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The Cost of Prohibition
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 09:39 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Cost of Prohibition

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The High Cost of Prohibition
By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet
Posted on June 2, 2005, Printed on June 7, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/22148/
This week, over 500 leading economists, led by conservative icon Dr. Milton Friedman, called for a national debate about whether prohibition of marijuana is worth the cost. The occasion was a new report by Harvard University economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron estimating - - probably conservatively -- that replacing prohibition with a system of common-sense regulation could mean $10 billion to $14 billion per year in reduced government spending and new revenues.

"We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods," Friedman and colleagues wrote. "At a minimum, this debate will force advocates of current policy to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition."

A good case can be made that prohibition costs too much -- in money, but also in ruined lives and harm done to society. But first, let's talk about dollars:

Using figures from a variety of federal and state government sources, Miron estimates that replacing prohibition with regulation would save $7.7 billion annually in government spending on enforcement. Taxes on regulated marijuana sales could generate $2.4 billion if marijuana were taxed like ordinary consumer goods. If -- as seems more likely - - marijuana were taxed like alcohol and tobacco, tax receipts would be about $6.2 billion, and conceivably more, depending on the tax rate.

Such estimates, of course, aren't perfect. Available data is incomplete, so economists must make assumptions that could turn out to be either too high or too low. Miron's numbers may be conservative: He didn't attempt to quantify every possible saving, and in one major expense category -- the number of inmates locked in state prisons on marijuana charges -- the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy just released an estimate 60 percent higher than the one Miron used.

These are not trivial sums. In the words of the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, "A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, and soon you're talking about real money" -- money that could be used to fix our schools, strengthen Social Security, or protect America against terrorism.

For example, the $30 billion cost of securing thousands of Soviet-era "loose nukes" -- unsecured nuclear weapons that security experts fear might fall into terrorist hands -- could be paid for in less than three years with the savings and revenues generated by marijuana regulation. One year's savings alone would cover the full cost of port security measures required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002, estimated by the Coast Guard at $7.3 billion to secure 3,150 port facilities and 9,200 vessels.

What are we getting for the billions spent on marijuana prohibition? We certainly haven't gotten marijuana off the streets. Last year, 85.8 percent of high school seniors told government survey-takers that marijuana was "easy to get" -- a figure that has remained virtually unchanged for three decades. While marijuana arrests nearly tripled from 1991 to 2003 (the latest figures available), the number of teens trying marijuana for the first time went up by over 50 percent.

According to the federal government, nearly 15 million Americans use marijuana at least once a month. That's equal to every man, woman and child in the states of Oregon, Nebraska, Indiana and Oklahoma combined. It's nearly as many Americans as will buy a new car or truck this year. It's a huge market.

Prohibition cannot and will not make that market go away. It has simply given criminals and violent gangs an exclusive franchise, and society pays the price every day: In unregulated drug dealers with no incentive not to sell to kids, in clandestine grows hidden in national parks and surrounded by booby traps, in the bloodshed that inevitably comes with prohibition -- just as it did during America's ill-fated experiment with alcohol prohibition during the 1920s.

These 500 economists are right: There might be a better way, and it's time to start talking about it.
Thoughts? I'll explain mine later.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 01:59 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Paul Wall
Thoughts? I'll explain mine later.
Thoughts? About what? Prohibition? Prohibition started because of a bunch of women who were sick of their husbands and sons being drunk all the time. And prohibition did lower consumption and all the related illnesses that come with it. The problem is, alcohol has been around for like, 5,000 years.

At any rate, there are lot's of happy numbers about the billions spent trying to keep pot off the streets and out of teen hands. So the logical conclusion is to legalize it??? I see a lot of kids smoking, is selling cigarettes at every corner working to keep teens from smoking? That's one of the stupidest arguments I've ever heard in my life.

Besides that, using logic like this:

"85.8 percent of high school seniors told government survey-takers that marijuana was "easy to get." Means nothing. So a bunch of kids say it's easy to get. Most of them lie about how many times a day they masterbate or if they've been laid. It also doesn't mean 85.8% are actually smoking it. It just means they either want to look cool or know somebody who knows somebody who might be able to get some from their cousin or some shit like that. But 85.8%, easy to get, doesn't take any of that into consideration. What a worthless stat.

