Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A few great Manic Street Preachers songs

Freedom Of Speech Won't Feed My Children

Liberty, sweet liberty
Charitable respectability
Then pacifism killed us all
For all the tourists on the Berlin wall
So we protest about human rights
Worship obesity as our birthright
But freedom of speech won't feed my children
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing

We love to kiss the Dalai Lama's ass
Because he is such a holy man
Free to eat and buy anything
Free to fuck from Paris to Beijing

Little boys with dangerous toys
All bow down to the Beastie Boys
But freedom of speech won't feed my children
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing

Royalty - hereditery - unelected and becalmed
Just like Stalin, just like Stalin
Human and useless

Bomb the Chinese Embassy
The west is free, oh the west is free
Laugh at the hammer and sickle
It is antique, oh it is antique

And see the love in Richard Gere's eyes
JS Pemberton saved our lives
But freedom of speech won't feed my children
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing
Just brings heart disease and bootleg clothing

We Are All Bourgeois Now

There's something wrong somewhere here
So through unclean streets I made my way
With holes in my shoes and my children asleep at my feet
I paid my way

In every town on the way
The people looked gray the buildings looked healthy
But one day I met a man
With money to spare
He said he would tell me how it is

The State he began
Has been propping up people too long
For far too long
We all got lazy and couldn't be bothered
To make our way through the world

But we are all bourgeois now
Once there was class war
But not any longer
Because baby we are all bourgeois now
So go out and make your way in the world
We're free to choose
We're all free to choose
We're all free to choose
We're free to choose

In Booming Britain we all work together
To raise ourselves in the world
Each of us knows someone
Who has done well for themselves
So well for themselves
"Thank you," I said as I left
I'll be on my way, I see how it is

We are all bourgeois now
And somehow I'll raise myself through the world
I'm free to choose
We're all free to choose
We're all free to choose
I'm free to choose

We're all bourgeois now
We're all bourgeois now
We're bourgeois now

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Tunisian uprising

From marxist.com:

Tuesday, 04 January 2011
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Several suicide attempts by young Tunisians, as protest against poverty and unemployment, sparked a number of riots and protests all over the country in the last few weeks. We publish here a short English introduction to an article in Arabic. A translation of the more detailed analysis will be published tomorrow.

Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian from the central rural city of Sidi Bouzid, attempted to end his life by setting himself on fire. He has been unemployed since he graduated from university five years ago. A few days later another unemployed youth tried to electrocute himself in protest against the poor prospects for Tunisian youth.

In the city of Sidi Bouzid 25 percent of male graduates have no job. This figure increases to 44 percent for female graduates. Meanwhile five other youths have tried to kill themselves but were saved in time. Those acts of despair have provoked a chain reaction of riots and protests all over the country.

The clashes started in the inner cities of the country but have now flared up in the capital Tunis and other important cities. This spontaneous outburst of anger against unemployment is turning more political, with demonstrators demanding the end of the power wielded by the greedy and corrupt ‘Trabelsi’ family over government, state institutions and the economy.

The ‘Trabelsi’ family, starting with the dictator president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila, dubbed as the ‘regent of Carthage’ has been holding Tunisia in an iron grip for the last 23 years. This is the first time since the 1984 bread riots that Tunisia has witnessed such a widespread, tireless and stubborn protest movement. For two weeks the whole nation was almost paralysed by this movement.

One Middle Eastern newspaper has understood the real meaning of these events: “No one thought it [Tunisia] susceptible to the kind of social and political unrest it has witnessed recently”. (Gulf News, 1/1/2011.) Tunisia was until recently thought to be a model country in this troubled region. A haven of stability, this darling of the West combined economic growth (as a popular tourist destination and a very cheap subcontractor for continental industries) with so-called ‘enlightened’ dictatorship, a secular bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism.

Tunisia is probably the best friend of the European imperialist countries and its economy depends for almost 80% from revenues and investment from EU countries and companies. The new troubles in Tunisia are sending shivers down the spines of neighbouring dictatorships and of imperialism.

