Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The End Of A Not-So-Great Year: What Fact Affected Ordinary Mortals Most In 2014?

BREAKING!
The rich get rich,

and the poor get poorer!
Of course I don't know all the possible candidates, but offhand I'd pick this one from Frank Minero at Addicting Info:
The Rich Get Richer: World’s 400 Richest Get $92 Billion Richer in 2014 (VIDEO)
... which means, of course, the rest of us got at least $92 Billion poorer. Yeah, I know, it's not a zero‑sum game, but the exceedingly wealthy have been playing it as if it is. I predict 2015 will be no better for us ordinary folks.

How many public schools would that $92 Billion buy? How many road repairs and other infrastructure improvements? How much more clean water and clean air? How many more jobs for working people?

Read Joseph Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality or any of the similar books out there: the extreme degree of economic inequality, in America and worldwide, is bad for everyone, including the wealthy. It doesn't have to be this way. But it will continue to be this way as long as the obscenely wealthy are allowed to pick the pockets of literally everyone in every other socioeconomic stratum.

Remember: there is no constitutional right to exorbitant wealth. But there is a human right to reasonable physical comfort, adequate food, secure shelter, basic healthcare, education for children and purposeful gainful employment for adults.

If the trend to an extreme schism between the very wealthy and the non‑wealthy continues to grow, it is only a matter of time before civilization itself goes to ground. We can surely do better.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

NSA Report Must Have Been (ahem) An Oversight

Murtaza Hussain at The Intercept:
The National Security Agency on Christmas Eve day released twelve years of internal oversight reports documenting abusive and improper practices by agency employees. The heavily redacted reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board found that NSA employees repeatedly engaged in unauthorized surveillance of communications by American citizens, failed to follow legal guidelines regarding the retention of private information, and shared data with unauthorized recipients.

While the NSA has come under public pressure for openness since high-profile revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the release of the heavily redacted internal reports at 1:30PM on Christmas Eve demonstrates limits to the agency’s attempts to demonstrate transparency. Releasing bad news right before a holiday weekend, often called a “Christmas Eve surprise,”  is a common tactic for trying to minimize press coverage.

...
Read it all, if you think the gigantic equivalent of a typical Washington Friday press dump contains anything useful. I have other things to do in the next couple of days.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ferguson Prosecutor Admits He Knew Some Witnesses Were Lying, But Called Them To Testify Anyway

McCullogh
From the WaPo, we learn that Robert McCulloch, prosecutor in St. Louis County, Ferguson, MO, has disclosed, a month after he announced the grand jury's no-true-bill on officer Darren Wilson's killing of the unarmed Michael Brown, that he (McCulloch) knew some of the witnesses he put on the stand were lying... but he was determined to allow all self-announced witnesses of the killing to testify, good, bad or ugly perjuring.

Wilson — Brown
And he's not going to prosecute any of those for perjury, not even those he now claims are surely lying.

Some days I just want to sit down and cry. Other days, I want to stand up and scream. Neither response will change a damned thing.

Elves On Shelves, Elves On Shelves — Children Who Surveil Themselves

The Elf on a Shelf™ is now a decade old, but I am only just now learning of it. Here's Kelly J. Baker at USC Annenberg's Religion Dispatches:

“I need to be good because of the elf that lives my room,” my five-year old explained.
“The what? Who lives where?” I ask.
“The elf that knows if I’m bad or good,” she replies.
 “There is no elf in your room,” I say.
“Yes, there is. He’s invisible,” she notes.
I sigh wearily.

...

Her imaginary elf is a version of The Elf on the Shelf ™, an androgynous, rosy-cheeked elf toy that monitors children as Christmas approaches. It is available in light or dark-skinned varieties. Accessories allow families to transform the elf into a boy or girl.

The elf emerged from The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition co-authored by mother and daughter, Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell. The book alone has sold over six million copies since it was released in 2005. For $29.95, parents can purchase the book and toy to start a new tradition. The story presents a “scout elf,” who journeyed all the way from the North Pole to watch children to find out whether they are naughty or nice. The elf surveils children during the day to uncover bad behavior, then it returns to the North Pole every night to report back to jolly old St. Nick.

...

These elves are ubiquitous. They can be purchased from bookstores, Target, and online retailers. ...

...
Yep, it's a Christmas tradition, all right:
He knows when you've been sleeping,
He knows when you're awake;
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness' sake!
— "Santa Claus is coming to town", Coots and Gillespie, 1934
The EotS does not talk, but kids are encouraged by this "tradition" to talk to it, to tell it secrets, etc. I do not know if the commercial version of EotS contains a recording device or not, but with ever tinier technology, surely it's only a matter of time.

The kid is forbidden, however, to touch the EotS: it would interfere with the Elf's "magic." (That's the word in the story, certainly not my word.) Some parents move the elf around the house so that it appears in a different room every morning. This teaches children a valuable lesson for later in their intrusively surveilled American lives: Always look for the "bug" — is the mic in the A/C vent? hidden behind the toaster? in the freezer, well-positioned to hear the obese child going through items, looking for a snack? in the garage, near the home workshop to catch any stray cussing by the adolescents using it? looking over the passenger seat of the car the teen uses for dates, to "see"/"hear" any back-seat activity?

Here's a picture of the Elf:

(Sorry; the Elf is invisible (except when it isn't), remember? Otherwise, the child might think s/he is not under surveillance when s/he can't see the Elf.)

Using the EotS from birth through, say, the last year of middle school should be sufficient to acclimate the kid to a world of constant surveillance under all circumstances... ALL circumstances. The federal government's three-letter agencies appreciate every parent's assistance with their children.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Challenges Of Small Town Life — Doggerel!

Catherine Thompson at TPM tells us about one of those challenges:

Ohio Town Orders Man To Take Down Zombie Nativity Scene

A suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio has ordered one resident to remove a zombie-themed nativity scene from his property, local TV station WLWT reported Tuesday night.

Jasen Dixon, a Sycamore Township man who manages a haunted house in Indiana, built the manger scene with zombie-like figures standing in for Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and the three wise men.

