Saturday, October 03, 2015

222.7 - The pursuit of profit is the baseline cause of economic injustices

The pursuit of profit is the baseline cause of economic injustices

And yes, that pursuit of profit distorts our economy and our society. The pursuit of profit is the baseline cause of income inequality, it is the baseline cause of poverty, it is the baseline cause of unemployment, it is the baseline cause of homelessness, it is the baseline cause of hunger.

The pursuit of profit does not allow for the common good, it does not allow for the advancement or the benefit of the community as a whole, it does not allow for "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one." In fact, the  pursuit of profit declares the opposite: not even the needs, but the desires of the one outweigh the needs of all the rest.

Just consider one example: The Wall Street Journal has reported on "a severe shortage of midtier apartments," meaning apartments with a rental cost range "aimed at the working class." This shortage has driven up rents for lower- and middle-income-earners, with a market segment average of $845 a month - a daunting amount for many of today’s part-timers and even many full-timers.

The reason for this is simple: It costs about as much to develop a luxury apartment complex for the rich and well-off as it does for one for low- or moderate-income people. But the rental income on the luxury apartments is, obviously, much higher, with rents nationwide averaging over $1700 a month - more than double those for people futher down the income scale. As a result, since 2002, the supply of cheaper apartments has shrunk by 1.6% - there are fewer less-expensive apartments than there were in 2002 - while the number of luxury units has gone up by 31%. Put all that together with ordinary population growth and you have more people finding fewer apartments with escalating rents which fewer and fewer can afford, to the point where any sort of housing becomes out of reach for them.

Which in turn leads to the estimate contained in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Annual Homeless Assessment Report for 2014 that there are close to 580,000 people homeless on any given night in the US and the estimate by the Urban League that around 2.3 million Americans are homeless for some period of time at some point during the year.

At the same time, according to Census Bureau’s homeownership survey, in the first quarter of 2015 some 17.3 million housing units in the US were vacant, a figure that does not include those which are vacant only part of the year. That is about 7.5 empty places to live for every person who is homeless at some point in a year and 30 empty spaces for everyone homeless on a given night.

That state of affairs does not exist because of some force of nature or some ineluctable law of physics. It exists because of the drive for profit being placed above the needs of living, breathing human beings.

It is the drive for profit the generates unemployment, unemployment that is actually far higher than the supposed "official" rate. In fact, if you include those who are working part-time only because they can't find full-time work and an estimate of the number of "discouraged workers," those who dropped out of the labor force because they came to despair of ever finding work and so who are not counted in the unemployment numbers, unemployment is estimated at nearly 23%, Depression-era levels.

This is because corporations and their lackeys see employees as a cost, as something to be minimized. We've heard it so many times we can repeat the mantras from memory: "Businesses create jobs." No, they don't. Businesses incur labor costs in the pursuit of profit. That's why, despite the horrendous predictions of massive unemployment if the minimum wage is raised, such predictions have never come true in the past - because businesses do not make a practice of keeping employees they do not need, especially those lowly people at the bottom of the wage scale who obviously are unimportant because if they were important they would be making more money.

A full employment economy is possible; there certainly is enough work to do. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers puts out a report card on the US's infrastructure, something I will say on my own behalf I was talking about before most politicians even knew what the term meant. The Society considered 16 areas of concern, such as dams, bridges, and public parks, under four categories: water and environment, transportation, public facilities, and energy.  Eleven of those 16 areas rated a grade of D, with only one getting as high a B-.

So yes, there is a great deal of work to do, but it's not getting done because there is no profit in it for private corporations and the rich are not willing to pay the taxes needed for the government to be able to afford to do it. The pursuit of profit not only keeps us unemployed and underemployed, it threatens our infrastructure and therefore our health and safety by its indifference.

And it keeps us poor.

Poverty in two states - North Dakota and Colorado - is at or below the level it was at in 2007, before the great recession. In every other state, poverty is above the level it was at in 2007. Between 2007 and 2014, median household income for non-elderly families dropped over 9%. Over essentially that same period, specifically from June 30, 2007 to June 30, 2015, corporate profits after taxes went up 37.5%.

Indeed, the pursuit of profit keeps us so poor that some 1.5 million American families subsist on as little as $2 per person per day, a 70% increase since the 1990s, people who are so far on the fringes, whose lives are so unstable, exposed to so many risks, going from one crisis to the next, that researchers said the stories of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse seemed like the norm rather the exception.

Those 1.5 million families include 3 million children, because as the pursuit of profit keeps us poor, it particularly keeps our children poor.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, 22% of US children, more than 16 million of them, live in households with income below the federal poverty line, a figure which itself is absurdly low: The federal poverty line for a family of four is $24,250, and research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that to cover basic expenses. What's more, nearly 40% of American children live in poverty for at least one year of their life before they reach the age of 18. And, it shouldn't be necessary to point out but I will, the figures were far worse for black children than for white children. All those children experience unmet needs, low-quality schools, and unstable circumstances that can damage their chances for success as adults.

That, too, is the result of the pursuit of profit. And what really tops this off is that in all too many cases, it's not even that some enterprise, some project that could provide employment and stability to a struggling family, is not profitable, it's because it's not profitable enough. It's not that the corporations can't make money, it's that they can't make as much as they want. Because the drive for profit, the thirst for profit, even overrules profit.

If we are ever to build a just society, or at least an economically just society, a minimally just society,
- a society in which there are jobs, decent jobs at decent pay for everyone who wants one,
- in which yes, there may still be rich but no one will be poor,
- in which yes, there may still be McMansions but no one will be without a decent place to live,
- in which yes, there may still be those who will indulge in various nips and tucks and facelifts and the rest of the vanities but no one will lack for adequate health care,
- in which yes, there may still be those who can pop off to Paris for the weekend but no one will lack for the means of travel and the opportunity for recreation and the arts,
- in which opportunities for life-long education will be freely available to all,
then we will have to accept that our economy, even our society, is built on a false premise, a premise that says profit is a goal rather than the very most it properly can be allowed to be, which is a means.

