Links 9/2/13

How One Nuclear Missile Base Is Battling Ground Squirrels Smithsonian

Labor Economics 101: Few Jobs Means Bad Jobs CEPR

Analysis: Caterpillar plan illustrates risk of variable pay plans Reuters

Calls to raise minimum wage return with Labor Day AP

Dealing With Cause of Wilmington Violence Through “The People’s Report” NBC Philadelphia

Descendants of slaves hold out against coal mining AP

Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function Science

To Whom It May Concern The Epicurean Dealmaker. What’s a nice banker like you doing in a place like this?

Larry Summers Helped Torpedo Elizabeth Warren CFPB Nomination HuffPo. Well, Warren is a woman, so what did you expect?

2013Q2: Faster GDP Growth Econobrowser

Crop pests and pathogens move polewards in a warming world Nature (skippy)


Congress: 1-877-762-8762 White House: 202-456-1111, 202-456-1444

Obama ‘has the right’ to strike Syria regardless of Congress vote, says Kerry Guardian

Obama, Congress and Syria Glenn Greenwald, Guardian

Suez Has Already Happened Easily Distracted

SOLDIERS SPEAK OUT ON SYRIA: ‘We Are Stretched Thin, Tired, And Broke’ Business Insider

AUMF Crescent emptywheel

Obama’s Carte Blanche War Resolution Moon of Alabama

The Administration’s Proposed Syria AUMF Is Very Broad [UPDATE on Ground Troops] Jack Goldsmith, Lawfare

Something to Keep in Mind As We Discuss Syria: The Enemy of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy Mike the Mad Biologist 

The Syrian angle Obama and the media don’t mention Undernews. Dueling pipelines.

A Guide to Syria’s Best Citizen Journalism TNR. Well, as long as Sullivan’s not the editor…

Egypt: Mohamed Morsi may stand trial on violence charges Guardian

Egypt makes arrests over Sinai police deaths Al Jazeera

Tom Hayden: Egypt is the Liberals’ Slaughterhouse The Rag Blog

Iraq killings reach levels last seen in 2008 NBC

Has Burning Man become so mainstream that even four-star generals are attending? Former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark ‘spotted’ at festival Daily Mail

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

What’s the NSA picking out of your phone calls? Just ‘unvolunteered truths’ Digital Trends

Test ‘reveals Facebook, Twitter and Google snoop on emails’: Study of net giants spurs new privacy concerns Daily Mail

A Data Broker Offers a Peek Behind the Curtain Times

We interviewed the guy who prank-called the NSA WaPo

Welcome to the United States: Discriminated, detained, searched, interrogated (special report) ZDNet (furzy mouse).

‘Find the best defense attorney you can’ CJR

The Most Surprising Things About America, According To An Indian International Student Business Insider

Where Was China?: Why the Twentieth-Century Was Not a Chinese Century: A Deleted Scene from My “Slouching Towards Utopia?: The Economic History of the Twentieth Century” Ms. Brad DeLong

Filipinos say no to pork (barrel politics) Waging Nonviolence

The Success of the Mindfuck High Arka

Stigmergic epistemology, stigmergic cognition Cognitive Systems Research (allcoppedout). Turgid prose, interesting ideas.

Drones and drama geographical imaginations

Everybody Is Missing Miley Cyrus’ Sad And Devastating Message Business Insider. Pair with the immediately preceding for zeitgeist watch.

Do You Believe in Sharing? The Undercover Economist. So-called “tragedy of the commons” successfully debunked and has been for years.

Why The Sharing Economy Isn’t Whimsley

Antidote du jour:


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. diptherio

      Scary…if you ever happen across this in the wild, get away as quickly as possible. Momma mooses are even more dangerous than momma bears, in my experience. Moose are 6-7 feet at the shoulder…I hope the photographer was using a very big telephoto lens…cute though.

  1. Walter Map

    Mr. Kerry is mistaken:

    Obama ‘has the right’ to strike Syria regardless of Congress vote, says Kerry

    At some point we must have a discussion of the nature of “rights”, “powers”, and “privileges”, because it is quite clear that these necessary distinctions are lost on, well, just about everybody.

    Under a constitutional government, the people have “rights”, whether inherent or defined under the law. Public officials have “powers”. Other entities have “privileges”. The president may be granted the power to wage war by a specific act of Congress. Corporations have “privileges” conditionally granted under the law.

    For the Executive to assume it has the “right” to wage war represents a usurpation of power and a perversion of the law: it has no authority to assert such a claim. Equally, the courts have no authority to grant “rights” to associations of persons such as corporations. Further, Congress is in no way entitled to delegate its authority to legislate, including its authority to legislate the power to make war. None has any authority to deny the inalienable rights of the people, because the people alone are sovereign, not the government, and to assert otherwise also represents a usurpation of power and a perversion of the law.

    That’s the theory, anyway: in practice, those who lust for wealth and power disregard all this as a matter of course precisely because the U.S. has a totalitarian government that merely pretends to be constitutional just to make it look good. ‘Huxley’ summarized the real situation on Greenwald’s Salon blog years ago in his commentary on the Citizen’s United decision:

    In practice, the rights of Americans are granted by the Constitution, but those can be expanded, reduced retail or wholesale, or restricted to certain groups by people in the government, depending on how much of the government’s power those people control. Happens all the time.

    When people in the government expand or reduce rights they aren’t constrained by the Constitution, but are only constrained by other people with power. The Constitution is just a scrap of paper used as a fig leaf to cover a power struggle. The people with power are going to do what they want and the arguments aren’t meaningful because self-interest trumps both logic and law.

