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June 29, 2006

The Definition of Chutzpah


A young boy died Thursday following a bizarre incident in which police allege his mother threw him to the ground in the middle of a busy thoroughfare and then stabbed a police officer.

Tammie Steinhoff, 30, has been charged with the first-degree murder of her son, River, who would have turned three next month.

"It's a horrible, horrible time for this young lady," her lawyer, Laura Joy, said outside the court house.

"She's lost her child."

Posted by David Mader at 10:45 PM | (0) | Back to Main

June 27, 2006

The Only Living Boy in DC

I can gather all the news I need on the weather report. -- Paul Simon

I love the rain. Always have. I think it has to do, in part, with being born in Dublin. My years in London in grade school sealed the deal. That's still my archetypal rain - not hard, but persistent, and mixed with a simple but bitter chill. It's cliched, but it really does turn the raindrops into razors, biting at your skin, leaving your ears red and throbbing. You lower your gaze, instinctively, and shuffle through. You do, I say; I don't, not anymore. There's little - I can't think of anything - I find more invigorating. It's a harder rain to find, this side of the pond, but you have it; it comes to Montreal in November, when the weather's broken, and the clock's changed, and it's dark and rainy and bitter and wonderful at 5:45 in the afternoon. It even comes to Austin, for about a week in January, if the cards line up. It's especially valuable in a place like Austin, where every day is beautiful, where blue skies take themselves for granted, where every now and again it's important to walk out into a biting rain - not hard, but persistent - that makes you say: right. Right. I'm still alive.

Helps that I don't own a house, of course, let alone a house with a basement.

Posted by David Mader at 09:41 PM | (3) | Back to Main

June 26, 2006

Ann Althouse on Religion

I don't think writing about religion means you're nutty, though it's great material for people to use if they want to portray you as nutty. While I think it's perfectly idiotic to actually believe in God, I think many people are either playing with the idea -- using it to stimulate thinking about themselves and their relationships -- or trying to make money off of the people who enjoy fooling around with it....

But how big is the third category -- those people who actually believe? Once, quite a while back, I had a long conversation with a man whom I was considering going out with, when he brought up the topic of religion, which caused me to instantly write him off as someone I couldn't take seriously. (I admit I was looking for an out, and that was convenient.) I told this little anecdote a friend, a law professor, who burst right out with the statement: "I believe in God." I then told the anecdote, with the new coda, to another friend, also a law professor, and I got the same response: "I believe in God." These people were not joking -- unless their humor was very, very dry, and they were both also sadistic enough to leave me wandering through the rest of my life with diminished faith in the strength of the human mind.

Okay, okay, I've doctored the quote. Althouse isn't talking about religion and God, she's talking about astrology. But why is a belief in astrological influence any more intellectually unsound than a belief in divine influence? Althouse - a law professor, mind - simply states as a given that belief in astrological influence is evidence of intellectual idiocy. Now perhaps she's a devout atheist as well, and sees any sort of belief in the metaphysical as idiotic. But I'm continually astounded by the indignation of those atheists who at once point out that faith cannot be proven and lambaste those who nevertheless maintain their faith. If it can't be proven, it can't be disproven - and I've yet to see any coherent, logical argument regarding why that which cannot be disproven is necessarily wrong. It can't be proven correct, of course, and so we should be extraordinarily wary of organizing, say, human government along its purported lines - but if people want to believe the un-disprovable in their hearts, why is that necessarily idiotic?

I've never been a regular Althouse reader; this sort of post doesn't make me want to start.

[Via Instapundit]

Posted by David Mader at 05:43 PM | (1) | Back to Main

June 25, 2006

Westernism and Universalism

How to reconcile these two passages from a recent Guardian review? First,

What distinguishes this from other accounts of the problems of Asia is Mishra's sceptical view of the west. He takes it as given that the era in which the world could look to western models is now definitively over. While American neo-conservatives and their followers in Britain dream of crusades for "western values", the world's centre of gravity is shifting to countries that reject the west's universal claims.
And yet in the paragraph before we learn that
[t]he people he describes are no different from any others in their basic needs, and they have all the usual virtues and vices.
But if people across the world share basic needs, virtues and vices, doesn't a rejection of western universalism seem unwise? Certainly it might make sense to reject a specific type of universalism, and there can be many; the twentieth century was marked by a decades-long conflict between American universalism, which posited that universal needs reflected (or created) universal rights, and Soviet universalism, which posited that universal needs reflected (or created) universal equality.

