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  • Archive for May, 2006

    I’m Hot Under the Collar Due to Global Warming

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 17th May 2006 (All posts by )

    I have written before about how I view the Kyoto Accords specifically and plans to reduce global warming in general with a great deal of suspicion. First you have to get every single country in the world to sign on (impossible), and then you have to figure out a way to enforce the agreement if any country decides to ignore the treaty (double impossible).

    According to this news item, India is telling it like it is. Their delegate to a UN conference on climate change currently being held in Bonn said that priority one was combating the crushing poverty under which a significant portion of India’s population suffers. The admission is that only way to do that is to increase emissions and pollution, not reduce them.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science | 12 Comments »

    Duh, wrong country, Senator

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 16th May 2006 (All posts by )

    So, I sent an email to my two Donk senators, Durbin and Obama complaining about how we pay the Gyppies $1 billion per annum and they go out and arrest a perfectly nice blogger, that guy Alaa . I was irate at the time, I assure you, caught up in one of those blogospheric mob frenzies where thousands of people worldwide are hunched over their keyboards and feeling like they are part of the Historical Moment. So I figured everyone else is spamming the embassy, I’ll give the Dick and Barack something to think about. Nothing back yet from Durbin, the putz. Obama, however, sent me a very heartfelt response which begins “Thank you so much for contacting me with your concerns about the political situation in Belarus. I certainly understand and share those concerns.” He went on and on like this for a while. Well, at least it is the correct hemisphere.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Kelly — Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards and Pyrotechnics

    Posted by James McCormick on 15th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Kelly, Jack, Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive That Changed the World, 2004

    [cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings]

    Cross-fertilizing with an earlier review of Macfarlane and Martin’s Glass: A World History, “Gunpowder” tracks technological change across a wide sweep of historical time and space from the perspective of one material. Most people can quote chapter and verse of conventional wisdom about gunpowder. The short form is “invented in the East, brought to fruition in the West.” While generally correct as far as it goes, the actual details of gunpowder’s history in both East and West justify Kelly’s detailed effort at a work for the public (without a forest of footnotes). And suitability for the public should be emphasized. At 250 well-written pages, this is a quick and enjoyable read that will whet your appetite without entirely slaking it. It does have the feel of a series of vignettes or magazine articles recast as a book. But fortunately, from the Anglosphere perspective, the content justifies attention.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 4 Comments »

    Cuban Dissidents vs. Moral Cripples

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Check out some of the comments here.

    (Via 26th Parallel)

    Posted in Cuba | Comments Off on Cuban Dissidents vs. Moral Cripples

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 14th May 2006 (All posts by )

    The peculiar position of our city and its rapidly increasing population, make it of the utmost importance that we have an efficient police organization, and that the most perfect system for the department may be immediately adopted, and such men only as are discreet, faithful, and active, placed in that body. The mere existence of a good and active police in a city like ours, is enough, of itself, to keep in check the flood of vicious characters that are continually pouring in upon our city by the ready channels of communication that concentrate at this point from the larger cities and towns. The presence of a faithful police will also ensure a proper observance of our ordinances among our own citizens.

    Inauguration speech of Charles McNeill Gray, 12th mayor of Chicago, March 7, 1853.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Quote of the Day

    Whacking Wooly

    Posted by Shannon Love on 14th May 2006 (All posts by )

    A rather profound bias running through much ecological thought holds that primitive people like hunter-gathers live in “harmony” with the environment and, unlike civilized people, seldom if ever cause significant ecological harm or extinctions. I think this study reported by National Geographic falls into this category. It purports to show that the extinction of macroform mammals like mammoths, camels and horses in North America at the end of the last ice age resulted from climate change and not human predation.