    The corporation is essentially a mechanism for increasing one’s rights while decreasing one’s liabilities. The more powerful your corporation the greater your rights and the smaller your liabilities. If your corporation is sufficiently powerful you can do whatever you want and never have to answer for it, depending on how much grief you get from other people with power. For obvious reasons, criminals love corporations.

    That means anybody who is not a corporate officer is de facto and de jure a second-class citizen. This contradicts the 14th amendment “guarantee” to equal protection, but so what? See “In practice”, above.

    Emphasis mine. The law is irrelevant. Only power is relevant, and one’s power is constrained only by others with power. In a fascist state like the U.S., power is vested in corporations and state organs that have succeeded in accumulating it; in a communist totalitarianism power is vested in state organs and not corporations. In either case the role of the totalitarian state itself is to arbitrate the power struggle, but only insofar as it serves the goals of the state syndicate. Those excluded from the state syndicate have no power.

    Ultimately Mr. Kerry represents the interests of those corporations whose power and profit would be enhanced by war, and he is doing nothing more than attempting to commit closure on the power struggle. All else is mere cant, including any fictitious legalisms he might spout.

    So what Mr. Kerry means is that the president has the power to attack Syria, because warmongering corporations and state organs want it and they are in the ascendancy. “Rights” and “privileges” do not enter into it because these do not exist. The people of the U.S. have no say in the matter, because they have only subject status and have no influence with the state syndicate.

    1. Howard Beale IV

      Now the neocons are are all in garment-rendering mode over how Obama is acting like a clown with his handling asking Congress to vote for the AUMF:

      When you look at who is quoted in the article, it’s veritable list of comprormised neocon cronies: Judith Miller, Fareed Zakaria, Charles Krauthammer-none of these yahoos has any foreign policy experience and are just your usual Beltway Babbling Bobbleheads.

        1. zephyrum

          Walter, I’ve read that Myers piece several times and I still don’t understand it. Who gives a flying F about credibility when the real issue is doing the right thing, or not? It bothers me to laud King and Hammarskjold for their credibility when it is their righteousness that matters.

          Perhaps it was different once, but in my half-century of existence political credibility has always been the same. It’s a cynical tool, like bluffing in poker, artfully deceiving others long enough to achieve an objective by secretive means. To associate great men with such a noxious mechanism is a desecration.

          Not that Myers is wrong…of course credibility is obsolete. And so are dinosaurs and dodo birds. When anyone in DC says something they are lying. The practice has become to lie reflexively, without needing a reason, just with utter faith in the principle that the smallest iota of truth is a dangerous seed that cannot be allowed to sprout lest it bring down the castle around them. And yet that is the inevitable future due to this very insanity that has become the universal religion of politics.

          1. Walter Map

            Ah, but you do understand it. You just resent the fact that the entire system has degraded into utterly corrupt power politics. Your resentment is only reasonable. But that’s not the same thing as not understanding it.

        2. S M Tenneshaw

          Moral and intellectual credibility are dead, but our gangster state’s street cred is alive and well.

    2. Crazy Horse

      Prediction: Congress will grant Obomber permission to use his toys. After all, we have to frequently test them to make sure they are battle ready. And a red line drawn in the sand with blood has been stepped on by somebody. The MSM is working 24/7 to make sure the spin is rotating at full speed and anybody who questions it will be called a traitor. The final vote will only have a handful of holdouts. And the liberal’s white hope Elizabeth Warren will not be one of them.

      Prediction: Vladimir Putin is not someone to trifle with. His goal of preserving the Gazprom monopoly over natural gas supplies to Europe is not a minor concern to Very Important People in Russia. He will (has) supplied the Syrian government with state-of-the art anti-ship weapons systems. And if Syria chooses to use them to defend against unprovoked attack from the US they would be fully justified by international law. And doing so will certainly create a big enough firestorm to make everybody forget about the Surveillance State at home.

      Looks like a win-win situation to the Obomber.

      1. craazyboy

        I just had a happy thought. Since Hezbollah is on Assad’s side, and have home bases in Lebanon and Iran, and Al-Qaeda is in Syria (probably being paid by the Saudis) and who knows where else, that this IS really a very clever, but albeit diabolical, plan to have Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda wipe each other out using Syria as a big killing field.

        But then I would have to believe in magic lamps, genies, Rumsfeld, and stuff like that.

  2. Ned Ludd

    It is shocking how broad the Authorization to Use Military Force is:

    It is clear from this wording that such a resolution would allow nearly everything far beyond the “punitive” few cruise missile strikes against Syrian forces the administration marketed so far. It could easily be used for an outright blockade of Iran or even a “preemptive” strike against Iran’s industries in the name of “deterrence” and “protecting” Israel.

    Syria and Iran are both targets of U.S. imperialism, as Wesley Clark recounted on Democracy Now and in his memoir. “‘We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And [the senior general] named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”

    After the government of Syria is toppled, where would the weapons and Sunni fighters go next? Sending them to destabilize Chechnya would be a replay of Jimmy Carter”s strategy from the 1970’s.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.


    The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

    Remember how indignant Carter was after the Soviet invasion? It turns out he covertly acted to destabilize Afghanistan, knowing that it would give the USSR its own Vietnam War. Obama may be putting the pieces in place to support the same strategy in Chechnya.

