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I was listening to a Slate podcast recently and one of the topics was “what political or personal view do you hold or have you held that you’ll one day feel obligated to apologize for” (or something like that). For me, it would have to be my long-standing ignorance of drone warfare. For whatever reason it always seemed to me like a niche complaint of malcontents. I can only imagine that in thirty years when China and Russia and the US are zipping drones through each other’s airspace, I’ll be like “man, I really wish I had seen that  coming”. 

For my part, I don’t hate the IDEA of drone warfare. If it keeps the bad guys back on their heels and prevents some barely-started-shaving midwestern kid from getting his balls blown off in the desert based on a lie, I’m cool with it. And because I don’t have to see it happening on the news all the time, the part of me that’s reflexively repulsed by carnage doesn’t care either. 

The PRACTICE of drone warfare is another matter, specifically the idea of unchecked executive power to create kill lists that include American citizens, the criteria for inclusion on which is so vague and downwardly defined as to be meaningless. That part bothers me a lot.

From a more theoretical perspective, the idea of being able to conduct continuous drone operations against entities with little to no risk of loss of American lives would seem to enable a more or less permanent state of war which should trouble greatly anybody without an active DoD contract. 

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Hey, blog.

Been a while. Glad to be back.

Let me talk to you for a minute about our totally awesome, not completely out of touch President.

Old news at this point, given the speed of the news cycle, but I’ve been chewing over something buried at the bottom of the Time’s Politics section this morning.

President Obama gave an interview with Bloomberg, in which he:

– Praises JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as “savvy businessmen”, and

– defends Dimon’s $17m bonus and Blankfein’s $9m bonus, stating that he doesn’t “begrudge people success or wealth…that is part of the free- market system”, and then

– attempts to draw a parallel with the salaries paid to top athletes, even under-performing ones: “Of course, there are some baseball players who are making more than that who don’t get to the World Series either.”

Let’s address these things in order:

– In response to the first point: I’ve long suspected that the game is basically rigged. Obama does himself no favors with me or anyone else by vouching for these corporate rapists. And they’re not that “savvy” as businessmen, either, or we wouldn’t have spent a fortune bailing them out for having overplayed their hand at the CDS game. It’s disturbing to me that the President would play on his closeness to what are essentially failed businessmen to put to bed the idea that he’s anti-business.

– The second point is the most egregious to me. I’m running out of outrage quick, but I have enough left to say how god damned disgusting I find it that our President has the temerity to go before the press and defend multimillion dollar bonuses for coprorate titans, paid for by us in the form of no-interest loans, while otherwise-stable two parent families in the suburbs line up for food stamps and one in eight homes are in a state of foreclosure. It’s proof to me that the game is rigged; that, as Paul Krugman writes in his column, there’s a “growing appearance that we’re running a system of lemon socialism, in which losses are public but gains are private”. Amen.

– The comparison to athletic salaries I just find baffling, and infuriatingly disingenuous. You see, when the cubs have a shit season, that sucks, but at least my tax dollars didn’t bankroll their crappy acquisitions. When Paul Pierce goes on the DL, and the Celtics start losing games to the god damned Hornets, of all teams, Danny Ainge doesn’t charter a flight to DC and beg Congress for a shot in the arm to keep them solvent. This is because sports teams, unlike the financial industry, actually DO compete in a more or less free market. They perform, we spectate, and their operations (and payrolls) are dependent on the amount and price of tickets and merchandise and how much of each we’re willing to buy. And when shit goes pear-shaped for a sports team, and the price of tickets falls, and people stop going to games, they make cuts. They trade talent and slash payrolls.

No one is going to Dick’s and buying Jamie Dimon jerseys or Lloyd Blankfein bobbleheads. No one is buying tickets to watch financial cats trade derivatives. And we sure as shit shouldn’t sit back and tolerate multimillion dollar bonuses to these fucking losers. The profits used to generate those bonuses was earned based on capital that WE PROVIDED. I want my goddamn cut.

Athletes are paid exactly what the market will bear. Financiers, on the other hand, are being paid with our money, since they weren’t “savvy” enough businessmen to actually make any. Complete and utter bullshit.

