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      There isn’t much to say that others haven’t, but let’s go through it anyway: There was never any chance that Darren Wilson would be charged; the prosecutor acted as defense attorney, not as prosecutor; A grand jury, for all intents and purposes does what the prosecutor tells it to; Doing the announcement at 8pm at [...]
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Monday: Break it to me gently

This morning, two extremely good looking dudes are upstairs cleaning my grout.

Wait, that didn’t sound right.

Anyway, the topic of this post is stuff we didn’t want to know about, stuff we tried to avoid seeing, but that is no longer avoidable, but we want to be let down easily.

Let’s start with this remarkable exchange that Paul Krugman had in London with some clueless austerians:

Conservatives seem to be in their own little universes where the laws of physics and supply and demand and the paradox of thrift do not apply to them.  They have beautiful theories destroyed by ugly facts.  It’s a world where new college graduates with $100K in student debt just can’t wait to start their own businesses and where unemployed chemists can start biotech companies by borrowing money from their “friends, families and fools”.

But nevermind that silly notion about how we all secretly want to become the equivalent of 18th century MBAs, Paul is trying to tell them that they were just dumped by the economy and it’s over, move on.  They want Paul to break it to them gently.  Let them down the easy way, presumably the way that doesn’t require any kind of concessions from them.  And Paul’s like, “He’s not coming back, Ok?  He doesn’t want you anymore.”  This exchange would almost be funny if it weren’t so deadly serious.  It’s very frustrating to have examined the data, run the models, found historical precedent and made accurate predictions only to have them ignored by people who are talking in non-sequitors about something completely different that works only in a different dimension.  I guess it’s going to have to take a global catastrophic failure before they get it. I don’t know what I find more disturbing about this: that there are so many disingenuous pundits out there lying to people or that these people may actually believe what they’re saying.  Is the average intelligence of the general populace really so low that people can’t reason this problem out?  That’s so frightening it makes me feel dizzy and sick.  Is there a 30 second youtube cartoon that can be put together to explain this to non-economists?

The second breakup story is from Peter Daou.  A year ago, he tried to warn the Obama administration that it needed to put more effort into courting its base but did it listen?  Daou found this article from April 2011 that suggested that the grassroots were not happy with Obama and wanted to see some effort from him before they started giving.  But the Democrats had Obama and they thought that everyone loved him because he’s so swave and de-boner so when the time came, they’d all come swooning back like they did in 2008.  Um, it turns out that isn’t happening.  In this new post from Buzzfeed Politics, we have this rather unsettling graphic that intimates that the honeymoon is over:

The dark blue dots are where Obama’s fundraising efforts have fallen off the most.  Funny how they follow state boundaries.  Isn’t it weird that this Democratic president has seen the least amount of fallout in predominantly conservative, bible thumping southern states? And JEEZ, look at the way Appalachia has been blowing him off.  But it’s not just Appalachia, California seems none too pleased, nor Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio.  In fact, it looks like all of the big states that Obama lost in the 2008 primaries are most seriously displeased.  I guess they’re trying to say that they’re just not that into him.  But the Democrats keep thinking that Obama’s the best that voters are going to get.  Sure, he’s a player, sure he’ll dump you for a Republicanesque bipartisan committee.  What are you going to do?  Voters are appearing to say that they’re not going to give him anymore money, how’s that?  They’ve been trying to let the party down the easy way for more than a year now.  But if the party isn’t listening, they might find that enough voters have left without a forwarding address that there will be a very rude awakening in November.

And then there is Wisconsin.  Bill Clinton was there a few days ago campaigning for Tom Barrett, the Democratic challenger in the recall election against Scott Walker.  Bill Clinton tried to give voters a wake up call about what this recall election means to them and the rest of working class Americans (working class is anyone not living off their bonuses and investments):

If you believe in an economy of shared prosperity when times are good, and shared sacrifice when they’re not, then you don’t want to break the unions. You want them at the negotiating table. And you trust them to know that arithmetic rules. Show up for Tom Barrett on Tuesday! If you want Wisconsin once again to be seen by all of America as a place of diversity, of difference of opinion, of vigorous debate, where in the end people’s objectives are to come to an agreement that will take us all forward together, youhave to show up for Tom Barrett on Tuesday!…

I can just hear it now, on Wednesday. All those people that poured all this money into Wisconsin, if you don’t show up and vote, will say, `see, we got them now. We’re finally going to break every union in America. We’re gonna break every government in America. We’re gonna stop worrying about the middle class. We don’t give a riff whether poor people get to work their way into it. We got our way now. We got it all. Divide and conquer works.’

You tell them no. You tell them, Wisconsin has never been about that, never will be about that — by electing Tom Barrett governor!

You can watch the whole speech here:

Clinton is not the kind of guy who likes recall elections or any attempt of one group of radicals to unseat a sitting elected official.  So, the fact that he’s out there in Wisconsin is significant because it means that he doesn’t see the working people of Wisconsin as a bunch of radicals.  This is THE most important election this year.  It is more important than the one in November, as it stands right now.  What Bill is really doing is sending a message to his own party to wake up and do something now because once the Republican juggernaut rolls over the working people of Wisconsin, it’s going to keep on rolling over everyone else.

Let me break it to you gently, lefty blogospherians, there is a battle right now within in the Democratic party.  We are seeing it play out in Wisconsin where the Democrats are pretending that they can straddle the fence.  They think that they can be for working class people in theory and still take money from big donors in practice and no one will notice when the economy fails and working people suffer.  That’s not going to happen.

Please note who is out there stumping for us.  Pay attention to what he is saying.  You need to have a vision of where you want to take the country.  You know all that shit you’ve been swallowing about how Bill Clinton wrecked the welfare system?  Think about that for a moment.  If you are one of those people who didn’t want to see the welfare system change to help people go to work and achieve and have dignity and get their families out of generational poverty, if what you really wanted was to just throw money at a problem and hope it went away, then you are a person who is afraid of change and not really aware of what a welfare check means to a person.  Do you know what we call people who like things the way they were and refuse to evolve?

Conservatives.