Tunisia was recently congratulated by the IMF and the World Bank on the way it resisted to the effects of the world recession. If Tunisia can explode, imagine what can happen in other countries in the North of Africa or the Middle East. Al Jazeera, the popular Quatari television recently published an article about the ‘rebirth of Arab activism’. But it was not referring to Islamic fundamentalism or a spate of terrorist attacks. It explains how “Mohamed Bou'aziz, the young Tunisian who set fire to himself on December 17, is emerging as a symbol of the wider plight of the millions of young Arabs who are struggling to improve their living conditions”:

“The roots of this Tunisian 'uprising' are to be found in a lethal combination of poverty, unemployment and political repression: three characteristics of most Arab societies”. So ‘Tunisian’ uprisings, mass movement, strikes and mass clashes with the state apparatus are on the agenda in all of the Arab countries. This is not really a prediction about the future. This is already happening now in Egypt, Algeria and Jordan!

The Arab regimes and their imperialist friends are following these events very closely. Neighbouring Libya has even decided to open its borders with Tunisia so that unemployed youth can look for a job in the country of Colonel Khadafi. Germany has pledged to invest in the poor central rural region of Sidi Bouzid.

Meanwhile, ‘democratic and human rights-loving Europe’ keeps very silent on the brutal repression of the decaying Trabelsi dictatorship. Not a word of condemnation has even been whispered by any government of the European Union or the United States.

In an unsuccessful attempt to defuse the protests the government has already sacked two ministers, three governors and has made (again) plenty of promises of investment and employment schemes. The regime combines those measures with brutal repression, which have already taken the lives of two demonstrators, injuring hundreds of others and detaining many more.

But the fear of the Tunisian youth has disappeared. Significantly, in the recent days the protests have been joined by the workers’ unions. Today [3/1/2011] the university students resume their courses all over Tunisia. This could be a crucial turning point for the movement.

The Arabic website of the IMT, Marxy.com has published this background article about the new ‘Tunisian Spring’. A translation will be published soon. Our comrades in Morocco are starting to organise active solidarity with the Tunisian uprising. We call all our sympathisers to do the same and send messages of support to communisme@marxy.com

Very cool. More from Al Jazeera.

Monday, January 3, 2011

WikiLeaks: US Targets EU Over GM Crops

From commondreams,

WikiLeaks: US Targets EU Over GM Crops

US embassy cable recommends drawing up list of countries for 'retaliation' over opposition to genetic modification

by John Vidal, environment editor

The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

[Greenpeace activists stand on an artwork in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels December 9, 2010.  The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.  (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)]Greenpeace activists stand on an artwork in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels December 9, 2010. The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)
In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.

"The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the St Louis-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.

In other newly released cables, US diplomats around the world are found to have pushed GM crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative.

Because many Catholic bishops in developing countries have been vehemently opposed to the controversial crops, the US applied particular pressure to the pope's advisers.

Cables from the US embassy in the Vatican show that the US believes the pope is broadly supportive of the crops after sustained lobbying of senior Holy See advisers, but regrets that he has not yet stated his support. The US state department special adviser on biotechnology as well as government biotech advisers based in Kenya lobbied Vatican insiders to persuade the pope to declare his backing. "… met with [US monsignor] Fr Michael Osborn of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, offering a chance to push the Vatican on biotech issues, and an opportunity for post to analyse the current state of play on biotech in the Vatican generally," says one cable in 2008.

"Opportunities exist to press the issue with the Vatican, and in turn to influence a wide segment of the population in Europe and the developing world," says another.

But in a setback, the US embassy found that its closest ally on GM, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the powerful Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the man who mostly represents the pope at the United Nations, had withdrawn his support for the US.