    I don’t buy it for several reasons.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science | 10 Comments »

    Poor Planning

    Posted by Shannon Love on 14th May 2006 (All posts by )

    I thought I would recycle another comment posting into a blog entry. This post over at Reason’s Hit&Run about porkbarrelling in Homeland Defense spending prompted me to think about how often poor foresight leads to crises which then set off rounds of panicked and ill considered decision making which wastes time and resources and provides opportunities for corruption.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Terrorism | 1 Comment »

    It Isn’t All that Funny Out There

    Posted by Ginny on 14th May 2006 (All posts by )

    A friend sent this dance retro. The audience thinks it’s funnier than I do – but so may you. Iowahawk does a letter in the spirit of that “Ahmadinejed fella”‘s letter to Bush. Iowahawk has also used a “California girl” as a Hoosegow Honey. Surely this is a betrayal of Iowa’s attractive felons. Even the genius of Iowahawk and wit of Chris Muir have trouble with the Iranian statement, which seems a parody – at least to Westerners. (Except to those, like Madeleine Albright, who see it as a reasonable approach to negotiations.)

    In passing, one is driven to ask (frequently) how could she & Condoleezza Rice be mentored by the same person? Or is Albright’s clearly partisan approach a way of righting some old “sibling” rivalry? Oh, well, we all have our little rivalries & angst. James Carroll, who writes very well if very irritatingly, was on Booktv tonight; I only watched the first couple of minutes but he still works on those old tensions with his father that were central to his earlier book; now, he has the Iraq War, as he had Viet Nam, to use as setting, to give him a larger (perhaps “neutral”, apparently objective, more central) stage for his archetypal battles. But I’m not sure how an audience can interpret the personal.

    Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz is widely read at institutions of higher learning.

    Posted in Humor | 3 Comments »

    Babbitt Got Some Things Right

    Posted by Ginny on 11th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Mudville notes a run-of-the-mill business exposition, except, well, except its very ordinariness hints at the extraordinary:

    The weeklong “Rebuild Iraq 2006” drew some 20,000 businesspeople and more than 1,000 exhibitors from 50 countries – all in search of ways to enter the Iraqi market or increase their business there.

    It is easy to satirize what can seem forced or even manic good cheer at Chamber of Commerce gatherings, but such a convention is a sign of health & indicates a practical sense that a strong (& therefore peaceful) economy lies in the future.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business | 9 Comments »

    What Have the Pythons Ever Done For Us?

    Posted by James McCormick on 11th May 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings]

    From comedy troupe Monty Python’s Life of Brian:
    REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
    XERXES: Brought peace.
    REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!

    As described by the Times recently, Monty Python member Terry Jones has written a book which attempts to correct the good press that the Romans have been getting for the last two thousand years by outlining recent discoveries of the technical accomplishments of the pre-Roman Celts in Britain. They weren’t such “barbarians” after all … they built their own roads, and created their own metallurgical masterpieces, innovated with the chariot in war, and were probably nice to their kids, as well.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 14 Comments »

    A Series of Analogies

    Posted by Ginny on 11th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Iain Murray is critical of the EU’s emission trading scheme (ETS), framing it with an analogy that that may be especially clear to some Houstonians gazing at their retirements:

    It should also be mentioned that volatile markets are particularly prone to manipulation by the unscrupulous. Enron recognized the potential volatility of carbon markets when it lobbied hard for their introduction in the United States. Badly structured markets where transparency is lacking are to the rogue traders like pheromones in the insect world.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 1 Comment »


    Posted by Jonathan on 10th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Harry makes some good points:

    If I were his lawyer, I would point out that using a government office for having sex with his secretary was far less ruinous for Britain than how he might otherwise have been using it. While Prescott was harmlessly fucking his secretary, the rest of the cabinet were probably hatching schemes to make us all line up and be fingerprinted. Put it this way: would you rather he was shafting his secretary, or the nation? We got off lightly.

    I would go further: I would say that screwing his secretary is his main achievement since taking office, and one of the things that sets him apart from monomaniacs and cyborgs like Blair, Brown and Straw. Blair would no more fuck his secretary than he would read a novel. Why? Because he’s a lunatic and a freak, with no more sense of proportion than a Saudi cleric. Brute that he is, Prescott is one of the few members of the establishment who is still recognisably earthling.

