What if NBC Cheered on a Military Coup against Bush?

During the Cold War, if an American journalist or visitor to the Soviet Union reported seeing churches full of people, this was taken as a sign that the people were rejecting and escaping from communism. If the churches were empty, this clearly was proof of the suppression of religion. If consumer goods were scarce, this was seen as a failure of the communist system. If consumer goods appeared to be more plentiful, this gave rise to speculation about was happening in the Soviet Union that was prompting the authorities to try to buy off the citizenry.

I’m reminded of this kind of thinking concerning Venezuela. The conservative anti-communist American mind sees things pertaining to Washington’s newest bête noir in the worst possible light (to the extent they’re even being sincere and not simply ideological). If Chávez makes education more widely available to the masses of poor people, it’s probably for the purpose of indoctrinating them. If Chávez invites a large number of Cuban doctors to Venezuela to treat the poor, it’s a sign of a new and growing communist conspiracy in Latin America, which includes Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. If Chávez wins repeated democratic elections … here’s the recent Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “I mean, we’ve got Chávez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He’s a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others.”Associated Press , February 4, 2006.

The latest manifestation of this mind-set is the condemnation of the Venezuelan government’s refusal to renew the license of RCTV, a private television station. This has been denounced by the American government and media, and all other right-thinking people, as suppression of free speech, even though they all know very well that the main reason, the sine qua non, for the refusal of the license renewal has to do with RCTV’s unqualified support for the 2002 coup that briefly overthrew Chávez. If there was a successful military coup in the United States and a particular TV station applauded the overthrow of the president (and the dissolving of Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as the suspension of the Constitution), and if then the coup was reversed by other military forces accompanied by mass demonstrations, and the same TV station did not report any of this while it was happening to avoid giving support to the counter-coup, and instead kept reporting that the president had voluntarily resigned … how long would it be before the US government, back in power, shut down the station, arrested its executives, charging them under half a dozen terrorist laws, and throwing them into shackles and orange jumpsuits never to be seen again? How long? Five minutes? The Venezuelan government waited five years, until the station’s license was due for renewal. And none of the executives have been arrested. And RCTV is still free to broadcast via cable and satellite. Is there a country in the entire world that would be as lenient?For further detail see: Bart Jones, op-ed, Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2007; http://www.venezuelanalysis.com; www.misionmiranda.com/rctv.htm

It can be said that the media in Venezuela is a lot more free than in the United States. Can anyone name a single daily newspaper in the United States that is unequivocally opposed to US foreign policy? Can anyone name a single television network in the United States that is unequivocally opposed to US foreign policy? Is there a single daily newspaper or TV network in the entire United States that has earned the label “opposition media”? Venezuela has lots of opposition media.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

“If the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted to force the Bush administration to accept a bill with a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, it didn’t have to pass the bill over Bush’s veto. It just had to make clear that no Iraq War spending bill without a timeline would be forthcoming. Given that the Constitution requires Congress to approve all spending, Bush needs Congress’s approval to continue the war. Congress does not need Bush’s approval to end the war.”Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), June 1, 2007.

The point is well taken, but with all the talk about funding or not funding the war, with all the bills in Congress, and the veto of a funding bill by the idiot king, I keep looking for an explanation of what exactly would happen in real life if funding for the war were “cut off.” Would an accountant or lawyer from the Treasury Department or the Office of Management and Budget suddenly show up in Iraq, walk into the Green Zone, blow a whistle, and announce “This war has been suspended for lack of funding! Please go home.” Would war manufacturers (also known humorously as defense manufacturers) refuse to supply their goods on credit? Not if they want future business. Would the Pentagon soon run out of guns and bullets, tanks and helicopters? How likely is that? They must have huge supplies on hand of almost everything because they never know when there will be a sudden and urgent need to bring freedom and democracy to some god-forsaken country in need. They must also have huge supplies of money on hand. And who’s to stop them from transferring money from one account to another? Does anyone believe that this administration — which we’ve all come to know and love, and respect for its integrity — does anyone believe that this gang of scoundrels would allow their hands to be tied?