Sources cited in links:

222.6 - Martin Shkreli is a poster child for what's wrong with capitalism

Martin Shkreli is a poster child for what's wrong with capitalism

But the case of VW really serves as an illustration of just how much - and more importantly, why - our economy is so distorted, twisted, screwed-up, and unserviceable for the vast majority of us: the baseline concept that profit, the search for profit, the drive for profit, the thirst for profit, not only rules everything, it overrules everything and is actually justification for overruling everything from law to regulation to ethics to decency to our collective future.

Consider some big news of late, the case of Martin Shkreli, a smirking little prig of a man who made himself notorious by buying the rights to a medication called Pyrimethamine, sold under the trade name of Daraprim.

Daraprim is used to treat Toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease. The parasite is extremely common, with even an estimated 23% of the US population over the age of 12 harboring the parasite. In most people, it causes at worst some flu-like symptoms and many people never show any symptoms at all.

But infants, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or cancer patients, can suffer very serious complications. As a result of that, plus the fact that up to 95% of the population in some areas of the world harboring it, Daraprim on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the ones it regard as most important medications needed for a basic health care system.

Well, Shkreli bought the rights and then immediately raised the price from the already-absurd $13.50 a pill, absurd because Daraprim has been on the market since 1953 and costs about $1 per pill to make, raised the cost from an absurd $13.50 a pill to an unconscionable $750 a pill, a 5500% increase, in a single day. On a medication needed by some among the most vulnerable.

He was roundly, soundly, and justifiably denounced for this across social media, but the point right now is how he defended himself.

He told CBS News that "There’s no doubt - I’m a capitalist, I’m trying to create a big drug company, a successful drug company, a profitable drug company."

He bizarrely claimed the move was "altruistic" and would actually benefit patients, which sounded as wacko in the original as it does here, but he had already given the game away: He's a capitalist. It's all about the money. It's all about the profit. It's all about the greed. It's all about the pure unadulterated selfishness and the "me first." And the "me second." And the "me third." And - and so on.

Which in its own perverted way makes sense, as Shkreli initially made his money as a hedge fund manager, that supercilious tribe of economic mutants that make fortunes by shifting around other people's money while creating absolutely nothing of value and accelerating the increasing concentration of wealth and power.

Which, again, is the point: It is perverted. Because Shkreli really expected that saying "I'm a capitalist" freed him from all requirements of ethics or decency and what's more that his interviewer would accept it the same way. That "profit" makes it all good.

That is the way they think. That is what the corporate elite, the 1%, the economic powers of our nation, the Masters of the Universe, however you refer to them, this is how they really think. They hold that profit is not only its own reward, it is its own justification, and that everything else, including ethics and the law, must fall before it.

Sources cited in links:

222.5 - Volkswagen caught cheating

Volkswagen caught cheating

As I expect you know, the EPA has discovered that Volkswagen deliberately cheated on air pollution tests on seven of its diesel-fueled models, including various Jettas, Beetles, Audis, Golfs, and Passats. Nearly 500,000 US-sold cars are to be recalled.

The company did this by installing software that detected when the vehicle was being tested and changed the engine's function to make it look like it was emitting less pollution than it really was. The system involved traps nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that can cause emphysema, bronchitis, and other respiratory diseases. It's supposed to be on all the time. What was happening here is that when the car was being tested, the software turned the system on, but then turned it off during regular driving - which saves some fuel (so the company can claim better gas mileage) and can improve acceleration (so the company can claim better performance), but also allows the engine to emit up to 40 times the legal limit of pollutants.

The scandal multiplied when a few days later the company admitted that 11 million of its diesel cars, mostly sold in Europe, were equipped with that software.

In a quick sidebar addressed to fans of industry "self-regulation," always offered as an alternative to "big government intrusion," in the US, automakers do their own pollution tests and report the results to the government. But the EPA does its own spot-checks, and that is how this deliberate cheating was uncovered. "Self-regulation" is precisely how this happened.

Attorneys general for several states have said that they were forming a group to investigate the deceit. Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, and other the countries are also looking into it.

Volkswagen will likely wind up paying fines of hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars, plus spending billions more to repair the cars involved.

But remember: Company executives did this consciously and deliberately. They consciously lied and cheated to sell more cars by making them look "green" while actually spewing out large amounts of pollutants damaging to the public health. If one of us did that to our own car and got caught, we could be facing bankrupting fines - federal fines run up to $295,000 - and a jail term.

VW, of course, will not be bankrupted. And no one will go to jail. CEO Martin Winterkorn had to resign, some lower-level managers will be the sacrificial lambs, but that and some fines will very likely be the limit of personal and corporate impacts.

But - and this is what I wanted to get to - for some people, even that is too much.

The right wing wants to blame the whole thing not on VW but on - get this - the existence of air pollution controls. Because, apparently, if we didn't have air pollution regulations, well, there wouldn't be air pollution. Or something.

For example, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that devices installed in cars to defeat pollution controls "serve a functional purpose" of increasing mileage and performance - rather than, apparently, of illegally defeating pollution controls. The editorial also suggests that this is just a case of a "well-known regulatory trade-off" - meaning, more exactly, that VW's type of massive cheating is just the way it's always been so why make a big deal out of it now?

The National Review blamed "phony moral imperatives" such as "automotive emissions standards" and "the worldwide global-warming crusade" for creating "temptation to cheat," a temptation, we are supposed to accept, that no corporate board could - or perhaps even should - resist if increased profit beckons from the other side.

A senior analyst at the Reason Foundation, said "aggressive regulations ... are to blame." The answer is not to punish VW but to "curb" the EPA.

Stephen Glover, a columnist for UK paper The Daily Mail, actually blamed the whole thing on "the pernicious tyranny of the Green lobby" and "climate-change zealots," based on their arguing for diesel because it emits significantly less carbon dioxide than regular gasoline. Again, in a chorus with the rest, Glover argues that the issue is not that VW deliberately cheated and lied to evade regulations, the issue is that there are regulations for them to evade.