    It’s worth reading in full. Of course Harry’s argument would also apply to many US politicians.

    UPDATE: Jim Miller and Helen Szamuely make strong criticisms in the comments and they are right. I confess to being guilty in this post of doing what I have criticized other people for doing in their discussions of American politicians like Bill Clinton, and that is to brush off very serious abuses of power by framing the issue as being primarily about someone’s sexual peccadillos.

    Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

    New! — Diet Secrets of the Rich and Famous

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th May 2006 (All posts by )

    The South Beach Breakfast.

    Posted in Humor | Comments Off on New! — Diet Secrets of the Rich and Famous

    Hurricane Risk: Not Just Florida

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Here’s a cheerful article about storm risks in South Florida. And of course the journalists who wrote it are only trying to help. It’s not like they are trying to gin up a little pre-hurricane season hysteria to boost circulation and ad revenues! No, nothing like that. Why, they are so thoughtful that they even commissioned experts to run computer simulations of worst-case events in case readers don’t get the point, which is that THEY ARE ALL GOING TO DIE (maybe).

    Journalists exaggerating remote probabilities in order to sell papers (or page views) is like dog bites man, but there is a more serious side to this story. While the odds of a major hurricane hitting Miami in any given year are probably low, the likelihood that a storm will cause havoc somewhere on the Gulf or East Coast is much higher.

    The issue is not so much (perhaps not at all) global warming as it is population growth along the coasts. The last few decades have seen a great deal of building on beaches and barrier islands. While the risk of disaster is low for any given place and perhaps even any given year, it appears inevitable that some major population centers will eventually go the way of New Orleans. Everybody knows this, of course, but whereas Floridians may be overestimating the risks it seems likely that residents of more-northern states are underestimating them. Long Island, NY, to cite just one example, was devastated by a hurricane in 1938, and there is no reason why it can’t happen again. And if it does happen again the outcome might be a lot worse because Long Island’s population is much bigger now (though the costs would be mitigated by better weather forecasts, medicine and probably construction technology). The fact that it hasn’t occurred recently skews people’s perceptions but probably doesn’t change the real odds.

    No part of the USA’s eastern coast, from Massachusetts on South, is immune, no matter how few storms there have been recently. If you live anywhere near the East Coast you should assume that it can happen to you.

    UPDATE: This article is probably helpful.

    Posted in USA | 7 Comments »

    Ethanol Tariff Update

    Posted by David Foster on 8th May 2006 (All posts by )

    A couple of months ago, I wrote about the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on imported ethanol (here, also here.) On Friday, President Bush suggested that the tariff should be eliminated, or at least temporarily waived in order to ease the gasoline supply & price crunch which is expected for the summer.

    Both the corn farmers and the sugar industry will oppose this initiative, and it’s unlikely that it will make it though Congress unless the administration does some very effective PR work.

    Update: Today’s WSJ endorses the elimination of the tariff, and credits Congressman John Shadegg (Arizona) for pushing this idea. (Shadegg’s specific proposal is to suspend the tariff until 2007.)

    Ethanol policy also needs to consider impact on the transportation network. Ethanol cannot be shipped via conventional pipelines (a fact which has received little media attention until very recently) and has to go by rail or barge if long distances are involved. Major railroad bottlenecks seem likely, given that some of the routes needed for domestic ethanol are already heavily used for coal and grain. The Union Pacific has already slowed down shipments of ethanol to the DFW area due to heavy congestion in its rail terminal there.

    Imported ethanol might help the overall transportation-capacity situation to some extent, since it can come directly into major east and west coast ports, but isn’t going to help with bottlenecks at blending facilities.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 12 Comments »

    The Shining Beacon

    Posted by demimasque on 7th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Reader Marian Wirth recently took me to task over an earlier piece on immigration. Marian took issue with my characterization of French and German immigration policies, and expounds on the debate much more fully his own website.