    1. Ron

      Very interesting and it reminded me of a couple i knew back in 1969 that took MDMA for 3 weeks and finally got off the drug but the side effect was rough, several weeks of crying and whining about how bad real life felt. LOL I didn’t realize until I now why they felt so unhappy once the drug impact wore off.

    1. LucyLulu

      I felt ill after reading this article yesterday. I was surprised Lambert didn’t include it in his links.

      Administrative subpoenas??? Hell, might as well just turn over the phone records to the DEA and let them have at it. And did you catch that they aren’t just using them for drug crimes either? And they have records of any calls that go through AT&T hubs (most), including caller locations, going back 26 years?

      AT&T seems to be finding the arrangement to be lucrative. Apparently Houston didn’t get the memo about not mentioning Hemisphere in any documents or news reports. Harris County, TX has published a request for exemption of competitive bids in the amount of $374K to AT&T for investigative services provided by Operation Hemisphere to the Sheriff’s Office for the period ending June 30, 2013. That’s one county in one state.

      Harris County Commission Agenda (see top of page 33)

  3. don

    I went to Burning Man twice in the mid-90’s, then around 5,000 people. The first time I was impressed. By the second all the shine had worn off. Seeing all the RVs with people huddled inside during the day, avoiding the heat with air conditioners running was all I needed to see to know that was my last time. Where are the photos of all these hundreds of RVs used to move the masses cross country to a remote desert? Having spent a week in the Black Rock desert early June, I have anxiously waited for this excessive self-indulgence and fossil fuel use to pass so I can return.

    Thank god its over!

    1. HotFlash

      Yeah, I’ve read several accounts, some old some recent but all breathless, and concluded that it’s the Bohemian Grove of people who wanted to be Hunter S. Thomson. Boring. I’d rather be gardening.

    2. Ron

      I also went to Black Rock back in the 90’s when it was a small gathering and would not wish to fight the traffic jam today nor share the space with 60K but its good that young and old get out into the desert and spend a few days with or without an RV. The idea that 60K attend is a big number but I don’t want to compare what was with what is and wish those that recently attended or do so in the future the pleasure and beauty of getting to see and experience the Black Rock desert.

  4. SteveH

    Well done. I admire how you sequence your links, build the expanding perspectives like a spiral galaxy around a central core. Happy Labor Day, in a minor key.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I second this compliment of today’s links — excellent and most interesting links. I didn’t notice or appreciate the labor minor key but do now and must also compliment this perceptive comment.

  5. eeyores enigma

    The whole minimum wage thing is a strawman.

    The point is that the swollen corporate executive staff and shareholder body demands a constant and ever increasing payout.

    Managements job is to make this so.

    Without exponential growth there must be constant cuts from within (the host being consumed from the inside out).

    This is not rocket surgery. Why must we all spend countless hours analyzing the minutia of all of the symptoms ignoring the obvious.

    This is a simple transfer of wealth upwards.

    We have structured this knowingly and the only focus is how do I tap into this upward stream.

    I guess analyzing the minutia is included in the “ways to tap into the stream”.

    We have allowed our societies to be structured in such a way as to bring out the worst in humanity and we spend half our time convincing ourselves that that is just how it is, it’s the natural order of things, darwinian and all…BS!!!!

    Please can’t we stay focused on the cause and maybe then we can restructure society away from fear, uncertainty, hate, unreasonable violence, mass death.

    They call it “The Cost Of Living” for a reason but who established that cost. It certainly wasn’t the “free market”.

    1. Dr. Noschidt

      e.e, The’ve been at it a long, long time:

      Marcus Tullius Cicero: “De Officiis” — N.B. the timely story of the “grain merchant of Rhodes” and discussions of debt within “moral” frame — (“Cicero’s Masterpieces” – Translated, with an Introduction and Notes by Andrew P. Peabody, Thomas Nelson and Sons, New York, London, Edinburgh, Pais and Toronto. n.d.); and:

      Joseph P. Farrell: “BABYLON’S BANKSTERS: The Alchemy of Deep Physics, High Finance, and Ancient Religion” (Feral House, Port Townsend WA, 2010) — with hat-tip to “Ancient Rome” in Chapter 8A.

  6. Watt4Bob

    “But Lin Ostrom could see that there must be something wrong with the logic. Her research on managing water in Los Angeles, watching hundreds of different actors hammer out their messy yet functional agreements, provided a powerful counter-example to Hardin. She knew of other examples, too, in which common resources had been managed sustainably without Hardin’s black-or-white solutions.”

    What Ostrom fails to see, is that those hundreds of actors weren’t managing ‘their’ water sustainably, they were managing the Colorado river out of existence. The “messy but functional agreements” are functional only if viewed in isolation from the ultimate impact of diverting Colorado river water which is certainly a tragedy from someone’s perspective?

    1. from Mexico

      If you haven’t seen it, you might find this of interest:

      Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet “Death of a River”

      In August, Alexandra Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet crossed over the Arizona/Mexican border to follow the Colorado’s dry riverbed to its historic mouth in the Upper Gulf of California where its nutrient-rich waters no longer reach the sea. This short film tracks the ghost of a mighty river that used to run free over this land half a century ago.

      The stately Colorado, that same iconic river of history that carved out the Grand Canyon and made the deserts bloom in the American southwest now ends in hypersaline mudflat rather than a punctuation mark of aquatic biodiversity. The Colorado’s once-lush estuary is no longer a nursery for marine life. The people whose lives were intertwined with the river’s wealth in its flood plain are now culturally bereft.

      Alexandra Cousteau experiences something she always knew in the abstract: rivers must reach the sea or else we are all impoverished.

