The Evening Blues - 12-17-15


Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues singer and guitarist Floyd Jones. Enjoy!

Floyd Jones - Stockyard Blues

"The terrorist is the one with the small bomb."

-- Brendan Behan

News and Opinion

Anti-Isis proposals floated at Republican debate would likely be war crimes

Ted Cruz leads way as candidates discuss carpet-bombing and attacking terrorists’ families, despite Geneva Conventions ban on ‘indiscriminate attacks’

Carpet-bombed cities, world war three and internet blockades were among the images conjured up by Republican candidates for president on Tuesday night, as the hopefuls took bellicose rhetoric to new heights over the inconveniences of law and fact.

Senator Ted Cruz struck arguably the most overtly belligerent tone of all the candidates, backtracking only slightly from his promise to “carpet bomb” Islamic State militants wherever they are. On Tuesday, he said he would “carpet bomb where Isis is, not a city, but the location of troops” with “directed” air power.

“The object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the Isis terrorists,” he said, only a slight departure from his campaign promise to bomb them “into oblivion”. ...

Because Isis largely embeds in cities with the civilian population that it claims to rule, Cruz’s plan would by definition entail wholesale bombing of places where hundreds of thousands of people – many the victims of Isis crimes themselves – live. ...

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, compared the strategy of indiscriminate force to the process of opening up a child’s head to remove a tumor.

“You have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job,” he said, “rather than death by 1,000 pricks.”

Asked by the moderator whether he was “OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians”, Carson replied: “You got it. You got it.”

The Geneva Conventions prohibit “indiscriminate attacks”, including aerial bombardment; the US and most of the world’s nations are signatories to the conventions, although the US has not signed on to all provisions and has tried to interpret the rules to its advantage.

In October, a US warplane bombed a civilian hospital in Afghanistan, raising prospects of a war crime inquiry over the apparent accident. A bombing campaign as prescribed by Cruz, Carson or Trump would at best have questionable legality, make the US an international pariah and exacerbate the refugee crisis.

Carpet-Bombing ISIS, As Explained By Ted Cruz

One is left to wonder what a UN war crimes investigatory body is for, if not to investigate war crimes in the theatre of a major international conflagration. A useless appendage? Or is this just the UN's way of declaring Syria a free-fire zone?

U.N. war crimes team will not investigate foreign air strikes in Syria

A United Nations team of war crimes investigators will not probe air strikes by foreign countries in Syria, its chairman said on Wednesday, despite concerns that some attacks by foreign militaries could have violated the laws of war.

"It is not our mandate to investigate the behavior of powers involved in the crisis of Syria," Chairman Paulo Pinheiro of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview. ...

"There is no possibility that we will investigate the American air strikes or French or British or Russian," he said.

The decision reflected a desire not to meddle into the affairs of powers outside Syria as well as limited means at the group's disposal, Pinheiro added. ...

[The U.N. commission's] mission is "to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic," according to the website of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

We Had to Destroy the Hospital to Save the Town

“My thoughts and prayers are with those affected”

This is the sickening phrase mouthed automatically and hypocritically by Western generals and political leaders trying to defend or explain away a particularly vile atrocity committed by their nation’s military.

The official report on the reasons for destruction of the hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, on October 3, 2015 by a US AC-130 gunship was released on November 25, immediately before the US Thanksgiving festivities. The deaths of over twenty medical staff and patients received only minor mention in the mainstream US and other western media, which was exactly what was intended. But the facts can’t be disguised. ...

Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, one of the latter day Best-and-Brightest,  spouted the usual nauseating mantra about offering “thoughts and prayers for the innocent lives lost.” ... Excruciatingly, the mighty General Campbell said exactly the same thing — “my thoughts and prayers are with those affected” — the same day.

Not to be outdone, within a few hours of the Carter-Campbell prayers the heart-bleeding President Obama leapt on the condolence wagon and declared that “Michelle and I offer our thoughts and prayers to all of the civilians affected by this incident, their families, and loved ones.”  Then Washington seemed to run out of senior figures (and spouses) who could voice hypocritically sorrowful platitudes about their gunship having slaughtered 13 doctors and nurses and 10 patients (only three children, this time). ...

It’s a pity the hospital’s operating theatre and intensive care unit were reduced to rubble, with 13 doctors and nurses and 10 patients killed. But Kunduz was eventually retaken from the Taliban, which was what was wanted — and, after all there were heaps of “thoughts and prayers” for the dead and wounded from lots of important people.

They had to destroy the hospital to save the town.

Vladimir Putin addresses the press on Syria: "We support the initiative of the United States"

Heading Into Talks, Russia and West Still at Odds Over Syria

Though John Kerry claimed yesterday that the US and Russia had identical views on Syria, Russia’s Foreign Ministry today confirmed that this was not the case, and that there remain “serious differences” between the US view of post-war Syria and Russia’s. ...

Britain also seems to be aggressively condemning Russia going into these talks, with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accusing Russia of “helping ISIS” because so many of their airstrikes are targeting al-Qaeda and other factions that aren’t ISIS. Hammond insisted every attack that isn’t on ISIS is “unhelpful,” even though the US too has been bombing al-Qaeda in Syria at times.

Iraqi PM Resists US Efforts to Escalate Involvement in War

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters today that his most recent meeting with Iraqi PM Hayder Abadi failed to convince him to authorize the deployment of US Apache attack helicopters into the city of Ramadi, along with potential US “advisers.” ...

Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the ISIS war, conceded that Iraq is a “complex environment,” saying it would be difficult for the US to “inflict support” on Iraq over their explicit objections, despite growing eagerness to add troops and helicopters to the conflict.

