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severely broken dpkg (among other things)

[This might seem like something for -user, but it's a little weirder
than most stuff there.]

I recently returned from vacation, during which my computer was shut
down by power difficulties, to discover that much was amiss with my
computer.  Most importantly, dpkg was totally broken.  Currently, any
installation or removal of a package results in the following error:

[sam@samth sam]$ sudo dpkg -i dpkg_1.8.3.1_i386.deb 
(Reading database ... 92813 files and directories currently
Preparing to replace dpkg (using dpkg_1.8.3.1_i386.deb) ...
dpkg: error processing dpkg_1.8.3.1_i386.deb (--install):
 unable to install updated status of `dpkg': No such file or directory
Errors were encountered while processing:
Processing was halted because there were too many errors.

I am entirely unable to discover what file it is reffering to.  I have
replaced my entire dpkg installation with the non-debbin tarball, and
it hasn't changed anything.  I've tried it with an empty
/var/lib/dpkg, and with one from a different installation.  Neither of
these change the error.

Of course, this makes apt sort of hard to use.  But apt also has other
problems.  apt-get update doesn't really update.  That is, it
refetches the supposedly new package lists every time it is run.  I
have no idea why this is happening, but can't reinstall apt since dpkg
is dead.  But removeing the contents of /var/lib/apt/lists doesn't

That's it for weird problems currently.  I have to admit to having no
clue what so ever as to what could be causing these problems.  Can
anyone help?
sam th --- sam@uchicago.edu --- http://www.abisource.com/~sam/
OpenPGP Key: CABD33FC --- http://samth.dyndns.org/key
DeCSS: http://samth.dynds.org/decss

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