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      As many have heard, John Tory, the mainstream right wing candidate, won convincingly in Toronto and Olivia Chow came in third place, even doing worse than Doug Ford (brother of the famous crack-smoking Rob Ford.)  Much hand wringing has ensued that progressive just can’t win elections in Toronto. While it’s true that Toronto is hard [...]
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What happened to the anti-war movement?


One of the largest anti-war protests in recent years took place last week. If you blinked you may have missed it. Even if you didn’t blink you had to know where to look.

There was a black-out and a white-out Thursday and Friday as over a hundred US veterans opposed to US wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, and their civilian supporters, chained and tied themselves to the White House fence during an early snowstorm to say enough is enough.

Washington Police arrested 135 of the protesters, in what is being called the largest mass detention in recent years. Among those arrested were Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who used to provide the president’s daily briefings, Daniel Ellsberg, who released the government’s Pentagon Papers during the Nixon administration, and Chris Hedges, former war correspondent for the New York Times.

No major US news media reported on the demonstration or the arrests. It was blacked out of the New York Times, blacked out of the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked out in the Los Angeles Times, blacked out of the Wall Street Journal, and even blacked out of the capital’s local daily, the Washington Post, which apparently didn’t even think it was a local story worth publishing.

John Halle has more over at Corrente:

First, one was a rally held at the Lincoln Memorial some distance from the White House while the other centered around civil disobedience at the White House fence.

Secondly, more significantly, the Veterans directly and passionately criticized the Obama administration and its policies. In contrast, at the One Nation rally, according to Patrick Martin of the World Socialist website:

“Nearly every speaker combined warnings of the consequences of a Republican victory in the November 2 election with appeals to those attending the rally to spend the next month in all-out campaigning for a Democratic Party victory. There was no examination of the actual policies of the Democrats, still less of the relatively insignificant differences between the two big business parties.
There was no criticism of the Obama administration by name, even by speakers who criticized some of the policies for which the Democratic president is responsible.”

These two protests clearly display an unmistakeable and unbridgeable difference in perspective-between support (including highly critical support), on the one side and active dissent and militant opposition on the other.

This distinction, which has immediate practical consequences for how, or whether, a protest movement will develop and flourish, admits of an explanation: in the opinion of many, much of the left leadership played a role in fomenting unrealistic expectations with respect to the Obama presidency. Their investment in the Obama brand prevents them from endorsing and playing a role in organizing protests of sufficient vehemence and intensity as these would necessarily shine a light on their failure of judgement and lack of credibility.


Whatever happened to Code Pink? Last time I heard about them they were trying to place Karl Rove under citizen’s arrest at a book signing. Now much as I’d like to see Turdblossom getting perp walked to prison, he no longer has anything to do with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Remember the good old days when progressive bloggers thought that Hillary’s vote on the Iraq War Resolution was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER? (That was right before they were promising to hold Obama’s “feet to the fire”)

How come they don’t care about the wars anymore? Why don’t they care about Obama’s Drone War in Pakistan?

In the words of Bob Dole, “Where’s the outrage?”


Avoir le cafard


Avoir le cafard – To have “The Bug.”


Designboom (via Blue Lyon):

american kills’ by chilean-born new york based artist sebastian errazuriz is a public installation showcasing the suicide rates of US soldiers. after searching on official war sites on the internet, he accidentally found out that 2 times more american soldiers had died in 2009 by committing suicide than those killed during that same year in the war in iraq; an alarming comparison that errazuriz had personally never read or heard about before.


I remember reading about a World War II veteran who described his military service as “Long periods of extreme boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.” I first heard about Le Cafard in a book of fiction about the French Foreign Legion.

According to the story men stationed in the deserts of colonial Algeria and Morocco would grow so depressed they would go mad and start shooting cockroaches, each other and themselves. Supposedly deaths from Le Cafard exceeded deaths from combat.

I didn’t believe it at first (it was fiction, after all) but I’ve since learned it is true. Avoir le cafard is now a French idiom referring to an extreme depression or sense of pointlessness.

As you can see from the picture above, Le Cafard is very real and very deadly.

Young men and women, far from home and under stress. Fear, loneliness and firearms.

Stop the madness. End the wars and bring our kids home.



Federal Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Blackwater Guards in 2007 Shootings of 17 Iraquis

Blackwater plainclothes contractors

Just a short time ago, Federal Judge Ricard Urbina dismissed all charges against five Blackwater contractors who opened fire in a crowded square in Bagdad on September 16, 2007.

