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November 17, 2015

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BRAVO!

One thing I have learned hard, if indeed I have learned it now: it is a reduction of our humanity to hide from pain, our own or others'......Wallace Stegner

Fear is our most basic nature and greatest temptation. We are tormented by the material world, its bounty and its lack. There is never enough, or conversely, too much. There is the certainty of death, and the constant denial that it is closer than we think. So, we do what all stressed people will do. We simply go unconscious and look for an excuse to behave like frightened children.

Republicans have one role to play in the Theater of the Absurd that is American politics - frighten people so they lose reason, skepticism, and their own better angels. All the better to impose a waking nightmare of a polity that will stand that fear on its head and impose its own tyranny at the expense of most citizens. That's why every single Republican candidate for president is offering prescriptions to ISIS that are obscenities compounded by idiocies. Tell a few Big Lies and the nation is bewitched. But how did we get into this mess in the first place? When we believed the twaddle of fearmongers from Dick Cheney and his hapless puppet to Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell. We went to sleep and the nightmare materialized before our eyes.

But, it's much easier to blame the black man whose middle name is Hussein. Certainly, it's much easier to let professional propagandists do your thinking for you. Why bother retaining a memory of the aftermath of that grand Iraqi adventure? Weren't things were going swimmingly until the black man came on the scene and ruined the economy, the Middle East, health care, and the American political system?

So, here we are in a familiar briar patch. Over there, some too familiar acts of terror from a radical subset of Islamicists. How convenient to have a clash of civilizations! Let's blame all Muslims and metastasize this disease. Psst: buy Halliburton. You can't go wrong with this financial strategy.

Over here, it's the same shotgun marriage of corporate sharpies and birdbrain culture warriors. Yeah, let's go to war to defend their culture! Sorry if we have to turn this nation into a megachurch of morons, but culture is important!

In 1995, Timothy McVeigh killed 168 Americans in the worst act of domestic terrorism up to that point. He had two voluntary associations in his life: the Republican Party and the NRA. Somehow, we didn't exploit this brazen act of terror to ask why Real Americans hate America so much. Nor did we ask why they hate us for a freedom. No, if you're white, stupid, gullible, and Republican, you get a pass. If you're a Syrian, you're damned for the sins of ISIS and told to fend for yourselves.

But Aryan Jesus loves us and wants us to be rich. Muslims, not so much.

And now a plurality of Republicans appear to think Donald Trump is the guy to deal with terrorism: I think I have to blame our public education system, and its stress on historical propaganda, militarism, and wealth worship. Maybe civics classes would help, if the textbooks aren't from Texas.

+1 On the apparent truth that totalitarian strongmen or monarchs are the most effective form of government in the middle east. It's sad but true.

+1 On the legitimate concerns of Europeans about preserving their culture and safety in an environment of massive immigration. I think it is perfectly sensible to question the wisdom of bringing in large numbers of people who are largely without education or skills and come from cultures totally at odds with both historical Christianity and modern secular liberalism.

Personally, I think Europe and the US need to put pressure on Saudi Arabia and the other wealthy oil states to take in significant numbers of refugees.

Interesting times for sure...

Wasn't too long ago when my newspaper was informing me daily on that Afghan hospital a US jet flattened. The one we thought was a terrorist redoubt but was actually being used by "Médecins Sans Frontière" (Doctors Without Borders). For two days that European lefty organization screamed in my paper that this was nothing but another "US War Crime." Not a mixup. Not a mistake. A war crime.

Funny...
I don't hear that organization screaming "War Crime":

* After Paris...
* After news the Russian jet was bombed...
* After yesterday find of mass graves containing 78 elderly woman (found after Kurds liberated a town held by ISIS for a year).

Of course I could go on. As ISIS is nothing but a War Crimes Organization. They are worse than Nazis in that they believe all infidels should get the oven. Except the prettiest females. Those make great sex slaves for their filthy bearded masters.

Never in my lifetime has a state or an organization so clearly stood up and declared to the world: We are vermin.

And to think many of the regressive left would have stood pat and allowed this organization to overrun Baghdad like a flash mob with uzis. Wow.