Almost has worthless as:

"While marijuana arrests nearly tripled from 1991 to 2003 (the latest figures available), the number of teens trying marijuana for the first time went up by over 50 percent."

So let me get this right, arrests went up 3 times, compared to first time tryers only going up 2 times? That really doesn't sound like a problem to me. It looks to me like more ppl are getting busted than are trying. However, these stats mean nothing since it doesn't say what that illustrious 50% started from. Does it mean that it went from 2% to 4%? 5% to 10%? Who knows? It sounds a lot worse to use 50% to try and scare people into beliving their little study. I'm sure if they had real numbers they would publish them, but they'd prefer to anylize them and come up with tragic figures like 50%.

My favorite is the "tax" logic. As if the govt. is going to generate billions of dollars in revenues by legalizing pot. Because every stoner is really going to pay 50 bucks for a pack of joints. They're more likely to say that the govt. is putting chemicals in them and they're trying to control them. Stoner logic is very interesting this way. Or you'll have plenty of hippies out there who allready love the all natural pot, who aren't going to pay for some consumer/corporate/government product like joints. There are a thousand reasons why they wouldn't sell in stores, which leads to the next problem: There is still going to be a huge illeagal drug trade. Which the govt. is still going to be spending billions of dollars on. Hell, it could make violent crimes even worse as competing gangs try to undercut each other and battle more fiercely for territory or whatever it is they do. Price wars in airlines get bad enough, I wonder how it will be in the cities when they start to fight for their income. Or if they just step it up to crack or heroin, till the govt thinks that those drugs should be sold in 7-11. I don't know. Are these things that this group considered? Maybe they did, maybe this article only shows what it wants to. But to follow the argument that the govt. would just tax it and make bank is asinine and shortsighted.

I hope these ppl don't get together and discuss the govt. savings if they made muder and rape legal. After all, there are still murders and rapes, the war on that hasn't been won

On top of that, the govt. is trying to tax and regulate cigarettes into extinction. Now we're supposed to accept that pot smoke is something healthy? or that it should be even more available? I wonder how many old hippies who haven't had pot in 30 years would pick up a pack once they saw it in the store. How many of them would fall into their kids hands. Surely this would increase the number of teen users and first timers.

Hey, I smoked a few times. It isn't that big of a deal, but for fucks sake, articles like this drive me nuts. Hell even their stats on 15 million once a month users are missleading. Nobody is out to get the "once a month" smokers. They're pumping thier numbers to make it look worse than it is. Where are the numbers for the real problems, the once or twice a day smokers. Why didn't they publish that?

Bottom line is, these people who think all the problems will just go away because they legalize it, must be living in a drug induced haze. There are changes I'd like to see, as far as punishment and prosecution goes, but legalizing it across the board is a silly solution.

And thank god the supreme court just smaked all those phonies down the other day. If they want medical marijuana legal, then why aren't they promoting it in pill or iv form? Because they just want an excuse to push their legalized agenda.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 02:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Billions of dollars made on legal weed could pay for things like Armor for Military Hummers and other vehicles over in Iraq....but companies like Busch and Philip Morris would take a huge plunge with legal weed on the streets people would be getting drunk a lot less and instead of picking up cigaretts many younger kids would be lighting joints....unless Morris & Busch could the first to sell legalized over-the-counter forms off Marijuana that could be sold to adults over the age of 21 hell they could make the age 25 and still make billions.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 02:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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sorry, i think this is just idiocy at it's best. And the worst part is the point made that some of the money made from legalizing weed could be used to fix up schools? we dont need nicer schools if the price we pay for them is teaching kids that using drugs is a good thing. The argument is flat, how can, well becuase we cant keep it off the street, be an excuse to legalize it? They cant keep crack or coke off the street either, so next will be legalizing it.

