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Driving through Boonville, California, in Mendocino County this weekend, the smoke was overwhelming. There are 131 fires burning in my home county, the result of a freak lightening storm last weekend. The LA Times called it an

"unusual weather pattern" that "sent dry lightning flashing to the ground—again and again and again. More than 8,000 lightning strikes touched earth, according to the National Weather Service."

The result is something like (as of this morning) 800 fires across Northern California, which by Monday had burned 44,000 acres.

So, while McCain and the Republicans want Americans to focus on the dangers of terrorist attacks, Americans (and earthlings everywhere) are suffering unparalleled loss from the changing weather patterns. I don't mean any disrespect to the losses this country suffered on 9/11, but, frankly, IMHO the dangers from Global Warming, exceed the dangers of terrorism and it's about time we take the weather seriously.

Just before the storm hit, my cats took note. I had the front door open and was working at my computer. From my desk, I can see through the study door, across the living room, and out the front door. Pele, my big (16+ pound) Maine Coon, sat up on her haunches like a rabbit and stared over the top of the computer and out the door. She stayed like that, perched on her strong hind legs so long, that I got up to see what she was looking at.

I walked out the front door onto my covered veranda just as the hail started to hit. It was strange, big chunks of ice falling in June from a clear blue sky. To the west I could see the storm moving in—a big, intimidating militia of dark clouds armed with lightening bolts, marching relentlessly toward the parched shores of Northern California. Really, it did feel like an attack.

They’re still finding new fires today—now over eight hundred. Mendocino County seems to have taken a direct hit. We’ve migrated to the top of the list, disaster has been declared. Like the floods in the Midwest, the fires are a growing problem, a circumstance that begins and then, as it develops, grows worse and worse. I live right on the coast. I'm not personally in danger. But, Sunday, when I drove across Highway 128 and south into Sonoma County, they were still downplaying the news, telling us they were prioritizing the fires, attending to those that threatened humans and their property. It was hard to breathe passing through the small town of Boonville, which is in the heart of Anderson Valley wine country, tucked between the coastal range to the east and Redwoods to the west, where the highway winds back toward the coast. It’s one of the most beautiful roads in the state, perhaps in the country. As I drove home Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t help but worry. Imagining for a moment the devastation of the redwoods burned to the ground. What a tragedy that would be.

I couldn’t help but worry because Sunday evening—coming home—the smoke was much worse than it had been in the morning. When I got home, I learned my concern was unfortunately justified: Montgomery Woods is burning‚ some of the oldest Redwoods around.

It's been a slow wind-up, not enough resources available, not enough firefighters. Firefighters are just beginning to arrive from all over the country. How do you amass enough resources to fight 840 (latest number as I write) fires at one time? Well, for one thing, you have the resources in place when and where you need them: As per usual, the Bush Administration has not kept its word about providing Fire personnel to California. Just a couple weeks ago Diane Feinstein complained loudly about the fact that the Feds were behind schedule. The problem is money, they can't seem to find the money to pay the firefighters a living wage. Of course, the feds weren't impressed with Feinstein's complaint. Her concern wasn't exactly "misplaced," they said on June 2, 2008, only irrelevant. They were doing a heck of a job:

"I wouldn't say it's misplaced," Rounsaville said. "But I will say that we're adequately prepared and staffed for the fire season. We have a lot of capability outside California to assist there if need be."

Yes. People are coming from outside California, beginning to arrive today, Tuesday, the fires have been burning, mostly without any attempt to control them in the drought starved wilderness of Northern California for three days while we waited for the government to get its act together. So far, the story is barely news. And meanwhile we're hearing that California was just "unlucky" to have such a storm. Like Iowa and the Midwest were unlucky to have an unprecedented wave of tornadoes and rain storms and 500 year flooding.

When are we going to take the threats from natural disaster seriously? Why isn't Charlie Black saying that if the US suffers a natural disaster (or two or three or four) before the Novemeber elections, that it will serve Senator McCain's election chances? Why isn't the corporate media tallying the toll from the natural disasters we've amassed since 9/11—the loss of life, resources and dollars—and laying it out beside the disaster of 9/11 for comparison? Why if we care about terrorist attacks in Britain, aren't we paying attention to their natural disasters as well as our own? Why aren't we talking about the environmental refugees here in our own country? ("We had a million environmental refugees as a result of Katrina."—David Helgarv.) How many more since the flooding in the Midwest? And the loss of agricultural land, the loss of forests and wild life, of the canopy that helps produce the oxygen we all need to breathe? Believe me, when you're faced with smoke and the peculiar claustrophobia that accompanies low oxygen and high pollutants in the air you're trying to breathe, you notice these things.