In 1984, Congress cut off funding for the Reagan administration’s war in Nicaragua in support of the charming band of rapist-torturers known as the Contras. So what did the administration do? It raised money and arms covertly from foreign governments like Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, South Korea, apartheid South Africa, and Israel; as well as funding from domestic sources; and from extensive narcotics trafficking [sic]. Would not the Busheviks be at least as resourceful? Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed alone could finance the war.

The stain on humankind that does not go away

A report in the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a journal of the American Medical Association, based on interviews of hundreds of survivors of the 1990s conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, concludes that “aggressive interrogation techniques or detention procedures involving deprivation of basic needs, exposure to adverse environmental conditions, forced stress positions, hooding or blindfolding, isolation, restriction of movement, forced nudity, threats, humiliating treatment and other psychological manipulations do not appear to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the extent of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanisms of traumatic stress, and their long-term traumatic effects.”

The report adds that these findings do not support the distinction between torture and “other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” (an expression taken from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948), often used in international human rights conventions and declarations. Although these conventions prohibit both types of acts, the report points out that “such a distinction nevertheless reinforces the misconception that cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment causes lesser harm and might therefore be permissible under exceptional circumstances.”From a March 5, 2007 press release by the journal.

These conclusions directly counter the frequent declarations by George W., the Pentagon, et al. that “We don’t torture.” They would have the world believe that psychological torture isn’t really torture; although they of course have often employed the physical kind as well, to a degree leading on a number of occasions to a prisoner’s death. (Justice Andrew Collins of the British high court: “America’s idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilized nations.”The Guardian (London), February 17, 2006.)

The conclusions of the journal’s report do not, however, counter the argument of those like Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz who loves to pose the classic question: “What if a bomb has been set to go off, which will kill many people, and only your prisoner knows where it’s located. Is it okay to torture him to elicit the information?”

Humankind has been struggling for centuries to tame its worst behaviors; ridding itself of the affliction of torture is high on that list. Finally, an historic first step was taken by the United Nations General Assembly in 1984 with the drafting of the “Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” (came into force in 1987, ratified by the United States in 1994). Article 2, section 2 of the Convention states: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Such marvelously clear, unambiguous and principled language, to set a single standard for a world that makes it increasingly difficult to feel proud of humanity. We cannot slide back. If torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality. If today it’s deemed acceptable to torture the person who has the vital information, tomorrow it will be acceptable to torture his colleague who — it’s suspected — may know almost as much. Would we allow slavery to resume for just a short while to serve some “national emergency” or some other “higher purpose”?

“I would personally rather die than have anyone tortured to save my life.” — Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who lost his job after he publicly condemned the Uzbek regime in 2003 for its systematic use of torture.Testimony before the International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration, session of January 21, 2006, New York.

If you open the window of torture, even just a crack, the cold air of the Dark Ages will fill the whole room.

A Cold Warrior’s nightmare

Jack Kubisch died on May 7 in North Carolina. You probably never heard of him. He was a State Department Foreign Service Officer who served in Mexico, France, and Brazil, and as ambassador to Greece. At the time of the September 11, 1973 military coup in Chile which overthrew the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, he was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.

In the wake of the coup, Kubisch was hard pressed to counter charges that the United States had been involved. “It was not in our interest to have the military take over in Chile,” he insisted. “It would have been better had Allende served his entire term, taking the nation and the Chilean people into complete and total ruin. Only then would the full discrediting of socialism have taken place. Only then would people have gotten the message that socialism doesn’t work. What has happened has confused this lesson.”Washington Post, October 21, 1973

Read that again. It’s as concise and as clear a description of the ideological underpinnings of United States foreign policy as you’re ever going to find publicly admitted to by a high-ranking American official. Though based on a falsehood made up for the occasion — that Allende’s polices were leading Chile to ruin, which was not the case at all — Kubisch’s words articulate a basic goal of US foreign policy: preventing the rise of any society that might serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model. Many underdeveloped countries were punished terribly during the Cold War by Washington for having such an aspiration — Cuba still is. It is better that such societies suffer “complete and total ruin” than achieve such a goal.