Carter downplayed his failure to get approval for the deployment, saying he believes Iraq will still eventually accept the offer, and that the helicopters can make a difference “sometime in the future.”

‘Bilateral issue’ no more? US urges Turkish troops to leave Iraq

US Says Turkey Must Pull Unauthorized Forces From Iraq

The United States ramped up pressure Wednesday on Turkey to pull unauthorized troops from Iraq, aiming to defuse a dispute that has rankled relations between two countries central to the fight against the Islamic State group. ...

The flare-up between Iraq and Turkey has hardened into an unwelcome distraction for the U.S., which is working to persuade Turkey to step up its fight against IS while escalating its own military efforts against the extremist group. Biden and other U.S. officials have been working the phones for days, urging both Abadi and Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to resolve the dispute. ...

Even while urging NATO ally Turkey to tread lightly in Iraq, the U.S. has been pressing Turkey to step up its involvement in the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS. A key U.S. priority is for Turkey to finally close a stretch of its border with Syria that IS controls on the Syrian side, denying the extremist group a crucial corridor for funneling foreign fighters into Syria.

In a concerning sign for the U.S.-led coalition, the U.S. announced Wednesday it was pulling a dozen warplanes from a strategic air base in Turkey, one day after Carter visited the base. Turkey's decision earlier in the year to allow the U.S. fighter jets to use Incirlik Air Base, not far from the border with Syria, had been touted as a major advancement that would allow the U.S. to move more quickly against IS targets. The Pentagon said the withdrawal wouldn't decrease the U.S. military's ability to strike targets in Syria.

Turkey Announces Military Base in Qatar

Turkey has announced the establishment of their first overseas military installation in the Middle East, a “multi-purpose” base to station 3,000 troops in Qatar, citing the need of the two nations to confront unnamed “common enemies.” ...

The exact purpose of the Turkish deployment is unclear, as are who the “common enemies” are. Qatar, as a member of the GCC, is historically in the Saudi sphere of influence, but they and Turkey are noteworthy in being among few nations backing the Muslim Brotherhood, a fact which has at times caused a split within the GCC.

USAID Projects Boost Taliban

The United States spent $64,597 to build a wall around a school in Qala Nazir Baba, a village in Logar Province in Afghanistan. It spent an additional $41,792 to rehabilitate an irrigation system in Zoya, a village in Wardak Province.

Both projects were part of a “stabilization” program intended by the United States Agency for International Development to supplement military operations against the Taliban and to demonstrate to Afghans the benefits of supporting the government in Kabul. But according to an internal study evaluating the impact of American assistance in Afghanistan, the result was just the opposite. Villagers believed that the projects would not have been allowed to take place without the Taliban’s approval, and so their support for the Taliban, rather than for the United States or the Afghan government, actually increased because of the aid.

“Worryingly, stabilization programming actually had the perverse effect of increasing support for the Taliban in Taliban-controlled villages,” said the study, carried out for U.S.A.I.D. by Management Systems International, an agency contractor. Qala Nazir Bab and Zoya were among 13 villages where support for the Taliban increased, according to the study, which was released in April. ...

The stabilization projects were part of an ambitious aid program started by President Obama in December 2009 as part of the “civilian surge” he announced along with an increase in American troop levels in Afghanistan. Two of the new stabilization aid programs were created by the aid agency, which spent $304 million through one, called Stability in Key Areas, and $113.9 million through another, the Community Cohesion Initiative, relying on contractors to set up the projects.

The programs provide a case study of the kind of problems that have plagued the effort to aid Afghanistan in what is now America’s longest war. ... Critics say that the United States has poured so much money into Afghanistan with so little supervision that the assistance programs have distorted the Afghan economy and have had unintended consequences. Corruption has been rampant.

“We spent too much money too fast in too small a country with too little oversight,” said John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, who has issued a series of scathing reports about waste, fraud and abuse in aid projects.

Confusion clouds Saudi Arabia's anti-IS coalition

Some key members of the 34-nation anti-Islamic State coalition announced by Saudi Arabia have a fundamental question: just what is it?

Indonesia did not know it was going to be a military alliance, which it does not want to join. A senior Pakistani lawmaker only learned the news from a Reuters reporter.

And while Western governments welcomed this week's initiative, there was uncertainty over how it would work.

"We look forward to learning more about what Saudi Arabia has in mind in terms of this coalition," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday.

Comments from several of the countries that signed up to the initiative appeared to reveal a lack of preparation by Riyadh, which approached partners with an invitation to join a coordination centre but then announced a military alliance.

When Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the new group at a sudden midnight press conference, he called it an "Islamic military coalition", a description that appeared to surprise some of the governments involved.

UK fuelling Yemen civil war with arms sales to Saudi Arabia, says Amnesty

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are fuelling the civil war in Yemen and breach domestic, European and international law obligations, according to legal opinion obtained by Amnesty and other human rights groups.

The UK government has known for months that the weapons systems it supplied to Saudi forces have been used against civilian targets, the report released on Thursday maintains. ...

The legal opinion of Prof Philippe Sands QC, Prof Andrew Clapham and Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh of Matrix Chambers, was commissioned by Amnesty International UK and Saferworld, both members of the Control Arms coalition.

The lawyers argue that, on the basis of the information available, the British government is breaching its obligations under the UK’s consolidated criteria on arms exports, the EU common position on arms exports and the arms trade treaty by continuing to authorise transfers of weapons and related equipment to Saudi Arabia.

The lawyers conclude: “Any authorisation by the UK of the transfer of weapons and related items to Saudi Arabia … in circumstances where such weapons are capable of being used in the conflict in Yemen, including to support its blockade of Yemeni territory, and in circumstances where their end use is not restricted, would constitute a breach by the UK of its obligations under domestic, European and international law.”