I was having a conversation with a friend last night that was essentially “Obama: Yes or No”. I answered with a qualified yes (quoted as “meh”), not because I was fundamentally happy with the scope and direction of his agenda but because of all the small-bore things that he’s getting right and because I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on big things like the economy and the war(s).

Urging the repeal of DADT is great. Working on environmental agreements is great. Signing the Lilly Ledbetter act into law is awesome. Drawing down on troop strength in Iraq–I like that, too. And I was willing to give him time on Afghanistan and economic recovery because those aren’t “overnight” prospects. Ending the war in Afghanistan is a dynamic task and depends on a lot of other factors. Economic recovery takes time too, and Obama can’t control all of it.

But it makes me really fucking doubtful of his commitment to making sure that working people can ride this thing out smoothly when he goes before the press and defends filthy lucre for the same incompetent sons of bitches who got us into this mess. Obama has chosen a side, and I’ve chosen mine.

Between this and his seeming lack of urgency on healthcare (and especially because of his refusal to push for a public option for the latter), I don’t know how much longer I can defend the Democratic party’s incompetent leadership.

Less than 12 hours later, Obama has officially lost my faith and my goodwill. He has made it apparent to me that there is longer anyone who matters looking out for working families, that we’re living in a den of thieves. Officially.

I agree with Paul Krugman–if this keeps up, we are, in fact, doomed.

I’d take GOP criticism of the candidate a lot more seriously if they didn’t, to a man, sound like Boss Hogg when they talked.

I’m not even going to deal with the whole Palin thing. It’s overdone. We all have our theories, and I guess we’ll find out pretty soon what her deal is/was, so I’m just going to jump into what’s happening today:

In opinion:

Thomas Sowell, syndicated at RCP, makes some sort of specious argument about…something. Affirmative action, I think. I’m nto entirely sure, because the argument is so convoluted as to obscure the fact that it’s basically flawed and incoherent. I had the same argument with a guy in a freshman politics seminar when I was at Ithaca. No, they don’t make the hoop any bigger when Shaq goes in for a free throw. No, they don’t make it smaller for Kobe Bryant. Hey, wait…1994 called. They want their hot button issues back.

In features:

Eric Alterman at the Daily Beast writes on Dick Cheney’s creepy, third-world fiefdom. Pretty chilling, but, sadly enough, not surprising.

For what it’s worth, Newsweek reports that Eric Holder might pursue investigations into Bush-era interrogation policy. I’m all for it, but I don’t want it to become neutered, a show trial where they throw some mid-level bureaucrats and the less-reputable spooks under the bus, while the signatories to the cables and authorizations keep their consulting gigs and laurels. Hopefully, AG Holder’sapproach with people will keep him on the right side of the administration. To be honest, I don’t expect much from this.

In news:

WaPo’s Dan Balz writes on the political dilemma facing the GOP: Raise (sometimes legitimate) concerns over Sotomayor’s judgement and legal approach, and the underlying aims of the Obama administration in choosing her (making history; an approach to constitutional interpretation based on empathy?) at the risk of further alienating Hispanic voters. Another dimension is that if the Republicans can prove cagy enough to voice these concerns in such a way that they resonate beyond their ever-shrinking base, would this be enough of a dent in Obama’s armor for them to start making some real progress by way of a comeback?

Energy Secretary Chu travels to China this week to discuss terms upon which Beijing can agree to carbon reduction measures. Side issue is what economists are citing as green energy protectionism. This NYTimes article reports that as Beijing pursues massive investment in green infrastructure, eveyr contract was awarded to domestic manufacturers. I’m not an economist (professionally, anyways), but I think we shoudl take a page out of their book and start awarding some no-bids to our own solar and win manufacturers. But again, I’m not a money man and I’ve never been a big fan of the global economy. So, whatevs, I guess, is the lesson there.

Steven Rattner might get nailed on pay to play violations.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Check back for updates and breaking stories.