Washington knows no heresy in the Third World but genuine independence. In the case of Salvador Allende, independence came clothed in an especially provocative costume — a Marxist constitutionally elected who continued to honor the constitution. This would not do. It shook the very foundation stones upon which the anti-communist tower was built: the doctrine, painstakingly cultivated for decades, that “communists” can take power only through force and deception, that they can retain that power only through terrorizing and brainwashing the population. For Washington ideologues, There could be only one thing worse than a Marxist in power — an elected Marxist in power.

If you sometimes think that the stupidity, lies, hypocrisy, cynicism, cruelty, and arrogance
could never have been as bad as now …

Here is President George H.W. Bush, in a speech to the US Air Force Academy, May 29, 1991:

Nowhere are the dangers of weapons of proliferation more urgent than in the Middle East. After consulting with governments inside the region and elsewhere about how to slow and then reverse the buildup of unnecessary and destabilizing weapons, I am today proposing a Middle East arms control initiative. It features supplier guidelines on conventional arms exports; barriers to exports that contribute to weapons of mass destruction; a freeze now, and later a ban on surface-to-surface missiles in the region; and a ban on production of nuclear weapons material.

The next day, (that is to say, the VERY next day, May 30, 1991), Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (Whatever happened to him?) announced that the United States would give Israel $65 million worth of US fighter planes and underwrite most of a new Israeli missile program.Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1991.

In that same speech, Bush, Sr. declared: “Our service men and women in the Gulf, weary from months in the desert, now help suffering Kurds.” The truth was that since the Gulf War fighting had ceased in February, the United States had been doing its best to suppress the Kurdish revolt against the rule of Saddam Hussein, a revolt which the Bush administration had openly encouraged for Kurds and Shiites in Washington’s perennial professed role of democratic liberators; but when the heat of the moment had cooled down, the prospect of a Kurdish autonomous area next to US ally Turkey and/or an Iraq-Iran-Shiite coalition next to the Saudi allies made successful revolts appear unpalatable to the United States. Accordingly, the Kurds and Shiites were left to their [not very nice] fates. But hey, that’s business.

Seconds later in his talk, Daddy Bush succeeded in pushing the following words past his lips: “We do not dictate the courses nations follow.”

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.
— Denis Diderot, 18th century French philosopher and writer

Christopher Hitchens has a new book out, god is not GREAT. It’s a compilation of the many terrible things done in the name of God by various religions over the centuries, far in excess, the book posits, of the terrible things done by the secular world. The holy horrors continue today of course, perhaps worse than ever. If the leaders and would-be leaders of Lebanon, Pakistan, the United States, Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, and some other countries were secular humanists our poor old world would not appear to be another planet’s hell. Organized religion has a lot to answer for.

I have no particular quarrel with the book’s general theme. But when I first read a review of it I wondered how Hitchens dealt with Saddam Hussein and his secular government in Iraq. Here was a guy who was genuinely a baddie, but not a religious fanatic at all. The problem for Hitchens was compounded, for being an ardent supporter of the US war against Iraq he had to dispel the notion that the United States had overthrown a secular government. Hitchens, however, came up with a simple but elegant solution to both problems — He made Saddam and his regime “religious”! Saddam, he writes, “had decked out his whole rule … as one of piety and jihad” [against whom he doesn’t say, and I can’t either]. “Those who regarded his regime as a ‘secular’ one are deluding themselves.”god is not GREAT: How Religion Poisons Everything, page 25.