The legal opinion also states that the UK government can, since at least May 2015, be deemed to have “actual knowledge ... of the use by Saudi Arabia of weapons, including UK-supplied weapons, in attacks directed against civilians ... in violation of international law.”

US and Cuba reach understanding on restoring commercial flights

The US and Cuba have reached an understanding on restoring regularly scheduled commercial flights, Cuban and American officials said on Wednesday on the eve of the anniversary of detente between the Cold War foes.

The advance opens the way for US airlines to begin flying to Cuba within months in what would be the biggest business deal struck as the two countries try to normalize relations.

Officials on both sides described it as an understanding on aviation but not yet a formal agreement and they hoped to reach a formal deal within hours or days. The understanding was reached on Wednesday in Washington.

Right now, American and Cuban travelers must fly on charter flights that are complicated to book, rarely involve an online portal and often force prospective travelers to email documents and payment information back and forth with an agent. Those flying must sometimes arrive at the airport four hours in advance and strict baggage limits apply.

Investigation Links Potential Cover-Up to Chicago Mayor's Top Aides

Chicago mayor and powerful political operative Rahm Emanuel appears increasingly entangled in his own cover-up of a white police officer's deadly shooting of 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald last year.

A new investigation by NBC5 reveals that Emanuel's top aides knew about the video depicting officer Jason Van Dyke's brutal shooting of McDonald well before the mayor claims to have been fully informed. The findings were based on internal emails obtained by the outlet through a Freedom of Information Act request. ...

What's more, when city officials were forced earlier this month to release additional surveillance footage from a nearby Burger King, it showed an unexplained 80-minute gap covering the time the teenager was killed.

The missing footage aligns with the account of Jay Darshane, the manager of the Burger King that is located roughly 50 yards from the killing, who told a grand jury in November that police tampered with the restaurant's surveillance system, erasing roughly 86 minutes of footage.

Revealed: how Google enlisted members of US Congress it bankrolled to fight $6bn EU antitrust case

Google enlisted members of the US congress, whose election campaigns it had funded, to pressure the European Union to drop a €6bn antitrust case which threatens to decimate the US tech firm’s business in Europe.

The coordinated effort by senators and members of the House of Representatives, as well as by a congressional committee, formed part of a sophisticated, multimillion-pound lobbying drive in Brussels, which Google has significantly ramped up as it fends off challenges to its dominance in Europe. ...

Capitol Hill’s aggressive intervention in Brussels came as the European parliament prepared to vote through a resolution in November 2014 that called on EU policymakers to consider breaking up Google’s online business into separate companies.

Republican and Democrat senators and congressmen, many of whom have received significant campaign donations from Google totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaned on parliament in a series of similar – and in some cases identical – letters sent to key MEPs. ...

Google’s expansion of its lobbying activities in Brussels has come in response to a growing number of threats to its business in the EU, where it dominates about 90% of the search market. It argues that its rivals lobby just as hard against it, if not harder.

In April, a long-running antitrust investigation came to a head when the newly installed EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, formally accused Google of abusing its market dominance by systematically favouring its shopping price-comparison service.

Google, which could face a heavy fine of more than €6bn (£4.3bn) if found guilty, has rejected Vestager’s case as “wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics”. But this is only one of the battles Google is fighting in Brussels.

The European commission has also launched a separate competition investigation into Google’s mobile operating system, Android, and indicated additional inquiries are being considered.

[See also: How Google's antitrust siege began not far from Windsor Castle ramparts - js]

Why You Should Be Concerned by the Fed's Interest Rate Hike

US Congress to Corporations: Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Along with a $1.1 trillion spending bill that will keep government funded through September, the U.S. Congress is on the verge of passing a Republican-backed, $629 billion package of tax cuts that one group calls "a lobbyist-wrapped Christmas present for our nation's biggest corporations."

The package of bills unveiled Wednesday is facing criticism for its lifting of the long-standing oil export ban, as well as its inclusion of a controversial cybersecurity measure that watchdogs say will quietly expand mass surveillance. The budget bill also repeals a law requiring Country Of Origin Labels (COOL) on meats—a move Food & Water Watch decries as "a holiday gift to the meatpacking industry from Congress."

To be sure, the package also includes tax incentives for wind and solar energy and permanent extensions for the enhanced child tax credit and earned income tax credit, which will help working families.

But Bob McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, says the "good things" in the package "come at far too high a price."

Specifically citing the "active financing exception" for multinational financial corporations and the "much-abused research credit," McIntyre said: "It is outrageous that lawmakers have fought all year over how to pay for essential public investments like our highway program, yet they have no problem putting hundreds of billions in mostly wasteful corporate tax breaks onto our nation's credit card."

The active financing exemption, which dates to 1990, is a Wall Street priority that would permanently allow financial companies to defer taxes paid on interest and dividends earned overseas. As David Dayen wrote Thursday at the New Republic, "This creates incentives for accounting tricks to make it look like interest, dividends, or other income comes from overseas. It effectively legalizes foreign tax havens."

Why Are Drug Monopolies Running Amok? Meet Deborah Feinstein

One of the biggest policy debates in America today concerns the unparalleled rise in prescription drug costs. Enormous pharmaceutical industry profit margins; tales of companies like Turing, Valeant, and Gilead Sciences jacking up the price of life-saving medicines; and a spate of industry mergers (the latest being a $150 billion deal between Pfizer and Allergan, designed mostly to lower their tax rates) have lawmakers and presidential candidates scrambling for answers.