And now the regressive left is going after Kevin Drum. Here's Kevin:

My blog posts don't usually provoke a lot of outrage on social media. I'm just not that kind of writer. But today was an exception, when I suggested that lefties should tone down their mockery of calls to limit the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the country. That spurred hundreds of tweets from fellow lefties—some in support, but most of it hostile.

Interesting times...

The far left wrestling with the far right for whom gets to wear the Stupid Hat at the jauntiest angle. One could say that's what our politics (under the tutelage of the Internet) has devolved into. But one would be wrong. Rather I consider it clear proof that the next president will once again be a manifestation of Benjamin Franklin's great "middlin people". The extreme edges yet again have shown their complete inability to think straight...

Side Note. What to do about ISIS and Syria? The smart conversation should begin here: (Of course Kevin Drum's posters weren't up to the task.)

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/11/heres-plan-defeat-isis-it-might-even-work

Other links:

ISIS likes to kill old ladies and sex-slave the young ones:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/11997164/Mass-graves-of-Yazidi-women-found-near-Sinjar.html

Source of the Kevin Drum quote:

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/11/how-should-fear-syrian-refugees-be-fought


Koreyel, Kevin Drum is one of my favorite bloggers. I usually agree with him, and I can't really think of any time I actually had a strong reaction against him. I include his Syrian refugee post.

Still, I think there are times when we stand up to the small, fearful, and gullible. Syrians are not a threat to anyone in this country. The only reason we're having this discussion is right-wing propaganda that wants everyone to conflate Islam and ISIS. Even in a crisis, we need to keep our heads clear. Neo-con foreign policy adventurism led to the creation of ISIS. Colin Powell foretold this tragedy in his Pottery Barn metaphor. His warning was not only ignored then but it's being ignored now. Actions have consequences, and the idea that we can ran amok in somebody else's civilization without stirring up a hornet's nest is precisely the mistake we need to acknowledge. The human tragedy here is not being borne by Americans. It primarily belongs to Syrians, and to a much smaller degree, Parisians. If it's the Lebanese who suffer at the hands of ISIS, we don't care. Too much melanin for our tastes, I suppose. And when it comes to Africans, we're completely unsympathetic. We have a history of that.

So, here we are on the threshold of another moral failure, looking like cowards in search of a new scapegoat. It's not hard to figure out who benefits here, either. Frauds like Donald Trump, or really any GOP presidential candidate, breathing heavily into our reptilian brains, and posturing as tough and resolved instead of a ruthless exploiter of somebody else's misery.

The number of people killed in Paris is close to the weekly toll gun violence exacts here in the U.S. You can shoot up a classroom full of six year-olds and there's no call for profiling of young white males. Funny that. But let white people die in a hail of bullets at the hands of Muslim fanatics, and it's nous sommes toutes les Parisiennes.

On a pragmatic political plane, this sinks Bernie Sanders' presidential candidacy. We can only take so much honesty, and the idea that climate change is a much more dire long-term threat (and indeed, a short-term threat, as the drought in Syria shows), cannot compete with the hysteria coming out of France. We will exhaust ourselves economically now to fight a war that cannot be won. Ted Cruz even wants to drop any lingering humanitarian ambition that America still possesses. Shoot 'em all!

We will do what we can to minimize this threat not with bombast and bombs but with intel and surveillance. That's why I defended Obama in this space after those NSA revelations a few years ago. Politically, you can't do otherwise. Hillary fully understands this. But I think the Syrians still deserve our concern if we're going to maintain any semblance of moral stature in this fallen world. We don't have to be perfect. We do have to be sane. Right now the crazies are winning, overseas and at home.

Jon - - I think you meant "Clash of Civilizations."

The worldwide refugee problem has been expanded because of the Paris attacks. But even before that, most of the EU were beginning to put up barriers. Some formal, some not so much.

It has little to do with race but quite a bit to do with culture. But the overwhelming issue here is not race, nor culture, nor Timothy McVeigh.

It's money.

Think France can find billions to fund the "war" that has been declared and the expanded localized police state? Think the UK can? Russia/ Putin? The US?