There is now Islamic sharia law imposed in many parts of Iraq, with numerous horror stories of its enforcement against young men and women for their co-mingling, for their clothing, their music, dancing, etc. The number of family honor killings based on religion has jumped. Mosques and the buildings of other religions, including Christian Assyrians, have suffered many serious attacks. These things were rare to non-existent under Hussein, when Shias and Sunnis regularly intermarried and Muslims did not need to escape from Iraq by the thousands in fear of other Muslims; neither did Jews or Christians. (In his last year or so in power, Hussein spoke in religious terms more often than earlier, but this appeared to be little more than paying lip service to the anger stirred up in Iraq, as elsewhere in the Middle East, by Washington’s War on Terror.)

This, then, is what Hitchens’ “Oh what a lovely war!” has given birth to. The irony for a person like him might be unbearable if he were not rescued by denial.

It will not have passed unnoticed that Hussein’s Iraq is not the only secular government overthrown by the United States which led to a very religious successor. In Afghanistan in the 1980s and early 90s, the US masterminded the overthrow of the “communist” government, which led to rule by Islamic fundamentalists, from which the Taliban emerged.

Imperialist and capitalist fundamentalists also have a lot to answer for.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” … though the FBI may conduct extensive surveillance of them.

And fill up fat files. You can read many of the files — peacemakers and others — in the FBI Reading Room

Among those whose files are there: The Beatles, Bertolt Brecht, Steve Allen, the ACLU, Ty Cobb, American Friends Service Committee, Lucille Ball, the Pacifica Foundation, Cole Porter, Elvis Presley, Carl Sagan, Charles Schulz, Frank Sinatra, Mickey Mantle, Groucho Marx, HL Mencken, NAACP, Ian Fleming, Vincent Foster, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Henry Wallace, Weatherman Underground, and hundreds of others, as well as the FBI’s Terrorist Photo Album (1973-89).

Why, after all we know about his sordid career — and his keeping a Grand Canyon of files is but a minor, relatively harmless part of it — is the FBI Building still named after J. Edgar Hoover?

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. He can be reached at: bblum6@aol.com. Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Kim Petersen said on June 9th, 2007 at 5:55am #

    As to the hypothetical question posed by Dershowitz: “What if a bomb has been set to go off, which will kill many people, and only your prisoner knows where it’s located. Is it okay to torture him to elicit the information?”

    How about the following asked of him: What if a bomb has been set to go off, which will kill many people, and you strongly suspect your prisoner knows where it’s located. Is it okay to torture him to elicit the information?

    Or better yet: What if a professor supports theft of land and apartheid that will kill many Palestinians, and that his support helps to perpetuate the killing. Is it okay to torture him to try and stop the killing?

  2. Jeff said on June 9th, 2007 at 6:18am #

    They didn’t cheer it on or incite it. If they had Chavez wouldn’t have waited five years to close it. And why close it? Why not just bring treason charges against those responsible? So far, no one has been charged. This is clearly his desire to control the media. He’s replaced it with a socialist channel, clearly aimed at expressing his viewpoint.

    You, at this site, are creating a reality that suits you, because Chavez is the enemy or your enemy. Give people the truth. Don’t allude to things that RCTV may have done, spell it out. The problem is you can’t because it wouldn’t be worth writing about.

  3. Hue Longer said on June 9th, 2007 at 8:06am #

    Before your fallacy is named Jeff, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt…Are you saying if treason charges were not brought after the coup, then they didn’t cheer or incite it before?

  4. neutral indian said on June 9th, 2007 at 8:55am #

    I am from India and I have noticed that Americans are not capable of logical analysis. That is why the American left does not defend free-speech, but defends certain people.

    They do not comprehend that free-speech is a universal value. OTOH, they are intensely loyal to Communists. In that sense, they are low IQ inferior morons and useful idiots. Of course, the American right-wing is incapable of ideological positions either. Notice how they supported Osama bin Laden , Saddam Hussein and other dictators and justified it.

    I will admit one point though — the right-wing hates me for my ideas, the left-wing hates me for who I am. In that sense, the American leftists are more racist than their right-wing counterparts.

    To answer the question raised here — what if NBC cheered a coup against Bush? In India, we usually quote Voltaire when we say that we may disagree with you, but will defend you on your right to say something.