But one point has been lost among the various proposals: The U.S. has had antitrust laws on the books for over 100 years to reduce the power of monopolies and restrain consumer costs. They could come in handy in situations like these.

The problem is that the federal agency responsible for antitrust oversight of drug companies — the Federal Trade Commission — has a terrible track record of supporting the public interest.

And the reason why can be seen in the career trajectory of one woman: Deborah Feinstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, the agency’s main enforcement entity. During Feinstein’s tenure, the FTC has largely abandoned its attempts to block mergers, instead favoring consent agreements that have a history of failing to achieve their goals.

Feinstein has gone back and forth through the so-called revolving door. From 1989 to 1991, she worked at the FTC as an assistant director in the Bureau of Competition. In 1995, she moved to high-powered corporate law firm Arnold & Porter, becoming a partner and the head of the firm’s antitrust practice. ... In 2013, Feinstein returned to the FTC to run the Bureau of Competition, while reportedly speaking fondly about how her private practice experience informed her decisions.

Arnold & Porter’s antitrust group, in fact, has a pipeline into government service. Lawyers from the group have become chair of the FTC, general counsel of the FTC, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, and head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. The current Antitrust Division chief, William Baer, had two stints at the FTC in between his tenure at Arnold & Porter. Robert Pitofsky, former chair of the FTC, also went back and forth between the agency and Arnold & Porter. And it’s an open secret that Feinstein will return to Arnold & Porter again after her stint is up.

the horse race

How Democrats and Republicans Collude to Block the Vote

Republicans Block the Vote by Blocking Voters. Democrats Cooperate With Republicans to Block Third Parties.

Both Democrats and Republicans know voters cannot cast their ballots for peace and justice candidates or parties if no such people or parties are allowed on the ballot. ...

How do they manage this? Since there's no Constitutional right to vote, every state gets to make up its own ballot access rules for parties. At least 9 states require third parties to come up with ten, twenty, thirty thousand and more signatures of registered voters in order to appear on the ballot. North Carolina requires 89,000 signatures and Georgia 50,000. Alabama and Tennessee require about 30,000. Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma and a couple others require 24 and 25 thousand, Indiana 22,600 and there are more. ...

So the two capitalist parties have locked down the electoral system for their masters. This ain't new news. What do you want, a revolution? I know I do. If that's what we ultimately desire, why should we even bother with the electoral stuff at all?

The simple answer is that people ain't ready for no revolution, or not nearly enough of them. The next steps in that direction involve an enormous amount of small d democratic persuasion and organization. Harriet Tubman said she could have freed a lot more slaves if they had only understood they were indeed slaves. That hasn't changed. You cannot organize hopeless people, people resigned to their fate. You can only organize people who believe they deserve a better deal than they're getting now.

The magic of elections is that it's a time when people are listening for and more willing than most other times to take part in conversations about how collective action on their part can make their lives better. The left cannot provide that conversation if we're not in the hunt, if we're not running our own campaigns with candidates in our own parties with our own agendas. ...

Without a party outside and to the left of Democrats, we can't wage our own campaigns, we can't engage people in the real conversations about what matters to them and what can be done. Without a party, campaigns and candidates outside and to the left of Democrats we fail to engage with people at the times they're actually listening.

Making Presidential Campaign History, Sanders Breaks Individual Contribution Record

The Bernie Sanders campaign announced Thursday that the Vermont senator has officially received two million contributions, putting him ahead—at this point in the election season—of every other candidate in U.S. history who was not a sitting president.

Top aides say Sanders could even beat President Barack Obama's 2012 record. "In his run for a second term, reports indicated Obama receiving around 2.2 million contributions by the end of 2011, a figure Sanders still could surpass," reads a campaign statement.

The average donation this week was $20, in what Sanders says is evidence that he is accountable to "people power"—not corporate contributors.

The number of contributions does not reflect the exact number of donors, as some have given more than once. However, Sanders' campaign says the number of people pitching in is approaching 1 million, according to the Washington Post.

Bernie Sanders Calls Fed Rate Hike Bad News for Working Families

The Federal Reserve's announcement on Wednesday that it would raise interest rates 0.25 percent was met with strong criticism on Tuesday with Sen. Bernie Sanders blasting the decision as "bad news for working families" and the country's "disappearing middle class." ...

"At a time when real unemployment is nearly 10 percent and youth unemployment is off the charts, we need to do everything possible to create millions of good-paying jobs and raise the wages of the American people," Sanders said.

"When millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates is bad news for working families," he added.

Economists are concerned that Wednesday's rate hike will imperil the country's incomplete economic recovery by stagnating job growth and wages. This mostly threatens those at bottom of the employment pyramid, who were most impacted by the recession—and even in the recovery saw national income shift four percentage points from wages to corporate profits.

the evening greens

I sure hope that the author of this neoliberal slaughter, Governor Rick Snyder, along with his minions get serious jail time for knowingly poisoning 100,000 people.

Flint's 'toxic soup' polluted water worse for children than thought, doctor says

The doctor who discovered that the children of Flint, Michigan, were at risk of irreparable brain damage from lead poisoning in the city’s water supply has warned that the problem of “toxic soup” coming out of their household taps may have affected many more than originally thought.

All children under the age of six – between 8,000 and 9,000 of them – have been put in jeopardy by Flint’s contaminated water.

As many as 15% of those tested in certain city hotspots have shown dangerous levels of lead in their blood, according to Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the local hospital who raised the alarm in the summer about metal in the water. ...

The newly elected mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, declared a state of emergency on Monday night,calling for federal assistance to deal with what she labeled a “manmade disaster”.