It would be entirely fitting to see the Third World, which originally simply meant those neither American nor Soviet in alignment, positing a third universalism. If "the west's universal claims" therefore means that conception of universalism developed in the west (wether of American or Soviet shading), it is understandable; if it means instead the very concept of universalism, which stands at the center of the western intellectual tradition, the argument becomes harder to bear - particularly given the reviewer's own acknowledgement of the universality of human experience.

Posted by David Mader at 08:59 PM | (0) | Back to Main


The question is not whether judges ought to have the authority to increase a criminal sentence in order to send a message of "general deterrence;" the question is how an individual convicted of a brutal murder can receive a sentence of one day. I go back and forth on the idea of mandatory minimums. This story bring me "forth."

Posted by David Mader at 08:21 PM | (0) | Back to Main

On the Other Hand...

... isn't it possible that, but for Modigliani and the other modernists, we wouldn't see a face at all?

Posted by David Mader at 08:19 PM | (0) | Back to Main

June 21, 2006


This whole Kosola thing has got me wondering: just what, exactly, is wrong with payola? I mean particularly payola in the traditional context of pay-for-commercial-music-on-commercial-radio-airtime. Why is that a bad thing? What reasonable expectation would consumers have of any other method of selecting playlists, such that their expectations should be protected by the police power of the state? Why, indeed, is paying for play a bad way to select playlists at all? I'm sure there are arguments out there; it simply occurs to me that I can't figure out what they are.

Posted by David Mader at 09:14 PM | (2) | Back to Main


It's always a challenge to say that others should take a deep breath when you yourself are breathless, so I'll limit my obvious remarks to the comment that this is quite clearly simply the English flag; Rooney is not just smeared with blood-like red paint, but is painted white as well.

But there's a deeper point here too. The story quotes a CofE clergyman who bemoans the fact that the ad "brings to mind the crucifiction." But Rooney is in that particular pose only because it mimics the flag of England - and the flag of England is, after all, a cross. It seems odd to condemn the evocation of the crucifixion when the crucifixion is routinely evoked by the country's most common national symbols. And while at first glance there might seem to be a distinction between the symbol of a cross on a flag and the bodily reenactment of the pose of crucifixion, I'm not sure the distinction holds up. The cross as a national symbol is, after all, simply an evocation of the last suffering of Jesus on the cross, as both a reminder to those who live under the cross to live by it, and a declaration of those who oppose the flag that those who live under it are guided by it. Not only will any bodily representation of the flag thus evoke crucifixion, but any bodily representation of the flag should evoke crucifixion. That's what the flag's about.

And as for the suggestion that "the flag of St George . . . might [be] see[n] as a throwback to the Crusades, which is hardly going to go down well with Muslim countries," well, I'd write something breathless about how the only possible import of the reverend's comments is that the English flag is shameful and should be dropped - but then I'd need a deep breath myself.

Posted by David Mader at 08:11 PM | (3) | Back to Main

In Other News, The Filmmaker Wasn't Arrested Tonight

People ask me why I've stopped calling myself a libertarian. This is why. It - the trailer, at least - is also one of the dumbest things I've seen this calendar year.