"A Martino deputy told us recently that the cardinal had co-operated with embassy Vatican on biotech over the past two years in part to compensate for his vocal disapproval of the Iraq war and its aftermath – to keep relations with the USG [US government] smooth. According to our source, Martino no longer feels the need to take this approach," says the cable.

In addition, the cables show US diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto. "In response to recent urgent requests by [Spanish rural affairs ministry] state secretary Josep Puxeu and Monsanto, post requests renewed US government support of Spain's science-based agricultural biotechnology position through high-level US government intervention."

It also emerges that Spain and the US have worked closely together to persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws. In one cable, the embassy in Madrid writes: "If Spain falls, the rest of Europe will follow."

The cables show that not only did the Spanish government ask the US to keep pressure on Brussels but that the US knew in advance how Spain would vote, even before the Spanish biotech commission had reported.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fuck Regina Spektor.

December 27th of 2010 marked the two-year anniversary of Israel's massive bombing campaign against Gaza, and according to wikipedia, the effects were as follows:

"A total of 1,100-1,400[79] Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.[80] After 22 days of fighting, Israel declared a ceasefire. Hamas vowed to continue the battle if Israeli forces did not leave the Strip.[81] The conflict damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes,[82] 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities,[83] 800 water wells,[84] 186 greenhouses,[85] and nearly all of its 10,000 family farms;[86] leaving 50,000 homeless,[87][87][88] one million without electricity,[88] and resulting in acute food shortages.[89] 400,000-500,000 without running water,

However, by February 2009 food availability returned to pre-war levels."

U.N. reports also say that Gazans could be completely without water by 2015.

Approximately one third of the dead Gazans, over 400 children, were killed in the massacre. Here's a horrifying Al Jazeera report on the matter (warning: graphic).

So on December 27th, I wasted some precious time typing keywords into google related to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I found Regina Spektor's thoughts on the subject; Regina Spektor is one of my favorite solo artists in music today, and also a Jew. Her response was, among many other things, idiotic, nationalistic and simply plain ignorant above all else. Therefore, I feel the need to respond to her stupid myspace blog entry point by point.

When i realize how many times i decided not to, before i decided to, write this - i see why this is such a frightening time.When a Jew who loves Israel, who has been there, has played shows there, has visited there with family, with friends, feels this way, you know the fear is in you . As if Israel- the word itself, is so igniting, so dangerous, that it is better held inside.

There have been times like this before. Roughly 60 years before. And if people think that now is any different, they are mistaken. It's just that enough time has passed. And it seems it is our turn again. But when hasn't it been our turn...

Oh dear. Sorry, but I'm already rendered unable to be civil with you Ms. Spektor.

"When hasn't it been our turn?" Are you fucking nuts? Anti-Semitism manifested itself in a very terrible way "roughly 60 years before," and it has showed no signs since of manifesting in a similar way since. Today is no different. You immediately create a problem when you are so paranoid about a second Holocaust that you ignore the suffering of others, or the horrible abuses and crimes that the state of Israel has committed itself.

Israel has been shelled. It has been hit with rockets for years. Years. Manchester, St. Louis, Leon, Munich, Copenhagen, Detroit, Madrid, Brisbane, Leeds, LA, Tokyo, these cities are not. But if they were, God forbid, their governments would be completely authorized and in the right to fight back.There is no government in the world that would not protect its citizens from attack. That's unlawful. And it's not sticks and stones, as many of my friends and relatives who live in Israel know. It's rockets. Is one of these things not like the other? Are there different laws and rules for a Jewish government? If you prick us do we not bleed?

This paragraph reeks of pretentious bullshit. If any of those cities were hit with attacks, I'd start to wonder why they were hit with attacks. Why did Hamas attack Israel? Maybe it's because Israel is responsible for the collective terrible wellbeing of the Gazans, as well as the Palestinians in the other occupied territories. Maybe it's because Israel, not Hamas, broke the 2008 ceasefire. Maybe it's because Israel is a state formed by immigrants who believe they have a right to the land, and therefore meets little internal dissent in addition to limited dissent from its American sugar daddy, giving it near impunity to do whatever the hell it wants. Maybe it's because thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel under god awful conditions.