I am not going to break it to you gently, dear lefty progressives and liberals.  The left has failed to develop a vision of the future that acknowledges how our world has changed.  It has failed to figure out a way of elevating the working class out of the 20th century into the future with dignity, fairness, equality and excitement for what comes next.  The Democratic party fractured itself in 2008 and now it is floundering. The signs are all around that there’s a big breakup coming.  It needs to get its shit together as quickly as possible or we are all going to pay the price this November when the tons of money pouring into conservative message creating manages to aerosolize the working class and makes it impossible for any of us to join together and push back.

The “Clinton Party”? Hmmmm…

Howard Fineman wrote in HuffPo today about a couple of victories yesterday in Pennsylvania.  The two candidates he wrote about got the benefit of the Big Dawg’s endorsement.  In Kathleen Kane’s case, the former president called the candidate for PA attorney general’s campaign and offered to do a fundraiser.  He pointedly did not offer to do one for her competition, Rep. Patrick Murphy, who was an early endorser of Barack Obama’s in 2008.

In another case, Rep. Jason Altmire, who stayed neutral during 2008, asked Bill for assistance and was turned down.  Altmire lost the primary last night to Clinton endorsed candidate Mark Critz, who used to work for John Murtha, an early supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Fineman says that there are actually three parties in PA, the Democrats, the Republicans and the Clintons.  The Clintons are still wildly popular there.  Then he goes on to discuss Hillary’s supposed run for the White House in 2016.  Suddenly, everyone in the media is just wild about Hillary- in four years.  But it makes me wonder, if so many people are non-plussed by Obama and can’t stand the thought of the Republicans taking over and seem to be voting for Clinton endorsed candidates, why exactly do we have to wait four years?  Just askin’, because Obama’s prospects at winning the White House are ny no means assured.    Can’t anyone in politics think out of the box anymore?

Anyway, there’s more idle speculation in the Fineman post.  Of course, it’s Fineman and the Village probably doesn’t deserve anymore recognition or propagation of its conventional wisdom.  And for all we know, the Village is just exaggerating the tense detente between the Clinton and Obama camps.  They’re bored and they’d rather stir up some animosity and watch what happens, no matter how it affects the lives of ordinary Americans.  “Let’s talk up Hillary to piss off the Obots and then, pull the rug out from all of the hopeful voters.  Won’t that be fun?”  Just another case of election year journalists trying to make the news instead of reporting on it.

Nevertheless, there is a chewy nugget of truth in yesterday’s victories and before the lefty progressive anti-Clintonites start taking credit for it, let’s pause and consider if the older generation of Pennsylvanians aren’t nostalgic for better times and whether their votes for Clinton endorsed candidates are a swipe against Barack Obama and the Democratic party pony he rode in on.

*************

Here’s another little bit from that Fineman post that had me in stitches:

Hillary’s almost stoic durability was on display recently at a State Department briefing in the Franklin Dining Room, a colossal expanse festooned with marble pillars, crystal chandeliers and oil paintings of dead diplomats.

A sensible minute past the appointed time, Hillary swept in, casually carrying a mug of tea and a sheaf of briefing papers. She wore a handsome black-and-white pantsuit, an extra-long strand of double pearls and the look of an envoy supremely confident in her role, her knowledge and her station in life. She took three questions and three questions only — they run a tight ship at State — and answered them with clipped authority. Then, with a thin, business-like smile, she turned and left the room.

“She’s not the one with the sweeping vision,” said Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. “That’s Obama’s role. But she’s pragmatic and sensible. I’d say that she has a solid, workmanlike record.”

LOLOLOLOLOL!  {{wiping eyes, catching breath, straightening clothes}}

In other words, she’s overqualified to be Secretary of State.

Ok, I’ll take stoic durability, supreme confidence, knowledge and authority over Obama’s “sweeping vision” any day.

I’m just taking it all in

All around the left blogosphere, there is a sudden realization.  It’s like, what the hell did we get ourselves into?  There’s panic about the Grand Bargain Obama almost struck last summer, about the imminent death of Medicare, about the austerity measures in Florida.  We in the research industry could have told you all about that.  The idea is to shed as many in-house positions as possible, offshore them or hire people back as contractors, and vastly reduce the employer’s responsibility for health care and other benefits.  By the way, contractors do not have any labor protections and no unemployment insurance.  They sometimes don’t get paid or not in time to pay their own bills.  Your only right is the right to walk away.  It’s cruel and it’s brutal and it’s happening to people who have degrees in STEM fields, do hard, mental work and have ZERO union protections.

This happened on Obama’s watch.

Not Bill Clinton’s watch.

I have to say that I’m a little disappointed with Bruce Dixon’s appraisal of the Obama vs Republicans situation.  For the most part, he is right.  Obama is so far right that it drives Republicans crazy and leaves Democrats no where else to go, theoretically.  There’s always a place to go.  You just might be too chicken to go there.

What pisses me off is the way he dumps all over Bill Clinton- again.  This tendency to blame Clinton parallels what we see on the right when it dumps all over the unemployed.  It’s all *their* fault.  The attention is always directed elsewhere, away from the true culprits.  Bill Clinton is like a frustration ball.

I hate to have to climb the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend Bill Clinton yet again but it seems necessary because the left seems to be completely unmoored.

When Bill Clinton said he wanted to “end welfare as we know it”, he didn’t say “end welfare period, now and forever”.  He meant transitioning people from a lifetime of poverty with no skills or hope to one where they would be able to get training and a job. Who here thinks it is preferable to collect a subsistence check than a real paycheck?  Raise your hands.  The Clinton plan was to provide health care, housing vouchers and child care while people made that transition.  The Republicans seized an opportunity to provide quite a different plan.  I supported Clinton’s plan wholeheartedly because I don’t like the idea of generational poverty.  It’s not liberal.  YOUR mileage may vary but then YOU might not be a liberal.

Bill Clinton nominated Lani Guinier, an out of the box thinker on voting rights, as Assistant Attorney General in 1993.  The Republicans had a holy shit fit.  How quickly we forget.

Bill Clinton was the one who wanted to allow gay soldiers to serve openly.  The Republicans had another fit about that.  We ended up with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Bill Clinton appointed Hillary to reform health care.  She couldn’t get it through due to forces in the Republican party and her own party (ever wonder why?) but she vigorously championed SCHIP for children.  Anyone remember what Rush Limbaugh did to that kid who was severely injured in a car accident with his sister?  Disgusting.  That’s what SCHIP brings out in Republicans.