A Wall Street expert who was on NPR said that at $39.00 per barrel, Saudi Arabia can no longer provide basic government services. Closed yesterday at $40.53. Think (even given motivation) they have billions to help wipe out ISIS?

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2015/RES100615A.htm

I stumbled on this this morning:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/paris-attacks-britain-unveils-new-6852816

Now, a lot of hawks will be thrilled at those pictures. Look at what the UK can put together to kick some ISIS butt; look at the technology and the weapons.

All I could think about it what it must cost and what it will cost if that guy gets hurt.


I'm not a fan of the saber rattling on the GOP side and I thought Rand Paul totally hit the nail on the head in the last debate. You want the Rubio expanded military? You want to saddle up and go after ISIS? You want to police the world?

You have to pay for it. Now.

See- that's when I'll know. When a politician looks into a camera and says we need billions (more) to fight ISIS (or whatever), and here's my tax increase to pay for it, then I'll know that someone is playing it straight.

On a daily basis, there is enough carnage in this world to drive someone nuts. I'd love for the US to be the moral center of the world. I'd love for us to take the lead on wiping out terror. And I'd love to open our arms to the millions of displaced, poor bastards all over the world whose life was crummy to begin with and then got even worse when all hell broke loose in Africa and the middle east. And I'd love to fix the social ills in this country that never get fixed despite government spending at yet again all time highs.

Love to.

Can't afford it.

Here:

France and the EU were already at odds about France's deficit and now the "war" costs will be added on. France wants a pass for all of it:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8fdfef2a-8d2f-11e5-a549-b89a1dfede9b.html#axzz3rs9s7rEp

Swell.

Thanks, bearsense.

I was thinking of trying to pass this off as my own post. However, though I know that I would have gotten away with it, honor forbids it.
http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a39727/paris-attacks-middle-eastern-oligarchies/

Clash of Civilizations

It's actually not a choice between civilizations. It's a clash of one civilization and stone age barbarians who delight in strapping children with bombs to punish the unspeakable crime of drawing a comic of Muhammad. Does free speech matter? Remind me again: They don't hate us for our freedoms. They don't hate us for our freedoms. They don't hate us for our freedoms....

This is why countries from Russia to Egypt to Nigeria to France to the US are fighting them. We can't hide our head in the warm sand at the beach and say: It costs too much. Fighting Hitler, after the fact of Hitler, arguably cost too much. Better if we had stepped early and hard on his windpipe.

I say: We are very early in this game. Step on ISIS's windpipe now and don't let up. We'll rue it if we don't.

Interesting. It's very much the same argument for getting after global warming. You can pay now or pay much much more later. So what's it going to be? Head in the sand or act like men of the world willing to own what needs owning?

Side note 1 : I'm not opposed to allowing in Syrian refugees. Obviously I do want them intensely screened. One point Mr. Drum didn't make -- and for all I know nor has anyone else, although Mr. Talton touches on it in this post -- is the building of a solid democratic and successfully Muslim faith in the West that doesn't blink at Mohammad being characterized in ink. That should be a national priority. Can we publicize our most successful Muslims please. Give them some ink so to speak...

Side note 2 : Thanks soleri for your fine response. I've read it twice and will return for another dose later.


A "Successful democratic (peaceful) religion"????
Blink Blink Blink!

Muslims don't believe in nations/states, only Islam. That makes them hard/impossible to acculturate, as host nations have found out. Or am I mistaken.

Muslims don't believe in nations/states with borders drawn up by Western colonial empires, Ed: they're probably ingrates or something.

Ed Dravo, that kind of generalization usually raises a red flag. On the other hand, it would certainly seem true in some nations, say Iraq, where the nation itself is not an organic concept so much as a fait accompli left over from the rupture of the Ottoman Empire. The salient characteristic, then, would be religion as a default vehicle of shared identity in lieu of political and historical values.

My experience with religion is that people believe fervently in proportion to the personal security they derive from that belief. That's why Christianity seems like weak tea by comparison to Islam. Americans are fairly secure (thank a Democrat!) and don't need to go overboard declaring their fealty to arcane dogmas and rituals. If you don't see Christians donning suicide vests, it's probably a lot less to do with Jesus than the fact the average American is too fat to wear one.