So when are we going to turn our resources to the real challenge? Even last Friday the Feds were acting like they had the fire-response situation in California under control. They said they'd start hiring more personel this coming week, "ahead of schedule". Obviously, they weren't expecting this bit of "bad luck." Nor were they expecting Katrina, or the floods now terrorizing the Midwest, either.

When are we going to acknowledge that natural disasters are as big a threat as terrorism, indeed, if frequency is the measure, a bigger threat? We're seeing the impact of oil wars, but what will it look like when the wars are over water? It's not that far in the future, you know. Part of the reason California is burning is because of the terrible drought here. And already there's a struggle going on over water, and who is going to get what little there is. It's part of the reason the salmon aren't spawning and there isn't a season this year.

So, what I want to know is what is the next president planning to do to get the NATIONAL Guard out of Iraq so it can return to its intended duty of being on hand for national emergencies? What's the next president going to do to make sure funds are allocated to our fire fighters and emergency personnel? Who is going to make sure that FEMA actually works? That local economies are strong enough to support local personnel and local resources for dealing with disaster? When is the media going to look at this like it's real?

Because it sure looks to me like we've lost a lot more in the last seven years to natural disaster than we have to terrorist attacks. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we shouldn't keep our eye on terrorism; I'm just saying there's an elephant in the White House living room and it's about time we admit it, address it, and get EVEN MORE SERIOUS about getting it out of our national living room. If we want to survive, as a country, a species, a planet, that is.  

I say this while listening to an update on my local radio station (KOZT, excellent music, excellent news, excellent emergency response info). Depressing news: new evacuations, new evacuation centers opening. They're saying that an "unknown number" of fires are still being added to the count, that they're still being reported today, Tuesday around 11 am, local time, 3+ days after the storm. Global Warming is not a secondary issue. It's a top tier National Security Issue. Global Warming is threatening the entire planet; it's threatening the water supply, our food supply, the very oxygen we breathe, It's threatening our ability to survive to fight the terrorists that John McCain and the Republicans are trying to make the BIG issue. It's threatening our ability to drill offshore. (They're lying, by the way, about the environmental damage to the Gulf after Katrina—it was 2/3rds as big as the Valdez in Alaska.

And again, McCain, the other day, said there was no spillage from the—he parsed it very carefully—from the 160 offshore rigs that were either damaged or destroyed. I saw them up on beaches. I also talked to the Coast Guard. There was actually 8.2 million gallons of spillage. The rigs themselves were closed down and evacuated before the storm, but all the pipes and tank farms and the infrastructure you get around that created two-thirds of an Exxon Valdez.

I say, there's a reason my cat sits up on her haunches and stares out the door at what I can not see; she's an animal filled with natural instinct, and she feels when danger is coming...

Wednesday Morning Update: Thanks for the rescue!! I'm going back across 128 today and will report back with what I learn sometime this evening.

Originally posted to Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 11:31 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That Nat Guard point is especially topical... (10+ / 0-)

    We heard it around Katrina in LA...we're hearing it in Iowa and the other Mississippi states.  Regardless of your war position...deploying to Iraq is not the national guard's job...they shouldn't be there and their actual and traditional missions are either not being done or are at risk.  The NG is the last resort in times of dire distress and when your average state NG is at less that 50% TOE on available, it just makes terrible situations that much worse.

    -- Hope is the adrenaline of the mind. --

    by Druid800 on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 11:38:56 AM PDT

  •  I'm East of you in Lake County (9+ / 0-)

    We've got a dangerous fire going called the Walker Fire. There's only 60 firefighters tending it. It was 4,000 acres on Sunday. It has grown to 10,000 acres (as of last night). The smoke here by the lake is pretty thick.

    The whole fire is on BLM land and it is traveling toward the Mendocino National Forest. The fire is mostly being fought by our local engine companies. Our total county population is about 70,000, so that leaves a huge manpower here at home to fight the fire for the Feds.

    Yes, we sure could use help. In 1996, a fire just north of the Walker fire took more than 90,000 acres of forest.

  •  One not-so-minor note on forest fires (0+ / 0-)

    It's worth noting that forest fires are not, inherently speaking, bad things; after all, they've almost certainly been going on for far longer than there have been firefighters to fight them.

    •  Well, in the natural world (4+ / 0-)

      there was opportunity for the forest to replenish itself. That's not really true anymore, because of the stress that's already on the forest system. It's like saying it's natural for cats to kill song birds, so we shouldn't be that concerned. Fact is, at this point, nature is out of balance, so these things are a problem. The amount of pollutants going into the air and the loss of canopy for converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen is not small thing these days.