But town officials following up on two anonymous complaints found that Dixon's handmade nativity scene violated zoning codes.

...
Yeah, right; zoning codes. It's time for a double dactyl, folks, about the...
Zombie Takedown!
Higgledy piggledy,
Zombie Nativity
Vacantly stares at our
Midwestern town;

Direly reducing our
Profitability:
Bad for our Christmasnow
Take the thing down!

— SB the YDD

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Or substitute the Winter Solstice holiday of your choice...






Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Baltimore Fox Affiliate Edits Video Of Protesters To Make Them Appear To Be Chanting, ‘Kill A Cop’

Where to begin. (Sigh.)

First, for lack of a better summary, yesterday's article by Brendan James at TPM. Go there; read it in order; note that at least one viral video is named "[Al] Sharpton's 'Go Kill A Cop' march in Wash DC", a rather provocative title.

So did the poster of the YouTube version that went viral make up the attribution of "Kill a Cop" to Sharpton? Um, no. The Fox station in Baltimore did that, and the Gawker article has the original video and the Fox-tampered version one right after the other.

The actual words chanted, as revealed by the unaltered tape:
We won't stop!
We can't stop!
'til killer cops are in cell blocks!

The Fox-modified version:
We won't stop!
We can't stop!
So kill a cop!
(NOTE: Gawker has inadvertently swapped "won't" and "can't" in both transcriptions. The actual chant and Fox's modification are both correctly rendered above.)

The bolded last line is the one never spoken by the protesters. But that won't matter to a RWNJ who shows up at the next protest by this group, which calls itself "Justice for All". People so stooopid they believe anything that comes via Fox won't hesitate to carry a gun and flip the sense of the alleged last line by shooting at a protester.

In short, this local Fox station's postprocessing crew suborned murder.

Ten to twenty years ago, I used to hit the streets, protesting all kinds of things with all kinds of groups... the death penalty with the local Amnesty International; Baby Bush's Iraq War with a variety of groups, etc. I even appeared on TV a couple of times. On the whole, I felt physically safe in those protests: in the good old days, all a protester needed to know is how to assert her- or himself in a nonaggressive manner, and of course what his/her rights are and how to claim them as diplomatically as possible. I was never even arrested, let alone assaulted.

Now, even if I were sufficiently recovered to resume participation in street protests, I would feel a real sense of personal risk, from the police, from agents provocateurs, from opposing protest groups (a regular feature of antiwar protests; you'd be amazed how many people don't believe Americans other than themselves have the right of free speech)... and now we can add to that list, Fox News.

Fox can go straight to Hell as far as I'm concerned.

UPDATE: for what it's worth, Fox 45 Baltimore has apologized and offered some minimal air time to some protesters. That really doesn't mitigate the dangerous nature of their act in falsifying, on air, what the protesters said in the first place. Protesters' lives are in danger because of the Fox station. As far as I'm concerned, there's no going back from that act.

Krugman: Voodoo Economics On Its Way Back To The Halls Of Congress

Paul Krugman explains to us what Ronald Reagan-style "voodoo" economics (I believe the term was first used seriously by, ironically, George H. W. Bush) inflicted on all aspects of the U.S. economy in its heyday... and what it will impose on all of us if (or should I say when) it comes back in the next Congress.




The short of it is this: cutting taxes to promote economic growth never worked and cannot work. But that doesn't stop conservative ideologues; they just concoct more lies in an attempt to make the bad look good and the truly terrible look even better. As one of my favorite Sixties pop musicians put it, "Lie la lie; lie la lie lie, lie la lie, lie la lie..."

AFTERTHOUGHT: As Krugman hinted and TPM's Daniel Strauss spelled out, GOPers are preparing to wreck the CBO so as to use something they call "dynamic scoring," which basically means assuming/predicting economic growth as a direct consequence of lower taxes. No evidence in practice has ever been presented demonstrating this assertion/assumption, but hey, it fits with their ideology...

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Blind Bleeding The Blind

In this case, it's the morally blind depriving the physically blind, a child no less, of his one compensation that allows him to function in the world. Via Kos again, we have WDAF TV Kansas City (yes, damn it, it's Fox):
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two North Kansas City parents are outraged after they say their blind son’s cane was taken away from him at school by a bus driver.

Eight-year-old Dakota Nafzinger attends Gracemor Elementary School. Rachel Nafzinger said school staff took away her son’s cane as punishment for bad behavior on the bus and then gave him a swimming pool noodle to use as a substitute.

The school wouldn’t go on camera, but North Kansas City School District Spokeswoman Michelle Cronk confirmed taking away Dakota’s cane, calling it school property that was given to him when he enrolled. They said they took it away after he reportedly hit someone with it and wanted to prevent him from hurting himself or others.

His family said it was a way to humiliate him for misbehaving.

...
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore..."

I am not blind, and the good Dog willing, with today's meds, I needn't go blind the way my maternal grandmother did at an age slightly younger than I am right now. But I do walk with a cane most of the time, even around the house and especially out in public where the obstacles to safe passage are formidable even without hostile people exhibiting needless cruelty. And I am declaring emphatically right now: if you believe it is appropriate punishment, ever, to take someone's cane away, and you attempt to enforce your belief against me, I shall beat you senseless with it.

What part of the Eighth Amendment's "cruel and unusual punishments" do these butterfingers not understand?

For people too ignorant to distinguish I provide an illustration:
Walking Canes
NOT Walking Canes

Merry Xmas, Kids, Here's Your Assault Rifle...

Once again, Florida outdoes Texas... c'mon, Rick and Greg, you're falling behind!

Via Kos, from Daily Mail:
...

Machine Gun America's management claim it is an attraction, not a firing range, and customers cannot bring their own weapons to shoot. Guests must be 13 years old and no alcohol will be sold.

How looow can they goooo?
(Not from Machine Gun America...
from somebody's FB page.)
Wes Doss, Machine Gun America's safety and training officer, said it was unlike any other experience in the country.

'The live shooting experiences will include themed packages featuring some of the most famous firearms from around the world.'

General Manager Bruce Nierenberg also defended accusations the attraction was unsuitable for children.