From the BBC News service:

District Judge Ricardo Urbina said the US justice department had used evidence prosecutors were not supposed to have.

The five had all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. A sixth guard admitted killing at least one Iraqi.

The killings, which took place in Nisoor Square, Baghdad, strained Iraq’s relationship with the US and raised questions about US contractors operating in war zones.

The disputed evidence consisted of statements the five men gave to State Department investigators shortly after the shootings.

Judge Urbina said prosecutors should not have used those statements in the case, and that the US government’s explanation for this was “unbelievable”.

The five guards were Donald Ball, Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Nick Slatten and Paul Slough – all of whom are decorated military veterans.

As well as the 14 counts of manslaughter, they had faced 20 counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of using a machine gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year minimum sentence.

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative reporter who has done more than any other writer to reveal the activities of Blackwater (aka Xe) head Erik Prince and his mercenaries in their roles as contractors for the U.S. government. He is the author of the book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. In October, 2007, Scahill appeared on Bill Moyers Journal to discuss the killings in Bagdad. You can listen to the interview here.

Here is Scahill’s blog post on today’s outrageous dismissal of the case against the five Blackwater guards.

A federal judge in Washington DC has given Erik Prince’s Blackwater mercenaries a huge New Year’s gift. Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed all charges against the five Blackwater operatives accused of gunning down 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007. Judge Urbina’s order, issued late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve is a stunning blow for the Iraqi victims’ families and sends a clear message that US-funded mercenaries are above all systems of law—US and international.

In a memo defending his opinion, Urbina cited a similar rationale used in the dismissal of charges against Iran-Contra figure Oliver North—namely that the government violated the rights of the Blackwater men by using statements they made to investigators in the immediate aftermath of the shooting to build a case against the guards, which Urbina said qualified for “derivative use immunity.”

Scahill provides links to the decision a the Judge’s 90-page memo explaining it.

In this recent post, Scahill provides statistics for the government’s use of private contractors in Afghanistan alone. As of December 17, 2009, according to Scahill, there were “189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.” Other Blackwater employees are deployed in Iraq and have been used by the CIA in Pakistan. They are representing us and are being paid with our tax dollars.

I for one do not want these men representing me. I think it is disgraceful that Blackwater “contractors” are allowed to get away with committing murders in the name of the people of the United States of America.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!! What’s happening out there in the world?


The big story of this slow news day seems to be the attempted “terrorist attack” in Detroit.

ABC News: Man Attempts to Set Off Explosives on Detroit-Bound Airplane

Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian man, who allegedly tried to “explode” a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, law enforcement officials said.

The man said he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over U.S. soil, ABC News has learned. Authorities have no corroboration of that information, and the credibility of the suspect’s statements are being questioned, officials said.

The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who according to federal documents is an engineering student at University College of London.

The latest from CNN: Device was on fire in terror suspect’s lap, plane passenger says

A Nigerian man is “talking a lot” to the FBI, said a senior U.S. official, after what the United States believes was an attempted terrorist attack on an inbound international flight.

The initial impression is that the suspect was acting alone and did not have any formal connections to organized terrorist groups, said the official, who is familiar with the investigation.

The suspect, identified by a U.S. government official as 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, ignited a small explosive device Friday, shortly before a Northwest flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands, landed at Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan.

Passenger Jasper Schuringa told CNN that with the aid of the cabin crew, he helped subdue and isolate Abdulmutallab.

Abdulmutallab was taken into custody and is being treated for second- and third-degree burns on his thighs, according to federal law enforcement and airline security sources.

CNN World: London police hunt airline terror link

Counterterrorism officers are searching buildings in London in connection with the alleged terrorist attempt aboard a flight to Detroit, police said Saturday.

The officers were believed to be searching locations including an apartment block in central London, but a spokeswoman for the city’s Metropolitan Police would not say specifically where and what they are looking for, or how many officers are involved.

She also said the police are making several inquiries at the request of U.S. authorities.

Continue reading

Saturday Morning: We’re Living the “Shock Doctrine”

Good Morning Conflucians!

Is it just me? Suddenly, I’m feeling almost in shock at what’s happening in our country and around the world. Maybe I could just regress back to childhood and watch cartoons on TV this morning? No. I have to stay present and face the reality of what is happening.

When Reagan was elected, I kind of checked out for awhile. I refused to read newspapers or watch TV news. I knew it was going to be bad, and so I just focused on other things than politics.