    I have found that American “liberals” are too dumb to understand this concept. I even tried this test on the so-called “liberals” — I claimed that Hugo Chavez was accused of pedophilia. The immediate reaction of the “liberal” (so-called) was that the child is at fault. The second reaction was that pedophilia is not really bad. American left is a bunch of low IQ morons who base their position on who says something rather than the merits of the issue.

    As for the “coup,” if you really believe that the general strike was part of the coup, you are a moron. There was a general strike and the army leaders tried to exploit the situation. They were arrested for it. Also, if you call a general strike as a coup, then the protests in Seattle a few years back would be called a coup. And the anti-war protesters were carrying pro-Saddam and pro-Osama placards. Their right to express their views was not blocked.

  5. Jeff said on June 9th, 2007 at 8:58am #

    ‘Cheer it on’ and ‘incite it’ are very different things. Are you clear what RCTV actually did? Inciting a government coup seems to be treason, no? So there wasn’t enough evidence to bring criminal charges of any kind against anyone (and they had five years to look for it) but we’ll take President Chavez at his word. What a luxury Chavez enjoys!

  6. CH said on June 9th, 2007 at 10:06am #

    Chavez the enemy? Hardly. And he didn’t close down RCTV, but banished it to cable and satellite, as Blum said.

  7. jose de PR said on June 10th, 2007 at 4:08am #

    “They do not comprehend that free-speech is a universal value”- neutral indian.

    free speech doesnt give you the right to do whatever and say whatever you want. Free speech is not like the “free out of jail-card” from that game or like having a “license to kill” like that superagent spy. Free speech doesnt work like that; it must follow the rules and laws of a society like the rest of us.

    maybe you are confusing the term; “free speech”. i know it uses the word “free” but there are some conditions like we are hold, as citzens, to some conditions.

    for example, you are “free” to say the word “bomb” in an airport; you can say it…just a wait a few minutes to see what happens to you.

  8. Jeff said on June 10th, 2007 at 5:05am #

    1. Very few people have cable.

    2. It seems like everyone here is defending Chavez because they’re Chavez supporters, and nothing else (See CH’s comment: “Chavez the enemy? Hardly”)

    I don’t think anyone here even knows what RCTV did during the coup. If they really incited people, that would be treason and someone would find some criminal charge, but no one has. Chavez being anti-US/pro-Communism doesn’t make him automatically right.

  9. Joe said on June 10th, 2007 at 6:43am #

    Jeff….I would just like to say that you your self don’t seem to be very objective in your analysis….all you seem to be able to do is attack others for their lack of objectivity…and you offer no supporting evidence..only rhetoric. We have come to expect this from your type.

  10. Hue Longer said on June 10th, 2007 at 7:39am #

    Your argument is as follows, Jeff…[If RCTV incited, it is treason, and they would be charged. RCTV was not charged, therefore they didn’t commit treason ]… You have a classic invalid deductive argument here, Jeff. Instead of going in this direction of asserting the inference (they would be charged) as unchallengeable fact (which validates your conclusion), look at the evidence you seem to think no one but Chavez has and be open to a change of position. This is a very good site to search concerning what RCTV aired before, during, and after the coup, but branch out and understand that those talking about free speech or censorship WITHOUT discussing what was actually done, can not simply imply the wrong rhetorical questions based on fallacious reasoning to “win” an argument. Put the test to ANYONE telling you anything (including this site).

  11. Max Shields said on June 10th, 2007 at 12:08pm #

    Jeff said:
    “1. Very few people have cable.

    2. It seems like everyone here is defending Chavez because they’re Chavez supporters, and nothing else (See CH’s comment: “Chavez the enemy? Hardly”)

    I don’t think anyone here even knows what RCTV did during the coup. If they really incited people, that would be treason and someone would find some criminal charge, but no one has. Chavez being anti-US/pro-Communism doesn’t make him automatically right.”