'No one ever shoots by themselves, and no guest is ever in control of the weapon without a range safety officer next to them and participating with them,' he told WTSP.

...
Oh. Well. That makes me feel better. Um, actually, not...


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Warren, Markey, Baldwin Challenge Back-Door Financial Dereg Smuggled Into TPP

Rich Uncle Pennybags,
a.k.a. Monopoly Man
There is nothing big corporations' lackeys in Congress won't do to benefit their masters at taxpayers' expense. In this case, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), challenging the lackeys, "sent a letter to US Trade Representative Michael Froman demanding answers about backdoor financial deregulation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership."

What, exactly, are the Senators challenging? These provisions inserted in the TPP bill, provisions having little if anything to do with the TPP, though they benefit the same corporate entities and wealthy individuals:
  1. Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which allows foreign companies or investors to sue governments for losses in expected profits
  2. "Market access" provisions that could prohibit restrictions on predatory financial products, like risky forms of derivatives
  3. Limitations on governments' ability to impose capital controls, which could stymie efforts to prevent future financial crises as well as efforts to pass a financial transaction tax
Hey, you small business owners and sole practitioners out there: who among you has the privilege of suing a government for "losses in expected profits"? Right... this is a sop to the corp's and the very wealthy, and if the provisions pass into law and Rich Uncle Pennybags sues our gummint and wins, his "losses in expected profit" come out of your taxpaying pocket. What's right about that? And the other two provisions are no better. Combined, these provisions could utterly soak you, the taxpayer, to make the wealthy wealthier.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Obama's Missed Opportunity: America's Resumption Of The Nuclear Arms Race

James Carroll, columnist at the Boston Globe and occasional writer at TomDispatch, appears mirrored at Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog, writing about the great opportunity Obama had in 2009 to turn America, and hence the rest of the nuclear-armed nations of the world, toward a path to nuclear disarmament, or at least a drastic reduction in the number of nuclear-tipped missiles armed and ready to go at any moment. The short version: ultimately, despite his grand announcement, Obama listened to the hardcore hawks, and America is on course to modernize, not decommission, its nuclear arsenal.

'Fat Man' - Nagasaki,
Aug. 9, 1945
When I was a young child, a boy in grade school, W.W. II, with its first... America's and the world's first... use of an atomic bomb in war, was recent history, and the Cold War was ratcheting up. Classrooms full of school kids learned to do duck-and-cover drills, on command from the teacher. There were lists of steps we were supposed to take when told to "drop," lists to which some wag always appended one additional step after "Place head between legs": "Kiss your a$$ goodbye." Most of us understood there was no going back from a direct nuclear attack on the City of Houston: virtually everyone would die, and we knew it.

In the 1970s, some steps were taken toward reducing the magnitude (not the direness) of the US-Soviet nuclear conflict. As a consequence, by the 1980s, the era of Saint Reagan, the hawks began to talk of "winnable nuclear war"; once again, humanity faced extinction by the crazy men in Washington and Moscow. The same nutjobs began to talk of nuclear weapons in space as well as defensive weapons in space.

Reagan himself claimed to have "won" the Cold War by arming the US to the point at which the Soviet Union could not keep up. (Gorbachev, as quoted by Peter Jennings on ABC evening news, called this claim "utter crap.") According to a chart at Wikipedia, the US peaked at more than 30,000 nuclear weapons; the Soviet Union, 40,000.

The number didn't begin to decrease until Ronald Reagan left office, replaced by his veep, George H.W. Bush. Subsequently, nuclear arms in both nations were decreased in number, leveling off at about 5000. (The number depends on what you count as a "weapon": I suspect the 5000 is a count of warheads, because I've seen counts of the number of missiles that were considerably lower.)

I do not know how much credence to give to Carroll's extremely pessimistic assumption that there's no going back once Obama decided to follow the hawks' advice and modernize the nuclear forces. There is the fact that at least four more nations have joined the nuclear "club," with more sure to follow. In addition, every terrorist group in the world will continue to do its damnedest to get its hands on one or more nukes, though all of them face delivery difficulties that may prove insurmountable (we can hope!).

But if Carroll is right, and Obama has truly abandoned his hopeful determination in 2009, then the children and grandchildren of my first cousins (cousins only a few years older than me) will learn to duck-and-cover... and kiss their a$$es goodbye. Heaven help us all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Obama Takes First Steps Toward Normalizing US‑Cuban Relations

And it's about damned time. (More here.)

Cuba survived its unhealthy dependency on the old Soviet Union. I suppose Americans assumed when the Soviets dropped their support of Cuba that Cuba would collapse in a heap; to the apparent consternation of our Red-baiters, that did not happen. You have only to watch Michael Moore's film SiCKO to see evidence of at least one aspect in which Cuba's citizens enjoy life circumstances superior to those of lower-income Americans, namely, medical care.

But I'm not here to talk about medical care. I want to talk about the performing arts. For better or worse, I'm going to quote myself, from a post on the ancient hand-coded YDD in 2003:
...

Chucho Valdés, 2014
Tonight the youth were supposed to share the stage with Chucho Valdés, a famous jazz pianist (about whom there's more below). ...

...

So... why am I writing about this, on a mostly political blog? Simple: the concert I expected to hear was not the one presented. I went because the eminent Latin jazz pianist Chucho Valdés was scheduled to perform. Why did he not perform? Again, simple: he was stuck in the Havana airport, unable to obtain a U.S. security clearance to fly here to perform. Yes, Valdés is Cuban. He has performed so many times in the U.S. that I can't begin to count them. But apparently George W. Bush & Co. are sure that anyone from Cuba must be a terrorist. Of all Dub's flaws, raw, unmitigated ignorance... proud ignorance, often enough... must be one of his worst.

...
Fast-forward to 2014. Valdés is still alive and apparently still performing at age 73, with a backup band called The Afro-Cuban Messengers. Bush-baby is no longer president. So if Obama can manage to complete negotiations of basic diplomatic ties with Cuba while he is still in office, maybe Valdés can come to the US one last time.