Now I try to keep the ad hominem out of my blog, and I pride myself on addressing arguments on their own terms. So perhaps before I call the movie - "America: Freedom to Fascism" - dumb, I should wait to see it. And I suspect I will see it, if only to see how the filmmaker reconciles his central proposition - that the income tax is unconstitutional - with the text of the Sixteenth Amendment:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
I'm sure the explanation is genius. But even if it is, I'm not going to refrain from calling the whole project dumb. The title to this post is my explanation why. It's not just that comparisons to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia and the Communist far east trivialize the boundless criminality and evil of those regimes. It's that such a comparison is at once allowed by and created by the fundamental characteristics of the regime being criticized. It's not just that only those in a democracy can criticize their government. It's that only those who have grown up with no fear of true government repression would develop the notion that a government like that of the United States - one that I believe has lost much of the promise of its liberal founding through government expansion - is in any substantive way comparable to the archetypes of twentieth century fascism.

Freedom is a worthy goal, perhaps the most worthy, and I'll always applaud those who work to achieve greater freedom in any context. But freedom is not binary, and the fact that we have not achieved absolute liberty, or socially optimal liberty, does not mean that we have achieved no liberty at all.

Posted by David Mader at 07:35 PM | (1) | Back to Main

June 12, 2006

This War II

Reader Neil writes:

Your comment "But we are in a war against Islamism" lacks any logical basis.

How can you justify this? Do you agree that the terrorists are extremely small pockets of fundamentalists? If not, please back this up.

As an analogy, when Canada was dealing with the FLQ back in the 1960's, would it have been correct to say that the rest of Canada was at war with Quebec? Would that justify a federalist army invading the province and killing civilians?

There are small pockets of Christians fundamentalists who commit terrorist acts by bombing abortion clinics. Are we are war with Christianity?

Let's do this in reverse order:
1) Putting aside the total lack of equivalence in scope between abortion bombings and Islamist terrorism, the short answer is no. No, even if the scope were the same we wouldn't be at war with Christianity, we'd be at war with something like Christianism (although Andrew Sullivan has already managed to render the term meaningless). That's why I don't say we're at war with Islam; I say we're at war with Islamism - which I define, in the post upon which Neil comments, as "the practice of using religiously-motivated violence to subvert democracy." I'm not one of those who believe that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with democracy, though it seems to me, as an outside observer, that as an intellectual tradition it requires a certain degree of reformation in order to become fully compatible. It may be of note, along this vein, that I was virtually alone among right-of-center pundits in supporting the establishment of private arbitration tribunals governed by sharia law, under the oversight of the justice system of the government of Ontario.

2) Instead of asking "would it justify," Neil should as "did it justify" - that is, did it justify the Prime Minister's invocation of the War Measures Act to suspend habeas corpus and roll in the tanks, imposing martial law in order to hunt down the FLQ terrorists. It's an interesting question, particularly for the libertarian minded, like myself, who aren't too crazy about the War Measures Act. But I think it's easier to say that while Canada was not at war with Quebec, it was at war, in a certain sense, with FLQuiste terrorism. To the degree that the FLQ were not simply a rag-tag band of criminals, but were instead a group devoted to the violent overthrow of the democratic order in a Canadian province, I should think it would be entirely proper that they and the cause for which they fought be considered enemies of the Canadian state. Is that really controversial?

3) Small is relative, but let's stipulate that Islamist terrorists are few relative to the entire Muslim population, and even relative to the 'fundamentalist' Muslim population. I don't see how that at all impacts upon either their capacity to wage total war against us, or their ability to acheive their war aims (which appear to include not only the weakening and eventual overthrow of many western governments but, obviously, the defeat of non-Islamist governments in Muslim countries and the establishment of Islamist (non-democratic) rule there). I should think, in fact, that the successes of such a relatively small group - in New York and DC, London, Madrid, Bali, Istanbul, Baghdad and elsewhere - show Islamism to be a more formidable enemy.

54) I obviously don't agree that the proposition that we're in a war against Islamism lacks logical basis. Let's take, as the data set, the relatively limited set of facts outlined above: only since September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been perpetrated across the globe, in every instance with the express motivation of furthering an agenda based on a radical, violent interpretation of Islam that seeks to subvert democracy. There are two possible interpretations. The first is that these instances are tied together by no more than coincidence; these attacks - not to mention the many other instances of violence and oppression at the hands of individuals and groups motivated by the same ideology, both before and since 2001 - represent no more than individual instances of localized grievance.