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:32:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not to mention the drought. (4+ / 0-)

      it's naive, in my opinion, to think of natural fires as a "not-so-minor note" about what's happening in California today.

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 12:39:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I know you're long gone, but... (6+ / 0-)

      I'm still responding to your comment, because I find this kind of argument so disturbing. So here is a link discussing the fires in California that you want to make normal, "not, inherently speaking, bad things." And yes, of course, fires in the normal course of nature aren't inherently bad. But to suggest that the fires burning across California, some 840 at last count is part of the normal natural cycle is denial in the first degree.

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 04:03:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So glad that you kept making comments :^) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Circle

        as it provides the opportunity for me to give you feedback and well deserved mojo for an excellent diary.  Found your diary too late to recommend it.

        Thanks.

        <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

        by bronte17 on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 02:44:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I absolutely agree (7+ / 0-)

    that we are in more danger from Mother Nature these days than from terrorists.  And when you consider that if we get serious about our Mother Nature problem, we would simultaneously improve the Middle East terrorist problem (though not the homegrown crazies) at the same time, its hard to see why the environmental issues aren't given more priorities.

    The lack of preparedness by the federal government and the loss of readiness in the Guard is unforgiveable.  Instead of asking for troops from Canada, Bush would have done better to expand FEMA teams and National Forest Service, etc to include more natural hazard teams for flood, fire, etc.

  •  It's such a beautiful road (6+ / 0-)

    It should be a National Monument or something to preserve the magnificent pastoral landscape.

    It was hard to breathe passing through the small town of Boonville, which is in the heart of Anderson Valley wine country, tucked between the coastal range to the east and Redwoods to the west, where the highway winds back toward the coast. It’s one of the most beautiful roads in the state, perhaps in the country.

    •  Yeah, it should. (4+ / 0-)

      We're all just kind of holding our breath, literally and figuratively. The fires are burning north and south of the highway, all over the interior area, and they're still growing, by the hour. The biggest containment I've heard, is one of the largest fires is now at about 30%.

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 01:00:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dense haze down here in the East Bay... (8+ / 0-)

    ...I also drove by an ominous belch of smoke alongside 80 at the Vacaville split on Saturday afternoon.  The epiphany was unmissable.  All of us folks streaming along the Interstate in our gas-guzzlers, complicit in climate change, had the results thrust right in our faces.  Traffic slowed down by 15 mph.  People started to just start in awe at the smoke drifting over from Napa.  Pretty creepy...

    Oh, and I was driving back down after canvassing for Dr Bill Durston in CA-03, as Dan Lungren wouldn't know what real Homeland Security is about if it burned his home down.  Of course he doesn't even live in his district, but that's become increasingly fashionable amongst Republicans lately.

    •  The sight is creepy (3+ / 0-)

      A very unnatural haze and the sun turns kind of orange and everything looks very surreal.

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 01:04:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm glad I canceled my Jimtown rental this week (3+ / 0-)

      I wanted a vineyard vacation, but my chemotherapy treatment got extended another two months - I just got 24th infusion last Thursday, and we were supposed to leave today for the cottage. I decided back in May that given how hard it is for me to tolerate heat while in chemo, and the fatigue etc., that a cottage vacation would not be fun at this time.

      The cottage is at the base of the Mayacamas, a mile from the Alexander River, just north of Healdsburg. (I've only been there once so my geography could be a little off). It must be pretty smoky and awful there this week. My eyes are burning here in Oakland as it is.

      Since there is a "node" on my lung as well as other places the yucky stuff has spread, I think it's a fortuitous bit of luck that I decided not to go to Sonoma County this week.

      So very, very sorry about the disaster happening in my bioregion, Northern California. The Midwest has water and we have fire. I will pray extra hard tonight. The drought is making all of it worse. Redwoods should be nice and foggy and misty at this time of year, too wet to burn.

      Dove's Eye View An Arab-American woman sees signs of hope

      by leilasab on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:01:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  40 years ago (6+ / 0-)

    I was living in the Coast Range, about 15 miles NW of Covelo and 20 Miles NE of Laytonville (between Poonkinney Hill and Updegraf Ridge) and we had one of those freak summer lightning storms. One lonely CA Forestry guy showed up at our place and I went out and helped him for a few hours, climbing insane hills trying to find a burning snag.  He said there were 100 fires started that night.

    Very rough country up there on the Eel River and all through that Coast Range country.

    don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 01:08:17 PM PDT

  •  hey, Circle, good to read your diary. (6+ / 0-)

    things are not good here in Mendocino County, that's for sure. The smoke isn't as bad here northeast of Willits as it is some places, and we haven't been directly threatened by any of the fires -- but it is uncomfortable.