City and state officials repeatedly declared the water was safe and refused to switch back to the safer lake supply until October 2015, shortly after Hanna-Attisha revealed that new tests showed alarming levels of lead in the blood of the city’s youngest children, at an age that makes them particularly vulnerable to such poisoning.

CIRCLE OF LIES: Dodging Blame for the Flint River Disaster

Meanwhile, Snyder's government appears to be engaging in a coverup:

When did state know kids in Flint were lead poisoned?

When did the State of Michigan first learn that kids in Flint had been poisoned by lead in the city's drinking water?

This is one of the most critical questions to answer in the aftermath of a public health crisis that's still unfolding in one of the state's largest cities.

And it shouldn't be a hard question to answer.

But when I asked Gov. Rick Snyder this week, he said he couldn't recall.

Officials at the state department of health say they didn't know what was happening until a Flint pediatrician released her own analysis in September -- even though data previously collected by the state showed the same trend, a reversal in a decades-long decline in the percentage of kids with lead in their blood.

And the health department has been stalling a Virginia Tech University researcher who has been trying to get public records that could show who knew what, and when.

It's ridiculous. Immediately after Snyder acknowledged there was a problem in Flint, the Free Press editorial board encouraged him not to slow-walk the postmortem. Snyder has appointed an after-action task force to find out what happened, and he told the Free Press this week that he's waiting for that report to provide answers to many of these questions -- but answers should certainly be readily available for the man in charge of the state departments involved in this fiasco.

So inconsistency and obfuscation continue.

[Click the link for more damning details. - js]

Poisoning the Children of Flint, Michigan

And Just Like That, "Free Trade" Pact Trounces US Law

Claims that trade pacts like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not trump public health and environmental policies were revealed to be fiction on Tuesday after Congress, bending to the will of the World Trade Organization, killed the popular country-of-origin label (COOL) law. ...

Congress successfully revoked the mandate just over one week after the WTO ruled that the U.S. could be forced to pay $1 billion annually to its NAFTA partners, which argued that the law "accorded unfavorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock." ...

The move flies in the face of statements made by President Barack Obama, who—arguing in favor of the 12-nation TPP, pledged that "no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws."

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

GOP Candidates Compete on “Toughness” by Pledging to Kill Children

The 500-mile front against Isis: Jihadis cannot shock and terrify as they did at the time of the fall of Mosul

By Funding Foreign Militaries, the US Is Spreading Terrorism

I Got Your Nuclear Triad Right Here

Speaking the Unspeakable: Why the Establishment Wants to Silence Donald Trump

Museum of Tomorrow: a captivating invitation to imagine a sustainable world

What Global Climate Deal? UK Lawmakers OK Fracking Under National Parks

A Little Night Music

Floyd Jones - On The Road Again

Floyd Jones - Playhouse

Floyd Jones + Eddie Taylor- Hard Times

Floyd Jones - Overseas

Floyd Jones - Schooldays on my Mind

Floyd Jones - Dark Road

Floyd Jones - Rising Wind

Floyd Jones - Big World

Floyd Jones + Snooky Pryor - Keep What You Got

Floyd Jones - You can't live long

Floyd Jones - Mr Freddy's Blues

Floyd Jones + Big Walter - Talk About Your Daddy

Floyd Jones - Any Old Lonesome Day

Floyd Jones - Skinny mama

Floyd Jones - Floyd's Blues

Eddie Taylor & Floyd Jones - Peach Tree Blues & Train Fare Home

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mimi's picture

reminds me of the song that was posted by Shah this morning ... "gotta be cruel to be kind". Great song by Nick Lowe. But you see I have a little problem with Ted Cruz , err - Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, one of the latter day Best-and-Brightest - I always wondered why nobody seemed to have said something about him. I find him horrible. But .. I guess we have to forgive him, because Michelle and Obama offered their thoughts and prayers to all of the civilians affected by this incident, their families, and loved ones ... sure that's the proper thing to say for a President, what else could he have done ... may be no bombing?

I can't wait for the last days of the latter day best and brightest ...

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joe shikspack's picture

the title has its origin in a vietnam era quote of a military person, "we had to destroy the village to save it." the source is at the top of the article:

‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’, a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town [Bến Tre] regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.

–Reporter Peter Arnett, in Vietnam, February 7, 1968, verified by US Captain Michael D Miller, who was present.

i suppose that destroying the hospital to save the town is no more ironic than fighting for peace in the first place. once you've traversed the initial irony, a cascade of ironies follow.

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mimi's picture

wasn't aware of the that saying. Avalanche of ironies... I wished for some positive visions that are not ironic sometimes. Well I go listen to some music.

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detroitmechworks's picture

But that's not a bad thing. Always nice to have the wisdom of those who've seen more political campaigns than me.

Far as music goes, recently my Pandora has been tossing some really fun things at me. I'm a fan of symphony, as well as heavy metal and other compositions, and wouldn't you know it, there's FINALLY some music that combines my favorites... Keep in mind, VERY eclectic, and a little silly, but totally what I've been enjoying.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

joe shikspack's picture

you might be, but heh, who cares? if it matters, the first campaign i volunteered for was george mcgovern.

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mimi's picture

were both campaign managers for McGovern in Texas. Well, too bad I have no connection to that time frame. Wasn't in the US in that time and lived in another "planet".

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lotlizard's picture

which is a very big deal for someone with Asperger's syndrome — even though it wasn't yet recognized as such in 1972, I'd always known I wasn't good at “reading” and dealing with other people. Yet McGovern inspired me to try to overcome my usual “hang-ups” (as inhibitions and aversions were called in those days).