The current game Republicans are playing here in feeding xenophobia is obnoxious for this reason. Americans are lucky. We live in a prosperous, secular nation that values individual conscience. Are we personally superior to Muslims? No. We're simply fortunate that religious extremists can't really gain much of a toehold here. On the other hand, if the Religious Right ever succeeds in driving us back to the Middle Ages, we might see the kind of sectarianism that they decry among Muslims.

There is no one tribe called American because our core idea was always to transcend that kind of thing. That said, maybe it's our fate to keep looking for something warmer and more snuggly as an identity. I don't blame people for checking out Eastern religions, Opus Dei, Pentecostalism, Orthodox Judaism, and other tribal religions. But be careful what you wish for. That very tight-knit group identity might become your straitjacket.

Trump not funny but dangerous.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/donald-trump-just-stopped-being-funny-20150821

Muslims don't believe in nations/states? Tell that to American Muslims. Did Keith Ellison run for imam or Congress?

I must admit! I have never read so much bullshit in all my life!!!
Oye vey!!!

well Tom gives us some of your non stinky bull shit.

Nationalism arose primarily in Europe and is the conceptual foundation for the nation state. While nationalism created the nation state in Europe much of the world remained organized by family or tribe. European colonial power drew national lines on Africa, the Middle East and much of Asia with insufficient regard for the tribal and familial organizational structure of their former colonies.

In the Middle East, Jews, Christians and Muslims were tribal in their orientation. The influx of European Jews, predominantly from Eastern Europe, brought with them European beliefs of nationalism and the nation state. The nation state of Israel clashed with the tribally organized Levant born Jews, Christians and Muslims.

A tribal and familial organized society in the Middle East is mostly related to the region and its history not whether the person was or is a Christian, Jew or Muslim.

This just in: Sinema panders once again to people who will never vote for her in a million years by voting for resolution to keep out Syrian refugees.

Well, it looks like a veto proof majority in the House echoes Ducey's concerns that there is no confidence in the Obama administration's ability to vet the refugees:

http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-congress-refugees-20151119-story.html

Gee.

7 plus years with no real advancement on immigration policy.

Why would anyone worry?

INPHX, gee, who woulda thunk that mindless xenophobia is pretty much the perennial American flavor?

Of course, it's all the Kenyan usurper's fault. He shoulda just done what the House Freedom Caucus wanted (nothing) so folks like you could blame him for something else.

Soleri:

As Obama once lectured us all, "Elections have consequences."

Failed immigration reform, based on a vacuum of leadership from the Executive Branch, has consequences, too.

What are we arguing about?

See- you blame it on "mindless xenophobia"

I blame it on the guy that won two Presidential elections.

What are we arguing about?

He promised it and couldn't get the ball over the goal Line- actually couldn't even get it close:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/promise/525/introduce-comprehensive-immigration-bill-first-yea/

What are we arguing about?

He's so far gotten his brains beat in on his executive orders on immigration because he's unable to lead on a solution that would get through Congress:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/20/us-usa-court-immigration-idUSKCN0T920B20151120#yY1JfsL5PF94vTFu.97

What are we arguing about?

What are we arguing about?

Certain things. Ordinary decency. Willingness to compromise for the common good. Refusal to politicize certain things for short-term political advantage. And above all, the kind of political institutions that reflect the best of citizens instead of their craven fears.

If you've been asleep since, say, 1990, you might think Republicans are interested in the national good. Perhaps you're a witless zealot like INPHX. Perhaps you're merely naive. Or more likely, you're confused because the national media deploy the False Equivalency to make every misstep equal to every cyncial calculation of political operatives.

Obama was not elected dictator. He cannot force Congress to pass bills. He respects the institutional autonomy of Congress, so he doesn't see the point in having some congressperson introduce his bill. He picks and chooses his battles carefully so he doesn't needlessly expend political capital in losing causes. (Note to this blog's readership: No, Bernie would not fix this. Politics isn't a fairy tale. People are not clammering for ideological purity. Most have no idea what the real issues are. They're content if they're economic prospects improve. That's it).