I did that again for awhile after 2000. I was so devastated by what happened–how the election was stolen with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court. I checked out again for awhile–until Bush used 9/11 to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. I’ve been paying attention since then. For some reason, this time I just can’t check out and pretend it isn’t happening.

In her book,The Shock Doctine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein writes:

“The history of the contemporary free market was written in shocks….Some of the most infamous human rights violations of the past thirty-five years, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical free-market reforms.”

Klein’s book is about the most influential political-economic philosophy of our times, Neoliberalism–which originated with Economist Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics. I’m sure Dakinikat can articulate it all much better than I could. I only understand it from my experience and reading–from living it. Klein writes:

Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market would rule every aspect of life, from school to health-care, and even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices, and eviscerating government services. These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, make life more precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock….

Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to soften us up for his radical ‘free market’ crusade. He advised politicians that immediately after a crisis they should push through all the painful policies at once, before people could regain their footing. he called this method “economic shock treatment.”

Klein drew an analogy with the CIA methods of mind control and torture, which were used in federally funded experiments back in the ’50 and ’60s in government programs with weird names like MK-ULTRA, Project BlUEBIRD, later called Project ARTICHOKE.

Klein quotes from CIA interrogation manuals:

It’s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these techniques are in essence methods of inducing regression of the personality… Experienced Interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the subject is far more open to suggestion and far likelier to comply than he was just before he experienced the shock.

And another quote:

The subject should be apruptly awakened and immediately blindfolded and handcuffed. When arrrested at this time, most subjects experience feelings of shock, extreme insecurity, and psychological stress. The idea is to prevent the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.

This is what our government is doing to us. Bush was pretty good at it, but the shocks somehow seem more harsh under Obama. Maybe it’s because–even though most of us here at TC knew Obama wasn’t going to bring “change we can believe in,” it still seems more shocking when these beat-downs come from a President with a D next to his name, backed by an overwhelming majority of D’s in Congress. And somehow, the fact that these shocks are being administered in the name of health care reform seems so hideous and cruel, that it’s hard to remain present and keep educating yourself about what is happening. Sometimes, I really feel like I’m being hit in the head with a hammer–again…and again…and again.

Here are a few of the latest news stories and opinions. Let’s hang together and fight back against the forces of shock!

From Robert Reich’s blog: How a Few Private Health Insurers Are on the Way to Controlling Health Care

The public option is dead, killed by a handful of senators from small states who are mostly bought off by Big Insurance and Big Pharma or intimidated by these industries’ deep pockets and power to run political ads against them….

…we…end up with a system that’s based on private insurers that have no incentive whatsoever to control their costs or the costs of pharmaceutical companies and medical providers. If you think the federal employee benefit plan is an answer to this, think again. Its premiums increased nearly 9 percent this year. And if you think an expanded Medicare is the answer, you’re smoking medical marijuana. The Senate bill allows an independent commission to hold back Medicare costs only if Medicare spending is rising faster than total health spending. So if health spending is soaring because private insurers have no incentive to control it, we’re all out of luck. Medicare explodes as well.

MSNBC: U.S. grapples with child hunger ‘epidemic’

Three weeks before he was elected president, Barack Obama set an audacious goal: end hunger among children in the United States by 2015.

Since his inauguration, Obama has seldom broached the subject. His aides brainstorm weekly with several agencies, but their internal conversations so far have not produced fundamentally new approaches. The president’s goal could prove daunting: Childhood hunger is more complex than previously understood, new research suggests, and is unlikely to be solved simply by spending more money for food programs.

NYT: Poor Children Likelier to Get Antipsychotics

New federally financed drug research reveals a stark disparity: children covered by Medicaid are given powerful antipsychotic medicines at a rate four times higher than children whose parents have private insurance. And the Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

Boing Boing: Dr Peter Watts, Canadian science fiction writer, beaten and arrested at US border

I did not get out of the car to ask what was going on. I did not repeat that question when refused an answer and told to get back into the vehicle. In that other timeline I was not punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, shit-kicked, handcuffed, thrown wet and half-naked into a holding cell for three fucking hours, thrown into an even colder jail cell overnight, arraigned, and charged with assaulting a federal officer, all without access to legal representation (although they did try to get me to waive my Miranda rights. Twice.). Nor was I finally dumped across the border in shirtsleeves: computer seized, flash drive confiscated, even my fucking paper notepad withheld until they could find someone among their number literate enough to distinguish between handwritten notes on story ideas and, I suppose, nefarious terrorist plots. I was not left without my jacket in the face of Ontario’s first winter storm, after all buses and intercity shuttles had shut down for the night.