The second interpretation is that these attacks are manifestations of a unitary ideology, though not a unitary group; that adherents of this ideology know perfectly well what they mean to achieve, and mean what they say when they say what they mean to achieve; that unless addressed, this ideology and its adherents will continue to prosecute a campaign of violence against those governments, groups and individuals that pose obstaces to the realization of its goals; and that in order to properly address this ideology, both military and nonmilitary efforts to establish and sustain democracy will be necessary.

I believe the latter. In fact, given the continued campaign of terror by groups openly supportive of this ideology I describe as Islamism, I find it increasingly unusual that the reality of this conflict continues to be doubted. So let me turn the question on Neil: if the string of attacks, tied together by stated ideological purpose, that predates September 11 and continues even today does not demonstrate a concerted campaign of violence by the allied adherence of an anti-democratic ideology whose continued existence threatens only further terror and instability in democratic countries, how can it - this string of attacks - be explained? If it's not a war, what is it?

As a post-script, my lengthy comment to this post - responding, three years ago, to almost precisely the same question - may be of interest.

Posted by David Mader at 08:59 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Here We Go Again


Tiny solitary cells under constant illumination, a mere 20 minutes of fresh air daily, and beatings at the hands of guards are indicative of the "torture" endured by some of the 17 people accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Canada, lawyers for the group said Monday.
Accusations of beatings are serious, and need to be addressed seriously. But even if true, does this treatment really amount to torture?

Some measure of coercive force is necessary in the process of incarceration. At the same time, some amount of coercive force - or perhaps some circumstances in which coercive force is used - clearly amounts to torture. The question is where to draw the line between acceptable, even necessary, coercion, and unacceptable, torturous coercion.

I cannot accept that solitary confinement, limited access to fresh air and constant illumination (of the physical, not the metaphysical, sort) constitutes torture. I have a feeling that a healthy majority of Canadians, even those who would declare an unreserved opposition to "torture," would agree.

And yet here the word is. And I can't help but think that we're only here because for the better part of two years, critics of American policies in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib have steadfastly refused to draw any distinction between routine, necessary (and perhaps non-necessary but non-excessive) coercive force and excessive coercive force. I've been saying for ages that that's a mistake. Today's claim illustrates only one of the reasons why.

Posted by David Mader at 07:54 PM | (2) | Back to Main

June 07, 2006

What They Said

The Globe has a rather heartening interview with two Muslim MPs. Especially strong are the remarks by Wajid Khan. A taste:

Do fundamentalists dominate the mosques?

. . . This is a Canadian problem, all Canadians should take interest in this, but the onus lies a little bit more on the Muslim community. The people [arrested] were from this group, there is no denying it.

Therefore, vigilance has to come from this group. And they are very anxious to work with the government and its up to the current Minister and the government agencies to work with them.

How can the Muslim culture be better integrated and understood within the broader Canadian culture?

The thing that excited [my family] about this country, and is why I think others come here, is because its in a constant state of evolution. You can do something here, you can grow with it, you can mould it into something and that is what has happened with all the wonderful people from around the world that have come here -- German, Irish, Scottish, French, English -- they come here and contribute.

When I go to events, why do we only see people from one faith or from one particular community? We need to stop that.

There is nothing wrong with being religious, so when you eat on Ramadan, invite your neighbours for god's sake. You can't say you don't know people. You know people, you go to work with them. So that has to start. We should have true multiculturalism.

Don't let the word multiculturalism fool you - Khan's talking about integration, not ghettoization. Read the whole thing.