    Your making assumptions based on your own apparent biases. The argument is larger than a given leader (in this case Chavez). The sources for what happened in Venezuela are many and corroborative regarding the role RCTV played in the attempted coup. I am not aware of the legal particulars in claiming treason in Venezuela. I think it is more than fair to say that had this occurred in the US, treason charges would have been launched post haste.

    What we do know is that the Venezuelan government renews network licenses and did not renew RCTV when it came up for renewal. A tiny price to pay for what we would call treasonous activity.

  12. Jeff said on June 10th, 2007 at 12:27pm #

    Wow, Joe, you started a flame, but I won’t bite. Especially since I’m not that ‘type’. I probably have more in common with people on this site than I have differences with them. I like freedom, here and everywhere else. I don’t like to see it decay anywhere.

  13. Roy Dickinson said on June 11th, 2007 at 5:38am #

    In answer to Jeffs question, “what did RCTV do during the coup ?” On April 11, 2002, the day of the coup, when military and civilian opposition leaders held press conferences calling for Chávez’s ouster, RCTV hosted top coup plotter Carlos Ortega, who rallied demonstrators to the march on the presidential palace. On the same day, after the anti-democratic overthrow appeared to have succeeded, another coup leader, Vice-Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez, told a Venevisión reporter (4/11/02): “We had a deadly weapon: the media. And now that I have the opportunity, let me congratulate you.”
    That commercial TV outlets including RCTV participated in the coup is not at question; even mainstream outlets have acknowledged as much. As reporter Juan Forero, Jackson Diehl’s colleague at the Washington Post, explained (1/18/07), “RCTV, like three other major private television stations, encouraged the protests,” resulting in the coup, “and, once Chávez was ousted, cheered his removal.” The conservative British newspaper the Financial Times reported (5/21/07), “[Venezuelan] officials argue with some justification that RCTV actively supported the 2002 coup attempt against Mr. Chávez.”
    When Chávez returned to power the commercial stations refused to cover the news, airing instead entertainment programs—in RCTV’s case, the American film Pretty Woman. By refusing to cover such a newsworthy story, the stations abandoned the public interest and violated the public trust that is seen in Venezuela (and in the U.S.) as a requirement for operating on the public airwaves.
    When Patrick McElwee of the U.S.-based group Just Foreign Policy interviewed representatives of Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists—all groups that have condemned Venezuela’s action in denying RCTV’s license renewal—he found that none of the spokespersons thought broadcasters were automatically entitled to license renewals, though none of them thought RCTV’s actions in support of the coup should have resulted in the station having its license renewal denied. This led McElwee to wonder, based on the rights groups’ arguments, “Could it be that governments like Venezuela have the theoretical right to not to renew a broadcast license, but that no responsible government would ever do it?”

    McElwee acknowledged the critics’ point that some form of due process should have been involved in the decisions, but explained that laws preexisting Chávez’s presidency placed licensing decision with the executive branch, with no real provisions for a hearings process: “Unfortunately, this is what the law, first enacted in 1987, long before Chávez entered the political scene, allows. It charges the executive branch with decisions about license renewal, but does not seem to require any administrative hearing. The law should be changed, but at the current moment when broadcast licenses are up for renewal, it is the prevailing law and thus lays out the framework in which decisions are made.”

    Government actions weighing on journalism and broadcast licensing deserve strong scrutiny. However, on the central question of whether a government is bound to renew the license of a broadcaster when that broadcaster had been involved in a coup against the democratically elected government, the answer should be clear, as McElwee concludes:

    The RCTV case is not about censorship of political opinion. It is about the government, through a flawed process, declining to renew a broadcast license to a company that would not get a license in other democracies, including the United States. In fact, it is frankly amazing that this company has been allowed to broadcast for 5 years after the coup, and that the Chávez government waited until its license expired to end its use of the public airwaves.

  14. Jeff said on June 16th, 2007 at 4:32am #

    Thanks, Roy. You’re the only one out of all of us who actually knows something about the topic.