      1. from Mexico

        And by the way, I don’t believe this in any way disproves Ostrom’s theory.

        I know of no one doing battle with the Mancur Olsons and Richard Dawkins of the world who believes that achieving international cooperation will not be a more difficult nut to crack than achieving intra-national cooperation.

        1. Watt4Bob

          I hope I didn’t leave the impression that I had an interest in disproving Ostrom’s theory.

          Hardin could have just as well concluded that based on his research, it made no sense to feed the rich and powerful, and Ostrum could just as well used the Los Angeles water situation to illustrate the working of democracy among pirates.

          Hardin and Ostrum do not represent a true duality, that is my point.

          The multi-nationals are far ahead of us as concerns international consensus.

          For example, one of the consensus’ they are building is that it’s perfectly legal for Nestle to monopolize the world’s fresh water.

          I don’t believe that either Hardin or Ostrom offers us much in the way of an answer to that sort of tragic nonsense.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I find the discussion in this thread confusing. To me, Hardin’s ‘tragedy of the commons’ demonstrates that there is no market solution for sharing and preserving a commons. Harden’s concern for overpopulation is non sequitar to the issue. Ostrum documents the existence of a solution to the problem of sharing and preserving a commons. I hadn’t thought of it before reading this link — commons existed for a long time before the problem of the tragedy of the commons came up. The heart of the problem is the neo-liberal [using this term as defined in ‘Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste’, by Philip Mirowski, — roughly the same as what the term neo-con means in this blog] belief that every problem is best solved by a market solution and everything can be priced and made to fit part of some market.

      [And yes, let’s assume a way to add a cost for externalities to make the problem fit the market — that’s the same as assuming a can opener. Who will and how will they determine the costs and assess the costs and who will bell that cat?]

      Ostrum considers a situation where there is enough water to satisfy most of the needs of many users if they can negotiate adjustments to their needs to fit the available supply and continue those adjustments as the supply varies. Harden seems most concerned with situations where there simply isn’t enough to satisfy the needs of the many users — a situation of limited resources shared among too many users. I haven’t read any of Ostrum work but must now.

      Further in this thread, the comment is made that neither Ostrum or Harden offers a solution to the tragedy of the commons. While that may be true, how did it become the obligation of every analyst and every critic to provide an answer to a problem they analyze? That’s a problem for a new ‘affirmative’ to propose. The neo-liberals proposed, and created the widespread belief that the market is the best solution for everything. That proposal seems flawed, as demonstrated by Harden’s ‘tradgedy of the commons’. Ostrum studied and characterized solutions to the tradgedy of the commons that exist. Now how do we get there from here?

      I also feel compelled to address the issue of piracy in the Colorado River ‘solution’. Whether the folks sharing water in California are pirates seems completely beyond the scope of Ostrum’s study. I suppose the issue suggests the need for further study of the relationship between a common resource, the users sharing the resource, and the users not represented in the sharing. The term ‘piracy’ is loaded and not well suited to a clear study of this important aspect of sharing a commons. Also — whether the Colorado river isn’t what it used to be seems out of scope although tending toward a sharing problem like those that bother Harden.

      1. Watt4Bob

        Three quibbles;

        1. Concern for over-population, and its impact on economic growth is the starting point for Hardin’s ‘analysis’. It’s clear, to me at least, that it’s Hardin’s bias that leads him to ‘prefer’ to see too many poor, hungry people as the problem, as opposed to too many rapacious extractive capitalists chasing the god-given right to ‘growth’.

        2. Ostrom’s ‘analysis’ suggests that we can indeed achieve a sustainable state in managing our common resources based on cooperation and trust. The ‘fly-in-the-ointment’ is the necessity to define who gets join the discussion. Ostrom’s method relies on placing boundaries on who gets a say concerning the ‘rsource’. The problem is illustrated perfectly in the case of the Los Angeles water district where people living along the Colorado river are defined as external un-entitled parties.

        3. The pirate thing. Pirates are often cited as practicing a sort of ‘perfect’ democracy, in that consensus is necessary to prevent bloodshed, but just as in Ostrom’s analysis of Los Angeles water system, the late owners of the pirates ‘booty’ are defined as external un-entitled parties.

        1. skippy

          I would reference – the pollution credit scam L.A. Calif. implemented in the 80s – it only concentrated – the negative effects.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          Now I think I better understand your quibbles and I fully agree with you.

          Skippy elaborates what I believe is a key point: a common is not part of some market. No market ‘magic’ will neatly tuck away externalities by assessing extra ‘costs’. They can create their own serious problems and distortions.

          If the common and owners of that common are defined to include all parties with an interest in the common; and if each interest can be clearly defined and given a mutually agreed upon fair weight in deciding how to handle the common — then, the resulting arrangement may be fair to and satisfy all parties yet still fail because that fair solution destroys the common. I believe that’s Mexico’s point. The good of the common itself must be included in the arrangement.

          I think I’ve missed more than a few important considerations. For example, I think I’m assuming that the parties with interest in the common have roughly equivalent power and desire to negotiate fairly with the others. Of course if fairness and ‘justice’ are part of the negotiations, this power issue is of less importance. It may be a serious problem with our culture, since other cultures have successfully managed commons for centuries, even where the stickier issues in the quibbles come up.

  7. optimader

    RE: Burning Man
    Burning Man jumped the shark w/ Hulacam:
    Hula Cam at Burning Man 2012

    “..Tune in, turn on, drop out: Former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark has been spotted at this year’s Burning Man…”
    Well, maybe not “drop out”, Burning Man = bucket-list things to do on a Pentagon Pension.