Posted by David Mader at 09:15 PM | (1) | Back to Main

June 06, 2006

Again with the Shocking

Saith the Star:

Alleged hostage-taking plan shocks MPs

The prime minister's glibness was not shared by many of his colleagues on Parliament Hill. Many were stunned at what was being alleged in a Brampton, Ont. court.
Why? Why why why? Sure, it's got to be disconcerting to learn, as a matter of fact, that people were actively planning your kidnap and possible murder. But folks: you're M-freaking-Ps. Of course people are planning your possible murder. Thi- well, hold on, let's go back to the story:
"If these allegations are true, it's really appalling," said Liberal MP Keith Martin. "It's a wakeup call for all Canadians that we are a target, we are a mark."
Now I like Keith Martin. I do. I think he's a good guy. Sure, I think he made a mistake crossing the floor, but truth be told I can understand: the alliance of social conservatives and classical liberals is a tenuous one, and people have to draw their own lines. But his quote is telling. If the allegations are true, it's a wakeup call. If not - then what? Then we can all go back to sipping margaritas? Keith: WAKE UP. There are people the world over who would rejoice in your murder. There are people the world over who would support those who would murder you. Is it really so shocking that there may be people in Canada - last I checked Canada hadn't literally surrendered its position on the world stage - who might be planning to murder you?

Once again, this goes to presumptions. If you believe we're in a war - an unconventional war, being waged totally by one side - then it's not surprising in the least that our enemy might be plotting the murder of our leaders. Only if you continue to believe that 9/11 was an aberration - and Madrid was an aberration - and Bali was an aberration - and London was an aberration - will you find the prospect shocking.

It's well past time to wake up. So wake up.

Posted by David Mader at 10:22 PM | (3) | Back to Main

Something Like a Majority

Well, oops:

The House of Commons passed the Harper government's first budget early Tuesday, faster than expected.

The passage surprised everyone as the bill was quickly approved through a procedural move when no one rose in the Commons to resume debating the legislation.

"We did not anticipate the unanimous consent of the opposition to the budget,'' Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said, his face beaming.

"But I thank them. Thanks very much."


Actually, the way the Tories have been handling Commons - that is, more or less like a majority - isn't entirely a laughing matter for those on the government side of the aisle. A recent poll found that while about 40% of Canadians would vote to re-elect the Tories, only about 30% favor a Tory majority. In other words, a number of Tory voters aren't ready for the real deal.

But here's the thing: as today's budget vote suggests, the Tories are running an incredibly smooth ship - they are, I think, governing with something like a majority. That being the case, it's only natural that some Tory voters will be quite pleased with another Tory minority - since they assume that things would continue to be run as smoothly.

But smoothness is not exactly a hallmark of minority government rule. Particularly once the Harper government's five priorities have played themselves out, and once the Liberals have a leader and some cash, there's no reason to think major Tory bills will continue to pass the House with the same ease and frequency. A second Tory minority would, I think, be significantly less productive than this one.

It's perfectly natural, of course, for non-Tories and even anti-Liberal voters to prefer a minority Parliament, in which Tory policy is kept in check. But the present minority hasn't done a very good job of that, and another minority won't be nearly as effective at passing the legislation that a significant number of Canadians seem to favor. Folks like the Tories because they're getting things done. If they want them to keep getting things done, they need to give them a majority.

(Though of course I'd take a minority over the other alternative.)

Posted by David Mader at 10:10 PM | (1) | Back to Main

It's A Tradition

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Posted by David Mader at 10:05 PM | (0) | Back to Main

June Sixth

For most it means one thing, and we'll get to that in a moment. But here at Maderblog, it turns out June Sixth has a different meaning. I think there may have been earlier iterations, but the earliest retrievable Maderblog post - back on the old blog*spot site - is dated June 6, 2002. A quick four years, I'll tell you what. Anyway, there you go - my blogiversary.

Posted by David Mader at 10:01 PM | (1) | Back to Main

June 05, 2006

Stand Up and Be Canadian

The question of presumptions brings to mind a question of burdens. Consider this, from the TorStar:

After the arrests Friday, the biggest challenge for politicians and security forces is to win the support of moderate Muslims, most of whom surely are as shocked by the thought of homegrown terrorists in our midst as anyone.
Just a moment. Why, exactly, must the support of moderate Muslims be won? Why do politicians and security forces not currently enjoy the support of moderate Muslims? And if they don't, can these Muslims really be called moderate?