– PRESIDENT: I think Barack finishes up 180. No lie. I did the math twice and looked at all the polls I have available to me and I think it breaks down like this: Obama wins all the safe and strongly leaning EVs on the west coast and in the southwest (WA, OR, CA, NV, NM, CO), sweeps the upper midwest (MN, WI, MI, IA, IL, OH), and runs the table in the northeast (NY, NJ, MA, CT, VT, NH, and gets both of ME’s). He’ll also show strongly in the mid-Atlantic (DE, MD, DC, and VA) for 311 safe EVs. McCain gets 142 safe EVs in ID, UT, AZ, WY, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, AR, LA, AL, KY, TN, WV, and SC. Obama will lose MO, GA, and IN but will more than cover his ass with MT, ND, NC, and FL. Obama 359, 53.5%; McCain 179, 47.5%.

– SENATE: I’m predicting we pick up both Colorado and New Mexico, where the Udalls are running pretty strong; Virginia; New Hampshire, closely; Oregon, where Merkley is really kicking Gordon’s ass; Minnesota, also closely; and North Carolina. This means we come up short of filibuster proofing the Senate, at 58. Now, this might seem counterintuitive. Those two extra pickups would have to come in Georgia and Alaska. Begich is beating Stevens by 3 pts in the polls, but he got this kind of hero’s welcome the other day after his conviction, and I never underestimate Alaskans love of their senior Kleptocrat. Georgia is weird because I don’t think Chambliss is going to beat 50%, which means a runoff on 12/2 and I think he’ll pick up the votes he’ll lose to the Libertarian on 11/4. So, it might be 59 if I’m wrong on Alaska, but I don’t think I will be.

Insights? Contra-predictions? Verbal abuse?

“’I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,’ Mr. Greenspan said. ‘I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.’

Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. ‘In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,’ Mr. Waxman said.

‘Absolutely, precisely,’ Mr. Greenspan replied. ‘You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.’”

(per NYT)

As I suspected, the accidental email leak described by Noam Schieber in yesterday’s The Plank is no more than a “head fake”:

[Obama’s campaign] ‘accidentally’ leaked an ‘internal’ poll showing Obama up by only 2 percent in PA. I guarantee you that no such poll exists and that this was done…to sucker the McCain campaign into spending more time there”.

Just when I thought the conspiracy theorist in me had been tamped down by years of a reality that no tin foil hat guy could fabricate…

(h/t, TNR)

The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber seeks to terrify me with very well-argued and sober scenarios under which McCain might pull out a surprise win, mostly revolving around poll lag, the Bradley effect, and a leaked internal email from Obama’s campaign indicating a razor-thin 2 pt advantage in Pennsylvania (per DailyKos).

Per Politico, Jonathan Martin writes:

“John McCain’s campaign tonight sought to tamp down a report by CNN’s John King that they’re looking for a path to victory that doesn’t include Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado”.

The report he cites, which I alluded to a few days back (and finally tracked down), comes from CNN’s Political Ticker, where John King writes that “…While Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado are still officially listed as McCain target states, two top strategists and advisers tell CNN that the situation in those states looks increasingly bleak…’Gone,’ was the word one top McCain insider used to describe those three states”.

So, the story is that while these states are steadily slipping away from the McCain camp, they seek to portray their slackening efforts there as a flexible strategy that seeks a winning scenario without those states (possibly by poaching Pennsylvania).

Michele Bachmann’s ridiculous little stunt on Hardball last week is turning out to have some very, very real and quite serious consequences for the churlish Repub from the Gopher State.

A fundraising plea from DailyKos resulted in over $640,000 in small-dollar contributions for Bachmann’s newly-empowered opponent, the amusingly-named Elwyn Tinklenberg. More interestingly, the Dtrip has signaled that it may add the 6th district to it’s “Red to Blue” roster, an indication that the balance of power in the race may have shifted in such a way as to make the seat winnable for the Democrat. This may mean even more funding for Tinklenberg, who, despite his smashing success in fundraising this quarter ($469K in this quarter alone; well over his total for the entire period previous), still trails Rep. Bachmann in total funds raised and cash on hand (the Congresswoman has $1.4M on hand, and raised $2.2M last quarter). However, the Huffington Post reports that the RNC has all but abandoned Rep. McCarthy Bachmann, suspending further media buys in her district. If true, this may indicate that the district has serious potential to go from Red to Blue. I wouldn’t bet the farm on it, but it’s now a race to watch.