    “ is unknown if he has taken his girlfriend, Shauna Mei, who is less than half his age..”
    Lol.. The Daily Mail as a journal of “moral/social” propriety, no less in a piece on Burning Man ??

    1. BondsOfSteel

      Personally, I praise Burning Man’s success. The problem isn’t that it’s gotten too popular, it’s that it’s not popular enough.

      While it’s popularity has be a huge problem for the people that started it, kept it going, and grew it, they’ve helped bring it into the mainstream. IMHO, that’s a good thing.

      It’d be cool if more people were influenced and inspired by the art and expression of Burning Man.

      1. sd

        Sh*t. I’d much rather my tax dollars pay for a fantastic party for everyone to watch the burning a wooden man in the middle of the desert than bombing a bunch of people on the other side of the planet.

        Maybe if we budget the expense under defense….

  8. vlade

    TBH, I’m split on Syria.

    On one hand, I find it unlikely that anyone but the government did deploy chemical weapons (doing it en-masse is not trivial. It could be a false-flag, but at the moment I’d say it’s more likely the govt than opposition). Not acting on this is just an encouragement to do it again (to an extent, if no action is taken, it’s irrelevant whether it was or wasn’t false flag – some one else will be encouraged to do so by the failure to act. Also, it will give a disincentive to even have chemical weapons, as they can be used against you in false-flag much more readily when you have them than not). It’s also encouraging Putin’s Russia, which is not a good news if you value geopolitical stability.

    On the other hand, I see again no realistic plan of action for the future. If there was time to take a stand, it was actually much earlier, when it all started and the opposition was mostly moderate Syrians of all shapes with very little religious attachement, and supporting it would be even acceptable to Syria’s neighbours. Now it’s on its way to become breeding ground of problems, and just “bombing them to stone age” won’t make it any better anytime soon.

    1. Walter Map

      Not that it matters, but which collection of psychopathic greedmeisters do you prefer, Assad’s or the West’s? There’s really nothing to choose between them, and other options are unavailable.

      Europe played this game for centuries. Mostly it was only good for preventing overpopulation the hard way.

    2. Eureka Springs

      I think, if one is split, then one should seriously not pick a side. One should not encourage warfare at all. Next thing you know you are no better than a humanitarian bomber. I don’t think a dead or seriously injured person, their grieving family and friends will think better of you because of it. Especially when either side is and has long been known to be a war criminal.

      I mean, it was only a few years ago we renditioned (kidnapped) people without evidence or charges to Syria so they could torture victims for us. And there is only one side which could possibly be, you know, simply, desperately defending their country from foreign invaders, many of whom are either US spooks, paid mercenaries, or Saudi al Qaeda. And the known biggest liars, repeatedly, on the very specific issue of chemical weapons is the US.

      1. charles sereno

        I agree with those of you who point out that choices in the Syrian conflict now are only ‘bad choices.’ First suffering brutal suppression by the regime then a malicious takeover by the rebels, the initial, promising demonstrations were snuffed out in record time. Unfortunately, that only bolsters those who disdain non-violent protests.

      2. cannibal prez

        Bad choices nyuk nyuk. With no UN resolution Obama has no choice. He has a legal imperative, do not use or threaten force. Anything else is the highest of high crimes, aggression. It’s not this complex conundrum requiring scrupulous consideration. This law is not hard.

        It’s funny how we never think of ordinary Joe Blow crimes the way we think of US presidential crimes. Like how come we don’t say, “Gilberto Valle faced a crucial, high-stakes choice: whether to cook and eat girls; or to look up tasty-looking girls on NCIC; or to choke the chicken and think about it all the time; or to take a cold shower.”

        So at this point it seems that Obama is taking option 3, choke the chicken and think about it all the time. That’s about as far as Officer Valle got, too.

    3. Synopticist

      Forgive this link a moment, I’m not really linking to veterans today, it’s the video….

      Who is this guy? Is he some kind of flake or not? I’m lacking the US background to be able to intelligently discriminate.

      On balance I’m _slightly_ leaning towards the Assadists doing it, especially bearing in mind that paranoid, defensive secretive regimes can do things that appear weird and illogical. But I’m far from convinced.

      1. Synopticist

        I’ll try again…

    4. jrs

      Yes I hear not acting on chemical weapons is an incentive to do again. Maybe that’s true for just Syria. But I ask myself if a country the U.S. had no economic or strategic interest in was using poison gas if it was been invaded and the only answer I can think of is: “no”. So the ONLY countries this discourages are those the U.S. has selfish interests in. It’s a much more limited deterrent in that case than most realize.

      1. jrs

        I mean if we’d launch war on a country we had no strategic and economic interest in if it used chemical weapons. I think it’s pretty doubtful we would.

  9. diptherio

    Re: Most Surprising things about the US

    Apparently, if you come from a culture where caste is still a big deal, America looks like a “classless” society.

    It’s pretty obvious that the author comes from a well-to-do family in India and he’s been hanging out with mainly well-to-do folks here. From that perspective, sure, things seem pretty groovy…

    1. jrs

      egads yes

      “The retail experience is nowhere near as fun/nice as it is in India.”

      thought he was going to talk about working retail :) So you don’t feel so special at a store but is this good or bad for the people that *WORK* at the store?