On the other hand, a Rethuglican still hellbent on Commie-bashing (e.g., soft-brained Sarah Palin or madwoman Michele Bachmann) could become POTUS in 2016, and Chucho could once again be stuck in the Havana airport...

Robert Reich: Wall Street Is One Of Democratic Party's Biggest Contributors

That's right: as improbable as it may seem to rank-and-file Democrats, their party is nearly as wholly owned by Wall Street as the GOP is... and Wall Street is paid back manifold, through the carried-interest tax loophole. Read this sad truth presented by Robert Reich, if you can stand to do so.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Barenboim Plays Beethoven: Sonata Pathetique

Daniel Barenboim, pianist, one of the outstanding interpreters of our time, plays one of Beethoven's signature sonatas, Op. 13, Pathetique. Listen first, then you can decide whether to read my ramblings:



I was probably about 13 years old when I finally confronted this sonata at the other kind of keyboard. Believe me when I say that a 13-year-old is not ready for this work, physiologically or musically, but sometimes I think that a 130-year-old would not be, either. My dear parents suffered politely as I hammered my way through the work ("Hammerklavier" takes on a different meaning when a kid does it). Dad took a second job at night and bought the piano for Mom and for me; Dad himself didn't play or... if we could prevent it... sing.

Barenboim may not be today's version of a Beethoven scholar; he is 72 years old now, and people of his generation had a different idea of how Beethoven should be played than many of today's original-instruments performers. But in the case of Beethoven and Barenboim, I am not one to quibble. When one of the great interpreters of our era applies his skill and inspiration to one of the great creators of art music of all time, we all have to listen with respect and enjoyment.

Beethoven was not afraid of the future; many have remarked that when it comes to piano in particular, the instruments of his day sometimes did not survive his relentlessly aggressive attack. I am willing to concede (as I do not with most composers) that Beethoven required of his instruments things they could not provide. A concert in a sports arena with a speaker stack blaring bright and loud in every remote corner would probably have suited his personal taste. Surely Beethoven would conceive the Pathetique more the way Barenboim renders it than the performances Beethoven heard (when he could hear).

(Some say today is Beethoven's birthday. Maybe so: it is better established that he was baptized on the 17th.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Scalia: Constitution Does Not Prohibit Torture

AP, in an unsigned short article:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is joining the debate over the Senate's torture report by saying it is difficult to rule out the use of extreme measures to extract information if millions of lives were threatened.

...

Scalia says nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists.

...
Well, fuck, Antonin; good job of answering... what? certainly no question anyone actually asked.

Scalia exemplifies original dyspepsia
Suppose Scalia is correct, and not one word in the Constitution prohibits torture. Does that mean that torture is peachy-keen, and every agent of every three-letter American government agency should run right out and torture the first criminal suspect or terrorist suspect s/he encounters?

In short, it does not matter whether the Constitution of the United States explicitly prohibits torture: torture is wrong anyway, from a moral AND a strategic standpoint.

Is one Texas GOP asshole who occupied the White House for eight years sufficient to overturn two centuries of moral tradition that the US does not engage in torture? And why does an ancient and far from venerable Supreme Court Justice feel compelled to advocate torture publicly?

Scalia is 78 years old and reportedly very religious. Please forgive me if I hope his God calls him home before he incites too many more zealots in the CIA, NSA, FBI and DHS (to name just a few) to grotesque acts in the name of the people of the United States of America.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

You Think Religious Fundamentalists Are Harmless, As Long As They Call Themselves Christian? Fat Chance!

librarisingnsf at Kos, for LGBT Kos Community:
Anti-Gay NC Church Members Indicted For Felony Kidnapping And Assault Of Gay Man

...

From LGBTQ Nation:
... but religious bigotry
is no laughing matter
Five members of an anti-LGBT church in Spindale, N.C., were indicted on several felony charges this week, following a complaint lodged by a young gay man who says church members kidnapped him and assaulted him because of his sexual orientation.

A grand jury indicted Justin Brock Covington, Brooke McFadden Covington, Robert Louis Walker Jr. and Adam Christopher Bartley on second degree kidnapping and simple assault charges. A fifth member, Sarah Covington Anderson, was indicted on second degree kidnapping as well as simple assault and assault by strangulation.

The grand jury met on Monday, with indictment announcements released on Tuesday.

All are members of The Word of Faith Fellowship, a church which has continually come under fire for its alleged cult-like behaviors and severe treatment of members, particularly young people.

In this most recent case, 21-year-old student Matthew Fenner, a member of the church since age 16, alleges that several members targeted him because of his sexual orientation.

...
May the good Dog spare me from bigots. If this church didn't hate gays, they'd hate Blacks. If they didn't hate Blacks, they'd hate Unitarians. (No, I'm not making that up; one such person raged and raved at me for being a UU... the R&R took place over a lunch table at a music workshop. FWIW, my UU church in my young adult years had an openly gay minister, and all of us, straight, gay and otherwise, admired him greatly.)

Apparently the fundies have to hate somebody to keep the fire in their bellies going. I am not Christian, but I have serious doubts that Jesus would recognize these people as members of his flock.

Good News For A Change: Florida's Pee‑In‑A‑Bottle-To‑Receive‑Welfare Law Struck Down

Walter Einenkel at Kos once again points to a NYT article:
MIAMI — A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down a 2011 Florida law requiring drug tests for people seeking welfare benefits even if they are not suspected of drug use, a measure pushed by Gov. Rick Scott in his first term in office.

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, ruled that the law, one of the strictest in the country, was an unreasonable search because Florida officials had failed to show a “substantial need” to test all people who applied for welfare benefits. ...

...
Are all office-holding Republicans hate-filled bastards intent on degrading those they ostensibly serve?

Activists: Chicago Police Likely Using Stingray Tapping Protesters' Cell Phones

Walter Einenkel at Kos has the story. Protesting in Chicago? Take note; adapt your phone use (or your phone) accordingly. (If you use a smartphone, google
   "cell phone wiretap detector app"
and you'll get plenty of responses; I don't know if they work or not.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Greider: How The Democratic Party Lost Its Soul

Avedon Carol at Sideshow points us to an article at The Nation by William Greider (bio, blog... I normally link to Wikipedia bio's, but the one for Greider is an irredeemable right-wing hit job) on How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul. Here's an excerpt to give you the flavor:
...

