel out of there and watch the jobsite carefully for several years thereafter. There's nothing like a landowner for that job.

Third, a good logging road is not the problem they used to be. The best among the industry have come a long way in the last 40 years in that respect. High-lead, or helicopter yarding is very expensive.

Fourth, I don't suppose you know that the forests have accelerated their growth far beyond anything we have ever experienced due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide. Somebody is going to have to deal with all the resulting extra vegetation or we will watch this awful process of neglect and conflagration repeat itself until the weeds dry it out so badly a tree won't grow.

Finally, considering the urgency of this problem, this isn't necessarily about what is optimal from your perspective, but at least it is economically possible to get it done. In many cases, this is about making the better choice among bad options. The Apache seem to have done pretty well at that, once they fired the Forest Service.

You can have this (where the Apache log and graze the land rather aggressively):

or this (National Forest property):

Both photos were taken the same day, both were burned in the Rodeo/Chediski fire. It's really too bad the Apache didn't have time to undo more of the damage before it blew up. As it is, they got screwed by people who wanted the forest "preserved" their way.

In some cases, the worst of logging jobs is preferable to the kind of fires we have seen.

I think you have a bias against logging. Not all of them are bad you know. The best thing to do would be to get rid of National Forests entirely. It's really the only way to get the kind of attention to detail in consideration of overlapping demands humans put on a forest.

I'd bet you aren't ready for that. Methinks you want it for free.

19 posted on 11/13/2003 2:55:03 PM PST by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by politics.)
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To: OESY
This makes me SICK! Those freaking pyromaniac greenies (should be called blackies)...argh!
20 posted on 11/13/2003 8:25:40 PM PST by The Westerner
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To: Vineyard
You are incredibly patient with our green, Marxist friend here. By the way, in Lake Arrowhead, there were 500 trees per acre where there used to be 50.
21 posted on 11/13/2003 8:29:23 PM PST by The Westerner
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To: OESY; RonDog; Carry_Okie
The story of its derailment is one of Senate Democrats playing a double game -- with constituents who favor action on the fires on the one hand, and extreme green groups who pay election bills on the other. RonDog, you are free to link and excerpt this little rant of mine to your new thread. The main thread article above is too important relative to our complaints for me to insert this at your thread. So bring this to the attention of your new "friend," Mr. Block.

Look. He's of the hostile-to-us-non-elites TV medium.
By what magic do you suppose such a creature is about to be allowed to provide a different view of us?
Do you really think this man is one of a crew of new brooms who will clean up the seemingly-everyday-more-disreputable world of TV news and change it into even a fair minded medium, let alone a conservative ally?
How can you really think he's really your friend or capable of being our future friend if when even the WSJ can't or won't inform us with enough information that would provide us the means to demand that government financially ruin these miscreants and thereby defund their political stooges?

You have even claimed that Hugh Hewitt would be interested in Carry_okie's ideas. Yet that man has never referenced any of C_O's wonderful ideas, or hinted at even a single of his links between enviro-groups and their questionable government and business cronies and funders of those groups. Hewitt hasn't done it anymore than has Paul Gigot with extreme green groups, which is so typical of his cutsey little phrases that hint but don't reveal.

This is the kind of thing that makes me question the judgment of any person at FR who thinks any broadcast media, even that of "conxervative" talkshow hosts, are anywhere as really concerned as the average FReeper with the dirty dealings that go on at the higher, money-manipulating levels of our society.

That level, in case you haven't figured it out, includes those who pay talkshow hosts and TV media commentators and pundits who get multi-million dollar bookdeals.

And you know I have good reason for my skepticism when even the venerable WSJ can't be counted on to deliver all the facts we need to know.

22 posted on 11/13/2003 10:01:06 PM PST by Avoiding_Sulla (You can't see where we're going when you don't look where we've been.)
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To: RonDog; Avoiding_Sulla
Hi RonDog, no, I didn't put him up to this.

Here's what I think is Avoiding_Sulla's important question:

Will somebody please remind me why the Wall Street Journal is a conservative icon?

There is a reason that much of corporate America is no longer conservative (what there is left is because of its remnant of entrepreneurs); it is because the unconstitutional regulatory power of government has become power for sale. It's play or die. I think this excerpt from my book explains the more visible mechanics:

High-level executives in target industries are usually smart people. Once government gets its hands upon the factors of production, it isn’t long before industry leaders recognize a patronage system for what it is. Those with sufficient political pull are obviously tempted to sell out their competitors and manipulate the deal. They can salve their guilt with the excuse that, when a system is capable of either handing them an oligopoly or destroying them, they had better take advantage of it to survive. Of course, being one of the winners in the marketplace doesn’t hurt so much either. Once they learn the game and start to take control of it, the temptation to dominate the market with public money becomes addicting.