Earlier today, I was told that the McCain camp was suspending operations in NM and CO, allegedly per Politico. Anyone who can substantiate that, let me know. If true, very, very exciting.  More news to follow when I can get a solid handle on the story.

My anti-Palin crusade continues with a great video from perez hilton, courtesy of molly mcfabulous.

Sarah Palin can’t even do corruption right.

Seriously, what is this penny-ante shit? $17k in per diem for 300 nights spent at home? Putting your snaggletoothed brood in fancypants hotels in Illadelphia and New York City at $700 a night? Jesus Christ. Next, we’ll find out that she expensed tickets for The Lion King and airfare for the kids to see the giant, stupid dinosaurs from The Wizard. Don’t they have cable in Alaska?

Sorry, I’ll make this quick because it’s late:

– RNC suspends all media buys in WI (oldish, but exciting for a Sconie transplant)

– Obama up a lot in the solidly Republican territory (VA, NC, et al) though down nationally. I’ll take that tradeoff, any day. The race was always going to close to within 4, but we’re looking at upsets in states that Democrats either haven’t held since the Clinton era, in the case of MO, or, in the case of VA, in 40-odd years. It’s not quite a 50-state strategy, but Obama sure as shit is expanding the map.

– A quick note on senate races:

-NC: Kay Hagan’s stock is rising, and she’s suddenly poised to unseat longtime incumbent Elizabeth Dole. Shout out to Scott Zumwalt, HRC-Iowa Alum, for his work on the Hagan race.

-NH: former gov. Jeanne Shaheen might upset the largely ineffectual John Sununu. I like.

-AK: we’ll see  how Sen. Steven’s indictment turns out, but the news isn’t getting any better for him these days.

– AutoMattic’s picks for Senate pickups: AK, CO, NM, VA, NC, NH, MN.

I know this is old shit at this point, but it can’t really hurt to throw in my two cents. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, on Hardball:

I think it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyways) that this is the most disgusting and thoroughly unpatriotic suggestion I’ve ever heard.

Next: Joe the Plumber! McCain’s apparent last, best hope to dull Obama’s edge on economic matters. Joe, less better known by his Christian name, Samuel Wurzelbacher, and not really a licensed plumber at all, confronted Obama during a rally or whatever in Holland, OH (further evidence in support of my long-held contention that Ohio is the home of many of the worst things in America, with the exception of my buddies Nathan, Lee and Peter, and LeBron James) and demanded to know why Obama would have him punished with excessive taxation for pursuing small business ownership. Now, according to all reports, Mr. Wurzelbacher has no real plans to own the plumbing outfit he works for. And no small plumbing outfit would realistically make over $250,000 in a year, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t all count as taxable income for hypothetical plutocrat Samuel Wurzelbacher. I know, because my dad is a plumber (a licensed one), who has owned his own outfit in the past, and while he did well, he sure as shit didn’t make megabucks on it. But that’s a tangent. My point is that, contrary to the harsh, impenetrable reality of math, Mr. Wurzelbacher and, by extension, the McCain campaign, represent a chunk of America that simply does not get it. You will never make $250,000 a year. You’re welcome to try, but don’t bet the house on it. You will never stop gay people from loving one another. We are causing global warming. We will eventually run out of gas. You cannot win a conventional war against an insurgent, assymetrical force. There were no WMDs in Iraq. Progressive income taxation is not Socialism. Socialism as you know it is not really Socialism. Joe the Plumber represents the kind of willfully ignorant, mean, stupid prick who is ruining this country by refusing to face reality; the secular version of the racist, misogynist, homophobic, and generally intolerant Handmaid’s Tale types that form Sarah Palin’s hard core of support. These were the types that re-elected Bush based on John Kerry’s reputed “French” looks. They’re the same ones that, in one breath, state their belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or “ay-rab”, and then declare their disdain for Obama’s choice of church. I’m wondering at what point cognitive dissonance is supposed to kick in for these folks, but one of the most remarkable aspects of doublethink as defined by the man himself, Orwell, is the absolute absence of cognitive dissonance in the goodthinker which allows them the freedom to accept two conflicting pieces of data (Barack Obama is a Muslim; Barack Obama attends a Christian church that I find to be too radically leftist) without that uncomfortable twinge of WTF.