William Greider
The blowout election of 2014 demonstrates that the Democratic Party is utterly out of touch with ordinary people and their adverse circumstances. Working people have known this for some time now, but this year, the president made the disconnection more obvious. Barack Obama kept telling folks to brighten up: the economy is coming back, he said, and prosperity is just around the corner.

A party truly connected to the people would never have dared to make such a claim. In the real world of voters, human experience trumps macroeconomics and the slowly declining official unemployment rate. An official at the AFL-CIO culled the following insights from what voters said about themselves on Election Day: 54 percent suffered a decline in household income during the past year. Sixty-three percent feel the economy is fundamentally unfair. Fifty-five percent agree strongly (and another 25 percent agree somewhat) that both political parties are too focused on helping Wall Street and not enough on helping ordinary people.

Instead of addressing this reality and proposing remedies, the Democrats ran on a cowardly, uninspiring platform: the Republicans are worse than we are. Undoubtedly, that’s true—but so what? The president and his party have no credible solutions to offer. To get serious about inequality and the deteriorating middle class, Democrats would have to undo a lot of the damage their own party has done to the economy over the past thirty years.

...
I couldn't have said it better myself. If Democrats want to keep the White House in 2016, they must do a great deal better than they did in 2014, and I don't mean just in the poll numbers. Democrats must give working Americans something real to vote for. Nobody gives a (bleep!) about Obama's "let us reason together" blather; they want jobs with middle-class incomes and benefits, and retirement plans adequate to live on. They want honest housing loans that do not get yanked out from under them like a cheap rug. No amount of flim-flam will turn working voters into Democrats if they don't get those things.

Another word to TPTB in the Democratic Party: Hillary ain't gonna cut it. Republicans have successfully undercut whatever virtues she may have. "Her turn"? FTS! No one owns a major party's support for a presidential run at this early stage. If Dems nominate Hillary, GOPers will run against Bill's sex life... you're right, that's grossly unfair, but don't count on that stopping today's Rethuglicans. They'll do it. And they'll win.

I am not yet committed to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but if she chooses to run (no certainty at the moment) I am more than willing to hear what she has to say. Short of a miracle — and she may be able to work one — I am afraid the Dems have already lost it, two years out.

[SB wanders off muttering @#$%^&*!@#$%...]

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Still Shopping At Walmart? Once Again Shopping At Walmart...

... because you think they've cleaned up their act? (Ptui!)


Please watch How Walmart Destroys Communities, Part 1, from Brave New Films, by Robert Greenwald. It's about 1½ hours; be sure you have popcorn... popcorn NOT purchased from Walmart...

The last item I bought at Walmart was a beard trimmer; that was about 20 years ago or so. The beard trimmer is almost defunct now, and the only thing I can say about its replacement is that...

IT WILL NOT BE PURCHASED AT WALMART!!!

The CIA Torture Report: Not Much New; A Lot Still Horrifying

Abu Ghraib may
come to seem tame.
The venerable Meteor Blades at Kos summarizes the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, and it isn't pretty. But if you've read Jane Mayer's The Dark Side, or Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars, especially if you've read both of those books (yes, I have), you won't be taken by surprise at the contents of the report: the CIA and most of President Cheney's Bush's inner circle performed, or ordered performed, atrocities that make any sane American gag at what was done in his or her name. Go read Meteor Blades's list for the particulars. Keep your barf bag handy.
(The one thing I found surprising is how much the CIA baldfacedly lied to Congress in its testimony about, e.g., the effectiveness of the torture they applied, measured by the results they obtained. As we already knew, torture doesn't work. What we didn't know, at least in such detail, was how often the CIA resorted to torture despite swearing to Congress that they hadn't.)

You know, to the extent possible, Obama needs to clean house at the CIA. If he won't prosecute the worst of the wrongdoers — I mean the out-and-out criminals like Cheney that he's allowing to skate free — he at least needs to fire any remaining Bush appointees at the top of the CIA hierarchy. Enough is enough!

Wall Street Lobbyists: Pass Bill Deregulating Derivatives — Or We Will Shut Down Government

Via Isaiah Poole at Campaign for America's Future, we have the following from Zach Carter at Huffington Post:
According to multiple Democratic sources, banks are pushing hard to include the controversial provision in funding legislation that would keep the government operating after Dec. 11. Top negotiators in the House are taking the derivatives provision seriously, and may include it in the final bill, the sources said.

The bank perks are not a traditional budget item. They would allow financial institutions to trade certain financial derivatives from subsidiaries that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. -- potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for losses caused by the risky contracts. Big Wall Street banks had typically traded derivatives from these FDIC-backed units, but the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law required them to move many of the transactions to other subsidiaries that are not insured by taxpayers.

...
The more things change, the more the changes are reversed by Republicans. Derivatives are arguably a major cause of the Wall Street collapse of 2008. They are inherently risky and under Dodd-Frank are currently not government-backed; see Wikipedia for a summary and list of the risks. Wikipedia concludes
[The loss] comes to a staggering $39.5 billion, the majority in the last decade after the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 was passed.
GOP Santa
Wikipedia is not known for allowing disputed content to remain unchallenged for long: almost everyone except the Wall Street fraudsters agrees the risks of unregulated derivatives are unacceptable. But Wall Street wants them back, with bells on... i.e., with FDIC backing. Your tax dollars at work, for Wall Street!

And the Party of No says Yes! Yes! Yes! to reviving them, or else they'll take their marbles and go home.

Campaign for America's Future has a petition. I signed it; what about you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Violent Gang Roving Streets Of Berkeley...

... and they look like this:


   (Watch on YouTube.)

That was posted by Todd Zimmer three days ago.

I understand why cops are at protest events. I do NOT understand the justification for their wearing full riot gear, kettling peaceful protesters, taking pokes at people whom they may find annoying but who aren't threatening anybody, occasionally beating the crap out of one or another protester (or, worse, bystander or neighborhood resident), etc. Are antisocial tendencies the new unwritten requirement for anyone wanting to become a police officer?