Getting attacked is a sign that you should self-examine your own actions, because non-military entities don't attack foreign countries every day. U.N. law states that countries should always try to resolve things peacefully and understand the motives of the assailants before engaging in warfare.

And it is a nightmare. There are refugees. Casualties. A nightmare that happens over and over in this world. Those poor Palestinian people are being used as shields, and killed by extremists of their own government. And it is horrible and sad for the Israelis to see these people not be able to speak out against Hamas, whom they elected out of fear, because if they do, they will be killed. They are getting killed from both sides. Hamas shoots rockets out of schools and hospitals at Israel, and hopes for retaliation. Because it's not those Palestinian civilians that matter to them. It's the cause. The story. It's the propaganda machine that needs oiling with human shield blood.

You are such a fucking idiot. No evidence has shown Hamas using "human shields," and as a matter of fact, Amnesty International and the U.N. have condemned Israel for using Palestinian human shields to protect military targets. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and Hamas lives in the cities. They don't "use" schools and hospitals to install their rockets; only a fucking cynic could shift the blame from the Israeli government to the Palestinian government in wondering why and how so many Palestinians died during Operation Cast Lead.

Boo hoo. The pooooooooor poooooooooooooooooor Israelis have to see Palestinians die. We should, obviously, only sympathize with the Israelis who have to see the Palestinians die, and not sympathize with the Palestinians themselves. Congrats on being a bigoted bitch, Regina!

But let's not listen to the Palestinians who voted for Hamas and got their homes and family members bombed by Israel continually. Let's just assume that it's Hamas' fault for Palestinian suffering. Why should we take responsibility for our own actions, after all?

To me it seems that the Palestinians and the Israelis are both being used by the World. They are both simultaneously scapegoats and decoys. And the World needs them that way. Because if they were gone, and the conflict was over, who would be the next target of the extremists.

I imagine this is the scenario that the World has in its sleepy mind: The World has just left the office. The World is walking home and taking its usual short cut. The alley it cuts through always makes its heart pound a little faster, but time saved is time saved, so it takes the shortcut every night on the way home to dinner. Over the course of its many walks home through the alley, the World has seen all kinds of muggings...The World has seen Israel get mugged, too. Sometimes harder, sometimes less. When this happens the World chooses one of three options... Option 1. Cross the street, pick up the pace, don't make eye contact, and get out of range of danger... Option 2. Go over to Israel and help fight the mugger off. But no. Those options are not what the World is choosing.

More idiocy. Israel is more like the rapist who has a nice lawyer (the U.S.). Time and time again, the rapist does his thing and blames the victim for her skanky attire. Once in awhile his victim tries to destroy his home, in hopeless self-defense and rage, but kills his family in the process. "Look what a horrible rape victim she is," says the rapist. "She deserves every bit of what she gets." The lawyer agrees, the rapist continues doing his thing, and tries to appeal to the sad onlookers by negotiating fake "peace settlements."

The sick, self-serving lawyer and his friends tend to agree with the rapist's point of view, but nobody else does. Sadly, at the moment, the rapist's friends, allies and sad onlookers are powerless to protect her. That's the world. If anything, the world hasn't given Israel (the state, not the civilians) enough of the mugging it needs.

It's time for Option 3. Go over to Israel, and hold its arms back, hold it steady in place, and let the mugger beat it up good. Because the World thinks, innocently, of course, and full of fear in its beating heart, that if the mugger beats up Israel real good, good enough for a last breath, good enough so that when the World is making a short cut from the office, back home for dinner, there is no more Israel, and the mugger won't be there anymore, and the shortcut will be safe, and save time, and all will be great. So this is what happens. And the World walks home again. This time more relaxed, more at ease... A spring in its step.