Oh, by the way, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association gave its response to the scandal, which was "There is no evidence that this is an industrywide issue." In other words "Nope, not us. We're innocent." Which I expect is pretty much what VW was saying right up to the moment it got caught.

Sources cited in links:!OpenDocument

222.4 - Not Good News: Georgia woman executed

Not Good News: Georgia woman executed

Unfortunately, we now have to turn to some Not Good News, in this case about the death penalty.

There was one woman on death row in Georgia. Her name was Kelly Gissendaner. She was scheduled to be killed by the state at 7pm on Tuesday, September 29. It was delayed by a flurry of last-minute appeals, but the last one, to the Supreme Court, was rejected at 11:30pm, clearing the way for her officially-sanctioned murder, which took place at 12:21am on Wednesday.
She died by lethal injection - in other words, she was poisoned.

Gissendaner was convicted in 1998 of malice murder after she convinced her boyfriend, one Gregory Owen, to kill her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. Interestingly, while Owen was the one who actually carried out the murder of Douglas Gissendaner, she was sentenced to be killed while he was sentenced to life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2022. The disparity in punishment did not move any court even as it showed the capriciousness of the death penalty.

The court maneuvering came after the Board of Pardons and Parolees refused her request for clemency despite calls for it from her children (who are, let's not forget, also the children of the victim), Norman Fletcher, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, who argued Gissendaner's death sentence is not proportionate to her role in the crime and that he himself was wrong in his decision to deny an earlier appeal from Gissendaner - as well as an appeal for mercy from Pope Francis.

No matter. The hangman got his coin and mercy could hang as well.

Kelly Gissendaner
And this sort of news of this surviving rite of barbarism may well be repeated soon: There are six official murders scheduled for the next nine days in the US.

There is one bright note in this:

The death penalty is on the decline in the United States every way you look at it. Fewer states have the death penalty, fewer executions are carried out in those that do, and fewer people are sentenced to death in the first place.

For example, between 1997 and 2005, the nation averaged 71 sanctioned killings each year; between 2006 and 2013, that number dropped to 44 per year. And in 2014 there were just 35, the lowest number in two decades. Meanwhile, the number sentenced to die in 2015, based on the year-to-date, is projected at 72, which would be less than a quarter of the number of such sentences handed down in the mid-1990s.

And as the death penalty itself slowly dies, public support for it is also declining. According to the Pew Forum, a clear majority of Americans still support the death penalty; the figure is 55% yes, 37% no. But that is a sharp decline from 1996, when it was approved by 78-18. A 60-point gap has shrunk to an 18-point gap.

Unlike in some other cases, I can't say with any assurance that justice will come on this topic. But at least it doesn't feel like it's entirely out of reach.

Sources cited in links:

222.3 - Good News: Shell Oil abandoning the Arctic

Good News: Shell Oil abandoning the Arctic

A bit of pretty good news on the global warming and environmental front.

Royal Dutch Shell is giving up on its controversial push to drill for oil in the environmentally-sensitive Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. The area was supposed to be the next big thing in oil production, but after drilling an exploratory well 80 miles off shore, Shell just didn't find much and so is abandoning the region "for the foreseeable future."

The decision was welcomed by environmentalists and climate change activists, who had been giving President Obama considerable heat for clearing the way for the exploratory drilling even as he touted his commitment to fight climate change, which will at the very least require a reduction in the use of fossil fuels such as oil.

Shell was quick to include "the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment" among its reasons for quitting, and right-wingers were equally quick to jump on board, because capitalism, like conservatism, can never fail, it can only be failed. But the truth is much simpler: With the price of oil down to about $45 a barrel, there just wasn't enough money to be made.

Which is why Shell said it's quitting the area "for the foreseeable future" and why I called this "pretty" good news: If the price of oil goes up again and goes up enough, Shell could be right back to drilling.

Sources cited in links:

222.2 - Good News: Yes, there are police searches that some courts will not justify after the fact

Good News: Yes, there are police searches that some courts will not justify after the fact

Some good news on the privacy and rights from comes in one of those all-too-rare decisions that puts some limits on the powers of police. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court - the state supreme court - has ruled that police can't stop motorists solely because they suspect the vehicle's occupants are carrying marijuana.

Elivette Rodriguez was a passenger in a car stopped by police in 2012 after they allegedly detected the smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle. During the stop, police found a bag containing 60 Percocet pills, and Rodriguez was charged with possession with intent to distribute and other offenses.

Before trial, Rodriguez filed a motion to suppress the evidence from the search, arguing that since the state had decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2008, the mere odor of marijuana coming from the car did not create sufficient probable cause to undertake the traffic stop and subsequent search.

The trial judge denied that motion, but put the trial on hold while Rodriguez appealed. And by 5-2, the SJC agreed with Rodriguez.

As a result, the state will drop the prosecution of Rodriguez because it no longer has any evidence.

Justice Margot Botsford, writing for the majority of the Court, relied heavily on that 2008 referendum, which reduced possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to a civil violation - and on two previous cases in which the SJC said the smell of marijuana does not provide grounds for police to order occupants to exit a car or to search a vehicle without a warrant.

Which means, in fact, that the present case is just a minor and essentially technical expansion on those previous ones, on the principle of "smell is not enough."

Which is good news both for sensible marijuana laws and for the idea that yes, there actually are limits on what cops can do with the expectation that courts will find a way to justify it after the fact.

However, the fact that the cops were prepared to do it (and defend it) and prosecutors were prepared to argue for it and two members of the SJC were prepared to agree with them in spite of the clear precedents shows that the issue is not going away.

Sources cited in links:

222.1 - Good News: Planned Parenthood cleared again

Good News: Planned Parenthood cleared again

Yet another investigation, this one by the office of Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, has found no evidence that Planned Parenthood's clinics mishandled fetal tissue or engaged in any unlawful activity.

The investigation, was, of course, sparked by that series of lying and now widely-debunked videos alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue in other states. And like the other investigations which have been concluded, nothing unethical or illegal was found.