    My poor old dog has hardly stopped panting in fear since the first thunder on Friday night -- she's apparently afraid of the smoke, too. More thunder and lightning coming next weekend maybe, they say.

    Do you think the coverage on KOZT is better than KZYX? I'm listening to KZYX right now, they're talking about how the smoke in Ukiah is likely to reach "very unhealthy" levels in the next few days -- so far they've just been at "unhealthy" levels.

    here's an interesting link, firefighterblog  I found yesterday. I think it was that blog where I found a thank you to Feinstein for her letter.

    if you haven't read the rec'd diary re: James Hansen's testimony to Congress yesterday re: global warming, you should check it out.

    •  Thanks for the links (6+ / 0-)

      Nice to know I've got a "neighbor" posting on DKos. I hadn't heard about the possible coming storm; that's not good.  You sound closer, where you are to the actual burning then I am. I'm near Fort Bragg. And as far as the radio goes, I'm a KOZT fan, I listen to their music all the time. I'm sure KZYX is doing a good job too; they're very good and I appreciate all they offer. We're fortunate to have good radio coverage in the area. I lived for a time in Boulder Creek (in the Santa Cruz mountains) just recently and it was almost impossible to get emergency info and news because there really weren't any local stations focusing on the area. I was there during a huge winter storm with flooding and really never knew what the immediate dangers were. So, that's one of the things I really appreciate about radio around here. KOZT gets right on top of whatever is happening and updates regularly. They're a commercial station, but they're invested in the community. Independent radio.  

      In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

      by Circle on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 01:53:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yeah, there's a few of us around. (4+ / 0-)

        hopefully the storm won't materialize -- I checked the actual weather page, and it says "slight chance". yes, I am closer, there's fires to the east of us

        I'm sorry to hear about Santa Cruz lacking local radio, our radio is good, as far as providing community services goes. I listen to KOZT in the car, and I like it, too, but I hadn't thought about checking out their fire coverage, so I'll do that, thanks.  

        •  Howdy, Neighbors (3+ / 0-)

          Marin County is deeply concerned and worried about all of you in the fire zones.  We are poignantly aware of the losses occurring, of beautiful forests and pasture lands charred, of homes and lifetime memories incinerated, of wildlife frightened and homeless, but hopefully, not loss of life or livestock and pets.  We wait anxiously to hear news if any of you have been hurt or worse.

          I read this diary with a chilling shudder.  I've been havin' these same thoughts, too.  Life on The Fault Line/s and in High-Fire-Danger drought areas makes our daily life have an increasingly back-teeth-grinding low-level anxious quality.  I've noticed my dreams are infused with it much lately.

          In particular is the lost innocence of our former trust and belief that our U.S. government would surely rush to our aid when, if disaster, cataclysm struck our homes, towns, regions.  But Katrina revealed a terrifying, sordid truth.  There is no "cavalry" to come riding over the hill to our rescue.  Not anymore.

          So I have this same dread as you seem to be feeling, Circle.  That we Californians are gonna be On Our Own when The Big One hits.  And all the ensuing maelstrom...

          I know you folks on the North Coast are having a hard time with the drought.  In Marin we got 60% of normal rainfall in our reservoirs.  We're not in mandatory water conservation, but I'm very conscious now of how much water we use and not to waste it.   I think about all those for whom water is growing ever more scarce...and I make sure to take shorter showers.

          Please stay in touch with us here at Dkos, so we know you are okay.  Any other North Coast, Nor-Cal residents here at DKos?  Please check in so we know who you are and what area you're in.  We need to know you're all okay.  

          Thoughts are with you, Neighbors.  Take care.

          s.p.

          "A bad government is elected by good people who do not vote in elections." -- Unknown, pg 342, "The Shell Game" by Steve Alten

          by sockpuppet on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:42:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for checking in (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bronte17, sockpuppet

            The nature of this site, the sense of local, national, even international community really startles me over and over again. It's quite amazing. I'm actually going back down to Sonoma County today, so I'll be driving 128 again. I've been listening intently for problems, and thus far, it seems travel is normal along 128 except for the smoke. I'm a little concerned about taking the journey, but I have a radio interview that's going to run on KRCB 91 FM (Sonoma public radio) on July 2nd. It's for my book, which is also why I was down there on Sunday. It's the odd juxtaposition of "normal life" and the reality that something's happening out there that's threatening "normal life" for all of us, making everything we're doing look just a little different than it did, making me wonder how much longer life will be "normal." In any event, I'm planning to write another diary when I get back and report in on whatever I see/experience along the way. Listening to the news this morning (Wednesday), it doesn't sound like things have changed much from last night, except for the air quality. It sounds like the 101 corridor is pretty bad.