The corporate winners can then use their profits to start a tax-exempt foundation with which to fund political advocacy without the annoyance of campaign contribution limits. They use the funding to lobby politicians and direct groups of NGO activists to gather data supporting specific action.

The regulatory system thus ends up as a troika of NGOs, industry oligopoly, and government regulators. The strategies take several forms. To provide an intuitive framework with which to understand some of the behavioral undercurrents, we will use those famous fables from Uncle Remus, respectfully and faithfully recovered from Afro-American Oral History by that noted (and unjustly maligned) anthropologist, Joel Chandler Harris. We will refer to this example as “The Briar Patch Effect.” The principles are as follows:

  1. There are economies of scale associated with regulatory compliance, as with any other cost of production. Capable compliance to rules becomes a barrier to entry and a means to target existing competitors.

  2. Rules can be tailored to the advantage of those possessing property with favored attributes. Competitors can be targeted by similar means.

  3. Selective enforcement, through bribes, friendships, and political connections, is a problem as old as government itself.

  4. Regulatory constraint of supply can raise the capital value of remaining assets in production through monopoly profits. Advocacy can be a very a good investment.
For a more detailed exposition from first principles of why the system works this way, consider the first chapter. Warning: it's a pretty deep read.
23 posted on 11/13/2003 10:32:42 PM PST by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by politics.)
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To: Vineyard
I would agree with much of your thesis but for the following:

But dead wood on the ground is not the major fuel contributor that you suggest. After a few months with rain - the dead wood starts decaying. It quickly absorbs moisture and is far less significant to any fire than the live trees (or the diseased trees that are dying or dead, but still standing).

Decay mechanics are highly situational. In Southern California it is so dry that decay can be fairly slow unless insects get into the wood to break down the structure. Bark beetles aren't enough; it takes termites. Some organic material on the ground helps get a groudcover going because of moisture retention and shade, but a good many of those need fire to germinate as well as to clear pathogens and grasses.

I haven't done it in that area, so I can't call myself an expert, but I'd hazard a guess that (where it hasn't burned) they are better off pulling most of the logs after thinning (except for some needed to serve as trash dams and water breaks), chipping the slash, waiting a year while they nail every weed they can find, and then patch burning in late spring (after the surface has dried but before the vegetation moisture content has dropped). It's an intensive process and can take almost daily monitoring for weeds. Grazing might help in places both for weed control, soil structure, and plant nutrition.

Seriously, weeds are that important. If they get away from you it gets horribly expensive (and possibly futile) to try to stop them. Typically, what I have seen is that after a fire the enviros get all excited about the native plant bloom, they ignore the weeds and try to prevent anybody from using an herbicide, and then the weeds get going and take over. Then the greenies wail about the disaster, not seeing that it was their own failure to recognize the system as it is, as opposed to how they would wish it to be.

24 posted on 11/13/2003 10:51:21 PM PST by Carry_Okie (The environment is too complex and too important to manage by politics.)
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To: Avoiding_Sulla
What are the names of these extreme green groups who pay election bills?
Why do they still have 501(C)3 tax exemptions?
Who are their largest contributors to these extreme green groups?

Excellent questions -- in need of answers. Unfortunately, the WSJ doesn't begin to get venerable until one gets to the editorial pages, so we'll never find the answers in the columns of their Washington bureau staff. However, John Fund of the opinionjournal.com often does a good, credible job. Bartley, Noonan and Morrison are favorites also.

25 posted on 11/14/2003 5:32:35 AM PST by OESY
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To: Carry_Okie
I'm not against logging. I'm against some of the logging jobs I've seen, like what has been done at our Scout Camp a couple of times where the company said they'd do one thing and did another.

We had a blowdown ourselves. I was in a crew that had to go into the camp on short notice and cut down hundreds of trees that were blocking roads, leaning over program areas ready to fall, etc. We cut down a bunch of these and dragged them out of the way. The lumber company said that they'd come pick up the logs.

Instead what happened was that they picked up the logs, cut down a bunch of other trees that were perfectly healthy and should have been left standing, left slash lying around to fill up with ticks and provide fire hazard, and basically scalp and abuse the camp.

I understand that unnatural forest management techniques have led to a problem that will require non-optimal techniques to resolve. Damage has been done, and damage will be necessary to alleviate it. I agree that removal of trees is both necessary and desirable. I agree that logging companies can have a role in this. But I don't trust the Bush administration to do this without compromising the recreational and conservationist purposes of the forests in the name of profit.

National forests have many roles. One of them is providing raw materials for the paper and lumber companies. But it is not the overriding interest; there are many others. Rhetoric about the fire disasters in California should not be used to mask or justify abuse of the National Forests for corporate interests.

Once again I come back to the model of what's being done in the Superior National Forest/BWCAW. Why can't that model be followed, or adapted, to the California situation?

26 posted on 11/14/2003 8:27:40 AM PST by RonF
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