And then the World feels a hand on its shoulder. Its the mugger. The World smiles. It makes a little bow. It tips its hat. Then the mugger starts mugging the World. "But I'm your friend, remember? I was the loudest denouncing Israel in public, remember? I helped you hold its arms back a little while ago, remember? Many times i helped you holding its arms back?..."

"But I'm a mugger." the mugger says."And I mug." the mugger says. "And you are next." the mugger says. And the mugger waits for someone else to take a short cut, to help out with the mugging in the hopes that they will be spared, and then they will be next... and so on, and so forth, and that's how it works.

Excuse me while I go puke. This isn't worthy of a response.

But everyone is afraid. They are afraid of extremists in their midst. And i am too. We all should be. There is something terrifying about people who hate you more than they love themselves. People who would cover themselves with children, in order to kill and not be killed. And just because we have become allergic to "The War on Terror" and all those other co-opted expressions that were used to drag us, against our will, against our millions of people around the world peace protests, into a horrible war in Iraq, in the name of oil; doesn't mean there aren't terrorists in the world.

There sure are. They're called, "People who disagree with you." I like to call the United States government a terrorist organization, because it kills more people than any other government or grouping in the world.

Our media is full of propaganda on all sides. Every side is skewed. There is no unbiased news. Its like fast food. There are so many choices, but an illusion of choices. There is McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's. There's even Taco Bell if you really want to branch out. And so i choose. I choose the media that seems to reflect more of who i am. And I tend to choose the more liberal news. I am a Liberal in almost every sense of the word. I believe in protecting Civil Liberties as carefully as we protect the dearest things to us, but not with guns. I think guns are the cause of countless preventable tragedies in the households of Americans. I believe in Equality. In ending all Racism, Homophobia, and Sexism. I believe that government has a duty to help its citizens grow through education, help the elderly, have health care, and that it's not "each for himself". But I don't believe they have a right to spy on me. I believe in the freedom of Choice. I support a woman's right to have an abortion if she feels it necessary in her life. I believe in Barack Obama. I supported him with all my heart. I have never felt as strongly about a politician in my life. And in a few days he will be our president. This is a short list of my left, my Liberal, my closest media self.

Nobody likes liberals, but continue, liberal.

I do not agree with the Liberal Media when it comes to Israel. I have never seen such one sided reporting in my life. And I've seen some amazing propaganda growing up in the Soviet Union. I have never seen a group of people so determined to portray Israeli people, Israeli soldiers, as blood thirsty, inhumane monsters. I am not a politician. I am sure there's a great political reason for this kind of reporting. For this kind of misrepresentation. I am sure there's a great reason for my hearing on a UK television set, while getting ready to play one of the festivals a couple of years back, a reporter saying, in a tragic voice with a tragic face "At this moment Hezbollah is fighting for its very existence." As if Hezbollah was a kitten that fell down a well, and not a terrorizing organization, and that Israel was the one who threw it down there. I'm sure there's a reason. And i think the reason is fear. And i think the reason is the same reason i was deciding and undeciding and deciding and undeciding whether to write this.

Southern Lebanon was a kitten thrown down a well, Regina. Israel invaded Southern Lebanon for absolutely no reason in the early 80s, killed more than 20,000 civilians, and occupied the territory for nearly 20 years. Hezbollah formed as a resistance organization to drive Israel out of Southern Lebanon, and it succeeded in doing so.

Terrorism begets terrorism. Since I don't know about the BBC report in question, I can't really say any more than that.

But this is the world we live in. We should not deny that we are all scared. We are scared of planes, of crowds, of everything. We are so scared. Sometimes it feels that if there were no more Jews, or Israel (for the two are synonymous- Israel is the geographic embodiment of the nation)


all of this would stop. Even some Jews feel that way. Many of us try to un-Jew ourselves all the time. It comes from a mixture of fear, guilt of surviving while others didn't, and embarrassment. We are the root of our and the World's problems, it seems. It is the Jews themselves that you will hear speak out most strongly against Israel. The instinct that drives them is the same instinct that drove them to blend in, and then be very surprised when they were put in the ghetto, too. The were surprised when they were put on the train, too. They were surprised when they were put in the gas chamber, too. They were surprised all the way till Death. Because "they weren't like those OTHER Jews"... Well. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew is a Jew.