            In a time of universal deceit, the simple act of telling the truth is revolutionary--George Orwell

            by Circle on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 06:39:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  hey, your book looks great. I'll look foward to (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              sockpuppet

              reading it. Seeing John Lescroart's recommendation doesn't hurt either, I love the characters in his SF mystery series.

              I wonder if our local Leaves of Grass in Willits has your book right now? They do local author readings/events, if you haven't considered doing one in Willits, check them  out.

          •  Howdy to you too! I think people are going to (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sockpuppet

            be OK, at this point. unless the fires burning unchecked (nearly half of them at this point) get totally out of control, joining into one big fire, in which case all bets are off...  or unless we get some more lightning next weekend, which starts new fires.

            With such thin resources available, they're prioritizing fires that threaten people and property (including livestock) first.

  •  from my OND last night (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennifer poole

    our drive from las vegas home to salt lake:  everything was green.

    when it dries out, it's going to burn all of august - september - october - until it snows.  

  •  Very hazy & smoky from the fires (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Circle

    in the SF East Bay.  We are in drought conditions and water rationing.  

    San Franicisco Chronicle article:

    More than 800 fires sparking up in recent days, some stalking homes and others burning so far from civilization that nobody tries to put them out.

    Firefighters stretched thin, racing from blaze to blaze with little rest as commanders practice a form of triage - focus on the fires that pose the biggest threats.

    And residents from Napa to Livermore to San Jose getting accustomed to living in a smoky haze, their nostrils full of the unmistakable smell of burning wood.

    http://www.sfgate.com/...

    Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official... ~Theodore Roosevelt

    by Pam from Calif on Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 09:10:31 PM PDT

  •  this is an excellent connect-the-dots job. (4+ / 0-)

    When are we going to take the threats from natural disaster seriously? Why isn't Charlie Black saying that if the US suffers a natural disaster (or two or three or four) before the Novemeber elections, that it will serve Senator McCain's election chances? Why isn't the corporate media tallying the toll from the natural disasters we've amassed since 9/11—the loss of life, resources and dollars—and laying it out beside the disaster of 9/11 for comparison?

    This is what we need, to take in the myriad symptoms of our fevered planetary condition & diagnose the problem.  Citizens everywhere are "under the gun" of extreme weather; a gun we continue to load, one round at a time, only to spin the chamber & take aim at our own global head. Soon all the chambers will be full.

    I am hoping for a major policy speech that rallies us to further awareness & action. We need to strengthen our disaster preparedness programs & relate them to our energy efficientcy & sustainability education. They all serve the same goals of a resilient, informed, and proactive citizenry. If there is any fear card to be played, it is a healthy fear of the disaster we are wreaking on ourselves thru climaticide.

    Political Will: the ultimate renewable resource. Now follow the leader.

    by spiraltn on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 05:19:22 AM PDT

  •  Orr Hot Springs ? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jennifer poole, Circle

    Does anyone know if Orr Hot Springs Resort was spared?

    Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? William O. Douglas

    by GayHillbilly on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 09:22:15 AM PDT

    •  Orr Hot Springs is in one of the bad spots, I'm (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GayHillbilly, Circle

      sorry to say, it was evacuated, but as far as we know, is still unburned. here's the Santa Rosa Press Democrat story from yesterday:

      Birds twittered and a gentle breeze waltzed with colorful flowers Monday at Orr Hot Springs, but the popular Mendocino County mineral baths and guest cottages were empty as fires raged nearby.

      "We’re evacuating," said hot springs owner Leslie Williams. "They said they can’t stop this fire."

      The resort is in a small, narrow canyon just east of Montgomery Woods State Reserve — home to what was once the world’s tallest tree — which also is threatened by fires.

      Word from the Ukiah paper on Tuesday, however, is that "Montgomery Woods is OK for now":

      A cherished natural resource in Mendocino County, the old growth redwood preserve is on the edge of fires burning along Orr Springs Road, especially in the Running Springs Road area. Just up the road from Montgomery Woods, Orr Springs Hot Springs resort has been evacuated.

      The redwood preserve was closed by the California Park Service rangers at about 3 p.m. Monday to keep visitors away while fires still threatened.

      •  Orr Resort survived (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Circle

        Just received word by email from my brother.Orr Hot Springs survived due to the diligence of fire fighters working through the night keeping the fire from jumping the road into the historic resort.

        Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? William O. Douglas

        by GayHillbilly on Wed Jun 25, 2008 at 12:29:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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