But officials in other states are still conducting investigations, which only serves to prove the point that this was never about abortion; videos were not reason but excuse. The reason, the purpose, is to attack the very idea of reproductive rights, the very idea of women as autonomous beings in control of their own reproductive choices. You can see that because the attacks on Planned Parenthood, the very symbol of such freedom of choice, are not limited to abortion but are intended to undermine the entire organization.

For example, officials in Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas have targeted Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, funding which cannot be used for abortions or abortion-related services, but instead covers services such as birth control and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. And last week, the Wisconsin House passed a bill to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family planning money in the state. Perhaps it was a consolation prize for Gov. Scott Walkalloveryou, whose campaign for the GOPper presidential nomination has to rank as one of the most colossal failures in political history.

Meanwhile, on a more upbeat note, Republicans in Congress tried to strip federal money for Planned Parenthood in a government funding bill; happily, they failed and it appears now that the threat to shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood is shriveling.

This comes as a time, by the way, when according to a new Quinnipiac University national opinion poll, American voters reject cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood by a margin of 52 - 41.

Sources cited in links:

Left Side of the Aisle #222


Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of October 1-7, 2015

This week:

Good News: Planned Parenthood cleared again

Good News: Yes, there are police searches that some courts will not justify after the fact

Good News: Shell Oil abandoning the Arctic

Not Good News: Georgia woman executed

Volkswagen caught cheating!OpenDocument

Martin Shkreli is a poster child for what's wrong with capitalism

The pursuit of profit is the baseline cause of economic injustices

Left Side of the Aisle #221


Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of September 24-30, 2015

This week:

Good News: Alabama to mandate teaching of evolution and climate change

Good News: Hillary Clinton finally comes out against Keystone XL pipeline

Some good news on climate change

Some bad news on climate change

And Another Things: dogs and cats can see in ultraviolet

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Left Side of the Aisle #220


Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of September 17-23, 2015

This week:

Good News: writing a nasty comment on your traffic ticket is free speech

Some more on the Kim Davis circus

Hopes for peace in South Sudan

Clown Award: Gov. Bobby Jindal

Outrage of the Week: GOPpers admit no illegality in Planned Parenthood videos, move to defund anyway

Are police taught to be scared? Yes.

Black woman confined in mental hospital for eight days because NYPD could not believe she owned a BMW

Recalling a time when being white may have saved my life


Monday, September 14, 2015

219.5 - Say It With Numbers: "Black Lives Matter = warfare on law enforcement" is a lie

Say It With Numbers: "Black Lives Matter = warfare on law enforcement" is a lie

This is a very occasional feature, so occasional that we don't have a real name for it. You could call it the Statistic of the Week, but since we do it so rarely that doesn't seem to fit, so we more think of it as Say It With Numbers.

Amid all the accusations about the Black Lives Matter movement being responsible for "open warfare on law enforcement" and our being treated to the front-paging of any shooting of a cop, consider this:

Last year, 2014, 47 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. At the pace established so far this year, 43 police officers - that is, fewer - will be shot and killed in the line of duty in 2015.

Meanwhile, in 2013, the most recent year for which records are available, 126 police officers, three times as many, committed suicide. Police killed themselves at a rate 1.5 times that of the general public, with indications the actual rate was even higher as such suicides are more likely to be underreported or misclassified as accidental deaths.

What's more, studies say that 20-25% of police struggle with problems of drug abuse and addiction, a level double that of the general population.

Police work is very stressful and those figures bear that out and those cops who do their jobs honestly and professionally, without prejudice and according to law, are worthy of deep respect. But the notion, the claim, that the Black Lives Matter movement is making that job more dangerous Is. Utter. Crap.

[Special thanks to shaunking at, my original source for the above.]

Sources cited in links:

219.4 - Outrage of the Week: new Pentagon manual could allow for indefinite confinement of journalists

Outrage of the Week: new Pentagon manual could allow for indefinite confinement of journalists

Now for our other regular feature, which is called the Outrage of the Week.

The Pentagon has just released a new version of its Law of War manual, updated to apply to all branches of the military for the first time. It pulls together all international laws on war applicable to US armed forces, and is designed to be a reference guide for the military.

And it includes a vaguely worded provision that would allow local commanders to treat journalists as "unprivileged belligerents," a variation of that weasel phrase "unlawful combatants," if such a journalist is believed to be sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy, with the terms "sympathizing" and "cooperating" open to interpretation - and experts in military law and journalism both say that military commanders could interpret the terms broadly.

Bear in mind that a person deemed an "unprivileged belligerent" is not entitled to the rights afforded by the Geneva Convention as a prisoner of war, so a commander could do anything to a reporter considered to be such an "unprivileged belligerent" from restricting them from certain coverage areas which are available to others up to holding them indefinitely without charges .

Defense Department officials said the reference to "unprivileged belligerents" was intended to point out that terrorists or spies could be masquerading as reporters. Well, duh. But it doesn't say that.

Another provision says that "relaying of information" could be construed as "taking a direct part in hostilities." Officials said that is intended to refer to, for one example, passing on to an enemy information about locations of troops or other classified data or for another acting as an artillery spotter. But it doesn't say that.

Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was not the Defense Department's intent to allow an overzealous commander to block journalists or take action against those who write critical stories.

But it's already happened, long before there was a manual telling some "overzealous" commander that "relaying of "information" which he or she doesn't want sent out is justification for a journalist to be accused of "taking a direct part in hostilities" or "spying, sabotage and similar acts behind enemy lines." For one example, journalists working for The Associated Press and other news organizations have been detained or thrown out of embed arrangements for stories, video, or photographs that the military found unflattering.

And during the Iraq war, the US military detained several Iraqi journalists, some of whom worked for established international news organizations like the AP, Reuters, and AFP. Fortunately, ultimately, all were released without being prosecuted, though one, Pulitzer-winning photographer Bilal Hussein, was held without charge for two years.

Reporters Without Borders called the language in the new manual "dangerous," while others in the media used terms like “threatening,” "disturbing,” "speculative," and "hostile."