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mimi's picture

you obviously have read all the time, communicate what you read so very well to us and in my mind are very capable of social interactions with all of us here. I miss your comments already when you take a break for a day or two. I just checked the "expert MD", webmd, and it reminded me of a girl friend my son had once for quite some time, whose educational professional skills were in teaching children with autism. I remember learning that the diagnosis for autism increased tremendously, when the categorization scheme for it was changed in the DSM IV to DSM V (and therefore good money could be made to get an education in that field of autism). oh, well, the problem I may have is that though I am not anti-science at all, (basically had most of my basic education in highschool and college in science), but that nowadays I have developed quite a bit of skepticism as to what is published and considered firm, factual results of scientific research.

Anyhow. Kudos, lotlizard, I am just shy and insecure and can't get over myself to talk freely with people I don't know and knock at their doors to persuade them to vote for a specific candidate, so if you could do it with what you say were your problems with "hang-ups", it's all the more encouraging to learn that from you.

May be this article is doing a good job of expressing what's in my mind: You Do Not Have Asperger’s - What psychiatry’s new diagnostic manual means for people on the autism spectrum. and this one Autism Spectrum: Are You On It? - If so, you're in good company. From Asperger’s to “Asperger’s,” how the spectrum became quite so all-inclusive.

heh, I know, I am in very good company and loved to be you "hang-up canvassing comrade in arms". Now we only need the "perfect candidate" to overcome our "hung-up-ed-ness".

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joe shikspack's picture

mimi, i think that what lotlizard was trying to read is people's non-verbal communications. a very significant part of person-to-person communication is non-verbal, expressed in facial cues, "body language," tone of voice, etc.

folks with autism (and aspergers) are prone to experience this difficulty in reading non-verbal cues as well as difficulty in transmitting the proper cues.

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mimi's picture

just wanted to express that I find her communications so much more important, as basically we all "have the asperger's syndrome" so to speak, when we communicate for hours online, deprived of person-to-person communication, and that whatever people might see as disadvantage in her diminished capabilities in the space of person-to-person communication, she makes up exponentially in this online medium here, which is non-personal. May be I have expressed myself insensitively or wrongly. I apologize.

We all spend much more time communicating online, which is a not a person-to-person communication, so, I feel she is a wonderful person to talk to online. May be, because I have not many chances to engage in person-to-person conversations either, I was touched by her wording. Now I am all nervous I have said something painful to her. I hope she is not upset.

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joe shikspack's picture

May be I have expressed myself insensitively or wrongly. I apologize.

i don't think there is any need for that. i was just thinking that maybe you had missed lotlizard's meaning in her comment and i was trying to help out.

i don't think that any feelings were harmed in the production of this comment series. Smile

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mimi's picture

from your side. I often need it.

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mimi's picture

I think it's just a strong piece: How Democrats and Republicans Collude to Block the Vote. I excerpted the parts I felt very strongly about but lost the comment. Now I am too lazy to do it again. It explains very well how "Republicans Block the Vote by Blocking Voters. Democrats Cooperate With Republicans to Block Third Parties" and then about "Who's Working to Un-Block the Vote? Jill Stein and the Green Party? How is this happening?" and finally he talks about the plan B, if Sanders doesn't win the primaries. Ok, I thought it was well worth it reading the whole thing.

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joe shikspack's picture

and has lots of good insights that fair use would not allow for the abstraction of.

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So much in your post that I would like to comment on, but I'm on my phone. Snyder is a scandal-laden SOB. Once in a while the newspapers talk about the kids in Flint, but not much. Rahm is another one that ought to be tarred and feathered. I hope they get him kicked out of office.

I sat next to a woman last week in a meeting. She kept blowing her nose. I wanted to get up and move away from her, but I didn't. Stupid me. Been in bed for two days sick with cold/flu.

I tried to get into c99 an hour or so ago and couldn't. All I could get was the left hand column, and no matter which or how many links I pushed I went nowhere. All seems fine now.

My finger is tired of typing. Thanks for all the news. ME makes my eyes cross.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

joe shikspack's picture

i am just amazed that snyder and his managers are not facing crowds of people with torches, pitchforks, tar and feathers. what he's done is just way beyond the pale and it cannot be let go without serious consequences. frankly, just losing his job is not enough for crimes of the scale that he has committed.

sorry to hear about your cold, i hope that it passes soon.

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I will be amazed. The Republicans have a lock on this state, and the media is useless. They endorsed him for re-election. In Mi, the GOP owns: House, Senate, Gov, SOS, AG and the Michigam Supreme Court. Snyder and the GOP will pay no penalty politically, let alone in the criminal justice system. If anything, the taxpayers will got docked for lawsuits and other remedies. This is what the Democratic Party has to show for success in MI.

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"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

JayRaye's picture

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Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

JayRaye's picture

Well, the story about Flint is deeply disturbing but not in the least surprising. Inner city kids don't count for much.

Our neighborhood was experimented on by the US army when I was just little. They used the roof our elementary school, just a short walk from our apartment to spray us with cadmium-something, I forget. There were effects reported years later, the baby boys of women in the area were affect, it seems. My mother was pregnant at the time and that baby boy was still born. We were living with our aunt, uncle and girl cousins at the time. One of those cousins had a baby that died of crib death. My son is disabled. A brother born a few years later is disabled.

The story broke in the mid nineties. Wellstone promised to try and get some answers, but of course he's dead.

But then, of course, DK keeps saying how privileged poor white people are. Guess the spray skipped all the poor whites in the neighborhood and only landed on the people of the color.

Don't know if anyone here has ever seen the effects of lead poisoning. I have. So sever that schizophrenia looks good in comparison. (I worked with people struggling with schizophrenia for 8 years.)