I suppose that this is what terrifies many about the prospect of a McCain-Palin copresidency, or, shudder to think, a Palin administration. The absolute surrender of the rational mind to Orwellian doublethink and the brutal, violent refusal to accept plain fact as presented to one’s self is far more dangerous to our democracy than any halfassed terror cell or truck bomb. Weapons only harm flesh; ignorance and credulity subvert and pervert the fundamental tenets of reasoned, rational self-government. Willful ignorance of fact, of circumstance, of the world outside one’s home or village or state or nation and the refusal to integrate the inconvenient into one’s plans and point of view is antithetical to the needs of a functioning global power with obligations to its friends and neighbors in the international community.

The refusal to reconcile one’s beliefs with reality when faced with conflicting examples of each is really the only thing that I believe a Palin administration would have in common with the Bush-Cheney regime. The Bush administration was corrupt, it was greedy, it was brutal and disturbingly unconcerned with human rights under the Constitution and under international law. But, I understand greed. I understand graft and corruption and I understand how power subverts structure for its own ends (namely, power). I believe that a Palin administration would approach power with absolute credulity. George W. Bush, fundamentally, is a patrician, blue-blooded son of a bitch with really only half a regard for the Christian Right. They were a means to an end; a constituency to be stroked, a collection of votes to be had. They were used. Sarah Palin, though, attends those churches in earnest. She speaks in tongues and prays to God to construct energy infrastructure. She believes that our presence in Iraq is a mission from God, whereas Bush and Cheney merely suggest that to retain the support of the ostensibly pro-life Church groups while doling out lardy government contracts to their golf buddies. Disgusting, sure, but rational. Reasonable, even, if you’re essential amoral (and I think Cheney is) or easily led (like Bush). Again, while I find this to be disgusting, it’s essentially the way we’ve done this for the entirety of the 20th century. No reason to defend it, obviously; merely a point by way of suggesting that a hypothetical Palin administration would lack that necessary incredulity. I don’t want these American Taliban types writing policy.

smack in the middle of things here. quick updates:

– obama, he’s up, he’s up, he’s down a little, he’s back up

– mccain debate 3 performance: not terrible, but then again the bar is constantly being lowered by your hockey veep

– mccain pulls out of michigan, poll numbers drop even further, rnc suspends media buys in wisconsin. what’s next? i say mccain rallies to missouri and indiana.

– senator government for president. i like the sound of it!

interesting perspective from the increasingly readable daily beast.

Adam Nagourney reports in the New York Times Caucus Blog:

“Mr. McCain is giving up his effort to take the state back into the red column, concluding that economic distress there has simply put the state out of reach…polling suggested that Mr. Obama was building a lead there, and…they concluded that it wasn’t worth spending any more campaign funds”.

It seems clear to me why McCain’s support in Michigan is lagging. The state’s economy has been in terrible condition for years, and the recent turbulence (to put it lightly) in the credit market isn’t making matters any easier. McCain, rightly or wrongly (rightly, I contend), is linked too closely to the current administration to benefit numbers-wise from the perception he enjoys as a pain in the ass of the Republican party.

I’m less concerned with the reasoning behind the decision than how the decision was made and what the decision represents. I argue that McCain’s move out of MI, while rational, can be understood in the context of some other recent decisions (his choice of Sarah Palin as VP candidate; the odd and disconcerting suspension of his campaign to go to DC to help hash out a solution to the banking crisis, despite his lack of economic chops and the fact that he sits on none of the relevant committees or other bodies) as a shot-in-the-dark attempt to shake up the news cycle and take people’s eyes off the ball, so to speak.