Oh, but don't worry, the manual also has helpful suggestions as to how journalists can avoid being dumped in some version of Gitmo because some "overzealous" commander takes a dislike to their reporting. First, they should always gain permission for their reporting from "relevant authorities" - without, we should not be surprised, providing guidelines about what to do in conflict zones, which are often chaotic. And second, they should submit all their relevant work for review and censorship, so the military can have total control over what is reported to the public.

In short, just go when and where the military tells you and report what the military wants you to and you'll be fine.

Which I'm sure the Pentagon would regard as the best of all possible worlds, a dream world.  A dream that is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

219.3 - Clown Award: David Brooks

Clown Award: David Brooks

Now for one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

This week, the dishonor of the Big Red Nose goes to syndicated columnist and all-around goofball David Brooks.

On Tuesday, September 8, his column was about what he called "four anti-party men" who have seen their political stars rising of late. The four are Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, who was at the time of Brooks' column the leading candidate for the post of leader of the Labour Party, a campaign he has now won. All of these men, he says, "have little experience in the profession of governing."

I won't speak for Trump or Carson, I will say that Bernie Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, for eight years, a member of the US House for 16 years, and was elected to the US Senate in 2006, where he is now the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, has been a Member of Parliament since 1983. I suspect he picked up something about the "profession of governing" in those 32 years.

But that, it seems, is not what Brooks means by "the profession of governing" - rather, he means what he calls the "civic institutions" of political parties, created to "win elections and pass agendas," and, he declares, none of these four has a "plausible path toward winning 50.1 percent of the vote in any national election. They have no prospect of forming a majority coalition that can enact their policies." In other words, as far as Brooks is concerned, if you're not part of a majority, you're not part of real political life, you loser.

David Brooks
He rather wistfully expresses his hope that "Maybe this is a summer squall and voters will get interested in the more traditional party candidates come autumn, the ones who can actually win majorities and govern." That is, the Hillary Clintons. The Jeb Bushes. The "we've seen this all before" show of candidates chosen because they were "electable" and then flop, such as Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, or who get elected only to turn their backs on the majority that elected them in order to do favors for the rich and powerful - such as all the rest of them, including liberal heroes Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, under whose administrations the wealthy have received the overwhelming majority of the benefits of economic growth while most of our futures stagnated.

And if you respond to those sorts of repeated betrayals by deciding you would back someone who actually said what you thought, who actually proposed what you could support, if you supported someone you figured you could actually believe in? According to Brooks, you've created a "cult of personality" because people like Bernie Sanders "are not really about governing. They are tools for their supporters’ self-expression" in what "sociologists call expressive individualism." Put another way, support for Bernie Sanders is a sign of the breakdown of the American community.

Put still another way, put the direct way, if you don't support the official, establishment-blessed, party-approved, "electable" candidate, then according to David Brooks, there is something wrong with you and supporting candidates based on what you believe in instead of on who has the biggest lowest-common-denominator appeal in is a sign of some sort of mental dysfunction.

There is a dysfunction here, surely, but it is not ours. And David Brooks, who wrapped up his column by wishing for - and he really did this - wishing for "a sensible Donald Trump," has made it clear to one and all that he is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

219.2 - To Laugh, Not Weep: FDA approves Oxycontin for children as young as 11

To Laugh, Not Weep: FDA approves Oxycontin for children as young as 11

This is an occasional feature, nicknamed "To Laugh, Not Weep," where we look to embrace the absurdity of something just to avoid the ugliness of it.

The evidence is indisputable. Marijuana, or more precisely cannabis, is a beneficial plant with a range of demonstrated and potential medical applications, including treatment of severe pain. While it, like any other chemical substance, can have some undesired effects, there is no evidence to date that anyone has ever died from it.

The evidence is also indisputable. OxyContin and other opioid-based prescription drugs have a small range of uses from pain management to cough relief. There are many harmful side effects. They are highly addictive, kill thousands of people a year, and sicken tens of thousands more. Opioids have a place in medicine as they are used to treat severe pain. But they are incredibly dangerous.

In the US, 23 states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana for medical use. However, in all but five of those states, it is nearly impossible to obtain. In the other 27 states, you can't legally get it at all.

On the other hand, narcs won’t kick down your door, shoot your dog, and throw you in prison if you have doctor-prescribed OxyContin, which is legal in all 50 states.

Here's one outcome: Tens of thousands of children suffer from epilepsy in this country. Of those tens of thousands, only a very small handful have access to medical marijuana, which has shown some benefits in reducing seizures. But if you want your child to start a regime of opioid drugs, you can: Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved the use of OxyContin for children as young as 11.

Its use is to be highly regulated, but it still means that the federal government is allowing children as young as 11 to be given a highly-addictive, dangerous drug while denying them even the opportunity to find out if the non-addictive, far, far safer, alternative of medical marijuana would help them.

It is to laugh - so we don't weep.

[Special hanks to the linked article at AlterNet, from which this is largely taken.]

Sources cited in links:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

219.1 - Kim Davis and the religious right

Kim Davis and the religious right

I'm going to go on about this at some length this week because after this I hope to put it aside until there is some real development.

Kim Davis
So Kim Davis has been set free because Judge David Bunning, who jailed her for contempt, said he was satisfied that in her absence her assistant clerks were following the law and issuing marriage licenses to all qualified couples, including same-sex ones.

He did this, I think mistakenly, without obtaining any promise from her that she would not interfere with those assistant clerks continuing to do so, although he did warn her against doing it. Frankly, I don't expect her to follow the law now any more than she did before, particularly since Davis has already told Bunning that she would not allow any same sex marriage licenses to be issued from her office, even if she wasn't the one signing them. So I strongly suspect we will be right back here before too long.

Anyway, she was freed to the cheers of a throng of supporters crying "Amen" and "Praise Jesus" with - get this - "Eye of the Tiger" blaring from the PA.

Which, when you come down to it, is the real issue here: not Kim Davis, but her supporters and what they tell us about the desires and intentions of the right wing and the religious fanatics who have a significant voice in driving it. Kim Davis is not the issue, she is just the current focus of the issue.

So no, Kim Davis is not the real issue. She is one person, but what's significant is that she is one person who is being turned into the symbol, the poster child, for anti-gay bigotry and don't let anybody try to tell you that it's anything else.

Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckleberryhound was at the rally when Davis was released and he said “We don’t gather here because we hate anybody. We gather here today because we love God and this country. And we do not want to see this country become the smoldering remains of a great republic."

And what will make for the US being reduced to smoldering remains? By all appearances, it's being unable to discriminate against LGBT people.

So again, Kim Davis is not the issue. But I want to pause there because there are some things I do want to say about her.

First, I can accept that Kim Davis really does believe what she is saying about same-sex marriage. She is hopelessly, totally, perfectly wrong, morally, ethically, and legally, but I can accept that she really does believe it. What I am curious about is what she believed on the topic before what she calls her conversion experience, which she dates to about four years ago.

Which before I go on brings up something else. I mentioned last week, lots of people mentioned, that she is on her fourth husband - although you could say it's her third because she married the first one, then the second one, then the third one, and then the second one again - and she had twins as the result of an extra-marital affair while married to her first husband.

Now while I think it is relevant to mention all that, it is part of the context, it is part of the history, I don't think we should dwell on it because she will say (and has said) that as part of her conversion she was "forgiven" for all that and that she is a different person now, the latter of which you can accept may well be true even if you don't believe in the former.

However, I still wish someone would ask her what were her views on same-sex marriage before her conversion. Frankly, I would suspect that she held an "anti" view even then - which would mean that she is not against it now because of the Bible but rather that the Bible is now the justification for that prejudice.

Obviously, I don't know that for certain but I'm reasonably confident. First because polls say a majority of those in Kentucky even now are against same-sex marriage and it would be reasonable to expect the figure was even higher four years ago, so she would be part of a heavy majority. And second, because it is a pretty constant pattern for people who have such conversion experiences to not change their social and political opinions in its wake. People generally don't find that if they were tolerant of various things before they suddenly are against them or that if they were intolerant of those things before that now they are suddenly much more open-minded. As a general rule, those sorts of attitudes don't change much. There might be some degree of shift in one direction or the others, some change in emphasis, but overall, not a lot of difference.

So the idea that Kim Davis could be using the Bible as an excuse for her prejudice is not at all unreasonable.

But even so, I can believe that, with all the passion of the new convert, she is sincere in believing it's all about "God's authority." I can believe, that is, that she believes this is for her a matter of conscience. I believe in the power, the dignity, of the human conscience and I believe in the inviolability of the human conscience. As a result, I can respect, even admire, her willingness to go to jail rather than do something she honestly believes is against her conscience.

What I can't accept is her insistence that she should be able to continue as a county clerk, that she should get exactly what those of her ilk are always claiming same-sex couples are after: special treatment, special rights. Which of course same-sex couples aren't, they are only looking for equal rights, but special treatment is exactly what she is demanding.

Your conscience says you can't do the job? I understand - perhaps more than you think, because I have in the past quit a job over a matter of conscience. Which is exactly what she should do: You can't do the job, you quit and do something else. But no, not Kim Davis, not her lawyers, not her supporters, no, they say she gets to keep the job, the rest of us just have to change the rules to suit her.

Rev. Emily Heath
That is what she and her lawyers are demanding: special exemptions carved out for her convenience, special treatment for her so she can deny equal treatment to others. That is hypocrisy.

At least partly in response, Rev. Emily Heath of the United Church of Christ recently wrote about her own decision to not apply for a job as a chaplain in a federal prison because of her opposition to the death penalty, deciding she could not work in a system that upheld the option of killing someone:
"Religious liberty is guaranteed in this country. But that does not mean that every job needs to bend to your particular interpretation of your faith. If you really believe doing your job is violating your faith, then stepping aside would be a small price to pay for the love of the Gospel."
But apparently quitting her $80,000-a-year job is too big a price for Kim Davis.

You want more proof of the hypocrisy? Her lawyers have gone to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the same federal court system whose orders she openly and repeatedly defies, demanding it order Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to let Davis refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

On the other hand, I have to add that maybe, just maybe, its not hypocrisy; maybe its something else. After Kim Davis was jailed, her husband Joe emerged to say "They have illegally put my wife in jail so we’re gonna ask Beshear to do his job or step down.” The lack of self-awareness truly is astounding.

Her supporters have made comparisons to Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Are they kidding or just nitwits, I say before noting they are not famed for their sense of humor.

Rosa Parks was a private citizen defying what she knew to be the law for the purpose of challenging it for the benefit of an entire community. Kim Davis is a public official, charged with following the law, who wants an exemption from her duties just for herself. As John Culhane put it at, Kim Davis is "Rosa Parks' bus driver, denying a service to the public."

The comparisons to Dr. King are, if possible, more absurd. Not only was King, like Parks and unlike Davis, acting on behalf of many, but if Kim Davis feels a conflict between the law and her conscience, she is free to stop being a county clerk. When black Americans experience a conflict between the law and their conscience, their dignity as human beings, they are not free to stop being black. There simply is not comparison.

"You will follow my Bible!"
But this brings us back around to what I said was the real issue: not Davis, her supporters. Because like the man in the play said, "Ignorance and fanaticism are forever hungry and need feeding." And Kim Davis is the caterer of the moment.

Because with all their "Praise Jesus"'s and all their woo-hooing of Davis's invocation of "God's law," Davis's supporters are emblematic of the fact that there are those, too many of those, there are those who hold that members of government in their official duties must be allowed to carry them out in accordance with their personal understanding of the Bible - more properly, with the fundamentalists' understanding of the Bible. That is, what the shouted "Amens!" of the Bible-thumpers amount to is a declaration that the Bible, their interpretation of the Bible, overrules civil law - which, if it's not a working definition of a theocracy, I can't imagine what would be.

Oh, but "Wait, wait!" we'll get told! "It's the other way around! Its religious freedom! You're oppressing our religious freedom!"