    First, the semantic issues. It is quite true that the failure of border patrol in the United States does not amount to much of a policy. As for what German immigration is, I’ll defer to Marian’s more intimate familiarity with that issue. However, what I was speaking of was immigration systems. This is probably a bit of a vague term, so I’ll get on with it.

    Second, and more to the point, I want to address the illegal immigration issue here in the United States.

    Ever since I can remember, the political discourse in the United States regarding immigration has been broadly characterized in the media as a typical struggle of Marxist proportions (although no newspaper will use those words). Specifically, the media portrays it as a struggle between poor, downtrodden laborers, and the rich, racist, WASPs who criminalize them with wicked laws. Since 9/11, another hue has been added to the picture: In addition to being rich, white, and oppressive WASPS, those in favor of tighter border security are now portrayed as paranoid right-wing nutjobs irrationally trying to isolate themselves from the world. This is a characterization which Democrats have unfortunately been quick to seize upon. From the Pete Wilson-era propositions which would have discontinued funding for bilingual immersion classes, and withheld all but emergency medical services from illegals, to the push to require legal status (citizenship, residence, guest worker, approved student, etc.) in order to obtain a driver’s license, anything that tried to find any semblance of structure was met with one epithet: racist.

    Thus, anyone who didn’t support the May Day protests with full-hearted enthusiasm must be racist. Never mind that nobody’s advocating an end to immigration; the boycott was also called Immigrant Day. Never mind that what many are objecting to is the flood of illegal immigration. If you opposed illegal immigration you must be ipso facto a racist opposed to all immigration. Many of the organizers wanted the world to think that this was all about jobs and nothing else. (It really is no coincidence that the people trying to turn this into a debate about labor mobility are, for the most part, post-modern Communists. International A.N.S.W.E.R., a vociferous critic of capitalism, was one of the organizers. The first of May, by the way, happens to be May Day, or International Workers’ Day, a Communist holiday.)

    So let’s take them at their word, that all immigration was only about jobs. Let us also take into account the fact that the overwhelming number of illegal immigrants are from Mexico, which the activists would have you believe is a symptom of racism, rather than of the geographical fact that Mexico has a long border with the United States. If the issue was only jobs, why not reform the immigration system so that we have a more flexible way of providing for everybody’s needs?

    Like Mad Minerva, I come from a family that immigrated to the United States legally (although many better-placed families were able to use their connections to expedite their visa applications in the rush to leave Taiwan after President Carter officially switched recognition to the People’s Republic of China). We would represent those that intend to make the United States our home, a place where we intend to develop roots.

    There are many others who would be more than happy to just come to the United States to work, then after they’ve saved up enough money, go back to their home countries and, hopefully, retire. Examples of these include a large portion of illegals from Mexico, but also a large number of pre-20th Century immigrants from all over the world, including Ireland after the potato famine, and China during the California Gold Rush. Many of these probably would like to stay eventually.

    And why not? Engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty is a poem that beckons to the world’s tired, hungry, and wretched. America, it is said around the world, is a land of dreams, of opportunities. The tales of streets paved with gold are a bit exaggerated, but the promise of reward to go with a good work ethic is basically alive and well.

    But what dream would it be if it could be dashed at any moment by instability, if there is no rule of law to settle disputes? And yet some of these activists would have us throw out our system of laws, just because Jose or Juan couldn’t be bothered to file for a work visa?

    Clearly, the status quo does not serve us well. But is amnesty the right answer? DJ Drummond thinks so, and brings up some very good points:

    Sharpen the definitions of ‘citizen’ and ‘resident’, make clear that we welcome all sorts of legal immigrants but must protect our borders and enforce our laws, and offer the chance to start over for people who leave politely and immediately. And make very, very clear that anyone who remains here against the law after than point may expect a stronger and more determined, coordinated response at all levels.