Why immigration reform went nowhere in Obama's first term has less to do with Obama than Congress. I do not recall that non-debate, although it's interesting that INPHX wants to blame the Kenyan Usurper for not forcing the issue. Gee, you think that would have worked? The same party that pledged to make Obama a one-term president cooperating on immigration reform? Yeah, sure.

In 2013, a gang of six Republican senators got a comprehensive reform bill through the Senate. It then went to the House where Republicans insist no bill can go to the full floor with a majority of Republicans approving of it. This is the Hastert Rule. Obama didn't invent this rule. Republicans would sooner take their marching orders from a pedophile than a Kenyan. Needless to say, the radical Republicans in Congress were not happy with anything like a path to citizenship or families staying together (unless they're white). After six months of fruitless back-and-forth, John Boehner gave up. RIP, immigration reform.

At this point, I don't think it's intemperate to say Republicans are simply assholes. Every single one of them. If you're still a Republican at this late date, you either have a severe personality disorder or you're too stupid for words. A party of xenophobes and corporate stooges holds hands and makes whoopee for no better reason to make the rich richer and society more precarious. There's nothing else. Yeah, they love fetuses, and Jesus (aka, Ayn Rand), and token black neurosurgeons, but there's not much else that gets their attention other than tax cuts for the rich and easing their regulatory burden. That's why INPHX is here trolling this blog. There are few really dumb readers of this blog who even agree with him. Good for you morons. But if you think Republicans have anything like your personal interest or the national interest in mind, you really should just check yourself into convalescent facility. The kind that specializes in "memory care".

All Republicans are assholes.

All Republicans are assholes.

I second the motion.

I usually go with "irredeemable c*nts",as in "why are all Republicans such irredeemable c*nts?" But now that you mention it, "assholes" works too.

See, Soleri gives us 7 generally meaningless paragraphs of the usual Chatty Cathy, pull the string, vapid responses.

Let me simplify.

From the politifact article, quoting Obama:

"I cannot guarantee that it is going to be in the first 100 days. But what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible."

What does "guarantee" mean? Does it mean Republicans are assholes? Does it mean xenophobes? Kenyan? Hastert Rule? Jesus?

He had the White House, the Senate, the House, and immigrants had his guarantee.

Nada. Zilch. Zipp.

Failure.

You nitwits keep the blinders on. USE that tunnel vision. CELEBRATE the ongoing Obama apology tour. OWN it.

On a reality based blog.

INPHX

Own Republican stupidity. Your literal interpretation is not even literal.

The Republican House has screwed this country and will continue to do so into the next decade. It is the House of Representatives that is taking this country down you Republican ignoramus.

The US will still survive and even thrive while carrying Republican bloodsuckers such as yourself.

HMLS:

If you have a response related to Obama's unfulfilled, first year of his first term "guarantee" for immigration reform, I'd love to hear it.

Otherwise, well, you sound a little bit like Soleri with the broad brushed, vapid, trivial insults.

Really--It's hard for me to understand what kind of partisan blindness can let a President off the hook when that President "guarantees" something- but, well, here we are.

He had the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. And he didn't get that "guarantee" to first base.

I guess, because of Ayn Rand??

cal is a Republican and everyone on this blog who knows him knows he's a fine dude.

Cal is a fine dude and it's about time we get some coffee!

I like Ted Cruz! No! I like Marco Rubio! No, wait! Which one is the Cuban who's greatest weakness is his love for America? That's the Cuban I want! Sure, a Cuban who's greatest weakness is his love for the Constitution is nice, too, but America! Plus the deficit! It's lucky we people with judgement and discernment will pick the next President! By the way, I don't like Carly this week, she won't pay for stuff! Rand Paul will pay for stuff!

I know I cross a line when I say things like "all Republicans are assholes". Obviously this isn't any truer than saying all Muslims are terrorists. On the other hand, if there's a party continually blurs the edges around nuance and meaningful distinctions, which one is it? Which party exploits virtually every human weakness for the purpose of hijacking democracy with fear and hate? Which one whispers Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization? Which one simply asserts without evidence that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts? Which one will assert without any evidence at all that climate scientists are cooking the books in order to perpetuate a giant hoax on the world? Which one asserts that deficit spending is a looming threat to the nation (but, oddly, only when a Democrat is president)? Crime is out of control! Mexicans are invading the U.S! The list of Big Lies goes on and on. Depressingly so.