      “An almost-classless society: I’ve noticed that most Americans roughly have the same standard of living.”

      what? in some parts of the country the division is less extreme, but same standard of living? Tall white mansions and … streets full of potholes with bars on all the windows, that’s the America I know. Even the worst places may not be as dangerous as we are led to believe, but all the same? Come now, that’s ridiculous.

    2. jrs

      It occurs to me his commentary might actually reveal how very very class segregated this country is. Because people really don’t interact that much outside of their class. So the differences that might be visible elsewhere are outside of sight here. Sure differences in housing were easy for me to point out because that’s obvious and visible. But it’s not the real manifestation of either wealth or poverty.

  10. Og

    See, this is how acculturation works.

    Take the stupidest, most vicious animal you can imagine – hell, go ahead and take horse-faced gigolo John Kerry, who got demoted to Senator for machine-gunning Vietnamese mommies.

    Even this vile mediocrity finds himself aping the words of the civilized world. He doesn’t know what the words mean, he strings them together in nonsensical ways, but when he raises his nose from the trough and imagines himself esteemed, look what he comes out with: ‘Obama has the right to strike.’

    Gently and patiently, the civilized world will draw out his meaning, like a St. Paul’s teacher cajoling a 3rd-generation dimbulb sporting a straw boater in a dorm named for his Dad. Which right does he mean? What instrument is he citing, which article and clause? Kerry is stumped.

    Is he perhaps thinking of the strictly limited rights of states, like self-defense? Kerry nods vigorously.

    Then is Obama’s ‘right’ to strike a declared US reservation to a particular treaty? Because if Obama has a right to strike, so does every other state. Or did he mean to say duties? Because every universal human right is mirrored by a duty of the state. Which duty? And which right? And so on. Kerry gapes in wordless confusion.

    Yet by low cunning and monkey-see-monkey-do, Kerry gradually picks up the rudiments of civilization. He can’t resist.

    1. sd

      I am so utterly confused by Kerry. The same Kerry who brought BCCI and Iran Contra to the attention of the Senate.

      What happened to that Kerry?

  11. dalepues

    Well, I for one wish that the Obama admin would just cut the bull and explain what they are trying to achieve and why. The cw story they’ve circulated is simply too tainted to be believed, and even if it’s true it shouldn’t be accepted as the sole reason for any attack as long as it ignores the larger context of this conflict. Everywhere I read is confusion and guesses. No one seems to know for certain what is really going on. The bs is just sickening.

  12. Propertius

    Re: SOLDIERS SPEAK OUT ON SYRIA: ‘We Are Stretched Thin, Tired, And Broke’

    I expect Malia to do her part and enlist in a couple of years when she’s old enough.


  13. Hugh

    To repeat, on Syria, no one involved has any credibility, not Assad, the rebels, the US, France, the UK, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or the Emirates.

    What is the reasoning? Maybe 100,000 people have been killed in Syria, but that is not a red line. The red line is that some of these were killed by chemical weapons? Blowing people to bits with artillery and air strikes is acceptable, but killing them with sarin is not? A thousand dead in a chemical attack in Syria is intolerable, but a thousand dead in a coup in Egypt is OK? 100,000 is too many dead for us to stand idly by? What about the 2 million dead in the eastern Congo? Why no humanitarian intervention there?

    We have no policy, no moral vision, just leaders dedicated to maintaining their imperial system. Syrians killing Syrians is fine, but it must be done according to the empire’s rules.

    1. craazyboy

      Cheer up, Hugh. At least this time, unlike Iraq, Al-Qaeda really is within Syrian borders.

      I see a win-win happening with just the perfect amount and aim of collateral damage to take out Assad AND Al-Qaeda from a US air attack and no ground assault. Then we have set up the environment properly for organic democratic Nation Building as our Neocon visionaries saw for Iraq. Provided that someone secures the borders and keeps more kooky terrorists from flooding into the country of course.

      Piece of cake. Keep your fingers crossed!

    2. ChrisPacific

      The underlying theme is the position of the administration on WMDs (defined as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons) which goes back to Bush Jr. post 2011, and apppears to be unchanged under Obama. Nobody may have them, except for the US itself (which is a wise and just custodian, and will make sure that they are never used for evil purposes). If a country already has them, and the US can’t do anything about it for political or military reasons, then they may not use them.

      In short, the administration doesn’t give a damn about the humanitarian crisis, or dead Syrians or Egyptians in any amount. What they care about is hypothetical dead Americans, and they have equated that with WMDs. This is the only context in which Obama’s reaction makes sense.

    3. zygmuntFRAUDbernier

      I’m always impressed by your legal/moral arguments. It resembles hearing a “good debate” between advocates for American military engagement in Syria and advocates for non-intervention duke it out. I will continue to read your comments.

  14. scraping_by

    RE: Larry Summers Helped Torpedo Elizabeth Warren CFPB Nomination

    So that when she opposes his nomination, it’s personal, not principled. Payback, not protection for the nation. He’s a naughty guy who steps on toes, not a bought-off hack with no clue of his own worthlessness.

    It’s never too early to start the sabotage.

  15. charles sereno

    I’ve seen this Moose family before and I’ve come to the same conclusion. The 2 kids are in trouble and Mama is staring at the one on the left, who’s thinking — “Why’s she blaming me?” The one on the right, looking guilty as sin, is obviously the culprit.