I mean, these guys are not Chicago PD circa 1968, but why do they have to do this at all? Violence begets violence; irrational confrontation provokes irrational confrontation. You can't tell me this police behavior does one single thing to help keep the peace... and after all, when (as one officer said) they are "just doin' [their] job," that behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with their job. Wielding nightsticks at a mostly orderly crowd represents a failure to do the only legitimate job of a police officer faced with a crowd: keeping the peace.

(H/T jpmassar at Kos.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

The New Anti-Choice Claim In State Legislatures: ‘Abortion Isn't Healthcare’

"Keep abortion legal.
No exceptions.
No apologies."
Since the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), a woman's right to choose abortion in the first trimester of her pregnancy has been recognized as a constitutionally protected right. This explicit recognition by the nation's highest court has left abortion opponents to chip away at the edges of abortion: limiting its availability; imposing ridiculous building codes on abortion clinics and qualification restrictions on abortion doctors that do not apply to other kinds of clinics and doctors; and now, the most absurd of all: claiming that "abortion isn't healthcare" and therefore is not legally protected in the way most medical options are.

"Abortion isn't healthcare?" Try to tell that to the woman whose life has been saved by an abortion. The claim is, on its face, false.

That doesn't stop the nut-jobs from passing their nut-job laws in crazy state legislatures such as the one in Texas. Quoting Robin Marty at TPM in an article about the claim the crazies make repeatedly in North Carolina,
...

The logic behind North Carolina abortion clinics’ new regulations echo [National Right to Life's David] Andrusko, too. In 2013, anti-abortion legislators repeatedly inserted language that would allow the state board of health to write new medical standards for abortion clinics—and only abortion clinics—into multiple bills, finally getting it passed after inserting it into a proposal on motorcycle safety. Bill supporters said the new regulations would be written just to increase patient safety and not with an intention to shutter most of the abortion clinics in the state, as other similar regulation bills had done in other states that year.

...

"While the governor is trying to treat abortion like any other medical procedure, on one level that's a good thing, but he's really dismissing the important part," one abortion opponent told ABC 13 News.

That “important part” the governor apparently dismissed? That abortion is not supposed to be viewed as health care.

Even the allowable “exceptions” for obtaining termination when a ban is in place shows that every line of an abortion law is written with this express idea in mind. There are no mental health exceptions because an abortion can never be needed for mental health reasons. There is no medical exception because an abortion is never medically necessary. You can have one only if you will have “irreversible harm” or permanent damage to a “bodily function” because an abortion is never required to protect a pregnant person’s health.

Abortion is never healthcare. Once you recognize this assertion as the root of every piece of legislation, every bill suddenly makes complete sense.
Many anti-choice zealots see their opposition to all abortion as a matter of religion. It's impossible to argue with radical religious conservatives (and in this case I have to include most Catholics in that broad category): religion is itself not a matter for logic; any ordinary sane process of reasoning applied to problem-solving is readily tossed out the window in service of establishing the believer's "fact" for the greater good of his or her faith. Hence "abortion is not healthcare" ... a manifestly absurd claim... is accepted unquestioningly by the religious fanatics in conservative state legislatures for the explicit purpose of prohibiting abortion even in cases where abortion is indisputably healthcare, such as saving the pregnant woman's life.

O tempora, o mores!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ain't We Got Funds?

There's nothing surer:
The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer.
- "Ain't we got fun," 1920, Whiting - Egan and Kahn
(wiki) (lyrics)
Yep, that's right, though some conservative singers rendered it "and the poor get children," which is IMO inhumanely inexcusable. But the canonical version, the one that rhymes properly, is the one that is to the point of this post.

Your bank account goes south
This post is about banks, and banksters, and how they're about to rob us all this time around. You know how they did it last time; they had to be bailed out by the government with our tax money, and then... and then, what? To all appearances, they didn't do a damned thing to correct the problems that got them in trouble in the first place, and they didn't do a damned thing to help people with their home loans; indeed, they... oh, you know, and this graf is getting out of hand.

So they're planning to get into trouble again. Yes, planning: it worked so well last time... for the banks and the banksters. But this time, things will be different. How? psychomax at Kos gives a good summary, citing Ellen Brown at The Web of Debt (the blog, not the book):
...

Since the financial crisis of 2008 central bankers and regulators have been busy drawing up plans for avoiding the next bank melt-down. Here in the US, banks considered by the government Too Big To Fail (TBTF) were bailed out six years ago with our tax money on the arguable rationale that if they were permitted to fail, they would take the entire economy down with them. The crisis led to a loud outcry from taxpayers and many savvy experts. ...

... the big banks, like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, were not broken up, contrary to the public interest. In fact, they are far larger today than they were in 2008, making the TBTF threat worse than ever.

So what plan have the geniuses come up with that both pacifies taxpayers and still saves the TBTF banks? You will be appalled.  ... Theoretically. deposit accounts are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000. The wrinkle is that the amount of money in the FDIC insurance fund is approximately $25 billion, while the total of deposits at US commercial banks is approximately $9,300 billion, yes that's $9.3 trillion The failure of just one mega-bank would easily wipe out that fund. Since the FDIC would be unable to keep failing huge banks solvent an alternative is required.

...
(Bolded sentence original. - SB)

So what is this mysterious alternative? It's no wonder they're not loudly broadcasting their plans, as you'll soon see.

The Financial Stability Board (FSB), an unofficial international organization whose recommendations for maintaining banking system stability almost always become law in the G20 nations, has made a recommendation regarding bailouts. Here's psychomax again:

At the G20 meeting last month in Australia, the FSB presented and received approval for their latest plan for conducting the "resolution proceeding", i.e. bankruptcy, for a troubled TBTF bank. Cutting to the chase, the pertinent part for my dear readers is that instead of their tax money going to bail out the banks, it will potentially be their bank deposit money! The FSB recommended that governments make statutory the confiscation of depositors' money (also known as unsecured debt) if the assets of the bank plus all secured debt is insufficient to keep them afloat. This has come to be known as a bail-in.
Jeebus! IOW, if the bank's assets and the secured debt it holds, taken together, are not enough to keep them solvent, they can confiscate the money in your bank accounts to solve their bankruptcy. (NOTE: it is not clear to me that this is the only meaning of bail-in; see FT's lexicon entry on it.)