The Star is right to condemn those who vandalize Mosques or engage in other criminal acts in response to the arrests. These people are not just idiots, they are criminals. They should be prosecuted. But their crimes, damnable though they may be, simply cannot be compared with the alleged crimes of the accused. I doubt they will be charged with this particularly apt offence, but it is - well - particularly apt:
(2) Every one commits treason who, in Canada,

(a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province;

(c) conspires with any person to commit high treason or to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a); or

(d) forms an intention to do anything that is high treason or that is mentioned in paragraph (a) and manifests that intention by an overt act.

The accused are alleged to have conspired to use force or violence against the seat of the Canadian government as well as the offices of the government's security services. After what point does a violent attack on the government's ability to govern become a design to overthrow that government? Assuming that the alleged targets are proven, I solicit arguments why the accused - Canadians, overwhelmingly - are not traitors.

If they are, at least in a conceptual if not a legal sense, the Star's presumption that the state lacks the support of moderate Muslims is troubling indeed. We should, of course, do our all to change the minds of those who would sympathize with traitors - it's easier than defeating them. But those whose support must be won away from those who would commit treason simply cannot be called moderate.

UPDATE (22:31 EDT): Rondi Adamson makes a similar point.

Posted by David Mader at 08:37 PM | (0) | Back to Main

No Surprises

When I moved to D.C. for the summer, I took it for granted that I'd be entering a perpetual terror target. Hardly did I expect that Toronto, and not D.C., would be the location of the year's big War on Terror story to date.

And yet the fact that a group of Canadians - both immigrants and natural-born citizens - were actively plotting terrorist attacks on Canadian soil is not a surprise at all. In this I not only agree with Adam Daifallah, but I disagree with the National Post, at least insofar as its declaration that the fact "[t]hat Muslim youth could become so radicalized here on our own soil is a chilling thought" implies some sort of surprise - the chill being associated with a new discovery. It is chilling, and it's been a chilling thought for years. And - this is the key - it's been no less believable either. This is the most dramatic, but it's not the first terror plot to be foiled in Canada.

Still, the arrests have stirred up a thought or two in my mind. First, Andrew Coyne has noted a number of interesting links between the accused and other persons of interest. I'll be interested what links, if any, are discovered between these fellows and Maher Arar. Perhaps none. Perhaps. But Arar had, I believe, a lot of interesting names in his rolodex - that's what brought him to the attention of the spooks in the first place. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those names are now in the Queen's custody.

Second, it's certainly true that the accused are innocent until proven otherwise. That's extraordinarily important. But that shouldn't affect our basic presumptions regarding the feasibility of the type of plot alleged. If you look closely, you'll see two different standards at work. On the one had are those whose immediate reaction is to doubt the veracity of the police allegations; on the other hand are those whose immediate reaction is to accept that the police allegations are at least substantively correct. One must inevitably lean towards one or the other. Which is the proper posture?

It will surprise none to learn that I think we should adopt the second. Given New York, Madrid, Bali and London, to name but four, knee-jerk skepticism regarding the validity of the charges can only reflect a deeper skepticism regarding the war on terror itself. In other words, one will be far more inclined to doubt that the seventeed arrested men were conspiring to kill Canadians if one is aleady inclined to doubt that we are engaged in a war against Islamism.

But we are in a war against Islamism. (Incidentally, I refuse to allow Andrew Sullivan to water down the term; when I use "Islamism," I mean not the practice of using democratic means to advance a religiously-motivated agenda, but the practice of using religiously-motivated violence to subvert democracy.) At this point, there seems little likelihood that those who continue to doubt the fact will ever be brought around. That being the case, it's no surprise that two conflicting narratives, two conflicting presumptions, will emerge. These presumptions will compete for public acceptance. It's neither hyperbole nor demagoguery to say that successes like last Friday's would be considerably more difficult to achieve in a culture that adopted a presumption against the reality of the war on terror. If we are to continue to confound our enemy - in the words of our other national anthem, to frustrate their knavish tricks - it is vital that our presumption of the reality of terror become ascendant.

Posted by David Mader at 07:23 PM | (1) | Back to Main