“In some other universe I am warm and content and not looking at spending two years in jail for the crime of having been punched in the face.”

Robert Scheer: Dear Barack, Spare Me Your E-Mails

Barack Obama’s faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those “we the people” e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths.

In each of the three most important areas of policy with which he has dealt, Obama speaks in the voice of the little people’s champion, but his actions cater fully to the demands of the most powerful economic interests.

With his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, he has given the military-industrial complex an excuse for the United States to carry on in spending more on defense than the rest of the world combined, without a credible military adversary in sight. His response to the banking meltdown was to continue George W. Bush’s massive giveaway of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, and his health care reform has all the earmarks of a boondoggle for the medical industry profiteers.

Let’s face it: President Obama is Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984.

What are you reading this morning, fellow Conflucians? I hope you can find something to cheer me up. No matter how bad things are, we are all still here and we are in it together, so….

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

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Manic Monday News Links

manicmonday

Good Morning Conflucians! Here is my frantically rushed summary of the latest news. I may add a few more odds and ends.

Politics and Politicians

Paterson Says He Will Run Despite White House Pressure

At a parade in Harlem, the governor refused to discuss his conversations with President Obama’s political team, which has made clear to Mr. Paterson in recent days that it has lost confidence in him and does not believe he can be elected next fall.

Asked how he would run as a Democrat without White House support, Mr. Paterson said, “I am running for governor right now. I have no idea — I am a candidate for governor.”

“I have had a number of different conversations with a number of different people,” he added. “They are confidential.”

Still, even as Mr. Paterson publicly vowed to continue, two prominent Democrats who had spoken to him over the weekend described him as mulling his options and open to the possibility of withdrawing from the race. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were intended to be confidential.

RNC chief thinks it’s “curious” that Obama would ask a black governor to step aside.

“I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for reelection,” Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), said on CBS’s Face The Nation.

Steele was commenting on a report in The New York Times that said an intermediary of President Barack Obama sent word to Paterson that he should not run, considering his low approval ratings. Asked by host Bob Schieffer if race played a role in the White House’s decision to ask Paterson to back off from campaigning, Steele said he didn’t think so.

“It raises a curious point for me. I think Gov. Paterson’s numbers are about the same as Gov. Corzine’s. The president is with Gov. Corzine,” Steele said. The RNC chairman was referring to Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democratic New Jersey governor who is facing a tough reelection bid this year.

Obama’s Sunday Media blitz

He made appearances on five different TV networks yesterday, and I missed every single one of them. Continue reading

A Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

I’m liberal. I’m not ashamed to say it. In fact, I’m proud of it.

Wikipedia defines liberalism as:

Liberalism is a broad class of political philosophies that considers individual liberty and equality to be the most important political goals.[1]

Liberalism emphasizes individual rights and equality of opportunity. Within liberalism, there are various streams of thought which compete over the use of the term “liberal” and may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for political liberalism, which encompasses support for: freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual’s right to private property,[2] and a transparent system of government.[3][4][5] All liberals, as well as some adherents of other political ideologies, support some variant of the form of government known as liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.[6]

According to author and philosophy professor Peter Vallentyne, “Liberalism comes in two broad forms. Classical liberalism emphasizes the importance of individual liberty and contemporary (or welfare) liberalism tends to emphasize some kind of material equality.”[7] In Europe, the term “liberalism” is closer to the economic outlook of American economic conservatives. According to Harry Girvetz and Minoque Kenneth “contemporary liberalism has come to represent different things to Americans and Europeans: In the United States it is associated with the welfare-state policies of the New Deal program of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whereas in Europe liberals are more commonly conservative in their political and economic outlook”.[8] In the United States, “liberalism” is most often used in the sense of social liberalism, which supports some regulation of business and other economic interventionism which they believe to be in the public interest. A philosophy holding a position in accordance with Scottish pioneer of political economy Adam Smith, that laissez-faire economics will bring about a spontaneous order or an invisible hand that benefits the society, is referred to as “classical liberalism.”[9], of which US-style libertarianism may be considered an extreme example.

Liberalism has its roots in the Age of Enlightenment and rejects many foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as the Divine Right of Kings, hereditary status, established religion, and economic protectionism.[10][11][12] Instead, it founds itself on the assumption of the equal dignity and worth of individuals.

By that standard, this is a liberal blog. I’d say we’re pretty obsessed with equality of opportunity and a transparent system of Government around here.