  16. Jeremy Grimm

    I scanned the article on ‘Stigmurgic Epistemology’. Wow! The point of that paper truly mystifies me. I’ve been trying to read “Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste”, by Philip Mirowski, with some difficulty. He stated that the neo-liberal thesis was showing up in the cognitive science literature, which I found incredible. The ‘Stigmurgic Epistemology’ article proves him right. I knew that market theory was finding its way into things as obscure as network bandwidth allocation algorithms but confess shock at seeing Hayek’s name associated with connectionist theories, social insects, and autonomomous agents. My first reaction to this is nausea. The hope I take away from this article is that the terminology and writing style of these authors might find widespread popularity in the neo-liberal literature. That should resolve the enthusiasm of any lukewarm fellow travellers and assure neo-liberal thought the kind of audience and proponents it deserves.

    As for the article itself, I’m amazed that work of this kind and quality can find publication. I’m still looking for the interesting points it contains. Most of what I found interesting involved the termite construction at the start of the piece. From that point it seemed to weave more and more peculiar analogies together to lead up to a ‘theory’ putting new clothes on

  17. Jeremy Grimm

    … continued … on the steepest descent optimization algorithm. I must confess not reading the paper closely enough. If anyone else read it and found it fascinating I hope they will explain the nature of that fascination, and perhaps correct my cursory dismissal of this piece of work.

  18. skippy

    Your say: Kevin Rudd makes impassioned defense of gay marriage on Q&A

    Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made an impassioned defence of gay marriage on Q&A last night, after being asked how he could support same-sex unions as a Christian.

    A pastor in the Brisbane audience asked the PM how he could support gay marriage when the Bible teaches that marriage should be between a man and a woman

    skippy… its getting feisty out there…

    1. Emma

      Good on ya Ruddscilla King of the Desert!
      Doesn’t the bible advocate equality….ie. Galatians “for ye are all one”?
      The Q is more trite than a Vieux-Boulogne……

    2. F. Beard

      Yawn. I really don’t see what the ruckus is. It would appear to be a non-Christian problem ONLY since the practice of homosexuality is a sin and is no more condoned than any other sin in Scripture. And basically Christians are not supposed to judge heathens cause, you know, heathens will be heathens and can’t be expected to meet Christian standards of morality anyway.

      1. skippy

        Your vulgarity is on display yet again, a pseudo superiority, the trigger mechanism for all kinds of mental horrors justification.

        Yet a devout Christian in vid above… exults Love of all Humanity… first and foremost.

        skippy… Christian Exceptionalism – retch~

        PS. Care to opine on the slave thingy?

        1. F. Beard

          re slavery:

          By extrapolating the ban on the slavery of Hebrews, one can argue that any Christian holding Christian or Hebrew slaves past 7 years would be sinning.

          As for the slaves themselves Paul says:

          Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called. 1 Corinthians 7:21-24

          New American Standard Bible (NASB)

      2. charles sereno

        @ F. Beard: If not late then never.
        Your yawn was a signal. The kind that’s accompanied by a noblesse oblige hand to the mouth. Hint, it’s not kindly received by the audience no matter the merits or not of the belief that prompts it. In a word, superiority sucks. If I’m not clear, get this image: A big man with plumes and epaulets or a suited potentate (with hands clasped behind the back) parading before the troops/citizens. I’m sure that was not your intention. I can assure you that was the impression many got. I think you owe a clarification.

        1. F. Beard

          It’s just a non-starter and a waste of time to me. I don’t see what business it is of the Church what non-Christians do apart from basic concerns with justice. Certainly the Church should not condone sin because that waters down the message that we are ALL sinners and thus ALL need salvation.

          Yes, I was flip and deliberating baiting Skippy with the “heathens will be heathens.” But it’s true. Heck, I wish I had lived it up as a heathen (“sowing one’s wild oats while young”) but alas I was raised a legalistic Roman Catholic and so that option was precluded.

          And no, I don’t feel superior to others. I’ve been as bad as I felt I could get away with and abused Grace many, many times to the point that I seriously doubt my own justification. (But that’s good. If my salvation is uncertain it’s far, far better that I know it so I can repent.)

          Anyway, mea culpa. I allowed myself to be provoked and distracted.

          1. skippy

            @Berado… you can hide behind the sanitized NSAB all you want, although, it does not change the original meanings or their application through out history.

            Slavery in the Bible

            Except for murder, slavery has got to be one of the most immoral things a person can do. Yet slavery is rampant throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible clearly approves of slavery in many passages, and it goes so far as to tell how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves.

            Many Jews and Christians will try to ignore the moral problems of slavery by saying that these slaves were actually servants or indentured servants. Many translations of the Bible use the word “servant”, “bondservant”, or “manservant” instead of “slave” to make the Bible seem less immoral than it really is. While many slaves may have worked as household servants, that doesn’t mean that they were not slaves who were bought, sold, and treated worse than livestock.

            The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock.

            However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

            The following passage describes how the Hebrew slaves are to be treated.

            If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him. If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

            Notice how they can get a male Hebrew slave to become a permanent slave by keeping his wife and children hostage until he says he wants to become a permanent slave. What kind of family values are these?

            The following passage describes the sickening practice of sex slavery. How can anyone think it is moral to sell your own daughter as a sex slave?

            When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment. (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)

            So these are the Bible family values! A man can buy as many sex slaves as he wants as long as he feeds them, clothes them, and screws them!

            What does the Bible say about beating slaves? It says you can beat both male and female slaves with a rod so hard that as long as they don’t die right away you are cleared of any wrong doing.

            When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

            You would think that Jesus and the New Testament would have a different view of slavery, but slavery is still approved of in the New Testament, as the following passages show.

            Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

            Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them. (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)

            In the following parable, Jesus clearly approves of beating slaves even if they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong.