Rev. Heath had a good response to that nonsense:
When someone is being asked to follow the law, and issue a marriage license, and they say they are being persecuted, I just don't buy it. You are being no more persecuted than I was when I decided not to be a prison chaplain. If you really believe doing your job is against your faith, then quitting would be an act of faith. Defying the law so two people you will never see again can't get married? Not so much.
Unfortunately, there are those, not many but even a handful is too many, there are indee3d those in government who hold that being expected to live up to their oath of office is religious persecution from which they should be freed by being able to decide what parts of that oath they will follow.

A few examples: In  Oregon, in the wake of a May 2014 federal court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in that state, Marion County Judge Vance Day instructed his staff to refer same-sex couples to other judges and then, apparently wanting to avoid a discrimination claim even though discriminating was exactly what he was doing, stopped performing weddings altogether.

Two other clerks in Kentucky - Casey Davis, no relation, in Casey County, and Kay Schwartz in Whitley County - are also refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couples based on the same bogus religious-freedom argument. You haven't heard about them because they have not yet been the target of any legal challenges.

And last month, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct found it necessary to say judges can’t refuse to marry same-sex couples on personal, moral, or religious grounds - that is, they can't refuse to do their jobs. The very fact that they had to say it shows just how deep is the determination among some to refuse to face the reality of social change.

Because that's what this is: a refusal to face reality. We knew - or we damn well should have known - that the victory on same-sex marriage at SCOTUS would not be the end of the issue, that the dead-enders would throw up every roadblock they could. And they are doing just that. There is still a fight to be fought on same-sex marriage and even more on the broader question of LGBTQ rights.

But at the same time, let's keep in mind and take heart from what that reality is: The fact is that in most places in this country, same-sex couples can get married without problems, that most of those judges and magistrates and county clerks and whatever who do disapprove of same-sex marriage are saying "my job is to uphold the law so I will," and most of all that the reason Kim Davis is such big news is precisely because she is by far the exception.

Justice is coming, justice will come.

Sources cited in links:

Left Side of the Aisle #219

Left Side of the Aislefor the week of September 10-16, 2015

This week:

Kim Davis and the religious right

To Laugh, Not Weep: FDA approves Oxycontin for children as young as 11

Clown Award: David Brooks

Outrage of the Week: new Pentagon manual could allow for indefinite confinement of journalists

Say It With Numbers: "Black Lives Matter = warfare on law enforcement" is a lie

Monday, September 07, 2015

218.7 - Man’s sunflower tribute to deceased wife

Man’s sunflower tribute to deceased wife

After all that I needed something lighter, gentler. And so we have this, a story I wanted to tell about something I wish I could have the chance to see.

You have to take Wisconsin state road 85 a few miles southwest of Eau Claire to find it. By all accounts, route 85 is a pretty road, going through farm country and often lined with fields of corn or soybeans. But at for now there is something different: a strip of sunflowers, 60 feet wide and four-and-a-half miles long.

They were planted by Don Jaquish as a tribute to his wife Babbette, who died last November from multiple myeloma. "She always loved flowers, but sunflowers were her favorite," he said.

The tribute crosses five farms. Neighbors opened up their land, telling Jaquish to pay whatever rent seemed fair.

What makes this even better is that the seeds will be harvested and sold as bird seed under the name Babbette's Seeds of Hope with a portion of the proceeds going to support hospitals, research, and patient advocacy with regard to cancer. This actually was Babbette Jaquish's idea and now stands as her legacy - and her face is printed on every bag of the seeds. Which may not have been her idea, but it was her husband's, whose loving tribute to her memory is a thing of true beauty.

Sources cited in links:

218.6 - Outrage of the Week: blaming Black Lives Matter for shooting of deputy sheriff

Outrage of the Week: blaming Black Lives Matter for shooting of deputy sheriff

Now for our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week.

You surely know about the execution-style murder of a policeman in Houston. Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth was filling his patrol car at a gas station when someone came up behind him, shot him in the back of the head, and they continued to shoot him as he lay on the ground. Within 24 hours, police had arrested Shannon Miles for the crime. Goforth was white, Miles is black.

It was a vicious and apparently unprovoked crime committed - making the assumption for the sake of the discussion that Miles is guilty - by someone with multiple previous arrests, including criminal mischief, disorderly conduct with a firearm, and two for resisting arrest and in 2012 was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial after being charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Despite that background, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman claimed to know immediately the real cause for the shooting: the Black Lives Matter movement. There's no evidence linking Miles in any way to that movement, but that didn't matter to Hickman:

"When the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happens, this rhetoric has gotten out of control. We've heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops' lives matter, too."

He wasn't the only one. Devon Anderson, who is the district attorney for Harris County, called it "open warfare on law enforcement."

Criminal history? A history of violence? We don't need no stinking history!

Motive? We don't need no stinking motive! No, we know! It was all that talk about how black lives matter!

A connection, any connection, to that movement? We don't need no stinking connection! I told you! We know! That was the cause! You got people saying black lives matter like they actually mean it, you got people who are angry about the fact that despite progress blacks still are more than twice as likely to be killed by cops as white people are, you got people who are furious that nine months later, officials are still "investigating" the police murder of Tamir Rice, and first thing you know, you get "those people" all riled up and out of control!

And of course once some jackass like Sheriff Hickman - emphasis heavily on the first syllable - says it, it becomes "news" and Fox is all over it, pounding away, desperate to turn it into a meme that the right wing can hide from reality behind.

In "discussing" Deputy Goforth's murder the evening of Monday, August 31, "Fox and Friends" ran an onscreen banner calling the Black Lives Matter movement a "murder movement," and their guest called protesters "slime," "filth," and "cop-haters."

In a different segment on the same show, Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked a different guest, "Why has the Black Lives Matter movement not been classified yet as a hate group?"

(The answer she got, by the way, was "Well, they should do it, but unfortunately, it's being financed by the leftists," which has got to be one of the most totally non sequitur non sequiturs I have ever come across.)

Also on Monday, a guest called Black Lives Matter a "criminal organization" on the Fox talk show "The Five."

And also on Monday - this is all just coincidence, you understand, there surely is no coordination of message going on there - but also on Monday, Bill O’Reilly on his show called the movement a “hate group” and declared he was “going to put them out of business.”