bottom line.... Drugs = Bad. not a hard equation to figure out.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 03:11 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Double K
sorry, i think this is just idiocy at it's best. And the worst part is the point made that some of the money made from legalizing weed could be used to fix up schools? we dont need nicer schools if the price we pay for them is teaching kids that using drugs is a good thing. The argument is flat, how can, well becuase we cant keep it off the street, be an excuse to legalize it? They cant keep crack or coke off the street either, so next will be legalizing it.

bottom line.... Drugs = Bad. not a hard equation to figure out.
I did n't say anything about the money going into schools.....read the post again.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 03:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Double K
bottom line.... Drugs = Bad. not a hard equation to figure out.
Muuuuuuhhhhhh...Drugs are bad...m'kay??

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Old 07 Jun 2005, 04:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Rob Van Dam
Billions of dollars made on legal weed could pay for things like Armor for Military Hummers and other vehicles over in Iraq....but companies like Busch and Philip Morris would take a huge plunge with legal weed on the streets people would be getting drunk a lot less and instead of picking up cigaretts many younger kids would be lighting joints....unless Morris & Busch could the first to sell legalized over-the-counter forms off Marijuana that could be sold to adults over the age of 21 hell they could make the age 25 and still make billions.
LMAO, Philip Morris and co would be the first to have it in the stores. They'd love to have the extra revenue that they are losing from cigarettes. Who do you think is going to grow the supply? A bunch of college stoners? Nope, big companies that are allready in the business would. You seem to think that a pot dealer is going to claim his sales on his tax forms. Your point is non existant. Not to mention you are comparing that people would rather smoke dope than have a beer, of which there is little to no evidence to support. How can anyone support the argument that people would be drinking less because they would be high more? That's just silly.

Oh, and there's plenty of money to armor humvies, there always was. It's just that the left has spent 20 years dismantling our military and now they are suprised when we don't have a fleet of armored vehicles. "Oh, what can be done about this now?" you might say. Well then you have to remember Bush pushed for 280 billion or whatever number it was that had members of the left saying that they voted for it, before they didn't vote for it. Don't try to say that money from legalized weed sales would cover military expenses. It would barely cover the cost the govt. would have to spend on high drivers, education against marijuana and billions of dollors in health related problems. If you really belive that the govt. could make enough off of taxing it, then why is the govt. constantly raising taxes on cigarettes? Because it is not a good money maker.

I should never have bothered with your argument, especially when it contains such insight as "...instead of picking up cigaretts many younger kids would be lighting joints," as if that's a good idea
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 04:26 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Van Dam
I did n't say anything about the money going into schools.....read the post again.

i wasnt talking about your post, i was talking about this, taken from the original article:

"These are not trivial sums. In the words of the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, "A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, and soon you're talking about real money" -- money that could be used to fix our schools, strengthen Social Security, or protect America against terrorism."
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 04:44 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm all for legalization. What do you think i sin the pipe? a guh guh guh guh.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 05:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The goverment will just come out with shitty, legal, over priced, weak ass bud and just like there are still bootleggers people will still be selling weed on the street for people who don't want to have to smoke 3 joints to get high...
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 05:04 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Rob Van Dam
The goverment will just come out with shitty, legal, over priced, weak ass bud and just like there are still bootleggers people will still be selling weed on the street for people who don't want to have to smoke 3 joints to get high...

i'm starting to think you participate in the mary jane.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 05:05 PM   #12 (permalink)
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"No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power."

P.J. O'Rourke
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 05:10 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Double K
i'm starting to think you participate in the mary jane.
Maybe a little bit...but I never really graduated onto more powerful chemically made drugs like Coke or Meth like everybody says happens.....Pot being a gateway drug is bullshit....Cigarettes were the gateway to weed for me but you won't see the FDA making commericals telling people that.....sometimes when I am at parties I see drunk people who never smoke cigs or pot do both but you never hear about Budweiser being a gateway drug.
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Old 07 Jun 2005, 05:13 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Rob Van Dam
Maybe a little bit...but I never really graduated onto more powerful chemically made drugs like Coke or Meth like everybody says happens.....Pot being a gateway drug is bullshit....Cigarettes were the gateway to weed for me but you won't see the FDA making commericals telling people that.....sometimes when I am at parties I see drunk people who never smoke cigs or pot do both but you never hear about Budweiser being a gateway drug.

yeah, i really never had the urge to smoke, cigs or pot, i did drink quite a bit when i was in high school and college, but i dont do that now. But you make a good point about alcohal, never being picked on the way cigarettes or drugs do.
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Old 08 Jun 2005, 08:29 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Exo
Thoughts? About what? Prohibition?
About the article, sorry for the confusion.