            The servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

            skip here… “I allowed myself to be provoked and distracted” – Baiting – beardo

            Gold is just an object some humans pour themselves – into – because it gives them the – illusion – of worth, conversely some humans pour themselves into historical narratives contrived of one bound because – it gives them – a sense – of worth… whats the difference really? Especially when the underlining effect is one of – superiority by extension – of some inanimate object, as evidenced by your quote and comments above.

            Your flippant retort to Rudd’s handling of the pastor’s ill conceived notion of biblical application is a massive tell. Hell you don’t even have the ability to engage the subject matter beyond such feeble attempts to pluck one verse out of context, lets see the bigger picture… eh.

            Live According to Your Calling

            …20Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. 21Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.…

            Cross References
            1 Corinthians 7:20
            Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

            1 Corinthians 7:22
            For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.

            1 Corinthians 1:1
            Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

            1 Corinthians 7:19
            Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

            1 Corinthians 7:18
            Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.

            1 Corinthians 7:23
            You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.

            1 Corinthians 7:24
            Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

            Are you called being a servant? care not for it: but if you may be made free, use it rather.


            1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be …

            Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there …

            Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, …

            1 Timothy 6:1-3 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters …

            1 Peter 2:18-24 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the …

            a servant. Rather, a slave, [doulos,] the property of another, and bought with his money. In these verses the apostle shows that Christianity makes no change in our civil connections.

            Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

            7:17-24 The rules of Christianity reach every condition; and in every state a man may live so as to be a credit to it. It is the duty of every Christian to be content with his lot, and to conduct himself in his rank and place as becomes a Christian. Our comfort and happiness depend on what we are to Christ, not what we are in the world. No man should think to make his faith or religion, an argument to break through any natural or civil obligations. He should quietly and contentedly abide in the condition in which he is placed by Divine Providence.

            Pulpit Commentary

            Verse 21. – Being a servant. This is the second instance of the rule. One who was converted whilst he was a slave is not to strive over anxiously for freedom. The word “emancipation” sometimes seems (as in the letter to Philemon) to be “trembling on Paul’s lips,” but he never utters it, because to do so would have been to kindle social revolt, and lead to the total overthrow of Christianity at the very commencement of its career. Our Lord had taught the apostles to adapt means to ends; and the method of Christianity was to inculcate great principles, the acceptance of which involved, with all the certainty of a law, the ultimate regeneration of the world. Christianity came into the world as the dawn, not as the noon – a shining light, which brightened more and more unto the perfect day. Care not for it. Do not be troubled by the fact, because in Christ “there is neither bond nor free” (Galatians 3:28), and because earthly freedom is as nothing in comparison with the freedom which Christ gives (John 8:36). But if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. The words may mean,

            (1) “use freedom” – avail yourself of the opportunity of emancipation; or

            (2) “use slavery” – be content to remain a slave. In favour of the first interpretation is the fact that there is nothing extravagant or fantastic in Christian morality; and that, considering what ancient slavery was – how terrible its miseries, how shameful and perilously full of temptations were its conditions – it sounds unnatural to advise a Christian slave to remain a slave when he might gain his freedom. Yet the other interpretation, remain a slave by preference, seems to be required:

            1. By the strict interpretation of the Greek particles.

            2. By the entire context, which turns on the rule that each man should stay in the earthly condition in which he first received God’s call.

            3. By the fact that even the Stoic moralists – like Epictetus, who was himself a slave – gave similar advice (Epict., ‘Dissert.,’ 3:26; ‘Enchir.,’ 10:32.)

            4. By the indifference which St. Paul felt and expressed towards mere earthly conditions (Galatians 3:28), as things of no real significance (Colossians 3:22).

            5. By his appeal to the nearness of the day of Christ (vers. 29-31).

            6. By the preponderance of high authorities – Chrysostom, Theodoret, Luther, Bengel, De Wette, Meyer, Alford, etc. – in favour of this view

            7. By its parallelism to the advice given to Christian slaves in 1 Timothy 6:2, where they are urged to serve Christian masters all the more zealously because they were brethren.

            8. Lastly, all the apparent harshness of the advice is removed when we remember that St. Paul was probably thinking only of the Christian slaves of Christian masters, between whom the relation might be as happy as that of Philemon to the forgiven Onesimus.

            skip here… not quite as you portrayed it, eh, in your cut and paste homily. Master and slave from top to bottom. Some day we can play anthropological magic number 3 games, at least that starts getting to the root of it all and not just 5,000 years ago – but – tens of thousands. Willful ignorance is self inflicted when data is available methinks.

            BTW I have many friends and associates internationally that have dedicated their lives to Abrahamism, that discuss with other sects dissenting view points, common ground et al. The one common view they share, after sending emails of your comments on theological dissertation – is – “has an arrogance that borders on megalomania”. They also comment that the American mob is going completely mad, as in, it considers – its self – the new epicenter… cough… Constantinople… of faith… hence the NSAB thingy.

            skippy… this amongst other other issues is why so many I’ve conversed with, are finding themselves questioning Americas projected image, wither* in disgust or fear. This is Americas greatest challenge IMO, not the free market, monetary reserve currency, worlds military po[lice, its trust is fading… conceptualize that image.

            1. charles sereno

              I gather you have become a reluctant Biblical scholar. Somebody’s gotta do it. Your reference to 1 Corinthians 7:18 led me back to 1 Macabees 1:15. It seems Paul was not just speaking metaphorically. Interesting stuff that needs to be further explored. As I said, somebody’s gotta do it.

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