Wikipedia defines Progressivism as

Progressivism is a political and social term that refers to ideologies and movements favoring or advocating changes or reform, usually in a statist or egalitarian direction for economic policies (government management) and liberal direction for social policies (personal choice). Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative ideologies.

In the United States, the term progressivism emerged in the late 19th century into the 20th century in reference to a more general response to the vast changes brought by industrialization: an alternative to both the traditional conservative response to social and economic issues and to the various more radical streams of socialism and anarchism which opposed them. Political parties, such as the Progressive Party, organized at the start of the 20th century, and progressivism made great strides under American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.[1]

Ideologically, that makes me and this blog a Progressive blog. And ideologically, therefore, I am a Classical Liberal Progressive (or a “Moderate Liberal”), if you want to get down to the nitty gritty technical term of liberalisticims.

But I am not, in fact, a Progressive by identity. I am a liberal. Because in today’s American Political Culture, being a “Progressive” makes you a Right Wing Fundie in liberal drag. Sad, but true.

Liberals have been demonized for quite a while in this country. I’d say it probably started with the Reagan Era, when Religious zealots and Conservative Southern Democrats took over the Republican Party. Around that time, a lot of wealthy and privileged former self described College “Liberals” moved to the Republican Party, declaring themselves “Conservatives.” Publicly, they took up the cause of Militarism and Religious Fundamentalism, but privately they were hypocrites, and their activities are well-documented in one of my favorite books, Blinded By the Right, by David Brock (I quote it often).

Hillary Clinton called their politics of personal destruction political activism “A Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.” She was mocked for it in the media, but she wasn’t wrong. Ever since Nixon’s Resignation, these kooks had been using corporate sugar daddies like Richard Mellon Scaife to fund their agenda in the media and in interest groups.

Old farts like Pat Robertson and James Dobson and Newt Gingrich come to mind, but they weren’t the only tools involved in the process. Jokers like Andrew Sullivan, Ariana Huffington, and Chris Matthews cheered for some of the worse disasters of my Generation: CDS and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the election of George W. Bush, and the War in Iraq. And they did it all under the guise of their Gung Ho “Conservatism.”

Then, around the time of the mid term elections in 2006, they had a Come-to-Jesus moment and left the Republican Party, hilariously declaring themselves icons of the “New Left,” and by extension liberalism itself. Most of them had gotten their starts by smearing the Clintons, whom they declared were Republicans in drag. Sadly, the irony was lost on them and their projection continued. And even worse, they gained an audience. They and their followers coined themselves “The Progressive Movement.”

It wasn’t long until “The Progressive Movement” began cheering for their new standard bearer, Barack Obama. Again, the irony was lost on their audience. These imbeciles had spent the past two decades decrying all things liberal and good, why would anyone vote for the candidate they were peddling on places like Politico, the Huffington Post, and Daily Kos?

Well, I’m not like a lot of people. I don’t actually think Americans are stupid. Hillary won the popular vote. But the damage is still done. We have Bush the Third as our POTUS.

Today, these “Progressives”- Right Wing Fundies in liberal drag- and their allies in the media do the same thing to Sarah Palin and her family that they did to Bill Clinton and his family. The tactics are exactly the same. They slander her, spread rumors about her, and attack her and her children in the most gratuitous and revolting ways imaginable. They accuse her and they accused Bill Clinton of doing and being exactly what they are- power hungry, morally depraved, and ruthless- capable of doing and saying anything to obtain their victories.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and neither should you. The media is neither “liberal” nor “conservative.” The media is corporate. Since the emergence of a twenty four hour news cycle, they’ve depended on their sponsors and their ratings for profit, and don’t you know? Follow the money! You just have to watch CNN for one day to understand. The graphics in Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room are eerily similar to the graphics from Obama’s campaign and the DNC and RNC. A panel of all-male, white reporters will solemnly declare that Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are just whining- the Political coverage of them isn’t sexist and they are just trying to score political points with women. Then they go on a break and in the first commercial a woman is debating a Swiffer mop. A special about Al Gore’s Global Warming Documentary is solemnly discussed and Al Gore’s credibility is questioned with deep concern. Then they disappear and the screen explains, “This program has been sponsored by GM and Chrystler Motors.”

And again, the irony is lost on the audience.

Hillary’s famous “Right Wing Conspiracy” disguised as a Left Wing Conspiracy isn’t gone. It’s been with us this whole time, mouth breathing down our necks and leering at us like a bothersome lover.

And it’s rick rolled us once again.

Cross Posted at Age of Aquarius

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