So, seeing as I'm an ethnic Jew, I must hate Israel because I don't want to get treated horribly by Muslims. I hate Israel out of self-hate or some weird guilt for being Jewish. This is the same guilt that motivated Jews during the Nazi Holocaust to support Hitler.

Wow. Shut the fuck up.

And if anyone thinks that speaking out against Israel is anything other than thinly veiled anti-semitism, they are deeply mistaken.

It isn't. Fuck you.

"Maybe if i am quiet and at the back of the class and look down they won't notice." That should not be the motto of the World. Nor should "Maybe if I'm the loudest to condemn Israel, they'll remember me as a friend later." Because eventually, when there is only you left in the class, you will get noticed. We all will.

Kill yourself, please. You would do Jews a great favor.

And I don't believe in good and evil. I believe that we cultivate fractions of qualities within ourselves like a delicate chemistry experiment, with droppers of human traits into a beaker or a test tube. And all those properties are ever changing. And the good ones stem from our love of self, and understanding of self. And the bad ones stem from fear. There is nothing that makes one a better person than realizing what you fear, why you fear it, and how that makes you closed off to others, and blame others...

Ooh look at me I'm so deep and and and SHUT THE FUCK UP. You don't know what you're talking about, you have no fucking understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whatsoever, and you're just a plain out horrible person in general. Congrats!

I believe in God, and am a Jew, and yet i love all people of other faiths, and people of no faith, with my whole heart, so i know that it is possible. I love America, and Israel, and my mother country Russia, and all the countries i have had the honor and privilege to visit, and the countries that i have yet to visit in the future, and the countries i will never have the chance to visit in my lifetime, and so i know that it is possible. I love Humans and I love Nature, though from the beginning of time they have been destroying each other, and i love them both, and so i know that it is possible. And I feel that love without paradox. Without feeling for one at the expense of another. And so i know that it is possible.

We keep destroying each other, except in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where it's only the fault of Arabs and Muslims. WOW.

I wish for peace in Israel. I wish for as many people on all sides of the conflict to survive in a healthy and safe way. I wish for us all to find our inner and outer and every type of peace we can muster... I wish for peace in the world. And my thoughts are with Israel... and with all of you.

I wish for peace in Israel and Palestine alike. You clearly do not, as you seem to want Israel's military power to remain an untouched dominating force over the rest of the region. Far more Palestinians have died in Israel's occupation of Palestine than Palestinians, and so it remains.

P.S. i understand that this is a very sensitive subject and i write this as a letter... a letter to which i am not seeking responses (i will not post comments because that's not what this is about, to me...) this is my own comment to myself, but out loud. a way of expressing thoughts and feelings about what i have heard and witnessed thus far... this is not meant to hurt anyone, and it is meant for me, as much as for anyone else...

Well, here's your response: Fuck you and your fake, pretentious bullshit and self-declared love/open-mindedness. You see things from a completely one-sided point of view because you're unable to see the horrible way in which Israel was founded for what it is, and you're unable to understand what the Palestinians in the legal Palestinian territories go through on a day by day basis. You are a new kind of bigot, in that you are affected by the planned obsolescence of Palestinian suffering. How dare you "blog" about such a serious matter in your "cute" little folksy language, worthy of Sarah Palin, while Palestinians starve and die at the hands of the IDF and the Israeli state?

i send you all good wishes and lots of love, wherever, and whomever you are...

Thanks. Much appreciated. Not.

Reaaaaaally tempted to delete your music off of my hard drive right now.

Happy new year! I hope to update this blog every day in 2011.


Now let's let this new year kick unbelievable amounts of ass.