I agonize about something I have no real control over. This is insane. I somehow I got the idea my opinion makes a difference and I better share it or the world will slide off the rails. It would be better for me, and certainly for my blood pressure, to drop out of this discussion because it's going nowhere. Americans now choose their media in order to explain to them reality. One faction - the right - routinely uses propaganda as a filter to decide if something is true or not. This isn't Berlin 1933. This is us.

I could calm down and talk like Gwen Ifill on Washington Week in Review - both sides do it! Why doesn't Obama schmooze with the Tea Party? Let's talk calmly and split the difference - climate change is controversial!

My little Howard Beale moment feels like a drunken rant at the collapsing end of a bacchanal. I want to apologize to the other partiers but they're too busy laughing at me to care. We all know someone is to blame but opinions differ as to whom.

This is my confession: I really don't know if we as a nation, a species, and a shared consciousness, are worth saving. Cal, indeed, might be Delphic when he intones e.e. cummings in this space, "pity this busy monster, manunkind." As bad as things seem, the worst is yet to come.

This post is admittedly "off" topic and probably should have been in the previous post.
That said:
I just finished reading Jon's new book on Phoenix. I found it to be very informative and well done.
Vandermeer's "Desert Vision" is probably the textbook and Jon's, no disrespect intended is the "Clif's Notes version.
I would recommend it to anyone who was thinking of moving to Phoenix (after I told them not to).
Perhaps we talk about this and take a break from the current "pissing contest."

Soleri:

1. If you have something to add about Obama's shattered guarantee to the immigrants in this country, please do so. If not, let's just agree that he lied and moved on.

2. I'd like to address just one other of your looney observations and that's the one about the deficit only being a concern when a Democrat is in charge.

In case you've missed the last 7 plus years, the accumulated debt that this country owes has exploded and the worldwide economy really has never recovered since the 08 fiasco. The EU is in trouble, no sane person believes the numbers out of China, natural resource prices are in a downward spiral, and every time there is a revision in expected worldwide growth, it's down.

So.

It's not about a democrat being in charge. It's about the debt blowing past 100% of GDP and the shakiness of the world and US economy to grow to repay it.

It's also about the states, the counties, the cities, and the stunning amount of unfunded and "off the books" future liabilities.

See, your side ignores those facts and simply writes off budget concerns to hatred of the black guy in the White House.

You know why?

Cause that's what you do.

Westciv has already changed. To talk about preserving "western values" is empty rhetoric. The reality is a more and more uniform mass culture.

INPHX, it's pointless to argue with someone who is largely uneducated about macroeconomics. The reason no serious economist is screaming about the deficit is probably because deficits only really start to matter once they crowd out private borrowing. Not only has this not happened, interest rates remain at record low levels. The debt/GDP ratio is now well within post-war norms now. What you do is muddy this reality by talking about pensions, long-term obligations, and health care costs. What the economy presently requires is enough demand to sustain some growth. If you - or any of the GOP presidential candidates - were in charge, you would cut spending, collapse demand, plunge the economy into a severe recession, and to top it all off, cut taxes on the rich. In other words, explode the deficit. The insanity of Tea Party economics speaks for itself.

Every summer, NFL quarterbacks promise their fans a winning season, or even a Superbowl (see: Peyton Manning). People do this kind of thing not because they're pathological liars but because it's an aspect of their job - selling the public enthusiasm. Politicians do this as well. Jeb Bush, for example, promises 4% annual GDP growth if he's elected president, something outside the realm of economic possiblity, but music to the ears of economic illiterates such as yourself. Obama promising to get immigration reform done qualifies as bravura salesmanship. It didn't happen but most people understand what he meant. Not hyper-literal dorkwads like you, of course, but ordinary human beings. Promising someone "I'll be home for Christmas, you can count on me" is not a lie if it doesn't happen. It's a disappointment. Only children take promises like these literally. Oh, and you as well. Because you are a child.

Soleri, don't drop out of the conversation. This blog is infinitely enriched by your insights.

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