And indeed, Ellen Brown's current newest post, December 1, is this: New G20 Rules: Cyprus-style Bail-ins to Hit Depositors AND Pensioners. So your pensions could go bye-bye, too.

What gives? Have I misunderstood? If not, why is this not front-page news around the country? or have I simply missed such news?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Missouri AG Confirms: Grand Jury In Michael Brown Killing Was Misled By DA Regarding MO Law On Police Use Of Deadly Force

Frank Vyan Walton at Kos has the details. Here is an excerpt of the basics:
...

The background of this situation is that Lawrence O'Donnell reported that after reviewing the transcripts of the Darren Wilson Grand Jury, his analyst discovered that Assistant District Attorney's working for Bob McCullough gave the Jurors an outdated copy of Missouri Law that all that was required for an Officer to use deadly force is their "reasonable belief" that there was a threat.

In 1985 the Supreme Court amended this law to include a "probable cause" requirement under Tennessee v Garner and the Jury wasn't informed of this until 3 months later just before their deliberations, nor even at that time was the difference and relevance of this explained to them clearly.

The misleading information was given to the Grand Jury directly before Darren Wilson's testimony giving the impression that all that was required under the law for Wilson to kill Michael Brown was his belief that he was in danger, without the additional requirement of probable cause for such a belief.

...
(Bolds mine. - SB)

This is far more than tragic: this is obscene. Will anything happen to that Assistant DA now, would s/he be indicted, or at least fired? I wouldn't bet on it...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

US Constitution, Article II, Section 3

[Of the President:]
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; ...
Bolds mine. Reproduced here for the benefit of the GOPer ratfucking bastards in the House of Representatives, who are thinking of blocking the State of the Union.

Look, muthafuckas, it doesn't matter if you reject it. It doesn't even matter if the President reads it in front of you; Washington himself sent a written document. It doesn't matter if the issues it addresses are of no interest to you; it's the President's baby entirely. It doesn't even have to be annually delivered; that's just tradition. It is a constitutional duty of the President to provide you with "Information of the State of the Union". If s/he does that, in a manner of his/her choosing, the presidential duty has been fulfilled, and you have no legitimate complaint against the President.

If you 'fuckas would spend a tenth the time on constructive legislation in cooperation with the President that you spend soiling yourselves and your constituents with the crap you spew in symbolic gestures, the nation might survive another century. But I'm not holding my breath waiting for you to do that... only to avoid smelling your crap.

Past(or) All Reason — Tempe, AZ Preacher Says AIDS‑Free Is Easy, Just Kill All Gays

Steven Payne at Kos:
Dear Lord, please kill Obama,
and kill all the Jews,
and kill all the faggots!
Faithful Word Baptist Church Pastor Steven Anderson of Tempe, Arizona is no stranger to spewing awful things in the name of the Lord. In 2009, Anderson made a media splash when he delivered a sermon during which he prayed for President Obama's death. Just this past March, he went on a tirade over women who so much as dared utter an amen in church, telling his lady-congregants that their place was subserviently in the home. He has also had some choice words for Jewish people, declaring that "Christ-rejecting jews are children of the devil".

...

Moved by the Christmas spirit, Anderson laid out his final solution for all those homos spreading the AIDS — execute them all, preferably before the day Christians celebrate the birth of that blessed little baby, Hallelujah!

...
Wow... assassination of the President, silencing all women, gay executions and murderous anti-Semitism too! What more could a RWNJ ask for! And G*d save you from this man if you're a gay Jew, and yes, I've known a few.

Coal Boss Donald Blankenship Indicted For Conspiracy To Violate Federal Reg's

This may be the only time in your life that you see a major player in the fossil fuel industry indicted for anything more than parking in a handicapped space (and that of course never happens either). Here's Dylan Scott of TPM:
...
Surface coal mine, Wyoming

Blankenship, who, as the New York Times reported this week, grew up poor in West Virginia before rising to become one of the most powerful coal bosses in the United States, came to typify all the worst caricatures of ruthless industrialists. He broke unions. He dismissed federal regulations and dared inspectors to catch him in the act. He described his industry in evolutionary terms.

"It's like a jungle, where a jungle is survival of the fittest. Unions, communities, people -- everybody's gonna have to learn to accept that in the United States you have a capitalist society, and that capitalism, from a business standpoint, is survival of the most productive," he said in the 1980s.
Coal miner, 1930s

But with the death of 29 miners in the April 5, 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia, Blankenship's long run may finally have come to an end. He was indicted last month on conspiracy to willfully violate federal mining regulations before the accident and to defraud the United States by making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission in its aftermath.

...
If Blankenship were anyone else than his smug, self-satisfied self, someone might feel sorry for him, but as things are, hey, "it's like a jungle..."

I predict these outcomes:
  • Blankenship will be acquitted of all charges;
  • Not one single dangerous practice will be discontinued at his mines;
  • None of us will live to see him accused of any other violations or frauds;
  • Other energy corporation CEOs will feel free to ignore federal regulations;
  • No other energy CEO will be indicted in your or my lifetime.
Have a nice day!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Antikythera Mechanism — Again

Antikythera Mechanism, fragment A, "front"
All of you are surely familiar by now with the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek device for computing a variety of astronomical and calendar-related events, fragments of which were discovered in a shipwreck from Roman times about one to two centuries BCE, fragments found in modern times by sponge divers in 1901. For at least a century, scholars, scientists, mathematicians and inventors have X-rayed the device, speculated on its function and age, built physical conjectural models of the device (including a bit of whimsy made of Legos, to go with your Lego harpsichord I suppose), and built mathematical models of its operation.

By now the device is mostly understood, and the results are astonishing. If you have ever read anything about Archimedes (d. 212 BCE, killed as he worked, run through by a Roman soldier), you have some idea of the genius afoot in Greece in the era in which the Antikythera mechanism was built.