And who will pay for the care of all of those children affected? Fat chance that those responsible will be forced to pay the medical bills anytime soon. Perhaps after years and years of litigation, and then the lawyers have to have their cut first.

Army Test Raises Accusations
Data On 1953 Minneapolis Experiment Is Demanded
June 15, 1994|By Rogers Worthington, Tribune Staff Writer.

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Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

joe shikspack's picture

i so sorry to hear of your family's exposure to heavy metals "courtesy" of the us army. if bernie manages to whip up that revolution, it would be nice to get full disclosure from the military about all of the experiments that they surreptitiously ran on both soldiers and civilian populations.

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JayRaye's picture

It's not all that far from where are farm was.

Native Americans don't matter either, and always handy when the Army wants some human guinea pigs.

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Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.-Lucy Parsons

Pluto's Republic's picture

No time today. I'm working on a piece about a la carte punishment in US prisons, which I will not inflict on you. It's a horrid social sickness.

Back to EB (thanks joe), the Saudi alliance against ISIS has been a hoot from the moment it was announced. Several countries that were named as part of the alliance, today denied that they knew anything about it. That includes Indonesia and some random South Sea island nation armed largely with outrigger canoes. And, there appears to be a problem with the lack of targets. More that a few pundits are jumping in with suggested bombing locations in Saudi Arabia, itself. Others suggest dropping sternly worded leaflets on ISIS strongholds.

Domestic politics is not my thing, once it gets as granular as "parties," a distinction that I no longer acknowledge, but a few things caught my notice today. (Sorry if this was already covered.)

There exists a new alliance between the folks with Putin Derangement Syndrome and those suffering with Trump Derangement Syndrome. They can now join forces. Vladimir Putin, in his annual three-hour talk show with call in questions from media and Russian citizens, spoke of only one Presidential candidate in the US: Donald Trump.

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin found a moment Thursday during a wide-ranging news conference to offer a strong endorsement of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, calling the billionaire presidential candidate the “absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Putin consecrated a budding international bromance between the two men as he commented on the U.S. campaign for the White House, saying that Russia would work with “whomever the American voters choose” but expressing special praise for Trump.

Trump said in October that he would “get along very well” with Putin and applauded the Russian leader for his intervention against the Islamic State in Syria. But until Thursday, Trump’s praise had gone unreciprocated.

“He’s a very lively man, talented without doubt,” Putin said when journalists approached him after the news conference and asked about Trump. “He’s saying he wants to go to another level of relations — closer, deeper relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.”

As a Putin watcher (and, a Trump watcher), my guess: it was tongue-in-cheek on Putin's part. He is likely chuckling along with the rest of the world at the ridiculousness of the US Presidential election campaigns.


For Bernie Sanders fans, I was impressed by this endorsement:

Democracy for America, the progressive group that helped lead the move to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president, threw its support firmly behind Behind Sanders on Thursday.

The decision to endorse Sanders followed a survey of the organization's national membership in which the Vermont senator was the choice of 88 percent, while Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton received 10 percent and former Maryland governor O'Malley registered at less than 1 percent. More than 270,000 votes were cast, according to the group.

It is the first time in the organization's 11-year history that it has opted to back a presidential candidate. And the decision is at odds with the preference of Democracy for America's founder, former Vermont governor Howard Dean. He's backing Clinton.

I decided it could be a big deal (you guys would know better) because the normal tone of the comments re Sanders suddenly turned vicious, after all this time. I believe I could see a New Personality Derangement coalescing in real time. In DC circles, Sanders was supposed to be a footnote, I guess, and this must have been some kind of game changer. You tell me.

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Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
— Voltaire

joe shikspack's picture

trump certainly isn't courting the neocon vote by expressing warm fuzzies for putin.

i did get a kick out of one of putin's comments about it:

Earlier, during a question and answer session, the Russian president was asked what he thought about the US presidential race, and said he was ready to work with whomever the American people chose.

“We have never closed ourselves off, whomever is elected there. It is they who are always trying to ‘help out’ with what needs to be done inside our country, who should be elected and who shouldn’t, in what way,” Putin said. “We never do this, never interfere.”

regarding dfa, i'm really not sure if it's a big deal or not. on the one hand, it shows a very public cleavage between the dem establishment and the base. when you couple that with bernie picking up the communication workers of america endorsement, though, it could indicate something of a tipping point.

on the other hand, dfa and other dem base groups have the numbers, the neoliberal ratfuckers have control of the party apparatus and i would expect that they would do just about anything (including crap like scheduling debates at times when the audience is smallest) to keep bernie from taking the nomination out of the hands of their chosen corporate lackey. and the media wurlitzer is demonstrating that it intends to help sink bernie.

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Shahryar's picture

that is, from now on the powers that be will ignore it

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joe shikspack's picture

that's probably true. i suspect though that the powers that be only paid dfa lip service in the past anyway, though.

it's interesting though, dfa's wikipedia entry says it has about a million members. cwa, who endorsed bernie today has 700,000 members. there are a lot of activists among these people and they raise a lot of those tasty, small donations that politicians love so much (to brag about).

it will be interesting to see if the base finally gets tired of its unrequited love for the democratic party.

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Shahryar's picture

they set a fairly unreasonable 2/3 mark and I bet they were shocked that somebody cleared it.

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snoopydawg's picture

He knew damned well that the IDS portion of the TPP would force countries to bow down to the corporations. It's not even in effect yet and congress has already let the WTO dictate terms to our country. It's going to be a lot worse for smaller countries because there is a clause on it that says that the U.S. has the right to approve or disapprove of other country's governments and laws.