Quote:
At any rate, there are lot's of happy numbers about the billions spent trying to keep pot off the streets and out of teen hands. So the logical conclusion is to legalize it??? I see a lot of kids smoking, is selling cigarettes at every corner working to keep teens from smoking? That's one of the stupidest arguments I've ever heard in my life.
Who said anything about selling pot at every corner? Who said we should be selling pot to kids? I'm sure if legalization were to happen it would be regulated in a similar way as alcohol...atleast I would HOPE that would happen. I have no interest in encouraging the youth of America to smoke dope.

Quote:
Besides that, using logic like this:

"85.8 percent of high school seniors told government survey-takers that marijuana was "easy to get." Means nothing. So a bunch of kids say it's easy to get. Most of them lie about how many times a day they masterbate or if they've been laid. It also doesn't mean 85.8% are actually smoking it. It just means they either want to look cool or know somebody who knows somebody who might be able to get some from their cousin or some shit like that. But 85.8%, easy to get, doesn't take any of that into consideration. What a worthless stat.
When I was in high school it was pretty fucking easy to get pot. Honestly, I find its harder to get it now that I have been out of school for 4 years. I do agree that the stat is incorrect as I know back when I had to take those surveys in school I put down that I did nothing out of paranoia and I know of other people that did the same.

Quote:
Almost has worthless as:

"While marijuana arrests nearly tripled from 1991 to 2003 (the latest figures available), the number of teens trying marijuana for the first time went up by over 50 percent."

So let me get this right, arrests went up 3 times, compared to first time tryers only going up 2 times? That really doesn't sound like a problem to me. It looks to me like more ppl are getting busted than are trying. However, these stats mean nothing since it doesn't say what that illustrious 50% started from. Does it mean that it went from 2% to 4%? 5% to 10%? Who knows? It sounds a lot worse to use 50% to try and scare people into beliving their little study. I'm sure if they had real numbers they would publish them, but they'd prefer to anylize them and come up with tragic figures like 50%.
Can't argue that...I also despise the spin on numbers. Thank you for pointing this out.

Quote:
My favorite is the "tax" logic. As if the govt. is going to generate billions of dollars in revenues by legalizing pot. Because every stoner is really going to pay 50 bucks for a pack of joints. They're more likely to say that the govt. is putting chemicals in them and they're trying to control them. Stoner logic is very interesting this way.
I'm sure you really know and understand "stoner logic."

Being a stoner that knows stoners let me tell you I know quite a few people that would fucking LOVE it if they could get a pack of fat, high quality joints for $50. Packs of joints don't have to be the only way they could sell it either. I figure the tobacco companies would get all over the pack business with a lower grade erb they could sell in stores and gas stations and then there would also end up being smaller shops similar to state liquor stores where people could go and get it in bags.


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Or you'll have plenty of hippies out there who allready love the all natural pot, who aren't going to pay for some consumer/corporate/government product like joints.
They could start bringing in revnue from the growers too by taxing the seeds and allowing "licensed" personal growing. I'd gladly pay $200 a year or even more to have a legal small grow op. Is that going to stop some people from growing without a license? Hell no...but atleast its another revenue stream opened up that isn't there today.