Bill Clinton appointed the last two liberals to the Supreme Court.  I’m sorry but I don’t see Sotomayor or Kagan as being champions of liberal philosophy.  They only look liberal in comparison.

Yes, Bill Clinton made some mistakes.  He appointed Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Robert Rubin.  They turned out to be an axis of money induced evil.  I’m assuming he had a reason for this, like the Democrats before Clinton were notorious for being anti-business and maybe he wanted to change that image.  Maybe he thought he could manage it.  Balance competing interests. Rely on an intact regulatory system and Al Gore’s election.  But that evil triumvirate was an unknown quantity when he hired them.  In 2008, they had a paper trail, which is presumably why Hillary kept her distance. What was Obama’s excuse?

Over and over again, the president who left us with a surplus and nearly full employment throughout his two terms, who held off a punitive budget deal during a government shut down and who was pursued by some pretty batshit crazy Republican Javerts throughout his terms in office, is pointed to by the left as some kind of Republican mole.

I know the left is going through a crisis of conscience but don’t lose your heads and try to rewrite history.  When you need the Clinton Democrats to help you, they’re going to remember how you turned Bill Clinton into a scapegoat or let other more savvy operators turn you against his legacy.

And let’s not forget where Bill falls on the left-right spectrum of recent former presidents and where Obama is in comparison.  Here’s the graph from Krugman’s blog post on the subject:

Back in 1992, the “center” was much farther left than it is now.  People tend to forget this because we’ve been stuck firmly in the right since George Bush usurped the presidency.  If Clinton was a centrist, he was a pretty fricking liberal one, which is what drove the Republicans nuts in the first place.  They were foaming at the mouth before he took the oath of office the first time.  He hadn’t even done anything yet.  There was no triangulating and they already wanted to lynch him and make sure he didn’t succeed.  But he did anyway.

Obama is a totally different story.  He is the appointed president of the independents, moderate Republicans and financial class.  He didn’t win the nomination.  It was given to him.  THAT’S why he’s so insensitive to the Democratic base and the liberals.  It’s because he didn’t have to earn it with the voters.

Don’t blame Clinton for what the party has brought on itself.  Blaming Clinton is about as effective as blaming the unemployed for having no money.  It changes nothing.

What I want to know is where are women’s advocacy groups?  Why is Occupy the face of labor?  Why are the left bloggers keeping conspicuously mum over the massive loss of STEM jobs?  Why is it that the atheists are the ones who have to organize for knocking some sense into the country’s dialogue?  Whatever happened to reason?

All I see is gratuitous hits on Sarah Palin, jabs at Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and a whole lot of hand wringing.  The left blogosphere looks like it’s afraid of it’s own shadow, terrified that challenging the Democrats and Obama to actually *do* something will bring on Armageddon.  It’s too late for that.  It’s already here.  If you don’t challenge the Democrats, then you are part of the problem and maybe even complicit.  And if that’s the case, you are going to lose all credibility and any power you have left.

So, stop doing it.  Focus on putting pressure on the Democrats.  Ignore the Republicans.  They aren’t going to change.  You can only make progress by pressuring your own side to do something.  And that something does not include introducing a measure in the blogosphere to condemn Bill Clinton.  Get a grip.

Monday: Bubba and Baruch

A recent Esquire interview with Bill Clinton didn’t get as much attention in the blogosphere as I might have expected, or maybe I missed it.  But it’s a fascinating article in many respects.  For one thing, Bill Clinton still has it, that damnable facility with language that drives his enemies and detractors to distraction.  Nevertheless, for all of his political skills, which are formidable, there seems to be a blind spot where Republicans are concerned or maybe he sees the lengths that others are willing to go but he’s made up his mind not to go there.  The conversation he had with one of his impeachment foes, former Representative Bob Inglis, is an example of this:

So he came to me and he said, “I just want you to know, when you got elected, I hated you. And I asked to be on the Judiciary Committee in 1993, because a bunch of us had already made up our minds that no matter what you did or didn’t do, we were going to find some way to impeach you. We hated you. You had no right to be president.” And he said, “That’s wrong.” And he said, “I’m sorry.” And he now meets with a group in South Carolina with a woman he once defeated, Liz Patterson. Very commendable thing.

In one sense, he was blindsided by this irrational hatred from the Republicans when he first came into office.  Maybe that’s the problem.  Bill, the politician, can handle rational behavior, the pulls of different ideologies.  He gets that kind of hardball politics.  It’s the meaningless, destructive, selfish kind of politics that elude him, the tearing down just because you can.  Call me naive but I kinda like that in my politician.

There’s a lot to still like about Bill.  Some of his ideas about work shows that he’s still learning and there is still an openness about where the future can take us in the area of workplace flexibility.  I am in complete agreement that we should adopt the military’s method of teaching people new skills every couple of years.  I know this helped me quite a bit when I went back into the lab for my last year of work.  I relearned how to do experiments hands on, learned an entirely new but related area of study and best of all, was able to add my previous experience to my new experience.  The result was greater than the sum of the parts, especially because I had the added advantage of working on the same protein in a different capacity.  It was a revelation to me, renewed my interest in science, and triggered something in my brain that we think we lose when we get older.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that this is not true.  So, my advice to employers is not to write off people who have been in the same job for years.  Change it up, if they are willing.  You’ll be encouraging flexibility and building a knowledge pool of expertise.  In fact, I would predict that your chances of hitting on something truly innovative will be increased.  Of course, this should be encouraged and not forced.

Bill has something to say about the Occupy movement as well.  He’s for it.  But he also says that the occupiers should come up with 3-4 statements or demands.  Now, I know that other people have made this kind of suggestion before and I agree that it’s somewhat premature to be asking this of Occupy.  But let’s consider this suggestions from Bill’s point of view.

In my humble opinion, Bill and Hillary Clinton have a very well developed worldview.  You may not *like* that worldview or find that it doesn’t gel with your concept of what a politician is or should be or whatever.  But this worldview is internally consistent.  That is, the Clinton’s have a philosophy about how the world operates and what it takes to meet your goals.  Their approach to politics and policy is based on this worldview.  A glimpse of this can be seen in Hillary’s book “It Takes a Village”.  If you believe that the community you construct has the biggest impact on a child’s life, your policies will reflect that as well as the approach you take to dealing with members of that community.  That worldview was also evident in their approach to healthcare in the early 90s.  Back then, health insurance was a problem but we saw it from a personal point of view.  Cost and access were the problems.  I think the Clintons saw it differently.  If you have a well developed worldview of how people, business and politics work, it isn’t difficult to project into the future and see that the costs of health care were unsustainable and would eventually have a severe impact on business.

It was a glimpse of this worldview at Hillary’s breakout session at YearlyKos2 in 2007 that I found so appealing.  This internal consistency and study allowed Hillary to define the problem and develop policies to address this problem and stay within this worldview.  This is their biggest strength. I think this is also the Clintons’ weakness because it relies on rationality and clearly defined goals and the Republicans introduced a measure of senselessness into that worldview.

I’m not sure how to derail the Republicans and make them see reason but if you have a worldview, you must find a way to put that senselessness and selfishness in its proper place and learn how to incorporate it.  Capitulating to it in the hopes that you will be able to reason with it clearly didn’t work in 2008.  I think the Clintons keep learning.  They aren’t perfect but they’ve been working on this stuff for a long time.

Now, what does this have to do with Occupy?  Occupy has a great starting point.  How do you address income and social inequality and make life more rewarding for the 99%?  Without a consistent worldview your demands may end up looking like a laundry list of various complaints that don’t relate to one another.  They will be easy to shoot down.  Your spokespeople won’t know how to defend them.  I looked at Occupy Science’s facebook page a couple of weeks ago and despaired.  The participants were in full react mode without bothering to find out how modern science research and business work.  Without that knowledge base, you can not make sensible demands or craft good policy.  It’s not enough to be angry and act like an injured party.  You need to understand the nature of the problem.  This does not mean all of the complexity.  It simply means, how do the components relate to each other so that you know which buttons to push to get the desired endpoint.  That goes for all of the other important issues as well.

What is your worldview?  In your world, what are the things that relate to one another?  How do you account for human nature?  What are the things that make people do good?  How do you encourage people to do those things?  What is valuable?  What is democratic?  Is democracy even a desired endpoint?  I hope it is but have we thought about this problem thoroughly to convince ourselves that this is true? What are our premises?  What do we have to work with? What is the role of business, government, religion, ethics, nature?  It’s a very philosophical problem and it takes most people a lifetime to figure this out.  The problem is, we don’t have a lifetime.  We have only a few months.  Therefore, we may have to borrow someone else’s starting point.

Who might we call on?  One possibility is Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher who had a very well developed worldview.  Unlike other philosophers who tackled one weighty question at a time, Spinoza had a comprehensive worldview that melded human nature, ethics, psychology, politics and theology and he did it at a time in history when all of these things were in conflict with each other.  There are some parallels between Spinoza’s Europe and our modern day that make him a pretty good starting point.  In fact, the other philosophers of the enlightenment drew heavily from Spinoza’s works.  Was he perfect?  No.  Some of his ideas are limited by the examples he had on hand.  There was no American revolution and the ideas of Adams, Jefferson and Franklin.  And yet, our founding fathers incorporated Spinoza’s ideas into our country’s working documents.

When I was taking philosophy courses decades ago, we read Decartes and Hume and Kant but skipped over Spinoza.  There’s really no satisfactory answer for why this is except that Spinoza was a radical enlightenment thinker whose unconventional view of god might have scared conventional philosophers away.   But if you’re looking for a starting place to base your demands, you could do worse than adopt Spinoza’s method of constructing an internally consistent worldview that incorporates nature, politics and man.

For more information about Spinoza, there are a couple of youtube videos that might be useful. For a lite overview of Spinoza, try this In Our Time podcast. I like this kind of thing but it might not be your cup of tea.  This two hour discussion of Spinoza is particularly juicy:

Don’t be put off by the moderator.  He’s the only one who talks in this hesitant style.  The other panelists are more fluid.

Thursday: Analysis comes trickling in

According to Dan Balz at WaPo, Ohio may be key to Obama’s reelection.  He won’t necessarily lose the presidency if he loses Ohio.  It’s just that no one since Jack Kennedy has been able to pull it off.  Obama apparently has a problem with white working class and older voters.  I don’t suppose it has anything to do with telling Appalachia to go F%^ itself in 2008 or that Pennsylvania voters were bitter, narrow minded racists.  Still, a lot of them probably ended up voting for him in 2008 because he ran as a Democrat and the 2008 financial crash scared the bejeesus out of them.  So, I’m betting that a lot of them are none too thrilled that he turned out not to be a Democrat after all.

It’s one thing to subvert the dominant paradigm locally.  There were some thought provoking referendum items on ballots yesterday and since the debt ceiling debacle in August, voters are starting to get a more complete picture of what the Republican party is all about.  Well, except for Virginia.  But if the presidential contest comes down to Romney vs Obama, it may be much tougher to call it a victory in advance for the Democrats.  If voters want a “change election” and they’re not happy with Obama’s performance so far and they see moderate Mitt as a the guy to send a message to Democrats to clean up their act, well, it would be a shame.  Because the legislative races could sweep Democrats into power again and to be saddled with Mitt would just be another missed opportunity.

There are a couple of  things I would like to point out to the Obama contingent: 1.) You may have perfectly good reasons for opposing Hillary Clinton.  You haven’t persuaded me that they’re really *good* reasons, but I will accept that you have them.  But you are just a tiny but vocal contingent and unfortunately, according to pollsters, Hillary is still wildly popular among the dirty, unwashed, insufficiently educated voters you look down on- to your detriment.  Just because YOU don’t like her, doesn’t mean the rest of the country cares a flying f%^& what you think.  You can take your chances with Obama or reassess your candidates.  Sherrod Brown also looks promising. 2.) The idea that the African-American community will have a riot and abandon the party if Obama isn’t renominated is speculative at best, bordering on racist at worst.  That attitude presumes that economically stressed people will put their racial preferences before their economic preferences even though the performance of the person up for reelection, and who has blown them off for 4 years, has been poor and made their lives miserable.  One thing I think Obama Democrats are overlooking is that half the African-American community is female.  With Clinton running, African-American females can’t lose.  Identity politics could work here as well.  I would vote for her because she’s the better candidate but we can’t overlook the fact that the double X thing is even more historic than the absence of some silly mutation that causes less melanin to be produced in the skin.  3.) You could always go with a primary.  True, primaries are expensive but maybe *this* time, you could allow full participation of your base.  And while in normal election years primaries haven’t worked in the incumbent’s favor, the last three years have been anything but ordinary.  This is a different economic environment than anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression and as we know, organisms that fail to adapt to their environment, don’t make it to pass on their political philosophy to the next generation.  But even more importantly, having a primary could reenergize the country and suck the air right out of the Republicans’ offensive.  That is, if you have the right people primarying.  You would have to get candidates who could make a strong case for an FDR style New Deal set of programs.  It could be a way of arguing against the same old bipartisan shtick that Democrats like Obama have been peddling for the past decade.

Just some ideas since the poll numbers don’t appear to bode well for Obama next year and the signs that the party is starting to realize that are all over the place.

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Oh, look, Washingtonian Magazine says that the State Department is one of the top 50 best workplaces.  Fancy that.  I wonder why that is?  Back in the Bush years, career diplomats were quitting all over the place and emailing some very critical “good-bye cruel world” resignation letters.  Remember?  What could have possibly changed…?  No, no, don’t tell me.  From the CNN report:

The State Department made the list based on a survey of Federal News Radio listeners and in consultation with the non-partisan, non-profit Partnership for Public Service.

Hillary Clinton’s State Department has 44,362 employees and they can take advantage of perks including a student-loan repayment program, a transit subsidy, and a wide array of courses through the Foreign Service Institute, Washingtonian Magazine says.

“We’re making history every day when we come to work. That’s pretty amazing,” Gilberto TorresVela, an economic officer in the Office of Cuban Affairs, tells the magazine. “State’s employees feel that their work makes a difference in foreign affairs, helping to make the world more secure,” the article says.

What did Jon Favreau say about working for Hillary once upon a time?  I can’t remember.  But I do remember Tina Fey saying “bitches get stuff done”.

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Coming to a workplace near you:  Your company lays you off.  A new company comes to town and hires you as a contractor working for less pay and fewer benefits and sends you to work – at the company that just laid you off.  This is how we treat our STEM graduates who worked for Lilly.  And the contracting company is going to skim some profits off of this arrangement with Lilly, at workers’ expense.  I’m amazed at how many people in the comment thread are talking about unionizing.  You never would have heard that kind of talk from chemists a few years ago.  But the American Chemical Society has been conspicuously absent while its professional members have been getting the axe and watching their compensation packages get decimated.  Something has to be done.

The funny thing is that this attempt at “in-sourcing” may not be as money saving for Lilly as the outsourcing they were doing to China and India.  We knew the outsourcing wasn’t cost effective because it’s hard to keep track of the work and proprietary information half a world away. In-sourcing will have its own set of problems because they’ve taken the scientists who used to be invested in their projects as problem solvers and reduced their participation to hands on workers who perform a series of tasks for a specified amount of money.  The problem with producing new drugs isn’t that American STEM workers don’t produce.  The problem is that the management hasn’t got a clue about how to do research to make conditions conducive to the discovery of new drugs.  Here’s a hint: you can’t do good research with a “flexible” staff.  You need to hire people who are willing to go above and beyond what you ask of them, who will stay late to watch a reaction, who will come in on their days off to count cells and start new passages, who are willing to read more papers on new methods.  If you take their expertise and try to break it down into little “just in time” bits, not only will you start running into IP issues, necessitating information roadblocks to keep the contract workers from looking at the sciency stuff that makes their work interesting, what you will get is someone who doesn’t feel invested in the project or the company.  They’re too busy trying to make ends meet for their families and feeling resentment that they’ve spent so much time slaving away at hard subjects in college just so they could be treated as no better than some high school dropout assembly line worker for about the same pay.  At 5:00pm, they’re out of there.

Businesses in Indiana where this is going on are going to take a hit when those same workers have their salaries drastically reduced.  They will be buying less in the way of goods and services.  And let’s not forget that if the work is only contract, there’s no way these workers can safely plan for the future.  That means fewer homeowners, more renters, fewer people invested in their communities, more of the “paradox of thrift”.  It could also mean fewer people with health insurance if contract workers have to pay for it themselves with reduced salaries.  And that’s going to come back to bite taxpayers in the butt when those same workers suck up precious public health dollars when they get sick.  Those are the same STEM workers who were paying a lot of state taxes and helping other people.  Now, they become a burden on the state.  Everybody loses in this arrangement except the new middleman overseers.

We’re not talking about high school dropouts here.  This is the way we treat STEM workers.  And if there are readers out there who are entertaining the idea that STEM workers shouldn’t feel entitled to a healthy salary, I suggest they try it themselves.  Go check out the requirements for a BS degree in Chemistry or Biology or engineering.  We are laying these people off in droves.  The ones that aren’t forced into early retirement are cooling their jets while the industry tries to cut corners every way it can, reducing the output of research as a result and creating a vicious circle of more layoffs.  The industry MBAs did this to themselves.  Let’s stop blaming STEM graduates for being at the mercy of some cost saving management fad.  If I hear one more politician parroting the business community’s lies about how they don’t have enough STEM graduates so they can use it as an excuse to import more cheap H1B visa holders instead of treating their current crop of labrats with respect and dignity, I’m going to get a posse of laid off  chemists together to occupy their Manhattan offices.  Do you hear me, Bill Clinton??

Meanwhile, contracting continues apace with nurses aides and home healthcare assistants taking a blow to their salaries.  Here’s a typical story.  Substitute “chemist” for “nurse’s aide” and “Lilly” for “hospital” and the result is converging for both sets of workers:

In June, one of the state workers at the Grand Rapids home, Emilie Perttu, 24, reluctantly left her job and took a nurse’s aide position at a hospital for a quarter less than she was making. Ms. Perttu, a single mother of two, started at the veterans’ home as a contract worker for J2S before becoming a state worker last year. She said that after Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, cited the outsourcing plans in his budget for 2012 and 2013, she feared losing her job or having her wages sharply reduced.

The lower wage, she says, has left her strained to cover $675 a month in rent, along with basics like food and child care. So Ms. Perttu collects $400 monthly in food stamps and child care assistance, programs administered by the state but largely financed by the federal government. She has not been able to buy winter coats for her children, she said, and often avoids calls from credit card bill collectors.

For those of you who think your virtue has kept you employed through this recession, don’t get comfy.  Once you, the worker, are mandated by law to carry your own health insurance with no competition from a public option or low cost health plan, the companies you work for will feel no obligation to keep you on the payroll.  They can lay you off and hire you back as a contractor.  Your health insurance becomes *your* problem.  This is what you get when you hire a president and Congress that are scared to address cost control, business run amok and hyperbolic TV bloviators who call them socialists.

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And THIS, was the one thing that ended Rick Perry’s presidential aspirations last night:

It wasn’t all of the stupid s%^& he has been saying up until this point.  No, it was Perry having a “senior moment”.  In fact, if he had just said, “Sean, I was thinking so fast I lost my train of thought. Did that ever happen to you?  Can you come back to me on that one?”  The crowd would have totally understood his.  Republican voters aren’t all concerned with whether the dude is perfect.  On the contrary, if he’s just a regular average guy like themselves who occasionally makes mistakes, they are cool with that.  He’s human.  There were many good reasons to reject Perry up to this point.  Mostly it’s all the stupid s%^& that comes out of his mouth when his brain is working optimally.  Making a big deal out of a brain freeze *might* just be overkill.  It could revive his standing slightly.  Republicans might begin to “feel his pain”.  You don’t want that.  On the other hand, if Fox News starts proclaiming the Perry era over, that’s a different problem.

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I think we can see the Republicans strategy for defeating the 99%.  It starts with Karl Rove’s sudden interest in the Massachusett’s Senator’s race between Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown.  Rove has seen the mojo emanating from Warren.  The attempts to paint her as a Harvard elite liberal have failed and she seems to have tapped into a deep vein of discontent among the peasants.  They are getting all righteously indignant and look like they might start revolting.  We can’t have that.  So, we will bombard her from now until election day.  It will be unrelenting.  It will be like 3 weeks before the election from now until November 2012.  We’ll keep her so busy defending herself that she will run out of money and will have to keep tapping the proles for more.  And more.  Because no matter how much money she has, we always make her spend more.  Her supporters will get sick of the constant begging.  And that’s why the Citizens United ruling was so outrageous:

This video is a little irritating in its “I’m going to talk really sloooowly for you because you don’t seem to be getting it” approach to its target audience (hint: it’s not us).  They could have been snappier and put in a little more humor.  But after you’ve seen it, it’s hard to say you don’t understand what the problem is:

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And I am introducing The Plum Line metric today.  The Plum Line is described as “a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant — what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.”  I’d say that is a pretty accurate description.  A couple of times per day, Greg Sargent posts a compilation of blog posts from around the web.  It is probably safe to assume that these are the writers that Sargent feels are the more authoritative and “serious” voices from online journals and the blogosphere.  But how many are women?  And what will the numbers tell us?  I don’t know yet but a blogger like Sargent who writes for the Washington Post is going to refer to people who have access to information or powerbrokers.  So, The Plum Line Metric may give us an indication of how much access and potential influence women have to shape political opinions “with a liberal slant”.

Today’s Plum Line Metric:

Happy Hour Round Up:

Number of citations: 12

Number of male writers cited: 12

Number of female writers cited: 0

In a perfect world, women should represent half of the writers cited since 1.)they represent half of the population as a whole, 2.)there is no shortage of female bloggers and writers on the internet and, 3.)presumably, they have opinions about how the world should be run that is not identical, but may be complementary  to the conventional wisdom of liberal male opinionmakers. So, ideally, the ratio of females cited to males cited should be close to or equal to 1.  Does anyone want to argue that allowing one half of the population to assume the responsibility for speaking for the other half of the population will actually express the full range of issues and priorities that that other half feels are important?  Right.  Moving on.  Since the goal is to eventually reach 1 and we are at less than 1 now, let’s put the number of females cited in the numerator and the number of males cited in the denominator. We could use male citations/ female citations, which would be an indication of how many male voices we listen to per female voices, but we run up against the possibility of division by zero and mathematics hasn’t been able to get around that problem yet.

Today’s Plum Line Metric is 0/12 = 0.

This metric is not meant to be a slap down of Greg Sargent.  He just happens to have an easy to count compilation at the end of the day. We could also include the Morning Post from The Plum Line.  But let’s just stick to the Happy Hour compilation for now and I’ll update it with a cumulative ratio as well.  Maybe we can plot it on a graph.  We could even go back through the archives for a couple of years to see if there have been any trends or changes.  Suggestions are welcome.

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Two things about Joe Paterno.  1.) He’s 84 years old.  Even if he hadn’t been fired, he should have been made an emeritus years ago.  My god, the man was prematurely decomposing.  It would have been better if he hadn’t gotten fired but 2.) He knew that a member of his staff was a relapsed child molester and covered it up.  No number of national championships can make that acceptable.  None whatsoever:

Yet it was Mr. Paterno who remained the public face of the university. He met with his team Wednesday in a gathering that players described as emotional. Stephon Morris, a junior cornerback, said Paterno was near tears when he told the team he was leaving. “I’ve never seen Coach Paterno like that in my life,” Mr. Morris said. Still, Mr. Paterno’s talk was not all about the turmoil. Mr. Morris said Mr. Paterno’s main message was “Beat Nebraska,” referring to Penn State’s next opponent. When he left, his players gave him a standing ovation.

Yeah, cry me a river.  As one of the signs in the accompanying slide show says, “Joe Paterno is NOT a victim”.  Well, that’s the last time that student will get season tickets.

There are causes that are worth rioting and smashing car windows.  Firing Joe Paterno for abetting a creep who was seen having anal sex with a 10 year old in the Nittany Lions locker room showers is not one of them.

BTW, I lived in “Happy Valley” when I got my first job after graduation.  For a former University of Pittsburgh student, football season up there was almost unbearable.  Well, there’s nothing much else to do in State College but still, they took it to ridiculous extremes even by obsessed fan standards.  Fall weekends were a perfect excuse to get the f%^& out of town and hang out in more sophisticated and cultured venues- like Harrisburg.  Yeah, that’s how bad it was.

A suggestion about demands for OccupyWallStreet

Update: Is anyone soaping “99%” on their windows tomorrow?

The Big Dawg has weighed in regarding OccupyWallStreet and says that the movement has to start making its intentions known.  He suggested that OccupyWallStreet get behind Obama’s jobs program but we’ve already seen what a failure that bill was.  It was too little, too late and came with too many long term effects to social security.   But now that OWS has seized Pilate’s wife, it has to issue some demands.

So, assuming that the 99% want some say over what to do with the money they earn through actual, you know, *work*, part of the task has to be to get politicians to rewrite the rules and reimpose regulations so we don’t get screwed again.  At the top of the agenda should probably be some set of policies that reward people who make their living from work over people who make their living through investments.  If it is the case that the 1% has the money to lobby the rulemakers to write the rules in its favor, then it must also be the case that there are rulemakers who will happily do its bidding and not ours.  The only way to change that is to get rid of a lot of rulemakers and replace them with rulemakers who are more to our liking.  And the only way to do that is to vote the compromised rulemakers out of office.  But before we get to the point where we decide who gets to stay and who has to go, there has to be a mechanism in place that will ensure the integrity of the voting process.  Because, as we have seen recently, the rulemakers are very intent on preventing the wrong kind of people from voting.  Then there is the problem of voting machines.  They are very easy to hack and most states do not require a paper trail.

There is a proposed remedy for this.  Rush Holt, congressman from NJ’s 12th district, has proposed a bill called the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005.

On February 2, 2005, Rep. Rush Holt reintroduced the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550), a bill designed to restore confidence in the outcomes of elections and in our electoral process generally. The measure would require all voting machines to produce an actual paper record that voters can inspect to check the accuracy of their votes and that election officials can use to verify votes in the event of a computer malfunction, hacking, or other irregularity. Experts often refer to this paper record as a “voter-verified paper ballot.”

“Anything of value should be auditable,” said Holt. “Votes are valuable, and each voter should have the knowledge—and the confidence—that his or her vote was recorded and counted as intended. Passage of this bill will be a big step in restoring that confidence, which is the very foundation of our democratic republic.”

The bill was sponsored in 2005 and was reintroduced by Holt in 2009, probably with the sunny optimistic view that with Democrats in the driver’s seat, the bill would have a prayer. But it has been sitting in committees ever since.  I guess it was too much to ask the Democrats to pass it when they had majorities in both houses, because that would have been politically astute and the right thing to do but Democrats don’t seem to have a good sense of self-preservation.  Don’t expect the Republicans to do it.  That’s not their thing.  But if there is a movement demanding its passage, well, that would be a very big step in the right direction.   Because no matter how popular this movement is, it can’t do a damn thing if there are irregularities with the voting system.  When the vote is compromised and can’t be reliably verified, you’ve already lost.

Consider it a ‘first principles” thing.  Demand the integrity of the voting system so that the 99%’s voice can never be overridden during a election.  You’ll see pretty quickly who’s on your side and who isn’t and the answer may surprise you.  It also has the added benefit of favoring neither party, which is what you want.  The act is only intended to benefit voters and make sure there is a verifiable paper trail.  And who among the 99% can argue against that?  Part of the problem with this country is that people don’t think their votes count.  Here’s a way to make sure they do.  (We’ll have to tackle the corrupt party primaries separately)

Voting should be orgasmic.

Racism and Deadlines

So, the Obama whips are trying to get us back into line, supporting Obama for re-election next year.  Why else would we be treated to timely reminders of what racists we are?  It’s a strange phenomenon but I never think about Obama’s race until he or one of his lackeys brings it up and shoves it in my face again.  He is, according to them, as spotless and competent or incompetant as any other Democrat.  Like Clinton.  {{eyes rolling}}  (Joseph Cannon has a nice post on this as well).

Can I just dispel some myths and legends about Clinton because I witnessed it, having been old enough (and born) to vote for him in 1992?

When I voted for him, I thought he was a moderate liberal.  One thing was for damn sure, he was nowhere near as conservative as his Republican opponent.  Nosiree.  Plus, I really liked his wife.  She was smart and didn’t mind sticking up for working women even when the traditional women got on her case.

Anyway, what I remember about Clinton’s terms in office, more than any other thing that happened during those eight years, was the relentlessly negative coverage he got from the media and the endless investigations instigated by Republican troublemakers.  It started before he took office and it didn’t end even after his moving van was chased away from the White House by screeching hordes hellbent on denying the Clintons even one piece of personal china from their friends and supporters.  They were even accused of swiping the “W’s” off the keyboards.

Even the Supreme Court didn’t see the harm in letting him and his wife be subject to crazy, speculative lawsuits.  He’d just have to deal with them.  He did.  But that doesn’t mean his performance in office didn’t suffer.  I think it did.  He had to shelve a lot of things he wanted to do.  DADT was a compromise solution.  So was DOMA.  Without that middle ground, there was a good possibility that some very negative homophobic amendments would have been passed.  Lani Guinier didn’t have a chance.  His attorney general picks were harassed for having nanny problems (but Tim Geithner suffered no punishment for not paying his taxes.  *He* was confirmed anyway for an infraction that would have gotten him fired if he had been an IRS agent).  Even his military strategies were called into question.  Remember the accusations of “Wag the Dog” when he bombed bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998?  His Republican detractors were convinced that he did it because he wanted to take everyone’s mind off Monica Lewinsky, not because bin Laden was a dangerous terrorist who had bombed two American embassies in Africa and a US Naval vessel.

Then there’s the stuff that progressives say they hate him for, like NAFTA.  If there was a free trade agreement that ever had a reason for being, it might be NAFTA.  We do a lot of business with Canada and Mexico.  NAFTA had the promise of eliminating a lot of bureaucracy, saving everyone a lot of time and money.  You know, smaller government is not such a bad thing when it’s done well.  The problem is that Republicans would not enforce labor standards.  Maybe Clinton should have abandoned it at that point.  But NAFTA is not the most significant thing plaguing the employment market right now.  I am not competing for a job against some dude in Guadalajara.  My competition is in Western Europe and Asia.  Europe because they actually protected their scientific infrastructure and Asia because there is a lot of cheap labor there.  Unions are key to both situations.  I will leave it to the political braintrusts to figure that out.

As for Welfare Reform?  I was all for it.  I think reducing generational poverty is a laudable endeavor and am genuinely surprised that other liberals aren’t in favor of it too.  It is much better to have a job than to have a measly government check that keeps you poor.  I supported programs that trained people, especially young mothers, to get decent jobs and education.  The more we educate women and get them to support themselves, the fewer children they will have and the better the quality of life for the children they do have.  (Well, that was the theory until Obama came along and bought into deficit reduction, but I digress) As I remember it, Clinton’s team wanted to support parents with child care subsidies and housing vouchers and additional Head Start while they were transitioning to a work environment.  And Republicans, as is their wont, were agin it.  I fail to see how asking people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps but denying them boots was actually going to work but our media punditry seem to remove the obligation to make sense from Republican proposals.  The Republicans passed a draconian welfare reform act which Clinton mitigated later.

The area where I think Clinton failed was in the regulation of derivatives and allowing the dismantling of the Glass-Steagal Act by Gramm-Bliley.  Brookesly Born was the legendary regulator who opposed Larry Summers about the regulation of derivatives.  She was right, they were wrong.  Some of the guys who were Clinton appointees who joined with Summers to gang up on Born, now regret that they didn’t take her advice because she was absolutely right.  But note which candidate appointed Summers to his economics team.  That’s right, Barack Obama.  Gramm-Bliley was another matter.  We can’t leave Clinton totally off the hook but I think that he counted on Gore to win in 2000 and keep an eye on how that was going.  So, yeah, Clinton had a hand in this, probably by appointing Robert Rubin and letting the finance industry have a little too much freedom.  That was regrettable.  But the bulk of the responsibility for what happened in 2008 is George Bush’s.  There were plenty of warning signs in 2006 that the markets were going seriously off the rails and his regulators were either complicit or incompetent.  And then Paulson and Geithner failed to prevent the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  That was the disaster that triggered all the rest.  And who does Obama appoint as his Treasury Secretary? Tim Geithner.

The biggest differences that I can see between the Clinton years and the Obama years is that when the Republicans amped up the crazy starting in 1992, no one had ever seen anything like it before.  It wasn’t like Watergate when Nixon really did something criminal and both parties took him out.  No, this was a political media Dresden that seemed determined to wipe Clinton off the map.  He and Hillary didn’t always navigate the firestorm very well.  They were the first that had to go through it.  No other president in my lifetime has had every crevice of their personal and political lives examined in such humiliating detail.  And what did the millions of dollars of investigations turn up?  A blow job.  That was it.  It wasn’t even “paradise by the dashboard light” homerun intercourse.  Other than that, they were clean.  I doubt that any other political family in Washington could have come out of that looking like the dedicated public servants they turned out to be.

But they learned while they were in office what the limits were to what they could accomplish of their agenda.  And, by golly, they got a lot done.  The Republicans were constantly thwarted in what they wanted to do.  Progressives call it “triangulation”; I call it “pol-i-tics”. Gingrich shut down government and got in big trouble for it.  Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy against the Republicans wishes.  They tried to impeach Clinton and the public supported him anyway.  They wanted to pass an amendment to the constitution defining marriage only between a man and a woman and all they got was DOMA.  With another, less experienced, less apt student in the Oval Office, the Republicans would have gotten away with murder.

When Hillary ran in 2008, she was an even quicker learner than Bill.  She took the media on and beat it.  It wasn’t Fox News that took Hillary down.  It was her own party.

And now we are asked to support the guy who “beat” her in the primary.  A guy who runs a sexist White House.  A guy who CEO’s on Wall Street say is even more right of center than they thought.  A guy who was a deficit hawk during a recession.  A guy who didn’t think there was anything he could or wanted to do about unemployment.  A guy who is disgracefully allowing the dismantling of the US R&D industry without lifting a finger to help.  A guy who gave Bankers a pass.  A guy who crafted one of the most inept forms of healthcare insurance reform imaginable that will do absolutely nothing to lower costs but passes almost all of them onto the backs of already stretched consumers.  A guy who hurt struggling homeowners with HAMP.  A guy who gave away the store to Republicans when they took the US and global economies hostage by vowing not to raise the debt ceiling until they got what they wanted.  A guy who wants to make a Grand Bargain with Social Security and Medicare, virtually all that anyone my age will have left after we’ve lost everything else due to prolonged bouts of unnecessary unemployment.  And it’s not like Barack Obama is facing an economic situation that the entire world’s economists and history had no prior knowledge of.  There’s plenty of examples out there that demonstrate exactly what needs to be done from The Great Depression to the bad example of the Japanese lost decade to the Swedish crisis.  He’s supposed to be brilliant.  All he needs to do to put the economy back on track is to support policies that are known to have helped in the past.  But he won’t do them.  Why???

In short, the Obama loyalists say we have nothing to complain about.  The only reason we don’t want Obama is because we are racists.  It’s all in the color of his skin.  If not for that, we would be content with our dwindling middle class lives and diminished expectations.  We would gladly endure the beatings if we could just get over the fact that he is a few shades too dark because the Democratic party says that it has no one else who is more representative of its values or more competent in execution than Barack Obama.

And what would be the point of making your base feel like they have some reason to feel guilty and that the Clintons were not all they were cracked up to be?

I have no idea but somewhere yesterday I read that the deadline for filing for the upcoming primaries is fast approaching.  It’s the end of October.  If I didn’t know better, I think we saw the Democrats blink.  After all, they have been telling us for months now that it is a fantasy and crazy for us to believe that there will be a primary challenge to Obama in 2012.  Even Hillary has sought to dispel the notion that she will take him on.  So, if that’s the case, why the over the top denialism of the Clinton years and the persistent accusations of racism?  I mean, if she has already said she’s not taking him on and there’s no one else to challenge him, what’s the problem?  It sounds like Obama lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Unless the base is getting restless and the deadline isn’t coming soon enough…

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