Thanks to ellroon, we have an article by George Dvorsky at io9 and in turn a NYT article by John Markoff, and finally a suite of YouTube videos, starting here with one about the Lego Antikythera model, followed immediately by a longish show (Nova??) about the device itself. The two videos (there are more, but I stopped after two) are well worth watching.

Enjoy!

Khalil Gibran Muhammad: Darren Wilson Is ‘America's Model Policeman’

Khalil Gibran Muhammad at The Nation argues persuasively that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is speaking both accurately and truthfully when he says he was just "doing [his] job" when he shot and killed Brown:
...

And yet, despite all the equivocations, the shooting death of the teenager on August 9 and Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict Wilson were entirely unsurprising. They are the predictable outcomes of a criminal justice system doing exactly what it was meant to do. For all the dissecting and debating of the veracity of Darren Wilson’s grand jury testimony this week, one thing seems crystal clear. He was in fact doing his job.

Indeed, by this standard, isn’t Darren Wilson actually a model police officer?

Wilson, Brown
He certainly thinks so. When asked by Stephanopoulos if he could make “something good” come of this experience, he said he would “love to teach people” and give them “more insight in uses of force.” That he may have logged more time on first-person shooters—emptying clip after clip to take down demonic super-villains who “run through shots”—than actual police work is beside the point. Darren Wilson has the kind of experience that many Americans value.

...
(Bolds mine. - SB)

What can we do to render the system and its White citizens less predisposed to regard Black men as criminals based solely on the color of their skin?

That's a hard question, if for no other reason than that 85-90 percent of our population has never given a thought to reforming that system, or even acknowledged to themselves that there is a problem.

This is not about overt racists; it's about a large percentage of White people who do not think of themselves as racist and who are not thought of as racist by other White people. That's far more insidious than racism out in the open.

One thing Americans could do, if we had the political will, is to de‑commercialize the penal system, to reduce any financial incentive to imprison people. That won't reduce the number of police murders of young Black men for no reason, but it will reduce the number of such men jailed prospectively, so to speak. I'll never forget a neighbor of mine when I was a kid who saw a Black man walking through our (overwhelmingly White) neighborhood and cursed him: I said, "He's probably just walking to the bus stop; that's not a crime." The neighbor replied, "I've never known a n***** who's not guilty of some crime!" That's a much more difficult problem to address, and I confess I don't have a clue how to fix it in general. I suspect most racists become racists in their childhood, and that by the time it manifests itself in a public context, it's too late.

Anybody have any good ideas? or is Muhammad right, that Wilson is, was and ever shall be just "doing [his] job"?

Mitch Admits It: GOPers Don't Have Votes To Repeal Obamacare, But Supremes Can ‘Take It Down’ For Them


Joan McCarter at Kos reports this admission by McConnell, unsurprising in substance but very surprising in the fact that he admits, unapologetically, that our Supreme Court now is a wholly partisan Republican body acting to the detriment of the American people. McConnell would be an asshole if he weren't already a turtle.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Censure Of The President, And An Even More Unusual Punishment

Reps. Steve King (R-Nutjob) and Raul Labrador (R-Who?) want Congress to issue a formal censure of President Obama for his executive-order immigration reforms, as a way around impeaching him:

"I think we should censure the president of the United States," Labrador said on CBS, days after Obama announced his actions. "I think it’s unfortunate that he did this, I think we need to lay out clearly why this is unlawful."

But there's a problem. An impeachment is a criminal indictment by the House of Representatives, subject to conviction or acquittal by the Senate. Thus sayeth the Constitution (Article II, Section 4). By contrast, a censure of the president would be in every meaningful way a "bill of attainder," i.e., an act of Congress declaring someone guilty of a crime, without any sort of trial. The Constitution explicitly prohibits bills of attainder (Article I, Section 9). Impeachment and removal from office are effectively the only way to punish a bad president, and the Constitution lays out the details of how it is to be done. Without this restriction, no president would have time for anything except defending herself/himself against a rampaging opposition party's bills of attainder.

So Reps. King and Labrador are proposing a bill of attainder inflicting unspecified punishments on a duly elected President. "I think it’s unfortunate that [they] did this."

And as for me, I think a toilet plunger should be shoved into the pie‑hole of each of these representatives, to protect the nation from the crap spewing forth therefrom... but the Constitution makes no mention of, indeed never even implies, a citizen's right to plug the mouths of spewing legislators, however urgent the need. I guess we'll have to tolerate the spewing.

Lordy, those wingnuts surely know their Constitution, don't they? [/sarcasm]

Monday, December 1, 2014

Not Black Rage But White Rage: What It Means To Be Black In America

Can we ever end the intimidation
and alleviate the fear?
Carol Anderson of Emory University, principal investigator in numerous projects focusing on race in America, gives us a superb op-ed about the repeated White erection of deliberate obstacles to Black equality, progress and independence in life and work. From the nominal end of slavery in 1863 to the present day, not less often than once every two decades, such obstacles have sprung up, usually embedded in the law itself, giving such obstacles a public respectability that is, at best, an obscene offense against any sentient being, let alone a whole race of H. sapiens. Please give Professor Anderson a chance to lead you through this extended and repeating tale of deliberately inflicted disadvantage against a people that did nothing to deserve it. If you are Black, I imagine (I can only imagine, not personally experience) you will grimace in exasperation and shake your head at what has been done to you and yours. If you are White, please allow yourself to fathom the deep, painful frustration of ongoing, engineered inequality of social and economic status.

Yes, it's great that an African American became president (my reservations about the individual aside). But were any minds changed? or did racism simply become respectable in our political institutions to a degree unsurpassed in my lifetime (i.e., since the late 1940s)? How has Obama's presidency mitigated the racist behavior of the worst racists our nation continues to foster?

As I age, as I observe the perniciousness of the diversifying ways in which racism manifests itself, I despair of seeing its end within my lifetime. But I do know this: America can address the problem promptly and concretely, or America can go to ground in a conflict that will make the French Revolution look like a bedtime story. There's no middle ground on this one: it's do or die. At present I wouldn't place money on "do," however much I cajole myself to hope.

"Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on..."

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