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There are a thousand reasons why they wouldn't sell in stores, which leads to the next problem: There is still going to be a huge illeagal drug trade. Which the govt. is still going to be spending billions of dollars on. Hell, it could make violent crimes even worse as competing gangs try to undercut each other and battle more fiercely for territory or whatever it is they do. Price wars in airlines get bad enough, I wonder how it will be in the cities when they start to fight for their income. Or if they just step it up to crack or heroin, till the govt thinks that those drugs should be sold in 7-11. I don't know. Are these things that this group considered? Maybe they did, maybe this article only shows what it wants to. But to follow the argument that the govt. would just tax it and make bank is asinine and shortsighted.
The people are getting the drugs anyways. I honestly would rather see the government get the money then some gang or organized crime syndicate. As I said earlier, state stores could be setup so no one under a certain age can even enter the store. I don't know ANYONE that would go about getting their pot illegially if there was a legal option available.

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I hope these ppl don't get together and discuss the govt. savings if they made muder and rape legal. After all, there are still murders and rapes, the war on that hasn't been won
Murders and rapes hurt someone else other then the murderer or rapist. Smoking pot hurts no one but me, and if I had the money for a nice vaporizer then it really wouldn't be hurting me at all either.

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On top of that, the govt. is trying to tax and regulate cigarettes into extinction. Now we're supposed to accept that pot smoke is something healthy? or that it should be even more available? I wonder how many old hippies who haven't had pot in 30 years would pick up a pack once they saw it in the store. How many of them would fall into their kids hands. Surely this would increase the number of teen users and first timers.
No one said pot smoke was healthy however if you vaporize the pot you cut out a shitload of the tar and heat damage to your lung from the smoke. If pot was legal vaporizors could be actively promoted and sold here as a viable alternative to smoking. Hell...I don't get why they haven't promoted it for Tobacco users yet, it's supposed to work for that too.

About the joints getting into kids hands, I would have to say this is more of an issue of negligence on the parent's part and should be treated as so. Should we make bleach illegial and spend billions keeping it off the street because a parent could "possibly" leave it somewhere their kid could get to it?

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Hey, I smoked a few times. It isn't that big of a deal, but for fucks sake, articles like this drive me nuts. Hell even their stats on 15 million once a month users are missleading. Nobody is out to get the "once a month" smokers. They're pumping thier numbers to make it look worse than it is. Where are the numbers for the real problems, the once or twice a day smokers. Why didn't they publish that?
Nobody's out to get them, but those are the ones I see get busted, usually out of their own stupidity. That's why Ohio decriminalized, they had way too many small time users getting busted that its cheaper in the long run just to fine them and move on.

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Bottom line is, these people who think all the problems will just go away because they legalize it, must be living in a drug induced haze.
Nope, the problems wont go away in a day just because of legalization. The drug addicts of the country will still be addicts, however we could finally start dealing with drug addiction as a public health issue and get these people some true help instead of locking them in a cage with the scum of society. The organized crime circles and the gangs will still be around, however with their primary revenue stream cut off life isn't going to be anywhere near as easy for them as it has been.

Nothing like this changes overnight but the current policies aren't changing any of it either and haven't since it started.

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There are changes I'd like to see, as far as punishment and prosecution goes, but legalizing it across the board is a silly solution.
I must disagree, but I respect your opinion.

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And thank god the supreme court just smaked all those phonies down the other day.
That case was more about the federal government's power over the states then medical marijuana.

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If they want medical marijuana legal, then why aren't they promoting it in pill or iv form? Because they just want an excuse to push their legalized agenda.
Have you ever TRIED the pill form of THC? I have, its called Marinol and its great if you want to have a 3-4 hour THC trip, it didn't help with my migraines or back pain at all however. See, THC isn't the only cannabinoid in cannabis and recent studies(sorry, I don't have a link at this time) have found that many of these are active and work together with the THC. Just recently I heard a company had gotten all of the cannabinoids into a pill form, called SativeX I believe, so there is a good chance we could see a pot pill being promoted if the FDA approves it.

I don't see why having it in pill form is important, I know of more people popping all types of pills then I do people just smoking pot.


Edit: Double K please don't think that every person that smokes is like Boston. I don't know anyone that would agree with his views.

Last edited by xer0; 08 Jun 2005 at 03:28 PM.
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