This is beneath contempt, nothing other than a conscious and deliberate campaign to undermine and discredit the movement with a program of misdirection and deception looking to make all black people responsible for the actions of every individual black person - no "lone wackos" allowed if you're not white - plus fear-mongering with the blatantly racist dog-whistle that black people are incapable of controlling themselves so their anger is inherently threatening and dangerous, making any black protest movement "murderous," "criminal," and "hating."

And why are they so eager to discredit the movement? Because it's having an impact. A Pew Research Center survey from last month found that 53 percent of white Americans think the country needs to continue changing to give blacks equal rights. The number is distressingly low, but it is an increase from 39 percent, an increase of 14 percentage points, last year. In addition, a new Gallup poll found that 53 percent of whites said they are satisfied with the way blacks are treated in the United States. Again, the number is distressing, in this case distressingly high, but it is a drop from 67 percent in 2013, again a shift of 14 percentage points.

So the lies get told and the memes get spread to head of the terrifying prospect of change and worse yet, loss of white privilege. And they will be readily, eagerly, happily, lapped up by the bigots, buffoons, and bozos who make up far too large a portion of the American people and who are ever prepared to find a new way to tell themselves that the only racists are the people who protest racism. I fully expect the phrase "murder movement" to appear in comments in various places quite soon if it hasn't already.

It is frustrating, it is depressing, it is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

218.5 - Clown Award: Patrick Couderc

Clown Award: Patrick Couderc

Next up, one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

Remember Mike Jeffries? He's the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, who got himself into hot water a couple of years ago when he was found saying that "In every school there are the cool kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. We go after the cool kids," that "A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes," and that he didn't want larger people shopping in his stores.

Well, it appears he has company. His name is Patrick Couderc, and he is the UK managing director of the fashion line known as Herve Leger. In a rather bizarre recent interview with the UK newspaper The Daily Mail, he spouted off a list of the types of women who he had decided shouldn't wear the line's signature bandage dress.

Patrick Couderc
His list included "voluptuous" women and women with "very prominent hips and a very flat chest," none of who, it seems, can offer the proper "silhouette."

Oh, and older women because they shouldn't be wearing youthful clothes.

Oh, and lesbians, because lesbians, or at least "committed" lesbians, whatever the hell that means, want to be, he said, "butch and leisurely."

I have got to think that fashion - not just the designers, most of who it seems do not know how to style for more than one body type and then blame women for not being all the same, but the whole clothing business right down to the retailers - I have got to think that this is the most sexist industry in the nation if not the world.

I suppose you could argue that point, but you can't argue this one: Patrick Couderc, who is now the former UK managing director, is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

218.4 - More tragedy, still hope in South Sudan

More tragedy, still hope in South Sudan

I have talked about this a few times before. I don't know exactly why I do since I know few if any of you are interested in this except perhaps philosophically, but this is a story I have been following at least to some degree for years. I don't know why this particular world tragedy affects me more than others do, but I have found it a particularly sad tale. Maybe it's because it is so marked with hopes being raised and then being shot down - usually literally.

It's the case of South Sudan. The borders of Sudan, in the words of the BBC's Southern Africa correspondent, "seemed to have been drawn up on the back of an envelope by the colonial administration," resulting in a nation with a largely Muslim, Arabic north being stitched together with a largely Christian and animist black African south.

You can predict the result: Civil war came to Sudan i 1955 as the south tried to break away from the north. A settlement was reached in 1972 but it didn't resolve the basic problems. So civil war broke out again in 1983 and lasted for 22 bloody years. Two million died, the largest death toll of any war since World War II. Four million more were driven from their homes. Finally, when both sides were drained of blood and exhausted, an agreement was reached that allowed the south some autonomy for six years to be followed by a vote whether or not to become independent.

Despite obstacles, that vote came, on schedule, in 2011 and the vote for independence was nearly 99 percent. South Sudan became the world's newest nation. And it is, today, still the youngest nation on the planet. Hopes were sky high.

For a short time. Without an external opponent to override local ethnic and tribal rivalries and conflicts, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, turned on itself. The leaders of the two biggest factions, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, were, in the new government, president and vice-president - but soon Kiir was accusing Machar of fomenting a coup and Machar was accusing Kiir of oppressing and trying to destroy the opposition and it rapidly escalated into a new civil war in December 2013.

In the time since, the pattern has been months of fighting followed by supposed ceasefires which have soon broken down, leading to more months of fighting and new supposed agreements.

Salva Kiir                               Riek Machar
Well, about two weeks ago, Machar, the main rebel leader and former vice-president, agreed to a compromise peace settlement. What's important here is that this is a proposed settlement, not just a ceasefire. But President Kiir stalled, missing a deadline for reaching an agreement and saying he needed more time and had "reservations" about the agreement and how it was reached.

Credit where it's due, the Obama White House made no secret of its "deep disappoint" that Kiir was "squandering" the opportunity to bring peace to South Sudan. Kiir was stalling for time, and the White House in effect told him "you have no time." On August 26, Kiir signed.

So once again there is hope.

And again, there are already reports of violations of the ceasefire and each side is accusing the other of being the guilty party.

However, we shouldn't give up that fragile hope just yet. In chaotic situations like this, it is rare for a ceasefire to take immediate full effect, that is, for all fighting to stop completely and immediately. More common is a rapid tapering off and watching for that pattern is a way of judging if both sides are serious about this.

In fact, it's even more important to hold off judgment for a bit here because it's not even clear that all of the rebel units are under Machar's control. Fighting may be getting generated by small, independent groups. Which is both good and bad: good because it would likely mean that large-scale, nationwide fighting will not occur; bad because small, regional conflicts could go on for some time.

The conclusion I would draw here is that if I can come back next week without having to note a significant renewal of fighting or a breakdown of the frankly tenuous peace accord, one which I have to say still has a lot of "and a player to be named later" about it, but if I can come back next week and say the ceasefire is holding for the most part, then we can at least hope that the people of South Sudan will have enough time, enough of a respite, to bury their dead.

And the fact that merely that is something to be hoped for is a measure of just how great the tragedy is.

Sources cited in links:
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