    I don’t care for the word “amnesty”, but if that’s what it must be called to get the requisite votes to clear Congress, so be it. But DJ is clearly on the right track. There is no way we can afford to deport 12 million people. Like it or not, we’re stuck with them. So, how do we integrate them into our society, and how do we pave the way for a more effective future system?

    I won’t pretend that I have the perfect, or even the only viable plan. But here’s what I think:

    • Revamp the guest worker program. Create two tiers, one for skilled professionals and another for unskilled professionals. Unskilled professionals will not be entitled to unemployment benefits, and will have shorter grace periods for picking up new work in case of a layoff.
    • Increase staffing in consulates general to expedite background checks.
    • Amounts paid into social security can accrue for future payouts, but if a worker is forced to leave the country by, for example, unemployment or other ineligibility for renewal, and does not qualify for re-entry for more than a year, amounts paid into social security are forfeit. That money could probably be best used to pay benefits to citizens and legal residents, who, in an economy that cannot even employ guest workers, will probably need the help.
    • Harsh penalties for human traffickers. I suspect a lot of these middlemen entice workers with promises of the golden land in exchange for exorbitant amounts of future debt. This is at the very least true for many illegal immigrants from China; there is nothing that suggests that it isn’t true of illegals from Mexico or other places as well.
    • Rather than designate current illegals as felons, allow them a grace period to apply for guest worker status. Those with violent criminal records must be deported immediately. Those with minor, non-violent records must pay a fine. Those who have been here for less than, say, 5 years must also pay a fine. None will qualify for social services in excess of what they earn from here on.
    • In all cases, contribution to and participation in local communities will be mitigating factors.

    The point is, people see the shining beacon that is America. They should be allowed to become “official” Americans, provided they can show, through their hard work and contributions to the life of the community, that they love this country. This is important; have you ever seen the giddiness a “newly minted” American exudes? While certain cultural values will always be shifting, others cannot be abrogated. Civic awareness, typically very low in non-Western nations, is important.

    Integration does not mean simply providing services and then hoping the immigrants sink or swim, as with the European model. Integration means actual involvement with the day-to-day civic life. Perhaps America doesn’t need to reach out anymore to scour the planet for those who want to come here; but we need to make sure there are no delusions about what it takes to be an American, and no mistakes that the vast bounty of America’s resources will not be doled out to those who would break American laws.

    I imagine some will be turned off by this. You can’t please everyone. But I’m pretty sure that if someone is turned off because he has to (*gasp*) work at getting what he wants, American really doesn’t want him around. We’ve got plenty of people who already do not believe in personal responsibility; we don’t need more.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Immigration | 8 Comments »

    “We are Pleased to Present”

    Posted by Ginny on 7th May 2006 (All posts by )

    The cynical Harry puts up a quite partial list of “failed states.” A more complete look shows us some quite interesting contrasts. (For one thing, some on this blog might weight the UN as “Intervention of Other States or External Actors”, but it is doubtful that the Scandinavian countries, which rank at the top, do.) This reader, however, pauses at The Fund for Peace’s introduction: “We are pleased to present the second annual Failed States Index.”

    Posted in Diversions | 6 Comments »


    Posted by Ginny on 7th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Juan Cole, the First Draft, [Found in a dumpster behind the University of Michigan College of Liberal Arts: the first draft of Professor Juan Cole’s latest cri de coeur], catches spectacularly (doesn’t Iowahawk always “catch spectacularly”) the rhythm of the three teen-agers I carted around for a couple of hours today. (Amidst the giggles at one point, my daughter tried to explain the point of their stories, prefacing her comment with “Well, dude,” – this is a step way, way too far. Mothers are not dudes.)

    Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

    The Truth About Keyboards

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th May 2006 (All posts by )


    Posted in Humor | 9 Comments »

    The English Legal Foundations of American Liberty — A Tale of Contingency

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 6th May 2006 (All posts by )

    I recently stumbled across a reference to book called Constituting Empire : New York and the Transformation of Constitutionalism in the Atlantic World, 1664-1830, by a professor at NYU, Daniel Hulsebosch. Prof. Hulsebosch gets to study for a living two of the things that have been of interest to me in the last few years — the continuities between British and American legal and political institutions, and the under-appreciated role of New York in the development of the USA.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Did these elections matter?

    Posted by Helen on 6th May 2006 (All posts by )

    On a most obvious level local elections do not matter in Britain. Local councils have long ago lost many of their powers; most of their money comes from central government, which decides which council gets the most funds and practices redistribution of wealth between them; legislation is made in Westminster (or Edinburgh or Cardiff) at best but much more likely in Brussels. Recycling, so beloved by David Cameron (though not much discussed by Tories at the local level) is an EU competence as are all environmental issues, and the decisions taken locally are very limited.

    So, really, who sits on the local council is of little interest or importance to the people of Britain. This is reflected in the turn-out: uniformly low. This year it was 36 per cent on average, a couple of points down from 2004, though there were anomalies, as I shall point out later.

    Local elections can be used to give an unpopular government a bloody nose but this does not necessarily translate itself into a subsequent general election victory. Both William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith led the Conservative Party to superlative results in the local elections. Hague then proceeded to lose spectacularly in the general and IDS was knifed by his own party five months after his success.

    Bearing all that in mind, it is fair to point out that the Labour government was given a spectacular bloody nose, just as everyone expected. They lost 319 seats and control of 18 councils. The Conservatives won 316 seats and gained control of 11 councils, some rather unexpected.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain | 2 Comments »

    Call for Scam Hunters

    Posted by TM Lutas on 5th May 2006 (All posts by )

    A new scam is running around. A bank account is cracked, real checks are printed, sent out in large numbers, the checks are deposited by people thinking they are for payment of “taxes” for a lottery and the “tax payment” is sent via Western Union / Moneygram to the “tax agent”, in other words, the scam artist. The name, bank information, routing number, security features on the check are all entirely legitimate. This way the group gets money sent to them without ever actually having to touch the bank.

    I just got the 2nd one of these in a month and it’s ticking me off. My local police are too lazy to follow up on reporting this sort of scam (the route I took in the first case) so I’m throwing this out for a bit of international justice. Is there a coalition of the willing out there willing to bust scammers?

    The “agent” gives a number of 011-491-60-91-92-39-92 which seems to be Germany. If anybody could trace this to a locality and get the police to act, I will press charges.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 4 Comments »

    A Gentleman

    Posted by Ginny on 5th May 2006 (All posts by )

    We often quote Acton’s “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” His site uses as its epigraph another argument: “Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.”

    But how is our awareness of such a truth likely to be revealed & implicitly acknowledged in our customs? (Or when such tendencies are reinforced, unfortunately, by other traditions and customs.) Perhaps we should accord the greatest of dignities to he who lets another keep his, even when that person risks his own pride & dignity (or perhaps we should say, apparent pride & dignity).

    When General Robert E. Lee chose the task, as Fischer describes it, of “of training a new generation of southern leaders in his Stoic and Christian vision of liberty and self-mastery,” he described Washington College’s rule as simple: “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentleman.” Lee’s definition of a “gentleman” remains the code of many and such values lie beneath the civil (generally) exchanges on this blog. Here it is:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Morality and Philosphy | 2 Comments »

    A glorious burst of sanity

    Posted by ken on 3rd May 2006 (All posts by )

    The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that dying patients have a due process right to access drugs once they have been through FDA approved safety trials.

    Yes, 70 years after the FDA was first imposed on us, and 40 years after its demands were intensified, a court has spelled out that people whose lives are in danger have a right to buy drugs that might save them, and others (including pharmaceutical companies) have a right to come to the aid of someone whose life is in danger without interference.

    Will this bit of clear thinking and respect for people’s rights make it into Supreme Court precedent? Stay tuned…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »