Tag Archive | politics

The Dark Domain, or a queer ex-evangelical looks at an agent of intolerance and his scandalous heirs

One day in the summer of 1981, I was walking around the inside of a huge church sanctuary in Virginia, every now and then stopping to clap once, then listen to the echo. It was something I did just about every day that summer—each day in a different church. I was a member of an evangelical inter-denominational youth choir. I was one of the singers, but I was also the Lead Sound Technician. And while a bunch of the singers were carrying in the sound equipment, our risers, and other parts of our touring program, I would do this exercise to figure out where I wanted to place our speakers and where to aim them. I took this part of the job very seriously.

I was 20 years old. I was a deeply closeted gay guy who for several years had been struggling to reconcile my love of science and my sexual orientation with the religion I had been raised in (Southern Baptists) which is extremely anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-birth control, anti-modernity, et cetera and ad nauseam. Only eleven years before that day had the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its resolution on race, which was intended to end segregation in Baptist Churches themselves. At the denomination’s founding in 1845, 12 of its 14 statements on faith had been explicitly in favor of slavery, the segregation of the races, and the supremacy of the white race.

That 1970 resolution didn’t make Baptists pro-equality. The very church that my parents had been members of when I was born, for instance, split after the resolution. A number of members forming a new “Bible Baptist” church the aligned itself with one of the other conventions that had split from the Southern Baptist in the previous couple of decades. And at the 1972 convention the convention adopted a resolution condemning public school segregation.

One of the pastors leading that charge to re-assert the church’s racist past in 1972, was Jerry Falwell, Sr. Falwell was the pastof of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was also the host of the syndicated radio program, the Old Time Gospel Hour, which my grandmother listened to faithfully, where he frequently preached against the civil rights movement, women’s rights, gay rights, and a boatload of other topics. In 1971 he founded Liberty University, which to this day still forbids students of differing races to date. And in 1979 he founded the so-called Moral Majority, a political organization bent on supporting conservative Republicans and rolling back what rights women, racial minorities, and queer people had won in the 70s.

In the mid-80s Falwell infamously lost a lawsuit to one of his former classmates from Baptist Bible College, Jerry Sloan. Sloan had come out of the closet after leaving Baptist Bible College, and had become active with Metropolitan Community Church, which was one of the few explicitly gay and lesbian inclusive denominations at the time. Sloan and Falwell participated in a television debate about, among other things, gay rights. After Falwell insisted that he wasn’t at all prejudiced against gay people, Sloan quoted Falwell as having publically called the MCC “brute beasts” and “a vile and Satanic system.” Further, he said Falwell had predicted “one day they will be utterly annihilated and there will be a celebration in heaven.”

Falwell said that it was a lie. And when Sloan said he had it on tape, Falwell bet him $5,000 (on television with millions of witnesses) he couldn’t produce it. When Sloan did produce the tape, Falwell refused to pay. So Sloan sued him, won the $5,000 plus court fees, and he donated it all to a queer community center: Falwell Pays $8,900 to Homosexual Activist.

Jerry Falwell, Sr, was a bigot and a liar (not to mention a chisseler for not paying his bet). And he became a multi-millionaire by preaching hate and promoting hate through his radio show, university, and his political organizations. And I, for one, did not shed a single tear when he died in 2007.

So, back to 1981. Earlier in that year, the Director of the touring choir mentioned that he was “this close” to getting us a tour date at Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. And without thinking, I blurted out, “if you do, I quit.” The Director was flabbergasted and tried to explain how much exposure we would get there—and possibly be on the Old Time Gospel Hour. I said, “I refuse to have anything to do with that evil man. I refuse to do anything that implies I support his divisive, hateful theology.”

A member of the board of directors who was literally helping me untangle some microphone cables when this exchange happened, chimed in, “Me, too. Falwell preaches the opposite of Christ’s teaching, and if you’re going there, I’m resigning from the board and pulling my kids out of the choir.”

The director made some sort of joke to diffuse and change the subject. Later he made sure to inform both of us that he had decided on his own against pursuing the Thomas Road gig because the strict dress code would, among other things, force us to change our uniform and force a lot of the guys to get extremely short haircuts. I like to think that excuse was his way of saving face, and that my threat had been effective.

And so while later that summer in 1981 we did perform at a Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, it wasn’t Falwell’s—it was a beautiful historical building, which is still there, though it has since merged with another church and changed its name and denomination. And I’m glad I didn’t have to quit the chorus over it.

All of these memories came to mind this week as there is a new (and to me totally unsurprising) development in the story of Falwell’s heir, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and his pool boy scandals: ‘Someone’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth’: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence – More than two dozen current and former Liberty University officials describe a culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.

You may remember that the two pool boy scandals of which I’ve written before — besides having a lot of sexual innuendo — involved Falwell, Jr. finding ways to finance multi-million dollar real estate deals for the benefit of the handsome young men after spending a lot of time flying each young man to various luxurious places along with Falwell and his wife on their private jet.

The new article (interestingly enough written by a journalist who attended Liberty University) lists other financial deals, including loans of $300,000 and more to Falwell’s friends, funneling lucrative contracts related to the university to businesses owned by his son, and more. Plus, apparently Falwell is very fond of talking about his sex life with colleagues. With a lot of crude details of the things he and his wife do.

And most tellingly, in one incident involving the guy many of us have referred to as “the other pool boy” (though he was employed as a personal trainer when he met Falwell, Jr). Junior texted pictures of his wife in sexual fetish costumes—to a bunch of staff members, plus the trainer. He claimed afterward that he had meant to just send it to the trainer (I believe that), but he also tried to claim to the people accidentally included on the wayward message that the purpose of sharing the pictures was not actually sexual. No! Falwell, Jr sent the personal trainer pictures of Mrs. Falwell in fetish gear because the trainer had helped her lose a lot of weight.

Um, yeah, no I don’t believe that.

Remember: Junior's largest salary comes from being president of a religious school that forbids drinking and dancing, among other things. So why are he and his son partying at south Miami nightculbs?

Remember: Junior’s largest salary comes from being president of a religious school that forbids drinking and dancing, among other things. So why are he and his son partying at south Miami nightculbs? (click to embiggen)

Listen, hot-wifing, threeways, and cuckold fantasies are all perfectly healthy sexual things that a committed couple who are into ethical non-monogamy should be able to engage in without shame. But when you run a couple of massive non-profit organizations (and draw more than a million dollars in salary between those jobs) that explicitly condemn homosexuality, family planning, women’s rights, sexual liberty, drinking, and dancing (yes, dancing!)—well, then this kind of scandal becomes of interest to the public. Because remember, those non-profit organizations are tax exempt, and therefore all of these shenanigans are being subsidized by our tax dollars.

On top of that, Falwell, Jr effectively swung the evangelical base of the Republican party firmly behind Trump (and all of the evil, non-Christ-like policies that has unleashed on us). And apparently he did so because Trump’s fixer, Michael Cohen, made a blackmailer with more of those kinds of pictures of Mrs. Falwell go away.

You should go read the Politico story. It is full of fascinating details (and keeps the sexual stuff, as much as it could be, more tasteful than I would). The amount of information that people were willing to give the reporter is amazing, given that Liberty University and the associated businesses famously have very strict non-disclosure agreements that claim to stay in force even after a person leaves.

Speaking of those agreements: Jerry Falwell: I Called The FBI On Liberty U Traitors. That’s right! Junior has called the FBI on people for tattling on him.

Listen, some of those financial deals are clearly prosecutable crimes. Junior’s using tuition funds and donations to finance his jet-setting lifestyle and that of his friends—and probably sex partners.

“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

Given that he’s been flying some of these people across state lines in his private jet to close some of these deals, Junior maybe should have thought twice before calling the Feds.

Maybe he thinks that his buddy, Trump, will bail him out. After all, Trump’s very fine lawyer, Michael Cohen, helped get rid of that pesky blackmailer right? Except now Cohen is cooling his heels in federal prison, convicted of financial crimes on Trump’s behalf. Trump hasn’t shown any sign of being willing to pardon Cohen. Or any of the four other people Mueller got to plead guilty to related crimes, nor the four people Mueller got convicted, nor the 19 other people still under indictment whose cases are on-going.

So, Junior may need to start prepping for some less luxurious accommodations than those he is currently accustomed to.


Note:

(Part of the title of this post comes from the hymn, “Up from the Grave He Arose (Low in the Grave He Lay),” by Robert Lowry. It was hymn number 113 in the 1956 Baptist Hymnal.)

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Weekend Update 8/3/2019: damn lies, stupid lies, shocked deniers, and the end of a campaign

(click to embiggen)

Time for another post about news that broke after I posted this week’s Friday Five, or didn’t come to my attention until afterward, or about a previously linked story which has new developments. And as usual I have some opinions that I wish to expound upon.

Let’s jump in: With Ratcliffe, another Trump nominee withdraws with a damaged reputation. So, Ratcliffe was an attorney in Texas that George W. Bush appointed to a position in the Department of Justice where he worked for five years (including a brief stint as an Interim U.S. Attorney). Also during that time, he was serving as Mayor of the small town of Heath, Texas. Which would indicate that he may not have been burning the midnight oil at the Department of Justice all the time.

But he eventually ran for Congress in a campaign that heavily relied upon certain racist dog-whistles, such as claiming to have arrested 300 illegal immigrants in a single day! Never mind that it was a blatant lie. He also frequently claimed to be a special prosecutor in a large and somewhat famous anti-terrorism case against the Holy Land Association, which was a closed down as a fake charity funneling money into terrorist groups. This, it turns out, was also a lie—a whole pack of lies, since both is official web site and all his campaign materials included many untrue anecdotes and false statistics from his supposed involvement in that trial.

His supposed involvement in that trial was really his only qualification for being nominated as the Director of National Intelligence. And when rumors came out just before his nomination, lots of people (including a lot of conservative pundits) were pointing out that it was an awfully thin resume for an intelligence chief. That was before this week, when news came out is was all lies: Trump brutally mocked after his intel nominee crashes and burns in just 5 days: ‘It is called VETTING you idiot‘.

And when asked more politely by the press about it, Trump Withdraws Ratcliffe DNI Nomination, Jokes Media Does White House ‘Vetting’ – Report. Except, I’m sorry, I don’t think he was joking.


Speaking of ridiculous things the alleged president says, Fox Host Cuts Away From Trump To Explain That Trump Is Lying Yet Again About China Paying Tariffs (I’ve also embedded the video below). Trump keeps repeating the lie that the countries we levy tariffs against are paying those tariffs. They aren’t. The people who pay the tariffs are American citizens. The tariff is levied on imports, and that means the prices go up. All of us are paying higher prices for all sorts of things because of this trade war.

If this is news to you, it might prompt you to ask what the purpose of an import tariff is? The economic theory is that you impose tariffs on certain foreign goods in order to encourage people to buy locally produced things instead. But that only works if there are local sources of the goods in question. And since some of the earliest tariffs were raw materials that some of the few industries we still have in this country (raw materials that we can’t mine because we’ve already strip-mined all of ours), that simply causes U.S. companies to shut down those factories and move production elsewhere.

This is why economists keep pointing out that trade wars don’t work.

There isn’t any simpler way to put it: China Isn’t Paying These Tariffs. You Are.

I sincerely think that Donald doesn’t understand. It’s like just before Acosta, the Secretary of Labor (who resigned over his past connection to sex trafficker and sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein) left, Trump was touting the marvelous employment rates as if Acosta was delivering them. The Department of Labor doesn’t stimulate the economy or manage it in any way that effects job numbers. The Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws—making sure companies aren’t exploiting workers and so forth. It has nothing to do with how many people are employed! Trump clearly doesn’t understand that.

Similarly, I think he really doesn’t understand the tariffs, either. Yeah, China doesn’t want the tariffs, because it means that their industries will likely sell less to us, but the tariffs hurt the American consumers long, long before the pain is felt by the exporter.

Argh!


This one belongs in the, “how can you be so clueless this surprises you?” category: Reagan called President Nixon to slur Africans as ‘monkeys.’ Of course there are tapes. And then the reaction: Presidential Biographers Absolutely Stunned to Find That Ronald Reagan Was Racist. Every single campaign speech in 1980 included racial dog whistles! Every one! From the comments about “welfare queens” to his frequent use of the phrase “young bucks buying steaks with food stamps” not to mention all the “states rights” talk.

It was all code to appeal to the racist fears of white voters.

Ronald Reagan: No defence for ‘monkeys’ remark, says daughter. That’s right. There is also no excuse for not noticing the racist, misogynist, and homophobic polices of his administration throughout the eight years he was in office. As others have noted: Why is anyone surprised by Reagan’s racism?

I keep saying it: Trump is not at aberration: his is simply blatant about what the Republicans have believed for decades.


Let’s move to something that is probably just an amusing footnote to the looming presidential election: Gravel and his campaign teens end presidential run. Mike Gravel retired from representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate back in 1981. In 2008 he made a run for the Democratic nomination for President and didn’t make much of a splash. He tried to nab the Libertarian Party nomination the same year and also failed there. And he’s been an executive for a marijuana products company.

So no one was sure how seriously to take it when, with the help of a couple of teen-agers on twitter, he launched his bid fo the Democratic nomination earlier this year. Mike Gravel Ends His Unorthodox Twitter Campaign for the Presidency – The 89-year-old former senator turned heads with his unique campaign strategy.

The announcement that he’s winding down the campaign mentions that the aforementioned teens are moving onto jobs with a liberal political committee, so maybe that was the point all along? I’m not sure. I really don’t think anyone was expecting Americans to vote into the White House someone who would turn 91 just a couple months after being sworn in.

But who knows?

Anyway: Gravel to form liberal think tank after suspending campaign.


Fox’s Neil Cavuto Wearily Explains Again That Trump Is Wrong to Say China Is Paying Tariffs:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

He has no sock(puppet)s, and he must cry wolf*—bullied bullies are everywhere

April, 1958 issue of Amazing Science Fiction. Cover art by Ed Valigursky

This cover art by Ed Valigursky for the April, 1958 issue of Amazing Science Fiction shows a completely different kind of sci fi puppy than we’ll be talking about today.

I started to assemble this post about an aggrieved conservative sci-fi writer last week, but other things kept coming up, and since the kerfuffle seems to have blown over, I wasn’t sure there was much value in throwing in my two cents. But then a couple of the most recent developments in some national news stories made certain similarities between the actions of certain distressed pups and other angry white men. I decided that with so angry white men claiming to be victims, and maybe it was worth looking at a fairly inconsequential example that played out over a handful of days to get some insight into the motivations of the others. So, first, the meltdown of one of the fringe members of the melancholy canines.

Note: At no point in the following will I link directly to the angry, profanity-laden posts of the bullied bully. All links are to others talking about the situation. Some of them link to the rants, if you really need to read them.

So, a writer who markets himself** to a particular subset of science fiction fans—conservative, pro-gun rights—got really upset when some editor at Wikipedia tagged his wikipedia page to discuss possible deletion. The original article looked like it was lifted almost entirely from his own web page, and the only citations it had was to his blog and webpage. Under various editorial guidelines of Wikipedia the article certainly didn’t appear to meet the minimal criteria for keeping. I mean, come on: a bunch of the links on the first author’s page were places where you could buy his merchandise and his custom knives!

Of course, this happens all the time. Articles get flagged. There is one author’s article (that got referenced in some of the rants) that was tagged over seven years ago… and it has never actually been deleted. Part of the purpose of tagging such articles is to try to get some attention to them so that people will clean them up, add citations, and so forth.

Anyway, because of the angry screed, dozens of people went to Wikipedia and screamed at the editors, accusing them of being angry libtards targeting conservative writers. Which, given the fairly well-documents conservative bias of Wikipedia editors, is more than slightly hilarious. Said wikipedia editors quickly determined that a certain number of the angry attack accounts were sock-puppet accounts belonging to the aggrieved author, and banned his account (though the discussion continued).

Equally of note is that a large number of identifiable actual liberal members (or not-so-liberal but still despised by the aggrieved author and is allies) of the sci-fi community logged in to argue against deleting the conservative author’s page, arguing that his long publishing history, award nominations, and so forth qualified him as notable. They also helped clean up the article and added a lot of third party citations (to places like Publisher’s Weekly, Locus Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Stars and Stripes, et cetera). In other words, the people he always claims are out to get him were actually helping.

But that wasn’t enough! No, being an angry little white puppy he was absolutely certain that there is a conspiracy to bully people like him, so he started predicting specific conservative writers would have their articles flagged next. Then, lo and behold, a few hours after each time he went online to make such a prediction, the authors he named had a deletion tag added to their Wikipedia page by a mysteriously recently-created wiki account. Many of those were very quickly untagged by the administrators.

It should be noted that, in addition to the sock puppet activities that got his account banned during this kerfuffle, the author has a history of getting accounts suspended on other social media platforms for setting up sock puppet accounts to follow him and agree with him. So, applying Occam’s Razor, we can assume that his predictions are not proof he is an oracle, but rather a troll.

The upshot of all this is not only was the aggrieved author’s page spared, but so were all the others that supposedly had been targeted.

The aggrieved author and his allies are so defensive that they don’t notice who is willing to help them. I also think contributing to the problem is how incredibly insular they are. The old version of his wikipedia page and a couple of the others that were briefly flagged only had links to pages controlled by the people who were the subjects of the articles. Yeah, some of the pages had a lot of self-promotion, but I think it doesn’t even occur to them to search for mentions outside their own favorite web portals. It didn’t take long for other people to find dozens of articles outside that insular bubble that mentioned the author or his work.

But despite overwhelming evidence that the content of the articles was the issue rather than any politics, and that people they insist are enemies are more than willing to help out if they see a problem, they insist that they are victims. It’s a classic persecution complex: a delusion that they are constantly being tormented, stalked, tricked, or ridiculed.

Except I think it goes beyond delusion. Being despised is their life blood. One commenter said on one of the blog posts: “Nobody hates them as much as they seem to need to think someone hates them and that is just a miserable way to go through life.” They feel miserable because they aren’t receiving the adoration or acclaim or praise they feel entitled to. But, they can’t admit that they are to blame for how other people perceive them. They need scapegoats. If other people hate them and are conspiring against them, then their misery isn’t their fault. Yes, it is a miserable way to live, but to them it seems less miserable than holding themselves accountable.

And that brings us to other, more serious ways this need to be hated can effect all of us. It begins yesterday when Senator Mitch McConnell took to the senate floor to whine about American citizens pointing out that his actions in blocking election reform again and again despite overwhelming evidence of foreign interference in our elections isn’t in the best interest of Americans. How dare we, the citizens who of the country whose Constitution he has sworn to uphold, express an opinion about his actions! How dare we present the evidence that of actions that at least border*** on treasonous!

His actions aren’t the problem, he insists. No! The real problem is all of us haters. Oh, and any of us citing this evidence are being just like McCarthy—you know, the angry Senator who in the fifties destroyed a bunch of people’s careers and lives without ever actually presenting any evidence that they were enemies of the nation. This is an interesting twist on crying wolf, I must say.

Similarly, the alleged president is still screaming at congresspeople and people of color who disagree with some of his policies, in between is constant stream of insults hurled at various US cities, territories, states, and even people who call him ‘Mr. President’—while at the same time pushing a narrative that people who criticize the US should leave.

Again, the problem isn’t him attacking anyone and everyone, the problem is all those mean haters. And if you think I’m stretching things to compare the alleged president to the aggrieved author: remember the many times that Trump has called into various radio shows and the like, claiming to be someone else praising Trump.

So, I guess a fondness for sockpuppets is another way to spot these angry bullies who think they’re victims.

They claim to be defenders of free speech, yet they are always throwing tantrums when other people say things they don’t like.


Footnotes:

* The title is a riff on Harlon Ellison’s Nebula- and Hugo-winning short story from 1966, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. In no way should this be read to infer that the late Mr. Ellison is involved in any way.

** When describing this situation to some friends I mentioned that all of the author photos available for him feature him holding a gun. And in at least one I saw, holding it incorrectly. I must state for the record that that characterization was wrong: there are also biographical pictures of him holding various hunting knives, swords, or wearing bandoliers of shotgun shells.

*** Personally I think he went way past the border when he blocked the release of the information about Russian interference just before the 2016 election. Everything since has just been him going deeper and deeper into treason.

Weekend Update 7/13/2019: Powerful men sometimes face consequences, but what happened at New Republic?

This is a picture for the day Acosta was sworn in as Labor Secretary. Note the identical haircuts and dresses of the daughters (who are NOT twins) not to mention Mom’s clothes. Why does this picture make me think of the kind of super-strict “christian” family with dark secrets?

It’s Saturday morning and time for a news update. Once again, there have been some news stories that broke after I composed this week’s Friday Five upon which I don’t want to wait until next Friday to comment. And one of them is a doozy! So, let’s get to it!

First: Trump Labor chief Alex Acosta resigns due to Jeffrey Epstein case. I wish I’d posted on line on Thursday what I said to my husband when I saw a news stories in which Trump was reported to have said that there was “zero chance” he would fire Acosta over these allegations. Because the moment I read that I thought, “he’s going to be out by the end of the week!” In case you don’t know what this is about, a week ago Trump pal Jeffrey Epstein arrested for sex trafficking dozens of minors and Fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy, accused by US prosecutors of paying girls as young as 14 for sex and using them to recruit others from 2002 to 2005. And not just trafficking: Wealthy financier charged with molesting dozens of girls under the age of 18.

“Prosecutors said the evidence against Epstein included a “vast trove” of hundreds or even thousands of lewd photographs of young women or girls, discovered in a weekend search of his New York City mansion. Authorities also found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said it appeared, prosecutors said.”

How does this involve Trump’s Labor Secretary? Well, 12 years ago Acosta was a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and mega-rich Epstein was under investigation for very similar charges involving molesting 36 young girls. Acosta stepped in a negotiated a plea deal where Epstein plead guilty to two minor prostitution charges, and would be required to register as a sex offender. Immunity from prosecution was granted on all of the other charges for Epstein, four named co-conspirators, and “unnamed potential co-conspirators.” People have been criticising that deal for years, particularly as it was pointed out that around the same time, Acosta prosecuted much less high-profile defendants on similar charges and got much more serious prison time for them.

Acosta had a press conference earlier this week in which he argued that the case hadn’t been strong enough to win, and besides, state authorities were really to blame. Those officials had something to say: ‘Abhorrent’ and ‘Completely Wrong’: Former Florida Officials Push Back Against Acosta’s Account of Epstein Case.

Some conservative sites are arguing that the new case isn’t prosecutable because of the deal. There are a few problems with that. The original deal only covered the 36 victims mentioned in the deal, for one, and More than 12 new Jeffrey Epstein accusers come forward. So none of these cases would be covered by the prosecutorial immunity. Also, one of the conditions of the deal was not just the Epstein would register as a sex offender, but that as a sex offender he would report his movement to authorities: NYPD let convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins (when you’re rich, you can get away with anything). Which doesn’t automatically mean the deal is voided, but a judge can set aside such a deal on those grounds.

Also, the original plea agreement was approved by a judge (as all have to be), and at that hearing it is traditional that victims of the alleged crimes are given a chance to address the court concerning the deal. At the time, only a few of the victims did so, and Acosta’s office told the court that all of the other victims declined to comment. Several of those victims insist that they were not consulted and not given an opportunity to speak, and a Florida judge ruled earlier this year that the non-prosecution agreement violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because at least some witnesses were never consulted or informed that it had happened. The federal court where Epstein is currently being tried doesn’t have to abide by the state court’s ruling, but it can take it into account.

So, Acosta resigned yesterday. Good riddance. Though I don’t think that simply resigning and then retiring to a cushy consulting job in the vast alt-right media-and-consulting ecosystem is adequate punishment: How Alex Acosta Got Away With It for So Long – The only way the labor secretary could give Jeffrey Epstein that 2008 plea deal is by ignoring victims.


Every now and then, someone likes to accuse me of only going after bad behavior on one end of the political spectrum. Yesterday evening was an example of the other direction: The New Republic removes op-ed attack on Buttigieg; admits it was ‘inappropriate and invasive’. Yesterday, the New Republic, which is generally considered to be a left-leaning publication, published a op-ed by an out gay writer entitled, “My Mayor Pete Problem.” I saw lots of people commenting on it throughout the day, but didn’t get a chance to go read it until the evening.

It was special.

It literally read (and I said so on line before it was pulled) like a drunken rant you would hear in a gay bar in which someone was critiquing a gay politician and blending opinions about the politician’s personal life choice, speculation about his habits in bed, along with poorly sourced comments on the politicians actual policy positions. Since the essay has been taken down (and a rather lame editorial apology posted), you can’t go read it for yourself. But don’t take my word for it:

In the hard-to-believe essay, Peck repeatedly referred to the also openly gay Buttigieg as “Mary Pete.” …Among the many gratuitous personal insults to the mayor, Peck also compares him to a 15-year-old boy who’s wondering if he should sleep with a 50-year-old man, and speculates about Buttigieg’s sexual preferences in bed — in terms that are not appropriate to repeat in this publication.
—The New York Daily News

Beside the fact that this vulgar hit piece was represented as political commentary (and then after the firestorm of criticism, the editors pivoted to claiming it was satire), the other crime it committed is that it forced me to agree with the arch-conservative wingnuts at the Washington Examiner: Nasty, horribly written New Republic op-ed attacks Mayor Pete as the gay Uncle Tom (Note, this is a donotlink.it link).

When the same publication that frequently insists that IQ is hereditary which therefore justifies some of their racist editorials recognizes that something you’ve published is homophobic, you have really screwed up!

Someone at the New Republic needs to get fired over this.


And here are a collection of awful headlines that I want to clear out and not even think about for next Friday:

Florida principal wrong to equivocate on Nazi Germany atrocities – The Holocaust happened. Period. End of story. At least he was fired.

A Detroit man is facing a first-degree murder charge after allegedly using Grindr to track down gay people and shoot them. Arrested.

Feds Bust Christian Missionary For Molesting Orphans. Arrested. Please, oh please don’t let anyone like Acosta near this case!

Finally, while I don’t feel right trying to end this on a positive note, I will end it with just a bit of schadenfreude:

Anti-Gay Former GOP Rep. William Dannemeyer Dies At 89, Called For Firing And Quarantining People With HIV. When he was still in congress he claimed that queer men infected with HIV “emitted spores” that could infect pregnant women—and that was hardly the craziest thing he ever said. Anyway, here’s hoping his soul is mounted on a nice rotisserie in hell.

Oppressed Oppressors: getting non-fatal blowback to your genocidal policies isn’t oppression

I will try to get my Pride Parade/Festival post finished and uploaded before Thursday. In the mean time, several conversations in my social media streams made me think that it is time to clear out some of the images I’ve been saving in hopes of using to illustrate a post.

We have reached the point where the same people who inspired someone to go on a mass shooting spree in a synagogue, inspired someone else to drive his car into a crowd of people protesting a neo-Nazi rally (killing one woman and injuring a bunch of other people), and are cheering children being forcibly separated from their families and locked in cages… those same people are outraged beyond belief that someone threw a milkshake at one of them!

And then they are angry that some of us don’t see the injustice of the milkshake. So, just in case it isn’t perfectly clear where my moral compass is aligned, please enjoy these images:


“We should not punch Nazis is... is something I saw tweeted by the guy who punched me in the  face for no reason in high school. Being a Nazi, that's FREE SPEECH. No reason... well that's not protected by the Constitution at al!”  “—Jeremy  Kaplowitz

“We should not punch Nazis is… is something I saw tweeted by the guy who punched me in the face for no reason in high school. Being a Nazi, that’s FREE SPEECH. No reason… well that’s not protected by the Constitution at al!” “—Jeremy Kaplowitz

If he talks like a bigot, acts like a bigot, is loved and supported by the other bigots…

The homophobes certainly think Trump is as anti-gay as they are, so…

Saw this list on tumblr at Join the Political Revolution. The original has links to news stories for each of the events.

It’s Pride Month…

…so let’s get a couple things straight about Donald Trump and LGBTQ rights:

  • The Trump Admin. has made a conscious effort to ignore the very existence of Pride Month up until 2019. (1)
  • As soon as Trump was inaugurated, the “LGBTQ rights” pages and recognitions on government websites were removed. (2)
  • The Trump admin canceled plans to ask questions regarding sexual orientation on the 2020 US census. (3)
  • Trump and Pence attempted to have the Commerce Department remove sexual orientation and gender identity from their equal employment policy. (4)
  • Against expert advice of military leadership, medical authorities, budget analysts, the U.S. House, 70% of Americans, and the armed forces of allied countries, Trump and Pence banned transgender people from the military. (5)
  • The Trump Admin. ordered Betsy DeVos and the Dept. of Ed. to rescind non-discrimination protections for transgender students, against expert advice of medical, legal, and policy professionals. (6)
  • Betsy DeVos and the Dept. of Ed. announced they would reject civil rights complaints from transgender students. (7)
  • Betsy DeVos refused to rule out federal funds for private schools that discriminate. (8)
  • The Trump Admin. announced a proposal that would gut anti-discrimination protections for transgender patients in health care spaces, essentially permitting harm against trans patients. (9)
  • May, 2019 – The Trump Admin. proposed a regulation that would enable medical professionals to deny ALL forms of care to LGBTQ patients solely based on the provider’s personal beliefs. (10)
  • Trump Admin. has established a new office within HHS whose sole purpose would be to defend physicians and other medical professionals who refuse care to LGBTQ patients. (11)
  • Trump Admin. granted a federally-funded foster program to discriminate against families who are LGBTQ or whom do not identify as Christian. (12)
  • Since the fall of 2018, Trump and Pence have been attempting to circulate a federal government-wide regulation that would essentially erase trans people from all existing protections and acknowledgment. (13)
  • Trump Admin ordered the Centers for Disease Control to stop using the word “transgender” in official reports in an effort to erase data dissemination on trans people. (14)
  • Trump Admin. proposed a rule that would eliminate data collection on LGBTQ foster youth and parents, erasing all official knowledge of the needs of LGBTQ children in these spaces. (15)
  • Trump Admin. specifically ordered questions on sexual orientation to be removed from surveys of programs that cater to the elderly and disabled, directly striking at older LGBTQ Americans and persons with disabilities. (16)
  • Ben Carson and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are removing the words “inclusive” and “free from discrimination” in HUD’s official mission statement while scaling back enforcement of non-discrimination regulations. (17)
  • HUD and Ben Carson are permitting emergency shelters to deny access to transgender persons who are homeless. (18)
  • HUD and Ben Carson trim the number of LGBTQ-related questions in federal surveys. (19)
  • Trump Admin’s Justice Dept. has filed a brief In the U.S. Court Of Appeals that argued federal civil rights laws do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. (20)
  • Trump’s Justice Dept. and Jeff Sessions issued guidelines to protect religious objections to public policy. (21)
  • Trump Admin. defended the baker who refused to bake a same-sex couple a wedding cake. (22)
  • Trump Admin is rolling back protections that provide safe accommodations for transgender inmates. (23)
  • By executive order, Trump Admin. rolled back non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ federal contractors. (24)
  • The Trump Admin. ordered the State Department to deny visas to same-sex partners of foreign diplomats. (25)
  • May, 2019 – The Trump Admin. changed rules so the child of a same-sex couple born abroad via surrogate would be considered “born out of wedlock” and would not be granted U.S. citizenship. (26)

I don’t know who convinced the alleged president to send out message claiming to support queer people, but take a look at the 26 items above (and that isn’t everything). Those are all the actions of a homophobic bigot. Many of them are policy changes to don’t just take away rights, but actively hurt LGBT+ people—especially queer children. This isn’t about a difference of an opinion. These represent an assault of the livelihoods, well-being, and lives of all queer people.

And guess what? If you agree with any of those actions? That means you’re a homophobic bigot, too.

You can’t assault a group of people and then claim that you support them.

Leader of church that was the result of someone making up their own version of christianity says other people can’t make up their own version of christianity

Martin Luther with the text, “Let's start a new church. Let's start 40,000 of them”

The protestant reformation in the year 1517 was just one of literally thousands of times that some christians decided to make up their own version of christianity.

So, Pete Buttigieg, openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indian has been in the news a lot. First for being an openly gay public official announcing his intention to run for president, then by raising enough money (fairly quickly) to qualify for the first Democratic Candidates’ Debate, then by kissing his husband on the campaign trail (which didn’t hurt his standing in the polls), then by refusing to back down on criticism of the blatant homophobia of Vice President Mike Pence, then by officially announcing his candidacy (and having his husband on stage, where there was another kiss while the crowd cheered). Last I counted, we have about 18 officially announced candidates, and the first primaries and caucuses are still ten months away, so it is way too early to know if Mayor Pete is going to wind up being the nominee. But all the media attention and his success so far as sure gotten some of the religious right into a tizzy: Christian College President Everett Piper Slams Pete Buttigieg’s Faith and ‘Proclivities’.

I’m not going to link to Everett Piper’s full commentary (published in the Washington Times—a small far-right newspaper not to be confused with the prestigious Washington Post), but the article above has a link, and it’s not hard to find. The title of Piper’s commentary is: “Pete Buttigieg doesn’t get to make up his own Christianity.” And that’s just hilarious!

Because Piper is a member of the Weslyan Methodist Church (and is the president of a Weslyan Methodist college), which is a denomination that form in 1843 when it split off from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which officially split from the Church of England in 1784, which was formed in 1534 with King Henry VIII split with the Roman Catholic Church. And each of those splits were over doctrinal differences (yes, there was a specific personal and political aim that Henry was going for, but it was over a doctrinal dispute about what would constitute reasons for annulling a marriage). That means that each of those splits was because someone decided to make up their own version of christianity.

Mayor Pete is a member of the Episcopal Church, an American denomination that is part of the Anglican Communion. And the Episcopal Church has been accepting of gay and lesbian members, priests, and bishops for some years now. Mayor Pete wasn’t even one of the movers and shakers in that regard, so you can’t even accuse him of having made that particular doctrinal change.

Piper’s denomination, while being a splinter from a splinter of the Anglican Communion, has far more in common with fundamentalist evangelical denominations such as the Southern Baptists, than the Episcopal Church. And many of those fundamentalist evangelical denominations which Piper considers to be practicing his version of christianity are descended from groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church back in the year 1517, after Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (proposals for reforms) to the door of his church.

Each of the thousands of denominations are the result of someone deciding to make up their own version of christianity. If Piper is going to insist that no one has the right to do that, he darn well better resign from his current church and go join the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, if anyone confronted Piper about this, he would quickly deflect, because the real issue is that Piper and his co-religionists don’t think that denominations such as the Episcopalians are “real christians.” But he doesn’t want to admit that. Instead, he tries to cast this as somehow it is Mayor Pete all by himself deciding that queer people can be out and non-celibate and be good christians at the same time.

The fact that christian denominations such as the Episcopalians, the United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterians, welcome and affirm queer members is something Piper and his ilk want to ignore. Just as they keep pretending that it is only a minority of the U.S. population that favors marriage equality and civil rights protections for queer people.

And what really worries them is the growing support in almost all denominations, especially among younger christians, for full acceptance of and legal equality for gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, et cetera people. Because it’s just another reason why many of those unwelcoming denominations are seeing the membership shrinking. Of course, I’m not the only person to observe this: Why do right wing Christians find Pete Buttigieg so threatening? Here’s the answer — The attacks on the South Bend mayor from severe fundamentalists will surely continue in the months ahead.

I suspect that Mayor Pete won’t actually wind up as the party’s nominee, but I hope he keeps making the haters foam at the mouth! And the more they do, the harder it is for others to ignore the bigotry

If you want to know more about Mayor Pete and his candidacy for president: Who is Pete Buttigieg? Meet the gay millennial mayor surging in the Democratic primary.

St. Patrick’s Day parades used to be political riots…

Anti-irish sentiment was rampant in the U.S. during the 19th Century, with political cartoonist portraying them with ape-like features destroying “true american values.”

Anti-irish sentiment was rampant in the U.S. during the 19th Century, with political cartoonist portraying them with ape-like features destroying “true american values.” (Click to embiggen)

The current wave of White Nationalism and Islamophobia we’re embroiled in was hardly the first time that the U.S. succumbed to anti-immigrant fervor. When the 1845 potato famine sent thousands of Irish people to America, hoping to find work and feed their families, the long-brewing anti-Catholic feelings in the country boiled over. Take this paragraph that describes the cartoon above:

“[Thomas] Nast’s anti-Irish cartoons focus on the Irish as a destructive and lying group, who endangered American society. In the immediate aftermath of the Orange Riot of July 12, 1871 in New York City, in which Irish Catholics clashed with the National Guard protecting an Irish Protestant parade, Nast drew a number of anti-Irish cartoons for Harper’s Weekly. One cartoon illustrated the Draft Riots of July 1863, where Irish Catholics attacked African-Americans throughout New York City. At the top of the drawing Nast wrote that the Irish Catholic is bound to respect “no caste, no sect, no nation, any rights,” highlighting the believed lack of respect the Irish immigrants had for American society. Furthermore, the contrast between the Irish and the Anglo-Saxons in this cartoon clearly shows the Irish in negative light. While the Anglo-Saxons are drawn as regular looking people, the Irish are drawn with ape-like faces illustrating their inferiority as well as the lack of intelligence. Such depictions of Irish were not limited to Nast, with other papers such as Puck and Judge also using caricatures of Irish as primitive and violent.”
—“Thomas Nast Anti-Irish Cartoons”, Catholic Historical Research Center

As I said, anti-Catholic sentiment had been a thing in the U.S. before the famine. There were the Bible Riots in Philadelphia, where anti-Catholic mobs set homes and churches on fire, killing dozens and wounding far more. And I want to emphasize that popular perception was that Catholicism was the religion of invaders. Most of the English colonists had been protestant, and many of the people who participated in the riots and demonstrations were part of so-called “Nativist” organizations, out to protect “real American culture.”

To be perfectly clear, I say so-called because none of them were members of Native America tribes. These were white mutts just like me, whose ancestors had come over mostly from Holland and England just a few generations before and either participated in or profited from the systemic slaughter and displacement of America’s indigenous peoples.

Anyway, the Archbishop of New York had a wall built around St. Patrick’s Cathedral during this time, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians (a pro-Irish group) stationed men armed with muskets around many catholic churches in cities where tensions were high. This is the same organization that sponsored (and in some places still sponsors) many of the St. Patrick’s Day parades throughout the U.S. today.

St. Patrick’s Day parades, during the 19th Century and well into that the 20th, were acts of political protest. Police and National Guard units were sometimes sent in beat up and arrest as many of the parade participants as possible. When Harry S. Truman first participated in the New York City parade in 1948, it was a big deal.

St. Patrick’s Day Parades were Irish Pride Parades—people marched to protest inequality, anti-Irish prejudice, anti-Catholic prejudice, and to honor previous generations who endured those riots, police assaults, and so on.

And during those turning point years, after Irish-America cops fought for the right to march in their uniforms, there was a bit of controversy in some parts of the community—people who were old enough to remember when riot police were sent in to stop the parade.

Now, most people think they are just big parties. Green beer! Everyone’ Irish on St Paddy’s Day! Right? Right?

Several politicians boycott Staten Island St Patrick’s Day Parade after LGBT+ group told they can’t participate.

Over the last few years some of the big city St Patrick’s Day Parades have begun to allow gay Irish-American groups to participate in the parades. But not everywhere. And before you try to argue that since St Patrick is a religious figure (though he was never canonized by a Pope, so not officially a saint), remember all that green beer and cheap Irish whiskey shots at bars? All the raucous behavior and public drunkenness at the parades?

It is not a religious event.

The St Patrick’s Day Parades in America have always been political events. They were originally about fighting discrimination. They are supposed to be about pride in being Irish, right?

Guess what? A lot of Irish-Americans are queer. Hell, a lot of Irish people are queer. The current Prime Minister of Ireland is an openly gay man! He brought his husband with him when he met with the Vice President last week, and then our very homophobic Veep had to stand by and smile diplomatically while the Prime Minister gave an anti-discrimination speech. In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote!

My own heritage is mixed, like a lot of pasty-pale-skinned Americans. A chunk of my dad’s ancestors came to the U.S. from Ireland, but they were descended from Anglo occupiers who invaded Ireland in the 15th Century. Many of my mom’s ancestors came from Ireland and were poor Irish Catholics. There are conflicting stories in the family about exactly how and when each branch converted to evangelical Protestant, but, my great-grandpa was proud of his Irish roots, and told stories of how his great-grandpa struggled to find work after coming to America during the potato famine.

So, I think I have at least a bit of a right to state an opinion on Irish Pride Parades. And this queer fairy descended from more than a few Irish immigrants, thinks that telling queer Irish-Americans they can’t march in a St Patrick’s Day Parade is bigoted, backward thinking best described as pure blarney.

Resetting clocks and other foolish things

I could write yet again about the foolishness of Daylight Saving Time, but despite not needing to be anywhere at a specific time, all day Sunday I was feeling confused about the time and had to deal with two nap attacks.

Anyway, my state is not the only one that currently has a bill moving through the legislature to make us stop changing clocks twice a year. Find out if yours is one of the many considering it, and call your state legislators and encourage them to vote for it! There is at least one bill in the U.S. Senate (with, last I checked only two co-sponsors) that would make it easier for states to opt out of the Daylight Saving Madness. So, maybe consider calling your federal representative.

I know that, despite the fact that the time change contributes to an increase in traffic accidents and death, workplace accidents and injury, and exacerbates many health issues, it isn’t as dire as the things I’m usually going on about here, but maybe if we can make some progress on something like this, it will make some of the other issues a little more conquerable?

Maybe?

Anyway, I’m reposting what I posted last year on the topic of Daylight Saving Time, why we do it, and all the myths about it. Enjoy:

100 years of Daylight Saving Time, and most of what you know about it is wrong

“We just sucked one hour of your life away. Tell me... How do you feel?”

At least he was doing it for science… (Click to embiggen)

I was going to write a post about Daylight Saving Time, specifically the many myths that get thrown around by people trying to explain it. I think the fact that almost no one understands why we do it is one of the best arguments for why we shouldn’t do it at all. Let alone the problems the switch causes: Heart problems, road accidents and mood changes are associated with the DST time change. But while I was searching for a good image to attach to such a post, I found this Buzzfeed article and includes a section that hits all the notes I wanted to:

In 1905, a British architect named William Willett invented daylight saving time. Willett was out for his regular early-morning horse ride when it he noticed that 1) it was rather light outside, and 2) he was the only one up. Like Franklin, he thought this was a waste of perfectly good sunlight. And it ~dawned~ on him that instead of getting everyone up earlier by blasting cannons, they could simply shift their clocks forward to take better advantage of that sweet daylight. So, in 1907 Willett published a pamphlet outlining his formal proposal. He suggested that people turn their clocks forward 20 minutes every Sunday in April at 2 a.m. (And then they would set the clocks back by 20 minutes every Sunday in September.) He argued that this would get people outside and exercising, and that it would save on electricity, gas, candles, etc. (He also estimated it would save $200 million in today’s dollars. This was…again, a wild exaggeration.) A member of parliament, Richard Pearce, heard about Willett’s idea and was into it; he introduced Pearce’s Daylight Saving Bill to the House of Commons in February of 1908. The idea of changing the clocks four times in a month didn’t go over well, and the bill was eventually revised so that the clocks would be set forward one hour at 2 a.m. on the third Sunday in April (and then set back in September).

The bill was endorsed by merchants, banks, railroad companies, and the guy who created Sherlock Holmes, but was opposed by most astronomers and scientists. And one newspaper wrote “that if a man were going to a 7:00 dinner, under the new arrangement of daylight he would appear on the streets of London in evening dress at 5:40, which would shake the British Empire to its foundations.”

You know who else opposed the bill? FARMERS. They argued from the start that they couldn’t perform their operations at a different time — for example, they couldn’t harvest grass for hay while it was still wet with dew, and the dew wasn’t going to disappear earlier just because the clock had changed. And there were other activities that they couldn’t do until temperatures dropped after the sun went down. Basically, they hated DST from its inception.

Despite the association with farmers, daylight saving time actually came to the United States thanks to business owners (and war)
If you feel like garbage this week, you can direct your curses toward Marcus A. Marks, a clothing manufacturer; A. Lincoln Filene, a department store owner; and Robert Garland, a Pittsburgh industrialist. These three were very pro-DST, and were able to get labor organizations on board, along with the US Chamber of Commerce, the president of the National League of Baseball Clubs, and other prominent business owners. Even President Woodrow Wilson wrote a letter expressing his support for their efforts.

Less than two weeks after the US entered WWI, a daylight saving bill was introduced in Congress. It was heavily opposed by farmers, and also railroad companies, who were concerned about anything that could mess with the standard time zones (which had only recently become A Thing — a story for another day), and who said that 1,698,818 (!!) clocks and watches along their routes would have to be changed if DST were implemented. Because the fewest trains were running at 2 a.m., that became the proposed hour for the change-over. And because the most coal was consumed in March and October in the States, the bill was expanded to include those two months. On March 19, 1918, daylight saving time was signed into law in the United States, and took effect on March 31 of that year.

—“9 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Daylight Saving Time” by Rachel Wilkerson Miller, for Buzzfeed

The energy consumption savings argument was difficult to back up with numbers in 1918. The energy consumption argument at least had some slight possibility of being correct in 1918, when the vast majority of energy use was in factories, retail businesses, and the like. Residential energy use was limited to cooking, heating, and providing light usually with oil- or gas-burning lamps.

But in 2018 the argument doesn’t hold up. For instance, residential energy use thanks to all our computers, TVs, sound systems, game systems, refrigerators, microwaves, et cetera is a larger fraction of the total national energy consumption. And the amount of that home energy consumed for lighting is much smaller than all those other things. Also, a much larger proportion of businesses run 24 hours a day than did back then. Setting clocks forward or back has negligible impact on how much energy is used per day on a 24-hour business.

What I’m saying is, there isn’t much reason to justify the effort, the impacts on people’s health, and other costs of this twice annual fiddling with the clock.

Besides, I’ve always agreed with the one reaction, usually attributed to an elderly man on a Native American Reservation after first getting an explanation of Daylight Saving Time: “Only a fool would think you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, then sew it to the bottom to get a longer blanket.”

Weekend Update: Words and images worth checking out

I am constantly saving various images to possibly use to illustrate a post, then wind up using only a fraction of them. Between the recent slushmageddon and my being sick, I’m behind on lots of things and have way more errands to run than usual. So, rather than rant about some news developments that have happened since I compiled yesterday’s Friday Five (sold them the rope edition) here are some of my recently collected images/memes/what-have-you:

“Why is it 'if you can't pay rent, buy less lattes' and not 'if you can't pay your employees a living wage, buy less yachts'?”

“Why is it ‘if you can’t pay rent, buy less lattes’ and not ‘if you can’t pay your employees a living wage, buy less yachts’?”

“No immigrant has taken a job from a 'real american.' You were laid off by a capitolist who took advantage of that immigrant to increase his profits, and nothing makes him happier than to hear that you're a fucking idiot who's actually mad at the immigrant and not at him.”

“No immigrant has taken a job from a ‘real american.’ You were laid off by a capitolist who took advantage of that immigrant to increase his profits, and nothing makes him happier than to hear that you’re a fucking idiot who’s actually mad at the immigrant and not at him.”

“Me as a seven year old: I CAN:T BELIEVE THE PEOPLE OF KRYPTON DENY THE PLANET IS EXPLODING. THAT'S STUPID.  Me now, reading the comments section of a climate change article: oh”

“Me as a seven year old: I CAN:T BELIEVE THE PEOPLE OF KRYPTON DENY THE PLANET IS EXPLODING. THAT’S STUPID.
Me now, reading the comments section of a climate change article: oh”

Click to embiggen and read. I can’t transcribe that just now.”

Finally, some of you may know that my latest musical obsession is Panic! At the Disco—specifically lead singer Brendon Urie, so when I saw this tweet I laughed outloud and said, “Welcome to the club!”:

Which seems like a good reason to link to one of his music videos that hasn’t been included in any of my previous posts:

Panic! At The Disco: Girls/Girls/Boys [OFFICIAL VIDEO]:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

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