Now, normally, when a candidate gives up on a state, it’s a decision that’s seen as programmatic. By this, I mean that it’s done more or less quietly, a subtle tip of the hat to the reality that you can’t win every state. I mean, it just makes sense to cease operations when a state can be predicted as lost. Given McCain’s recent history of hail mary throws this season, however, it’s worth noting his move for what it is: an attempt at a rally. McCain’s numbers are dropping swiftly and steadily, and pending Palin’s performance at tonight’s debate, it seems to have become clear to Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis that McCain’s margins are eroding in a state that until very recently was seen as a swing state with an affinity for the Senator from AZ. Reportedly, the campaign feels their resources are put to better use in MN, WI, and OH. This may or may not be true. Economic conditions in those states are hardly better than they are in MI, a condition upon which McCain’s support lags. By ceasing his air and ground operations in Michigan and throwing more muscle behind his operations in remaining swing states, McCain’s move can be seen as an attempt to cut his losses in states he now may lose and to concentrate his efforts in areas either less devestated by current economic conditions or generally more hospitable to Republican politics. In light of the current financial crisis, I’m not sure this move will work. Nothing ventured, nothing gained (apparently the raison d’etre of the McCain campaign), I suppose, and at the very least, he’s sparing himself the cost of running an operation in a state he’s now likely to lose.

What of Obama’s concessions in states now seen (and that the clear-headed have always seen) as reliably republican? Not long ago, Obama’s campaign suspended its operations in Georgia, North Dakota (though, apparently, it’s being kept on life support), Montana, and Alaska. I argue that while Obama’s attempts to expand the electoral map may have represented an outsized and unrealistic ambition, in reality they should be seen more as a PR effort to depict a larger-than-life Democratic juggernaut piloted by a group of pollsters quietly gauging the actual possibilities of gains in those states.

Obama’s ostensibly ambitious 50-state strategy ran, in reality, contrary to DNC chair Howard Dean’s more earnest quest to revitalize languishing Democratic Party apparatus in solidly, historically red states. The way I see it, Obama’s strategy was never a serious effort to win decisively in states like Georgia. Rather, I saw it as part and parcel of a strategy designed to project an image of the campaign that felled the Clintons as the new driving force in Democratic politics, more of a movement than a machine, inescapable and implacable lahars of “change” and “hope” pouring through the aves and boulevards of Anytown, USA. Where Obama has seen a genuine red-to-blue shift (MO, for example), he has put forth an earnest vote-getting operation. But, for him, contesting states like GA and ND should be seen as more of a head fake. That he pulled his guns from there reflects not only a concession to the reality of his slim chances in such solidly Republican territory, but also confirms to me that Obama’s campaign pursued a 50-state strategy not with the intention of seriously contesting all 50 states, but rather sought to operate in several reddish states long enough to determine if there existed a chance of victory, and have thus far adapted well to the post-Palin reality on the ground in states like ND, GA, and MT by ceasing operations and bolstering defenses in winnable states like WI, MN, OH, and PA.

McCain is suspending all operations in the Wolverine state. Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes:

“McCain will go off TV in Michigan, stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida.   Wisconsin went for Kerry (barely –ed) in 2004, Ohio and Florida for Bush.”

This may speak to McCain’s fundraising woes and recent poll results from swing states, including Michigan, where Obama is now leading McCain by anywhere from 3 to 10 points. Both The RCP average and Pollster put Obama ahead of McCain by 5.7 and 6.7 pts. , respectively.

Another ballsy move from McCain’s camp. Will this pull him out of the tailspin he’s been in since his post-convention bounce disappeared? Every day seems to reveal something new and terrible about the man and his judgement, from repots that his presence on the Hill during bailout negotiations may have hindered a burgeoning consensus and contributed to the failure of the bill, to the now clear and present danger that Sarah Palin represents to both his ticket and to the prospects of this country, should she assume a role on the national stage beyond that which is required of her as a VP candidate.

Stay tuned for further reports and analysis, and be sure to watch for my thoughts on tonight’s VP debate.

(de Politico)

though it does make one wonder about the benefits of a mccain presidency, from the standpoint of a comedy fan

(thanks nbc)

it’s like my mad max, post-apocalyptic dreams are coming true!

Combined with the great American tent city, I’m really optimistic for the economic prospects of satchel salesmen and the people who make the jugs with “XXX” written on them.