It's good to see Iraq telling the U.S. to piss off by not allowing troops back in to their country. The only way that will happen is that Iraq gets to bring charges against any of the U.S. troops that break the laws.
That was the reason Obama finally ordered the troops out of Iraq.
Any one remember his campaign to end the war asap? He was trying to keep the troops there after the SOFA was up, but Iraq would only agree if they had jurisdiction over US troops.
Now we couldn't have the troops being held accountable for their crimes could we?
Besides why would you invite the country back in when it destroyed your country in the first place?
Only one more year until 'the best president since FDR ' is out of office.
God help us if Hillary wins.

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It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

detroitmechworks's picture

Kinda like IOKIYAR,

only difference is that not only do you get your way, you get to be self-righteous about it too.


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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Shahryar's picture

I'm working on a piece with a whole bunch of Bush moves and the reaction that we'd have seen if Obama had done them. Katrina for one (heckuva job).

Apparently "you knew he wasn't a progressive" excuses everything.

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joe shikspack's picture

obama was just using the politician's stock-in-trade with a slippery wording that is trivially true. it is trivially true that the trade agreements can't "force" the us to do change its laws. the downside of the trivial truth is that the agreement contains mechanisms that are powerful incentives to capitulate, such as having to pay off corporations enormous piles of money for their "losses."

it is quite enjoyable to see a country telling the empire "no," and so far, getting away with it.

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snoopydawg's picture

Hillary's roles in Haiti and Yugoslavia among other countries.
The Clinton foundation has so much blood and misery on its hands and if we had a functioning media, their actions would be enough to sink her presidency.
Remember when Bill and George were all over TV after the earthquake begging for people to send money to help rebuild Haiti?
First the U.S. military took 33% of the money for 'security' reasons.
Then the Clintons imported the formaldehyde tainted trailers left over from Katrina. Then they made sure that the sweat shops and casinos were up and running.
After almost 6 years why are Haitians still living in tents?
Do a google search for the Clinton foundation scandals and see how many hits come up. The foundation has been accused of money laundering among other things and if anyone but the Clintons were doing these things, the FBI would be all over them.
I'm sure that if I posted what is in the article over at Kos if either be called a Hillary hater or I was spouting GOP talking points.
Hers supporters can't stand to read anything that tarnishes her reputation.
I keep reading about how she has fought for women and children. But not the women and children is Muslim countries who are either dead or homeless.
Or the women and children in Haiti, or the ones that got kicked off of welfare. Or the women and children who have fathers in prison after the crime bill was passed.
Or the women and children who saw their parents, fathers or mothers lose their jobs after nafta was passed.
I wonder how many women and children will be affected after the TPP passes that she spent her 4 years as SOS pushing.
I guess that the people who think that Obama saved the economy and got out of two wars(which are still going on on) and hasn't started any new ones except for his drones in Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia and other countries, will see Hillary's presidency in the same light.

Edit. (See how easy it is to make an edit your comment button Markos?) Smile

I know that Bernie has said that he doesn't want to go negative, but I've read a few articles that said that he should start hitting Hillary about what she did during her time as SOS. That's not any more negative then what many diarists on Kos are doing. OPOL, geebeebee VL baker and others aren't being negative IMO, they're bringing up the difference between the two of them. One is for peace and prosperity and the other one is for more wars and austerity. Hillary tried to push for more troops in Afghanistan, tried to push him into a war on Syria, pushed for fracking in countless countries and many other things.
Many people have said that her 'performance' at the Benghazi hearings have shown them that she can take the heat of whatever the GOP throws at her and they've switch from voting for her instead of Bernie because of that. I have no words for that type of thinking.
What one article said was that the GOP only focused on why 4 people died and why she didn't do more to protect them.
What they should have been asking is what Stevens and the FBI were doing in Benghazi.
They were running guns that came from Libya and giving them to the 'friendly' terrorist groups that the U.S. was arming, funding and training. And the GOP was well aware of this.
Bernie needs to take the gloves off.
Another edit from an article on counterpunch.
The Real Trouble With Bernie

Sanders deserves condemnation for letting the Clintons off the hook – not for their politics, awful as it is, but for their role, Hillary’s especially, in spreading murder and mayhem throughout the Middle East and Africa, undermining stability in the region, and causing terrorism to flourish. He deserves condemnation too for not opposing Hillary’s efforts to breathe new life into the old Cold War.

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It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

Most unoriginal defense

A Saudi millionaire has been cleared of raping a teenager after claiming he might have accidentally penetrated the 18-year-old when he tripped and fell.

Some crime

Thailand’s strict laws making it a crime to insult the monarchy entered new territory on Monday when a factory worker was charged with disparaging the king’s dog.

In a case brought in a Thai military court, the worker, Thanakorn Siripaiboon, was charged with making a “sarcastic” Internet post related to the king’s pet. He also faces separate charges of sedition and insulting the king.

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lotlizard's picture

In the Free World™ — or America World™ — every kind of tyranny gets a pass . . .

. . . as long as it's not that icky thingy (communism, socialism) where the super-rich are kept from using their Magic Freedom Rules™ (capitalism and imperialism) to control and squeeze everyone else.

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hecate's picture

a good night.

I'm finishing up a brief for a kid facing life in prison, that's going to get him instead three years. Since he's already been in for well over two, he'll be out by spring.

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LapsedLawyer's picture

your endeavors for the young man. Is it some kind of "three strikes" thing where something on his record automatically elevates littering to the equivalent of murder?

Anyway, I often think of this song at this time of year. I think it fits quite comfortably, if not exactly, for situations your client is in:

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"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."
-- John Lennon

joe shikspack's picture

i hope that you have many more good nights like that!

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